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Getting at the root of things

59 01 14 Getting at the root of things
Where do evil desires come from?

Here’s my take: God is a creator; the devil and his allies are corrupters. God creates good desires, and the devil twists them as soon as he can.

Some time ago we did some prayer ministry with someone who was trying to get at the root of why she overate. As we sought the Lord on this, we found a little baby that only got attention when she was being fed. Otherwise, parents ignored her. God had given this baby (and all babies) a desire to be loved. But the enemy corrupted that desire with a lie: the only way you will be loved is to be fed. So, where did the temptation to overeat come from? A corrupted desire.

Here’s the good news. The Lord untangles things. In the case of this woman, the Lord deeply reassured her that she was loved, and that she didn’t have to eat to receive God’s love. God purified her desire. Now He satisfies her desires with good things—her pure desire for nourishment and her pure desire for His love.

Jesus instructed us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” So we don’t go looking for it. But, when it comes, find the corrupted desires, take them to the Lord and watch Him untangle them!

From the Bible
…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. James 1:14

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Edmund Garman, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Opportune times

42 04 13 opportune times
In the Bible we read, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

Exactly what is an “opportune time”?

Well, first of all, forget about the devil fighting fair. It isn’t going to happen. He doesn’t shake hands like a gentleman and wait until you’re ready. He looks for the weakest moment, the time when you’re defenses are down.

My strongest temptations come in the middle of the night when I’m trying to get back to sleep. I’m tired, and the last thing I feel like doing is fight a spiritual battle. But that’s often when the battle comes—when I’m weak.

Did Jesus have weak moments?

Let’s look at this occasion. Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights. Now he was ravenously hungry—His body was tearing apart internal organs to find the nutrients to survive. Food was not a luxury for Him in this moment—it was a necessity.

Along comes the devil. “So, you’re hungry, huh?”

(Does the devil care whether Jesus is hungry? Of course not.)

“Try my solution. Turn these stones into bread.”

What’s the temptation? To get Jesus to act independently of the will of God. To separate Him from His Father. To get Him to doubt the loving-kindness of the Father. To get Him to doubt His own identity as the Son of God.

Jesus got hungry, tired, angry just as we do.

If Jesus, in His humanity, had weak moments like we do, then the devil ran into something he did not expect: God’s strength is made perfect in weakness; God doesn’t need our strength to win the battle.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

PS. Are you receiving my daily email?

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Pain, empathy and obedience

58 05 08 pain empathy and obedience
What was it like for Jesus to obey?

It was pure joy. His heart and the Father’s heart were one. God’s desires were His desires. For Jesus to obey was like asking a child, “What would you like to do more than anything else in the whole world?” and then letting the child do it.

Yet the Bible says:
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered… Hebrews 5:8

What, then, did Jesus learn? He learned that sometimes it hurts to obey.

We spend a lot of time as Christians talking about the benefits of obedience, and, yes, there are benefits. But there is a cost too. Jesus experienced the cost of obedience.

Every time it hurts to say “yes” to God, Jesus is there with us. He can empathize because He has felt the pain.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

PS. Are you receiving my daily email?

Photo credit: Adapted from an image by Georgie Pauwels, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Truth and temptation

01 03 01 truth and temptation
A spirit spoke through a creature we’ll call the dragon and made him enchanting, slick, mesmerizing. He asked the woman, “Is it really true? Did God say you are not allowed to eat any fruit from any of the trees in this garden you tend?” Genesis 3:1 The Easy Bible

At the root of every temptation is a lie. This was the opening punch. It wasn’t designed to knock Eve out, just to throw her off balance. Here’s the message behind it: What kind of God do you serve? Why does He deprive you of what is good?

You’ll find a lie something like this at the core of every temptation you face. God isn’t good or sufficient. If He was, you wouldn’t be in this mess. You need a different solution. Here, I have something custom designed for you.

That really is what sin is: a different solution.

But Jesus is the truth. When we bring our temptations to Him, we find that God can do what He said He could do: satisfy every one of our desires with good. (See Psalm 103:5.)

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

PS. Are you receiving my daily email?

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A prayer for our nation

54 02 01-04 A prayer for our nation
First, we make room for You, Heavenly Father, Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus.
Be welcome here.
Be honored here.
Be free to do what You want to do.
When You show up, everything changes.

On behalf of our nation we pray,
Be honored here.

You are the God who establishes leaders.
We ask You for good leaders
at every level
and in every sphere of influence.
Let truth, honesty and righteousness prevail
in every election.

Our leaders are in Your hands.
Grant our leaders
the fear of the Lord
which is the beginning of wisdom.
Give them, we pray,
the wisdom and courage
to make righteous decisions.

We pray for peace in the Middle East,
and ask that our nation will do what’s right
with respect to the people and nation of Israel.

We pray for consideration and respect
between the classes—rich, poor and middle class,
between the races,
between the political camps.

We pray for the freedom of good people everywhere
to do what You have called them to do
without fear.

Rain down righteousness
on this earth,
so Your goodness may be displayed
to its people.

We pray in Jesus’ name,
Amen.

From the Bible:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by The Wandering Angel, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Jesus understands

58 04 15 Jesus understands
All of us know what it’s like to be tempted. But how well do we understand how temptation operates?

Are we tempted because we have a sinful nature? If that is so, then how could Jesus be tempted? He did not have a sinful nature.

And why is alcohol abuse, for example, a major temptation for one person, and no temptation at all for the next person? Why do we sometimes fall to the same temptation over and over again?

What are our options when we are tempted? What can we do to avoid being tempted?

I throw out these questions because I think these are fundamentally important issues for us to understand. Think these things over, and, if you are struggling with temptation, take the temptation together with all your desires straight to Jesus. He understands, and He will come to your aid.

From the Bible:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Carla M Cadoura / cmc photography, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Have you noticed?

11 21 29 have you noticed
One September day here in Wisconsin I took an hour walk in the rain. I was walking through a nature preserve and, predictably, it was deserted. Who would be crazy enough to be out in a rainstorm? But there I was, walking along, getting soaked, not much minding because my heart was full of wonder, noticing things.

I was watching the life-giving rain fall on the remnants of flowers, now brown with age. And I was thinking about how they would never be restored until the last of winter is over, and spring is born.

It seems sad, in a way, that we age—that the strength and beauty of youth fades and falls away. But every year we grow richer, our lives filled with memories, experiences, worship. Some grow more beautiful as they age, like the autumn maple tree. Some just seem like a shell, brown and empty.

I sense that all of this is precious to God—that none of this escapes His notice. And like a mother holding out her arms to receive her baby’s first step, so also God holds out His arms to receive us into eternity.

In 1 Kings 21:29, God speaks to Elijah the prophet. “Have you noticed…?” He asks.

Have you noticed?

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Olin Gilbert, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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The touch that makes us clean

41 01 41 the touch that makes us clean
What we touch can make us unclean. Pornography is a perfect example. Touch it and be stained.

This is one reason why the Christian life seems so painful to so many of us. We imagine we will achieve it by not touching. I won’t touch lust, greed, envy, bitterness, pride, gluttony, hatred, perversion, gossip, and the list goes on.

Keeping clean in this way can be very tiresome. Especially if something inside me wants to lust after that woman walking down the street outside my window, or wants to pig out on a plate of 25 chocolate chip cookies, or wants to share the juiciest gossip.

It works differently with Jesus. His touch makes us clean. He touches the dirty places in our souls and makes them clean. When He does, I see the woman on the street and the plate of cookies with different eyes.

Holiness and godliness is letting Jesus touch more and more of the hidden corners of our souls to make us clean.

From the Bible:
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Mark 1:41 NIV

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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A letter to my future son-in-law

2 my future son in law
If you marry my daughter, you are being commissioned by God for the most important assignment you will ever receive. Part of my role as her father is to ask you point blank if you’re ready.

I need to know that my daughter will always be safe with you—physically safe—emotionally safe—safe to be who she really is—financially safe—spiritually safe. We all need to know that any children who come into your family will likewise always be completely safe with you.

There are drives and desires inside you—just as there are inside all of us—that could destroy marriage. I need to know that you have mastered them—that they no longer control you.

Your wife needs to know that she has no competition, that you have eyes only for her, that your heart belongs to her. We live in a culture where we are surrounded by women who are crying out for attention in the way they dress and the way they present themselves. Your task is to redirect that attention to the woman you have chosen. It is the privilege and responsibility of a husband to discover and explore, celebrate and affirm his wife’s hidden beauty. Let your wife’s beauty captivate you to your dying day. Guard your heart. Make no provision for the flesh. None.

Marriage is a relationship of trust; show yourself to be trustworthy.

There will be days when your wife drives you up a wall. In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Be a man of mercy. Take the high road. Bring your hurt and anger to God, and bring His peace back into your family.

Remember that your words have the power of life and death; your words have the power to harm and to heal. Speak words of life and healing over your family always.

Learn your wife’s Love Language and speak it fluently.

Respect the woman you marry. Treat her as she is: God’s daughter, holy and precious to Him, fragile yet eternal, your partner through life. Learn from her. God has deliberately made you dense in areas where she is insightful. He did this so you would humble yourself, listen to her, and learn.

There are people and forces outside marriage that would rob you, your wife and your family of all that is sacred and holy—everything of value. Yes, God is our Defender. But you are your wife’s defender, and a man will lay down his life if necessary to protect and defend his wife and his children.

Will you ever completely understand your wife? No. But you will understand her better each passing day if you make the effort. Make the effort. She’s worth it.

Not that many years ago, I was a young man in love. I know that feeling well. I also know that marriage isn’t for cowards. It’s for men who have the courage and perseverance to go the distance.

It is the way of things that I will get weaker, and you will get stronger. My body will fall; yours will remain. So the baton goes to you. Are you ready?

Dwight Clough

PS. Since I have two daughters, this letter is addressed to two potential future sons-in-law, but it’s easier to write in the singular.

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Edmund Garman, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Little by little

02 23 30 little by little
Thank God for small miracles.

Most of my life I’ve been terrified of dogs. Exactly why, I don’t know. My mind can tell me that most dogs are friendly; that you can survive a dog bite; that very few dogs are really dangerous; that if you aren’t afraid of them, they will most likely leave you alone; and so on. But all of those pep talks disappeared whenever I got into the presence of a barking dog. Instead, I froze, paralyzed by fear.

Over the years, little by little, the Lord has been driving fear out of my heart. It hasn’t been some big explosive encounter with God that left me absolutely fearless, but rather a little here, a little there. As fears arise, when I have the sense to do it, I take them to the Lord so He can deal with them.

One day I took a short walk in a large park. The area I walk in is usually deserted—it borders a farm and few people seem to know about it—a perfect place to pray. As I was walking along, a woman with two dogs approached from the opposite direction. While we were still quite a ways away from each other, one of the dogs broke from her side and came charging at me. When it got to me, it started nipping at my fingers.

In the past, I would have been beside myself. But I stood there, mildly annoyed, thinking to myself, I shouldn’t have to put up with this. I raised my voice loud enough for the woman to hear me, “Would you please take your dog’s teeth off my hands!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, “he has a thing about gloves.”

Fine. I put my gloved hands in my coat pocket and stood there waiting for her to retrieve her dog. A couple minutes later, she and her dogs were gone.

I took stock. I wasn’t shaking. My heart wasn’t pounding. I didn’t feel any emotion of fear. I was still a bit annoyed that this woman did not have enough courtesy to leash a dog that she did not have under voice command, but, otherwise, I was at peace.

Little by little, God works. Jesus usually doesn’t drive enemies like fear and shame out of our lives all at once. He does it a bit at a time, until He has taken full possession of the land. (Exodus 23:30)

Meanwhile, let’s celebrate these small miracles He brings our way!

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Katie Brady, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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