Thursday, February 21, 2008


I recently received my copy of a newsletter from Patrick Morley at Man in the Mirror entitled, "How Are Men Doing." He hit on something that I have mentioned in the past, and that has been on my mind recently. Here's a short quote from the newsletter:
The average Christian male is up to his gold cross in debts and duties. He has a “picture” in his mind of what it means to be a “good Christian.” He believes in this picture—it’s what he thinks he “needs” to do to be a “good boy”—to be happy.
  • I need to spend quality time with my wife.
  • I need to be a super dad to my kids and attend (maybe coach) all their activities. My dad did (or didn’t) do this for me, and I’m going to be there for them.
  • I need to make lots of money so my family can live in a beautiful home in a “better” neighborhood, my kids can wear the right labels, there is less pressure on my wife to work, and I can become financially independent.
  • I need to join a men’s small group where I can grow with some brothers.
  • I need to attend a weekly home growth and fellowship group.
  • I need to have a daily quiet time for fellowship with God.
  • I need to keep the Sabbath and have my family in church to worship God.
  • I need to serve God through a personal ministry—probably through the church.
  • I need to be a good citizen and neighbor.
  • I need to be a star at work if all this is going to happen.
  • I need a successful and satisfying career.
  • I need some time for myself.
No wonder men wince when you ask them to do something.
The reason I mention it here is that I think Morley has captured one of the primary problems we face today. There are too many good things we MUST do it be happy. Looking over this list, there isn't one of them that I'd say should not be on the list of stuff I really should be doing. I just don't do most of these things.

There is a simmering guilt in the background of most of my days. I have a nagging feeling that I'm not really doing enough...of anything. Morley mentions this in the article as well.

I don't have an answer. There isn't one in the article either. I was encouraged to see that it's not just me that feels this way.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Temptation and the "way of escape"

There isn't any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape. 1 Cor 10:13 (God's Word®)
This is a translation of a familiar passage that might not be so familiar. I've often heard the assurance that God will not tempt me beyond my ability, and that he will always offer a way out of temptation if I just look for it. This assurance is based on the way the verse is most often translated. For example, the NIV gives, "But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." The NASB, "...with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." That little word, "so" isn't actually in the Greek text.

The issue here is whether I should be looking for "the way of escape" when I face some temptation. I like the idea that God is going to provide a way out for me because I like to have somebody else do the work and potentially take the blame if I fall. After all, if I end up succumbing to the temptation, then God clearly failed to identify the exit clearly enough. It's not really my fault after all! The other nice thing about this notion is that I get to escape from the temptation. I don't have to continue to resist once I find the exit God has provided.

But what about the idea that the way of escape is the ability that God has already given me to resist temptation. What if that's what Paul meant? If that's the case, then I have a more difficult and less appealing path. God expects me to resist ... continuously ... persistently ... successfully! There is no way for me to wriggle out of the situation. I will be tempted and God expects me to simply tough it out - to endure it. If I fall, it's my own fault. There's no one else to blame.

I think there are several things to learn about temptation from this verse:
  • I am not facing any unusual temptation, only the plain, ordinary, everybody-has-faced-it kind.
  • God knows what I'm able to resist, so the temptation is not too hard for me.
  • The way to escape temptation is simply to bear patiently. The Greek word is hupophero, and it's not one we hear a lot about these days.
The other thing that I find interesting is the role of the translator in determining what I believe about things like temptation. I guess personal study is worth something after all!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Priorities and Compulsion

An appropriate topic for the first post in 3+ months? I think so!

In the time since the last post here, I have often marveled at the people who seem to be able to keep up a regular schedule of updates to their blogs. In some cases it's almost a stream-of-consciousness thing, so perhaps there's not much effort, but for many of the blogs in this sidebar, there is substantive content every time. How do they do it? In 1 Corinthians 9:16-17 Paul says that he is "compelled to preach" and doesn't really do it voluntarily. Maybe that's the blogger's secret as well?

In any case, the central message from the last half of 1 Corinthians is that we need to get our priorities right and focus on what's important. I think this is probably the biggest challenge facing our generation. We live in a time when there is no quiet. Our world constantly SCREAMS at us for attention. We are constantly assailed by good, important, worthwhile things that really need our attention RIGHT NOW!

This is why churches face such difficulty in finding teachers, choir members, and other volunteers. This is why no one goes to Sunday evening worship anymore. This is why so few Christians spend any time in Bible study. We simply do not need another "activity" to fill our time. There are too many things we're ignoring already for us to add one more.

Why would I ever ignore the important and urgent things in my life in order to spend time in Bible study or prayer? There's only one reason I can think of - because I was compelled to do it. I need to understand that this faith I profess makes demands on my behavior.

God has a call on my life and on yours. We are compelled to obey, or admit that our faith is a sham.