How to recognize temptation

temptation

It’s been a week since I started lent (gave up dating and secular music) and began my online devotional (shereadstruth.com) and all I can say is wow. I’ve been wrecked. And it’s been tough. I didn’t think it would be but I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself which I hope to write more on at the end of this journey. The not listening to secular music has been easier and I’ve actually really enjoyed the times alone with God and just worshipping Him while driving. I didn’t realize how much those short times have an impact on my life and my day. The no dating hasn’t been hard in and of itself but it’s challenged me. Not only am I not dating, I am also trying not to engage with guys- flirting and what not. This has been the hard part. There are still a few guy friends I talk to and hang out with but even this has lessened for me. If I’m completely honest with myself, I didn’t realize how much I use guys to feed my ego. The attention is addicting and I am definitely suffering from withdrawals. I like it though because it’s pushed me to God- where I get real love rather than fleeting moments of counterfeit satisfaction. And those moments are what leave me speechless and in awe of God’s amazing love for me.

I don’t know if it’s me or the study, but I keep progressively getting more out of each of my day’s study and quiet time. Normally I’ll post a snippet of what I got out of the day’s study on my Instagram but yesterday’s was so much that I decided to do a blog post.

Matthew 4:1-11. This was part of the reading yesterday and it is probably one of my most favorite passages. It’s the time when Jesus goes to fast and pray alone for 40 days. Just Him and God. And this is when the devil comes to tempt, as well. While reading these scriptures, I noticed a theme in the way the devil attacked Jesus that I think is very real and applicable to how he attacks and tempts us today. I believe if we can be proactive and more aware then we can better avoid the temptations that come our way. The scripture says to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. The devil is sneaky and will slide into your life with any opening you give him. Hopefully what I learned can help you in your walk with the Lord as much as it’s helped me.

  1. Lusts of the flesh. He will attack you where you are the weakest. Do you know where your weak areas are? Do you know what tends to keep you away from God? That is where the devil will try to come in. Jesus had just fasted for 40 days and what does the devil try to get Him to do? Turn stones into bread for food. Hunger was what Jesus was feeling at that time. He must have been starving. And there is where satan decided to try and swoop in. Guard against your weak areas.
  2. To take advantage of God’s goodness. For Christians, the so called “good Christians, this one can be easy to miss. The second temptation Jesus received was to throw Himself down because God promises to protect us. Wow. Have you ever been in a situation you know you shouldn’t have been in or done something you know you shouldn’t have because you knew God would love you anyway? Because you knew He would forgive you? This insight pierced my heart as I realized how spoiled I have acted at times.
  3. Me>God instead of God>me. The last attempt the devil uses to tempt Jesus is to try and get Jesus to love Himself more than God. This is where our humility and humbleness is so important. Do we trust God enough to know that He loves us? To know that He knows and wants what’s best for us more than we do? And what I believe is most important- do we love God enough to keep Him first when we are tempted to put our desires and wants (for the moment) ahead of Him? This would be a no brainer if we really could even fathom how much the God of the universe loves us but it doesn’t keep the devil from trying.

I encourage you to spend some time to dwell on those three areas and see what God shows you. The part I love most about this short passage is the last verse “ then the devil left Him…” The devil will leave. The devil is no match for our God but we have to make sure we are utilizing the power of God. I have to draw close to the Lord everyday to be strengthened. I have no shame in acknowledging that I am totally dependent on Him. He is what makes life worth living and His love is what keeps me smiling. Continue to change my heart, Lord. My flesh may fight but oh how my soul yearns for You.

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Beauty from ashes: my first year celebrating lent and what I’m doing

lent
I’ve never celebrated lent before. Growing up Baptist, I always assumed it was a Catholic thing because we never talked about it. I remember one time telling a girl that she had something on her face (I thought I was being nice and looking out for her) and she quickly told me it was ashes for Ash Wednesday. Whoops. I’ve never been too good about that. All I really knew was that people gave up something prior to Easter and then went on with their normal lives afterwards. I didn’t see much of a change; I didn’t see much of an impact. Sometimes I actually felt like it was kind of depressing. Several people this year have told me that instead of giving up something for lent, they’ve decided to add something positive instead. I thought that was pretty cool.
I recently joined an online women’s devotional community called shereadstruth.com Wow! It has been such a blessing in my life. I just finished their Esther study and today begins their lent study. In addition to the online community of wonderful ladies doing it, I have some personal friends doing the study with me. I am really excited about growing closer to God. It’s always funny to me when people think being a Christian is boring. My life has been anything but boring and I always look forward to what God has in store for me next. He makes me so happy:)
For those that don’t know, lent starts approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday and lasts for 40 days. Actually it’s 47 days because they don’t count Sundays. The 40 days symbolize the 40 days of fasting Jesus did in the wilderness before He began His public ministry. I think what is important to note about that time is that it was just Him and God- and that’s what I’m hoping for my 40 days to entail. I’m just trying to rid myself of distractions that tend to limit my time with Christ. As the study stated this morning, lent is like a pause button. A time to stop and reflect on who we are and what we are doing. Life has a funny way of keeping us busy for the sake of just keeping us busy. But what are we really doing with our lives? We came from dust and to dust we will return.
So what am I giving up? I think we all know what distracts us most so it will be different for all of us. For me, I decided to give up dating and secular music. Dating in the sense that I’m not going to really worry about going out or engaging with men. It’s not that I go out with guys a lot now but they do take up a lot of my free time- either through my actions, communications, or thoughts. Instead of worrying about those relationships, I am going to focus on my relationship with God. Instead of talking with guys, I’m going to focus on spending more time with Jesus. This will be more of a mind and heart issue. I want to be very intentional. In regards to secular music, I often listen to it when I am driving and I just want to be more aware during this time. It’s a lot of quiet time I have. And I’d rather spent it with God honestly. In silence. Listening to worship music. Or listening to podcasts. Praying. We often use the excuse that we don’t have enough time for this or that but the truth is, we all get the same 24 hours in a day. We just need to learn how to use that time more wisely.
I think it’s important to note what this time before Easter is about and what it can do for your life. It’s not about giving up something just to give it up. It’s not about adding something to your life so you can feel like a better person. It’s not that giving up dating or secular music will automatically make me closer to God but the purposeful and intentional acts will serve as a constant reminder of what matters most in my life. For me, it will be a time to really dwell on what Jesus Christ did for us. To remember our sin and our humanity- to remember my desperate need for Jesus. I think we take Him for granted sometimes. But I just want to focus on my love and all His goodness. Not that I don’t already but I want to give Him extra time and how wonderful is it that so many others are doing it too. I’d love for all of us to support one another as we venture into falling more in love with the man who died for us. What a wonderful honor. I’d love to know what you are giving up and please feel free to follow my daily updates on instagram @thevirginheartbreakerKeep me near the cross Lord, that I may never forget the love you have poured out for me.
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Fifty Shades of Grey: What attracted me to it & what made me stay away

50 shades

I’ve watched the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey more times than I should have. I’ve researched. I’ve talked to a very diverse group of people about the subject. 100 million books sold. 250 million trailer views. And while tons of women file into the movie theaters this weekend (Valentine’s Day weekend, how ironic), the woman that plays the lead is hoping her family and childhood friends won’t go and see it. How fitting. Disclaimer: I have not read the book and will not see the movie. My credibility in who I am in Christ is more important than my credibility in writing this post. I personally don’t think I need to do either to say what I want to say so here goes.

What attracted me to it:

1. The excitement of something new. Curiosity. Kind of how we are attracted to the bad guys. It’s something new. It’s something different. So many people have never been exposed to this and feel it’s justified because it’s sold in local bookstores- coming out in theaters. Some may fight me, argue, disagree, but I think we justify these types of books and movies because there is something deeper we are seeking behind the wild sex scenes.

2. The ability to make a difference and feel loved. Christian is not a good guy. He “doesn’t do romance.” Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I have yet to encounter anyone who has wished for their son to grow up and be like him. Yet to encounter a dad who would want their daughter to date this type of guy. We justify Christian’s behavior because he was abused as a teenager. And we all know women love to change guys and be their savior. But all too many times this is where women find their worth. I can’t speak for everyone but who doesn’t like a challenge? It’s rewarding and it’s satisfying. How awesome would that make me if I can make this young, rich, handsome, successful man change his ways for me?! Feeling valued and loved is one of the best feelings in the world. The fact that Ana impacts Christian’s life makes her feel that way. How hard is it to get a guy to change? Nearly impossible. So seeing this happen gives us hope.

3. The desire to submit. I’m a pretty independent person but I think there is something in each woman deep down that desires to submit to a man. It releases the burden. We feel safe and cared for. We feel comfortable. We can relax. While in this story, I think it’s pretty clear that Ana submits to things she doesn’t really want to- there is something freeing about letting go and allowing the man to lead you. Men were created with this natural instinct, as well. This story and society has just twisted up how these natural tendencies and desires were intended to be.

4. Christian Grey. Grey encompasses a lot of what women are looking for. He is good looking, rich, successful. He knows what will turn Ana on and please her. We believe he cares about her through some of his actions- he grows to care about her and fall in love with her. As much as we would like him to be real, he’s not. It doesn’t stop us from having hope. What’s scary about this [false] hope is that it can cause us to stay in abusive relationships. To stay in a relationship where we think we can change someone. If only life were that simple. As Maya Angelou says “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

What made me stay away:

“We are sinful not because we’re victims of darkness but because we’re lovers of darkness.”- John Piper

1. I understand that I’m programmable. We all are really. Think about it- everyday we are “at school” training our minds, our hearts, our beings into what we desire. Just because we have a desire to do something, it doesn’t mean it’s always right. It doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for us. “The heart is deceitfully wicked, who can understand it?” –Jeremiah 17:9. Sometimes this programming is noticeable, at other times it is more subtle. This book, movie, is desensitizing us to this sort of behavior whether we want to acknowledge it or not. I see the dangers and what it’s doing to our society. Especially to our young girls. One of my biggest concerns is for these young women who look up to their moms and see them and other women reading and watching this. Do we realize what we are doing? Many have developed fears and insecurities from the book- yet are in love with Christian. It’s a damaged concept of intimacy. Many sex shops are expanding their section of BDSM. Tell me it’s just a movie. I heard on the radio today that hardware shops on stocking up on additional supplies, such as rope, in anticipation of this movie. Tell me it’s just fantasy. We are socializing behavior that we don’t really want. This story tells boys that women like violent porn and it tells women they should like it. And there the twisted cycle is birthed of two people engaging in acts that miss the mark on the very beauty that’s behind making love.

2. The abusive relationship is evident. So what is so bad about this anyway? Explicit sex scenes? BDSM? What does that even mean? I’m not going to lie, I had to look it up. Bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. Do you even know what those words mean? Look them up and tell me they can be interchanged with the words love, intimacy, and respect. The definition of sadism is “enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain, especially sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone…a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others.” What I think is important to share is that we can’t just look at this type of activity and simply say it’s fantasy and isn’t abuse. Step out of your comfort zone and talk to an abused victim. I don’t think people enter a relationship knowing it’ll turn into an abusive one. This happens over time as we become desensitized to ideas- to acts- to new ways and meanings of “love.” It happens when people put up with things they don’t like for fear of losing that person.

3. It’s a lust story. It’s porn. I won’t beat around the bush. Most people agree with this- whether you want to call it hard porn or soft porn, it’s porn. Do you want your guy watching porn? Most women going to see this don’t want their man watching porn. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. I don’t desire to be with or look at anyone other than someone I am madly in love with. Someone that will one day be my husband. That to me is what will make sex so great, so intimate, so loving. Christian possesses the exact opposite qualities of love- jealousy, controlling, manipulating, stalking, unstable. He is a slave to his lusts and “tormented by demons with the need to control” according to the published summary of the story. Is this what women really desire? Isn’t self-control a positive attribute? This is not true love. Am I the only one who sees this? Sin promises to please but destroys us instead. It’s like drinking poison because we think it tastes good. And here this movie is destroying our ability to enjoy a real loving relationship because reading and watching this “feels good” while planting alternate desires in our mind instead.

Love is selfless, not selfish. One of the most beautiful things about marriage and the level of intimacy is the fact that it serves as a representation of Christ’s love for us. Pure. Deep. Vulnerable. Sacrificial. It’s the most sacred experience two people can have on this earth. Society tries to diminish this but it’s one of the most beautiful things you will ever experience when you share that intimacy with someone you love. And Satan is fighting tooth and nail to steal that and give us this counterfeit garbage of anything but love instead.

4. My heart and my time is valuable. Even if you aren’t a Christian, several of these verses are just simply good practices for life.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. -Proverbs 4:23

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. -Philippians 4:8

But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. -Romans 7:23

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, -Philippians 2:5

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. -Matthew 15:8

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. -Ephesians 4:22-24

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. -Colossians 3:1-2

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. –Romans 7:25

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Matthew 5:28

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. -Colossians 3:2-5

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. -I Corinthians 6:18

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. -Romans 6:12

There were so many additional scriptures on this that I left out. Do your own research and look for yourself. You see, if you are a Christian and you believe in the Bible, you have to believe these verses are true and knowingly in good faith, can’t say God is okay with or desires for you to watch or read these types of things. If you are not a Christian, you follow your moral compass- whatever that may be- but you still have to recognize that you can’t separate yourself from what you put in your mind.

The biggest justification for this book and movie I’ve heard is the fact that it’s just fantasy. And maybe you do see it that way. The problem with this fantasy is that it’s showing something that is not okay and should not be chased after in a positive light. Other violence, other sex movies, other “bad” things shown in movies are shown as being wrong. Killing isn’t glorified and we aren’t wishing death on someone. We are typically wanting the good to defeat the evil. This movie is slowly programming you to desire what isn’t good for you. Just because it’s wrapped in a pretty package, don’t think it isn’t affecting you. False hope and false fantasies are cleverly masked with “it’s just a story” and in an attempt to think we are more powerful than what we put into our soul, we slowly start to forget who we are.

“It is so much easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.”

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