Land Mines

Matthew 9: 13                  KJV

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

This is part of the Lord’s prayer; you probably recognize it. Many people can quote this passage and many of us learned it in the poetic King James Version. For myself, learning it as a child, it took years for me to untangle the meaning from the pretty prose. The Lord’s prayer was a saying, almost a slogan but it didn’t have a lot of meaning for me for many years.

This, the Lord’s Prayer has been taught on extensively. Knowledgeable preachers break it down into its constituent parts and teach us how the individual parts combine to outline a form of prayer. Today I would like for us to think about this one little section and consider what it means and also what it means to our lives individually.

There are some passages of scripture that are hard to read in any version other the King James when you were brought up with it. I still hear this passage in King James language though I have used the New American Standard Bible for forty years. Let’s explore a couple of other versions though. The Names of God version reads, “Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one.” The New American Standard says, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Can you see a difference from our traditional understanding.

Here is the question which frames comprehension of this verse, “Would Jesus pray asking God, the Father, not to lead us into temptation as if sometimes He does lead people into temptation?” “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1: 13). Father God never leads people into the way of temptation, so, what was Jesus asking the Father?

Jesus taught that upon his exit from the earth, the Father would give us another helper and that helper, the Holy Spirit, would guide us. So, it is perfectly correct to think in terms of allowing ourselves to be led by God. This is how I would phrase today’s verse in modern English as I think about the Holy Spirit guiding my steps, “Father, lead me away from temptation.” I may, under my own power, be headed right for trouble but we can enable the Godhead to intervene and lead us away from the path of destruction.

I want you to notice also the second part of the verse. Here is the Names of God version again, “Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one.” Jesus recognized from where temptation comes, the evil one. So he petitioned the Father to lead us away from the evil one, so as to rescue us from his temptations. Remember who tempted Jesus in the wilderness. It was the devil. Jesus’ prayer asks the Father to steer us away from the traps the devil has laid so that we will not be tripped up.
When you see this passage of scripture in modern language and in context with other scriptures, it takes on entirely new meaning. Sometimes it seems like the world has been sown with land mines. Jesus constantly intercedes for us asking the Father to navigate the mine field for us. That is good news, isn’t it?

 Fire for Four

Daniel 3: 25

The king replied, “But look, I see four men. They’re untied, walking in the middle of the fire, and unharmed. The fourth one looks like a son of the gods.”

I saw a quote recently that makes sense to us and can be inspirational. However, taken out of context may also communicate a wrong message. There is so much misunderstanding in this regard that I thought it important to reassure us as to God’s position.

The message of the quote is that God is with us in every crisis. The unfortunate language quoted in this book was, “As sure as God puts His children into the furnace of affliction, He will be with them in it.” First of all, this may well have been lifted from a larger message so we bear that in mind. However, some people may read this and rather than take away the good news that God is with you at all times, even in the roughest of times, they may only hear, “God caused all this bad stuff to happen to me.” That is not the message of the gospel.

Of course the quote brings to mind the three Hebrews who were tossed into the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Do we think, though, that God put them into a fiery furnace? “Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with anger toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face turned red. He ordered that the furnace should be heated seven times hotter than normal. He told some soldiers from his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so that they could be thrown into the blazing furnace. Then the three men were thrown into the blazing furnace. They were wearing their clothes, hats, and other clothing. The king’s order was so urgent and the furnace was so extremely hot that the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the flames from the fire. So these three men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—fell into the blazing furnace. They were still tied up” (Daniel 3: 19 – 23 GW).

It wasn’t God who condemned them to burn in a furnace. That was Nebuchadnezzar’s doing, wasn’t it? This is the truth we need to embrace. Although God shows up when we are in hot water, it is not He who turned on the boiler. God is love. That is who and what He is and He cannot act in any way that is inconsistent with a full expression of love. Once you nail down this cornerstone of your personal theology then other pieces begin to fall in place automatically.

Romans 8: 28 is the seminal scripture regarding God turning lemons into lemonade. It reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He takes those bad things and turns them around but He is not the author of them. When you combine this verse with James 1: 13 you begin to have a sustainable personal ideology about God’s role in calamity, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” This tells you that God isn’t bringing these challenges on us but we are assured by Romans 8: 28 that He is the first on the scene, ready to rescue us and to turn the situation around so that it benefits us.

God sent Jesus into the midst of the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar ordered them thrown into the furnace. That is the message I believe was intended to be conveyed in the quote. No matter how hot the fire or deep the water, God will always put Himself or His son right there with you so that you will not burn, drown or fail. He is not only the God of love but He is love. He is the strong fortress and the very first Red Cross agent. God gave His son and Jesus gave his blood so that we never have to face tribulation alone. We are intertwined with the most powerful force in the universe and we shall, therefore, prevail. Praise God!

Bad Press

James 1: 13

Let no on say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
God gets a lot of bad press these days. We all know that, but what is disturbing is how much of it comes from Christians. Well-meaning Christians blame God for a myriad of problems. They say God is tempting them in order to test them or that he is bringing this or that challenge to make them strong; grow their faith. That is just blatantly untrue. We have been told lies and we must correct ourselves with the truth. The Word is truth. Jesus said that we would know the truth and the truth would make us free (Matthew 8: 32). The word says that God is love and that he cannot tempt. He does not have evil to tempt us with. God wants good for his kids. Every good thing comes from him. Let’s put the correct party on trial here. It is the devil who comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (Matthew 10: 10). Let’s start giving him the bad press he deserves and give honor to our Father.