Matthew 4 – temptation of Jesus

Matthew 4:1-3a – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him …

 

Are you hungry?  Tired?  Lonely?  Frustrated?  Unhappy?  Full of fear?  Then the devil is looking for you.  Like a moth to a light, he is coming for you.  And he will not be distracted from pursuing you.  Because you are a prime target for his sneaky, slimy, and slanderous attacks.

 

Matthew 4 - temptation of Jesus

 

He will wait until you are at your most vulnerable – like Jesus not eating for 40 days.  Do you think Jesus didn’t feel hungry?  He did.  He was ready to eat.  And it could have been as He pulled Himself up to standing and was heading back into the city to eat something that Lucifer met Him on the road.  Ready to pounce.  Ready to tempt.  Ready to destroy.

 

So he “came to Him”.  He came into Jesus’ space, ready to attack His emotions, His thoughts, and His confidence.  And he was ready to attack from every angle.  To see if this man was the genuine article or not.  Because surely He is not the one God promised all those years ago.

 

So the devil comes to Him (literally) and at Him (spiritually).  And as they stood face-to-face, he decides to start easy, with the basic human need He currently has unmet.

 

Matthew 4:3If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.  If You are the Holy One, then use Your divine power to satisfy Your hunger.  You know You are hungry!  God rained manna from heaven each day, so surely You could do something easier, like just turning these stones into food.  You don’t even have to move – they are here.  Turn them into the personal provision You need.

 

But He didn’t fall for it.  Because “… is not life more than food …” (Matthew 6:25).

 

Hmmm.  That was easy, but it didn’t work.  Maybe He was insulted at something so easy.  So let me challenge Him with something that will allow Him to show off.

 

Matthew 4:6If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’  If You are the Holy One, then call upon Your legion of divine soldiers.  Since You can easily protect Yourself, You will never be hurt.  Show me.  Show off the personal protection readily available to You.

 

But He still didn’t fall for it.  Because “I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness…” (1 Chronicles 29:17).

 

Man, this guy is tough.  Maybe He is the real deal.  But anyone can be swayed by the allure of power, so let me throw my best stuff at Him.

 

Matthew 4:9All these things [all the kingdoms of the world and their glory] I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.  Are you sure God isn’t withholding something great from You?  You are here on earth, a mere human.  You haven’t been swayed by food or showing off, so maybe You have nothing.  I can offer You everything humans want – power, glory, and control.  Just say I am better than God, and it is all Yours.

 

But a third time He still didn’t fall for it.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3).

 

Three times the devil came at Him personally, offering Him something most people spend their whole lives chasing.  And three times He refused, choosing God’s purposes over His personal well-being.

 

And now he is going to come for YOU.  Just as he watched Jesus, waiting for the right opportunity, so too is he watching you.  “… Like a roaring lion …” (1 Peter 5:8), waiting for the right opportunity – when you are tired, scared, insecure, vulnerable, alone, shame-filled, or confused.  So he can try to tempt (convince) you (far) away from God’s love.

 

And you may not have the faith, strength, or courage in that moment to speak the Word at him (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) and send him packing (Matthew 4:10).  But pray now that when that moment comes you will be prepared and you will fight back.  Because the same grace that enabled and empowered Jesus to overcome the incredibly enticing temptations is available to you.

 

So tap into it and walk boldly in it.  And you too will find yourself saying “… Away with you, Satan! …” (Matthew 4:10) and being blessed by God.

 

Marie Fremin.  7/21/18 and 8/11/18.

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I Know It’s There

But I know it’s there.

 

This was the cry of the afflicted in my house one day this week, after a trip to the hair salon left a slightly imperfect hair line behind an ear.  Not even visible, as attested by everyone in the salon.  But it didn’t matter.  The result was a two hour fit that started by getting nose-to-nose with the salon mirror, pulling the ear down, staring at the imperfections, and mumbling until it was time to leave.  No assurance could stave off the fit, and the sulk lasted until the offended corrected the problem.

 

Why such a fit over something invisible to everyone?  Because I know it’s there.  And apparently knowing the hairline is less than perfect, even though invisible, is enough to not let go and reuse to move on.

 

And aren’t we the same way?  Yep, ouch!

 

I know it's There

 

We hold on tightly to our sin, refusing to let it go and accept God’s grace.  Because we think it blocks God’s grace from working for us and in us.

 

We cuddle our shame and insecurities close, allowing them to define who we are and determine the quality of our relationships.  Because we believe we can never be good enough for (lasting) love.

 

We give power and place to fear, allowing it to stop our progress and block our blessings.  Because we stop believing God could ever be big enough to help us or loving enough to bring good.

 

So when God draws near to us and asks us to draw near to Him, we won’t.  Because I know it’s there.

 

How quickly we forget that God’s grace is designed to overcome any baggage and burden we carry.  Because grace knows exactly where we’ve been and what we’ve chosen.  Grace knows every there in our past and present.  And yet grace still comes to us – knowing we can rewrite our past, rechart our present, and redirect our future.  If we will surrender our there and allow grace to take its place.

 

So what is stopping you?  What there is in your life, keeping you from God’s best?

 

Today is the day to stop letting it control you.  Throw it with all you are into the waiting arms of grace.  For He promises a divine exchange, His grace for your mess – “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness …” (Isaiah 61:3).  And when you (finally) allow God in, just watch Him start to transform your life.

 

No there we have is too much for God.  It may feel like it – but He can handle it.  And He will walk into and through the mess with you to help guide you out.  Just like He promises in Isaiah 43:2.

 

So what will you let go of today?  Don’t let your there be there any longer.

 

Loving Father, thank You for Your grace.  Thank You for allowing grace to overwrite the sin and mistakes in our life.  Help us today to embrace the full power of grace by allowing grace to take the place of anything less than Your best.  Help us open our hearts, minds, and will to the transformation You can and will do in our lives.  In Jesus’ mighty name.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  8/11/18

Brotherly Love instead of Bone to Pick

Romans 12:10Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another

 

I don’t know about you, but people tend to get on my nerves.  They don’t usually mean to, and they aren’t usually trying to.  It just happens – because they get in my way and/or make it hard(er) for me.

 

It’s easier to deal with when it is a random, unknown person:

  • The person who cuts the left turn too short
  • The person who blocks the entire grocery aisle
  • The person who goes 30 and hits the brakes a lot in a 45 mile an hour zone
  • The person who refuses to let me (or anyone) merge into morning traffic
  • The group blocking the walkway anywhere (movies, church, theater)

 

Nameless and unknown.  You comment under your breath and move on, knowing you will probably not see or have to deal with the person again.

 

But what about the people you know?  The ones who know your name:

  • The coworker who leaves a mess in the shared kitchen or bathroom
  • The coworker who leaves early or calls out on a short-staffed day
  • The coworker who sends a nasty text because she didn’t like something you said

 

And how about when it gets in your face personal:

  • The boss/parent/teacher who makes every problem your fault
  • The boss/parent/teacher who calls you useless or worthless to your face
  • The boss who gives your supervisor permission to verbally abuse you … to her face
  • The family member who only talks about your negative points

 

Any of this is enough to wear on anyone.  But it is tough to tough it out and “be kindly affectionate” when it gets personal.  And I have moments when the pain people bring into my life causes me to (proudly) wear my pissy panties.

 

Brotherly Love

 

And I know it is wrong.  Because it puts me so far from Jesus’ idea of love (giving people understanding and serving them) and Paul’s idea of love (see 1 Corinthians 13).

 

We are called to so much more than hissy fits and emotional baggage.  Paul spells it out in Romans 12:9-21.  We are called to think, act, and speak like Jesus.

 

In verse 10 alone, we are called to:

  • To choose not to repay bad actions and harsh words with the same.  We are called to “be kindly affectionate” – to give goodness at all times.
  • To choose to live out of amazing grace instead of our unreliable emotions.  We are called to “giving preference” – to give forgiveness, even when it is not asked for, and to find compassion, even when it is least deserved.
  • To choose to see people as children of God … and to react to them as such.  We are called to “brotherly love” – to speak carefully, to love continuously, to pray compassionately, and to react cautiously to all of God’s masterpieces.

 

And I miss all these marks.  Sometimes all in the same day.  And I could get down on myself and beat myself up.

 

But I don’t.  I choose to see the lesson in each failure – and take a step toward love the next time I have a chance.

 

And I remember I am not called to have a close and personal relationship with everyone.  Even Jesus only had a handful of people close to Him.  But I am called to love everyone – I am expected to help people see the goodness and experience the grace of God.  Whether it is for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

 

And that means in order to “… live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18) I have to check myself.  A lot!

 

I need to choose to pray for each person who gets on my nerves.  God please help me, because I need it!

 

Loving Father, thank You for loving me through all my good and bad moments.  Thank You for never giving up on me, no matter what I do and how many times I miss Your best.  Help me to love and respond to people in the same grace-filled way You do.  Help me to assume the best and choose to bless … especially in those moments when I don’t want to react this way.  Help me to be a tsunami of grace to everyone around me.  In Jesus’ all-mighty name.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  8/4-8/5/18.

Believing for Bread?

Matthew 6:11 – “Give us this day our daily bread.

 

We don’t think much of this verse in our modern-day times.  Everything we want to eat is readily available and easily accessible.  We don’t have to go out and kill just to ensure we can feed our family for the day.

 

Unlike Old Testament Israel, whose survival was day to day.  And that included 430 years of demanding, demeaning, and demoralizing slavery in Egypt.

 

Yet now they are in a season where they continue to experience miracle after miracle.  They had just “plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:35-36) and taken great amounts of provision as they were thrown out of the country.  Then they saw God drown the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:27-28) while they safely crossed through the waters on dry land (Exodus 14:29).  Now they are freely walking toward and then into God’s promised land!

 

And they should be rejoicing.  The have the one Power who can defeat entire armies on their side.  But no!  Less than a week after they saw the Red Sea miracle, they start complaining.  Instead of praying to Him, they start whining at Him (Exodus 15:22-26).

 

Then only a month later they do it again.  Dramatically.  “And the children of Israel said to them, ‘Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” (Exodus 16:3).

 

Believing for Bread

 

Barely one month out of the slavery they prayed every day to escape, and here they are suddenly ready to go back.

 

Why?  Because they had an uncertain of a little meat and bread.  They have conveniently forgotten the back-breaking work, the whips, the babies killed, and the lack of freedom.

 

And again, instead of praying, they go to complaining.  To a spoiled child yelling “I hate you” and stomping her foot level.  Because they were a little hungry.

 

They never chose to consider the miracles of the last two months or the power of God available to them.  Instead, they chose to look at their current (temporary) lack and become loudly bitter about what they were missing.

 

And how often do we do the same thing?

 

How often do we choose to overlook God’s unending goodness to us?

How often do we choose to ignore God’s continued faithfulness to us?

 

When a problem arises, what is your first reaction?

Do you run back to that unhealthy relationship, unyielding addiction, or unhappy shame?

Or do you run to the One who wants to comfort, protect, and restore you?

 

Israel chose the former, choosing to see hope in the actually hopeless Egypt.  They didn’t stop to consider anything beyond their current problem and what they saw as the only possible solution.  So they joined forces, “… the whole congregation of the children of Israel …” (Exodus 16:2) coming together in a corporate hissy fit.

 

When they could have made a better choice.  Why couldn’t they have come together in corporate prayer instead?  Why couldn’t they have done like David and recited God’s faithfulness up to that point (1 Samuel 17:34-36)?

 

I personally have never seen God drown an entire army of thousands of people to save and protect me.  But Israel did.  I personally have never seen a tree thrown into bitter waters so they would become sweet and life-giving.  But Israel did.  And I personally have never seen God pass over an entire country and take the firstborn son of every family not protected by His provision.  But Israel did.

 

Yet they were not fully persuaded about His love.  Their hearts were still stuck back in the “comforts” of the slavery they once decried and despised.

 

How about you?

How are you persuaded about God?

 

Is He for you?

Because He is for you.  You are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) created especially for His good pleasure and precious relationship.

 

Does He love you?

Because He does love you.  More than you can understand (Ephesians 3:18) and with a fierceness nothing can penetrate (Romans 8:38-39).

 

Is His compassionate hand on your life?

Because He is with you every moment of every day.  There is nowhere too far, too low, or too deep for Him to know where you are (Psalm 139:7-12) and choose to embrace you – just as you are, to help you heal back to wholeness.

 

So today the choice is yours.

 

Will you be ungrateful Israel, overlooking all of your blessings and complaining about what you think you don’t have?

 

Or will you be awe-inspired to worship and trust the One who always provides for you?

 

I pray you choose to believe for His provision!

 

Marie Fremin.  7/22/18

Peter the Sifted

Peter the sifted

Peter, the enemy is watching you.  And he’s waiting for his opportunity to persuade you.  Because he knows that though you speak boldly, your heart is more unsure than not.

 

So he’s waiting for just the right time to remove your confidence in Me, to shatter your faith in yourself, and to destroy the foundation of who you are yet to become.

 

And at that time, a most inopportune time for your troubled heart, he will cause you to examine yourself so thoroughly that you will doubt everything you have believed.  You will begin to think that everything miraculous you saw was perhaps just a dream.

 

Because you have a great destiny, Peter.  And he knows that you will be part of helping to destroy his influence on the world.  So he has to stop you now, while you are unsure and insecure.

 

But you will eventually see – and know – that My hand has always been on your life.  Though you will be tested – and fail – I will still be with you, I will still love you, and I will still believe in you.  And I will help you to realize that you WILL walk in the purposes I have for you.

 

Just don’t give up.  Though it will seem bleak and hopeless, I will be waiting for you on the other side.  And the answer to the prayers I have prayed for your purpose will begin to blossom answers.

 

So do not lose heart.  Because though you will turn, you WILL return.  And when you do, you will be unstoppable and people will be changed forever!

 

Marie Fremin.  7/11/18

 

Bonus:

Go deeper and think about this:

  • If the enemy was to “sift” (examine) your faith, what would he find?
  • How does it impact you to know that “I [Jesus] have prayed for you”?
  • When is a time your faith was tested? How did you respond?
  • How does Jesus restore Peter in John 21:15-17? (Consider the significance of three.)

5 Smooth Stones

There is a standoff in the Valley of Elah.  Two armies stand prepared to fight – on one side stands the Philistine giants and on the other stands God’s people Israel.  And knowing they had God’s favor, you would think Israel would charge in and claim their victory.  But no.

 

Israel stands “dismayed and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:11), refusing to go forth and fight.  They are ready to fight physically, dressed in full “battle array” (1 Samuel 17:21).  But mentally they are discouraged by the enormous size and excessive armor of their challengers.  And this continues for “forty days, morning and evening” (1 Samuel 17:16).  Until a young shepherd boy shows up at the request of his father to check on his brothers (1 Samuel 17:18).

 

And as David comes on the mountain, he hears the taunt (1 Samuel 17:23) and sees Israel flee (1 Samuel 17:24).  So how does the young shepherd respond?  Does David cower as the Israelite army?  No.  David is outraged that someone would speak against his God (1 Samuel 17:26).  And he is ready to fight.  He goes to King Saul and asks for the opportunity to defeat the haughty Philistine Goliath.

 

Saul takes an assessment – David is inexperienced, ill-equipped, and in no way able to win.  But David will not be dissuaded.  He has fought battles in the sheep fields with wild animals (1 Samuel 17:34-36a), and he is fully convinced wholeheartedly that he can win today (1 Samuel 17:36b).

 

So Saul figures David’s only chance to win is to dress him for battle, like his opponent.  Goliath “had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail … bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders” (1 Samuel 17:5-6).  So David is given “[Saul’s] armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail” (1 Samuel 17:38).

 

But when David tries to walk away, the armor is too heavy, too awkward, and too ill-fitting.  “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them” (1 Samuel 17:39b).

 

David cannot move in Saul’s armor.  But more than that, David is uncomfortable in Saul’s armor.  He is a simple shepherd.  What use would he have had for battle armor?  He has spent his days with the sheep, his staff as his main defense.  What good would heavy armor have done if he needed to quickly chase a wandering sheep?

 

He can’t move, therefore he can’t fight.  So he has two options – do like the Israelite army and give up or find another way.

 

And David doesn’t hesitate.  “So David took them off” (1 Samuel 17:39c) and allowed himself to be who God created him to be.  A shepherd whose mobility could not be burdened by heavy armor and artillery, with little at his disposal.  And I wonder how good David had gotten with small stones he found on the ground of the sheep fields.  Obviously pretty good, because “… he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, …” (1 Samuel 17:40).

 

A whole army’s worth of armor and weapons at his disposal.  And David bypasses them all for five simple stones and his shepherd’s gear.

5 Smooth Stones

And we know how the story ends.  He only needed a simple stone and great faith to beat the giant (1 Samuel 17:49-51).

 

David was victorious because he did not let the circumstances overwhelm him and he did not bow down to the status quo.  He didn’t care about the size of his opponent because he knew the power of His God.  He didn’t try to make the awkward armor work because he knew it would be nothing but failure.  He knew who he was, he knew his strengths, and he knew how he had been successful.  And none of that included Saul’s armor.

 

So how does this apply to you?

 

Are you trying to be someone God did not create you to be?  Are you putting on the ill-fitted expectations of your parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, coworkers, boss, or children?  Are you living an awkward life wearing someone else’s ideology of success, happiness, and goodness?  Are you burdened by the heaviness of shame, pain, or fear?

 

Today is the day to take it all off.  To remove whatever awkward, ill-fitting, and heavy expectations, feelings, and relationships don’t fit you.

 

Because the advice, direction, and influence of people don’t always agree with the purposes, plans, and personality [within us] of God.  These people mean well, but they could be steering away from the person God is calling us to be and purposes God is calling us to.  So we have to go back to who we know we are through Christ, to be our authentic self and walk in the gifts and talents from God.  Because when we fight them, we will be miserable.

 

And David got this.  David knew if he tried to wear the armor not designed or comfortable for him, defeat would have been inevitable.  So he took it off.

 

What armor do you need to take off today?

 

Marie Fremin.  5/5/18, 5/10/18, 6/6-8/18.

Grace: God vs. Man

I have been thinking a lot about grace recently.  Apparently, a (big) life change will lead you down that road.

 

Three weeks ago, I was dealt an unexpected blow.  No, I didn’t see it coming.  No, I didn’t know it was being planned.  No, I didn’t expect it.  But did it break me?  No!  Because as I sat across from someone who defined me by a self-proclaimed stereotype a long time ago and refused to let it go, I was overwhelmed by God’s grace.  I immediately saw the hand of God on my life and realized God was at work to remove me – with blessings – from a situation that had never been healthy for me.  And internally I smiled and praised, because God’s grace produced such peace in me.  I was good – no, I was great – in the middle of this sudden life twist.  How?  Because God reassured me He is with me (always) and was closing out this season according to His purpose.  And I have the hope that He was already working out the new season of His plans for me.

 

God’s grace was at it always is – present, peace-full, and perpetual.

 

Man’s grace, however, once again showed up for what it often is – judgmental, contrary, and specifically limited.

 

And as I think about my recent days and ponder people versus God when it comes to grace, it becomes abundantly clear that while God’s grace is readily available, man’s is not.  And rarely will man be so carefree with his grace as God is.

Grace - God vs Man

Because we as humans feel like we cannot freely give grace.

We have to hoard it.

We have to withhold it.

We refuse to give it.

We dole it out in portions that satisfy us and our stereotypes.

 

So freely we take grace from God.  Yet so easily we refuse to give it to others.

 

But WHY?

 

Why do we choose to be caustic, cautious, careful, and casual about giving grace?  Is it because we sit in judgment of people based on our goodness and standards?  Is it because we are fearful God will punish us or won’t “refill” us for giving away what He gave us?  Or is it because we are drawn to disobedience and going our own way?

 

Ouch!

 

And then I wonder.  I wonder how someone can look you in the eye and call you worthless, no matter how hard you work.  Judge you as trouble, no matter what the evidence says to the contrary.  Allow someone to yell at and revile you publicly (and loudly) without consequence.  And all the while unapologetically demanding respect – and grace – in return.

 

And through it all, I am really expected to extend grace?  YES.  Because God extends grace to me.  When I least deserve it.  When I’m at my worst.  When I could care less who I hurt.

 

God is never like man with grace.  He’s never cautious or hesitant.  He’s never careful.  He’s never casual.  He’s never caustic.

 

He gives grace freely and fully.

When we ask.

 

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

 

We can come without hesitation, without fear, and without shame to His “throne of grace”, to find the freedom and healing we need – whether we have withheld grace or had grace withheld.

 

So will you be humble enough today to seek and ask God for the grace you need?

 

Marie Fremin.  5/19/18 and 6/7/18