Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Here is the final installment in this series on temptation.  If you want to read more about Stress or Anger, then check out part one and part two in this series.

Just as brief recap...check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation.  Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!"  No.  On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing.  The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.  

In the first post, I talked about Sal or Tessio being one of my favorite characters from The Godfather because of the insight his role provides for understanding temptation.  Sal was an underboss for the Corleone crime family but when it appeared they had lost power, he betrayed them and conspired with a rival family.  This is what temptation is in our lives..it's opportunistic, crafty, devious, and always scheming for a way to take advantage of us...and Lust is certainly one of those temptations lurking outside the perimeter of our self-control trying to invade our lives.

The best book I have ever read about sexuality as it relates to men is "Sex, Men, and God" by Doug Weiss.  This is a must read for any man and if you are married, you should read this book together like my wife and I did about 12 years ago.  If you have male children, you are responsible for not only understanding your own sexuality but you are responsible for teaching them!  Don't fail them as too many fathers have before us.  He also has a book for women entitled "She Has A Secret."  Even if you would not characterize your temptation as an addiction, these resources are a must read to truly understand how God created you as a sexual being and the right way to celebrate our capacity for pleasure.

2 Samuel 11:1-4 gives us three powerful insights into how men fall prey to the temptation of lust.  In the account of David's horrific actions pursuing Bathsheba, committing adultery, and eventually murder in an attempt to hide his transgressions, we can see how temptation led to these egregious trespasses.  I want to talk specifically to men today...

The first clue is in verse one where the Bible tells us "...David stayed..."  meaning that David should have been with his men at war instead of remaining in Jerusalem.  Isolation will always lead to vulnerability to temptation.  If your life isn't immersed in relationships with other Christian men, you are vulnerable to the temptation of lust!  And our personalities must stop being permission to withdraw from the depth of relationships that we need in order to build up our defenses.  Even the most introverted person should have a few men who they know at a deeply personal level and who know him at a deeply personal level.  Every man should also have some men in their life who are a little farther along in their spiritual journey who they can trust and rely upon when they need to talk about their struggles.  Those conversations about struggles should take place with their core group of friends and those they trust to lead them.  Men, you are responsible to pursue these relationships.  Passivity will trap you in a place of always waiting for these relationships to form...and they never will if you don't engage.  Make room in your schedule for men's groups, be at church every weekend, serve in ministry, go on missions trips, and participate in special events.  If you don't share time and space with other Christian men, you are not creating the opportunity for deeper relationships to form.

The next clue is in verse two where the Bible tells us "...David looked..." meaning that David allowed his eyes to intently gaze upon an image he knew would would be sexually arousing.  Men, the rooftop of our modern world is technology.  If you don't have a plan to limit your access to everything you could see, you are vulnerable to the temptation of lust.  Pride needs to stop being permission giving in your life!  Pride keeps us from asking for help!  The web link above for Dr. Weiss will offer you a myriad of resources to help limit your access.  If you have a modern cable service for home entertainment, they come with a multitude of parental controls and ratings/channel blocks.  If this is a struggle in  your life, set up these restrictions and give the passcode to your wife.  Pride is cowardice!  I'm telling you men...if you don't take these steps and you fall prey to the temptation of lust because you didn't limit your access then you will never lead your family as strong as you should because you will feel morally compromised.  Your eyes must be tethered directly to your will.  What you see is your responsibility.  If my vision (eyesight) is not under the control of my will that is in turn committed to pleasing God then my life's vision (direction in life) will be misguided by lust.

The final clue is in verse four where the Bible tells us "...David sent..." meaning that David had a sense of entitlement to satisfy his sexual pleasures.  Sexual pleasure is not a right.  Sexual pleasure is a privilege.  This privilege does not belong to me.  The privilege of sexual pleasure belongs to my wife.  This is what the Apostle Paul was trying to communicate to the Church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4.  Until you see your capacity for sexual pleasure as a responsibility to protect instead of a desire to satisfy, you are vulnerable to the temptation of lust.  And if you are not married, your capacity for sexual pleasure belongs to your future wife.  And if you have no plans to ever be married, then your capacity for sexual pleasure becomes a sacrifice to God.  We are bombarded every day through entertainment, creative arts, advertising, opinions of popular figures, and a collective societal view that misleads us in our beliefs about sexual pleasure.  If you are one of those men who diminish the success of other men because you think your libido is just too strong to resist, you are demeaning yourself.  Check out 1 Corinthians 10:13 and see that every person is expected to resist every temptation because God does not allow us to be tempted beyond your ability to overcome.  Let's stop being entitled and start being responsible.

So let me make you an offer that you can't refuse.  No, not the kind from The Godfather that is coercion.  This offer is from Jesus and is irresistibly good!  John 10:10 promises us a life lived to the fullest possible measure!  We have been created by God with a heart for an appetite for life that will only ever be fully satisfied when we are fully committed to a life of devotion to Jesus!

Pastor Fred  

Friday, June 23, 2017


Welcome to part two of a three part series on temptation, specifically Stress, Anger, and Lust.  If you want to read more about Stress, then check out part one in the this series.  Here is a brief introduction and an excerpt from Stress.

Check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation.  Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!"  No.  On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing.  The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.

Anger.  Gary Chapman is wonderful author whose works continue to help scores of people grow and mature in their relationships with one another and with God.  The Five Love Languages was ground breaking in its contribution to romantic relationships, family relationships, and even friendships.  He has another exceptional work exploring the emotion of anger.  Listen to what he says in Anger, Taming A Powerful Emotion.

"Anger is a cruel task master.  If you struggle even a little with anger, you know how it feels to get mad too easily.  To lash out at someone you love...to hold onto frustration.  You might even notice others seem uneasy around you.  You know anger is hurting your life, but you don't know how to fix it.  There is hope.  When you understand why you get angry and what to do about it, you can change the course of your life for the better.  Whether your anger is quiet or explosive, if it's clouding your judgment and hurting your relationships, it needs to go.  Learn to handle anger in healthy ways, starting today."

If you feel like anger is something of a temptation for you or if you are way beyond temptation because this emotional trap has a grip on your life, then Chapman's book would be a great start for you!

People have always struggled with the temptation of anger.  Consider Cain and Abel.  The first children of the world, Adam and Eve's two sons, record the first murder of history...anger.  From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find guidance for how to deal with this ancient temptation.  I love Paul's encouragement to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, "But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.  Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you."  (NLT)  

Paul knew that Timothy would be tempted by anger, especially in the face of brutal persecution.  His instruction to "keep a clear mind" was a warning to not capitulate to the emotion of the moment.  And Paul's directive here is not a list of miscellaneous tasks.  Paul is teaching Timothy and us there is a causal relationship between having a clear, calm mind and being diligent in pursuing our assignment!  So many times, the anger that is manifesting in a situation is born out of frustration with ourselves because deep inside we know we are neglecting something that God is asking of us.  Too often, the anger of the moment is bleeding over from a separate circumstance.  Paul is reminding Timothy that life is going to bring enough temptation for anger.  And that if he becomes negligent in his calling, his assignment, that internal frustration will make him even more vulnerable to anger.

Verses like these are an opportunity for us to examine our lives and see if we are truly submitted to the authority of Scripture.  I can believe the Bible is true.  I can value the wisdom I find there.  I can feel loved because of the great many promises God speaks over me in His verses.  But at some point I must reconcile my life to the boundaries of God's Word.  Scripture is instruction, sacred instruction from our perfect God.  And here in 2 Timothy, we find a profound insight for dealing with anger.  Ask yourself, "Am I neglecting anything that I know God expects of me?"  If you can answer yes to that question, you are vulnerable to the temptation of anger.

There is no easy fix to dealing with the temptation of anger, especially if this has been a struggle for you.  Temptations can become patterns in our lives.  Our humanity can grow familiar with certain temptations like anger to the point we become accustomed to acquiescing instead of resisting.  But there has to be a starting point for your counter attack!  And I believe that for many, that starting point is to find your resolve to recommit yourself to whatever expectation from God you have been forsaking!

In 1991, my first year as a devoted follower of Jesus, I began to read the Bible in earnest for the first time in my life.  I began to read with a heart that was ready to embrace the authoritative voice Scripture must be for us all.  And I remember coming to Exodus 34:6 and I can't recall the version I was reading that day but I memorized this rendering about God, "a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, rich in steadfast love and truth."  

May we all be a better reflection of His character to our world...slow to anger.

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


This is part one of three part series inspired by the message I shared on Father's Day weekend at our Newport News Campus.  The focus of that message was directed toward men but the challenge these three temptations present are true for both men and women.  If you are struggling with any of these three temptations, I hope these words encourage and motivate you to lean into the wisdom and Scripture and the insights of some authors I will recommend.

Sal or Tessio is one of my favorite characters from The Godfather because of the insight his role provides for understanding temptation.  Sal was an underboss for the Corleone crime family but when it appeared they had lost power, he betrayed them and conspired with a rival family.  This is what temptation is in our lives..it's opportunistic, crafty, devious, and always scheming for a way to take advantage of us!

Check out Proverbs 14:11-12 and discover something about temptation.  Temptation never comes to us and says "Hey, let me help you ruin your life and destroy your family!"  No.  On the outset, temptation appears to be pleasing.  The lure of something promising gratification but ultimately only bringing brokenness and destruction.

SAL has put out a hit on the character of men and women and their names are stress, anger, and lust!  I first heard these three temptations shared together at a men's breakfast sponsored by our church, City Life Church.  One of the men who shared talked openly about his struggle with each of them.  I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me that Saturday, "Talk about these on Father's Day weekend."  I felt that same whisper last weekend..."Keep talking about these!"

Stress.  Some of you are so stressed out you are finding it difficult to sit still to focus on this blog.  Don't relent to the temptation to stop reading!  The temptation of stress doesn't want you to be free from it's treacherous grip!

A Stanford neuroscientist, Robert Sapolsky writes,

"Stess hormones are brilliant, adapted to help you survive an unexpected threat.  You mobilize energy in your thigh muscles, you increase your blood pressure and turn off everything that's not essential to surviving, such as digestion, growth, and reproduction systems in your body.  You think more clearly, and certain aspects of learning and memory are enhanced.  But non-life-threatening stressors, such as constantly worrying about money or pleasing your boss, also trigger the release of adrenalin and other stress hormones, which, over time, can have devastating consequences to your health.  If you turn on the stress response chronically for purely psychological reasons, you increase your risk of adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure, and a host of other health risks."

First, consider picking up a copy of John Ortberg's book "Soul Keeping" as it is a wonderful resource that not only talks about dealing with stress but also how important it is for each of us to be good stewards of our own well-being.  So often people are so consumed with caring for others, they neglect themselves.

What about Scripture?  Does the Bible have anything to say about stress?  Yes!  Here are three ways I defend against the temptation of stress in my own life:  prayer, power, and people.

Prayer.  Philippians 4:6-7 must be a mainstay in every Christian's battle against stress.  The temptation of stress lures us into a place of worry over things we cannot control.  The simple difference between praying and worrying is talking to God instead of yourself when facing something beyond your control.  We have all been in those places where we are obsessing over a situation.  Thoughts are flooding our minds at times seemingly uncontrollably.  A situation just keeps replaying in our heads, an unrelenting hounding.  Prayer is how we are supposed to deal with situations like this.  We turn that worry into prayer by converting obsessing into praying!  Direct your thoughts to God.  Talk to Him out loud if that helps you.  Ask someone to spend some time in prayer with you.  Prayer reminds us that God is sovereign and in control of our lives and every situation affecting us.  We may not see an immediate change in our situation but there will be a change in our outlook and emotions.  The peace that we read about in Philippians 4 begins to displace stress and worry because we are connecting our sense to peace to God and not to our circumstance.

Power.  Colossians 3:15 is a powerful verse challenging us to take control of ourselves.  The temptation of stress lures us into a place of believing we can't control the impact of our emotions.  This is one of the devil's most insidious strategies.  He wants us to obsess over things we can't control and ignore the areas of our lives that we can control.  In Colossians 3 note two words, "let" and "rule" are keys to this verse.  First, we must "let" or choose to resist stress.  We can't avoid the onset of emotions.  That is part of the human experience.  But we must control their impact and our actions in response to those emotions.  If the peace of Christ is going to "rule" in our heats as commanded in Colossians 3 then we must believe that we have power to control how our emotions direct us.  God gave us emotions to serve us and enrich our lives.  We are not supposed to be a slave to our emotions.  They are to serve us!  Some people have diagnosable chemical imbalances in there lives.  Others may be dealing with conditions like PTSD...those situations need professional help and oftentimes life long assistance.  But if our situation does not fall into one of those exceptions or something similar, we must find a place of power over our emotional life if we are going to resist the temptation of stress!

People.  Proverbs 12:25 reminds us we need the encouragement of others.  The temptation of stress lures us into a place of false loyalty to relationships that are unhealthy.  People tend to hold onto relationships longer than they should because they are more concerned about their image than they are their character.  Sometimes you need to change your crowd if you are going to change your outlook on life.  Surround yourself with people who are hopeful about the future because of what they believe about the goodness of God!  Now all you evangelists out there might cringe at this advice because you feel this will undermine people's efforts to reach others with the love of God.  On the contrary.  I am not suggesting isolation from everyone except those who can encourage us.  I am saying that we must be wise in regards to who is in which circle of relationship.  I should have an inner circle of people who I can trust and can lean into when I am struggling with the temptation of stress.  These people need to be mature Christians who can offer the word of encouragement referenced in Proverbs 12.  I still need to have people I am trying reach with the love of God, being careful in those circles to be the one doing the influencing!

My prayer today is that you find the peace of Christ and not be overcome any longer by the temptation of stress!  Stop giving stress permission to wreak havoc in your life!  Prayer, power, and people are an impenetrable defense!

Pastor Fred