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PRAY – more than a message series

24 Aug

In 20+ years as a pastor, I have preached many message series. I have no illusions that everyone remembers everything I say. Instead, I pray that something I say in every message speaks to every person who hears the message. However, over the last two Sundays I have begun a message series that has shaken my own soul:  PRAY.  The first two message focus on how to pray. Here is where you can watch both messages if you have missed them…http://lakesidebaptist.com/pages/media.htm

Upcoming messages in the series include….

“Powerful Prayer”                                               August 30

“Praying for Your Church”    Part 1                 September 6

“Praying for Your Church”    Part 2                 September 13

My own prayer life has been greatly changed as I have studied to prepare these messages. However, the PRAY series is much more than a message series. It has revitalized my own prayer life, and I believe that it is the beginning of a prayer movement in our church.

Make sure you are praying daily – preferably praying multiple times daily. Pray with your family.  Pray with your church family. Study the Lord’s Prayer and Bible passages on prayer. Stay in the Word daily. Watch the messages on prayer. Finally, join me in praying at two specific times on Thursday – 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon.  I will be praying at those times on Thursday.  I will be praying through the Lord’s Prayer. I will be praying for our hurting country to experience a mighty revival.  I will be praying for needs in my own family and church family. I will be praying for Lakeside as we look toward the future. I will be praying for friends going through difficult times. No matter if you can pray for five minutes or fifty minutes. Join me in praying.  Pick the time that fits your schedule and join me. If you can, pray with me at both times.  Just do it.  Make it a priority!

God is calling the church back to true dependence on Him and back to relying on His power rather than our own efforts. PRAY folks. PRAY. PRAY. PRAY.

Put it on your calendar now and go see WOODLAWN!

14 Aug

Woodlawn

I want to use this space today to urge you to go see a movie the weekend of October 16-18, 2015.  That is the premiere weekend for the movie Woodlawn in theaters.  Last night, I was invited by a friend to attend a private screening of the movie with several members of the team and other local pastors.  I must say that I was stunned (in a good way) by what I saw. Woodlawn isn’t just the best Christian-themed movie I have seen, but Woodlawn is one of the best movies I have ever seen, period.

Most importantly, Woodlawn is a true story of what happened with the 1973-74 football teams at Woodlawn High School and how it affected the entire city of Birmingham.  Yes, there is the football. Tony Nathan rose from obscurity to become a football legend in the state of Alabama. There is the climactic 1974 Woodlawn vs. Banks game that to this day holds the record for the largest crowd ever to attend a high school football game in Alabama.  In addition, Caleb Castille, the son of Alabama great Jeremiah Castille, has the lead role playing Tony Nathan. The football scenes are intense and startlingly realistic. The movie was filmed on location here in Birmingham, so we actually see Legion Field, Woodlawn High School, etc.

However, football is not the message of the movie, nor is it the message of the 1973-74 Woodlawn football team. That message is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A great spiritual awakening and movement of God that began among the football team spread throughout the city. During a time of great tension, the only thing that could bring true racial reconciliation and love for one another was the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lives were changed. The city of Birmingham was changed.

This movie absolutely doesn’t flinch. It not only shows the brutality of the game of football, but it also shows the ugliness of racism, abuse, and mistrust. It shows the struggle for teens to grow up in a fallen world. It shows the soul searching of our own individual hearts regarding our own prejudices.  It shows the struggle to forgive. Most of all, it shows the hope of a better way – the love that only comes through the Lord Jesus Christ.  It does all of this with a $25 million production budget – meaning that the production quality is completely on par with any Hollywood blockbuster.

I’ve never seen anything like it.  I wept. I cheered.  I can’t wait to watch it with my sons.  Join me in praying that the message of this movie will bring hope to our hurting country. The directors of the movie are praying for 3 million Christians to buy tickets the weekend of October 16-18.  It is on my calendar, and unless we are providentially hindered, my family will be there. I intend to encourage my church family to be there and bring anyone they know who will come.  Due to the Birmingham connection, I have no doubt it will be big in the Birmingham area, but it needs to be big in places like Huntsville, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis, and Atlanta.

Tell everyone you know. Put it on your calendar. Pray hard. Believe that God is up to something great with this film. Here is the link to the website for more information…http://woodlawnmovie.com/

 

Challenging trends in the same-sex marriage debate

1 May

As a pastor, I use words every week in my speaking and writing. I am also an observer of the words people use, the arguments people make, and how they make their arguments. In recent months, I have seen a definite shift in terms of the debate regarding same-sex marriage in our culture. As a Christian pastor who believes the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, I stand solidly and publicly with those who believe that marriage should be defined only as the marriage of one man and one woman for life. This post isn’t arguing that point. This post is about the trends that I have seen develop in how this debate over marriage is playing out in our culture – even here in Alabama. I will not link to any specific articles or blogs. Suffice it to say that I have seen multiple examples of each of these trends. Again, my focus is on the shift of how the argument is being made.

1)  The argument has shifted from the legitimacy of same-sex marriage to calls for opponents to cease opposition.  It wasn’t that long ago that the most common argument in an article supporting same-sex marriage was that same-sex couples deserved the same rights as heterosexual couples. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states (with Alabama briefly becoming #37), those of us who advocate for the Biblical definition of marriage are told to accept the inevitable, get on the right side of history, or “get over it.”  Increasingly, we are told all three of those things in the same column.

2)  The argument is made that opposition to same-sex marriage can only come from bigotry.  I have seen several columns and blog posts recently who leave no room for any sincere opposition to gay marriage. In their worldview, the only possible explanation for opposing it is a deep seated bigotry.  In their worldview, it is not possible to love homosexuals and yet oppose same-sex marriage.

3)  Using Old Testament passages as a club to shame and silence.  Increasingly, I see advocates for same-sex marriage pull a verse from the Old Testament law and say something like, “This is in the Bible too. If you want to take the Bible literally then what do you say about this verse?”  There is no understanding or at least no explanation of Biblical theology, progressive revelation, historical context, scriptural context, etc.  The end result is confusion and silence for many Christians who might not understand the theological issues involved and how the narrative of scripture unfolds.  The clear implication that is intended is that those of us who believe in the Biblical definition of marriage should not be taken seriously because we hold views that are dangerous.

4) Ridicule and disdain in place of a coherent answer.   The scenario is the same over and over again.  A person makes a logical, thoughtful, gracious argument in favor of the traditional definition of marriage, and their arguments aren’t really answered. They are simply mocked and dismissed as being “on the wrong side of history” or “out of touch with civilization.”

These trends and others like them mean that those of us who advocate for Biblical marriage face increasing difficulty in even having our position heard in the broader culture.  Furthermore, when it is heard, our position is often misrepresented, distorted, and twisted beyond recognition.  On one hand, there is nothing we can do to control what is happening, but on the other hand it is helpful to understand what is going on and seek to be as wise as possible. These are challenging times indeed. None of us know where all of this will end.  However, our response to these issues must be guided by a principle that we do know for sure…

We are not called to be popular, but rather we are called to be faithful.

 

Visiting with an Old Friend – Psalm 27

31 Mar

This week leading up to Easter, I am consciously trying to spend less time looking at a screen (either the TV or my iPad) and more time consciously in the Word.  Tonight as I settled in for the evening and began to catch up on my Bible reading plan, I realized that tonight’s reading would reunite me with an old friend – Psalm 27.

It was July 2002 in Waverly, New York.  I was leading a mission team of 35 people, and my heart was heavy. That particular mission trip was a difficult one in that nothing really went according to plan.  Our group didn’t even get an hour from home before a flat tire delayed us! To be quite honest, about halfway through that trip, I wondered if we had done the right thing in coming. In addition, one of my closest friends in the church &  a well-respected deacon there was in the hospital in Birmingham fighting for his life. It looked bleak, and any moment I was expecting to get the call to fly home.  In addition, I was the full-time pastor of a growing church while also pursuing my doctorate degree from seminary.  Literally, I was working both day and night seven days per week. I was physically & spiritually exhausted.  Finally, I had a pregnant wife and a four year old little boy at home that I missed & worried about. Like I said, my heart was heavy – and my tank was empty!

One morning I went outside to have my Bible reading & prayer time. The sun had just come up enough to give light to read by. It was then that these words gripped my heart…

Davidic. The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart is not afraid; though a war breaks out against me, still I am confident. I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple. For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock. Then my head will be high above my enemies around me; I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord. Lord, hear my voice when I call; be gracious to me and answer me. My heart says this about You, “You are to seek My face.” Lord, I will seek Your face. Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or abandon me, God of my salvation. Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me. Because of my adversaries, show me Your way, Lord, and lead me on a level path. Do not give me over to the will of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing violence. I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27, HCSB)

It was then the Lord assured me that I would see His goodness even though I couldn’t sense it at that moment. Psalm 27 strengthened me, encouraged me, and convicted me of my lack of faith all at the same time. Since that day almost 13 years ago, I have at key times each year been drawn back to Psalm 27.  It’s like an old friend that visits at just the right time. I am grateful for the visit tonight.

A Powerful Word in a Changing World

16 Mar

It’s so wonderful when the Word of God speaks to us in a new and fresh way. Over the weekend in my personal Bible reading Psalm 12 jumped off the page for me. As many times as I have read it, it is more meaningful to me today than ever before. First please allow me to share a little background.

To be perfectly honest, every Biblically faithful pastor and every serious Christian in the United States is wrestling with some difficult questions: How do we live as Christians in a culture that is increasingly hostile to what we believe?  How do we have a Biblically faithful church going forward in the cultural realities of today’s world?  How do we reach people for Christ in our culture?  Those are just three examples of many questions that I (and many others) am asking.  While I have not been in despair over them, I am burdened by these questions.  Every single day these questions are on my heart. Now you can understand why Psalm 12 spoke to me in such a profound way. Here it is…

For the choir director: according to Sheminith. A Davidic psalm. Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race. They lie to one another; they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully. They say, “Through our tongues we have power; our lips are our own—who can be our master?” “Because of the oppression of the afflicted and the groaning of the poor, I will now rise up,” says the Lord. “I will put the one who longs for it in a safe place.” The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times. You, Lord, will guard us; You will protect us from this generation forever. The wicked wander everywhere, and what is worthless is exalted by the human race.” (Psalm 12, HCSB)

Verse 1 is clear that David went through a time when he felt as if the faithful had largely disappeared. Then in the verses that follow, David tells us why he felt that way.  Many committed Christians feel this way in our day.  The parallels between our culture and what David describes here are uncanny.  For instance, look at verse 4. We live in a day when politicians, media icons, entertainers, and other influential people use the power of words to shape the culture – in the wrong direction!  Like those described in verse 4, they steadfastly believe they are their own master and determine their own destiny. While there have always been people like this in America, it seems that now they are almost totally in control of every lever of influence in our culture. Yes, times are changing quickly. Like David, we see it. We feel it. It’s easy to begin to feel despair and doubt.

Did you notice where David went when confronted with these realities?  He went back to the pure words of the Lord and His protection. The cultural realities that David faced drove him back to the Lord and the Word.  That is where the answers to his struggle were found.  In the same way, as we wrestle with very real questions today, it is my prayer that we too are driven back to where the answers to our struggle are found.

HE is faithful!

 

Clash of the worldviews

20 Feb

Dr. Del Tackett who helped produce Focus on the Family’s excellent series “The Truth Project” defines a person’s worldview in this way…

A person’s worldview consists of the values, ideas or the fundamental belief system that determines his attitudes, beliefs and ultimately, actions.

It’s important to understand that there are many worldviews in operation today. Very often these worldviews are shaped by religion.  For instance, the worldview of a Bible believing evangelical Christian in Alabama is very different from the worldview of a Muslim in Egypt.  However, if a person is an atheist or if they make decisions as if there is no god, then that is a worldview as well.

A quick glance at the world headlines reveals that we are watching a clash of worldviews play out in international affairs. The rise of ISIS and Iran’s continuing march toward a nuclear weapon all reflect worldviews in operation. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict reflects a clash of worldviews. China is operating out of its worldview – very different from the Middle Eastern worldview but still a very definite worldview.

Here at home in the United States we are seeing a clash of worldviews that is no less real.  Over the last few decades, the United States has gradually replaced the Christian worldview with a secular worldview.  The moral revolution that our nation has experienced is the direct result of this change.  The clash of worldviews is playing out in every segment of American culture right now.  The cultural elites look at Bible believing evangelical Christians and wonder why we do not just “go along” and “get on the right side of history.”  They do not understand that we are operating under a worldview that values the approval of the Lord above the approval of men.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1–2, HCSB)

Speaking the truth in love

6 Feb

There is absolute truth.  I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation and the only way to Heaven. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ literally died on the cross for the sins of the world and literally rose again on the third day.  I believe the Lord Jesus Christ is literally coming again to this world where He will finally defeat Satan & those he leads.  I believe there is a literal Heaven where those who have placed their hope in Christ will spend eternity.  I believe there is a literal Hell where all who reject Christ will spend eternity.  I believe God created the heavens and the earth. I believe the God who created the heavens and the earth also created the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman as the universal building block of human society.  I believe we all stand as sinners before a Holy God and the only solution for our sin was the Cross where Jesus died. I believe there is hope for any person on the face of the earth who will repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation.  Here I stand. I will hold these (and other) convictions until my last breath. Anyone who knows me or who has listened to many of my messages will not be surprised. These convictions guide how I live out my life every single day.

My convictions have not changed, but the culture & environment I minister in is transforming rapidly.  There is a growing cultural hostility toward people who hold these and similar views. Recent events in our nation and even my own state have made it clear that the government and the courts increasingly do not affirm such convictions.  In fact, it seems that some in the government and the courts are actually adversarial to those of us who hold Biblical convictions.  The news media and popular culture have long despised Biblical convictions.  Many people are understandably angry and respond in ways that aren’t helpful. Others attempt to give a reasoned, winsome defense of the “faith once delivered to the saints” in the public arena to varying degrees of effectiveness.  Virtually all of those reasoned, winsome voices for truth get disparaged, shouted down, marginalized, and labeled as hateful, bigoted, or worse.

Today as I sit at my desk reflecting on how the landscape of culture has changed even in my beloved state of Alabama, I am also overwhelmed to think of the people. Outside my office window I can hear the vehicles roaring down I-459.  The majority of those in those vehicles do not know Christ. In any direction we look there is ample evidence that the moral, cultural revolution that has taken place over the last few decades in our country has brought incalculable harm.  There are more broken homes and more no homes. There is more poverty, more anger, more abuse, more addiction, more depression, more confusion, and more pain than ever before.  Everywhere we look there is more and more brokenness of every kind.  Go to the wealthiest zip codes and the poorest zip codes. The story is the same: more brokenness of every kind. Yet, America seems intent on continuing down the same path at a rapidly accelerating pace.  I do not know how all of this will play out, but I am absolutely certain of one prediction.  Continuing down the path that has brought us great brokenness will result in even greater brokenness. My heart aches for people.  They need hope.  True hope is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way…” (Ephesians 4:15, HCSB)

That verse challenges me more today than ever before.  If I am a faithful Christian and pastor, then I am to speak Biblical truth and be a man of staunch conviction.  If I am a faithful Christian and pastor, I am to love even my enemies and love my neighbor as myself.  If I am a faithful Christian and pastor, then I will have a spine of steel conviction and a heart overflowing with love for people no matter their convictions, religion, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, attitudes, or actions. If I am a faithful Christian and pastor, I will speak the truth, but speak in a way that communicates love – both God’s love and my own.

That great balance of truth and love requires more prayer and thought today than ever before. It’s a daunting task. Thankfully, we have a great example to emulate from a well known preacher. This preacher has the perfect blend of truth and love. This preacher deals with “hot button” issues like relationships, sex, temptation, marriage & family, money, sin, Heaven, and Hell. He pulls no punches.  Yet, this preacher’s love for people has prompted many to call him “a friend of sinners.” He has brought  hope and new life to people everyone else gave up on. Perhaps you’ve heard of him:  the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, in today’s challenging cultural environment, help me live, preach, and love more like Him.

 

The new tolerance isn’t the old tolerance: Josh McDowell saw it coming

16 Jan

In 1996 I attended my second Southern Baptist Convention in the New Orleans Superdome. One of the speakers was the well-known Christian apologist Josh McDowell.  In his sermon to Southern Baptists that year, McDowell surprisingly did not speak about the evidence for the Christian faith.  Instead he discussed the rise of what he called “the new tolerance” in America and the challenges it would present for the Christian church.

According to Josh McDowell, the “old tolerance” as he described it was the type of tolerance that had been ingrained in American culture. Intertwined with the American ideal of personal freedom, McDowell described the old tolerance as the idea that I can respect your right to have your beliefs and practices without sharing or affirming them.  The old tolerance meant the free exchange of ideas, thoughts, and practices for everyone.   Then McDowell described the rise of what he termed the “new tolerance” which is a totally different concept.  The new tolerance demands affirmation.  The new tolerance says you do not have the right to do anything but affirm my beliefs – even if you don’t share them.  If you do not affirm whatever I believe or want to do, then you are a bigot according the new tolerance and unworthy of respect or a voice in society.  McDowell went on to describe the effects of this rising new tolerance that he was seeing on college campuses where he spoke. He shared how the new tolerance sought to silence and ostracize anyone who did not go along. He predicted that the new tolerance would eventually lead to the overthrow of American morality and present the greatest challenge to the American church of the 21st century.

As I walked out of the Superdome that day, I saw a pastor friend who was a mentor of mine. He looked at me and said, “That was a prophetic word by Josh McDowell, he is exactly right.”  To be honest, I really didn’t think much more about it. After all, I was a busy young pastor and seminary student struggling to keep my head above water.  However, I have gone back in my mind to that day in New Orleans many times recently.

A simple check of the news reveals what is happening.  Gay marriage is now legal in 36 states.  Christian photographers and bakers are being sued because they refused to participate in gay weddings.  Each week brings new stories about how our public schools and colleges are descending into moral insanity while they are busy affirming every lifestyle or belief system – except any lifestyle or belief system that refuses to affirm all other lifestyles and belief systems!  Many who work in corporate America report the unspoken pressure that is felt to keep conservative Christian beliefs to yourself or risk losing promotions, positive reviews, or even the job itself. The city of Atlanta just terminated its fire chief because he espoused his Christian beliefs regarding sexuality and marriage – beliefs which could not be tolerated by the new tolerance running rampant in Atlanta.  Incredibly, at some point in all of the controversy, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was quoted as saying he took action against the fire chief because he (the mayor) works everyday to ensure that Atlanta is “a welcoming city for all citizens – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs.”  Chief Cochran and the many thousands who share his beliefs certainly don’t feel the welcome.

The message could not be more clear:  Biblical beliefs about marriage, sexuality, and morality cannot be tolerated.  Why?  Because the new tolerance only works for those who go along. Anyone who dares to disagree must be ostracized and silenced.  Their views cannot be tolerated. We are assured by many leaders that everything is fine because we can believe whatever we wish in our “pews, hearts, and homes.”   Everyone still has “freedom of worship” in the church of their choosing. They say everything is fine.  Don’t you believe it for one moment.  Our nation is headed down a path that will inevitably lead to tyranny and a loss of freedom for everyone.  Even more tragically, many millions of people will enter the eternal destruction of a Christless eternity in hell having tolerated everything except the one message that could have saved them.

Josh McDowell saw it coming.

Followed not found

6 Jan

It’s great to be back blogging again after taking a break for the holidays.  While taking some time off, I read David Platt’s book Follow Me.  In that book, he makes a statement that really resonated with me:  “God’s will isn’t something we find; it’s something we follow.”  All of us know what it is like to seek God’s will regarding an important decision.  Certainly, David Platt would be first to agree that our decisions should be bathed in prayer before the Lord.  His statement really speaks to the fact that most of God’s will for our lives is already revealed in scripture.  It’s clear what we are to do.  Our job is to begin earnestly seeking to align our lives with God’s will as revealed in the Bible.

Let’s take a couple of examples.  In the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus gives us what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission…

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, HCSB)

This is God’s will for us as individuals. This is God’s will for our churches. We don’t have to pray about it, have a business meeting about it, or otherwise decide.  It is God’s will that we make disciples of the nations.  Period.  The issue is how we live that out in our individual lives and our churches.  The issue is how we align our lives and our churches according to God’s will.  Here is another example…

Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, HCSB)

Did you see it?  It is God’s will that we rejoice in Him always, pray constantly, and give thanks in every circumstance.  Our challenge is doing that when everything in us screams otherwise. Our challenge is doing that when our natural selfishness and comfort pull in the other direction.  However, there is great blessing when we consciously seek to align our lives according to God’s will in these areas.

Those are just two examples, but if you think about the scriptures you already know, then you will find that so much of God’s will for your life is already known.  What about the areas of your life where God hasn’t spoken clearly?  Concentrate on being obedient in the areas where he already has spoken clearly until the way becomes more clear about those particular issues.  Too often, we get so caught up dwelling on the 5% of God’s will we don’t know that we fail to understand the 95% of His will we already do know. Think about it. That’s why most of God’s will is followed, not found.  He has already made it clear.

Many years ago when I was a young pastor, a member of the church I was serving at the time made a statement I’ve never forgotten.  He said, “Pastor, let’s face it. Most of us know a lot more than we are doing.”  WOW!  Isn’t that so true?  I imagine that every single one of us reading this blog already knows more of God’s will than we are doing right now.  Let’s get busy following God’s will rather than worrying so much about finding it.

 

 

When you are tempted…

8 Sep

“I can resist anything – except temptation!”  – Oscar Wilde

You probably chuckled when you read that statement.  I know that because all of us know what it is like to resist temptation and fail!  However, every single one of us faces struggles and temptations where the consequences of our decisions are enormous.  Every single day in my community (and yours) there are Christians who are tempted to return that Facebook message from their old boyfriend or to take that money from their employer.  You get the picture. This week as I prepared to teach a Sunday school lesson from James 1:13-18 in LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum, I was particularly moved as I revisited the issue of temptation.  Please allow me to share two important truths that I gleaned from these verses…

First, our temptations follow a predictable pattern.

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:13–15, HCSB)

Some Bible commentators say that v. 14 is an illusion to fishing.  Like a fish is enticed by the bait, so we are drawn away and enticed by what tempts us. Regardless, all of us realize that all temptation begins with some enticement – be it money, sex, pleasure, power, etc.  However, being enticed for a moment is just the beginning of temptation.  If it is not dealt with immediately, then we get fixated and in our minds and hearts we reach the point where we convince ourselves that it is O.K. to go ahead.  That’s the picture painted in v. 15; that is when “desire has conceived and it gives birth to sin.”  It is only after we have internally decided it is acceptable that we externally commit the sin.

Think about it. Think about your greatest temptation.  I am sure that you can immediately identify certain patterns in your temptations. Where are you and what is going on in your life when you feel the temptation most intensely?   Are you alone or with other people?   Are there similar thoughts that continue to enter your mind as justification for yielding to this temptation?   If you can identify your “pressure points” and circumstances that tend to lead you into temptation, then you can identify ways that you can avoid being tempted in the first place. Where you draw your line is where you fight your battle.

Finally, turning to Jesus is the first answer to temptation.

Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16–18, HCSB)

Isn’t that interesting?  James points us to Christ and our salvation when discussing temptation. V. 16 reminds us that most temptation comes from what we perceive to be an unfulfilled need.  Most sin happens when we try to fill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Christ is the source that meets our needs, and He never changes and never fails!   Should you have an accountability partner?  Absolutely.  Should you take steps to avoid situations where you can be tempted?  Absolutely.  However, the first place you should always run is to your Redeemer!   He is the giver of everything you need to love Him and live for Him.

Think about a dog that has a bone.  Let’s say that you walk up to that dog and attempt to take the bone away.  What is going to happen?  You’ll get bit every time.  However, let’s say you stop by Publix and buy a fresh, juicy steak.  You walk up to that dog and place the steak on the ground. What will happen?  You can have the bone because the dog has left the bone for something far better!

You see, Christ is far better and far more satisfying than anything that may tempt you.  The more you treasure Christ, the less you will treasure what tempts you. Think about it.