“I am from a mid-sized city in the heart of the Bible Belt, home to a culture shaped by college football, suburbia, and our finest eAnkenyLogo_highres_177944BE0C07Dxport, cultural Christianity.”  With these words Rodney Calfee opens Tradecraft:  For the Church on Mission, the crew at Upstream Collective’s foundational treatise on how to regain the Great Commission where we live.  The reason these words jumped out to me is that they are a fairly accurate summary of where my family and I have lived for the last seven years:  Ankeny, Iowa.  Definitely not a city anyone outside the state of Iowa would know, Ankeny is a city of 45,600 that has been in a population boom, growing over 140% since 1990.  It is a commuter suburb to Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, a metro area with over 650,000 citizens.  So although not in the defined Bible Belt, the societal priorities of sports and suburbia spoke to me immediately.  But even though I have lived here for seven years, I still felt quite ignorant about what makes my city tick.  With a median age of 32 years old, a 96% graduation rate, a community college of 29,000 and a median income 45% higher than the state average, I already knew it was a well-educated, upper-middle class and young community.  But that was just skin-deep.  It was only until I started applying some of the mapping methods laid out in Tradecraft, that my eyes started to be opened.  When first encountering terms laid forth in the book like paths and nodes,Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 7.14.24 PM districts and edges, I was actually a bit intimidated.  It sounded like something more suited for a cartographer or city planner.  What what a portfolio manager with a finance background do with this knowledge?  But I persevered through, headed out into the city with my camera and my two boys…and started to see my city in a new light.  Through the Tradecraft method of mapping I learned:

I am oblivious I am too task-oriented and self-focused.  I need to open my eyes and really see.  Look around a bit and actually see the people.  See the need.  See the opportunity.  Until I started mapping, I never knew that from a city planning purpose, the entire city was split into four section based on two main nodes (roads).  Nor did I realize that due to the recent growth of the city and the establishment of two additional main nodes, that the city has basically been split into nine sections.  It is no wonder that the conflict and tension among different segments of the community has increased significantly.  And it’s also no wonder that due to this growth, the opportunity to get lost (economically and spiritually) in the midst of the growth has also increased greatly.

I need to get out more – It’s the curse of the commuter town – everyone is out with the sole purpose of going somewhere else:  to work, back home, to the store, to school.  So it’s not like I’m physically not away from home, but mentally I’m not.  I need to get out of my self-focused mindset and focus on getting INTO the community.  Change where I shop for certain things so it’s more local.  Take that extra 120 seconds to engage my barista, cashier or waiter.  Chose community theatre over the super-plex.  Little things…but important things. And just like when you save money, its starts to add up.ShowImage.aspx

Time to get to work – Mapping was just the first step.  Utilizing the methodology from Tradecraft was a fantastic start but more needs to be done.  Even in the mapping itself, it takes time to properly understand the social and spiritual layer of a city.  That is why throughout the remaining chapters of Tradecraft, the focus becomes more personal, more difficult and absolutely necessary.  From exegeting culture and building relationships to engaging tribes and thinking through alternative paths, the hard work cannot be done in an afternoon with a camera.  It requires a lifestyle change and it requires commitment.  Be we can do this.  We must do this.  I must do this.  It is what we were asked to do by our Savior.

So let’s go…

Gravesite & Sun

In the early morning hours of November 25th, 2013 my father, Larry Woodbury, passed on from his life on this earth to a life of worshipping our Savior for ten thousand years and forever more.  That moment was preceded by a grueling and painful 5-month battle with lung cancer, concluding with a 13-day hospice stay that I still cannot fully fathom. So I am writing this post as a pause from my normal exploration of finance, entertainment and theology.  I am writing this because I HAVE to – not that I want to.  I have to get these thoughts out and move on.

So I duly warn all who continue that I will only be relating my experience with pain, grief and death.  Please do not draw any conclusions or comparisons with anyone else’s journey.  Each journey is subjective, personal, non-linear and irrational.  Each person’s battle with grief is as individual and unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint.  So this is my personal journey of what I learned watching death come:

  • I learned that my mother is even stronger and more courageous than I realized.
    • My father battled his cancer mostly in private and that was his wish.  My mother was the courageous one that had to deal with that on a daily, hourly and minute-by-minute basis. Showing God’s love, grace and strength during such circumstances is exactly what crowns in heaven are for.
  • I learned that there was no person more generous in this world than my father.
    • I could relate dozens of examples, but let me relate the last one.  The week before he was officially diagnosed with cancer, with his body already being ravaged with the cancer in at least three areas and while in extreme pain, he stopped by my house to see if I was free.  Why?  Because he wanted to add to my driveway a slab of cement so we could turn better into the driveway without destroying the grass by cutting the corner.  And why would he do this?  Because as he told me, he didn’t know when he would be able to do a project like this again.
  • I learned there is no manual or guidebook about this.
    • The Word of God provides me hope, don’t misunderstand me.  But at points you get overwhelmed.  How do I watch my father die?  How do I continue on when my 8-year son old sings his Christmas program song to his grandfather over the speakerphone and it ends in “sleep in heavenly peace”?  How do I watch my 6-year old daughter look through a window at her hero with chin folded on her arms?  How do I process her going up to her papa’s bed, blow him a kiss and say goodbye?  What do you say next when she prays, “We pray for papa; he has cancer.  Heal him.  We love him and don’t want him to leave but you in control.  Help meeting with doctor to go well so we can say goodbye.”  She showed more faith and Christian devotion in that little prayer than I ever have.  So in the end you have no choice – you run into your Savior’s arms and weep.
  • I learned that you have weird feelings that you truly don’t know how to process.
    • How do you process literally watching someone pass away?  Or watching my mother watch her husband of almost 50 years leave this earth?  Or watching my siblings watch their father grapple with death?  Or explaining this whole process to my three children?  It is simply brutal.
  • I learned that death is disgusting.
    • There is NOTHING good about it.  There is nothing to glamorize or romanticize.  It is gross and painful.  Emotionally and physically.  Watching a body waste away and shut down.  Learning how to grieve.  Watching others grieve.  Guiding young children through the sights, sounds, smells and situations.  The only thing that redeems it is because we have a Redeemer who loved us so much he sacrificed his Son.  The only thing that makes it hopeful is because he have been given a Hope and that hope is Christ.
  • I learned that I had forgotten that I was free.
    • Free to not care about the petty and the worthless and the meaningless.  The pop singer scandals, sport teams records, pseudo Christian controversies, political bickering, and work controversies.   If I live as long as my father did, I am over halfway complete with my journey as a sojourner on this earth. Time to regain focus on treasures in heaven.  Time to focus on the weak, the helpless, the defenseless, the confused.  Time to get to work.  Time to fight for, defend, and proclaim what true freedom looks like.  I am free because of Christ.  I am free in Christ.

And I close with what the last thing I told my father.  Not because it is anything profound or special but because when I leave this earth, I would like to hear this from my children, just before I hear from my Savior “Well done good and faithful servant”.  And when I leave, I want my children to tell me “You’ve done good dad.  We got this for a while.  Just rest.”

This has been one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write.  It has been so difficult in fact that I almost abandoned the entire missive twice. But I couldn’t NOT write this.  I am angry.  I am confused.  I am emotional.  I admit that upfront, so continue at your own peril.  Over the past few days a perfect storm of three news events have jolted some unpleasant memories for me and have bothered me greatly:

The common thread in all three stories is bullying.  And by bullying I am referring to the demeaning, ridiculing, intimidating and abuse of children and young adults.  This post isn’t about impotent political agendas or useless social labels or warmed-over right versus left rhetoric.  What I hope this conversation does accomplish is to cause the Christian community to stop, think and reflect for a moment about where we may have lost our way in our treatment of others.

The three incidents mentioned above each had their own specialized perspective on the bullying issue.  The Youth Conference had dual accusations of bullying going on between the organizers of the conference and local Christian leaders regarding the content and purpose of the conference in relation to children.  Former Iowa coach Steve Alford, a professed believer, had to address his past role in possible bullying tactics during a sexual assault investigation regarding one of his players during his tenure at Iowa.  And Mike Rice lost his job today due to “shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players and using gay slurs during practice”. In the latter two cases especially, we see actions exhibited by hired employees of educational institutions, and supposed leaders of men, that range from naïve to reprehensible.  And my Pavlovian response whenever I hear about bullying incidents is to immediately upload all my long lost memories of high school.

Let me be clear – I did not have it THAT bad in high school.  I know for a fact that there were certain peers of mine that had it much, much worse than I.  What I was forced to endure was minor compared to the hell they had to suffer through.  But even that small amount of bullying I did experience was enough to make me never want to go to a reunion and has resulted in me keeping many of my high school friends at arm’s length over the years, even the people I was close to then and who are great people now.  Why?  Not because of them but because I never want to go back to that place in my life.  I do not want to be reminded of that time and those memories.  And over the years I have heard all the comebacks to my emotional response to bullying.  “Everyone has to suffer through it”.  “It toughens you up”.  “You’ll turn our better for it.”  Maybe…maybe not.  But that’s irrelevant.  The point is this:  when did Christians determine that trying to prevent the demeaning, ridiculing or intimidating of the kids was not worth the effort or not worth the political risk?  Where in the word of God am I ever commanded to demean, humiliate, intimidate or harass someone or silently allow that to occur?  Has our fear of certain political agendas blinded us to the how we are supposed to be to our “neighbors”?  Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  And let me be clear – I am not focusing on the “God is love” mantra that has been frequently used and misused in recent years.  That’s a different topic for a different time.  Have we allowed our fear of any person’s, group’s, or party’s agenda to dominate our daily call and duty as Christians, especially in relation to others? All of those agendas combined cannot overpower my role and responsibility as a husband, father, friend, co-worker and Christ-follower. Nor does it provide me with an excuse for failing, neglecting or ignoring any of those roles.

Why did I decide to write this today?  Because even at 38, bullying incidents still occur.  And I sit up and night wavering between anger and tears as I think about my 10-year old and how I’m going to train him up.  I wonder about his tender heart and love for others and wonder if he will have the right body type or be good enough in sports or read clearly enough or a million of the other little things that make us wonderfully different.  And I wonder about when he’s 16 and what trait, characteristic or difference at that time will be THE thing that’s being singled out for harassment.  And I wonder which side he’ll be on.  And I wonder if his tender heart and love for others will be snuffed out because I didn’t do enough to stop bullying when I could have.  But I have to realize that although he may have to suffer under such bullying and persecution as a believer, may he never treat others in such a manner, for any reason.  May he always treat others as Christ treated us.  For the cross is quite the model of how this whole truth, love and sacrifice thing is supposed to work.  In fact, it’s perfect.

For the duration of my life on this Earth thus far (37 years), I have been involved with only two churches.  For the first 18 years of my existence, I was involved with the church of my parents in Waterloo, IA.  The church where I was born, raised, put my faith in Christ’s loving sacrifice as payment for my sins, was baptized by immersion…and then I headed off to college.  While in college, I joined a fellowship of believers in Ames, IA that had been part of my siblings’ lives, and enjoyed 19 years of ministry there, dedicated my life to Christ, found a wife, started a family, became a leader, saved a marriage and learned a thousand different things (likely a blog post for another time).  However, in each church situation, I had never truly been a visitor – I had pre-existing relationships that drew me to those churches.  Over the past 24 months as the Lord called me and my family to minister closer to our Ankeny community, we had a unique opportunity to visit six churches over a ten-week period as visitors for the first time.  It was eye-opening, a little intimidating and completely enjoyable.  Here are some of my observations as our family of five navigated this new adventure…some serious, others less so:

Never forget – I am a visitor…and I am clueless!

  • Seriously, I am clueless.  I may also be nervous, intimidated, scared, worried and anxious, so you cannot overtly treat me like I’m clueless.  I may or may not ask for help.  I may or may not notice the obvious.  I may flee back to my car or to the bathroom at a moment’s notice.  This, therefore, puts your church in kind of a bind.
  • So here are a couple key rules of thumb to remember:
    • Rule of thumb #1:  Maps, signs, volunteers, more signs, name tags, more signs, handouts, pamphlets, billboards, posters and big, bright, flashing signs = VERY GOOD!
    • Rule of thumb #2:  Assuming I know where the kids go, where I’m supposed to go, where the bathrooms are, where the exits are, what goes on next in the service, where I’m supposed to go after the service, what I’m supposed to do during fellowship, how much the “free” donuts cost or assuming anything of a geographical, logistical or ceremonial nature = VERY BAD.  Never assume I know anything.  And I thank you in advance.

 Have you seen the cross of Christ?

  • In what has to be considered one of the bigger upsets of the whole “church visitor” process, it became strikingly clear, that the cross of Christ was missing.  Not from the sanctuary, the church bulletin, the kids’ worksheets or from people’s necks….but from the sermons!  Seriously – it was a 25% hit rate (2 out of 6) for explicit mentions of the cross of Christ, Christ’s death on the cross or salvation by grace through faith.  That was quite shocking to me.  I by no means think or demand that sermons have to follow a certain order, topic, cadence or ritual (other than be focused on Truth).  But when one is called by the Holy Spirit to speak on our ultimate hope, maybe it would be good to mention a bit more explicitly the source of that hope.  When you are reminding me that I’m a lazy, selfish sluggard that can learn from an ant, maybe remind me how I can have victory over the natural man.

 Coffee confounds me

  • I know it’s me – I know I’m the oddball.  No matter how many times I’ve tried it, tested it, sipped it or been tricked into it…I just don’t like coffee.  It is like drinking brewed dirt.  But within the Christian community, there is no single commodity that is more popular or more important.  I mention this not as a value judgment but out of sheer and utter amazement.  Price of corn?  Irrelevant.  Soybeans?  Not important.  Cattle, hogs, wheat, sugar…who cares.  Where is the coffee and how much is it.  If the Christian community were to ever boycott coffee, for whatever reason, I truly believe Starbucks, Caribou, Seattle’s Best and all the rest will lose market share like there’s been an outbreak of the plague.  And I freely admit – it’s just the jealousy speaking.  I wish I liked it.  I wish I was one of you.  But the Lord forever made me to love my venti, non-fat, no-whip hot chocolate…and it is my loss.

 Why I want to be a church visitor FOREVER

  • The #1 reason why I want to continue being a church visitor and never settle on a church home is actually very simple.  It was clear at the beginning of the process and it was just as clear at the end of the process.  I wish that reason was noble, worthy and valuable…it is none of those.  It is the visitor parking!!!!  It is the best!  It is close and right up-front and convenient and special.  And as a father who either rushed my wife and three children out the door or was the cause of my wife and three children being late…I am eternally grateful.

 I ❤ Technology

  • The technology and the talented people involved with the technology are mind-blowing.  The apps, the bar scans, Twitter, Facebook, downloadable sermon notes, the cameras, the videos, everything…top-notch.  But the area where I valued technology the most – my kids.  Not the video games or the computers or any of that.  Not even close.  It was the security.  The Check-ins and locators, unique parent pick-up codes and automated instructions…all seemless.  I cannot put into words how comforting and helpful it is to know that your church puts my children’s safety as a priority.  Kudos.

 Music is Non-Negotiable

  • See, you thought I was going to wade hip-deep into the whole contemporary versus traditional, type of instruments that are acceptable brouhaha.  Nope.  That’s for a whole different post.  My point is this – there is one aspect I witnessed regarding music that is non-negotiable – you must have skilled artists who pursue excellence in their craft and in their performance.  It’s really a binary decision.  You either do or you don’t.  And you don’t have to do a lot of things.  You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.  But whatever you do decide to put out there, it has to be skilled, is has to be excellent and your people must own it.  That is what everyone is expecting as a given.
  • One free bonus observation from the worship experience – there are some of you that REALLY enjoy worshiping on Sundays.  In addition, there are some of you that REALLY look like you don’t want to be there.  Lord help me to model the former and not the latter.  Because I know which one encourage me the most as a visitor.

 And finally…there is a LOT of people currently doing a LOT of activities that bring glory to God and further His kingdom!

  • Thousands of people.  Think about that for a second.  THOUSANDS of people within a 20 mile area!  People who love the Gospel, who love our Savior and who are seeking to pursue righteousness and holiness.  Never forget that!  When the days seem darkest, the enemy seems strongest, when you feel isolated, alone and on an island all by yourself, remember this.  You have many, many brothers and sisters in Christ ministering RIGHT NOW.  You have many, many brothers and sisters in Christ that are bringing glory to God RIGHT NOW. And most of all, you have a loving Father ready to give you true comfort and peace and hope.  CELEBRATE that.  REJOICE in that.

This entire process of visiting others churches has been invaluable.  It has opened my eyes.  It has encouraged me.  It has humbled me.  I look forward with great joy to the next church family we will be ministering alongside and anxiously await our next opportunity to serve side-by-side with fellow Christians as we bring glory to God and further His kingdom.

Whenever tragedy strikes, accusations, interpretations and reflections immediately begin.  The recent mass murder in Norway has brought to the forefront yet again a dialogue that occurs fairly regularly.  It is a conversation about the role of religious beliefs in politics and government.  The early labeling of the mass murderer as a “Christian Fundamentalist”, which later turned out to be inaccurate, brought this debate to the forefront even more quickly.  (For a better explanation as to why the term “Christian Fundamentalist” was misused and the rationale behind that, please see Ed Stetzer’s excellent posts on July 23rd and July 29th .  Combine this tragedy with the heated rhetoric of recent political debates that has religious overtones (Vice President Biden’s pathetic labeling of Tea Party members as terrorists and Texas Governor Perry’s asinine call for violence against Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on grounds of treason), and it is very disturbing to see how intertwined our political and our theological beliefs have become, especially in terms of submitting to authority.

We normally see these types of debates around presidential election time as churches debate whether to endorse a candidate, talk about a hot-button issue or just stay silent.   Many people I respect feel very adamant that we need to talk MORE from the pulpit regarding certain issues and candidates, not less.  Let me make this point abundantly clear – we should always preach and teach the entire counsel of God from the pulpit regardless of how it might apply to a thorny political issue because that is Truth.  Truth shall always be proclaimed.  However, we have failed as a church over the last 20 years to prevent our politics from overtaking our calling and our purpose.  Maybe it’s more than just a coincidence that at the same time we were witnessing the rise of the “Moral Majority” or the “Christian Right”, we were losing our children from the church in droves, with many churches becoming pure extensions of a political party on one end of the spectrum or purely irrelevant on the other.  The church should never be an extension of a political party.  And it is certainly never called to irrelevant.  It should ALWAYS be the bride of Christ.  The Word of God is explicitly clear regarding my responsibilities and attitudes toward the government and its authorities:

  • Submit to my governing authority (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13).

I am to obey whenever possible and disobey only if absolutely necessary in order to not violate God’s Word.  And if I do disobey, I should expect and accept punishment from the civil authority.  Daniel is an excellent example to study regarding how to do civil disobedience as a last resort.  However, look at Titus 3:1-2 again.  Not only am I to submit, but I am also to be obedient, ready to do what is good, slander no one, be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward everyone.  Wow.  Think if anyone were to ever run a political campaign based on those set of guidelines.  Or even ONE of those guidelines.

  • Recognize that all governing authorities are ordained by God (Romans 13:1).

Not just a certain political party or a certain person with a specific set of beliefs.  All governing authorities – every ruler, prime minister, president, king, dictator, governor, mayor, council member, senator, and representative is appointed by God and given authority from God.  This covers socialism, capitalism, democracies, monarchies, Roman Emperors and everything in between – the form or system of government does not matter.

  • Humbly realize that God uses the government for His good (Romans 13:4).

The government is often God’s instrument for carrying out His purpose. We are to subject ourselves to that government out of obedience and deference to God.  We may not see what “His good” is – that is the beauty of the sovereignty of God.  Our lack of understanding regarding what “good” may come out of a situation does not override our responsibility.

  • Pay my taxes (Romans 13:6-7; Mark 12:17)
  • Pray for the governing authorities and live peaceably (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Here’s the problem – when we start placing patriotism and national pride above our on-going Christian calling, we will see more and more people sinfully exhibiting thoughts and behavior similar to the Norway murderer.  How the debt ceiling or my tax rate or immigration or gay marriage or abortion is voted on and legislated does NOT change my ultimate purpose here.  Now don’t get me wrong!  Have an opinion, take a stand, support a cause, closely examine all the issues because the Word of God has very clear teachings on many of those subjects.  BUT…..those political debates and battles should never be my overarching, #1 priority as a Christian.  I am called to make disciples of Christ, not disciples of America.  I am called to make disciples of Christ, not disciples of Republican orthodoxy.  I am called to make disciples of Christ, not disciples of Baptist traditions.  I am called to make disciples of Christ from all nations! (Matthew 28:19)  If I allow anything else to trump that calling, including politics and elections, then I am just allowing yet another form of sophisticated 21st century idolatry?

We should never let our views, opinions, and feelings as a citizen overtake our responsibilities as a Christian.  President Barak Obama is the President of the United States.  God has ordained for President Obama to hold that position of authority at this time and he is accountable to God for his decisions and stewardship of that position just like every President before him.  As a citizen of the United States, I am to submit to the governing authority, including to President Obama.  I can vehemently disagree with his rhetoric, policies and worldview.  I can actively campaign, within the legal confines of the law, to elect new leaders.  There is a defined process for that – there will be winners and losers via elections.  But at no time does my submission to authority change.  I am to do all these things peaceably, without slander, being ready to do good and showing true humility.  Nothing dismisses or replaces my responsibilities to submit.  I cherish my freedom and the freedoms we have in this country.  Democracy is the best of all possible flawed options.  But I MUST follow Christ’s call for my life infinitely more, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Given this constant struggle between our politics are our Christian calling, some further questions arise that I do not have immediate answers for:

  • Does the lack of submission to our government give any insights as to why there is a lack of submission in the church to its human leaders and ultimately to its heavenly leader, Jesus Christ?
  • We claim to hate all the current day politics…but seem to debate little else within the confines of the church walls.  Why is that?

Early on in my Christian walk, I started to implicitly doubt the humanity of Christ.  Now don’t get me wrong, it was not a heresy that I was consciously and publicly proclaiming like an end-times zealot picking out a random date in May or a hipster New York Times bestseller wannabe.  Not at all.  But the laziness and flaws in my logic reached certain conclusions about Christ nonetheless.  For many years, I enjoyed joking about my flawed conclusions by saying that it was quite obvious Christ did not sin and that He was sinless.  Why was it quite obvious?  Because He was Jesus Christ!  The all-powerful, all-knowing, Savior of mankind, Son of God, co-equal part of the Trinity!  If I had those kinds of credentials, I would be sinless as well!  My flawed logic went something like this:

  • Jesus is sinless –> I am NOT Jesus –>  THEREFORE I cannot be sinless.
  • Jesus is God  –> I am not God –>THEREFORE I cannot be like Jesus

These errors in logic, my faulty understanding, prevented me from truly examining Jesus.  It prevented me from grasping His humanity and understanding how He was tempted in all ways.  And because of this flawed logic, I struggled in many areas of temptation for much longer than I needed.   As we face our daily life and our individual circumstances, how do we battle temptation?  Do we look toward inferior models and examples in our attempt to have victory over sin?  When we are tempted to sin, we fail to use Christ as our example because we ignore His full humanity.  Virtually all of the same conditions we face prior to temptations, Christ faced as well.  There is no temptation that we will face that Christ has not already faced and conquered.  And since this is true, Christ must be our model in the face of temptation.

The list of Christ’s human attributes is quite extensive covering everything from body, mind, soul, spirit and emotions.  He was weary, thirsty, hungry, weak and experienced death.  He increased in wisdom and learned obedience.  His soul was troubled and sorrowful.  He marveled, loved, wept, was joyful, angry, indignant…and was tempted in every respect as we are (Heb. 4:15).  But He did NOT sin – the one key different between His humanity and our own.

If one looks toward the Biblical passage in Matthew 4:1-11, where Jesus is brought by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and 40 nights and then be tempted by Satan, and we miss his humanity….we miss everything!  We see three specific temptations by Satan (an appeal to a physical appetite, an appeal to personal gain and an appeal to pure power) that are archetypes for temptations that we see on a daily basis.  Jesus had fasted for 40 days/nights…he was HUNGRY!  He had a physical need to eat.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that!  The temptation came from how to solve the problem and in how to satisfy the need.  Jesus could have utilized his own power to turn the stones into bread and completely satisfy His hunger.  He resisted, through the use of Scripture, and leaned on His Father’s strength to provide.  He could have jumped off the roof of the temple, plunging 450 feet to sure doom, only to have saved himself with nary a scratch.  But that would have been twisting of God’s word to test God’s will – all for personal gain.   He could have bowed down and worshipped Satan, became ruler of this world (which was perfectly in Satan’s power to give away), avoided the pain, agony and humiliation of the cross and more efficiently became god of this age!  But none of that was the Father’s plan for Him.

So in Christ’s victory over temptation, including a victory over a direct appeal to personal gain, I see my own failure, even recent ones.  I encounter situations, especially in my career, where I want to promote myself, draw attention to myself, bring glory to myself, by any means possible, and even sometimes by sinful means.  I allow myself to think that I have to talk like, act like and think like the world in order to gain on this world, move up, be recognized.  I lie to myself and think that there is no God-honoring way for me to accomplish that.  I ignore Christ himself, in His full humanity, and how given the opportunity to satisfy an appetite or bring glory to Himself or display his power, he NEVER wavered from the Father’s plan.  Christ was tempted in all ways…just as we are.  But as Hebrews 4:14-15 states:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Yet without sin.  A powerful example for us to follow.  We are to walk in the same way He walked (1 John 2:6), we are to change into His likeliness (2 Cor. 3:18) and be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).  And Christ serves as THE example that we should follow (1 Pet 2:21).  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father and God the Son want me to have victory the next time I want to self-promote myself  by sinful means, fulfill an appetite in an improper way, strive for power that destroys others or give in to a wide variety of temptation.

 Who is your model when you face temptation?

Who is your example when faced with sin?

On whose strength are you relying on to have victory?