You can defeat the enemy, the Devil… the same way Jesus did!

 

The Israeli desert can be brutal. Satan tried to use it to his advantage. To no avail!

I am known as a tempter, a deceiver and schemer. My goal is to take anything good and wreck it. I have had many, many successes. Eve is the earliest. I was able to confuse her. Oh she had it so good there in the garden… By manipulating the truth just a bit I totally wrecked her life, her relationship with Adam and with God.

I also messed with Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, even Peter. The list is endless. And, I’m sure I’ve messed with you.

So the day Jesus entered the wilderness I was poised for another great victory. I watched as he spent 40 long days in solitude.  I waited until he was at his weakest… he was lonely, hungry, and he was likely preparing for his next move. At just the right moment, I pounced!

The Israeli desert is rocky, dry and dirty. Loose stones the size of fists cover the landscape. Just walking can be a chore. And finding a spot to kneel and pray is impossible. With just the right amount of prompting, and the early morning light just so, I knew that Jesus was famished, I figured I may be able to convince him to see small loaves of bread where the path was covered with rocks. This was going to be easier than Eve.  He hadn’t eaten in 40 days. Appealing to his flesh and his position, I said: “If you really are the Son of God, and since you are hungry, why not turn these stones into bread… satisfy your hunger. Can’t you taste a fresh baked loaf, Jesus? Mmmmm.”

Even though he was famished and his body weak, his mind was sharp. He quoted Torah and said: “No one can live on bread alone. People need every word that God has spoken. The word is life. The word is my sustenance, Satan.”

He was stronger than I thought he’d be after 40 days without food.

We walked along for awhile together.  I took him to the City.  The air was hot, not a cloud in the sky. Although no one could see us, we went to the top of Solomon’s great temple. We looked down from the height above and saw people going about their day… the women to the markets and the men to their work. Bright colored awnings peppered the walkway below. I pretended to push him off and challenged his ego. If this is about words supporting him, how about these words from Scripture: “God will give his angels orders about you, Jesus. They will catch you in their arms. Jump, Jesus, Jump!”

He replied by quoting other words from God: “Don’t try to test the Lord!”

I schemed again how I might tempt him… I knew that God has given me the power over this earth, so I used that authority as a bargaining chip… I would gladly give that up if I could get Jesus to merely bow to me!  I’m still angry at God… It was supposed to be me on that throne in heaven! So we went north to Mt. Hermon, the highest elevation in all of the Promised Land. He was still physically weak. Surely I could get him to yield.  “Look to the mountains in the east and the great sea to the west.  This can all be yours, Jesus… all you have to do is bow before me. Think of it… you can bring your people your kind of peace, for all time… think of the wealth of this land, the bounty and riches of the fertile crescent, the many palaces of King Herod… I’ll see to it that it is all yours to do with as you wish… merely worship me.”

This time, he didn’t bow, he bellowed: “Go away, Satan!” Again he quoted the Word of God: “Worship the Lord, the One True God and serve only Him.”

Others were so much easier to cripple… I will continue to press on this one, the Son of God… but for now, I will leave him. I will leave him. But I will be back!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Satan during temptation of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 4.

 

Do you know you have the power to defeat the enemy? Use the words of God and the truth of the scriptures. Use the authority Jesus gives to all of us. Most important, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV).

 

Original sermon video is found here.

Photo by Matthew J. Parker. More info here.
(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.
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I tried to run away while a people waited…

When I was in danger, I called to the LORD, and he answered me.

When I was in danger, I called to the LORD, and he answered me.

Looking back. I was so arrogant. The Lord had called me to a great task: Preach a message of repentance against the great and despicable city of Nineveh. These people are the hated enemies of the nation of Israel. They would surely not hear the message. In fact, I believed they might even do something awful to the messenger. Me.

So despite my love for God, I fled from Him and His assignment. I climbed aboard a freighter headed for Tarshish, the city that was at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea… as far away from Nineveh as possible. Silly, isn’t it? Thinking I could run or even hide from God.

The Lord used three things, then, to get my attention. A great storm. Sailors. And a fish.

One of the most violent storms ever to come across the Sea descended on us. Lifelong sailors were actually afraid for their lives! I just knew that this was God’s way of getting my attention. The sailors cast lots to see who on board was responsible for the raging waters. I knew the lots would point to me. Sure enough. They roused me from sleep, peppering me with questions: “Who are you?  Where did you come from? Why are you causing all this trouble for us?”

I had to acquiesce. No hiding here. I told them of my assignment. That I worshiped the Lord, the God of heaven. And that I was running from Him. And that my presence on their ship was indeed the cause of the tempest. I assured them the only way to calm the storm was to throw me into the waves. They rejected this solution at first, desperately trying to row to shore. But the winds actually increased and tossed the vessel more violently. Finally, they cried out to God in unison: “Forgive Us!” And with one final glance to the raging heavens, they pitched me into the icy water.

As I began to sink into the depths, the sea became amazingly calm. I tried to surface with the goal of swimming to land. Suddenly a great fish scooped me up! It was putrid inside the dark, slimy belly. There was seaweed wrapped around my head. My ears popped as the ocean mammal dove deep and then surfaced above the breakers. The gastric juices of the fluids swirled inside the finback.  But I was still alive! Oh, how God has such a fantastic sense of humor! It was dark. But He gave me life. For three days I existed in the dark depths. With each breath, I gave Him praise! I cried out to Him day after day, hour after hour. Minute after minute. Time. Time for me to replay the events of leading to how I got here. Time for me to be reminded that salvation comes from God and God alone.

I kept thinking of the people back home in Israel. And those sailors. And the people of Nineveh.

Finally, God saw fit to spare my life. The whale spit me out on the eastern shore of the Great Sea. With haste I headed for the city gates of Nineveh on the banks of the Tigris River. My urgency to the assignment fresh. I knew His grace must be made known to these people. For three days I went house to house, up and down every street, warning the people and encouraging everyone to call on the grace of God.

The people responded with faith, fasting and repentance. I wondered aloud, “Why? Why would God – slow to anger and abounding in love, God – why would He be so gracious to such a hated and despicable people?”

I’m sure that many wonder of my arrogance. Even I shake my head at God and ask, “Why would you still love me?”

And then the Lord reminds me: He is abounding in love! In the midst of storms. In the midst of misunderstandings between people. In the midst of our arrogance and pride.

And for that, I’m extremely thankful!

 

Some of the actions, words, and thoughts perhaps of Jonah, from the Old Testament book that bears his name.

 

(c) 2015. Rich Ronald.

The Greatest Gifts Book Trailer

TheGreatestGiftsBookTrailerScreenShot

25 Days.

25 Great Gifts for you and me from God as revealed in the New Testament book of Ephesians.

Click HERE to view The Greatest Gifts book trailer. Order at Amazon before Thanksgiving so you will receive it in time to start on December 1st. Available in paperback or Kindle.

 

Putting God First in 2013.

May you be able to put God first in 2013 so that everything will fall into order.

May you be able to put God first in 2013 so that everything will fall into order.

So we are already a week into the New Year and I’m finally putting thought into what 2013 looks like. Can it be the best year to-date? Well, I’ve lived some pretty awesome years, but, yeah, why can’t we start the next turn around the sun with the thought that this will be the best one?

We were challenged this past weekend by visiting Pastor Robert Morris that if you want to live “The Blessed Life” you need to put God first. It’s pretty easy when you are in a full-time ministry to say that putting God first comes naturally. But does it really? Can I make God the top of every single list?

What I read. What I watch.

What I write. What I think.

What I do for exercise – body, mind and spirit.

How I love my wife?  What are my motivations for my children?

How I manage my time?

Can 2013 truly be a year above all the rest?

Robert Morris says “When God is first in your life everything falls in order.”

Order.  That would be nice. No more clutter. No more hunting around for files, phones, keys, shoes or… vision.  Putting God first. Seems simple enough.

And because His Holy Spirit is in me, it IS possible. No, it will not be simple, because my flesh gets in the way, you know?

One of my favorite verses about putting God first is found in John 3:30. From the mouth of John, the Baptizer: “He must increase. I must decrease.” If there be but one prayer for the New Year, I will echo John’s words. “More of Jesus. Less of me.”

Will you join me in putting God first in your life this year? Truly putting Him first? You will be blessed beyond measure when you do.  And then you can truly be a blessing to all the people  God puts in your life.

(c) 2013. Rich Ronald.

From the dust of the manger… to our heart.

Available at amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

Christmas Day is one week away… wow! Where does the time go? Wasn’t it just spring break? Or summer vacation?

In the midst of all that is wrong in the world today, as we think about the Christmas story, the one thing that we might perceive to have been wrong, was actually right. Yes, it was right for Mary to place Jesus in a manger.

From Chapter Five of Be Born in Me:

While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough.[1]

She placed Him in a feed trough.  In the Ancient Days most feed troughs in caves were merely hollowed out logs or rocks sitting on the ground.  You can’t get much lower than that.  Jesus, God in the flesh. God who sits on the highest throne in the highest Heaven, squeezed Himself into a human form. And if that wasn’t low enough, He was then placed mere inches above the dirt and manure that was in that animal cave.  Why would God do that?  Send His son.  To the lowest possible place on earth?!  To a feed trough?

Think about the trough being in the dirt and mud on the cave floor. Like Adam from the Garden of Eden, we all began our lives in the dust of the earth and Jesus knows that we all have dirt and mud in our lives.  That’s where we need Him most!

“Jesus, be born in me!” 

The apostle Paul also notes that Jesus gave up His place with God in heaven and made Himself nothing (Philippians 2).  Why? Simply because He loves us.

He loves you. He really does. Even though you may be a little dirty. Even though you may be a lot muddy.  It doesn’t matter to Him… He has been there too.

Isn’t that incredible!?! God in the flesh has been where you are… only His love can pull you out of the pit you are in. He is uniquely qualified to be our Savior. He knows how messy our lives are… and it doesn’t stop Him from reaching out His loving arms to lift us up.

May I encourage you to make this prayer, your prayer: “Jesus. Be born in me!”


Be Born in Me is divided into five sections and includes discussion questions so you can use in a weekly small group, family devotional or class setting.

Here’s the link to the amazon web site: http://amzn.to/SNOkND.
And here’s the link to the Kindle site: http://amzn.to/RI7ODe.
(c) 2012. Rich Ronald.

[1] Luke 2:6-7 (NCV)

 

“Make my heart Your Bethlehem.”

Available at amazon.com in paperback or Kindle

Advent continues its countdown to Christmas Day.  The great thing about the season, is that it can be just that… a season. Not just a single day.

The prayer for our family this year is “Be Born in Me.”

I’ve written a little book, based on a song, that is helping us focus this year.  The cry of Chapter 4 is “Make my heart Your Bethlehem.”

Here is an exceprt:

Bethlehem. Do you know what the word means? In Hebrew “Bet” means ‘house’ and “Lechem” means ‘bread.’ So Bethlehem is “the House of Bread.”

We can see that Jesus, the bread of life from John 6, must be born in “the House of Bread.”

Jesus came to give us life, true bread and true sustenance.  Jesus is all we really need isn’t He? He satisfies, gratifies and strengthens us spiritually, just as bread does physically. 

And what happens when you don’t eat for awhile?  You become weak, right?

When our prayer is, “Jesus, be born in me. Give me strength! Give me all I need for life!” 

He says, “I have.”

May I encourage you as you enjoy a meal or two or three with your friends and family this Christmas season, to remember that Jesus is the true bread. He is our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, who gives us all we have and all we need.

And may you allow your heart to be His Bethlehem… to be born in you.

 
Be Born in Me is divided into five sections and includes discussion questions so you can use in a weekly small group, family devotional or class setting.
Here’s the link to the amazon web site: http://amzn.to/SNOkND.
And here’s the link to the Kindle site: http://amzn.to/RI7ODe.
(c) 2012. Rich Ronald.

Jesus says: “I’ve conquered the world!”

September 11, 2011

Three scriptures to share with you today as we reflect on how our world was rocked ten years ago.

The first is from John 16:33, the words of Jesus. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV) The Message says it this way: “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Unshakable. Assured. Deeply at peace. It’s sometime very difficult to find peace when our world is being rocked, isn’t it? Other translations say we are to be courageous in the face of troubles. Courageous… that always sounds to me like running full on into a battle, with war paint on our face and screaming like a warrior… Most times I don’t have that kind of courage. But Jesus does.

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