Monday, January 16, 2012

Lessons from the Past

2012: A Year of Thanksgiving and Praise
Day 16: Today, I'm Thankful for Lessons of the Past

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day. The banks and post offices were closed. Some offices were closed. But many of us went to work just like any other day.

I was a young girl when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. It was a brutal, deadly time in American History. It seemed we went from one tragedy to another.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 2, 1963.
Lee Harvey Oswald was killed on national television 22 days later, November 24, 1963.
Bobby Kennedy was killed on June 5, 1968.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated only 5 days later, June 10, 1968.

It was a lot for a small child to take in.

When Martin Luther King was killed, we lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. There was quite a bit of tension in our home, as riots broke out across the nation as a result of the pain and betrayal felt by a race of people whose leader had been taken away from them by an act of violence. There was an underlying worry that perhaps we might, ourselves, become victims of a violent act.

Extreme pain can sometimes lead people to do things they would never do otherwise. Especially an extreme pain that touches you on emotional, mental and spiritual levels.

Thirty nine is so young. You can't help but wonder what Dr. King might have accomplished had he been able to live out his life.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." 
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King not only had a dream, but he set out to bring his dream to reality. He faced the world unafraid -- or at least, faced it in spite of his fear.

They say that if we do not learn from the past, we are destined to repeat it.

I think many of us do repeat our past, over and over again, we make the same mistakes, we do the same things, and somehow expect to get a different outcome. Someone once said that was the definition of insanity.

Certainly, the 60's were an crazy time. Yet, we survived. And, I believe we did learn.

This month I'm reading the book of Matthew. The Bible is another example of history that we can learn from, or be destined to repeat. For the last two days, I've been stuck on the temptation of Christ.

Have you ever really studied what those temptations were?

The first temptation was turning stones into bread. Interesting. How did man fall into sin in the first place? Over food. Remember the whole serpent and the apple thing? (And yes, I know it wasn't really an apple.) Interesting that he tried the very same trick on Jesus that he successfully used with Adam and Eve.

And how many of us today suffer from food addictions? We are one of the most overfed nations in the world. We even talk about "tempting" desserts and meals.

Jentezen Franklin has written a series of books on Fasting. He talks at length about how beneficial fasting is because it denies "King" stomach which is used to reigning supreme in our lives.

Jesus' response to the first temptation was "It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

This is an incredibly powerful statement. God's Word is like a bag of seeds. If there is a need in your life, it is covered by a promise in God's Word. And, it is by speaking His Word that you plant those seeds so that they can manifest in your life. Indeed, we live by every Word that proceeds from God's mouth. In fact, like Jesus, we should learn to say only what the Father says so that our lives are always filled with God's promises and abundant blessings.

The second temptation was jumping off the top of the temple. Look at Jesus' response to this. "It is written, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." The margin of my bible referenced Deuteronomy 6:16. When I dug a little deeper into the meaning of the word "tempt", I discovered that it was talking about all of the complaining that the Israelites had done while they wandered in the wilderness. It was one thing after another. They complained they had no water; so God made water flow out of a rock. They complained they had no food; so God gave them manna (bread/Jesus the bread of life -- another great thread to follow!) from heaven. They complained they had no meat; so God gave them quail.

Each time they forgot what God had done for them in the past, and asked for some sort of sign, or miracle from God in the present. They "tempted" God. Satan asked Jesus to "tempt" God by throwing himself from the temple. How many times do we, as the children of Israel did, forget all of the many things God has done for us in the past and ask for a sign in the present? I was guilty of this just last night. I was in a bind that I couldn't see my way out of, and fell into doubt.

This morning when I read the passages about tempting God, it hit me hard. Do you ever look at the children of Israel and wonder how they could have doubted God? Now, do you ever look at yourself and recognize that you are no better than they were? I realized this morning that I was looking at my circumstances and asking for a sign rather than trusting God to take care of me and living by the Words of His mouth.

Then there was the third temptation: power. All Jesus had to do was to bow down to Satan and he would have given him power over all the earth. After all, that was what Jesus came to earth for, to get back the dominion that Adam had given away. What if he could have just bowed down and avoided the cross? Of course, it wouldn't have worked. Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus' response was "It is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve."

But, how many of us serve other things? How many of us serve money? How many of us are in debt (the borrower is slave to the lender)? How many of us serve appetite (back to the first temptation)? How many of us serve our doubts and fears (the second temptation)? Hopefully, none of us serve Satan anymore.

We are told that we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are. The enemy doesn't have any new tricks up his sleeve. He keeps pulling the same ones out over and over again. Oh, he might dress them up a bit, give them a little bit of touch up paint, but they are the same old temptations he has used throughout the centuries.

The good news is, we can learn from the past.

And, the most important lesson is this:

"In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." 
~ John 16:33

We overcome the same way he did:  by saying only what the Father says.

Today, I'm thankful for the lessons of the past.

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