8.21.15–>”11 Common Features of All Temptations” 4-6

(4) Temptation can become so undramatic that it passes by unnoticed. By repeated action, vice becomes a habit or even a sort of addiction. At this stage, we easily slip into sin without much of a struggle. This is the most dangerous form of temptation precisely because it troubles us the least.

(5) Luther referred to reason as “the devil’s whore.” In this scenario, we are led away from the simplicity of the Gospel by twisted thinking that blurs the distinction between good and evil. Once we find ourselves in a situation where sin has taken root in our lives, we often resort to rationalization to convince ourselves that everything is OK. We deny the overt content of our acts, we repress our feelings of guilt, and we often embark on a campaign to prove to ourselves that what we are doing is perfectly natural, morally neutral, harmless, and, in any case, unavoidable.

(6) One of the greatest effects of temptation is that it often causes us to lose heart. Our failures in the struggle against lust or gluttony lead us into sadness. We doubt our own worth, we lose our nerve,and we may be so overcome by defeatism and despair that we give up the struggle altogether.

8.20.15–>”11 Common Features of All Temptations” 3


(3) Temptation is very often clever in that we are sometimes allowed to make some progress against one vice and, while we are  celebrating, the doorway to another is left unguarded. While claiming victory over lust, we are defeated by anger. While reducing anger we succumb to sadness.

Here are some interesting thoughts on sadness by Michael casey:

We do not always see sadness as a source of temptation, preferring to see it as sorrow or grief caused by external events and/or depression to psychochemical imbalance. While it is true that in particular situations sadness is an appropriate or unavoidable response, there are other situations in which our movement into misery is deliberate and malign. More than a century before Evagrius, Hermas had written that sadness “is the most evil of spirits and the one most to be avoided by the servants of God.” What is at issue here is more than a melancholy disposition. Sadness is the opposite of vitality; it is best understood in terms of a lack of energy for appropriate good works. One who is sad is self-preoccupied, unable to be adventurous, or to reach out to others because of a lack of nerve or verve, or from an excess of caution or timidity. Indeed sadness and fear are often intermingled, producing a chronic condition of self-doubt and a reluctance to move beyond familiar parameters. Like acedia, the result of falling under the influence of this temptation is a failure to interact creatively with the real world.

As was so wonderfully portrayed in the movie “Inside Out,” sadness isn’t something to be stuffed or suppressed. I don’t think that’s really what Hermas was saying long ago in the above quote. Rather, it is allowed to surface so that it can be handled and dealt with, therefore, not allowing it to take over. Same with anger. We can’t just deny that we are sad or angry, but we sure can choose what we do with our sadness or anger and how long we hang on to it.

Exposing it to the light is the first thing to do. Converse with Jesus openly about it. Converse openly with a trusted friend about it. Right there, you’re hamstringing it. Then go the opposite direction of the negative emotion, whatever that may be, so as not to nourish the negative. If sad, you go to gratitude. Start counting all the things you have and are thankful for. You’ll not finish the list, ever. Focusing on what you don’t have has yet to bring anyone out of sadness. If angry, same thing. Confess it to God immediately. Confess to another. Then go to forgiveness. You must forgive. First off, it’s commanded, plain and simple. Second, not much will hold you back more in life than harbored unforgiveness (anger). Third, you will be forgiven by our Father to the same degree you forgive others. This should scare you at least a little bit.

8.19.15–>”11 Common Features of All Temptations” 2

Too late - conceptual alarm clock showing that you are too late

Temptations habitually catch us unprepared and wrong footed. Weeks may pass without a ripple, then suddenly a thought will come to mind that quickly propels us towards acts that hitherto seemed unlikely. We will often notice, for example, that temptation seems to have easier access when we are tired, disgruntled, or otherwise in bad form.

This is why off-the-spot training is so vital. You don’t practice your jump shot during the game. By then it’s too late. You’ve either got it or you don’t at that point.

Same with temptation. If unprepared, the moment of testing is usually too late. It doesn’t do us much good to use techniques geared toward the moment of impact. This is where we make our mistake in our methods much of the time. It may help a little to have an escape plan, but it is much more effective to do the heart work ahead of time. (If the tree is good, then the fruit is good.)

In other words, a plan like, “When the temptation comes I will quote this Bible verse, then walk away.” Great plan. But without doing the deep digging into your soul to uproot what is happening in your heart, this approach will only go so far. Probably only as far as your will power.

If you’ve done the diligent work of habit formation, then those good habits will take over in the moments you are tired, disgruntled, or in bad form. Here we’re speaking of the habits of closeness to God that possesses a true to the core belief in His goodness, care, and provision for you in any circumstance. We must always work from the inside out.

So hopefully, when I’m at the end of my rope, my habits will remind me, “Don’t punch your daughter in the face, even though that’s what you feel like doing right now. Talk to God candidly about it because He’s right here with you in this moment, loving you and desiring to help you.”

Or something like that.

The point being, you probably won’t be able to go there (to the good place) in the difficult moment if you haven’t done your off-the-spot training.

8.18.15–>”11 Common Features of All Temptations” 1


James 1:14

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.

Reading in bed last nite, I came across these “common features of temptation”, and found them too insightful not to share. I believe the exposure of these features will be empowering for us all.

Just a couple things before getting into these eleven.

Know up front that all temptations are alike in seeking to undermine our faith in the gift of God and to divide, distort, and diminish the love that the Spirit has poured into our hearts. And there is but a single purpose in all temptations: to separate us from God.

OK, here’s the first common feature:

Temptations occur only in areas of weakness and vulnerability. An option becomes a temptation only when there is a good chance that we be strongly attracted to it. Knowing our current weaknesses gives us some opportunity to take preventative measures. 

Here is where “know thyself” is helpful.

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.

Know your weaknesses and do what is necessary to not put yourself in harm’s way. A very plain example is if you struggle with alcohol, you probably don’t want to meet your friends out at a brewery four nites a week. As harmless as it may sound, I use to be addicted to Coke Zero. So finally, I stopped buying it and stocking my mini fridge with it! Amazing how helpful that was. It’s not rocket surgery, people, it’s simply a matter of what you really want. Yet, we must acknowledge that it is indeed challenging. Man, did that CZ taste good!

Conversely, know your strengths, and know them not for the purpose of thinking yourself above others or beyond temptation. Obviously, if you know me, I’m not real tempted to make a lot of money or be in a position of authority over others. Yet, how tempted I can be to look down on others who are! That devil is a crafty one. He would have me sit and dwell on how not tempted I am in those areas, meanwhile opening a door somewhere else where I’m not even looking.

So know what you are strongly attracted to, where you are weak and vulnerable. That is where you need to build up your defense. Expose it to at least one trusted person, and you will right then greatly diminish the temptation’s power. One area for me is the strong desire to be well thought of. To the point that I will only show my very best side of everything. It’s like I only play “Rob’s Greatest Hits” album, and only the 3 best songs from that. What helps me is to boldly play all those crap songs from my catalogue that show to myself and others the truth of my frail humanity. That I’m just as big a dork as anybody else.

But a big dork on whom the Spirit has poured out His love.


8.17.15–>”Oh, and One More Thing”


First off, here’s a quick summarized review of the “Big 8”–some of the major lessons learned in ministry over the last dozen years:

  1. Ministry is simply the overflow of your heart connection to Jesus and creating space for those who are hungry for that same connection.
  2. Encourage one another daily.
  3. You need Sabbath.
  4. The enemy wants you to focus most of your energy on those who are unwilling to put forth any effort of their own.
  5. The 3 killers that keep showing themselves are a false view of God, distraction, and self-loathing (wallowing).
  6. Behind all sin is an unhealthy and false view of God, disbelieving He has our best interests at heart.
  7. It is more effective to ask questions and share stories than it is to supply answers and give lectures.
  8. In general, people don’t need things or even help as much as they need someone consistent who is for them.

And one more thing.

At Outreach, when asked, I always told people that to do this work you must have this approach: don’t do it for the results, as odd as that sounds, don’t do it to feel good inside, and don’t do it for a pat on the back or a “thank you.” Simply do it because it’s the right thing to do, and perform for an audience of One.

True religion is this: to visit widows and orphans in their troubles… -James 1:27

Not to take away all their troubles, for I don’t believe we can, but to be with them in their troubles.

This is true religion.


8.16.15–>”Your Extent of Peace”

For you will have peace to the extent that you have God, and the further you are away from God the less you will be at peace. Anything that is at peace has God in it to the extent that it is at peace. Thus you may measure your progress with God by measuring your peace or the lack of it. When you have unrest within you, you will be restless visibly, but the unrest comes from the creature and not from God. There is nothing in him to be afraid of, and nothing to cause sorrow. He is only lovable.

Perfectly to will what God wills, to want what he wants, is to have joy; but if one’s will is not quite in unison with God’s, there is no joy. May God help us to be in tune with him! Amen.

-Meister Eckhart

8.15.15–>”Making a Fresh Start”

There was some talk about a certain man who wanted to make a fresh start in life and I spoke of it this way: He ought to become a God-seeker in all things and a God-finder at all times. [He should pursue this objective] in all places, among all kinds of people and by every possible method. In this way, he will always make progress and grow, and never come to the end of his way.

-Meister Eckhart

8.14.15–>”What I’ve Learned in 12 Years of Ministry” (pt.8)

LaMar grad college

I shall close out this series of what I’ve learned over the years with a short  story that illustrates well the heart of ministry.

While I was at Outreach, Inc., a local film company was doing a promotional video for us. They interviewed me and one of my guys, LaMar, at their studio.

During LaMar’s interview, they were asking him what Outreach (and  Rob) did for him. In fact, it was like, “Did they help you get your own place?” “No.” “Did they help you with school supplies?” “Not so much.” As the list went on of what we didn’t do, I started wondering to myself, “What the heck did we do for LaMar??” Then the interviewer asked that same question.

“What is it Outreach did provide for you?”

Here is LaMar’s response:

“I knew that if I was in trouble, or needed anything, or just needed someone to call, that they would be there for me. That’s what they provided for me.”

I learned right there and then that people in need don’t need “things” or even help per se, nearly as much as they need support, encouragement, consistency, availability, someone who is for them….Love. Perfectly, this comes from God. Imperfectly yet essentially, this comes from me and you.

LaMar went on to become the first ever college graduate in Outreach’s then 15 year history.

8.13.15–>”What I’ve Learned in 12 Years of Ministry” (pt.7)


“The Kingdom of heaven is like…”

I have found that it is more effective to ask questions and share stories than it is to supply answers and give lectures.

It is generally better if someone discovers truth for themselves than simply having it handed to them. Questions draw out what is already within a person–things they maybe have not dug themselves to find. Questions induce searching. Answers, on the other hand, tend to squelch thinking, or at least not encourage it. Simple or pad answers especially can even shut people down. “Here’s your answer, now shut up and stop thinking!” is what I’ve heard loud and clear from many people over the years. But questions engage people and promote further thinking.

I remember a chapter in a parenting book I read years ago entitled “Lectures Don’t Work.” It was a marvelous chapter basically showing the ineffectiveness of lectures when it comes to your children. Perhaps there’s a time for lectures. I mean we do have to teach and instruct our children and one another, but stories are the stuff of life that sink into us. We remember events and people in pictures and story lines not bits of information like a computer. We learn by association, hence, metaphor. Look at the brilliant stories Jesus told to illustrate the kingdom of God.

We also learn a lot from what other people do more than what they say or tell us to do. Many times people don’t even have to tell us what to do, we’re just inspire by them and what they’ve done, and we go and do the same. We’re inspired by stories of survival, achievement, and sacrifice because we are tangibly reminded of what we are capable of–of what others have actually done. Or if you’re a pessimist you’re reminded of even more things you can’t do. Oh I’m just bein’ silly…but I guess that is true.

Anyway, try more questions and stories. You may be surprised at how much further you get through to people, or more accurately, what you can help people to see that is already inside them.

“The kingdom of heaven is within you.” -Jesus of Nazareth