Thorns, temptations and tests

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For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. But you disobeyed my command. Why did you do this? — Judges 2:1-23

“We need to know what’s in your heads.” was the answer.

The teacher explained to our class why they were giving us weekly tests along with the regular midterms and finals.

None of us were really concerned about what was in our heads, but apparently, the teacher was quite concerned as was demonstrated by all the tests.

We were, however, concerned about what was on those tests, so I guess their plan was successful.

As God’s people began to take possession of the land that God had given them, they were given some clear instructions regarding the people God was judging and removing.

Among them were, “Do not make any covenants with them.

“Destroy all their altars to their gods.”

These were tests to see what was in their hearts.

Sadly, they failed them miserably.

As a result, those they were supposed to have driven out over time became thorns, temptations and generational tests.

They were so close to being in step with God.

As a matter of fact, there were brief moments when the collective heart of God’s people was right in step with him.

However, the pattern was compromise, token devotion and false worship.

The hard truth is we will all be tested, too.

Temptations abound and thorns are present in every aspect of life.

God is giving us the opportunity to see what’s in our hearts.

Sharpen those No. 2 pencils! The tests are being passed out.

In the beginning

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. — John 1:1-28

From a very young age, two of my kids clearly demonstrated the love language of gift-giving.

We’d get them a little something from the store checkout aisle and you would have thought it was a million dollars!

Even as adults, a gift of any kind that they either give or receive means so much to them.

However, in all honesty, a Ring Pop doesn’t exactly carry the same weight it once did.

Our verses for today reveal, from the beginning, one of God’s premier love languages is giving.

As John launches into his account of Jesus’ ministry, he testifies to God’s giving nature.

He gave life to everything that was created. He gave John the Baptist to tell everyone that Jesus was coming. He, then, gave his son to everyone.

The fact of the matter is there is nothing in our lives, nothing we have that wasn’t given to us by God, including our lives.

It must sound odd to God to hear people boast of all the things they have or have done.

After all, he was the one who gave them tongues to speak.

If we aren’t careful, we’ll easily drift into taking credit for God’s good gifts: I accomplished this great feat. I built this business. I raised these awesome kids.

Really?

A full appreciation of today’s reading will leave us on our knees in pure thankfulness for all the good gifts he has poured into our lives.

Tom Wiles is senior minister of Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton. He can be reached at 765-778-3166.