Category Archives: Temptation

The right and wrong cause of conflict

Looking back over the last few weeks we have touched on some big themes – some of which we like to talk about, others we try to avoid. I’ll let you decide which is which!

I was struck when reading Book 15 of the City of God this week that there are really insightful lessons for us on a key topic that perhaps we don’t like talking about but is an inevitable part of being human – conflict.

In this section Augustine traces the early days of the earthly and heavenly cities, right back to their founding fathers Cain and Seth. He sees the conflict between Cain and Abel as a picture or symbol of the conflict that will always exist between the two cities.

As we trace Cain’s descendants they are the first to establish a physical city on earth. He compares this to how Rome was founded by two brothers, one of whom killed the other. Augustine contrasts the evil jealousy of both sets of brothers with the goodness experienced in the heavenly city:

Cain was the diabolical envy that the wicked feel for the good simply because they are good, while they themselves are evil. A man’s possession of goodness is in no way diminished by the arrival, or the continuance, of a sharer in it; indeed, goodness is a possession enjoyed more widely by the united affection of partners in that possession in proportion to the harmony that exists among them.


He goes on to explain that the members of the earthly city “fight among themselves; and likewise the wicked fight against the good and the good against the wicked. But the good, if they have reached perfect goodness, cannot fight against themselves”.

Thus we see that there will always be conflict between the citizens of the two cities as well as conflict within the earthly city as it fights itself. Moreover, we know that no citizen of the heavenly city has reached perfection so “there may be fighting among them inasmuch as any good man may fight against another as a result of that part of him which makes him also fight against himself”. He goes on to say

Spiritual desire can fight against the carnal desire of another person, or carnal desire against another’s spiritual desire, just as the good and wicked fight against one another. Or even the carnal desires of two good men may fight.


There is much more in Book 15 worth exploring, including a fascinating explanation of the long length of life before the flood, incest and giants. But that is for another day! The jewel that I would hold up before us is this brief dive into the types of conflict, summarised as:

  • Earthly city infighting
  • Earthly and heavenly city fighting each other
  • Individuals within heavenly city fight with themselves against their own sinful nature
  • Spiritual desire of one person fights against carnal desire of another (within the heavenly city)
  • Carnal desires of two good men fight against each other

While the first and the last in the list are ultimately ungodly conflict, the other three causes could have a godly purpose and motivation. Indeed, there can be no progress towards perfection without conflict – either in the individual or the church. There are remnants of the sinful (carnal) nature in all of us, even the most godly.

What this tells me is that in vain do we seek a life free of conflict, whatever city we belong to and whatever our need for peace and calm. We should expect conflict, welcome it (to some extent), and learn from it in order to grow in godliness and spiritual maturity.

Choosing a life void of conflict, with comfort or any other object as our goal, is choosing a life of spiritual stagnation. The key question I leave this section of the book with is this…will I live determined to be driven and controlled only and ever by my spiritual desires throughout any and all conflict I experience? Whilst I naturally avoid conflict, if when it comes, I can keep this as my spiritual north, then the conflict will be redeeming and healing whenever it arrives and wherever it leads.

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Why today is my last day on Facebook

I posted this on Facebook back in August just before I left, it’s been over 3 months since coming off FB and I can honestly tell you I haven’t missed it once. I know there are lots of people who really enjoy using it to keep in touch with friends and family, but I would challenge you to honestly ask yourself if the benefits really outweigh the negatives. I’m not saying anyone else should leave it, but if you want to know why I did, read on…


Dear FB friends, today will be my last day on Facebook, for three main reasons:

1. The Scottish referendum has taught me what it’s like to be captive to other people’s enthusiasm. Although I post on a variety of topics, I write on things important to me, especially my faith. I have never been criticised for this (or unfriended as far as I know) but I have a much better appreciation for what it feels like to be on the receiving end of political or religious proselytising. I will still write because I want to contribute something to the discussion, but will not automatically upload these to FB.

2. It encourages insecurity, jealousy and envy – have people liked my post? Why did so and so not like it? Why do they get so many likes? Why did they post that? I wish I was doing that…I wish, I wish, I wish, why, why, why. Not healthy!!

3. The gap between reality and perception – whether intentionally or unintentionally we can easily portray a digital image of ourselves that distorts our real life and personality. What is endearing face to face can become annoying digitally. I don’t want this filter over my life – I want to decide on what I see and hear, not on an edited selection of things that other people want me to read. I also don’t want to inadvertently portray an image of myself inconsistent with the real me.

For me the positives don’t out way the negatives – don’t get me wrong there are some great aspects of FB – ease of keeping in touch with a wide circle of friends, some good articles, etc. But would my life be any less richer, fuller or blessed if I didn’t have these things? And the dependence that it breeds is like a peer pressure, approval seeking, social conforming addiction. I want to be free from that.

Follow your own path, not the one others digitise it for you. No Facebook, know peace.

You better “Like” this today, because ifacebook-freet will be gone after that…

2 Peter 2.19: “They promise that these men will be free. But they themselves are chained to sin. For a man is chained to anything that has power over him.”

What can a man who has nothing teach the whole world?

money_thumbOn Sunday I had the chance to speak to the children at our church. I started by asking them which of them liked Mental Maths? (not many hands went up, but a couple did…which threw me!). I then asked them which of them got pocket money? A few more hands went up and I asked them how much they got. We realised that if we added up all their pocket money we might get to £10. Now, how much money would we have if we all saved our pocket money for a whole year? You guessed it…£520. Now I asked how many children there were in their schools. A couple said around 50 and two said they went to a school of nearly 500. I asked them to imagine all of those children in that school, all saving up their pocket money for a whole year. What a lot of money that would be! Then imagine losing that amount of money…and how sad you would be?

I then explained that this was the amount of money  (£10 x 52 weeks x 500 people = £26,000 = $40,000) that someone lost last week in America. But also imagine how you would feel if you found that much money? What would you do with it? Well, amazingly the man who found it didn’t keep one penny (or cent), but gave all of it to the police, who returned it to its owner. This was despite the fact that he had been homeless for the last 8 years. Wow! Imagine that! All that money instantly arrives, more money than you have ever seen in your life, right there in your hands, and you give it all back.

Glen James, Ed DavisThe man in question was Glen James. His honesty earned him an Award from the Boston Police Department for this actions. In response Glen James said:

Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money I found”, he said. I am extremely religious and God has always very well looked after me. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone – every pedestrian stranger – who has given me spare change. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

I told the kids that Jesus also spoke about money and how it should never be your master. Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” I then explained how people had been so moved by Glen’s honesty that they had donated more than twice the amount that he had found to him. So God rewarded his honesty and gave him more than he gave up.

As I reflected on this Sunday School talk I thought that sometimes it takes a person who has absolutely nothing to turn his back on a fortune for the rest of us to realise how we love money too much. If he had been well off we could have consoled ourselves by saying that “well he probably didn’t take it because he already has a nice house and a good job”. But when a man who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from turns his back on a fortune, only because it is not rightly his, then we see something of the depth of his true character…and it provokes us to question our own motives. Only when everything is striped away and we are tempted at our point of need, do we truly see the power of the Spirit of God.

So I ask, “What can a man who has nothing teach the whole world?”

  1. Our personal integrity is worth more than any amount of money. How easily we succumb to temptation, how little it takes to get us to compromise. If we prized our integrity and personal holiness as highly as Glen, we would turn away from many of the things we so easily allow to entangle us.
  2. The more desperate the need, the deeper the self-denial. Many of us think we are denying ourselves things, but we exhibit restraint from a position of relative comfort. The person in dire straits when faced with an easy (but dishonest) way out is the person who is really tested. The opposite is also true – the greater the abundance, the deeper the sacrifice to give it all up.
  3. Sometimes we get the very thing we have renounced. If we are desperate for money God may well keep us from it, if we deeply long for a position of status, God may well keep us in humble circumstances. If we have truly renounced our desire for power, prestige and money, then he might just be prepared to give them to us – when he is happy they will not corrupt us. Or he may not, either way we will be content.
  4. Some denials will only be returned in the life to come. The promise of Matthew 19.29 to receive abundantly more than we ever gave up for Christ is ultimately to be fulfilled in the life to come. However, that we might not give up hope of the depth of God’s kindness, he sometimes gives us tasters of his generosity in this life . Glen’s new found abundance is an example of the overflow of the coming kingdom into this present age.

There are similarities here with the other man who lived his life with nothing. He gave up divine glory and majesty, willfully making himself nothing – a much greater sacrifice than any of us could ever make. This man was tempted at the point of starvation to make bread from stones and resisted. He was tempted to trade future glory and present suffering for present dishonest glory – and resisted. This man purposefully set his face to serve others not rule them, to deliberately renounce his right to be God. In return the Father gave him a name above every other – the very thing he was willing to sacrifice. This man never saw the fulfilment during his life of the fruit of the sacrifices he made, but will one day see every knee bow before him, and the children of God perfect in holiness. He only calls us to do what he himself was willing to do – lose his life, so he may find it. So the next time you walk past a homless guy on the street, just think…it might be the next Glen James and he might have something to teach you.

Memo: Satan’s 10 Year Strategy for Pornography (Dated June 1990)

1st June 1990Graffiti___Evil_Businessman_by_tmfNeurodancer

Dear Employees,

It has come to my attention that there has been a good deal of amusement caused by my latest 10-year strategy for our Pornography Department: “The Final Push for Pornography”. Many of you have found my ambition laughable, as if it is the wild illusions of a deranged mind. Apparently you think I am dreaming with what I am seeking to achieve, that I should be more realistic. Well, I am writing this memo to all of you to explain what the strategy is all about and why it is so important.

First, we must remember where we have come from and the great victories of past generations. We have made significant strides since the days when physical touch actually had to take place for adultery to happen. In those days there just weren’t enough attractive women for what we had in mind, and this restricted our progress. Men were fairly immune from the temptations we so desperately desired to put in front of them. The busyness of work and family life, and the public scandal of divorce kept many of our targets out of reach. However, as these humans became more sophisticated, we were able to turn the 3D temptations into 2D and begin to make cracks in the Enemy’s defence. Yes, those were hard days, with small victories, but we persisted and slowly the printed page became more wide-spread. We managed to remove the need for physical contact and made our first significant advance by taking the battle into the mind rather than the body. We made sex impersonal – the first critical pillar of their defence to be destroyed.

So, for many years this was our weapon of choice and we managed to make it more and more acceptable amongst them. Those were hard days of trench warfare; it was tough work to make these despicable males expend the determination required to seek it out from the darkest corners of society. Little did they realise what was about to come! I still smile when I remember the ripple of excitement that went through the senior team down here when they first invented the Mirage Maker. We immediately saw the potential of having one of these in every home – striking a dagger right in the heart of our victim by placing it in the middle of his home.  I would say it was at that moment that the inspiration for my current strategy was born. I finally understood what they were capable of and where this could go one day.

Thus, it was around this time that we came up with our vision for our success – making pornography immediate, universal and inconsequential. Firstly, we began to dream of a day when it would be immediately on tap, any time of day, any location, with no need to stop and think. You know as well as I do, that we are at our weakest when these humans have time to stop and think about the consequences of their actions. We realised that key to our victory was removing the buffer between thinking about an act (the desire to act) and then the act itself (the opportunity to act). If we could make access immediate, they would be so driven by their basic instincts that all chance of living a Godly life would disappear forever.

Secondly, we realised that somehow, someway we needed to make this instant access universal. While we have no idea how they do it, they seem obsessed with joining the whole world up to a universal drip of entertainment and sport. We knew back then that we could slipstream on their ambition and turn this to our advantage. Finally, we had to find a way of making it appear to have no consequences. So much of our great enemy’s protection of them comes from helping them to think about the consequences to their actions. We know that we are weakest when they are considering about what they will think about this action from the hindsight of eternity. We must find a way of creating the illusion that it is not hurting anybody else, and because of this very fact (!!), it is not hurting them either. These creatures are gullible enough to believe this, if we can make it convincing enough.

So, to my latest 10-year strategy. I believe we stand on the edge of final victory in this key area of our attack. While many of you may pour scorn over my lofty vision, I can see a day coming in the not too distant future when all three of these aims will be achieved. I do not know when, or how it will be done, but all the key ingredients are now in place. There will come a day these three things will converge and then our victory will be guaranteed. Which of them will be able to stand the tsunami of temptation that immediate, universal and consequence-free pornography will bring? It would take someone of the conviction of Job, the purity of Joseph and the moral discipline of Noah to withstand our charge in that day. We will be relentless; we will turn their so-called advances against them. We will ensure that no corner of the world is left untouched. There will be no remedy to our attack. And when we are victorious over the fathers we will infect the children.

As your leader, it is my responsibility to remind you that complacency is our Achilles’ heel. As we were reminded by recent events in Eastern Europe when the European Branch of our Social Deprivation Department took their eye off the ball and half the continent broke free from chains we had worked so long to bind them with, complacency is our biggest weakness. So you will see in the small print of my strategy paper that we must, by all possible means, stop them from remembering that they were perfectly happy (perhaps even more content) before they had all these gizmos. Just make them look back in superiority over all those “more primitive” times and continually remind them of their own sophistication and superiority and the job will be done – none of them will even think that there is any other possible option. They will consider it ludicrous to actually choose to become a technology hermit only for the sake of their purity, if only we follow the strategy to the letter. The real truth is that this is their only hope – to build a wall of protection around them and their families, that creates a zone of purity within their inner lives and those they most cherish. Perhaps one or two may escape this way, but the losses to our effort will be inconsequential.

In conclusion, as we stand together in the middle of 1990, I want you to know that we have made great strides; we have conquered many lives. In my ambition I look forward to a day when this area will no longer even be a battle ground, because of the overwhelming odds they will face, and we can re-allocate surplus resources towards the other Departments, like we have managed to do in the Primordial Propaganda Department.

I look forward to seeing your progress in this vital area.

Your leader,



Inspired by CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. “…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2.11) …Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5.8)”…and “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5.28).”