What to do during a Quiet Time

The key distinctive of a study quiet time is the serious study of Scripture. If a half-hour is set aside for a quiet time, at least twenty minutes of it is Scripture study. An in-depth study of a passage using commentaries and a Bible dictionary is not unusual.

The study quiet time sinks our roots deep in Scripture. We lay up a rich store of spiritual truth that we can draw on throughout our lives. As we see how God works in the pages of Scripture, we learn to recognize his hand in our own lives. As we see how people responded to God, we are inspired—perhaps to seek God as David did, or to be more obedient than Saul was.

All that time in study leaves less time for prayer. Leisurely devotional worship gets crowded out. Prayer time is cramped: short, intense and task-oriented. It easily turns into a shopping list of things for God to do and problems for him to solve.

In a study quiet time, it is possible to learn all kinds of information about God but not encounter God. Our study of Scripture may become a purely mental experience. We tend to assume that because we are studying Scripture, we are in touch with God. Remember the issue for our quiet time: “Am I meeting with God?” — Stephen D. Eyre, Drawing close to God: The Essentials of a Dynamic Quiet Time: A Lifeguide Resource (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

How to resist temptation

We resist temptation the way Jesus did, through the word of the kingdom. As we follow Jesus, we see the gospel reclaim our identity, reorder our desires, and reframe our future. We need to recognize that we are living in a war zone, a cosmos being ripped from the dominion of its demonic overlords. We are right now part of a counterinsurgency through the mission of Christ. It’s only in this way that we see the power of temptation over us broken, as the demonic powers flee from the presence of the only Man they fear.

Reclaiming Your Identity

My friend Felix’s problem was the same one that most people face at some point or another. His expectations of Christianity were both too high and too low. This is precisely where the satanic powers want to pin you, to hubris or to despair. As a matter of fact, the best situation the demons can have you in is actually a combination of the two, in which you ricochet back and forth between them. The gospel, though, reorients our view of ourselves, of God, and of the world by telling us who we are in Christ.

When the apostle Paul warned the Corinthian believers about temptation, he prefaced his comments with these words: “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1–2). This points, first of all, to humility.

From what we can tell from the rest of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the people to whom he was writing persisted in eclipsing the gospel with a sense of personal hubris. Paul silenced such boasting by reciting the truth of the gospel—no one comes to God except by receiving the undeserved mercy found in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this is so, Paul wrote, then why did they brag and boast as though they hadn’t been given this as a gift (1 Cor. 1:26–31; 4:7)?

This hubris is especially dangerous when it comes to temptation. Our forefathers and foremothers were all “baptized.” What did Paul mean by this? They had all, he said, gone through the cloud and through the sea, referencing the Israelites’ escape from Egyptian tyranny through the parted waters. They had seen the dynamism of God’s exodus delivery. And yet most of them ended up as rotting corpses in the wilderness. If they fell, Paul wrote, then certainly so can you.

“Therefore,” Paul wrote, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). That is, in fact, what baptism is all about, an “appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:21). Your baptism is a sign that you’ve been buried with Christ (Col. 2:12). Like your ancestors pinned up against the sea, the only thing that has delivered you is the power of God. That repentance then ought to be ongoing, continually reminding you that you are capable of any sin. You are invulnerable to nothing. Pretending so only drives you further to destruction.

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).


This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

A Bible Study based on Tempted and Tried is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Seven minutes with God

Want a deeper walk with God? Give Him just seven minutes and see what happens!

½ Minute: Preparing Your Heart

Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.”

4 Minutes: Listening to God (Scripture Reading)

Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

2½ Minutes: Talking to God (Prayer)

After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer. One method is to incorporate four areas of prayer that you can remember with the word ACTS.

Adoration. This is the purest kind of prayer because it’s all for God. Tell the Lord that you love Him. Reflect on His greatness.

Confession. Having seen Him, you now want to be sure every sin is cleansed and forsaken. “Confession” comes from a root word meaning “to agree together with.” When we apply this to prayer, it means we agree with God’s estimation of what we’ve done.

Thanksgiving. Think of several specific things to thank Him for: your family, your business, your church—even thank Him for hardships.

Supplication. This means to “ask for, earnestly and humbly.” Ask for others, then ask for yourself. Include people around the world, missionaries, friends, and those who have yet to hear about Jesus. — Seven Minutes with God from NavPress.


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The temptation of pride

I guess it’s hard enough to raise your children right without having to send them off to a Satanist every weekend. That was the dilemma a group of women had when they filed suit against the one thing they all had in common with each other—an ex-husband named Jamie. Jamie was a thirty-year-old factory worker, and he’d led a rough life. Then he wound up in court trying to convince a judge he was fit to have parental custody of his children. It all came down to a tattoo.

Jamie had a cross on his arm, embedded in ink in his skin. That might not seem all that controversial, except that the cross was upside down. And it formed the “t” in the word “Satan.” Jamie’s attorney said this was a simple religious liberty issue. He was a member of the Church of Satan and shouldn’t be discriminated against because of his beliefs. The Devil’s advocate called a satanic priest as an expert witness to provide the crux of their argument: satanism doesn’t have anything to do with the Devil. The satanist said that their religion doesn’t believe in a real, personal devil or in any god or supernatural power. Satanism instead worships the ego, the power of the self. That’s what the upside-down cross is about, the turning on its head of the Christian values of humility, meekness, and servitude. Satanism isn’t really devil worship, he said, since Satan is just a symbol for “pride, liberty, and individualism.”

Now, as I’m sure you can already tell from reading this far in this book, I disagree with the occultist about the existence of Satan. But let’s give the Devil his due. It would be hard to find a more biblical definition of devil worship than the worship of pride, liberty, and individualism. As I read about somebody like Jamie, I’m always curious as to what happened in his life. After all, devil worship, like all forms of occultism, tends to show up, after a series of dark and dreadful steps, in the life of someone with almost nothing left to lose. Powerless people tend to be drawn to the occult, whether that’s the pimpled teenage boy reading sorcery books to fend off the bullies or the middle-aged divorcée who finds self-confidence in her New Age earth religion or the coven of cultists drinking each other’s blood. Those who have been hurt and marginalized can be drawn to the consolation of dark magic. For the rest of us, though, our quest for power tends to accept a subtler shade of Satanism.

I’m prideful, and so are you. Some of those who are reading this (maybe my grandmother) are probably mouthing the words, “Oh, he’s not prideful at all. He’s so sweet.” That’s just it, though. Many prideful people are so prideful they don’t seem proud. We are disgusted enough by arrogance to want never to seem like the peacock poseurs we all have in our lives. But every human being bears the sinful tendency toward pride and exaltation of self. We express it in different ways, but we all crave power for ourselves and the freedom that seems to come with it. That’s why Jesus went into the desert for us, to wrestle with our common temptation to worship the satanic world system around us.

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).


This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

A Bible Study based on Tempted and Tried is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

How important is Quiet Time?

No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately.

However, many who yawn with familiarity and nod in agreement to these statements spend no more time with God’s Word in an average day than do those with no Bible at all. My pastoral experience bears witness to the validity of surveys that frequently reveal that great numbers of professing Christians know little more about the Bible than Third-World Christians who possess not even a shred of Scripture.

Some wag remarked that the worst dust storm in history would happen if all church members who were neglecting their Bibles dusted them off simultaneously. — Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 28.


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The Demand for Protection

This demand for protection was a signal of unbelief. The people didn’t trust God, on the basis of his Word, to protect them and deliver them from their enemies. They wanted some visible manifestation, something that would prove that God was a Father after all. At Massah the sign they wanted was a stream of water. But it would later be other things. The addiction to signs is not easily overcome. They wanted to put God on trial, to make him prove whether he was there and whether he was for them on the basis of something more visible than his Word. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,” the Psalm sings, “when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work” (Ps. 95:7–9).

The problem for Israel was that they weren’t really able to put God to the test. In reality the Israelites were backing up into a story even older than theirs. Eve, after all, was offered the fruit as a means of protection. Her eating it was a challenge as to whether God was correct when he said that in the day they ate of it they would surely die (Gen. 3:3–4). And after eating it, sin led her and her husband to seek further protection from God himself in the vegetation of the garden (Gen. 3:8). They were testing the sovereignty of God.

At Massah the Israelites themselves were actually being tested. In their grumbling sign seeking, God demonstrated that they had gone “astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways” (Ps. 95:10). The end result was God’s declaration, “I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest’” (Ps. 95:11).

It is no accident that Jesus relived the water test of Massah from atop the temple. The temple is all about water. The prophet Ezekiel envisioned a future temple in which water would trickle out, gradually pick up depth, and ultimately flow out as a mighty river, teeming with life, until it poured out at the roots of the Tree of Life (Ezek. 47:1–12). This water, Jesus said, is “living water” that refreshes forever (John 4:1–30; 7:37–39). Jesus didn’t seek to prove the voice of God; he just believed it.

Jesus saw through the satanic deception precisely what neither Eve nor Israel could see. He knew that testing God would mean disqualification from God’s people, from the inheritance of “entering my rest.” Jesus’ name, after all, is literally Joshua. Like the first Joshua, Jesus doesn’t require a certainty of visible victory before marching through the enemy’s camp. He hears the words of God, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). As he looked at the satanic visage and at the precipice below, he remembered what Israel had forgotten: “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Deut. 20:1).

Moreover, the invisibility of Jesus’ protection was preparation for his kingship. The king of Israel, after all, was required not to return to Egypt to acquire horses (Deut. 17:16). Why not? It is because the Israelite king is to see his protection through the power of God, not by the same standards as the slavery from which his people have come. The king’s power is to be through the Spirit, not by visible might and power.

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).


This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

A Bible Study based on Tempted and Tried is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Solitude in an IPhone world

It’s hard to find solitude anywhere, these days. Oh, we have plenty of alone time, at least physically. Solitude, however? That’s a little tougher.
Everywhere we go, we have our phones or our tablets or our laptops. Texts or Facebook or e-mail connects us to everyone on the planet. We may be the only human being for miles, but we have access to hundreds of “friends,” as well as up-to-the-minute news, at our fingertips. Our thoughts are cluttered with a jumbled mess of trivialities.

Our minds are always full, always busy. Just as we must empty out a cluttered cabinet in order to clean it, we must remove all distractions from our spirit in order to fill it back up with the peace and orderliness that only comes from God. Too often, we treat our time with God like a tweet or a text. Nothing wrong with short and sweet, but when that’s all there is, the relationship will suffer.

We need to make time each day to withdraw from everyone and everything but God. We need to focus on Him alone, face-to-face, no distractions. When we do, the relationship will grow, and with it, our minds will be filled with the peace and wisdom to face everything else. — Renae Brumbaugh et al., (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour, 2015).


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

The pull of consumption

There’s nothing quite as bleak as a city street the morning after Mardi Gras. The steam of the morning humidity rises silently over asphalt, riddled with forgotten doubloons, broken bottles, littered cigarettes, used condoms, clotted blood, and mangled vomit. This sight was, where I grew up in my coastal Mississippi town, a parable for the more committed evangelicals about what was wrong with a culturally accommodated Christianity. I wasn’t so sure.

My quirky little strip of home, Biloxi, was an outpost of a Catholic majority situated right at the bottom of the Bible belt of the old Confederacy. We were more New Orleans than Tupelo, and I lived in both worlds. Half my family was Southern Baptist and the other half Roman Catholic. I could see the best sides of either and the dark sides of both. I saw Catholic casino night fund-raisers and Baptist business meetings, and neither seemed to look much like the book of Acts. When it came to the ecclesial divide between Catholics and evangelicals, I was sure there must be some big differences that resulted in something as historic as the Protestant Reformation, but day to day those differences seemed to my friends and me to amount to little more than who had a black spot on their foreheads once a year and whose parents drank beer right out in the open. For the grown-ups, though, at least for the grown-ups outside my mixed-together family, these differences seemed to matter a lot. Much of that was summed up in Mardi Gras.

I loved (and love) Mardi Gras. I suppose that’s because all I saw were the traditions and rituals—king cakes and parades and candy—rather than the full Bourbon Street experience. Drunkenness and immorality are indefensible, of course, but at its most innocent level, Mardi Gras replays something of God’s provision for the prophet Elijah who, like Jesus, went out into the wilderness to fast for forty days. Before he went, the angels gave him “a cake baked on hot stones.” After his feast, the prophet “went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights” (1 Kings 19:6–8).

But some of the older Baptists at my church downright hated the whole idea of Fat Tuesday. They knew that Mardi Gras was the day before the beginning of Lent, the forty days of fasting rooted, in part, in Jesus’ time without food in the wilderness temptations, and they saw this party as blasphemy. “Those Catholics—they just go out and get as drunk as they want to, eat till they vomit,” I remember one neo-Puritan naysayer lamenting. “They’re just getting it all out of their system before they have to get all somber and holy for Lent.” It never made an anti-Catholic out of me because I never saw any of my devout Catholic relatives or friends behaving that way. But it made sense to me that gorging and getting drunk the day before Ash Wednesday probably wasn’t what the Lord meant when he said to “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

As the years have gone by, though, I’m realizing that we Baptists had a Mardi Gras, too. Mardi Gras Protestantism didn’t celebrate the day just on a yearly calendar, though, but, much more importantly, on the calendar of a lifespan. The typical cycle went something like this. You were born, then reared up in Sunday school until you were old enough to raise your hand when the teacher asked who believes in Jesus and wants to go to heaven. At that point you were baptized, usually long before the first pimple of puberty, and shortly thereafter you had your first spaghetti dinner fund-raiser to go to summer youth camp. And then sometime between fifteen and twenty you’d go completely wild.

Our view of the “College and Career” Sunday school class was somewhat like our view of purgatory. It might be there, technically, but there was no one in it. After a few years of carnality, you’d settle down, start having kids, and you’d be back in church, just in time to get those kids into Sunday school and start the cycle all over again. If you didn’t get divorced or indicted, you’d be chairman of deacons or head of the women’s missionary auxiliary by the time your own kids were going completely wild. It was just kind of expected. You were going to get things out of your system before you settled down. You know, I never could find that in the book of Acts either.

I never really went through the wild stage. But years later, having lived a fairly upstanding life externally, I found myself envying a Christian leader giving his “testimony.” This man described his life of mind-blowing drugs, manic sex, and nonstop partying in such detail that, before I knew it, I was wistfully thinking, Wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds? All that, and heaven, too. I’d embraced the dark side of Mardi Gras in my own mind. As much as I thought I was superior to both the drunken partiers on the streets and the dour cranks condemning it, I had internalized the hidden hedonism of it all. I was under the lordship of Christ but, if only for that moment, wishing for the lordship of my own fallen appetite.

The first temptation of Christ is all about this. When Jesus walked out from his baptism into the desert, the Bible tells us he was tracked down by the Devil, the old serpent of Eden. And, just as in Eden, Satan offered Jesus food. “If you are the Son of God,” the Devil said, “command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3). What Satan prompted Jesus to do was to provide for himself, to feed himself, or, rather, to use the power of the Spirit to feed himself. It was the pull to consumption, to self-provision.

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).


This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

A Bible Study based on Tempted and Tried is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Why is it so difficult to love others?

In certain stores you will find a section of merchandise available at greatly reduced prices. The tip-off is a particular tag you will see on all the items in that area. Each tag carries the same words: as is.

This is a euphemistic way of saying, “These are damaged goods.” Sometimes they’re called slightly irregular. The store is issuing you fair warning: “This is the department of Something’s-Gone-Wrong. You’re going to find a flaw here: a stain that won’t come out; a zipper that won’t zip; a button that won’t butt—there will be a problem. These items are not normal.

“We’re not going to tell you where the flaw is. You’ll have to look for it.

“But we know it’s there. So when you find it—and you will find it—don’t come whining and sniveling to us. Because there is a fundamental rule when dealing with merchandise in this corner of the store: No returns. No refunds. No exchanges. If you were looking for perfection, you walked down the wrong aisle. You have received fair warning. If you want this item, there is only one way to obtain it. You must take it as is.”

When you deal with human beings, you have come to the “as-is” corner of the universe. Think for a moment about someone in your life. Maybe the person you know best, love most. That person is slightly irregular.

That person comes with a little tag: There’s a flaw here. A streak of deception, a cruel tongue, a passive spirit, an out-of-control temper. I’m not going to tell you where it is, but it’s there. So when you find it—and you will find it—don’t be surprised. If you want to enter a relationship with this model, there is only one way. “As is.”

If you were looking for perfection, you’ve walked down the wrong aisle.

We are tempted to live under the illusion that somewhere out there are people who are normal. In the movie As Good As It Gets, Helen Hunt is wracked by ambivalence toward Jack Nicholson. He is kind and generous to her and her sick son, but he is also agoraphobic, obsessive-compulsive, and terminally offensive: If rudeness were measured in square miles, he’d be Texas. In desperation, Helen finally cries to her mother: I just want a normal boyfriend.

Oh, her mother responds in empathy, everybody wants one of those. There’s no such thing, dear.

When we enter relationships with the illusion that people are normal, we resist the truth that they are not. We enter an endless attempt to fix them, control them, or pretend that they are what they’re not. One of the great marks of maturity is to accept the fact that everybody comes “as is.” — John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal till You Get to Know Them (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).


This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Slaughterhouse Drive

There was something rhythmic, almost soothing about the soft clatter of it all. The soothing repetition sounded kind of like a summer thunderstorm coming up from the coast or a rickety old midnight train off in the distance. I had no idea that what I was listening to was the rhythm of cattle marching to a slaughterhouse. It turns out what I’d happened upon, kind of randomly driving in my car, was a public radio program about factory farming. The broadcast was about how to kill cows, but with kindness.

Actually, it wasn’t really about the cows. They were just sort of the backdrop. The segment instead profiled a highly functioning autistic scientist who had learned through years of research how to register which stimuli produce which animal sounds and how to track what scares or stresses livestock. It turns out that the beef industry was willing to pay for this information, and not entirely due to their humanitarian goals. High stress levels in animals can release hormones that could downgrade the quality of the meat.

Some of the largest corporations in the world hired this scientist to visit their meat plants with a checklist. She said her secret was the insight that novelty distresses cows. A slaughterhouse, then, in order to keep the cattle relaxed, should remove anything from the sight of the animals that isn’t completely familiar. The real problem is novelty. “If dairy cattle are used to seeing bright yellow raincoats slung over gates every day when they enter the milking parlor, there’d be no problem,” she counsels. “It’s the animal who’s seeing a bright yellow raincoat slung over a gate for the first time at a slaughter plant or feedlot who’s going to balk.”

Workers shouldn’t yell at the cows, she said, and they should never ever use cattle prods, because they are counterproductive and unneeded. If you just keep the cows contented and comfortable, they’ll go wherever they’re led. Don’t surprise them, don’t unnerve them, and above all, don’t hurt them (well, at least until you slit their throats at the end).

Along the way, this scientist devised a new technology that has revolutionized the ways of the big slaughter operations. In this system the cows aren’t prodded off the truck but are led, in silence, onto a ramp. They go through a “squeeze chute,” a gentle pressure device that mimics a mother’s nuzzling touch. The cattle continue down the ramp onto a smoothly curving path. There are no sudden turns. The cows experience the sensation of going home, the same kind of way they’ve traveled so many times before.

As they mosey along the path, they don’t even notice when their hooves are no longer touching the ground. A conveyor belt slowly lifts them gently upward, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, a blunt instrument levels a surgical strike right between their eyes. They’re transitioned from livestock to meat, and they’re never aware enough to be alarmed by any of it. The pioneer of this technology commends it to the slaughterhouses and affectionately gives it a nickname. She calls it “the stairway to heaven.”

Jesus knew, long before the meat industry, that livestock are better led by voice than by prod (John 10:3). And Jesus knew that the leading voice must be familiar, not novel; gentle, not yelling. Alarmed livestock run (John 10:5). Jesus also knew these principles don’t apply just to farmed animals but to human beings as well. This is why, picking up on the prophets before him, he used the imagery of humanity in general and Israel in particular as sheep, a flock needing feeding and protection and direction. Jesus likewise warned there would be those who would “shepherd” in a way that leads to death.

Here’s what this has to do with your temptation. Sometimes the Bible uses the language of predator and prey to describe the relationship between tempter and tempted, but often the Scripture also speaks of temptation in the language of rancher and livestock. You are not just being tracked down—you are also being cultivated (e.g., Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11; John 10). Those headed toward judgment are spoken of as lambs led to the slaughter (e.g., Ps. 44:22; Jer. 5:26; 50:17).

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).


This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

A Bible Study based on Tempted and Tried is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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