Temptation Songs of Praise


Temptation

For the start of Lent, Sally Magnusson meets people who have been seduced by life's temptations and introduces hymns from Kent and vocal group Voces8.


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Transcript


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Oscar Wilde famously said,

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"I can resist everything except temptation."

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and looking at these you can rather see what he meant.

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But Wednesday is the start of Lent

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and it's a time when many of us think about resisting temptation

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and giving up things we love.

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So I've only got a few days left!

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Um, chocolate flapjack, please.

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Tonight we hear the personal stories

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of three people for whom some of the more

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serious temptations of our modern world

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proved too powerful to resist.

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And there are hymns for Lent

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from St George's Church, Gravesend in Kent.

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When I think of temptation, I automatically think of food.

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The last thing that tempted me recently was a woman.

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Mostly money, actually. Mostly money.

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A bag of five donuts.

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Disappearing all at one sitting.

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I go on my Xbox way too much.

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There's nothing quite so tempting as being tempted by chocolate.

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We can't escape temptation, obviously,

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it's part of being human,

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and it usually takes on a lot more subtle forms

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than a cake or even a diamond ring.

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It's what we do about it that matters.

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There's a very powerful story in the Bible

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about Jesus spending 40 days and 40 nights

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in the wilderness being tempted.

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That's what our first hymn is about.

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And it's sung by the congregation

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gathered at St George's church in Gravesend.

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"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit

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"into a wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

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"After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

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"The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God,

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"'tell these stones to become bread.'"

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Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone,

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"'but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

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The verses have intrigued Bible scholars for centuries.

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So what was Jesus being tempted in the wilderness -

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40 days and 40 nights - all about?

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I think that when people think of temptation,

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they think of a kind of niggling voice in their head

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that's just going round and round.

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And it's just coming from their own thoughts

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and it just needs to be ignored

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but here we see Jesus doing something quite different.

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He doesn't ignore this voice, he actually addresses it.

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"Then the devil took him to the Holy City

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"and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.

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"'If you are the Son of God,' He said, 'Throw yourself down.'

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"'For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you,

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"'and they will lift you up in their hands,

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"'so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

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Jesus answered him, "It is also written:

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"'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

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And then we have this temptation to leap off

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from the top of the temple. What are we seeing there?

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Yes, here we're seeing this misunderstanding

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that unlimited freedom is the root to happiness.

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It's actually the reverse and if we don't live within the boundaries

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that God has set in place,

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it can be very harmful for us and in some cases devastating.

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"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him

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"all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.

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"'All this I will give you,' He said, 'if you will bow down

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"'and worship me.'

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"Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan!"

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"'For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and him only.'"

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So what can we learn from this over all, would you say?

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What we see from these verses

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is that temptation itself isn't wrong

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because Jesus himself was tempted in every way

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and yet didn't do anything wrong.

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It isn't wrong to actually be tempted,

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it's what you actually do with it that counts.

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# If ye love me

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# Keep my commandments

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# And I will pray the Father

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# And I will pray the Father

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# And he shall give you another comforter

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# That he may bide with you forever

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# Even the spirit of truth

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# Even the spirit of truth

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# That he may bide with you forever

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# That he may bide with you forever

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# Even the spirit of truth

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-# Even the spirit of truth.

-#

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Alex Arthur dreamt of becoming a boxer from the age of ten.

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I took it upon myself to ask my friend

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if he would take me along to the local boxing club

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and then he also told me that he attended church on a Sunday

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and that they had a little football team with a huge spread afterwards.

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So I kind of found church and boxing on the same day, basically.

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Alex went from amateur boxer to professional champion

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with one win after another.

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So, this is your trophy cabinet - what have we got?

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Up here, we've got the IBF International,

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the first professional belt I won,

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-and this is the World Championship.

-Can I feel it?

-Yeah, of course.

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-It's heavy and lots of bling!

-Yes!

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You need shades every time you come over to the cabinet.

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It was after winning his gold Commonwealth medal

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that Alex got a taste for fame.

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I noticed that people were acting differently towards me,

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people wanted to be around me that didn't before,

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I was being invited to so many different parties and things.

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Then I started, you know,

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getting exposure on Sky TV

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and, you know, and BBC and ITV.

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I wanted that a little bit more all the time. So, after a fight,

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I'd wear all-new clothes - I wouldn't go out two days running with the same clothes on.

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Then I would go off the rails a little bit again.

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What was it that was so seductive, so tempting, about fame?

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It made me feel invincible. It even started to show in my boxing.

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I just didn't believe there was anyone that could even come close

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to even giving me a tough fight.

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All I need to do is show up at the fight, hit the guy, he'll go over,

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I'll get another ton of money

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and I'll go away and enjoy myself again.

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-And so what happened?

-I got knocked on my backside!

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Michael Gomez beat Alex, taking away his title

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and at the same time bringing him straight back down to earth.

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I remember waking up in the hospital bed that morning, thinking,

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"I've got to change everything."

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And I had this really strong, strong feeling inside myself

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telling me, "You're doing everything wrong, Alex. You need to change."

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I can recall getting home, picking up my Bible

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and randomly opening it - and it was Psalms.

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And I remember just starting to read some scriptures

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and it was explaining to me in the scriptures how God disciplines you

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if you go on the wrong track and it's because you're His child

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and He loves you and wants the best for you.

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So he's not got a problem with basically giving you a wake-up call

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and it was just so shocking to me.

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I remember just closing it and putting it down, thinking,

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"I don't know if I'm quite ready for that yet."

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What have you learned about the temptations of fame?

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I know exactly how to deal with it now.

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It's been there again, it's there all the time.

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But you just have to know how to deflect it, you know?

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Now that I know, it's a lot more easy to deal with it every day.

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'I thought I had a perfect marriage

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'but giving in to temptation actually ripped it apart.'

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Alison and Simon were married in 1974,

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after being brought together by a love of music.

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We went into our marriage

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with a firm commitment, that we thought was...for life.

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They were happily married for 15 years and had three children

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but then, Simon was tempted by another woman.

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I'd never looked elsewhere.

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It was just a surprise when I succumbed subtly to...

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someone who made me feel...

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appreciated, perhaps, in a way that was different, a bit flattering.

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I was not able to express this because, you know,

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I was the person who could cope. I was a church leader...

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and so I thought that I'd be able to handle the situation.

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But I didn't deal with it and, eventually, things went seriously wrong.

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As a result of the affair,

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Simon moved out of the family home and lived alone.

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Temptation works bit by bit.

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You have a thought, it gradually turns into

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something that dwells in your mind

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and then it turns to action and, bit by bit, you get ensnared.

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I really did feel that I had turned into a pretty nasty person

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because it went contrary

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to everything that I'd promised to my wife.

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I really hit rock bottom when the, er...

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the relationship with the other person...ended

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and so I really felt I'd lost my wife, my children, my nice home,

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my reputation.

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That was my lowest ebb.

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Inside, I was really, really, er... destroyed, I think.

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I think if you are down a hole,

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someone needs to kind of reach down and...

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Alison reached out to me, in a way.

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She came to see me in my bedsit flat.

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After a dark period of separation,

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Alison eventually forgave Simon and took him back.

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Many people said it was not

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the right thing to do but I felt in my heart it was.

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I believe God really gave me a strength

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and it encouraged me to carry on.

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Alison and Simon are about to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary.

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TOGETHER: # Well, then, what's to be the reason

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# For becoming man and wife... #

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Their experience has taught them that temptation is real

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and not to be ignored.

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'I can't honestly say it won't happen again.'

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I think we have to be on our guard.

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We have to be aware and alert to the things that first, erm...

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started to invade our marriage in the first place.

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# There is no... #

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'Certainly, I've learned that temptation is...

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'powerful and can be persistent.'

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I believe sharing and talking about temptations in the future

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would be a way to avoid succumbing to them

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and receive strength from friends, our partners,

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our wives, our church,

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to help us deal with the issues that we face.

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Today, Dan Head seems like anyone else you would pass on the street

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but inside he battles with the temptation that nearly killed him.

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It all started with, er...with peer pressure.

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Back when I was 13,

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I...I used to hang about with...

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with guys older than me

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and really wanted to be accepted by them

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and one way to do that was to take the drugs that they were taking.

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Heroin was just another drug that, in my eyes, could be enjoyed

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and that was the temptation.

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It was almost that unknown, the forbidden fruit, if you like.

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By the time he was 17, Dan was homeless and a heroin addict.

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'It stripped me of my dignity, of my self-worth,'

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it stripped me of my family, of friends, of hopes,

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of any dreams that I had, really, and left me as a shell,

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just trying to cope with the shame and the guilt

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and the self-loathing that was inside me at that time.

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And, unfortunately, the only thing that made THAT bearable was heroin.

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Heroin pushed him into a cycle of drug abuse, crime and then prison.

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But ultimately it was prison

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that led him to his first steps of recovery.

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In prison I was given an option to clean toilets or to go to church

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and the church just sounded like the better option at that point.

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When I went to church,

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I met a gentleman that played a very major part

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in showing me God could help me to change my life.

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After a long journey through rehabilitation,

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Dan finally got his life back.

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He's now a counsellor at Yeldall Manor,

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where he helps other addicts to recover.

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'At this moment I'm seven years clean and I'm married.

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'I have an amazing job, helping people overcome their addiction

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'and watching them grow and leave this place.'

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And yet...

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I'm still tempted...to take heroin.

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I wish I could say I knew why.

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And I don't! I don't know why that is.

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I don't know why, erm...why it comes

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so quickly and so harshly sometimes.

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It can be at home on my own, it can be on the street,

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it can be anywhere when the urge hits.

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And the only thing that I can do is...

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is overcome that urge and keep fighting that.

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'While I focus in on God and while I'm looking to God for that

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'and drawing my strength from God...

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'I know that I'll never go back to prison, or back to taking heroin.'

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And, in that respect, God plays...

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the biggest part of all within my life and my recovery.

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# Cast your cares on Him

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# All that weigh you down

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# All that scares and fills your mind with fear

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# Cast your cares on Him

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# All you want to be

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# All you want to leave behind

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# And all you want to see

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# For He is the same

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# Yesterday, for ever

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# And He has a name

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# Strong enough to save

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# And He shares with you

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# Inheritance and blessing

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# For eternity

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# It will belong to you

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# Cast your cares on Him

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# For everyone you love

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# Draw near to His presence

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# Trust in mercy from above

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# Cast your cares on Him

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# Because He cares for you

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# Stop trying to trust yourself

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# And work out what to do

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# For He is the same

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# Yesterday, for ever

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# And He has a name

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# Strong enough to save

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# And He shares with you

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# Inheritance and blessing

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# For eternity

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# It will belong to you

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Cast your cares on Him

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# He can see ahead

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# Hold His hand so tightly

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# He'll raise your weary head

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# For He is the same

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# Yesterday, for ever

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# And He has a name

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# Strong enough to save

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# And He shares with you

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# Inheritance and blessing

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# For eternity

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# It will belong to you. #

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Lord, help us to trust in you and not in the trappings of fame.

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Bring us to a place where we are rooted in the security of your love.

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Lord, give us the humility

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to recognise our weakness and vulnerability

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and the wisdom to walk away from all that we know to be wrong.

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Lord, give us the strength

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to overcome all that threatens to overwhelm us

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and help us to recognise the false promises of forbidden fruits.

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May the God of love,

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who guided His son, Jesus Christ, through the desert,

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be with you in the temptation, trials and troubles of this life

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and strengthen you to persevere in following Him.

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And the blessing of God Almighty,

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the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

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be among you and remain with you now and always.

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Amen.

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-ALL:

-Amen.

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-Thanks.

-You're welcome.

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SHE CHUCKLES

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I don't suppose giving into the lure of a chocolate flapjack

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is terribly important in the scheme of things

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but as we've seen, temptation can be searingly difficult to resist.

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As our final hymn shows, though,

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the Christian story tells of a God who's been there himself.

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Next week, Aled takes a trip to the zoo

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to explore our love of all creatures great and small.

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He visits a school where the pupils share their playground with alpacas,

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meets a dog who's more than man's best friend

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and introduces some great hymns

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celebrating the wonderful world of animals.

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