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Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” Judges 16:28 (NLT)

The story of Samson could be the story of all of us. He was born at a time when the nation ofIsraelwas living apart from God. They followed gods of other lands. They lived in open rebellion to the commandments and laws that God had established in order to receive his blessing.

Samson was born in a time whenIsraelhad no king. God brought various men and women onto the scene to bringIsraelback to God and, at times, deliver them from the enemies around them. The judges God chose to deliver his people were rarely the type of people you would think of as heroes. They were just normal people trying to make their way in life. Samson was no exception to that rule.

He was born a Nazirite. That meant that at the time of his birth God had set him aside for some special tasks. God’s power would rest on Samson in mighty ways but he had to follow certain life-style choices for God. He was to stay away from dead bodies. He was to stay away from wine. He was never to cut his hair.

God’s purpose in Samson’s life was to be used to show that Philistines that God was God and there was no one greater than him. Samson, however, had other goals in life. If you read the story of Samson (Judges 13-16) you’ll see that his purpose in life was to enjoy life to the fullest. In his eyes life was all about him.

Through a series of events Samson’s strength is taken from him because of his disobedience. He’s led away captive, his eyes are gouged out, and he’s mocked by his enemies. In one last desperate attempt at revenge, Sampson pulls down the pillars of a stadium and kills the Philistines. But what’s interesting is his final prayer to God. He asks God to give him strength ‘one more time’ to get revenge. But he doesn’t want revenge for his people. He doesn’t want revenge to show the Philistines that God is greater (which was God’s purpose in his life). Sampson wants revenge for his eyes.

Even though he was called to serve God, Sampson served his own interests until the day he died. He never got it right. Many of us can identify with Sampson. Try as we might to live the Christian life, we constantly put our own interests, our own feelings, and our own desires first. Sometimes we do this intentionally. Sometimes we have momentary lapses in judgment. Sometimes we simply want our own way and neglect to ask God what he wants.

The story of Sampson should be a warning and an encouragement to us. Even though Sampson served his own interests, God still used him mightily. In the same way, God can use you no matter how badly you’ve messed up your life. But there is a warning as well, even though Sampson was used to defeat God’s enemies he suffered the consequences of his own refusal to follow God. We can’t live our lives solely for our own pleasure and not live in relationship with God and expect him to bless our every step. Sampson left a trail of disappointment and broken relationships in his wake as a result of following his passions.

PRAYER: Father God, I see myself in the life of Sampson. There are so many times I’ve followed my own desires and rejected what I know is right. I’m impulsive and selfish in my motives. Forgive me for not following you. Help me to ‘one more time’ have the strength you have given me in your Spirit to follow you for your glory and not mine. In Jesus name, Amen.

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

After Solomon was King of Israel, the country was divided by civil war into two nations, Israel and Judah. Although these two nations were of the same ancestry, they fought continuously. One day Asa, king of Judah heard that the King of Israel was planning to take some of Judah’s land and perhaps attack.

Asa went to the temple, but not to pray. He went to the temple to take some of the gold and silver that belonged to God and use it to pay off a neighboring king to help defend Judah from Israel. God spoke to Asa through a prophet. In effect, God’s words went something like this.

“Asa, don’t you know that I am sitting here in heaven looking over the entire world just looking for people who need my help? Don’t you realize that I want nothing more than to help you in the battles of life? Haven’t you figured out yet that I’m waiting here for you to ask for help? Yet you still go to other kings, other places to get your protection. From now on you will be subject to those around you and you will face many struggles.

Now, one would think that Asa would have listened to the prophet and confessed his lack of trust in God, but that wasn’t the case. Asa became angry with the prophet and with God. He threw the prophet in prison and tortured him.

Years later, Asa got a serious disease. Once again he refused to ask God for help in healing him and he eventually died.

The tragic story of Asa is played out everyday by people here on earth. We may think that God isn’t interested in our ‘small problems’. I was talking with a woman one day who was telling me her problems. I asked if she’d prayed about it and her response was, “He’s got plenty of bigger problems in the world to deal with. He can’t be bothered by me.” The sad thing was, she really believed that and sometimes we do to.

We may be like a stubborn child who refuses a parent’s help to get dressed. Even though we may struggle with life’s problems we are convinced that if we just try harder we will be able to conquer what ever it is that is troubling us. We may change jobs, or end relationships, or blame others all in an effort to get through this journey called life. We’d never admit it, but in a sense we are saying to God, “I know how to do this better than you. Step aside and see how it’s done!”

Regardless of what you are going through today, realize this. Your Heavenly Father is like an eagle soaring high above the earth, watching your every move and seeing what lies ahead. He not only sees your struggle, He sees your heart. He is waiting for you to let go and trust Him. He may allow you to go through consequences and pain to make you stronger, but He will never leave you alone if you call on Him and walk in relationship with Him.

Your Heavenly Father longs to be involved in every decision of your life because of His great love for you. Invite Him to walk the path of life with you.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess to you that there are many times I have taken matters into my own hands and never even thought of asking for your help. I praise you for the lesson of Asa and the reality that you are watching my every move and know my heart and desires. Right now I’m struggling with life and with consequences of my own choices. Forgive me from forgetting you and empower me with your Spirit to walk in such close relationship with you that you are involved in every decision of my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

In Old Testament times the Ark of the Covenant symbolized the very presence of God. For years the Ark had sat virtually ignored in a field outside Jerusalem. David made two attempts to bring the Ark home. The first attempt led to disaster, but in 1 Chronicles 16 the Ark is finally brought to the City of David, its rightful place. The entire city joined in the celebration with music and dancing. God was back on His throne and the people were ecstatic!

David wrote a praise that Asaph, the temple worship leader, led the people in. The song was full of praise and worship to God for His faithfulness throughout the years. God had done exactly as He said He would do in spite of Israel’s inability to follow God.

There is a story behind the scenes each of us needs to be aware of as we travel through life. When the Ark was gone it was as though God’s blessing was absent. The people still went about their daily duties. Worship still happened on a limited basis, but there was something missing, the true presence of God.

Because of Jesus we can experience the presence of God at anytime and anyplace, any time of the day. Unlike the days of King David, we don’t need to rely on an ‘ark’ or a church building to worship God. He is always with us, always loving us, always ready to hold us in His everlasting arms of love.

Sometimes we can feel the way David did when the Ark was gone, as though the presence of God were missing in our lives. It’s easy to let things get in the way of our worship of God and the sense of His presence in our lives. It’s as though we have left Him in the field just as Israel left the Ark in the field. We know He is there. We think of Him occasionally through the day, but have no real meaningful communication with Him.

Many things can cause us to ‘leave God in the field’. For some it’s due to a hectic schedule. We have jobs to get to, friends to visit, school to attend and children to raise. The busier we get the more likely we are to neglect the most important thing: our relationship with God.

We leave God in the field when we become disappointed. Our disappointment may be with people when they let us down. This is especially true when people who claim to be ‘christian’ act nothing like Christ. We get burned by their religious bigotry and hypocrisy

Our disappointment may be with God Himself. We pray and get no answers. We read and don’t understand. Religious ritual becomes a meaningless waste of time and energy we would rather use on the golf course or with friends.

God doesn’t move away from us. We move away from Him in subtle, almost undetectable ways. The beauty of the situation is that we can bring God out of the field. He is always there waiting. His love never fails us. His compassion and mercy are there for us. He doesn’t hold grudges.

As Christ-followers it is imperative that we take God out of the field and bring Him into a prominent place in our lives so that we can feel His presence in a real and marvelous way. Make time on a daily basis to have some honest communication with God. Read His word. Talk to Him as you would a loving father or best friend. He’s in the field waiting for you now. He doesn’t care about ‘why you left Him in the field.’ He just wants to be a vital part of your life.  

PRAYER: Father God. I’ve known You were in my life somewhere, but I have missed your presence. I realize today that I’ve let all sorts of things get in the way of our relationship. I don’t pray the way I used to. My Bible has dust on it. I miss you. I’m coming to the field. I ask that you will come back with me. I want to restore the passion I once had to follow you. I can’t do it alone. Empower me with your presence to get over the hurt I feel because of disappointment with You and others. Cleanse me from the emptiness of religion and fill me with relationship with you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58:12

 The word of the Lord came to the Prophet Isaiah concerning Israel’s return from exile. It was a word that had a dual significance to God’s people. On the one hand it spoke of their physical return from bondage and how the cities and towns that lay in ruins would once again rise from the ruble to become thriving towns and villages.

One the other hand, the passage holds eternal meaning. It speaks of a time when, once and for all, God will deliver His people from all their enemies. In Jesus we find spiritual restoration, but one day, Jesus will return to gather us to Himself where we will spend eternity with Him. No more death. No more sickness. No more division of nations, cultures or denominations. Eternity in peace with our Savior! 

For the Christ-follower this verse reminds us that the ruins of our past are not permanent. Regardless of what you have done, who you have hurt or who has hurt you, the past is just the past. Because of the forgiveness we have in Christ we can put the past behind us and press onward with the promise that God can use us and even the sins and poor choices of our past for His glory.

It is also important for us to realize that no matter what the past holds for you in the sense of memories, pain and devastation, there is some good to build upon. The prophet says “Your people…will raise up age-old foundations”. When the people of Israel returned home to the devastation brought to their homeland by invading armies there was ruin everywhere. Walls and roofs had collapsed and were useless. But the foundations stood firm. It was on these foundations that the buildings would once again rise.

In the same way, we may have wandered from Christ. We may have come to a point where we no longer believed, no longer chose to follow Him. Our choices of the past may have brought ruin and devastation to our lives. But no matter what has been destroyed as a result of our decisions, there is always something God can use to build us back up for His glory. No life is a total loss when God is involved.

The prophet gives us one more challenge in this verse. Not only is there always something to salvage from our own lives, the same is true for those around us. As Christ followers we have the privilege and opportunity to be “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings”. We are surrounded by friends and loved ones whose lives have become nothing but shattered ruins of what could have been. With God’s help and the power of His Holy Spirit working in us we can reach out to those that have been demoralized, attacked and defeated and help them to rebuild on the foundations that still exist.

What an awesome opportunity awaits us! Some day we will be taken out of this world to a far better place. Until then we can build our own lives and the lives of others on the love and forgiveness offered through Jesus!

PRAYER: Father God. When I think of the devastation that your people of Israel must have experienced when they returned home I am reminded of my own devastation. I’ve felt beaten up, battered and misunderstood as a result of choices I’ve made and the injustice I’ve suffered at the hands of others. But that is my past. Forgive me for my part in the ruins of my life. Empower me to rebuild on the truths you have told me about myself. Give me wisdom and strength to lift my brother from the ruins as well for your names sake. Amen.

Then Jehoahaz prayed for the Lord’s help, and the Lord heard his prayer, for he could see how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. 2 Kings 13:4 (NLT)

Someone once said, “When a plane is crashing, everyone believes in God!” There is some truth to that, even among those of us that are followers of Jesus Christ. We may let our prayer life slide and let the dust gather on our Bibles while we skip church for a few extra minutes of sleep. Then, when illness attacks, a job is lost, a relationship goes south, or any other crisis happens we begin to think about God.

That attitude isn’t a new. Jehoahaz was a King of Israel during Old Testament times. Israel had many kings. Some were righteous leader’s intent on following the laws of Jehovah God. Others led the nation down the path of idolatry and rebellion. They were more interested in personal gain and power than they were following God. Time and time again God would have to send enemy kings to discipline His people though exile, or captivity.

Jehoahaz did evil in the eyes of the Lord by leading the people in the worship of calves and idols rather than worshiping the true God. As a result of his evil ways God allowed an enemy king to harass and control the people of Israel.

In the midst of this Jehoahaz finally turned his eyes to heaven and prayed for deliverance. God heard his prayer and delivered his people because Jehoahaz prayed to him. The prayers of Jehoahaz were not heard because he repented of his sin or because he was righteous. He finally turned to God because the calves that he worshipped weren’t working. He turned to the one source of power he knew he could count on, Jehovah God! God delivered his people because of who God was and His promises to Abraham and David.

The same is true today. We are not forgiven because we’ve cleaned up our lives, or because we’ve made a bunch of good things happen around us. We are forgiven purely because of Jesus. You don’t have to do a bunch of ‘things’ to gain God’s favor. You have to ask and believe!

Even though God delivered His people from the enemy they refused to give up the worship of their idols. They still offered sacrifice to the calves in the backyard. As a result, Jehoahaz and his kingdom never enjoyed the full blessings of what God had in store for them.

The God of heaven is ready and willing to extend His grace and forgiveness to us time after time. His grace is free and unlimited for all who believe. But God also desires to shower us with His blessings. God’s blessings come to us as we grow in relationship to Him and learn to follow His ways. If we are like Jehoahaz and keep our calves hidden in the backyard we will never fully experience the blessings He has in store for us.

PRAYER: Holy God, I thank you today for the grace and forgiveness I have received through Jesus Christ. I acknowledge that you are the creator, sustainer of the universe. I confess that there are still some idols hidden in my backyard. I ask that through the power of your Holy Spirit those idols would be revealed to me. Empower me to remove them once and for all from my life so I can experience all the blessings you have for me. Amen.

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