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But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. 2 Chronicles 33:12

Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I tend to try to do everything on my own. For example, when the instructions say, “Use two people for the next step in assembling your new back-hoe.” Not a chance. I’ll break my back before I’ll ask for help.

Why, you ask? I could give you a variety of reasons. Some of them may even be half-way intelligent. But the reality is, I’m full of pride. Pride comes in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes it comes disguised as “There’s no one to help me.” Other times it comes deceives me by saying, “this isn’t big enough to ask for help on”, or “I’m big enough to handle this, I don’t need anyone.”

wake up callManasseh was a King in Israel in need of a big attitude adjustment. He ignored the lessons learned from those who went before him and followed other gods. He rejected the teachings of the most high because he was sure he knew better…until the Assyrian Arm
y came and led him away in shackles with a ring in his nose. The, all of the sudden, he remembered what he never should have forgotten. He remembered that the God of heaven warned him about rebellion.

Rebellion against God is really saying “I know more than you, I know better than you, my way is better than yours.” God is a patient, loving, understanding father. Because of this he is more than willing to let us try our own way in an effort to prove ourselves. But also, like any good father, he has his limits. There will come times when he’ll finally pull the plug and let our actions fall victim to the natural consequences of our rebellion. When that happens we become like Manasseh. We see the error of our ways and how much better it was to follow God’s way.

“I did it my way” may have been a great song, but it’s not the way God intends of us to live. Before you blame or question why, reflect on where you have been, what you have done, how you have treated people, what you have taken for granted. Your Father in Heaven may not be ignoring you, he may just be calling you back to himself.

PRAYER: Father I confess to you that many of the sleepless nights I endure are the result of worry caused by the consequences of my actions. Forgive me for those times and allow me the privilege of sensing your presence once again. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13 (NIV)

Tucked away in the book of Daniel is a little phrase that to this day haunts me. Daniel is interpreting the handwriting on the wall to King Beltashazzar (Daniel 5). He reminds the King of the lessons his father, Nebuchadnezzar, learned about acknowledging God as being the one true God. He reminded him of the lesson his father learned about worshipping the God of Heaven and not the god of silver and gold. Then comes the statement in Daniel 5:22 (my paraphrase): “But you knew better.”

The lesson? Nebuchadnezzar worshipped false gods because of ignorance. Beltashazzar worshipped false gods because he wanted to. He chose what to worship in full knowledge of the lessons his father learned.

The passage would imply that God’s judgment is harsher on those who sin willfully than it is on those who go astray on their own volition. Nebuchadnezzar was removed temporarily from this throne for his ignorance. Beltashazzar was killed for his rebellion.

Choosing to sin when we know better is nothing new of course. Eve knew better, as did Abraham, Moses, David and, well, those of us who call ourselves Christ followers. We all can identify with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7. The good things we long to do, we fail to do. The bad things we hate doing, we keep doing over and over again. There is small relief for us when the writer that says (1 Corinthians 10:13) there is no temptation that attacks us that we can’t overcome is the same person who writes of his struggle to overcome temptation. But the question is, why? What is it within our human nature that keeps us from doing right?

Willful sin attacks us for several reasons. I list a few here. You may be able to think of others. We sin willfully:

  • Because it is fun! We may not want to admit that on the surface, but the reality is we choose intentionally to do things we know we shouldn’t because we’d rather trade momentary pleasure for eternal peace.
  • For self-preservation. When our identity is attacked or we perceive it is, we react to protect it. Why do we react to being cut off on the interstate or when someone attacks us verbally or gives us bad service at the coffee shop? Because their actions tell us we aren’t important and we react accordingly.
  • Pride: Pride could actually be the summary of all these reasons, but the pride I’m talking about here is the pride that tells us, “I deserve this little ‘vice’ because I work hard; I’m a good parent; I do so many good things for God; etc, etc. So we visit the websites we know we shouldn’t; we tell our friends one little piece of gossip; we allow ourselves the indulgences we know hurt our relationship with Christ because all of us deserve an occasional lapse in judgment.
  • Ignorance: When we follow Christ, we acknowledge that he died on the cross for the penalty of my sin; that he rose from the dead to conquer death and that he went back to heaven to intercede for us, prepare a place for us and so he could send his Holy Spirit to guide us. However, on occasion we choose our own way because we forget or fail to realize the pain Christ suffered for us and how our rebellion, small as it may seem, hurts the relationship with Christ.
  • Apathy: This one is a tough one, but if we think back to those times we’ve chosen to go our way, we’ve done so because we really just didn’t care. We know we’ll be forgiven. We know we’ll go to heaven. We don’t take time to think of consequences.

 

The Psalmist isn’t as concerned about the sins he commits in ignorance as he is the sins he commits out of choice. May each of us who bear the name of Jesus echo his prayer.

PRAYER: Father God, I echo the prayer of Psalm 19:13. Much as I love you I confess that many times I choose to go against you out of willful desire. Forgive me for those sins that easily beset me, the sins I know are wrong but I do them anyway. Thank you for Jesus. May I live worthy of the calling that is within me. Thank you for your grace. Amen.


The Lord hates what evil people do, but he loves those who do what is right. Proverbs 15:9 (NCV)

It’s time to set the record straight. God hates what evil people do. Simply said? No news here you say? But look again at what the words say, or better yet what they don’t say.

GOD DOES NOT HATE EVIL PEOPLE. Religionists, even some that call themselves christian (small ‘c’ intentional) will tell you differently. Maybe not in words, but in actions; by the way they make you feel; or by the heartless advice they give you. Ever noticed how you have a tendency to want to duck when someone says “I’m telling you this in love”?

Let me repeat. God does not hate you if you are living in sin. God does not hate you if you are a felon, an abuser, an atheist. But also, let me emphasize that God hates the evil actions of people. Why? Because evil actions hurt people. Evil actions hurt the victims and the abuser.

If you are struggling with sin right now, it’s important to know that God hates your actions, but he doesn’t hate you. If you are a victim of ‘evil actions of others’ know this. God hates the evil as much as you do. Every blow you receive, be it emotional or physical, hurts him as well. Why? Because even though God hates evil actions, he loves people.

Tucked away in the second part of this proverb is another truth each of us can lean on. The English translation doesn’t quite do it justice. The phrase ‘but he loves those who do what is right’ could be better paraphrased as ‘God takes joy in those who strive to do what is right.’

Fact of the matter is, all of us are evil. Some are evil in their actions. Others are evil in their refusal to work towards forgiveness. Some are evil in direct rebellion to God, others are evil because their actions, while well-meaning, are contrary to the love and acceptance of God.

If you are in an abusive situation today; if you are struggling with addiction; if you are living a secret life that terrifies you, know this. God hates your actions, he doesn’t hate you. He is passionately, madly in love with you. You are worth the fight he’s making to bring you to himself.

It may surprise you but here is another truth. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, he knows your humanity will keep you from that. He does, however desire to help you live as holy as you can through his Son, Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, thank you for your promise to love me no matter what. I’m tired of hearing people put me down because I struggle with things I know you hate. Help me to live in holiness and to forgive those who have hurt me because I know this is the ‘right thing to do’. Amen.


Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts. I am merciful, kind, and caring. I don’t easily lose my temper, and I don’t like to punish. Joel 2:13 (CEV)

When I was in about sixth grade a couple of friends of mine decided to have an overnight campout in one of the guys backyard. The tent was only big enough for two guys but they said I could hang out with them if I wanted to sleep under the stars. I went home and asked permission from my mom. Problem was, she said no. I could go back to play, but had to be home by dark.

I never went home that night. I lied to my friends about the pseudo permission I received and had an absolutely miserable time. They didn’t know it of course. I kept it well hidden as we played cards, sat around the campfire and told stories.

I slept under the stars that night with nothing but my light jacket. I assured my friends it was by my choice to sleep that way. I was cold. I was scared. Every little sound awakened me from a fitful slumber.

The odd part was, I was within eyesight of home. Just a short walk to a warm bed. In spite of that I was determined to do things my way. Even when I saw my dad drive by at about dusk I ignored the guilt and pain associated with knowing I was wrong! I took the long way home late the next morning. I was hungry, cold, tired and guilty. When I got home the next morning I was grounded for my actions. Both of my parents reminded me of the rules and assured me of their love, but that didn’t change the consequences.

You may be living the same way today. You are determined to live life your way. You know what God requires. You know the path you should take. You know that what you are doing is displeasing to God. You may even do as I did that night and try to convince yourself that everything is fine and life is good.

When you do things your way and leave God out there is an emptiness that nothing can fill. Relationships won’t fill it. Religion won’t fill it. Money, toys and social status won’t fill it. The only thing that will fill that emptiness is living for Jesus.

The prophet Joel wrote to a stubborn, rebellious people. People who’d seen God work many times but refused to follow him. Through the prophet God sends the people ofIsraelthe same lesson he sends us. ‘Come home. Get serious about life and living. I don’t want your rituals. I want your heart. I don’t want words. I want a passionate relationship with you. I’m patient. I understand your plight. I won’t lose my temper with you.’

PRAYER: Father God I have tried so many things to fill this void in my life. I confess that I am afraid to come home to you. I’m so used to people responding to my failures with anger and hostility I expect the same from you. Thank you for your patience, love, mercy and grace. Forgive me for being stubborn. Empower me to live for you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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.

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