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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 God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)

What do you measure your life by? What we use as our standard is a reflection of our character. Compared to a person deep in the jungle of South America I may be considered very rich. Of course, by Bill Gates standards I’m very poor. I’m very tall compared to a two-year-old; very short compared to a sky scraper. I’m old…compared to a newborn infant; I’m young compared to God!

The problem with the ‘comparison game’ in our spiritual lives is that we only have two things to compare ourselves to. Either we compare ourselves to God or we compare ourselves with other human beings. We can say “Well, I know its wrong to do [fill in the blank] but at least I don’t fly planes into buildings. Or you can say “Sure, I know [fill in the blank] is wrong but at least I don’t molest children. The problem is, in God’s eyes sin is sin. Period. You can rationalize all you want, but if you are living anything but a perfect life you are living a life of sin.

The only other option is to measure our actions against the perfect, Holy, all-knowing, all-powerful creator God of the universe. When we measure our actions against him it’s pretty obvious what the results will be. It’s simply impossible as a human being to live a life that measures up to the plumb line of God’s holiness and perfection. Anything less than perfection disqualifies us from eternal life with God. Anything less than perfection in our relationship with our divine lover hinders that relationship.

The good news in all this is that when we have Christ in our lives God no longer measures our lives against his plumb line, he uses Jesus in our place. We can never meet God’s standards of holiness and perfection but Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us makes us perfect in God’s eyes!

Will sin still hinder our daily relationship with our divine lover? Yes. But we can be forgiven. We can start over again. We can come to God and restore that walk with him because the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood forgives us for all time. That’s grace. Grace puts Jesus next to God’s plumb line and calls us holy!

Don’t compare yourself to others. Stop playing the rationalizing game, telling yourself it’s not your fault or ‘you know it’s wrong but…’ Stop living in failure thinking you’ve messed up one too many times. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross makes you free to live a love relationship with God that is free of sin and full of forgiveness for those times we fall short in our humanity.

PRAYER: Holy God, it’s easy to compare myself to the ‘really bad’ people in life until I realize that the only true measurement of right or wrong it the plumb line of your holiness. I’m a sinner. I fail. Sometimes I fail intentionally because I want it my way. Please forgive me for my stubborn desire to please me in my way. Empower me with your Spirit to live in right relationship with you. Thank you for the grace Jesus gives by taking my place next to your plumb line. Amen.

 


Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Let the last few words of the above verse sink in. ‘Never will I leave you. NEVER will I forsake you.’

Think for a moment about what that means for you on a daily basis. There is never a time that Jesus is not within hearing range when you need to talk about the things you are troubled by. Never a time in your daily walk that he is not willing to talk with you, comfort you, celebrate with you. There is nothing you can do to make him leave. Nothing you can say he’s surprised by. He’s always there.

Jesus is with you when the doctor tells you the test results. He’s with you as you tend to a sick child. He’s sitting beside you as you write out the bills and worry about where the money will come from.

Sometimes the thought of his presence is comforting. It’s such a relief to know he’s there when the car breaks down, the relationship goes in the tank, the company reorganizes and you don’t make the cut.

Sometimes we ignore his presence. Like the times our minds linger as we watch the cute young thing walks past. The times we willingly visit that site on the internet one more time. Those times when the anger and frustration of life get the best of us and we lash out at those we love the most. The times we lay awake with the enemy named worry by our side.

There are times when the pain is too much. The anxiety to great. The news is too horrific to hear he still, small voice reminding us of his great presence and power. But our awareness of God has nothing to do with the reality of his presence. Our own desires may take us places we never thought we’d go, but they don’t take us from his presence.

When we sin for example, we may feel that we’ve separated us from God, but that’s not true. The issues of life can separate us from SENSING God’s presence, but nothing separates us from the REALITY of God’s presence.

Whatever is troubling you today, whether it is something on a world-wide scale or something close to home; don’t allow the issues of your life to make you numb to his presence. God has promised that he will NEVER leave you or forsake you, and you can take that to the bank!

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many things of late that have distracted me from sensing your presence. So many times I’ve ignored you when life gets in the way. Please forgive me for not living in the reality that you are always by my side. Empower me with your Spirit to live in such a way that your presence will continually guide my thoughts, words and actions. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

Have you ever sat and listened to someone share their passion? I’m not talking about the boring person who goes into a tirade about some issue. I’m talking about the person who is so passionate about something that their words bring life to their topic.

You sit and listen to them and are so enraptured by their words that you lose all track of time. Even if you aren’t personally interested whatever it is they are talking about, their verbal and non-verbal communication mesmerizes you to the point where your entire attitude changes.

I had that once in a small way. A professor I had was so passionate about his class that I left forever changed in my attitude about it. The class? Political Science, believe it or not! I took the class as an elective because it was at the time and day I could attend. I had no interest whatsoever in Political Science. I don’t remember the professor’s name. I don’t even remember what year I took the class. What I do remember is leaving the class with not only a new appreciation for the topic, but even considered running for local office!

Passionate people breed passion in others. It’s no wonder then, that when Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus he instilled passion in them for God. He talked about Moses. He talked about Elijah and Daniel. He smiled as he reflected on the life of David. And why not? He walked with those men. He watched them grow in faith. He felt the pain of their failure and rejoiced in their victories. When Jesus talked about these men, he wasn’t just talking about stories. He was talking about friends of his.

I imagine when Jesus talks about us he is just as passionate. Sure, we fail. Some of us fail miserably. We rebel almost daily. We worry when he says don’t worry. We get angry when he says trust. We get lonely when he says he is with us always. While we grumble and live in defeat he looks on us with pride and, yep, you guessed it, PASSION.

If you didn’t know me and Jesus was talking to you about me, once he was finished talking you’d be passionate about me. Why? Not because I’m something special in your eyes, but because I’m something special in Jesus’ eyes. When you’ve been with Jesus you can’t help but feel passionate about life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for being passionate about me. I confess to you that I don’t feel like I’m much to be passionate about. But I’m thankful that you love me so much. I ask that you would empower me to be so passionate about you that my passion will breed passion for you in those I meet. In your name, Amen.

 


But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12:31

Ever noticed how those info-mercials on TV make their particular product so inviting? “If you call now you’ll not only get the original item, they’ll throw in something else. But wait! There’s more. Call within a certain amount of time and they will give you a free give valued at some fantastic amount!”

The company attempts to paint a picture for you. First of all, you NEED this product in order to make life bearable. Secondly, if you purchase this product they will do you a huge favor by giving you much more than what you originally asked for. It’s a deal that simply can’t be passed up!

I’m not trying to cheapen life as a Christ-follower when I say this, but in a sense, living for Christ is like the ultimate info-mercial. Think about it for a moment. Here we are, a bunch of rebellious, self-centered, angry, doubting human beings just looking for things our way. It all started in a garden with a perfect climate, and two people who were physically, spiritually and emotionally naked. They had all God could give them yet they chose to rebel.

God said, I know what I’ll do. I’ll send my only son, my beloved son to die a cruel death on a tree. I’ll watch from heaven as they take my ‘little boy’ and strip him naked, beat him so badly that I won’t even recognize him and finally brutally murder him on a tree. They’ll even have the audacity to say they are doing this horrible thing in my name!

But wait! There’s more. Not only will I let them do this to my son, I’ll forgive their sin. Wipe it out completely. No penalty. No condemnation! Then, I’ll send my very own Spirit to live within them. He’ll guide them, show them the way to salvation, and administer grace and strength in their weakest moment.

Oh, I know they’ll fail. Some will fail over and over again. But if they repent and come back to me, I’ll forgive them and make things right between us once more.

But wait, there’s more! While they are struggling along the path of life, I’ll be preparing a place for them so that once their time on earth is complete they can come to spend all of eternity with me.

Too good to believe? It is to me too. But it’s true. God doesn’t just give us what we need. Our Heavenly Father gives us far more than we ask for. All he asks from each of us it to confess our sin, and invite Christ to be the Lord of our lives.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank and praise you for your wonderful gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. You not only have given me forgiveness. You have given me freedom to be all I can be and a promised hope of eternity with you. Empower me by your Spirit to live daily for you and not myself. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 

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