- Samson knew his gifts. He wasn’t out trying to sing or put on shows. He smashed stuff. His accomplishments are legendary because he acted in faith with the tools God provided him. Bare hands, donkey jaw, pillars, etc.
- Samson was pretty smart. He loved riddles. He did stupid things but he wasn’t stupid.
- Samson put himself in temptation’s path. Look at how obvious Delilah was and how each time she tried the very thing he suggested. He knew… but he didn’t want to know.
- Samson believed that even though God had left, he would return when asked.
- Samson prayed for a mighty miracle. Something supernatural that could not be confused for something a mere human could do.
- Delilah is never mentioned in the Bible again after she is paid for her betrayal. We do not know her fate. In other words, when you serve the enemy, your story is over the second he is done with you. She was given an ENORMOUS sum of money and lived free… yet we never hear of her again, however, Samson, who was blinded and imprisoned still had amazing moments left to tell about as he served God.
- The more we fall away from God’s plan for us, the more difficult it will be to carry out the tasks assigned to us. Ponder how different life would be for Pharaoh if when Moses said, “let my people go!” the very first time, Pharaoh said, “sure, you may leave, have a safe trip!”. God’s plan was to set the Israelites free, but Pharaoh had to adjust to his own disobedience before it happened. Samson did something similar. He was set aside to free God’s people from the Philistines. Due to his disobedience, God still used him to accomplish this task, but at a much greater cost. When God was with him, he freely conquered on the battlefields. When He left God, he had to operate within prison walls and with no sight. Disobedience reduces our own options to work within God’s plan.
- Samson’s prayer aligned with God’s plans and gifts to him. It wasn’t selfish, it wasn’t a deviation from the path. It was exactly what God called him to do. It was almost like Samson said, “I accept and I’m ready”. It’s difficult to think through this at times, but we aren’t the only ones God is working with. Asking for something that someone else is set aside for, might yield more ‘no’s’ than we would like. Knowing our calling and asking for opportunities within God’s plan yields holy and unbelievable results.
- Samson did not know that God’s powers had left him. This plays into point 10 quite a bit, but it also makes me wonder… how many of us are functioning off a call that we received years ago, yet we do not live the life called out of or into? How many of us think God is with us when He has no reason to be? How many of us think He is just sitting back, watching us play Nintendo, when He is really waiting for repentance and renewal before He will work within us?
- Samson, now knowing that God’s powers had left him, prayed for a mighty miracle and then pushed on the pillars. This is faith. Praying and then pushing. Believing that there is power within a faithful God. If he did not feel God leave, did he feel Him come back? How did He know God returned? Because a called man asked a faithful God to fulfill His will through faith, mercy, and obedience. He prayed… and then he pushed.
Month: May 2019
The Kingdom of Hell is Like…
A 100 calorie snack… and then you realize there are 10 servings in the tiny bag… (or the entire contents of the bag fits in your hand).
Free drink!!!! … with purchase of overpriced sandwich and fries.
Going through the drive though, paying, getting your food and going home. Then when you sit down to eat the order is wrong and missing items.
Having the film real burn up at the ending of Titanic. Not during the credits, but right before the final dramatic reveal. And then, because you still got to see 3 hours of the movie, the manager deems it sufficient and provides no refund or credit. (This happened to me).
Eating healthy and exercising your entire life and still getting heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.
Being kind to a friend and then getting stabbed in the back.
These all have something in common. They are lies, or at best, half truths and deceptive. The Bible is full of promises from Jesus. Every one of them that has been passed by time has proven to be true.
Before texts or phones he told a fearful parent to return home to their healed child. And the child was healed. He told his disciples of His betrayal, who would do it and how they would know… then it all happened just as He had said. He foretold His death and resurrection. Everything that has been spoken by the mouth of Jesus has come to pass.
There is one more thing we await. His return. We know He will come back, but we don’t know when. While we wait we can ponder what the kingdom of Heaven will be like. We don’t have to wonder too much, because He told us in many parables.
The kingdom of heaven will be like:
Treasure hidden in a field, a fine pearl, a mustard seed, a net full of fish. But as we wait, we do so in a fallen world. A place with evil intention, greed, and hunger for dishonesty. Promises are made daily. Have you received a phone call claiming to be the IRS? What about an email from a foreign prince that wants to share his wealth? Maybe Walt Disney really will pay everyone that participates in the chain letter?
That deception comes from greedy souls who have bought the lies of the enemy. It’s a tried and true philosophy. If I can’t win naturally, I will cheat, steal, and worm my way to the top. Another promise from God is that Satan has been defeated. With my whole heart I believe that. And I see it in his desperate attempts to trick and entrap.
Just like the man who can barely speak English but wants me to give him my credit card and social security number for back taxes that I have never owed… and he will just make it all go away over the phone. It’s so obvious. It’s laughable. Except people are buying the lies. If everyone knew enough to not fall for that crazy scam, the crooks would never have success and would not waste their time.
But it does work. It just takes a few. Just a few people to be scared enough to try and stop all the promised bad things from happening. They don’t want to go to jail. They don’t want to be drug through lengthy court proceedings, so they pay up to satisfy the lies. It does work. People do pay. And to get those few who don’t know better, our phones ring constantly with “opportunities”.
Chances for me to get rich without working or to avoid a horrible fate that makes no sense. Mankind has learned this tactic from the best. Eat this apple, it will give you knowledge. Ignore your friends, it will make you seem more independent. Change that number on your taxes, you deserve it anyway. Don’t tell your spouse, how could they ever find out what you have been doing.
Little whispers in our conscience and before you know it we live in a world where a con is the rule. It’s just expected. I don’t even answer my phone unless your name is in my caller ID. I don’t talk to anyone at my door that I’m not expecting and I don’t believe what I hear regardless of the source. We have fallen. We have bought the lies and we continue to sell them.
While Jesus told us a little bit about what to expect from Heaven, I thought we should honestly and sincerely consider the alternative.
The kingdom of Hell is like a promise made that would change your life. You believed it and went against the will of God to have it. Once you signed on the dotted line, everything you were told ended up being a lie. You lost everything and everyone for the promise of something better. Now you have nothing. It’s an eternal con for the cost of your soul.
Every word out of the mouth of Jesus has proven to be true. No other man, woman or child can make this claim. If you want to follow the truth and only the truth for your life, there is only one place to turn. There is only one word to obey. There is only one hope. Everything else, it turns out, has been compromised.
Capital I and Understood You Make Jesus Sad
We do something subtle in the English language that I think speaks volumes to how we think of ourselves and treat others in respect.
The pronoun ‘I’ is the only pronoun capitalized. But this wasn’t the original intention. After very brief research, it seems the only reason it was changed was because i (lowercase) didn’t stand out enough when written. We have the word ‘a’ that remains lowercase, but i became I so it could be more easily noticed.
I might not have thought much more of that if we didn’t also do something peculiar with the word ‘you’. We completely take it away. Its called the understood you. So, I can say, ‘go to the market’ and the ‘you’ remains absent from print because everyone simply understands what I meant, so I shouldn’t have to say it.
Did you catch that? ‘I’ needs to stand out and be noticed, while ‘you’ needs to remain hidden. ‘I’ is the exception to the rule. And we know how to do that so very well.
I’m reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, who after being forgiven his massive debt rounded up those who owed him smaller debts and refused to forgive them. He was a capital I. He sought mercy when he couldn’t pay. It was all about him. And once the mercy was received he sent the lowercase ‘you’s’ to jail because it was still all about the important capital ‘I’. They owed him money.
He simply couldn’t understand how they could be in the same boat he was in. They had families and needs and sicknesses and circumstances and they cried for mercy just as he had. This is exactly what happens when I am capital and you are lowercase… or even worse, you aren’t even on the page with me.
It’s in how we write and talk, It’s in how we drive, how we treat each other online, it’s even seen in the churches… we just can’t stop admiring that tall, slender, capital ‘I’. There are so many scriptures to quote about how God intended for us to treat each other that I feel like just handing over the Bible should cover it. It’s everywhere. It’s in every book, in every timeline, in every parable. Both Old and New Testament, both before and after Jesus..
Even as Jesus hung from the cross he found a moment of compassion and made sure someone would take care of his mother after he finished dying.
We have spent so much time learning how unique and special we are, we forget that everyone else is too. And while there are some good lessons to be learned about how God created us as individuals and why… it kind of lets the air out of the balloon when we consider that if every single one of us is special, then the very thing we all have in common is our special-ness.
In other words…. none of us are special because we all have something special. Special is common among God’s creation. Instead of finding our servant and demanding what is ours, we are meant to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:31, John 15:12, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:10… and so, so many more)
What an amazing verse, that Romans 12:10… ” Outdo one another in showing honor ” Its a contest to come in last place. By our standards, we need to concede. We should yield. Words that don’t sound positive at all… lose, forfeit, surrender, sacrifice.
Ah, sacrifice. So many verses in the Bible talk about forgiving as we have been forgiven. Just like the unforgiving servant. A sacrifice has been made for us as well. Should we accept the sacrificial lamb and then refuse to sacrifice for others? I don’t believe that was the spirit of the gift.
I believe we are meant to deflate the I. It’s time to put you back on the page. The most significant man to walk the earth made himself insignificant with us in mind. He did it completely so we could have some significance. Our response is not to demean or belittle others.
There is an age old lie being whispered to your inner conscience. It was told to Jesus when he fasted for 40 days. I will make you a king. I will give it all to you. Others will serve you. You will never want again. Look at how big and shiny that ‘I’ is. Nothing can compare. You deserve this. Those insignificants can’t take that from you…
We are supposed to be fighting. It is a war. But the battle is to lift each other up. To outdo one another in showing honor. To lover greater, sacrifice more, and forgive first.
Photo by Anto Fredric on Unsplash
When the Ball is in the Air, What is Your Prayer?
The sound of the buzzer was deafening. It had to be to over come the uproarious noise of the crowd. But the gasp of the fans wasn’t anticipated. The shrill of the clock sounding zero echoed through a vacuum of silence. And after the lengthy, blaring siren ended… you couldn’t hear a pin drop. Because no one would move enough to cause one to fall.
The ball floated in the air for moments. Had it taken any longer to reach the basket some of the spectators would have needed to breath again. The fate of all things basketball hung on this rubber sphere gliding over the court.
Watching with breath held and heart clinched, the young man that launched the ball said a quick prayer. “God, please, please, please, make it go in!” He wanted to close his eyes and let the crowd’s reaction tell the story… but he couldn’t stand to miss history happen. Even if he were responsible for the bitter defeat.
This player prayed the way many of us do today. Let’s say what he was really praying:
“Lord, I have already planted my feet, aimed, and taken my shot. Now that I can’t possibly control it any longer, I want you to intervene and change the dimensions of gravity. I want you to adjust the natural order of things. I want you to fix my mistake in midair. I want you to overcome my lack of training, I need you to erase the days I gave up, I’d prefer a do over on how I handled my conditioning. I chucked this thing in the general direction of the goal set before me and now that time has ran out, I realize I should have taken this more seriously… so can you help a sinner out? Oh, and by the way, if it doesn’t go in… you will have let me down. Amen”– Desperate Player
Instead of going into all the issues with the mentality that goes with praying this kind of prayer. Lets just back it up a few seconds and consider a different prayer: “Lord, not my will but yours!” What is this one saying?
“Lord if this ball goes in I will be forever grateful. You are a mighty God and I am your servant happy to do your will. If this ball does not go in, I will be forever grateful. You are a mighty God and I am your servant happy to do your will. I will follow the path you have for my life whether it be a spectacular basketball career or as a traveling accountant. I will acknowledge the grace I have received that has no bearing on the trivial moments of life. I will honor you in all things. Like a wedding vow, my relationship with you will not waver on successes or failures. Each one will draw me in and remind me of your faithfulness and love. Whether ‘swoosh’ or ‘brick’ I will do my best to be your example. This game will not undo the sacrifice you made for me or its many promises that remain.– Thankful Pray-er
The difference is spelled out plainly in the second prayer. Jesus prayed it in the garden before His sacrifice. The first prayer is about what I want. The second prayer is about what God wants. The first prayer is about what I have done, the second prayer is about what God will do.
The first prayer is all to common. Whether it is a relationship, a job, financial struggles or just bad luck. We want God to press the easy button and fix everything for us. The second prayer is very rare. It says, even if I have to suffer torture and death I will not lose faith and I will continue to follow you.
The first prayer makes God a genie while the second prayer makes us His servants. The first prayer grasps onto worldly things, statuses, situations, and titles while the second prayer looks to the real and eternal future… where none of those things have any value.
The second prayer was spoken by Jesus. Can we pray that prayer? It doesn’t matter if I win. I don’t care if I’m broke. I don’t mind being alone. The unbearable pain doesn’t define me. All I care about is what God wants. All I’m living for is the life that doesn’t really begin until Jesus returns.
One final question: Does your lifestyle match your prayer life? When you desperately need God… do you have to introduce yourself first? Or is He already your friend, companion, and Father nurtured through worn knees and moist eyes? As Jesus can attest to, simply praying for God’s will doesn’t automatically get you the answer you want. But if you want what God wants… you will get it every time.
Stop Tithing and Start Giving
All things belong to God. If we are intentionally giving 10%, we are effectively paying membership dues. Call it what you want, church tax, enrollment fees, registration, premium… none of those sound holy, do they? If we are setting aside for God, we aren’t being holy either. We aren’t called to give God what is left, or even to portion out a little bit. We are called to leave it all behind.
A simple Google search will compare the world we have become comfortable in against the word of God. “How much should I tithe” yielded for me today “10%” in many of the top searches. But, “How much should I tip” came back “15 – 20%”.
The problem is, while tithe typically means one tenth, the folks in the Old Testament did this more than once. It’s estimated that after their initial tithe of crops, the tithe to the Levites and all of the festivals, it was common that 20 – 30% was actually given.
Since tithing typically means 10%, I decided it was self defeating to look up “tithing” and expect another number. So I then did a search on “how much should I give God?”. Thankfully, there is a more diverse response, but it’s still haunting how many questions there are about giving.
Do I have to tithe? Do I have to tithe on inheritance? Do I have to tithe on gross or net? Is this still a command of the New Testament?
There are 2 verses in the New Testament that answer all of those questions and many more not listed. The first is how to give. And the second is how much to give and how often.
2 Corinthians 9: 6-7
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Let’s be blunt. Some of us are trying to figure out if we can get out of tithing. Some of us want to give the bare minimum. We have lots of reasons and justifications that make it so it doesn’t sound so bad. And if we pick the right scriptures and ignore others, we can rest safely on 10% or even less. That just doesn’t sound cheerful.
Giving cheerfully isn’t an expression that we say, it’s something that we feel. Deep down in our hearts we rejoice as we sacrifice. Sacrifice means we do without so that others can do with. Your child hitting a home run. Your spouse getting that new job. Your crush says, ‘yes!’. You hand over the money you needed. Do any of those seem out of place? Jesus says, they shouldn’t. All of them are meant to be expressions of joy and worship.
As Michael Scott proved, you can’t declare bankruptcy by just shouting it out. You Can’t be a cheerful giver by just claiming that you are. It’s a matter of the heart. You can fake out the church, you can fool the receiver of the gift, but God knows the heart. If you are not excited about giving. If, in private, you aren’t happy about the loss, something is wrong. This isn’t a shame-on-you judgement, it’s a red flag that needs to be addressed.
Mark 12 tells us how much we actually give.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”Mark 12: 41 – 44
How much did she give? “all that she had”. It was so moving that Jesus called over the disciples. It was a teaching moment. The disciples, who were learning to be like Jesus needed to see this. She could have put in 1 small coin. She could have put in less. But her heart was affected. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t about what others thought. It wasn’t about legalistic doctrine from the past. It was about putting her money where her heart was. How do we know for sure? Jesus said so. She gave more than anyone else who gave abundantly.
When we tithe 10% we are doing a good thing. When we give all that we have (be it flocks, produce, time, facilities, food, money, help, etc) we are being disciples. We are observing and learning from the example that Jesus pointed us to. We have to stop following a book of rules and start living like we have a Savior that loves us and wants the best for us. What is absolutely best for us, is to build up treasure in heaven.
Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash
God Can Be Such a Chore
Is there something in your life that you just keep putting off? Hour after hour, maybe even day after day you find other distractions to pass the time until eventually, inevitably, you just have to break down and do it? We call them chores. A necessary task that we would rather not do, or at least, its no where near the top of our priority list.
Sadly, this sums up our placement of God in situations. I know there have been times when I only read because I skipped the last few times. I’ve only prayed because I felt guilty. I’ve only asked because I needed something.
Have you ever been in a relationship like this? Has anyone ever told you, “you weren’t my first choice” or “you are the best of what’s left”? I sure hope not. But, if we aren’t excited to great God each day and spend time with Him, I’m afraid we might be on the giving end of this type of neglect.
The phrase sounds harsh, and maybe even a little sacrilegious. But if I’m honest with myself, I have made God a chore at times. He has been a burden to me. Something I only did because I had to, not because I wanted to. But I think that honesty will let me rebuild the relationship. I can confess and bask in the new day God has given me.
We live in a world filled with evil when temptation successfully convinces us to shrug off the only hope we’ve ever had. It doesn’t even feel like an attack at all when it happens. Just a passing thought… I’d rather watch TV, or go to the movies, and hang out with friends, or catch a nap, or maybe even do real chores. I’ll spend time with my creator later… when I’m not so busy.
A simple thought. A passing notion. And maybe even a little productivity in life as we run errands or build relationships with others. But demons cheer. They know something we often forget. We are at war and they just separated us from our defense. They drove a wedge between us and our community of faith. They delayed a mighty prayer.
We grabbed a hotdog and played some Sudoku, but they exchanged high fives and danced a fiery jig. Anytime they can make God into this mystical, distant, abstract thought, they win a massive stronghold in our lives. They like to take the humanity away from God.
God became flesh. He walked this earth. We are already made in His image. When we don’t see the face of God, we tend to think more of Him as an ideal. Maybe even a cause. Sometimes I don’t recycle because the recycling bin is too full, or its too far away. Sometimes I don’t give an extra dollar to cure cancer at the checkout line because I’ve given enough already.
But Jesus isn’t a faceless organization. He is our brother. God sent His Son to embrace us as family. When we reject time with him, we aren’t just telling a stranger that we gave at the office, we are telling a loved one that we found someone else. Something better. Something more meaningful to us.
We need to understand the implications of our priorities. This isn’t a plea to go to church. God doesn’t want people to sigh and exclaim, “fine, I’ll go to church!”. He wants His family to join Him in the victory. He wants what we all want. He wants to be chosen back. We all know what it feels like to be left out, forgotten, and ignored. Can we comprehend that we can do this to the one who gave it all for us?