Sunday, April 23, 2017

SAMSON'S NEMESIS

In those days there was no king in Israel.
Every man did what was right in his own eyes.
(Judges 17:6)

What is a nemesis? The dictionary defines nemesis as the agent of someone's or something's downfall. Samson's nemesis was far more sinister than Delilah.

An angel was sent by God to tell Samson's parents that he was to be a Nazirite from birth, which required him to adhere to certain rules as he lived a life of holiness. That vow also required that no razor was to be used on his head. In keeping that vow, God would give him supernatural strength in his body. However, Samson did not do all that God demanded of him. Instead, he trusted in his own strength.

Samson lived in the land that God had given to the Israelites. However, seven times the Israelites turned from God and were under the oppressive rule of the Philistines, who worshipped the pagan god, Dagon. At that time there was no king, so every man did what was right in his own eyes; therefore, God called Judges to lead and protect the people of Israel. Samson became a judge over the people of Israel and did what was right in his own eyes.

One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and spent the night with her. That alone reveals that his passion for women was greater than living a consecrated life in service to God. Despite having the spirit of the Lord upon him, his corrupt, sexual desires were his nemesis that controlled his life. Many Christians, like Samson, have God's Spirit within, but they have not fully surrendered their fleshly desires and become 100 percent devoted to a consecrated life unto God.

Some time later, a woman named Delilah captivated Samson. By then, he had already killed over 1,000 Philistines, so the rulers of the Philistines went to her and offered her a sizable sum of money to seduce Samson into revealing the secret of his great strength.

Samson was foolish to align himself with a woman who did not worship the one true God. The Word of God tells us "not to be unequally yoked (joined in close relationship) with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Three different times, Delilah beguiled and relentlessly badgered Samson in an effort to learn the secret of his great strength. The number three in the scriptures relates to conforming to and obeying God. Unfortunately, in this circumstance, instead of Samson conforming to God's purposes and obeying Him, he conformed to "the lust  of [his] flesh and the lust of [his] eyes and the boastful pride of life, [which] is not from the Father, but is from the world (Matthew 5:28).

Isn't that what Satan does? He relentlessly tries to seduce us into taking our eyes off of God. For the enemy of our soul knows that if he can distract us from God, His Word, and His will, then he has us in his power.

You would think that by the third time of Delilah's incessant begging and betrayals, that Samson would have had a clue as to what was going on, but he was so blinded by his desire for her, that he ignored his safety and his Nazirite vows. Her fourth round of nagging finally broke Samson's resolve and he revealed the secret of his strength.

The number four in scripture relates to ruling, reigning, and having dominion. God is the only One who is to rule, reign, and have dominion over our heart. Yet Samson allowed the mistress of lust to rule and reign in his heart. As a result, while he slept, the Philistines shaved his seven braids. He awoke to find his strength gone and his enemies upon him. They then gouged out his eyes.

"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if [our] eye is clear (without sin), [our] whole body will be full of light (Christ and His truth) (Matthew 6:22). For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world (I John 2:16).

We must take control over our desires and what our eyes, thoughts, and hearts embrace. If we walk by the Spirit, then we won't satisfy the desires of the flesh. Therefore, we can deduct that if we are fulfilling the desires of the flesh, then we are not walking by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16). If we don't gain control, then those desires will control us to the point of sin and even death. For that reason, we are encouraged to always think and meditate on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). 

Samson was unable to discipline himself and take control of his desires. Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death (James 1:13-18). Samson's unbridled desires led to his death.

Therefore, we must ask, "What or whom might be an enemy nemesis to our soul?" When we became Christians, we were consecrated and empowered to overcome the works of the enemy. We do not have to be enslaved to fleshly desires. God provided a way of escape. The question then becomes, "Do we want to escape?"

God had chosen Samson from birth to be a godly man who would live a righteous life and do God's will.  But Samson trusted in his own strength and became so spiritually blinded by lust, that the path he chose led to his destruction.

Samson was spiritually blind, but it was his physical blindness that allowed him to finally "see" his need for complete dependence on God. Though his hair had begun to grow out, he had no strength. He called upon God to help him slay the Philistines and God restored his strength, thus enabling him to take his enemies with him in death.

No doubt, throughout Samson's life, he thought he was serving God, when in reality he was serving the desires of his flesh. Therefore, we might ask ourselves if we are completely surrendered to God and walking in holiness, or are we satisfying our flesh in ways that do not honor God. We must make a decision and choose this day whom we will serve (work for; obey). Our answer should be, "As for me and my house, we will serve (work for and obey) the Lord our God" (Joshua 24:2, 15).

PRAYER:
LORD, every kind of temptation, distraction, and enticement permeates the earth. Help me to always keep my heart stayed on You, so that I will not be caught up in carnality that takes your people away from You. Give me strength to live a moral, holy, truthful, and incorruptible life before You. In Jesus name, amen.






Monday, April 17, 2017

IN GOD'S TIME

The Word of God tells us that after Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden of Eden, a population explosion took place upon the earth. It was then that beings from the spirit world took mortal women to be their wives. That degeneracy, apostasy, and rebellion required God's judgment. “My Spirit must not forever be disgraced in man, wholly evil as he is. I will give him 120 years to mend his ways” (Genesis 6:1-3 LB). Interestingly, we read that it took Noah approximately 120 years to build the ark and then disaster came. Is today's society a repetition of apostasy, rebellion, and moral decay as in the days of Noah?

Noah was a righteous man, who walked with God and was blameless in his time, so God told Him that because the earth was filled with man's evil deeds, He would cause floodwaters to destroy man and everything that had breath. He instructed Noah to build an ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high with decks and stalls throughout  to house his family and the animals of each species (Genesis 6-7). 

God told Noah that two of every kind, male and female, would come to him to keep alive; therefore, it was not Noah's responsibility to gather the animals, birds, and creeping things (Genesis 6:21). We often stress and worry needlessly, even though God has everything under control and will supply what we need. 

Can you imagine being charged with such a massive and daunting undertaking? By today's standards, the ark equaled the size of a modern day cargo ship. Regardless, Noah trusted that God would give him the ability, tools, and resources to accomplish the task before him. Nowhere do we read that Noah questioned or argued with God; he simply obeyed and got to work. Jesus said that His followers hear His Word and do it (Luke 8:21). 

My mind can't begin to grasp the enormity and implications involved in obeying God's command. The continuation of life hung on one man's obedience, just as our internal soul hung on the obedience of one Man, God's Son, Jesus Christ. Has God spoken into your spirit an assignment that seems too big, too impossible, too outrageous, and too intimidating? Have you considered the implications of not obeying Him? We have no reason to fear, because God will always equip those whom He calls to fulfill His will on earth.

Noah stood out as the only man who loved God, so we might surmise that the pagan world was not only watching him, but they were harassing, intimidating, threatening, ridiculing, and expressing their contempt for Him, much like today's Christians are experiencing by an unbelieving world. However, taunts and threats did not dissuade Noah from the assignment set before him. For in that society of pure evil, God's hand of protection was on Noah and his family. Likewise, as our world becomes more dangerous and persecution and evil abound, God's hand will rest upon those who call upon His name.

Will we be like Noah – anchored to God and His call upon our lives? If God gives us a work to perform, will we complete the task, regardless of the challenges? Maybe we have gone as far as we believe is possible. Do we become discouraged because of perceived negatives, or do we prayerfully seek God for direction and solutions? Hopefully, we (including myself) will prayerfully seek His will and instructions as we maintain faith and trust that He is never without a plan. For He always makes a way as He moves us forward to completion...in His time.

At age 25, my life radically changed when I became a Christian. That year, God made a clear and distinct promise to me, but after waiting seven years and not seeing that promise materialize, I became angry. I did not understand God's timing and His purposes in waiting, so I spent six miserable months in rebellion. During that time, God dealt with me until I repented of my disobedience and unbelief. Realizing that my faith and trust in God had not been where they should have been, I realigned my will to coincide with His will, and a few short months later, His promise was fulfilled.

God is sovereign and His timing is never ours; His delays are always with purpose. There is no indication that Noah knew the day the flood would take place, but God's timing of the flood had already been set before He gave Noah instructions to build the ark. We do not know the day or hour that our Lord will return, not even the angels in heaven (Matthew 24:36). For that reason, it is imperative that we are always walking in obedience to Him.

I know I have discussed God's timing, as it relates to obedience and trust, in previous blogs, but for God to lead me in this direction once again, I suspect that He wants to remind and encourage us not to doubt those things that He places within our heart. Many of us are at the cusp of receiving. Now is not the time to give up. 

We must believe and trust that God's promises are yes and amen (so be it). What we perceive as a delay, is often for the purpose of testing our trust and obedience and developing faith. Frequently, that delay is God working out important details that we can't see. 

Often negative events invade and delay our mission, causing us to question God's plan for us. Do we believe Him and His Word, or do we believe the circumstances? Circumstances can take us to an alternate truth and cause us to doubt. Then there are the voices of skeptics and naysayers, along with marauding thoughts that cause us to question if we really heard from God. Do we believe and trust what God speaks into our spirit, or do we believe what circumstances and others might tell us?

Has He placed a thought or idea into your heart that seems too impossible, too intimidating, or too big. Perhaps you don't feel qualified or worthy of the task? Or maybe you obeyed God, but progress is at a standstill. Don't despair. Preparation is in the works for fulfillment of His plans.

Most likely, Noah encountered many obstacles and challenges in 120 years. God may have created delays during the building of the ark to give people time to repent and turn from their wickedness, of which none did. Despite any obstacles, along with the oppressive and evil environment that surrounded Noah, he trusted God and pressed forward, decade after decade. And because of his faithfulness, the ark was completed in God's time to save the world as we know it. 

PRAYER:
LORD, Your timing is clearly not my timing. Help me to trust You and be faithful and diligent in the task that You have set before me. Lead, guide, and show me when to wait upon You in prayerful patience and when to move forward, for Your ways are sovereign. I surrender my cares and concerns to You, knowing that where there are roadblocks, You will make a way. For all Your promises are "Yes" in Christ and through Him, our "Amen" is spoken to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Stress makes you believe
 That everything needs to happen right now.
Faith assures you that everything will happen
At the right and perfect time...in God's time

(Anonymous)

Monday, April 10, 2017

LIVING WATER


And as He was praying, 
Heaven was opened and 
The Holy Spirit descended on Him
 In bodily form like a dove. 
And a voice came from heaven: 
“You are my Son, whom I love; 
With You I am well pleased"
  (Luke 3:22)

I am always amazed in God's ability to speak to us through seemingly insignificant events that might otherwise be ignored. My husband had brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers. With great care, I trimmed and placed them in water and arranged them in one of our favorite vases. The first few days I was vigilant in watering. Then more days passed when I realized that I had forgotten to water the flowers. As I threw the dried and lifeless flowers into the trash, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, "Without My Living Water, there is no life."

Jesus spoke boldly to the crowd, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." By this He meant, that those who believed in Him would later receive the Holy Spirit. Up to that time, the Holy Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified through His resurrection (John 7:37-39 NIV).


Our Savior also made reference to living water when a Samaritan woman came to draw water at the well, and He asked her for a drink. The woman questioned why Jesus, being a Jew would ask her for water. He ingnored her question and said, "If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water" (John 4:10). Jesus was referring to the Person of the Holy Spirit, as living water, who breathed eternal life into man (Genesis 2:7). 

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper (the Holy Spirit), that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:15-18).  "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26).

The most important and life changing event to occur after Christ's Crucifixion, resurrection and ascension was the impartation of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The arrival of the Holy Spirit breathed life into the New Testament Church and enabled God and man to communicate on a deeper, more intimate level. It is through God's Holy Spirit, flowing from the hearts of  redeemed believers, that they become empowered beacons of truth.

Our spiritual, connective relationship with God rests with the Holy Spirit being welcomed into our hearts. For the Holy Spirit is a Person within the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). 

Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off (future generations), as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38).

Good Friday is a day foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. On this day of remembrance, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered, died, and overcame death and hell, so that we might have eternal life (Revelation 1:18). Sunday, we will celebrate His glorious and triumphant resurrection. 

Soon, our Lord is returning as a mighty, conquering King. Until then, He promised not to leave us as orphans. He would come to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit to guide and impart wisdom, understanding, knowledge, gifts and talents, and power in Him that would enable us to carry His truth to the world (Exodus 31:3-5). As believers, let us embrace God's Living Water (His Holy Spirit), that we may be conduits of His sweet fragrance, offering  hope, love, and eternal life to a lost world. 
Surely He took up our pain
   And bore our suffering, yet
We considered Him punished by God,
    Stricken by Him, and afflicted. But

He was pierced for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities; the
Punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    And by His wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to our own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him
    The iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)
PRAYER:
Lord, I ask that you fill me to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit that enables Your Church to overcome evil, and gives us the ability to hear Your still small voice, which leads, guides, directs, and gives wisdom and discernment in all things. In Jesus name, amen.






Monday, April 3, 2017

THIS LIFE WE LIVE

As a middle-child, in a family of five, my teachers had labeled me precocious, joyful, friendly, outgoing, energetic, obedient, and a born leader. What people didn't realize was that underneath all of those positive qualities was a little girl who desperately wanted to please others and to be loved and accepted.

My first 25 years were lived as a non-Christian; I was in charge of my life. I was the captain of my proverbial ship...or so I thought. In reality, my life was steering me.

There is an old saying that you can't judge a book by its cover. By all outward appearances, my life seemed orderly and tidy. My ability to maintain a happy, confident, driven, organized, efficient persona only served to disguise my messy life. Sustaining that facade had become physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting and was draining me of every ounce of joy and hope. I had no idea how to achieve and keep any modicum of balance and peace.

One month after turning 22, I married a man I barely knew and quickly became trapped in an abusive marriage. At 25 and with the help of others, I escaped with my 10-day old son. My "ship" was quickly sinking, and for the first time, I was looking beyond myself for a lifeline.

My entire existence had been controlled by a gravitational pull towards positions of leadership in family, school, college, and work. However, that need to lead was suddenly replaced with a desperate cry for help. I had finally realized that I was the one who needed leadership and guidance. That lifeline came when I met the Eternal Lifeline and Savior...God's Son, Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, I discovered that to become all that God created me to be, I had to allow Him to be the Authority and Leader of my life. It then became necessary to channel my aptitude for leadership through His will and not my own. That is not always easy, because people in a position of leadership often believe their way is better and that others should fall into agreement with them. However, I have learned over the years, that whatever skills or talents we might possess, they must be tempered and yielded to God for His purposes and His will and not according to our will or agenda.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because we have all been given unique gifts, talents, and abilities by God. The questions then become: How are we using those gifts, talents, and abilities? If we are using them, have we submitted them under the authority and leadership of God? And if we are not using them, will God accept our excuses? 

It took many years of pain, disappointment, and discouragement to realize that only by submitting  to the One who created me, could I find happiness. No matter our age,, yielding our will, plans, hopes, dreams, talents, and skills to God is the key to finding true fulfillment, purpose, and joy in this life we live.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways submit to Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
PRAYER:
Lord, yielding to Your will is not always easy, but Your way is perfect, and You never fail those whose heart is fixed on You. Help me to trust You to be the "Captain" of my life and to yield my plans, hopes, dreams, talents, and skills to You. For I desire to be used to fulfill Your plans. In Jesus name, amen.