Comfortable On the Lap of Delilah

Samson was certainly not one of God’s wisest servants; nevertheless, he was a man of extraordinary faith. He is listed among those of faith in Hebrews 11:32. Although a genuine man of God, appointed to be a Nazirite and judge before he was born, his carelessness eventually cost him. He took the calling and blessings of God for granted, and he was lured by the forbidden. He became comfortable resting on the lap of Delilah.

Much speculation has gone on concerning Delilah, but the point is Samson was wooed by, fell in love with, and grew comfortable with the very one who led him to his downfall—and this is because he saw himself both strong and wise, and he rejected godly instruction.

Samson experienced some incredible victories wrought by God (understand, his might was because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing), but he was seduced by Delilah’s beauty and charm. Bribed by the Philistines, she tried to get the secret of his strength, as he rested his head on her lap and she stroked his hair and rubbed his face, eventually lulling him to sleep. She would then awaken him with, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Samson would then wake up and “take care of business.” Samson just seems to laugh it off each time, not understanding he was in a dangerous predicament.

With a puffed bottom lip and a little pouting, Delilah finally got Samson to open up. “If you cut my hair I’ll lose my strength.” Don’t miss this, while what he he said is, perhaps, in part true, “If you cut my hair I’ll lose my strength,” his strength came from God not his hair. 

Again, she lulled him to sleep. We then read,

When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. ~ Judges 16:18-21

Did you catch that? Samson “did not know that the Lord had left him.” Samson was clueless that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him. God did not utterly forsake Samson, but He did step away and let Samson suffer the consequences of his self-centeredness and religious flippancy. We are told that Samson was blinded (his eyes were gouged out), and he was imprisoned both in his darkness and a Philistine dungeon.  

This world is not our home, but how easily we can be distracted and wooed by the charms of this world. Seduced by its flattery and glamour while holding to a religious false security, as though God will permit no harm simply because we are His. So we lay our head on our Delilah’s lap, giving credit of our strength to our education, experience, influence, and the like, not realizing the Holy Spirit’s anointing has been lifted from us. Our downfall comes, our eyes “are gouged” as we are forced to abide in our darkness.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ~ 1 John 1:6

How many Christians have been seduced and wooed by persons, money, or power trips? They took their eyes off the Lord and played religious games, but eventually God said, “Enough!” Not realizing His anointing has been removed, one’s world collapses like a house of cards. While God never fully abandons His own, He does allow consequences to crush us in order to reveal our need for Him and to bring us to repentance.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ~ 1 John 2:15-17

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. ~ 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Are you being wooed by a Delilah and trusting in your own strength and past victories? Don’t rest your head on her lap, and don’t get comfortable in her presence. Remember that all of your victories came from God and His workings, not from you. You and are nothing more than conduits, mere channels and vessels God uses. He gives, and He can certainly take away (Job 1:21).

As for Samson, he had some time to think while he was in his darkness and prison. He was able to reflect and see his folly, and what’s more is he was able to turn back to the Lord . No, things could not go back to what they were but God’s anointing and presence did.

Friend, if God has allowed you to be betrayed by a Delilah, don’t blame Him or the church. You allowed yourself to be wooed, and I guarantee God have multiple warnings you ignored. You might have lost it all, but there are further victories to be had of you own up to your foolishness and turn your attention back to God. 

Be of good cheer. God might step away, but He will not totally abandon those who truly belong to Him. Come rest your weary head on the lap of your Redeemer and God who loves you.

Washed, Sanctified, Justified—and the Inner Struggle

Some people, after reading some of my posts, think I’m too negative and expect Christians to be perfect. However, to come to this conclusion is to miss the point of what I’m trying to communicate. Yes, I try to signal warnings often, but the intention is like that of a lighthouse trying to keep sailors from becoming shipwrecked. So much of what passes as “Christianity” today is far from what was intended by Jesus and the apostles, but there is real struggling within true believers.

We have such corny terms like “conservative Christian,” “liberal Christian,” and the list seems never ending. I’ve even heard of persons claiming to be “Christian socialists” (which is practically the equivalent of claiming to be a “Christian atheist”). Jesus never intended to come simply as an interior decorator or a landscaper. Rather, He came to demolish the old, set a new foundation, and build something totally new. He certainly did not come to promote political affiliations, but declares Himself to be Lord and King over all lords and kings.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Jesus gives His people an entirely new identity. God’s people are told,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:1-6

Elsewhere, we are told,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ~ 1 Peter 1:9-10

For many of us, if we are honest, were quite the rascals and scoundrels. We were selfish, hedonistic, blasphemous, and depraved in our thoughts and behaviors. The apostle Paul, writing to one of the churches, says,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Did you catch that? “And such were some of you”—past tense. We are no longer who or what we were. In Christ we have a new identity, we are adopted into a new family (see Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5),  and we are given a new purpose which transcends living for ourselves and destructive passions. Let us not miss the importance of the words washedsanctified, and justified. Each of these have great significance for the follower of Christ. Washed means exactly what it says. We were washed and made clean.

And since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~ Hebrews 10:21-22

They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ~ Revelation 7:14

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

If we were washed, then it means we were dirty, and if we were dirty then we were defiled and unacceptable before God. Regardless if you were immoral, greedy, a thief, a liar, mean-spirited or a gossip, each of us were dirty, defiled, and were on death row (see Rom. 3:10-23).

Sanctified is a religious term, and its significance must not be ignored. It means to be made holy, set apart for God’s purposes. We are given an excellent example of what this looks like practically:

For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. ~ Revelation 18:3-5

In the Old Testament God condemned the people who made no distinction between the holy and profane:

Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. ~ Ezekiel  22:26

The apostle Paul, in separate letters illustrates what sanctification looks like when put into practice.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 9

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~ Titus 2:11-14

Justified, a vital concept woven throughout the New Testament, is a judicial term, meaning to be absolved of guilt, to be declared righteous. Mind you, this is not that our guilt is ignored. Far from! Rather, the person who looks to Christ in faith understands that He bore the penalty—death—for our sins and guilt.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. ~ Romans 5:1, 9

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. ~ Hebrews 9:11-14

We must not dismiss the significance of these words and their meanings. To do so comes with severe ramifications. Understand, we had once been on death row, but Christ bore our penalty and set us free from sin’s prison and condemnation. If a person on death row, today, was to receive pardon, common sense tells us the expectation is for the person to abstain from the criminal and lawless activities that led him there. Likewise, Christ did not die in our stead just to give us liberty to indulge in the sins which held us imprisoned, waiting for eternal condemnation.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ~ Romans 5:20; 6:1-2

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 6:11

Although we are to consider ourselves, to treat ourselves, dead to sin, each of us knows that sin does not go down humbly, willingly, or politely. While there is victory we have over sin, through Christ, many of us know that it waits to sucker punch us any chance it gets. In other words, although we are washed, sanctified, and justified, we are not perfect. Here we experience a paradox.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ~ Hebrews 10:14

In Christ, we are sanctified and made perfect; yet the Scriptures, and life, shows us we not perfect and are in the process of being sanctified. Many of us know the bitter sting of failure, the stumbling and falling on our faces and dirtying our garments. This inner battle is real, and even though for reasons we don’t understand, God permits it to prune us, purge us, to humble us, and to grow us. Of his own experience, the apostle Paul writes, 

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. ~ Romans 7:15-19

Elsewhere he writes of the inner battle each of us is aware of.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. ~ Galatians 5:16-17

There are battles won but others lost. There are times a genuine believer is permitted to fall and hit the ground hard. But we must not blame God (e.g., “God made me this way” or “He put me in this situation”). We are told plainly,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But 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 fully grown brings forth death. ~ James 1:13-15

But hope is not lost for the true sons and daughters of God, born again by His Spirit and redeemed by the blood of His Son. God allows us to stumble and fall, but He will help us back up. He might allow us to be broken, but He will repair us in due time. He will discipline us to correct us so that we will not be condemned with the world.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ~ 1 John 1:8-2:1

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~ Hebrews 12:4-11

To those who say my writings are “too negative,” I’m trying to warn those who are growing lax in, simply playing with, or outright defying the ways of God. To those who accuse me of thinking I’m better than others, I’m not better than anyone. I am a man who, too, struggles against the sinful nature. But regardless of what you think of me, examine what I say with the Scriptures. Is what I write true or not? But for those who are struggling, I encourage you to look, and cry out, to the Savior. His grace, forgiveness, and cleansing go deep. If you’ve fallen, His grace can lift you back up. If you’re dirty, His blood will cleanse you. If you’ve totally blown it, He can restore. If you are genuinely His, regardless of your past and present struggles, you are washed, sanctified, and justified. But yes, the inner struggle continues and is real. But remember who you belong to and your true identity in Him.

Like Chipped and Broken Shells

I was recently on one of Florida’s beaches enjoying the sound of the waves and talking with the Lord. As I walked along the shore I was looking for some nice shells (our bathrooms are beach themed). There were thousands—perhaps millions—of different shells of different sizes, designs, and colors. 

Along the beach there were collections of shells lying together having been washed up by the tides. While still maintaining some of their natural beauty, many of the shells had chips or holes. Some shells were broken in half, left ignored and forgotten. 

I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between these shells and people. How many of us have lost some of our luster? How many of us are chipped, ridden with holes, or just plain broken—swept up and left to be forgotten? Yet we are not completely void of our natural beauty. Furthermore, we are redeemable! For this reason Christ died for us.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. ~ Ephesians 1:7

It is true that sin, guilt, shame, and failure can break us. Furthermore, some fall and will never recapture what they once had. Consequences are a reality. Folly, pride, and rebellion come with a price. Still, if we were good and pristine, then we wouldn’t need a Savior. However, none of us is truly good or pristine. 

Friend, I don’t know your story, but maybe you feel like one of those broken shells. Maybe you’ve been dealt a difficult hand. Perhaps you’ve made some poor choices that caused you to lose it all. Maybe you once walked with the Lord but fell away, and now you think He has no place for you. Or maybe you struggle with a besetting sin and just feel as if the devil is always going to have the upper hand. Friend, you are simply a prayer away from the loving presence of God.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. ~ Romans 10:13

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

How tragic when persons come to a point when they feel they have absolutely nothing worthwhile to give. Strangely, in our brokenness we sometimes have more to give—because of grace. Brokenness can, indeed, remain as worthless brokenness. However, in Christ one’s brokenness can be redemptive. Brokenness can develop compassion and empathy. Grace can guide a person to give a warm smile, a word of encouragement, or needed truth in the right time. Brokenness can develop humility that is willing to associate with the lowly and to help the downtrodden. And if brokenness does not leave one embittered, genuine love can begin to grow in a world where love is so needed.

Friend, perhaps you recognize you are like a chipped, broken, and hole-ridden shell. It might be difficult to see, but there still remains a measure of dignity and image of God. In and through Christ, these can be renewed. In Christ, no man or woman remains like a chipped and broken shell. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

6 Important Actions to Take When You Blow It

Let’s face it, we all blow it at times. We hardheadedly do our own thing instead of following instructions, we speak unkind words in anger, we make a foolish, costly decision, we break a trust, etc. As the saying goes, “to err is human.” Breaking and destroying things is easy; however, fixing and rebuilding them, well, that’s a whole other matter. The following are helpful steps to remember—and to put into practice—if you find yourself in a situation where you have blown it.

  1. Own Up to Your Mistakes. This sounds easy, but it is far more difficult than one realizes. Our first instinct is to blame others and make excuses. Too often people blame their parents, schools, environment, the system, the incompetence of others, etc. Blame shifting is easier than swallowing one’s pride and owning up to one’s own folly, poor decisions, and incompetence. Pointing fingers is what children do. Unfortunately, too often this childish tendency is carried into adulthood. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Pro. 28:13).
  2. Confess Any Sin(s) and Where Others Are Affected By Your Poor Decisions. This part requires honest, albeit sometimes painful, reflection. There are so many different ways one can blow it at school, at work, and in the home. There are so many ways one can add to a mess, making a bad situation worse. The inconvenience and added work are bad enough. But the wounds we inflict upon others by our words and actions can go very deep. Whether one wants to admit it, regardless of being unintentional, such folly, selfishness, and inflictions are sin. One must be honest before God and acknowledge the mess that has been made, the burdens placed upon others, and for all the wounds one has caused and inflicted. Such things are not trivial. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
  3. Be Willing to Say, “I’m Sorry”—and Mean It. Two small words, yet for many, saying them is the equivalent of trying to push a freight train. For others, the words are easily enough spoken but any significance evaporates like a vapor. Yet, if spoken appropriately and honestly, apart from being diluted by any excuses or blame shifting, these words can be powerful. These words can begin the process of healing and repairing, as well as opening the doors for needed communication. Mind you, there is nothing magical about these words. Sometimes the damage is so great and the words are so deep that these words will roll off like marbles on a beach ball. Even so, the ones affected and wounded by ones folly and poor choices deserve to hear the words spoken with sincerity. Furthermore, one is in no position to expect or demand forgiveness. This is to be the choice of those who’ve been affected. Regardless if they choose to forgive or not, they still deserve to be told, “I’m sorry,” spoken with sincerity.
  4. Repair Where You Can. We live in a time when self-centeredness is at an all time high. Many can break people’s hearts like glass, rob of possessions, destroy reputations, grind dignity into hamburger, and impale with words, then expect forgiveness to come easily and smoothly. Even in churches the principles of restitution and reconciliation are often times pooh-poohed. However, if one has offended and wounded others, he is to be active in cleaning up the mess and making restitution where he can. Exodus 22:1 reads, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” Some will argue, “That’s Old Testament! We’re under grace.” What? Does Jesus enable us to shrug our responsibilities? No, He tells us,  “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). There are times the messes cannot be cleaned up, the total cost cannot be paid, or another’s forgiveness will be received. However, one is to make any repairs he is able.
  5. Learn from the Experience. This sounds obvious but it is often neglected—to the point of being sickening. This is precisely where blame shifting hinders people from growing and maturing. Whenever a person blows it, they should step back and observe what they did wrong and learn from it. Instead, we have kids partying and goofing off, then telling their parents the teachers are out to fail them. Teens and adults continually committing crimes, then saying the cops are simply out to get them unjustly. Persons verbally tear down and nag, flirt with others, refuse to talk, withhold sex, then blame their spouse for all the problems in a marriage. A friend betrays a friend, then blames him for the broken friendship. As for you, don’t let these describe you. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t flunk out of the School of Hard Knocks. “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Pro. 17:10).
  6. Move On. This final step must not be separated from the former steps; however, sometimes the blow ups are beyond repair. For example, King David and his adulterous affair and having Uriah killed. David sinned greatly and owned up to his guilt. Still, there was no taking back the affair, and there was no bringing Uriah back from the grave. This is the reality for some of one’s foolishness. However, in Christ he can be forgiven and doesn’t have to be defined or kept down by his folly. He can learn from his mistakes and still have a fruitful life—if he yields himself unto Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 3:13-14).

Friend, if you have blown in, then learn and grow from the experience. Don’t make excuses or blame others. More often than not, people will forgive you, and even gain a measure of respect for you, when you man up and own up to your mistakes. Furthermore, you can move on and still live an amazing life founded upon humility and grace.

A Place for You

Good morning, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope this finds you well.

In my last post, I asked if God’s love is unconditional, and if He loves every individual equally. The reason being, many view God as loving, apart from all His other attributes, such as His holiness, righteousness, and justice. 

Still, someone might read my last post and wonder if God loves him or her, and question if He has a place in His love for them. Friend, if this describes you, I have wonderful news: Yes, there is a place for you! Jesus gives an open invitation to all who are willing to respond and come to Him, regardless what they might have done. None of us earns His affection or grace, for each of us has sinned and fall short of the glory of God (see Rom. 3:23). Many of us, by His grace and conviction, feel the weight of our guilt, shame, and dirtiness. Jesus gives this invitation:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ~ John 6:37

The apostle Paul writes,

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

Friend, God does not ignore our sins, but Jesus bore the penalty of our sins, bidding all to come find sanctuary and redemption in and through Him.

Yes, there is a place for you in God’s love, The real question is are you willing to come to Him in genuine faith? Yes, you might be a mess, just as the rest of us, and your temptations, struggles, and shame are real. However, for those who truly come to Christ in faith, believing that He paid the debt that none of us could pay for our sins (the shedding of His own blood), we have this promise:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:15-16

Friend, respond to Jesus’ invitation to you. You have His promise that if you come to Him sincerely, He will not cast you out. You have a place of acceptance, redemption, and security in His love. 

There are many who are burdened by shame and who dare not approach God, lest they be turned away. Friend, no matter your guilt, shame, or deeds, Jesus warmly invites all to come to Him for forgiveness, cleansing, and new life.  Do not let your fear of rejection keep you from Him. His love for you is genuine.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. ~ John 6:37

To Love Like Jesus Does

Jesus was not delusional about human nature. He did not view people as “basically good” but made bad by society. The Scriptures tell us,

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25

Elsewhere, Jesus states plainly,

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ John 7:7

Nevertheless, Jesus has a profound love for people. Mind you, He does not love the sinfulness (the selfish, self-indulgent, God-defiant part of us). Yet, He loves and values the actual person of individuals. Consider just a few instances. 

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. ~ Matthew 9:36

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~ John 8:10-11

After a night of betrayal, abandonment, mockery, torture, scourging, and then after being nailed to a cross for several more hours of excruciating pain and asphyxiation, only to lift the following prayer for his tormentors:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” ~ Luke 23:34

Humanity, being created in the image of God, is not completely void of compassion, kindness, or sacrifice. While the news continually blasts us with humanity’s depravity, we still hear stories of its reflections of the image of whom it bears: a youth helping a senior up some stairs; citizens surrounding a police officer to protect him during a riot; or a person rushing into a burning building to rescue another.

The love with which Jesus loves, however, is of such an unattainable caliber that we are unable to possess and distribute it apart from abiding in the very Source of such love. In fact, many of those who profess to belong to God do not have such love for others. Mind you, I do not profess that I possess this love, so rich and pure. 

Our world will continue to sing and write about love, but will always fall short of genuine love’s grandeur. The highest and purest form of love (Gk. agape) is defined in the Bible:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The only way to genuinely display this selfless and sacrificial love is to be connected to the Source of this love (Christ) and continually being filled with His Holy Spirit.

Indeed, to err is human, and we know this all too well. But to love like Jesus does is truly a work of the Divine within. I admit, I am not there yet. Perhaps you are not either. May we draw close and abide in Christ because of our own obvious deficiencies, but our world is in serious need of the purest love that He provides.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:1-5

“I Did Not Make It—No, It Is Making Me”

One of my favorite musicians is the late Rich Mullins. In his song, “Creed,” based on what is commonly called the “Apostle’s Creed,” [1] Mullins writes,

“I believe what I believe,
It’s what makes me what I am.
I did not make it, no, it is making me; It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” [2]

Christianity is not about people having it all together, for if that was the case, why would we need a Savior? No, Christianity is about the living God and Redeemer who puts people back together, who are ravaged by sin, through the death and resurrection of His dear Son.

As Romans 3 tells us, we have all, like sheep, gone astray. All of us have searched for other pastures, seeking to satisfy our longings with anything but God. We have all become corrupt, each of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have resisted God, succumbed to our desires, and defiantly sang to God, Frank Sinatra’s, “I did it my way!” As a result, our lives are broken, splintered, and ridden with emptiness and shame.

But then comes God’s grace and truth. Understand, the two must be together. Too many people profess grace while their behaviors are left unchanged. On the other hand, you have those declaring truth, but their lives do not display the love and compassion of the God they claim to profess. The grace and truth of God, together, builds and repairs our lives.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

But think about Mullins’ words. “I believe what I believe, it’s what makes me what I am.” He is not simply talking about a creed, but the very Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is this which is remaking and remodeling him, not man’s philosophies, pop psychology, or religions.

“I did not make it, no, it is making me.” This comes from something outside and other than him. He did not “pull himself up by the bootstraps,” nor did he apply mind over matter or positive thinking.

“It is the very truth of God, not the invention of any man.” What is making him, rebuilding him, and restoring him is the very truth of God and His Gospel. God, alone, gets the glory.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 1:16

Is the Gospel making you? God extends His glorious Gospel to you, my friend, no matter what you have done. No, you nor I can make it, but it is what makes us.”

[1] I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

[2] Rich Mullins, “Creed,” from the album, A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band, Reunion Records, 1993.

Lessons In the Dark (Failure Does Not Have to Be Definitive)

There are times when a person must go through times of darkness. The reasons vary, but sometimes darkness comes as a result of immense failure. Such was the case for the man of God Samson.

Before he was even conceived Samson was ordained to be a deliverer for the people of Israel. By the Spirit of God he was granted incredible strength and valor. His life was to be holy and consecrated to the Lord. Yet, when we read the account of Samson in the book of Judges, we read of a man who squandered his privileges (even having sex with a prostitute [see Jud. 16:1]), and who took his abilities for granted. This squandering eventually cost him dearly.

Samson later falls in love with the woman Delilah. The lords of the Philistines convinced her to seduce Samson and find where his strength came from. After three failed attempts, Delilah pouted and reasoned, “How can you say you love me if you are not willing to tell me your secret?” Being beguiled by the woman, Samson shares his heart and what was not to be revealed. After he falls asleep, Delilah cut Samson’s hair and the Philistines rush in to subdue him. We then read the dreadful words,

And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. ~ Judges 16:20 (ESV)

For so long Samson took his privileges, anointing, and victories for granted he was oblivious to the fact the Lord departed from him. He was to experience such profoundly humiliating defeat. After rushing on him, the Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes, put him in shackles, and imprisoned him at the grinding mill.

Samson was alone in the darkness of his blindness, yet it was here that he had time to reflect, grieve, confess, and listen. He was learning hard lessons of squandered privileges, of pride, of immorality, etc. Yet, among all these lessons he would also learn of God’s grace and faithfulness. God would yet hear Samson’s prayer and grant him a major victory. Centuries later he would be named among people of faith:

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. ~ Hebrews 11:32-33

Perhaps you have tasted the bitterness of failure and experiencing its painful consequences. May you take courage in the Lord and find some peace in His promises. Due to your folly, may you listen to the instructions of the Holy Spirit and gain some wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~ Proverbs 1:7

Your failures do not have to define your identity or your future. Consequences might be devastating, but they do not need to demolish hope if you will be still in your darkness. Turn to Christ, and listen to His Spirit. Confess your sin(s), admit your guilt, and own up to your failures. There can still be mighty victories won through Him.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7:8-9 (CEV)

It’s a Beautiful Morning

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to live in deliberate or habitual sin. We are asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1 -2, ESV). Furthermore, elsewhere the purposes of both grace and salvation are explained:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Even so, the Bible teaches us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins, (Ecc. 7:10) and “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).  And life teaches us experientially that we can sometimes blow it profoundly! How many of us have asked, “Will God forgive me of this? Again???” In fact, some give up altogether that God still loves them and can forgive them.

My friend, perhaps you have asked such questions. Maybe you are wrestling with such doubts now. Believe me, I have been there numerous times. But God’s grace truly is amazing, and the death Jesus died in our stead transcends our understanding. I hope you will be encouraged by the following passages:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Perhaps you have blown it big time and guilt haunts you. My friend, look to the cross and the glorious and merciful Savior who had been slain upon it and is now alive forevermore! Find refuge in His mercy and peace in His great love for you. His mercies are new every morning, and there is never a time when we are not in need of them.