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)

The Self-destructive System 

A couple of posts ago I wrote on several problems with Critical Race Theory. Does all of the world’s problems boil down to the color of a people’s skin? (Be careful calling this race, lest you think persons of different pigmentation are different races. We are not, for there is one human race).

When one truly considers the problems in the world, the vices affect persons of every ethnicity. Whether North or South American, African, Mexican, Asian, etc. you will find communities infected with corruption, poverty, human trafficking, drug addiction, exploitation, perversions, greed, deception, etc. No group of people has a monopoly over such things. If there was a great genocide of a people of any color, the problems would remain. The problems are not due to the color of skin but the sinfulness of the human heart—including yours and mine.

Confounding the issue more is that of what the Bible calls the “world,” a system which deifies self and exalts even our basest lusts.

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 (ESV)

Here, the apostle is referring to the world system. Like a strong vacuum,  this system pulls at each of us. Like a raging fire, we feel the intensity of its flames trying to ignite passions and set us ablaze. We can see its ungodly effects in Hollywood, Washington, media, and the universities. Where man is perceived as his own god, and people seek to live and indulge in their own pride and lusts. The color of skin is not even a factor.

Until we recognize the real problems in the world is the fallen condition of human hearts and the godless world system which seeks to exploit them, we will continue trying to blow out matches but never dealing with the actual blazing and destructive fires. And the only way we can begin to do this is by turning to Jesus Christ, believing on Him, and allowing Him to change us from the inside out.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:1-2

The Anarchist’s Hellish Paradise

I have not seen (nor do I have any desire to see) the movie, The Purge or its sequels. Part of the plot, the way I understand, is there is an annual holiday, for 12 hours, when crime (murder, rape, etc.) is legalized and no legal authorities are on patrol. Society is free to unleash its depraved desires.

I mention such a movie for a reason. We are living in a day when there has been a growing number of voices desiring anarchy. The voices often claim the desire stems from a desire to promote “justice” and to do away with the corrupt legal authorities; however, the whole reason we have laws is because, if left to our own devices, society would become more unjust, corrupt, and brutal still. Contrary to the warm-fuzzy teachings in much of modern psychology that people are “basically good,” the Bible teaches otherwise—and history surely supports the Bible.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

Before the great flood we are told:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ~ Genesis 6:5

Even the apostle Paul writes of humankind in the New Testament:

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~ Romans 3:10-18

Can we truly argue that these are not accurate portrayals of us as human beings? The thought is scary as to what brutal evil we are capable of if you take God, law, and retribution out of the picture.

You do not believe me? Jesus says that from the abundance of what fills our hearts our mouths speak and actions come forth (see Matt. 12:34; Mark 7:21). Now, consider the vile things people post on Twitter, Facebook, and the internet. From school campuses to political realms people declare persons or groups should get sick and die, be assassinated, burn in hell, etc. There have been pictures posted on the internet depicting President Trump being decapitated, and videos of persons being injured or killed, simply for trying to protect their businesses—their means of earning an income to provide for themselves and their families. We can close our eyes to the reality of the Bible’s teaching of original sin, but what if God, law, and retribution did not stand in the way? Do we not shudder at the thought? If, indeed, people were truly “good” and could self-govern themselves, we would not need so many laws; furthermore, the news would not consistently tell of real life horror stories. But, if we are honest, we know that we are not essentially “good.” Something within us is deeply distorted.

Anarchy does not—because it cannot—promote peace or justice. Without law and order people become a law unto themselves. As in the case of a tragic Old Testament period, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).

The anarchist’s dream is, in reality, a hellish nightmare filled with brutality, injustice, fear, and tyrannical reign of the “survival of the fittest.”

It is no exaggeration to say we are in desperate need for redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, an inner transformation, and the filling of His Holy Spirit. And this is all possible for anyone who calls upon Him and believes.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10

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

Only through the redemption of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of His Holy Spirit can our sinful hearts with evil passions be set free from the cruel bondage of sin.

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.

Unchained, but Still Bound

People often view liberty as freedom from all restraints. For example, in the Scriptures we read,

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” ~ Psalm 2:2-3

However, in the New Testament we read of a poor fellow who dwelt among the tombs, driven by the demonic:

And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. ~ Mark 5:3-5

Many today boast of their “freedom” as they cast off all restraints, all the while bound tightly and oppressed by their vices, addictions, and shame. However, just as it was true for the man in the tombs, so Jesus can also heal people of such miseries today. You can know genuine freedom through Him if you will but cry out to Him in faith.

America’s Perilous Situation and How We Got Here

The political climate has become extremely divided, hostile, and in some cases violent. The hypocrisy in the accusations thrown around is unbearable. “He is such a liar!” As opposed to whom? “He is so corrupt!” As if the other candidate is not? “He is so evil!” Ah, but it is here we need to ask ourselves, how did we get here?

As Americans, we should be disgusted with both political parties. Both parties have lied to us, both parties have accepted money from lobbyists, both parties have had scandals, and both parties have individuals walking free, yet guilty of crimes the average person would be imprisoned for. We can complain all we want to, but do we, the American people, not bear much of the blame?

I hear people on both sides accusing the other of being liars, all the while ignoring the lies spoken by the candidates they support. I hear people accuse candidates and officials of being “Hitler” or “Nazis,” all the while fully endorsing abortion on demand. I was sickened a few years ago when one particular candidate’s platform was nothing less than a celebration of death. Yet, as a society we want to label candidates as “evil” when our own hearts are void of compassion for the most helpless and innocent?

Oh, let me not ignore the great hypocrisy of Hollywood, those who like to “instruct” us in morality and decency, although many of whom practice neither. Ricky Gervais is correct when he stated that those at the Oscar Awards ceremony are in no position to lecture on such things.

Again, the question must be asked, how did we get here? Consider the following passage:

Thus says the Lord: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’ And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit….Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. ~ Jeremiah 2:5-8, 19 (ESV)

We, as a society, always want to point fingers and shift the blame, but do we not bear much of the blame? Consider the last election, for example. How did our main choices come down to Hillary and Trump? We can state our negative opinions of either of these individuals; however, society rejected candidates who have more integrity than either of these individuals. Why? What hypocrisy we must own whenever we accuse others as being “evil,” “immoral,” and “liars” when we reject those who are righteous and persons of integrity. What hypocrisy when we condemn persons as being “immoral,” yet idolize actors and musicians who glorify the raunchiest acts of immorality. What hypocrisy when we accuse others of being “evil” when our own lives are godless and self-indulgent.

Let us not think that the church is guiltless. Consider another passage:

The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 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. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. ~ Ezekiel 22:25-28

Many who profess the name of Jesus Christ, too, are guilty of condoning, applauding, and promoting behaviors and practices that God condemns. Furthermore, pride, greed, and various forms of immorality are known to be condoned and/or “whitewashed” among both Catholics and Evangelicals. There are many churches who make no distinction between what is holy and what is profane, and instead of seeking to be true to the Scriptures, many want to simply “agree to disagree,” lest they appear as “judgmental” or “divisive.”

I believe America is in dire straights. Although many will mock, I believe God has already begun judging America (read Romans 1). How did we get into the situation we presently find ourselves in? We have turned from God (and I mean, specifically, the one true God of the Bible) and have rejected His Son Jesus Christ whom He sent to redeem us. More and more society vehemently denounces and opposes God in nearly every sector. Increasingly our society condones what God condemns and scorns what God commends. Even in many churches preachers are casting doubt on the Scriptures and adapting to the world’s philosophies and code of “ethics” instead of what God reveals. Thus, we as a society are guilty of great evil.

I hear people crying, “Trump is ruining our country” or “Biden will destroy America!” But let me be clear, neither man is America’s savior, nor is either man to blame for her path to destruction. Only God can heal our nation, and this can only happen if we, as a nation, repent of our wickedness. Otherwise, not the best of our cunning and strategizing will prevent God’s judgement.

Will God choose to grant further mercies for America? I do not know. However, Nehemiah’s prayer is quite instructive for us, as he humbled himself, confessing the sins of his nation, as well as his own sins and those of his father’s house:

O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded. ~ Nehemiah 1:5-7

We can choose to try to erase history rather than learn from it. We can choose to mock God’s judgment, but it has already begun. Woe to us if we choose to “take our chances” and refuse to repent. We are already walking a thin line, and it is getting ever closer to snapping. What do we have to lose? Far more than we realize.