★ Thought for the Day – Compartmentalizing Christ? ★

I love this comic!  The satirical truth of this resonates in my spirit as so many activities fill our calendar, it really is hard to fit everything in those 25 boxes.  And that is the muse for this Thought.  Three years ago God placed on my heart to study the Christmas Story in greater detail than I have ever done before.  It led me into a series of posts that lasted for 25 days, exploring the “Reasons” that we should be “Thankful” during the Christmas Advent Season; while at the same time, delving into the all-too-familiar stories that have become commonplace in order to gain a fresh perspective on the birth of Christ!  It was an amazing endeavor, one which meant a lot to me in my personal walk with Jesus who truly is the Reason for the Season!

As part of the series, I posted this blog called ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★ encompassed a post from my daughter’s Instagram page called Undeserved Grace that she posted 4 years ago.  She is now 18 years old and in her senior year of High School with many decisions before as well as a long list of things to do to prepare for the next season of life.  The past 6 months has been filled with filling out applications, visiting colleges and lots and lots of discussions of what to do next as well as finals and end the semester papers.

As we have been incredibly busy coming into this season it got me thinking about the other “to do lists” that we have feverishly been trying to cross off…

What a second…that is the idealized list that we all wish that we were concerned with right?  But the real list looks more like this…

…In an effort to get the house decorated, trimming the Christmas tree, shopping for gifts and making the endless lists of things that MUST GET DONE (take a breath…), I wonder has the reason for this season been lost or should I say Compartmentalized?  It may be cliché, but the birth of Jesus Christ is the reason for the Season!  Now there certainly is nothing wrong with family traditions and enjoying the holidays BUT when Jesus is reduced to just being mentioned on one day or maybe it is only the obligatory hour in church then something is seriously wrong.  Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV) tells us…

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Because of Jesus’ birth more than 2,000 years we have access to be adopted in family of God.  That is what the 25th of December and all the preparation should be about.  Let me ask you when was the last time you read the Christmas story?  Part of the preparations that God placed on my heart was to not let the Christmas season go by without reading about the birth of Christ in totality, here are the major stories:

As you read through the miraculous circumstances that brought about the birth of the Savior of the world, if Jesus is just a small or insignificant aspect of your life that you would…

…STOP COMPARTMENTALIZING CHRIST IN YOUR LIFE, and fully embrace the greatest gift we could ever receive!  He should not be relegated to a month or day or hour but should be a part of everyday.  Whether it is having morning coffee with my wife or driving my youngest daughter to school or having or sitting down for dinner with the family after a long day at work, Jesus wants to be part of every aspect of my life.  My prayer for you is that you would experience that this Christmas season and that the only thing that you are truly concerned with is how to celebrate that God gave us the gift of His Son Jesus!

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Merry Christmas and may the Joy of Christ fill your hearts and bless you!

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:  

For those who maybe have never read the Christmas Story in totality, here is a link that you can read it completely through – Luke 1:5-56, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:57 – 2:40, and Matthew 2:1-23

★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Harden Your Heart ★

★ Thought for the Day – The Nostalgia of Christmas ★

You can start ay the beginning of Christmas Series of posts called: ★ #Reason For The Season – 25 Days of Thankfulness series by clicking Here ★

 

 

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★ Back to the Basics – Does God Play Favorites? ★

In preparation for this post I stumbled onto this TIME Magazine Cover with this Tagline: “Why Mom Liked You Most” which I think many people could resonate with.  I know I always thought my brother and sister got the biggest slice of cake!  Hahaha!  In the post called ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★ we talked about how our family of origin can have a serious effect on who we become.  I’d highly recommend you read it first because today’s Thought will build upon that foundation.  In the post I shared how my Family Juggernaut played a significant role in my development and that it was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, adultery, verbal and physical abuse, all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Fast forward 41 years to April 2016, the day after my mom’s funeral when my brother and I had a conversation that would change the trajectory of our lives. But before I delve into that, I wanted to talk some more about Jesus’ Family Situation that we discussed in The Family Juggernaut post.  Last time we examined how Jesus’ brothers did not believe He was the Messiah and what that must have been like for Jesus to not have their support.  Today I want to look at the issues between Jesus and his brothers from their perspective.  I was watching this video clip from Michael Jr. called What if you were a younger sibling of Jesus?” and almost died laughing.

It’s a hysterical parody on what it might have been like for James to live with the Savior of the World and grow up as Jesus’ little brother.  Michael Jr. jested that:

“James had problems.  He would go to his parents and you know what they’d say…‘What would Jesus do?’  Then they gave him a bracelet.” 

Hahaha!  Now I did not grow up with the Messiah, but I am all too familiar with growing up in my big brother’s shadow.  He was always the life of the party, the one that was the center of attention.  Now I may be dating myself here, but have you ever seen the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond?”  Although Raymond was the younger sibling, the comparison is identical to how I felt growing up, that my brother was center of our family just like Raymond was the center of the show.  But in that conversation with my brother I discovered how wrong my perspective was. Though I believed that he was Raymond and everybody’s favorite, he believed that the opposite was true!  His view of our family dynamic was that I was the favored son of our mother. Guess sibling rivalry is alive and well.  But that fateful day just a little over 2 years ago changed our relationship forever!  I am reminded of a quote from Steven Furtick’s book “Crash the Chatterbox”:

“The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.”

See my brother and I listened to the chatterbox (aka Satan), and completely bought into the lies that we are not worthy of our mother’s love as much as the other one was. I had preconceived notions of him and his motives, as he did of me as well.  That day though we were able to clear the air and God began a healing work through that one conversation!

It really is true what Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Absolutely nothing good comes from comparing ourselves to others.  It got me thinking about how we view our relationship with our Heavenly Father…Does God play favorites?  What do you think?  Do you think that He values some people over others?  Romans 2:9-11 (NLT) gives some insight…

There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile

10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 

11 For God does not show favoritism.”

Does this seem to be an oxymoron?  How does verse 11 go with verses 9 and 10 when Paul says “for the Jew first and also for the Gentile?”  At first I thought it was showing favoritism that the Jews were over the Gentles but I learned a valuable lesson after I sent this question to my Pastor and some buddies.  You cannot “a la carte” the Bible.  It is very dangerous to grab 2 or 3 verses and develop a belief system from a small passage.  Context is everything!  My pastor responded back with this great insight…

“After doing a little looking at the text.  Romans 2:1-16 is speaking of Gods judgment.  The statement “first for the Jew…then to the Gentile…” is not meant to imply a special consideration or favoritism.  But rather in light of God’s standard of impartiality, it emphasizes that the ENTIRE human race is dealt with by God.  In the way of His judgement both Jew and Greek (all humans) will be dealt with and there will be no favoritism shown.  The Jew would have thought that God may not have judgment on them…the same as everyone else because of they were much more “religious”.  But God is not partial in His judgment…all will be judged equally according to His Word.”

A light bulb went off for me when I read that because I know that God loves all people and that He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” (see 2 Peter 3:8-10,) and be with Him in heaven for all eternity.  So if we go back to verse 11, it cannot be any clearer… “For God does not show favoritism.”  Besides not picking and choosing a couple of scriptures to form an opinion from, I also was reminded that before I start down a “rabbit trail” of thought, I must look at the Bible in totality – BOTH Old and New Testament to see what the entire book has to say.  I recently heard Robert Morris say:

“Though the Bible was written by (39) men, it has One Author.”

That author of course being God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth!  So let’s do some bible drilling…

Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT) says:

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords.  He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.”

God is supreme above all and has no favorites, nor can He be swayed by anything we may say or do or how much we give to the church.  We cannot buy God’s love or our way into Heaven.  Another Old Testament passage comes from Job 34:19 (NKJV) which is especially poignant as the man Job who was referred to by God as blameless—a man of complete integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil” (see Job 1:1); BUT yet he went through unbelievable trials.  In verse 19 in speaking about God’s character, Job said:

“Yet He is not partial to princes,
Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor;
For they are all the work of His hands.”

We are God masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10) and regardless of our material possessions nothing can separate us from the love of God or make Him love us more!  (See Nehemiah 9:17-20; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Ephesians 3:17-19).  I love how Acts 10:34-36 (NLT) proclaims this truth!

“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.  In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.  This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”

This was a turning point for Peter as Acts 10:9-33 records, he was given (3) visions from God about eating animals that up until that time, the Jewish people held as unclean and taboo to eat.  This was God’s way of telling Peter that the Gentiles (or non-Jews) were worthy to receive the Gospel and that he was to go and minister to a Gentile man named Cornelius.  And in fact the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit for the first time (see Acts 10:37-48).  The Jews were the first to have faith in the One True God, the Gentiles are like the second born into the family to receive salvation.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Titus 2:11 (NLT),

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.”

Unlike how my brother and I viewed each other, God is very clear all through the Bible that we are all worthy to receive the undeserved grace of God.  I told you at the beginning of this post that the trajectory of my relationship with my brother was changed by that one conversation.  God not only healed the hard feelings we held towards each other due to perceived favoritism, but we have grown closer together even though 1,069 miles separate us.  I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ that I host bible studies in my house in Texas, Monday through Friday at 5:00 AM.  Since June of this year after my brother and his family visited and attended those studies, he has continued to participate in the bible studies through the use of technology, joining remotely multiple times a week from North Carolina!  And through that time, God is working a miracle in our relationship to eradicate the damage that the devil did over the past 20 years!  I will close with a passage that my brother and I recently read together from Romans 10:9-13 (NLT):

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.’  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect.  They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him.  For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

I want to encourage you to do an honest self-evaluation about your relationships.  Are you like me, that you have a strained relationship with a brother, or another family member or friend?  Then reconcile it today!  You will not regret it!  I cannot tell you how blessed I feel that after being distant from my brother for so long, today we are closer than ever!  And secondly, if you are far from God, or never accepted Jesus, go back to Romans 10:9-13 confess that Jesus is Lord of your life and accept the free gift of grace that is available to everyone!

If you want to dig in deeper, check out:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – When in Rome ★

Today is August 18, 2018 and I have this weird thing about numbers which is why I waited until 8:18 pm to hit post because I love the symmetry of this timestamp…Anyhow that has no bearing on this post, just a random tangent…hahaha!  In a recent post called ★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Plug or a Conduit? ★, we unpacked how as Christ Followers, we are doing one of two things when it comes to our faith…we are either a “plug” or a “conduit” for God’s grace, love and forgiveness to flow, or not flow out to those around us.  We looked at this through the lens of Acts 20:24 (NIV) which if you recall the Apostle Paul said:

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

I was reading the context of Act 20:24 and its interesting how this power verse is book-ended in Acts 20:22-23 (NIV)…

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”

And in than verse 25…

“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.”

Paul was obeying the Holy Spirit’s leading even though he knew it would lead to pain and suffering; and even prophesied that the people would not see him again!  Now that is a convicting example!  It’s a funny thing about adversity, it has one of two effects on people…it either causes people to run from God or towards Him.  Christians around the world are persecuted, imprisoned and martyred for their faith, and yet in America the statistics show something very troubling.  Here is a great article from the Barna Research Group called State of the Bible 2017: Top Findings:

When you review these statistics, it begs the question, why is Bible engagement so low?  I pray that this post will change your viewpoint if you find yourself either hostile, skeptical or neutral towards the Bible.  The Apostle Paul wrote more books of the New Testament in the Bible and is one of the chief evangelist for Christianity.  I have always looked up to Paul and his audacious faith, how he was ready to lay down his life for the Kingdom of God!  Any yet I too have failed to be consistent in reading my Bible from time to time whether because I was too tired or rather wanted to Netflix a show instead.  How about you?  If you honestly evaluated your reading trends, where do you fall?

Another startling statistic that the Barna Group discovered was that:

“Nearly one-third of adults say they never read, listen to or pray with the Bible (32%).”

That is a sad, sad state of affairs.  And that saddest part is that they are easy pickens for the enemy to pick them off without the covering of God’s Word to reveal the His plan for our lives and to understand the war we are in.  I love this quote from the ‘The Devotional to End All Devotionals‘ by Angela Sanders:

“We read the Bible to expose ourselves to truth and get familiar with it.  We study the Bible to take truth in, absorb it, and draw strength from it.

The Bible says that God’s Word is food to Christians.  A person without nourishment grows weak, confused, vulnerable, and prone to wander; a Christian who doesn’t study God’s Word does the same.”

That is the whole point of why I have this blog!  To open a conversation and invite you to chew on God’s word and let it penetrate our heart and minds!  There are so many malnourished people in this world because they won’t just open the book!!  I love how The Message translates Matthew 5:6 which says:

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

Reading the Bible is the best meal we will ever have and the best use of our time!!  If you call yourself a Christian I want to encourage you to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul who, after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus (See Acts 22:6-11) spent his life to spread the Gospel of Jesus.  Paul fully embraced what Jesus commanded His disciples that must happen if they wanted to follow Him.  Matthew 16:24-25 says:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

We must take up our cross, whatever that may be and be willing to bear the weight of whatever may result in our profession of faith in Jesus Christ!  It may not be that you are called to be martyred for your faith as the disciples were, but perhaps you will lose friends, or influence or even clients because your integrity will prevent you from being a part of something unethical or immoral.  But whatever that may be, will you will to adapt yourself like Paul?  In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NLT) Paul gave made a bold statement!

“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.  When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. 

When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law.  Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 

When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ.  But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 

When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. 

Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.  I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

Wow!  That is incredible!  You have heard the expression “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” right?  According to Dictionary.com it’s a…

“phrase used when one is agreeing to do what is customary or typical in a particular place or setting.”

Does that not sound like what Paul?  Regardless of who Paul ministered to, he would adjust his approach to be as effective as possible.  We would do well to follow his example and apply it to our lives today.  It’s not easy though is it?  To find common ground with everyone, doing everything you can to reach those around you.  Paul certainly did just that, there are numerous references in scripture from 1 Thessalonians 2:9 to Acts 20:33-35 and finally in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 but I wanted to highlight two verses in particular…In Acts 18:1-3 we learn that Paul was a tentmaker, and so he had means to earn money on his own and in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 (NLT) Paul told the church of Thessalonica:

“For you know that you ought to imitate us.  We were not idle when we were with you.  We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it.  We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you.  We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.” 

We see that Paul and his companions did indeed do everything to spread the Good News to the point that he did not even take any food or pay for their ministry work.  Paul sacrificed everything and did everything possible adapt to those around him to make a difference!

I love what Joyce Meyer once said,

“The trademark of a true Christian is the ability to adapt to others.  Will you unselfishly adapt to someone else today?”  

That is indeed is the true Trademark of a Christian!  I will close with a final thought from Paul in Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT)

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”

My prayer for everyone reading this post is for you to understand what your gifts are, and then see how you can put those gifts to practice.  Let’s be mission minded like Paul, be willing to adapt ourselves to reach the lost people in our lives and look for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus!  So will you unselfishly adapt to someone else today?  Remember when in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

If you want to dig deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

★ Thought for the Day – Leaving It All On The Field ★

I also want to recommend this “Spiritual Gifts Test” to help you discover what your gifts are.

It’s a quick test…PROMISE!  Perhaps you are already tuned in to what you have been gifted with, or maybe not so much…this simple little questionnaire will give you some insight to help understand how you can better connect with those around you.

 

 

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★ Back to the Basics – Just Believe! ★

I have been having conversations with a friend of mine who has been haunted by the sins of the past and the mistakes that seem to be preventing him from moving forward in his walk with God.  He in Jesus and is actively pursuing a relationship with Him through prayer and reading the Bible but yet there’s something holding him back.  Maybe you can relate to this today?  Do you find yourself wanting to grow in the truth of God’s Word and to feel clean from your former way of living BUT yet you just can’t seem to overcome the guilt and shame of what you did?  Well I have some good news…

First of all, you are not alone, everyone at one point or another have felt this way, that is the Devil’s way of derailing you from your faith growing.  It’s much easier to destroy something its infancy stage BEFORE it has a chance to mature and get strong.

Secondly and most importantly, God has already taken care of the guilt and shame over 2,000 years ago when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (see John 3:16).  Here is the antidote to the poison that the Devil has been injecting into our minds which is found in Romans 3:23-26 (NLT)!

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” 

 

That’s you.  That’s me.  Everyone who has ever lived, is living or will live has sinned and fallen woefully short of what God requires of us.  But the miraculous thing is, He did not leave us in this fallen state.  He sent Jesus in the flesh to face all the temptations and struggles that we do, to live a perfect sinless life and than die in our place!  Wow!  In verse 24-25 it says:

“Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. 

Forgive me for interrupting verse 25, but go back and read that last sentence…seriously go back and read it. God sacrificed Jesus for our sin and we are made right with God by “all the work we do?”. Nope.  “By cleaning up our life and becoming perfect through white knuckle will power to not repeat the same mistakes?”  Nope.  We are made right with when we “believe!”  That’s it.  Just believe and you are made right with God!  Okay let’s get back to verse 25…

“This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.

Jesus was the PERFECT sacrifice who died ONCE as the PAYMENT for ALL of mankind to cover EVERY sin that has been committed, is being committed or will ever be committed.  Talk about Amazing Grace!! Before I close this Thought for the Day, I want to offer to you a choice.  If you have not received the gift of grace from God through belief in Jesus as your Lord and Savior or if you are not sure if you did today if you would go to heaven, then here is a simple prayer that I posted years ago in the ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ that you can pray to make that decision today…Make this your prayer today:

God take this broken, sinful person and change my life.  I confess I have made mistakes and acknowledge that I am in need of a Savior.  I want a relationship with you.  Please forgive me.  I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Today I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you truly prayed that prayer, then welcome to the family of God!  Here is the truth for everyone who had believed in Jesus from Romans 1:16-17 says:

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.””

Regardless of the poisonous guilt and shame that you have been attacked with, once you have believed in Jesus you are made righteous (which just means in right standing with God,) and have the same power in you (the Holy Spirit) which raised Christ from the dead!  No go out in faith and just believe!

Want to dig deeper?

To help you in your next steps check out this 4-part series of posts that I wrote to help you connect God through these (3) Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.

★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ 

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★

 

And here is a powerful sermon series called “Grace Like a Flood” from Michael Todd, Transformation Church.

Understanding the mystery of God’s Grace!

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★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Plug or a Conduit? ★

I cannot believe it has already been a month since I started to write this blog after seeing the movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”  Life has been busy to say the least, but as I am thrilled to share this post which has become a sort of mantra or rallying cry for me!  If you have not seen “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” I highly recommend you watch it as soon as it hits Redbox or when you can stream it because it was absolutely amazing, one of the best movies I have ever seen!  Just so you understand me, I don’t say that lightly as I am very leery of Christian films, either because of the cheesy acting/writing or because it does not stay true to what the Bible says; but with this latest release from “Affirm Firms,” I left the theater phenomenally impressed!  Great acting, beautiful cinematography and most importantly of all…it is biblically accurate in the telling of the persecution of the early church.  Of course there are characters and plot lines not found in the Bible in order to carry the story or fill in the gaps but was done in such a way that honors scripture.  Anyhow, it is a must see!  As the movie concluded, James Faulkner (who played Paul), quoted 2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) which is where I wanted to start our Thought for the Day off with…

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

In the backdrop of this brilliant film, these words penned almost 2,000 years ago came to life like they never have before!  As I was telling the guys about what God was speaking to me in how Paul suffered for the Gospel and the impact he has had on the world in my Tuesday morning Bible Study, one of the guys posed this question:

“What will people say at my funeral about me?  On my death bed, will I have regrets?”

He said that he wrote his obituary in response to this question, which at first may seem a little morbid, but then I started to think about it.  As we discussed this, of course everyone at the table agreed that they would want people to think well of them and have found memories, but I followed up with that consensus to ask: Are we living a life that will render those results?  So for me, first and foremost, I would want people to say that I was a Man of God who pursued to embody what Paul said in Titus 1:6-9 that leaders in the church should.  I would hope that I would be spoken of that no matter where I went, I was a representative of Jesus Christ (as Colossians 3:15-17 instructs) and ordered my life in service to the Kingdom of God in which the fruits of the Spirit were evident (See Galatians 5:22-23).  I would also want to be remembered as a man who strove to be a Godly husband and father to his two daughters and would say that I did my very best to follow Ephesians 5:28-33 and Ephesians 6:4, (which I know I still have work to do).  Okay enough about my obituary, time to ask some questions…Have you ever wondered…

“Why am I here on earth?  What is my purpose here?” 

Of course you have, we all have at some point.  It is a question that people have pondered throughout the ages.  But I hope to press in a little deeper than the initial question and expose how the enemy will deceive us and distract us from the initial response we may give.  But before I do, let’s ask you some more questions.

Do you think you are here to amass great wealth, live in a luxurious house and drive a fancy new car? 

Or is it to maximize your stock portfolio and be setup up for life? 

Do you long for the day that you can travel the globe or sit on a beach without a care in the world?

I dare say we have all have pursued for all of this and a lot more.  Are we trading the eternal for that which will rust and fade away which we cannot take with us when we die?  Now I am only 43 years old, but in that relatively short time, I have come to realize that life is for much more than financial security or the accumulation of material possessions or to reach a life of ease.  It’s about people and how can I make a difference in their lives.  Revolutionary thought?  No.  But my prayer is that God will cultivate in your heart a fresh awareness of other people’s needs, and that the Holy Spirit would inspire and move you to develop a new plan of action about how you can impact the people in your life whether at home, school, work, or where you play.  My daughter made this edit after a mission trip of this quote that she heard from a speaker there which I believe perfectly captures the point:

The answer to this will show whether you are “fighting the good fight” for the Kingdom of God as Paul declared, or if perhaps complacency has creeped in.  Long ago I heard the expression that you should “leave people better than you found them,” which I see as much more than a cute cliché, but as something that God has called us to be.  When I was meeting with a brother in Christ for a Bible Study on a different day, he shared his life verse with me that is from Acts 20:24 (NLT) which Paul make this incredible declaration:

 “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

This so resonated in my spirit because of this question which God has been stirring in me…

Are You a Plug or a Conduit?”

A plug is interesting in that, it is both a noun and a verb.  Merriam-Webster defines it as:

A conduit on the other hand is defined several ways:

So within that context, I want to be a conduit for God’s purpose to flow through me to all those who I come in contact with.  When I meet Jesus in heaven I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”  (See Matthew 25:21).  I agree with the Apostle Paul that “my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me.”  The last thing I ever want to do is plug up God’s grace, love and truth to reach those who are in need.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul warns about the Day of Judgement when our works will be thrown in the fire and the value of what we do hear will be revealed.  In verse 13 we are told:

“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done.  The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.”

I know that much of what I have done before knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior will be burned up but what a waste if a lot of my work since receiving the free gift of salvation and having the truth that can save others is burned because I have squandered my time here on earth.  Now am I saying if you have a nice home or car or a lot of money in your bank account that you are plugging up what God wants to do…ABSOLUTELY NOT!  My point, and what God has impressed on me is…

Are you using those resources He has blessed you with to bless others?  For instance, you could host or lead a bible study in that spacious home.  You could drive an elderly or disabled person in that nice car to church or the grocery store.  Or you could use the monetary blessing to help the less fortunate or go on a missions trip to help those in need. 

The key is to do something to be the “hands and feet of Jesus.”  (See Matthew 25:35-40, Mark 9:35, 1 Peter 4:10-11, and Philippians 2:1-11).   We need to love others with the same care He has lavished on us!  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT) makes this very clear:

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 

When God sees that we can be trusted to share with others what He has done for us, then He will continue to increase the blessings so that we can bless others even more!  It is a tangible way we can be a conduit for something that truly matters!  But living the Christian life is incredibly difficult even when we are plugged into the power source and chasing after God.  (Forgive the mixed metaphor but I could not help myself!)  The Apostle Paul who was a Pharisee, extremely knowledgeable in religious law and fiercely adhered to all that was practiced reveled in being a persecutor of The Way (what the early believers in Christ were referred to).  BUT GOD interceded and redeemed Paul from his self-righteous life and transformed him into one of the Pillars of the early church, authoring (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) more books of the New Testament than anyone else.  The man who tried to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ, ended up being used by God to provide the framework for what the Christian life should be.  Now oftentimes, people who “get saved,” who are trying to pursue a relationship with Jesus, believe that their past life is an anchor or impediment to what God can do through them but just the opposite is true!  Your past is really a springboard to initiate your ministry opportunities.  God is in the business of turning Past mistakes into Purpose!

In the case of Paul’s transformation, God used Paul’s zealousness and training in the law to be one of the most effective conduits for His love, grace and truth to flow to the entire world!  Over 2,000 years later, people around the globe are still reading the words he penned through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!  According to Wycliffe Global Alliance some form of Scripture has been translated in more than 3300 languages!

When we trust in God and make ourselves available, that is when we will see His purpose and plan activated so that we can operate in our fullest potential!  I will close with this final thought from 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NLT) of the Apostle Paul:

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession.  Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.  Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.  But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.”

Let your life be a sweet perfume and allow these words to spur you on to be the most availability conduit ever!

 

If you want to dig deeper, check out:

Check out a related post called:

★ Thought for the Day – Leaving It All On The Field ★

 

I just listened to this message which perfectly captures this Thought called…“How Sweet The Sound Week 3: I’ll Fly Away” by Craig Groeschel

 

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Be Weak Like Samson – Part 2 ★

In the last post, we closed with the question, are you weak like Samson?  Maybe that was a harsh way to end the post but God has been really working on my heart for the past 6 months that as a Christ Follower I must desire to DO MORE and BE MORE than the status quo!  We also read this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…

“Samson was an incredibly strong man, with a dangerously weak will.”  Craig Groeschel 

If you did not read it, I’d recommend you go back and check out Part 1 before reading on.  Today I want to encourage you that there is a hope if you find yourself battling a weak will.  Samson with all of his physical strength, never had the fortitude to say no to his selfishness or his anger or his lust and as a result he failed to truly live up to the calling on his life because he could not say no to temptation.  James 1:14-15 (NLT) gives us a warning that Samson could have used:

Instead of enjoying true biblical community, Samson surrounded himself with the very people he was supposed to rescue Israel from, and thus allowed his sin to give birth to death.  He went from strength to weakness not just because of the haircut, but I believe because he lost his identity and connection to God which opened himself to be attacked from the enemy who ultimately used Delilah and the Philistines to take out God’s mighty warrior.  Remember Samson had an angelic announcement of his birth, a great assignment as a Nazarite and a noble purpose to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines.  He traded all that for sex and his own selfish desires.  He was completely UNSTABLE!  I shared in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Harden Your Heart ★ these two powerful verses from Colossians 2:6-7 (HCSB) which contains the antidote to an unstable life…

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, WALK in Him, ROOTED and BUILT UP in Him and ESTABLISHED in the FAITH, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.”

The key to that verse for me is the word “ROOTED.”  I read this definition…“to establish deeply and firmly.”  A person who is ROOTED in God’s Word and totally surrendered to the Father’s Will, will be STABLE in all their ways.  Now stable does not mean perfect and without sin, it simply means that we live our lives pursuing those things that matter and pressing on to be more and more like Jesus and not allow ourselves to be tossed around by culture and our flesh (or sinful desires).  If we don’t, and we allow ourselves to go down that dark path it will lead to death.  Now we all make mistakes and fall short of the mark but when you strive to engage in a relationship with Jesus and maintain a link to the creator of heaven and earth your life will be forever changed. It’s when we let ourselves drift that we will find ourselves in danger, like Samson.  I think one of the saddest passages about this “Bible Hero” is found in Judges 16:20-21(NLT) after Delilah lulled Samson to sleep and a man shaved his hair (the source of his strength)…

Samson had become so dependent on himself that he became deluded in where his power came from that he didn’t even realize that the Lord had left him.  What would you say about yourself?  Be honest, would you say that you are walking according to God’s Word or by your own?  Galatians 5:16 (ESV) gives this counsel to keep in step with the Spirit:

Samson was all about himself and prioritized satisfying his desires over his destiny.  Let me ask you, where do you place your priorities?  Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God?  If so look back at the verses in Colossians we just read…As our roots grow in Christ, our faith will be strengthened and we will be equipped to help others.  Even though you might not be able to travel throughout the world as a missionary, but you can change the lives of those you come in contact with.  The way roots are stimulated to grow is by engaging in biblical community.  That can be in different forms or environments, whether it be corporately on a Sunday morning, a Lifegroup (which is a setting of 12-15 people) or a small group of 3-4 people of the same-sex which my church calls a “Fight Club.”  Regardless of what that looks like, the key immerse yourself in atmospheres that develop close friendships so that when the storms of life hit, (and they will,) there will be a group of people who are “waiting in the wings” to come alongside and help you. God never designed us to “go it alone.”  You can’t just go to church once in a while or read a Bible verse once in a while or a read the latest Christian book to be considered a disciple of Jesus; we need to continually learn and engross ourselves with the things that matter most to God in order in our walk with Christ.  I love what King David wrote in Psalm 119:35-37 (ESV) says:

A person who is ROOTED will study the Bible, they will seek to help not only those not related by blood, BUT will do anything to reach them and take care of their needs.  They are not tossed about by their emotions and will strive to rise above the filth that our culture offers up.  A ROOTED person is stable, loyal and can be counted on to be there in times of trouble, just the same as you would be for your parents, wife or children.  We must fight for others because we have a great adversary and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT) we are warned:

“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.  They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.  They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”

The call of Samson was to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines, the call for the ROOTED person is to go out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are a new creation with the assignment to reconcile or bring others to God because Satan, the enemy of our souls is looking to steal the Word whether you know it or not, we are supposed to be God’s representatives wherever go whether at home, the kid’s soccer field or on the checkout line at Kroger, we should be on mission looking out for an opportunity to call people back to the Father.  How different would our world if every person lived with such purpose?!  The key is to strive for progress, not perfection.  You may have some bumps in the road as you reach out, don’t let Satan discourage you.  We need to fight for others and be bold in expressing our faith.  Craig Groeschel asked made these great points:

So how much do believe in Jesus?  If the people who know you were asked if you were a Christ Follower, would they know the answer?  You see the more you believe in Jesus and what He did for you and me on the cross, the bolder we should be about telling others about him.  A person who is ROOTED and mission-minded is committed to be working on his boldness and being alert.  You never know maybe God may be setting you up to change someone’s life.  He certainly did for Samson, and I dare say for you and I.  In order to avoid being weak like Samson, we need to understand that we are called to be Holy.  1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV) says:

When we read God’s Word, we are setting our minds on that which matters most and prepares us to face the battle from the enemy.  Without it, its like going to battle with no weapon or armor.  So the question remains…Where do you place your priorities?  Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God?  If it is a “no,” then I want to encourage you to repent and pray for God to break your heart for the sins that we all fall victim to and strive to engage God’s Word so that we can make a difference in this world.  Matt Chandler made this great point on what it means to repent:

I love that definition, we must recognize that we are sinners and in need to change our ways!  If the answer to the question is “yes,” that you want God to be a priority in your life and to be a ROOTED person then you need to put on “The Whole Armor of God” as Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) instructs:

Samson could have used this advice because he had no community to lean on for Godly counsel as he joined himself to Philistine women and prostitutes.  He literally surrendered his “armor” by telling Delilah the source of his strength was his hair.  The man with supernatural strength was not taken out not by a stronger foe but by his own libido!

Living life without our armor is like trying to stand up against the constant waves of the ocean, we must not think we can do life on our own strength.  It is God, and God alone who gives us the ability to stand firm!  That is what the Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us…success in God’s Kingdom is when we “walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith!”

Nothing changes if nothing changes.  The question is…do you want to change?

 

If you want to dig deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Opposition Will Come ★

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★


Here is a playlist of Craig Groeschel’s phenomenal 4-part series on Samson:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOhYwHeg7cNYW7fSCahcj6ipp9vhM-zQs

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Be Weak Like Samson – Part 1 ★

So what did you think of the movie Samson that was released on last month ago today?  Unfortunately, I did not get to see it in time before it left the theaters.  It is so sad how fast a faith-based movie debuts and then is pulled from the big screen.  Guess I will have to catch it on Redbox.  I was really looking forward to it too because I have been doing a lot of study recently on the well-known Bible character.  In our Lifegroup we covered the life of this Samson who very well could be considered a superhero which from the previews of the movie, the film makers sure played up the superhuman strength.  In the book of Judges, Chapters 13 through 16 tells the story of what is known about Samson who has been featured in many a Sunday School Lesson and Children’s Book.  But let me ask you, what do you know about this epic Old Testament Hero?  For me, I thought I knew about Samson, but after studying these (4) short chapters I was shocked to see that there was much more to him.  Sure everyone knows about the supernatural strength, the long hair, and the overactive libido that led to the haircut, capture and death, but what else do you know?

As I studied, I learned that Samson was called for a very special purpose…to deliver the nation of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, an enemy that they continually battled.  He was also a Judge over the Nation of Israel for (20) years.  Now if you are wondering what that means, Judges 2:18 (NLT) defines the role:

“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, He was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime.  For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.”

In addition to that, as I read Judges 13:3-5 I found out that there was an angelic proclamation of Samson’s birth.  That was a surprise to me.  I did not recall that so I did some research and found that Samson was (1) of only (6) people to have an angel announce their birth.  The others were:

  • Ishmael, whose parents were Hagar and Abraham – See Genesis 16:11
  • Isaac, whose parents were Abraham and Sarah – See Genesis 17:19
  • Solomon, whose parents were David and Bathsheba – See 1 Chronicles 22:6-9
  • John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth – See Luke 1:13-15
  • And of course Jesus, whose parents were Mary and Joseph – See Luke 1:30-33

In Samson’s case, the Angel proclaimed to Manoah and his wife that their son was destined to be a Nazarite.  Now if you are not familiar with what that is…A Nazarite is defined in Numbers 6:1-21, in which a person vows for a certain length of time that they will:

  • Avoid contact with the dead.
  • Abstain from wine and strong drink.
  • Refrain from cutting their hair.

The difference in Samson’s case was that this vow would be for a lifetime.  And so he made it onto another list.  In the Bible there are only (3) people mentioned that took the Nazarite vow for life:

Fun fact, the only one of these men actually called a “Nazarite” was Samson.  So why am I sharing all of this?  Because NO ONE IN ALL of the Bible had SO MUCH STACKED IN HIS FAVOR and yet when you read WHAT Samson did and WHY he did it, all I can say is WHAT WASTED POTENTIAL!  I asked the people in my Lifegroup to come up with some Life Lessons about the hero who is so widely taught about on Sunday mornings. Overwhelmingly, no one could come up with any positive actions that Samson did.  So here are some thoughts I had of what I have learned of “what not to do” from the Life of Samson.

Lessons from the Life of Samson:

  1. Don’t break your vows/promises to God. Samson continually gave into his emotions of selfishness, anger and lust.  And ultimately broke all (3) of the Nazarite vows – he ate honey out of a dead lion’s carcass (see Judges 14:8-9), he threw a feast which customarily included alcohol (see Judges 14:10), and told the secret to his strength which lead to the history making haircut (see Judges 16:17-19).  What Samson desired ultimately was more important than the destiny that God blessed him with!  
  1. Guard your eyes and heart from desiring what it is not good or safe for you. Samson chased after every detestable thing which had disastrous results.  Samson allowed his selfishness, anger and lust to run amuck that caused an enormous amount of suffering for those closest to him, and led to his death.
  1. Don’t include others in your sin. Samson involved his mother and father in his sin of eating the honey from the dead carcass of the lion he killed unbeknownst to them.  If we call ourselves a child of God or a Christian or a Christ Follower, we must be very careful that we don’t cause others to sin as a result of example or in Samson’s case through deception. And that leads to life lesson #4…
  1. Listen to your parents/Godly counsel. Samson could be the poster child for not being “unequally yoked.”  (See 2 Corinthians 6:14-16).  In Judges 14:2 (ESV) we first see Samson’s inability to control himself…

“Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah.  Now get her for me as my wife.””

And that refusal to submit to authority set the tone for how he would live his life!  Samson wanted what he wanted and chased after it regardless of the consequences.  His parents objected to the wedding but he forward with the planning anyway.  And the sad part, in the end he did not even get the woman because of Samson’s anger over the betrayal of her giving away the answer to his riddle.  See Judges 14:10-20 which leads us to our next life lesson… 

  1. Guard your anger. Samson allowed his rage to dominate his life and in the end, he lost everything.  Instead of caring for God’s people and fighting for Israel, Samson time and time again allowed his anger to rule his emotions resulting in much pain.

As part of the engagement, Samson threw a week-long party leading up to the wedding. During the feasting, Samson lost a bet over a riddle and ended up killing (30) innocent Philistines to settle then wager.  He went back home to mommy and daddy and so his finance was given away in marriage to Samson’s best man.

When Samson found this out, he tied up (300) foxes and set their tails on fire and burned up all the grain fields of the Philistines. But that overreaction resulted his ex-fiancé and her father being burned alive and eventually severe consequences on the Nation of Israel.

  1. As you grow in the Lord, stay humble and watch out for the sin of pride creeping in. Samson completely lost sight of his purpose as he believed more in himself than in the God who gave him the great calling to be Israel’s deliver!    Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (ESV) warns…

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

He trusted on his own strength to solve all problems and thus took God for granted which is ironic because it was God who gave Samson the supernatural strength to do everything he did. 

  1. Keep an attitude of gratitude. In Judges 15:16-17 Samson boasted and took credit initially for killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.  Then in Judges 15:18 (NLT) it says:

“Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, ‘You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant.  Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?’” 

His response was more like a spoiled brat than a great mighty man of valor.

  1. If you play with fire you’re going to get burned! (See Proverbs 6:23-29).  Samson consistently made the wrong choice when it came to the women he got involved with. 

We already discussed the Philistine woman at Timnah and the consequences that ensued.    

When Samson was with the prostitute in Judges 16:1, it says in verse 2 that the Gazites:

“surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city.”

Then of course there is Delilah. Which leads us to the last life lesson…

  1. Lust is not Love. Samson attached himself to the wrong people.  In Judges chapter 16 it talks about how Samson “feel in love” with Delilah and how she kept trying to determine the source of Samson’s strength because the Philistines promised to pay here 1,100 pieces of silver to betray him!  Judges 16:18-19 (NLT) recalls…

“Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands. Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him.”

Steven Furtick made this powerful point about how Samson traded his purpose for passionate encounters with the very enemy he was supposed to be delivering His people from…

“Samson took his passion and spent it on his preference instead of applying it to his purpose.  So instead of delivering his people from the Philistines, he reacted out of rage and married the Philistines.  Are you stable in your emotions?”

I love that question…”Are you stable in your emotions?”  Samson clearly wasn’t as he played with fire sleeping with the enemy, fully knowing that Delilah was going to betray him and yet he gave away the secret to his strength!

  1. God can use your disobedience for good. Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on Judges 14:4…
“Samson’s desire for a Philistine wife clearly transgressed God’s law (See Deuteronomy 7:3-4), yet God used even his disobedience for the good of His people.  Note, however that Samson himself never received a blessing for his rebellious choice and regretted it (See also Judges 14:20).”

And to add to Charles Stanley point, at the end of Samson’s life that, Judges 16:28-30 (ESV) tells us:

“Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.”

Now every Sunday School class heralds the epic death of Samson but look at the underlined words.  Samson did not say strengthen men to strike a heavy blow on the enemy of your people, he said strengthen that “I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  But nonetheless God used Samson’s “disobedience for the good of His people!”

As I complied this list, and saw how Samson threw away a great legacy to indulge his carnal desires and unleash revenge; the one word to that came to mind to describe Samson was not the typical Sunday School adjective like cunning, unique or strong…But rather UNSTABLE!  He was controlled by his flesh and as a result many people were hurt by his childish and selfish decisions.  That was the muse for this Thought, the reality that Samson was not strong at all, but weak!  Instead of walking with God, he followed his flesh!  I will close with this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…

“Samson was an incredibly strong man, with a dangerously weak will.”  Craig Groeschel

OUCH!  That hurts but is also so true!  I want to leave you with this question to ruminate over…”

 

Click Here for Part 2 that unpacks how to be a stable follower of Christ!

 

For further study, check out this blog post called:

★ Act Like Men – “The Sampson Syndrome” ★

 

Here is a great sermon on Samson called “Brace Yourself” by Steven Furtick

 

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