Friday, March 30, 2012

In the Heart, Not the Head

Was Sampson's strength in his hair, really? Or was it perhaps in his heart? The historic account is that when Sampson's hair was cut, his strength left him; his hair was not all that was cut, though. His heartstrings were also snipped. Sampson truly gave away his heart and redirected his emotional alliance when he leveled with Delilah about his calling and lifelong identity as person set apart to God. Was it in giving his true affections, his turning from God to another, that might have caused God to leave him? Surely there was no magic in the hair on his head. Just think about it: where's your heart at?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blown Away by Light and Sound

Gideon's group represented less than one in a hundred "mighty men," and they went without weapons. Armed with a trumpet in one hand and a light in the other, they won an absolute and definitive victory! How do these things hapen?? See for yourself! It's amazing what happened when a few hundred people followed a guy who was following God.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Up with Candy Wrappers

Promises, promises! We Christians eat God's promises like candy, but what about the wrappers? We can't enjoy sweet promises until we unwrap them by heeding the commands which accompany them. The words around God's promises can't be ignored; before we can get to the sweetness, we have to do what God says.

Deborah delivers God's promise of victory to Barak, "Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand . . ."  (Judges 4:14). God called the warrior Barak to lead his nation against a powerful enemy. God promised they would win, but the promise was accompanied by the command to get "Up!"

Later, Gideon heard an old, familiar promise, "'And I said to you, 'I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear . . .'" (Judges 6:10). The promise that God is theirs was accompanied by the command not to fear. In verse16 God told Gideon, ". . . I will be with you, and you shall strike . . . as one man.'" This is a double-header! God will be with Gideon, and he'll win.

The passage goes on to describe, step-by-step, how Gideon took action on God's specific instructions in spite of much fear and doubt. The result was that:
 ", , , the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon . . ." (verse 34
Gideon had to throw himself into gear and take action (albeit with fear and great trembling) before he was clothed with the Spirit of the Lord.

Unwrapping God's promises involves step-by-step obedience to God's straightforward commands. Like Gideon, we have to take action in spite of our fears in order to be clothed in the Spirit of the Lord. What would have happened if Barak or Gideon had "rested in God's promises" without taking action on his commands? 

Lord, I want to be clothed with your Spirit.
Please help me unwrap the sweetness of your promises 
by taking action on your commands.

Today's Old Testament reading was Judges 4, 5, and 6. The New Testament reading contains a couple of interesting promises as well, but I'll let you find them for yourself!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jesus Forgives

Jesus forgives! One of the famous bad girls of the Bible is an example, and I'm glad to be like her -- forgiven. Jesus spoke to the one who passed judgment on her:

" . . . her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." - Luke 7:47-48, ESV

Lord, help me love much. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

No Turning Back

The people of Israel had no cause to stop trusting God, but Joshua knew human nature too well to expect that just because the nation had peace all around, they would remember the source of every blessing. He issued a strict warning that speaks to my heart today:

. . . cling to the Lord your God . . . For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day . . . Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back . . . know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.(See the whole passage, Joshua 23:8-13)

The lesson for you and me is not about international conquest, but about the battles of the heart, of self-discipline (or the lack thereof), about habits and character. We are witness against ourselves (see Joshua 24:22) if we pledge to honor God and then turn back from trying.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Are We Becoming?

Judas probably did not set out, at the time he joined the Lord's little band of roving rescuers, to betray Jesus. Judas got off to a great start, in fact, called along with the others by Jesus Christ in the flesh:

. . . he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. - from Luke 6:13-16, ESV (see passage in context)

Judas Iscariot had every advantage. He was most likely deceived by degrees, one day at a time. He didn't start out in infamy; he became a betrayer one step at a time. What are you and I becoming?

It is NOT Too Hard

You and I are not the first to fail at walking in and fighting for what has been promised to us. The people of God are subject to the human condition which makes it extremely difficult to focus on God's promises (which he longs to give us) when we're confronted with a mental mess (our own habits, shortcomings, limitations and failings). Joshua assured the people they could claim the promise:

". . . but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, thtough they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong." - Joshua 17:18 (see whole chapter for context)

Now, we all know what happened in history. These people of long ago failed to attempt to claim the promise. They didn't fail in their attempt, but they failed to attempt. It is NOT too hard to walk in and fight for what God has promised us. We are assured success, in fact, but only if we make the attempt. God help us to try!

Ask for More

Don't be embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to ask God for more! Even as adults, God encourages us to view him as a children see a loving father. Caleb's daughter knew that even though she was grown and married, she could go ask her dad for the resources at his disposal:

She said to him, "Give me a blessing. Since you have given me the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water." And he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. - Joshua 15:19

Fight for What You Won

Seriously? The things God promises are not handed out on a silver platter? God made a promise to Caleb, that he was to receive all the land he had traversed on his spy expedition beyond the Jordan. Now, forty years later, he has to actively claim that promise, and then he will have to fight for it, too.

He says:

So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said. - Joshua 14:12

Let me learn from Caleb to claim and then fight for what God has promised me!