Thursday, October 31, 2013

A God of Second Chances 10/31/2013

"Then Samson called to the Lord and said, 'O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.'” Judges 16:28

This simple passage of Scripture does not readily reveal the profound impact of repentance and the amazing forgiveness of God, but careful study of the story and the man, Samson, will leave the fervent seeker awestruck, humbled and grateful.

In those days, the people of Israel were in a retched cycle of being blessed by God, turning their backs on Him in favor of other gods, being subjected by force to the whims of other nations, crying out to God for relief and being rescued by Him. On this particular occasion, the people had been under the subjugation of the Philistines for 40 years. God, in His infinite mercy, sent his angel to a woman named Manoah and, among other things, instructed her that she would bear a son and that through him, Israel would begin to be "saved from the hands of the Philistines," Judges 13:5. This was the beginning of the story and purpose of Samson.

Now the rest of his story is well known. He was born a Nazirite (one who is particularly dedicated to God, typically by vow and the observance of certain habits and restrictions), grew in supernatural strength, became a judge of the people and famously fought and defeated the Philistines on numerous occasions. It is also well known that Samson was a very flawed man. He had habits and desires that were not in keeping with his calling. He frequently made mistakes in judgment and failed to comport himself at some critical times and was known to visit prostitutes. He is perhaps best known for his involvement with the treacherous Philistine woman, Delilah. It is to her that, despite proving herself unworthy of his trust on at least three occasions that might have resulted in his death, he reveals the secret of his strength resulting in the breaking of his Nazarite vow and the loss of his power.

Beloved, it is easy for us to sit in judgment of Samson. We ask ourselves how he could have been so stupid, thereby inferring that we could never be guilty of such transgression and lack of good decision making. But is that strictly true? Has not God created each of us for His own glory? Has he not instructed us in His ways and given us a mission to do battle with the enemy? Have we not been distracted by the perceived benefits of that same enemy and actually done business with him? In some ways, times and situations, we are all Samson.

That said, we serve the same God as Samson. When he had come to fully understand the error of his ways, he remembered his purpose, he remembered his God given ability and he remembered his God. Through His amazing love and forgiveness, God came to the aid of Samson, even as He had to the people of Israel through Samson, and strengthened him for his original intended purpose. God never forsakes us. It is we who leave Him. But just as the father of the prodigal son, He constantly awaits our return and receives us when we come. All praises to Him for being a God of second (and third and fourth and fifth...) chances.



Monday, October 28, 2013

Words to the Beloved Update II 10/28/2013


I promised to keep you updated on the progress of the book so here is the latest.

We have set an official release date of December 7,2013. This will also be the date of our book release celebration to be held at the O'Fallon Church of Christ located at 8576 Veterans Memorial Parkway, O'Fallon, MO, 63368. You are all cordially invited to attend. Soon, e-vites will go out and there will be an event set up on Facebook to announce the event to the rest of the world (who are NOT a part of our devotional group). I know, however, that some of you are located great distances from this address and would not be able to attend.

For this reason, I am also pleased to announce that a home on the web has been developed for Words to the Beloved. The book's website can be located at On the site, you can find a synopsis, an author profile and book excerpts. You can even pre-order from the site. The book also has a social media presence. Check out!

Through the grace of God, things are coming right along. My next update will be to let you know when I actually have books in hand from the publisher. As always, thanks for your prayers and your support.

Your brother in Christ,


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trials and Love 10/24/2013

"Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'” Genesis 22:10-12

It is well known that God promised Abraham a legitimate son through whom nations would be built long before He delivered on that promise. It is also well known that Abraham was 100 years old when the child was born thereby proving the hand of God in his life. One can only imagine the overwhelming love Abraham must have had for his son Isaac. Contemporary parents are head over heels after nine months. Abraham must have been out of his mind with adoration for his child. Can it be at all imagined what it must have been like to hear God tell him, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you,” Genesis 22:2?

Beloved, as was the case with Abraham and many others we read about within the pages of inspiration, God tests us. Through these tests, it is not He who learns things about us (He knows all) but we learn things about ourselves. More specifically, it is through our trials that we can see where are love truly is. When the night is darkest and our health is failing, a loved one is hurting, our finances are flagging, our relationships in trouble and our hope threatened, to whom do we turn? Do we seek the face of God for our relief or do we become angry with Him for allowing the situation to occur and seek other means of relief and resolution? Could any of us have done what Abraham did in Abraham's circumstance?

As much as he loved his son, Abraham loved God more. If you are anything like me, the words "how," "what" and "why" come to your confused mind when you consider how Abraham could have done such a thing even if he had 26 children. The word of God contains the answer in Hebrews 11:19: "He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type." Abraham loved, trusted and believed God so much that it did not enter his mind that he would not walk back down that mountain without his beloved son (Genesis 22:5). Through our trials, whatever they may be, let us prove to ourselves that God is first in our lives.

As an epilogue, consider the fact that Moriah is likely the place on which Jerusalem was built. That being the case, the same mountain on which Abraham offered his son was the same place God gave His. Like Isaac, Jesus even had to carry the wood. When the scripture mentions that Abraham received Isaac back "as a type," it means that it was a foreshadowing of us all receiving Christ back from the dead through the power of God that we all might live, and that the promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) would find their delivery. What an amazing display of love.



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Three Pointing Back at Me 10/23/2013

"Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 'Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.' And He answered and said to them, 'Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'" Matthew 15:1-3

As a young man, I once heard a person say, "I want to be careful about pointing fingers because every time I do it, I find three pointing back at me." Initially, I thought the idea of people standing around pointing at one another was a useless exercise in rudeness. It was not until much later that I was shown the architecture of the hand while pointing the index finger. Indeed, the other three fingers were pointed in the opposite direction.

Jesus' adversaries were always looking for a way to entrap and discredit him. They used every means possible to accomplish their goal. When they could not get at him personally (and make no mistake, it was always about him personally) they would use someone like the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-12) or even his apostles. In this case, they accused the apostles of violating their traditions. By extension, they claimed the guilt of Jesus because he was their teacher.

It must be noted that these traditions were not spiritually binding but had become religiously and socially binding because of the adversaries themselves. They were the people in charge of a religion that ruled local society. Yet Jesus was able to counter by pointing out their failure at upholding what should have been their priority (obedience to the word of God) in favor of their traditions. Specifically, he pointed out their violation of God's commandment to honor father and mother by withholding support of their parents with the excuse of saying their resources were dedicated to God.

Beloved, when we point an accusing finger, there are two things we must consider. First, what is the spirit that motivates us to do it? Are we approaching a person who has violated God's command in privacy and in love that they might recognize, repent and renew or are we simply scandal mongering out of our own spiritual immaturity and failure to love? Second, have we given thought to our own shortcomings? In the previously mentioned incident involving the woman caught in the act of adultery, the accusers wanted to stone her. Jesus famously invited everyone who had no sin to go right ahead. Note that he did not stipulate adultery as the sin, but sin of any type.

Does this mean that because we are all guilty we should never say anything to anyone to help them when they have stumbled? Absolutely not. The Bible says in Galatians 6:1 (NIV), "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted" (emphasis mine). When we point with one finger, let us all be mindful of "the three pointing back at me."



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Evidence of the Unseen 10/22/2013

"Now Elijah said to Ahab, 'Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.' So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, 'Go up now, look toward the sea.' So he went up and looked and said, 'There is nothing.' And he said, 'Go back' seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, 'Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.'” 1 Kings 18:41-44

God had placed the land of Israel into a great drought due to the wickedness of the people, most notably Ahab, the king. If you have ever heard of Jezebel, she was his wife and was responsible for contributing to the king's idolatry, killing the prophets of God and building a group of priests dedicated to a pagan deity. In a great showdown between the One True God and the pagan deity, Baal (the pagan deity) was shown to be non-existent and God was shown to be alive and supreme through the obedient work of His prophet Elijah. Subsequent to this, all of the failed prophets of Baal were destroyed thereby resulting in God relenting from withholding the rain from the land.

Hebrews 11:1 famously says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen" (KJV). In a conversation with Ahab after all was said and done, Elijah said that he heard a major thunderstorm. The fact that his servant scanned the horizon six times before so much as seeing a tiny cloud seems to belie this. But does it?

Beloved Elijah had the ultimate trust and faith in God. He had seen Him work in his life too many times to deny or doubt anything He said. To him, the word of God became as fact even though something He said may not yet have come to pass. We must also take the word of God as fact. When He tells us that He loves and cares for us, we must accept it as we do that of a loving parent. When He tells us that He sent His only begotten for our reconciliation, we must treat it as if we witnessed it ourselves. When He tells us that we have been saved from destruction, we must feel as secure as we do in our comfortable homes during a storm. And when He tells us that heaven will be our home, even though others may not yet see it, we must know it as a foregone conclusion.

Torrential rains came just as God promised and Elijah said. The land was replenished and the people were saved. Believe God. Nothing and no one in life is more true.



Monday, October 21, 2013

"Words to the Beloved" Update


You may have noticed that I have been absent from our devotional for the past couple of weeks. This is the result of two things. First (and simply put) your brother became a little fatigued. There has been much to do in multiple areas of my life (including most importantly, service to the Lord), which prompted me to put the devo on hold.

Second, I have been hard at work on the soon-to-be-published book, "Words to the Beloved." You may remember me mentioning it to you earlier this year.

It has been an amazing journey to put the work together. With the help of a number of very good friends and supporters (not the least of which is the lovely and talented Michelle Lewis), the book has been brought to the brink of release. I have been provided with a proof from the publisher for final edits. I anticipate getting it back to them this week. Soon afterwards, they will give me an expected date of release of which I will inform you immediately.

I solicit your prayers in this endeavor, not that it will sell tons of copies or that I will become famous (neither of which is the goal nor likely to happen) but that God would be glorified by this small effort and that others may be encouraged and led to Him and His word through it.

The devotional will resume tomorrow.

Your brother in Christ,


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Follow His Lead 10/2/2013 (rp)

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psa 23:1

So begins one of the most beautiful and well known passages of scripture to be found within the pages of inspiration. Though we may know the words by heart, do we understand their meaning? Written by one who himself was once responsible for tending sheep, the correlation is more powerful than the words themselves.

We, analogized as sheep throughout scripture, have a need to be led. Even with leadership we tend to wander off and must be retrieved for our own good, lest we fall into peril, even death. We depend on the Shepherd to show us the safe and right way to go. This is in opposition to being driven like cattle. We do not respond well to being pushed from behind, but led from the front.

Our Shepherd likewise provides for all of our needs. This is accomplished because He knows what we need and knows how and where to lead us to obtain what is necessary for the extension of our lives. He provides things that we, in and of ourselves, would not be able to acquire.

What a wonderful Shepherd we have. He has said, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:14. If we would but follow where He leads, we will find ourselves in the ultimate eternal pasture.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where is God? 10/1/2013

"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." Josh 1:8-9

It is no secret that we are all at differing levels of spiritual maturity and that over time, those levels change. Most are desirous of attaining a higher understanding of God and wish to know more about His will for our lives. We often reach for Him to help us along the way or simply to have a closer walk but find Him just beyond our grasp because He is not in humanoid form addressing us directly. We then sometimes wonder, "Where is God?"

God is all around us and speaks to us constantly. We suffer from a constant state of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Our lives are filled with the clutter of politics, entertainment, workplace intrigue and other day to day distractions and responsibilities. Moreover, we are force fed so many things through every pathway into our brains and bodies. In short, we cannot find Him because we are not putting enough effort into the search and we are allowing the volume of everything else to be too high.

Beloved, there are three things we can and must do to achieve a closer walk with the Lord. First, we must pray for it. God has told us to make our desires known to Him and that when we do, we would find a listening ear. Further, James 4:8 says, "Draw closer to God and He will draw closer to you." Second, study the Bible every day. It represents the best source of information available to know who God is and what He expects from and gives to us. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). He literally speaks to us through His word. Finally, seek Him with your whole heart in everything you experience every day. With a foundation of prayer and Bible study, you will then begin to see the awesomeness of God materialize before your very eyes. When you look for Him earnestly, you will begin to see His word and His very person manifesting itself in conversations with others, circumstances and situations, and even in nature. For an example of this, read the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34.

When you do these things, you will see more and more that God is indeed all around you everyday in every way. When you realize this and begin to commune with Him on this basis, you will be on the fast track to spiritual maturity and you will be amazed at the things you will come to see and understand that have been right in front of you the whole time. What a lovely tree filled forest we live in.