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Daily Devotions 7/19 to 7/25/21

Daily devotions to encourage your faith

July 19

Judges 16:17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man. "


Very few stories in the entire Bible capture the imagination like Samson and Delilah. But we must always recall that this is God’s story written for our instruction as examples to us. (1 Cor. 10:11)


So, how does God instruct us in this account?


After his escape with the city gate, Samson went immediately into a wrong relationship with a woman, Delilah. Though he “loved” her, it appears that she was quite willing to use him for her own gain. She accepted a request from the Philistines for a large amount of silver to find the secret to neutralize Samson’s great strength


When Delilah started asking about the top-secret knowledge concerning his superhuman strength, Samson should have been like Joseph before Potiphar’s wife and fled. However, Samson was enflamed with sin’s passion and he was not thinking as God would have him think. Instead, he began to mess around with sin. Samson crossed the line of no return, instead of running far away from the line.


For his first help, Samson tells Delilah that binding him with fresh bowstrings will leave him weak and defenseless. Yet, when Delilah binds him and warns him the Philistines are upon him, he snaps the bowstrings like yarn snaps when burned by fire.


Samson 1, Delilah 0.


Having escaped the first attempt by the Philistines to weaken and capture him, Samson seemed not a bit wiser. He went right back the sinful game with the evil Delilah. Samson keeps pretending, willingly laying his head on her lap, and breaking free when “the Philistines are upon him!” So, his offer of new, unused ropes binding his strength held him as a thread would. That didn’t work, either.


Samson 2, Delilah 0.


His third offer of weaving his hair into the loom, though closer to the truth, still left him strong and free, for

now. She pled, he lied; she tried, he fled.


Samson 3, Delilah 0.


Delilah is angry. “How can you say that you love me yet mock me?” Had Samson been thinking, rather than driven by emotions and hormones, he might have asked, “How can you say that you love me, yet try to betray me these three times?”


But Delilah did not give up nagging him. The Bible says she nagged him so much that “he was tired to death” (Judges 16:16). She wore him down until he had no more to fight. Finally, Samson told her the information she wanted. When had fallen asleep, she called a man in to shave off his seven braids of his hair. His strength was then gone!


We may think such could never happen to us. How could we be so dumb and stupid? After all, isn’t the promise for New Testament believers that God’s Holy Spirit will be with us always? Yes, it is. Yet we are warned that we can grieve the Spirit or quench the Spirit.


May we never fall so deep into sin as to not know that the LORD has left us, not forever in our salvation, but in being in right relationship with Him day by day.


Father, thank you for catching every care we cast in your direction. Father, fill our hearts and week with reminders of your faithfulness, the sufficiency of your grace, and expressions of your kindness. Father, still our hearts, center our thoughts, increase our faith. Thank you, your uneasy children. We pray all these things today in Jesus' name. Amen.

July 20

Judges 16:28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes."


After losing his strength from God, Samson now loses his freedom, too.


After being blinded by temptation, he is now blinded by the removal of his eyes—literally!


After being bound by his lustful desires, Samson is now bound by chains.


After being grinded down by his illicit companion, he is now grinding grain as a slave.


The Philistines’ intent is not to kill Samson. Rather, their goal is to mock him and his God that gave him. They will celebrate the victory over Samson as a victory of their false gods over Samson’s God. It is their gods versus the one, true God of the Israelites. In that moment, the god of the Philistines appeared to be winning.


So it often is when we fall into sin. The enemy gains a reason to not just slander us, but to slander and blaspheme our God.


Yet, the writer of Hebrews in chapter eleven of the New Testament book reminds us that Samson is a hero of faith in the Old Testament. His is one whose faith we should imitate, as we look to Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). No doubt, Samson was a man flawed in many ways, as we are. His failures are warnings to us and point us to a better Judge and Deliverer in Jesus Christ.


Though he is blinded, bound, and entertaining the idolatrous Philistines, Samson now begins to see again. “God is my strength,” he realizes. So, he prays, “Remember me, God” (Judges 16:28). The sense seems to be, “You might have forgotten me, God. I had certainly forgotten you. But, now I am remembering. So, I ask You, O LORD God, to remember me once again.”


Samson’s prayer was not made out of personal revenge or passion. No, he had a glorious intensity to bring praise to the God of Israel. The fact that God accepts his prayer teaches us that Samson, truly, died praying. In a day when everyone died what was right in their own eyes (not too different from our day, is it?), his life serves a continual warning for us, but an assurance that it is never too late to call upon the LORD or to live for Him.


Samson’s example should remind us that when God tells us to do something, the worst response we can have is to put it off another day.   More than losing a physical battle, we may lose the spiritual battle of sin, if we fail to take care of business right away.  Never say you will do things “tomorrow” when it comes to the things of God's kingdom. Remember, time is a gift from God. Once you lose time, you can’t recover it. For God’s glory, use your time wisely!


Heavenly Father, may your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Replace our irritation with intrigue, our busy spirit with a quiet heart, our need to be noticed with the joy of encouraging others. Holy Spirit, increase our capacity to trust our Father for what we cannot control, and intensify our affection and adoration of Jesus. Only with these prayers answered may we live to your glory, even in the midst of great sin. In Jesus' name. Amen.

July 21

Ruth 1:17 "Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."


There was a great famine in the Promised Land. God had told His people to stay in the land on previous occasions. But Elimelech and Naomi were alarmed at the famine. Without waiting for God’s plain direction, they took their two sons and went into the land of Moab (not the Promised Land). As their sons aged and married, they married non-Jews. Elimelech and Naomi seemed to have agreed to it and, as the years progress, seem to pay the price for it.


Elimelech and his two sons die. Naomi is left a sad widow in a strange land with two widowed daughters. What a sad family this must have been, especially Naomi!



After hearing about the LORD blessed the crops of her homeland, Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to go back to their homeland. They must decide between the God of Israel for their God or the idols of Moab. Let us hear Naomi. Orpah weeps, kisses, and returns to her homeland. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. Ruth name means “filled” and she was full of the blessing of the LORD.


Ruth then says to Naomi:


“Wherever you die, I will die– and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I do not keep my promise! Only death will be able to separate me from you” (Ruth 1:17).


To assure Naomi beyond all doubt of her determination and loyalty, Ruth adds an oath to her profession, swearing in the name of the LORD that nothing but death would part them. Ruth simply says, “What I have heard of your God has filled me with wonder and filled me with zeal to be numbered with His people. I feel confidence in His promises, reverence for His name, and a desire to know, observe, and enjoy His Law. I have compared what I have heard of your God with what I know of our gods in Moab—and I choose your God over ours!”


Like Ruth, have you taken God as your God? Do you cling to God by a resolved faith in Him as your God (Psalm 73:25-26)? Have you taken God’s people for your people? Do you submit to the same cross of Christ as God’s people?


God makes His children all members of His Body, that is the church (1 Cor. 12:27). This means you cannot have God as your God without obligation to and love for His people—the Body of Christ (1 John 3:14).


When we commit ourselves to Christ and His church by the promises made in becoming a member (talk to your pastor, if you have not already), we openly say and profess that we are who we say we are. We are committed to living before other Christians in whole-hearted devotion and steadfast obedience to God.


Like Ruth, do you know why you’re here, who you’re following, and can you confess the LORD God as your God…truly?


Father, forgive us when we choose resentment over reconciliation, nursing grudges over building bridges, staying mad over extending grace. Father, by your grace, we will live "palms up" today... with an attitude of gratitude and surrender. You are good and you can be trusted. Keep us profoundly aware of how much we need Jesus, how much we have in Jesus, and how much more of Jesus there is to know and adore. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

July 22

1 Samuel 1:20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."It has always been said that good things comes to those who wait.


Take the case of Hannah. She was a God-fearing woman who wanted nothing more than to have a child of her own. The LORD had shut up her womb and she was taunted by her husband’s other wife as a result.


These were difficult times for Hannah. She was confused and broken about what to do. Even her husband, offering his best sympathy, couldn’t console her feelings.


Still, year after year Hannah came to the tabernacle and sought God’s face in prayer for a child. She asked the LORD to remember her and the misery of her soul. Hannah begged God to look again upon her anguish and to have mercy upon her and answer her prayer. After returning home, the LORD answered her prayer and gave her a child, Samuel, which she gave to the LORD’s service.


The persistent prayer of Hannah teaches us that when we begin with nothing and when we receive any blessing, we can know it is of God and not of ourselves. God took Hannah’s total inability to have a child as the starting point to work a miracle, which came to be a blessing of an entire nation. She didn’t give up when her prayers weren’t answer. She realized that whether God gave her a child or not wouldn’t change the fact that He was her only source of strength and support. What Hannah ultimately learned is that the love of her husband or anyone else couldn’t fill the void of knowing God personally through prayer.


Are you seeking God's voice today? If so, then examine these guidelines given to me a few years ago by my spiritual mentor:


1. Read the Bible Daily: This may seem like an obvious answer to hearing God's voice, but the power of personal Bible reading cannot be matched by anything in the world. So many Christians pray for direct guidance from God, but they neglect their Bibles. The Bible is your most reliable communication from God—He will answer most of your questions there.


2. Be careful: As humans with wide array of emotions, it is tempting to think what we desire is God's will. However, it might not but could be. If we allow our emotions to overtake us, we may just become like a "spiritual ventriloquist," speaking our words into God's mouth. So be careful on this one!


3. Be wise: A key thing to remember when discerning God's voice from the world's is that God will never contradict Himself. This means that any impression you think is from God should line up with perfectly with the Bible.


God speaks to us today through His Word and His Holy Spirit and prayer teaches us to rely on God’s help no matter what the cost or length of time. In times of dryness, joy, and grief, turn to the One who can take the old and make it new (2 Cor. 5:15-18).


Father, what a great reminder from this story that you are faithful! We trust you because you are over us the only Sovereign. Thank you for loving us so, Lord! Thank you for stunning with your grace today to live for and share in this world. Father, make your promises more real to us today than our circumstances; make your presence more defining than our pain. In Jesus' name. Amen.

July 23

1 Samuel 4:18 "As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years."


If you are blessed to have grandparents or know someone in their 60s, 70s, 80s, or above, you will hear a lot about how “things need to get back to the way they used to be.” A lot of people say much about how this needs to change, that needs to be altered, and this needs to be fixed because we have strayed from some basic general principles. They say, “Something is wrong. And it needs changed. Something is broken and it needs to be fixed.”


That is exactly what the Israelites did in today’s story. They go to battle and 4,000 men die. Not a good situation, right? So what they said is, “Ok, God, this isn’t good, because in the past when we went into battle this didn’t happen. I mean, Jericho, we marched around it. Boom! The walls fell. We are good.” So Israel said, “Go get the ark. Let’s do it like we used to do it. Let’s go back. We messed up, whatever it may be.”


Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Time out! Isn’t the ark a good thing? Didn’t God tell them to build it?”


Yes, you are correct! But you read the first three verses of 1 Samuel 4 and you are going to find absent the same thing we see absent in our culture today, too.


Everybody wants the problem fixed—they just don't want to repent while it is being fixed.


There is no mention of Israel saying, “God, we messed up.” There is no mention of Israel saying, “We shouldn’t have gone into battle without you, God.” There is no mention of Israel saying, “You know, we weren’t supposed to go unless you told us to go and we went without the ark and so you obviously didn’t tell us to go and this was a problem.”


If you want God to restore what is broken, if you want Him to mend what is torn, start with repentance and allow Him to bring the restoration.


That is the problem. When we say, “I want the LORD in my right hand and the world in my left. I want the LORD on the weekend and the world during the week. I want the LORD during this time of day, but not during that time of day.”


And what God says is, “Turn your heart to Me and put away your idols. Don’t trust in your youth pastor, your parents, or anyone more than Me. That is the solution.""


How did we get in our mess? The same way they did. How do we get out? The same way they did. You read the rest of First Samuel seven. Do you know what they do? They turn away from their idols. They turn away to the LORD and all of the sudden, all the ills are eradicated. God goes before them just like he did Jericho.


Father, help us to live this week at the pace of grace: Surveying the cross, savoring the gospel, and serving our neighbors. By your Holy Spirit, make your grace more real to us than our sins and a changed heart more precious to us than relief from our pain. Lord, we cast down our idols. We lay them at your feet. Only you can break them and fill them with your Spirit. Do that today, Lord, I pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.

July 24

1 Samuel 7:3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only...


Israel, by the time of First Samuel 7, has spent 300+ years in spiritual darkness. They have been weak in their faith and dishonest in their devotion. They had polluted themselves by embracing the ways of the world around them and had lost heart for the LORD.


But today’s story shows a true turn back to the LORD.


Over the past many years, the people of Israel had gotten sucked into the religious practices of various neighboring peoples whom they failed to remove from the Promised Land. God had told them that, if they allowed these people to remain, they would get sucked into their idolatry and false gods.


And they did!


So, there were high places of worship, altars, and idols of all sorts that had to be removed. Now, removing this stuff doesn’t mean they have returned to the LORD with all their heart. But, if do they return to the LORD with all their heart, then they certainly can’t leave all this in place.


Seriously, what has replaced God needs to be replaced by God.


Later, this re-direction was seen when the people asked Samuel, “Pray for us and cry out to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:8, NASB).


In their time of need and desperation, the Israelites didn’t do as they used to and start calling out to all these other gods as well to make sure they prayed to the right one. No, they put their hope and faith in deliverance from the LORD according to the word of the LORD through Samuel.


You know, even today, we get sucked into things God hates because we believe the lie that these so called “gods” can make us happy and fulfill our hearts. Maybe it is a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Maybe it is a sport or hobby. Maybe it is a television series or movie. Maybe it is the music we listen to or the magazines we read.


But these can’t and won’t ever fulfill us. And if we don’t turn back to seeking our satisfaction and joy in our relationship with God and in Him alone, then we haven’t “come home.”


Notice the emphasis on the heart here, too. It’s the heart that God is paying attention to. The actions, behaviors, and decisions are all indicators of the heart. Exclusive worship and devotion to the LORD is a matter of the heart, and our hearts are lead astray easily.


Feed your heart like you feed your body each day. Spend time each day reading, memorizing, studying, and praying on the Bible. Lead your heart from the truth of God’s Word.


The world is appealing to your heart through your flesh, affections, and eyes. You have to daily speak truth to your heart and redirect it to the One who loves you and who can satisfy you and make your life count for eternity.


Father, may your gospel come today with God-glorifying, heart-palpitating, knee-buckling, life-transforming grace and power. Father, we offload on you our sins, burdens, and worries of this day. Only your heart is big enough & shoulders broad enough to take them. Lord, transform us. Revive us. Make our lives count for your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

July 25

1 Samuel 8:21 "And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord."


When the prophet and judge Samuel was dealing with the sinful demand of the people of Israel for a king, he went to God constantly in prayer about the situation for an answer.  The Scriptures describe him praying and repeating all the words of the people to the LORD, telling Him exactly what had happened and had been said.  Why would Samuel have done this if God already knew it all (Isaiah 46:9-11)?

 

Simply put, Samuel was a man of God who knew the importance of consistency in prayer and communion with the LORD.  It is true that God knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8, 32). But He has also ordained that these needs will be met and His power displayed as His people come to Him in prayer and petition.  


This was not a matter of heaping up empty phrases (Matthew 6:7). Christ’s words against such prayers were meant to reprove individuals who thought they could somehow manipulate the power of God and ensure the answer they wanted through the use of particular mantras or rhetorical formulas in their words.  


Rather, we are to come to God with an attitude of humility and trust in His sovereign hand to meet our needs.  We should not misinterpret this condemnation of “empty phrases” to mean that our prayers need to be incredibly concise and the time spent must be minimal. Christ’s priestly prayer at Gethsemane showed no such brevity (John 17). 


For example, let’s say that a man has an illness.  It weakens him and makes him vomit.  So he prays, “God heal me, please, heal me…if through healing me your name will be hallowed in a greater way, your kingdom will come in a greater way, and your will be done in a greater way, then, LORD, heal me! But, LORD, if your name would be hallowed, your kingdom come, and your will be done in a greater way by breaking my body into a million pieces, then let it be so.”

 

Do you see the difference in those prayers? It is all about the glory of Christ, the kingdom, and the advancement of the kingdom.  Whatever God would desire on behalf of the our prayer, the true worshipper must have His glory in mind.

 

Like Samuel, with that attitude of humility and trust in His sovereignty, we are instructed be constant in unceasing prayer.  Prayer is not meant to provide God with information that He was unaware of, but is rather ordained by Him as a means through which to show His power and act in the world and to build communion between the believer and God.

 

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 NJKV)


How is your prayer life incorporating this truth?


Father, we are a prayerless people. We desire your hand and gifts, but we don't desire your presence. Father, close the gap between my identity in Christ and my reality in the world. Lord, be glorified in this area in our lives. Just as we sought our spouse to please him or her before marriage, help us to seek with reckless abandon to know and make you known. We pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.