There are so many times the Lord could have taken away from us, but instead, He gave.  Our daily steps before the Lord probably have not been the picture of perfection.  I know I personally have had many ashes during my lifetime that needed beautifying.  And yet, every day when I wake up, every day when I open my eyes, I am blessed with the gift of new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23), as are you.

Those mercies are much needed, as anyone can easily testify to.  Because, as I am walking forward, I can easily take a look back and cringe at the litter my previous pathways left behind.  But that renewed mercy smiles at me and encourages me in the newness of this day before me.  It helps to push me to walk where my feet may have previously felt unworthy to walk.  It draws me to step out of the door into what is presently before me, bidding me try again.  Believe again.  Make the effort to do better again.  It draws me to see God is still in the business of using me for His works, for His kingdom, and for His glory.

Reading Judges 16, I see how Samson broke away from the stipulations God placed on him through the Nazarite vow of not cutting his hair and the suffering that came because of it.

But then, there is this one verse out of his whole story that jumped out at me: “Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven,” (Judges 16:22), which was the symbol of his Nazarite vow.  It was by grace that God allowed for regrowth.  He could have just washed His hands of Samson and kept away what he had lost, but God is the one that allowed for the grace and mercy of regrowth.

Every day we are given is another chance for us to experience that same kind of regrowth.  It may not be our hair, but maybe there was something we let go of, something we didn’t guard or tend to as we should have, something we may have neglected, and as a result, we didn’t end up where we were supposed to be.

But with the new mercy of today, we have a chance for regrowth.  We have been given the grace to plant again and work in the fields God has given us.  Samson used his regrowth period to go out with a bang.  What can you do with yours?  If we are here today, that means our story is not over.  The grace for God’s regrowth is real and very present for us today.

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Simple words of encouragement… “God is for YOU!”

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Has discouragement tried to enter where God has placed you today? Has confusion tried to make you feel less than; as if God is not for you today?  Has your day already started off on the wrong foot?

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation. . .,” John 16:33a. He knew that there would some days where we face trouble and discouragement; there would be times when we feel like we are in this alone. In those times, He wants to reassure us that He is for us. He has never left us. He has never forsaken us. His plans for us have a glorious end so don’t let any circumstance make you believe that God doesn’t have your back because He does. He’s here and He is for you!

Jesus went on to say, ” …but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33b; and if you are in Him and stay with Him and believe in Him, you will too. Because God is for you!

“Exam Time, Check it Out!”

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“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves . . .,” 2 Corinthians 13:5

When was the last time we really pushed the envelope with ourselves to see what we have in us?  When watching television, I sometimes come across shows where people are doing what seems to be the impossible; people who love the adrenaline of seeing just how far they can go with a particular feat.  Some of the things I see just make me want to shake my head, and yet, others are actual, honest assessments of endurance; to see if they have what it takes to make it all the way, or to break some sort of record.  It’s a testing of one’s strength and stamina.

Tests, for most people, are not pleasant at all.  It doesn’t matter if its elementary age level test all the way through college, or a learner’s permit; tests make individuals uncomfortable because they are designed to see what one has in them.  If speaking in terms of education, it is probing one’s intellect to see if enough knowledge has been retained and also able to be applied.  If speaking in terms of physical endurance, it is working out in the body to see if one is deficient in a particular area, to point out any weaknesses that need to be strengthened for one to gain a particular goal.

This is why tests are not pleasant.  Because, it goes beyond the façade on the outside to see what one really has in them.  No truer is this more prevalent then in our spiritual lives.  The stuff on the inside is quickly hidden as we enter the church doors on a Sunday morning.  No one else can see the battles or struggles going on inside.  That is, no one else, but God.  “For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7).  And, it is the test of the heart that really matters; the places where others can’t see.

I live around the corner from a prominent cemetery in our area.  It serves the needs of all people, but they specialize in handling the burials of fire fighters and police officers.  It is not unusual to see a processional of cars go by on any given day to lay a loved one to rest.  Sometimes the line is long and sometimes it is short.  If it is one of those specialized burials, then the whole affair is catered to honor the life of the one who has served.  There are what seems like hundreds of police cars from all over, horses, raised flags, gun salutes, honor guards and the like.  It becomes a beautiful send off in the midst of sorrow.

No matter who it is I often wonder about the individual being laid to rest.  It becomes a stark reminder for me to follow the prudent advice of Paul and examine myself.  We all have areas that need improvement; things that we can do better.  Sometimes a close, personal examination is the only thing that will draw it out of us, to see “whether ye be in the faith.”  Are we where we need to be when our time comes to be at the head of that processional?  Do we have that quality of faith that will settle our eternity positively?  Maybe it’s time we take a deeper look inside of us.