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June Spare Change

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                           3 Things We Learn From the Life of Samson

Samson is one of my favorite characters in the Bible.  This might seem like an odd choice since he was one of the most despicable and sinful people; however, if you do a search of Samson you will find that he doesn’t just show up in the book of Judges, he is briefly mentioned in Hebrews 11:32.  This is significant because this passage is known as the Hall of Faith.  This passage describes many great characters in the Bible like Abraham, Moses, David, etc. and it tells a brief story of their faith in God.  It was shocking for me to see Samson’s name listed here.  As I mentioned before, he was a very unsavory person that cared only for his own selfish desires.  He lived a self-directed life that was fueled by his physical passions and unchecked emotions.  Why in the world would he be listed along with these great men and women of faith, and what does this have to do with my life?   To answer these questions we have to go back to the beginning of his life.

1. You Are Born with a Purpose
Samson was born of a promise. He was chosen to be a judge, to lead Israel out of Philistine occupation. Israel was in a cycle of sin, punishment, repentance, and rescue.  They had being doing this over and over again.  God would send surrounding nations to oppress them because of their sin, they would cry out to God for help, and He would send a judge to lead them out of the oppression.  Samson was born to be a judge, he was also born a Nazirite, which was a special vow of purity that people took to be used by God in a mighty way.  Another famous Nazirite is John the Baptist.

Samson was supposed to end the 40 year occupation of the Philistines.  To accomplish this goal he was given super-human strength.  This strength was provided by the Holy Spirit.  However, Samson had no desire to fulfill his call, he didn’t want to gather the Israelites to fight, he simply wanted to live his life and fulfill his own desires.

We are like Samson in many ways—we are born with a purpose, but we forsake that purpose to live a self-directed life.  God has called us to live for Him and use our lives to bring Him glory, nevertheless we just want to fulfill our own desires and passions.

2. You Have Chosen a Self-Directed Life
Samson chose to live a self-directed life. I don’t have time to explain all the ways in which he disobeyed God, but here are a few examples. Samson slept with prostitutes and he desperately wanted to be with and marry foreign women, which is expressly forbidden by God because foreign women would turn a man’s heart away from God; Solomon is a perfect example of this.  He had no regard for his Nazirite vow, he broke it regularly.  He was ruled by anger and revenge.  Once he became so angry he killed 1,000 Philistines with a jaw bone of a donkey because they were seeking revenge on him for burning all their crops down.  Samson also tore the gates off a city and carried them for many miles because of his anger. 

He fell in love with a woman named Delilah that eventually became his downfall.  He had become so enamored with his strength and filled with pride he did not think anyone could take him down.  After much coaxing, Delilah learned that when Samson’s hair was cut then he would lose his strength.  Samson’s hair was cut and he was imprisoned by the Philistines but not before his eyes were gouged out.  Samson’s self-directed life eventually became his destruction.  He was now weak and broken because he chose to live for himself instead of God.

We are the same.  We choose to live a self-directed life.  God wants to use us, he wants us to bring him glory, but instead we live for ourselves.  It doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from it always ends the same way…brokenness.  We are broken without God, we are destitute without faith in Him.  Think about your own life choices that you made without God in mind.  Where has it led you?  Chances are it has led you to brokenness.  This might seem like a very depressing message until we realize it’s not over.

3.But, It’s Never Too Late
Samson’s story doesn’t end there—while in prison his hair begins to grow back, as does his faith. He is humbled and broken, which is the perfect place for God to do His greatest work. I believe that while he was imprisoned God changed Samson’s heart and brought him near to Him.  God used his little seed of faith and grew it into something that he could use.  The story of Samson ends with him praying that God would use him one more time.  He is brought out by the Philistines to be mocked.  He is placed near the center pillars and God gives him his strength back one last time.  With it he brings down the house and kills over 3,000 Philistines.  This was not God’s original plan, but God used Samson’s faith in the situation he was in to bring glory to Himself.

Samson’s story tells us that it’s never too late.  God can use us in spite of our brokenness, in fact He can use our brokenness to bring us to a deeper faith in Him.  We may think we are too broken, or we may think we are too self-involved, too sinful, too (fill in the blank)…but that’s just not true.  Jesus can take all our self-directed, broken, sinful consequences and turn them into something beautiful.  It’s not too late to be used by God.  It’s not too late to bring God glory with our lives.  We just have to turn to Him in humble faith.  We give Him our brokenness and He gives us forgiveness.

If we made a list of the most faith-driven people in the Bible Samson would not be on it.  So it’s a good thing that God made the list and it’s a good thing He included people like Samson because that means there is hope for you and me.  We might never put our names on a list of faith-driven people either, but if you trust Jesus then you will be on that list.  We can have faith in God, we can turn to Him and be used by Him.  Remember, with Jesus it is never too late.  Turn to Him today!

 

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May Spare Change

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Detroit Mission Trip April 2015 Report

Many people want to know about the mission trip that we recently took to Detroit.  Specifically about the work we did and the state of the city.  So, I will try to explain it to you, but really it needs to be experienced to get a clear picture.  Nothing I say can give you the enormous, oppressive feeling of
living in this 3rd worldesque city.

The first thing you need to understand is that the blight is endless.  Wherever you go within the city of Detroit and many of the surrounding communities you experience neighborhood after neighborhood of destruction and desolation.  There are thousands upon thousands of vacant homes.  Many are stripped of all metal and some are half burned.  Many of these structures are condemned and slated for demolition.  The city has been demolishing houses in the recent months, so there are many vacant lots that dot the suburban communities.  There are also many closed schools that have also been stripped of metal.  It is reported that there are some 30 vacant high rise buildings in the city.  Many stores and shops have long closed.  The businesses that remain open are corner liquor stores, strips clubs, and a few other small businesses like hardware stores or beauty supplies.  There are very few chain businesses in these areas.  Not all of Detroit is like this, some of the suburbs of Detroit are very nice like Dearborn or Garden City.

There is a huge problem with violence.  I read on one website that some of the communities that we worked in had a 1 in 7 chance of being a victim of a violent crime.  The gang, drugs, and prostitution are rampant.  Needless to say, Detroit is in a very bad state.  While the urgency to help Detroit is relativity new, the problems in Detroit span back to the seventies.  This city has been in decline for decades.  The problem has been exacerbated since the financial crisis of 2008.

So what can we do?  How can we help?  We can go and partner with church planters that are serious about reaching people for Christ and really making a difference.  This trip we intentionally worked with City Church.  This church has three campuses in different parts of the city.  They do things a little different.  They don’t wait for the people to come to them, they go into the community.   They feed people, they clothe people, they help with recovery, and they preach the gospel.  God is blessing them in a mighty way!

We worked on their project called City Homes.  They are rehabbing houses to be used for homeless recovery.  People can live in these houses for three months to get back on their feet.  They can stay longer if they want to continue in the program, which provides more help, but also more accountability.  They have a real plan that will make a difference in Detroit.  Our team from Oakhill helped finish one of the new men’s houses.  We did a lot of patching, mudding, sanding, and painting.  We also did a few small projects at their women’s house and at one of their church campuses.  I really feel like we made a huge difference. 

I would ask you to pray for City Church and City Homes.  I also would encourage you to go with us to Detroit.  We still have two trips left this year.  We are taking college and young adults the week of August 9th and another adult team the week of October 4th.  I hope to see you on one of these trips.

 

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