Burned With Anger

“And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” – Ephesians 4:26-31.

The life of Samson has always made good Hollywood copy, and colorful stories for Sunday School classes. Some see Samson making poor choices in women. Others see a wild man slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an donkey. Still others imagine a blinded, bitter Samson ending his life in a last fit of vengeance. But when you get by the mystique and fascination of the legend of Samson, you find a man of great physical strength, but also great weakness when it came to controlling his emotions.

Samson’s life includes one stumble after another. He became too friendly and too familiar with the Philistines. He consorted with a prostitute in Gaza, barely escaping a threat to kill him. No sooner had he escaped that threat when he takes up with Delilah. To the human eye, it may have looked as if Samson was veering out of control here, thwarting the work and the will of the Lord. Samson’s actions were certainly in conflict with the revealed will of God. But God had not lost control.   

Samson was utterly undisciplined. He could not control his eyes. He could not control his appetite. He could not control his emotions. He could not control his anger. An example starts out as a lark. Samson tells a group of Philistines for fun that he thinks there is no way they will figure out the answer to his riddle, but they outsmarted him. And what began as a contest of wits among friends turned quickly into a serious conflict, partly because Samson’s pride was wounded. He responded in anger as Judges 14:19 tells us what happened.”Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother.” 

Samson’s wrong choices when he was young led to repeated problems with the same sins throughout his life. Anger and lack of self-control haunted him throughout his life. And Samson’s sinful pride, as well as his violent anger, continued to plague him, though God used Samson in a marvelous way to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Would you say that we live in an angry culture? Why or why not?
  2. According to James 1:19-20, why should we be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath? What does this mean?
  3. What does Galatians 5:19-25 teach us about the positive side of this issue?
  4. What can we learn from the anger of Samson to apply to our life? 

When Emotions Get The Best Of You

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. – Galatians 5:16-17.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like without emotions? Or if everybody was able to control their emotions. We would all be like Spock on Star Trek. All his responses to all situations are always logical, made without any emotion. But we will never be like Spock because God created us as emotional beings. We feel love, joy, happiness, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear, etc. Sometimes our emotions are productive and sometimes they are not. Either way, emotions can be helpful indicators of what is going on in our hearts.

When we study the life of Samson, we quickly see how his emotions often got the best of him. Usually to his detriment. Samson was set aside at birth by God to save the people from the Philistines. Samson was a man of great potential, but often made self destructive decisions. Last week we saw that he struggled with lust (I want it!), entitlement (I deserve it!), and pride (I can handle it!). This week we look at how Samson was emotion driven, not spirit led. Emotions aren’t always bad, in fact they’re a gift. But, when we let our emotions take over, they become one of the “two forces” fighting each other Paul is talking about in Galatians.

We find in the story of Samson a battle of the riddle. Samson has a competition with a bunch of other guys around a riddle. But he doesn’t leave it at a competition. He adds a bet. Here’s the riddle: “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.” (Judges 14:14)

So the answer to this riddle is a lion and honey. Samson killed a lion, came back later and found in its corpse a bunch of bees and honey. The Philistine men can’t figure it out, so they threaten Samson’s Philistine wife and she cries to Samson and gets the answer from him. He tells her, and she tells them. They solve the riddle and Samson is furious.  He says: “If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle.” (Judges 14:18)

Calling your wife a heifer is a bad idea. But back to the story. Instead of being led by the Spirit, Samson becomes driven by his emotions, particularly his anger. He takes the lives of 30 innocent men to pay his bet. Samson then leaves the party, and his wife’s dad thinks that he’s abandoned his daughter so he gives her to another man.  Samson comes back several weeks later and finds that his wife has been given to someone else.  So he takes 300 foxes, ties them together, lights their tails on fire, and sets them loose in the Philistine grain fields. Anger leads to a destructive cycle of violence in Samson’s life. 

Allowing our emotions to control us is a bad idea. Denying our emotions is not a good idea either. Controlling and stewarding our emotions is the idea. The way to manage our emotions is to be spirit led. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) The Holy Spirit is the one who can produce self-control in our lives. “ But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn about emotions in the life of Samson? Do you believe emotions contribute to bad choices?
  2. What emotions are positive and what emotions are negative in your life.
  3. How can we become more Spirit led?
  4. What can we do this week to be more led by the Spirit? 

Pause and Pray

Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.” – Judges 15:20.

In Judges 15:20, we learn that Samson judged Israel well for 20 years. Then one day, he chose to walk to the Philistine headquarters in Gaza to find a prostitute. We can never know the number of actual steps but some basic math indicates that Samson walked about 56,000 steps to get to Gaza from where he was. And for the sake of discussion, let’s say that Samson takes about 100 steps per minute. So the 56,000 steps would take him approximately 560 minutes or 9.33 hours to complete. That’s 56,250 chances that Samson had to pause, reflect, and take a different road literally and figuratively.

He had approximately 9 hours to do some mental due diligence and determine whether this was the wise thing for him to do. But he chose not to reflect or to pause, opting instead to keep walking. And eventually he ran into Delilah. If he had taken just one minute out of those 560 minutes to pray and ask God for wisdom and guidance the outcome may have been different. Maybe even radically different. But he didn’t pause and his hair was cut, his eyes were gouged out, and the strongest man to ever live was made weak.

The story of Samson should give us pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When tempted, pause. When stressed, pause. When seeking God’s will, pause. And whenever you pause, pray. Jesus took time to pause in His ministry to get away from all of the action to be renewed. Mark 6:31 tells us, “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. Matthew chapter 13 shows the short pauses in one day Jesus took before continuing His teachings. 

We need to leave space for God to provide. Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.”  That suggests both a pause and relinquishing total control of the action with our own hands and minds. It is taking the time to listen for the “still small voice” through which God often chooses to speak to us.

And don’t forget to pray. Praying and seeking God’s will help to give us the strength we need to ward off temptation and prevent us from possibly stepping on other landmines in our lives. But let me take that one step further. We should often practice preemptive prayer. Most of us default to pray as we are sliding down the rabbit hole, or as a last ditch hope to keep us out of trouble. And there is nothing wrong with that. But pause and think about it for a second. Prayer is our most powerful, most accessible, most useful resource for all the challenges we face. If we are not using it proactively, in other words praying for the wisdom to see the guard rails, to keep our distance from temptation, to keep our vision and our actions committed to God, then we should start. Much like it is wise to perform the preventive maintenance on a car rather than fixing it when it is not running. It is far better to pray and stay out of danger than to pray for deliverance when we are already in danger.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it easy to pause? If not why not?
  2. What times in your life do you think it is important to pause?
  3. It is important to pause and to pray. Why do you think that is true? 
  4. What can we do this week to make pause and pray a regular activity in our lives?

I Can Handle It

“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:5-9. 

For many Christians, Samson stands as one of the saddest figures in the biblical record, a man who started out with such great potential only to squander it all due to his lack of self-control. In fact, Samson’s story is often presented as a cautionary tale.

I struggled to find a way to describe Samson in one word. Impulsive? Rash? Untamed? Hasty? Probably all of those are good, but none of them I feel truly capture the essence of Samson. He is a man who goes after and does what he wants, as soon as he wants it, and doesn’t listen to anyone about it. He assumes he can handle whatever comes his way. 

He sees a pretty girl, so he decides he needs to marry her, even though his parents don’t really want him to. He likes what he sees, and he wants it. He doesn’t see a problem. He meets a lion and he kills it. No problem. He’s at a party with alcohol. He shouldn’t be there and he makes it worse by concocting a riddle to demonstrate he is smarter than everyone else. He makes a bet and loses the bet and kills 30 people to pay what he owes. He handled that. They give his wife to a companion. This means Samson lights 300 foxes on fire and burns their corn down. Nicely handled.

Quite simply, Samson was too powerful and too overly confident for his own good. His ability was outrunning his self control, and his pride was getting the best of him.   

It is so obvious where this is leading, you wonder how Samson did not see it as well. Samson takes a nap with a lady from a nation that hates his God, after telling her his only weakness. She naturally betrays him to the bad guys, as most people would assume she would do.

If the only way I could be defeated was to have my head shaved, it would seem to me that not letting that secret be known to the enemy would be smart, as well as prudent. But Samson put himself in a situation where his secret was always in jeopardy, and Delilah finally convinced him to tell her. 

Samson probably thought he could handle it. If he did not believe he could handle it, why would he be with Delilah in the first place. There are many other things he could have been doing. In fact, anything he could have done at that moment was a better idea. But, he’s Samson. He’s big, powerful and can handle anything. He was dead wrong.

This can happen to any of us who believe that we can handle anything that comes our way. When we believe we can handle dangerous situations, we put ourselves in harm’s way. We need to pause and consider where our actions are leading us. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much of life do you believe you can handle on your own? How much of our thinking that we can handle anything is pride?
  2. Is there such a thing as “good” pride?
  3. Describe a time in your life when your “bad” pride got the best of you? How do you perceive that experience today (with humor, sadness, gratefulness, shame, etc.)? What did you learn from that event?
  4. In what area of life are you most likely to fall prey to “bad” pride, which gives you an inflated view of yourself? Why do you think this aspect of your life is more vulnerable to bad pride?

I Deserve It

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. – James 4:1-3

Here is how I would define people who feel entitled: People who are entitled are generally contemptuous of others. They believe they are superior. They become offended when somebody objects to their behavior, and have a very difficult time apologizing when they make a mistake or act inappropriately. They may easily blame, criticize, shame, humiliate or judge others—or demand that others meet their needs or live up to their standards and they aren’t empathetic. They act as if they have the right to do or say whatever they want, and you have no right to object. That sounds a lot like Samson, doesn’t it?

I guess you can feel entitled when your birth was not just any ordinary birth, but a miracle. His mother was sterile and therefore unable to have children, but an angel appeared to her and later her husband, proclaiming that they would indeed have a son – and he was to be a Nazrite from birth. I guess when you tear apart a lion with your bare hands that tends to make you feel a little bit superior. And I’m sure you get a little puffed up when you dispatch your enemy in large numbers single handedly. It is fair to assume that Samson grew up knowing he was special, unique and had a divine calling. 

But that entitlement, the idea that he deserved whatever he wanted, when he wanted it, resulted in him too often “clocking out” from using any self-control. It made him reckless and self-destructive. Like a moth to a flame, he continued to needlessly place himself at risk, losing sight of his purpose and breaking his vows as a Nazrite. Until finally, his lack of self-control finally caught up to him.   

The story of the lion and the honey is just one example. Samson betrayed the same God that gave him the power to rip apart the lion for what? For a handful of honey. Who would betray God for a handful of honey? The answer is every man who is reading this devotional. We all have at one time or another probably betrayed our God who saved and blessed us for stupid, sinful things that only hurt us and those around us. And probably because we believe we deserved it.

Entitlement is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. Just like Samson, we too can feel entitled, that we deserve something. But before long we lose a little bit of self-control and something happens: a poor decision is made, and then something’s got you. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do you feel you deserve it – that you have a right to more and better? How is it different than Samson’s?
  2. Entitlement causes us to judge God for how the world works, for the bad things that happen to us and for things that didn’t happen that we want. Agree or disagree?
  3. Entitlement causes us to blame others. Agree or disagree? 
  4. How can we control attitudes of entitlement this week? 

I Want It

“One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.” His father and mother objected. “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?” they asked. “Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” But Samson told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.” – Judges 14:1-3.

When we want something we usually want it yesterday. We are into instant gratification because we lack the patience for waiting…for anything. When our computer takes a couple of extra seconds for a page to load, it can feel like an eternity. Movies and TV shows begin streaming in seconds. I am reminded of the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There is a girl named Baruka who once she has seen the geese that lays the golden eggs, decided she wants one and breaks into a song about all the things that she wants and she doesn’t want to wait. The lyrics include: “Don’t care how… I want it now.” She eventually falls down the garbage chute.

Samson wanted something. He had to have it. He was going to get it, and he wanted it now. Her name was Delilah. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was moving toward the garbage chute the minute he told his father “Get her for me! She looks good to me.”

But before we judge Samson too harshly, he is not the only man who forgot logic when they want or lust after something. It happens today all the time. Today, we may just look a little too long at a woman and start to wonder what she is like. Today, we may be willing to do just about anything to advance a career or to make more money, or to win an award or achievement. We may want the new boat, or new car, or new house or some new thrills. The problem is when we forget about reason and logic and pursue what we want with reckless abandon. And that’s what Samson did. 

Samson went down to Timnah and there a Philistine woman caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her.” Basically, he went into enemy territory and saw a woman that was forbidden to him because God said, “You shall not intermarry with those who do not worship me.”

And at that moment, he looks at her and he forgets everything else and he says, “I want it! I don’t care what my God says. I don’t care what my Dad says. I don’t care what my Mom says, I don’t care what’s right and I don’t care what’s wise, because I want it.” This is just one of the failures because this strong man has a weak spirit.

The story of Samson completely confounds me. He was arrogant. He was impulsive. He was violent. He was selfish. And in the end, it seems he pretty much got what he deserved. However, he did eventually yield to God’s great purpose for his life and finished his life praying for God’s help to accomplish it. We can learn from both his mistakes and from what he did right.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We have learned in this story that once again the people were doing what was right in their own eyes. Why is it not okay to live this way? What are some consequences of living according to our own definition of right and wrong?
  2. If you were Samson, and was getting into a relationship with a Delilah, would you have a friend that would throw up some “red flags” about the relationship?
  3. Samson’s sin in this story is irrational. In what ways do our own sinful choices fail to make sense rationally?
  4. Like Samson, what successes in your life might lead you to put your trust in yourself rather than in God? How can we maintain a strong sense of dependence on God?

The Weak And The Strong

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:1-5.

Most people know the basic story of Samson and Delilah from Judges 13-16. We all know that eventually long-haired Samson tells her the secret to his strength and she hands him over the Philistines, who eventually take him captive by plucking his eyes out and enslaving him. Then God grants him a final request and he takes out all 3000 men and women in the coliseum and he dies with them.

The common assumption is that Samson was destined for greatness no matter what he did—but faltered before he could reach his potential because of Delilah. Samson’s story begins in Judges 13:1-5 (above)  There are some rules of engagement when someone is either born or becomes a Nazirite. In addition to never cutting his hair, these rules include abstaining from alcohol, and never touching a dead body. Samson was a man that was used by God and at times acted solely on his desires; in other words, what he wanted, is what he wanted. 

Samson wanted to marry a woman that didn’t worship the one true God. (Judges 14:1-4) This gives us an initial view into Samson’s selfish and lustful nature. Next Samson touched the dead body of a lion. (Judges 14: 5-6; 8-9)  Samson officially broke the Nazarite vow that says not to go near a dead body. What makes this situation worse is that he gave some honey from the dead lion’s belly to his parents. In short, he got his parents caught up in the transgression as well. Then he seemed to make light of this when making a riddle to the Philistines (v12-14). 

Samson liked to have relationships with women who he wasn’t married to, and women that he wasn’t supposed to be in relationships with. In fact, Samson committed multiple sins. That’s to be expected since all fall short of the glory of God. The glaring issue here is he committed sins and didn’t repent. In short, he used his life to pursue what he wanted, despite God’s instructions.   

In retrospect, his story is very familiar. It reminds me of the lives of us men, who with the best intentions, set our sights on being used by God, only to set it aside to pursue our own agenda. We don’t go in planning to compromise, but we find it expedient to do so. We can wander into areas we shouldn’t be in and we lose sight of God in the temporary pleasures that we enjoy, not realizing that our pleasures can easily become addictions. Samson was no different and his story paints a dark reality of what happens when our will is weak and we don’t have self-control. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did your perception of Samson change this week? If so, how?
  2. What can we learn from the life of Samson?
  3. Why do you think Samson would eat honey out of the carcass of a lion?
  4. Why didn’t Sampson realize what Delilah was up to? Why don’t we sense danger when it is lurking?

Forgiven

…for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” – Matthew 26:28.

One of the most scandalous claims Jesus made while walking the earth was his ability to forgive sins. In this week’s teaching, a sinful woman interrupted Jesus dining with a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Despite the woman’s reputation and public shame, Jesus welcomed her acts of repentance and assured her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48). Onlookers were shocked: “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” (Luke 7:49) Luke recorded a similar question earlier: “But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Luke 5:21)

They were right, only God alone can forgive sins. But they were blind to a crucial truth—Jesus is the Son of God. And with that authority, He could make such an audacious claim to forgive sins.

The story of the sinful woman is one of perspective. Simon the Pharisee has an inaccurate understanding of this woman. He sees her only as a sinner, thus he considers Jesus’ contact with her as inappropriate. He is judging her based upon her reputation. Jesus obviously has a different perspective. Jesus tells Simon that he must reevaluate her actions at the dinner. These are not inappropriate or wanton expressions of an outcast; they are deep love offered in response to deep forgiveness. The woman is not, in fact, who readers might think she is at first glance. As Jesus publicly declares, she has been saved. “And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”(Luke 7:50)

But those watching knew that a holy, righteous God cannot simply forgive sins—they must be paid for. And they knew that God had instituted the means through which forgiveness was possible: the shedding of blood. “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). So when Jesus granted the sinful woman forgiveness while giving no instructions or provisions for forgiving her, the assembled people were baffled.

Jesus knew something the onlookers didn’t: sin would be paid for and there would be blood shed. And it would be His. In his book The Prodigal God, Tim Keller elaborates on this truth: “Jesus was stripped naked of his robe and dignity so that we could be clothed with a dignity and standing we don’t deserve. On the cross Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we could be brought into God’s family freely by grace. There Jesus drank the cup of eternal justice so that we might have the cup of the Father’s joy.”

God’s unconditional love is a very difficult concept for people to accept because, in the world, there’s always payment for everything we receive. It’s just how things work here. But God is not like people. If you’ve asked God to forgive you and to come into your life — you are forgiven. His word says so. Thank Him for His forgiveness and begin to rejoice in your secure relationship with Him. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is forgiveness to you? What should our response be to Christ’s forgiveness? 
  2. What are some of the promises God gives us about His forgiveness?
  3. Can self-righteousness interfere with your forgiveness?
  4. What can we change in our lives as a result of the story of the sinful woman? 

A Labor Of Love

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13. 

All this week we have been talking about the sinful woman that anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. If you analyze what the woman did you see strong indications of faith, deep repentance, an unwavering commitment and love for Jesus. I doubt you could read anywhere in the Bible of another woman with more courage than this one because, evidently, this woman went into the house of Simon the Pharisee totally uninvited. The point is, she heard that Jesus was going to be there and she wasn’t going to let anything or anybody stand in the way of finding Jesus Christ. And in that day, that took a lot of courage.

But not only did she show courage, but she was distinguished by love. If you are looking to define love, aside for the love of God, you may want to take a good close look at this woman, because her actions reveal true love. The Bible says that when she found Jesus she fell at His feet. She did not stand up in the face of Jesus with some haughty high-minded attitude saying, “I’m no worse than all the other people in this room.” Rather, she revealed a spirit of humility and love when she was in the presence of Jesus. The question is have we ever demonstrated a love for Jesus like this woman? What would it mean for you to love Jesus the way this woman did? What would prevent us from doing that?

Maybe it is pride like that of Simon in the story. Or perhaps fear, or broken trust. Or maybe it is something in our past. 

The question is this: how much of our love do we express to Jesus?  Are we overwhelmed by the grace and goodness of Jesus and His love for us? Are we overflowing with love and thankfulness like the sinful woman? Will we demonstrate our love this year by doing the simple loving things for those around us? Will we bless others with what God has blessed us with? Will we expand the borders of our hearts and lives to find room for others?   

Perhaps you want to love Jesus more but don’t know how. Like the sinful woman who gave what she had, start with what love you have, be faithful in loving Jesus in the small things and He will lead you into a deeper love for himself.

In closing, I want to stress that it is only because Christ first loved us that we can love Him back at all.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How easy do you think it is to live out the greatest commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind?”
  2. How does God’s love compare to the human expression of love? Do you agree with the statement “you’ll never know how to love God until you know how much God loves you?”
  3. If you were completely honest, how would you rate your love for God? 
  4. How can we love God in even greater ways than we do now?

Broken Vessel

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

This week we have been looking at the story of the sinful woman found in Luke 7. We are not sure what her sin was, but whatever it was, the woman was keenly aware of her sinful state.

Jesus had been invited to dine at a Pharisee named Simon’s house. The sinful woman comes in, stands behind Jesus at His feet with a vial of perfume. She is so overcome by Jesus that she starts to weep. She uses her hair as a towel as she is wiping Jesus’ feet, she is kissing them and anointing them with her alabaster container of oil.

While it is hard for me to imagine someone crying hard enough to wash someone’s feet and then wiping it with her hair, this story demonstrates the beauty of brokenness. This woman was compelled to seek Jesus out. She went where she was not welcome, in front of someone who held her in very low regard. This woman worshiped Jesus in the only way she knew how – with tears, kisses and anointing oil.

This woman did not cling to her pride or even her dignity. Jesus was more important to her than what anyone thought of her. Worshiping and adoring Him was more important than the cultural etiquette. It was more important than the opinion of Simon, a religious leader. It was more important than her precious ointment which she poured out at Jesus’ feet. Her posture of kissing His feet speaks of submission and humility. Because of her brokenness, her submission, she left with the peace that true repentance and God’s forgiveness gives us.

Maybe you are facing a time of brokenness in your life. It is easy to think that God will think less of us, but the opposite is true. Jesus wants us to be real with Him. Until we bring all that brokenness to Him, He can’t heal us and put us back together again. 1 Peter 4:12-13 tells us: ”Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

Don’t waste your sorrows, don’t run from breaking circumstances, but be still and know that He is God. At these times we need to be still and let our trust be transformed into our actions. Let Him work it out and take care of it. Let God work through it. As you open your heart to the Lord, remember that brokenness and humility are the keys that will unlock some of God’s richest blessings in your life and relationships.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Many problems/issues have their root in pride. Agree or disagree?
  2. Humility is God’s prescription for nearly every condition that ails human hearts and relationships. Agree or disagree?
  3. Why is it important to realize we are broken? How aware are you of your own brokenness?
  4. How can you bring your brokenness to Jesus?