by Susan Sampson

Why do we live in the dungeon when we are daughters of the King of kings?!  Why do we walk right back into the dungeon after Christ has set us free from the power of sin and death?!  “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). This week the Lord continued to show me my sins of fear and unbelief.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  And it is faith that is the KEY which unlocks the door of the prison that enables us to come out and follow Jesus.  We must believe the gospel is true by faith.  We must believe Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins.  We do not owe any debt for our sin.  Christ paid it ALL.  We must believe this truth by faith.  We cannot make up for our sins no matter how hard we try.  Only the Son of God, the Lamb of God was able to make full restitution for the debt we owed.  We must CONTINUE IN BELIEF!

How do we continue in belief when our thought life is out of control?   We must take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  It is our thought life that robs us of our freedom and keeps us bound up in knots so we can’t follow Paul’s teaching.  We must take seriously our sin and believe the power of the gospel.  We have to say “NO” to our flesh, our selfish, sinful desires.  Instead of following our feelings, we must carefully and diligently follow the Word of God.  The Lord is using this study to transform our hearts and minds and lives.   All authority has been given to Jesus.  He is the Living Word.  He is our Lord. He is our Master.  We must bow to His authority in our lives, no matter how painful.  I must confess my sin of pride in not wanting to bow and wanting my own way.  God’s ways are NOT our ways.  He is God and we are not.

All of this is impossible apart from the grace of God.  And so we cry out to our beloved Savior along with the blind man and say, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:39)  We remember who Jesus is.  We remember “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song of Solomon 2:4).  This is the beautiful truth.  God’s word is absolute truth.  Our feelings cannot be trusted, they are not true.  They are like shifting shadows which change moment by moment depending on our circumstances.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9).  We must stand on the rock of the Word of God.  CONTINUE IN BELIEF!

So practically speaking, when 4 p.m. rolls around and the cloud of confusion descends and we desperately want to CONTINUE IN BELIEF, what do we do?  We “enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise!” (Psalm 100:4).  We do as Paul commanded us and “Rejoice in the Lord always…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:4,6).  And many times this will be a sacrifice of praise because we don’t feel like it when everything is pressing in.  But God is worthy of all praise and thanksgiving at all times.  The result of our prayers and praise and thanksgiving is verse 7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

What perfect timing from the Lord with the Thanksgiving holiday this week.  He is so good!!  It is my understanding that when the Pilgrims landed in the new world they prayed Psalm 100.  May the Lord pour out His grace to enable us to say “NO” to our 3-year-old selves and Believe by Faith, Follow by Faith, Fight by Faith and Continue in Belief by FAITH!!  To God be all the glory!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

by Susan Sampson

Focus passage: 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Avoid such people.  This was a difficult lesson for me.  When I read the focus scripture all I could think was that the description of the people fit me.  It was difficult not to fall into despair and feel condemned.  Praise God for the reminder and exhortation Laurie gave to us to no longer identify with who we were before Christ!  Praise God that she pointed us directly to the gospel, to the death and resurrection of Christ!  May we all see this long list of sins and understand that is what put Christ on the cross.  This is why He came.  He paid the penalty that we should have paid and would have paid had He not come – and now “it is finished” (John 19:30).  Now the Spirit of the living Christ dwells in believers.  Listen to the truth – STOP and hear the very words of our Lord.  Do not listen to your feelings!! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God…” (2 Cor. 5:17-18a). We must now believe this is true.  We must now identify with Christ and walk forward in His grace.

Yes, it is true, we do still have our flesh.  But Christ has broken the power of sin and has given us power over our sin.  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self control” (2 Tim. 1:7).  So how do we avoid being “such people”?  We must kill the flesh.

Laurie exhorted us to take just one sin and to “get radical with it”. She gave the example of getting a radical new haircut.  We would never cut just a part of our hair off.  It ALL has to go.  Jesus speaks to this very thing.  “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Mat. 5:30a).  This week I noticed the yard of of one of my neighbors.  Their landscaping is stunning.  But this week they pruned everything.  Their beautiful knockout roses were cut down to a nub!!  Hydrangeas all cut back only to a foot above the ground.  It was radical.  All I could see was dead looking stumps.  And yet I know what will happen next year.  The flowers will be in full bloom, even more beautiful than before!  Let’s get cutting!

But how do we get radical with just one sin?  This was in our lecture notes.

  • See your sin as God sees your sin and call it sin
  • Don’t give in to your sin.  Say NO by faith!! Say “no” to your sinful desires
  • Humbly trust in God and not your own strength (or I would add – our feelings)
  • Walk forward in faith believing that Christ is in you

I urge all of us to prayerfully and diligently spend time with the Lord in our homework on Day 5.  The Taking the Truth to Heart and Bringing it to Life page is a gift from the Lord to help us.  He knows our need.  He knows our hearts.  He wants to help us.  Only Christ can give us power over our sin.  He is our Victory.  Please don’t just gloss through this to get it done.  Cry out to the Lord for Him to show you what He wants to show you.  Then may we all by God’s grace respond in humble obedience.  Not turning a deaf ear to the Spirit.  Not being stiff necked.  But turning to the only One who can forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Remember the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume?  It was worth a years’ wages.  She broke it and poured it out on Jesus’ feet and then wiped His feet with her hair. This was radical.  This was Mary.  Lazarus’ sister.  He was there too.  Jesus had brought him back to life.  Mary had witnessed this miracle.  The disciples had witnessed the same miracle yet the bible says they were “indignant.”  But it was personal to Mary.  It was also just 6 days before the Passover.  They gave a dinner for Jesus.  John says that “Martha served.”  But what Christ says about Mary is “she has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mat. 26:10).

It’s less than 2 weeks to Thanksgiving and Christmas is just around the corner.  I feel the pressure.  The pressure from a long to-do list.  But I want to be Mary.  I want to LOVE God with ALL my heart, soul, mind and strength.  I want to abandon my heart, soul and mind and strength at the feet of Jesus.  I want to abandon my need for control, my desire to get it all right, my fear of failure and give my Savior ALL.

Lord Jesus, break our hearts like that alabaster jar and render our hearts completely yours.  Enable us to live the gospel and be the Light in this very dark world.  Help us not to be intimidated or afraid of the darkness in the world or in our hearts.  Help us run to you, Abba, as a little child would when they get afraid of the dark.  Help us believe who we are in Christ and that you created us for Christ and not this culture.  Christ has come and He is coming again!


by Susan Sampson

Do I want to guard the treasure I’ve been given in my salvation by upholding God’s word in my home, being the grace of God to my husband and children?  Am I willing to suffer for the gospel that my husband would SEE it? “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (1Peter 3:1-2).  

Am I WILLing?  I was so struck in my heart when Laurie read from the Valley of Vision to open the morning when I heard her read the words, “repent of my repentance.”  It is so true.  That is the depth of pride.  It is pride that keeps me from suffering for the gospel so that my husband would see it.  It is pride that keeps me from suffering the loss of all things to gain Christ.  This week a friend asked if she could pray for me.  She told me she would pray that God would bend my will to His will.  What sweet words.  What a necessary prayer.  Yes Lord, I want to be willing to live the gospel, to suffer, and to die because that is what you did for me.  Bend my will to yours oh Lord.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of “repentance” is to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.  We must turn and change directions.  We must live differently.  We can’t do this apart from the grace of God.  We must humble ourselves and cry out to the Lord.  We must turn from our obstinancy or stiff necked ways and humbly come to Jesus.  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

So we must come to Jesus, turn to Jesus by faith, and confess our unwillingness to change, our unwillingness to repent, our pride and unbelief, our fear, our obstinancy.  We must come by faith to His word which is living and active.  Our Father is speaking to us in His word.  He is telling us what to do.  He is waiting for us with open arms.  He is pursuing us.  He will not give up.  He has given us the greatest treasure known to mankind and is asking us to guard it with our very lives.  This is what we were saved for.  Night and day, not being ashamed, not turning away, not giving into fear, but fanning the flame every moment of every day, being strengthened by His grace as we fix our eyes on Christ, diligently studying His word, obediently following His word, continually confessing our sin, unceasingly praying and boldly proclaiming the gospel no matter what anyone thinks.

How will we choose to live?  Trusting in our own strength and living for our youthful passions or walking in the Spirit by faith, trusting in Almighty God?  What are we going to do differently?  How will we do our study differently these next 5 weeks?  Jesus is calling us to come to Him.  Will we trust Him?  Will we believe the gospel?

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David….Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as high as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-9).