★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Be Weak Like Samson – Part 2 ★

In the last post, we closed with the question, are you weak like Samson?  Maybe that was a harsh way to end the post but God has been really working on my heart for the past 6 months that as a Christ Follower I must desire to DO MORE and BE MORE than the status quo!  We also read this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…

“Samson was an incredibly strong man, with a dangerously weak will.”  Craig Groeschel 

If you did not read it, I’d recommend you go back and check out Part 1 before reading on.  Today I want to encourage you that there is a hope if you find yourself battling a weak will.  Samson with all of his physical strength, never had the fortitude to say no to his selfishness or his anger or his lust and as a result he failed to truly live up to the calling on his life because he could not say no to temptation.  James 1:14-15 (NLT) gives us a warning that Samson could have used:

Instead of enjoying true biblical community, Samson surrounded himself with the very people he was supposed to rescue Israel from, and thus allowed his sin to give birth to death.  He went from strength to weakness not just because of the haircut, but I believe because he lost his identity and connection to God which opened himself to be attacked from the enemy who ultimately used Delilah and the Philistines to take out God’s mighty warrior.  Remember Samson had an angelic announcement of his birth, a great assignment as a Nazarite and a noble purpose to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines.  He traded all that for sex and his own selfish desires.  He was completely UNSTABLE!  I shared in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Harden Your Heart ★ these two powerful verses from Colossians 2:6-7 (HCSB) which contains the antidote to an unstable life…

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, WALK in Him, ROOTED and BUILT UP in Him and ESTABLISHED in the FAITH, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.”

The key to that verse for me is the word “ROOTED.”  I read this definition…“to establish deeply and firmly.”  A person who is ROOTED in God’s Word and totally surrendered to the Father’s Will, will be STABLE in all their ways.  Now stable does not mean perfect and without sin, it simply means that we live our lives pursuing those things that matter and pressing on to be more and more like Jesus and not allow ourselves to be tossed around by culture and our flesh (or sinful desires).  If we don’t, and we allow ourselves to go down that dark path it will lead to death.  Now we all make mistakes and fall short of the mark but when you strive to engage in a relationship with Jesus and maintain a link to the creator of heaven and earth your life will be forever changed. It’s when we let ourselves drift that we will find ourselves in danger, like Samson.  I think one of the saddest passages about this “Bible Hero” is found in Judges 16:20-21(NLT) after Delilah lulled Samson to sleep and a man shaved his hair (the source of his strength)…

Samson had become so dependent on himself that he became deluded in where his power came from that he didn’t even realize that the Lord had left him.  What would you say about yourself?  Be honest, would you say that you are walking according to God’s Word or by your own?  Galatians 5:16 (ESV) gives this counsel to keep in step with the Spirit:

Samson was all about himself and prioritized satisfying his desires over his destiny.  Let me ask you, where do you place your priorities?  Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God?  If so look back at the verses in Colossians we just read…As our roots grow in Christ, our faith will be strengthened and we will be equipped to help others.  Even though you might not be able to travel throughout the world as a missionary, but you can change the lives of those you come in contact with.  The way roots are stimulated to grow is by engaging in biblical community.  That can be in different forms or environments, whether it be corporately on a Sunday morning, a Lifegroup (which is a setting of 12-15 people) or a small group of 3-4 people of the same-sex which my church calls a “Fight Club.”  Regardless of what that looks like, the key immerse yourself in atmospheres that develop close friendships so that when the storms of life hit, (and they will,) there will be a group of people who are “waiting in the wings” to come alongside and help you. God never designed us to “go it alone.”  You can’t just go to church once in a while or read a Bible verse once in a while or a read the latest Christian book to be considered a disciple of Jesus; we need to continually learn and engross ourselves with the things that matter most to God in order in our walk with Christ.  I love what King David wrote in Psalm 119:35-37 (ESV) says:

A person who is ROOTED will study the Bible, they will seek to help not only those not related by blood, BUT will do anything to reach them and take care of their needs.  They are not tossed about by their emotions and will strive to rise above the filth that our culture offers up.  A ROOTED person is stable, loyal and can be counted on to be there in times of trouble, just the same as you would be for your parents, wife or children.  We must fight for others because we have a great adversary and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT) we are warned:

“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.  They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.  They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.”

The call of Samson was to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines, the call for the ROOTED person is to go out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are a new creation with the assignment to reconcile or bring others to God because Satan, the enemy of our souls is looking to steal the Word whether you know it or not, we are supposed to be God’s representatives wherever go whether at home, the kid’s soccer field or on the checkout line at Kroger, we should be on mission looking out for an opportunity to call people back to the Father.  How different would our world if every person lived with such purpose?!  The key is to strive for progress, not perfection.  You may have some bumps in the road as you reach out, don’t let Satan discourage you.  We need to fight for others and be bold in expressing our faith.  Craig Groeschel asked made these great points:

So how much do believe in Jesus?  If the people who know you were asked if you were a Christ Follower, would they know the answer?  You see the more you believe in Jesus and what He did for you and me on the cross, the bolder we should be about telling others about him.  A person who is ROOTED and mission-minded is committed to be working on his boldness and being alert.  You never know maybe God may be setting you up to change someone’s life.  He certainly did for Samson, and I dare say for you and I.  In order to avoid being weak like Samson, we need to understand that we are called to be Holy.  1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV) says:

When we read God’s Word, we are setting our minds on that which matters most and prepares us to face the battle from the enemy.  Without it, its like going to battle with no weapon or armor.  So the question remains…Where do you place your priorities?  Are you passionate about pursuing your relationship with God?  If it is a “no,” then I want to encourage you to repent and pray for God to break your heart for the sins that we all fall victim to and strive to engage God’s Word so that we can make a difference in this world.  Matt Chandler made this great point on what it means to repent:

I love that definition, we must recognize that we are sinners and in need to change our ways!  If the answer to the question is “yes,” that you want God to be a priority in your life and to be a ROOTED person then you need to put on “The Whole Armor of God” as Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) instructs:

Samson could have used this advice because he had no community to lean on for Godly counsel as he joined himself to Philistine women and prostitutes.  He literally surrendered his “armor” by telling Delilah the source of his strength was his hair.  The man with supernatural strength was not taken out not by a stronger foe but by his own libido!

Living life without our armor is like trying to stand up against the constant waves of the ocean, we must not think we can do life on our own strength.  It is God, and God alone who gives us the ability to stand firm!  That is what the Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us…success in God’s Kingdom is when we “walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith!”

Nothing changes if nothing changes.  The question is…do you want to change?

 

If you want to dig deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Opposition Will Come ★

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★


Here is a playlist of Craig Groeschel’s phenomenal 4-part series on Samson:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOhYwHeg7cNYW7fSCahcj6ipp9vhM-zQs

 

 

Continue reading

Advertisements

★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Be Weak Like Samson – Part 1 ★

So what did you think of the movie Samson that was released on last month ago today?  Unfortunately, I did not get to see it in time before it left the theaters.  It is so sad how fast a faith-based movie debuts and then is pulled from the big screen.  Guess I will have to catch it on Redbox.  I was really looking forward to it too because I have been doing a lot of study recently on the well-known Bible character.  In our Lifegroup we covered the life of this Samson who very well could be considered a superhero which from the previews of the movie, the film makers sure played up the superhuman strength.  In the book of Judges, Chapters 13 through 16 tells the story of what is known about Samson who has been featured in many a Sunday School Lesson and Children’s Book.  But let me ask you, what do you know about this epic Old Testament Hero?  For me, I thought I knew about Samson, but after studying these (4) short chapters I was shocked to see that there was much more to him.  Sure everyone knows about the supernatural strength, the long hair, and the overactive libido that led to the haircut, capture and death, but what else do you know?

As I studied, I learned that Samson was called for a very special purpose…to deliver the nation of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, an enemy that they continually battled.  He was also a Judge over the Nation of Israel for (20) years.  Now if you are wondering what that means, Judges 2:18 (NLT) defines the role:

“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, He was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime.  For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.”

In addition to that, as I read Judges 13:3-5 I found out that there was an angelic proclamation of Samson’s birth.  That was a surprise to me.  I did not recall that so I did some research and found that Samson was (1) of only (6) people to have an angel announce their birth.  The others were:

  • Ishmael, whose parents were Hagar and Abraham – See Genesis 16:11
  • Isaac, whose parents were Abraham and Sarah – See Genesis 17:19
  • Solomon, whose parents were David and Bathsheba – See 1 Chronicles 22:6-9
  • John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth – See Luke 1:13-15
  • And of course Jesus, whose parents were Mary and Joseph – See Luke 1:30-33

In Samson’s case, the Angel proclaimed to Manoah and his wife that their son was destined to be a Nazarite.  Now if you are not familiar with what that is…A Nazarite is defined in Numbers 6:1-21, in which a person vows for a certain length of time that they will:

  • Avoid contact with the dead.
  • Abstain from wine and strong drink.
  • Refrain from cutting their hair.

The difference in Samson’s case was that this vow would be for a lifetime.  And so he made it onto another list.  In the Bible there are only (3) people mentioned that took the Nazarite vow for life:

Fun fact, the only one of these men actually called a “Nazarite” was Samson.  So why am I sharing all of this?  Because NO ONE IN ALL of the Bible had SO MUCH STACKED IN HIS FAVOR and yet when you read WHAT Samson did and WHY he did it, all I can say is WHAT WASTED POTENTIAL!  I asked the people in my Lifegroup to come up with some Life Lessons about the hero who is so widely taught about on Sunday mornings. Overwhelmingly, no one could come up with any positive actions that Samson did.  So here are some thoughts I had of what I have learned of “what not to do” from the Life of Samson.

Lessons from the Life of Samson:

  1. Don’t break your vows/promises to God. Samson continually gave into his emotions of selfishness, anger and lust.  And ultimately broke all (3) of the Nazarite vows – he ate honey out of a dead lion’s carcass (see Judges 14:8-9), he threw a feast which customarily included alcohol (see Judges 14:10), and told the secret to his strength which lead to the history making haircut (see Judges 16:17-19).  What Samson desired ultimately was more important than the destiny that God blessed him with!  
  1. Guard your eyes and heart from desiring what it is not good or safe for you. Samson chased after every detestable thing which had disastrous results.  Samson allowed his selfishness, anger and lust to run amuck that caused an enormous amount of suffering for those closest to him, and led to his death.
  1. Don’t include others in your sin. Samson involved his mother and father in his sin of eating the honey from the dead carcass of the lion he killed unbeknownst to them.  If we call ourselves a child of God or a Christian or a Christ Follower, we must be very careful that we don’t cause others to sin as a result of example or in Samson’s case through deception. And that leads to life lesson #4…
  1. Listen to your parents/Godly counsel. Samson could be the poster child for not being “unequally yoked.”  (See 2 Corinthians 6:14-16).  In Judges 14:2 (ESV) we first see Samson’s inability to control himself…

“Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah.  Now get her for me as my wife.””

And that refusal to submit to authority set the tone for how he would live his life!  Samson wanted what he wanted and chased after it regardless of the consequences.  His parents objected to the wedding but he forward with the planning anyway.  And the sad part, in the end he did not even get the woman because of Samson’s anger over the betrayal of her giving away the answer to his riddle.  See Judges 14:10-20 which leads us to our next life lesson… 

  1. Guard your anger. Samson allowed his rage to dominate his life and in the end, he lost everything.  Instead of caring for God’s people and fighting for Israel, Samson time and time again allowed his anger to rule his emotions resulting in much pain.

As part of the engagement, Samson threw a week-long party leading up to the wedding. During the feasting, Samson lost a bet over a riddle and ended up killing (30) innocent Philistines to settle then wager.  He went back home to mommy and daddy and so his finance was given away in marriage to Samson’s best man.

When Samson found this out, he tied up (300) foxes and set their tails on fire and burned up all the grain fields of the Philistines. But that overreaction resulted his ex-fiancé and her father being burned alive and eventually severe consequences on the Nation of Israel.

  1. As you grow in the Lord, stay humble and watch out for the sin of pride creeping in. Samson completely lost sight of his purpose as he believed more in himself than in the God who gave him the great calling to be Israel’s deliver!    Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (ESV) warns…

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

He trusted on his own strength to solve all problems and thus took God for granted which is ironic because it was God who gave Samson the supernatural strength to do everything he did. 

  1. Keep an attitude of gratitude. In Judges 15:16-17 Samson boasted and took credit initially for killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.  Then in Judges 15:18 (NLT) it says:

“Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, ‘You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant.  Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?’” 

His response was more like a spoiled brat than a great mighty man of valor.

  1. If you play with fire you’re going to get burned! (See Proverbs 6:23-29).  Samson consistently made the wrong choice when it came to the women he got involved with. 

We already discussed the Philistine woman at Timnah and the consequences that ensued.    

When Samson was with the prostitute in Judges 16:1, it says in verse 2 that the Gazites:

“surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city.”

Then of course there is Delilah. Which leads us to the last life lesson…

  1. Lust is not Love. Samson attached himself to the wrong people.  In Judges chapter 16 it talks about how Samson “feel in love” with Delilah and how she kept trying to determine the source of Samson’s strength because the Philistines promised to pay here 1,100 pieces of silver to betray him!  Judges 16:18-19 (NLT) recalls…

“Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands. Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him.”

Steven Furtick made this powerful point about how Samson traded his purpose for passionate encounters with the very enemy he was supposed to be delivering His people from…

“Samson took his passion and spent it on his preference instead of applying it to his purpose.  So instead of delivering his people from the Philistines, he reacted out of rage and married the Philistines.  Are you stable in your emotions?”

I love that question…”Are you stable in your emotions?”  Samson clearly wasn’t as he played with fire sleeping with the enemy, fully knowing that Delilah was going to betray him and yet he gave away the secret to his strength!

  1. God can use your disobedience for good. Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on Judges 14:4…
“Samson’s desire for a Philistine wife clearly transgressed God’s law (See Deuteronomy 7:3-4), yet God used even his disobedience for the good of His people.  Note, however that Samson himself never received a blessing for his rebellious choice and regretted it (See also Judges 14:20).”

And to add to Charles Stanley point, at the end of Samson’s life that, Judges 16:28-30 (ESV) tells us:

“Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.”

Now every Sunday School class heralds the epic death of Samson but look at the underlined words.  Samson did not say strengthen men to strike a heavy blow on the enemy of your people, he said strengthen that “I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  But nonetheless God used Samson’s “disobedience for the good of His people!”

As I complied this list, and saw how Samson threw away a great legacy to indulge his carnal desires and unleash revenge; the one word to that came to mind to describe Samson was not the typical Sunday School adjective like cunning, unique or strong…But rather UNSTABLE!  He was controlled by his flesh and as a result many people were hurt by his childish and selfish decisions.  That was the muse for this Thought, the reality that Samson was not strong at all, but weak!  Instead of walking with God, he followed his flesh!  I will close with this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…

“Samson was an incredibly strong man, with a dangerously weak will.”  Craig Groeschel

OUCH!  That hurts but is also so true!  I want to leave you with this question to ruminate over…”

 

Click Here for Part 2 that unpacks how to be a stable follower of Christ!

 

For further study, check out this blog post called:

★ Act Like Men – “The Sampson Syndrome” ★

 

Here is a great sermon on Samson called “Brace Yourself” by Steven Furtick

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Gossiping (Part 6) ★

I know it has been a couple of months since our last post.  Life has been quite busy that has kept me from writing.  It has also been almost (5) months since a blog was written as part of our Temptation Series so let’s recap just to jog our memories of what we have studied.  We first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study about the danger of flirting with Temptation.  We then covered the pitfalls of alcohol and drugspornography and promiscuityadulterygluttony, and moral / ethical compromise.  You can also click here to read all of the posts in the Temptation Series.  Our theme verse for the series is from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says:

Today’s pitfall is one that I think hits home for just about everyone to some degree, as we all have leaned into some juicy morsel that was being told to us.  Now before you try to get on your high horse and deny it, scripture backs this up.  Proverbs 18:8 (NLT) reveals:

“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.”

A rumor is defined as a “circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.”  And even though the validity is questionable, we latch onto the secret and run with it as though it was gospel.  Today I want to unpack how this seemingly insignificant temptation can cause chaos in our life and how it’s paramount that we guard our hearts and not allow ourselves to give in to the pitfall to gossip (See Proverbs 4:23-24).

Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.

It’s funny the things that you remember.  Now if you have been tracking with our Temptation Series, I have correlated a bible character with the particular sin to avoid the consequence of, but as I started to plan for this Thought about the perils of gossiping, I immediately reminisced about a VeggieTales video I watched with my kids when they were young called “Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed.”  Before you dismiss this parallel give me some grace to explain.  I may be dating myself here but we had the VeggieTales video on VHS tape, (google that if you don’t know what that is).  Though it was produced in 1999 and the special effects are not spectacular based on what is produced now, it’s still one of my favorites.  This episode however gave my oldest daughter nightmares and to this day she says that is why she hates weeds!  Hahaha!  I hate them too!  In fact, as a result of the mild winter, when spring came this year, weeds popped up all over my yard.  And because it was so early in the season, the lawn care technician said we had to wait.

Well as we waited the weeds grew to be over a foot tall!!  It was staggering to see how fast and tall the weeds got.  And just like allowing the weeds to grow, when we allow gossiping to happen, it will spread to become an uncontrollable mess!  In the VeggieTales episode, Larry-Boy is a cucumber action-hero who must thwart a plant spreading rumors in Bumblyburg.  One of the things that I loved was the catchy song lyric from Larry-Boy’s archenemy:

“I’m a rumor weed; a tiny little story is all I need to make a big mess.”

That’s some good advice right there…“a tiny little story can make a big mess!”  Though it cased my daughter to have nightmares, the way the Rumor Weed kept growing as the story spread to more and more people was really powerful because it showed how a little rumor that two kids started could produce a monstrous weed!  And more importantly, it showed the consequences of yielding to the temptation as the city was under siege by a horticultural terror!  I’m reminded of what Proverbs 18:20-21 (GNT) says:

“You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say.  What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.”

Amen?  Spreading rumors or gossiping is much more than just “dishing in the dirt,” words have the power of life and death (see Proverbs 18:21)!  And when we allow gossip to proceed from of our mouths we open the door to all kinds of problems because Gossip snowballs.  Just as the Veggie Monster grew larger as more and more gossip was spread, our participation and proliferation of rumors can cause devastation.  I am sure you can remember a time in school or in the office when a story spun out of control and caused conflict.  But Proverbs 26:20 (NLT) shows what will happen when we don’t join in…

“Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”

You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t spread rumors,” but maybe that’s because you don’t realize what gossip is.  Rick Warren had this great insight:

“When we’re talking about a situation with somebody who is neither part of the problem or part of the solution, then were probably gossiping.”

I think we ALL are guilty of that!!  There are so many scriptures in the book of Proverbs that warns about gossiping but Proverbs 17:9 (HCSB) gets to the heart of the matter:

“Whoever conceals an offense promotes love, but whoever gossips about it separates friends.”

If we truly want to love on others than we will keep our mouths shut!  Otherwise we are asking for conflict in our friendships!

At one point of the VeggieTales show, this statement was made:

“How do you kill a weed?” The answer… “You go to the root.”

I know I am quoting this cartoon a lot but there are some really good nuggets to mine from it.  If we want to combat the rumor weeds in our lives, we need to get to the root!  To that end, I wanted to share with you an amazing message called Necessary Sins Series – Part 2: Gossip by Craig Groeschel, Life Church.TV.  He suggested this practical approach to overcome the sin of gossip by asking these (3) questions…

1.  Is my conversation helpful or hurtful?  (See Ephesians 4:29Proverbs 26:20-22)

“Everything you say must be true but everything that is true does not need to be said…Is it helpful or is it hurtful.   I want my words to lift others up rather than tear them down.”  Craig Groeschel

2.  Am I making private matters public? (See Proverbs 25:9-10)  Proverbs 11:12-13 (NLT) says:

“It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.  A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.”

3.  Am I permitting others to gossip? (See Proverbs 17:4)

“Not only is it wrong to speak the gossip, it’s also wrong to listen to the gossip.  Why?  What you permit, you promote…If you listen to it you are participating in it.”  Craig Groeschel

I never really thought about that before, “What you permit, you promote.”  Ouch!  Something to think about, if you are listening to gossip about a friend or co-worker, what makes you think that when you are not around that person is not talking about you?  And if that advice was not sufficient, I will close with what Jesus said in Matthew 12:33-35 (NLT):

“A tree is identified by its fruit.  If a tree is good, its fruit will be good.  If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.  You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right?  For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

If we call ourselves followers of Christ, then our mouths should align with the truth!  Just like a tree is identified by its fruit, then we should be people who do not join in when the gossiping starts and more to the point we should not allow it to continue in our presence! Amen?

I know I am pushing my luck, but if you will permit one more quotation from the Larry-Boy episode, I wanted to finish with this simple advice that the father told his son at the end that:

“God doesn’t want us to tell stories that hurt.  He wants us to spread nice words.”

And that is what I want to leave with you today!  Let our words point to the God we serve!

To dig a little deeper, check out:  

★ Thought for the Day –  Our Tongues Should Point People to Jesus ★

Here is the link again if you want to watch the message

Necessary Sins Series – Part 2 – Gossip from Craig Groeschel.

If you are interested in watching the full episode of “Larry-boy and the Rumor Weed,” click here.

VeggieTales – Larry-Boy and the Rumor Weed

 

Continue reading