★ 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 Lust (Part 3a) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the Consequences of Lust.  If you have missed the previous posts, we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (you can click here to catch up).  We then studied Noah and the trap of alcohol and drugs (click here.)  This Thought will delve into an equally harmful pitfall which you may initially think is harmless but can easily go terribly wrong.  Initially I thought we would be able to cover the temptation of Lust in this post but since it is such a broad topic, we will split this one in to a Part A and B.  We will touch upon (3) areas which are interconnected as each enticement results in a subsequent escalating behavior that can destroy lives whether it is one’s reputation, relationships, and even employment.  Three outlets of Lust that can result are…Pornography, Promiscuity and Adultery.  There definitely are many other deviant behaviors that can be unleashed if Lust is unfettered but we will not venture into that darkness.

The Barna Research Group published an article called “New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation” on January 25, 2013 and here is some of their findings from a study they conducted:

“Though sexual sins are nothing new, viewing pornography online continues to escalate and take on new forms as the Internet and social media evolve.  Nearly one in five Americans (18%) say they are tempted to view pornography or sexually inappropriate content online.”

Now before we get started, I just want to make sure we are all on the same page…Pornography can be movies, pictures, magazines, books, etc. that show or describe naked people or sex for arousal.  It used to be that you had to go to newsstand to buy a pornographic magazine or go into a seedy X-rated store to purchase videos but the dawn of the internet changed everything.  Now pornographic content is available to anyone who has access to a computer, tablet or cell phone.  My prayer for today is that if the area of Sexual Integrity has been compromised in your life, that God would open your eyes to the dangers of giving into lustful or fleshly desires.  I pray that because you may be reading this post and not even think that Lust or viewing pornography as something to be avoided.  Here are two shocking statistics from another article published from the Barna Research study called the “The Porn Phenomenon”:

Source: “Teens & Young Adults Use Porn More Than Anyone Else,” January 28, 2016

Not recycling is more immoral than viewing porn!!!!  How far down has our world degraded too??!!  But even though the culture may view it as not a big deal, the Word of God has a much different viewpoint… 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV) commands:

In our last post ★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★, we discussed that in the End Times there will be Godlessness and rampant immorality, but that God sent Jesus to rescue us from Satan’s stranglehold in every area of life including Lust.  We are to glorify God with our body and when we go down the dark road of pornography, promiscuity is a natural result.  A simple way of defining promiscuity is having sex before marriage and potentially with multiple partners.  Maybe you’re reading this and thinking: “What’s wrong with that?  Shouldn’t we experiment before marriage to know what we like?”  I know that is how I felt and that is exactly the trap that Satan sets through pornography and he will use any medium available.  I read this quote from Jimmy Evans who nailed it when he said:

“Movies, television, magazines, and the Internet all display glamorized views of sexual immorality.  They don’t show the disease.  They don’t show the heartache that always results.  They just show the fun—and it makes us feel like we’re missing out.”  Source: “The Secrets of Lifelong Passion and Intimacy”

Everywhere we look sexual immorality is celebrated with no consequences or repercussions.  “If it makes you feel good, go ahead and try it,” or “click here to see what everyone’s talking about…”  FOMO reigns supreme!  “Fear Of Missing Out” is not a new idea, it started back in Garden of Eden when Satan first planted the seed of doubt (see Genesis 3:1,) and it is alive and well today!  The antidote to Satan’s venom is the truth that is found in the Word of God.  Romans 13:13-14 (NLT) offers this for those who believe in Jesus:

“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.  Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

It always comes back to a choice.  We have to choose not to place ourselves in a vulnerable position by engaging in wild parties with alcohol and drugs because our inhibitions are greatly diminished.  Many use Satan as a scapegoat, saying “The Devil made me do it.”  And while it is true that he uses pornography to entrap people, James 1:14-15 (NLT) clearly shows that:

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

James was Jesus’ little brother so who better to instruct us right?  It is our decision to whether we yield to what the Devil puts in front of us and when we do the consequences can be life changing.  That is why understanding the destructive nature of pornography is key to have victory in the area of sexual integrity.  But that will never happen if we don’t at first understand that pornography is just a worthless counterfeit of what God’s plan for Marriage which inevitably will lead to promiscuity.  Sex is intended to be the glue to unite a man and woman in a covenantal relationship.  Unfortunately long before they say “I do,” pornography distorts and pollutes the intimacy that was to be enjoyed between a husband and wife.  When we give into the temptation of lust, we are trading beauty for filth which I know all too well.  Like that statistic above, I was exposed to pornography around 12 years old and I was hooked.  Long before I accepted Jesus and way too young to really process just what I was seeing, Satan was like a boa constrictor that just squeezing and squeezing the life from me.  It repulses me to think of all garbage I allowed before my eyes and I wish I had never seen it.  But there is hope!  Regardless of what culture may say, people can and do change if they are willing to put the work.

Psalms 119:9-11 (NLT) says:

“How can a young person stay pure?  By obeying your word.  I have tried hard to find you — don’t let me wander from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Too easy?  Perhaps but I truly believe that reading God’s Word, the Bible is the way to overcome Satan’s plans of corruption. You cannot just right over and over “I will not sin” on a chalkboard like in school or “will yourself” not to give into temptation thinking that your strong enough to resist.  I cannot tell you how many times I thought that but ended up failing.  1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) warns…

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

And Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) says:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The first step is recognizing that there is a problem and then establishing the proper boundaries.  Tomorrow we will look into the “man after God’s own heart” who allowed the lust in his heart to go unabated.  I will close with this advice from Woodrow Kroll of how to gain victory in life…

“Like our cell phone, Satan has an app for everything. He specializes in getting us off focus.  Now the way to refocus is to set everything else aside, shut everything else out of our life.  Sit done, sit still, open our Bible, and begin to absorb what God has for us.  This doesn’t have to take hours but the more we focus on God and His Word the more we lose focus on the things that Satan tempts us with.”  

Here is part B of this post which is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course ★

★ Act Like Men – “Before the Fall” ★

Resources for those struggling with Sexual Integrity

Continue reading

★ Re|Engage – Understand ★

ReEngage - Lesson 12

Continuing in the Principle of Adore and Respect, Lesson 12 delves into the topic of Understanding. The main idea is:

“God calls you to live with your spouse in “an understanding way.” This means you will need to become a student of your spouse so that you can best love and celebrate them. Your relationship with your spouse is also tied to your relationship with God.”

“Your relationship with your spouse is also tied to your relationship with God.”  This one statement is the lynch to this whole lesson.  If we get this, it will change how we will move forward.

“We need to be servants to one another by studying our spouse and not just be looking out for #1 which is our natural bent.  If you want a better marriage then we need to always be looking out for ways to love and respect our spouse.”  

42 - Daily Dependence - UndersatndingI once heard this definition which I think defines it perfectly…

“Understanding is a three-edged sword.  Your side, my side, and the truth.”  J. Michael Straczynski

The key to understanding people and especially your spouse in every situation is seeing all three sides…Understanding happens at the confluence of all three.  Persevere to understand the one God has blessed you with!!

I love how this lesson started out,

“God made you different, and your differences actually help you to be stronger as a couple then you are alone. By understanding some of these differences, you’ll be better able to serve and celebrate your spouse and help them become the person God has uniquely created them to be.”

Psalms 139:13-14 talks about being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that is the truth for sure but you know what else is the truth?  Your spouse is fearfully and wonderfully made too!  AND they were made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:27).  When we tear down our spouse, we are tearing down God’s masterpiece!  That is why we need to understand the person God has blessed us with and focus on that as a team, together you are better!

I love how the book posed this challenge to us…

“The challenge all couples face in marriage is to view these differences in a way that will actually bring you together and strengthen your marriage, rather than pushing your apart or driving a wedge between you.”

It is important to remember that we will experience spiritual warfare; Satan will exploit those differences to try at increase that “wedge between you.”

“Your differences are from God and are intended to create a stronger combined entity (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  You are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27-28), and you are to celebrate the unique ways God has created each of you.”

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) says,

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Live with your spouse in an understanding way.  What does that mean to you?

The book made 2 points about this verse that I want to share.  First that “weaker vessel” means “physically weaker, not of less value.”ReEngage - Lesson 12 - Glass Vs Thermos

They made a great comparison between a crystal glass and Thermos both having value but for different purposes…

“A crystal glass is weaker than a Thermos, but the Thermos does not possess more values than the glass.  In the same way, while a woman may be physically weaker, she is not in any way less valuable than her husband.”

In the last post, ★ Re|Engage – Expectations ★ I shared about my wife’s uncle who married us that he gave me some great advice when he performed the marriage counseling.  The parallel between the wine glass and Thermos reminds me of another piece of advice that he gave me to be a “bull in a china shop.”  Men need to understand their wives are delicate and precious just how a wine glass is.

The second point from 1 Peter 3:7 that the lesson made was that “a clear connection exists between the way you understand (or don’t understand) your spouse and your spiritual intimacy.

For men, Peter makes the distinction that if we fail to do so, our “prayers may be hindered.” 

“The implication is that you cannot separate your relationship with God from your relationship with your spouse.”

So like anything in life, the only way to understand anything is to study it right?  Here is a great question to ask your spouse periodically…How am I doing showing you love or respect?  And then listen and learn from what they say.

I like what they said in the lesson that understanding and studying your spouse…

“is a lifelong process…it requires time and attention.  It requires intentional effort such as regularly dating one another, purposefully pursuing one another and taking time to communicate with one another.”

Here is a great prayer to pray to God:

Show me one way to love and respect my spouse.  Let me see my spouse through your eyes.

I will close with this great advice from James McDonald who suggested these 4 things to improve your marriage:

“Nothing will transform your marriage like spending time on your marriage.”

  • 15 minutes a day(just talking to your spouse) – Guys don’t pull out a stop watch to time it!
  • 1evening per week (spend time together)
  • 1 day per month(really devoted to your marriage)
  • 1 weekend per year (To a conference or something to really improve your marriage)

“The opportunity we have to live with our spouses in an understanding way is one of the greatest challenges and privileges we experience in marriage.”

 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Emotional Intimacy ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here… 

https://dailydependence.wordpress.com/category/reengage-class/?order=asc

Continue reading

★ Act Like Men – “Paul’s Clarity” ★

Day 20 - Paul's Clarity

Daily Dependence - Section 3 - Stand Firm in the FaithI love the start of this study!

“Keeping the faith is not a two-minute drill; it’s a long obedience and faithfulness over years.” 

In our got to have it now, microwave culture, the idea of anything lasting more than 30 seconds seems to be an antiquated ideal.  But keeping the faith is…

“Consistent trust in Christ.… Protecting it from distortion…[and] Passing it on to others.  Faith doesn’t grow or deepen when we cower in secrecy. Faith strengthens as we go public.”

That is a great summary of “how” to keep the faith. I love the final part especially, that our “Faith strengthens as we go public.”  Going Public about Faith in Jesus, is an area that many people, men and women alike have great difficulty doing. Whether it’s an inferiority complex, doubt about what to say, or just plain laziness, many people will not speak up about their beliefs. The Apostle Paul  however, is a great example that if we want to “Act Like Men,” and become more like Jesus, then we need to step out of our comfort zone!

“For Paul, standing firm in the faith meant keeping it personal, keeping it pure, and keeping it going. Through his suffering, God gave him an immense clarity about what keeping the faith is all about.”

How about you?

Here is the next installment. . .★ Act Like Men – “Clarity In Conflict” ★

or

If you want to read previous Act Like Men posts click here.

 

Continue reading

★ Act Like Men – “You’re Only Lying To Yourself” ★

Day 12 - You're Only Lying To Yourself

Daily Dependence - Section 2 - Be WatchfulThis study opens up with a powerhouse statement, that when you first read it you could be offended but when you really think on it, it is spot on!!!

“People who have been saved by grace through to love giving grace to others. If you don’t love more and better than you used to, you are just not saved. It’s time you stop lying to yourself.”

It is also supported by 1 John 4:20 (ESV) which says,

“If anyone says, ‘I love God’ and he hates his brother, he is a liar.” 

Wow this is a very strong statement and I love the way that James McDonald just says it as it is!  I think it’s an interesting challenge that we need to “love more” and “love better” than we used to!  This is something that I try really hard to do myself, I think I do okay but is always room for improvement!  I am a firm believer of trying to “leave people in a better than you found them.”

“The Bible commands, ‘Be not wise in your own eyes,’ (Proverbs 3:7) and ‘In humility count others more significant than yourselves.’ (Philippians 2:3)  God’s word has nothing good to say about the critic, but it does command the wise man who listens and learns from everyone, even loving his enemies. Let’s do better at ignoring the noise of those who only seek to destroy, and let’s continue to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus, seeking to serve Him with greater urgency every year, as long as He gives us breath.”  

So where do you stand with this?  Would love to hear your thoughts?

Here is the next installment. . .★ Act Like Men – “Headed For The Ditch On A Sunny Day” ★

or

If you want to read previous Act Like Men posts click here.