Monday, April 24, 2017

Samson's Desperate Cry

Desperation - when your back is against the wall and the odds are seemingly stacked against you. That state of becoming unraveled because it seems as if there's no solution. This is where Samson is because he finally gave in to Delilah and he is captured by the Philistines. (Judges 16:20-31)

Samson thought he could do what he always did which was rely on his strength - but this time he was on his own; the Spirit of the Lord was no longer with him; he had the dawning realization that without God, he was a mere weak man. The enemy could torture and humiliate him. In our lives, it could be likened to our diminishing time in God's presence daily. If our habit of spending time with God changes, we won't have the same resources available to us; our weapons won't be sharp. It would be like going into battle with a dull knife - we are not prepared. We delude ourselves until we realize we are in the heat of battle.

How humiliating and painful - a man who was known to be so strong is brought so low. He was bound with brass chains and his eyes were gouged out - adding insult to injury! Our bad decisions can lead to painful humiliation. When you decided not to punish a child for being disobedient and then they turn around and speak to you as if you were equals; when you took a shortcut with a process at work and now the client account is at stake; when you didn't think before you spoke. Opportunities abound for Team Bad Decisions - but you don't have to be on this team.

As a stone grinder for the Philistines, all Samson has is time. It is in this state of brokenness and desperation that he can reflect and realize that the Lord's hand was on his life. It's often in our desperate moments that we gain clarity on the hand of God. It is also in this state that growth happens. For Samson, his hair began to grow again. Hope lives even in desperate situations. Samson received an outward physical reminder that coincided with his change of heart.

His enemies were rejoicing in their "victory". They paid Samson's hair no mind or forgot the importance of his hair. Have you ever had a feeling in a desperate time, where you knew that you were going to overcome but no one else around you could believe it or see it but only you knew? At this point is doesn't matter if you're overlooked because you recognize that your desperate state is not your final state. Being overlooked in your desperation because God is working on you is all right!

They decided to bring Samson out as Exhibit A in celebration to their false god. He's bound and seems harmless, so when he makes a request to stand between two stone pillars, he's able to do so.

I love Samson's last desperate pray - “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.”
This pray says, Lord, I know you and you know me. I know You are and were my Source. Just one more time Lord, one More Time - GIVE ME STRENGTH.  This pray is an acknowledgment of the Greatness of God. Desperation makes us recognize the greatness of God.

At the end of Samson's life, we see his desperation and devotion to God. Then Samson put his hands on the two center pillars that held up the temple. Pushing against them with both hands,  he prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And the temple crashed down on the Philistine rulers and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.

If you are in a state of desperation, may it bring you full circle back to God.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Psalms 42:1,2,5

Are you desperate for God?


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Samson's Women Trouble

The three women in Samson’s life were Gentiles. The first was the woman from Timnah whom he married, the second was the whore from Gaza, and the third was the only woman mentioned by name, Delilah, with whom Samson “fell in love.” According to the Biblical account, Samson’s relations with these women were a means to avenge the Philistines. (Jewish Women's Encyclopedia)

Samson's only wife was a woman from Timnah. She caught his eye one day, and that was all she wrote! He told his parents to do what they could to make this marriage happen. “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.” (Judges 14:1-2)

His parents objected but ultimately acquiesced. They didn't realize that God was orchestrating this connection so that he could ultimately deliver Israel from the Philistines. (Judges 14:4)
Samson's parents were well intentioned, provided guidance. However, they weren't aware of the details of God's plan for Samson's life. They probably thought that since he was a Nazarite that what they were suggesting made sense. But I also noticed they didn't put up a real fight and they went along with his decision. His parents were at the celebration.

For brevity, the following happened (Judges 14:5-19):
On the way to Timnah for wedding preparations, he killed a lion.
On the second trip to Timnah for the wedding, he ate honey from the dead lion's carcass.
At the wedding celebration, he told a riddle based on his exploits with the lion that no one could figure out.
On the fourth day, the Philistines still couldn't figure out Samson's riddle.
The Philistines told her to entice her husband - Samson. so they could solve the riddle.
His wife wore him down until he gave her the answer which she then told to the Philistines.

"If you hadn't plowed with my heifer you wouldn't have solved my riddle." (Judges 14:18) To me, this sounds like a derogatory view of his wife. This would be consistent since throughout his life he didn't seem to have great respect for women; they were only good for one thing. But this statement also indicates that she was more willing to oblige others than her husband. In trying to keep her people happy she lost her husband and ultimately her life. Samson didn't know how to communicate with his wife or manage himself (i.e. he had no self-control).

And then he got angry.

He used his strength to kill 30 men, then went back home to his parent's house. He left his wife.

It's unfortunate, but his wife became the best man's wife without Samson's knowledge. At some point, Samson decided he wants to go back to his wife only to discover she is no longer his. All he has is his strength so one thing leads to another and his wife is killed as an act of vengeance. (Judges 15)

Now he's angry again and when he's angry he's strong.

He escapes, is captured and returned, pretends to be subdued, releases himself and uses, his strength to kill 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. After this eventful start, he judged Israel for 20 years. During the course of his leadership, we meet his other liaisons - a prostitute and then Delilah. We don't know why Samson never married again, but he may have been employing the adage, "Once bitten, twice shy." This was not clear thinking and was not the best choice, as we will see.

So he spent a night with a prostitute and then he fell in love with Delilah. (Judges 16:4-22)

Delilah was more upfront than his first wife - she specifically wanted to know the source of his strength so that she could tell the Philistines. She was honest and did not have his best interest at heart. Samson knew this and probably thought he could outsmart her - but she wears him down by nagging him, literally to his death. Three times he gave her different scenarios because he was a bit of a prankster, and three times she tried. By the fourth time, he finally tells her the source of his strength. Delilah must have been real good because she was persistent. This is when we wonder about Samson's intellect because Delilah was clear in her mission, but Samson seemed to be blinded by lust and perhaps an over-reliance on his strength.

Samson had a gift but he didn't seem to know how to use it wisely. He didn't develop it, he just knew he had it. It was a good way to get out of trouble or toy with people. In spite of Samson's woman trouble, he was able to have the presence of mind to judge/lead Israel for 20 years. He had strength in leadership, God-given strength and a weakness for women. What a combination.

But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself. Proverbs 6:32

What can you learn from Samson's choices in women?


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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Moment Your Momentum Shifts

As a runner, over time I have become keenly aware of the terrain of my local run. I know the dips in the sidewalk, the cracked cement, the mile markers, the hills and the declines. Because I am familiar with the terrain, I can anticipate the impact it will have on my body. I know for sure that I will look forward to declines because they are easier on my body and that I will have to power through as I work my way uphill. I know to avoid uneven pavement so that I don't twist my ankle or fall.  I know to shorten my stride over bumpy roads. In particular, when I'm approaching a hill I steel myself with lots of self-talk while running - "you can do it, use your arms, maintain your form, it's not that far, when you reach the stop sign everything shifts....." and then I tell myself to stop talking and just maintain my form.

There's always a plateau at the top of any incline. The plateau feels the worse physically because you don't start feeling the relief from the hard work of running uphill, yet. But this is the moment your momentum shifts because you keep going; the plateau turns into a decline and you give yourself a pat on the back.

I've run this course a thousand times - the hill always seems bigger when I'm approaching it and so minuscule in retrospect and yet I go through this self-talk each time. These hills will always be a struggle for me for a hill is a hill - it will always require work to get to the top.

The plateaus in life are where many give up. A plateau is an area of relatively level high ground; a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress. The anticipated result has not shown up, yet. You have come through the crucifixion but the resurrection hasn't happened yet. But this is when you power through and maintain your form. This is when you actively wait with expectancy. This is when you don't quit. This is the moment your momentum shifts. Some of our mountains seemed so huge at the time, but in retrospect, we can see them for what they were - bumps in the road that still required some effort to overcome.

After Jesus was crucified, he was dead for three days and then He came back to life. I can't explain resurrection, but what I do know is this -  His death was preparation for His resurrection.

Don't quit. Know that in the plateaus of your life, you are not alone and your momentum is shifting. You're not alone in the plateau, and you're not alone as you run freely with abandon. Trust God. Hold on. Your momentum is shifting.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Do you know when your momentum is shifting?

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Friday, April 14, 2017

They Killed My God on a Friday

Every year, without fail my husband gets very reflective on Good Friday. Somehow the school the Little One attends scheduled parent-teacher conferences today. He said he's not going as, "They killed my God on a Friday," and he does nothing on this day but reflects on the significance of what this day means. This day is sacred to him.

One of the benefits of marriage is you get to see your partner live out their beliefs. The day is called good, but on this day what Jesus went through in terms of suffering was anything but good. But he hung on a cross for our good. He was sacrificed for us, for our sins.  His death made us perfect.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, on which the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is commemorated in the Christian Church. It is traditionally a day of fasting and penance. (source: Wikipedia)

The Good on Friday is equivalent to the suffering we go through in this life that brings us to a Better. Is there good in suffering? Not in the act itself but being able to withstand and grow through suffering is good. To die and to be resurrected is the ultimate good.  Jesus did that.

I'm glad my husband gets reflective every year on this day because it reminds me to also slow down. I'm glad his faith is so personal and yet so real. I'm glad that we're married to each other.

They killed My God on a Friday...but thank God He Rose!!!

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:50-54

Today was for our good.  How do you observe Good Friday?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Samson - The Last Judge #13

If you're anything like me what you know of Samson goes something like this: he was very strong, he had long hair, he appeared stupid when it came to choosing women, Delilah tricked him, and he stands between two pillars and kills the Philistines and himself. This overall view is true, but there is so much more to Samson's story that is never mentioned.

When Samson's story began the Lord had delivered the Israelites into the hands of the Philistines because of their pervasive cycle of disobedience; this time for 40 years. Before Samson was born, God had it in mind that Samson would be the deliverer and judge for the Israelites. Samson's birth was prophetic. An angel appeared to Samson's mother,  whom I've christened Mrs. Manoah since she is never identified by name, and told her she would have a son. This was a miracle because up until that point she and Manoah - Samson's father, could not conceive. The angel 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.” There is another instance in the Bible where an angel visited a woman and foretold a birth - the Angel Gabriel to Mary regarding Jesus. Samson was a type of Christ, as a Nazarite to God, a Nazarite from the womb. For, though Jesus was not a Nazarite himself, yet he was typified by the Nazarites, as being perfectly pure from all sin, not so much as conceived in it, and entirely devoted to his Father’s honor. (Matthew Henry Commentary)

Mrs. Manoah recognized that she had just had a Godly appointment and ran to tell her husband. He had slight doubt because he wanted additional information and confirmation on this son. He may have been wondering just how this was going to happen.

Mrs. Manoah believed all along; Mr. Manoah had to be convinced just a little bit more.

The angel appeared again to Mrs. Manoah and this time Manoah gets to meet the angel not knowing that he was in the presence of God. In response to Manaoh's question of how they should raise the boy, the angel reiterated what he told Mrs. Manoah but he never provided specifics on how they should raise Samson. Manoah insisted on serving their guest, but the guest - the Angel tells them to make an offering to the Lord.  "I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord. (Judges 13:16)

Scripture points out that Manoah did not realize at this point that he was conversing with an angel of God which upon reading would indicate that he was leaning in that direction. Everything is lined up to show it's a supernatural event and yet he still did not know he was in the presence of the Lord. God was speaking to him through his wife, giving him clear instruction, having dialogue and only after he miraculously disappeared does Manoah recognize he was in the presence of God. I am challenged and convicted by this passage. Only after one final event, one final blaze of glory, do we finally grasp what God is trying to tell us.

His wife knew all along and upon his realization, Manoah becomes fearful. She told him to relax for if we were going to die it would have happened already. “If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.” Mrs. Manoah provided the encouragement that Manoah needed through her calm faith. This act by Mrs. Manoah is a perfect example of what it means to be a helpmeet.

In the prophecy from the angel to Mrs. Manoah, Samson's role was delineated - he was to begin the Israelite's deliverance from the Philistines. Judges 13:4-5 Mrs. Manoah was given special instructions of what to do during the pregnancy and then Samson's role was stated. He was the last judge but he doesn't complete their deliverance. David came after to complete their deliverance from the Philistines.

Another rarely mentioned fact about Samson is that the Spirit of the Lord was on Samson from a very young age and as we go further into Samson's story, it was the source of Samson's strength. No one could understand how Samson was so strong; perhaps his look did not indicate strength. But yet he was very strong and it was only because of the Spirit of the Lord.

Judges 13 provides an initial framework for the life of Samson. Keep in mind, though he is known for his poor decisions, he too is mentioned as a hero of faith in Hebrews. God wants us to understand, that just like Samson - flaws and all, we can still be used by Him. We don't know everyone's beginning or what God has in store for anyone, but God does, so we should engage a heavenly perspective to see how God may be working in our lives and others.

Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. Isaiah 46:10

Have you had a divine appointment and were unaware? Do you know the promises God has for you? For your children? Are you a faithful encourager to your spouse?


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