Tag Archives: fatherhood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 222 – Samson

08/04/15

Judges 15:1-8 Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in.

“I was so sure you hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.”

Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.

When the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” they were told, “Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.”

So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.

 This is another head-scratcher to me. Samson (a Nazirite) had broken God’s law by taking a Philistine wife. He made a foolish bet with her friends based on a riddle that he made up, then told her the answer. When she betrayed him, he killed 30 innocent men to take their clothes and pay the bet. The girl’s father then gave her to another man as his wife.

In today’s passage, we see that Samson apparently only learned this when he returned to consummate the marriage at harvest time. Once again, Samson gets angry, and claims “a right” to have his vengeance. In order to get even, he decides to burn all the crops. You’ve already read how he did it. That must have been quite a picture! And once again, many people who had nothing to do with the offense were made to suffer.

That’s often the problem when we decide to take ‘justice’ into our own hands – which usually means to exact our vengeance for a wrong someone has done to us. We often end up punishing people who did nothing – but we convince ourselves that it’s OK, they’re just ‘collateral damage’ that can’t be helped.

This barbaric cycle doesn’t end here, of course. The Philistines, who have just lost a year’s worth of crops, are angry too. They want their revenge too. When they found out what happened, they take the girl and her father and burn them alive. Samson finds out, and attacks and kills “many of them” – violence begets violence. We end this chapter with Samson staying in a cave, so that the Philistines won’t immediately attack his own people in order to get at him.

Today let’s continue to pray for understanding as we read through this difficult story, and thank God that because He sent His Son to us, we can now know how to turn to forgiveness instead of vengeance when someone wrongs us.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 220 – Samson

08/03/15 – 220

Judges 14:1-4 Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)

I said in the beginning that the story of Samson was one that often left me scratching my head. If I were a cartoon character there would be a bunch of question marks of various sizes flying out of my brain already. The passage doesn’t say how old Samson was when this occurred. But, in my mind, you’re never old enough to speak to your parents that way. It sounds a just a little demanding, doesn’t it? Especially if you consider the fact that they were only questioning why he wanted to disobey God’s instruction to the Israelites regarding marriage with the peoples that were driven out of the Holy Land.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

Right or wrong, to me, Samson sounds like the stereotype of a demanding, ‘it’s-all-about-me’ only child. Verse 4 tells us that this desire to marry a Philistine woman was from God. I get that. The simplified pattern of life for the Israelites was that they would be close to God, then fall away (often through intermarriage), God would use another nation to punish them and wake them up, then when they had learned their lesson God would send someone – often a judge during this period – to rescue them from the people who had become their oppressors.

I think there are 2 great lessons here. First, be extremely careful about knowing and following God’s direction for you. Generally speaking, God will not tell you to do things that contradict His written Word. Why did God choose to work in Samson in this way? Can’t say that I know for sure. Maybe because He knew that this marriage would not come to fruition. Maybe it was because Samson already had a bent to self-centeredness that created these desires within him. Just guessing, of course. But I do know that many of us have done a lot of dumb things because we saw a pretty (or handsome) face, and allowed our desires to overwhelm our good judgment.

Let’s make our prayer today one of examination. Ask God for help to see where and why you are making the same kind of ‘clouded judgment’ mistakes (or are about to). Ask Him for forgiveness for what we have already done, and His help to make things as right as possible, as well as for His help in changing your course where it’s needed. No matter what action is needed from you, do it with respect and love for the other people being affected by it.

Pastor John’s Devotions – Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Samson – 218

08/01/15 – 218

Yesterday we read that Manoah’s son (Samson) was to be a Nazirite even in the womb. This is quite different from being a Nazarene, which basically just means that you were from Nazareth. A Nazirite was someone who made a sacred vow to God. Anyone could do it for a period of time (7 years seems pretty common), or in this case, the commitment was made by Samson’s parents-to-be. This was truly a vow of 100% dedication to God, and taken very seriously, as should any vow you make. There were specific rules concerning the Nazirite:

Numbers 6:1-5 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. “‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.

 There were even more if you care to read on from this point in scripture. Basically Samson was to be dedicated to the Lord from before he was born and for life. He was to remain pure and holy – everything he did in life should have been for God’s purpose and glory.

Mr. & Mrs. Manoah seem to have gotten the idea. In Judges 13:6-23 (yes, you should read it) we read that Manoah wanted to ask for help, for someone to teach them how to raise this special child. They were visited again by the angel that brought the first message, And tried to give him honor, but instead he had them make a sacrifice to God. Finally, baby Sammy was born, pure as possible as we know his mother did her best to follow God’s instructions. As he grew, the Holy Spirit began to show up also.

Judges 13:24-25 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Have you ever known what it was that God wanted of you, maybe even promised to do it, then ended up doing things your own way, or not doing what God asked at all? I know I have. Maybe today would be a good day to pray for forgiveness about those times, and ask for the Holy Spirit to once again be your guide just as He was Samson’s.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 208

07/21/15 – 208

So where does wisdom come from? Do we simply pray for it and wait? Can we start with ‘Wisdom 101’ at our local college? Oh, if it were only that simple. Some say that it automatically comes with age. In the book of Job, after He was struck with horrendous tragedy for no apparent reason, his ‘friends’ came and bestowed upon him some very unsolicited, unwanted, and unhelpful advice. This is part of his answer to them:

Job 12:12-13 “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” 13 “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”

In other words, Job is telling them that they aren’t wise just because they’ve lived some years – wisdom must come from God and God alone.

If there is any truth in that wisdom is found among the aged, it is not so much because of the years (I know some older folks who do some very unwise things), but because of their life experience. Yet even experience in and of itself does not bring wisdom. There’s a tongue-in-cheek definition of experience that says ‘experience is that which enables us to recognize our mistakes when we make them again’. We had a saying in the fire service that some people have 30 years experience; some people have 1 year’s experience 30 times.

It kind of works that way spiritually also. Have you graduated from spiritual Kindergarten 20 or 30 times? Or have you taken those experiences, added them to the knowledge gained using your intellect and, through prayer, turned them into wisdom – practical ways to apply them to your life and to teach them to others. Practical ways to live out God’s purposes in this world. If you have – you are a truly wise person.

If in all your experience you haven’t yet put all this together, here’s the good news – it’s not too late! Although it’s usually better for us to learn our lessons immediately, we can go back in our memories (sometimes with a little help) and do some ‘what if….ing’

If I had handled this differently, how might it have turned out?

If I were advising my son or daughter in the same situation, what would I say?

That sort of thing. I’m not saying you can go back and make everything right – although in some cases you may be able to. What I’m saying is that you can learn from past mistakes, and become wiser for the future.

Let’s thank God today that He has given us the ability to learn from our mistakes, that He is willing to share His wisdom with those who want it for the best and simplest of purposes – to be like Him.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 206

07/19/15 – 206

A man named Bobby Jamieson, in a journal for pastors called 9Marks, wrote this:

“One of the most striking things about corporate worship in the new covenant is the persistent focus on building up the whole body. Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). We teach and admonish one another as we sing to the Lord. As we praise God, we build each other up. Paul goes so far as to say that everything in the gathered assembly should be done with a view to building up the body in Christ (1 Cor. 14:26).”

I can’t help but wonder how different church would look if everything we did there were done with a view to building up the body as a whole, as opposed to looking for things to be the way we like them. Here’s how I like to look at it. I think of church as my base, as though I were a soldier. A soldier can’t choose his assignment, but his army is there to make sure that wherever he’s based, he can go there for training, rest, supplies, nourishment, support, resources, etc. He depends on those who know more about the ‘big picture’ to send him to the right base. So, when deciding on a church to attend, that’s the question. It’s not whether I like the preaching style or the music. It’s whether this is where God wants me to be based. Maybe the problems I see are the precise reason He needs me there!

No matter what, we have to make sure that all we do is done as Paul said – with a view to building up the body in Christ. Let’s all try that for a month and see what God can do! Have a great Sunday!

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 181

06/21/15 – 181

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Usually on Sundays we step out of our study and focus on worship. This Sunday is Father’s Day, and I felt led to do something just a little different. Worship today, absolutely. But remember that God is our Father, closer and more loving than any earthly father could ever hope to be. In a time where so many men simply abandon the responsibilities of fatherhood, remember that God carried the weight of His own to the cross!

The brief statement above says it all. The apostle John was writing to Gaius – not his biological child, but a spiritual one. This is likely someone who John brought to Christ, and was now mentoring and discipling – raising him to spiritual maturity. Even that is unique nowadays. We often focus on evangelism up to the point where we move someone to say the Sinner’s Prayer – then wish them well and walk away. Really, like a parent with a new child, that’s where our responsibility is just beginning. We shouldn’t stop until we know they are walking in the truth – following Jesus as closely as we are – or more.

Go visit your Father at church this morning. Repair/restore/or reinforce your relationship with Him. Make sure you are walking in His truth – the way He taught you through His Word.