Sunday, September 18, 2011

Samson Part 2: Faith Wins

After telling Delilah that his hair was his strength, Samson lost his hair AND his strength. And it was pretty much downhill from there:

Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison - Judges 16:21)

But it was there, in his captivity and pain that he realized where his strength came from. Nowhere in Judges 13-16 do we ever see Samson pray until just this moment. Prior to this moment, Samson has killed a lion and 1,030 Philistines with brute strength. Strength that he attribute to dead cells on top of his head. But in that moment, in that horrible moment of weakness, Samson found his true strength:

Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. - Judges 16: 28 - 30

Samson has no right to expect anything from the Lord. Look at where he is. Look at what his life has come down to...but that didn't stop him from asking. It didn't stop him from putting his last shred of trust, and his last remnant of faith in God. And when he did, two things happened:
  1. His strength returned, and he fulfilled the purpose God had set out for him, and 
  2. He obtained his good report
Clarification? Sure.

For the first point, it's obvious that his strength returned and he was given power that the Philistines thought they had taken from him. But know this: those who are set apart by God, always belong to God. By the angel, God had already spoken a word concerning Samson, and it was going to be fulfilled (see Isaiah 55:11). Do you remember that word God spoke: "...and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines." In life, he killed 1,030 with brute strength. At his death, he killed 3,000 with his faith! Faith Wins.

We too have been set apart. So I don't care how bleak your situation looks, don't give up on God. And no matter what mistakes you have made, never neglect to cry out to Him for help. 

For the second point, I put this out to put an end to all the "cautionary tale" chatter. Samson's story is one of ultimate victory! Twenty years he judged in Israel without a clue. But in one day, in his worst moment...he obtained a good report by faith. Samson's faith pleased God. The fact that Samson would cry out to Him, pleased God.  How do I know? The Bible tells me so:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight... and these all, having obtained a good report through faith...

There are people in that list who have been doubted (Samson and Jephthah), but of this there is no doubt: by faith they were found APPROVED. They are stamped APPROVED and ACCEPTED, and are even now waiting for the rest of us to join them in eternity. And it is by faith. Don't knock it...because:

Faith Wins.

I love this song...and I don't reminds me of Samson.

Samson Part 1: Where Does Your Strength Come From?

Most people know the story of Samson. That angry guy with superhuman strength and the long hair? Yep, that's him! His story is often told as a cautionary tale. You can go to websites and ask "what can we learn from Samson's life?" and they'll tell you that:

Giving in to temptation leads to sin, and sin can have grave consequences

That's a true statement...but I don't think that's the lesson that we should learn from Samson's life. That is a surface-level lesson that you can learn explicitly from any number of scriptures. But when you look deeper, you get deeper. There are two (maybe 3...maybe 1 million) lessons we can learn from Samson:

Lesson #1: Know where your strength comes from

If you don't know the story, read Judges 13 - 16.  If you know the story, read Judges 13 - 16. Either'll be new. I had forgotten that Samson was one of those miracle babies (i.e. Isaac, Samuel, Jesus), born to a barren mother, heralded by an angel:

Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”  - Judges 13:3-6

Is there any mention of strength? Is there any mention of the source of this strength being hair?

Even though God never said that his hair was the secret of his strength...Samson thought it was. When asked by Delilah where his strength came from, Samson first thwarted her with lies. First he told her that if they bound him with 7 cords, he'd be weak. When he woke up bound in cords, that should have been a clue that this chick was bad news...but men...sigh. After 2 more lies, Samson finally admitted: "If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man." (Judges 16:17)

This is the problem with Samson: MISPLACED FAITH. He put his faith in his strength, and he attributed his strength to his hair.* How many of us are like that? We put more faith in the gift than in the God who gave it.

*PAUSE: Some may say Samson put his faith in his Nazirite vow. But Samson didn't make a vow. God consecrated and set him apart for a specific task. Plus, if his faith was in the vow, he would have feared wine ("if I drink a glass of wine, I'll lose my strength"). That wasn't the case. Clearly, he's all about the hair. UNPAUSE*

What if Samson had answered: "My strength comes from the Lord. If He should take His Holy Spirit from me, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man. I pray daily against such."

What would Delilah have done then? She would have surely been stuck. She would have thought: "If his strength comes from the Lord who am I, that I could be able to take it from him?"

If your strength comes from the Lord, who can take it from you?!

Samson's true weakness did not come from a bad haircut, but it was a weakness born out of misplaced faith. Faith in the wrong place can harm you. Faith in the wrong place can give you a false sense of security (faith in your hair, your intellect, your job, your relationship, etc.).

Ephesians 6:11-17 urges us to put on the whole armor of God. And that our faith is our shield. But misplaced faith is no shield at all, it's paper-thin and leaves you defenseless. 

Samson didn't have a shield. Where's yours?

You might be thinking: ...umm, this is still a cautionary tale. Nope! Check out Part 2. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

I went to church this morning hoping that service wouldn't be political just because today is September 11th. I was thinking: "I can watch memorials and tributes on TV. I've come to church to hear about God."

I think my attitude was wrong. The church speaks biblical truth into our lives, and 9/11 is a part of our lives. Forever. The service was about remembering. And it was about the Christian reaction to tragedy, and it was about justice, love, and humbly walking with the Lord. And it was very political in the process. That's almost inescapable. Sitting in the service, I listened, and allowed the preacher to speak the horror of ten years ago back into the hearing of my today. was loud. Just last week I was talking about the impact of September 11th. About how I can barely remember things from last week, but I know EVERYTHING about that particular day. I know nearly every detail of where I was, who I was with, jokes we were making in the car prior to the realization that the radio personalities were no longer playing music or telling corny morning commute jokes. It's crystal clear. But do you know what I can't remember at all? September 10th. What happened on September 10th doesn't matter, b/c on September 11th we were at "ground zero." And going forward, everything was changed.

Ground Zero:

1. The point on the earth's surface directly above or below an exploding nuclear bomb.
2. A starting point or base for some activity.

And, it is Sunday, which means if there is a's about Jesus. And so I was thinking about the spiritual "ground zero." Jesus dropped a bomb on religion. And his death became the starting point for new life, and new access to God (in a way that was previously unknown).

I imagine that for the followers of Jesus, and for the people of Israel there was another really memorable day:

"Where were you when the veil of the temple was rent in two?"
"Where were you when the sky was darkened?"
"Where were you when the earth shook?"
"Where were you when Jesus was crucified?"

We talk a lot about 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m., and 10:03 a.m. But today I was thinking about 3 o'clock ("and at the 9th hour"...Mark 15:34). How, everything prior to that moment is subordinate to what happened in that moment. Because once Jesus died, spiritually the world was at "ground zero." I say the world, because that's who Christ died for (John 3:16). Going forward, everything was changed...everything.

Just food for thought from a Christian American.

Go Jesus!


P.S. By the way, I was on my way to Multi-cultural Literature at the University of Toledo, riding in the car with Valerie Thompson, when we heard a little something on the radio, about the first plane hitting. We didn't get it. We got to class, in the Honors Center, and the place was in turmoil. Our professor, Dr. Denk, herded our entire class into a large room, where other students/teachers had congregated. In that room, we watched live coverage on a big screen TV.  And in that room, with crying teachers and students, Val and I watched the first tower fall.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blog Catch-Up: Medieval Times

For the past two weeks, I have been living in Medieval Times (minus turkey legs and the garb). That is to say, I've lived 2 weeks without cable and internet in my home. It was hard, but I caught up on some reading, some sleep, and became more closely acquainted with Redbox*.

Now I'm back, and will update you on the past two weeks:

1. New Job Update

I have found that regardless of where I work...I'd rather be at home. However, I'm really enjoying the new opportunity. I find myself busy, and working on projects that "expand my horizons." I miss my old co-workers, but the new ones are not too shabby. Very sociable, and lighthearted. Today, I was laughed at for like a solid 5 minutes because I didn't know how to spell "Booz Allen." I'm not ashamed to admit that I spelled it "Bose." Well, I'm a little ashamed.

2. New Home

Two weeks in the new apartment, and I won't lie to of yet, I have used NONE of the amenities that were so important to me, except for the business center when I was in internet withdrawal. As for the rest:
  1. Media Center - nope
  2. Indoor basketball court - do I need my own ball? 
  3. Pool - I had 4 days to go before it closed for the season. On the 5th day, I inquired about when the pool closed. Oops!
  4. Billiards Room - I haven't pool hustled any residents yet. Yet!
  5. Golf simulation - I think that's broken anyway...
I haven't even spent a lot of time with the new roomie...all in good time. I think we're destined to be pals...we have the same initials! So far, so good.

3. New Books

A Song of Ice and Fire series. I'm on book 3. It's a serious time commitment, but now there's no turning back for me. This really intensified the medieval feelings. If you're into medieval fantasy, magic, murder for power and that type of'll like this.

4. Miscellaneous

*Redbox is a corrupt business. Perhaps even a sham. I tried to return a DVD, and the box wouldn't take it! There was some number to call...but I'm too lazy to do that! So that malfunctioning box cost me an additional $1.00 and applicable tax. Rude!

I actually went to the Renaissance Fair in Maryland last week. It was terrible, with the exception of a glass-blowing demonstration, and the joust. That joust was great. Hazaa! There were some minstrels (?) playing at the food area, and some random medieval belly-dancers shaking their groove thang for our entertainment. That was funny in a very sad way. But yet, I was still entertained.

On the non-secular side, methinks you should expect a future blog about Daniel.