Samson: Seriously Flawed, Used Seriously

We are amazingly reluctant to realize that our heroes have faults.

When it becomes glaringly obvious, we toss them aside, capes torn, shields tarnished, heroes no longer.

This must be why we find it so hard to realize that good people in the Bible do inexplicably bad things.

The really tough ones are the ones we never see say I’m sorry. I wrote about Lot recently (Jerk or Just) and the story has remained close to my heart since. We never see him building an altar, weeping over wrongs done, or even read any justification except what I call God’s gobstopping grace.

God called him righteous.

I just reread the story of Samson. importance of reading the bible

He’s another hero with a severely torn cape.

Read Judges 13-16. On the surface, Samson was an arrogant womanizer with major co-dependency problems. You know the good-looking jock in the movies who is led around by a gorgeous, manipulative harpy? That’s him.

The story starts beautifully with an appearance by God to Samson’s parents with a promise of his birth and instructions as to his rearing. (Kind of nice to have God Himself show up to deliver your What to Expect book!)

The last two verses in chapter 13 say, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshatol.”

That is a pretty auspicious beginning.

Then the first thing we see Samson do as an adult is to let his parents know that there’s a hot Philistine chick that he wants them to get for his bride.

“Sammy, isn’t there a nice Jewish girl you’d rather bring home?”

They weren’t being prejudiced. The Philistines were in power over Israel at the time and they were ungodly idol-worshipping oppressors out for pure destruction.

“…But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord – that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.(Judges 14:4)

Here’s where I think some of the denial comes in.

To me, it is rather clear that Samson’s parents were doing their job as Godly people, trying to steer their son in the right direction. They were simply unaware that God, in His sovereign plan, was going to work Samson’s willfulness into the greater good.

As I read commentaries, people seem to struggle with this, certain that, since God’s spirit often moved mightily on Samson, that he prophetically wanted the Philistine woman for his wife so that God could move against their enemies.

I think Samson just wanted the girl.

We can’t be afraid to see good guys without a cape.

Tweet Our God of grace is often beyond our understanding. He uses flawed people who do stupid things.

There are some unbelievable doozies of  Samson stories I’d love to share but even a brief synopsis gets a bit lengthy. Read through Judges 14-16. You will notice that his deeds are not always accompanied by “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”

Sometimes, as when he ate honey from the lion carcass, he was completely breaking Jewish law. (Leviticus 11:27)

His marriage was clearly an ungodly one with horrible results for his wife. (The foxes didn’t fare so well either.)

Some of his actions appear to be purely out of anger or revenge.

Still, God had a plan to move against the Philistines and, more than once, He used a strong man with weak principles to do so.

The Spirit of the Lord did fall upon Samson in chapter 15 and he killed 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone.

Gruesome? Yes. But these were enemies of God. There is no way one person could kill 1000 people in a day with anything but an explosive.

Or the Spirit of God and a jawbone. jawbone

 

He followed that God-filled victory with a visit to a prostitute, then pulled up the city gate by the gateposts and carried it up the hill.

Flawed hero. Torn cape.

All of this leads up to the story of Samson and Delilah, one of the most infamous relationships in the Bible.

I’m won’t lend much space to that here. You know the story. This seductive worshiper of Ashtoreth, Dagon and Baal-Zebub manipulated him into telling her, not the Source of his strength, but how he could be robbed of it.

He paid a dear price for that dalliance. Blindness, bondage, humiliation and shame.

He eventually was able to push down the main pillars of the temple of Dagon, killing more enemies of the Lord in his death than he ever did in his life. God gave him an amazing victory.

And here’s the lesson:

While there are incredible stories in the Bible about Samson, he judged Israel for 20 years. Several times we see him destroying the enemy through the Spirit of God. Several others, we see him acting badly or questionably.

But we don’t know anything else that happened during those 20 years. We don’t know how many ways God used him. For some reason, God chooses show us Samson’s frailties. We see him succumb to seduction and give in to desires.

But God placed him in Hebrews 11:32 in the same verse as David, Samuel and Gideon.

Whaaat???

And what about me?

Yep, you darlin’. All those failures. All that shame.

Past is past. He can use you too.

God exposes all that weakness, all that rawness, to teach us something.

Good people really mess up.

God uses really messy people.

Tweet Stay in the middle of your mess and the temple you are dallying in will come down on your head.

But He is willing to pull you out and He can still use you.

Tweet There are no chains so strong that the power of God cannot break them.

Tweet There is no blindness so dark that the light of God cannot pierce through.

Tweet There are no idols in your life on a pedestal so high that you cannot cast them at the feet of Jesus.

Samson went into the arms of the wrong person.

God gave him a glorious victory at the end of his life.

And God gave him, in all of his messiness,

gobstopping grace.

 

We love it when you share!
Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pagePin on Pinterest

Don’t skip the mess…

Gobstopping GraceIn case you don’t yet know it, there is a whole lot of ugly in the Bible.

When you think about it, it’s a wonder there are many children’s stories to teach from the Old Testament.Bible stories

Try explaining the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar from Genesis 16 to your children without mincing words. In fact, I would encourage you to:

God made a promise to Abram.

It seemed impossible. God told Abram that he and his wife Sarai would have a baby. But they were already as old as your grandparents. Maybe even your great-grandparents!

Abram and his wife Sarai waited a very long time for God to keep His promise. Finally Sarai had an idea! She thought, “Maybe God wants me to help!”

So Sarai asked Abram to marry her maid Hagar so that Hagar could have a baby instead. That wasn’t nearly as weird then as it is now. People did that then.

But it wasn’t God’s plan.

When we don’t follow God’s plan, things get messy.

Sure enough, Hagar got pregnant. She began to act like she was better than Sarai. That made Sarai angry and she wasn’t very nice to Hagar.

She also got mad at Abram. That didn’t make much sense but when we try to do God’s job, we don’t always make much sense.

Abram told Sarai she could do whatever she wanted about Hagar so Hagar ran away before she had her baby.

See, not so bad.

Lesson: God has a plan. Good people do bad things. Sometimes we mess up God’s plan.

But don’t leave out the best part.

If you ran away from home, your mom and dad would come looking for you. That’s what God did.

When Hagar was sitting out in the wilderness, God went after her. He loved her. He told her He knew that she was sad and scared but that she needed to go back home. He told her that her baby would be very special.

Hagar knew that God had come after her because He saw her problems. She said, “You are the God Who Sees.”

She knew God cared for her.

It’s a really good story. Lesson: Sometimes life is a little like a paper towel commercial. Life is messy. When we let Him, God cleans it up.

Sarai and Abram made up. We see testimony of their faith in Hebrews 11 and testimony to their relationship in 1 Peter 3.

But what about poor Hagar?

I can’t completely blame her for being a little smirkish. She went from servant to wife of a very wealthy man and pregnant with his child. A little like winning Homecoming Queen over the head cheerleader. But the situation wasn’t pretty.

So eventually she ran.

Homeless and pregnant, life was a big, fat mess. As is usually the case, some of that mess was caused by others and she brought some of it on herself.

But here’s the beautiful part. (Don’t forget to share this with your kids and don’t miss out on it for yourself.)

“The Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.”

See, if we ignore why she ran, we negate the fact that God found her.

Wherever the mess of life has taken you, whatever you are running from, God is seeking you out.

“And He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.'”
Why are you running?

Ashamed“And the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked…'” (Genesis 3:9-10)

Afraid“And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts…they seek to take my life.‘” (1 Kings 19:9-10)

He called Hagar by name. He called her by position. He gave her a chance to answer.

Are you running? Do you know why? Are you afraid? Ashamed?

God knows who you are, where you are and who He has called you to be.

He is calling out to you.

“The Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.'”

Sometimes God calls us out of situations and on to new ones. In Hagar’s situation, He told her to return. While it was uncomfortable, it was one that was for her greater good.

He had a plan.

The chance of Hagar and her child surviving childbirth alone in the wilderness wasn’t very high. God not only promised her survival, He promised her a future.

“Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.'”

We flee.

God pursues.

We return.

He multiplies. Exceedingly. More than we can count or imagine.

“Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

“‘Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son, you shall call his name Ishmael*. Because the LORD has heard your affliction.'”

*Ishmael: “God hears.”

We run. God pursues.

We cry. God hears.

You cannot run so far that God will not seek you. You cannot cry so softly that God will not hear you. You cannot sin so much that the grace of God will not redeem you.

The Angel of the Lord described what her son would be like.  She didn’t blink an eye at His description “He shall be a wild man…” She went straight to recognition of the magnificent grace of God.

“Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’ Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi*…”

*Well of the One Who Lives and Sees MeGod-Who-Sees

I don’t know about you, but that’s a well I want to drink from every day.

But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.'” (John 4:14)

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.'” (John 7:37)

Here’s one more thing for you: Throughout this passage, reference is made to the Angel of the LORD. When you see LORD in all capitals in the Bible, it is God’s Hebrew name Yahweh. One easy-to-remember definition of Yahweh is that it emphasizes His position as  “Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper. Yahweh

The same God who made a covenant with Abraham, pursued a runaway servant and made a promise to her in the middle of the wilderness. “Hagar, the Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper has heard your cry and you are going to have a son. His descendants will be too many to count.”

A pregnant runaway servant, second wife and castaway,  was seen by Almighty God, The Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper.

Don’t skip over the messy parts of the Bible.

That’s where God’s gobstopping grace shines through.

 

We love it when you share!
Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pagePin on Pinterest

Leggings, envy and florescent lights…

Two vanity-laden observations: mirror

  • Everyone these days loves leggings. However, after trying on almost every top in my closet that covers my rear, I have decided that I am not buying another pair until I lose 20 pounds. (And although that would put me into that ideal “skinny” range, it would also require a daily regimen of only eating three raisins and smelling a diet Coke.) Without a mumu over them, I look…curvier than I prefer.
  • My bathroom lights are fritzy. My side of the counter is never well-lit so I rely on experience and memory to put my makeup on properly. Tonight the lights came on in all their florescent glory.

    I either want different lights or a facelift.

Sometimes the Scriptures do that to me too. Yeah, you know where I’m going with this. My leggings don’t make me look curvy. My thighs make me look that way. My lights don’t make me look…well, they are florescent, so they don’t help but neither does my age.

It is very easy to read Scripture and think of the power it has to free people in this dark world that we live in. I love to teach and when I read certain passages, they almost immediately start “to preach” in my mind. Lesson illustrations begin to form and I get excited. Then the stark florescent light of God’s Word shines bright and I see words like jealousy and selfish ambition in there among murder and adultery.

There is a passage in Romans that has been resonating with me lately and I just read it again:
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkeness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
(Romans 13:12-14)

That isn’t just flicking on a florescent light. That one utilizes a magnification mirror.

Revelry, drunkeness, lewdness – pretty much in check. “The day is at hand…Put on the armor of light.” Those are exciting exhortations! But strife can mean having a contentious spirit and I have been known to be argumentative a time or two. Envy or jealousy ties in with rivalry. Rivalry with other Kingdom builders is far uglier than uncovered leggings.

mirror Tonight I wore a longer top and used bronzer. But the light that the Scripture shines on our weakness is not meant to be ignored. God gives us grace and never wants us to walk in shame. But He also gives us the wonderful convicting voice of His Holy Spirit, urging self-reflection and prayer that we can discern just what we need to do to show the beauty of our Jesus.


green-swirls

We love it when you share!
Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pagePin on Pinterest

Costumes and Christianity – Quick, frugal and Pin-worthy…

BeFunky_01-06-2007_01;13;33PM.jpgI cheated a little bit.

This really isn’t entirely about cheap Halloween costumes.

That’s my daughter on her third Halloween. She’s 20 now.

Someone gave us the costume and it was one of the only ones that actually involved a sewing machine.

Through the years she dressed up as the monster of the marsh (character courtesy of the Sammy Keyes books), Charlie Chaplin, an ice queen (blue lips included), Laura Ingalls, a sun-tanned girl (I thought the idea was lame until she explained she meant overly tanned with skin hanging off.) and many more. With the exception of a couple of school play costumes, these usually involved Goodwill, spray paint, costume makeup and colored hair.BeFunky_01-06-2007_01;39;19PM.jpg(The Ugly Caterpillar actually involved a trip to Hobby Lobby for flower mesh but it was for a play. A pattern, fabric and stuffing seemed way too daunting.)

Cheap, fun and relatively easy – because I really love costumes and I’m really not good at crafty.

To us, in the midst of children in perfect costumes and ones hastily pulled off-the-rack, she looked great.

But definitely not Pinterest-worthy. (I’m not very Pinteresting.)

We had a fabulous time dreaming up ideas. I got to spray her hair til she coughed and put on makeup that made her want to rub her nose.

The best part was that she stayed in character. The ice queen was evil and proud with her frosty hair, the monster of the marsh went wild and growly in its green hair and face and Charlie Chaplin mimed his request for candy, tipped his hat and then shuffled off with his walking stick.

The point of this however, wasn’t really to write about kids, costumes and frugality. (That’s where the cheating part comes in.) But it seems that my favorite blogs these days are all by moms of cute and incredibly clever children or are geared toward a frugal lifestyle. I don’t think anyone wants to read about Martin Mac – an almost weekly meal at our house. Two boxes of mac and cheese.pizap.com14146890272421(Not Annie’s, definitely not homemade, not even Kraft. Aldi’s brand for less than $.40 a box.)
Mix in a little ground beef or whatever leftover meat you have along with canned or frozen veggies and maybe some sauce.

Our version of Hamburger Helper. It’s good, inexpensive and different every time.

But definitely not Pinterest-worthy.

I think to some extent, we all desperately want to be someone worth pinning. A person held up as noteworthy. We don’t feel as good as the Proverbs 31 woman, Paul, Francis Chan, Jen Hatmaker or our Bible study teacher. And we want to be better homemakers, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, Bible students.

Better Christians.

Whoa.

Better Christians? What does that mean?

Does that mean knowing God better? Loving people more? Looking more like Jesus?

Many times in our poor striving little brains, it doesn’t. Instead it means praying, studying, reading or worshipping the way we think we are supposed to.

We get so confused.

2 Corinthians 1:12 expresses the way this should look beautifully: “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”

Simplicity and Godly sincerity.

Can I do that?

Can I utilize the wonderful Bible studies and women’s retreats to spur me to action rather than make me want to be a Pin-worthy Christian? “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Corinthians 2:5)

Costumes or Christianity. I may not Pin-worthy

But God is. And that’s all that matters.

“But he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
(2 Corinthians 10:17)

green-swirls

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

We love it when you share!
Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pagePin on Pinterest

On darts, missiles and clenched jaws…

Ephesians 6

I don’t think the shield of faith is supposed to give you clenched jaws.

But judging by my tense shoulder muscles and that old familiar TMJ ache, that’s where I’ve been attempting to carry the shield of faith this week.

Or not.

People hear “spiritual warfare” and they think of head-spinning, pea-soup-spitting, gutteral-noise-making, wild-eyed people requiring some super-hired holy person with great Scriptural knowledge.

Warfare in the spiritual realm doesn’t usually look like that.

“Fiery darts,” by the way, translates as “missile, dart, javelin, arrow.” We’re talking weapons of all sizes. Sometimes you get missiles, sometimes darts.

The missiles are ones that we often think to pull out the shield for – “Run for shelter! That’s a biggie!”

The darts? Not so much.

      “What am

I

    going to do about this?”
      “Where
    is that going to come from?”
      “How can

I

    take care of that?”

Clenched jaws. Sore muscles.

What is it about the little things that makes me forget that I already have a shield of faith?

When we see the Greek word “faith” used in the Bible, it is always from God. It is never something that can be produced by people. That thrills me. I’m not so great at this on my own. The Roman shield to which Paul referred was big. I have full protection.Shield of Faith

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)

Cool, huh? And there’s more.

Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

My problems right now aren’t huge. Not in the grand scheme of things. But they are big to me. And you better believe that the enemy is going to utilize every negative thing in my life to make me worry, to fill me with anxiety, to make me walk around with a clenched jaw.

Fiery darts. Shield of faith. Flaming missiles. Shield of faith.

And Paul said it quenches them. Extinguishes them. Puts them out.

Neither Paul nor Jesus said the problems automatically go away. The darts (or missiles) aren’t necessarily the problems themselves. Usually, it is the way the enemy uses your problems. Jesus said we “will have tribulation.” But He promises peace – “that in Me you may have peace.”

Peace.

Just the word itself brings a calming breath.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

Paul says the shield of faith extinguishes the attacks of “the wicked one.”

And because we don’t always recognize problems as attacks, we don’t always realize we need to fight them.

Life’s problems may be just that. Life’s problems. But we are told to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8)

He is going to take advantage of every situation.

What didn’t strike me until writing this, is that this verse immediately follows the one I have claimed as my own since fourth grade:

“casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Another breath. The jaw relaxes.

The preface to that is verse six: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”

Cares and tribulations come. We are assured of that.

I have to humble myself before God.

Then when I’m humble enough to realize that I can’t fix it on my own, I’m able to cast my cares on Him. In faith.

“Can’t do this on my own, Lord.”

    “God, please, help me to trust.”
      “Father, will you fix this? It’s a mess.”

Because He cares for me. He wants me to. I’m really not being a pain when I ask for His help.

That’s all part of vigilance. Of being steadfast in the faith.

It’s hard to hold up my shield of faith when I’m holding on to a pack of troubles!

green-swirls

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

We love it when you share!
Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPrint this pagePin on Pinterest