Devotions

Samson

Lesson Six | Devotion #4: Samson
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

Separated, Strong, and Stupid.

My great-grandmother lived in a double wide mobile home at the edge of a mobile home park in southern California just a few miles from where I was born and raised. She loved Jesus. She loved my sister and me and she wanted us to love Jesus. We loved to spend the night at her house because there were always donuts and she would read us stories from the Bible. I can still see my sister and I sitting on the floor at her feet as she opened the large print KJV Bible and began to read. We would each choose a story for her to read. Mine was always the story of Samson.

I loved that Samson was strong. I was mesmerized as she read aloud the incredible things that Samson did. He tore a lion in half with his bare hands! He killed a thousand enemies with the jaw bone of a donkey. He picked up the massive gates of a city and carried them in each arm nearly 20 miles! Even at the end of his story, he pushed the pillars of a building apart and brought the entire thing down killing all the leaders of the Philistines. In my six-year-old mind, he was the biblical version of the Incredible Hulk!

As an adult, however, I am less impressed with Samson. I pity him. As a pastor, I have met many people like him. For Samson is an example of someone whose gifting took him further than his character could sustain. His incredible gifting gave him incredible opportunity, but his lack of godly character caused him to squander all that God gave him. He lived a thoroughly sinful and selfish life. He was gifted, but he was no great man.

His story reads like some best-selling novel. Samson was dedicated to the Lord by his parents at his birth. He was called by God to be a judge in Israel. However, trouble soon arises. From marrying the Philistine (an enemy of Israel) woman, to the touching of dead things (and thus ceremonially defiling himself and his parents), to the blatant disregard of the laws of God to which he was supposed to be calling the people of God, he was a mess! On one such occasion after losing a bet, he killed 30 men to pay his debt! Then, in anger and retaliation, we see him burning down the wheat fields (food source) of the Philistines, who then come after him and in turn, he kills a thousand of them with the jawbone of a donkey! We see him sleep with a prostitute and then eventually “shack up” with the infamous Delilah. This woman would eventually be his demise. Oh, and as a side note, he is beyond arrogant, he does not talk to God, and he does not appear to have any actual relationship with God at all.

The end of Samson’s story begins in Judges chapter 16 where we read of Delilah “pestering and nagging” Samson relentlessly. She is using her beauty to try to trick him into revealing the “source” of his strength. This was a secret he had kept from everyone. Make no mistake; this is not a love story. It is a lust story. She uses Samson’s desire to please himself as the way to eventually ruin him. As you read it, you might think that Samson was just too stupid to realize what is going on, but I doubt that is the case. He is stupid, but not because he did not understand what was happening. He knew what she was doing. He just did not think he was ever in any danger at all. He thought he could handle whatever came his way! He believed he was strong! Each time he answered her, his answer got a little closer to the truth. Until finally, when he could not endure her nagging any longer, Samson gave in and told her that the source of his great strength was his long hair, a symbol of his being dedicated to God.

What happens next is perhaps the saddest verse found in the Scriptures. Judges 16:20 says, “So he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know the Lord had left him.” There it is. God left him, and he did not even know it! It is sad. Samson’s great mistake was that he thought his gifting was his. He thought that it belonged to him and that he could use it how he wanted. But it was given to him for the glory of God. The same thing is true of you and I. We have each been gifted and called by God. Those gifts have been given to us to bring God glory and to accomplish God’s purposes.

Samson’s story is tragically sad. It is the story of someone who is incredibly gifted, who is even called, but who throws it all away to please himself. May it never be true of us.

Naomi

Lesson Six |• Devotion #3: Naomi
Katrina Young | Nursery & Pre-K Director

When my son was younger, I spent the majority of my days going to therapy appointments with him: physical, occupational, and speech therapy. It was the same routine day after day. Every week I would check him in at the front desk and then go back to the “observation room,” a tiny little room where I could watch while they worked with my son. When his session was over, I would exit the room into a hallway and go pick him up. I had very little conversation with anyone and a lot of quiet time in that tiny little room while I waited. One day as I was making my way down the hallway, one of the therapists stopped me and asked if she could talk with me. This was someone who had not worked with my son, so I was curious what she wanted to say. As I listened, she began sharing the difficult things that she and her family were experiencing. She ended the conversation by asking if I would pray for them and said, “I knew you were a person of faith and that I could count on you.” I have never forgotten that moment when I realized how my life and my walk, even during a trying time, could be an example to others.

In the book of Ruth, we read the story of Naomi, a woman who experienced tragedy and loss and were in the midst of her grief and hardship, she finds that her daughter-in-law, Ruth, is drawn to her. It is that part of Naomi’s character that stands out to me. Naomi, whose name meant “pleasant or sweet,” had traveled to Moab from Bethlehem with her husband and two sons to escape the famine. While in Moab, Naomi’s husband died, her sons married Moabite women, and they later died leaving the three women to survive as widows. Naomi chose to return to Judah, blessed her daughters, and entreated them to return to their own families. However, Ruth declared her commitment to Naomi:

Ruth 1:16 says, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  

Ruth obviously cared very deeply for Naomi, and her loyalty was such that she gave up her pagan god to follow Naomi’s God. Despite Ruth’s status as a non-Israelite woman, it was through her faithfulness to Naomi and God that she remarried and gave birth to a son, thus giving Naomi a grandson and ultimately a child was born into the lineage of Jesus Christ. God worked through her life to change many and Ruth is a perfect example that God desires those from all backgrounds to follow Him. God proves He can work in our lives in incredible ways to reach the lost when our lives are yielded to Him.

We never know what influence our words and actions might have on the lives of others. When we experience heartache and pain, our response to our circumstances is an example to others of what it looks like to be a Christian. It is Christianity in its purest form. To this day, I have no idea why the woman approached me or what it was that she observed in my actions or words that led her to me. That encounter made me aware that even in my most routine of days, I can be a light to others who might be taking notice of my walk.

Lord, my hope is that others see You through my actions in every situation and want more of You. There is nothing I desire more than to have someone say “I want your God to be my God,” or “your Jesus to be my Jesus.”

Ehud

Lesson Six | Devotion #2: Ehud
Noble Baird | Community Center Director

When I was in college, I took a class on narrative preaching. My professor, Dr. Koessler, divided all of the judges in the Old Testament amongst us for sermons we would preach at the end of the semester. As he began to assign the judges, I was given a judge by the name of Ehud. Who in the world names their son Ehud? If you are reading this and your child’s name is Ehud, I apologize, but this was honestly the first thought that crossed my mind when I was assigned this judge! However, as I began to dive into this action-packed story, I was quickly amazed how he was a man who truly lived up to his name.

In Judges 3:12-30, the story unfolds as the people of Israel have again strayed away from God and come under the oppression of Eglon, the king of Moab. For 18 years, the people served Eglon. As always, the people cried out to God asking for deliverance. It is at this point which we are introduced to Ehud. A Benjaminite by birth, the smallest of the 12 tribes of Israel, and he was a lefty! It was demanded of Eglon that a tribute be brought to him once a year by a representative of the people; the representative chosen was Ehud. When he was chosen, it was not a glamorous duty to be given, but a demeaning one. However, Ehud devised a plan to end his people’s oppression and assassinate the king. As his plan came to fruition, Ehud proclaims in Judges 3:28, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” It is with this triumphant cry that the people of Israel regained their freedom and killed over 10,000 Moabites.

For 18 years, the Israelites lived as servants to an evil king. They decided that they could live life on their own and forgot the true King. However, God provided them a redeemer who saved and united the people back to Himself. Ehud means “united.” It was from this man, from the smallest of the tribes, which God used to unite His people and bring them back to Him. As you continue this week, do not forget the importance of unity. Not only is it important for us as believers to be united together, but as followers of Christ, we must always remain united with Him. For without Christ, there is no unity in our lives.

Gideon

Lesson Six | Devotion #1: Gideon
Philip Piasecki | Worship Leader

The story of Gideon and his 300 chosen men is incredible. God chose Gideon to lead the men of Israel against the Midianites, and God promised Gideon that they would be victorious. Gideon and his army started at 32,000 men, but God told Gideon that there were too many men, because when they defeated the Midianites, they would become boastful. So, God had Gideon let all who were afraid of battle leave, this brought the army down to 10,000. God told Gideon that this was still too many men, He wanted them to know without a doubt that their victory was fully because of the Lord. God tells Gideon to have the army go to the river to drink and to send home whoever laps the water from the river to drink in the same way a dog would drink. This brings the number of men to 300, and it is this group that defeats the Midianites. This is obviously a condensed version. I would encourage you to go ahead and read the entire story in Judges chapter 7. The thing is, this incredible event almost never took place due to Gideon’s lack of faith. Look at what happens first in Judges chapter 6.

Judges 6:36-40 says, “Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, ‘Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.’ And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.”

God had told Gideon that by his hand He was going to save Israel, and Gideon doubted. Even though the Lord verbally spoke to him, he still requested another sign from God. Then after Gideon gets confirmation on the first fleece, he decides to test God one more time and ask for another sign. God yet again answers Gideon’s request and confirms what He has already told him. When I was reading this story, my first thought was, “Gideon! You are an idiot! God already spoke to you and told you these things, why would you need two more signs?” Then the Holy Spirit shined a light on my life and convicted me. I am guilty of doing the same thing. God has given us His Word. The Bible is the living breathing Word of God, and yet we so often look for confirmation from God in other areas. There have been so many times in my life when I know what Scripture says, yet I still ask God to give me some other confirmation before acting. Luckily for Gideon, despite his indecision, he did not miss out on the incredible plan God had for him. Imagine if his lack of faith and indecision had caused God just to move on and choose someone else? Gideon would have missed out on an opportunity to be used by God incredibly. When we know God is calling us to do something, we need to hear His voice and act. We hear God by spending time in prayer with Him and spending time reading His Word. If the Scriptures tell us to do something, we can know without a doubt we are supposed to do it. We do not need to wait around for a booming voice from Heaven; we can act in biblical faith that we are doing the right thing. I cannot help but think that believers constantly miss out on God using them for His Kingdom because they lack faith and do not trust God’s Word. God wants to use us to change the world just like He used Gideon. We need to be ready and willing to trust Him and to act upon it.

Ruth

Lesson Five | Devotion #6: Ruth
Chris Cain

There Is Hope

I would like to introduce Ruth to you. Ruth is a true “World Changer” and an incredible “Proverbs 31 Woman.” Gasp! What? How can Ruth be a “Proverbs 31 Woman?” She did not spend all day making linens and clothing for her husband and home. She was widowed and homeless. Ruth did not go and purchase a field; she was a foreigner who worked and toiled in other people’s fields all day snatching up the leftovers. She did not even have any kids standing up and praising her, for she had no kids. This is Ruth, hopeless Ruth, the cursed Moabite woman.

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever.” Deuteronomy 23:3

Here we see that if you were a Moabite that you could not enter into the congregation of God. Sounds pretty hopeless.  On top of that, Ruth lost her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, and her husband.  Now what? Her mother-in-law, Naomi who is deeply bitter and saddened, encourages Ruth to return to her own family and her gods, but Ruth chooses to go with her mother-in-law Naomi.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’”  Ruth 1:16,17

This would have been a pretty big deal in that culture for Ruth to follow Naomi.  That is some serious commitment to her mother-in-law.  But also, Ruth desired to follow after Naomi’s God, the God of Israel.  The story continues, and this is the part for which you have probably been waiting.  It is a love story, the beautiful romance! Ruth meets a wealthy landowner named Boaz who has allowed her to glean the leftover grain from his fields. She found favor in the eyes of Boaz because of what he had heard of her actions and character.

“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” Ruth 3:11 NIV

She is a woman of noble character.  She is a ‘Proverbs 31 Woman.’ She earned that title even though she was childless, homeless, and husbandless.  No matter what our storms and circumstances are, we can choose to demonstrate noble character.  As we read on, Boaz and Ruth do marry, which means that Naomi gains a son.  Boaz and Ruth go on to have a son. This son is in the direct lineage of Jesus.

There is hope! And oh, by the way, if you are wondering about that curse, Isaiah 56:6-7 says, “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” 

We see that Ruth chose to join herself to the God of Israel.  There was a turning to God. If you have had some troubles in this life, if you have lost a loved one, or have been living your life in such a manner that you feel there is no hope, you need to know this truth. There is hope, hope for all.  Hope is the great world changer!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13.



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