Humility, Pride, Samson, Temptation

Samson

Samson is one of those stories we often over-look, it is a bit of an uncomfortable read to the 21st Century audience (actually the whole of the book of judges has some challenging bit in it (Judges 13.1 – 16:30).

Samson, is a guy whose birth is foretold (like Samuel, John the Baptist and Jesus)

He is a man of great gifting and anointing, filled with the holy Spirit from birth, a person of charisma and with clear leadership skill.

He is successful as a warrior leader, scaring off the enemies of the people of Israel (at least for the first part of the story at least).

I think Samson probably set out like most of us with good intentions of being a good judge, but we seem him drift through out the story.

Interestingly when I did my discertation into ‘backsliding’ for my degree, very few made a conscious choice to make a ‘reversal in Christian Commitment’ but just drifted away from God inch by inch, degree by degree until they realized just how far they had got.

Often it was these small sin holds that didn’t seem too bad, after all everyone struggles with stuff right? The flaws in our character, often end up being our Achilles heel, that let us down and shipwreck us, yet we can gloss over these with our gifting.

Yet Samson shows us that gifting and character are two different things.

Samson takes his anointing from God for granted, and is reckless with the gifts God has entrusted too him.

A while ago people used to wear those WWJD bracelets –what would Jesus do? (Or We Want Jam Donuts!) Yet later their became a bracelet with the words “FROG” on them, which stood for Fully Reliant On God, you see actually Samson fell for the lie that he was an independent individual, where as actually all of us are totally dependent on God, in fact every breath we take is actually a gift from him.

Samson’s problem is that his ego, Edged God Out, he didn’t realize the depth of his reliance on God, and we see no evidence of Samson being grateful to God for his gracious provision bailing him out time and time again.

In fact we see him flirting with danger, getting closer and closer to revealing his secret to his wife Delilah, until eventually the inevitable happens (Judges 16.17).

I think one of the big dangers the Church has is we flirt too often with secularism, we try and be just like the world, and then wonder why we fall in and end up loosing the power of our Christian distinctiveness.

There are lesson here about wisdom, about good and wise council, but mainly about wisdom… but primarily I think this story teaches us not to put ourselves in the way of temptation.

A guy I know well was struggling with keeping his mind pure, especially on his own in his flat on an evening with the internet beckoning him towards the gutter… So, he and disconnected his internet.

Pride comes before a fall, yet wisdom puts in safeguards.

We need to acknowledge before God our weakness and ask his help.

Believing we are invulnerable and invincible is foolish, but we can fool for it easily when we forget our dependence on our God.

There are many in the Bible who ‘come to their senses’; Jonah sees sense from the Whales belly and the prodigal son ‘has a light bulb moment in the pigs field’  and Samson when he is a blind slave and a prisoner of his enemies, realizes his need of God and the call on his life which he seems to have largely ignored.

And in his last moments, with his hair somewhat re-grown, he pushes down the pillars of the temple and destroys the enemies of the Lord and his people.

When he is at his lowest, he is used most. His death achieved more than his life.

I don’t think it is heresy to think Samson as a life largely of squandered potential, somebody who had gifts, talents, anointing and talents but (like the story Jesus told) didn’t use them.

What of us? God has equipped us, given us by his spirit unlimited potential for transformation, we have the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead active in our lives, yet so many in our Churches are spirit filled, yet squander their God-given potential and their gifting is never fully utilized for the purpose God intended, God is calling but they are (like Samson) pursuing other agendas, dreams and visions.

Where are we in this story?

Are we the young idealist that needs to sort our baggage out? Bringing things into the gracious and loving light of Christ.

Perhaps we got confused gifting with character?

Do we realize the gifts and anointing God has given us? Are we grateful to him? Are we using them for his glory, or our own?

Do we realize his potential in us?

If so are we using our potential, or squandering it?

How seriously do we take our obedience to God?

Do we think it is all about us? Or do we realize it is all about God?

Do we think we are invincible and immune to the devil getting a foothold in our life

Do we flee sin (as Paul urges Timothy to do) or do we flirt with it

Do we think of ourselves as self made and independent? Or do we realize we are Fully Reliant On God?

And what happens when it all comes crashing down, do we roll over and give up, or do we like (Samson) seize the moment, even in the 11th hour, and seek to bring glory to God.

Amazingly despite a life of messing it up and getting it wrong, Samson’s name is proudly listen amongst the other heroes of faith in Hebews 11.

He stumbled and fell along the race, but he finished well.

What of us, how will we finish the race?

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freedom, Temptation

How to Catch a Monkey

Yesterday I talked about how baby Elephants are held captive by chaining them to trees when they are young, as they grow older they could easily pull the tree over, but because they have grown used to the fact that they are tethered and can’t escape, they don’t pull the tree down and become free, because the memory traps them and holds them captive.

Today, on a similar theme want to think a little about how to catch a monkey.

Poachers used to set traps for monkeys, which was a box that was fixed to the floor with a small hole for the moneys hand to slide through with their palm open. Inside the box was placed some enticing sparkly paper. Monkeys are like Magpies in that they are attracted to things that sparkle. The monkey would slide their hand into the box, grab the shiny paper and hold it in their fist. Yet with  their clenched hand gripped around their ‘spoils’ they can’t get their hand out.

Whilst the monkey holds onto the shiny paper they are stuck, a prisoner, a captive.

To be free they simply need to let go and remove their hand.

The shiny paper actually is worthless to the monkey and yet this bit of rubbish can cost a monkey its freedom.

What of us?

Have we grabbed hold of something that is actually imprisoning us?

Is what is in our hand more important than the freedom that Christ has won for us?

The picture of letting go, of surrendering the desire for the sparkly but worthless prize, yet in doing so gaining liberty and life is one I find profoundly challenging.

The story reminds me a little of the Rich Young Ruler, who was offered a place as a disciple of Jesus, and yet he was still holding on to his wealth and possessions, he walked away from Jesus because he was fooled, hoodwinked, by the allure of his great wealth.

Yet for us, this enticing bit of paper could actually be anything, all of us have things we found hard to lay down before Christ when we began to follow him, and sadly this type of junk is very easy to pick up again. Paul talks in Galatians calling them “bewitched” and saying “they are returning from liberty to slavery” -The opposite journey from the people of Israel, Paul is saying that this is not your story, this is folly, danger and tragedy.

So, what the boxes that imprison us?

What are the things that entice us and trap us?

Is there something God might be calling you to let go off today?

Is there something you need to surrender to him?

I read a great quote on facebook, which talked about how as Christians we are unable to receive todays blessings, because our hands are full of yesterdays junk.

A quote I spoke of yesterday was “if the son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed”.

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Sabbath / Rest, Self Care, Temptation

Putting on your Oxygen Mask.

I was on a course about a year ago, which talked about athletes, and to get the best from themselves they train, perform and then have ‘intentional recovery’.

In order to go further, faster and better we need to not be constantly flat out, but rather a pattern of Sprint and Recovery to maximize our performance. Corporate language we don’t use much  in Church, or language we don’t use in Church in todays modern culture…  
I am exploring a lot at the moment about new monasticism, thinking about rhythms of life, as long to be the most productive I can for the Kingdom of God and faithfully fulfill my calling as a follower of Christ, a husband, a father, a son, a friend and the privilege of leading God’s people in God’s mission.

Mark spoke a while back about maximum weariness for minimum effectiveness, none of us want to be think this, when Jesus talks about coming to him all who were heavy laden and being refreshed and taking on a different yoke that wasn’t brutal and oppressive this was good news, this was a theology of liberation and freedom, yet we have turned it back to slavery and oppression.

Andy Schuman (wonderful Godly vicar in Stockwood) challenged his congregation to do something intentionally nice for themselves in that coming week…

The reaction was amazing, although it really blessed some people, others felt guilty or they were being self indulgent… I

 Wonder if anyone has ever thought that maybe the command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself could cut both ways?’

When I worked in rehab, people talked of HALT:

Hungry.
Angry.
Lonely.
Tired.
These HALT times are the times most likely to relapse, but too many of us spend this as our default position. (Although interestingly those most likely to ignore this are those who probably need it most, and probably sadly works a bit the other way too).

Maybe we could learn a new way of living, maybe something much more beautiful, blessed and attractive to the world outside…

Lets look at our lives this lent and have the courage to look after ourselves properly so we can in turn be a blessing to those around us.

I’ll end with the picture of the air mask falling from the plane, what is the first thing we are told to do? Secure your own mask first and then help others, to often most of us try helping others without ever paying attention to our own oxygen masks…

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Temptation

Beware 3G.

I was told the other evening beware the 3G’s (I thought 3G was for your phone) but no, I was told that the three things than derail many Christians is money, sex and power, or Glory, Gold and Girls (if you are female and reading this blog the alteration doesn’t work!).
Yet this prompted an interesting conversation, people were saying which one they were weakest and most susceptible too, which made me wonder if we think we are reasonably sorted and controlled in one area, that is probably a dangerous place to be.Yet we do hear people say “I’m not too effected by money” or “I think my marriage is pretty secure, I don’t think I’ll be lured away” or “the whole glory ego stuff isn’t really my big weakness” I think “I’ll be okay”.

It made me ask “are we more vulnerable when we know we are vulnerable?”
Or “Are we more vulnerable when we think we aren’t vulnerable?”

The Bible talks of ‘beware lest we fall’ the danger is that sometimes our confidence is actually over confidence and often misplaced.

The question I’d ask, is if you know you are vulnerable, what steps have you put in to safeguard yourself? Before I was married I didn’t have the internet in my home as didn’t want to get tempted to do something stupid… What’s it for you?

I want to think today about a guy who I  think probably wrestled with all of the three G’s, he was a warrior King with people singing his praises it would have been easy to believe your own press, he was King in a time of prosperity and so would have had wealth and riches at his disposal (sounds like the whole Gold issue was an issue for his son King Solomon), but the one we are looking at today is the “Girl”. David’s infamous scandal with Bathsheba.

Firstly we read in the Bible that David wasn’t fighting with his men, he wasn’t where he should be, there is an old adage about the devil finding work for idol hands, if you are not where you should be and doing what you should do, you are more available to do the things you shouldn’t do. -The Bible talks of using your time wisely as knows how easy when we have time on our hands we can end up getting ourselves into trouble.

Secondly we read that David was on the roof of the evening, which is often where people had baths etc, its the place of the Peeping Tom.

Its here that he spots a woman taking a bath who he becomes instantly infatuated with.

Although he had a whole load of wives his appetite wasn’t satisfied. Donald Trump was once asked “How rich is rich enough?” to which he replied “just a little bit more!

The problem with envy, is we never think of what we have, but what we haven’t got.

Then from the seed of lust planted in his head (NB. Jesus said ‘if anyone looks at someone lustfully they have committed adultery in their heart’) it gives birth to action, he sends for her.

Then from being in the wrong place, it leads to thinking the wrong thing which leads to doing the wrong thing.

If this is not bad enough, the  story continues and sin snow balls as David tries to cover up his sin, which ends up in a loyal and innocent man being murdered…

The problem is we end up on sins highway, and end up 20, 60 or 100 miles away from where you meant to be in just a few moments.

The Bible talks of guarding your heart and mind, “make every thought captive to the blood of Jesus”.

An image that I find helpful when thinking about Holiness, is of the devil is dropping seeds into our highly fertile minds, yet we have choice about whether or not we let these seeds germinate and become strongholds that end up destroying us and those around us or we pluck them out of our heads, we focus on different things, we keep ourselves from harms way and in keeping our hearts and minds right before God.

In our society we often try to pretend that what happens in our head doesn’t spill out into our lives, but the truth is we reap what we so, from our hearts and minds everything else springs.

So, beware the 3G’s and guard your hearts and minds.

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Holiness, Temptation

Rolls Royce and the cliff edge…

Oscar Wilde famously once said “I can resist everything except temptation”.

The truth is we are all vulnerable from temptation…

Sadly we often see in the news headlines prominent Christian leaders fall from grace because of (often) Money, Sex Or Power.

The problem most people think, “it won’t happen to me”, but it can, it might and sadly it does happen to people like you and me.

Watch your back.

AND watch the backs of your brothers and sisters in Christ too.

At the start of Lent I’d urge us all to put in place a bit of accountability around these areas where we know we might struggle, and not to hang around in those places where we are vulnerable to temptation.

Many of you might have heard the story of Mike Pilavachi eating an entire chocolate cake, the problem didn’t happen when he first nicked a tiny bit of icing, but actually when he opened the fridge door.

Another story, I heard was of a rich old women who lived up bendy old road at the top of the mountain, on certain points there was a sheer drop where the road was really narrow, she drove a rather large Rolls Royce. She wanted a chauffeur, and put in an advert in the local paper three people got called for an interview, she asked them all the same question, “how close to the edge could you get me without placing me in danger?” The first said “I am a great driver and I know Rolls Royces very well, I can get you to within a foot of the edge of the cliff!” The second said “I can get you within six inches of the edge because I’m even better at driving Rolls Royces” the third said “Madam, if I were you chauffeur I wouldn’t take you anywhere near the edge”. Guess which one got the job?

The Bible talks about “Not giving the enemy a foothold”.

At the start of the Lent, lets make sure we are all people who finish the race and finish well, don’t get cocky and take holiness, accountability and wisdom really, really  seriously.

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