Tuesday, February 23, 2010

4 Activities of Christians

Lessons from the ends of the Four Gospels

Matthew wrote about Christ as the Messiah.
He wrote about what Christ thought and His righteousness.
We are to be holy because He is holy.
Christ is the King and Matthew writes about His kingdom and the path of righteousness.
In the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we find that Christians should be Worshippers of Christ (28:9).

Mark wrote about Christ as a Servant.
His writing is about what He accomplished and is filled with action.
(For example, Mark uses the word “immediately” 42 times. The word is used only 33 times in the other three Gospels combined.)
We are commanded to be doing the work of Christ.
Mark’s Gospel is about His humanity and what He did and relates the path of suffering.
At the very end of the Gospel of Mark we find Christians as Workers with Christ (16:19).

Luke wrote about Christ as a Man, the Son of Man, who came to reconcile us to God.
Luke, a physician, wrote about the feelings of our Lord and His relationship to His Father.
Like Christ, we should be telling others about our great God; this is the path of wisdom.
At the end of Luke’s Gospel we find Christians as Witnesses of Christ (24:47-48).

John wrote about Christ as the God-man, the Son of God.
Much of John’s Gospel relates His deity and who He was.
(For example, John uses the word “love” 57 times. The word is found only 33 times in the other three Gospels combined.)
We are to be known by our love for one another and for those who do not know Jesus Christ. We are to walk in the path of love.
Towards the end of the Gospel of John, as the crucifixion neared, we find Christians are reminded of His return and that they are to be Waiting for Christ (16:22).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

10 Failures of Samson

Samson Made Bad Choices Which Led to His Death

Samson tried to follow God without being willing to turn from sin. Ultimately he was defeated because of lack of determination to follow God. His love for Delilah proved greater than his love for God. Here are some basic principles which can cause failure in the Christian life:

(1) He went where he should not have gone! (Judges 14:1) ~ Timnah was a Philistine town just a few miles from Samson’s home. The Philistines did not love God. Israelites were forbidden to go to the land of the Philistines.

(2) He involved others! (14:5) ~ Samson involved his parents with the Philistine woman.

(3) He partook of the forbidden! (14:8-9) ~ As Samson continues his downward slide the Bible says he went “down” to Timnah and came to the spot where he had previously killed a lion. He couldn’t resist looking to see if the carcass was still there which was expressly forbidden (Leviticus 11:27). We should not think of this as a skeleton of the lion—but the carcass. In hot dry climates all the moisture in a body evaporates sometimes in less than 24 hours following death—without passing into a state of decomposition. The body remains for a long time like a mummy—without change or stench. This is why bees often live in carcasses.

(4) He followed the pattern of the world and did the customary thing! (14:10) ~ Samson’s life had been consecrated to God. After his wedding Samson held a feast which lasted for a week. One favorite way of entertaining guests in those days was posing riddles—hard questions with tricky answers.

(5) He became a party boy! (14:11-12) ~ Samson enjoyed being in the limelight as the life of the party. It wasn’t long before trouble developed between him and his Philistine wife (14:20). Things continued in a downward spiral and his wife and father-in-law were burned to death (15:6).

(6) He began to play the field! (16:1-2) ~ For the second time Samson went back to Gaza, a Philistine city, to see a woman. Once again he was flirting with disaster.

(7) He met his match! (16:4) ~ Delilah was a Philistine woman whom Samson took into his confidence. She was not the first Philistine woman he saw. Sin has a way of allowing the sinner to appear to get away with sin at first.

(8) He lost his source of power! (16:4-19) ~ Three times Delilah tried to deliver Samson to the Philistines. By now his sins had desensitized him to the danger to which he had become accustomed.

(9) He was bound! (16:21) ~ Delilah most likely urged him to take a nap—customary for men during the hottest part of the day. Samson was in the habit of trusting the wrong people.

(10) He died in disgrace! (16:31) ~ Samson’s strength had been in the Lord, not in his hair. God used Samson mightily because of his Nazarite vows. But Samson continued in his own way until enough was enough! God humbled Samson.

Samson’s life warns us of the high cost of sin—and encourages us to trust the Lord and to resist Satan’s subtle temptations. “… truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:3).

CONTEMPLATE: Samson’s failures (Judges 13-16) and their final result.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

12 Successes of Samson

Samson Made Good Choices and God Used Him Mightily

Other Judges had led armies to victory, but God chose to use Samson as a single-handed champion. Samson was similar to the Apostle Peter in that he had so much success and failure. Many of us can identify with both of them—they both had so much potential, yet showed their sinful nature. Samson’s story is told in Judges 13-16.

Samson was dedicated to the Lord’s service at his birth. God used him to destroy many Philistines. When we consider Samson’s entire life, we find he was weak spiritually though strong physically. Ultimately he lost his strength when his Nazarite vow was broken. But God restored his strength when he turned back to God in faith. Here is a recap of his major successes:

(1) Slaying the lion (14:5-6) ~ “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”

(2) Slaying the 30 Philistines at Askelon (14:19) ~ We read a second time, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”

(3) Sending the 300 foxes among the corn (15:4) to destroy the crops with fire ~ It was harvest time (15:1) and the fields were dry.

(4) The slaughter near Etam (15:7-8) ~ After this he rested, the Philistines invaded his homeland, and 3,000 of his own people captured him (15:11-12).

(5) Bursting the two new cords of the men of Judah (15:13-14) ~ He had been bound by his own people, but “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him.”

(6) Slaying of 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey (15:15) ~ God continued to use Samson in spite of his many failures.

(7) Quenching his thirst at Lehi (15:18-19) ~ After a great battle Samson was thirsty and God performed a miracle on Samson’s behalf.

(8) Carrying the gates of Gaza (16:2-3) ~ Gaza was one of the largest and most fortified cities in Philistia. The heavy iron gates—the only way in or out—were always locked at night. Imagine the excitement when the locals learned Samson was in their city—now they would capture him. They strengthened the doors to assure Samson could not escape. But God had other plans and Samson tore the doors, posts, and bars off. He carried them to the top of a hill near Hebron, about 30 miles away.

(9) Breaking the seven bowstrings (16:7) ~ These cords were made of twisted strong green twigs.

(10) Bursting the new ropes (16:11) ~ New ropes without any wear and tear or frays of any kind.

(11) Tearing away the loom and the web (16:13) ~ Once again Delilah had used deception in order to bind him.

(12) Pulling down the pillars (16:29-30) ~ Samson had finally told Delilah that his hair was his source of strength (16:17). As a result Samson lost his strength, was blinded, bound, mocked, and put in prison. Samson’s hair began to grow back, symbolizing his renewed faith and commitment to serving God.

Delilah was directly involved in 9, 10, and 11. Despite Samson’s wayward ways, God continued to use him and give him success throughout his life. But, like Peter, there is another side of Samson’s story, which we will consider next time.

CONTEMPLATE: Samson’s life and its successes (Judges 13-16).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Shortest Man

Who Was The Shortest Person In the Bible?

Let’s have some fun. Most people can quickly tell you that Methuselah was the oldest person in the Bible (Genesis 5:27), but do you know who was the shortest person in the Bible?

Who do you think was the shortest person mentioned in the Bible?
(a) Goliath
(b) Bildad
(c) Nehemiah
(d) Zacchaeus
(e) James
(f) Peter
(g) Paul
(h) Mary

A common answer is Zacchaeus based on Luke 19:2, which tells us that he was a short man. Recall that he was concerned that he would not be able to see Jesus when He passed by. So Zacchaeus remedied his problem by climbing into a sycamore tree.

Some might suggest James, the cousin of our Lord and the author of the Epistle of James, might be shorter than Zacchaeus since he is referred to in Scripture as “James the less” (Mark 15:40) which in the original language literally meant “little” (compared to James the son of Zebedee).

Others will suggest that a shorter man than Zacchaeus or James was Nehemiah since names in Scripture often had significance and his name, knee-high-miah, obviously indicates he was very short.

But considering the names of Biblical characters, some people might point out that Nehemiah was obviously a giant compared to Bildad who was a shuhite (shoe-height) and therefore obviously shorter than a knee-high individual (Job 2:11).

Still others, who are not as much into focusing on the meaning of names as considering the whole of Scripture, have a different view. They simply state that obviously Peter was the smallest of all since he was so tiny he was able to sleep on his watch (Matthew 26:40).