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Mercy & Grace for Samson

Although I taught the entire Old Testament book of Judges to a college class in India, this summer was the first time in 38 years of ministry that I have preached a Sunday morning series on the life of Samson. What a fascinating character!

If any of us today were to do what Samson did, we would be in all kinds of trouble! Although his life was dedicated to God, he seems to have had a weakness for women. He violated Scripture in falling first for a Philistine woman as his wife. Later he spends the night with a prostitute. And then he falls for Delilah.

Samson clearly violated all three tenants of the Nazarite vow – not to touch a dead body, not to drink wine or strong drink, and not to permit a razor to cut his hair. And his failure to keep the Nazarite vow and to follow the Word of God cost him dearly. He was somewhat of a tragic figure, and yet he is a great hero of the Hebrew faith – and is listed in the New Testament “Hall of Fame of Faith” in Hebrews, chapter 11.

Samson was an amazing individual. Each time he fell spiritually, he would repent, confess his sins and “get right” with God. And God would forgive him and use him again. Yet Samson’s usefulness was limited by his lack of obedience.

We can learn a number of lessons from Samson:

  • Greater privilege brings greater responsibility. One of the reason God seems to forgive and to bless Samson is that he had no help – no mentors, no teachers, no supporters, etc. You and I have much greater privilege, so God may expect us to respond commensurately.
  • We need to learn to live by principle. To do so would have kept Samson out of a lot of trouble.
  • Our “flesh” can defeat us. The New Testament says, “Take heed you that think you stand, lest you fall.” We are all vulnerable to temptation.
  • We need to be careful not to trust in our own power, which is the result of pride. Samson was a powerful man, but he tended to get in trouble by depending on his human power even when God’s power departed him.
  • It is never too late to turn to God. Thank God we serve “the God of the second chance.” Late in life God’s power returned to Samson even after he had messed up!

Pastor Jim

Russell Wilson’s Comments

The media and public consternation over Russell Wilson’s comments about God comforting him after he lost the Super Bowl is silly.  He is being totally taken out of context and misunderstood.

Wilson is an evangelical Christian who is the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.  They lost the Super Bowl after he threw an interception near the end of the game.  He says that God immediately spoke to him to let him know that He was still using him and that what would be important now was how he responded to the adversity of losing.

To listen to the media and the fan posts and blogs, you would think that Wilson was claiming to have seen a vision from Heaven informing him that God had been the cause of his Super Bowl loss.  What nonsense!

It is very common in the evangelical world to say that “God spoke to me.”  God has “spoken” to me any number of times through the years.  Never have I heard a voice.  Only once were the words explicitly spoken to my mind.  My pastor, who is now in heaven, used to say all the time, “God told me…”  What he meant – and what Russell Wilson meant – was that he had an impression in his heart of what the Spirit of God was leading him to do or think.

Such impressions are especially true when we face adversity.  Wilson was not claiming that God caused the Super Bowl loss.  Wilson is saying in facing the crestfallen adversity of losing, God immediately encouraged his heart – by impressing upon him that what is important now is how you (Wilson) respond to adversity – because people are watching.  They want to see if you are a hypocrite who only praises God on the field when you win.  Or is your faith real when you lose?  Would God give any of us such an impression?  Certainly.

What Wilson said is common in the Christian experience.  It is logical.  It is not odd.  The only thing odd has been the widespread reaction to Wilson’s comments by people who really do not understand the world of faith in which Christians like Wilson live on an everyday basis.

And if the truth be known – many of the critics are probably targeting Wilson the same way they criticized Tim Tebow, because Wilson has recently stated publicly that he and his fiancé are saving a sexual relationship for marriage.  Now, that stuns the world in which we live!


Pastor Jim

Supreme Court on Gay Marriage

How ironic that the very week of Vacation Bible School while we are striving to give our children the best possible future, the U.S. Supreme Court votes to legalize gay marriage.  It should not surprise us.  My entire adult life the Supreme Court has been making decisions like this – such as legalizing abortion on demand in 1973.  Meanwhile, various states have been voting to legalize gay marriage.

However, the Supreme Court decision does not affect anything I believe, nor does it affect anything I will do – as a Christian or as a pastor.

I will continue to preach the truth of the Bible, which as the Word of God calls homosexuality a sin – Rom. 1:26-28, Jude 1:5-8, Mark 10:6-9, I Cor. 6:9-11 & 7:2, Lev. 18:22, et al.  And the idea of gay marriage is not only foreign to Scripture, it has never been a part of civilization since the dawn of time.

The reason our media and young journalists splash the Supreme Court decision all over the front pages is because they believe this is a Civil Rights issue.  So, they want to step up to the plate – for Civil Rights.  While they may be well intentioned, they are sadly misguided.  Homosexuality is a moral issue, not a Civil Rights issue.  It is not a matter of sex, nationality or race, etc.  It is sinful conduct.  It is not even natural – Romans 1:18-32.

By preaching against homosexuality, our culture says we are guilty of “hate speech.”  Nonsense.  We do not hate sinners.  We love sinners and welcome them.  But even while we are merciful and tolerant, we do not condone sin.

We are not going to plan any “gay wedding” at First Baptist Church.  Some say that all churches need to change their constitutions to ensure against gay weddings.  But we have all the authority we need in the Bible.

Yesterday I emailed both our Florida U.S. senators, Sen. Bill Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio.  I expressed my opinion to them that we should begin impeachment proceedings against all five Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize gay marriage.  As Justice Antonin Scalia said, this is no longer a democracy when nine lawyers can force their rule on the nation.

Meanwhile, as Christians, we need to continue to:

  1. a) Try to make a difference politically. We need to vote. We might be able to reverse the political process.
  2. b) Pray. Ephesians 6:12 makes it clear we are not in a human battle but in spiritual warfare.
  3. c) We need to raise our children for a generation when they will need to stand as a Daniel in an ungodly culture. The America many of us knew when we grew up is gone.
  4. d) We need to continue to proclaim the righteous truth of God’s Word – without fear or favor.
  5. e) And after we have done all we can, we need to stand – Ephesians 6:13. As Martin Luther said in another era, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

Pastor Jim