Key verse: Judges 15:20
Big idea: Be sure that the cycles of your character can bear the weight of your blessings.
Samson was a truly impressive man. We usually remember him only for his moral weaknesses, but it would be unfair to forget that he was one of the examples of faith in Hebrews 11:32. This man defeated the Philistines and judged Israel for two decades! God blessed him in an incredible way, with privileges, opportunities, and supernatural strength. But ultimately, we remember Samson because his life came tumbling down. From the time he was young, he expected to have every impulse satisfied, and his parents did so (Judges 14:3).
He decided that a Philistine woman was so beautiful that he had to marry her, despite their different faiths. After she betrayed him in chapter 14, he finally returned to her and found that she had already married the best man from his wedding. In a fit of rage, he burned the Philistine crops, and when they responded by having some fellow Israelites capture him, he killed 1000 men. Yet, he prayed afterwards for water, and God cared for him. God blessed him and used him, but character takes time to develop. When we are faced with small temptations and challenges, we develop the mental muscles that we will need for the big ones.
Sometimes children feel like their parents are picking on small details in their lives. Is a white lie or unfinished homework really that big of a deal? But the character traits we learn in the small details will determine our behavior in the big moments. Samson's character failings meant that all of the blessings God gave him were ultimately more than he could handle. What about you?
Discussion idea: Why did God choose someone as flawed as Samson to deliver the Israelites in that time period? How could Samson be a man of faith and still a man of sin?
Prayer focus: Lord, make me a person of integrity: wholly devoted to You. Teach me the skills I need to obey, and purge me of the double-mindedness that so easily entangles us.
Key Verse: Acts 10:28
Big Idea: The Church of Jesus transcends all races and nationalities.
It seems like every time I open my Bible to write these devotionals in the book of Acts, I am saying "what an important event!" It is always true, but today's reading might be especially important. The church at Jerusalem had been made up of Jews and Jewish converts, who had come to Christ. Some had been Hellenistic Jews and some Hebraic Jews, but they still shared a basic identity. The new churches also fit this same demographic, including the one Peter was worshipping with at Joppa. From childhood, they had been raised not to go into a Gentile's home (that is a non-Jewish person) or to have a Gentile in their home. Racism and nationalism ran deep, and even once Christ had freed them from the Law, they still carried an assumption about the way things ought to be.
This all changed when God gave Peter a vision, where He offered him a wide assortment of foods forbidden under the Law. God told him to eat, but Peter declined, because he had never broken kosher. While it is true that God had lifted the food restrictions (the mark of a church today is not food, dress, or furniture, but love), that is not the point He was making. Instead, God was showing Peter that the old lines of clean and unclean no longer applied. Anyone in Christ - whatever their past (as the case of Saul), whatever their ethnicity (as in the case of Cornelius) and whatever their hardheadedness (as in the case of Peter) - came together as one family. The local churches formed were not to be Jewish churches or Gentile churches (still less black churches, white churches, rich churches, poor churches, old churches or young churches). They were to be churches that called no man unclean that God had cleansed; the only lawful division was the blood-bought and the lost. This was hard for the members of the church at Joppa to admit, and it took a miracle to get their attention. Before we judge them too harshly, a frank drive around the churches of today show a sharp separation too. Some may look with disdain on those underweight or overweight, Republicans or Democrats, people wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. The division may be class based, racial, cultural or something else, but the fact that we are one family with one Lord should overcome all the old barriers. He has built His churches of His people, and our identity in Him makes everything else a footnote in comparison.
Discussion Idea: Why do you think that some boundaries are so hard to overcome? What kind of person do you think you would struggle with the most to see as a leader in your church? What kind of person would you struggle with the most if they married your child?
Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help you to not call someone unclean that He has cleansed.