Battle of the Heart

SAMSON! I'd be willing to bet that his name brings some sort of image to your mind. Big, strong, good looking guy? Victor Mature (remember the old movie?) Who would Hollywood cast in that role today? Michael Clark Duncan possibly. The guy is as big as a mountain and as strong as an ox! 

 

But there's a problem with that image! If you remember, everybody was baffled by Samson's incredible strength. If he had been big as a mountain and strong as an ox nobody would been surprised by his strength!

 

I think Samson was just a normal looking man. Men in his day were not that different from men in our day. He was probably about 5' 11" and 175 pounds, or so. Nothing special. Except for his hair. He couldn't cut his hair or trim his beard. As a Nazarite that was the rule. 

 

A Nazarite was not necessarily from the town of NAZARETH, like Jesus. A Nazarite (Numbers 6) was a man who voluntarily chose to make a special vow of consecration to God. It was usually for a set period of time, during which they would abstain from all "fruits of the vine", grapes, raisins, wine, and let their hair grow freely as an outward expression of their separation from other men. But God COMMANDED Samson to be separate! Not just temporarily, but permanently!

 

So here's this man who hasn't had a trim in 19 years, minimum! His hair (and his beard) would have been down to his knees, AT LEAST! No wonder the guy had anger issues! This just wasn't done in those days! Talk about a "boy named Sue syndrome"!

 

Samson had the potential to be, quite possibly, the greatest leader in all of human history. He was chosen by God before he was even conceived. He was blessed before he was ever born; set apart to lead, govern, and deliver his people! 

 

So what happened? He was weak. The strong man was actually a weakling! Instead of being separated from the rest of the world and devoted to God's plans and purposes, as his Nazarite appearance and condition implied, Samson made far too many decisions based solely upon his feelings and desires!

 

Early in his "career" as a Judge of Israel we find Samson telling his parents that he has SEEN the woman he wants to marry, and demanding that they make the necessary arrangements. It was bad enough that his decision to marry this woman was apparently based entirely upon her physical attributes, but he was already violating one of God's rules by choosing her! You see, this particular beauty was a Philistine, and God had expressly forbidden the Israelites from marrying anyone who wasn't Hebrew.

 

His reason was simple; when you join yourself to someone who worships another god you are setting yourself (and your partner) up for confusion and heart-ache! That was definitely the result in Samson's situation! The wedding was a fiasco, and before the whole thing was resolved (Judges 15:6) Samson's wife and Father-in-law were dead at the hands of their countrymen.

 

In the Apostle Paul's letter to the church at Corinth he warned the Christians there not to "yoke" themselves unequally with people who did not share their faith in Jesus Christ. This is not a value judgment against people who aren't Christians, but a loving guideline given to protect people!

 

If you intend to bind yourself to another person, whether in business or in marriage, you need to be certain that you are both on the same "sheet of music"! 

 

According to the Bible, the guiding motivation for all Christians is to be the Spirit of God, who moves in to live within them when they choose to follow Christ, while the guiding motivation for those who are not Christians has to be something entirely different. The core foundation of those two individuals is totally different, and that means that conflict and confusion is inevitable in their relationship.

 

"But Samson was obviously not led by God much of the time!" True. And he suffered for it. Samson insisted on having his way and God allowed it. God's plan was still fulfilled, but Samson didn't get to ENJOY the victories God used him to provide. Time after time Samson chose self-gratification over obedience, and the result in his life was blindness and death. 

 

Yet somewhere down deep Samson must have learned the lessons that God was teaching him along the journey, because he is referred to later (Hebrews 11) as a man of faith! That tells me that at the end of Samson's life he had settled in his heart to stop pursuing pleasure as his number one priority, and chose instead to pursue God's plan for his life. That's when God promoted him. 

 

Remember, God knew when he called Samson that he would make some wrong choices and do some foolish things. God was never caught off guard by Samson's rebellious and self-centered decisions! In fact, He planned for them. God's priority in Samson's life (as in yours and mine) wasn't the battles with the Philistines, but the battles within Samson's own heart. According to Hebrews 11, Samson won that battle in the end. JUST A THOUGHT..

- Pastor Robert Fountain

What Is Love?

I was considering what to toss around with you, and I realized that one of the more commonly misunderstood Biblical concepts is the subject of "love"! What comes to YOUR mind when that word is mentioned? 

 

I believe I'm accurate in saying, that for most of us, we immediately think of emotion. Our first thoughts may be of attraction and affection to someone; strong feelings of connection to and appreciation for those special people in our lives.

 

But isn't love more than that?

 

The Greeks thought so. They used several different words to express that which we simply bundle into the one word - LOVE! 

 

For them, "love" could mean phileo; a brotherly affection. That's why we refer to Philadelphia as "the city of brotherly love". It isn't because Philly is necessarily such of wonderful place! (No offense)

 

The ancient Greeks also saw "love" as eros, that physical dynamic which often exists between two people. I doubt that I need to expand on that one…

 

Another word they used, although rarely I understand, was the term "agapao", which expresses something which often goes beyond the norm of human experience.

 

In describing it to the Christians at ancient Corinth the Apostle Paul taught that it is; * long-suffering (what a great term!), kind, never envious of others, not ostentatious or prideful, it doesn't behave rudely, isn't easily offended or provoked to anger,  isn't self-centered or self-seeking, assumes the best of others, rejoices over righteousness and not wickedness, bears all things (compassionate), believes all things (trusting), endures all things (patient), never fails ( doesn't write difficult people off).

 

That kind of love is a choice. It is active. Deliberate. Determined! 

 

I can't control my initial emotional reactions to others, but I can make "loving" decisions toward them. I can choose to expect the best from them and commit myself to giving the best of myself to and for them. I can make up my mind, that no matter how unloving THEIR behavior may be, I will endure, overlook trivial offenses, and never ever give up on them.

 

And I can make decisions based on what is best for the other person, rather than what I might WANT, even if that decision may cost me the relationship. 

 

A good example is the area of parenting. I would really like to be my son's best friend, but for his sake my role is that of the primary authority in his life. My responsibility is to discipline him toward becoming a solid, well-rounded adult, and that will involve some tough choices from time to time. Heart-wrenching though it would be, it COULD even involve decisions which would temporarily interrupt our communication. For example, there are some behaviors for which I would require him to leave the security and comfort of my home. He wouldn't cease to be my son, and my devotion to him would never falter. In fact, that very devotion would be that which motivated to take such harsh action!

 

Because sometimes this kind of love requires courage and perseverance. Sometimes, far from being warm and fuzzy, this kind of love can be rough around the edges. But it's real. And it lasts.

 

One last reflection to ponder; the Bible says* that "GOD IS LOVE"

 

JUST A THOUGHT…

 

* 1 Cor 13:3-8, 1 John 4:8

- Pastor Robert Fountain

Don't Settle for Second Best

My wife and I were talking the other night and she commented to me that this year has been a weird one. In the past 12 months we've dealt with multiple hurricanes, potentially serious health issues, the sudden loss of her mother, a major decline in health of her closest friend (cancer), and then the abrupt and unexpected death of an old friend she cared deeply about just this past week.

 

I'm sure that many of you can relate. You may even be thinking that my wife's struggles are NOTHING compared to what you are going through!

It's like the old Charlie Brown cartoon where Lianas asks Charlie Brown, who has once again fallen for Lucy's football trick and is lying flat on his back on the ground; "Charlie Brown, do you ever feel like life is passing you by?" Charlie Brown replies, "No, I feel like life has knocked me down and keeps stomping all over me." Sometimes life is brutal.

 

That's why one particular phrase in the Bible has become a favorite of mine. The phrase? "And it came to pass…" You see, everything does! Come to pass, that is! "Life is but a vapor", King Solomon said. Nothing lasts forever.

 

Joshua, the Israelite leader, surely had it rough. His first 60 years were lived as a slave under Ramses the Egyptian Pharaoh. As a child he probably watched as his father and brothers were beaten by the slave masters of Egypt. Then as a young man he would surely have been among those forced to labor endlessly at Pharaoh's famous building projects.

 

Finally, when Joshua was 60 years old, a man named Moses came to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt! And lead them out he did! When they arrived at their destination Joshua was sent (along with some others) into Canaan to spy out the land, and he came back with an optimistic report! "The land is just as we were promised! We need to trust God and go for it!" But 10 of his co-laborers were not so filled with faith! They said, "NO WAY! It's too hard!"

 

And the people listened to the pessimists. Because of that fact all of Israel (including Joshua) wandered in circles for the next 38 and a half years! 

 

Eventually that season, too, came to pass, and Israel entered Canaan only to find obstacle after obstacle faced them. However, with each PASSING obstacle, with each passing victory, their faith grew. Joshua, in the last 10 years of his life, saw all his hopes and dreams fulfilled. He experienced victory after victory as HE was blessed to lead his people into their very first home, in freedom!

 

The sad thing is there were some who refused to enter. (Numbers 32) They decided to just stay where they were, on the far side of the Jordan River. And they were allowed to do so! 

 

But THEIR lives were just as hard as the rest of Israel! The only real difference was that THEY missed out on God's miraculous involvement. They never got to see the sun stand still in the valley of Aijalon (Joshua 10)! They didn't witness the walls collapsing and the supernatural victory at Jericho (Joshua 6)! 

 

Don't ever settle for second best just because it looks easier. You may miss out on the miraculous if you do! And you'll probably find, though not until the end, that your journey was really no easier for having chosen the "easy road". 

 

So hang in there! Yes, life is hard sometimes, but God is always good, and if you call out to Him in those hard times you'll find that He's eager to involve Himself in the "battles" of those who invite Him. And to quote someone wiser than I; "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

 

Just a thought,

- Pastor Robert Fountain

Faith or Superstition?

It seems to me that the word is getting a lot more "air time" the last few years. For a while the concept of faith was most often discussed (at least by Hollywood) with a knowing smile and a chuckle, as though the idea of having faith were sweet, but somewhat simple and naïve.

 

Nowadays it almost appears to be fashionable. Almost everybody believes something, and anything you believe is acceptable, as long as you say you truly believe it. 

 

But that begs the question; what is faith, anyway? Is it just believing; as in; "I just know that it will all work out in the end.", or is it more than that?

 

What if someone came to the sincere conclusion that wearing a fried egg on his head brought him prosperity, physical health, inner peace, and spiritual life? "I'd call the guys in the white coats!" Why? If he had real faith that the egg thing worked for him, is that not valid?

 

I think we'd agree that my example is a bit weird, yet I suggest that it's not really that much farther afield than much of what people embrace today as "faith". At best the fried egg thing should be classified as superstition. The reason for that is simple; faith has an actual object while superstition just believes.

 

A pitcher wears the same socks to every game because he believes they brought him good luck. I believe in a living, personal God who involves Himself in the affairs of humanity because there is a mountain of good evidence supporting that belief.

 

Math and DNA being two of the very best. Any system, any "code", must have it's origen in an intelligent Designer. The fact that we can count on the sun coming up every day consistently, that we can enjoy sunsets and chocolate, that procreation is pleasureable - all tells us something about the Nature and Character of the Intelligent One behind the design! He's a Good guy!

 

He is THERE, and He is GOOD! And for faith to be FAITH, and not mere superstition (or mental illness) it must have as it's object Someone who is actually there. 

 

There might be a placebo effect with the fried egg bit, but the egg itself isn't going to accomplish much for the wearer, except to attract flies and stares. (I dare you to try it some time) 

 

But actively looking to, and trusting in the God who gave you taste buds will always result in blessing and fruitfulness. 

 

Why don't you take a minute and thank Him for giving you the ability to enjoy. He didn't have to...

- Pastor Robert Fountain

Silence is Golden

Did you know that Job's "test" only lasted a few months? 

 

Yet Job has come to represent the worst of human suffering. He lost everything; his children, his possessions, and finally his health! His poor wife lost all hope when she saw her provider and protector so sick that he was ostracized from society and forced to live out at the city dump! In her day a woman alone was a woman condemned, and it appeared that Job was doomed!

 

Remember, they couldn't see beyond their immediate circumstances. They didn’t have the book! All they knew was that one day everything was right with their world; he was the richest man in that hemisphere, a man of integrity and influence, and the NEXT day everything began to fall apart!

 

It happened that fast! It often does! One day everything is "as it should be", and the next day a whirlwind of calamities arrives to under-mine and over-turn it all!

 

How did Job manage to hold fast to his faith through it all!? 

 

First let me point out that he didn't do it perfectly. While he did better than most, Job did lose heart when the physical afflictions hit him! He began in chapter 3 to curse the day of his birth, and he doesn't stop whining for the next 28 chapters! I can relate to that, unfortunately. I am an expert whiner when I get confused about my circumstances, and Job was certainly confused! Why was this happening to him!? 

 

His friends thought they had ALL the answers! But let's not slam them completely. 

 

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were obviously very devoted friends. They set their lives aside to be at Job's side, and for the first 7 days and nights they did great. The fact is that they give us a super example of devoted support in that first week - the just sat with their friend in silence.

 

After all, what could they say? "Hang in there Job, it will work out." 

 

He had already lost 7 sons and 3 daughters, not to mention a life-time of hard work and all of his possessions! No, the best thing to say when you don't know WHAT to say, is nothing.

 

Silence is so foreign to us today in our era of cell phones, computers, radios and so forth. When is the last time you just sat silently with someone who is sad or grieving? 

 

Sitting in silence communicates VOLUMES! It says, "I can't say or do anything that will change your situation, but I will go with you through the struggle." 

 

The writer to the Hebrews admonishes us in verses 24-25 of chapter 10: "…let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting (encouraging) one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching."

 

Job's friends really began to blow it when they began to "encourage Job" verbally, but in all fairness, I believe that one reason Job was able to endure, accept and learn from his struggles (see chapter 42), was that he had friends who rallied to his side and never abandoned him, even when their perspectives on the problems were in conflict.

 

By the way, if YOU are in the middle of some over-whelming struggle, remember what Job learned: God's plans are perfect, and always end in blessing. Job's first 10 kids were awaiting him in heaven, only lost to him briefly, and his humility and perseverance was rewarded with a double portion when all was said and done. And remember to reach out for good friends. Even the ones who tend to say dumb things. 

 

Have a blessed day today.

 

- Pastor Robert Fountain

"Holiness" The Antiquated Concept

Do you ever feel like we're losing the battle? 

 

I'm sure that I'm not the only one. I look around at the declining moral climate and the escalating (it seems) descent into cultural chaos, and wonder what in the world made me choose to start a family and bring children into this mess! I'm told that something like 16,000 teens per day contract a sexually transmitted disease in this country now! Kids are killing each other at a rate we've never seen before. Parents are killing their own children at a rate we've never experienced, either. Why!?

 

Because so much of our society has decided that "holiness" is an antiquated concept. Unless you are Mother Teresa or the Pope, it seems that it just isn't cool to live a life of real devotion to God any more. 

 

But who decided that for us? Did we come to that conclusion after a thoughtful and thorough time of reflection? Not really. We just gradually settled into a comfort zone wherein we can pursue those things which are pleasant to us and go to God when we need His help with something really important to us.

 

The trouble with that approach is that the Bible refers to it as idolatry. We are actually serving another god than the One we profess to worship. When we give our attention to the pursuit of comfort and happiness we are serving "the god of pleasure".

 

Jesus Christ asked a rhetorical question of His students in Matt 5:13; "If salt loses it's flavor, how shall it be seasoned?" Obviously it's impossible to season salt! It is either salty, or it's worthless as to it's primary purpose!

 

What we are experiencing today in our current cultural climate is that same lack of seasoning! The salt has lost much of it's flavor in our country and indeed in our world. But according to Jesus, those of us who are His followers are intended by Him to bring His flavor into our world! 

 

You and I (Christians) are His salt! And if we are to have any effect at all we must live our lives truly devoted to Him and to His primary purpose for our lives.

 

"But our culture is already in the tank!" Not if you and I step up and begin LIVING our faith in our day to day lives. 

 

Jephthah and his daughter (Judges 11) give us our example. It's a confusing story on it's face, but we find in Jephthah's daughter a young woman who saw true devotion to God in a time and a culture where almost everyone was living for their own pleasures. In a culture where sexual immorality was normal she was a virgin. In a land of compromise she lived her life by personal conviction and commitment. 

 

We don't even know her name, but we know that she was seriously salty. She got that from watching her Dad. 

 

Will anybody get it from watching you? 

- Pastor Robert Fountain

Humility

When I think of humility I often think of the Dickens character Uriah Heep, from the book DAVID COPPERFIELD. Uriah was always quick to belittle himself in public and proclaim himself to be everyone's humble servant. But at heart he was a self-seeking, self-serving, and self-aggrandizing hypocrite! In truth, Uriah actually considered himself to be entitled to much more respect and reward than he generally received!

 

The Apostle Peter said that; "God opposes the proud, but gives grace (His favor, assistance, empowerment) to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time…"

 

Pride, in this context, is not the idea of personal dignity, but of inaccurate self-assessment. In other words, "seeing" yourself through those proverbial rose-colored glasses. Having an attitude of entitlement; demanding recognition and attention...

 

Conversely, humility in this context is not belittling yourself, but seeing yourself as God sees you! 

 

You see, if you are a gifted, classical pianist with 20 years of experience, and you present yourself as someone who "plays a little", that isn't humility, it's a lie!

 

Humility doesn't mean belittling yourself. It means viewing and presenting yourself accurately. It means not pushing for the spot-light, but sincerely accepting the attention if and when the spot-light hits you.

 

The astounding principle which Peter wanted us to understand is that those who are always demanding greater and greater attention, acclaim, and reward; who view themselves to be "better" than those around them, and who have convinced themselves that they have need of no-one, are going to be opposed by God Himself! But those who are content to be who they are and who readily acknowledge their need for God's input and guidance to live life wisely and well, He will always assist and empower.

 

In short, if you will do your job (humble yourself), He will do His job (honor/exalt you), but if you do HIS job (honoring yourself), He has to do your job! And God is very capable of humbling those who need to be humbled; for their good and ours...  

- Pastor Robert Fountain

The Principle of Reciprocity

His name meant "Lord of Lightening"! He was a real big-shot in Canaan. Made quite a reputation for himself. He conquered seventy kings, cut off their thumbs and big toes, and forced them to live like dogs in his palace, literally begging for scraps under his dining table in order to survive their captivity! What a brutally evil king he was! Yet he seems to have understood a basic spiritual law that many in our day either disregard or simply overlook.

 

It's known as "The Principle of Reciprocity". The principle of reciprocity says that what GOES around, COMES around. No, that isn't just a cliché. It is actually a biblical concept; a spiritual LAW!

 

The Apostle Paul worded it this way in his letter to the Christians in the Roman province of Galatia: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL, especially to those who are of the household of faith." Gal 6:7-10 (emphasis mine)

 

There are FOUR OBSERVATIONS I want to point out about this law of sowing and reaping:

 

#1) Our physical experience in this area is a clear picture of the Spiritual reality. If you plant an apple tree, you WILL reap a harvest of apples some time in the future. Which leads us to the following observations…

 

#2) We always reap the same thing we sowed. Apples come from apple seed, oranges do not… Sow to the flesh,. Paul wrote, you WILL reap a fleshly (corrupt) harvest. If you "sow" anger in your marriage, you will not reap a harvest of harmony. Sow infidelity and you will not reap faithfulness, etc…

 

#3) We always reap LATER! It takes a while for an apple tree to grow and begin to produce apples! But eventually it does! In the same way your attitudes and behavior may not immediately produce a harvest after it's kind, but eventually the harvest always comes! 

 

Peter warns us in 2 Peter 3 not to misinterpret God's patience as indifference! Some convince themselves that they are "getting away with it", when in fact they are being given time to turn from the wrong path they have chosen! Peter reminds us not to forget that God has all the time in the world - literally - and nothing escapes His notice! But it is His kindness that leads us to turn to Him!

 

#4) We always reap MORE than was sown! One apple seed produces a tree from which thousands of apples may grow over the coming decades! In the same way, your attitudes and actions, be they good or bad, produce multiplied consequences!

 

The good news is that this law works in the positive as well as the negative! 

 

Jesus said in Luke 6:38; "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

 

He said this, by the way, in the context of patience, loving attitudes, mercy, as well as generosity. In ALL your dealings with the people around you, even the mean, nasty ones, remember that thought! 

 

Because it's a spiritual LAW! It's etched in STONE in the heavens!

 

Oh yeah, Adonai-Bezek? You can read his story in Judges 1:1-7. You see, when Israel came to town they defeated him SOUNDLY and did to him what he had always done to everybody HE conquered! They cut off his thumbs and big toes so that he was never a threat after that! And he REALIZED that God was allowing him to reap the consequences of his own wicked behavior! Because...

 

"...with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." 

 

WHATEVER "IT" IS! 

 

So make sure yours is; "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control!" And that is what will be multiplied back to you somewhere down the line!

Pastor Robert Fountain