Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” Judges 13:8 (NKJV)


Even the best of fathers will tell you they have their share of fatherhood regrets.  But, as JT Waresak[i] writes, “as I have watched, read and learned from these amazing fathers, I’ve picked up on some things that I know that they’ll never regret.”  Here are the 11 things he says we’ll never regret as dads:

  1. Spending More Time with our Children
  2. Being More Intentional
  3. Watching and Listening
  4. Loving our Children with Words
  5. Focusing On Character Over Performance
  6. Creating Adventures
  7. Praying With and For Our Children
  8. Inspiring Life Goals That Truly Matter
  9. Asking for Forgiveness
  10. Teaching Self-Discipline and Hard Work
  11. Sharing Jesus (the foundation that everything else rests upon)

This list is now exhaustive, but his point in sharing this list is to encourage all dads, including me as we try to do a better job as we help grow the hearts and minds of our children.   I have to stop to think; I may be a great worker and an awesome provider for my family, but if I’m not involved in living out these priorities on a daily basis for my kids, I’m negligent in one of the most important areas of my life.  Stop and ask yourself, as a father, if you’re not taking care of the most important things, why are you so busy with everything else?

When it’s all said and done, what is the most important thing you can do for your children?  If your answer is not to help them develop a personal relationship with Jesus, become His disciple, and prepare for His second coming, then you need to reevaluate your role as a father.  Here’s your challenge: read through this list, for the next 33 days begin to implement these – one every three days – and change your and their lives forever.

Father God, help me to take all the steps to lead my children to you.

[i] http://www.drjamesdobson.org/blogs/the-fatherhood-challenge/the-fatherhood-challenge/2015/09/09/dads-11-things-you-ll-never-regret?sc=FFB

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Not over your Ex?

After a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it happened that Samson visited his wife with a young goat. And he said, “Let me go in to my wife, into her room.” But her father would not permit him to go in. 2 Her father said, “I really thought that you thoroughly hated her; therefore I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister better than she? Please, take her instead.” Judges 15:1-2 (NKJV)


You seem unable to stop thinking about your ex.  Your heart longs for the good old days when you were oh so happy together. Although your pain is real, perhaps your motivation is more about avoiding future hurt than simply suffering from a broken heart.

In general terms, there are two common dynamics that cause people to hold on to their previous relationship. Some people struggle with the feeling that they are not worthy of love, are likely easily overcome with feelings of rejection, and long to make a relationship right even after it has ended.

Other people may have an underlying expectation that others will let them down or not be consistently emotionally there for them. They avoid making themselves vulnerable to being let down or hurt, so they become preoccupied with a past lover or fantasy partner.

Leslie Becker-Phelps, from WebMD,[i] suggests that If your underlying issue is about feeling unworthy, choose to focus on friends, family or other people currently in your life who value you. Allow yourself to absorb their appreciation of you. On the other hand, if you are the overly-self-reliant type, think about the downside of not opening yourself to new relationships. Your self-reliance may sometimes leave you feeling alone or left out.

As Becker-Phelps explains, “Letting go of your fantasy partner is not easy. You’ll need to open your mind and heart to the possibility of having a serious relationship with someone new. It’s true that to have such a relationship, you’ll need to find someone who could truly be a good match. But when you have doubts that you’ll ever find true love again, remind yourself that it’s ultimately up to you to set yourself free.”

Father God, help me to let go of the past and to be open to a future relationship which will bring me and them a positive outcome.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2015/05/not-over-your-ex-what-it-might-mean.html?ecd=wnl_sxr_053015&ctr=wnl-sxr-053015_nsl-promo_2&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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Scripture: (Judg 19:1-3 NKJV)  And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote mountains of Ephraim. He took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. {2} But his concubine played the harlot against him, and went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there four whole months. {3} Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back, having his servant and a couple of donkeys with him. So she brought him into her father’s house; and when the father of the young woman saw him, he was glad to meet him.

Observation: This is one of the strangest stories in the entire Bible.  A Levite set out to win back the love of a woman, but when the men of the city wanted to have sex with the Levite, instead he gave them his woman for then to do with her as they wished.  After an entire night of abuse, the woman died, the Levite took her home, cut her in pieces, and sent the pieces throughout Israel seeking justice.
When sin controls people, they will stop at nothing until their sinful desires are met.  Not only were they trying to do what God calls unnatural (Romans 1) by having homosexual relations, but also by abusing this  woman to the point of death.
On the other hand, if we can look for something positive in this story, it is the Levite’s actions and words to win this woman back related at the beginning of the story.

Application: Even though the woman played the harlot and left him the Levite went to look for her, to speak kindly to her, and to bring her back.  These three steps can also be critically important to win your wife back after you have caused harm any kind of pain – like speaking harshly to her, being unkind to her, betraying her trust in you.  Let’s look at the three steps:
1. He went after her.  He took the initiative.  In the same way, if you have done or said anything that hurt your spouse, don’t ignore it as if it would go away on its own, or don’t expect the other to forget it as if nothing had happened.  Take the initiative to go to your spouse and make things right with them.  Apologize, ask their forgiveness, make every effort to make things better in the future.
2. He spoke kindly to her.  Don’t make things worse by denying what happened or by becoming defensive.  A recognition of what you did and kind words can go a lot farther in the healing process.
3. He brought her back.  It’s not enough to just get back to normal but to establish a new, better normal I your relationship with your spouse.
We can make our relationships better and win back our spouse, if we are sincere in our desire and honest with our feelings, and if our attitude and actions show them we indeed love them and want the best for them.

Prayer: Father, we praise You and thank You for your gift of our spouse; may we treat them accordingly.

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Scripture: (Judg 14:1-3 NKJV)  Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. {2} So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” {3} Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”

Observation: Samson became obsessed with a woman from Timnah and insisted, against his parent’s advice, that they get her for him.  They objected because marriage with an unbeliever, in fact a pagan, was strictly forbidden.  But Samson was insistent and his parents, who were obviously indulgent of their only son, gave in and made the appropriate arrangements for Samson to have her.  Just reading the rest of the chapter tells us of the horrible results of such actions which eventually led to his involvement with a prostitute, Delilah, and to his capture and eventual demise.

Application: In our day we don’t have arranged marriages, at least in our western culture, and yet I can’t help but wonder how many people I personally know would be so much better off if they had only listened to their parents and of others I know right now who are going against the advice of family and friends totally ignoring their advice, their feelings, and their dislike of the person they are dating.  It’s as if they believe that by stubbornly staying with that person they will force their family and friends to dismiss their concerns for their relationships and they will come to like, or even love the other person.  In the PREPARE inventory I provide to couples contemplating marriage, one of the areas we look at is the parents and friends’ reaction to the couple’s relation.  When their reaction is positive, the couple not only seems to do better but also, logically, they have one less thing to work on or worry about.  The opposite is also true of the couples who don’t enjoy the support of their family or friends; it’s like fighting an uphill battle as they begin to form their new relationship and without the love and support of those closest to them.
While the family may not always be right in their feelings or opinions of your boyfriend or girlfriend, if there are negative feelings already going into the relationship, chances are that they won’t get any better later.  Listen to what your family and friends are trying to tell you; they are trying to help you, and they may be saving you from a life of hardship and pain.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the wise counsel of family and friends.  May we be attentive to what they have to tell us, specially if that has to do with following Your guidance and when it comes to those relationships which we hope will be life-lasting.

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Scripture: (Judg 11:30-31 NKJV)  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, {31} “then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

Observation: Jephthah led the Israelites to defeat the Ammonites, but before he went to war with them he asked God for the power, the strength, the ability to defeat them, and then promised that if he would indeed win he would present God an offering of the first thing that came out of the house.  I’m not sure what he thought would come out – an cow, a goat?  Or if he thought that maybe one servant might come out.  But great was his distress when it was his only daughter who came out to greet him and to celebrate his victory and great her disappointment when instead of a great joy, her celebration turned into great sorrow.

Application: Just as careless as Jephthah was with his vow, so are many parents with the promises or threatened discipline.  We have observed many parents, specially parents of small children, threaten discipline unless their children change their actions, but they do it in a way that the children know are vain words.  Some  count: “Jimmy stop that!  One. . . two. . . two-and-a-half. . .”  Children know that counting doesn’t really mean anything until it gets to three.  Others would threaten by repeating themselves: “Sussy, come here. . . Sussy, I told you to come here. . . Sussy, I’m not going to tell you again, come here. . . Sussy, I’m getting upset, you better come here. . .” and on and on.  Other parents use their staccato voice and the children’s names to show the escalation of their command: “Ronny pick up your toys. . . Ron, pick up your toys. . . Ronald, pick up your toys, Ronald Arthur, I told you to pick up your toys. . . RONALD ARTHUR SMITH YOU COME RIGHT NOW AND PICK UP YOUR TOYS OR I’M GOING TO. . .”  It is finally at this point that children take their parents more seriously and begin to either move in the direction of complying or rebelling further to see how far they can push their parents.
When it comes to discipline, it’s best to follow these steps:
1. Set clear limits and consequences, according to the age and understanding capacity of each child.
2. If the child crosses the limit, apply discipline immediately.  This does a number of things.  First of all, you as the parent applies the discipline without losing your temper.  Secondly, the child learns to comply with the pre-defined limits.
3. Immediately after applying discipline, reassure your children of your love for them.
In the same way, don’t make threats that will affect you or the rest of the family because you will end up punishing everyone else or you will find yourself in the position to break the threat.  For instance, if your child comes home later than they should have and you tell them something like: “You’re not going anywhere for a month!”, you may have to stay at home for that month and therefore the entire family is punished with the transgressor.
On the other hand, don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Don’t say, “if you get good grades I’ll buy you a new car,” when you may not be able to afford the car and all related expenses, and if your child does get good grades, then you may not be able to fulfill that promise and therefore give negative messages to your children, such as: My parents don’t keep their promises, it doesn’t matter if I do well in school, etc.
These things are part of what Jesus meant when He said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Mat. 5:37).

Prayer: Father, help us to make no promises or threats we cannot keep.

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Scripture: (Judg 9:4-6 NKJV)  So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men; and they followed him. {5} Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself. {6} And all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king beside the terebinth tree at the pillar that was in Shechem.

Observation: In previous chapters we learned of the Gideon and how he tested God with a fleece, how he destroyed Baals altar, and how he defeated the Midianites.  But not all of Gideon’s experiences were positive.  Toward the end of the last chapter we read he built an ephod in his town of Ophrah and people came there to worship and prostituted themselves and became a snare to Gideon’s family.  Gideon had many wives so he also had many children, seventy of them.  Abimelech emerged as the leader among Gideon’s children and did it by winning the support of the people of Shechem who paid him to become their king after which he killed all but one of his seventy brothers.

Application: Stories like this make me cringe to thin of how one person could deal with his brothers in that  cruel way, and all for the sake of power and money.  And yet, I personally know of two families where a brother has dealt in similar ways (except for killing them) with his siblings by robbing them of what rightly belongs to his siblings, by taking advantage of them, and by enriching himself at their expense.  When it comes to money, some people will do anything they have to even if that means taking it from their own family members.  What is the point of selling your soul for money while your siblings or those closest to you suffer?  If the funds God gives us are not used to help others, then our selfishness will destroy something that is much more important and worth a lot more and that is our family relationships.

Prayer: Father, help us to never place material things over our family or any other person.

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Scripture: (Judg 7:20 NKJV)  Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers; they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing; and they cried, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”

Observation: Gideon’s large army had been pruned down to a very small number, particularly when compared with the army of the Midianites.  Then, they surrounded the Midianites and at the right moment they broke the pitchers, blew the trumpets, and lifted the torches at the same time as they shouted, “The sword of the Lord…”  To the half-asleep Midianite army, the noise, sights, the lights must have seemed like millions, and that caused great panic and confusion which led to their great defeat.  While on my last visit to Israel, several years ago, I remember our guide telling us that during the war with Syria over the Golan Heights, one lone Israeli tank operator did a very heroic feat.  He would drive up to the ridge and fire against the Syrians, then drive down, move to another location, drive up the ridge, fire, and repeated the same action from several locations.  Down below, on the Syrian side, they could see tanks going up and down and firing upon them and they though it was an entire combat unit, and those actions slowed down just enough for the Israeli army to come to the Golan Heights to defend that strategic site.  I imagine something similar took place during the battle when Gideon led the Israelites against the Midianites. . . who knows, maybe the Israeli tank soldier remembered this battle and knew that even a few can win a battle over the most.  Then again, it was God fighting on the side of Gideon and his army, not just the military tactics they employed.

Application: Today we’re enjoying family togetherness as our younger daughter, who studies at Andrews University in Michigan, is home for spring break.  Our older daughter, who lives nearby, is joinging us, and the four of us plan to spend the day together.  Those opportunities don’t come by too often nowadays, so we praise and than God for it.  As I think of the battle of Gideon’s army, I can’t help but think of the battles we as parents have to fight for our children.  The enemies of our children are great and many and at times we are overwhelmed and shaken to think of these seemly insurmountable foes.  But maybe that’s why this story is here, to remind us as parents that we may be small and seemly powerless, but if we blow the trumpet and lift up the torch (God’s word), victory will be ours and our children’s.  I would like to liken blowing the trumpet to our living testimony, and lifting the torch to studying the Bible – I suppose if you want to take the analogy further, you could say that breaking the pitchers is eliminating those negative influences that threaten to enslave us and our children.  But we do know and must be fully convinced of is that the Battle is the Lord and we need to commit ourselves and our children to Him if we’re to gain the final victory.
I know the following passages are not directly related to what I just concluded, but they are very inspiring nonetheless.
“The leader whom God chose to overthrow the Midianites occupied no prominent position in Israel. He was not a ruler, a priest, or a Levite. He thought himself the least in his father’s house. But God saw in him a man of courage and integrity. He was distrustful of himself and willing to follow the guidance of the Lord. God does not always choose for His work men of the greatest talents, but He selects those whom He can best use. “Before honor is humility.” Proverbs 15:33. The Lord can work most effectually through those who are most sensible of their own insufficiency, and who will rely upon Him as their leader and source of strength. He will make them strong by uniting their weakness to His might, and wise by connecting their ignorance with His wisdom.
If they would cherish true humility, the Lord could do much more for His people; but there are few who can be trusted with any large measure of responsibility or success without becoming self-confident and forgetful of their dependence upon God. This is why, in choosing the instruments for His work, the Lord passes by those whom the world honors as great, talented, and brilliant. They are too often proud and self-sufficient. They feel competent to act without counsel from God.”  {Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 553}
“The Lord is willing to do great things for us. We shall not gain the victory through numbers, but through the full surrender of the soul to Jesus. We are to go forward in His strength, trusting in the mighty God of Israel. There is a lesson for us in the story of Gideon’s army. . . . The Lord is just as willing to work through human efforts now, and to accomplish great things through weak instrumentalities.  {Ellen G. White, Conflict and Courage, p. 127}

Prayer: Father, give the courage to go through this conflict and win the final battle against your foe.  But also give us the victory with and for our children that we together may enjoy the rewards of eternal life together.

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Scripture: (Judg 4:4-5 NKJV)  Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. {5} And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.

Observation: Deborah, a prophetess, was also the leader of Israel at the time.  He called Barak to pursue Sisera, one of Israel’s enemies.  At the end, Deborah and Jael, who killed Sisera in her tent, turned out to be the courageous heroines of this story

Application: This is one of those amazing stories of courage displayed not just by one but by two women of the Bible.  There are homes where men are weak and easily led by others or by sins or habits that threaten to destroy their marriage, their family, their finances, and even the very men practicing them.  It is at those times when a courageous woman has to take the reins of their home lest everyone and everything they have be consumed.
Every home has a clearly defined leader, even if the relationship between spouses is egalitarian.  The bible’s ideal is that the man should have that headship since that is a reflection of the order in God’s universe and he serves as a reflection of God and the relationship of Christ as the husband and the church as His bride.  Today’s reality is that some men are not that type of reflection and don’t demonstrate the correct pattern established by Christ.  In addition, some women are raising a family with the absence of a husband or father of her children.  In these cases, women can and must serve the role of headship in their homes in order to maintain it intact and thrive even under less than ideal circumstances.

Prayer: Father, bless the women who under difficult circumstances labor to keep their families intact and healthy.  May they reflect faithfully the image of Christ in their lives.

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Scripture: (Judg 2:10 NKJV)  When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.

Observation: After the death of Joshua and the people of his generation had passed away, things changed very quickly in Israel, but not for the best.  The rapid decline in their spirituality reflects the rapid abandonment of God’s will for them.  First of all, the Israelites stopped their conquest of the Promised Land from going as far as God intended it should.  Secondly, they left entire cities, and their inhabitants, alive and established relationships with them.  And finally, they began to worship the Baals of the people of the land.  This rapid decline is what God had tried to prevent by commanding them to destroy the people of the land, but in just one generation they went from following God to worshipping Baal.

Application: I can attest to how fast things change, in one generation, when you abandon God.  My mother’s parents were the first Seventh-day Adventist converts in the city of Bucaramanga, where we were born, in the country of Colombia, South America.  When my mother was a young girl, her mother died leaving her husband to raise five young children by himself; my grandfather never remarried.  Weighed down with the heavy responsibility and with a large hospital bill after his wife’s death, my grandfather, a very responsible man, made whatever payments he could on that hospital bill but in the process he didn’t return God’s tithe faithfully; shortly after that, he stopped going to church altogether.  Eventually all but one of the children, including my mother, ended up out of the church (one died at a young age, still believing and living his faith).  As a young lady, about to graduate from high school, my mother met my father, who together with his family  was Roman Catholic.  In order for my mother to be able to marry my father she “converted” to Catholicism; in her own words, while she did everything in her power to accept, believe, and practice her new religion, she confessed to me many years later that she never really could come to believe it because the seeds of Bible truth remained deeply ingrained in her heart.  Nevertheless, she raised her children as Catholics, attending church every Sunday, and performing the rituals, or “sacraments,” required by the church such like infant baptism, “the First Communion,” “Confirmation,” etc.
As a young boy, after my first communion, I became quite active in the church and was chosen to be one of the altar boys in the church near to where we lived and where we worshiped regularly for many years.  I remember as a young boy wearing my bath robe and standing before the kitchen sink, with a slice of bread, dipping a piece of it in a glass of orange juice mixed with some water, role-playing what I saw the priest do on the altar during mass – by the way, my own “mass” was not the best as the juice was too watered down, and the bread soaked in this mixture tasted horrible.  If the priest had seen me doing this he probably would have said that even at an early age I demonstrated a vocation for the priesthood; I might say that even in the darkness was already beginning to show me a glimpse of the ministerial career I would one day follow.
In my family, all of us grew up catholic, and faithfully did the things required of good Catholics like repeating the prescribed prayers to Mary and to bow down before the many images found in churches, cathedrals, and even road side shrines.  While my mother’s brother and his family were Adventists, we never completely understood what they were or why they lived like they did; we only knew they did strange things like not watch TV on Friday nights and Saturdays, or not eating what we considered to be delicacies and which now I myself find distasteful, even disgusting.  It was only after the death of my father, and our move to the United States, that my mother returned to the Adventist faith and she and I were baptized the same day in a church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
As we reflect on our portion of the Scriptures for today, some may wonder how quickly the Israelites abandoned the faith of their fathers after all the powerful miracles He worked on their behalf.  I witnessed how easy it is to do so as with my mother’s departure from the faith as in just a few short years she went from being a Sabbath-keeping, second-coming-expecting Christian, to a Sunday-keeping, idol worshipping Catholic, and as a result, with the birth of each of her children, we were one by one introduced to the worship of these idols  and it became a simple part of our lives.
If we as parents can see how easily and quickly children learn, we would be so much more careful with our actions and words.  I am amazed at parents who don’t bring their young children to church or those who have told me that they don’t want to force them to believe as they do but want to give their children the freedom to choose what to believe only to see how quickly their children abandon the faith their parents wish they would hold as their own.  I’d like to encourage every parent to hold dear their faith and live it and teach it to their children from the time they are born that they may grow up in it from their earliest days; if we as parents don’t live our faith, we will quickly loose our children and many generations to come.

Prayer: Father, help us to live daily our faith and may we transmit it faithfully to our children and for generations to come.

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