Results

This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Samson!” It will be based on stories found in Judges 13-16. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.

Today’s preparatory text: Take time to read the story of Samson.


By Chuck Griffin

With his massive strength and what sounds like really great hair, Samson had the kind of advantages that a leader in any era would find helpful.

Like many such leaders, though, he fell short of what was possible. Certainly, God was with him. Certainly, he did a lot of damage to the Philistines, the enemy God intended Samson to vanquish.

When all is said and done, however, the final results are what matter. The earliest judges, the people empowered by God to lead Israel, brought their people to a time when “the land had rest,” a phrase indicating peace and prosperity. Othniel, Ehud, Deborah and Gideon seem to have had success.

There is no such indication at the end of Samson’s story, or at the end of the story of some of his predecessors. Instead, we simply receive a report of how long they led.

As I read Samson’s story, I try to spot his shortcomings as a leader. I noted Wednesday how he seems to lack humility, even though it is quite possible to be both strong and humble. He kept forgetting the source of his strength, God, and spent much of his time pursuing what Samson wanted.

Trusting in the power of his arms and legs, Samson also tried to do everything on his own. The earliest judges were able to rally the people. To one degree or another, God’s power flowed through them to strengthen the Israelites.

It seems like Samson wanted to underscore the notion that it is lonely at the top, even though that old adage can easily be overcome by a savvy leader who deliberately calls on the help of the best and the brightest available.

Samson’s story is an ancient one, yet the themes within are timeless, and certainly applicable to situations playing out right now in the world. May God guide all who lead, and may those who lead humbly follow God’s guidance, helping their troubled people find a time of rest.

Lord, once again we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

The Tree I Hope to Be

Luke 6:43-45 (NLT)

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”


By Chuck Griffin

I suspect that James, brother of Jesus and leader of the early church at Jerusalem, had the above words in mind when he wrote, “Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” (James 3:11-12.)

The way we are on the inside, deep in our souls, will eventually show on the outside through our behaviors. Our inner nature, whatever it may be, cannot remain hidden or pretend to be something else for long.

Few of us would dare claim that what is within us is perfectly pure, and fewer still would be telling the truth. But remember, there are no perfect trees, except those found in Paradise. A tree we would call “good” is one that fulfills its mission year after year, providing abundant, attractive fruit despite the occasional blemish on its trunk or scar within its roots.

Not far from a church building where I once served, there was a rough-looking little apple tree at the edge of a yard, its branches overhanging the road. You wouldn’t think much of it in the winter, but in the late summer and fall, it produced apples galore. When I went for a walk, it practically waved its branches and said to me whenever I passed under it, “Here, have an apple! Please!”

I would take one and eat it as I walked along, and the apple was always very good. It was a faithful little tree, doing its best in a less-than-perfect location, bordered on one side by asphalt and exhaust. I suppose the tree persistently kept reaching for the water and nutrients it needed all those years.

Jesus, James and a particular apple tree I know offer us a straightforward way to measure our Christian lives.

Lord, in our brokenness and infirmities, we can still bear fruit for you. Keep us mindful of where we find sustenance: in prayer, in Scripture, in worship, in fellowship and communion, and in so many other places where you have promised to meet us. Amen.