“Was Samson a Prodigal?”

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My Thoughts:

Although brought up in a strong believing home, even dedicated to the LORD at birth, Samson’s name cannot be said without Delilah’s immediately following. So I ask a simple question: Can Samson be considered a prodigal? He lived a rather wild lifestyle, but he didn’t demand of his parents the inheritance. He did demand a dowery for a non-believing wife (see Judges 14:1-7). But the text tells us that this was from the LORD. Further it appears that he did have a problem with women (see Judges 16:1). So when it comes to being under Delilah’s spell, it shouldn’t surprise us that he did trifle with his calling.

But was he a prodigal in the sense of rebelling against his parents’ authority and living a riotous life?

However we want to classify Samson, one thing is clear: He let down his guard with women and ultimately ended up fulfilling his calling severely scarred (i.e., blinded); oh, and dead.

Lifestyle worshiper, what other lessons can we harvest from Samson’s journey? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Judges 16:15-17 — 15 Then [Delilah] said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. 17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. — Proverbs 13:20 (NIV84)

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. —Proverbs 6:25-26 (NIV84)

 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. — 1 Peter 4:3-4 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I choose to humble myself and learn from others’ mistakes and miscues. Set my feet firmly on the rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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“Entitled Prodigals”

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My Thoughts:

Although the word, “prodigal,” has become synonymous with “wayward, rebellious runaway,”  it actually means “wasteful, extravagant reckless wild living.” I think this fits well with our entitlement culture. It seems to me that prodigals feel an extreme sense of “you owe me for my existence.” Perhaps I am reading too much into today’s main text (Luke 15:11-12), but it appears to me that the younger son is saying, “Father, you owe me. So give me what’s mine (even if it’s ahead of time)!”

The father does not fight this defiant, rebellious son, but instead gives him what the son thinks he deserves, and lets… him… go! Any parent knows how hard this is. It is hard enough when your child is leaving for college or the military or merely moving out on  his/her own, but when they are leaving on not-too-good-of terms, our hearts are bleeding….  But he also did not enable the son by negotiating or chasing after him; another heart-wrenching decision….

Ironically, I have also found that if I chase after a “prodigal,” I only entitle them all the more. I have inadvertently empowered and enabled them in their reckless temper tantrum. And the more I do rescue them, the deeper their sense of entitlement is driven…. Truly a lose-lose scenario.

This is why I admire the father in this story. He did not prevent his son from learning a very difficult lesson—the hard way. Nor did he chase after him. But as I observe the collection of stories in Luke 15, there is a common element of searching, though not as commonly taught. The shepherd diligently searches for the lost sheep—and finds it; the woman fervently searches for the lost coin—and finds it; and the father earnestly searches the horizon for his lost son—and ‘finds’ him! Though the father did not actively run after his son in search of him so as to entitle him again, he does eagerly run to his son, once the son has release this sense of entitlement (as evidenced in his returning). Truly, the son came to his senses….

Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it displeases the Lord when we chase after “prodigals” well before they have come to their senses? I have. And I have done them a grave disservice. Yes, it is painful to remain ‘at home’ and diligently search the horizon, but it is far wiser—for the sake of the “prodigal,” don’t you think? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 15:11-12 — 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. — Proverbs 19:19 (NIV84)

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  —Luke 9:25 (NIV84)

 Everything [the teachers of the law and Pharisees] do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi. — Matthew 23:5-7 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I find it fascinating that You sent Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to seek after the lost sheep of the House of Israel; You sent Him to the lost Samaritan woman at a well; and you sent Him to the lost crowds who were like sheep without a Shepard, but in wisdom He did go after the ‘prodigals’…. And yet He was available if they came to Him. Grant me the wisdom, insight, and courage to do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Forgiveness is Giving Up”

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As our Lord Jesus hung on the cross He taught us true forgiveness. He taught us that forgiveness is giving up. His was a choice not a violation, extortion or resignation. He willfully chose to forgive.

And in this forgiveness He gave up three rights. The first right He gave up was the right not to hurt. He possibly gave it up the moment He decided to be incarnated, but truly the hurt, anguish and pain of carrying all the sins and its punishment on the cross cannot compare to all the sorrows He experienced up to that point. Isaiah identifies this giving up for us rather vividly (see below). Yes, the offense hurt you deeply. And only by a gush of grace will you be able to do what only Jesus can do: Forgive them in spite of the hurt. Yes, even after He said, “Father, forgive them,” He was still on the cross; still in agony; He was still hurting….

The second right our Master gave up was the right to make it right or to fix “it”. The relationship between Him and his creation was broken, and without the cross, it was irreparable. By hanging on that cross, He became that bridge of reconciliation for us. Yes, He did many healings and even a resurrection or two, but all these would get sick and die again. It is only after the cross in His resurrection are things made new—are fixed. St. Paul identifies this giving up in Colossians (see below). Yes, once the offense has taken place, the relationship, the item, the circumstance may remain broken beyond repair, but we can move on in the hope the resurrection power offers: One day this relationship, item or circumstance will be restored, but right now He has given us grace enough for the moment to dealing with the new relationship following a break….

The third right our Lord gave up was the right to get back. He could have warned them, “Just wait until I’m resurrected. Then you’ll know I am who I claimed to be; then you’ll bow before me!” Rather than immaturely taunting or threatening His adversaries—those who deeply wounded Him, He spoke words of forgiveness instead: “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34). Our brother, St. Peter, identifies this giving up in his first letter to us (see below). Yes, our knee-jerk response it to flinch in retaliation or burp a word of disgust. Yet once again, relying on the gush of grace the Lord Jesus’ Life provides for us, we can return blessing for insult and promise of hope for threat of harm. We entrust ourselves, as our Master did, to the One who can truly bring justice (1 Peter 2:23 below).

One final “give up” I’d like to mention, but request your thoughts on how this fits into forgiveness, and that is when we are told at the end of Jesus’ earthly life, He says: “ It is finished. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30 emphasis added). The Greek word for “give up” is to “to hand over, to give.” Lifestyle worshiper, how do you see this act of Jesus’ Love, of giving up His own life, fitting into His grand act of forgiveness?

Main Text: — Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Our Thoughts

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. — Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV84)

 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation —Colossians 1:20-22 (NIV84)

 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. — 1 Peter 2:23-24 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to forgive those who have hurt me, frustrated me, or disappointed me. I ask You to overwhelm me with a gush of Your grace to forgive them as You have forgiven me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Two Types of Forgiveness”

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Date: 05-20-15

Perhaps you are aware of one type of “forgiveness”. This is known as “Confront Forgiveness” (see Matthew 5:23-24 & James 5:13-16). This is when you confront someone with their ‘sin’, “they” confess their guilt and you forgive “them”. This is a very powerful and effective way of building strong, healthy Christian families. Forgiveness is an essential element. And bringing an issue out in the open is very healthy, too.

But there are some issues and some circumstances that require the second type of forgiveness: “Hanging on the Cross” Forgiveness (aka “Cross Forgiveness;” although all forgiveness flows from the cross, this just makes it easier to communicate the two). With this “Cross Forgiveness” we join our Lord Jesus on the cross and say—regarding a particular person with a particular offense: “Father, Forgiven them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV84 emphasis added). (I have discovered that this “Cross forgiveness” must be specific. If I just do a general “forgive them for ‘whatever'”, I have found I still stew and flinch when “it” happens again.)

I’m not sure which is harder. Perhaps you can share your thoughts on this. But I do know that sometimes I need to do this “Cross Forgiveness” and then walk in grace towards this person. I have witnessed literal miracles too personal too share, but I know this “Cross Forgiveness” is just as effective and essential in any healthy family—any healthy relationship with Jesus. And as I decrease and the Life of Jesus in me increases, I am becoming more and more “Forgiveness Ready”….

Lifestyle worshiper, have you found this to be so, to? Do you have any experiences with either of these two types of forgive? Any thing safe to share?

Main Text: — Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense — Proverbs 19:11 (NIV84)

 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” —Jeremiah 31:34c (NIV84)

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”. — John 5:14 (NIV84)

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:9-14). Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Life vs. Fake”

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Date: 05-17-15

Today’s fake flowers are pretty real looking aren’t they? Some are made with silk; others with a variety a materials. But they are truly life-like, yet upon closer inspection, it is clear they are fake: No fragrance; no life.

When our Awana Club started back up after Christmas, I had noticed something rather disturbing on our “A Place for Your Things” Table. I saw a little baby just lying there amid all the coats and bags and books!!! Aghast, I moved quickly to ‘rescue’ the baby. Getting closer, I noticed the baby still look real, but its skin was rather odd—rubbery like. Duh, it was a very life-like baby. (The operative word is “like” not truly alive.) Later, I spoke with the father of the daughter, whose baby it was, and he noted how he, too, would sometimes forget it was merely a doll….

Lifestyle worshiper, is there Life in your worship? In your walk with Jesus? Or is it merely “life-like”? Upon closer examination what will we find?

Main Text: — Galatians 2:20-21 — 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.— John 14:6 (NIV84)

 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. —Colossians 3:4 (ISV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly— John 10:10 (NASB95)

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:9-14). Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Beyond the One Day”

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Date: 05-10-15

The Big Idea: Start a habit that goes beyond this one day.

My Thoughts:

As a child growing up, I remember getting the typical response to my question, “Why do we have a special day called ‘Mother’s Day’? Why not have a ‘Kids’ Day’, too?” My mother so wisely responded, “Every day is kids day…!”

And in many homes, even Mother’s Day is “Kids’ Day.” So today, I was wondering if we could start a habit that goes beyond this one day. This habit I’m suggesting is to help out single mothers as often as we can. Now many may not accept our charitable kindness, thinking we are saying by offering our help that they are weak and inadequate, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, our help is offering them a reprieve from their daily literal grind, giving them some breathing space, kind of like a time out in a game so they can ‘catch their breath.’

What do you think? Would our help be considered imposing; or received with warm gratitude? Perhaps we could find out starting today? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 7:11-13 — 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?…”— Isaiah 49:15a (NIV84)

Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. —1 Timothy 5:1b-2 (NIV84)

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. — Romans 16:13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus, Christ, enlarge my heart with Your Compassion as I honor my mother and those who have been like a mother to me. Grant me an opportunity to bless a single mom today. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike