“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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“People of the Book’s First Response: Blindness, then Sight”

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Date: 03-15-15

The Big Idea: I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!”

My Thoughts: Like coming out of a dark theater, when we frist encounter the Word, we are blinded, squinting and covering our eyes. It is almost too painful to even attempt to open them. And yet as we persevere, our eyes adjust and we see more. This is how the people in Nehemiah’s day initially responded to the Word (v. 9 below). They were overwhelmed with a sense of grief; they were undone and wrecked. Becoming a People of the Book, I often come away from the Word undone and wrecked. My point of view is often one of helplessness. I know I cannot fulfill the precepts of this Book; they are well beyond my capabilities. Oh, some I may be able to gut out with extreme effort and constant exertion, but in truth, I know my strength is far too inadequate to be like Jesus….

I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!” The Lord Jesus Christ overcomes my weaknesses, and as my eyes become accustomed to the Light, I see Him more clearly.

Hannah Whital Smith writes to me a word of encouragement on this:

“I feel more and more utterly cast on Christ and more and more bereft of anything of my own. My wants are many and they are continual, but I know that His supply is far more mighty, and it is promised to me moment by moment, and therefore I can trust all to Him. All! I leave the whole battle to Him, because I must. Wisdom, courage, armor, strength, patience and victory all to be found only in the Lord. I have nothing, literally and truly nothing. But Christ has all, just as literally and truly all and He is mine. Oh, can I doubt that every need will be fully supplied? No a thousand times no! let me wait then patiently His own time, and commit everything to Him continually. “For they shall not be ashamed that wait for thee.” Isa. 49:23. I want to know that I am one with Jesus and to know that He is dwelling in me and working in me to will and to do His good pleasure.”—Journal, April 26, 1867 [Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print. March 15]

I pray that on your personal journey becoming a People of the Book, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes your strength more and more in the inner being as He empowers you to faithfully respond to His Word of Truth.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:9— Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 I love you, O LORD, my strength. — Psalm 18:1 (NIV84)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  —John 15:5 (NIV84)

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. — 2 Timothy 4:17 (NASB95)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I confess You are my strength when I am weak. I humbly seek Your Face as I actively yield to Your presence in my Life to walk this journey with You. Transform me by Your Holy Spirit into a People of the Book. Amen.

Coach Mike

“The Start of My Journey becoming a ‘People of the Book’”

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Date: 03-11-15

The Big Idea: Early on my journey with Jesus, I had a deep hunger for the His Word, His People and His Person.

As I went off to college, I expected to be tempted with drugs, sex and partying. But instead, the Lord began to rock my world at its core. I was rather religious according to the Roman Tradition—indeed, very devoted, but I met someone who had a peace that was promised at then end of each mass that I did not have. He challenged my religion with a relationship with God.

In pursing an answer to this challenge, I began to study and read. I read  many, if not most, of the world’s great Holy Books, some to the point of memorizing them. I pursued eastern mysticism and western materialism and much in between. I was even so audacious as to attempt to create my own religion. But as I began to lay the foundational principles, I kept being drawn back to one particular Holy Book: the Bible.

Somehow its words spoke to a part of me none of the other books could reach.

I might say my pursuit ended on a Fall Friday night, but really it just began—just on a more focused path. That Friday night I ask and answer a simply question: “Lord, I don’t know if I am a Christian or not, but tonight I want to make sure; I would like to become one now.” And then and there I committed myself to the Lord Jesus Christ….

Almost immediately I had a hunger for the His Word, His People and His Person. One instance in my early walk with Him seems to typify this hunger. I had been studying intensely for a couple of hours reading a Political Science text book with very, very fine print. My eyes were sore and aching. “I think I’d better take a break,” I decided. So I set down my highlighters, bookmarked my place, and laid down on my dorm room bed. “Maybe I’ll read my Bible for a little bit.” What? Continue reading? It wasn’t until weeks later I realized the irony. And, in fact, I read for almost another hour. And the interesting thing is: My eyes appeared to be just fine and I was most definitely refreshed.

I am reminded of the time when Jesus was hungry and asked the woman at the well for some water. When His disciples came back offering Him some found that they had gather, He said,  “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…. My food … is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” To me, His Word was that food for my soul and rest for my weary eyes… Fascinating, no?

This was the beginning of my journey as a People of the Book. Do you have a story you’d like to share about becoming a People of the Book?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:2-3— 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh accomplishes nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.— John 6:63 (ISV)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” —Matthew 4:4 (NIV84)

I arise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.— Psalm 119:147148 (NASB95)

Coach Mike

“A Precious Treasure”

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Date: 12-24-14

Text: — 2 Corinthians 4:7 — But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.[NIV84]

The Big Idea: This precise Treasure, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Hope of Glory, is in our earthen vessel—our jar of clay!

My Thoughts: 

This precious Treasure is Light—not too burdensome, and very, very bright. Some put lampshades over the jar because of its brightness. These do not want to offend anyone. Others shine it full bore forcing others to cover their eyes. However we carry this precious Treasure of Light, I want to remind us of how precious it is….

Lifestyle worshiper: This precise Treasure is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Hope of Glory. Born in obscurity and in poverty, He humbled Himself to take on an earthen vessel, a jar of clay—if you will. He grew up in a small village. Lost His father at a young age and had to provide for His family as a carpenter. After a couple of decades, He stepped out of obscurity and into the limelight, preaching the good news: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He went about doing good: Healing the sick, comforting the mourners, giving sight to the blind, feeding the poor, and releasing those held captive.

The crowd’s cheers soon turned to jeers as they escorted Him to the cross. Ah, but you know the rest of the story. The grave could not hold Him! He is Risen and ascended, soon to come in full glory!

And it is He—the Risen, Glorious Savior, this Precious Treasure, the Light of the World—we have in our earthen vessel—our jar of clay!  Yes, those who have committed to follow Jesus, to receive Him into their lives have His very presence in us. Does this overwhelm you as it does me? This Holy Light of which we sing is ‘housed’ in my common, dirty, ‘old’ life. I know what my flesh is. …

But the Holy One puts His Holy Light in me to show that when I am hard pressed and not crushed; when I perplexed and not despairing; when I am persecuted and not abandoned; when I am knocked down and not destroyed: all this is to show that I am not doing it, but His all-surpassing power is! He is preserving me, protecting me, and promoting Him—Jesus, the Light of the World.

When you celebrate a Christmas Eve candlelight service or attend a Christmas Mass,  humbly rejoice in this powerful mystery: “Christ [—the Light of the World—] in you, the Hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27)! Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas. Shalom to you and yours under your care.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 (NIV84)

    We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.   — 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV84)

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” — Luke 2:13-14 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father,  I join the angels in praising You for this miraculous mystery: Immanuel—God with us! I praise You for this truly awesome mystery of Christ in me, the Hope of Glory. I am speechless. Holy Spirit, intercede so that my Praise may truly honor You, and the Father and the Son! Baruch Ha Shem (Blessed be the Name!), Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Which Star, Which Light?”

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Date: 12-17-14

Text: — Matthew 2:1-2 — 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Take an honest inward look to answer these questions.

My Thoughts: 

There are many lights in the sky. There are many voices in the crowd. But which do we follow? To which do we listen? From local gurus to fellow bloggers, indeed, there are many to choose from. I get overwhelmed trying to follow all the voices out there. But which ones do I follow? How do I filter them? What metric do I use as a filter? These questions follow the former ones….

Lifestyle worshiper: we need to take an honest inward look to answer these questions. Why? Because an honest inventory (it’s that time of year) may reveal our stock is short in one area and long in another.

In my inward look, I have found that sometimes the voices I listen to are from the past—past failures, past guilt, all of which have been confessed and forgiven. Again, as I inventory my stock, I have found that some of the lights I have followed are bright enough to offer some guidance, dimly lighting my way, but when I  joined the magi in following His star (v. 2). I discovered a much brighter light. A light so bright it first blinded me and then revealed the Truth to me. I have discovered that the Light of this Star is faithful, leading me on paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It leads me to the Voice the calms the sea and forgives the adulteress. “This Voice that is calling you and me.”

And I find this Light and hear this Voice first and foremost in the Written Word: the Holy Bible. I have read other books—some considered Holy and some not, and these seem to offer some light, but I have found not the Light. Their brightness appears to pale in comparison to the True Light. Have you found this to be so, too?

So as I have asked myself, I now ask you: Is your light bright enough? Is it His Star? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

— John 8:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

— John 8:12 (NIV84)

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

— Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  I commit to follow the true Light that has come into the world, Your Son,  the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray I faithfully walk in the Light as He is in the Light. May I hear His voice alone and obey His promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike