Fix Your Eyes on Jesus – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Our guest speaker, Pastor Christine Sweeney, did an amazing job wrapping up our Bad Girls of the Bible series. The lyrics from Donna Summer’s song keep going off in my head, “Bad girls … Talkin’ ‘bout baaa-aaad girls, yeah.”

During the series, we’ve discussed several bad girls from the Bible:

  • Eve, who became so focused on the one thing God told her she couldn’t have, that she forgot about all of his blessings and provisions.
  • Jezebel, who was self-centered and would do anything to get what she wanted.
  • Delilah, who was a master manipulator and betrayed Samson for money.
  • Lot’s wife, who was so paralyzed in her past, that she missed out on the great future God was offering her.

It is really easy for me to look at the four women and shake my head in disgust. Unfortunately, I have to admit I have committed the same sins numerous times. I have been ungrateful, disobedient, self centered, manipulative, and stuck in the past.

In other words, at times I have made a real mess of my life and sinned greatly against God. So have you. We all have. I am ashamed to admit at times I have focused on what I think is best for me, instead of what God knows is best for me.

How do we change?

We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and remember how much he loves us and all he has done for us.

Christine ended this amazing series by focusing on this verse from Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:2 NIV
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross …

We fix our eyes on Jesus. We realize that even though we have sinned against him, disobeyed him, and hurt him deeply, he still deeply loves us. He loves us so much that he left the magnificence of heaven to save us. He came down to earth, became a man to endure all that we endure, and yet, he never sinned. He suffered the agony and pain of the cross and rose from the dead to reconnect with God. We focus on all he has done for us. We know in our hearts he wants what is best for us, and we believe he is our Savior. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus at all times, trusting his plan, obeying him, and praising him.

Questions:
How do you respond when things are not going the way you want? Which of the Bad Girls’ behavior do you struggle most with? Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior? If not, why?

Next Steps:
Spend some time daily thanking God for all he has done for you. Pray, ask him for wisdom when you are struggling, and obey him. Surrender your past to him, looking forward to his glorious plan.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so overwhelmed by how much you love me. You are such an awesome God. You left the majesty of heaven and came to this earth as a servant to save me and reconnect me with God. I cannot imagine all the agony you must have suffered on the cross. Help me to trust that you have an amazing plan for my life, and give me the wisdom and desire to obey you. Remind me of all your blessings and provisions. Help me to always keep my eyes fixed on you, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Run!!! – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Last weekend, Pastor Christine Sweeney from The Tabernacle Church unwrapped the story of Lot’s wife and the importance of tearing off the chains that keep us from running toward all the blessings, life, and fellowship God wants us to have with him here and into eternity. So how do we keep from ending up like Lot’s wife, so fixated on her past and fearful of change that she was turned into a pillar of salt, never to receive the life God had designed for her?

First, ask yourself: “What is holding you back?”

Is it pain and resentment toward someone who did or said something so painful to you that you believe you have the right to hold a grudge against them? That you have permission to live in unforgiveness toward that person and not grant them the same forgiveness Jesus gave, and continues to give you, when you sin? Christine reminded us that in order to live forgiven and moving in the direction of the life-giving hope, kindness, and generosity of spirit God wants to bless his children with, he requires us to follow Jesus’ directions and example.

Mark 11:25 TPH
“And whenever you stand praying, if you find that you carry something in your heart against another person, release him and forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also release you and forgive you of your faults.”

Notice Jesus did not say, “if they apologize.” And very soon after he said that, as he hung in agony on the cross, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).

Five years ago, I walked into my first Celebrate Recovery meeting at the Whitehouse Campus—all by myself—full of resentment and anger at someone. I knew there was “something wrong” with me. I had no idea what, but I knew it was holding me back from being who God wanted me to be. Through the weekly meetings and attending an in-depth 26-week Step Study (a Bible study using Jesus’ words from Beatitudes) to learn how to be freed from hurts, habits, and hangups, God changed my mind and brought me peace.

A major part of achieving that was to first acknowledge my own need for forgiveness. Then I needed to accept, for the sake of growing my relationship with God and living the life he wants for me, that I had to obey Luke 23:34. I had to forgive the person I was so angry at, and I also had to apologize to her for anything I may have said in anger.

The weight of carrying that heavy load of resentment and unforgiveness fell off of me, like a boulder rolling off a cliff. It was a life-changing moment. Only then was I able to let the fruit of the spirit grow in my life so that I could live in closer fellowship with the Lord.

If there is someone you just can’t forgive, please rethink that decision. Talk with a staff member at your  campus, your Group Leader,  or someone from Celebrate Recovery, and run for your life toward Christ.

Questions:
Are you holding bitterness in your heart, or thinking as you read this, “but you don’t know what happened to me …?”

Do you know what Jesus did to rescue you from “what happened to you” that made you a free child of God?

Next Steps:

Read some scripture verses on forgiveness and write them down.

Pray to our Lord and ask him to “take the sword from your hand” and give you the ability to let go of your anger and pain so that you can find peace and be a blessing to others.

Check out Celebrate Recovery and consider if it is the right next step for you. Seek out your campus pastor and/or a Celebrate Recovery meeting near you.

Prayer:
Thank you, Jesus, for making it possible for me to be forgiven for my sins and to offer the same to others who also don’t deserve your love and forgiveness. I know that it is only possible because of your gift of salvation to all who are willing to call you Lord and Savior. Please, never let me forget how much I need forgiveness so that I remember to always offer it to others. It is in your name I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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Total Remodel – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Dishwashers are the unsung heroes of kitchen appliances.

Yes, you read that right. And no, I promise I’m not crazy.

A few years ago, my family completely redid our kitchen. Not just repainting the walls and installing a new light fixture, but a total gutting and re-making of the room. Cabinets ripped out, the tile floor broken to bits, the sink removed, and … I think you get the picture. During that time, we washed the dishes in the laundry room.

That’s when I decided that, no matter how much I thought I had disliked washing dishes before, it was far less miserable than when we were without a dishwasher or a sink in the kitchen.

Now with the kitchen beautifully completed, I look back and the time without a kitchen seems like a blip. But in the moment, it felt like remodeling the kitchen required more effort than it was worth.

Sometimes, I think that’s what it feels like when God is transforming us.

Romans 12:2
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

This verse reveals that God changes us by shifting the way we think, sculpting our mindsets and thought patterns to mirror his truth. One tiny word in the verse sheds an important light on this process, however: let. We must let God transform us, trusting and surrendering as he grows us.

This weekend, Pastor Christine Sweeney unpacked the story of Lot’s wife and detailed how Lot’s family received warning of the coming destruction of Sodom, yet, still did nothing. Two simple verses struck me.

Genesis 19:16-17
16 When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hands and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful. 17 When they were safely outside the city, one of the angels ordered, “Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

When Lot and his family dallied, God’s angels pulled them to safety, toward God’s plan. Eventually, they stopped traveling with Lot’s family and gave them instructions for continuing. Lot’s family had been brought this far, and now, they had to let God lead them. As a good Father, God doesn’t force us to obey his callings, he invites us to.

Lot’s wife chose to ignore that invitation. She was too enamored with where she’d been to focus on what lay ahead. Whatever Sodom held, she prioritized it more and trusted herself more than she trusted God’s plan.

The same holds true for us. At times, we hold more tightly to who we were than to where God is leading us. It’s easy to fall back into old habits and our pre-Jesus mindsets. Change is uncomfortable.

But we have to keep our hearts open to God’s transformation in us, even when we think we’re making little progress. He takes our broken, sinful messes and weaves them into stories of grace, redemption, and love. He renovates the way we think, replacing the lies we rehearse with his truth. He rewires what we value—our own comfort, success, and pleasure—so that we hunger for more of him instead. It all starts with us letting him work in our lives.

Our God is in the business of total remodels, after all.

Questions:
What mindsets do you have that you think God is trying to transform?

Are you surrendering to that process?

Do you cling to your past so much that it prevents you from trusting God in the present?

Next Steps:
Identify the mindsets you need God to transform and repent.

Find Bible verses that speak to those issues and memorize them. Recite them to yourself throughout your day.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for the way you transform my life. You don’t leave me where I’m at, but rather, lead me to becoming more like you. Please help me identify my mindsets that contradict your truth. Give me the courage to surrender them to you and let you transform them. The future you are leading me toward is far better than anything in my past. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel, a regular contributor and editor or the LivingitOut.


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Hold onto it Yourself, or Give it to God? – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Throughout my high school years, I struggled with worry. I held onto things instead of casting them aside, not trusting that if I cast my fear on God that he would carry it.

Pastor Christine Sweeney told us last weekend, “Preserving your past can paralyze your future.” Looking at my life, I know I was letting my relationships define me. This led me to make decisions I regret, miss out on opportunities, and left me feeling stuck. I felt like I wasn’t going to make it. I was constantly stressing about where the future was leading me.

God commands us to cast away all our anxiety. Our troubles aren’t meant for us to carry—we only buckle under their burden. Throw it away, release it, let it go! Give it to God to take care of.

I know when thoughts are swirling, when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, it can feel easier to hold on to your hurts, habits, and hangups than trust them to someone else. But God commands us to have faith and trust that he will provide for us. He will resolve the situation.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

He knows you. He cares about you. He knows your hurts, habits, and hangups. And he still loves you. Enough to be put on a cross to carry those burdens for you.

Questions:
What hurts, habits, or hangups do you need to release?

What are you worried about that you are not trusting God with?

What uncertain decision do you need to make to find freedom

Next Steps:
Trust in God’s promises, and pray in Jesus’ name when you feel worried.

I challenge you to take the next, uncertain step that is specific to you.

Prayer:
You are the God who makes it work. Sometimes, I hold onto things from my past. I let it define me instead of trusting you to care about me and provide what I need to work the situation out. I pray that I would cast out whatever is paralyzing my future. I release it to you, trusting that you know what is best. Please show me the uncertain decision I need to make to find freedom, and give me the faith I need to carry it through. I will wait on you, God, to find the freedom I need for my future. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Don’t Look Back! – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Over the weekend, we had the pleasure of hearing from guest speaker, Pastor Christine Sweeney from The Tabernacle Church. She wrapped up our series Bad Girls of the Bible with Lot’s wife. Unlike Eve, Jezebel, and Delilah, we do not even know her name.

The Bible has more written about her death than any other part of her life. But what we do know about her is that she was married to Lot, who was the nephew of the patriarch Abraham. In Genesis 12:1, the Lord told Abraham, “leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” And so, Abraham obeyed the Lord’s request—he and his wife (Sarah) and Lot and his wife packed all their possessions and set out on this life-transforming adventure. They left their idols behind to follow the one true God, and he was faithful to them.

It is necessary to know where and what they left behind to better understand what would eventually set Lot’s wife up for her demise. They lived in the capital city of Ur in the region of Sumeria. This was a thriving community with many people, full of cultural and spiritual traditions.

Eventually, Lot and his wife parted company with his uncle, and they moved from the pastoral land to the city of Sodom. The Bible often describes Sodom as a sinful city known for its wickedness. In this city, there were likely elements of life that reminded Lot’s wife of her homeland, Ur. Perhaps, she welcomed this reconnection with her past as it seemed comfortable and familiar, leading her to immerse herself completely.

The outcry to the Lord about Sodom and its evil doings was so great that he sent two angels to warn Lot that he would be destroying the city completely. The angels told Lot to warn his other relatives in town, so he rushed out to tell his daughters’ fiancés, but they thought he was joking. The next morning, the angels were insistent that Lot hurry his family out of the city or they would be swept away during the destruction. After much resistance, the angels grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife, and his two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city (Genesis 19:12-16).

Genesis 19:17
When they were safely out of the city, one of the angels ordered, “Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop [emphasis added] anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

Lot and his family were given their instructions by the angels—the outcome was in their hands. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife did not heed the angel’s warning.

Genesis 19:26
But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.

WHY did she turn around?

In Christine’s words, “She had been freed from the city, but she was still captive to her past.” Lot’s wife was disobedient to the word of the Lord, so she was forever preserved in salt. She lost out on the abundant life that God had planned for her.

Luke 17:33 NIV
Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.

We need to use Lot’s wife’s mistake as an example of how to live our lives. We need to exchange our familiar, comfortable lives for the Lord’s plan which can be unfamiliar and scary.

Why? Because preserving the past can paralyze your future.

Questions:
Have you been freed from something but are still captive to the past? If so, how can you leave the past in the past?

Are you clinging to something powerless when you could be placing your trust in the Lord and the abundant life he has planned for you?

Next Steps:
Take an in-depth look at your current situation. Is your lifestyle like Lot’s wife? Are you living for earthly possessions? Or are you living open-handedly, ready to take what God is trying to give you? If you are ready to move forward and stop focusing on the past, let us know you’re ready to take a next step.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, open my eyes to the abundant life you have planned for me. Keep me looking forward and remove my desire to look back. Thank you for freeing me from my past and giving me a bright future. Thank you for the gift of salvation. In your son’s glorious name, I pray, amen.


This post was written by Jennifer Macke. Jenn has a son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson, and she thanks God every day for them. She is enjoying retirement and feels blessed to be writing for LivingItOut. She was raised in an Evangelical Church, but her spiritual life awakened when she started attending CedarCreek.


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The Experience of God – Bad Girls of the Bible

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My wife loves to talk. It’s okay for me to say this because she often shares a story with others of one of the first conversations she had with my Uncle Arnold when he joyfully said, “Erica sure can talk.” When doing so, she asks me when the conversation happened. I always reply, “April 2008 at the family farm in Maryland.” My past plays on a loop in my mind, so events that occurred years ago seem like last week. I relive the joy and pain of those experiences, and of course, one feels better than the other. It’s funny; I used to allow the painful memories to manipulate how I approached life in the present.

Andy Rectenwald delivered a wonderful message over the weekend. We often feel as if we are alone when life hits us with haymakers. Our regrets can outweigh our winning moments if we attempt to carry them by ourselves. For me, having a past that feels more present is lonely during the haunting moments, especially when I think no one can relate. But that’s when God comes into play. Andy mentioned that God loved us enough to come to earth, experience manipulation, betrayal, persecution, and death. God relates to everything we have experienced, are experiencing, and ever will experience. Because of God, those haunting moments of my past pain or the hurt I caused others are only moments. There’s no fear of the past, present, or future.

Joshua 1:9
9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.”

I’ve been forgiven, and just as importantly, I have forgiven others. Andy said we can take the pain and hurt we carry and open our hands to God. He understands what we’re going through. I’m living proof of what the mercy of God can do, and so are you.

Questions:
Do you have a difficult time letting go of your past? Do you understand that God knows we can’t handle everything on our own?

Next Steps:
If it’s not CedarCreek, please get involved in a life-giving church. Join a Group to experience life with other Christians. Read Judges and other chapters of the Bible that focus on stories of manipulation. Learn how to forgive others and yourself.

Prayer:
Father God, thank you for the sacrifice you made to free us from our past, present, and future. Because I am loved by you, I know that I don’t have to live a life burdened with regret, nor am I held in place by the hurt caused by others. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to help move me in the right direction. May others experience your love to experience a life of purpose. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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The Deceitfulness of Charm – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Last weekend, Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald presented another “Bad Girl of the Bible”—Delilah. What an amazingly cunning and beautiful woman she was!

She dangled her womanly wiles before Samson, seducing him with her words. She played on his emotions, pleaded with him, and threatened him, all the while keeping him in a heightened state of sexual desire. Her persistence in learning the mysterious source of his great strength is noteworthy, except it was for the sole purpose of her own monetary gain—at Samson’s expense.

For master manipulators like Delilah, it is a way of life. They will do whatever it takes to get what they want; no price is too high for someone else to pay. Were it not for those of us too trusting and/or passive for our own good, the manipulators in our society would never succeed at their game!

There are many places where manipulators do their deeds. It can be in the home, in the workplace—literally anywhere and everywhere people co-exist. Undoubtedly, many have experienced firsthand the effects of the master manipulator in the workplace. The persistence of such a person is nearly impossible to duplicate. Were it possible to harness the negative energy expended by them and put that energy to good use, it would make a profound difference in every workplace! Instead, it is with utmost skill that the workplace manipulator manages to watch, work, and wear down the best of bosses. In essence, Delilah did that to Samson. She wore him down with her persistence, not to mention, her charm. Her play on words.

The workplace manipulator’s uncanny timing at approaching a boss when he/she is deeply engaged mentally and asking for “employee privileges” is just one of the tricks in their bag of tricks. It is but one way that manipulators, like Delilah, get what they long for. The thought of causing harm or extra work for others is never a concern—it is all about them—the manipulator. In the extreme case, it truly is as though no one else matters. May we each pledge to never  be that person.

Questions:
What is more important to you—people or things? Do you have the tendency to manipulate others for personal gain? Do you carefully consider the needs/opinions of others? Do you need to sharpen your skills in handling manipulators?

Next Steps:          
Push the clutter out of your mind through heartfelt prayer that focuses on you and your sinful nature rather than others. Educate yourself about manipulation. Read this Focus on the Family article: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/how-to-deal-with-manipulative-people/. Seek the face of God, taking a close look at personal motives and what drives those motives. Ask God to give you a heart of genuine love for others.

If you find yourself in a manipulative relationship and looking for steps that will lead to healing, consider checking out Celebrate Recovery.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for offering a path to wholeness through Christ. We live in a broken world where too often we are self-focused. Empower me to reach beyond myself to share with others the restorative work you have done and continue to do in my life. Help me to always remember I am nothing and have nothing of true value to offer without you in my life. Forgive me for the times I fail to remember people matter more than things. Help me to step into difficult conversations when I sense manipulation is at work. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married over forty years. Karen rejoices over God’s faithfulness and God’s patience in her life and in her marriage. Nothing matters more to Karen than her relationship with God and her entire family. Her immeasurable faith in Christ and His ability to restore the broken runs deep within.


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Bad Boy, Bad Boy, What Ya Gonna Do? – Bad Girls of the Bible

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In this week’s installment of our Bad Girls of the Bible series, Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald discussed another obvious bad girl, Delilah. Over the past couple days, we have talked about this devious lady and how she used people as a means to the end to get what she wanted—a true candidate for the “Bad Girls of the Bible Hall of Fame”.

But as much as Delilah qualifies as a Bad Girl of the Bible, Sampson could equally qualify as a Bad Boy of the Bible. Sampson was born to Manoah and his wife, an Israelite couple. God sent an angel to them, laying out the “ground rules” for the son they were about to have. He was to be raised as a Nazirite from birth, which meant he must abstain from alcoholic beverages, unclean foods, and never cut or shave his hair, along with several other requirements. In exchange, God would bless Sampson with inhuman strength to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines.

Sampson seemed like the right man for the job because he was at odds with the Philistines from the beginning. As a young man, he found a Philistine woman whom he wanted to marry. He taunted his 30 groomsmen with a riddle that was impossible to answer. They would not know about an earlier event when Sampson ripped apart a charging lion and later discovered bees had made honey inside the carcass. Sampson was so sure they could not guess the answer that he bet them 30 fine garments. The groomsmen were so frustrated by the riddle, that they threatened Sampson’s wife to get the answer.

Sampson was upset because they cheated, so he paid back the debt by killing 30 Philistine men and giving their garments to the groomsmen. This led to a whole series of events where Sampson acted out in anger at the Philistines. You can read the full story in Judges chapters 15 and 16.

Spoiler alert! His story eventually ends with Delilah’s manipulation and betrayal. And because of his hatred of the Philistines, he eventually sacrifices his own life to kill about 3,000 more Philistines.

Sampson had so much potential to be great, but because of his focus on what he wanted and reliance on only himself (until the end when he pleaded with God to give him strength one last time), he accomplished very little. Have you ever known someone who showed great potential but, because of their own agenda, never really lived up to what others saw in them?

For me it brings to mind some years back when the Cleveland Browns made a certain hyped-up quarterback the No. 1 pick in the draft. He may have had the potential to be great, but because of his focus on himself and his newfound lifestyle, he never really made it in pro football and, certainly, won’t make the hall of fame. Sampson, however, is a candidate for the Bad Boys of the Bible Hall of Fame.

Questions:
What can we learn from Sampson’s shortcomings?

Are you trusting in God to help you live out the potential he sees in you or are you trying to do it on your own?

Next Steps:
Read Judges chapters 15 and 16, and try to think of better ways Sampson could have handled his situations.

Ask God to reveal the potential he sees in you and trust in him daily to live up to it.

Prayer:
Most gracious God, we are so thankful that you see potential in all of us. As Christians, help us to trust you daily and live out the story you have written for us. Please help us to avoid the pitfalls of ego and anger that plagued Sampson but, instead, to react with humility and love. Amen.


This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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What’s in Your Legacy? – Bad Girls of the Bible

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At the end of Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald’s weekend message, he shared that we don’t know what happened to Delilah. Andy said that, sometimes, while preparing to officiate at funerals, family members find it difficult to share kind and loving things about the deceased. What a sad legacy to leave behind! Perhaps, no one cared enough to write about what happened to Delilah in the end.

After manipulating Sampson and others, using them to get what she wanted, she had no one left. I’ve been that person in my family, and I have family that has been there as well! After all, manipulation can really hurt!

There have been times that I’ve used manipulation to get what I wanted, because I knew what was “best for the person” I was manipulating. Is there anyone who hasn’t manipulated their children into eating their vegetables to get dessert? Or used manipulation to grant a child’s request to bribe them to clean their room? Perhaps you’ve left an item “in your cart” on Amazon trying to manipulate your spouse into a birthday present?

Powers of manipulation should be used for good. If people are the means to the end, we will regret it in the end. If a co-worker gets “thrown under the bus” for your promotion, will you really enjoy your new position?

We have an opportunity in our lives to impact others positively to help them get what they want instead of getting what we want from them. I could have planted a garden with my children and given them the chance to experience vegetables in a whole new way! I could have asked for that special gift instead of leaving hints.

What if we took everyday opportunities and used them to empower the people we come into contact with? When we do, we leave a legacy. A little encouragement goes a long way. I’ve seen my prayers answered, and the impossible become possible through waiting on God.

The older I get, the more I consider what kind of legacy I will leave behind. I won’t leave a bunch of money or many belongings, but I hope to leave behind a lot of good memories and loving traditions.  God only knows the way my story will end. I can say that, today, I live my life in hopes that I will leave a legacy that points to God.

Questions:
Are you using powers of manipulation to gain control over others? Are you exploiting someone’s weakness to get what you want? Are you asking a loved one to give up their dreams in support of yours?

Next Steps:
Read Judges 16 for yourself. Ask God to reveal to you if you are using manipulation against another for self gain. If you are, repent and ask for forgiveness.

Prayer:
Father, I pray that you will guide me in the way that leads only to you.  Let any influence or powers of manipulation be used for your good and not my own. Help me to build a legacy of love and joy and peace with the people that I come into contact with. I give myself to you, Lord, to be used by you in any way that you can. I pray that your will, and not my own, be done both in heaven and here on Earth. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Julie Estep. Julie loves her husband John and their combined five adult children and four grandchildren. Her favorite activities are walking their two dogs and golfing. She loves sharing her faith and is grateful for the chance to be a LIO contributor.


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Why, Why, Why, Delilah? – Bad Girls of the Bible

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Over the weekend, Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald spoke about our third bad girl, Delilah. (Can’t get that song out of your head now, can you? Me neither. Sorry!) She shows up toward the end of the life of a pretty spectacular bad boy, a judge named Samson.

You might be familiar with Delilah’s part in Samson’s story because it is noteworthy, but you might not have heard how Samson got himself into that situation. Samson was born to parents who had been barren. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and told them they would have a child who must be dedicated to the Lord. They were told never to cut his hair and that he would deliver Israel from its age-old enemy, the Philistines.

That happened, and before too long, the spirit of the Lord began to move in Samson. As you read on in Judges 14, you find Samson to be headstrong and demanding—not someone who you would imagine being used by the Lord. He does whatever he wants, often through violence and trickery, and usually leaves disaster behind him.

Samson has a couple failed relationships and responds poorly, but he does fight it out successfully with the Philistines (Judges 15). For 20 years, they submitted to him and searched for a way to take him down! In Judges 16, Samson is still looking for love in all the wrong places when he comes upon our villain, Delilah.

Judges 16:4-5 NET
After this Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the Sorek Valley. The rulers of the Philistines went up to visit her and said to her, “Trick him! Find out what makes him so strong and how we can subdue and humiliate him. Each one of us will give you 10,000 pieces of silver!”

Scripture tells us nothing about Delilah, except that she went to work on Samson. With eyes on the prize, she began to require that Samson prove his love to her by the big reveal!

Andy defined manipulation as when you do something to get something at the expense of someone else. According to Andy, there are three things manipulators do:

  1. Know your weaknesses and how to exploit them;
  2. Use your insecurities against you; and
  3. Convince you to give up something important to you to make you more dependent on them.

In all Samson’s adult years, Delilah is the only woman Scripture says that Samson loved. Perhaps by this time, he was longing for someone to love him for who he was. Sadly, he wound up with Delilah, who exploited this desire for love. In fact, she used his desire against him. In Verse 15 she says, “How can you say, ‘I love you’ when you will not share your secret with me?”(NET). This plea broke down all of Samson’s defenses. He finally told her what made him strong—that his hair had never been cut because he had been dedicated to God.

Delilah called the Philistines, who shaved his head while he slept in her lap. The great strength the Lord had given him for the benefit of Israel left him. Verses 21 and 22 say, “The Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him in bronze chains. He became a grinder in the prison. His hair began to grow back after it had been shaved off” (NET).

We don’t know what happened to Delilah—Scripture doesn’t say. It seems that she made out pretty good: lots of money and no pesky husband to deal with. But I wonder if maybe she was standing in a place of honor in the temple of Dagon when all the Philistines gathered to mock Samson and his God. After all, she was crucial in his defeat. Was she there when the Lord used Samson one more time to punish the Philistines, as he pulled down the pillars upholding the temple crushing a vast crowd of people? We won’t know until we get to heaven, but I’d like to hear what Samson has to say about it!

Andy’s bottom line is:  If people are the means to your end, you’ll regret it in the end.

I confess that I have been a manipulator and user of people. I thought that was how you got what you wanted. It really wasn’t until God took the scales from my eyes early in my walk with Jesus that I began to comprehend how dishonest and self-serving that way of doing things was. I had to ask for forgiveness from lots of people. And then I asked trusted friends to hold me accountable—because that tendency to manipulate people and things to arrive at my desired outcome runs deep. I have to tell the truth, let people know what I need, and trust God with the outcome. He knows better than I do how things should work out. I’m good with that!

Questions:
Have you ever thought about how you get what you want? Do you sometimes use people as a means to your end? Do you believe the end justifies the means?

Next Steps:
Take some time and answer those questions honestly. If you have the courage, ask a family member to answer them about you. They know you better than anyone. Be willing to listen to their answers. Be willing to do something about it.

Prayer:
Lord God, give us the courage to love the people you put in our lives. Give us the desire to love them as they are, and not try to make them be or do something else to suit us. Help us to walk in your truth, trusting you to work out our circumstances according to your perfect will. Give us open hands, Lord, as you work in our lives. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

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More Resources

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