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.


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