Our World

Our World- Samson: The Cost of Low Living

By Karen Polich

Judges: 13-16

You and I live in times of chaos and confusion. Moral lines are blurred and biblical foundations ignored. It really isn’t new, though at times it can feel out of control.

Pastor Michael Cook’s sermon series Our World, continued with a look at Samson. The story of Samson is one many know well, but we must not miss the lessons to be learned from the choices Samson made. Listen to the podcast here. Pastor Cook explored the cause of Samson’s fall, the collapse of his faith and the forgiveness in his comeback.

Samson was a man set aside by God. His strength was both physical and spiritual. His hair was a symbolic picture of the distinction of being a Nazarite chosen by God. The source of all of that incredible strength was the spirit of the Lord upon him.

Samson demonstrated a bundle of contradictions. Bold before men but weak before women. He was graced with the spirit of the Lord upon him, yet weak in the flesh. Samson fought the Lord’s battles by day while breaking His commandments by night. His name means sunshine, but he ended his life in darkness.

Samson’s choices charted the course of his life. Time after time Samson made decisions that were clearly outside of God’s standard. Ultimately, God still remembered him for his strengths not his failures.  (Hebrews 11:32)

Choices are made every day. Some are easy while others can be hard.

Choices can bring us closer to God or send us spiraling into darkness. If we choose low living, we will pay the price.

God has called us to something more. He has called us to a life beyond our imagination when we choose Him first.

Like Samson, we have been given the ability to choose. Even if we had made the wrong choices in the past, we serve a loving God who forgives. Despite the chaos in this world, we can choose Him.

What will you choose today?

Our World – Jephthah: Leader from the Wrong Side of the Tracks

By Karen Polich

Guilt is real, but grace is wonderful and forgiveness is free and full.– Michael M. Cook.

Pastor Michael Cook discussed what we can learn from God’s choice of Jephthah to lead His people. Listen to the podcast here and read about Jephthah in Judges 11.

There are three marks of Jephthah’s character that we can apply to our own lives.

  1. In the face of great difficulties, he showed character. Jephthah could have used his past as an excuse for poor behavior. For us, we must not blame our background or circumstances. We get to choose each day how we will live.
  2. In the face of great danger, have confidence. Jephthah did not let what he was facing intimidate him. His first focus before facing his enemies in battle was on prayer. We need to focus on God and stay connected to Him. People of faith are people of prayer.
  3. In the face of great disappointment, he showed commitment. Jephthah had made a commitment to the Lord and he stuck to it. When we start something, we should see it through. The integrity of our word matters.

In this messed up, upside down world, we can learn much from Jephthah about developing our character. Wherever you are today, there is a loving God that desires the best for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) His Word never changes and you can count on Him in all things.

Our World: Stumbling at the Finish Line

By Karen Polich

Everyone has troubles. Some are part of everyday life. (Ecclesiastes, a time for everything). But, there are many that come from a greater power.

Have you thought about how much of our life is tracked and monitored? The idea that my every move is tracked annoys me. Interests, demographics, location, shopping habits (even online window shopping), every address I’ve ever been attached to, education…the list just keeps going. The world’s tracking methods are endless. While it all annoys me, the impact is minimal.

Satan is the ultimate tracker. This enemy knows us. He knows the stuff that matters and seeks to use it when we are at our weakest. While he is not the authority, he does hit us in the weak spots with the plan of us falling into sin. Sin that will do tremendous damage, full of consequences and pain. The impact is more than minimal.

Pastor Michael Cook’s Our World sermon series took us to Judges 8  and another look at Gideon.  Gideon had almost completed his victory over the Midianites. In Judges 8, we see Gideon at the finish line. From victory forward. The hurdles he faced are things we must be aware of in our lives. Listen to the podcast here.

Hurdles at the finish line can cause us to fall flat.

Criticism can be handled best with a humble heart. (Proverbs 15:1) Handling criticism with discernment helps us understand the real motive of the critic. When we bring a tactful answer, it can breakdown the hurdle and we can take our hurt to God instead of escalating the situation.

How hard is it to control our tongues and our temper? (Ouch!) Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Contempt can hit us hard. It’s a hurdle that can bring the erosion of what was once good. Sometimes we return it to someone who has hurt us. When we get hurt, our fallen nature can raise its ugly head. Sadly, there will be times when our own will disappoint and hurt us. Even in that disappointment, we should not be derailed from God’s purpose. We must continue to move forward.

Compromise is a hurdle that can turn into a trap. Gideon said he did not want to be king, but he lived like one. Compromise spiritually, morally or domestically destroys everything in its path.

We will all have our own hurdles. Be aware. We should seek God for protection and discernment. Our hurdles are not random. They come where the hit will count and we are likely to fall.

We must not yield to temptation. We must stand firm and be strong. Some hurdles are easy to see because they are hard, but there are hurdles that will deceive. Things like success and popularity can become a hurdle that brings us to the ground if our focus is not on God.

Seek God day by day. He is the ultimate authority. In Him, we can stand firm and be strong, avoiding the stumble at the finish line.



Our World – Four Steps to Triumph

By Karen Polich

Fear suits you for failure. Faith suits you for triumph. – Michael M. Cook

Are you seeking triumph in your life? Pastor Michael Cook’s message gave us four steps to a triumphant life. Listen to the Our World sermon series here. To be triumphant, we must guard ourselves against spiritual defeat. Unexpected temptation, undetected weakness and an unprotected life will destroy triumph. Discernment and focus on God matters.

Four Steps to Triumph
1. Vision. We must meet with God. Triumph never comes when we are focused on the enemy. If we spend all of our time watching the enemy, what time is left for God? When we turn to God and spend time alone with Him, we can go out with courage and face whatever the day brings.
2. Valor. We must step into a courageous position. Paralyzed with fear? God won’t use you. Fear and faith cannot coexist. Faith brings triumph. Is there anything you are not doing because of fear? God did not give us a spirit of timidity.
3. Vigilance. We need shrewd awareness. Are we paying attention? God will thin the ranks. Don’t live in fear, but don’t be careless. Be aware. God won’t use cowards or the careless. Discernment is critical. God will test us on the little things when no one is looking.
4. Vitality. We need inner strength. It is not who you are, but Whose you are. We forget God uses the broken that we would throw away. God’s call often comes in the moment of brokenness. Look back on life. Has God ever broken you? What have you broken in someone else’s life?

Pastor Michael Cook took us into the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7 to demonstrate how we can triumph. Listen to the message here to go deeper into God’s Word. God’s people cried out and God used Gideon to save them.

God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary so He can get the glory. – Michael M. Cook

Our World – Star Wars

By Karen Polich

Our Lord would much rather deliver those who cry out to Him than judge them. – Michael M. Cook

Pastor Michael Cook’s sermon series, Our World, continued with the story of God’s people and Deborah in Judges 4-5. Listen to the Our World sermon series here.

The Israelites never seem to learn. We find them back in the cycle crying out to God for deliverance. Once again, their sin has brought them into bondage.

God is always working for us. We find a woman, a warrior and a Wonder. Deborah, a prophetess was the moral compass of God’s people at this time. She sent for Barak to lead the army, but he would not go into battle without her. They faced a mighty opponent, Sisera who had nine hundred chariots.

God’s people could not win on their own, but had faith. Faith sees the way. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. Judges 5:20 God was with them. Even the stars were fighting for God’s people. They were victorious.

God is more than capable. He is at work in our lives even when we cannot see it. The one we fight against is sailing a doomed ship. Despite the crashing waves, seeming to ensure defeat, God’s tide is sure to win. In struggles, remember the worst cannot defeat you with God on your side. Have faith. He is working to deliver you.

Wrong cannot win. Faithfulness will not fail.  – Michael M. Cook

Our World: Just the Ordinary

By Karen Polich

The culture of any nation is the sum of its spiritual beliefs, social structure, ethical standards and moral behavior. – Michael M. Cook

The Our World sermon series continued with how God uses the ordinary for His glory. (Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook via podcast here.)

God’s Word repeatedly shows the cycle of His people. There is peace, where God’s people are in harmony with God. Then comes the essence of sin, distracting and blinding. This is followed by the pain and consequence of sin, driving God’s people to cry out to Him. God’s deliverance follows. This sequence often happens in our own lives.

In Judges 2 -3, we see God’s people in the midst of this cycle. They seek God, fall into sin, hate the consequences of enslavement and cry out to God for help. Three judges were called by God during this time to teach God’s people. These were ordinary men God used for His extraordinary work. (Listen here.)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. 2 Corinthians 10:4

Pastor Cook focused on three things God taught through these judges.
Experiencing God’s Presence. There is never a static moment in our life or culture. Each of us is either a change maker or is being changed by the world around us. God has given absolutes and standards for Christ followers.

Executing God’s Plan. God uses the imperfect for His plans. Whatever we have been given can be used for His glory. Our willingness to surrender to His calling is what matters, not any illusion of needed perfection.

Expecting God’s Power. God is in control and is never-changing. It matters not what is going on in the world, God remains the same.

What can we learn from these judges? Just like others God called in biblical times, there are key components of true Christian service. There is always a moment of surrender, giving everything we are to God. There is an element of availability where we bring what we have for Him to use. Then a moment comes when things are happening that can only be of the Lord.

The journey can be a long process but there is hope for all of us. Today, would you do what God has called you to do? He is searching us out, we need only to be open to His call.

Our World: Cultural Wars

By Karen Polich

The culture of any nation is the sum of its spiritual beliefs, social structure, ethical standards and moral behavior. – Michael M. Cook

There is a tendency to try to avoid the consequences of our actions. We will fight against the very thing we have created and squirm to get away from the inevitable. How many times are we willing to accept what comes from what we have done? The good stuff is easy, but what about the things we know we shouldn’t have done or neglected to do when we should?

Time and again, the Bible is clear in describing the law of consequences. We reap what we sow.  (Galatians 6:7-8)

Pastor Michael Cook’s sermon series, Our World begins with a look at cultural wars and how wrong actions lead to unwanted consequences. (Judges 1) Listen to the podcast here.

Judges 1 looks at the simple progression of God’s people.

They were fighting the Canaanites. Focused on doing God’s will, prayer and mutual cooperation were in place. God’s Word was the authority in their lives. They set out to defeat the Canaanites. Then they began fearing the Canaanites. Drifting began as they focused on what they could not do instead of what God could do. Intimidation set in followed by the infiltration of cultural things opposed to God. God’s people began following the Canaanites. Infiltration became more than specks of change. God’s people turned from His authority to the Canaanite way of life.

Surrendering to Gods authority can be hard, but if we aren’t seeking His authority in our lives where does that leave us? We will follow someone or something.

We can choose to guard our hearts and follow God’s authority, fighting for what we know is right. If we don’t, we will end up following what we know is wrong. We can wage this fight through love, allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work.

We reap what we sow. What seeds are being planted today?