3 Comments

Blue Wolf Challenge

Based on everything I was learning about in school and inspired by my sister-in-law Ariana, I just completed my 21-day BLUE WOLF Challenge!

“So what is the Blue Wolf Challenge?” You ask… let me tell you:

no sugar

NO sugar, NO flour, and NO processed foods.  

processed foods
junk food

(There are a lot of these type of diets/ challenges out there, but I modified/personalized mine a bit, hence the name “Blue Wolf Challenge”. One such modification is that, every 7th day I took off. Come on, that’s Biblical right?!)

During the Restricted days it was:
NO sugar added to any meals or products
No ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS : Splenda, Equal, NutraSweet, Sweet N Low, High-Fructose                           Corn Syrup, Corn-Syrup, etc.
No flour: That includes Pasta, Bread, Muffins, Bagels, Toast, Tortillas
No Chips, French Fries, Popcorn, Corn Tortillas
No Processed Snacks: Crackers, Chips, Pretzels, Gold Fish, Cheez-Its
No Beer

Drinks: No juice, coffee, alcohol, soda, milk, energy drinks,
Good drinks: Tea, Water, coconut water, fresh squeezed vegetable juice

coffee

WARNING: If you are giving up caffeine (which is a GREAT thing), you may get withdrawal headaches for the first couple days but if you can outlast a week you should be able to break your addiction to caffeine.

What to shoot for:
Vegetabels, fruits, legumes, lean meats, fish, NUTS, seeds, sprouts, whole grains ONLY (Brown rice, soy beans)

A lot of people knew I was doing this and the question I always got was, “WHY????”

Why give up sugar etc?

Let me answer your question, with a question of my own…  would you like ANY of the following?

More Energy?

Lose weight?

Sleep better?

Slow the aging process?

Better skin?

Decreased Asthma and/or Allergies?

If you said “yes” to ANY of the following, you could potentially benefit from this challenge.

Still not convinced to give this a try, there’s more!

Not only does sugar cause the obvious problems like tooth cavities and decay, but it has also been linked to impaired brain function, depression/anxiety, cancer, and heart disease.

As a future doctor I didn’t want to preach what I couldn’t or hadn’t already done myself. That is something that is very important to me.   

Have you ever met a doctor (or any health professional) who is super overweight and trying to council you on healthy living? How serious do you take them? It all goes back to not preaching what you don’t live out.

So how did it effect me?

At the end of the 21 days I lost a total of 13 pounds!

I started the Blue Wolf challenge with a day long fast of liquids only.

The first two days I was pretty hungry and even a little fatigued. This is when I realized this challenge is much harder than I anticipated.

I gave up my two favorite food groups: bread and sugar! I was already hard core craving both.

Only a few days into the challenge and I already felt like I was starving. But I knew I could power through. Mind over matter, right?

By day 3, Ariana asked me how I was doing and if I felt like my body was detoxing? I told her, “If detoxing feels like your body is shutting down 😝”

The good thing was that I had no headaches, which I was worried that I might. Honestly the hardest part was always trying to figure out what to eat without eating the same thing over and over.

During the first couple days Annalisa would unintentionally keep asking me if I wanted a bite of this or that, and I had to turn her down like 20 times a day. I’m sure she was probably getting annoyed with me because constantly throughout the days I was like, “No, I can’t eat that.”
I remember we were walking through Target and we wanted to get a snack. I don’t think I could eat anything on the menu. NO pasta, pretzels, popcorn, ICEEs, smoothies, etc.

The funny thing is you can still eat a lot! It’s just most people aren’t used to eating that way, and most places don’t cater to this type of lifestyle.

This “challenge” is funny, because it’s only a challenge due to the fact that we live in America in the 21st century and are addicted to processed foods. People 100 years ago would have been like, “ummm that’s what we do every day, why is that hard?” HAHAHA

This challenge forces you to plan ahead which is cool. You can’t be lazy and just grab something out of the cupboards.

However, if you do get lazy, and everyone does at some point, an apple with peanut butter (Organic Sugar free) or a handful of nuts is a great snack. Even sharp cheddar cheese with a green apple is really good. (Thanks Air for the tip!)

Side note on the peanut butter. I bought the “organic” peanut butter for the first time in my life, the kind that has just nuts and NOTHING else. I took a big spoonful of it and shoved it into my mouth thinking it would bring me as much pleasure as it used to when I did the same with Skippy peanut butter... WARNING, not the same!  I almost puked.

The organic peanut butter is good on stuff like celery and apples but not like you could sit around licking it off a spoon like the dessert peanut butter that most people eat.

After the first week of the challenge I lost EIGHT POUNDS! This was unintentional. I actually did not want to lose weight (but I guess it was okay since I had just finished gaining all that weight during the pound-for-pound challenge with Annalisa). Some people call this “water weight” which is in some sense true, but when you give up sugar for longer periods of time you don’t see the rebound of weight gain like you do with water weight changes. Instead you will see a rapid drop in weight and then a steady decline in weight (that is if you continue to eat healthy and exercise). It’s hard not to lose weight when you body is detoxing and getting rid of all the excess waste. And once I got over the sugar cravings, I wasn’t even hungry.

Best part (for those of you hoping to lose weight), I was able to eat ENORMOUS portions. If you look over my meal plan (see bottom of page) when I say bacon and eggs, sometimes I was eating 5 eggs and 6 slices of bacon. When I ate chicken and rice it was usually portioned for 2 and my salads were portioned for a party of 4.

That being said, there are 2 very important things to keep in mind:
I made sure to still exercise intensely at least 3-4 days a week at the gym, and was active at least 30 minutes everyday.
Every BODY is different. Just because one person’s metabolism works one way doesn’t mean you can eat the same portion size and get away with it. Listen to your body and find what works best for you!

Some additional takeaways…

During this challenge it really revealed to me how nonchalantly we ingest SO much processed foods constantly! I never realized how much processed foods I eat... Wow. I consider myself to eat healthy, but during these days I realized my daily diet was changing a lot based on my processed food intake alone!

The crazy thing is I wasn’t doing anything extreme. I was simply eating “from the ground” and food found NATURALLY without being processed (Just because it says “all natural” on the label does NOT qualify for being naturally from nature and free from processing. Actually 99% of the items in the store that are marketed as “100% natural” I could NOT eat as part of my all natural diet challenge. I think that just goes to show how messed up the advertising / food labeling is when it comes to deceiving their audience. Sorry for my rant).
Anyway, I’m back to my normal diet, but I have made some lasting changes. I now eat more vegetables and less processed foods, which comes much more naturally to me now than it did before (pun intended). I consume less sugar and can resist sugar cravings. I still allow myself sweets and am back to enjoying the deliciousness of Sea-Salted Dark Chocolate with Chopped Almonds (in moderation of course).

 

I would love to hear back what you think? Has anyone done something similar? How did it effect you?  Interested in trying? Let me know how it goes!

 

The rules to the Blue Wolf Challenge:

Day 1: Fast (Liquids Only)
Day 2-7: Diet restrictions
Day 8: Free day
Day 9-14: diet restrictions
Day 15: free day
Day 16-21: diet restrictions

Any Vegetable, but the best are:
Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Chard, Spinach, Cabbage, All Herbs
Above Ground Greens: Asparagus, Broccoli, Artichokes, Brussels Sprouts, Celery, Onions, Cauliflower
Root Vegetables: Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Yams, Zuchinni, All Squashes

MEAT (All meat is allowed, but try to avoid highly processed meats like hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, etc.)
 Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Steak, Bacon, Ground Beef, Lamb,
    All Seafood and Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Tilapia, Shrimp, Oysters etc.
    Eggs from any animal

Nuts and Seeds are GREAT (just make sure no added sugar, and choose sea salt rather than just regular “salt” when possible)

All fruit, but these low sugar fruits are best: Green Apples, All Berries, Lemons and Limes

Good Fats:
    Healthy Oils: Olive, Coconut, Avocado, Macadamia, Sesame
    Hard Cheese: Parmesan, Bleu, Cheddar, Goat, Swiss, Gouda, Muenster, Provolone
    Full Fat, Unflavored, Yogurt

Beans are good. Some challenges/diets restrict beans, but all of my research has lead me to the belief that beans do the body good (unless you are a gassy type person, and then all those around you might not agree).
Beans are good because they can prevent heart disease, fight cancer, lower cholesterol, manage diabetes, and help you lose weight.
The negatives to beans is that they can interfere with vitamin absorption, cause migraines, raise blood pressure, trigger gout, and, as previously mentioned, can make you gassy.

So if you don’t have flatulence problems, or migraines / gout / high blood pressure, I recommend you eat them!

I included my day by day break down to give you an idea of things I ate. I wasn’t very creative and I know there are way better recipes out there. And a lot of times I meal prepped so I ended up eating the same thing several days in a row. Just wanted to show what I did for those of you out there who are curious.

Day 1: Liquids only! Veggie smoothie, chicken broth, 2 cups of tea, lots of water
day 2: Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, potatoes    Lunch: Chipotle: Brown rice, black beans, chicken, pico salsa, lettuce, and cheese.         Dinner: White, Chicken, Chilli soup. with a side of turkey
Day 3: B: Eggs/Bacon        L: Banana, almonds, cabbage salad (sugar free dressing)  D: lemon chicken, potatoes, brown whole grain rice, green beans
Day 4: B: homemade soup, green beans    L: almonds, chicken, brown rice, potatoes, cranberries, raisins,     D: Chipotle: Brown rice, black beans, chicken, pico salsa, lettuce, guacamole, and cheese.
Day 5: B: turkey, cheese, and a banana    L: carrots, chicken, brown rice, potatoes,     Snack: sugar free peanut butter on an apple        Dinner: Egg noodles with chicken and fresh pesto sauce
Day 6: B: Banana, mixed nuts    L: chicken, brown rice, potatoes,  snack: apple with peanut butter, bowl of raspberries,    D: steak, onions, bell peppers     
Day 7: Eggs, bacon,    L: almonds, pear/spinach/berry salad, carrots    D: double double In-in-out burger with everything except bun.
Day 8: Free Day
Day 9:  Breakfast: turkey, sliced cheese    Lunch: Chill and baked potatoes    Snack: Veggie smoothie    Dinner: Chicken, grilled onions/bell peppers, brown rice
Day 10: Brunch: Chicken, grilled onions/bell peppers, brown rice, Avocado     Dinner: Souplantation
Day 11: B: almonds and strawberries,    Lunch: Salad, Tuna,          Snack: celery and peanut butter        Dinner: Egg noodels with pesto and tomato sauce
Day 12: B: Eggs and sausage    L: celery with peanut butter and raisins, sliced Salami and cheese, Cabbage Salad, Mixed nuts        D: Baked potatoes, Lemon-spinach chicken, brown rice, veggie smoothie    
Day 13: B: eggs and sausage    L: egg noodles with pesto, carrots, trail mix    D: Chipotle: Brown rice, black beans, carnitas, pico salsa, lettuce, and cheese.  Dessert: Fat free, sugar free yogurt    
Day 14: B: eggs, grilled turkey,    L: Broccoli slaw (no dressing), brown rice, chicken, spinach, potatoes    D: Carnitas, brown rice, beans,     Dessert: fat free yogurt
Day 15: Free Day
Day 16: B: Canadian bacon, veggie smoothie,    L: Salami, Cheese, Trail Mix, Carrots,     D: Flame Broiler: chicken, rice, veggies.
Day 17: B: Canadian bacon and eggs,     L: Carnitas, brown rice, beans, lettuce, cheese,    Dinner: chicken Caesar salad
Day 18: B: eggs, bacon    L: Veggie smoothie, grilled turkey, cheese     D: souplantation
Day 19: B: eggs, bacon    L: mixed nuts, raisins, salami, cheese, carrots
Day 20: B: canadian bacon, cheese, veggie smoothie    L: potatoe salad with onions, zuchinni, and avocado. Lentil soup    D: Chicken, rice    
Day 21: B: eggs, bacon    L: Salad, carrots, nuts, raisins, tuna        D: Soup, Salad

3 Comments

Remembering Rock

7 Comments

Remembering Rock

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38

My dad is no longer in pain.

This is something I have to remind myself as I reflect on the loss of my father.

I knew this day would come, but for some reason I never thought it would be so soon— or so sudden. When you lose a family member (especially when it comes unexpected) you reflect on your final conversations with them. Was I there for him when he needed me? Did we end on good terms? Does he know he much he really meant to me? Did I tell him I loved him?

It’s hard not to wish you said more, did more, and, most importantly, loved more.

Even though parents fall short, they are the people that love you more than anyone else. They are the ones who love you unconditionally. Being a new father myself, I am now experiencing this more and more everyday with my own son.

So as I reflect on my own father I want to highlight the good. I want to remember the ways he shaped me into who I am today and the positive impacts he had on my life.

Everyone will have different memories with him, but here are just a FEW of the highlights with my dad:

My dad loved the water. Especially salt water. Salt water was the cure for all things in life. Sore throat? Gargle with hot salt water. Foot infection? Soak it in salt water. Those things make sense. But sometimes it went way beyond that… Nightmares keeping you up? Salt water. Lost the championship game? Salt water. HA!

But in all seriousness, he loved the water so much I think he would have permanently lived on it if it were up to him. Several different times in life he lived on a sail boat out in the water. We he moved on shore and bought a house in Weaverville (where he practiced dentistry) he bought a ski boat which we took out to the lake.

My memories out on the lake our some of my favorite of all time. I loved boating! Tubing, knee-boarding, skiing, fishing, or just exploring the waters. The photo above is me performing a “whoa baby” jump and staking claim on what I saw as a newly discovered island. After we moved from Weaverville it would be years before I got to go back out on the lakes and rivers again (Thank you Erickson family!).

Growing up I wasn’t the most athletic kid (I think Knute, Teagan, and Brayden got those genes), but my dad never gave up on me. We tried various sports until we found one that I thrived at— hockey. I remember roller-blading around the whole neighborhood with my dad or working on in the garage with him on my wrist shot. We practiced and played together until I became the lead scorer in my league. That was a proud moment for me. At the time I thought he was proud of my success, but now looking back, I realize he would have been proud of me no matter how I performed. He was just happy to see me trying my best and having fun.

I loved growing up in Weaverville. As a kid, you don’t need “things to do” like you complain about as a teen or an adult. You just need places to explore! And Weaverville has plenty of that. The population of Weaverville is probably less than the amount of people at Coronado Beach on any given Saturday. There was so much wilderness to explore and all the neighbors had animals everything from goats and pigs to parrots and chinchillas.

I don’t know if this is because it was back in the 90’s or because it was out in the sticks, but I remember how everyone burned most of their trash in what we called “burn piles”.  My dad taught me a lot about fire and how to be a pyro. Don’t know if most people would consider that good things but it sure was fun… until Teagan burnt our trampoline down :(

My dad was really handy. My 2 favorite things he built while we lived in Weaverville was our go-kart and our backyard tree fort. This was the most legit tree fort I have ever seen. It was three stories high with various ways to get up and down including nets, ropes, and stairs. This made for the perfect play place for any kid who dreams of being a super hero (isn’t that every little boy?).

After meeting spider man and introducing me to the world of super hero comics he taught me how to climb all the walls of our house like spider man.

One Christmas my dad surprised us we woke up to quads! I didn’t even understand what a cool Christmas present this was at the time. To be honest, I think I was more excited about the micro-machines and Hotwheel tracks I had received the night before. But regardless of my comprehension, this would change family reunion vacations forever!

As we acquired enough 4-wheelers all the cousins learned to ride and soon this became one of my favorite activities I have ever taken part in! My dad also used these quads to help teach us boys responsiblity. After we rode he had us wash and put them away properly. He taught us how to change the tires and repair the parts that we were capable of.

My favorite house we have ever had growing up was the one we lived in when we moved to Redding.

My dad really wanted a pool and I’m pretty sure we spent every single summer day in it. At this house there was acres and acres of undeveloped land that we rode quads around all the time. Between the quads, pool, and family I really do believe these years of childhood are hard to rival. I have VERY fond memories of my childhood at this house.

After he taught me how, my dad would let me put up the Christmas lights each year. My dad was never afraid to teach me new things, (even things that now I look back on and think “whoa, scary, would I let Bryer be up there by himself??).  

I remember the first winter he took all of us kids up snowboarding for the first time. Anyone who has been snowboarding knows how frustrating it can be the first day. But somehow he got us all down the mountain in one piece (he even got Natalie boarding and I don’t even know he young she was… If I was 12, she had to be under 7).

My dad also taught me how to workout. Pushups, pullups, and weights, he showed me how the ropes of fitness.

I’m thankful that my dad was able to make it to my wedding…

And attend bible studies at my first home!

And I loved watching how much he LOVED Warren! He was always healthiest, happiest, and at his best whenever Warren was around.

My favorite memory of my dad was how he instilled within me faith at a very young age. I remember how he used to tuck me in each night as a kid and pray with me. That is something I will always cherish and hopefully will continue to do with my own son.

I am thankful for the parents God blessed me with.

All of us have things in life that we struggle with and some more than others. Some of us struggle with things openly, while others internally. But regardless, our struggles do not define who we are.

Our identity comes from Christ, and from Christ alone.

I don’t know how people go through life’s heartaches and maintains their sanity without the peace and love of knowing the Lord.

I know that when I meet my dad again, he will be restored. He will be everything he was meant to be. This brings me comfort, peace, and joy— the joy to celebrate the everlasting life made possible by our Savior.

 

7 Comments

Comment

Pound for Pound

Since today is the day Annalisa and I celebrate 125 months of love, I am going to take a moment to brag about how amazing she has been through this whole pregnancy.

First of all I just want to praise God for his abundant blessings. You can prepare/prep and do everything right and still have EVERYTHING go wrong. Thankfully, Annalisa has had a VERY healthy pregnancy and as far as we know our son Bryer has been healthy at every check up.

The human body is incredible and every day at school while studying the different organ systems we have been relating it back to embryonic development and pregnancy. It hits even closer to home for someone like me since I go home to my wife and watch her grow and change on a daily basis. Some of our favorite times is laying on the bed and watch her stomach move as Bryer practices firing his muscle and nerve fibers in a process called “quickening”.

But back to ANNALISA. This woman amazes me every day! I have always admired mothers for their “mom-strength”. I’ve always appreciated Annalisa’s drive and perseverance but its crazy to see how much stronger she gets each day. I’m just impressed with how much she can do and even when I know she is in pain, doesn’t complain and stays positive.

For the first 7 months of pregnancy she powered through weddings, photoshoots, and events no matter how tired, achy, and sore she was. There has been times on the ways to a shoot I have had to drive her because she was feeling so sick. We had to pull off the road so she could barf on the side. I would insist that she needed to cancel and reschedule the shoot, but NOOOO, she was going to power through. Besides she was booked solid and would feel bad for her clients if she canceled on an engagement shoot and then was not able to offer them photos because she had no free days. She was literally booked solid! And on top of that, some of the sessions she was doing for free for either family members, contest winners, and for monthly givebacks.

So, since there was no arguing with her, I kept driving her to her shoot… until she would whisper “pull-over” so she could jump out and vomit some more. But she made it. And at the shoots, the adrenaline kicked in. When I was able to go to her shoots I would watch from a far as she creatively captured her couples. I bet none of them even knew that she was sick because Annalisa was directing with I like to call “A-game”. She has a gift of being able to make people smile.  Annalisa makes people feel natural which a rare quality for photographers. Not only is she an amazing technical shooter, she also has the social gift to radiate joy and amiability into each shoot (which in my opinion is even more important). She also wasn’t afraid to get down in all the various positions to get that perfect angle. She climbed mountains and waded in water to capture some incredible photos.

I love how pro-active Annalisa has been through this whole pregnancy. She has read books, blogs, and talked to moms for advice. She preps in so many ways and I think it has really helped pay off to have a happy/healthy pregnancy. She has really enjoyed the whole process. But like I said before, we have to give God the glory because you could do everything according to the books and still be sick, immobilized, or have a complication that is completely out of your control.

I appreciate Annalisa taking the time to look up pre-parenting classes, hospital tours, and labor and delivery prep classes. At first I would go into these classes thinking “okay isn’t most of this stuff common sense” and when it had to do with medical terminology or health safety I would think “Oh I’m sure I have learned this in my Med school classes”.  But I wanted to have a positive attitude and told myself that I was going to try to learn at least one new thing at every class— one good take away point. But EVERY single time now I have come out with over a page of notes. Definitely recommend these classes. They are very informative and it is a great bonding time as husband and wife during this amazing journey.

Annalisa is one of the most active pregnant people I know. She isn’t a gym rat but she finds other ways to move her body and burn calories. She takes out our Fur-children Posey and Pepper around the Paseo or on hikes. Actually, I think we have gone on more walks/hikes since she has been pregnant than our entire marriage before. My favorite exercise Annalisa does is when she dances. I think she is the most amazing dancer and I love any time there is music that gets her moving. I always am torn between sitting back and watching her move and jumping up to join her (usually the latter is what ends up happening).

I still can’t get over how rare it is to hear Annalisa complain. I know she has been achy and tired, especially these past few weeks as we approach the end, but she always keeps a smile on her face and powers through.

Annalisa never used “pregnancy” as an excuse. If anything, she used it to better herself. I have heard stories of people eating whatever they want (and however much they want) and blaming it on pregnancy cravings.  Yes, obviously Annalisa has eaten more since being pregnant but not in excess. Even though she LOVES brownies, she never ate a whole pan (even though she probably could have LOL). Instead she would fill up on something healthy prior to giving into a sweet tooth craving. She added things into her diet that before she was not too fond of. She now eats spinach on practically a daily basis (PS a great way to incorporate veggies into your diet is just throwing a handful or two of spinach/kale/leafy greens into your smoothie. You won’t even taste it, but your body will be happy). She rarely eats out and when she does it is typically something I would consider healthy any ways. Annalisa also stopped drinking soda and is making sure to drink lots of water throughout her day.

Annalisa has recently entered into the “nesting” stage. I don’t think she made a conscious change but I noticed. She has always been really good about keeping up with the house and cleaning but now I couldn’t find a dog hair if someone paid me (and that’s saying A LOT when you have two indoor dogs running around all day!). She has also completed the nursery and made she her hospital bag is packed and ready. If I’m ever home and not sure where Annalisa is, I head over to the nursery and sure enough I can find her in there working on something.

Aside from running her photography business, prepping the house, and exercising, she also takes care of me! She cooks me the most incredible meals and always makes sure I am well taken care of. She invests time into our relationship to make sure that we are still growing in our relationship even in this busy time of prep.

And then there is the glow!

Come on, how gorgeous is this lady! She just gets more and more beautiful every single day. I just stare at her all the time and think, “Wow, how did I get so lucky?”

So when Annalisa first got pregnant we made a pack to go “POUND-for-POUND” with each other. She didn’t want to look/feel large next to me (or be heavier than me), even though she knows it is a natural and womanly process. I think she exemplifies grace and beauty but I also understand how critical women are of themselves. So I was going to try to gain a pound for every pound that Annalisa gained throughout her pregnancy. We approximated that she would gain 25 pounds since that is the healthy average weight gain for a full term pregnancy.

She is now about 3 weeks from her due date and has gained about 22 pounds! WOW! I’m thinking she will gain about a pound per week during these weeks of pregnancy which would put us exactly 25.

For those that don’t know me, my genes don’t correspond with weight gain very easily. I have tried to gain weight in the past and the most I have ever got up to was about 165 pounds.

But somehow I have been able to do it!

During these past months I have been able to gain 25 pounds! I am the heaviest I have ever been! POUND-for-POUND mission accomplished.

Somehow even with gaining 20+ pounds, Annalisa looks sexy as ever. Just look at those legs and arms! Are you kidding me?

I could rave about her physical beauty incessantly but the inner beauty is even more magnificent. She is sweet, fun, and so up-lifting. She makes me laugh more than anyone and makes me feel so appreciated. She is inspiring and supportive throughout every stage of life. We are so excited for our new bundle of joy and I can’t wait to see Annalisa holding our baby. She is going to be the best mom in the world!

Annalisa, I love you so much!

Happy 125 Months of love!

Comment

Comment

Goals 2016

Happy New Year everyone!

 

I love this celebration. We can look back on all the blessings from the year before and anticipate what’s to come.

I also love this time, because during this time of reflection I take part in the goal setting that so many others do.

I know some people hate this tradition…
Why don’t they just do these things throughout the year?
People always start their goals but then stop after the first couple weeks.
I don’t want to feel disappointed.

If you don’t like it that is fine, but I have found it to be very beneficial for me. I have found that being strategic about your goal setting will help you not only to achieve your goals (and know whether or not you have achieved them) but also help you have a more successful year over all.

I tell people to make categories and set SMART goals.

SMART Goals
S: Specific (Be specific! “Be a better husband”. Okay. What do you mean by that? Be better at apologizing? Take your sweetie on more dates? If so, how often? Find time to prioritize her above other things? How so? Be better with chores? Which ones? Bring her more flowers? How often? What is your goal? Be specific!)

M: Measurable (Make it quantifiable! “Get in better shape”. What do you mean by that? Do you want to lose weight? If so, how much? Do you want to get stronger? If so, how will you quantify that? By how much you can lift? How fast you can run? Studies show that you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you make them measurable.)

A: Attainable (How will you attain your goal? Is it practical? In trying to achieve your goal does it make you a better person and/or help others? Or would attaining this goal to more harm than good?)
 
R: Realistic (Similar to attainable, yet more focused on whether or not it is achievable. Set goals that are within reach otherwise you will be too discouraged or frustrated and may give up before you even get close. I’ve heard the expression, “shoot for the moon because even if you miss you’ll end up among the stars” and there is some truth in that. But if the “moon” is not realistic for YOU, you will experience failure to launch and not get anywhere.)

T: Time (When will you complete these goals by? So you were specific and quantified that you want to lose 25 pounds this year… does that mean you want to lose 2 pounds per month? Or asses it on a quarterly basis and try to lose 6-ish pounds every 3 months?)

I know this is not a revolutionary idea and that there are similar acronyms out there but that is the one that I use.

The categories I use are: Spiritual, Emotional, Mental, Physical, Financial, Work, and Other.

Let me give you examples of each with my goals for this year…

Spiritual:
Here is a few I have from this category for 2016…
-Pray with my son every night
-Start each morning on my knees and in prayer
-Do at least once a week Devotion with Annalisa
-Find a home church in San Bernardino County.

Emotional:
For this category it can be something you want to work on yourself personally (such as patience, anger, stress management, etc) or could be with the relationships between you and others. For example:
-Be the first to apologize after arguments (let go of pride)
-Take Annalisa on a date at least once per week
-Call parents at least once per week to check in and to say I love you

Mental:
For this section I include any goals that will make use of my brain. In the past I have included things such as learning a new language/instrument, achieving, a certain GPA, or the amount of books I want to read in that year. This year most of my mental goals are Med school related (go figure):
-Be ranked in Top 10 in my class
-Get published in a Science Magazine
-Become President of an on campus club

Financial:
Seems pretty straight forward. I have had a variety of different types of goals such as how much I want to earn, save, or donate in that year. I will maintain discretion for this category, but message me if you want more detail, tips, or anything else.

Physical:
I have a lot of fun with this section. I know some of these are not very impressive and most readers could probably do these at ease but for me this helps me stay in shape and have fun with it. Otherwise going to the gym everyday would get pretty monotonous. Now I have games to play as I try to hit certain numbers throughout the year.
-Break world record in 1-minute ball pushups
-Run 1-mile stairs in under 7:30
-Run Cowles Mtn under 18:00
-Row 2000m in under 7:45
-Bar Hang 2 minutes
-500m swim in under 9:30
-1 mile run in under 6:00
-Bike 2.5 miles (if on stationary bike level 10) in under 6:30

Work:
Work is much more fun (and productive) when you have goals you are trying to achieve throughout the year. My real estate goal:
Sell $xx,xxx,xxx.xx worth of real estate (yes, there is an actual quantifiable/attainable number there. Just using discretion).

Random:
This is another really fun category, but oh so important. You need this area of your life. In the past I have had things such as “See the Eiffel Tower”, “Go to an international Disneyland”, “Start a Blog”, “Learn middle splits and handstand pushups”.  For 2016, here are a few of mine:
-Take Posey/Pepper out 3x per week
-Travel to Yosemite
-Travel to a new country

It is also fun to look back on the goals from the previous year to see how many you accomplished and what areas of your life still need some work.

For my 2015, I achieved 16, and fell short on 27 of the 43 goals that I set.

Here are some of the ones I achieved:

-Get Annalisa Pregnant
-Wash/Rub Annalisa’s Feet at least once a week
-Get an A in my last two classes (O-chem, Physics)
-Take time for a quiet time at least once a week
-Save $xxx,xxx before starting school
-Complete over 15,000 Pullups in a year
-Bike 2.5 miles in under 7:30
-Sell over 2.5 million worth of real estate
-Tutor over 15 Private long term students
-Continue to work at the hospital 2+ days/week until Aug.
-Travel to at least 5 new countries (Went to Netherlands, Italy, Greece, France, and Switzerland).
-See the Eiffel Tower
-Start a Blog
-Walk dogs 3 times per week
-Find Annalisa a Piano Tutor
-Learn Harmonica

 

Good luck with your goal writing and please let me know what you think! Happy New Year!

Comment

Gift Giving

Comment

Gift Giving

Gift Giving and Receiving… it’s what Christmas is all about, right???

As we celebrate giving gifts this holiday season, let’s reflect on the reason WHY we give gifts. It is in remembrance of God’s gift of eternal life in heaven for all those who desire it, made possible through the sacrifice of His Son, JESUS CHRIST.

Mark 10:43-45

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

As I read these verses I reflected on all the joy that comes with this Christmas season. We celebrate the birth of Christ because of all the things that this signifies— salvation, everlasting life, hope, love, peace, and so much more.

I heard an amazing sermon the other day at Church about what kind of “peace” was delivered when Christ came. So many people thought Jesus was going to be a warrior and overthrow the government with physical force.

Others thought he was just going to clap his hands and just like that all the evil in the world would disappear. No more disease, death, rape, divorce, or any other type of tragedy.

This type of peace will come, and “one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord”, but that isn’t the type of peace that is being celebrated by by the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus’ first coming brough PEACE between God and man, which technically is the most important. We have now been justified.

The ultimate judge of good and evil is the one that will give us the verdict of whether or not we have EVER sinned (which we all have). The peace we have been given is the judge declared us “NOT GUILTY” because someone has come to pay the price for our sins. That justification brings about a sense of peace that surpasses all understanding.

So why doesn’t God come now and restore the final peace?

The short answer is because he loves us and is patient with us.  God wants to give all tribes, all nations, and all people a chance to choose Him before his final coming.

So this holiday season, no matter what hardships are going through, hopefully you can find a sense of peace knowing that you are redeemed and loved in the eyes of the Creator. Next, go out and spread love and kindness to everyone and help bring Peace on Earth and Good will toward men!

Merry Christmas!


Comment

Comment

4D Sonogram: ProLife vs. ProChoice

Just went to our 4D sonogram last week. Absolutely incredible experience watching my unborn son smile, move his arms, and dance around inside Annalisa.

The most important thing in life is life itself. You really can’t say anything else. If you say love is greater than life, how can you love if you aren’t alive?

It makes me wonder how anyone could be opposed to ProLife???  If you don’t support ProLife, that would make you ProDeath.

I’ve always known what I believed, but going through this pregnancy with Annalisa has made everything so much more real. It is crazy to me that people are allowed to kill little, fully functioning babies.

An UNBORN baby has all of its internal organs after only 8 WEEKS! I could go on and on about the beautiful and incredible developmental process, but I’ll just cut to the chase and say these are little people that we are deciding to “terminate”. I get there are rare exceptions that make this an actual debate. “What if the woman was raped?” or “What if the mother’s life is in danger from an ectopic pregnancy?” This are true controversial topics and to these I honestly don’t have an answer.

However, these are the EXCEPTION, not the rule. LESS than 1% of all abortions take place because of rape and/or incest. Here are all the other reasons for abortion...97% of the millions of other abortions are due to reasons such as “not ready for the responsibility”, “life would be changed too much”, “inadequate finances”, “too immature” (yes, 11% of people actually cited this as their reasoning to kill someone), “I already have all I want” (ugh, 8% of people gave that selfish response), and “problems with relationships”.  People seriously! We are letting millions of abortions happen for these reasons.

I would much rather be accused of anti-choice than Pro-death. But the crazy thing is I am ProChoice. I’m both! ProLife and ProChoice. Every woman has a choice (aside from rape). If you choose to have sex you know there is a chance for pregnancy! It is YOUR CHOICE if you want to have unprotected sex, or even sex at all. There is a sad, startling fact that by age 45 one third of American women will have had at least one abortion... 😟  

I will say one final note… 3% of people cited reasons for abortion because the baby was noted to have possible health problems. I still don’t think that is a reason for abortion. I have seen real life examples of why this could be a terrible mistake. I know a woman who was told that she should have an abortion because her daughter will be born with extreme retardation and never be able to live a fully functioning life. The doctor highly recommended an abortion. Thank God this woman stood firm and refused. The doctors were wrong. This baby was born, never had any problems, and grew up to be one of my friends who is one of the smartest/ most athletic people I know.

Let’s not dance around this debate because of the exceptions in life which occur LESS than 1% of the time. Some things in life we do not have a choice in and no one seems to have a problem with it. Stealing is illegal. Abuse is illegal (you don’t get to say, “It’s my CHOICE how I raise my kids”. If you are physically abusing your kids, you can end up in jail for 10 years or more You can’t make the argument that it is your choice aka Pro-Choice).

Murder is illegal, you have no choice in that. Killing babies in utero should be illegal too.

Comment

Comment

Chapstick

So my lips have been chapped these last few weeks I'm not sure if it's because of the weather or what but they've been dry lately. I grabbed my Chapstick and put it on while I was kinda spacing out and gosh it felt good to feel the cooling/reviving feeling. It made me think about last Friday when I went to the store and was looking at just an aisle full of all of the different kinds of Chapstick. It's almost ridiculous how saturated the Chapstick industry with companies always coming out with some new twist that is going to be better than the other competitors when really it's just a play on the same base.

They claim there's something different that is worth selling whether it be the flashy label or whatever is eye catching to the buyer, but I always go back to the same old Burt's beeswax for a whopping $2.95 because it just always seems to satisfy and do the job.

I relate this to religion. Now-a-days, people always try to sell you something new and improved from the old tried and true but there's always a twist to make it more exciting and to attract more of a broad range of people to "satisfy". Like Chapstick, or toothpaste, or anything I buy, I always find myself reaching for what I know is best and what satisfies me most. Like Christ and my church and my faith, when I am in need of anything, I will always turn to Christ, because He and He alone is what satisfies my thirst when nothing else will.

Comment

Samson

Comment

Samson

THE RIGHT WAR FOR THE WRONG REASONS

A Study in the Biblical Book of Judges:  Part 1 in the Life of Sampson

WPBS (Wolf Pack Bible Study)

Pause whatever you are doing. Write, text, or type your answer to this question,

“What is your calling?”

Perhaps this is something you have not put much thought into yet…

So what did you write down? The majority of people will answer this question with something broad and general. Not that that is a bad thing, but I believe that the Bible teaches that each person has a specific calling unique to them.

Romans 12:4-5 says,”For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Essentially, as a Christian community, as a Church, we are both united and unique. We are united in purpose, but unique in calling.

Our purpose is to live the gospel. In Matthew 22 Jesus gives us the greatest commandment (which interestingly comes in the form of two parts). He tells us the greatest commandment is to love God. Than He immediately states that the second is like it, to love our neighbor. There is a direct relationship between these two commandments because without loving God you can’t effectively love people, and without loving people you can’t genuinely love God! Amazing! Right?

So as Christians our purpose is rooted in the greatest commandment to love God and love people. We are all united in that being our purpose! So what makes us unique? Our calling does. Our calling is how we uniquely carry out our purpose. For example, a Christian who owns a business shares the same purpose as a Christian in the NFL. Both of them have the joy of having a covenant relationship with God, and both of them have the responsibility of loving people- who are made in the image of God. However, how they specifically fulfill that purpose will look very different. The businessman may help fund/serve church ministries both local and abroad, he also may be a witness to those he works with and those who he conducts business with. The NFL player may use his platform to be outspoken of his faith, and as we have seen with some Christian NFL players, may spend spare time encouraging kids at hospitals or starting foundations that benefit those less fortunate.

So what makes you, YOU? What passions has God instilled in you? What gifts has He given you? What cause are you burdened to do something about? How is the gospel going to exude through you?

So why are we talking about purpose and calling? Well, in the past few weeks at a Wednesday night Bible study that I lead at we have been making our way through the book of Judges. this week we find ourselves in Judges chapters 13-15 which begins the narrative of Samson. Now if you know anything about Samson he is like the hulk of the bible.

I mean this guy seems to be a one man army! He is famous for his strength (which really was the Lord’s strength), and he is infamous for his weaknesses. Samson has many issues that appear on the surface but at the root of his issues lies what I believe to be his main struggle, and a struggle many Christians share- Samson struggled with his calling, and his whole life collapsed around the realization that he had been living under the vain influence of selfish ambitions.

Judges chapter 13 verse 1 sets the scene and says,

“And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.”

It is a heartbreaking introduction to a new generation of Israelites. Oh how the Israelites have lived up to their name (Israel means “to struggle with God” or “to wrestle with God.”) The rest of the chapter is dedicated to the prequel of Samson’s life. Within this chapter we find a married couple (Manoah and his wife) who have not been able to have children, for the woman was barren. The Lord sends them a visit and tells them not only that they are going to have a child, but that their child will be the one He will use to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines’ oppression. In this God commands this child to be set apart for His purposes. Samson is to be set apart under the Nazirite vow. This meant that Samson would not be allowed to eat anything “unclean”, wouldn’t be allowed to cut his hair, etc. (for more about the Nazirite vow see Numbers ch. 6). The Nazirite vow was symbolic of the covenant purpose God has set apart for Samson before Samson was even born!

What if God had a prequel for your life… what if you were set apart for something greater than yourself… what if God wants to make His glory and greatness known through you?

In chapter 14 we see Samson do something that upset his parents very much, Samson had his eyes on one of the Philistine woman (Judges 14:1-3). Historically this would have been mind-boggling, even offensive for Samson to betray his people to have affection towards a Philistine women. This was not a race issue, it was beyond that. The Philistines were incredibly corrupt and they ruled over Israel ruthlessly. The pagan gods of the Philistines had become a stumbling block for many of the Israelites who turned away from God and started to worship these false gods. Now do you see why his parents would ask Samson why he had feelings for a Philistine? However, Judges 14:4 gives us pivotal information for the life and calling of Samson.

“His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.”

You see, God was raising up Samson to be the one who would delver Israel from the evil hand of the Philistines. But the problem was that the Israelites had gotten far too comfortable being slaves of the enemy. God allowed Samson to pursue this Philistine woman as his wife, knowing that something had to cause the Israelites to go to war with the enemy.

Lets keep reading.

5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes.

So Samson tore apart a lion with his bare hands and then didn’t tell anyone? I am sorry but if I ever kill a lion with my bare hands you will see a selfie posted on Instagram. Here Samson I will post one for you…

 

#LionKiller

What happens next is where we see the first of many mistakes for Samson…

8 After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9 He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.

I don’t know if you know much about biology but this is an abnormal situation. When an animal is dead the process of decay begins to take place, but something different happens here. The divine fingerprints of the almighty Creator leaves not decay and ruin in this dead beast, but a flourishing community of bees producing something sweet, honey. Perhaps God was just reminding Samson that He was with him, but Samson carelessly forgets his Nazirite vow and instead of appreciating this anomaly and recognizing God’s hand in his life he takes some of the honey from the dead, “unclean” animal and goes about his day. Already Samson has rejected his Nazirite vow, his set apart identity that was given to him before his birth, his calling.

But his foolishness doesn’t end there. Let’s continue in Judges 14 starting in verse 10…

10 His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11 As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, 13 but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 And he said to them,

“Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.”
And in three days they could not solve the riddle.

15 On the fourth[a] day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16 And Samson’s wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17 She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people. 18 And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,

“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”
And he said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle.”
19 And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.

At the celebration of his wedding with this Philistine women Samson is given some “companions” (kind of like groomsmen), so Samson decides to gamble with these men by giving them a riddle, if they solve it they will get many valuable possessions, if they can’t then he will obtain many valuable possessions. Piece of advice… never gamble with the enemy. So what did the enemy do? They convinced Samson’s new wife to get the answer from him. As you saw in those verses, she succeeded! So Samson ends up losing this bet and in response he goes and kills 30 Philistines and takes their possessions and gives them to those who he owed. In his anger he stormed home without his wife and so Samson’s father thought he no longer wanted to be married so she was handed over to his best man. What a messed up family dynamic, right?

Let us continue to Judges chapter 15.

After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2 And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4 So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6 Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8 And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam.


Notice Samson’s attitude? Never once is he fighting the Philistines to deliver Israel, like he is supposed to, he is fighting them only when they make him angry. I guess this guy really is like the hulk…


But even worse, his rage comes from a place of unrighteousness, out of selfish motives he is waging war against the enemy. Samson is fighting the right war for the wrong reasons. God certainly set him apart to be a man of war, but instead of rallying together the armies of Israel to drive out the enemy, he is too busy avenging his own personal vendettas. Like Samson, our problem may not be avoiding the fight, but we may be waging the right war for the wrong reasons. Vengeance against the Philistines was never because Samson had been wronged, it was always because God had been wronged. The sin of the enemy was against Samson; it was against God.

After stirring up the anger of the Philistines Samson is about to find himself faced with a decision to make, and the ultimatum will not be coming from the enemy, but from his own people…

9 Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12 And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13 They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

You know you are one bad dude when an army sends 3,000 soldiers just to arrest you. Samson must have had quite the reputation to intimidate even his own people this way. Here we see that Samson is not alone in his negligence, the Israelites too have forgotten that the Lord wanted to deliver them from their captivity but they seem to want to arrest Samson to appease their rulers, the Philistines. Their primary goal became survival, and they thought that their best chance lay in extraditing Samson, rather than rallying around him to fight their enemy.

Has no one remembered their calling? Has the nation of Israel forgotten their corporate calling as a nation to be set apart, to submit themselves only to the kingship of God? Has Samson forgotten his calling to be the one to deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of the Philistines? 

Let’s see how this confrontation with the Philistines goes with Samson being bound and handed over by his own people.

14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”
17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi.



Part 1 of Samson’s life concludes with his most bloody feat yet, killing 1,000 men in one episode. And Samson even writes a hit chorus that praises his own abilities. but in verse 18 we see a slight shift in the heart of Samson, is there hope for his leadership?

18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

Is Samson’s days of being a solo vigilante over? Is he finally becoming the leader he was set apart to be? Part 2 will determine the answers to those questions. In many ways the life of Samson serves as a warning to us; he is everything a servant of God should not be. And perhaps Samson’s most severe problem was his lack of conviction to live out his identity as a set apart Nazirite-warrior-leader. Samson was living like he didn’t know his calling.

To recap of part 1 of Samson’s life here are a few vital things we can learn and walk away with today:

  • God was using Samson in spite of his failings, not because of his faithfulness. Today we may fall short of walking in complete obedience to God but that should not mean that we throw in the towel and give up, God is not surprised by our mistakes just as He was not surprised by Samson’s. So take heart, God will use you despite your failures, because He is faithful. However, don’t let this be an excuse to disobey, we known that disobedience can definitely altar how effective you will be. God will accomplish His will despite you but wouldn’t you rather be able to participate as much as possible in the most epic mission of all time? Obedience is vital to live out the calling God has on your life.

  • Obedience done on your own terms is still disobedience. As we saw in Part 1, Samson entered the right war for the wrong reasons. When our reasons (aka our motives) are wrong, then our method will be wrong. Yes, Samson was set apart to be a warrior who leads the Israelites to freedom from their evil oppressors but Samson only seems to engage this mission on his own terms and only when he has been offended by the Philistines. This is where unity is so important. We were never meant to be a lone wolf solider, we were meant to work as a team (as a Church) towards a common mission. And how we do something is just as important as why we do it.

  • Our calling is a gift from God that will grant us direction, fulfillment, and a partnership with God. Let’s get something clear, God is not about making His glory known! He is worthy. He is awesome. He alone is God. If anything takes even an ounce of glory from God that thing is an idol and should be torn down and destroyed (physically or metaphorically). Our calling is God’s gift to us. It is a gift that should be solely used to reflect, give, and spread glory- God’s glory. Our calling should also give us direction, it should help us answer what we say yes to and what we say no to. Samson demonstrated a lack of self-control by not being able to say no to the honey in the dead lion carcass. Our calling should be like a compass that guides us and helps us determine how we invest our time for maximum impact. Our calling also gives us fulfillment, it should be what makes us come alive, after all- God is the author of life and their is no true, vibrant life outside of relationship with Him. And our calling gives us partnership with God. God doesn’t need us to accomplish His plan and His will but He chooses to let us participate with Him! What an awesome dad! Let’s go to work with Dad on a daily basis!

Discussion questions for small groups:

  1. The theme throughout Judges has been, “Obedience done on your terms is actually disobedience.” How do you see this in the life of Samson?
  2. Before Samson was born God had put a calling on his life. Samson was set apart for God’s purpose, but the way Samson lived made it seem like he was not aware of his calling. Do you think Samson was aware of his calling? What was his struggle in walking out His calling?
  3. Samson waged the right war for the wrong reasons. As Christians today have you found yourself in a similar situation? How can we make sure we wage the right war for the right reasons?
  4. At the beginning of the lesson you wrote down what you think your calling is. Read Romans 11:29, Romans 12:4, and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. These are just a few verses of the many on the topic of “calling.” In light of the life of Samson, these scriptures, and all other understanding- how important is it to know our unique calling within our unified purpose as Christians? Do you know your calling? How are you pursuing your calling, or if you don’t know your calling how are you pursuing discovering your calling?
    1. (Side note:) If you feel don’t know your calling be encouraged, God may be working on your character before He reveals to you your calling. Our character needs to be ready if we want to walk out our calling. A God-sized calling without the character to fulfill it is a disaster waiting to happen.

Comment

Gideon

Comment

Gideon

Tonight we will be talking about Gideon and the biggest military upset in the history of the world!

Have you ever seen the movie 300? It’s pretty much that, except more epic because they win without allowing a single death on their side.

Judges 2:16-19
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

We finished last week in Judges 3.

So a quick summary of the next couple chapters…

In Judges 3 we see Othniel, Caleb’s Younger brother, became Judge who delivered Israel and there was peace for 40 years.

Then came Ehud, a noted left-handed man. He secretly stabs king Eglon in his fat belly. This is followed by 80 years of peace.

Next was Shamgar. who killed 600 philistines with an oxgoad.

In Chapter 4 we see Deborah help lead a victory and Heber’s wife nailed a tent peg through king Sisera’s head.

Chapter 5 is a song of victory and 40 years of peace.

So let’s pick up in Judges Chapter 6:1-2
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.

Once again people do evil, and so God allows them to be oppressed by the Midianites.

God warns the people, but they do not listen. When do we do that in our own lives? God doesn’t make rules to take our fun away. He makes rules so we can live life to the fullest. He wants the best for us.

Judges 6:11-12
The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

So we find Gideon in a winepress, hiding.  Ironically, God calls him “mighty Warrior.”

Judges 6:13
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

 Gideon assumes that just because God is with them, all will be well in the world. And besides, they had directly disobeyed God, and now he is wondering why the enemies have invaded. He asks “Why has all this happened?” I know hindsight is 20/20 but this should be pretty obvious to Gideon since God told the whole country before hand in verse 10, “I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me” which is WHY this happened. As to WHERE are the wonders. Well, often times in life we need to stop waiting for the wonderful things in life to happen and BE that wonderful thing. Be the positive change you want to see. That is what God is calling Gideon to do.   

Flip forward to 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

I want to be that person. Don’t you?

Judges 6:14
 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Gideon, like many of us, just has the wrong perspective. God is saying why are you asking those questions when I’m giving you the answer. You see yourself and your country as weak and defeated, I see you as a Warrior leading a conquering nation.  And in response to Gideon’s questions of why God isn’t saving them, He replies, “Am I not sending you?”

Judges 6:15-16
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

God is not concerned with our limitations. That is the whole point. He does not NEED us for anything. He graciously allows us to be a part of His work. A piece in His puzzle. A tool in his craftsmanship. This is just me speculating, but it often seems that God prefers to use those who are seen as weak or insignificant so that way the only logical explanation to the victory is for people to look to God.  And God loves to use the humble. There’s actually a lot of proof for this theory. Jesus says it in Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Judges 6:17-18
Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

Understandable. Gideon wants a sign before he goes out to take on an army 10,000 times his group’s size.

Gideon gets an offering and prepares it. The angel of the Lord touches it and lights it on fire.

Judges 6:23
But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

IF a man came up to me, performed crazy magic like that and said I wasn’t going to die, I would have a whole new confidence. I would feel like a super hero, like an avenger. I might try to take on the world. But I guess I don’t really know… I’ve never been in this situation.

Judges 6:25-27
“That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.”

Even though God told Gideon specifically that he would NOT die, he was still too afraid of what would happen if he took down the statue during the day.

The people of the town respond as expected and once they find out it was Gideon who did it, they shout, “He must die!”

Gideon’s father, being a sensible fellow, responds to the people saying in verse 31, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself…”

Gideon’s name changed to Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal Contend with him”. This is consistent with many biblical life transformations and characters receiving a new name.

Thus begins the beginning of the war. But rather than looking at it as a war between the Israelites and Midianites, it should be viewed as a battle between Yahweh (the God of Israel) and the imaginary god Baal.

However before obeying God, Gideon procrastinates again with what is known as “putting out the fleece”.

Judges 6:36-39
36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.


Before we get on Gideon’s case for his apparent weakness of faith, just consider the circumstance here. A man who is NOT an experienced military leader of any kind is being asked to go to war against an army that is described as “like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it” (Judges 6:5).

Just because Gideon does the fleece test, this shouldn’t be taken as an indication that God normally approves of such a method for confirming His will.

Look at James 1:5-8
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

What does this mean? We have the Holy Spirit. Gideon did not. Do not test God, very clearly stated in the new testament when Jesus is being tempted in the desert.

Anyway, Judges 7:2
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’

God takes the army of nearly 30,000 men and separates it in various ways and continues to send people home until there are only 300 men remaining.

Judges 7:10
If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah

Once again, God reassures Gideon of his victory. They sneak into the camp and spy upon a man having a dream interpreted by his friend.

Judges 7:13-14
Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

Judges 7:18
When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”

This is the beginning of the fall of Israel. Not immediately. In this battle they will be triumphant but this subtle addition of Gideon’s name in the title of glory will soon be there demise. It’s sometimes easy to avoid the blatant sins in our life. The ones we need to be aware of and watch out for are the subtle sins that slip in… pride, greed, deceit, etc.

How does this apply to us? Some of us here are teachers. Nurses. Students. Photographers. Scientists. Advisors. Coaches. Waiters. Managers. Regardless of what we do, ALL of us have platforms or positions of influence of some kind. The question is, how do you use it? Do you use it to make more money? To get more attention? To further your career? To advance your reputation?
Or do you use it to help others? Give glory to God?

Sometimes we do something in the name of the Lord, but slip our name into it just as Gideon did. We justify it by any means necessary. For example one might say, “Well, the more well known I become the more I can spread the Gospel.”  

Give God all the glory. As John 3:30 states, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Judges 7:20-22
20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.

In a miraculous manner, the 300 Israelites are victories against the thousands and thousands of Midianites.

The victory they experienced is misleading as to the state of their country. We are about the see one of the greatest demises out of all the Judges. Usually there is a period of peace following a Judge of Israel. During Gideon’s time as Judge we see the people turn back to idolatry which is the ONLY time this occurs in the bible while the Judge is still living.

 

In small groups we discuss...
In the beginning we see Gideon hiding like a coward but when God first calls out to him he calls him Mighty Warrior… how is this indicative of how we see ourselves verses how God sees us? 

Gideon can be seen as a procrastinator at times. When God calls him to do stuff such as take down alter of Baal, or attack the Midianites, he waits for several reasons. Sometimes he waits till night out of fear. Sometimes he waits, to make SURE it is God even though God had proved himself time and time again. When do we do this in our own lives? When do we procrastinate with things in our life because we are afraid, or unsure if it is what God wants, or just pure laziness? Why put off for tomorrow what can be done today? Is there a time procrastinating is appropriate?

The Lord tells Gideon time and time again that he will prevail and yet Gideon asks continuously for signs. God doesn’t need to prove himself to you every time he asks you to act. God has already proved himself on the cross. He has redeemed us and restored us. He wants obedience. Like we learned last week, obedience done on our timing is disobedience. So in a sense, procrastination can be disobedience at times. Final thoughts, when God does something in our lives, make sure he gets ALL the glory unlike what happens in Judges 7:18.

 

God Bless!

 

Comment

Kylie

2 Comments

Kylie

My wife and I just celebrated our 3 year Anniversary and it was so wonderful looking back on our past year and seeing how blessed we were.

We also went through so of the hardest moments of our life with the passing of Kylie and wanted to take time to celebrate her life.

My wife and I reflecting on our sweet little niece as we looked back on this past year. These are just a few snippets and memories. My favorite is Kylie's laugh and her "fake" laugh. So dang cute! We love you and miss you Kylie.

After watching this video my wife and I made, I reflected on some comments people made throughout Kylie’s journey.

Many people say that fact tragedies such as children suffering prove that GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

Or at least that an ALL POWERFUL, ALL GOOD God does NOT exist.

After all, God can’t possibly be both ALL LOVING (GOOD) and ALL POWERFUL and still allow such unnecessary atrocities in the world to exist. Right?

Wrong. I’m here to prove the contrary.

Suffering PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. Here’s how:

Whenever someone is tortured, murdered, or dies from so unpreventable disease such as we feel a sense of heartbreak, helplessness, and often anger.

First we must breakdown the types of suffering:
Those brought about by our choices, i.e. moral evils such as murder
Those brought about by nature, i.e. cancer, tornados, etc.

The first can be explained by free will. The fact that humans have free will explain why when people commit an immoral act, consequences of suffering ensues. Otherwise, God would have to make all bad choices have no consequences which would therefore not make it a bad choice, or take away our free will and we could all live as ROBOTS forced to always do the right thing that brings about no suffering.

So the fact that people make evil decisions in the world does not disprove God at all. If there were no God, evil would be subjective and at best we could as a collective group of people decide we don’t like certain actions. But we couldn’t say that universally RAPE and CHILD ABUSE are evil unless an absolute moral standard exists… and the only way an absolute moral standard exists is if God exists.

Which leads directly to the 2nd type of suffering. This is more frustrating and at times more difficult to explain. How do you explain a child (or a person of any age for that matter) suffering from an incurable disease such as neuroblastoma?

The most natural response to finding out a child suffering from a disease such as this is to say,
“Wow, this is so sad.”  
“This is so wrong!”
“This just shouldn’t happen!”

Any of these are APPROPRIATE responses, however they are completely irrational if you don’t believe in God.  

Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it is not right. On the contrary, IF you don’t believe in God, diseases such as cancer are completely natural and should be accepted as a part of life. You have no reason to be outraged or upset. These are SUBJECTIVE feelings in response to what is happening. You shouldn’t then be objecting to NATURAL SUFFERING.

IF there is no GOD, there is no good or evil… just nature acting perfectly naturally.

Nature is only about survival, so the fact that we feel something is unjust or wrong proves that we have a private, objective standard of what is right or wrong. And if that standard exists… so does GOD.

I could not have written this without the research and help of others. Thank you Peter Kreeft (Professor at Boston College) for sharing your words of wisdom and insight as I researched this topic.

 

2 Comments