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

Women's World Cup Finale

Comment

Women's World Cup Finale

I am so excited for the Women’s World Cup Finale today!

 It’s awesome because it is a rematch from 4 years ago when Japan beat USA in the world cup finals on a penalty shoot out following the 2-2 draw.  

I am very interested to see if USA is able to get out and score first. If so, I think they have a really good shot at winning. After all, the United States has played fantastically when scoring first. In fact, they have scored first in every game in this tournament thus far. Furthermore, other than the goal they allowed Australia in the first match, no team has scored against the United States since.

But wait! Weren’t they ahead 2-0 against Japan last year? What makes scoring first the difference this year? It can’t just be confidence, because the 2011 team had plenty of confidence.

I just have to believe that this team is different.  But don’t just take it from me. Take it from one of the players—two-time Olympic gold medalist, and 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, Abby Wambach who said, “This team is different.”

So as we root for U.S.A. victory let’s remember that the most important thing isn’t a victory on the scoreboards, but a victory within the minds and hearts of everyone out there.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:57


Comment

God Bless the USA

Comment

God Bless the USA

Happy 4th of July!

I absolutely love traveling the world, and to be honest I think I have a bad case of wanderlust. However, each time I return from a trip, whether it be from South America, Asia, or even Europe, I find I am so thankful to be back home. I love the Americans I encounter who love freedom, who are confident, hardworking, competitive, inspirational, innovative, compassionate, and positive. America is literally like no other place in the world!

I am proud to be a part of such a great nation. Of course it is not perfect, but America is the MOST SELF-LESS nation in the history of the world!

What other nation fights for the freedom of other countries (Korean War, Iraq, WWI, WWII) when we have little or nothing to gain. Whenever there is a natural disaster our country raises money and sends resources to those in need. I hope we never lose these qualities. We need to remember that every person matters and we need to do everything in our power to help those in our country and ALSO those around the world.

1 Peter 3:8
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

Comment

WPBS Farewell Ball

Comment

WPBS Farewell Ball

Two weeks ago our WPBS (Wolf Pack Bible Study) had a farewell ball, as Annalisa and I prepare to leave for LA.

 Awkward Prom pose LOL

Awkward Prom pose LOL

Let me just start by saying I feel so blessed and am SO incredibly grateful for all the amazing people God has brought into my life.

There was so much detail put into the whole night, I can tell they spent weeks planning and prepping for this event. And with over 60 people in attendance, it was like a small wedding.

It started with the Red Carpet entrance to the magnificently decorated house. The Sleepy Castle (the Spiering House and new home of WPBS) had all of the furniture moved out of the living spaces. Half of the house was devoted to a banquet style formal eating area with personalized name tags for each person. The other half the room was dedicated to the dance floor area complete with balloons, glitter, balloons-with-glitter-inside, and even a disco ball. 

The whole room was laden with hundreds of pictures of memories from the Bible study family. There was also a photo booth complete with props (more pictures to follow at end of blog).

To be completely honest, I was stunned. When they told Annalisa and I about it, they made it sound like instead of having Bible Study we were just going to have a dance as a going away celebration. They did say to “dress nice” but I had no idea how over the top they were going to go. I should have known my friends would go above and beyond. God has blessed us with the most amazing community group.

It was fun seeing everyone in their glamorous getups. Most of the ladies wore dresses from their high school prom days. Some of the dresses saw the light of day after being neglected for over a decade! (Props to all you ladies; just shows what amazing shape you all are in!)

Annalisa looked absolutely stunning (obviously! When does she not?). I know I am biased but seriously she is the most beautiful woman in the whole world. I am so lucky! One of my favorite parts about Annalisa’s dress is that she thought about my so much when picking it out and wore my favorite color. (Sweet and sexy).

In the beginning (cocktail hour) we had hors d’oeuvres and greeted people as they trickled in. Then we were asked to find our seats before being dismissed by tables to get food. They had Olive Garden catered because it is one of Annalisa’s favorite restaurants. Nice touch!

They even went as far as to give speeches, toasts, and (went too far by) knighted us king and queen.

I felt honored and humbled at the same time. Honored because how can you not feel loved from such a wonderful group of people. Humbled- and quite frankly embarrassed- because I of all people am least deserving of standing in front of the group. I am the one that was so blessed and fortunate to have these people to carry me through each and every week for the past 3 years. These are the people that encouraged me, held me accountable, and taught me new life lessons each and every week. I should be giving a gift and highlighting every single person in the room for how, through the power of Christ, they have influenced, shaped, and ultimately changed my life.

I had no idea this was coming, otherwise I would have had my retaliation speech ready.

Anyway, after dinner (and one of the best cakes I have ever tasted from Nothing Bundt Cakes) we danced the night away.

For those of you who don’t know me, dance is my life… or so I say. But honestly, once the music started I never wanted to leave the dance floor. Annalisa made me wear white. I told her that would be a mistake. I knew how much I would sweat and an hour into the dancing I felt like I was having a wet t-shirt contest against myself.

I also love dog piles and crowd surfing. I’m not sure who all got lifted up throughout the night but I distinctly remember carrying Troy on my back at one point.

Darrin helped lead everyone through several line dances. Uptown funk was such a hit that it got played twice.

Sexton had a dance battle against Josh and Darryl.

Richard Spiering (most amazing host/man ever!) led us all through jazzercise dances.

The night ended with (a surprisingly large late night crew considering it was a week night) everyone singing Disney songs and switching slow dance partners around the room to our favorite laid back classics.

This night exemplifies what I have been learning the past 3 years: the importance of community. Everyone matters, not one person supremely. None of us make sense on our own, it is all of us together.

As Journey Church Pastor Ed Noble would say, “All of us together is Jesus in the flesh.”

We weren’t meant to do life alone. In Galatians 6:2 it says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

If you are not a part of our a community group I urge you to do so. God has blessed us with a spacious new location and would love to see new faces. Or join another group. There are hundreds around San Diego, but it requires a step of initiation on your part. Sometimes it is hard to take the first step, to reach out, to try something new— but trust me, you will NOT regret it! Don’t just take my word for it. Ask any of the WPBS members who can tell you what an impact it has made on their lives. And one more word of advise… don’t just come one week and then give up. Try consistently showing up for 4 weeks in a row and if you don’t feel like part of the family after that, I’ll personally treat you to lunch!

Hebrews 10:24-25 says:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Don’t let another day slip by without becoming more involved in others’ lives, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what your status is, what number is in your bank account, or even how much security you think you have acquired. The only thing that matters is relationships, and none more important than that between you and the Creator.

Thanks for reading!

More pictures from my favorite Prom party ever...
 


Comment

Kylie

Comment

Kylie

Kylie Strong

Happy Birthday Kylie!

Kylie, you have touched the hearts of thousands of people. But I shouldn’t use the word “touched” because it is past tense. Correction: You TOUCH the hearts of thousands and your legacy continues to shape, mold, and grow others including myself.

Is it weird that your love for a person can grow even after they pass? I have always loved baby Kylie, but somehow I feel my love has even grown stronger. She continues to teach me things about life even though she is far younger than I.

These are just some of my thoughts and feelings as I reflect on the beautiful Kylie Rowand and all that she has taught me (and continues to teach me). I wanted to share this is because originally I didn’t know how to comfort someone going through heartbreak or death of a loved one. I know I would have found this helpful and my hope is that maybe someone else will feel the same. And by no means do I think I have mastered any of this in anyway.

Kylie Strong

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be terrible at comforting others. I just thought I would share some of what I have learned along the way.

There are (and will be) highs and lows every day following the death of a loved one.  

Anyone who hears of Kylie’s story is heartbroken. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I’m no stranger to Kylie but I’m not the parents either: I’m the uncle.

There are no magic words to take the pain away, but there are definitely expressions to steer away from.

Things I have learned to avoid: “Back to normal” and “getting over it”.

Prayers for Kylie

When someone loses a child, there will never be a “back to normal” or a way to “get over it”. Losing a child transforms a person for life. So instead of expecting the grieving parents and relatives to go back to normal, your support should be directed toward who they are becoming. Rather than likening the grief to a physical illness that we can recover from, it should be thought of as a life-changing physical injury.

“How are you?” In our culture this is such a commonplace greeting that it’s hard not to let it slip out. But really this should be avoided. Obviously, they are doing bad. A child just died. So when you ask that question what kind of response are you really looking for? What you really mean is I care about your well being, so find a way to express that without asking the obvious, and almost offensive, question. It’s hard enough as is. Don’t make them answer that awkward and ill-timed inquiry.

Refrain from, “I know how you feel.” Unless you have had a child die, you probably don’t know how they feel, and it sounds presumptuous to say so.

Trent and Kylie

DON’T say, “It was God’s will” or other cliche churchy expressions. This is a harmful one that I have heard Christians use with the best intentions in mind but the worst outcomes. These words don’t make it alright that the child has died and quite frankly, I believe they are wrong!

God doesn’t want death. He is the one who offers eternal life. He sacrificed His son so that we could have life eternally, and live life on Earth to the fullest.

What God does do is take a terribly tragic situation and bring as much light and beauty as possible. God does not create evil. God takes evil and uses it for good.  So even if God brings miracles and changed lives through it, it is NOT God’s will for a child to die. So don’t say it.

Definitely AVOID, “At least you have your spouse,” or if applicable, “At least you have other children.” This should be obvious. You should never try to minimize a child’s death by counting your blessings.

I don’t know who the heck says this but I caught wind of someone telling a grieving mother, “At least you are young enough to have more children.” Seriously? Not helpful.

Everyone will handle it differently and there is no need to pass along judgements about what is appropriate or how they should be healing. Don’t critique if they display “too many photos” thereby idolizing the child, or “not enough photos”. Seriously, I don’t know why you would need to critique anyone about these things but it is some of the expressions I have heard.

Bottomline, if you have never lost a child, it’s incredibly difficult to know what to say to someone in that situation due to the nature of the tragedy. It is unnatural and unfair.

So, what to say?

Sometimes you don’t need to say anything at all.  Learn to be comfortable with silence and just be present with those who are grieving. Sometimes people need the silence and sometimes that gives them a window to open up about feelings. It can be cathartic.

Some people are afraid to bring up those who have passed because they don’t want to hurt those grieving. Yet often they need and want to talk about their loved one. Don’t treat those who have passed as taboo words. When appropriate feel free to bring up memories or stories if you knew the person. If not, don’t be afraid to ask gentle questions to get to know them better.

Don’t be afraid to cry. Your tears are a tribute to both to those who have passed and the grieving ones who are left behind. However, just make sure that your grieving is not so intense that those you went to comfort are now having to comfort you.

Side note about crying: Even though it is a normal response to sadness, it isn’t the ONLY response. Just because someone is not crying (or crying as much) does not mean they are not sad. They may feel the pain just as deeply as others but have different ways of showing it.

Sometimes a hug or loving touch is all that will suffice. Your presence is what matters most.

Don’t be afraid of laughter. It helps heal the wounds.

Expressions that are almost always okay:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“I’ll call you in a few days to check on you.”
“You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.”
“I love you.”  

Something I’ve learned through this experience is don’t say to the grieving family, “Call me if there’s anything I can do for you.” That call will probably never come.

I’ve been guilty of saying this dozens of troubled people in my life. But as I deal with my own anguish of Kylie’s death, I have had multiple kind hearted people offer up these same words to me. Yet, even though I am sad, I would never actually call upon these people. I didn’t want to inconvenience them, even when it was something I felt like would really help.

The best thing to do is take initiative. Find out things that the grieving family needs and do it. Start with the basics. Help out with chores, errands, and basic necessities. So when you find yourself about to say these words, instead figure out what needs to be done, and do it. Just know your boundaries of course. The better you know someone the more initiative you can take.  If your invitation is initially declined, don’t give up!  

A hand written card sent in the mail is also a very nice gesture.

Even if you feel like you have nothing to say, just letting someone know you are thinking about them can mean a lot.

Everyone grieves differently. Even though grieving is an individual and highly personal experience, love is a universal language that we all can speak, and as humans we all crave.

The biggest mistake you can make is not knowing what to do or say, so not reaching out at all.

The beautiful part about my faith in Christ is that even though I miss Kylie, I don’t have to be stuck in a state of permanent sadness. In fact, when I think of Kylie I can truly rejoice knowing that she is in a much better place than I am. I hear that expression thrown around a lot when it comes to tragic situations such as these, but with a solid faith in our Creator I’m not just saying those words for comfort, but with genuine meaning.

It is my faith in a loving and ever-faithful God that enables me and all those around me to recover from the death of a child.

This reminds me of a story in the Bible from 2 Samuel 12.  King David (yes, the same David who killed Goliath) had a child who had fallen deathly ill from sickness. He mourned, fasted, prayed, and wept the entire time his child was sick. He begged God for healing and had all his attendants do everything they could. Yet, the child died.

This is how David responded (2 Samuel 12:20): “Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.”

The part that stood out most to me was that he “went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” Honoring God after a crisis sometimes can be very hard to do but it is an important and powerful demonstration of our spiritual confidence in our God. David turns loose what he cannot change.

David’s servants were stunned by his behavior and asked him about it. David’s response from 2 Samuel 12:23 is powerful:
“Now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

David was fully confident that he would see his son again in heaven. It does NOT mean David didn’t grieve. He just grieved differently than someone who does not believe in life after death.

Face the future with hope. Recognize that we are not alone. We have God who promises us life and we have each other. WE need to lean on each other to help us recover.

I’m trying to learn from David’s example. David worshiped the Lord in his time of deepest sorrow. We need to give God what we cannot change. Worship the Lord for restoring Kylie. Praise God that death is not the end, but only the beginning. I am fully confident that I will meet Kylie agin in heaven.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 2:14

 

Also, please check out my wife’s blog and thoughts about Kylie: analisa-joy.com/kylie

Comment

The Tongue: The Untamable Beast

1 Comment

The Tongue: The Untamable Beast

long tongue
human long tongue

The tongue is the most powerful part of the human body. Obviously it helps us breakdown and taste food but also helps to talk, spit, swallow and even kiss.

Zipper tongue

According to the bible taming the tongue is one thing that EVERYONE struggles with. I’m going to repeat that because this is a big deal: EVERYONE struggles with taming the tongue.

It is interesting because we know while some people struggle with alcohol abuse others do not. Some struggle with lust/pornography addictions, others do not. Some struggle with pride, some with envy, some with lying, some with drugs, some with self-centeredness, some with anger,… but EVERYONE struggles with what comes out of their mouth. Don’t take my word for it, look at James chapter 3:2

For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

We are going to look further at James chapter 3, but first 5 fun facts about the tongue:

tongue print

1) Tongueprints, which are actual tongue imprints, are as inimitable and unique as fingerprints and could be used in the same way to identify and distinguish every person in the whole world. Everyone differs in the size, shape, and number of taste buds.

2) The average person speaks 12,000 sentences a day, with an average of 50,000 words. If we were to put all these words on paper it would be enough to write a 150 page novel every single day.

doctor say ahhhh

3) When you go to the doctor often one of the first things they will have you do is open your mouth and say “ahhhhh”. Why? So they can examine your tongue.  The color of the tongue can tell a lot about a person’s health.
Typically: Pink Tongue = Good Health; Yellow Tongue = Stomach Problem or Fever; White Tongue = Fungal Infection.

healthy tongue
yellow tongue
gross tongue

4) The tongue has a really really rough texture. Maybe not as rough as a cat, but next time you are kissing someone take note of the rough texture of the tongue. You will notice most when you compare it to the smooth texture of lips or the skin of ear lobes.

tongue myth

5)Everyone that remembers their biology class diagrams probably remembers those tongue maps that show how you can taste sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami are different parts of the tongue. Despite the popularity of these pictures, this is largely rubbish. Most people can taste all different types relatively equally across the tongue. LiveScience confirms this but just in case you don’t believe me, you can put it to the test. The front of your tongue is supposed to be used for detecting sweetness… put some salt on the “sweet” receptor and see what happens.  Taste salty? So much for that myth. See ya!

James 3:1-2
Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

James starts off with a warning. Why? He is not discouraging people from spreading or teaching the gospel. He just wants to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are doing it for popularity or to make yourself look better in front of others, you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. You will be judged more strictly for these teachings than any other way you use the tongue.

The second verse just confirms what I first said about the tongue being the impossible part to control.

It’s crazy that this 3 inch piece of muscle can control our whole lives! Actually, I guess it makes sense.

Look at James 3:3-4
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.

In a same way the tongue guides, shapes, and directs the course of our life.

Let’s continue, James 3:5-6
In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

Whoa! Intense words at the end there. But completely accurate and perfect analogy. Think about it. Like a single spark that causes a forest fire, the same thing can happen in our lives. A single white lie can grow and expand until it becomes full-fledged deceit. A harsh word or comment towards a friends can cause a fight that leads to alienation or even a new enemy. A small piece of gossip you start (or help spread) can build momentum like a snowball until like an avalanche it come crashing down on the person whom it centers upon, wrecking havoc on their life.  

tongue of fire

Let’s reemphasize why it is so important to focus on the tongue each and everyday. Read James 3:7-8
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.

Poison! Another great analogy. Why do people use poison rather than a machete or machine gun to kill someone. Because poison is subtle.

In the same way, we often don’t realize the subtle power our words have over people and on ourselves.

And finally, check out James 3:9-12
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

Isn’t it crazy that out of the same mouth (and with the same tongue), we praise our heavenly Father and slander people created in HIS image. Think about that the next time you want to make fun of the way someone looks.  They were created in the image of GOD! How dare you slander His creation, let alone the creation made in His image.

The takeaway message:

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that the tongue is untamable. Rather, know that through the power of Christ we can strive to become masters of the tongue. Focus daily on your words and how you are using them.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:37:
For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

At the end of time, everyone will be accountable for every word they said. Knowing this is a great reminder for me to guard my tongue and follow after the wise words of James 1:19:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.


1 Comment

Cinco de Mayo

Comment

Cinco de Mayo

Why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

cinco de mayo
cinco de mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a deceiving holiday because even though the name is in Spanish, it is mostly celebrated by Americans.

Many of us will go out today, eat some tacos or other traditional Mexican food, and use this “holiday” as an excuse to consume more alcohol than the ordinary day would allow.

On top of that, a few of us (like me) use it as an excuse to dress up.

But how did this day, Cinco de Mayo (which means 5th of May in Spanish [and if you didn’t know that, I feel really bad for you]) come to be?

While you are out celebrating today, ask those around you what today is celebrated for?

 I can bet you will get a lot of “I don’t know” and a few who say, “Mexican Independence day”.

Wrong.

Mexican Independence day is celebrated on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the miraculous victory for the Mexican forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Mexico was having difficulty repaying war debt that was owed to a majority of Europe and so the French army, led by Napoleon III, invaded.  Even though the French army was far superior in numbers and equipment, the Mexican forces were victorious at the Battle of Puebla. Unfortunately, this only temporarily halted the French army, who after receiving reinforcements proceeded to conquer the capital and take control of Mexico. It wouldn’t be for over 5 years that Mexico would regain control.

battle of puebla

This day was traditionally celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as a reminder of how many times Mexico has been invaded by other countries and yet on this day they overcame the odds and were victorious. But now it is more of an American holiday than a Mexican one because the holiday has in large part lost its roots and meaning.

So now you know.

How will we apply what we have learned to our lives?

1 Timothy 2:1-4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Any time there is a cultural holiday or national event it is a good reminder to pray for one’s country or specific cultural group. Even though there is no direct religious significance tied to Cinco de Mayo, we can take time to reflect on God’s blessings on our country.

Praise God for our religious freedom here in the United States. Thank the Lord that we are not being bombed and invaded by other countries wondering if we will even live through the day. Pray for the people in Mexico whose government has been corrupted by the powerful drug cartels and other groups of organized crime. Pray for leaders with unwavering morals to be given positions of power.  Pray that God will help Mexico to eradicate evil forces who kidnap children for sex slavery and seize power through a myriad of violent crimes and terrorism.

So before or after you enjoy your margarita and fish taco, make sure you take a moment to bow your head, praise God for the freedoms we have and pray for the leadership of our country and our neighbors in Mexico.

cinco de mayo drinks
fish tacos cinco de mayo

Comment

Mayweather Vs Pacquiao

2 Comments

Mayweather Vs Pacquiao

Mayweather Vs Pacquiao

Since it is Monday and it’s likely that everyone at work will be talking about the fight from over the weekend, I thought I would incorporate it into today’s devotion.

It was the most hyped up fight I have ever lived through. They are calling it the fight of the century.

First of all why was it so hyped up?

Well, for starters, it was one of the most expensive fights in history.

Here is a breakdown of Mayweather’s earnings from Saturday’s fight:
$180,000,000 (yes that is 7 zeros after the 18, not a typo!!!) just for the fight
That means:
$15,000,000 per round
$5,000,000 per minute
$83,333 per second

Mayweather was making more per second than the average American makes in two years! Geez!

Plus, besides the money it was the battle between two of the greatest fighters in the world.

PacMan vs. Money Mayweather

or how I would view it… the fight of Good vs. Evil

Let me just give you a quick recap of the two fighters:

Manny Pacquiao:
-Humble beginnings from Philippines
-Homeless for part of his childhood
-Boxed and worked to provide food for him and his family
-Even though he was forced to drop out of high school due to extreme poverty he later went back to finish and then pursue a college education.
-Member of the Philippine House of Representatives

 

Floyd Mayweather jr.
-His website is “the Money Team”
-2002 charged with domestic violence
-2004 Convicted battery of 2 women
-Served a jail term for domestic abuse in 2012
-Loves flaunting his money, fame, and power

 

 

 

 

Both lived up to their stereotypes heading into the ring on Saturday night.

Manny Pacquiao:
-Wore a humble T-shirt that read, “Jesus is the name of the Lord”
-Smiles and greets people as he is led to the ring
-First thing he does upon entering the ring is drops to his knees to pray

Floyd Mayweather jr. :
-Wore a flashy, bling outfit showing off “the Money Team”

-Rolled up in a Rolls Royce

-Jumps up and down boasting about how great he is

-Strolled up (trying to look hard) with a celebrity entourage consisting of celebrities such as Justin Beiber (side note, if Justin Beiber is part of your entourage, you are definitely on the wrong side) and the Burger King mascot (Just why???)

So there I was, sitting at home hoping to see Manny knock the socks off of this cocky fool.

Yet Pac-man was unable to knock him out. Worse still, even though Mayweather did nothing but avoid a fight the whole night, they awarded him the victory.

Two seconds before the fight is even over, Mayweather was already lifting his hand up as if to say he was the champion and then proceeded to jump up on the side of the ring demanding them to put the belt on him. The crowd boo’d at his haughty celebration and he yelled back at them. Meanwhile Manny humbly thanked his fans from each corner.

As I drove home that night I wondered to myself (as I do about many things in life), why God?

Why do you let someone as self-centered and money obsessed as Mayweather take home the glory and title of champion. Why not award this humble man who lives to serve you with the win?  Why didn’t you give Pacquiao the victory?

But then I realized, He already did.

1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, we have been given the victory. A MUCH MUCH MUCH more important victory than some silly boxing match victory over death. Through the victory of Christ, anyone who accepts Jesus will share in the victory and reign forever.

Pacquaio already knew this and actually said pretty much the same thing in the interview prior to the big fight.

With millions watching the pre-fight interview he said:

"I want to let know that everything that I have accomplished is God who gave me the strength," he said, "I just want to be an example and inspiration to everybody, how my life before I became a boxer, I used to sleep in the street starving/hungry, and now I can not imagine that the Lord raised me in this position."

He said he and Mayweather both would do their best to give fans the best fight yet. Pacquiao did say that although the fight is going to be incredible that is not the biggest part.

"The most important thing is that I hope that after the fight [I] can have a conversation with Floyd, sharing my faith about God, there's nothing bad about that," he stated, "[On] how we need to believe and how we can inspire more people especially those children that are looking [up] to us."

"There is [a] God that can raise someone from nothing into something, Jesus is the name of the ord" he concluded.

What an incredible man.

Countless times we see good, Godly, and righteous men lose in the world’s eyes, but are winning the eternal battle.

Practically every disciple or apostle was killed for his/her beliefs in the days of the early church.  It may seem as if their opponents won and they lost… but they were not defeated.

1 John 4:4
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

We just have to remember, that sometimes we don’t “win” in the worldly competitions, because that is not what is important. It is important that we are winning the eternal competitions and battles.

1 John 5:4-5
 “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.  And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Pacquiao shows that he is a true champion and is not only winning matches in the ring, but winning eternal battles daily.

So next time the fight is mentioned maybe it will be a good reminder to reflect on such things, and even share your testimony.

 

2 Comments