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Gift Giving

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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!


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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.

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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.

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Samson

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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.

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Gideon

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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!

 

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Kylie

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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.

 

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Women's World Cup Finale

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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


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WPBS Farewell Ball

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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...
 


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Kylie

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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

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The Tongue: The Untamable Beast

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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.


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