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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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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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Mayweather Vs Pacquiao

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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.

 

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