Saturday, April 29, 2017

How to Incorporate Essential Oils Into Your Routine

I've become more natural the older I get - my daughter calls it health nutty! I discovered the value of essential oils when my aesthetician (sounds fancy but at the time she only threaded my eyebrows) discovered my thinning eyebrows and recommended Rosemary Oil. She said it stimulates hair growth and would reduce the thinning. So I bought it, used it, googled and discovered there is a range of uses for EOs as they are commonly referred to.

Currently, I have a growing collection of essential oils - rosemary, tea tree, lavender, lemongrass, sweet orange, peppermint and most recently citronella and eucalyptus.

I like to make oil mixes for my hair and scalp - so basically I use a carrier oil like olive oil or castor oil, then I add jojoba, grapeseed, and sweet almond and finally add about 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 5 drops of lemongrass essential oil to this mix. This is my magic potion and it lasts for a while. I apply to my hair and scalp with a dropper.

When I feel adventurous, I'll make a different blend and use on my hair and skin.

To repel mosquitoes when I travel overseas, I will now mix a couple of drops of citronella oil with grapeseed oil.

When I make my mask that I use as a shampoo - I add a couple of drops of lavender. My shampoo mask is made of the following: bentonite clay, aloe vera juice,and black strap molasses combined with a few drops of essential oils. I don't typically measure but am usually aiming for a consistency of Greek yogurt. I won't ever go back to conventional shampoo.

My daughter steams her face by adding rosemary oil and sweet orange oil to a bowl of boiling water. It has the additional benefit of clearing her sinuses.

If you suffer from insomnia, a few drops of lavender on the wrists relaxes you and helps you fall asleep.

A word of caution - essential oils are really potent so you don't need to use a lot. As with all products, please read the labels prior to using. These little bottles can last anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

I purchase mine from Sprouts and the Aura Cacia brand is the only one I buy since a portion of the proceeds goes to help women as part of their Postive Change Project. A win on all sides!

Do you use essential oils? If yes, please share how you use them.


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Friday, April 28, 2017

The Last Five Chapters of Judges Reads Like a Modern Day TV Show

In the days when the Israelites had no king, every person did what was right in their own eyes. They were focused on their own "I" nothing else.  When you are so singularly focused on yourself, your needs, your desires it is a recipe for disaster. This post took much longer than I anticipated because I wanted to ensure its accuracy. I am simply retelling the events that transpired; the unpacking will come over time.

Micah's mom sets things in motion by creating an image and an idol for her son after her stolen money is found - a significant amount of 11,000 pieces of silver. By the way, it was Micah, her son that stole her money. (Judges 17)

Micah created a shrine in his house that included this image and idol. Micah then consecrated one of his sons as his personal priest and then a man from the tribe of Levi - the tribe of priests. So Micah had 2 priests - his son and a Levite priest for hire. The men from the tribe of Dan are passing through, recognize the priest's voice and convinced him that he should be a priest to them instead of one man. He likes their proposition and becomes their priest instead. Subsequently, Micah comes to claim his priest but he is outnumbered. The men from the tribe of Dan captured the group from Laish and they end up worshipping Micah's carved image for a very long time. (Judges 18)

This is the first set of events that happened which set the stage for the next happenings.

A Levite takes a woman as his concubine, his legal mistress. She cheats on him and ran away or ran back home to her father's house. Because she is his legal mistress her father is referred to as the Levite's father in law. After four months the Levite goes to fetch her. The man and his father in law have a good time eating and drinking so much so that he is delayed by one day in his travels. He eventually leaves with his concubine on the 5th day, late in the afternoon. As they are trying to make their way back home they stop in Gibeah for the night. They thought Gibeah would be safer since they are Israelites; they are familiar with their ways and would feel more comfortable there. An old man from the town of Gibeah takes them in and is their host for the evening. After dinner some worthless guys surround the house wanting to have sex with the Levite. What sort of place is Gibeah? This goes from bad to worse because of their host, the old man who said, "no instead take my virgin daughter or the concubine." The worthless men insisted on the Levite so he pushes his concubine outside where they rape and abuse her all night. In the morning, she is returned to the old man's house where she dies at the doorstep. Without any thought or concern for her, the Levite implored her to get ready for travel and realizes that she is dead. The Levite picks her up and carries himself and her dead body home. When he gets home he cuts her body into twelve pieces and each piece is delivered to a tribe. (Judges 19)

What madness is this? It gets worse. (Judges 20)

The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin.  That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!

In retelling his account of the events to the tribes of Israel, the Levite does not share how he played a part in his concubine being turned over to the worthless men. The tribe of Benjamin sides with the men of Gibeah and through much fighting and subsequent defeat they are tainted as a tribe because of this heinous act. After Benjamin's defeat at the hands of the other Israelites, 600 Benjamite men are remaining. Since they are tainted, the remaining tribes made an oath that no one could marry these men from the tribe of Benjamin, so they come up with a scheme. First, they found 400 women from Jabesh Gilead after killing everyone (men and women who weren't virgins). But there was still a need. So they devised this plan - go to a festival in Shiloh, and when you see single women dancing grab and run; who you grab will become your wife. (Judges 21)  All of this reminds me of episodes of SVU.

In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25 

This is how the book of Judges ends.
These last five chapters provide graphic detail of what happens when people do right in their own eyes.
The Israelites had no king - this phrase was mentioned at least three times in these last chapters. Each time this statement is made, the subsequent acts are more reprehensible. This was people begging for leadership. The human condition demonstrated the need for a Savior.
They were sincerely wrong - they chose to do what they thought was right but it was clearly wrong. You can be sincere in your beliefs and yet be wrong.
There was a misunderstanding of God's word - which led to idol worship, civil war, fighting, rape, murder, you name it!
Foolish and immoral behavior led to cycles of sin - as evidenced throughout this book. Only God can break this cycle.
Every facet of society was affected; those who we thought would know better did not. Think of Micah's mother, the priest for hire, the Levite with the concubine, or the old man.
None of us are immune from depraved behavior without the Grace of God

We are no different from the Israelites when we esteem our knowledge above God's knowledge as laid out in the Bible. These chapters can be read as a cautionary tale to let us know our craven depths without God in our lives. As I was driving recently, I turned on a road that was recently paved but unlined. I was used to the lines, which indicated which lane I should be in. Without the lines, I found myself initially drifting to the wrong side of the road and then I consciously righted myself. You ever wonder why they are lines on the road? Without the lines to guide us, our natural tendency is to drive wherever we want to create mayhem. God's word is like those lines on the road. Choose to follow.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you. Psalms 32:8

Have you ever read these chapters? Were you convicted, disgusted, shocked or something else? What can you learn from these chapters?

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Samson's Desperate Cry

Desperation - when your back is against the wall and the odds are seemingly stacked against you. That state of becoming unraveled because it seems as if there's no solution. This is where Samson is because he finally gave in to Delilah and he is captured by the Philistines. (Judges 16:20-31)

Samson thought he could do what he always did which was rely on his strength - but this time he was on his own; the Spirit of the Lord was no longer with him; he had the dawning realization that without God, he was a mere weak man. The enemy could torture and humiliate him. In our lives, it could be likened to our diminishing time in God's presence daily. If our habit of spending time with God changes, we won't have the same resources available to us; our weapons won't be sharp. It would be like going into battle with a dull knife - we are not prepared. We delude ourselves until we realize we are in the heat of battle.

How humiliating and painful - a man who was known to be so strong is brought so low. He was bound with brass chains and his eyes were gouged out - adding insult to injury! Our bad decisions can lead to painful humiliation. When you decided not to punish a child for being disobedient and then they turn around and speak to you as if you were equals; when you took a shortcut with a process at work and now the client account is at stake; when you didn't think before you spoke. Opportunities abound for Team Bad Decisions - but you don't have to be on this team.

As a stone grinder for the Philistines, all Samson has is time. It is in this state of brokenness and desperation that he can reflect and realize that the Lord's hand was on his life. It's often in our desperate moments that we gain clarity on the hand of God. It is also in this state that growth happens. For Samson, his hair began to grow again. Hope lives even in desperate situations. Samson received an outward physical reminder that coincided with his change of heart.

His enemies were rejoicing in their "victory". They paid Samson's hair no mind or forgot the importance of his hair. Have you ever had a feeling in a desperate time, where you knew that you were going to overcome but no one else around you could believe it or see it but only you knew? At this point is doesn't matter if you're overlooked because you recognize that your desperate state is not your final state. Being overlooked in your desperation because God is working on you is all right!

They decided to bring Samson out as Exhibit A in celebration to their false god. He's bound and seems harmless, so when he makes a request to stand between two stone pillars, he's able to do so.

I love Samson's last desperate pray - “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.”
This pray says, Lord, I know you and you know me. I know You are and were my Source. Just one more time Lord, one More Time - GIVE ME STRENGTH.  This pray is an acknowledgment of the Greatness of God. Desperation makes us recognize the greatness of God.

At the end of Samson's life, we see his desperation and devotion to God. Then Samson put his hands on the two center pillars that held up the temple. Pushing against them with both hands,  he prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And the temple crashed down on the Philistine rulers and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.

If you are in a state of desperation, may it bring you full circle back to God.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Psalms 42:1,2,5

Are you desperate for God?


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Samson's Women Trouble

The three women in Samson’s life were Gentiles. The first was the woman from Timnah whom he married, the second was the whore from Gaza, and the third was the only woman mentioned by name, Delilah, with whom Samson “fell in love.” According to the Biblical account, Samson’s relations with these women were a means to avenge the Philistines. (Jewish Women's Encyclopedia)

Samson's only wife was a woman from Timnah. She caught his eye one day, and that was all she wrote! He told his parents to do what they could to make this marriage happen. “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.” (Judges 14:1-2)

His parents objected but ultimately acquiesced. They didn't realize that God was orchestrating this connection so that he could ultimately deliver Israel from the Philistines. (Judges 14:4)
Samson's parents were well intentioned, provided guidance. However, they weren't aware of the details of God's plan for Samson's life. They probably thought that since he was a Nazarite that what they were suggesting made sense. But I also noticed they didn't put up a real fight and they went along with his decision. His parents were at the celebration.

For brevity, the following happened (Judges 14:5-19):
On the way to Timnah for wedding preparations, he killed a lion.
On the second trip to Timnah for the wedding, he ate honey from the dead lion's carcass.
At the wedding celebration, he told a riddle based on his exploits with the lion that no one could figure out.
On the fourth day, the Philistines still couldn't figure out Samson's riddle.
The Philistines told her to entice her husband - Samson. so they could solve the riddle.
His wife wore him down until he gave her the answer which she then told to the Philistines.

"If you hadn't plowed with my heifer you wouldn't have solved my riddle." (Judges 14:18) To me, this sounds like a derogatory view of his wife. This would be consistent since throughout his life he didn't seem to have great respect for women; they were only good for one thing. But this statement also indicates that she was more willing to oblige others than her husband. In trying to keep her people happy she lost her husband and ultimately her life. Samson didn't know how to communicate with his wife or manage himself (i.e. he had no self-control).

And then he got angry.

He used his strength to kill 30 men, then went back home to his parent's house. He left his wife.

It's unfortunate, but his wife became the best man's wife without Samson's knowledge. At some point, Samson decided he wants to go back to his wife only to discover she is no longer his. All he has is his strength so one thing leads to another and his wife is killed as an act of vengeance. (Judges 15)

Now he's angry again and when he's angry he's strong.

He escapes, is captured and returned, pretends to be subdued, releases himself and uses, his strength to kill 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. After this eventful start, he judged Israel for 20 years. During the course of his leadership, we meet his other liaisons - a prostitute and then Delilah. We don't know why Samson never married again, but he may have been employing the adage, "Once bitten, twice shy." This was not clear thinking and was not the best choice, as we will see.

So he spent a night with a prostitute and then he fell in love with Delilah. (Judges 16:4-22)

Delilah was more upfront than his first wife - she specifically wanted to know the source of his strength so that she could tell the Philistines. She was honest and did not have his best interest at heart. Samson knew this and probably thought he could outsmart her - but she wears him down by nagging him, literally to his death. Three times he gave her different scenarios because he was a bit of a prankster, and three times she tried. By the fourth time, he finally tells her the source of his strength. Delilah must have been real good because she was persistent. This is when we wonder about Samson's intellect because Delilah was clear in her mission, but Samson seemed to be blinded by lust and perhaps an over-reliance on his strength.

Samson had a gift but he didn't seem to know how to use it wisely. He didn't develop it, he just knew he had it. It was a good way to get out of trouble or toy with people. In spite of Samson's woman trouble, he was able to have the presence of mind to judge/lead Israel for 20 years. He had strength in leadership, God-given strength and a weakness for women. What a combination.

But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself. Proverbs 6:32

What can you learn from Samson's choices in women?


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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Moment Your Momentum Shifts

As a runner, over time I have become keenly aware of the terrain of my local run. I know the dips in the sidewalk, the cracked cement, the mile markers, the hills and the declines. Because I am familiar with the terrain, I can anticipate the impact it will have on my body. I know for sure that I will look forward to declines because they are easier on my body and that I will have to power through as I work my way uphill. I know to avoid uneven pavement so that I don't twist my ankle or fall.  I know to shorten my stride over bumpy roads. In particular, when I'm approaching a hill I steel myself with lots of self-talk while running - "you can do it, use your arms, maintain your form, it's not that far, when you reach the stop sign everything shifts....." and then I tell myself to stop talking and just maintain my form.

There's always a plateau at the top of any incline. The plateau feels the worse physically because you don't start feeling the relief from the hard work of running uphill, yet. But this is the moment your momentum shifts because you keep going; the plateau turns into a decline and you give yourself a pat on the back.

I've run this course a thousand times - the hill always seems bigger when I'm approaching it and so minuscule in retrospect and yet I go through this self-talk each time. These hills will always be a struggle for me for a hill is a hill - it will always require work to get to the top.

The plateaus in life are where many give up. A plateau is an area of relatively level high ground; a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress. The anticipated result has not shown up, yet. You have come through the crucifixion but the resurrection hasn't happened yet. But this is when you power through and maintain your form. This is when you actively wait with expectancy. This is when you don't quit. This is the moment your momentum shifts. Some of our mountains seemed so huge at the time, but in retrospect, we can see them for what they were - bumps in the road that still required some effort to overcome.

After Jesus was crucified, he was dead for three days and then He came back to life. I can't explain resurrection, but what I do know is this -  His death was preparation for His resurrection.

Don't quit. Know that in the plateaus of your life, you are not alone and your momentum is shifting. You're not alone in the plateau, and you're not alone as you run freely with abandon. Trust God. Hold on. Your momentum is shifting.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Do you know when your momentum is shifting?

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Friday, April 14, 2017

They Killed My God on a Friday

Every year, without fail my husband gets very reflective on Good Friday. Somehow the school the Little One attends scheduled parent-teacher conferences today. He said he's not going as, "They killed my God on a Friday," and he does nothing on this day but reflects on the significance of what this day means. This day is sacred to him.

One of the benefits of marriage is you get to see your partner live out their beliefs. The day is called good, but on this day what Jesus went through in terms of suffering was anything but good. But he hung on a cross for our good. He was sacrificed for us, for our sins.  His death made us perfect.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, on which the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is commemorated in the Christian Church. It is traditionally a day of fasting and penance. (source: Wikipedia)

The Good on Friday is equivalent to the suffering we go through in this life that brings us to a Better. Is there good in suffering? Not in the act itself but being able to withstand and grow through suffering is good. To die and to be resurrected is the ultimate good.  Jesus did that.

I'm glad my husband gets reflective every year on this day because it reminds me to also slow down. I'm glad his faith is so personal and yet so real. I'm glad that we're married to each other.

They killed My God on a Friday...but thank God He Rose!!!

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:50-54

Today was for our good.  How do you observe Good Friday?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Samson - The Last Judge #13

If you're anything like me what you know of Samson goes something like this: he was very strong, he had long hair, he appeared stupid when it came to choosing women, Delilah tricked him, and he stands between two pillars and kills the Philistines and himself. This overall view is true, but there is so much more to Samson's story that is never mentioned.

When Samson's story began the Lord had delivered the Israelites into the hands of the Philistines because of their pervasive cycle of disobedience; this time for 40 years. Before Samson was born, God had it in mind that Samson would be the deliverer and judge for the Israelites. Samson's birth was prophetic. An angel appeared to Samson's mother,  whom I've christened Mrs. Manoah since she is never identified by name, and told her she would have a son. This was a miracle because up until that point she and Manoah - Samson's father, could not conceive. The angel said, "Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” There is another instance in the Bible where an angel visited a woman and foretold a birth - the Angel Gabriel to Mary regarding Jesus. Samson was a type of Christ, as a Nazarite to God, a Nazarite from the womb. For, though Jesus was not a Nazarite himself, yet he was typified by the Nazarites, as being perfectly pure from all sin, not so much as conceived in it, and entirely devoted to his Father’s honor. (Matthew Henry Commentary)

Mrs. Manoah recognized that she had just had a Godly appointment and ran to tell her husband. He had slight doubt because he wanted additional information and confirmation on this son. He may have been wondering just how this was going to happen.

Mrs. Manoah believed all along; Mr. Manoah had to be convinced just a little bit more.

The angel appeared again to Mrs. Manoah and this time Manoah gets to meet the angel not knowing that he was in the presence of God. In response to Manaoh's question of how they should raise the boy, the angel reiterated what he told Mrs. Manoah but he never provided specifics on how they should raise Samson. Manoah insisted on serving their guest, but the guest - the Angel tells them to make an offering to the Lord.  "I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord. (Judges 13:16)

Scripture points out that Manoah did not realize at this point that he was conversing with an angel of God which upon reading would indicate that he was leaning in that direction. Everything is lined up to show it's a supernatural event and yet he still did not know he was in the presence of the Lord. God was speaking to him through his wife, giving him clear instruction, having dialogue and only after he miraculously disappeared does Manoah recognize he was in the presence of God. I am challenged and convicted by this passage. Only after one final event, one final blaze of glory, do we finally grasp what God is trying to tell us.

His wife knew all along and upon his realization, Manoah becomes fearful. She told him to relax for if we were going to die it would have happened already. “If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.” Mrs. Manoah provided the encouragement that Manoah needed through her calm faith. This act by Mrs. Manoah is a perfect example of what it means to be a helpmeet.

In the prophecy from the angel to Mrs. Manoah, Samson's role was delineated - he was to begin the Israelite's deliverance from the Philistines. Judges 13:4-5 Mrs. Manoah was given special instructions of what to do during the pregnancy and then Samson's role was stated. He was the last judge but he doesn't complete their deliverance. David came after to complete their deliverance from the Philistines.

Another rarely mentioned fact about Samson is that the Spirit of the Lord was on Samson from a very young age and as we go further into Samson's story, it was the source of Samson's strength. No one could understand how Samson was so strong; perhaps his look did not indicate strength. But yet he was very strong and it was only because of the Spirit of the Lord.

Judges 13 provides an initial framework for the life of Samson. Keep in mind, though he is known for his poor decisions, he too is mentioned as a hero of faith in Hebrews. God wants us to understand, that just like Samson - flaws and all, we can still be used by Him. We don't know everyone's beginning or what God has in store for anyone, but God does, so we should engage a heavenly perspective to see how God may be working in our lives and others.

Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. Isaiah 46:10

Have you had a divine appointment and were unaware? Do you know the promises God has for you? For your children? Are you a faithful encourager to your spouse?


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Friday, April 7, 2017

How Being a Minor Can Be Major

The Judges with short tenures are sometimes referred to as minor judges. To my mind there's nothing minor about them but because their time in leadership was uneventful or nothing much is written about them they have been relegated to this status. In addition to the three mentioned today, the other minors were Shamgar, Tola, and Jair.

After Jephthah, we have:
Judge/Deliverer/Leader #10 - Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10). Ibzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He sent his daughters to marry men outside his clan, and he brought in thirty young women from outside his clan to marry his sons. Ibzan judged Israel for 7 years.

Judge/Deliverer/Leader #11 - Elon (Judges 12:11-12) After Ibzan died, Elon from the tribe of Zebulun judged Israel for 10 years.

Judge/Deliverer/Leader #12 - Abdon (Judges 12:13-15) He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He judged Israel for 8 years.

These judges are like us. Sometimes in life we may feel that what we're doing is unimportant yet during our tenure there's deliverance, peace, growth, prosperity, faith, salvation and it's important no matter how much others minimize it. Mothers wrestle with this feeling especially when it seems that nothing is sinking in. Employees wrestle with this feeling when it seems like they're the low man on the totem pole. This feeling of insignificance is just that a feeling, not a reality. For no matter how insignificant we feel God made you and He said you're significant. You may have ten children or two. You may drive a hooptie or a BMW. You may live in a small house or a mansion. You may be from a large country or a small island. These are the things that create division between us but in God's eyes, the most important thing is you and he wants you, and hopefully, you want him too. All of us have a part to play and everyone is not meant to be a huge star.

But there are huge stars and everyone thinks bigger is better. Even in the book of Judges the characters that are magnified had their share of problems. Big or small we all wrestle with handling what has been given to us successfully. We all struggle, sometimes we're fearful and even doubtful. We've seen it all so far in the book of Judges; the ordinary juxtaposed with the extraordinary.

Regardless of our status let's remember to serve God with what we have; with a heart of humility and obedience. There's a blessing in the ordinary. You matter.

Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Isaiah 43:4

Are you struggling with feelings of insignificance? Remember it's a feeling, not a reality.


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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What's With the Whining?

What's with the men of Ephraim? In Judges 8:1 the men of Ephraim asked Gideon "Why did you fight the Midianites and didn't call us?" Recall that Gideon asked for men to fight and received a huge response - 32,000 men. It's highly implausible that the men of Ephraim were excluded from this call. Gideon handled their question with tact and diplomacy and diffused what could have become an ugly situation.

In Judges 12, they made a similar accusation to Jephthah - "Why'd you fight the children of Ammon and not tell us?" They also threatened to burn Jephthah's house down.

Jephthah seems to be a no-nonsense, cut to the chase kind of guy because he responded by saying, "I called for you and you didn't help, so God helped and delivered me."

Then Jephthah ended this nonsense once for all - he and his men fought against the men of Ephraim. Apparently, the men of  Ephraim were better talkers than fighters for the scripture gives the impression that they were easily captured. Even in war,  the men of Ephraim tried to be coy and evasive but Jephthah was one step ahead of them. He asked the Ephraimites to pronounce Shibboleth knowing that most of them did not pronounce the h due to a regional dialect. (It would be the equivalent of asking someone to pronounce tomato - depending on where you are from you would pronounce it differently). If you said Sibboleth it identified you as an Ephraimite and you met your end that day. 42,000 Ephraimites were killed that day and we never hear of the men of Ephraim complaining again.

According to 'Psychology Today' whining is when the dissatisfaction voiced is trivial or inconsequential and not worthy of special attention. There is a distinction between complaining and whining; whining is worse. Complaining involves voicing fair and legitimate dissatisfaction with the goal of attaining a resolution or remedy. When we voice legitimate dissatisfaction but do so without the goal of attaining a resolution we are merely venting.

The Ephraimites were cowards and chronic complainers who spoke up after the fact. This type makes leadership challenging because as a leader you have to assess the validity of a whiner's complaint and then determine how to address it. Gideon diffused it but Jephthah got rid of it. Instead of whining after the fact, state your case and your willingness to assist, when plans are being made so that it is clear what your motives are and where your heart lies. Complaining and whining especially after the fact can lead to unintended dire consequences. Whining can wear a leader out - think parent and child or team leader and team members. A whiner is not usually viewed in a positive light. As a parent, if you have a child that's a constant whiner, it wears on you (and of course we can't handle our whining child like Jephthah did though a similar thought may run across our minds (but that may just be me)).

There's another interesting lesson here - you are known by how you speak. I have an accent, so when I speak one of the first questions asked is "Where am I from?" This is a loaded question because I'm often not sure how to initially respond.  As humans when we interact with a youngster who speaks well and does not whine we almost automatically wonder who is this child and who are his parents. You want to see the source of the child's behavior; in the same manner, our speech should shine as Christians. As a Christian, you can be clearly identified by how you speak.

Jephthah judged Israel for 6 years - one of the shortest on record, and then he died.

If you are a whiner, sincerely submit this to Lord. This may be a hard habit to change but you may benefit sooner than you anticipate as whining endears you to no one. As a leader, be prayerful and mindful as you determine the best course of action for dealing with whiners.

The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you. Matthew 12:37

Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 
Matthew 7:20

Are you a whiner? If you're a whiner, why do you whine? As a leader, how do you diffuse whining?


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Monday, April 3, 2017

Women of The Word - Kim Cash Tate

This is the initial installment of a new series called Women of the Word. Periodically, I'll reach out to other Bible Teachers and get their insight on why they study the Bible and the impact it has had on their life.

For me, as I study God's Word, write about it and apply it to my life, I was intrigued to hear about others who were doing the same thing. This series was an act of faith for me, as it takes a lot of guts to reach out to women you don't necessarily know (but you've read their works) and interview them. I'm thanking God for allowing this to happen. I hope you are blessed by this series.

Kim Cash Tate

1. As someone who studies the Bible, what are your favorite tools and resources?
KCT: I love the Inductive Study Bible because it has nice margins to write in. As I study the New Testament, in particular, I like to keep handy the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament as well as The Complete Word Study Dictionary so that I gain a deeper knowledge of the meaning. I’ve studied Biblical Greek only at a rudimentary level, but I love languages and love digging deeper into words. I’m always fascinated when our English language doesn’t quite capture the meaning of certain words as originally written in Greek. I also love ancient Bible maps and keep them handy.

2. Old Testament, New Testament or both?
KCT: Most definitely both. We need both as students of the Word and followers of Christ. I love the Old Testament and love that it’s filled with types, shadows, and prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ. We better understand much of what Jesus relates in the Gospels if we know the Old Testament.

3. Why do you study the Bible? What was your initial motivation?
KCT: I was initially motivated to go deeper with Bible study (as opposed to simply reading the Bible) when we moved to a different state and changed churches. I was hearing differences in what the new church taught as opposed to my old church—and these were serious doctrinal differences. I cried out to God because I wanted to know the truth for myself. That’s when He led me to study my Bible inductively, back in the year 2000. I began in the book of Genesis and worked my way through the Bible, verse by verse. Bible study is a way of life for me. It has transformed my life, my attitudes, my thinking, my opinions—everything. And I’ve grown to know, love, and trust God more deeply. It is an ongoing journey and time in the Word is a treasured part of my day.

4. How does inspiration work for you? How do you know that what you're writing or understanding is as if God is moving the pen and you're just the vehicle?
KCT: As I stay filled with the word and seeking the Lord, I know when I’m being moved as I write because it often comes when I’m not writing. I might be in the shower or driving or washing dishes, and words come. It happens all the time, which is why I keep index cards in my purse and all around the house, lol. Also, the Notes app in my phone is filled with things I have to get done but may not have paper and pen handy. I write fiction as well, and I love the journey with God through fiction. I pray as I write, chapter to chapter, often having no idea what’s next. And then it comes to me, and I marvel because I know it’s God. I’m always amazed by the people who tell me they’re impacted by my novels, in terms of their walk with God. And I give Him all the glory because I know it’s Him working through the words I write.

5. How do you handle complex topics that may not align with popular views? (Can you give an example?)
KCT: There are complex topics that I still don’t have the sort of understanding that I’d like to have. But one example of a topic I’ve come to understand better is election, or God’s “choosing” of us. I’ve covered this topic in my YouTube study of Ephesians and in my latest book, Cling. I didn’t cover the topic in order to engage in a debate, but because it was necessary for the subject matter. But in terms of how I handled it…. I like to walk people verse by verse through Scripture and look at what the word actually says. It’s astounding how often it’s mentioned, in the Old and New Testament, and it’s astounding how much it leads to praise to our almighty God.

6. When confronted by the truth of scripture, even for difficult topics, how does it re-orient you?
KCT: I’m re-oriented all the time by the truth of scripture. Particularly in my early days as a believer, fundamental transformations occurred as I studied scripture—my thinking about my identity, my past, my regard for others, the need to forgive, my purpose in life, almost everything was re-oriented. I love the correction that the Word brings. It doesn’t feel good in the moment usually. But it causes me to stop and turn, to repent, to think differently about a situation, a person, a season, whatever is happening. Truth directs and redirects me to the path I need to be on.

7. Tell us a little bit about yourself, current projects you are working on and where you can be found.
KCT: I’ve been married to my husband Bill for twenty-four years, and we have two children—a son who's a sophomore in college, and a daughter who's a senior in high school. I grew up in the DC area and practiced as an attorney for a number of years in Madison, Wisconsin, where we began our careers. But when I came to know the Lord at twenty-seven, He turned all of my plans upside down. I left my career to be home with my children when they were toddlers. And He put the desire in my heart to study His word deeply and to write for Him. I have had several books published and have written for several online sites, including Desiring God. My latest book is Cling: Choosing a Lifestyle of Intimacy with God. I can be found at and on social media @kimcashtate.

8. How do you deal with discouragement and doubt? (Bonus question)
KCT: I cling to God. :) I run to His Word and always, take it to Him in prayer. I am thankful that He meets me in those times and ministers to me. He is a faithful God.


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Jephthah Counts the Cost - the 9th Judge

Jephthah doesn't have an asterisk next to his name for tainted leadership but he is known for a vow that had supposed negative consequences.

Like Abimelech, Jephthah was also a concubine's son. Unlike Abimelech, he was asked to lead after he was removed from living with his family in Gilead as he was considered a man of valor; a great warrior. His family was being attacked by the Ammonites and Jephthah was the chosen deliverer. When his brothers begged him to lead he does so with direction from the Lord.
But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”
“Because we need you,” the elders replied. “If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.”
Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?”
“The Lord is our witness,” the elders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.”
So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the Lord, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders. Judges 11:7-11
When Jephthah becomes the leader, he sent a message to the king of Ammon questioning the need for war. The king replies with a false statement - you stole our land. Jephthah sends a reply which basically reiterated what happened and ends with this firebomb that demonstrated his absolute belief in God:
So you see, it was the Lord, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you? You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us. Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he try to make a case against Israel for disputed land? Did he go to war against them?
“Israel has been living here for 300 years, inhabiting Heshbon and its surrounding settlements, all the way to Aroer and its settlements, and in all the towns along the Arnon River. Why have you made no effort to recover it before now? Therefore, I have not sinned against you. Rather, you have wronged me by attacking me. Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today which of us is right—Israel or Ammon.” Judges 11:23-27
The king of Ammon then ignored everything Jephthah said and decided that it was a good idea to go to battle with a man of God.

It is at this point that Jephthah makes his infamous vow. First, the Spirit of the Lord comes over him as he builds his army. Then he vowed to the Lord, "If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.

My initial thoughts upon reading this were along the lines of "What was Jephthah thinking?" Because he promised to sacrifice and make a burnt offering, maybe he thought an animal would come through the door first. With one child, he may have thought the chances were pretty slim that she would come through the door first, but he had to know after he made the vow that she and anyone and anything would be fair game. Perhaps he wasn't thinking at all, or maybe he became overconfident and thought he could control what would come through the door first. Maybe in his desperation to defeat the King of Ammon, he said the first thing that came to mind without any additional thought.

But maybe it was said as a zealous desire to serve the Lord, regardless of the consequence,  - and this is the view I'm taking for the following reasons:

  • His daughter's response - she wasn't sacrificed on an altar but did not fight against the vow. She said she would honor the vow her father made but she needed some time to get used to her new life. (Judges 11:36-40) "Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites."
  • The vow was made subsequent to the influence of the Spirit. Through scripture, we have seen instances where the actions of being moved by the Spirit don't seem to make any sense to you and I. The Spirit of God has many manifestations from speaking in tongues to great physical strength.
  • Jephthah wasn't being careless when he spoke - he counted the cost and was willing to sacrifice mother, father, daughter, or son if it impacted his service to the Lord. 
  • There was no additional condemnation of Jephthah; as a matter of fact, he is remembered for his faith. (Hebrews 11:32-34)
  • Jephthah had recently recounted all that God had done for the Israelites to the king of Ammon. He was intimately familiar with the God he served. Nothing could separate him from being on God's side. (Romans 8:31-39)
  • He recognized that when it came to serving God, it's a personal decision; it's every man for himself; every woman for herself. You can influence those around you, but you can't make them choose God. Those around him saw the impact of his faith and respected it as evidenced by his daughter's response.
  • We are all called to be living sacrifices - totally consecrated and obedient to God. (Romans 12:1)
  • Whatever the case maybe he said what he said and God honored it - it was a well-pleasing sacrifice to the Lord.
The vow made by Jephthah in Judges 11 is framed by Jephthah's character before and after the vow. He didn't lose his daughter, but he gained no additional heirs because she was a literal living sacrifice for God. When I was growing up, there used to be an expression of "being sold out for Jesus." It was considered a lofty goal. Jephthah's vow gives life to this phrase. It's not a careless or foolish vow but a desire to serve God regardless of the cost. It is clearly possible, and more likely probable, that Jephthah, under the Spirit’s guidance, was using the language of sacrifice symbolically in this context, symbolic of complete and total dedication to the LORD. (

If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. Matthew 10:37

Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. Mark 10:28-30

Are we like Jephthah in our dedication and service to God?


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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

You are Good, Good, So Good

I woke up this morning with this refrain on my heart. I went to bed pondering some of the hard truths presented in the book of Judges struggling with how to write and share.

Even through difficult circumstances, or things that seem incomprehensible to our 21st Century sensibilities, I am emphatically reminded that God is good, good, so good.

The Bible was written for our edification - to help us. It does not contradict itself. When we choose to see things from a heavenward vantage point again it reinforces that God is good, good, so good and that man is not. In spite of our not so goodness - God remains good, good, so good.

Here's the song on my heart today as I ponder the all encompassing sovreignty of God and how he affects my little old life.

King of My Heart

Let the King of my heart
 Be the mountain where I run 
The fountain I drink from
Oh, He is my song 
Let the King of my heart 
Be the shadow where I hide 
The ransom for my life 
Oh, He is my song 

Cuz He is good, good, oh 
You are good, good, oh 
You are good, good, oh 

Let the King of my heart 
Be the wind inside my sails 
The anchor in the waves 
Oh, He is my song 
Let the King of my heart 
Be the fire inside my veins 
The echo of my days 
Oh, He is my song 

You are good, good, oh 

You're never gonna let 
Never gonna let me down 
You're never gonna let 
Never gonna let me down 

You are good, good, oh 
When the night is holding on to me 
God is holding on 
When the night is holding on to me 
God is holding on 
Because You are good, good, oh

You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees. Psalms 119:68

It is my sincere prayer you can say with all sincerity, regardless of your circumstances, that God is good. If yes, just take a moment to type God is Good in the comments. Thanks.


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Tola & Jair - the 7th and 8th Judges

Tola and Jair - Not much is written about them but much can be learned from them. The first was known for his heritage - Tola from the line of Issachar (Genesis 46:13) the second was conspicuous for his wealth - Jair who had 30 sons, who each rode around on their donkeys and they owned 30 towns. They both ruled for approximately the same time - Tola 23 years and Jair 22 years. (Judges 10:1-5) God used both of them to lead Israel and provide peace. It was much-needed peace because they had just survived the rulership of Abimelech.

These two judges don't have asterisks next to their names instead, they both had stable leadership, they both had long tenure, they both seemed to be solid good leaders because after they died, the stability was gone.These were two of the few that were noble and prosperous when they were called, but not all need to be noble or prosperous. In addition to being who they were, they had the Godly character necessary for leadership.

They did their part during their lifetime and when they died the Israelites, left to their own devices, did evil again.

Tola and Jair

Jim and Bob

Andrea and Michelle

Nick and Larry

Sheila and Lisa

You and Me - we all have the opportunity to be used as deliverers; to be used to lead based on our desire to serve and honor God. We can be deliverers to our families, our friends, our co-workers or whatever sphere of influence God has placed us in. And like the Israelites, we may have influence while we are there and then as soon as we are gone, that circle reverts back to their old ways.

After they both died; after 45 years the people did evil again; they abandoned the Lord and no longer served Him so they were oppressed by the Philistines and the Ammonites for eighteen years. They served other gods and when they could take it no more cried out to God. Those gods could not do what God could. Those gods couldn't comfort them, couldn't provide them, did not reward faithfulness- because those gods were powerless. God said, did I not rescue you from all of your enemies (the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites), for you to abandon me. Let your gods rescue you. Judges 10: 6-17

Just typing this breaks my heart!  Because at some point I want the children of Israel to get it just like a parent wants their children to be obedient. Like a human parent, the Lord was grieved for the misery of Israel, yet God was still benevolent towards the children of Israel even though they constantly disobeyed.

God didn't give up on the Israelites and he won't give up on you, no matter how many times you mess up. Be willing to listen to who God has placed in your path to lead and to help you - people like Tola and Jair. Tola and Jair did their part - and that's what we're called to do - our part.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Do you feel God's calling on your life? How do you influence your circle?

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Comfort of a Long Marriage

As I approach my 28th wedding anniversary today, marriage is on my mind.

I remember when we first met.

I remember our long phone calls.

I remember when he proposed and me having no doubt on how I would respond.

I remember planning the wedding.

I remember my mother making my dress and I remember my future Mother In Law bringing anthuriums from Jamaica.

I remember that I was not a nervous bride and that my future husband was actually on time!

I remember riding to the church in an antique limousine.

I remember the bridal party colors (peach for the bridesmaids and turquoise for the Maid Of Honor) - what was I thinking?

I remember the wedded bliss of the first year - we both agree that this was not a difficult year for us.

I remember the excitement around getting pregnant and looking back, recognizing how both of us had no idea how our lives would change. I remember each subsequent pregnancy.

I remember when we purchased our first house that became a home.

There are so much more memories, that happy tears, sad tears and anything in between rim my eyes as I type this.

The 28th year is not like the first year -we've built lives together and there's a history between us. The giddiness is gone which has been replaced by a steadfastness. Right now we're in a bit of a rut - figuring out what's next and where do we go from here. Being an emotional support to our adult children while not forgetting about each other. Determining which new dreams we want to pursue and figuring out if we have the time, resources or energy. Making sure the 14-year-old (whose birthday is on our anniversary) is getting the best of us. We're in a rut, but we're in it together and sometimes glimmers of that giddiness may reappear.

If I had one marriage key to share it would be to make sure that you agree on the big things, the foundational things, your values, because no matter how strong the winds that blow, you won't be shaken. In our rut we still share, and we still try to talk to each other daily. We still hug and remember to kiss when saying goodbye. The hardest part may be the constant re-learning of each other and just recognizing the person in front of you not who they used to be. I'm the energizer bunny in my household - but I used to be more high strung. Sometimes you get so used to dealing with high-strung you don't recognize the calmer version in front of you.

A three cord strand is not easily broken - this was imprinted on our wedding stationary and this has proven to be true these many years. This has been our foundation. We're in a rut but we're not easily broken because the Person at the center of our marriage keeps us together. I don't know what I expected, but this is a good rut to be in - with someone who loves me unconditionally and vice versa. We're coming out of this rut together and looking forward to many more years ahead.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Here's to hoping that you can take comfort in the longevity of your marriage. How many years is it for you? If you're single, do you wish to be married? Why or why not?

PS - We're doing something new and exciting today; I'll share with you later.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Abimelech - The 6th Judge with the Asterisk Next to His Name

If you follow sports, you will notice that if a record is broken in a questionable manner, the person's name is listed with an asterisk. For example - think of Ben Johnson who won the 100-meter dash in Seoul in 1988 and broke the World Record, but was later stripped of his medal due to alleged illegal substances in his body.

Abimelech the concubine's son by Gideon has a questionable status as a judge because God did not appoint him as a leader but he persuaded those around him to make him their leader. He took an opportunity that was never meant to be his which invariably led to his crashing and burning at the bitter end. In short, he sought to rule Israel without proper authority. To eliminate any threats to his rule, he methodically murdered all of seventy of his half brothers minus one - Jotham, the youngest. Working through his worthless and reckless relatives in Shechem, he persuaded the people of that area to recognize him as king.

Jotham escaped, went to a mountaintop and told a parable to the people which basically contains a warning against choosing Abimelech as king. After the parable, where Abimelech is likened to a bramble or a twig - Jotham said -
“Now make sure you have acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelech your king, and that you have done right by Gideon and all of his descendants. Have you treated him with the honor he deserves for all he accomplished?  For he fought for you and risked his life when he rescued you from the Midianites.  But today you have revolted against my father and his descendants, killing his seventy sons on one stone. And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative.
“If you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Gideon and his descendants today, then may you find joy in Abimelech, and may he find joy in you.  But if you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech!” Judges 9:16-19

After the telling of this parable - Jotham ran away and lived in a different town out of fear of Abimelech.

Judges 9 details Abimelech's  battles and how he ultimately met his demise. Abimelech reigned three years - then God stepped in, in the form of an evil spirit which created contention between Abimelech and the people he ruled - the Shechemites. This contention was retribution for what he did to his brothers. Judges 9:22-24 The same division he employed, was ultimately used against him; treachery created treachery.

Another group - Gaal and his relatives, were angry that Abimelech was in charge and wanted to get rid of him but one of Abimelech's faithful men - Zebul, made him aware of the plot. Carnage ensued. (A side note: when you read through some of these stories you may be mortified at the amount and manner of bloodshed; you might even wonder how a loving God could allow such violence. But it's no different than what we deal with today. Humans have free will and make choices counter to the nature of God, and we all deal with the fallout of our choices. The war and the fighting provide a situational context.)

Abimelech and his men were able to burn down the tower of Shechem because he provided specific instruction  - and they were in the process of repeating these same actions in Thebez when a woman dropped a millstone - a huge, heavy rock, on his head. This woman was strong and determined to do her part in getting rid of Abimelech.

Abimelech wasn't raised in his father's house; he was the son of the concubine, not a wife so he automatically had a lower social status. It was considered odious (2 Samuel 16:21), a defilement, a reason to lose your birthright (1 Chronicles 5:1). Perhaps Abimelech had internalized some of these feelings and wanted to prove that he was just as good as his father - Gideon and his seventy brothers. Feelings of worthlessness can you lead you down a path that was not meant for you. Better to look inward and acknowledge those feelings than striking out at those who you blame.

Abimelech portrays a negative example of how a leader is to influence others. He led by force, murdered his opposition, and led in such a manner that even his subjects sought to overtake him. In contrast to the positive leadership of his father - Gideon, Abimelech focused on his own personal gain, hurting many in the process. (

Anti-Leadership Traits
  • Abimelech was divisive
  • Abimelech was punitive
  • Abimelech led by force
  • Abimelech was proud - even in death
  • Abimelech was self-focused

Don't be a leader with an asterisk next to your name -  your leadership is questionable, the title wasn't meant for you, you rule by fear, and those you manage would delight in seeing you gone. We are quick to see these traits in our bosses, presidents, executives, superintendents or others - but let's also look at ourselves. You may be influential like Abimelech, but because the position was not meant for you, your tenure may be shortened and a millstone may fall on your head and knock you out of the game (ouch!). Instead, let's continue to trust that God will place us where we need to be and that He will prepare us so that we are effective leaders. 

In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled. Judges 9: 56-57

When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice.But when the wicked are in power, they groan. Proverbs 29:2

Do you see yourself as Abimelech, Jotham, or the woman with the rock? 


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Important Leadership Traits

The study of the book of Judges has been eye opening for me because of its intensity and detail. There's so much more there than what I remembered.

I wanted to take a break, just to regroup and ensure that we're all following along.

Remember, these are the judges or leaders that God chose to deliver Israel from their surrounding enemies. These leaders were a far cry from what we would call in today's vernacular, 'ideal candidates'.

So far, we've noticed the following:

  • We've consistently seen the breakdown of the family in the constant cycle of redemption and failure of the Israelites.
  • We've seen that the Spirit of God was present, that it moved individuals to action, in a powerful fashion that provided clarity.
  • We've seen that God allowed their enemies to overcome them so that when God stepped in through their leader, the conclusion could only be that it was God.
  • We've seen that human nature is complex, yet not one part of it is a surprise to the God who made us.
  • The tenure for the leaders we have studied so far were all over 20 years. The longer the tenure the greater the stability.
  • Finally, with God's leading, we've seen how these men and one woman were able to lead the Israelites who were not an easy bunch. Gideon had a degree of fear; Deborah had smarts; Ehud was willing; Shamgar was a fighter and Othniel was ordinary; different character traits yet all possessed the traits of leadership. 
The most prevalent and consistent traits of leadership are obedience - a willingness to listen to someone bigger than you and humility - the recognition that the task at hand is bigger than you and deploying assistance from above and below. We've seen other leadership traits in action also: vision, self-awareness, integrity, commitment and a willingness to help others.

John Maxwell lists 5 stages of leadership - position, permission, production, people development and pinnacle. So far the judges we have studied were leaders because of their position - God placed them there; they were appointed. In addition, most had the respect of the people they led.  The Israelites listened and followed their direction - they had a vested interest in following and listening to their leader. The scripture does not go into detail on each judges' life, but many were hailed as great men.

As we study the remainder of the book of Judges, we'll see additional lessons of leadership that we can apply to our lives today.

But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. John 20:26-28

What's your biggest takeaway on leadership from studying the book of Judges? Would you consider yourself a leader?


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Gideon The Mighty Hero, Finally

In the last post, I mentioned that Gideon received a huge response to his request for warriors - 32,000 men to be exact. Well to you and I, that would make us confident, we would start devising plans and strategizing, all with victory in mind. But God said, "It's too much, your army is too large. If you win, you will think it was because of your strength and not my divine intervention." (Judges 7:2-3) Though Gideon had such a huge turnout, it appeared that many of these men were afraid. With God's guidance, Gideon simply said "If you're afraid, you don't have to fight," and 22,000 men went home. Can you imagine, more than half of his initial army were afraid? It's good to ask questions of people to see where your team stands - you might be surprised yet relieved at the response.

The remaining 10,000 were still too many, so God instructed Gideon to use another creative way to separate them - those who drank water from their hands or those who drank straight from the source. It can be viewed as moderation vs. indulgence. Those that were indulgent were sent home, 9700 and the 300 who lapped the water from their hands were Gideon's army. These 300 passed all the tests - they were not afraid and they were careful - just who you want to fight with you. (Judges 7:1-7)

With this army of 300 Gideon wreaked havoc and defeated the Midianites - but first, before the fighting started he needed one more confirmation. God told him if he's afraid (wasn't Gideon always afraid?) to listen in at the edge of the Midianite camp with his servant. His servant, Purah, was a witness who could also confirm God's plan for Gideon. Gideon heard two of the Midianites talking; they were talking about a dream and its meaning. One man told the other the dream meant that Gideon would defeat them.  Judges 7:9-14. Have you ever overheard someone saying good things about you? Or things you didn't even recognize about yourself? It is usually a confidence booster, just like it was for Gideon.  When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” (Judges 7:15)

And just as it was in the interpretation of the dream, it became a reality. Gideon used his army of 300 to create confusion in the Midianites camp - for the fighting started at an unexpected time, in the middle watch, which was between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am. The Midianites were so startled by the blowing of the horns that they attacked each other while also trying to escape. Though they were few, the Israelites used strategy to outsmart the Midianites because they were prepared and the Midianites were not; they also had God on their side. (Judges 7:16-23)

In all of this, Gideon became the mighty hero that God said he would be. He had some missteps along the way - he took revenge against those who wouldn't assist him (Judges 8:1-21), made priestly garments that didn't serve a priestly purpose which ended up leading the Israelites astray(Judges 8:22-28), and he was a womanizer - he had many wives and one on the side (Judges 8:29-31). But in spite of his flaws God used him and his faith is noted in the book of Hebrews.  For the remainder of Gideon's life - about 40 years, the Israelites had peace in the land.

Like Gideon's initial army - sometimes we're too much or we have too much. Too many smarts, too much money, too much pride, too much knowledge. And God is telling us we have to scale back so that he can use us mightily. Or like Gideon also, we're too afraid and God keeps telling us that we don't need to be afraid; I got this!

I see attributes of Gideon in myself. I have to be willing to listen to God to ensure that I have the right people in my corner - my 300, to do what He has called me to do. Sometimes I'm afraid to trust God, but when I am afraid I know that I can rely on Him. I know this without a doubt and it banishes my fear at the moment. It almost does not matter who we are, as long as we believe in God and exhibit the faith in Him that He requires of us.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23

Are you realizing that you don't need to remain afraid? Do you need to scale back so that God can move mightily? Who should be in your 300? What else can you learn from Gideon's life?


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gideon Owns His Identity

Now that Gideon has accepted his assignment, the magnitude of what needs to be accomplished is staring him in the face; he is called to lead and defeat the Midianites. The Midianites who are prolific and plenteous, and make his people quake in fear. God is on his side but how will he do this?

Gideon was fearful yet obedient - he wanted to honor what had been told to him.

It's no wonder the Israelites were always in this cycle of failure - the previous generations seem to have forgotten what God had done in the past; the knowledge of God's faithfulness and goodness was not passed down to the next generation; it was only hearsay and it seemed many chose not to believe. Joash - Gideon's father displayed this trait.

The first thing he did was to follow God's instruction cut down his father's shrine to a false god - Asherah and build an altar to the True God. Now that took some nerve on Gideon's part, so this plan was carried out at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town. In the morning, when this is discovered the people figure out that Gideon is the culprit.They are not happy. They wanted to kill Gideon, but Joash - Gideon's father said if Baal is god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar. At this point, Gideon gains new respect and is also called Jerubabaal - which means let Baal defend himself. Parents and children don't often see eye to eye, but when it came to what was important, Joash - the idol worshipper, defended Gideon. With God on his side, Gideon took a stand against his father.

Gideon is developing more confidence, but he's still wary. Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power. He blew his horn and he's in the process of army building- he gets a huge response (which we'll talk about in the next post).

Then he asked the Lord for a sign -

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, 37 prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” 38 And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” 40 So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew. Judges 6:36-40
This is the story we were told in Sunday School, how Gideon puts a fleece down and tested God. But without the greater context of knowing that God had chosen Gideon, God had given him instruction, Gideon was obedient, and God had placed his Spirit on him, many of us seem to think that we can test God willy-nilly and then rebel against God when he doesn't pass our test. We deal with difficult situations but instead of using God's word as a barometer and an indicator for our direction we rely on our feelings. We test God when we doubt him and the promises in His Word instead of having faith in Him. Gideon had a personal encounter with God, God called him a mighty hero; Gideon turned his doubt into faith and knew that the God that was calling him to do this task was faithful. He may have been timid, afraid and grouchy by nature, but with God's help, he would overcome and God confirmed it to him.

Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power. Judges 6:34

Is there anything in Gideon's experience that is similar to yours? Please share.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Grouchy Gideon Becomes a Mighty Hero - the 5th Judge

Rest, disobedience, deliverance, rest. The story of the Israelites is characterized by a cycle of

failing and then renewal. Once more after a period of rest, the children of Israel were disobedient. At the beginning of Judges 6, we see that their current enemy - the Midianites were thick like locusts - they were plenteous, and all encompassing. The Israelites could not escape from them; they pillaged the land and Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. (Judges 6:1-6) This went on for seven years.

We are now introduced to our sixth Judge - Gideon. He seems to be the most reluctant and timid of all the judges we've read about so far. But in spite of his personality, God uses him mightily to defeat the swarming locusts - the Midianites to the point where he is listed as a faith hero in the book of Hebrews. (Hebrews 11:32-34) Intitially, unbeknownst to Gideon, God sent an angel to Gideon to talk and chat with him. When Gideon meets the angel he is threshing wheat and hiding his harvest from the Midianites. Gideon was afraid of the Midianites, yet wise - the hidden wheat meant his family could eat.

The conversation starts with the angel addressing Gideon as, "Mighty Hero." As far we know Gideon never thought of himself in this way and because he's never thought of himself in this manner, he responded, "If that's the case, why are the Midianites terrorizing us? Why does it seem that the Lord has abandoned us? I am the least in my entire family."

More astounding is the response from the angel. He said to Gideon, "Go in the strength you have and rescue Israel. I am sending you."

Gideon says, "Show me a sign that you are indeed Lord. Also, Don't leave until I come back with my offering." Gideon may have begun to realize that this was not an ordinary man he was speaking with. Also, recall from your Sunday School lessons that  Gideon needed lots of signs from God for confirmation.

Gideon returns with a goat meat, broth and biscuits! The angel instructs Gideon to place the meat and the bread on a rock and to then pour the broth over both. Then the angel places his rod on the meat and bread and a fire consumes the meal and disappears. This supernatural act rendered Gideon momentarily speechless and more afraid for he realized that he just had a face to face conversation with God.

The Lord reassures him that he need not be afraid, and he will not die  (Exodus 33:20) as was expected, so Gideon built an altar to the Lord at that spot and referred to the Lord as being his peace - Jehovah Shalom. (Judges 6: 7-24)

Instead of fear, Gideon now had a sense of peace regarding his new assignment. He no longer had to be afraid. God had given him a new identity. What God calls and who you are can be two entirely different things. In the rest of Gideon's story, we will see that he lives up to the moniker that God gave him.

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you! Judges 6:12


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