Reunion Values: We Want People to Belong Before They Believe | 3-13-2022

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 9/3/2022

Sermon Prep

This of the 3 sermons I taught on Reunion Church‘s values, was the most difficult to pen. I really didn’t like that I couldn’t match theme and text. Meaning, I just couldn’t for some reason or another connect the two when the other sermons were so seamless. The pieces were present, but it still puzzled me.

Usually when a disconnect like that happens, it throws me off in the performance of preaching. If I don’t quite get it, neither will the audience. The orator has to understand first and I just didn’t give my self enough time. Preaching back-to-back weeks is tough, especially when you’re unsure of what the layout needs to look like. Either way, here’s the notes of what I ultimately shared:

Sermon Notes

Opening

  • Reunion Values -> the why behind the what
  • Tonight, we’ll end our series w/ Value 7

Intro

  • Where did you belong in high school?
  • Kyle Story
  1. Alone and sat by himself.
  2. Befriended him at lunch.
  3. Created belonging with his own group.
  4. Developed trust to share my faith.

Transition To Main Point

  • Like Kyle and I, Jesus created belonging before people believed.
  • Belonging changes hearts, belief cements the change.
  • Belonging is the group assurance that you can be your authentic self.

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all things that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more believed because of his word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is indeed the savior of the world.”

John 4:39-42

Main Point

  • Jesus invites us to belong before we believe.
  • Here at Reunion Church, we do the same.
  • We want all people to belong here, even before they believe in what we do here.

Why It Matters

  • A lot of church world is believe, then belong.
  • This is just putting the cart before the horse.

Information and choice doesn’t transform a person. People transform based on where they find their identity.

Jessie Cruickshank

Where you find your identity is where you belong. Where do you belong? Let’s pray.

Final Thoughts

I can be very critical of myself and my own work. In my heart, I know this isn’t the worst sermon in the world. It gets the job done. But I do obsess over how to craft the best message when I’m preparing and speaking.

When it’s not up to my high bar, I’m a little disappointed. Yet my performance isn’t why people tune in and hear the message in the first place. They need and desire God. I just need to step aside and allow that to happen. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

Reunion Values: We Train and Send Out Excellent Leaders | 3-6-2022

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 9/3/2022

Sermon Prep

In early March, I was flying on a kite. I just had my first date on the 4th with my future wife. I had been recently promoted at work. I’ve never felt more fit in the gym training for USS Nationals, which was a Strongman show in June. Nothing could be better.

That positivity and sense of peace really poured into everything I did. Especially here with this sermon. It was a less personal teaching and more knowledgeable about the discipleship process we do at Reunion Church. Not necessarily the most invigorating, pulse-pounding message yet one that’s needed to balance those ones out too.

I can’t recall the prep all that much given I was feeling so good. All I could think about was my girlfriend. So this prep felt like a breeze and went well. Anyways, here’s my notes from that message:

Sermon Notes

Opening

  • Reunion Values -> the why behind the what
  • Tonight, we’ll continue w/ Value 6.

Intro

  • What is an excellent leader?
  • Like who? Any examples?
  • Cory teaching creative content role:
  1. He selected me based on potential
  2. He schooled me in his own process
  3. He sent me out to make it on my own

Transition To Main Point

  • Jesus trains and sends out excellent leaders. To create legacy is to build leaders.
  • His Leadership Process:
  1. Chose Peter (Luke 5:1-11)
  2. Chose the 12 (Luke 6:12-16)
  3. Sent the 12 (Luke 9:1-6)
  4. Sent the 70 (Luke 10:1-3)

[Jesus] had started his ministry by exposing some curious converts to the nature of ministry. This was the four-month come and see period. It was followed by the ten-month come and follow me training period, when those curious converts became established disciples. The third phase of training, come and be with me, was a twenty-month segment when those established disciples were transformed into equipped laborers.

Bill Hull,  Jesus Christ, Disciplemaker (P. 198-199)

Main Point

  • Like Jesus exemplified, we too must train and send out excellent leaders.
  • Why? Because life with God is a shared experience, not selfish enlightenment.
  • Jesus led his disciples, so that they could eventually lead their own.
  • How? Be led by a personal teacher and then lead a teachable person. That’s it.

Why It Matters

  • Jesus led personally and leads us to persons who need his care.
  • He could do everything himself, but he invites us into the process (i.e. Adam, Moses; Jonah).
  • Don’t just call for change, be the change.

Final Thoughts

For some reason, I remember more about the success of the small group that followed this sermon than the actual sermon. I loved learning under Hannah Morrison and how she navigates the small group setting. I hope she knows just how good she is at small groups and being a leader who can teach us.

As far as my preaching performance, it was good. Nothing extraordinary, yet that’s alright. Sometimes after the last one being deeply touching, the next doesn’t need to be that way.

We’re not here to play heartstrings, but submit to God’s word for us today. I’m just the translator in that process. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

Reunion Values: We Befriend and Uplift Those the Rest of the World Has Given Up On | 1-30-2022

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 9/3/2022

Sermon Prep

Re-reading old journal entries of mine during this month, I was going through a lot. I was tired and exhausted from the pace of life. My mind was bogged down and muddled.

I had a well-earned promotion coming up at work. The end of the fiscal year was within 30 days, so I had my best month-to-date in January. Producing 3x my average sales performance, which was astounding but grueling.

I was trying the dating scene going back-and-forth on the various apps trying to find connection. It didn’t really work. A couple conversations, but nothing beyond that. I was also mustering the courage to ask out my now wife on a date, but wasn’t ready yet.

Ministry was tiring too. We had survived the holidays and were moving into the slow season of church. My body ached too from training for USS Nationals, which is one of the biggest Strongman shows of the year. All-in-all, I was worn out.

I remember that David Margosian was almost too sick to teach the first value in our sermon series (2), so I began prep for it. I think he had a cold or something. At the last second, he said he was good to go and taught but I had already worked some things out. I took those ideas and scattered them throughout this message and other messages in the series.

Ideas like “Church isn’t just 4 walls per se, but is with those we walk with day-to-day.” or even the simpler “Jesus always went after the willing, not the worthy.” There were a lot of interesting, but untapped concepts from those notes. I especially liked this one:

The Kingdom of God is a people, not a place… Artificial growth is committees, but organic growth is communities… Too many of us are focused on ministries and not the mission of Jesus. We would rather have a comfortable life, instead of a life that crafts godly character.

That was all from that incomplete sermon and more, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Focusing on this though, I really enjoyed the prep because it was similar to our first value as a church. So I took those previous concepts and tweaked them for our second church value, which is the one I taught on this night (3). Here’s what I actually taught and my notes for this sermon:

Sermon Notes

Opening

  • Reunion Values -> the why behind what we do
  • Tonight, we’ll continue w/ Value 2

Intro

  • Therapy day is the one time a month I engage with my feelings because I’m a robot.
  • Therapy -> First Memories
  • Jack (One-ear, Transformers, etc.)

Transition To Main Point

  • Everyone is an outsider somewhere, but not when we’re with God.
  • For every group that excludes, God’s always including you.
  • No matter where you go, you will always be a child of God.

We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us- not because we have deserved his love and not in spite of our undeserving; not because we try and not because we recognize the futility of our trying; but simply because he has chosen to love us. We are children because he is our father… before we loved him, he loved us.

Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat (P. 135)

Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV) + Mark 10:13-16 [small groups]

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:36-38

Main Point

  • 2nd Value = We befriend and uplift those the rest of the world has given up on.
  • Jesus befriends and uplifts outsiders that the world gave up. We dare to care for those outsiders.
  • Find the people that don’t belong anywhere and include them in your life somewhere.

Why It Matters

  • If Jesus in his greatest loving act brought you in when no one would, then the least you can do is befriend the lonely and uplift the unloved.
  • Jesus saw everyone and we need to see them too.

Transition Out

  • I’m thinking about a lot of friends who used to be alone, but I could go on-and-on about that.
  • Who can you befriend and uplift?
  • Find them and friend them.
  • This is what Jesus did and does.
  • Do likewise.

Final Thoughts

This was personal for me. I really believe in this value whether or not I’m apart of this local church. It means something. To be there for the destitute. The downtrodden. The outcast.

I think that conviction was conveyed in the delivery of this sermon. I recall the emotions I felt from the audience in the room. They had a visceral connection to the message I believe because of God’s great love for them. Shining through every letter of this sermon.

I hope they still know they’re loved. I know I need the reminder every now and again. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. https://youtu.be/H-wNCQScPws
  3. https://youtu.be/bdcNl6JfLEk

Grace Talk: Who is the Holy Spirit? | 10-17-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12/23/2021

For a guy like me who is wired to love those heady knowledge-based sermons, this was a tough one to crack and figure out. As a part of the Grace Talk series from Reunion Church, this message was geared towards the role of the Holy Spirit in the grace process itself. How is the Holy Spirit himself involved in how we access grace? What does that relationship look like? This sermon was meant to answer those sorts of questions before we went into our hour of small groups.

Although from that premise, it should’ve been straight forward and yet when it comes to the topic of the Holy Spirit it’s never straight forward. In hindsight, it was good that I taught this one because I’ve done a lot of digging into this subject several times on this blog. Like one of my more popular posts on the Christian Essentials from a while back. Either way, over the years I’ve chipped away at the mystery that is God and all encompasses that reality.

Sermon Prep

For this sermon and for the sake of my audience, I had to take the most complicated idea in Christian thought which is the nature of God and break it down into a 15min message. Ha, no pressure. It’s not like making a mistake mid-message could lead the congregation to believing in blasphemy or heresy if I messed up. No big deal, right?

So how did I pull this off? Well, I flipped and paged through several super useful resources. A few of those being multiple key books:

  1. Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition by Wayne Grudem
  3. Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
  4. Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue
  5. Christian Theology 6th Edition by Alistair McGrath
  6. The Mystery of the Trinity by Vern S. Poythress
  7. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul
  8. The Forgotten Trinity by James White

Now that’s not even mentioning my online research either, but we don’t have time to discuss every footnote in my sermon. The point is I binged on understanding the Holy Spirit, so that my audience could get some key soundbites about him for the Sunday night discussion. My aim was to condense hours of prayer and study into key truths that could be shared in seconds.

I think I did fairly well, but the outcome is always up to God and his audience. I’m just the temporary bridge between both when I’m up there. Regardless of all of that background, here’s what I eventually came up with that night jotted down in my sermon journal:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • Recap last week
  • Focus on who is the Holy Spirit and how he initiates grace.

Fax Machine Story

  • New job at Staples
  • Fax bank info to boss
  • Sandy prints floor plans for Texas Longhorns
  • Jake faxes info for me.
  • No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get it.

The Trinity Explained

  • God’s nature is similar to a fax machine.
    • If you think you know everything about God, then you probably don’t know much.
  • Here’s what we know (2):

1) God is three persons.

2) Each person is fully God.

3) There is one God.

  • God is greater than us in every way.
    • Here’s a quote of God describing himself:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (3).”

  • Even though God is beyond us in scope, the Spirit of God is the soul of the church.

“The fact that the Spirit indwells all believers, and provides the ground of our supernatural unity, results in true Christian fellowship-a sharing that knows no bounds (4).” – James White

  • God’s triune nature is the mystery of unity. Likewise, the church is the same.

Car Story

  • When it comes to money, I’m a hard-core saver and hate spending money.
  • Ben knows how to do the work, so that the car runs smoothly.
  • Like Ben when it comes to cars, God the Spirit does the work because he knows best and we just enjoy the benefits of grace.

The Holy Spirit Powers Grace

  • To understand the Holy Spirit, it’s best to know what he does.
  • In the grace process God the Father compels us to fascination (i.e. Head + Wonder), God the Son compels us to compassion (i.e. Heart + Will), and God the Spirit compels us to action (i.e. Hands + Works).
  • Grace is powered by the Spirit of God and leads to spiritual formation in our lives.

“Through the Holy Spirit we come to know Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s power we live and grow in Christ, in the service of the king and in the fellowship of his church (5).” – Paul E. Little

  • Unlike the law where people hide behind veils of shame, God the Spirit gives us all of his grace all the time.
  • Because God does the work, he cares more about who we are and where we are in relation to his grace.

“We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people he wants us to be (6).” – Francis Chan

  • For Christians, where we are in relation to God’s grace matters most.
  • For Non-Christians, who you are matters most to God because he doesn’t know you yet.

Outro

  • All it takes is faith and humility to access all of the Spirit of God’s grace.
  • All it takes is humility and faith to know God and be known by him.

Final Thoughts

Given what had to be covered and the extensive work put into this one, I’m quite proud of the results. For more of my thoughts on this message, make sure to check out the Reunion Church Podcast on YouTube. With that said, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition, P. 273
  3. Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)
  4. The Forgotten Trinity, P. 151
  5. Know What You Believe, P. 128
  6. Forgotten God, P. 148

The Thief and the Cross

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4/10/2020

In light of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to take some time to write about the thief on the cross. By thief on the cross, I am referring to one of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus. One became a believer, while the other did not. So for now, any references to the thief on the cross are towards the thief that became a believer.

Why Were People Crucified?

Bart-d-ehrman-2012-wikipedia
Bart D. Ehrman, PhD | James A. Gray Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This thief on the cross is an interesting figure in the historical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. He most likely would have been a Jewish man due to a number of factors like his belief in one God (2) and his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of Heaven (3), along with his punishment. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, points out the uniqueness of the crucifixion and why only a certain group of people would receive this form of punishment when he writes

Crucifixion was reserved for special cases. But there were lots of special cases. Two of the most common were low-life criminals and enemies of the state. These are two very different matters – they are not the same thing… This was especially the case – I reiterate – for enemies of the state. Rare exceptions might be made for low-life criminals – escaped slaves, horse thieves, general riff-raff who did not matter to anyone in power (4).”

In other words, the two thieves were most likely crucified for either stealing something very valuable like horses as their names would suggest or for being insurgents that were sworn enemies of the state. Regardless of why they were hung in the first place, these two men died alongside Jesus and witnessed His final moments before His death. This will be the bedrock for the rest of this blog-post moving forward.

Artistic Depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion

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What is also of note is how artists depict where the three men are in different works of art. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens and Titian seem to have placed the thief on the cross to the right of Christ, while the proud thief is to His left. This deliberate creative choice of putting the thief on the cross beside the right hand of God is significant.

In both Judaism and Christianity, to be on the right hand of God was a sign of God’s “ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture (5).” We can see this in many places in the Bible such as Psalm 110:1b where it says “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To be fair, there are other works of art like Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (6) that appears indifferent to where each thief is in the picture and is rightly so focused on Christ Himself.

Likewise, James the brother of Jesus once wrote “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (7).” It would seem that in the spirit of this passage and the current state of the thief on the cross, that Rubens and Titian visually depicted what was spiritually taking place inside this thief’s soul. That as the thief on the cross was up there next to Jesus, his heart and mind were radically changed. A series of events that brought this man to a point of understanding.

Things like Jesus asking for the forgiveness of His executioners (8), soldiers dividing His garments by way of casting lots, and those passing by railing blasphemous statements towards Christ in a taunting way (9) all occurred before the thief on the cross had a change of heart. In the Gospel of Matthew (10), it even records both thieves mocking Jesus until a certain point where only the proud thief is left to mock Jesus. Sometime between both thieves mutually mocking Jesus and the proud thief continuing to mock Jesus, was there a sharp change in attitude from the thief on the cross.

A Change of Heart

What happened so suddenly that a thief dying on a cross would suddenly have a complete change in how he perceived Jesus? I’d argue it is a combination of moments, but for now we will only focus in on one aspect. What Jesus said and how He acted during this whole ordeal.

Gamelin2_t01
Anatomical Crucifixion Sketch | Jacques Gamelin, 1779 (12)

Just for a little more context, their punishment by way of crucifixion was not so nice. In fact, it was one of, if not the most painful form of torture at that time. According to Maslen and Mitchell’s article written in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (11), crucifixion had many cruel ways of ending one’s life.

Some of those causes of death may have been, but are not limited to acidosis, arrhythmia plus asphyxia, cardiac rupture, hypovolemic shock, and so on. Death by crucifixion was a brutal, yet extremely prolonged way to die. For some, they died in a matter of hours. For others, they died in a matter of days.

I believe of the three events that took place before the thief on the cross had a change of heart, the moment of Jesus forgiving His executioners had the most impact on the thief. Christ’s response showed the thief a direct contrast to the way He lived His own life. A seed of regret was planted.

Jesus forgave those that were killing Him. The two thieves probably hated those that were crucifying them. Jesus was known as an exorcist and a teacher who wanted to help the poor and sick. The two thieves were most likely men that spent the majority of their lives only helping themselves.

As if the name was any indication, these thieves were probably selfish. Christ was selfless. The thieves died for crimes they committed. Jesus died for crimes we committed. For the thief on the cross and from his perspective, this man was different in almost every single way from him and the other thief. They deserved this death, but Jesus didn’t.

This strong distinction between a thief and the giver of eternal life is a drastic black-and-white difference. One died for taking that which was someone else’s, while the other died for giving all that He had for others. This I believe is what changed the thief on the cross from mocking Jesus to defending Him in front of everyone.

By everyone, I mean everyone. Gentiles and Jews. Pharisees and Roman soldiers. Family, friends, neighbors, and so on. Everyone there at the crucifixion knew of or had heard of these three crucified men and were probably shocked watching the thief on the cross have a change of heart. A thief for the first time encountering something he had never seen before: unlimited love in response to unbridled hate. The love of God in reaction to the darkest of human deeds. The Gospel happening before his very eyes.

The short story of the thief on the cross ends in a profound way. Luke chronicles the rest of that story when he writes

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise (13).””

In response to the thief’s change of heart and his humble demeanor, God gives Him grace. A grace that surpasses all understanding. This is the thief and the cross. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Luke 23:40
  3. Luke 23:42
  4. https://ehrmanblog.org/why-romans-crucified-people/
  5. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/
  6. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/41.1.31/
  7. James 4:6-8b
  8. Luke 23:34
  9. Luke 23:35-37
  10. Matthew 27:44
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788/
  12. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/gamelin_home.html
  13. Luke 23:40-43

Deception Part I: After An Innocent Mistake | Mark Cribari

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

In this first segment of a three-part series on deception, I would like to focus on where it all began: in the beginning. Since the Bible clearly tells us in multiple places that Satan was the source of the very first lie spoken through an animal in the Garden of Eden, we have our starting point. Then, we will follow the progression of deception from the serpent to separation to “The Secret” in parts II and III.

The Genesis record reveals that every physical thing God made in its original state was declared “good” in the opening two chapters. The only exception to this was loneliness as described in Genesis 2:18, but then again, the LORD wasn’t finished creating at that point. The results from His short surgery (v21‭) included the beauty of ceremony (v22), poetry (v23), unity (v24), and shameless transparency (v25). Even verses 16‭-‬17 imply God’s love by the mere fact that He warned the first man within His first command. Then things took a turn for the worse in chapter 3 when doubt was introduced by that serpent of old (Revelation 20:2).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

One of my favorite aspects about the Bible is that God used progressive revelation to continue revealing to us things He wanted us to know. What amazes me is that He was also able to use different types of literary genre to do so like historical narratives, poetry, prophecy, and even letters. A good example of this can be found in John 8:44 where Christ gave us more insight about the devil than Moses did in Genesis 3:1 when Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Details like this should be helpful as we take a closer look at the subject of deception throughout Scripture.

Since the Gospel according to John and Genesis are both in the genre of historical narratives, it becomes almost seamless to use Scripture to interpret Scripture since that literary style deals primarily with people, places, things and events. It could get interesting when we use other styles to help us understand this historical event and possibly assist in answering some of the questions I have for you as well. Now before I get to these specific questions so you can come to your own conclusions about the first deception and, at the same time, test what I’m saying based on the facts presented (1st Thessalonians 5:21), I’d like to remind you about the difference between explicit and implicit observations.

Explicit facts are those that are usually obvious to most people whereas those that are implicit would be those truths that are implied by the text within its context. I’m clarifying this distinction so that you as the reader know that if the things I share from this point forward are not supported by the text and the context, you’re welcome to throw them out as assumptions. There is a phrase used by many to describe this as “chewing the meat and spitting out the bones.”

Now there are two reasons why I titled this “After An Innocent Mistake.” First of all, this brief conversation with the serpent reflects the purity and innocence Eve had when she made the mistake of trusting that what he said could be the truth, even though this creature was planting doubt in her mind and denying what God said to her husband in chapter 2. Secondly, the terrible consequences of sin took place only after they both broke God’s original command. At this point, I’d like to present you with some inductive questions to consider in regards to when Adam was actually with Eve during this account.

First off, working from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, why do Genesis 3:1 and Genesis 3:4 record that “the serpent said to the woman” instead of saying to them (i.e. Adam & Eve) if her husband was there when this initial conversation took place? Why do most people assume that “her husband (was) with her” during the serpent’s deception in the verses previous to verse 6 since we don’t know “when” Eve “saw, took, and ate its fruit” in Genesis 3:6?

Why does the wording in Genesis 3:6b, “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” appear to be an afterthought as if it could be a separate event from her choice? The Holy Spirit confirms a fact about this event in 1st Timothy 2:14 when it is written, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” If Adam was there when the serpent lied to Eve as many people believe, wouldn’t “they” have been deceived instead of the strong clear wording of 1st Timothy 2:14? It’s safely been said that Scripture interprets Scripture, so we can’t ignore this New Testament insight into Old Testament history.

Since all the pronouns turn plural in Genesis 3:7-8 after Adam ate (e.g. them, they, themselves, up to the phrase “Adam and his wife”), why did Adam blame her instead of the serpent? As well as in Genesis 3:12 when addressed by God and she then blames the serpent in the singular when she admits in verse 13, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” instead of including her husband if he was actually there when she was lied to? When Paul expressed his concern in 2nd Corinthians 11:3, why didn’t he include Adam when he wrote, “as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness” if her husband was actually with her during moment that lie was delivered by the Devil?

Genesis 3:17‭ reads: Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of the serpent…” Oh, wait a minute. He didn’t say that at all! Adam’s curse and consequences were because he listened to his “wife.” Don’t you think this would have been a great opportunity to clear things up for us since “God is not the author of confusion?” (1st Corinthians 14:33a). God says what He means and means what He says. Nowhere in Scripture does He say nor infer that the serpent said to the man or that Adam heard from the serpent.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Finally, when reading through Romans 5:10-21, I find it interesting that the Spirit of God holds Adam solely responsible for disobeying the LORD’s command and bringing sin into the world instead of holding both Adam and Eve liable for it in phrases such as “through one man sin entered the world,” “those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam,” “by the one man’s offense many died,” “through the one who sinned,” “the judgment which came from one offense,” “by the one man’s offense,” “as through one man’s offense,” and lastly “as by one man’s disobedience.” My only question at this juncture is why do some sermons and many pieces of art depict both of them together in the garden with the serpent when the source material, Holy Scripture does not seem to support it? For more on this, click here and this here.

Although I’d prefer not to be dogmatic about this, I do believe that it’s important to understand the true circumstances of that first deception to the best of our ability in light of 2nd Corinthians 2:11 which warns us that “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” That last word has also been translated “schemes” and this brings me to my final thought. Could it be that the progression of the devil’s plan as recorded in Genesis chapter 3 to destroy Adam and Eve by introducing doubt, denial, deception, and disbelief of God’s loving warning in Genesis chapter 2 actually began with the strategy of separation? If the old adage, “there is safety in numbers” proves true, then his scheme worked if Satan intentionally waited for these two to be apart from each other before he approached the weaker vessel (1st Peter 3:7). Stay tuned for part two in this series on deception in the future.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/adam-and-eve/was-adam-with-eve-when-she-spoke-to-the-serpent/
  3. https://www.gotquestions.org/amp/Adam-with-Eve.html

Leaving So Soon?

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

There is an epidemic in the church. This brewing problem has been growing exponentially since the 1950s when the youth culture truly took root in the West. It was a time of peace after WWII when the war for the hearts of the next generation flourished under the guise of prosperity and progress.

Whether that be the technological advancements, the race relations that led to the Civil Rights Movement, or the sexual revolution that changed the way we process perversity versus pleasure. This youth culture, Gen Z especially, has been in the process of a mass-exodus of sorts in fleeing the church to join the culture. According to various studies, “70 percent of youth stop attending church when they graduate from high school. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church (2).” As my good friend Andrew Morrison keeps saying, “we are on the verge of a second 1960s counterculture revolution” and this revolution is going to get ugly.

Now who exactly is leaving and why are they leaving so soon? To be precise, the youth from middle school to college are leaving the church. By ‘the church’ I mean that as both Christianity specifically and religion in general, as the youth embrace the pressures of society to conform to the inward and outward expressions of sin. This grand departure is happening primarily in the Western part of the world (i.e. North America and Europe), which is due to a number of circumstances.

From personal online investigation to public inquiry with others in this age range, I have whittled down the leading reasons as to why the youth are leaving so soon to 5 options. These 5 options include a) unable to freely question, b) not enough reason to believe in God beyond morally therapeutic deism (3), c) not challenged or tested to do otherwise in their way of thinking, d) objective truths have been exchanged for relevant subjectivism, and e) other undisclosed reasons that are specific to the individual. Regarding the last option for instance, the problem of suffering has caused a lot of people to leave because of both immense personal doubt and sorrow, along with the theological implications over any given situation of suffering (natural disaster, miscarriage, rape, etc). Another notable example for the final option would be the controversial views of the church as it is both pro-life and for traditional marriage, rather than pro-choice and in support of non-traditional forms of marriage.

This ‘generation gap’ of the youth rebelling against the truth has been an issue that has always been present within the church as it lies in direct conflict with the culture and its way of thinking. For the youthful in particular, one of the greatest choices one can make is whether to go with the flow downstream (i.e. the culture) or go against the flow upstream (i.e. the church). Once one chooses either option, they must therefore reject the other for we are to be in the world, but not of it as Christ’s church (4).

The question remains: how do we avoid leaving so soon or if we have already left, how do we come back home to Christ and in fellowship with His church? As I have thought upon this topic, I believe the answer lies in one of my favorite books in the Bible: the book of Colossians. It is here where I think the young believer, such as you or someone you know, can find solutions to this inveterate problem in the church.

Just as the prodigal in Luke chapter 15 left to indulge in sin and was still a son of his father, we too are sometimes in a state of being a prodigal, but we do have the hope of always being a child of God as believers. There is always the hope that no matter how far a believer temporarily runs away from God, they still have the opportunity to turn back and ask for forgiveness. In the book of Colossians, we find 5 factors that will guide us on the straight and narrow or for those of us who have already left so soon, a way back home. The first of these factors is a matter of the mind.

1) Protect Our Minds

“I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument… See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (5).”

In this day and age, the battle for the mind has never been a more intense struggle for the youth. Whether we acknowledge it or not the Enemy, the World, and even our own sin nature desire to corrupt our minds to the point of permanent decimation. Do not give in to those temptations. Resist and fight back by protecting your mind as you hold fast to the truth of Christ’s victory at the cross and pray for the LORD to do a work within you.

Know what Jesus died and rose again for in the first place. Know the truths of Scripture. Most importantly, stay on guard spiritually. This is where apologetics is key for personal devotion in the believers life. Apologetics is the sledgehammer of evangelism because it destroys strongholds of skepticism hiding in our hearts, but also acts as a chisel of continuous refinement as we seek to be more Christ-like as believers. Apologetics protects the mind, but prayer solidifies that defense like nothing else.

By knowing the truth and consistently learning to be better equipped mentally, the believer is that much more ready for the battle of the mind. Nothing can stop the truth and if Jesus is the truth (6), then we can have full assurance in times of doubt that what we believe is worth fighting for in the end both mentally and spiritually. Fight off the mental warfare of this world system that is intent on crushing you.

Get up and brush off those books. Be a student of God by protecting your mind with the truths of God’s Word and His glorious Creation through the avenue of apologetics, while at the same time constantly praying for God to shield your mind from what knowledge cannot protect you from. We live in the information age and we should act like it for once as the church. The best offense is a better defense. Be an apologist, not an apostate. Be informed, not uninformed.

2) Purpose In Our Minds

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (7).”

After the mind is protected, it must be redirected to the things of God. To purpose in our minds and to think upon the spiritually good, rather than the spiritually bad will ensure a sober mind for the backsliding believer seeking to please God. Be sober and be vigilant as the Apostle Peter once said (8). Think like Christ thinks. As Daniel purposed in his mind to honor the LORD by obeying the Mosaic Law (9), so too we must purpose in our minds to honor God above all else through the process of renewing our minds (10). It will take time to reconfigure the way you think, but it is a natural change as you turn back to God.

3) Purpose In Our Church Body

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (11).”

From the mental to the social, Paul lines out how we should purpose and aim as the church to live as one body of believers submitted to the authority of God’s Word. There must be a deliberate attempt to be in constant fellowship with other believers because it is what unifies the Bride of Christ in a way that glorifies God. We bear burdens, we forgive sins, we wisely teach, we wisely admonish, and most of all love because He first loved us.

As Christians, either we are one or we are none. As was said by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses (12).” Be active in both the local church you attend and the church at large. Pray with believers and seek God. Camaraderie is the key in a community, especially for us as the church. As the 1st century Christians lived (13), so we should live in fellowship with one another in Jesus name.

4) Purpose In Our Hearts

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (14).”

For most, if not all who leave so soon, it is a matter of the heart. By a matter of the heart, I mean to say a combination of internal motivations and external attitudes we may have in our day-to-day living. These things must change as we purpose in our hearts not to live like we once did, but to live according to what the LORD insists for each and every one of us. The Israelites had to purpose in their hearts as they chose to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength (15). Once you know how to love God, only then will you be able to love.

Later on in history, we find Ezra the priest and scribe displaying this fourth point in action as he “set his heart” on learning the Word of God, living out the Word of God, before teaching others in a like manner (16). Yet before any outward actions took place, Ezra had to fix his heart and aim it towards God. We must do likewise, if we intend on getting right with God before our inevitable prodigal exodus or on the way back from one. We must set both our minds and our hearts on the things above, not on the things below.

5) Purpose In Our Speech

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (17).”

Nothing says that you are looking to change quite like the way you transform the way you speak to others. How do you communicate to people? To family? To friends? To enemies? Can you truthfully say that you speak with a courteous and tactful manner that stands out from when you chose to leave God or before you were even with God? Is there a difference in the way you talk from when you were a prodigal to now as another member of the pasture of the Good Shepherd?

Eventually, on the way back to the loving arms of the Lord you should notice a change in the way you speak. Not just in vocabulary, but most importantly the intent of your speech in the first place. Why do you talk in the first place? What is the intent in what you say when, where, why, and how you say it? Jesus put special emphasis on what we say (18) as it can lead to either our declaration of our salvation in Christ or our damnation away from His grace.

In his book, Fool’s Talk, author Os Guinness lays out the biblical pattern in which every believer should speak both publicly in social gatherings and even privately in our hearts and minds. He argues that everyone is a fool. Either you are a fool for Christ or a fool of the world. As Jesus put it when preaching on the Beatitudes, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (19), so in all things learn to speak wisdom. Like salt, speak in a way that preserves the humanity of whoever you talk to, while simultaneously expelling the hardheartedness of their sin nature. It’s about time we spoke like fools.

Final Thoughts

It’s a hard road leaving sin to seek the Savior, but is totally worth it in the end. Adjustments will be made both consciously and unconsciously as you grow more spiritually attuned to God’s liking and as the Holy Spirit does His refining work within you. If we return back to God, then we will radically change in three main ways: our thought life, our feelings, and our speech. This trifecta can be seen in the return home for the prodigal son of Luke 15 and is a pattern that has been seen in every prodigal throughout time.

Be against the flow, not with it! Return to the Lord and all His goodness! Put on the full armor of God and doing all to stand up to sin, stay standing. I pray that God would do a mighty work in you as He guides your mind, heart, and words to be in alignment with His Word.

Why are you leaving so soon? Your life with God has only just begun! Stay and see what the triune God has in store for you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.churchleaders.com/children/childrens-ministry-articles/166129-marc-solas-10-surprising-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.htmlhttp://crossexamined.org/youth-exodus-problem/. See also Galatians 5:7-8 when Paul the Apostle address the same issue in the first century.
  3. http://www.christianpost.com/news/top-3-false-christian-beliefs-leading-americas-youth-astray-american-family-association-172100/
  4. NASB John 17:9-16
  5. NASB Colossians 2:4, 8
  6. NASB John 14:6
  7. NASB Colossians 3:2
  8. KJV 1 Peter 5:8
  9. NASB Daniel 1:8
  10. NASB Romans 12:2-3
  11. NASB Colossians 3:12-17
  12. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (P. 86)
  13. NKJV Acts 2:42, NKJV 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, NKJV Hebrews 10:23-25
  14. NASB Colossians 3:23-24
  15. NKJV Deuteronomy 6:5-7
  16. NASB Ezra 7:10
  17. NASB Colossians 4:5-6
  18. NASB Matthew 12:36-37
  19. NLT Luke 6:45

 

 

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 12: Eternity + Legacy

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

As we come to a close on the brief brush stroke covering the life and death of Gideon, we come to the last segment of the series where we take a moment to reflect on the man’s legacy. A legacy that is unique to Gideon and to Gideon alone. This week we will examine what the author of Hebrews has to say about the many figures of faith in history, including Gideon. Starting in Hebrews 11:1.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.” (NASB Hebrews 11:1-2)

“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,  from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (NASB Hebrews 11:32-34)

Now the author of Hebrews is a never-ending issue because since its canonicity, no one truly knows who wrote the letter as it has the writing style and rhythm of many different people. Such as most notably Paul the Apostle, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Priscilla, or even Clement of Rome just to name a few. Regardless of who wrote this letter, God inspired the author to write it and so we will examine it as such: God’s Word.

Within Hebrews chapter 11, the author outlines and makes mention of many historic figures that appear in this text like Enoch, Moses, and our guy Gideon. Although mentioned briefly at the end, the author takes note of Gideon and describes him, along with Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (v32). The author describes this bunch as those that conquered kingdoms (Judges 8:28), performed acts of righteousness (Judges 7:19-22), obtained promises (Judges 6:16, 8:28), shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-23), quenched the power of fire (Judges 6:19-22, Daniel 3:8-27), escaped the edge of the sword (1 Samuel 23:6-14), went from weak to strong (Judges 6:15, 8:22b), mighty in war (Judges 8:10-12), and caused armies to flee (Judges 8:12b).

See a pattern among these nine categories? Gideon nearly matches every category listed here and is praised by the author for his tremendous faith alongside some other faithful figures of history. What a legacy am I right? That Gideon is known for his years of prime faithfulness and not his latter years of consistent compromise. I find it fascinating that people of the past are remembered the way they are remembered.

Like how Albert Einstein is esteemed as one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, yet was extremely unfaithful to both of his wives during his lifetime and cheated all the time on them with countless other women. Yet he is presented unanimously as a great man. Why? Because his feats overshadowed his faults. And the same can be said of Gideon whose journey was one that began with fear, flourished with faith, bore fruit that brought about feats that gave glory to the Father, and then ended in a series of sinful faults.

The hero’s journey encapsulated in one sentence. It is a journey we all have the opportunity to take, but not all do take it. As is said in an ancient Chinese proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. We all are called to live lives of great importance in this world like that of Gideon, even more so for the kingdom of God.

Yet most of us never take that first step. That step from fear to faith. The one toward ultimate meaning, purpose, and value by abiding in the will of Christ for our lives. Is it a risky step of direction? Yes. Is it a rewarding change in scenery? More than you could ever imagine. But in order to reap those rewards of diligence along this journey in life, we must act and take the first step of many steps.

It is a narrow path that few take because of the cost of following Christ, but it is essential in living fulfilling lives of heroic proportions. Look no further than how many people are mentioned in the Bible and how many are mentioned in the hall of faith in Hebrews chapter 11. A stark contrast of the few faithful versus the many who remain inactive in life.

Who will you be? A Gideon that is faithful to God or like the men of Succoth that stood back as the world darkened. The choice is yours and it’s only one step away from fruition. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. http://www.dopeame.com/blog/2016/5/16/the-heros-journey

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 11: Back to Square One

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

As this is our final segment within the book of Judges regarding the life of Gideon and his rise to the status of a military legend, we finally come to the wrap up of Gideon’s story. The beginning of things always has an end and thus we have come to Gideon’s end. How does his story of fear to faith and farm-boy to warlord conclude? Let’s find out! We’ll be in Judges 8:18-35 this week and that’s where we will pick up starting at verse 18.

“Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.” He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.” So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them.” But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks. Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) They said, “We will surely give them.” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household. So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon. Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.” (NASB Judges 8:18-35)

Sad isn’t? In fact, it’s a bitter-sweet ending. That the thing Gideon was trying to destroy ended up destroying him. Just as Two-Face said in the The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” As we can observe here, in Gideon’s early years he rose from a nobody to a somebody, but then took a turn for the worse as he transformed into something ugly by the end of his life. Succumbing to his inward sinful desires as he fell victim to adultery (v30), which tarnished his reputation as a man of God. Instead, he ends up as a man of man and based off of the text before us, it would seem that his poor example in his latter years was the fuel for a future rebellion against God. A rebellion that would draw the people of Israel back to idolatry (v33) and who were cruel towards the house of Jerubbaal (v35).

Now let’s reign back a bit and look at how the initial war ends against the Midianites. At the beginning of this passage we see Gideon is speaking to the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and this happens directly after he punished the men of both Penuel and Succoth (v16-17). He reminds them of a previous battle where the two kings barbarously slaughtered Gideon’s extended family at Mt. Tabor, which geographically is a mountain near modern-day Nazareth. A sin not soon to be forgiven on Gideon’s part. But before Gideon goes off on these two kings, he allows his son, Jether, to strike them down (v20).

What is interesting about this certain part of the passage this week is that this is the first mention of one of Gideon’s children by name, that is Jether. What this passage reveals is that Jether was alongside Gideon during the war or Gideon was reunited with his family including Jether when he and the kosher 300 returned home. Either way, Jether is shown here in a rock and a hard place. His father has just told him to slay the two kings, but he hesitates out of fear.

It is hard to blame Jether for his actions. I mean, was Gideon asking too much from this young man? Based off the text and basic logic, I concur that Jether was anywhere in between 13 to 18 years old. This is based off of how Joseph, David, and other notable Biblical, figures are described when they are in their youth. Also, he bears a sword which begs the question: why would a child have a sword? Not likely. He had to have been in his teens.

Gideon thus commands his son to kill these two kings, so the kings taunt Gideon to kill them (v21a). Well Gideon does just that and kills them, then takes the crescent ornaments from their camel’s necks. Crescent moons are a very prevalent symbol in the Middle East even to this day and are mostly associated with Islam, so for Gideon to take those was a statement that his Triune God was greater than their gods.

Once the final sword is swung of this long war, the people of Israel ask Gideon to be their king and for Jether to rule over Israel alongside his father (v22). Surprisingly, yet wisely Gideon declines their offer and states that God is their king, not him or his son. In fact, he says that God will rule over them. Gideon is humbly letting God lead and giving Him all the glory.

What fathoms me about this whole situation is that Gideon could potentially have become the first king of Israel, but says no to the offer. Just imagine how much history would change if Gideon was king of Israel. Would Saul become king? Would David? The timeline of history would have looked far more different from today’s present timeline.

Instead of becoming king, Gideon takes a percentage of the spoils of the war and constructs an ephod (a portable idol that was clothed usually) in the city of Ophrah (v27). This is the mistake that will tarnish Gideon’s life and reputation as it would become a “snare to Gideon” and those of his family lineage. Sad to think that after his entire arc is completed, his hero’s journey, he falls into such an idolatrous lifestyle. After this whole span of time he gives into a stupid, sinful desire: misguided worship.

Although God kept His Word and spared the Israelites from any trouble for the next 40 years as the Midianites were subdued. But that does not mean all was well for Gideon. In fact, far from it for he falls into another sin: adultery.

Another stab at Gideon’s reputation as a man of God. If that was not enough, after Gideon passes away after living a long life that the people of Israel turned back to the gods of Baal, turning their backs on God (v33). Hence, the cycle of dependency and independence in relation to God continues to spin over and over again. A cycle many of us find ourselves in a lot of the time. The cycle of sin continues to spin.

Gideon’s story is over, yet is legacy will always live on in a positive light despite the sour note that it ended on. Next week we will examine just what exactly Gideon’s legacy is and how he is known today in further detail. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://theupwardway.org/tag/book-of-judges/

Gideon: A Character Study | Part 10: A Man of His Word

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/21/2019

In last week’s study, we went over the post-war ramifications of Gideon’s actions as well as those jealous of the grace bestowed upon him by God during this time of his life. As Winston Churchill once said, You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” This statement by Churchill is definitely a truth that was apparent in Gideon’s life as he continues his mission to cut off the Midianites for good by hunting their two kings: Zebah and Zalmunna. This week we will be in Judges 8:10-17 and verse 10 is where we will pick up.

“Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen. Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting. When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army. Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?’ ” He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city (2).”

So the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, escape to a place called Karkor. Some speculate that this place of Karkor may have been another name for a place called Qarqor, which is a place East of the Jordan River. Karkor may have been a type of enclosure that the Gadites built to protect their cattle and livestock. If this is true, then the Midianites were smart in seeking such a place for refuge because it would be seriously fortified with walls encompassing the area to keep the large animals enclosed.

I find it ironic that an army that began with 135,000 soldiers that waged war with Gideon’s mighty men would in a twist of fate dwindle down to 15,000 men because they lost 120,000 soldiers to Gideon’s kosher 300. When we first started, Gideon had an army of 32,000 men going against an army of 135,000 soldiers of Midian. Whittle those numbers down and we get a ratio of 8:34. Those were the odds at first.

Then God made Gideon send away thousands of soldiers that amounted in the kosher 300, while the Midianites still had 135,000 soldiers. A new ratio of 1:450, but after Gideon’s back-to-back victories over Midian and a series of battles shrunk that massive number all the way down to the current 15,000. The current odds of Gideon winning in spite of all of this success is even still tremendously low as the ratio is 1:50 and at this rate some could have said that Gideon was pushing his luck. I mean, how does one even fathom that comparison and those odds? If I was in that batch of 300 guys, I would at this point have serious doubts.

Yet God is faithful and once again lets Gideon accompanied by his dope band of misfits have another critical victory. We are only 3 verses into this study and Gideon already won. He has captured both Midianite kings, has had another victory, and caused the army to be routed (to retreat or flee) back to their lands. Some translations say the Midianite army left in confusion and fear from the surprise attack that squashed their forces.

It is quite impressive when put into proper perspective. The war is over. Gideon has won and peace is just around the corner to being restored in the nation of Israel.

What’s next for the mighty Gideon? Being a man of his word. This story takes a new turn when on the march back home, Gideon captures a youth from Succoth (v14). Once the youngin’ is captured, he is questioned.

Next, there is the way of travel that Gideon took which has multiple interpretations concerning what exactly it means. In the translation we are using (the NASB), it says “by (from) the ascent of Heres.” Now is this a time of day like before the sun comes up? Is it a city? Is it a mountain? Hard to say, but biblehub.com takes good time clearing the confusion by providing multiple responses here. As for the youth of Succoth? He spills the beans and writes down the names of every prince and elder of Succoth, which amounts to a grand total of seventy-seven men (v14).

Based off of its uses within Scripture (Genesis 5:31, Judges 8:14, Ezra 8:35), the number 77 represents closure as the number is used to amount to a satisfactory sacrifice to the LORD (see: Ezra 8:35-36), as well as here where it symbolizes Gideon’s fulfillment of his own promise that he would execute after God had given him victory in battle. The men of Succoth mocked the things of God, so God sends Gideon to judge them on His behalf for taunting Gideon who was an ambassador for God.

Word of advice: don’t mock God. It never ends well. Just look at 2 Kings 2:23-24 where some dumb lads mock God’s prophet, Elisha, so two female bears kill 42 of them. Yeah, the things of God and those who do the things of God are not something worth mocking. The consequences are severe.

Speaking of severe consequences, Gideon now knows who the men of Succoth are that taunted him, thus justice is about to be served to these pansies. Gideon brings his undeniable proof to the 77 elders with the 2 captured kings in his possession and then commences to do exactly as he warned he would do. What fascinates me about this whole subplot of the men of Succoth and Penuel is how there were all of these men mocking Gideon for trying to stop the Midianites from terrorizing the surrounding lands, yet they stayed home and remained on the sidelines of the whole war. Neither would they support Gideon’s men or the Midian men. They were lukewarm and that is the exact reason that they were punished so severely because they remained apathetic during the whole war as thousands of men died. They were cowards, plain and simple.

As promised, Gideon takes the elders and beats them with briers and thorns (v16). Then he goes onto the next city and tears down the great tower of Penuel before slaying every man in the city (v17). Jesus spoke of this lukewarm nature in Revelation 3:14-22 where he rebukes the church of Laodicea for their lukewarm ways. They neither loved nor hated God. They were indifferent and apathetic to it all.

In life, God desires for us to give our all to Him or to keep our all to ourselves. In this situation, the middle ground is the worst possible place to be because it shows how much you really do not care. Lesson of the week: either give God everything or give God nothing. Both are better options than giving God only a portion of what is yours and lying by saying you gave it your all or vice versa. I mean look at what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. They died for making this crucial mistake.

Learn from history and live wholeheartedly either for Jesus or for the world. There cannot be a middle ground when it comes to this issue. It’s all or nothing. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. NASB Judges 8:10-17
  3. http://biblehub.com/topical/h/heres.htm