To the Bride and Groom

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

Recently, my friend David got married and it got me thinking about marriage in general. If someone was to tell me something I needed to know before I ever got married to have a successful marriage, what would I need to hear? What is something every couple needs to know and have in mind before their wedding day? Well, I would want realistic expectations and some sort of idea of what will happen regardless of what that marriage turns out to be in the future. Something that needs to be known before “just married” becomes married.

As I have observed other marriages in my life, I have noticed five things that every marriage faces. Five obstacles that can repair or ruin this relationship. These obstacles are communication, finances, intimacy, society, and worldview. Every couple will face one, if not, all five of these types of obstacles during the duration of their marriage. So for those of you who are either going to be married or just got married, then this blog-post is for you.

1) Communication

The obstacle of communication revolves around the issue of who matters more in this conversation: me, you, or us. The answer is us, not you or me. It’s called a team effort for a reason: teams communicate well because they have to, in order to win. Likewise, spouses communicate well, in order to maintain their marriage.

In marriage, everything you and your spouse do in life from now on will be communicated one way or the other. There are always going to be two types of marriages: those that communicate well and those that communicate poorly. Which marriage do you want?

By taking the effort to communicate well with your spouse on little things, you won’t have to worry when big situations come up. You will have all of that discipline to not only speak openly, but also to listen actively. All good marriages have a great sense of communication. Does yours? Will yours? If not, say something to your spouse or spouse-to-be and work on being better before it’s too late.

2) Intimacy

The obstacle of intimacy is a matter of understanding love and then living that out practically. Love at its core is sacrificial, not sexual. Christ was sacrificed because of God’s love for us, even while we were in sin. The husband is commanded to follow this example and sacrificially love his wife.

Likewise, Christ respects His Father in Heaven. The wife is commanded to follow this example and respectfully love her husband. The answer to the obstacle of intimacy in marriage is sacrificially loving your lover with consistency. Better to have loved too much than to have never loved someone enough.

3) Finances

The obstacle of finances is a problem rooted in a combination of faithfulness, honesty, and wisdom. If you are faithful with little, then you can be faithful with much. Whether that be saving, spending, or investing. Your faithfulness in finances will translate into honest use of your money as one couple. This faithfulness and honesty will in turn become wisdom in all of your financial endeavors.

I’ve seen countless couples who have a horrible marriage because of the tensions of bad financial decisions. This can lead them to either go broke or divorce. Don’t be them. Prepare ahead of time for the financial emergencies and general costs of marriage before they happen. Save, spend, and invest wisely while you have the advantage at the beginning of your marriage, not after you have already dug your financial ruin like everybody else. Be wise by making financially wise decisions in marriage.

4) Society

When two families join together and become in-laws to one another, this can be both bad and good. The obstacle of society is the social pressures of maintaining the expectations of those closest to you. This could be your in-laws, your family, your friends, or even your “public image” on social media.

First and foremost, live out the expectations for marriage as instructed by God before you ever listen to anyone else. Everyone else’s opinions on your marriage can wait as you listen to the Lord’s instruction. God’s expectations should be your standard for how your marriage should look and be perceived by others.

On the other hand, when two families unite through marriage you will inherit newfound responsibilities that you should certainly prepare for now rather than later. These are natural and should be celebrated new changes in your new life together. Nevertheless, marriage is two people married under God and it doesn’t have any wiggle room for control-freak family members, friends, or nosy neighbors to nitpick your every decision. If you follow God first and then listen to others, you’ll be just fine.

5) Worldview

The obstacle of worldview is a problem that deals with how the home will be run. How does your worldview align with your spouse? Do you share the same worldview or do they differ? Are you both Buddhist or Christian? Atheist or Muslim?

You need to be aware of the fact that if you both have differing worldviews, it will be much harder to run the home as a team because of the disagreements that can arise in different ideologies. It is crucial to keep in mind how each other’s worldview will impact the other as you both grow closer together. Your combined worldviews are the foundation for the way your new life together will turn out. If you have no foundation, how can you even begin to build a home? Start with a firm foundation and work from there. Know your spouse and allow yourself to be known by your spouse. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com

 

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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

 

 

Dear Brad and Rachel

Photo Cred: Steve Martin | Updated: 5/27/2019

Dear Bradford,

When we first met, I thought you were weird. After many years of being your friend, I still think you’re weird. From our summer camp experiences in youth group to our thrift store crawls after a bustling night of vending at Coors Field, you have never seized to be instantaneously fun when the time calls for it. With that said, the attribute that I will always associate with you is diligent perseverance when it’s time to go to work. The way you buckle in and finish everything you do in life with excellence is an admirable trait that the majority of men our age sadly are severely lacking, including me.

In remembrance of this admirable trait, I am reminded of Genesis 2:15. A verse I uphold with great significance as to what it means to not only be human, but how to be a man after God’s own heart. For God created with the intent that we would take care of His Creation. If we know anything about our world and gardens in particular, it is that they require a good gardener to “cultivate it and keep it (1)” from becoming overgrown or branching away from the original design.

Every person that is of Christ has been given a garden from God to cultivate and keep together. Hence, our lives are gardens. Even those who are not of Christ have been endowed with a garden to cultivate and maintain, but those gardens bear bad fruit. We must trim and maintain these gardens. Eventually, we will present what we did with these God-given gardens to the Gardener that wept for His Creation in the Garden of Gethsemane (2) not to long ago before dying on a tree.

Brad, you’re a married man now. All that is yours is now Rachel’s too. Like all aspects of life, with the addition of time comes the addition of responsibility for the time we have lived. Be responsible and respectful of God’s garden and watch the fruits of your labor flourish as the years go by, which may include a quiver of children one day in the future.

Walk humbly before God. May this new change in the dynamics of your garden be one of challenge, yet of great gain. In all things, be the husband your wife needs, then the one she wants. Above all, “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil (3).”

Your brother in law and in the LORD,

Chris Cribari

 

Dear Rachel,

Your day has finally arrived. The one that you have dreamed of and prayed for fervently is finally here. Now your wedding is the past and the present is at hand. Now is the time to seize time by taking every opportunity to glorify God in all that you do, which now includes marriage. Although marriage is a new dynamic to your life, it is a new tree that must be cared for on a daily basis.

From our long nights talking about the greater good found in God to the the obscure photo shoots we would have every so often, the attribute of yours that sticks out the most to me is how eager you’re to help others. How when we were younger and my autism was much more prevalent in those days, you helped me figure out the world as I was not quite like the other kids. It was your kindness and ability to aid others that has to be your greatest attribute. When Bradford came onto the scene to sweep you off of your feet, it fit perfectly with the groove of our family’s rhythm. With Bradford’s diligent perseverance and your elegant grace in helping others, the two of you fit excellently together.

Take our father and mother’s greatest attributes, Dad’s gratitude and Mom’s grace, with you into your covenant with your knight in shinning armor. Never forget the lessons of your youth and remain in the pursuit of truth. Let each passing day with its inevitable challenges bring forth comfort as you rest in the fact that you never have to face these challenges alone. Oh, and happily ever after. Always and forever.

Your brother in blood and the blood of Christ,

Chris Cribari

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 2:15 (NASB)
  2. Matthew 26:36 (NASB)
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NASB)

The Fruits of Forgiveness

Updated: 5/21/2019

It has been a year since my older brother John and I have forgiven each other the wrongs done to one another in the past. Within the past year, a lot of spiritual growth has happened in our lives as we have moved forward beyond that day of restoration and healing. In the span of a year, the harvest that we tended to for a mere 365 days has flourished with an abundance of spiritual fruit as opportunity after opportunity has arisen since we sowed that seed of reconciliation back in November of 2014.

Both of us have changed dramatically for the better as men of valor and virtue doing what we love. Doing what we dreamed of doing back when we were kids. For instance, the joy I find in storytelling and John’s knack for all things sports related has led us to pursue those passions for nearly a decade bringing us to a point when those childish fantasies are now vivid realities. Funny how some things never change. And who knows because maybe one day each of us will get to marry that special someone and have our own families in the near future. It’s strange to think back on what we wanted then and understand what we have now.

How if our younger versions of ourselves could see who we are today as grown men, I think they would be quite satisfied with the result. Like when I younger, I would wear my blue blanket as a cape and fight waves of imaginative evil forces attempting to crush the King’s castle with the aid of my younger brothers. Fast forward to now where I am in film school actually making those fantasies a reality through the art of visual storytelling. When John was younger, he too would play hours of street ball after school with the kids in our neighborhood, getting smothered in dirt from the pavement to now being the football star he aspired to be in his youth. Life truly is a constant reflection of the past and a redirection into the future.

It’s also interesting to note that now that we hit the reset button on our relationship as brothers and since the past is just the past, how we are really just starting from scratch. We kind of realized that because there was such division between us for so long, that now we don’t really know what the other is interested in or really anything about each other. It’s a bit odd and exciting to embark forward not knowing who we are exactly as we continue through as fellow friends. It’s pretty cool to rediscover who we are after years of friction and division that we built between each other.

Every time we talk we learn something new about each other. It’s strange because I would of figured as his closest brother age-wise, that I would be his closest brother relation-wise. I realize now after a year of sowing and reconstruction, how little I know about him and how little he knows about me. Yet it’s fun because we get to grow together in the next phase of our life, which is extremely exhilarating to enter: adulthood. To think we can now at this point in our lives get married, have kids, buy a home, start a family, and so on. It’s absolutely incredible!

Another aspect that has changed in our relational dynamic as siblings is the mutual respect for each other as men. It’s odd. For example, we both know that if we ever did physically fight now we would jack each other up. Although, I think he would win hands down. Plus, he’s athletic and I like Star Wars, so not much of a debate there. Then there is the way we treat each other as grown men, which I’m still getting used too and I bet he is too. How we don’t settle for the childish disputes that used to divide us, but engage in mature conversations on things that matter like God, manhood, healthy living, and so on. We have gone from constructing things with LEGOS to crushing iron.

Also, I find it interesting on God’s part how He has weaved our lives closely together,whether in times of division or in times of unification. Like how John plays in football games and I vend at football games. Or how we ask each other for nutrition and training advice, but have completely different philosophies when it comes to weightlifting in general. He lifts weights and eats right to improve his athleticism in football, in order to perform better during his football season. While I’ll eat half a dozen donuts before a workout and then proceed to lift Strongman implements like a log press or a farmer’s carry because being stupid strong is awesome.

Anyways, this dynamic of ours reminds me of Proverbs 27:17 (NASB) which says “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Because what happens in the process of sharpening iron with iron? Sparks fly. I believe this analogy perfectly describes our dynamite relationship as brotherly buds because whenever we interact sparks are flying like the clashing of swords. Yes, we clash a lot because we are polar opposites in a lot of ways, yet that’s the very reason we usually come to each other for help.

In short, this year has been quite blessed in the respect that a lot of growth has happened in all aspects of my life. Having Thanksgiving so close right now, it’s nice see to these changes for which I’m very thankful for and reflect on how John has been instrumental in my life. He is a good brother and friend. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Disclaimer

 

Bitterness and How It Broke Me

Updated: 5/21/2019

I hate John Cribari. Well, I used too. Let me explain in detail what I mean by that statement. You see for the longest time I had a bitter hatred towards my older brother, John Cribari, and it nearly decimated me. But before I explain my personal story of bitterness, let me take you back to the beginning of this whole story.

My brother John and I at one point in our lives were like two peas in a pod who did everything together. We were the best of friends and loved playing with each other in our youth as boys usually play. Some days it would be a race in our grandparents backyard to see who was the fastest and other times we would play pretend at the apartments we lived in at Thousand Oaks, CA imagining that we were protecting Helm’s Deep from thousands of Uruk-Kai. He was usually Boromir or Aragorn, while I was usually Faramir or Gimli fighting off swarms of foes left and right.

The neighbors were never really fans of our imaginative adventures, so we would sometimes include them in the action and just pretend they too were Uruk-hai. That didn’t end too well most of the time, but then again how do you stomp the minds of children whose whole childhood was woven by the influences of mighty men of fiction and history? Men like Maximus Decimus Meridius, William Wallace, Joshua of the Bible, David’s Mighty Men, and so many more that inspired my brother and I to be men of valor who stood for something. Men that stood for the oppressed and fought against the oppressors of this world that meant nothing but harm to others. This is the way that our parents raised us during our childhood and into adulthood.

Yet, at a very early age our times in boyhood were not so squeaky clean like I wished they could have been. At the ages of 7 and 8, sometime in May of 2005, our old friend David from Thousand Oaks introduced us to pornography among other things that would forever leave a mark on us. For about a year, summer to summer, we would watch pornography at his house for hours and then return home all while under our parents noses. We quickly realized two things at the end of that year: we were not being the men of valor our parents raised us to be and that we needed to stop.

So at the end of the summer of 2006, we made an oath to each other and to God that we would stop swearing, watching pornography, and all the other junk that we did behind our parents backs. The way we sealed this oath was ironically by cursing as much as possible and as loud as possible for 60 seconds. No seriously. That’s how we sealed our oath with the one true God about changing our old ways by getting it all out of our system. So we thought at the time was the most logical decision. We were 8 and 9 at this time with our birthdays shortly coming up in June.

Shortly after our birthdays, I got saved at Calvary Chapel Oxnard’s VBS at the end of June in 2006 and to be honest I do not know when my brother got saved in his life, so you’ll have to ask him yourself if you ever have the pleasure of meeting him someday. But I can say that our lives did change from that point onward. We would study the Bible every night before bed for hours as we read of our favorite heroes like David, Gideon, and other Biblical men who were men of valor. It was in this great season of our lives that we went through 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles during a time of getting right with God. These studies were usually led by John who has always been the extrovert and initiator among the two of us when it comes down to it.

It was not until we moved to Colorado in July of 2007 that things began to change for the worse between us and inside of ourselves as we were entering middle school. We began to go back to our old ways even after having sworn to God to never return to those truly foolish ways. For me, it was during the second half of 5th grade that I slipped back into pornography and it was not until the second half of 8th grade that I truly stopped that godless habit. While this happened to me, John was badly influenced by the world in middle school and he even told my Dad not to let me go to public middle school due to how bad it was for him there. To put it bluntly, he got hurt and permanently marked by the world. For our family, it was really hard to watch him enter this prodigal son type of season where he dabbled in both the things of God and the things of the world.

Now as we both were slipping down the slope of sin during this time, everyone thought it was just John who was struggling with the influences of the world, but I too was struggling as well. The thing is that people only thought John was prodigal because they saw with their physical eyes, but if one were to look with spiritual eyes at this time, then they would have seen that we were both being prodigal sons. We were both sinning heavily, yet only one of us had outward symptoms that others could physically see. As my parents were scrambling to fix their eldest child, they never truly realized that they had another prodigal son: me.

So over that period of time I grew very bitter towards everyone, especially my brother John. I grew bitter towards my parents because they were trying to help John, but didn’t bat an eye to help me from my perspective. Being diagnosed with Autism at 1½ , asking for help from others has always been extremely hard. I have always felt like the “special needs” child who never could keep up with others my age and that I was always dependent on others for help. 

The way I countered this emotionally painful aspect of my life was to never seek the help of others by being a “lone-wolf” of sorts because I thought that people were unreliable and were holding me back from being like all the other kids. So I taught myself a lot of things like how to ride a bike in 6th grade and how to write legibly. This is something that I still struggle with as a grown man who is still not like everyone else. I grew bitter towards others because it seemed like they had it all together which just reminded me that I didn’t have everything together.

While my bitterness grew for those people in my life, it never truly reached the amount of filthy bitterness I had towards John. I blamed him for leading me astray and alienating me from the world by being home schooled for all of middle school. I blamed him for breaking his oath to God, for hurting our family with his actions of outward rebellion, and in a sense for leaving me behind as I once followed his example when we were right with God.

I felt so isolated during those long 3 years and wanted to get back at him for all he did to me. So I ignored his existence, I brought up strife in our family in order to isolate him like I was isolated, and in a way made him the black sheep of our family. Sadly as I reflect on this period of time, it worked and he became the black sheep that our family was ashamed to be affiliated with for a long time.

It was not really until the summer after 8th grade that I rededicated my life to God and my sinful habits became past habits, but the one thing I did not let go of was the bitterness towards John. During the summer, I grew a lot as a Christian in my faith and went all in as far as learning the truth went, but the bitterness stunted my growth like an anchor to a sinking ship. I could have been so much stronger in my faith as I was entering public high school, yet like Jacob when he wrestled with God (1), I would not let go of this bitterness and instead clung to it even more than before. 

As I attended Eaglecrest High School for 2 years, John was already going there and was very well known there. Every teacher I had would ask “Are you John’s brother?” or mistake me for John all the time because of our facial similarities. I wanted to deny it a lot of the time, but I always accepted my family relations with him. It was humiliating because I didn’t want anything to do with him during this season.

I find it ironic that as all of this was going on, I as a freshman in high school was anointed by God to lead the Christian club at our school called “First Priority” for those 2 years. Funny how God can use someone as flawed as me to reach people flawed like me. And use me He did as I became known as “Bible-Man” by my peers at school, relentlessly defending the faith and even had several debates at school in the courtyard. A courtyard  I would later nickname “The King’s Court” because the Holy Spirit would do some crazy stuff through me during those debates. 

Anyways, as freshman year was ending my bitterness was at its peaking point. Myself being clouded with my false assumptions, hatred, bitterness, and all out rage towards John led me to the decision that I had to stop him from hurting our family anymore. So I plotted to kill him and and had every intention to do so. That intention and desire grew and grew as the summer of 2013 came by when my bitterness had hit its absolute peak.

But God had other plans and on July 10th, 2013 God did something I never saw coming: He protected John from me and the intentions of my selfish heart. Similar to how God did the same for Israel (2) when He stood against the Egyptian armies as they hunted Israel down. 

Before that day though, God had given me a series of 4 dreams that were exactly the same each time in May, June, and July of 2013. In the dream, I heard a voice say something of a warning and that I shouldn’t do something. It’s hard to remember the exact wording, but the message was quite clear: don’t hurt John. 

Next in the dream, I was looking from a first person perspective and saw that I was lying in a hospital bed. Then I looked around and my entire family was in the room surrounding the bed I was laying on. After that I would wake up, but the message was clear and despite it I clearly disobeyed God because my heart still had the intention to kill John.

It was a late Wednesday night and the family was coming home from church, except John and my younger brother Nathan were home that night and didn’t go to church. As my family was pulling onto our street, we abruptly stopped because there was a large tree branch across the road in front of our house and our neighbors house. So we all jumped out of our truck to pitch in and move the branch from the road onto the sidewalk with our neighbors helping too. 

After moving that branch, we helped move other branches that were scattered across the road because there was a windy storm that was brewing during church and was ending by the time we came to help that had nearly destroyed the cotton-wood tree right across the street from our house. Once the debris had been removed from the road there was one problem: there was a large, loose branch hanging in the cotton-wood and hovering over our neighbor’s car.

So our neighbor moved their car and my Dad pulled out his ladder to shake the branch down while everyone was clearing the area. It was at this moment that everything became complete chaos as the small branch was being shaken down by my Dad. The entire tree shook, the wind came back which caused it to shake more than before, and then one of the main branches, reportedly 20 to 25 feet in length, fell. 

As the largest branch began to crack in the darkness of the night, everyone scrambled left and right. The scariest part was that no one could see it, so we all just fled in every direction from the tree hoping it would not hit us. As I looked up, I barely saw the top of the tree, so I sprinted from where I was standing in the street going full speed. Little did I know that the branch was falling directly my way. 

Then everything went black, but I was fully conscious. It was just pure darkness for about a minute, yet it felt like forever. For a second, I thought to myself “Crap, the atheists were right. I’m dead and there’s nothing.” Soon my state of nothingness ended and I was awoken by the excruciating pain of the neighbors moving my broken body from the street and onto my driveway, but they soon just put me back onto the ground because there was not much they could do.

The emergency responders soon came and took me to the hospital where I stayed for several days. The morning after the accident I woke up and it played out just like the 4 dreams I had beforehand. I woke up in a hospital bed with my family surrounding me wanting to see how I was doing. It was absolutely mind-bending to know the dream and have it unfold before my very eyes because of the evil intentions of my heart. It was after this humiliating moment in time where my bitterness began to fade as I was deeply humbled by God. For about a month, I wore a neck brace and even for the first two days of school as a Sophomore in high school which only added to the embarrassment of it all. God had broken me along with my bitterness.

It took a long time for my bitterness to go away completely though and it would take almost 1½ years before my bitterness finally left completely. Although it was in that time that my bitterness for John was slowly, but surely being replaced with love for John. It was not until November 15th, 2014 after John and I got into an argument that I broke down. I couldn’t handle hating him anymore. 

My only option was to love him at this point in my life because I was so hurt by my own bitterness that I grew weary after having had it for so long. It was this night where I told him everything and asked him for forgiveness for all that I had done. He did the same for his own mistakes and we after years of conflict were finally reconciled as brothers no longer at odds with one another. It truly was one of the greatest days of my life because the burden of bitterness that had been upon my shoulders was replaced by the security of forgiveness.

For the past 10 months our lives have both been on a resurgence since there is nothing holding us back now. John is currently in California playing college football at Moorpark college, pursuing a degree in Kinesiology, and working on receiving a certificate for Personal Training. I am currently pursuing my AAS in Directing/Writing at the Colorado Film School, preparing for my next Strongman competition, and hoping to become the Lecrae of Hollywood so to speak by making quality films that reflect the Creator. We even have a friendly competition between us to see who is the strongest whenever we workout. Now that it is love that binds us and not bitterness, we have the God-given opportunity to seek our passions as men of God, men of valor.

You see bitterness is a lot like raising your fist up in the air at someone you hate and then repeatedly punching yourself in the face. For one it looks really stupid and it accomplishes absolutely nothing. James, the brother of Jesus, once spoke about bitterness in his letter to Christians dispersed throughout the known world and said the following about the matter:

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (NASB James 3:13-18).

If there is bitterness in your heart then hear from me and let go of your bitterness. Don’t do what I did and try to solve problems in the feebleness of your mind. God is love and therefore I now strive to reflect that love as a “Little-Christ” in every relationship because it is God who abides in me. Molding me into the man of valor I have always desired to be in my life as I grow older and older.

To John I say this: thank you and I love you more than ever before as my big brother always watching out for me. You were never close to the perfect example, but neither was I or ever have been for that matter. But it is the very fact that you tried to be a man of valor like the ones we read of and pretended to be that matters. 

Your boldness has helped me breakthrough my own shyness and introverted habits as I have grown older. You taught me many things in my life that I am truly grateful for like that one time we stood in a parking lot all day as you showed me how to catch a football. Always caring for others and not afraid to give it your all in whatever you do. Thank you for the wrestling smack downs, the brotherly pep talks, and especially for the consistency in your life as you strive to be as real as possible in every aspect of your life. I love John Cribari. Well, now I do. Until next time, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 32:24-32
  2. Exodus 14:19
  3. Disclaimer