- 2019 Aug 20
In Judges 8:1 the men of Ephraim asked Gideon "Why did you fight the Midianites and didn't call us?" Recall that Gideon asked for men to fight and received a huge response - 32,000 men. It's highly implausible that the men of Ephraim were excluded from this call. Gideon handled their question with tact and diplomacy and diffused what could have become an ugly situation.
In Judges 12, they made a similar accusation to Jephthah - "Why'd you fight the children of Ammon and not tell us?" They also threatened to burn Jephthah's house down.
Jephthah seems to be a no-nonsense, cut to the chase kind of guy because he responded by saying, "I called for you and you didn't help, so God helped and delivered me." Then Jephthah ended this nonsense once for all - he and his men fought against the men of Ephraim. Apparently, the men of Ephraim were better talkers than fighters for the scripture gives the impression that they were easily captured. Even in war, the men of Ephraim tried to be coy and evasive but Jephthah was one step ahead of them. He asked the Ephraimites to pronounce Shibboleth knowing that most of them did not pronounce the h due to a regional dialect. (It would be the equivalent of asking someone to pronounce tomato - depending on where you are from you would pronounce it differently). If you said Sibboleth it identified you as an Ephraimite and you met your end that day. 42,000 Ephraimites were killed that day and we never hear of the men of Ephraim complaining again.
According to 'Psychology Today' whining is when the dissatisfaction voiced is trivial or inconsequential and not worthy of special attention. There is a distinction between complaining and whining; whining is worse. Complaining involves voicing fair and legitimate dissatisfaction with the goal of attaining a resolution or remedy. When we voice legitimate dissatisfaction but do so without the goal of attaining a resolution we are merely venting.
The Ephraimites were cowards and chronic complainers who spoke up after the fact. This type makes leadership challenging because as a leader you have to assess the validity of a whiner's complaint and then determine how to address it. Gideon diffused it but Jephthah got rid of it. Instead of whining after the fact, state your case and your willingness to assist, when plans are being made so that it is clear what your motives are and where your heart lies. Complaining and whining especially after the fact can lead to unintended dire consequences. Whining can wear a leader out - think parent and child or team leader and team members. A whiner is not usually viewed in a positive light. As a parent, if you have a child that's a constant whiner, it wears on you (of course we can't handle our whining children like Jephthah did).
There's another interesting lesson here - you are known by how you speak. I have an accent, so when I speak one of the first questions asked is "Where am I from?" This is a loaded question because I'm often not sure how to initially respond. As humans when we interact with a youngster who speaks well and does not whine we almost automatically wonder who is this child and who are his parents. You want to see the source of the child's behavior; in the same manner, our speech should shine as Christians. As a Christian, you can be clearly identified by how you speak.
Jephthah judged Israel for 6 years - one of the shortest on record, and then he died.
If you are a whiner, sincerely submit this to Lord. This may be a hard habit to change but you may benefit sooner than you anticipate as whining endears you to no one. As a leader, be prayerful and mindful as you determine the best course of action for dealing with whiners.
The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you. Matthew 12:37; Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7:20
Pray - Ask God to change your heart so that the words you speak are edifying not burdensome.
- 2019 May 25
We don't need much to serve God - we need willing hearts and open minds, but as with most things we complicate it. Recently, it feels as if I'm spinning plates and failing miserably. As long as I have breath, I plan to live my life to the fullest with God's help. So there's new goals, new adventures, new tasks even at this stage of the game.
One thing I've learned, I'll never perfect my walk with Christ this side of heaven. It's one of the only things I know for sure. I realize that I need to keep leaning on Him. That abiding in Him produces fruit in a way that I can't explain (John 15:1-15). This is my secret.
I want to be so desperate for God, that the only thing that quenches my thirst is Him - His word, His peace, His grace, His love, His mercy (Psalms 42:1-2). This thirst quencher is always available to me as his child, so all I need to do is take the time and spend it with him. I need to do this as often as I breathe so that I am continually refreshed. For me, it's the early morning, before I'm consumed with the day's tasks. For others, it may be the drive to work, a walk/run, or in the evening. This time infuses me; it never confuses me. This time strengthens and centers me.
When I take the time to get centered with God, what a change in scenery and a change in perspective. I feel good, light, loved, energized, smart. My relationship with Him no longer feels burdensome but inviting. I don't need to schedule time on my calendar, I do it as often as I can because my time with Him is refreshing. I find myself allowing space for the relationship to grow. It's when I neglect our relationship that I find myself pulling away.
I want my relationship with God to be so strong, so prevalent in my life that I don't need a reminder to spend time with Him. I have realized that it doesn't take much to meditate and be still; It's merely God and me (Psalms 46:10). No phone, no apps, no Bible on the phone - just Him and I, and the physical Bible.
This is my desire: to remove the complications of modern life and pant so desperately after God that He quenches my thirst while giving me what I need. And in turn, because I'm so grateful that I may live to please him - my words, thoughts, actions, and my very being.
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. Psalms 42:1 [NLT]
How desperate are you for God?
- 2019 Apr 16
Both Abraham and Sarah laughed when they heard God's promise of a child to them. We often hear about Sarah's laughter; rarely Abraham's.
In Genesis 17, God visited with Abraham first and made a promise to him. This was after Abram and Sarai had taken things into their own hands whereby Hagar had a son with Abram. When this visitation happened, Abram was ninety-nine years old and Ishmael, Hagar's son, was thirteen. It was in this meeting that God
changes their names to Abraham and Sarah and made the promise of offspring to Abraham. Abraham heard it first and laughed (Genesis 17:17), and said to himself, "Can a 100-year-old man bear a child?"
Sometime later when the angels visited Abraham and Sarah, she heard them talking to Abraham and mentioning that she would have a child and she laughed within herself (Genesis 18:12). This time God called out the laughter and used it to reinforce that nothing is impossible for those who believe.
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby? ’Is anything too hard for the Lord?' I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:13,14
We may laugh to ourselves in the face of the promise because we see nothing that we can hold on to. We are too old. Our time has passed. The job has disappeared. Our bodies are damaged. Our marriages seem dry. Our families are estranged. Our young adults have strayed. We feel defeated, and yet we believe. So we laugh - our first implausible act of faith.
Abraham laughed first while thinking of the possibilities. Sarah's laughter was indicative of her doubt; though she denied laughing she was not punished for laughing. From a woman's vantage point, this promise seems more implausible for Sarah than Abraham. Would her body be able to endure pregnancy during her 90s? Abraham was a man of faith but yet still a man, who was 'as good as dead.' Even so, after being circumcised, he was able to do what seemed impossible at the age of 99.
We know how the story ends. God is a keeper of promises. He made this specific promise to Abraham and Sarah, and He kept it.
At the birth of their son Isaac, Sarah can truly laugh with joy and fulfillment. And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” Genesis 21:6,7
They both started off with the laughter of disbelief; Abraham laughed and thought he had a solution. Sarah laughed because she didn't see the possibility. The Hebrew for “and laughed” vayitzhak found in Gen. 17:17 contains the name of the promised son “Isaac” Yitzhak, v. 21 (Ligonier Ministries). God’s word may seem incredible, but it is absolutely sure. The birth of their son Isaac turned disbelief into joy.
It’s ok to laugh, but don’t stay doubtful. Believe and act in faith.
He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. Hebrews 11:11,12
What promise did you laugh at, that fulfilled, has now brought laughter?