Archive for February, 2009

Teach Problem Solving

Scripture: (Deu 1:17 NKJV)  ‘You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’

Observation: After Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, counseled him to delegate some of the responsibility of judging among the Israelites, some of that load was lifted off of Moses’ shoulders and he could devote time to other things needing his attention.  Now, at the end of his life and of his time as leader of Israel, he wants to make sure that those in charge of judgment show no partiality but that they be fair in all they say and do because they represent God Who will ultimately judge every case.

Application: It is tempting, as a parent, to want to help your children make every decision based on the knowledge and experience we have; however, the reason we have that knowledge and experience is because we have tried, and at times failed.  When there are several children at home, it is tempting to solve the squabbles among them just so we as parents can enjoy some peace.  In the neighborhood, we as parents feel compelled to take our children’s side, particularly when we believe they have been mistreated or hurt by somebody else.  At school or church, we sometimes feel we need to intercede for our kids when we feel the teachers or the leaders have not been fair to them.  But kids, the best untrained professional psychologists, can tell when they can play with our feelings and, if allowed, will take advantage of us for their own benefit.
I believe children should be allowed to solve their own problems, as much as possible, so they learn problem-solving skills, and so they will mature.  If parents are constantly helping them when they get in trouble, they will simply learn to expect their parents help and will not learn to use good judgment.  At home, allow your kids to work things out among themselves and only intervene at those times when they have tried and have reached an impasse.  In the neighborhood, encourage your kids to work things out with their friends; don’t go and try to solve their problems by talking to their friends or their friends’ parents – it embarrass your kids and does not teach your kids anything.  This does not mean you allow others to hurt, abuse, or take advantage of your children.  You need to teach, advice, and most importantly, listen to them; these will be more useful and valuable throughout their experience.  At school, don’t be to hasty to call and yell at the teacher because of something your child tells you; if they got a bad grade, maybe they deserved it; besides, no one has to always get good grades, and one grade that is not perfect can be an incentive to try harder or do better.  I know of parents who will wear teachers out because they are not doing their job the way the parent believes it should be done simply because their child didn’t get good grades.  And yet, the same parents are not spending enough time with their kids at home, encouraging them to do their school work, turning the TV off and reading to and with their children, consulting with the teacher as to how to help their children, etc.
So, don’t rush to solve your child’s problems; encourage them to learn to solve their own problems in a positive, constructive manner, and only intervene in those times when they have tried but have not been able to come up with a fair, workable solution – that’s where your own experience and life wisdom will be of greatest benefit.  And don’t always take your child’s side; take time to listen, analyze, and observe, and then take the side of what is right.

Prayer: Father, thank You for allowing us to make our own decisions and to solve our own problems; it us thus that we grow and mature.  Help us to let our children grow and mature in the same way.

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Boundaries Protect

Scripture: (Num 34:1-2 NKJV)  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, {2} “Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance; the land of Canaan to its boundaries.

Observation: One more time, while at the borders of the Promised Land, God gives Moses and the Israelites with him clear directions for their future.  Chapter 35 deals with the cities of refuge to which anyone who might have killed somebody accidentally could go so the death of the other person would not be avenged by their relatives.  But before settling in the cities of refuge, in chapter 34 we read of the boundaries for Israel – boundaries to set the limits of their entire country as well as internal boundaries between the tribes.  These boundaries were set so Israel would know how far to go in settling in their new country, so they would not go indefinitely from conquest to conquest, but also so others would know not to trespass Israel’s borders.  At the same time, each tribe needed to know how far their territory would extend, and they were to marry among those within their own tribe as well.  These boundaries were for their knowledge, for their safety, for their protection.

Application: Psychologist have defined three types of boundaries in family systems: permeable (open, diffuse), impermeable (closed, rigid), or semipermeable (flexible, porous)

________________           __  __  __  __  __  __  __              . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Impermeable                               Semipermeable                               Permeable

If we think of a house in which there is a room, an impermeable boundary is one in which the room is completely walled off with no windows and no doors, or, if there is a door, it has been locked.  In this case, relationships are either cut off or characterized by poor communication or no communication, as well as rigidity and indifference. The individuality value prevails over the togetherness value.
A permeable boundary is just the opposite; it is one with weak boundaries. The room has insufficient walls, or perhaps walls with multiple doorways, but no doors. Passage in and out is completely unrestricted. Togetherness is all important; individuality tends to be sacrificed. Relationships are about feeling, thinking and doing everything together.
Semipermeable boundaries enable a healthy balance between togetherness and individuality. The room has some windows and a door or doors that can be opened at times and closed at other times. An individual can be free to be himself and yet fully engaged as a member of the group. Semipermeable boundaries are characterized by open communication, a healthy sense of self, and the ability to distinguish between one’s own thoughts, feelings and problems and those belonging to others.
Relationships need boundaries for their protection.  There needs to be boundaries that are appropriate to that relationship – boundaries between spouses may be more permeable than those between parents and children.  Boundaries between friends should be more impermeable than those between members of the family.  Let’s keep our boundaries clear sp everyone may be safe.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the boundaries in our lives and relationships because they are not there to divide us but rather to protect us.  May we respect others’ boundaries and thus show them the respect and love they deserve.

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A Long Journey

Scripture: (Num 33:1-2 NKJV)  These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. {2} Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the LORD. And these are their journeys according to their starting points:

Observation: In one chapter, Moses traces the journey from Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land, recounting all the stops without necessarily talking about the events that took place at each of these with the exception of the death of Aaron.  This is not the first nor the last time Moses takes the time to remind the Israelites of all the places where they have traveled and how the Lord blessed them and protected them even during those times when the people were complaining to and about His work for them.

Application: I was born in Bucaramanga, in the South-American country of Colombia, but only lived there during my first eighteen months of my life as my family moved to the capital city of Bogotá, where we lived until my mother, younger brother, and I moved to the United States.
In the United States, our journey has taken us to live in Michigan, Maryland, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin, Delaware, and now here in Minnesota; we have been a sort of Adventist gypsies, going from place to place wherever God takes us.  Several years ago our daughters voiced some of their discontent because they had not grown like some many others, living in one place all their lives, and growing with the same friends all through school.  While we recognize that so much movement had its drawbacks, we also wanted them to appreciate all the opportunities we have had, so we began a list of all the places we had visited, all the things we had seen, all the fun we had enjoyed; by the time we were finished, our travel-log of sorts covered several pages.  To date, we have visited almost all the fifty states and several foreign countries; as a result of that experience, our girls realized how enjoyable our journeys had been and how much richer our lives were for having been to all those places, particularly when they thought that many of their friends from school had never left their city or county, much less the state where they had always lived.  In addition, they feel very comfortable traveling to different places, they can converse with people of various lands, and can relate to what it is like to be in one or another place because they have either lived there or visited at one time or another.  And when we count all the thousands of miles traveled, with God’s protection, it gives us one more reason to thank Him and praise Him.

Prayer: Father, thank You for all the opportunities You have given us to travel and see so many different and beautiful places and for providing us with your protection through thousands of miles.  But most of all, Father, thank You for the time we have spent together while enjoying those various trips.

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A Vow to God

Scripture: (Num 30:1-2 NKJV)  Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: {2} “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Observation: This chapter deals with vows taken by men or women, and makes it clear that these vows are made with God and are therefore eternally binding.  There is a difference in the words used in the original Hebrew; “If an individual made a vow (neer, a promise to do something) or a pledge (’issā, a promise not to do something), he must keep it without equivocation (vv. 1-2).[From the BKC].  The SDABC adds:  Not break his word. Literally, “not untie his pledged word,” in the sense of “to loosen,” “to set free from obligation,” “to make lawful,” “to profane.” To refrain from carrying out one’s solemn promises to God is an act of base ingratitude and sinful neglect (Deut. 23:21; Eccl. 5:4; Matt. 5:33). It is better that a man make no vow than to promise and not carry it out (Eccl. 5:2–5).

Application: Nowadays people take promises and vow as light as if they were simply momentary opinions, particularly when it comes to marriage vows.  In order to prevent long divorce procedures and a lot of expenses and hurt feelings, courts have created uncomplicated processes by which people can get a divorce without feeling guilty or responsible for their actions or decisions.  These so-called “no fault” divorces simply claim that neither party is responsible for what happen and it was inevitable that the divorce would take place.  What this has done is to lessen the sense of responsibility and commitment to each other, to the family, and ultimately to God that He intended for marriage and which should take place once a couple makes a vow to each other, and to God, to be united and remain so until death would separate them.
While we recognize that there are harmful relationships – abusive, neglectful, adulterous – when none of these exists, every effort should be made to not only maintain the relationship intact but to do all in the couple’s power to have a healthy, happy, and thriving relationship, and to eliminate divorce from their vocabulary so that instead of looking for a way out they will look for ways to make of their relationship a better one each day.

Prayer: Father, help us to not look for a way out of our marriage but rather for ways to make it better and life-lasting.

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What Is Your Inheritance?

Scripture: (Num 27:6-7 NKJV)  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: {7} “The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.

Observation: God cares for the widow and the orphan, so when the daughters of Zelphehad came to Moses asking for some inheritance for the, He told Moses that their request was fair and just and made provisions not only for them but for others who experience the loss of a loved one.

Application: So many make no provision for their children or family in case of their death.  The reality is that if a person makes no legal arrangements prior to their death or a time when they may not be able to make their own decisions, those decisions may be left up to their loved ones or to the court, people who know nothing about them.  Here are some examples:
1. If you have an accident and you are unable to make health decision for your care, your family will have to.  If you are in a vegetative state, and your family is asked to make the choice to discontinue life support, it is one of the most difficult, painful decisions for a loved one to make; but if you have your medical advance directives, then you are making the choice for yourself and the medical personnel simply have to abide by that.
2. If you don’t have a will, your children will be treated by the court as heathen; that is, the court may not make the choice as to where they are placed based on your faith, and so they could go to a relative or to anybody else, regardless of their personal beliefs or their commitment to God.  Do you want your children to be raised by someone who does not share the same beliefs, hope, and promises that you do?
3. More families have been fractured after the death of a loved one because of money and possessions.  Your will may not guarantee peace among your descendants, but at least you will be the one to decide how your possessions will be distributed.
4. Beside proper preparations for the distribution of your means, you can also decide on how you’d like your family to do with your body after death (cremation, donate to science, etc.), your funeral plans (who to speak, where to be buried, etc.), and all the other things related to the days after your death.
5. The most important benefit you can leave your family is the memories you create now and those they can enjoy for a long time to come.  Make videos, take pictures, leave each member of the family something special, write letters, tell stories of your family of origin and of their upbringing that they can hear and retell to their own children.  All those memories may be one of the most valuable treasures you pass on to the next generation.
6. Pass down your faith.  All the treasures you may leave your children will one day disappear, but your faith and personal knowledge of God will continue for eternity.

Prayer: Father, thank you for our children; help us to give them the best inheritance which is that which lasts forever.

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Move On

Scripture: (Num 25:1-3 NKJV)  Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. {2} They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. {3} So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.

Observation: While Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness before going into the Promised Land, there were times when they remained longer at one place or another.  The BKC explains: Though Balaam had been unsuccessful in cursing the people of Israel, he evidently managed to play a role in their seduction by the Baal cult at Peor (cf. 31:16; Rev. 2:14). When Israel was in Shittim, immediately east of the Jordan River where they camped before crossing the river (Josh. 2:1), Israelite men engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women. This was an integral part of the Canaanite fertility rites (cf. Deut. 23:17-18; 1 Kings 14:22-24) and was practiced in connection with the regular services of their temples (Num. 25:2). The physical, carnal aspects of this idolatry tempted the Israelites and led them into the spiritual apostasy of worshiping . . . Baal. So serious was this breach of covenant, especially when Israel was on the threshold of the land of promise, that the Lord commanded Moses to take serious action—all the guilty individuals involved must die.

Application: This story illustrates the danger of lingering in the world.  It becomes easier and more acceptable to adapt to what everyone does.  This is particularly in the areas of sexuality and spirituality, areas which are closely related.  This is also one of the reasons why young people must be even more watchful that while trying to maintain a good, strong, healthy spiritual life in their relationship, don’t fall into sexual immorality.  The other side of the coin is people who enter into romantic relationships with people not of their faith, and after becoming emotionally, and sexually, involved with them, they begin to compromise their spiritual life.  Don’t linger in sin or close to where sin is openly practice because either you or your children or both could be in danger of joining the others in their lifestyle.

Prayer: Father, Help us to move on from this place to the place you’ve gone to prepare for us, and protect us from sexual immorality and the worship of idols, whatever they may be.

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Dumber than a Donkey

Scripture: (Num 22:18-19 NKJV)  Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. {19} “Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me.”

Observation: Balak entices Balaam to come curse Israel, his enemies.  At first it seems as if Balaam, a prophet of God, does what the Lord tells him, but it appears that the possibility of enriching himself makes Balaam bend the rules and ignore God’s will.  Peter writes: (2 Pet 2:15-16 NKJV)  They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; {16} but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
Jude adds: (Jude 1:11 NKJV)  Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
And John in Revelation adds even more: (Rev 2:14 NKJV)  “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
From our story for today and these three texts we can conclude several things about Balaam:
1. Even though God had already told him not to go, he went back to God as if to double-check His will.  If God already stated His will, why try to change it?
2. He told Balak’s delegations he wouldn’t go, but still asked them to stay around a little until he consulted with God.  He allowed temptation to become sin.
3. He was more interested in riches than in doing God’s will.  We can’t serve God and mammon.
4. Greed leads to rebellion.
5. He put a stumbling block for the Israelites on the way to the promised land (Numbers 31), so that even though God prophesied and pronounced a blessing through him, he still disregarded it in order to enrich himself.
6. His sins included greed, but also leading the Israelites to worship idols and to commit sexual immorality.  These three are the most typical sins of our time.

Application: As heads of our household, we must be careful not to follow the steps of Balaam.  Here’s what I mean:
1. Whenever we become aware of God’s will, we must follow it.
2. Do not allow love for the things of this world (money, house, boat, retirement, etc.) or the pursuit of them, become the guiding principle while abandoning the pursuit of the will of God.
3. Don’t let temptation linger or it will become sin.
4. Not only should we not take the steps that lead to sin and death, but we must watch that we don’t lead others or place in the path of others – i.e. our family – anything that may lead them to sin.
5. We must protect our family from the same three sins of Balaam – greed, idolatry, and sexual immorality.

Prayer: Father, thank You for reminding us through the story of Balaam than when we allow temptation to lead away from You we are dumber than a donkey.  Help us to be wise and to protect our family from certain harm, danger, and death.

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Priest, but not God

Scripture: (Num 20:10-11 NKJV)  And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” {11} Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.

Observation: The Israelites complained again about what they saw as their situation.  Instead of looking at their freedom from slavery and the promise of their own country, they complained about the things they didn’t have.  Instead of thanking God for their daily provisions, they complained because they wanted other things.
Moses had had enough, and his temper got the best of him so that when God told him to speak to the rock and water would gush out, instead Moses hit the rock, not just one but twice, and spoke proud words by which he just about claimed equality with God: “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”  Aaron was the High Priest of Israel, and Moses spoke with God face to face, but neither could, directly or indirectly, claim any of God’s attributes.

Application: As I think of this passage, it reminds me of an authoritarian home where the father exercises his power and authority over his family in such a way that there is no room for disagreement, or even a different opinion.  In an authoritarian home, things are the way they are and will remain the way they are because of and as long as the head of the household says so because he rules over all.  What that authoritarian parents must remember is that while they may be the head of the household, the priest of the home, they are still not God.  Not only that, but that attitude will not be conducive to a healthy worship of God.  In fact, if anything, it will lead the members of the household away from God.

Prayer: Father, forgive us when we have not given a good example as parents and have acted almost like gods; but we’re not, cannot be, don’t want to be.  Help us, Father, to have a more loving spirit toward those we love, a more caring attitude toward those in our home, and a willingness and openness to do what’s best for all even if it’s not something we’re used to doing.

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Order Out of Chaos

This was my first entry on my journal and Blog this year (2009); I think it sets the stage for the rest of the year as well.

Scripture: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

Observation: These two verses open the book of Genesis, the Bible, and the history of humanity on this earth.  It speaks of the chaos that reigned on the earth before God began His work of creation and before He brought everything into a perfect order and harmony.  There, when the earth was without form and void, the Spirit of God hovered over the abyss as He began to bring order out of disorder.

Application: As we begin a new year, this is an opportunity to look over our marriage and our family and ask God to bring order out of chaos.  It may seem as if our marriage or our family is falling apart – it could be an illness, or death; it could be infidelity or lack of commitment; it could be falling into the doldrums, the routine, the unhealthy comfort of life; it could be an abandonment of our spiritual connection with God and thus with one another.  Whatever it is that’s brought disorder and chaos in our life, in our marriage, in our family, we can ask God to send His Holy Spirit to restore order, to bring back harmony, to make something very good out of the  chaos we have created.

Prayer: Father, as we begin this new year, please send your Spirit to bring harmony and order out of what we have so badly mismanaged.  Recreate in us Your image and thus make of our marriage and family a true reflection of You.

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