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Archive for April, 2009

Check Out the Family

Scripture: And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.    (2 Ki 8:18 NKJV)

Observation: Jehoram was the king of Judah and he had married the daughter of King Ahab.  Evidently his influence had affected his daughter and as she married Jehoram it also affected him so that he did evil in the sight of the Lord.  Unfortunately Jehoram’s godly father had less of an influence on him than his ungodly wife did. The daughter of Ahab, whom Jehoram married as part of Jehoshaphat’s treaty with Ahab, was Athaliah, through whose influence Jehoram introduced the worship of Baal and many other evils into the kingdom of Judah (see 2Ch 21:2–20).

Application: As I work with couples preparing for marriage, I recommend, among many other things, that you Take Your Time.
While preparing for marriage, make sure you have spent enough time in preparation. As Shakespeare wrote in King Henry, “A hasty marriage seldom proveth well.” It takes time to know another person well enough to decide to spend your life with them. Proverbs 21:5 says it well, “The plans of the diligent and informed will lead to abundance, but every one who is hasty will only come to want and ruin.” A wedding is a one-day event, but a marriage is a lifetime commitment. Take the time necessary to learn everything you can about the person with whom you plan to spend a lifetime.
As a couple, they should focus on two key areas when taking their time to get to know one another.
1. Get to Know the Other Person’s Family.
Perhaps you have made the mistake of thinking the other person’s extended family doesn’t matter. The fact is we don’t marry one person; we marry, or join ourselves to, the entire family.
You must meet the potential in-laws and other family members and spend time getting to know them. Observe how they interact with each other. An old adage fits very well here: An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This family reared your potential mate, so you need to know who they are and what they believe. Only time can provide answers to the following questions, which you must answer.
• Do you know for certain his/her family’s values or habits?
• Is there a spiritual focus of the family? If so, what is it?
• What do they enjoy doing? What are their hobbies and interests?
• How do they handle conflict? How is conflict resolved?
• What is the financial philosophy of the family? Is money important? Is it too important? Did the parents train him/her to be financially responsible?
• How would they react should you choose to marry their son/daughter?
• What kind of in-laws would they be? Uninvolved? Obtrusive? Supportive?
• What was the parenting style of his/her parents? Strict? Flexible? Were they too permissive as parents?
• What kind of influence would they have on your children?

2. Get to Know as Much as Possible about him/her.
It will take time to see how the person with whom you are considering marriage handles conflict, jealousy, or failure. Ask any married couple and they will tell you that even when you think you know your spouse there are still many surprises after you are married.
Ideally it’s beneficial to see a potential marriage partner in every kind of situation before marriage. To do that will take some time, but its time well invested. You must observe how he/she reacts in anger, under stressful situations, and in difficult times. It’s wise and necessary preparation for a successful marriage to learn about the other person’s needs, likes, dislikes,
quirks, habits, particular weaknesses, and strengths.
When is the person not right for marriage? We have included some relational warning signs. Some of these characteristics are only revealed over time.
• Is often caught lying.
• Tends to blame others for everything.
• Is cruel to the innocent and weak. This person may be racist.
• Is controlling. Checks up to see where you go, who you are with, etc. Interrogates you if you’re late or not home. Insists you get permission from him/her before you go anywhere, etc. Handles all the money.
• Attempts to isolate you from your family or friends. Doesn’t want you meeting other people – says he/she is protecting you from people who are not good for you.
• Is extremely jealous. Shows up unexpectedly, checks your phone, even your car mileage. Gets angry if you spend time with anyone other than him/her.
• Quickly says he/she loves you and pushes for serious involvement. Immediately wants an exclusive commitment from you.
• Becomes moody and hypersensitive. Is easily offended. You find yourself constantly apologizing for hurting her/his feelings.
• Verbally berates or attacks you, curses often, is critical, hurtful, or degrading.
• Pressures you for sex. Tries to make up with sex.
• Is repentant but blames for you for his/her actions
• Has pushed, shoved, slapped, or become otherwise physically violent with you.

If any of these characteristics are apparent run, and run fast! The person is not marriage material.

Prayer: Father, as people prepare for their marriage, may they take the time to prepare for this lifetime commitment and may the have their eyes wide open to any concerns they may have about each other and each other’s family.  And if it is indeed in your will that they be joined in holy wedlock, may theirs be a life lasting and fulfilling experience.

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Spiritual CPR

Scripture: He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.    (2 Ki 4:35 NKJV)

Observation: A prominent woman of Shunem had cared for Elisha and had her husband build him a room in their house where he could rest when he was passing by.  In response to her kindness, Elisha asked God to bless her with a child.  When the child was still young, he suddenly got sick and died in his mother’s arms.  She went to find Elisha hoping for a miracle.  Elisha came, prayed, laid on the child, and finally the child came back to life.  This seems like a strange ritual to perform; here are some possible ideas as to why Elisha did what he did.  Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary explains:
(1.) How closely the prophet applied himself to this great operation, perhaps being sensible that he had tempted God too much in thinking to effect it by the staff in Gehazi’s hand, for which he thought himself rebuked by the disappointment. He now found it a harder task than he then thought, and therefore addressed himself to it with great solemnity. [1.] He prayed unto the Lord (v. 33), probably as Elijah had done, Let this child’s soul come into him again. Christ raised the dead to life as one having authority—Damsel, arise—young man, I say unto thee, Arise—Lazarus, come forth (for he was powerful and faithful as a Son, the Lord of life), but Elijah and Elisha did it by petition, as servants. [2.] He lay upon the child (v. 34), as if he would communicate to him some of his vital heat or spirits. Thus he expressed the earnestness of his desire, and gave a sign of that divine power which he depended upon for the accomplishment of this great work. He first put his mouth to the child’s mouth, as if, in God’s name, he would breathe into him the breath of life; then his eyes to the child’s eyes, to open them again to the light of life; then his hands to the child’s hands, to put strength into them. He then returned, and walked in the house, as one full of care and concern, and wholly intent upon what he was about. Then he went up stairs again, and the second time, stretched himself upon the child, v. 35. Those that would be instrumental in conveying spiritual life to dead souls must thus affect themselves with their case, and accommodate themselves to it, and labour fervently in prayer for them.
(2.) How gradually the operation was performed. At the first application, the flesh of the child waxed warm (v. 34), which gave the prophet encouragement to continue instant in prayer. After a while, the child sneezed seven times, which was an indication, not only of life, but liveliness. Some have reported it as an ancient tradition that when God breathed into Adam the breath of life the first evidence of his being alive was sneezing, which gave rise to the usage of paying respect to those that sneeze. Some observe here that sneezing clears the head, and there lay the child’s distemper.

Application: This mother did all in her power for her child, and then left the results to God Himself.  It may not be the same with every parent, after all, many children die and don’t come to life right away, when their parents would want them back.  The promise of the resurrection reminds us that one day, when Jesus returns, parents will be reunited with their children in the most joyful family reunion ever.  I have always loved these words which describe the resurrection morning: “The living righteous are changed ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.’ At the voice of God they were glorified; now they are made immortal and with the risen saints are caught up to meet their Lord in the air. Angels ‘gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ Little children are borne by holy angels to their mothers’ arms. Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part, and with songs of gladness ascend together to the City of God.  {Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p.645} [emphasis mine].
So while we may not have a prophet today who has the power to bring our children back to life, we do have this scene in which we will be reunited with our children who have died before us.  May we never have to go through the pain and separation that death brings about, but if we do, may we hold on to this scene and its promise – eternity with our children with no more death ever!

Prayer: Father, while the pain caused by the death of a child is so overwhelming, it is the promise of the resurrection which can make it bearable.  I pray Father for that day to come soon and that we all may enjoy that awesome family reunion with our loved ones.

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Scripture: So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food.  5But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so sullen that you eat no food?” 6He said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite, and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.'”    7Then Jezebel his wife said to him, “You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

Observation: Ahab, the King of Samaria, wanted to have the vineyard which was next to his palace and which belonged to a man named Naboth.  But Naboth wanted to keep it because it had belonged to his family and wanted it to remain so.  Ahab was very upset and went into his room, got in bed, and would not eat.
When Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, asked him for his behavior, and Ahab told her, she told him to eat and be happy because she would get him Naboth’s vineyard.  She then wrote letters on Ahab’s behalf to have Naboth falsely accused of cursing God and the king, for which he was stoned.  She then presented Naboth’s vineyard to Ahab.

Application: If it were not so tragic, this story is almost comical.  An adult, Ahab, pouting like a child because he couldn’t have someone else’s toy, or vineyard.  We can almost imagine Ahab sulking, furrowed brow, hungry but refusing to eat, maybe even crying – the normal reactions of a child who’s not getting his way, but certainly not the reactions of a mature adult.
On the other hand we have Jezebel, an evil, wicked woman, but also an enabler of her husbands immaturity, selfishness, and childish behavior.  It was convenient for her, however, to keep him that way because then she could control him in other ways, like by furthering the worship of Baal in Israel unopposed by her husband.
Sometime ago I heard of a guest psychologist that Oprah had on her show – the topic was on marital relationships – in which this doctor said something to the effect that women who treat their husbands like children eventually stop finding them undesirable because a woman wants a man and not a child as their husband.  There are women who seem to enjoy being in charge at home and being the ones to tell their husbands what to do, and when, and how.  They treat them as a mother would treat a young child.  In more ways than one they are emasculated by not being allowed to “wear the pants” in the family.  But these very women, eventually don’t find their man sexually attractive and don’t realize that they’re the ones who have turned them into less than a man.
If a man is to grow up, so he doesn’t pout like a child when confronted with challenges and difficulties, he needs a supportive spouse, not one who will enable his moodiness.  God designed woman to be a help-meet, not above nor below man.  The best help a woman can give her husband is to believe in him, encourage him, and express appreciation and admiration for him.

Prayer: Father, may we be true help-meets to our spouse so that they will grow and mature as they help us grow and mature.

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Scripture: “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.    (1 Ki 11:2 NKJV)

Observation: Solomon, as wise as he was, married hundreds of women, many of who were from the people God had forbidden Israel to have any relationship with.  It was these women who led him to commit idolatry, the sin for which Solomon’s children lost the kingdom God had give to David.

Application: As we read of the lives of David and Solomon, both had several things in common: Both were chosen to be kings of Israel, both were prophets, both were inspired, both did many good things for God and for his people, both had multiple wives.  But where they were different was that David remained loyal to God while Solomon worshiped the idols that his wives brought with them from their own countries.  Without going too deep into the implications, I think we can safely draw a few conclusions:
1. God knows the danger of entering into a marital relationship with someone of a different faith and forbids it.  While many Adventists have led their spouses to God and to the church, the number of Adventists who have left the church because of their spouses is alarming.  Marriage is such a powerful emotional relationship that some people may be driven away from God by their spouse.  From the very beginning we observe the power of this relationship when Eve led Adam to sin by eating of the forbidden fruit.  Adam could not see himself with Eve and chose to die with her rather tha live without her not trusting that God would do what’s best for him.
2. Adultery must not be the worst of all sins.  While we would not condone adultery at any time, at the same time we should not make it the worse of all sins and shun people who commit adultery.  In David’s case, not only did he commit adultery but tried to cover it with murder, and yet God said of David that he was a man after His own heart.  Solomon had multiple wives, and yet God blessed him with great wisdom.
3. What God DOES take great offense at is idolatry – turning away from Him to worship other gods.

Again, we do not wish to excuse adultery in any way, shape, or form.  We do discourage marrying someone of a different faith.  We must never turn from God to worship idols, whatever and whoever they may be.

Prayer: Father, may we always worship You and never idols, may we always be faithful to You and to our spouse, and may Your love always cover us.

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Honor Your Mother

Scripture: Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand. (1 Ki 2:19 NKJV)

Observation: Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, came before the king to speak on behalf of his half-brother Adonijah. With the respect she deserved, Solomon rose from his throne and not only honored her by having a throne for her, but before all the people watching, the king bowed to the ground before her.

Application: There’s an age, the early teens or even pre-teens, when some children, boys in particular, seem uncomfortable being seen with their parents for fear that their friends may make fun of them. It’s not that boys are embarrassed of their mom, it’s just that they don’t want to be called “momma’s boy” by their peers. I guess I skipped that stage, had friends who didn’t make fun of me, or simply didn’t care, but for me it was a matter of joy and pride to be seen or to be with my parents and live with no regrets because I loved and cared for my mother for the last seven years of her life while she lived with us. This respect is not only one of God’s commandments, it is their due for the love, care, and sacrifices on our behalf.

Prayer: Father, thank You for our loving parents and for the opportunity You give us to show them our love and respect. May we take advantage of the opportunities You give us to take good, loving care of them.

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Mom’s Love

Scripture: Then she said to him, “My lord, you swore by the LORD your God to your maidservant, saying, ‘Assuredly Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’    (1 Ki 1:17 NKJV)

Observation: Absalom’s brother, Adonijah, decided to make himself king of Israel since his father David was old and getting closer to his death.  Bathsheba, mother of Solomon, asked David to fulfill his promise to her to elevate Solomon to the throne which is indeed what David did, not just to respond to her request but also following God’s plan and will for David and his family.

Application: Second only to the love God has for us is the love that mothers have for their children.  In fact, that love is so special that God uses it as illustrations of his love for us in various places in the Scriptures.
Among the Jewish people, the love of mothers for their children is legendary and is credited for the great success of so many of them.  They joke about the mothers who while holding their babies in arms or when they’re still small children they introduce them as, “this my Aaron, the doctor,” or “this is my  David, the lawyer,” and when they leave for school they make sure their children have their books while other mothers may be more concerned as to whether their children have their lunch or are properly clothed to go outside.  In the gospels, John and James’ mother asked Jesus for a special place for her sons, next to Jesus.  As upset as the other disciples were, we sometimes are annoyed with mothers who are too proud of their children and would like for the rest of us to admire their children.  If they wish to be proud of their kids they have ever right to do so, but not try to force them on us.
As a father who loves his daughters dearly, it may sound “unfair” that the love of fathers is not shown as prominently as that of mothers.  But the reality is that carrying a child inside for the months of pregnancy makes those children much more a part of them than they are of the fathers.  But it doesn’t mean we as fathers cannot develop a strong bond with our children.  I am blessed to have a very close, strong relationship with my daughters and we enjoy spending time together.  But I also recognize that there are many things where they and their mother have a stronger bond – like shopping, or talking about clothes.  Some time ago I heard that James Dobson, the famous Christian psychologist, claims that the most strained relationship today is that between men and their sons.  Since I don’t have sons I don’t know why that may be, but we as parents should still try to maintain and nourish close, strong bonds with our children.

Prayer: Father, thank you for our children and for the good relationship we enjoy with them.  May those bonds be strengthened each day.  And bless us, when our relationships are strained, and bring healing to them.

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Scripture: Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom; if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”    (2 Sam 18:33 NKJV)

Observation: Absalom had show his rebellious spirit when he killed his brother Amnon, albeit to avenge the rape of his sister at the hands of Amnon, and by sitting at the gate of the city in judgment as if he were the king.  That spirit of rebellion ripened into a coup d’état against his own father, King David.   But for Absalom it was not enough that he had routed his father, he wanted to destroy him completely, so he pursued him as David fled.  Among the things for which Absalom was known was a head full of long, thick hair.  While pursuing David, Absalom ran under the thick boughs of a terebinth tree, his hair got caught in them and he was left hanging in mid air exposed to the enemy.  Joab, David’s general, came and killed him there.
Joab sent news to David of Absalom’s death, and today’s text tell us of his reaction to the news.  And while Israel could have been celebrating the victory and the fact David could now return to Jerusalem, they all felt awkward by seeing the king mourning.  Joab chastised the king for not affirming the troops which protected him and who won this victory over those who were pursuing him.

Application: I have been told by those going through it that there is no more painful death than the death of a son or daughter, regardless of their age.  I remember being at the hospital with the mother of a stillborn child and a few months later in another room nearby with the parents of a three-year-old.  As a police chaplain I had to give a family the news of the tragic death on a motorcycle of their seventeen-year-old son and have officiated at the funeral of a forty-five year-old daughter who died of cancer.  During times like these and many others like them, the parents have told me again and again how that the death of their parents or a sibling or a dear friend was painful but their pain at losing a child was so much worse, almost unbearable.  Even if their son or daughter had left the fold, like Absalom, their death was nonetheless sad for their parents.
It seems like the right order of events should always be that as you get older and your parents age by the time they die you are old enough to accept it as a natural part of life.  I lost my dad when I was fifteen years old and my mom when I was 42 years old, and their deaths affected me in different ways.  At any rate, it is expected that at some point in time your parents will pass on.  But your child will always be younger than you and thus you don’t expect to have them die before you; it is not the normal way of life.  For Adam and Eve, the murder of their son Abel, particularly at the hand of his brother Cain, must have been horrible.  For David the death of his first son with bathsheba and not of Absalom was most painful.  For God the death of His Son Jesus must have been most difficult.  And yet, he experiences the death of so many of His children every single day!  That’s why during the difficult, painful days following the death of a child we can find comfort in Him who truly knows what it is like to loose a child.  And with God, it’s not just the He understands, but somehow He also brings the healing we need.

Prayer: Father, I pray none of us ever experience the death of one of our children; bless them and protect them.  For those who have, bless them and comfort them, and may Your comforting, loving arms surround them during their time of mourning until healing comes.

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