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Archive for July, 2009

Two Are Better Than One

Scripture: (Eccl 4:9-12 NKJV) Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. {10} For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. {11} Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? {12} Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Observation: Solomon writes of things he has evidently drawn from his personal experience in his search for true joy and happiness. After having experienced just about everything a man in his position can, he comes to realize that none of it brings him true, lasting happiness. It is then that he faces the reality that true, lasting happiness comes from loving and serving God. In today’s verses, Solomon speaks of the value of TWO. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains:

In contrast with the futility of selfish greed, Solomon commended sharing with others by citing several advantages that come from companionship: better profit (a good return) from one’s labor (v. 9), help in time of difficulty (v. 10), comfort in time of need (v. 11; one’s body heat can keep another person from freezing), protection in time of danger (v. 12). The last three of these are illustrated by examples from the benefits of two persons traveling together. In the case of the second and third of these (vv. 10b, 11b) Solomon lamented the perils of isolation (characteristic of selfish greed; cf. “a man all alone,” v. 8a).

Having set forth the advantages of joint effort and the mutual benefits of sharing one’s toil and its fruit with another, Solomon stated climactically that if two are better than one (v. 9) then three are even better (v. 12). One’s efforts and benefits should not be confined to merely two persons.

Application: It’s interesting that Solomon had this insights which have now proved to be correct based on current marriage research. The advantages of marriage include, among others, financial, social, educational, health-wise. Financial, married people enjoy better finances because they have more stable jobs, and have more plans for their future therefore tend to save more, spend less, and invest more wisely. Social, the couples’ commitment to each other and to their relationship are stronger than among those who simply live together. When it comes to health, married man in particular are healthier than single men – maybe because of their spouse’ attention or because of their insistence they visit the doctor or eat better or exercise. Psychologically, single and divorced women tend to have higher levels of depression than married women.

So, if you’re married, count your many blessings. Some married people look at the other side of the marital fence, at single life, as one which would give them the happiness they desire, and when they jump to that side of the fence they find out that married life actually offered them a much better condition altogether. Stay in your marriage, fight for it, work to make it better; the benefits are plentiful and measurable.

Prayer: Father, thank you for designing marriage for our benefit. Bless our unions that we may enjoy and appreciate those benefits and the spouse with whom we get to enjoy them.

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Scripture: (Prov 16:24 NKJV)  Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

Observation: Another practical bit of marriage advice from Solomon.

Application: While these words don’t seem to be directed specifically to married couples – in reality they can apply to anyone and to any relationship – they are wonderful advice to a husband who wants to connect emotionally with his wife.  My mother taught us, from the time we were small, to express public appreciation for even the simplest of acts – cooking, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, putting up a nail on the wall to hang a picture, etc.  In marriage, sometimes we begin to take each other for granted and eventually end up neglecting one another or neglecting to express appreciation for what each does for the other.
So, how do you praise your wife?  Think about even small things she does, even the ones you think are normal, everyday, maybe even expected acts or responsibilities, and thank her and compliment her for them.  Here are a few ideas and examples of what to thank her or compliment her for, and how to do it:
– Thank you for dinner; it was very good.  Thank you for making an effort to prepare good, healthy, nutritious, good-tasting (your own words) meals.
– I appreciate you washing and folding my clothes; they smell good, it makes it easier for me to put  them away, I’m glad I have clean clothes to wear . . . etc.
– I’m grateful that you are so careful with our funds, that you watch carefully our budget, that you don’t spend money unnecessarily, that you check with me before making large purchases. . . etc.
– I love the way that dress looks on you, that you take care of yourself, the way you conduct yourself  around others, how kind you are to the kids, how sweet you are to me. . . etc.
– Thank you for keeping the house clean, I appreciate the way you decorate the house, the flowers/plants you got make our house look so nice and fresh. . .etc.
– Thank you for the many hours you work to help us with our finances, for the long hours you work outside the house (or at home), for your great contribution to our life (or home, or family). . . etc.

Dennis Rainey, in his Family Life Marriage Bible, writes: Speaking pleasant words to your spouse helps to establish and strengthen emotional connections.  As you work to make a genuine connection with your words, go below the surface to the real issues of life.  Share with her, for example, what goes on at work.  Most women love hearing all the details.  You’ll also discover that she can provide wise counsel on the issues you face.
Make a special effort, then, to use pleasant words with your spouse, words that build them up and  encourage them, words that build emotional connections between the two of you, words that are “sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”

Prayer: Father, use our mouth and the words that come out of it to build up our spouse and thus strengthen our relationship.

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Scripture: The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. (Proverbs 17:14)

Observation: Another one of the many wise saying from Solomon contained in this book.

Application: How many times we wished we had not said something?  How many times we wished we had not had an argument with our spouse, particularly when we know we started it, when we know we know we were wrong to begin with and now we don’t know how to fix it?
Solomon’s advice is so good and practical and one we should keep in mind.  One strife, or an argument, or a fight begins, it is so hard to stop it before it cause harm to one, both, or to the relationship.  Words fly, feelings are hurt, resentment sets in, forgiveness is hard to come, peace and harmony take a while to return.  It is so much easier to stem the flow before it is too late.  Instead, PRACTICE THE PREVENTION RULE.  Benjamin Franklin was on target when he stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We must learn to resolve conflict before it starts. God’s instruction on this point is clear: “The beginning of strife is like the letting of water. Stop the flow before it starts. Quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  – Proverb 17:14
Here are some suggestions:
1. LOOK FOR AREAS WHERE YOU ARE TO BLAME.  When you look for your responsibility in the conflict, it causes the other party to soften and often come to your defense.
2. ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS.
• Is it a Worthy Battle? Proverb 19:11 – PICK YOUR BATTLES. Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.    (Proverbs 19:11 NRSV)  Is this really a big deal? Do you want to have conflict over this? Is it really worth the anxiety and agony? Anyone who has ever played basketball knows that during a game there is going to be what is called “incidental contact.”
• Am I Wrong?  Be quick to say “I was wrong.” If you say that simple phrase to your family members, it will open a highway of opportunity for real discussion. If you are wrong, admit it. It isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we’re wrong. By admitting it, we will stop the flow of conflict. . . . immediately.
• Should I React or Respond? To React – Instinct, Impulse, or To Respond – Takes Thought.  When we react, we don’t think, we just act! There is a huge difference between reacting and responding. To react requires no intelligence, only instinct. But to respond, you have to get that three-pound chunk of gray matter in your head involved. Responding requires time; it takes the facts. Only when you respond will you have a chance to resolve conflict.  In conflict, too many of us react when we should respond. Be certain you respond; don’t just react with a knee-jerk, thoughtless reply.
• What Difference Is this Going to Make in My Life in Three Days? What Impact Will it Have in Five Years?   Many times, if you will ask these two questions, you’ll find that what might have been a ridiculous conflict is simply not worth the battle in the scheme of the big picture.  In his classic book,  Brave New World, Aldous Huxley made a very intriguing observation: “When two parties argue for an extended period of time, both are wrong.”  Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to do all things without   complaining   and disputing.  When you say the right thing in the wrong way, it becomes the wrong thing to say even though it might be right!

Here are a few suggestions as to how to say things more effectively to one another.

• Use the Still, Small Voice.  If we got down close to the ear of our child and whispered, the power of those words was amazing. The spirit in your heart affect’s the tone of your voice. If you’re filled with unresolved bitterness and resentment, it will come out in your voice.  Lower your voice. Take a deep breath and speak in measured tones. If you’re in a rage, step away and calm down. No one listens when you’re shouting, but everyone does when you whisper.  Watch your body language and eye contact. A certain demeaning toss of the head or look in the eye can make the hearer angry and defensive.
• Maintain Your Sense of Humor.  We can resolve many conflicts by simply allowing ourselves to laugh at the circumstance and at ourselves.
• Don’t Get Personal.  Don’t say irresponsible things about each other with the intent to hurt and
demean. That’s attacking the person, not the issue at hand.  Address the issue, not the individual.
• Don’t Bring up the Past.  Don’t bring up issues from the past and attempt to use them in the current conflict to win the verbal battle and bolster your position.
• Don’t Get off the Subject.  Don’t get off the subject by widening your argument to issues unrelated to the current conflict and discussion.  * Remember, he who angers you controls you.  Anyone can take away your freedom, but remember, the most important human freedom is your freedom to choose your attitude in any circumstance.
• Avoid Statements That Are Impossible to Defend.  One person may say, “I asked you to pick me up at school.” The other may reply, “No, you didn’t!” The first person responds, “Yes, I did!” This interaction is endless and fruitless. Make sure your statements are the truth.
• Avoid Six Fatal Phrases:
1. “You always. . . .”  No one always does anything.
2. “You never. . . .”  Again, you cannot accurately use the word “never” about another person’s behavior or choices.
3. “You should/could have. . . .”  Stay out of the past. How can you rationally discuss something someone “should” have  done? You can’t go back. Operate in the present.
4. “Why didn’t you. . . .”  – You can’t rewind the clock. . . .  This statement is certainly not part of a good, healthy conversation.  If you ask a person, “Why didn’t-you. . . .?” there is no way they can “rewind” the experience and fix what they have already done. It is a waste of breath.
5. “I would have. . . .”  Now you’re getting arrogant. “I” would have done it this way or that way. “I” wouldn’t have made that mistake. This remark only separates you and your listener even more and breaks down any chance for productive interaction.
6. “You make me. . . .” – No one makes you!  This one’s a real dandy. Talk about taking away all responsibility for personal behavior.  This statement is the king of them all! No one makes anyone else do anything. We choose. We are in control of our own actions and choices. Instead of saying, “You make me…,” say to the other person, “I feel…,” and explain your emotions from your perspective.

Replace Those Six Phrases with These.
1. “In the future…”  This is a proactive statement. It gives both of you a positive position for a beneficial conversation and takes the defensiveness and sting of accusation out of your interaction. For example say: “In the future, would you please leave my keys on my desk and not in the car?”
2. “Next time…”  You cannot change what has already happened. There are no magic wands in families which will unspill the milk or magically erase a word or deed. For a more positive approach to how you say things, try this. For example, say: “The next time you find out you will be late picking me up after work, I would really appreciate it if you would call and let me know.”
3. “What would have to happen…” – Open-Ended Gives the other person a chance to respond.
A person who is given the opportunity to think about their ideas, thoughts, position, or interest in a matter will be much more open to what you have to say. This phrase is one of our most important suggestions related to how you talk to someone. For example say:  “What would have to happen for you to be more helpful around the house with the children?”

Prayer: Father, help us to stop fights and arguments before they begin and thus maintain the peace in our homes we all long for so that they will be a haven of rest for all who dwell within.

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Scripture: The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1 NKJV)

Observation: One of the many proverbs or sayings written by King Solomon.

Application: Dennis Rainey, in his Family Life Marriage Bible, comments on this text: Every wife has the power to create or destroy her relationship with her husband. “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands” (14:1). . . Every man needs his wife’s respect; it’s one of his deepest needs.  He has others, but your respect – or lack thereof – impacts his whole life.
He goes on to say: Respecting your husband includes really listening to him, not simply hearing the words that come out of his mouth.  Take seriously what he says! . . . Some wives do not realize how powerful they can be in their husband’s life when they truly respect their man. . . and a wife should look for ways to affirm and respond to her husband’s leadership.  It starts by praising him for those areas in which he deserves genuine respect.

I’m baffled at times to hear how some wives speak to and about their husbands and then complain  that their marriage is not what they would like it to be or that they’re not treated like they think they should be.  Applying the Golden Rule, if wives begin by affirming and showing appreciation and admiration for their husbands, even for the smallest of things they say or do, can build them up and in turn result in better husbands.  Willard Harley writes that Admiration and Respect are among a man’s most important emotional needs, not a selfish desire.  Showing admiration and respect for your husband is a gift to them, but it can also become a gift you give yourself.

Prayer: Father, may we show and express more appreciation toward our spouse and thus meet their needs, and while doing so, may our marriage be strengthened.

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Scripture: (Psa 137:1-3 NKJV)  By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. {2} We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. {3} For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

Observation: The Israeli exiles now long for home while living in Babylon, and their pain is made more difficult to bear because those who have taken them prisoners taunt them with their condition as foreigners and make fun of them.

Application:
I spent three fantastic weeks in my homeland of Colombia.  I have lived in the US 33 years, have been adopted by this country and the people here, I’m an American citizen, and love the Us as if I had been born here.  But my heart is also in Colombia where I spent the first 18 years of my life, where I still have many relatives and friends, where I received the first part of my education, and where I have some of my strongest memories – the death of my father when I was 15, my sister’s wedding, my group of friends, and many more.

I have been back home only four times in the last 33 years, one of them for my mother’s death.  The other three visits were vacations, to see the family, and to get reacquainted with my home and my people.  I don’t know if all foreigners experience this, but I know that every time I come back from Colombia I go through a couple of weeks of deep sadness and a longing for home.  I desperately want to be back with those I love, eat their food, enjoy their music, travel their roads, watch their sunsets, share their landscapes, feel their warmth, and even their cold.

I wonder at times if Jesus ever had similar thoughts and feelings.  He left heaven and was away from home for 33 years.  He left a place where He was surrounded by beings that loved Him, indeed worshiped Him, where there was no violence, anger, or hatred, where he had daily, constant, face-to-face communion with His Father, with the Holy Spirit, and with all the angels.  And while here on earth, even though He had a loving mother and step-father, and several friends, He also encountered the hostility of His step-brothers, the anger of the people, the hatred of the authorities.  I wonder how much He longed to be home!

I couldn’t put mi fingers on it today, but remember reading of a vision Ellen White had where she was transported to heaven and then, having come out of the vision, witnessing the darkness and gloom of earth in comparison to what she had experienced in heaven she felt so sad.  I’m glad we won’t experienced that after we leave heaven to come back to earth because it will be a new earth and because God Himself, and Jesus will be with us.  In the mean time, as much as I long for my Colombian home, I also long for heaven, my eternal home.

Prayer: Father, may Jesus return soon so we can go home to be with You and with our loved ones who’ve passed away so we can enjoy eternity together and never be apart from each other again.

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