Archive for June, 2013

Scripture: And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah 1:12 (NKJV)

Observation: God sent Jonah to go immediately to Nineveh, but instead of following God’s command Jonah, immediately, went the opposite direction. He evidently hired a ship to take him far from God’s appointed ministry, but while on this journey a storm arose that threaten to capside the ship and throw everyone overboard and to their death. When it was discovered that Jonah was the culprit for this storm, Jonah told them to throw him overboard. . . to Jonah, assisted suicide was easier to bear than the hard work of speaking for God.
The Jewish Study Bible explains: “Jonah probably thought that death was the best available way out of his mission. Had he died, he would have successfully escaped from God’s call. Of course, the readers know that God will not let this happen. As soon as Jonah is thrown overboard, they expect a divine action aimed at saving Jonah from death. Their expectations are fulfilled.” (p.1201).
God never intended to kill Jonah or the other people on board the ship, and even when Jonah tried to find the “easy” way out God had already prepared his rescue – a large fish.

Application: We all probably have had a situation at one time or another which we have found almost overwhelming, almost hopeless, we can’t seem to find a clear solution, a way out of it. Some thoughts may have crept in: “I wish I were not here,” “I wish we were not married,” “I wish I were dead.” Many have taken the “easy” way out – divorce, abandoned the family, suicide. But while those steps might have gotten them some relief – maybe permanent relief in death – the results for those left behind are horrendous.
The effects of divorce, the breakup of a family, or suicide can be devastating to the children. I have known older adults who still experience the results of their parent’s suicide while they were children. There is a sense of guilt (Was it something I did?), rejection, (Why did he/she do that if he/she loved me? He/she must not have loved me!), shame (sometimes lying about the cause of death), feeling abandoned, questioning why it all happened, blaming themselves or others.
The wonderful thing about the story of Jonah, is that God does not abandon us even when we reject Him. God gives us not just a second chance but many chances. And God has an answer to our questions, a solution to our problems, a plan for our lives, a promise for our prayers. Even when we make bad decisions, God has better solutions.
Just this morning I read these words again: “Though difficulties, perplexities, and discouragements may arise, let neither husband nor wife harbor the thought that their union is a mistake or a disappointment. Determine to be all that it is possible to be to each other. Continue the early attentions. In every way encourage each other in fighting the battles of life. Study to advance the happiness of each other. Let there be mutual love, mutual forbearance. Then marriage, instead of being the end of love, will be as it were the very beginning of love.” (Ellen G. White, The Faith I Live By, p. 253).

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, remove all negative thoughts from our mind, especially those thoughts that cause us and others harm. Father, as You gave Jonah a second chance, as You gave the Ninevites a new opportunity, please give us a new chance to change, to make our lives better, to make our marriages healthier and happier.

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Scripture: Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (NKJV)

Observation: The words “His mercy endures forever” are a key phrase which occurs 26 times in this poem in reference to God’s goodness. The word translated “mercy” is Hessed, which means, “divine love” “compassion,” or “steadfast love.”

Application: I supposed if we sang this psalm today it would be like a praise chorus or a responsive reading with the same words repeated again and again. There’s probably a good reason for this repetition. Sometimes we forget or take for granted God’s abundant mercy and His steadfast love for us – He simply will not give up on us! The psalmist had experienced God’s overflowing mercy and expressed it repeatedly as a reminder to others, maybe even to himself.
I wonder if the psalmist also had in mind to teach us as married couples, as parents, as children, as families that we need to experience that steadfast love, that overflowing mercy, so that we can then extend it to our spouse, our children, our parents, our family! We seem to find it easier to practice judgment, and are critical and unforgiving with our spouse’s mistakes. We are impatient with our children when they do the opposite of what we want them to do. As our parents age and their health begins to deteriorate we become frustrated – some even become abusive. This psalm speaks to us, urging us to give thanks to God that His steadfast love, His abundant mercy, his overwhelming compassion, and to extend the same to our loved ones When we do, not only do we experience God in our lives but we become the extension of His love toward our loved ones who are also His children.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, thank You for your mercy and love for us which last forever. Thank you that You don’t turn Your back on us; instead, You have compassion for us, and reach out to us to rescue us, to save us, to cover us with Your forgiveness and love. Help us to be more compassionate, more loving with others, especially those closest to us.

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In the Service of God

Scripture: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their wickedness has come before Me. 3Jonah, however, started out to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s service. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went aboard to sail with the others to Tarshish, away from the service of the Lord.

Observation: The Jewish Study Bible makes a couple of interesting observations about these texts:
1. Jonah found a ship “coming from Tarshish” rather than “going to Tarshish,” as usually translated. 2. Many scholars accept the translation “he paid the fare” but there is a good reason to prefer “he paid its hire” (that is, he hired the ship and its sailors). In other words, he was “lucky” to find a ship just coming to port and hastened so much that he hired everyone so as to leave for the sea on the spot.

Application: There seems to be this human tendency to want to do the opposite of what God wants us to do. When God instructed Adam and Eve to offer animal sacrifices as a lesson and asa promise of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, Cain offered the fruit of the land instead. When God told the Israelites shortly after leaving Egypt to go in and take over the land He was giving them, they told Him they would not go in because were afraid of the giants there. So then God told them they would not go in for forty years and they tried to go in and were routed by the people living there.
It seems as if in dating and marriage people many continue with this rebellious attitude. God already has certain guidelines, such as “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). And yet hundred upon hundreds totally disregard His guidance and enter into such relationships only to find themselves disillusioned, frustrated, alone, and often divorced.
It is often the same case in marriage. When the romantic feelings seem absent from their relationship many want to flee back to the single life or worse into the arms of somebody else. I often hear words such as “Don’t I have the right to be happy?” or “I made a mistake marrying hi/her.” If, however, God has given you your spouse as His mission to you, it is no mistake and we can abandon our ministry to them. It is interesting that Jonah received a command from God to go “at once to Nineveh,” and instead he at once went the opposite direction.
Once you have married a person, and are having some conflict, challenges, or difficulties in your relationship, instead of thinking of leaving, answer God’s call to help prepare your spouse for the soon second coming of Jesus (Eph. 5:25-26), don’t run away from God’s service, fulfill your God-given duties, do it joyfully and lovingly (1 Cor 13), and He will reward your efforts with a better relationship or at the very least with the clear conscience of having done all for Him as He asked.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, at times we have taken our marriage as a convenient estate in life instead as a relationship which reflects that which we should have with You. Bless our marriage, and help me to be to my spouse the helpmeet, their sanctifier You have called me to be.

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Swollen with Pride

Scripture: “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4 (NKJV)

Observation: As an introduction to the woeful taunt-songs Habakkuk was instructed to record, God gave His summary condemnation of the conceited character of the Babylonian: He is puffed up. Like a bloated toad, these arrogant people hopped along toward destruction. They were swollen with evil passions. Their desires were not upright. (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

Application: The image that is painted in the above commentary is very interesting: “Like a bloated toad, these arrogant people hopped along toward destruction.” When two people marry, there is a normal, automatic tension. Each person, because of their family of origin, tends to want to pull his/her spouse in the direction in which they were raised. . . they want to live in the way they were accustomed to, to follow the patterns they observed in their family as they were growing up. When those patterns were good and healthy, that can be a good, solid basis for building a new home. The problems begin when one or both partners had faulty, or even unhealthy families of origin and each wants the other to follow the same patterns. Tension and conflict will be the result.
The next issue that normally arises our of that tension, and conflict, is an unwillingness to recognize wrongdoing. Pride takes over and one or neither is willing to admit that those patterns set during their upbringing are bad. They feel that if the other person is not willing to accept their family of origin’s patterns they are in reality attacking them, or at the very least rejecting them. They rise up to defend their family and initiate an attack on their partner’s family.
While this tension, and resulting conflict, are natural in the process of adapting to life together, the biggest issue arises when one or both are unwilling to recognize their contribution to their problems and proudly stand their ground, even if it is not good, or even if it’s detrimental to the relationship. “Like a bloated toad, these arrogant people hop along toward destruction.” Consciously or unconsciously they run toward the precipice taking their family with them until they plunge together into the death of their relationship.
Habakkuk offers a much better solution for you and for your family: “The just shall live by his faith.” Set aside pride and arrogance and live with the knowledge of God’s presence in your life and in your marriage and learn to depend on Him to help you form a healthy relationship. When the horizon looks dark, let Him be your sunshine. When the ground seems shaky, let Him be your rock. When the storms of conflict and strife arrive in your marriage, let Him come and bring you peace. Instead of hopping along toward the destruction of your marriage, walk with God by faith so you and your family will have life, and life abundant.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, come live in our lives, in our marriage, in our family and eradicate all pride and sin from our relationship that we may live and not die.

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A Lasting Inheritance

Scripture: Woe to those who join house to house; They add field to field, Till there is no place Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land! 9 In my hearing the LORD of hosts said, “Truly, many houses shall be desolate, Great and beautiful ones, without inhabitant. Isaiah 5:8-9 (NKJV)

Observation: Woe. Six “woes” (vv. 8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22) are introduced by the Hebrew particle translated as “woe” or “alas.” They function as warning devices. They clearly intensify the force of the condemnation to exile. The charges against God’s people are as follows: they do not pay attention to the Lord; they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel; they call evil good and good evil; and they are engaged in sin. The evils God judges in this setting are greed (first woe); self indulgence (second woe); moral perversion (third woe); delusions of grandeur (fourth woe); self indulgence and the resulting social abuses (fifth and sixth woes).

Application: One of the most interesting stories that Jesus taught sprang from a question put to him: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Luke 12:13 (NKJV) How many families have fallen apart because one took more than their share and another felt they didn’t get enough. Arguments, fights, lawsuits, and even murder have resulted from wanting a larger piece of the inheritance.
But Jesus’ response put the desire for more into a proper perspective: Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17 He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19 and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ 21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” Luke 12:16-21 (MSG)
I just saw this interesting story today which helps us to put Jesus’ words into a different perspective: A man gave orders to do three things upon his death:
(1) That his coffin be carried by the best doctors of the time. (2) That the treasures he had would be scattered along the way to his grave. (3) That his hands would be left outside the coffin in the sight of all.
Amazed someone ask him the reason for his requests. He explained:
1) I want the most eminent doctors carrying my coffin to show that they don’t have the power to heal. (2) I want the road to be covered with my treasures so everyone can see that whatever material goods you accumulate on earth stay on earth. (3) I want my hands out of the coffin so that people can see that we were born empty-handed and we die empty-handed. . . when you die, you cannot take anything material with you.
We can leave our families money and material things; those could help them establish their own future. But more important than those physical things which will pass away one day, we can give them our time with them, the memories we build together, a good character, and most importantly, we can give them our faith in God. . . those things are not perishable. . . they are eternal.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to remember that our life is in Your hands and that if we want to leave our loved ones any inheritance when we die it is our faith in You.

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Scripture: Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

Observation: The word “corrupt” in the original Greek language of the New Testament literally means “insipid,” without “the salt of grace” (Col 4:6), and therefore worthless and then becoming corrupt.: this includes “foolish talking” (Eph 5:4). Its opposite is “that which is good to edifying.”

Application: I just received this from a friend:
A young disciple of a wise man once asked him, “Master, a friend was speaking ill about you.”
“Stop!” interrupted the wise man; “Have you made sure that what you’re about to tell me has passed through the three doors?”
“The three doors?”
“Yes. The first door is TRUTH. Are you sure that what you’re going to tell me is absolutely true?”
“No. Y heard it from some neighbors.”
“Well, at least you have made your information go through the door GOODNESS. Will what you’re going to tell be good to me or anybody else?”
“No, not really. . . the opposite.”
“The last door is NECESSARY. Is it necessary for me to know what bothers you so much?”
“Actually, no.”
“Therefore,” said the wise man smiling, “If it’s not TRUE, or GOOD, or NECESSARY, let’s buried it in forgetfulness.”

When it comes to our relationships with our spouse, loved ones, or friends, we must remember that words can do much harm, so we must think carefully what we’re going to say before doing it. Someone wrote: “You are a slave of the things you say, but Lord of the words you don’t.” It is easier to hold the words we have not said than to bring back those that have already come out of our mouth. The apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of saying only words that serve for the edification and encouragement of others. Think of what positive things you can say to and about your spouse that will affirm them, encourage them, strengthen them. Think of what you can do to help your children develop a good strong sense of self. Most importantly, think of what you can say to your loved ones and others that will help them experience God’s grace in their lives. Don’t be a slave of your words. . . be their master.”

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help me to use all that I say to strengthen, encourage, and build others up, never to tear anyone down.

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Scripture: Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:12-14 (NKJV)

Observation: Thankfulness, a fourth result of following God’s will and pleasing Him, is a keynote in the spiritual life. Believers are urged elsewhere by Paul, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:18) and to come before God “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” (Phil. 4:6). Four other times in Colossians (3:15–17; 4:2) Paul enjoined believers to be grateful. Joyfulness too is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), made possible by the gospel (cf. Isa. 29:19; John 16:20; Acts 13:52).

Application: As spouses and parents, we need to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness. If you’re not already doing it, begin by expressing thanks for even the smallest, simplest things your spouse or children do – mow the lawn, make supper, pick up toys, open the door of the car, took garbage out, etc. We should never take each other for granted nor should we take for granted what the others do as if it was their obligation.
What is important as well is that when we develop a spirit of gratitude for the common, simple things in daily life we will also grow to appreciate even more all that God has done for us. In particular, we should give thanks for the three greatest gifts mentioned in our texts for today:
1. That we have been redeemed through the shedding of His blood, and our sins are forgiven and never remembered anymore. (V.14)
2. That we have been delivered and rescued from the penalty and power of sin. Satan will never have power over us again. (V. 13)
3. That we have been accepted into the kingdom of God for eternity (become eternal citizens of heaven with a new passport and identification) (V. 13)
Paul urges us to always remember with thanks what Christ did for us on the cross. We should pray that our loved ones, our family, our children will remember to be thankful for these three great gifts every day.

Using the principles from the last seven days, write a prayer for your family which incorporates each of the element or prayer requests mentioned. Keep the copy of your prayer in a place where you can refer to it every day as you pray individually for each member of your family, especially for your children.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, thank You that You have rescued us, redeemed us, and that we have been accepted into Your kingdom, all through the life and death of Your Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. Help us to be grateful everyday for these great gifts.

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Scripture: Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy. Colossians 1:11 (NKJV)

Observation: Spiritual strength is a third factor that results from knowing God’s will and pleasing Him. Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might includes three words for strength: “being strengthened” is dynamoumenoi; “power” is dynamei, spiritual vitality; and “might” is kratos (“power that overcomes resistance”; used only of God in the NT). This God-given strength produces great endurance and patience. This endurance (trans. “perseverance” in James 1:3) was exemplified by Job (James 5:11). To this endurance Paul added “patience,” a word generally connected with gentleness and calm sweetness (as in 1 Cor. 13:4). Endurance and patience are often associated (cf. 2 Cor. 6:4, 6; 2 Tim. 3:10; James 5:10–11). Endurance (hypomonē, lit., a “remaining under”) implies not easily succumbing under suffering; and patience (makrothymia, lit., “long temper”; cf. Col. 3:12) means self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate. A lack of endurance often results in despondency or losing heart, whereas a lack of patience often leads to wrath or revenge (cf. Prov. 15:18; 16:32). (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

Application: One of the lessons our children must learn early in life is that of delayed gratification. When we quickly give in to our child’s every whim and desire, we’re only teaching them that they will always get what they want and do not need to exercise any patience whatsoever. On the other hand, when we teach our children from the time they are small that there are times when they need to wait, we are really teaching them several of the three things mentioned in the text for today.
Here’s an example. When your child asks for a toy, particularly one that costs a fair amount of money, you can make an agreement with your child that if they save a certain amount of money toward that toy, you will help them with the final percentage. For instance, “If you save from your allowance until you have 80% of the cost, I will help you out with the final 20%.” This teaches them to both be patient AND persistent. If they truly want something, they can work toward that goal. If they don’t want it that bad, they will probably give up a lot earlier before reaching the goal. But if they persist, and save the agreed on amount, one of several things will take place. In some cases, by the time they have saved that amount they have changed their mind and either don’t want that anymore or they may want something different. But if they do persist in having what they have saved for, once they get it they will experience greater joy (which is the third thing from our verse) than if they had simply received it the moment they asked you for it.
So, don’t answer every request immediately. Instead, work with them, and pray that they will be patient, persistent, and at the end joyous.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, bless my children that as they work to fulfill their wishes they may be patient, they may work toward their goal and be persistent, and that they may have the joy that accompanies reaching a long-awaited goal.

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Scripture: “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power. . .” Colossians 1:11 (NKJV)

Observation: The radical idea of might, is that of indwelling strength, especially as embodied: might which inheres in physical powers organized and working under individual direction, as an army: which appears in the resistance of physical organisms, as the earth, against which one dashes himself in vain: which dwells in persons or things, and gives them influence or value: which resides in laws or punishments to make them irresistible. This sense comes out clearly in the New Testament in the use of the word and of its cognates. Thus, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30): “according to the working of his mighty power” (Eph. 1:19). The kindred adjective is used in other places in the New Testament and translated differently but with a similar sense: “A strong man” (Matt. 12:29): a mighty famine (Luke 15:14): his letters are powerful (2 Cor. 10:10): a strong consolation (Heb. 6:18): a mighty angel (Apoc. 18:21). Also the verb ἱσχύω. “It is good for nothing” (Matt. 5:13): “shall not be able” (Luke 13:24): “I can do all things” (Philip. 4:13): “availeth much” (Jas. 5:16).

Application: One of the challenges that sometimes parents face is with children who are, as James Dobson describes, “strong-willed children.” These are the children who have a mind of their own and who seem to want to run the opposite way to where their parents want them to go. A dictionary definition might be obstinate, stubborn, which have negative connotations.
Let’s think of a more positive side to strong-willed. Someone strong-willed doesn’t give up easily. A strong-willed person is determined. Your will is your desire or drive to do something, so a strong-willed person is someone with a powerful will – that is a good thing!. At the same time, it can be a bad thing. For instance, a child who insists on going outside in the rain and throws a temper tantrum unless he/she gets his/her way is strong-willed in a stubborn way. Someone with deep beliefs, who can stand up to the crowd, who will not be swayed by his/her peers is strong-willed in a better way. A hero, someone who shows courage, someone who fights for what is right, is also strong-willed. You have to be strong-willed to stand up for what you believe, particularly during difficult situations.
Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry used to say, “Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray to be a strong person.” This is exactly what Scripture is admonishing here. Pray each day that your family will be able to make tough decisions based on God’s principles and will be able to remain strong and mighty.
Instead of praying that your child have a soft, easy, mellow personality, pray that they will be strong in their convictions, mighty in their beliefs, powerful in their conscience, mean and women of valor for God.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, while it might be easier to raise a child who is compliant, I pray that my child will be strong in the face of temptation and sin, mighty as they speak and live for You, and courageous even when the consequences may be painful for them.

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Scripture: Increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10 (NKJV)

Observation: “Knowledge” is epignōsis (ἐπιγνωσις). The word is an advance upon gnōsis (γνωσις) (knowledge) in that it denotes a larger and more thorough knowledge. It is a knowledge which grasps and penetrates into an object. Paul prays that all the saints might become possessors of this knowledge, indicating that it was open for all to appropriate, not a secret mystery into which only a favored few could be initiated. Paul prays that they not only might have it but that they might be filled with it. His petition is that the Colossian saints might be filled with a thorough knowledge of God’s will.

Application: The intent of this prayer is not that we should have a lot of knowledge about facts and information, as if in order to win a trivia contest of sorts. The intent is that we may be not just acquainted with a certain number or all of the Biblical doctrines. The intent, rather is that we may be filled with the knowledge of God Himself. To know Him intimately, not just as a theory or principle.
Some people study and investigate a subject they are passionate about. Archaeologists spend hours, days, months, and even years excavating ruins in a place so they can uncover its past and better understand the culture that lived there. Researchers devote themselves to finding the cause and the cure for a disease. Athletes devote their lives to perfecting their skills in order to win championships, to establish records, to make history.
What Paul says we should pray for is that our loved ones have that type of desire, and commitment, and passion for a personal relationship with God.
God wants to have an intimate relationship with each of His children. When each member of the family hungers to know God intimately, their potential for success in life finds daily partnership with the Heavenly Father. How wonderful it is to know each member of the family is growing in intimacy with Christ every day.
Stop right now and pray that each member of your family may have that hunger, that passion to know God, nit simply information about Him.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, awaken in my family the hunger to know You so that they will come to know You and to experience You personally in their lives.

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