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Archive for July, 2013

Hypocrisy in Marriage?

Scripture: Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. Matthew 6:2 (NKJV)

Observation: “hypocrites” This compound term is literally translated “to judge under.” It could have meant (1) a theatrical word for speaking from behind a mask; or (2) its earlier usage was “to over interpret.” In this context it referred to religious play-acting.
Pharisees acted out religious rites and rituals in order to be praised by men, not in order to please God (although I am sure that was one of several motives).
1. gave alms, not only to help the poor, but to be praised by men, Matt. 6:2
2. prayed in the synagogue and in public to be seen by men, Matt. 6:5
3. when they fasted they looked disheveled so men would be impressed with their spirituality, Matt. 6:16
4. they tithed the kitchen supplies, but missed the weighty matters of the Law, Matt. 23:23
5. they cleaned the outside of the cup, but not the inside, Matt. 23:25 (cf. Mark 7:1–8)
6. they were self-righteous, Matt. 23:29–30
7. they prevented others from entering the Kingdom, Matt. 23:13–15
8. they tried to trap Jesus with tricky questions, not a search for true wisdom, Matt. 22:15–22
9. they have a special place in hell, Matt. 24:51
10. they were a whitewashed tomb full of uncleanness, Matt. 23:27 (cf. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, p.415) [Utley, R. J. (2000). Vol. Volume 9: The First Christian Primer: Matthew. Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.]

Application: We’ve probably seen people who are very unkind and rude to each other in public. They don’t care where they are or with whom they make snide remarks, use sarcasm, and sometimes even yell at each other as if there was nobody around them to see or hear them. It is disconcerting, actually truly sad and even scary to see how two people who live together can treat each other that badly.

At the same time, I worry about those couples who look so good on the outside, who treat each other respectfully, maybe even cordially, in public, but who are living a totally different life behind closed doors. I know of couples that make sweet, loving, appreciative posts on social media – which is wonderful, but then write me private messages telling me about their pain and suffering at home.

Now, I’m not suggesting you leave your spouse or your marriage because things are bad at home. I am saying that we should aim at not being one type of person at home and someone different outside anymore than we should be one type of person at church and a different one away from church. If our words and actions are different in different places it may be an indication that we have not had a true change of heart by God. We may like certain behavior and practices some of the time, but deep inside darkness lurks inside our hearts, and that darkness shows up and shows through when we are with those closest to us, or at times when we are away from them. That’s why Jesus refers to these type of people “whitewashed tombs,” because they may look good on the outside but what is inside is rotten.

Let’s make sure our inside is good and pure so we may act inside our home as well as we do outside, and that our words and actions toward our loved ones may always reflect the relationship we have with Christ.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, change us from the inside so that we may treat each other just like you treat us, lovingly and kindly.

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We Have Sinned

Scripture: We have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Daniel 9:5 (NKJV)

Observation: we have sinned. Not “they have sinned.” Daniel was a righteous man and the Bible does not record any sin that he committed, but he identified himself with his people in this prayer of intercession. [Andrews Study Bible Notes. 2010 (J. L. Dybdahl, Ed.). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.] Compare 1 Kings 8:47; Ps. 106:6. Daniel identifies himself with his people. There is no self-righteousness in his prayer.

Application: In the entire bible, we read of very few people whom we would describe as pure and blameless. Jesus, of course, comes to the top of the list immediately as someone who was perfect and sinless in everything he did. An example of purity and wholesomeness is also found in Joseph and Mary, Jesus earthly parents.
In the Old Testament we find the example of two young men, both taken to foreign lands, and both live exemplary lives. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and yet was able to maintain a positive attitude and a strong connection with God. And the wonderful thing is that God recognized his mellow disposition, his desire to maintain himself pure, and his forgiving spirit and elevated him to the second highest place in the land.

The other character in the Old Testament about whom we don’t read anything for which he should be reproached is Daniel. He was taken into captivity, along with many other young people from Israel, to be retrained in Babylon. From the very beginning of his captivity he exemplified a commitment to God and to the principles he had obviously learned at home and, like Joseph, maintain himself uncontaminated by the Babylonian culture. Like Joseph, God blessed Daniel and elevated him to a high position in the court of Babylon.

What’s interesting about Daniel, among many others, is his prayer of intercession we read in chapter 9. We might not say that Daniel was perfect, or even sinless, but he certainly had demonstrated a stronger commitment to God than many others had. And yet, when he prays for his people he confesses not just their sins but includes himself in their rebellion. He doesn’t say, “they” have sinned, but rather “we” have sinned.

As parents we certainly can’t claim perfection. But what Daniel’s prayer suggest to me is that we can, and should, pray for our children, interceding on their behalf, but we should include ourselves in those prayers. We too have sinned, we have failed God and others, we have rebelled. Our intercessory prayers should not just be a demonstration of our goodness compared to their failures but rather a recognition that as much as they are not perfect we also have fallen short of God’s ideal, that we also struggle with our fallen nature, that need His help as much as they do.

But beside identifying ourselves with them in our intercessory prayers for our children we should also confess our failures, our mistakes, our shortcomings to them. I don’t believe they expect perfection of their parents and feel better when we don’t act as if we know everything and never make a mistake. Being transparent and recognizing we also fall, can help them as they face their own struggles.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to be more willing to recognize our shortfalls and confess them not only to you but to our children when we make mistakes in the way we treat them.

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At Daybreak

Scripture: Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Psalm 90:14 (NKJV)

Observation: The psalmist pleaded with the Lord to have compassion on His servants (cf. v. 16). This was their only hope.
In showing compassion the Lord was asked to turn their sorrow (cf. v. 10) into joy. If God satisfied them with His loyal love (?ese?), they could then rejoice all their days. The psalmist asked God to let them rejoice for as long as He had given them over to trouble. Verses 14–15 seem to suggest that the nation was undergoing a particularly severe period of chastening for sin, a “night” of trouble as it were. The morning suggests a new era of joy for God’s people. [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 Jewish Study Bible renders our verse for today this way: “Satisfy us at daybreak with Your steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days.” The commentators of the same Bible explain that “Morning is the time of renewal, the time that God answers prayers” (Psalm 143:8). I’m glad God doesn’t answers prayers only in the morning.

For those of us morning people, that time when we get up is special because we’re eager to begin the day, our mind is actively working, and our time for prayer is very special. At the same time, for us morning people the evening time is challenging, our heads are clouded, and all we think about is the moment when our heads will hit the pillow. For night people, evening is the time when they do their best thinking, they love to read, and when they finally go to bed, it is usually several hours after other members of the family have called it a day.

Regardless on when you pray – morning or evening – the psalmist calls us to spend some good, quality time speaking with God about our needs, our concerns, and our fears, pleading with Him for His mercy to cover us and that we may rejoice and be glad not just today but all our days. We don’t need to live in some sort of Christian utopia where we are always happy and never sad. What the psalmist tells us, however, is that in the midst of our challenges and even sorrow we can find reasons to rejoice in God. That is something we need in all our relationships because at some time or another sorrow and pain will come to our lives.

May your daily prayers fill you with the assurance of God’s mercy, and may He bring you gladness every day of your life.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to maintain that daily communication, indeed communion, with You everyday. That, in and of itself, will be what will bring us joy every day of our lives.

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Scripture: “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, And the fragrance of your oils Than all kinds of spices! Song of Songs 4:10 (NASB)

Observation: Both bride and groom describe their lover’s beauty with exuberant praise (vv. 1–15; 5:10–16; 6:4–10; 7:1–9), similar to the praise songs in modern rural Syrian weddings. The mutual praises present dynamic strength and movement and often refer to moral qualities of the lovers. [Andrews Study Bible Notes. 2010 (J. L. Dybdahl, Ed.). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.]
The word rendered love was used for physical expressions of romantic love. The verse might be more accurately translated, “How delightful are your kisses. How much more pleasing are your caresses than wine.” Her physical expressions of love had a more refreshing and intoxicating effect on him than wine, just as his expressions had earlier affected her. Even her perfume added to the excitement of their love. The senses of sight, touch, smell, and sound were involved in their love-making. [Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.]

Application: Several actions and attitudes made the relationship between the groom and the bride in the Song of Solomon special and vibrant.

1. They compliment each other, particularly each others looks or appearance. Over and over you find detailed descriptions of each others body in ways that flatter the other. We all need to hear those words, at least from time to time. Compliment your spouse on the way they look, what you like about their body, when they wear something you like, when they take care of themselves, the way the do their hair, or when they shave. Remind yourself, and your spouse, of those things about them that made you fall in love with them and which you still love about them.

2. This couple understood how pleasant it is the smell of the person you love. Because we are very sensitive to smell, we should practice good hygiene, shower regularly, brush your teeth, go to the dentist for regular cleaning. Some people enjoy the fragrances of perfumes, colognes, after shave lotions, etc. If you do, let your partner know that you like the fragrance they’re wearing. And if your partner tells you they like a specific fragrance you wear then wear it often, particularly for special occasions.

3. They also expressed their love in physical ways. The word “love” evidently refers to physical touch. The caress of a loving spouse, writes Solomon, has the pleasant, even intoxicating effect that alcohol provides those who drink it. Pleasant touch gives you a high of sorts, a healthy, passionate feeling of closeness to your spouse. Practice regular touch through hugs, caressing your spouse when you’re sitting together and, of course, in bed.
Begin to practice at least one of these three regularly; when you do so you will be showing your spouse, in tangible ways, how much you love them as the one God put in your life.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to express our love for each other in physical and verbal ways so that we may maintain a strong, healthy, and mutually satisfying relationship for the rest of our lives.

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The Everlasting Treasure

Scripture: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

Observation: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven—The language in Luke (Lu 12:33) is very bold—“Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail.”
For where your treasure is — that which ye value most.
there will your heart be also —“Your treasure — your heart” is probably the true reading here: “your,” in Lu 12:34, from which it seems to have come in here. “What a man loves,” said Martin Luther, “that is his God. For he carries it in his heart, he goes about with it night and day, he sleeps and wakes with it; be it what it may—wealth or pelf, pleasure or renown.”

Application: I suppose some people will read the words of Jesus in today’s text and conclude that we should not buy a house, or a car, and that we should not have any kind of savings or checking account, and definitely we should have no investments. In other words, we should pretty much live like hermits, maybe in some sort of commune, and live in a state of constant poverty.
I’m not sure that’s what Jesus would have liked us to conclude. Some people who have taken His words to that extreme have reached their retirement age and have found themselves impoverished and depending on the charity of others or of their family. Others have had to continue working way past their retirement age, not out of choice but out of necessity.

I believe that Jesus was talking about accumulating material things excessively, beyond what one could possibly spend in a lifetime. There are people who, in the pursuit of riches, have mistreated, even enslaved, others, or who have lied, cheated, and stolen from others in the process. So we can hear the words of Jesus reminding us that no matter how much we may have accumulated it will do us not good at the end of life. As someone said, you have never seen a hearse pulling a u-haul trailer.

So, what does Jesus refer to when He says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I would like to suggest at least three possibilities:

1. When we return faithfully God’s tithe and give offerings to further God’s cause on earth, and we do it gladly, not grudgingly, it is because our heart is responding to God’s generosity toward us.

2. When we spend adequate quality and quantity time with our family – our spouse and our children, or our elderly parents – we are helping them in the development of their character for eternity. When we die, that will be the only lasting thing we can take with us. Someone said that you have never heard a rich executive say, upon their retirement or the end of your life, “I wish I had spend more time at work.” Many will say, “I wish I had spent more time with my family.” Live without that regret and invest in eternity by spending good quality and quantity time with them, starting today.

3. When we have enough to take care of our needs and then begin to use the rest to help others – maybe by helping people in real need like widows, poor people, or the elderly, or by providing employment for those unemployed – we are following God’s command to “Love one another,” or to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, please help us to keep our priorities in the proper order, return Your tithe and give offerings, spend time and money in such a way that we help our loved ones prepare for eternity, and help the needy and the poor. As we do these things, may we be accumulating everlasting treasure.

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Scripture: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NKJV)

Observation: Ancient mirrors were made of polished brass or other metals. The contrast is between the inadequate knowledge of an object gained by seeing it reflected in a dim mirror (such as ancient mirrors were), compared with the perfect idea we have of it by seeing itself directly.
      Darkly—literally, “in enigma.” As a “mirror” conveys an image to the eye, so an “enigma” to the ear. But neither “eye nor ear” can fully represent (though the believer’s soul gets a small revelation now of) “the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1Co 2:9). Paul alludes to Nu 12:8, “not in dark speeches”; the Septuagint, “not in enigmas.” Compared with the visions and dreams vouchsafed to other prophets, God’s communications with Moses were “not in enigmas.” But compared with the intuitive and direct vision of God hereafter, even the revealed word now is “a dark discourse,” or a shadowing forth by enigma of God’s reflected likeness.

Application: One of the most well-known characters in classic literature and in the movies is Count Dracula, the ghoulish vampire created by Bram Stoker in 1897. Since then, thanks to imagery portrayed in everything from movies to cartoons and even in children’s programs like Sesame Street, vampires have become synonymous with black capes and sharp teeth. Lately there seems to be a rebirth of vampire movies with the added feature of romantic themes as part of the main plot.

According to the traditional stories of vampires, in order to kill them you must use, among others, a crucifix (a cross with the image of Jesus on it), a silver bullet, or a wooden stake through the heart. But there’s another characteristic often featured in these dark tales: a vampire’s reflection is never seen in the mirror.

This last feature is so interesting. . . a vampire’s reflection is never seen in a mirror. You might be wondering, what does this have to do with our relationships? Well, let’s think about it; From the emotional point of view, do you see your reflection in the mirror? Can your spouse see the real you? One of the many reasons why some couples have a difficult time resolving conflict in their relationship is because one spouse, and sometimes both, refuses to see him or herself as part of the problem. They live in constant denial even when someone points out these traits or they don’t recognize when they have a bad attitude or when they speak harshly toward others.

Dating is a time to get to know each other. Unfortunately, at least for a while, people put up these “smoke screens” to protect themselves. It is only with time that we become more vulnerable, open ourselves up to the other person, and let them see us for who we really are. These mirrors, or masks take about a year to come off, which is one of the reasons we recommend that couples date at least one year before they begin to consider marriage.

If you wish to have a good, healthy relationship, show your real self, let there be no secrets, deception, or false impressions between you, but be true to yourself and your spouse.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to be sincere, open, and honest in our relationship so that we may see each other for who we really are and help each other be the best we can be.

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I Hate Divorce

Scripture: “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Malachi 2:16 (NLT)

Observation: Malachi indicates that marriage is much more than a civil contract and that it involves a permanent covenant between husband and wife with the Lord as witness. Thus, God hates divorce, detesting the fact that the men of Israel are ending their marriages in order to marry foreign women. This is the strongest statement in the OT about the Lord’s feelings regarding divorce. [Andrews Study Bible Notes. 2010 (J. L. Dybdahl, Ed.). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.]
The point is that one who divorces his wife simply because He dislikes her (Deut. 24:2) commits “violence” or injustice against her, that is, “cold-blooded and unscrupulous infringement of the personal rights of others, motivated by greed and hate” (see Ps. 73:6). Such a man deprives his wife of the very things a husband is responsible to provide—blessings, good, protection, praise, peace, justice—and He stands condemned by God.

Application: A video has gone viral online. The video is of a 30-year-old wife who is seen on the video kicking and screaming in the front seat of the car in which she is riding with her husband who is driving and recording on his cell phone the scene. The husband purportedly recorded this scene, and subsequently posted it online, so he could show the world what he had to go through and what led him to separate and file a restraining order against her. His wife, on the other hand, has now offered her side of the story claiming she felt like she was being bullied.

What brought about her behavior? According to the wife, who happens to be a nurse, her husband bullied her and was egging her on in the video. He had promised to take her to the lake on their boat to meet some friends, but changed his mind after they had a fight. She said that her husband held the boat hostage and would often come up with reasons for them not to use the boat all the time.
The husband related that he had worked a 60 hour week and had told his wife that he was reserving Saturday for chores and errands. But when she asked him to take her out on the lake in their boat and he refused, she didn’t like it. He also stated that this wasn’t the first tantrum his wife has thrown and that she has routinely shouted at him and told friends and family that it is her husband that is verbally abusive. He added that as usual she threw a fit about not taking her out on the boat, and that in the past she had broken doors off the jambs at our house. What was the result of this sad event in their pick-up truck? He said, “that was the last day I lived in our house. I have moved out and filed a restraining order against her.”

How sad that a marriage which probably started with love, festivities, and lots of laughter comes to an end with shouting, restraining orders. Chances are, the relationship will end in divorce. Our text tells us God hates divorce because it overwhelms the spouse with cruelty. God hates divorce, because it causes long lasting harm to each spouse, not to speak of the children. Of course there are some who watching this video might say, “better to be divorced than living in a relationship like this.” I would say, better to work to fix the relationship than to live like this, or worse to divorce.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to have a healthy marriage, keep us from ever doing or saying anything that will harm our spouse, and protect our marriage from divorce.

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