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Archive for August, 2013

Truth Is Love

Scripture: Love. . . rejoices in the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6 (NKJV)

Observation: Truth. Here “truth” stands in contrast with “iniquity” and means virtue, righteousness, goodness. Love finds pleasure, not in the vices, but in the virtues, of others. Love is interested in the advancement of truth and the happiness of man; therefore it is thankful whenever the cause of truth is sustained (see Mark 9:35–40; Phil. 1:14–18).
Love cannot find happiness in sin of any kind or in the punishment meted out to the sinner; rather, it finds pleasure in the liberation of man from the shackles of sin, because such liberation brings him into harmony with truth and makes him a candidate for the happiness of heaven, for which he was created (see Eze. 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 8:32; 17:17; 1 John 4:8; COL 290). [The Seventh©day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: It is very possible that if you are lying about one thing then you are telling lies about other things as well. It may be that you’re not telling the truth in what you consider gray areas and you’re telling yourself it’s okay. You’ve convinced yourself that you’re not really not telling an outright lie, but, rather, fudging the truth.
Often in marriages in trouble dishonesty becomes a major issue even though most couples don’t recognize it at first. Maybe you began telling lies because you didn’t want to hurt your spouse’s feelings. Since lying helped to avoid an argument or your spouse nagging in a way you rewarded yourself into thinking it was Ok to do it. But that one lie then led to another to either cover for the first one, to cover another event you didn’t want to reveal to your spouse, or to avoid another argument.

There are other ways in which you can be dishonest with your spouse such as avoiding an issue, or a variant of that which is distracting your spouse from an issue. You may be omitting information, focusing on an insignificant part of an issue, or maybe answering questions with anger to avoid further discussion or maybe you have been giving your spouse the silent treatment as an answer

If your marital relationship is in bad shape, chances are that dishonest communication has become part of your life. If that is the case, you must understand that honesty and open communication are essential if you want to prevent divorce and rescue your marriage. In fact, if you want to restore openness in your marriage, you must understand that honesty is more than the absence of lies. Discuss with your spouse about options and strategies you two will agree to implement to restore honesty and openness in your marriage. Of course, regardless of what you discuss, it will only work if you accept your part unilaterally whether or not your spouse makes changes.

The apostle Paul made it clear that truth and honesty are not just good for a relationship but are a demonstration of love. Practice love by practicing truthfulness.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, Help us to always speak the truth to each other, not just because it is good for us and our marriage, but because that’s how we express love to one another.

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Scripture: Love. . thinks no evil. 1 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV

Observation: Thinketh no evil. Literally, “does not reckon the evil.” The Greek here conveys the idea of not taking into account the wrong that has been done; not reckoning, imputing, or charging the wrong to any man’s account. This is another beautiful, Christlike attribute of love. It shows that love puts the best possible construction on the behavior of others. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (782). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: The New King James version of the Bible does not convey completely what the words of this verse really say or what Paul evidently intended to say. Here’s a sample of several other versions or translations:
English Standard Version: Love. . . is not resentful (does not count up wrongdoing).
New American Standard Bible (1995 update): Does not take into account a wrong suffered.
New International Version (1984): It keeps no record of wrongs.
The Message: Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
God’s Word Translation: It doesn’t keep track of wrongs.

The apostle Peter must have thought he would impress Jesus with his piety by asking Him, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’” (Matthew 18:21, NKJV). He must have been taken back when Jesus responded, “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” (vs.22). Simple math will tells us that seventy times seven equals 490. Some may point aout that the original Greek language is somewhat ambiguous so that it could be translated as seventy-seven times, which is a lot better than 490. Even then, however, that is a lot of times. Did Jesus really mean we should forgive the same person that many times after they have hurt us? Who can possibly continue to forgive that many times without being taken advantage of, or even abused?

The SDA Bible Commentary explains: “Of course, the number itself is not important, being only symbolic. Either number is in harmony with the truth here taught, that forgiveness is not a matter of mathematics or legal regulations, but an attitude. He who harbors within himself the idea that at some future time he will not forgive, is far from extending true forgiveness even though he may go through the form of forgiving. If the spirit of forgiveness actuates the heart, a person will be as ready to forgive a repentant soul the eighth time as the first time, or the 491st time as the eighth. True forgiveness is not limited by numbers; furthermore, it is not the act that counts, but the spirit that prompts the act. “Nothing can justify an unforgiving spirit” (COL 251). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 5. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (449). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Paul and Jesus agree: Love does not keep record of wrongs, it does not hold on to resentment, it does not count up to 77 or 490 times to forgive. Love forgives and removes the desire to punish or hurt the other and accounts them as if they had never harm them before, the same way God forgives us and does not hold our past sin against us ever again. Love and forgiveness are sure a much better option to resentment and hatred in our marriages.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, bless us that we may have a loving, forgiving spirit toward one another so that harmony, peace, and love may reign in our home.

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What Can I Do?

Scripture: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Observation: Which strengtheneth. Paul recognized Christ as the source of all his own power, hence there is no element of boasting here. All that needed to be done could be done by Christ-given strength. When the divine commands are faithfully followed, the Lord makes Himself responsible for the success of the work undertaken by the Christian (COL 333, 363; 8T 16). In Christ there is strength to fulfill duty, power to resist temptation, vigor to endure affliction, patience to suffer without complaint. In Him there is grace for daily growth, courage for multiplied battles, energy for devoted service. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (178). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: This passage is probably one of the best known and best loved of Paul’s writings. We have learned it, memorized it, quoted it, and believed it. Although I wonder if we believe it applies in all instances in life. But do we really believe it when we are facing marital difficulties? Do we really believe it when thoughts of separation and divorce come to mind and find a dwelling there? Do we really believe it when our relationship seems hopeless and we feel helpless?
I would like to suggest today that it is when we’re going through the biggest challenges and difficulties in our marriage that we need to believe the power behind these words. It is by repeating to ourselves the words of the promise contained in this text that we can have a change of attitude which will lead us to have a change of heart.

The cognitive-behavioral school of psychology teaches us that if we want to change our behavior we must first begin by changing our thinking. Both of those can only be truly possible through the power and strength of Christ. As we consider what Jesus went through on the way to His death for us, our sacrifices and our pain are minimal. But what we can accomplish with his power has no limits.

As a marriage and family counselor I have seen miraculous transformations. Marriages that had become like death sentences have come back to a revival of feeling and experience. Marriages ravaged by infidelity had a renewal of their trust and their love. Marriages where abuse abounded experienced healing and became havens of peace and harmony. Marriages which were falling apart came back together with renewed energy and strength.

If we believe the power of today’s text is only in the spiritual realm, we have short=changed God’s power in every other aspect of our lives. Claim His power to change you today and everyday. Claim His power to change your attitude toward your spouse and your marriage. Claim His power to transform your marriage from wherever it is and until it becomes a foretaste of heaven.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, change us with Your power, change our life, and change our marriage for the better so that it can not just be a foretaste of heaven but that it should be a great joy today and everyday.

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Belittling Your Neighbor

Scripture: It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor. Proverbs 14:21 (NLT)

Observation: The sources of contempt and of compassion (14:21). “The person who despises his neighbor sins.” One must not assume superior airs and look down upon a neighbor regardless of his destitute condition. A person of low estate has a claim for love and pity, and it is a sin to withhold them from him for selfish reasons (Lev 19:18). On the other hand, “the one who is gracious to the humble, happy is he.” The merciful disposition is an evidence of a soul’s communion with the God of mercy (cf. Matt 5:7). [Smith, J. E. (1996). The wisdom literature and Psalms. Old Testament Survey Series (Pr 14:21). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.]

Application: In the book of Proverbs such contempt of the poor is contrasted as sinful with the virtuous compassion of the good. One of the characteristics of a Christian person is his/her desire to build others up, to help others reach the stature of Jesus Christ, to help them reflect the image of Jesus. That’s is why it is so uncharacteristic of a Christian husband or wife to belittle, humiliate, or put their spouse down, both in public or even in the privacy of their home.
The dictionary definition of belittling is to regard or portray as less impressive or important than appearances indicate; depreciate; disparage. As noted , one of the synonyms is to depreciate, that is, to take away their value. Another word that we use is to devalue or to invalidate your spouse. This is something critically important in marriage. Let’s see home this hurts and destroys a relationship.

In Ephesians 5:33 Paul emphasizes the difference between husbands and wives by telling husbands to “love their wives,” and to the wives to “respect their husbands.” Paul understood that one of the most important emotional needs is the need for respect and affirmation, to feel valued, appreciated, admired, encouraged by his wife. As a wife, you need to express those feelings verbally and regularly. Hearing those words from his wife will build him up, encourage him to go out and fight the battles of life for his family, strengthen him in the face of discouragement, stress, and even failure.

As a husband, you build your wife up and show her that you love her when you listen attentively to her, when you spend time with your children, playing, praying, and reading to them, when you help around the house, when you are completely honest and trustworthy with her. If you look down on her as if she were inferior, when you lecture her instead of giving her a simple answer, or when you tell her she’s dumb, stupid, ignorant, or worthless you are stealing her God-given worth from her.

The text for today tells us it is a sin to belittle our neighbor – which our spouse is, but instead God blessed those who help the poor – and that includes our spouse. Do all in your power to build your spouse up. . . both of you will be blessed as a result.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, help me to be the kind of spouse that builds their spouse up. And may our words and actions become a blessing to them and as well as to us.

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Scripture: And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Observation: And now—Translate, “But now.” “In this present state” [Henderson]. Or, “now” does not express time, but opposition, as in 1Co 5:11, “the case being so” [Grotius]; whereas it is the case that the three gifts, “prophecy,” “tongues,” and “knowledge” (cited as specimens of the whole class of gifts) “fail” (1Co 13:8), there abide permanently only these three—faith, hope, charity. In one sense faith and hope shall be done away, faith being superseded by sight, and hope by actual fruition (Ro 8:24; 2Co 5:7); and charity, or love, alone never faileth (1Co 13:8). But in another sense, “faith and hope,” as well as “charity,” abide; namely, after the extraordinary gifts have ceased; for those three are necessary and sufficient for salvation at all times, whereas the extraordinary gifts are not at all so; compare the use of “abide,” 1Co 3:14. Charity, or love, is connected specially with the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of the loving union between the brethren (Ro 15:30; Col 1:8). Faith is towards God. Hope is in behalf of ourselves. Charity is love to God creating in us love towards our neighbor. In an unbeliever there is more or less of the three opposites—unbelief, despair, hatred. Even hereafter faith in the sense of trust in God “abideth”; also “hope,” in relation to ever new joys in prospect, and at the anticipation of ever increasing blessedness, sure never to be disappointed. But love alone in every sense “abideth”; it is therefore “the greatest” of the three, as also because it presupposes “faith,” which without “love” and its consequent “works” is dead (Ga 5:6; Jam 2:17, 20). [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1 Co 13:13). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Application: The words of today’s text are some of the best known among Christians. At the end of this section of Paul’s letter to the members of the church at Corinth, which has come to be known as the “love chapter,” for obvious reasons, we find three things which Paul says are more permanent than the gifts of prophecy or other languages. These three are Faith, Hope, and love. There are very important theological implications of these three words, some of which are addressed above. But I want to suggest that these three are crucial ingredients for a lasting marriage. Let’s think about them separately:
1. Faith. Researchers have found that successful couples that agree on four crucial areas tend to have more lasting, more satisfying relationships. Those four areas are spirituality, finances, in-laws, and parenting. If we can’t agree on our spirituality as a couple, the foundation for a long, strong relationship will be weak. Faith in God helps us when we go through the hardships of life, the pain of illness and death, the fear of losing a loved one, the conflicts and the resolutions.

2. Hope. When we become complacent in our relationship, we may not realize until it is very late in the game how far we have drifted apart from each other. After betrayal, when there seems to be no way out and no reason to move forward, when the waters of despair seem to overwhelm us, hope can still keep us together and may be the motivation to hang in, to hold on until the relationship is restored.

3. Love. The type of giving, unselfish, sacrificial love that Paul speaks about in this chapter is crucial for the well-being of a lasting marriage. Love brought us together, love has been with us through the ups and downs of life, and love will be glue that keeps us together.
When these three are still part of our marriage, I believe it can survive even the worst events and the worst memories, and will help you move forward to a more satisfying relationship.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, may these three abide in our life and marriage, and may they keep us together for the long run.

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Scripture: And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8 (NKJV)

Observation: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions—“Babble not” would be a better rendering, both for the form of the word—which in both languages is intended to imitate the sound—and for the sense, which expresses not so much the repetition of the same words as a senseless multiplication of them; as appears from what follows.
as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking—This method of heathen devotion is still observed by Hindu and Mohammedan devotees. With the Jews, says Lightfoot, it was a maxim, that “Every one who multiplies prayer is heard.” As Tholuck justly observes, the very prayer which our Lord gave as an antidote to vain repetitions is the most abused to this superstitious end; the number of times it is repeated counting for so much more merit. Is not this just that characteristic feature of heathen devotion which our Lord here condemns? But praying much, and using at times the same words, is not here condemned, and has the example of our Lord Himself in its favor. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Application: Ellen White wrote that, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.” (A Call to Stand Apart, p. 26). A conversation between friends that only repeats the same words over and over will not only become tiresome eventually but it will not encourage growth and depth in the relationship either. Imagine a couple that is dating, or preparing for marriage, and they repeat the exact same conversation every single day, with no variation at all. No new information is exchanged, there’s no exploration of their feelings, there’s no sharing of thoughts or ideas, just the same words day in and day out. How would they come to know enough about each other to decide on their future life.
If there is to be growth in our relationship with God, we need to both speak to Him from the depths of our heart and also listen attentively to what He has to share with us for that moment or that day. In the same way, if we want to experience growth in our marriage or greater closeness to our spouse and children, we need to spend time in good conversation with both exchanging thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and listening for what the others may have to share.

Some of those great opportunities for this type of sharing take place during family meals, during worship times, and during recreational activities such as hiking, camping, or enjoying a picnic together. Open your ears and your heart to what others have to say, and speak to them from the depths of your heart; that type of intimacy is what God designed marriage and the family to enjoy.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us as we communicate verbally our thoughts and feelings, our likes an dislikes, our fear and our joys with one another so that our sharing will become our bonding together.

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Stealing Your Life

Scripture: The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10 (NLT)

Observation: The thief. See on v. 1. The shepherd constantly goes in and out among his sheep. The thief visits the flock only on rare occasions and for purely selfish motives, and ruins the flock.
Life. zōē, here used in its theological sense, equivalent to eternal life. When Adam and Eve were created they possessed zōē, but lost it when they sinned. True, their physical life was extended, but they were no longer conditionally immortal (see on Gen. 2:17). Jesus came to restore the zōē that Adam had forfeited (see on John 8:51).
More abundantly. “Life” includes the physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Physical life is regarded as abundant in a body that is full of vigor and in perfect health. Jesus’ miracles of physical healing gave an abundant physical life to those whose life forces were ebbing. But physical restoration was by no means the complete fulfillment of Jesus’ mission. Man also has intellectual and spiritual life, which must also be made alive and abundant, for “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). Important as the physical and the intellectual aspects of a well-rounded life are, no life is fully complete unless the spiritual nature is nurtured. [The Seventh©day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 5. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: The thief of which today’s verse speaks, refers directly to the devil who is only interested in taking away from us the hope of eternal life guaranteed by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. However, we can also look at what else the devil uses to destroy or relationships and how he does it.

1. He Steals. If we allow him to, he steals our time when we devote it to financial pursuits instead of devoting time to our personal faith or to our family. He steals our sense of safety and security when disasters strike which destroy our possessions or when illnesses touch us and threaten to end our life or the life of a loved one.

2. He kills. unless he are intentional about making or keeping our relationship strong he kills it. Many have found themselves on the halls of divorce court dumbfounded that their relationship had come to an end. It is as if it all happened with their knowledge or without them being aware it was taking place.

3. He destroys. With the marriage over, he destroys lives – our own and that of our children. He destroys the idea of marriage of an ideal estate when others see that even the marriage between believers in God did not survive. He destroys faith in God who people claim was not able to sustain our marriage together.
Fortunately our situation, as bad as it may be, is not hopeless, because Jesus came with a purpose in mind – that we may life, abundant life, satisfying life. We need Jesus to bring that satisfaction for our marriage, satisfaction for our life with our spouse that we long for. Our marriage doesn’t just have to survive; in Jesus it can thrive.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, may the life of Jesus, and His purpose for coming to earth, be what brings life abundant to our life and to our marriage.

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