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Family, Bible Studies
One of my favorite television series, "Mad Men" offers up a scene in which one ad mad conveys this message to another character:
"Stay out of it."
Hmmm. Sometimes, that is sometimes spot-on spiritual advice, isn't it?
Meddling or helping- which one is it each of us are doing at any given time?
This becomes an especially valid question concerning our own self-interest. And, c'mon, be honest, most of us are EXTREMELY self-interested.
The entertainer, RuPaul states it this way:
"Someone else's opinion of me is none of my business."
Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up. Proverbs 22:28 NRSV
"We are here taught not to invade another man's right, though we can find ways of doing it ever so secretly and plausibly, clandestinely and by fraud, without any open force. Let not property in general be entrenched upon, by robbing men of their liberties and privileges, or of any just ways of maintaining them. Let not the property of particular persons be encroached upon. The land-marks, or meer-stones, are standing witnesses to every man's right; let not those be removed quite away, for thence come wars, and fightings, and endless disputes; let them not be removed so as to take from thy neighbour's lot to thy own, for that is downright robbing him and entailing the fraud upon posterity." ~Matthew Henry
There are many different kinds of boundaries in life. Physical boundaries, such as those which border property; social boundaries, such as those outlined by manner and courtesy; relationship boundaries, such as those in families; spiritual boundaries, such as those outlined in scripture. It is often the human tendency to test or even stretch boundaries. Think about our kids. As they were growing up, didn’t they (sometimes? often?) test the boundaries we set, seeing if they really couldn’t do this or that?
Those with good sense are slow to anger,
and it is their glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
We get angry over a lot of things. To be honest, Americans as a society are pretty angry. Perhaps it stems from our idea of "rights." We believe (and expect) that certain things are due us, that our lives should include the ability to choose and have and do (sometimes even without consequence). When those expectations are denied, we get angry.
It’s also a form of control. Here in America (and in other countries), we have come to believe that we control our own destiny. We choose the vocation or profession or job we will have. We choose where to live, who to marry, how many children we will have (aborting the rest). We choose when we will work and when we will play (and we play a lot!). So when we are denied these things, we get angry.
We often couch our anger in morality, claiming that this or that is unfair or wrong. But if we are honest, many times our protests cover our fear. We cannot control the situation so anger is better than . . . trust. You see, God is in control. All the time, in all things, through all people. And while we all have free will, ultimately His plans will come to effect.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NRSV
This verse doesn’t say that God will only work out the good things or the things we control or when we are obedient (as opposed to sinning). It says that He will work out all things. And often, He works them out with Heaven in mind. That means the story doesn’t end here, on earth, but rather ends There, with Him. Hebrews 11:39-40a tell us that
Proverbs 19:18 NRSV
Discipline your children while there is hope;
do not set your heart on their destruction.
Years ago—many years ago—the majority of parents in America knew how to raise their children. How do we know this? Because we were a nation of moral adults, adults who knew how to discern right from wrong and knew that they shouldn't choose wrong. Yes, there were some indiscriminate sins, but on the whole, America wanted to be a moral nation.
No longer. Now we raise children who are self-indulgent, who want to remain children, who only want to play and have fun.
We have failed in our task as parents.
The Hebrew word translated here as "discipline" means "bind, chasten, chastise, correct, instruct, punish, reform, reprove, sore, teach" (Strongs H3256). And the word is used in the imperative form. There is an insistence; this is a command.
Moreover, the command is coached in a warning: "Discipline your children while there is hope." In other words, there will be a time in your child's life when there is no hope. Why? Because there was a lack of discipline.
Most Christian parents don't realize that their parenting is strongly influenced by the evolutionary mind of American society. When we give our children choices without strategically determining how that's done and why we are doing it, we are reinforcing that our children are individuals with their own right to determine morality. Now, for most Christians, that's a novel thought. We parent by copying what we see around us or what we read and we don't stop to analyze why we parent the way we do. The fact is, we may be parenting our children to destruction without even realizing it.
Dr. John Ankerberg (with Dr. John Weldon) wrote an article about relative morality. In summary, he said this:
Ultimately we are left with family. In fact, that may be why so many people get divorced or break up relationships. They are looking for the kind of stability that one should find within a family. Perhaps the idea of a soul mate even comes from this longing, the longing to have a place called "home" within which there is love and safety and comfort.
A stupid child is ruin to a father,
and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. Proverbs 19:13
This proverb isn't about children who lack intelligence, but rather about children who are foolish and silly. Matthew Henry writes:
"A son that will apply himself to no study or business, that will take no advice, that lives a lewd, loose, rakish life, and spends what he has extravagantly, games it away and wastes it in the excess of riot, or that is proud, foppish, and conceited, such a one is the grief of his father, because he is the disgrace, and is likely to be the ruin, of his family."
Proverbs 23:24-25 states that
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.
There is a reciprocity within the parent-child relationship. Parents are to raise their children to be righteous; children are to choose the path of righteousness. When these children turn their backs on the Lord, it is a great sorrow to the parents. Wise children follow the Lord and His will. Foolish children stand up in arrogance and turn their backs on everything their parents believe and taught.
Integrity is as much what we say as what we do.
We have tried, in our culture, to separate what we say from what we do. "Do as I say, not as I do" is a phrase I heard periodically growing up. But the fact is, we are what we say. Our words, in fact, are often predictors of our actions and are certainly revealers of our hearts.
Proverbs 19:1 NRSV
Better the poor walking in integrity
than one perverse of speech who is a fool.
This proverb compares two people, one who "walks in integrity" without wealth and one who is "perverse in speech" and a fool. The inference, of course, is that the one who is perverse in speech has more material wealth than the other. The writer tells us that it’s better to be poor and have integrity than to be wealthy and a fool. And what makes a fool? Someone whose speech is perverse.
To be perverse means to turn away from what’s good and right. Think about that. Are our words good? Do they glorify the Lord? Or are they hurtful... or mean... or simply degrading? What are perverse words anyway?
I think that betrayal is the worst experience in life. Most things are easy to rise above, or, if necessary, easy to endure. You simply put one foot in front of another and walk through it. But betrayal breaks the spirit. It makes you want to say, "What's the point?"
The human spirit will endure sickness;
but a broken spirit -- who can bear?Proverbs 18:14 NRSV
Betrayal exists all around us. Most of the times, we set ourselves up. We create expectations of relationships, of circumstances, and when things don't work out the way we planned or intended or hoped, we are betrayed. And it hurts. It hurts a lot! In these situations, however, we need to look within ourselves. Were our expectations unreasonable? For example, we usually expect that our employers will treat us fairly. Our expectations are based on the idea that our employers, our jobs are the source of our income, our livelihood. In these cases, our expectations are unreasonable. Our job isn't the source of our income; the Lord is! And He never fails. So it doesn't matter whether or not we lose our job. He will provide.
What does it mean to surrender a loved one to God? Does it mean you turn your back and walk away?
No, certainly not. Surrendering does not mean abandoning. It does not mean you no longer care.
Surrender is motivated out of love -- such deep love for the person that you are willing to get out of the way and let God sit in the driver's seat. Admit it: with us in the driver's seat, things weren't going quite so well. There were just too many things we were powerless to control.
Surrender is choosing to yoke up with Jesus.
Proverbs 18:13 NRSV
If one gives answer before hearing,
it is folly and shame.
I don't know whether or not I'm a baby boomer, but I do know that I've grown up in the era of psychology. Everything is about learning how to relate to others, learning how to know one's self, figuring out why we are dysfunctional.
One of the psychological "skills" that has been taught a lot is active listening. Wikipedia gives a great definition:
"When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next, (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Suspending one's own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to fully attend to the speaker." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening).
It's interesting to me that the Bible was talking about active listening long before we even had psychologists. "If one gives answer before hearing . . ." Even if we hear the sounds that doesn't mean that we are hearing the content. The reality is that if we are thinking about how to respond rather than truly listening, we are focusing (again) on ourselves rather than the other person. We are working on a "defense" for our own position, rather than really caring about how that other person feels (and thinks). We are concerned about protecting ourselves rather than trusting God to protect us.
Do I need to forgive someone even if it doesn’t seem that he is sorry?
Luke 17:3-4 answers that question this way:
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
Jesus said that without genuine repentance there is no forgiveness. One example of this principle is when he says:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation.2 Corinthians 7:10