A Loud Voice Early in the Morning

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
(Proverbs 27:14)

How can a blessing be counted as a curse? In this particular proverb, there are a few ideas to consider.

For one, it may be that my timing is off. Having a loud voice can be annoying at anytime in the day, having a loud voice in the morning may lead to gunfire, no matter how good your intentions are. I don’t want to violate the context of Ecclesiastes 3, but Solomon did say there was a time to speak and a time to be silent. We do have to know what time it is! A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23).

Secondly, my approach may be completely turning a positive thing into a negative thing. “The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). Why would you have to shout it early in the morning to get your point across?

Thirdly, I need to consider my motives in why I’m gushing and lavishing praise on someone. When someone is just heaping an unusual amount of praise and adoration on another, it naturally leads the recipient to suspect the motives behind it. Is this really a genuine blessing, or is something behind all this cavity-causing sweetness? Remember as it is often said that compliments are like perfume, you are to sniff it, not swallow it. I don’t mean that we are to constantly call into doubt our motives or the motives of others, but there are times when the amount of praise, the timing of it and the volume in which it is exclaimed can really turn into a curse in the end. Solomon sure had a lot of wisdom, didn’t he?

A Word Fitly Spoken

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
(Proverbs 25:11)

Have you had someone give you a specific compliment that pointed out an area where you really do well in? How did that make you feel? Didn’t it make you want to take on the world?

Today is just a quick thought that we should always be looking for where people shine in life and make sure they hear us say it. Those “words fitly spoken” are truly like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Most importantly, men, let’s do this in our marriages. It is too easy and very destructive to find the problems. How about we look for where our wives shine and praise them up and down for it?

Listen to the Messiah speak in Isaiah 50:4,

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

He had the prayer of the learned, so that He could “sustain with a word him who is weary.” Your few words of encouragement have that much power! Pointing out the talents and strengths of another may help that person be renewed in strength. Sometimes all we see in ourselves is the problems, the weaknesses and the lack of abilities. Somebody else can help us see more realistically and with it will revive our spirits!

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 2

Last Tuesday, we took a look at our egos, and some signs our egos are getting in the way. You may call ego something like “pride” or “selfish ambition” from a Biblical perspective.

Here are some additional thoughts about our desire to get the credit, the praise and the approval.

We are complete in God through Jesus Christ, period (Colossians 2:10). If man’s praise, acceptance and approval have become our obsession, it is a sign that we are not truly and safely resting in the grace and shelter of God’s arms. Yes, it is great to have the acceptance and approval of others, but that must not be our end goal, because that is such an empty, vain and painful way to live. It will make others around you miserable, too. What are you and I lacking in our relationship with God that we seek to fill with the praise of others?

At a practical level…today:

  • Pray for God to keep our big mouths shut. Enough said. Keeping it shut when we are right. Keeping it shut when someone tells us something we already know…aargh, this is tough.
  • Do things around the house and for our wives without telling them we did it. Yikes, is this possible? Read Matthew 6:1-4, 16-21.
  • Have a chat over coffee and in prayer with a wise godly man who can help you navigate these thoughts. Find a mature man who is comfortable in his own skin because of Jesus.
  • Let’s do some meditation, prayer and study on the grace of God, and that in Him through Jesus Christ we are fully accepted. “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” If we never feel good enough, we will seek man’s praise, but if our sufficiency is truly from God, then one day man’s praise won’t be so attractive to us.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:1-6)

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 1

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
(James 4:1)

Here are a few questions about what we call the ego. This article is not intended to answer all these questions fully. 

  • What is the “ego”? (It is not a pre-made waffle that you put in the toaster, that’s spelled EGGO).
  • What is a biblical way of describing the ego?
  • How does my “ego” and the need to care for and tend it affect my marriage?

When do we see our egos raise their ugly heads and cause problems?

When we feel insecure or not good enough. Your wife is complimenting someone else in an area where you are not as strong or talented. How you deal with that? Her father is really good at something that you’re not very good at, and it isn’t that your wife is reminding you of that, it’s just that you are having a hard time with your own insecurity.

When we are criticized or corrected. Certainly criticism and correction can be done in a way that really hurts and stings, but what if the correction is done in love, do you receive it well? Do you have to remind the one correcting you of his or her faults so that you can feel better (or so that we can all feel equally awful/guilty)? Is always being right or always looking good more important than our spiritual growth and having healthy relationships?

When someone else gets credit for your idea/work. If our egos are in the way, we can really let this destroy us. Because of our pride, we are driven to be noticed and credited for our good ideas, designs and accomplishments. But can we be okay if we do not receive the kind of accolades we long for? Jesus said if we are looking for men’s praise, then we have the reward we are seeking (Matthew 6). It is not a good thing, though, because like any addiction we will keep seeking that praise and the good feelings it brings, but it never truly satisfies.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:3-5)

More to come next week, Lord willing.

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.

Be Patient

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
(James 5:7-11)

Take some time today to look at this section of James and apply it to the marriage relationship.

Be patient. Be patient with each other. Be patient in trials and adversity. Be patient with yourselves. Be patient knowing that growth in relationships takes time and growth will always happen as long as we’re alive. Be patient knowing that God is always there for us.

Think of God’s purpose and His character. We see how it was displayed in the lives of the prophets and in the life of Job. God blesses those who endure. God is merciful and compassionate. God has a purpose and a plan and He works within our lives and in our marriages for His glory and for our good. We can use this to “establish” our hearts and our marriages!

God is coming. The Judge is standing at the door! Notice how James connects this to our relationships. You know we always seem to follow the speed limit when we see a police officer, and we always want to show off our best work while the boss is looking! James reminds us that the Judge (Jesus) is standing at the door, and that He is always watching, and one day our date with eternity will be set. All the more reason not to grumble against each other, especially in marriage. We grumble against each other because sometimes we lack the compassion and mercy that God shows to us. May we be reminded that when God comes, we will want mercy and compassion, so let’s show that mercy and compassion to others today.

Article About Recognizing Controlling Behavior

Here is a good article for your consideration about recognizing controlling behavior in relationships.

20 Signs Your Partner is Controlling

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:13-15)

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45)

Married Under the Influence

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
(Proverbs 5:15-20)

Anna was listening to a radio program the other day, and shared with me a great point that the speaker made. It goes something like this, “Satan does everything in his power to get us to be physically intimate before we are married, and then everything in his power to break that physical intimacy after we are married.” So true.

The passage above in Proverbs talks about being intoxicated. We can be drunk and led astray into the arms of forbidden love, or we can be drunk in love of our bride. God created the sexual relationship to be very fulfilling, to draw us closer to our spouse than we are to anyone else on the planet.

That is why this union is designed exclusively for marriage, when it is taken outside of marriage, it defiles everything and everyone it touches. When it is kept within the covenant relationship of a husband and wife, it brings joy, unity and an intimacy unparalleled in human relationships.

Solomon is directing the husband’s senses (ears, eyes, hands, nose, mouth, etc.) to be directed fully toward his wife. When he starts looking at other women, smelling their pretty perfume, and listening to their flattering words, he will become drunk in other women’s love. His hands and arms are to be devoted to his wife, not to any other woman. Just read the first 7 chapters of Proverbs to be reminded of how Solomon teaches and warns about sexual sin.

But in those warnings are also passages like the one above that talk about the joy and intoxication that can be found within a committed relationship between a husband and his wife.

Have you lost that at home? If so, what happened? And then, how can we get that back again? There are no quick easy answers to these questions. If you have been married long enough you have more than likely found yourself in the situation where the sexual relationship is not the joyful union God designed for you to have.

There are a lot of reasons this happens in a marriage. Health reasons, life stresses, past hurts, arguments and bitterness piled up, unrealistic expectations, the kids, or we are just flat out tired, etc. It also could be that other people have drawn away our affections in some way. Can we come back from these things that have tried to destroy our physical intimacy with our wife? Yes. Otherwise passages like Proverbs 5 wouldn’t have been written.

The question is men, what will you do about this? Have you sought out wise counsel on this matter? Are you directing all your senses toward your wife, or are you being pulled away in your affections to other things and people?

Think about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7

But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,
(1 Corinthians 7:33)

I don’t believe Paul meant this in a negative way. It’s just a reality. If you are married, your attention should naturally be toward how to please your wife. Included in that is the sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). It is your job and your life, and God wants it to be your joy. Seek to please your wife, all the while seeking to please God as well.

Spreading the Good News at Home

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:19-20)

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

There’s a lot to ponder on when it comes to this text, as there is any time Jesus said anything. What I want to focus on for today is that Jesus asked this man to go home and tell the good news. Talk about how good God is. Speak of His mercy. Jesus charged him to use his formerly demon-possessed tongue to express the things God had done for him.

Go home and do this. He didn’t say go to a strange location, talk about this to people you’ve never met. Instead, He said go home and tell this to your friends.

That leaves me thinking, and I hope you are thinking about it too, what kinds of things are we talking about at home? What kinds of conversations are we having with our wives and kids?

Often we talk about telling the good news to the world and talking to others at work, at school, and in the community about Jesus. But are we spreading the good news at home? Do we talk like thankful people at home?

You see, Peter’s speech betrayed him. He claimed not to be a friend of Jesus, but his thick Galilean accent betrayed him (Luke 22:59; Matthew 26:73). In the same way, we can claim to be followers of Jesus, but the way we talk at home may tell a completely different story.

Is there “faith talk” at home? Are we constantly talking about the problems, the business, and the negativity that we fail to focus our thoughts and speech on all the good things God has done for us? Are we remembering to say good things about God out loud to our wives and kids?

Jesus told this man to go home and do this. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
(Hebrews 2:12)

Isn’t Jesus asking us to do the same?

The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.
(Isaiah 38:19)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psalm 78:4)

Do you have good news to tell at home? Do our wives hear us as God’s men telling the good news? Are we thankful men, grateful for life and God’s blessings? Do our wives see thankfulness on our faces and do they hear God’s praises coming from our tongues?

Go home and tell the good news.