Household Idols

“So Michal let David down through the window, and he went out and fled and escaped.  Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats’ hair at its head, and covered it with clothes.”  I Samuel 19:12-13

This is one of the many occasions when King Saul is trying to kill David.  Michal helps David escape and uses the “household idol” to deceive her father.  It must have been a fairly large object for it to pass as a full grown man.  This is one of those passages that is frustrating in its lack of detail and generates more questions than answers.

What is this thing?  Is it supposed to represent Yahweh or some false pagan deity?

Why does God’s anointed King have a household idol?

Why does godly David allow this thing to exist?

Is this household idol evidence of the extent of Saul’s departure from God?

I don’t have the answers but this passage got me thinking about my family.  Do we have any household idols?  Are there things that we prop up and put on a pedestal, knocking God out of His proper place in our home?  Entertainment, hobbies, a comfortable lifestyle are always a focus in my home.  These are things that might be harmless on the surface but can quickly start to suck up our time and resources and pull us away from God.

The scary thing is that even family its self can become a household idol.  We have all seen the destruction that a broken home causes and the culture around us bears witness that there is a great need for fathers to be more involved.  But what is the focus of our involvement?

I spend time with my wife and kids.  I’m involved in their lives and their interests.  I support their dreams and provide the foundation and skills so that they can be successful and become productive members of society.  But to what end?  Is all my time and attention and effort simply so they can be good citizens, secure a good living, and continue in the lifestyle that I have provided for them?  Is my goal to love them so that they are psychologically healthy and don’t have to spend a fortune on therapy in the future?

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”  Psalm 127:3-4

When a warrior shoots an arrow, where does it go?  Exactly where the warrior wants it to!  What am I aiming at with children?  What are my goals for my family?

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

“Bring them up” means to nourish, to nurture, to “feed to the desired outcome”.  What am I feeding my kids?  What is my family growing up to become?

The solution is not to cut all the entertainment, recreational, educational, and sports related activities out of your family life and replace them with around the clock bible study.  The solution is to more fully understand our purpose.  We were created to bring glory to our God.  That purpose should be reflected in everything we do.  Every family activity can focus on who God is and what He has done for us.

The ride to baseball practice can be a discussion about the wisdom of God and how he designed such an amazing body.  The family vacation can involve the power of God reflected in creation and the importance of rest as we remember the story of creation.  Cleaning up and doing chores can focus on the blessing of being able to work and satisfaction of doing all our work for the Lord.  Struggling over school work can be combined with a short bible study to emphasize the education with eternal rewards.  Dealing with the heartbreak of boyfriends/girlfriends and broken relationships is an opportunity to show God’s comfort.  Waiting at the bus stop is the perfect opportunity to thank God for the goodnight of sleep and pray for a productive day.  And showing love to our wives and our children in so many different ways should be a reflection of the love the Father has shown to us.  In all things we can bring glory to God.

“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 6:7

Out of all the gifts and blessings that God has bestowed on me, my family is one of the only things that I can take with me into eternity.

Days of Feasting, Gladness and Giving

This will be the last post for 2017. Happy New Year! Thanks for being such an encouragement to me this year! God bless you all richly! 

But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another. And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them.
(Esther 9:18-23)

The passage above from Esther records the beginnings of an annual Jewish holiday called Purim in which the Jews remembered their deliverance from the wicked plot of Haman to destroy all Jews. Mordecai set these times up for all Jews to have “days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”

They were times of feasting, gladness and giving, not really much different than our holiday seasons. Even Jesus participated in festive times like weddings and feasts like Hanukkah (John 2, 10). The returning exiles in Nehemiah’s day also had a time of celebration, feasting and gift-giving, and they were commanded to do so by God’s priests (Nehemiah 8:10-12). There is a time for everything, including a time to rest, and celebrate God’s blessings in our lives. Solomon plainly said that this “is from the hand of God.”

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

We must always keep in mind, though, that all blessings come from God, and that in rejoicing in those blessings, we must put Him first in our hearts. We also because of God’s rich blessings, begin to think of others who are not blessed in the same ways. Hopefully we as the Jews in Esther’s day will look to find those who do not have what we have and share our blessings from God with them.

Enjoy your holidays. Keep God first in your thoughts. Rejoice that we are so richly blessed. Consider others who are hurting and find ways to help. Don’t feel guilty having a good time with your family and friends, as long as you are doing so in obedience to God. As Solomon said in the above passage, “For apart from Him who can eat or have enjoyment?”

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4)

When Our Gift Gets in the Way

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:3-9)

Anna and I were talking about the concept of when our gift can actually become a curse. She was listening to some lessons online about this very thing, and she pointed out that sometimes we don’t know when to use our gift and when to turn it off. There are occasions when what God has blessed us with a talent but the way we use it can really cause a hindrance in our relationships.

Here is an example from Scripture:

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
(Proverbs 25:20)

It may be that your gift is you are an incredibly positive and upbeat person. You always see the bright side of everything. That’s wonderful! But you might come across as really annoying or even as one who minimizes the pain of others by how you approach them. A sister who just lost a spouse may not want to hear you sing, “Sing and be happy.” If you are that person who always sees the bright side, you might have trouble comprehending why others do not. You will have to be very careful then on how you approach someone who doesn’t share that same gift.

Some people are great teachers, but what comes with that sometimes is that those who are really gifted at telling others what they need to do have a hard time turning that off. They are not really good at listening and asking questions and truly finding out what’s on someone’s mind. Having something to say is not always the right thing. Solomon said, “There is a time to be silent” (Ecclesiastes 3).

On the reverse side of that, there are sometimes those who are really gifted at being awesome listeners, but it may be that God wants them to speak up in that situation. Being silent is not always the right thing. Solomon said, “There is a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3).

Just something to think about today. What are your gifts and talents that God has blessed you with? Have there been times that what you are really good at has actually become a hindrance in your relationships? What can you do about that with God’s help? Have you asked God to help you use your gift in a way that will lift up and not hurt others?

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
(Romans 12:15-16)

5 Love Languages: Gift Giving

I’m currently reading the 5 Love Languages for Men by Dr. Gary Chapman. Click here if you want to purchase the book for yourself.

Dr. Gary Chapman’s famous approach is that we all speak different love languages, and he categorizes them as:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Gift Giving
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Today is about Gift-Giving

Dr. Chapman makes the point about getting the cart before the horse. He reminds us that love is the horse and the cart is the gift. We are not trying to purchase approval, affection and love from our wives by lavishing gifts upon them. Rather we are expressing our love for our beautiful wives by offering visual symbols of that love.

Consider one of the most famous verses in Scripture, John 3:16. It says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” Love comes first, and giving is an expression of His love. God teaches us how to love, and how to give.

One point Dr. Chapman made in this chapter that resonated with me is when he talked about a “dialect” of this particular love language of gift-giving. This dialect is giving the gift of yourself, your presence. When your wife is facing a trial and adversity, the greatest gift you can offer is your presence. No appointment is more pressing than being there to offer support and encouragement for your wife. She will remember whether you were truly there for you.

A practical suggestion Dr. Chapman gives to guys who are getting started on gift-giving is to listen. Yes, listen. Go back in your memory bank and listen. Think of the gifts that your wife really appreciated and what she said as to why she loved those gifts. When your wife received a gift from a family member or close friend and that gift really meant something to her, listen to “why” it meant so much to her. Pay attention to these things because it will help shape your understanding as to what kinds of gifts your wife really wants. Talk to her close friends and family members and ask them for advice.

I encourage you to get this book if you don’t already have it and read this chapter. The last two pages of the chapter have some very practical tips on gifts you can purchase or make for your wife.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, men. Make sure that you get her flowers at the gas station on the way home…yes, just kidding.

Over the years, I sometimes get caught up in the thinking that that I have to buy the really expensive gift, or take her on some lavish trip. Those things would be nice, but that is not what Anna wants.

For example, we were watching a Jack Hanna show recently where he and his wife were in South America swimming with dolphins. Awesome! Anna loves dolphins and I know that would be an incredible trip. Of course, I begin to think that would be the ultimate. She however, says, “You know, Aaron, that would be great, but really what I want are a few ducks to raise.” A few ducks? Seriously…that’s my wife. A few bucks for a few ducks.

Another example is for this Valentine’s Day. Anna told me what she wanted. “I want the new Troll movie, and Dove Chocolate.” Now, I can start analyzing and think of something that she REALLY would like, some incredible gift, but she told me what she wanted and she meant it. She got the Troll movie and Dove Chocolate. She was ecstatic.

I’m not saying this is the same for every relationship. If you get the Troll movie and Dove Chocolate for your wife today, you may be in the doghouse. What I am saying is…listen to her. She most likely is telling you what she likes and what she wants. Not all gifts are going to be expensive. However, if your wife is telling you that she needs that weekend getaway, then get saving and planning and make it happen.

Remember to pay attention to the little things. Sure there are times for more expensive gifts and a cool vacation, but don’t forget the little things. They are not little to her.