Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for May, 2012

The Problem With ‘Raca’ (Mt. 5:22)

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (NIV)”

The problem with ‘raca,’ or at least our debate about it is that people are not reading enough good Jewish literature. The Bible is a Jewish text, and must be read as such. Jewish literature does two things. First, it uses the word ‘raca’ in many of its stories so that you get a sense of what this word means outside of scripture to an average Jewish person. Second, Jewish literature gives you a sense of how Jews say things. Today, when we make two points consecutively we are often telling you what something is not. For example, I may tell you that my car is grey, and then say ‘a dark grey-almost black.’ This is not how Jewish people talked. Jewish people often said the positive, then said exactly the same thing in a negative way. So what we will see are statements that say if you are good you do this, if you are bad you do that. These statements mean exactly the same thing, they are just said differently so that all may understand. (Read through Proverbs for the best examples of this.)

When we look at the verse on ‘raca’ though, we are trying to figure out what the difference is between calling someone ‘raca’ and calling someone a fool. The point is, there is not one. Fool is a more general term, and can be used Biblically, but here it is calling someone ‘worthless,’ unable to learn and not worthy of our time or attention. Scripture is telling us that we are not to do this. Everyone has worth. This is supported in the teachings that tell us that every person has been made in the image of God and should be treated accordingly. What is being pointed out here is that even the Pharisees (who Jesus frequently disagrees with) realize that it is wrong to treat a person this way, when we know from scripture that they do treat people this way, so how much worse is it when you, who call yourself a follower of Jesus, treat people this way (even a little bit)?

This is an important point. We are not to consider anyone to be ‘worthless.’ So what does this mean? This means that we are not to look down on people or exclude them because we think they are somehow ‘less’ than us. This is hard to do. In many churches people are afraid that the problems children of new believers come in with will affect their children. Worse, some of our more immature members point to the fact that the new people’s behavior (ie. mere presence) interferes with their worship. Because of their fears they tend to subtly shun anyone who is not already ‘up to speed’ on how to behave. This is wrong. While we do need to protect our children, we also need to disciple new people. (People who have been in the church all of their lives should not need discipling; they should be teachers by now!)

Many churches today have overcome these issues and are growing. Unfortunately, instead of figuring out how they are doing this and joining them many smaller churches are condemning the larger ones for ‘watering down the gospel’ as evidence by all of the people who know very little about God in their church (ie new believers) and their need to preach simply (since there are many new believers). But isn’t a whole bunch of new believers exactly what we are told a good church should have? And if you are mature, shouldn’t you be looking for a whole bunch of people to share your wisdom with, rather than keeping it to yourself, and your group who has already read through their Bible a bazillion times? Just saying…

Don’t Be Naive When Raising Children

In raising children who were adopted when they were older I learned a few things that you may find helpful, so I figured I’d pass them on…

1. If your child’s grades improve dramatically, without a known reason (no incentive, or tutoring) praise, but keep your eyes open for cheating.
Real life story: In third grade our son had a parent/ teacher conference. His grades were amazing. We talked to the teacher, and told her that he rarely brought work home. She moved his seat and his grades plummeted…

2. If your child begins to ‘help’ around the house in ways they have never done before, they are probably hiding something they hope you will never find out they are doing.

3. When confronting your child do not begin with a lecture. Ask them a question then listen. When there is silence, don’t be tempted to fill in it yourself. People hate silence. Your waiting tempts them to say more and you will get more of the information you need, such as why they did it, and how much they have done. Then you can talk all you want.

4. If you think they are doing something set them up and watch. If they are not tempted, nothing else will happen.
Real life: We had our pastor over and went to show him our computer monitoring system. Our son, knowing what the pastor might see, suddenly needed to talk with us. (But not before the pastor saw that the system actually works… We did warn him.)

5. Check to see that your children are where they say they are. Many, many kids say they are sleeping over a friend’s house and go elsewhere, usually with the friend they say they are spending the night with. Always check with the other child’s parents.

6. Explain to your child that the punishment is always worse if they lie. There should be some benefit to telling the truth and coming clean.

7. If your child is suddenly rebellious, blows up easily or won’t talk to you when they normally would there is something wrong. Take them someplace for a long period of time, a shopping trip, fishing, hiking etc. anywhere with no distractions where you can talk. Eventually they will. You may need a weekend for some problems… One of my children talked best at the pet store.

8. Talk to your child when there is nothing wrong on a regular basis (a lot). They need to have practice talking to you. This will make difficult conversations easier. The regular conversations will also make it harder for them not to tell you things since they know they are expected to talk, and whatever is bothering them is probably on their mind. If they normally talk, and are suddenly silent, there is probably something wrong. Don’t stop the talk until you find out what it is.

9. Even ‘good’ kids mess up. The difference between raising a child well, and doing it poorly is what you do when they do mess up. Do not think that your child would never do something wrong. If you do nothing, your child will learn that they can get away with things if they keep up appearances. Adults may make mistakes, but they rarely lie about a child. No one likes calling the parent. Take bad reports from other adults seriously. Thinking that your child can do no wrong reinforces phony and sneaky behavior.

10. Watch TV shows or movies that deal appropriately with the issues your child might be facing. It teaches in a way you may not be able to and opens the door for discussions. You can discuss the issue using the characters as examples so that it does not feel so personal or confrontational.

11. Touch is important. If you have gotten to a place where hugs and other forms of parental affection are not welcomed try a physical sport as a family such as the martial arts. Headlocks are ‘touching’ without the ‘ew Mom’ factor. (One of my boys was 10 when we adopted him. Not a ‘hug your new mother’ age.)

12. If your child begins to get the mail for you for no known reason. (My children reminded me of this one, so I had to add it!) Chance are your child is trying to intercept something they know is coming in the mail that they do not want you to see. Speeding tickets, warnings about grades etc fall into this category. Real life: I once heard a story about a mom, who in the middle of a special ‘day date’ with her daughter at home was surprised by the police at her door. Since whatever her daughter did with the car, then intercepted the mailed warnings and ignored was in the mother’s name, they were coming to take the mom to jail. Wonderful.

I hope this helps. It may not; every family is different. Remember that whenever you read advice and use common sense. There is no-one-size-fits-all solution for any ‘human’ problem. God created us all unique, which complicates things… have fun.

You Can Be a Proverbs 31 Woman- and Probably Are (Unless You Are a Guy…)

The Proverbs 31 woman has been blown out of proportion. She is larger than life- but really she is not. First, we need a little perspective. This is advice given to a man, who is to be king, by his mother on picking a wife. It is not advice to a woman on what they should do, nor is it a daily check list of what should get done. This man is a king. These are the requirements for a woman who is to be queen. If you are not marrying someone who is destined to be in charge of a country, or are not going to be in charge of a country, then these requirements must be ‘tweeked’ to fit the type of life you will enjoy.
So, let’s look at Proverbs 31 with a new perspective…
-First requirement: She must be a wife of ‘good character.’ I think we can handle that, especially since Biblically any woman, or man, who repents and turns to God is treated as a full child of God. So even Rahab the prostitute now qualifies.
-Her husband has full confidence in her, meaning she is a capable woman who makes good decisions. Her husband does not worry about her doing something stupid when he is not there. This is good marriage advice. Too many boys are looking for a girl who needs to be ‘rescued’ and who makes them feel like a ‘man’ because she ‘needs’ him to solve her problems. This is not the woman scripture tells a man to look for.
-She brings him good and not harm. No matter how she ‘feels,’ she works for his best interests and does not do things that would undermine him. This means no passive-aggressive behavior!
-She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. This means that even though she is to be ‘rich’ (the wife of a king) she has basic skills, so even if her circumstances change and her family needs her to do whatever, she can, and will, gladly. Today this would mean that she would cook and clean, shop at a thrift store and cut coupons happily if need be.
-She shops for the best price and quality. Since people walked to shop, this means she does not just buy the first thing she sees, but is frugal and good with money, even though they have plenty at the moment.
-She gets up early and feeds the servants. She makes sure the people she is responsible for are well cared for. Today this would mean that the children will get breakfast and their lunches are made because she is the type of person who would wake up in time to get them off to school.
-Since she is going to be a wealthy woman she should already have money of her own and be able to use it wisely. She can therefore consider a property and manage the vineyard (business) she creates. This means that she is able to manage any projects she becomes involved with so that they do not add to her husband’s responsibilities. She is not a burden, but an asset, increasing the family’s wealth without increasing the stress on her husband. (By the way, men typically work in a vineyard and she is in charge. She has no problem handling things at work, and has the respect of her employees so this is not an issue.)
-She works vigorously and her arms are strong. She is not a wimp. She is in good physical health, and is able to work hard. Think of the women that God chose as wives in the Bible. Many of them were shepherdesses, able to lift heavy things and do much physical work.
-Her trading is profitable. The projects she gets into make money. What she does in her free time is not a drain on the family finances.
-Her lamp does not go out at night. In Biblical times wicks needed to be trimmed and the oil lamp needed to be filled before bed at night. This is a woman who makes sure that the little things get done. This woman makes sure the garbage is out on garbage day, the iron is off before she leaves the house etc. Her husband does not need to double-check on the little things she is responsible for.
-She holds the distaff and grasps the spindle in her hand. She knows how to sew. If needed, this wealthy woman could make clothes for her family. She has skills.
-She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. She is giving, and is not afraid to mix with the less fortunate. She does not look down on them, and even though she is queenly, she notices people in need and helps.
-She does not fear the snow because her household is well clothed. She prepares ahead of time for things she knows are coming. This means that she is not running out to buy boots and coats on the first snow day because she did not plan ahead.
-She makes coverings for her bed, and is clothed in linen and purple. She knows how to decorate her house and dress as is fitting for her position in life. Her appearance is not going to embarrass her husband. When she needs to be elegant (as a queen often does) she can do so easily. For many of us, this is not necessary, and if we are trying to dress like a queen, when we need to be ‘functional’ because we are actually running after kids, then we are doing the opposite of what is necessary and are behaving contrary to this verse. This woman needs to look the part because her husband is king. If your husband is not a king, and your ‘society’ is blue jeans and flip-flops then you should dress and decorate your house in a way that will not embarrass your spouse.
-Her husband is respected. This implies that she does not embarrass him, and, because of what she does, people look more favorably on him.
-She makes things to sell. Even though she is rich, she does useful, profitable work in her spare time.
-She is strong and dignified. She is not full of anxiety and fear, but can laugh at the future because she is confident that she can handle whatever is to come.
-She is wise and is able to instruct others. She is not a ditzy airhead. She is smart, and paid attention in school.
-She manages her household well and is not lazy.
-Her children call her blessed and her husband praises her. This is a woman who has raised her children to respect her, and she is so capable her husband would feel awkward making derogatory jokes about her.
-She surpasses all other women. This is because she is the perfect wife for her husband. She fits him well. He can imagine no other woman being as good for him as she is.
-She fears God.
There is also a reminder that charm and beauty are fleeting. A man is not to pick a wife based on her ability to flatter him, or how ‘hot’ she is. These things will not last. Instead he is to pick a woman who has godly characteristics. She is also to receive the rewards her work deserves and is to be praised for what she does. This means that she may be pampered and complimented for doing all that she does.
When you look at the list what you will find is that there are many, many godly women out there, and husbands who are lucky to have them! Not married? This is the list to use. Men, don’t be tricked into marrying a woman who makes you ‘feel’ like a ‘man’ for superficial reasons. The point here is that you want a strong, capable woman, who enhances your life, not one who leans on you and cannot do anything on her own! And if tough times come, she is capable of managing in poverty without complaint as well. (Remember, kingdoms topple, and kings often find themselves in exile during this time in history… A good ‘queen’ needs to be prepared for this as well.)

‘Authority’ in the Bible

Okay, answer me this: If women cannot have ‘authority’ over men, and the Bible never contradicts itself, then what in the world did Paul mean when he said that a woman could not have authority over a man?
He obviously did not mean that she could not lead a country. Deborah did, and Miriam (according to Micah) is listed as a ‘leader’ in Israel as well. (Mic 6:4) Junia is an apostle (church-planter) and Phoebe is a deacon, so church leadership is obviously not prohibited, unless the person who gets people saved, organizes the church, puts others they have taught into positions and then moves on to do it again is not really a ‘leader’ and has no ‘real’ authority.
‘Authority’ cannot be listening to God and instructing people (men) regarding what God says or Philip’s four unmarried daughters would not have been given prophecy, it would have been wrong for the men to seek Huldah when there were other male prophets at the time, Miriam would not have been given prophecy since Aaron and Moses were around, and Isaiah’s wife would not have been known as ‘the prophetess’ since Isaiah himself could have done the job. (Do you see where this is going?) So God talks to women, and He expects the men to do what He says through them. Hmm… and this is not authority?
Could it be that Paul was talking about authority in the home? Should women have no authority there? Was God wrong to tell Abraham to listen to his wife and do what she says regarding Ishmael (Gen. 21:12)? Was God wrong to give instructions to Samson’s mother instead of his father when his father was begging to be told as well (Judges 13:8-11)? Was God wrong to give the prophecy about Esau and Jacob to Rebekah rather than Isaac (Gen. 25:23)?
Or, could it be that the KJV actually got it right? That the correct translation of the word here is that women cannot ‘usurp authority’? Could it be that Paul was talking to people, some of whom grew up in a culture where the women ruled the pagan churches and the men were made into eunuchs and he did not want to see that happening in the church? Could it be that he told the women to be silent and ask their husbands because he wanted them to stop talking in church so they would shut up and actually learn- especially if they were to be ‘workers’ in the church? Could it be that the Jewish women, used to being segregated in the synagogues and Temple were used to gossiping and not paying attention and that this is what Paul was trying to change? God knows it would have been difficult for Phoebe to deliver the letter to the church at Rome if she was not to speak!
‘Silent’ can also not mean that women cannot spread the gospel or Jesus would have been in error sending that Samaritan woman away from the well without clear instruction about not telling anyone, and the women at the tomb should not have been entrusted with the first report about the risen Lord. John should also not have written that scandalous letter to the woman in 2 John- according to the ‘rules’ he should have written it to the man of the church who was over her. Unless she was the head of the church that met in her home…

Stress Free Christian Living

The Christian life should be easy, at least when it comes to relationships. Matthew 18 promises us that we cannot be kicked out of fellowship unless we have been more than adequately warned when we mess up. We are also told that all we need to do is repent and we will be forgiven seven times seventy times (which I am told is not a finite number, but actually means ‘a lot’). 2 Corinthians 2:7 also tells us that, when we do repent and come back into fellowship Christians are to ‘forgive and comfort,’ so we can be sure that, if our heart is right, we will be treated with kindness, love and mercy- correct? We are not to judge, unless we really want to be judged by God by the standard we impose on others, and we are always to remember that we too were once sinner, and that it is only by the grace of God that we do not find ourselves in the other person’s position, doing the same things, or worse. So what’s the problem? Why are Christians known as judgmental and unloving? Come on people, relax and love! (I’ve got my ‘hippie’ shirt on today- Can’t you tell?)

Recognize When You Are Just ‘Muddling Through’

God just brought to mind a time when I was talking to a woman I know. She was distraught. She felt like a failure. She could not keep her house clean, her kids looking like angels etc. I laughed. I told her that’s because that’s not how God made you!
Some women are good at being housewives. They love to clean, organize, shop and their house always smells like freshly baked something. Others of us are more like the Proverbs 31 woman. We would rather be out, making our own money, buying a field and managing the vineyard. And that’s okay.
So, what if you are an out and about person who has decided that, based on current circumstances, it is best for you to be home with the children and not conquering the world? You ‘muddle.’ You use your skills the best you can in your current situation. You make it fun- your home does not have to resemble anyone else’s! (novel concept, I know.) Your children are likely like you, and your husband feels blessed to have you, so why not just be- you! But know that you are in the situation with a ‘servant’s heart.’ You are not the woman who paints her wall four times because it is not the right shade of puce (whatever that is). You are who God made you. Figure out who that is, get the stuff you ‘muddle’ with through quickly, and then enjoy, doing the things in life the way only ‘you’ can! (And if you are an awesome housewife, congratulations, enjoy it, but you will have to tell me what that’s like! Though some of you may be an awesome housewife, aching to be home full time, but cannot. You will need to ‘muddle’ too, in a different way…)

Are We Trying to Be Better Than God?

There are three kinds of love that we commonly talk about (even though they are not in the Bible this way).

1. Unconditional Love- Unfortunately we often confuse unconditional love with agape love. God’s love is ‘unconditional’ in that it is available to every human being, but that is not how ‘unconditional’ love is usually defined. When people tell others that they are to love ‘unconditionally’ typically they are telling the other person to act like a doormat. They are to put up with whatever someone does and not say, or do, anything that might upset them. This is not how God loves us, and not how He tells us to love others. In the Bible we are clearly told to do justice, to warn people when they are doing things that are destructive (sinful) and to avoid people who refuse to repent. We do this to protect the innocent (which is sometimes ourselves) as well as to cause them to see that their actions are not good. These are loving gestures. ‘Unconditional love’ causes there to be no consequences for their actions. It is showing partiality, or ‘favoritism’ since the rights of the person who misbehaves on a regular basis are placed above the rights of the person who has done nothing wrong since the innocent person is being asked to just shut up and take it. Shutting up and taking it is not love, and is not Biblical. Sure, there are times to turn the other cheek and to show mercy, but there are also times when justice must be done. (Remember, Jesus also overturned some tables, hit people with his coat and called the Pharisees some not so nice names. He will also come back to finish the war between good and evil and judge, condemning those who would not repent.) Loving people ‘unconditionally’ (not saying anything no matter what they do) is not Biblical, but it is common Christian advice. By loving in this way, we are telling God that we ‘love’ better than He does, since we ‘judge’ no one. Not good.

2. Conditional Love- This love is when a person will only be your friend if you do what they want and agree with everything they believe. While we do not often label it, it is the type of love most often exhibited in our society today. You believe in gay marriage, our relationship just got strained. You vote Republican, while your friend is a Democrat, then you will not be hearing from that person quite as often. Conditional love is controlling. It forces the other person to reconsider sharing their thoughts for fear you will not like them anymore. It causes people to conform. Everyone must keep their house as clean as Martha Steward, breastfeed their babies (which is a great thing, but not something to end a friendship over), wear suits and dresses to church (or not) etc. Why? Why is it so important that we agree on every little thing? Why can’t we sit down and discuss current issues and respect the other person even when they have a different opinion. Why can’t we admit that God made us all unique, and that we will do things in different ways for different reason, and that is okay? By loving in this manner, we are telling God that His love is too freely given, and we can do better by limiting who we put up with.

3. Agape Love- This is the love of God, but often it is defined in ways that are not completely ‘godly.’ Why? Because we like some aspects of God better than others. And at times we wish to apply only certain aspects of God to any given situation. When we want mercy (so we, or people we like, can avoid consequences) we preach a merciful and loving God. When there is a behavior we detest, fear or do not identify with, we want the God of judgment. Rarely do we balance the two. God is a God of mercy. He would like to see us come to Him without much prodding and punishment. But, He is also a God of justice. He knows that if He does not punish sin things will only get worse. So how do we balance the two? We must remember that God’s ultimate goal is for all people to be in a relationship with Him. Where mercy furthers the relationship and leads to repentance, then mercy should be shown. When punishment and harsh words will wake the person up and cause them to realize their mistakes and turn to God for help, then that is the godly solution. Agape love requires wisdom and a knowledge of the situation and the person. (You will find that very little of the Bible can be lived without close relationships.) The person may not always like your decisions when you love them this way, but you are always working towards what is best for them. (Think: parent/child relationships- when you punish a toddler they do not understand or like it, but it is for their own good.) This does not mean that you know it all, are better than them, or even more mature than they are. Loving someone with an attitude where you feel superior and are condescending does not help the situation. God, as Jesus, became a friend and servant to many, never taking the status He deserved. You must make decisions on how you will deal with other people’s actions in your life. Even ignoring things is a decision. Keep in mind though, that in making these decisions you are just doing what every human being does. Do not start thinking that you are the ‘better’ person, or soon it will be you, and your less than humble attitude that other people will be making tough decisions about!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: