We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

The Law of Jealousy

One of the most bizarre passages of Scripture is found in Numbers chapter 5, where God presents the law of jealousy. If “the spirit of jealousy” came upon a man, he was to take his wife to the priest, where she would undergo an emotionally draining interrogation that required her to either admit her guilt of adultery or maintain her innocence. If she admitted sin, then she and her lover were stoned according to the law. If she pleaded innocent, but was actually guilty, then she would face a most unusual trial. She was to drink a mixture of dust that was swept from the floor and mixed with ink that was washed from a written parchment. This mysterious concoction somehow would cause her belly to swell and her thigh to rot if she was guilty. If you ask me, that’s quite a mouthful!

This punishment served to deter sexual sin in this new and impressionable community. It also served as protection from an obsessively jealous husband. We must remember that sexual sin was not uncommon, given the Egyptian lifestyle. In order to reshape the thinking of the community, God imposed a strict standard so that the people might fear.

This ordeal was psychologically and emotionally tormenting. I’m sure the death of Nadab and Abihu was still fresh in the community’s mind. If this woman was guilty, she would also die of God’s judgment. If innocent, then her husband would bear the shame of bringing before the community a false accusation. His jealousy would be looked upon as a blight; he would now shoulder the pressure of community disdain for his immature, jealous response. That is, of course, if his wife gave no reason for him to distrust her.

We are to give no occasion to prompt the suspicion of an immoral relationship. We need to raise the standard and abstain from all appearance of evil. It is time to raise the standard–a little community pressure might be what’s needed.

Recommended Reading:

How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

When People Are Big and God is Small

TrueFaced, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch (not available from Lamplighter)

Use promo code MOMENTS to receive free shipping on your order! Offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.

Friends of the Family, Part 3

For the past two days, I’ve told you about some very special friends. If you missed those Moments, I’d encourage you to check out part 1 and part 2.

Our family has been significantly changed by daily visits from these friends. And just when I thought we had met the entire family, one night, just before bed, we heard a gentle knock on the door. Who could it be at this late hour?
I opened the door. There stood a very aged-but distinguished looking-gentleman. He had a hand-carved cane made of mahogany and sported an English cap and dark wool cloak. If I had to guess, I would say he was easily in his 90’s or maybe even 100. But when he spoke, he seemed ageless. Sure enough, when he introduced himself, he was none other than the father of this unique family-and his name was LOVE.

It didn’t take long to learn, from his countless stories that we listened to every night, that Love’s influence seem to turn evil into good each and every time. He would end each of his stories by swirling his cloak over our heads and saying something about him covering a multitude of something. I could never understand what he was talking about but it had something to do with his cloak being used as a covering. Our children loved listening to his stories each night, but I think I enjoyed them the most. They usually brought tears to my eyes as I began to learn from this meek and gentle man that he truly never fails.

In conclusion, remember that “By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged . . .” (Proverbs 16:6) and “Whoever covers an offense seeks love . . .” (Proverbs 17:9).

Friends of the Family, Part 2

Yesterday I told you about our family friends, Grace, Mercy, and Compassion. We loved having these ladies over each night and morning. Their influence was transforming our home. But then, just as things started to change for the better, the doorbell rang. Each of the women looked at each other with concern. Lo and behold it was their younger brother, TRUTH.

Truth seemed to think that it was his right to speak his mind…about everything! I wasn’t enjoying his company like his sisters. Grace and Mercy were very quiet while Truth spoke his mind. There were several times when I wanted to boot him out of my home. I wasn’t enjoying his brutal insights about my failures. Then one time when I was about to tell him off I realized that he was absolutely right…about everything. Then I realized something that had gone unnoticed. Each time I was about to boot him out of the house, Mercy would say something to me that encouraged me to swallow my pride. Mercy later shared with me that her brother means well but sometimes he can be a little bit black and white. That’s why she makes sure that wherever he goes she stays close behind (see Psalm 85:10).

Just when I was getting to enjoy the insights that brother Truth had for me and my family, the doorbell rang again. Truth looked at his watch and said that he would return but needed to go. With an exchange of pleasantries, Truth tipped his hat to another close relative, his aunt Hope. What a delight to have her. I felt this strange sensation; all the shame that Truth had dug up in my life was disappearing. And each time that Truth came over and seemed to shake me upside down and inside out, Hope would be at the door knocking. She was there to put me back together.

In our next moment, we will meet one more dear friend!

Friends of the Family, Part 1

I’d like to introduce you to my five good friends whom I have enjoyed so much that I’ve invited them into my home. Their names are Grace, Mercy, Compassion, Hope, Truth, and Love.

GRACE is an attractive older lady who makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world when you’re in her presence. I am often humbled by her lavish graciousness, which causes her influence over me to grow even stronger. I’ll never forget the lessons that she taught me about my tendency to place responsibility above relationship. She saw how this was affecting my family and enabled me to see that they would more willingly follow humility than authority.

Soon, Grace asked if she could invite her twin sister to visit. When I met her I was amazed at their similarities. But there was one remarkable difference. MERCY had some serious memory problems. In most areas, her memory was exact–but when it came to offenses, she seemed to not be able to remember yesterday. What was most remarkable about Mercy’s influence in my life was that the more I got to know her, the more I was able to see my family from an entirely different perspective–from God’s perspective. Mercy seemed to change my relationship with my children and spouse almost overnight.

And wouldn’t you know it, there was another sister! Grace and Mercy introduced COMPASSION to me early one morning. Compassion began coming over early in the morning–every morning (see Lamentations 3:22-23)–even before the coffee was brewing! Her influence was contagious. My kids loved waking up to her voice. She put a smile on everyone’s face and my oldest son loved her the most. She made him completely forget about yesterday’s failures–and she helped me to practice her same forgetfulness.

Join me as I introduce more of my friends in our next Lamplighter Moment!

The Emptied Self

I recently solved a mystery that had created years of havoc in my relational life. The mystery was solved when my wife returned to me. No, we were not divorced or separated. She had been away to take care of our daughter-in-law, who was recently in a serious accident.

We’ve been married for 33 years and this was the longest we had ever been apart. While she was away, my love for my wife grew exponentially. But several days after she returned, our relationship began to be unsettled.Why? What happened?

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. While we were away from each other, I had time to empty myself of myself. I thought of ways that I could be a better husband. I made plans for her benefit. I created surprises around the house. I made sure that several of the things she wanted done were accomplished. But when she returned, I became self-focused. Now it was my turn. Now I wanted her to meet my needs–and when she didn’t, I burrowed deeper into a state of self-pity and self-preservation.

Then the light came on. I realized that healthy relationships are built on the foundation of an emptied self. But we can’t stop there. Our emptied self must then be filled with the love of Christ.I truly believe that most of our broken relationships today are the result of us being too full of ourselves and too empty of an intimate relationship with Christ. It is only when we are fulfilled in Christ that we can fill the lives of others.

Experiencing conflicts? They’re probably an indication that you are too full of yourself. Do you want to change? Then let nothing be done through strife or self-conceit; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. And follow Christ’s example, who emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant (paraphrase of Philippians 2).

Redemption and resurrection in our relationships are only an emptied self away.

“Save Yourself!”

We live in a day when Christians and non Christians alike are adopting an “every man for himself” world view. As divorce has reached record proportions, couples are no longer making any covenant commitments. Many want a safety release so that they can exit if things turn difficult. I was reminded of this phenomenon recently after I had interviewed twenty different parties interested in renting a house I own. All twenty interested couples were living together, and in every instance it was the girlfriend who was taking the lead.

What is happening to a man’s desire to lead and commit? Is it fear? Fear that your wife’s love will not be reciprocal or that she might not remain faithful? Or is it blatant selfishness that keeps a man from commitments? In this day of every man doing that which is right in his own eyes, I believe that we can learn a significant, life-changing lesson from our Lord’s time on the cross. It is amazing to me that someone’s last few words or absence of words can shape the rest of our lives.

Three times while Jesus was hanging on the cross He heard the scoffing insults from the crowd and Jewish leaders, the thieves on the cross, and the Roman soldiers, each shouting out the same two words: “SAVE YOURSELF!” And each time Jesus didn’t say a word. And certainly if He wanted to, He could have saved himself . . . for he was God Himself. But He chose not to save Himself in order that He could save others. What Jesus demonstrated on the cross in His silence was the true essence of God-likeness. As men of God we are not here to save ourselves, but to give our lives on behalf of those God has placed in our care.

Has life become difficult? Has relational pain become unbearable? You have a choice: Save yourself or save others.

The Amnon Principle

Boys need to be preparing for marriage as early as kindergarten! At an early age our boys must see themselves as the protectors of a damsel in distress. They should be encouraged to be the first to run and pick up a girl’s dropped books. They should make a special effort to open the door for ladies. Our boys need to go against the culture and see that girls are a special. A boy should be in prayer for the one who will someday be his wife, companion, and in many ways, his earthly completion.

Our boys must also learn that the first year of marriage needs to be different than all of the rest. God commanded that a young man who had taken a wife be not charged with any business, or go to war, but be free at home for one year, to bring happiness to his wife (Deut. 24). I believe that this passage is teaching that a young man should not take on anything extra during his first year of marriage. He should be financially secure. Since financial stress is one of the most damaging conflicts in a young marriage, our boys need to understand the importance of hard work and savings before they even consider marriage. Proverbs 24:27 teaches that we are to prepare our fields first and then build our house.

Lastly, it is crucial that our boys learn the Amnon principle. In I Samuel 13, Absalom’s sister Tamar was loved deeply by her step brother Amnon. His love for her was so great that he thought he could not live another day without her. Unfortunately, his lust was greater than his love and he lost both her and his life; and Tamar lost her purity and honor. Our boys need to understand that when they engage in a physical relationship prior to marriage, they actually damage–and may even destroy–any future relationship with the one they love.

Costly Career Goals, Part 2

Recently we talked about building the foundation of our family first before pursuing costly career goals. Today I would like to challenge us all with the opposite thought. You see, sometimes we use our family as a crutch not to move forward by faith. There are times when God calls us to do something that may not appear to be in the best interest of our family.

In Numbers 14, the children of Israel faced what many young couples face today–relocation. God was moving Israel from their secure life in Egypt (though enslaved!), to the wilderness. Note their first line of defense, and reason why they shouldn’t have to relocate –“Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” The enticement of security is a cancer to faith and often we as men will use our family as an excuse not to follow the promptings of God.

Is God calling you to relocate? Is God calling you to do something meaningful for His Kingdom but you’re just not sure if it will be best for your family? How is one to know?

If you read further in Numbers 14 as well as Deuteronomy 1, you will find the answer–“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” To know God’s will is to know God! To follow Him fully…to pursue Him passionately.

Do you have a different spirit–as did Caleb? Do not be afraid of the wilderness. You may not be able to enjoy the leeks of Egypt on the journey, but while others draw back, thinking they are protecting their family, you will reap an everlasting inheritance for generations to come.

Costly Career Goals

In I Kings 17:34 there is an obscure Scripture that beckons our attention. Out of the blue, the following verse appears: “In his days, Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the Word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of nun.” Now what are we to make of that?

This is why I love the Scriptures. There is always hidden treasure for those who are willing to seek…for they will find! So let’s have a closer examination of this verse. First we find that Hiel pursued a career opportunity that cost him the lives of his oldest and youngest sons.

We also learn that Hiel’s two sons die as a result of something spoken by Joshua. The natural next step is to then go to the book of Joshua and see if we can find anything that relates to this passage. Sure enough, in Joshua chapter 6, verses 26 & 27 we find an oath that forbids anyone from rebuilding Jericho or its gates. And whoever does attempt to do so will do so at the cost of their firstborn and youngest child. Ah, the mystery is solved.

So what can we learn from this unusual Scripture? First, we need to know the content of the Word of God before we pursue our career goals. We need to seek God’s counsel and the wise counsel of others before we move forward. We need to be willing to trust the direction we will take with God and others. Now there’s a fine balance here between faith and folly. Certainly if we sense God is leading us to do something and others don’t see it, we need to obey God rather than man. If however, the wise counsel of others and the Word of God aligns against us, we need to beware before moving forward because our decisions may indeed cost us our family.

If we’re going to rebuild the foundations of anything in life, let’s first start with the rebuilding of our family.

Swallowing Pride

One evening I shared something with my wife that had been bothering me. As she responded defensively, my first reaction was to defend my position with a gentle rebuke. My rebuke, however, added more fuel to the fire, and it was evident that we would not be going to dinner as planned.

My mind raced for a contingency plan. I had two choices: I could hold on and not cave in, taking a stand that what I had said was in the right spirit and that she needed to hear it, or I could seek first to understand before being understood. As I look back on my marriage, I realize that if I had sought to understand before being understood, I would have prevented years of conflict. Unfortunately, I was too proud to admit wrong. Proverbs 13:10a states that “Only by pride cometh contention . . . .” Conflicts are the result of pride.

As I decided which approach to take, my heart was open enough to seek first to understand. Even though I believed that I was not at fault, I calmly asked if my words were offensive and how I could have approached this differently. Almost immediately, reconciliation was taking root. Deb’s account of what I had said and how I had said it was very different from my perspective. She explained how I could have handled this situation in a gentler, non-threatening manner.

At this stage there was only one thing left to do. Admit wrong, tenderly apologize for the hurt that I caused, and cautiously ask if she still would like to go to dinner!

Seeking first to understand and then being understood is a vital link to restored relationships. The results are definitely worth the price of swallowing pride. Oh, by the way, we had a wonderful evening–I ordered a salmon salad and Deb had broiled haddock!

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).