Good Timing

May 31, 2012 at 11:27 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 5 Comments
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This passage from Ecclesiastes is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. A group called The Byrds even used it in a hit song.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Does the Bible really sanction “a time to kill?” Some examples would be just warfare, a husband defending his wife, a parent defending his or her children, and self-defense.

There is “a time to heal” physically and emotionally. Forgiveness is the remedy for healing broken relationships.

What is the “time to break down?” We are supposed to be breaking down the enemy’s strong holds, even as God’s Spirit breaks our own pride.

There is “a time to build up” and this might happen when you edify your fellow Sunday School members, when you minister in the love of Christ, when you offer encouragement to someone who is working hard, when we engage in grief counseling or marriage counseling, just to name a few.

We know there is “a time to weep.” Sometimes we weep for joy, sometimes for grief. Sometimes we weep in repentance over sin. And there is “a time to laugh.” (When your Sunday School teacher tells a joke, go ahead and laugh even if it’s a lame joke – it will make him feel better.)

There is “a time to cast away stones.” This can be literal – as in the clearing of land for farming or building – or it can be figurative. We “cast away the stones” we were about to use to throw at someone in condemnation, and instead decide to show grace and mercy. There is “a time to gather stones together” when we are building, or, at times, we participate in the government-sanctioned execution of justice.

There is “a time to embrace:” Married couples should do this a lot! And there is “a time to refrain from embracing:” There should not be any romantic or sexual embracing outside of marriage!

There is “a time to get” (payday), and “a time to lose” (bill paying day).

There is “a time to keep” (saving something valuable), and “a time to cast away” (hoarding).

Sometimes it is “time to rend:” to tear something apart. Sometimes it is “time to sew:” to mend that which has been torn.

All those things are from God – but they are to be done in His time and for His purpose.

I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiates 3:17

What Will You be Remembering this Memorial Day?

May 25, 2012 at 9:43 am | Posted in Biblical Remembering | 1 Comment
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Remember that God made you and that you owe your existence to Him. (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Remember that you belong to God and that He has kept you alive this far. (Jeremiah 51:50)
Remember the poor. (Galatians 2:10)
Remember the good examples that God has given you (Acts 20:31), and the bad examples. (Luke 17:32)
Remember your brothers and sisters in Christ. (I Thessalonians 2:9)
Remember your spiritual leaders. (Hebrews 13:7)
Remember those who are suffering and those who are in bondage. (Hebrews 13:3)
Remember your wife (or husband). (Ecclesiastes 9:9)
Remember the Word of God. (Jude v. 17)
Remember where you came from, who you were, and who you are now. (Ephesians 2:11-13)
Remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (II Timothy 2:8)

Here are some additional meditations on Biblical remembering:

1. Oh, Do Remember Me… (*)
2. Where Are They Now?
3. Forgetting to Remember – Part 1
4. Forgetting to Remember – Part 2
5. The “Ways” to Remember
6. Forget-Me-Nots
7. Remembering the Garlic

* most-read post in series

Performing a Biopsy on Your Marriage

May 23, 2012 at 9:29 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 8 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Husbands and wives are one flesh. The opposite of a sound heart is a divided heart. Can a one-flesh body thrive with a divided heart? No, the Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We have a word for when something inside our body starts attacking the very body that gives it life: cancer. That’s what “rottenness of the bones” means. It is describing an eating-away from the inside.

This is how it works: First you think there is at least some basic minimum to which you are entitled. “I don’t ask for much, but…” Second, you see something that you don’t have that would fulfill that longing (covetousness). “All I’m asking for is…” Third, you see that your spouse does have the thing you long for or something that satisfies him or her in the way that you are not being satisfied (bitterness). “Well, I don’t see you having to put up with that…” Fourth, it occurs to you that if you don’t get to have it, he or she shouldn’t either (the wrong kind of jealousy). “Fine! If you’re going to be that way about it…” Fifth, out of spite, you don’t want your spouse to have it, or you want to have it for yourself instead (envy).

To further aggravate the situation, there are usually two sides to envy. You are not happy because you don’t have something, and you are resentful that your spouse does have it. Even if you are able to suppress the kinds of statements used for illustrative purposes in the paragraph above because you realize that these types of feelings are too ugly to express out loud, you can still succumb to love-negating envy. It’s just that you do it secretly. You rejoice when your spouse weeps. You weep when your spouse rejoices. When that happens you have lost your “soundness of heart.” You have “rottenness” eating away at “the bones” (the infrastructure) of your marriage.

Let’s see how the Bible says to handle this by looking at the example of John the Baptist:

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:22-27

John recognized that envy is not only potentially disastrous to a relationship or a common cause, but it is an attack on the wisdom and the providence and the sovereignty of God.

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:28-30

Most married couples had a “best man” and a “maid or matron of honor” in their wedding. The attitude of these people is supposed to be happiness for the bride and bridegroom’s joy. How awful if your best man or maid of honor had been standing there at your wedding, secretly seething with anger and envy because you were getting to experience joy that they weren’t – or if you were marrying the person that they secretly wanted for themselves! In my marriage I don’t normally think of me decreasing and my wife increasing, but I should think of the Lord of my marriage increasing. In marriage we are supposed to actually want our spouse to have every good and perfect gift that God has for her or him. There’s no room for envy of each other. (Likewise, there’s no room for envy of what another couple has in their marriage.)

In the last lesson on marriage I asked, “Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wished he or she did not possess?” With recognition of the destructiveness of envy in view, a better question now would be, “Is there some virtue or quality about your spouse that you are glad he or she has even though you don’t have it?

Give Good Advice: Delay Taking Rash Action

May 21, 2012 at 9:04 am | Posted in Biblical Advice, Selected Psalms | 10 Comments
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Have you ever been confounded? Being confounded is like being confused, frustrated, and ashamed all at the same time. The condition of being confounded occurs when you are confronted with a problem that does not seem like it should be as tough to overcome as it is. A person who is confounded has not found within himself the answer to his problem, and he may seek advice from someone he trusts. As we look at some Biblical guidelines for giving advice, we will see that one of the biggest dangers in being confounded is the temptation to act rashly.

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:4-5 (emphasis added)

The purpose for the advice to delay rash action is multifaceted. First, it gives us an opportunity to remember that the Lord is in control of our lives, and to exercise our faith in Him.

Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

I Peter 2:6

Second, it reminds us that we are not to bring shame to the Name of Lord by flying into a blind panic when problems seem insurmountable.

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Isaiah 28:16

Third, by delaying we will overcome the most common temptations to rash action: having a short temper (Proverbs 14:17; 19:19); panic (Psalm 27:14); boredom (Psalm 130:5); greed (Proverbs 28:20).

Rash action is a symptom of not believing that God has a right path for us to take in everything, even if it means waiting for Him to show us that path. Take this advice from the Lord, and give it to others:

A.void sin
D.elay taking rash action
V.
I.
C.
E.

(I wanted to take a moment to mention Bro. Ron Faciane, one of the best youth group Sunday School teachers around today. His site, rymmr.com , is a terrific resource for youth ministry.)

Standing before the Throne: Purity

May 18, 2012 at 9:22 am | Posted in The Great White Throne | 5 Comments
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We have examined:

I. The Throne’s Possessor
II. The Throne’s Power
Now,
III. The Throne’s Purity

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

Revelation 20:11 (emphasis added)

This is a Throne which is both great and white. It easy to imagine the potential problem for a king who sits on a throne this powerful. We know from recorded history and from our own experience that power tends to corrupt. The famous maxim is that, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” However, here we have a King who sits on a Throne yielding power that is magnified to an extent far beyond what our finite minds can even conceive of when we think “absolute.” Yet this Throne is completely white – completely pure. This King has never sinned. He has never done iniquity. He has never committed any type of wickedness.

… Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Genesis 18:25

Our hearts seize upon this idea that His Throne is pure and that He always does what is right! How horrible would it be to have an all-powerful judge – an all-powerful king – who is the least bit inclined toward wickedness? The thought of God’s pure goodness makes us glad… but it should also make us afraid. For the King who sits on a Throne that is both great and white can not have sinful creatures come before His Throne without judging them by a perfect standard.

Now, you begin to see the problem. The Possessor of the Throne will be your judge and the power of the Throne is great. No one will dare to challenge – or even come close to having the strength to challenge – His right to judge. Not a single soul will be pure enough to pass judgment before this completely pure and white and holy throne.

Have you met the One Who is willing and able to take your place before that Throne and meet God’s perfect standard of righteousness on your behalf? Time is running out. He wants to save you from this terrible judgement. Will you trust Him?

Next time we will see how the Great White Throne exhibits God’s righteousness.

Graded by God: Turning Your “F”s into “A”s (Part One)

May 16, 2012 at 9:42 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 3 Comments
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The events in II Samuel Chapter 8 took place after the incident at Ziklag and after the death of Saul. After defending himself against numerous enemy attacks, David received a brief period of rest from God before he went on the offensive, counterattacking. David experienced:

I. Blessings in Fighting

At this point in David’s career he was not a leader who simply sent out men into battle. David was a leader who fought in person.

Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.

II Samuel 8:6

And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all they of Edom became David’s servants. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.

II Samuel 8:14

David’s accomplishments in battle – against the Philistines and against the Syrians – were so spectacular that God gave him:

II. The Blessing of Fame

And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.

II Samuel 8:13

God also gave David:

III. The Blessing of Fairness

And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.

II Samuel 8:15

And:

IV. The Blessing of Family

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief rulers.

II Samuel 8:18

Priests were there to make sure David had access to the Word of God. In this way, God gave David:

V. The Blessing of Faithful Friends

And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;

II Samuel 8:17

It is good to have friends who are loyal, but the best friends are friends who are men of faith.

God gave David:

VI. The Blessing of Fear

David feared God, and David’s enemies feared David. Most of the people he conquered became his servants.

And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought gifts.

II Samuel 8:2

God gave David:

VII. The Blessings of Forgiveness and Feasting

And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he.

II Samuel 9:1-2

Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king’s sons.

II Samuel 9:11

Mephibosheth was of the house of Saul, the man who had tried to kill David, yet David showed him forgiveness, kindness, and treated him like a member of his own family.

God gave David:

VIII. The Blessing of Favor

David was wealthy, healthy, handsome, talented, smart, strong, loved, respected, and trusted – all in II Samuel Chapter 9 – but only two chapters later, we see David fall into his greatest sin – the incident of his affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murderous cover-up. Was David so blessed by God that he became filled with pride and fell into sin? Or was there something else going on behind the scenes? Stay tuned for Part Two, in which we will delve deeper into what it means to be a good steward of our blessings.

Give Good Advice: Avoid Sin

May 14, 2012 at 10:22 am | Posted in Biblical Advice, Selected Psalms | 9 Comments
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In my line of work I am often in the position of giving advice. I am thankful that the Bible gives us valuable guidelines for giving, and taking, good advice. Here is a key Scripture passage on the topic of Godly advice:

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Psalm 4:4-5 (emphasis added)

When someone asks you what he or she should do in a given situation, a good answer will always include the advice to: “Avoid sin.”

This advice involves more than just “not committing sin.” It goes even further: Do not go into areas where there will be a temptation to sin.

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.

Proverbs 4:14-15

A good Biblical example of a man who heeded this advice is Job.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job 1:1

Job did not flirt with sin. He did not simply sidestep areas where sin might be lurking. He eschewed sin. In other words, he gave it a wide berth, and tried to avoid it like the plague. Many times, the solution to a difficult situation may appear to have many different possibilities. However, when someone asks your opinion about which possibility is the best, you can immediately rule out any course of action that is sinful or that leads near sin.

A.void sin
D.
V.
I.
C.
E.

Sheep Need a Shepherd

May 11, 2012 at 10:31 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 7 Comments
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[A Psalm of David.] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1

The Holy Spirit had David emphasize his conviction that the Lord is a very personal Shepherd: “The LORD is my Shepherd.” If you compare Psalm 135, you can draw a parallel to the reference to “our God” in Psalm 135:2.

“My Shepherd” in Psalm 23 is not referring to “my” in the ownership sense, for God cannot be owned by anyone. It is not primarily being used in the distinctive sense, either, as though David was saying that, “This Shepherd is my Shepherd rather than your Shepherd.” He is using “my” more in an intimate sense – the way we say “my” mother, father, wife, son, or daughter.

It is true that the Lord is “a” Shepherd, and that He is “my” Shepherd, but He is also the Great Shepherd.

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Hebrews 13:20

Psalm 23 is often used at funerals, but it is not meant for comfort only when we are faced with death.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23:6 (emphasis added)

David had been a shepherd in his youth, so he was familiar with the job and the surroundings, but God used him to write this Psalm later in life after he had been king.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

The shadow of death had fallen across David’s path many times in his life, but death itself had not struck him down.

The Bible pictures being a shepherd as a noble vocation. Abel was the first shepherd, and he was more righteous than his brother, Cain, who was a farmer. Moses spent 40 years caring for his father-in-law’s actual sheep and another 40 years caring for his Heavenly Father’s spiritual sheep.

In the Bible God’s people are often compared to sheep because sheep are animals which need a great deal of care. They are defenseless without their shepherd, the way that we – without God’s help – we will be overcome by the enemy. Sheep get lost easily, the way that we – without God’s help – will go astray. Sheep need need constant care, and there is never a time when we don’t need God’s care. Sheep are led, not driven, and we, too, must follow our Shepherd at all times. Sheep are dependent upon a shepherd, and we are not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord.

[A Psalm of David.] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1 (emphasis added)

With the Lord as my Shepherd I shall not lack any good thing. He provides for my needs. Even if the fridge is empty and the cupboard is bare, even if the lights are off, I still don’t “want” or “lack,” because He knows the difference between my “needs” and my “wants” (desires).

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Psalm 23:2 (emphasis added)

Shepherds in ancient Israel would dam up rushing streams from which sheep are afraid to drink. This would create a calm reservoir of water for the sheep. The Lord gives times of peacefulness to His children.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3 (emphasis added)

The Lord provides times of spiritual and emotional healing. Someone with a broken body can be consoled, but how do you console someone whose spirit has been broken? Only the Lord can do that.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3 (emphasis added)

These are well-worn paths that the Shepherd has determined will be safe for us. The Holy Spirit must order our steps if we are to walk with the Lord.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

“Trust and Obey,” John H. Sammis

Do Birds Sing about Eternity?

May 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Ecclesiastes, Eternity | 2 Comments
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The next time you find yourself grumbling and complaining because you think you’ve had a bad day, or because you feel like God’s providence hasn’t been especially “fair” to you that day, try going out into your backyard and sitting quietly as the sun sets. Depending on where you live, there is a good chance you will be able to hear a bird singing somewhere. If you do, try to imagine all the things that bird had to go through that day, compared to your own experiences. Did you wake up this morning and have to hunt for your food, or was there a pop tart conveniently waiting for you in your pantry? Were there other birds – bigger and swifter than you – trying to swoop down and chase you away from your nest? Any snakes coiled around the branches where you were trying to land, or hiding in the bushes ready to strike when you landed on the grass? Did any mean kids with BB guns take pot shots at you? Birds don’t have houses or refrigerators or grocery stores. Their nests don’t have locks or burglar alarms, and they can’t call “Bird 911” if their eggs are attacked. Yet, there’s that bird – all day he’s been struggling just to survive – and at the end of the day he’s singing a song of glory to God!

http://quietsolopursuits.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/dsc_6465.jpg?w=500&h=355

Solomon’s rebuttal to his own arguments concerning the vanity of life in Chapters 1 and 2 of Ecclesiastes is found in Chapter 3. He recognizes that man’s life is a gift from a loving God. Human beings have an internal link to eternity: we have souls, we are created in God’s image.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

We know – inherently – that we were made by some higher Being for some eternal purpose. This universe is not a “closed system.” It’s not closed off from its connection with God, and we ourselves are never severed from our connection to God. God is transcendent and “immanent.” This means that He is actively and intimately involved in the affairs of this world. We use the the other homonyms of that word to describe theological principles also. We say that the return of Jesus Christ could be “imminent:” about to happen. And we say that God is “eminent:” having a glorious and prestigious character.

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 3:14

Jump-Starting Your Marriage

May 7, 2012 at 10:47 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 9 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

Spouses should not be envious. Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wish he or she did not possess? In the Bible’s description of agape love, there are both positive and negative sides. Christian love suffers long, which means that spouses should put up with mistreatment from the other spouse. Spouses should also be kind, which means to take the positive initiative of “doing good” to your spouse at every opportunity. If you are familiar with your car battery, you know that there must be a “negative” and a “positive” charge, or else your car won’t go anywhere.

https://i2.wp.com/www.infobarrel.com/media/image/37798.png

Without these “negative” and “positive” applications of Christian love our marriages likewise won’t “go” where God wants them to go. The Bible gives “thou shalt nots” and “thou shalts,” often hand in hand.

In I Corinthians 13:4, the Bible adds that agape love is not envious. Envy occurs when you don’t like the situation someone else is in because you perceive that their situation is better than yours. Envy is not exactly the same thing as jealousy. Jealousy in a marriage is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to be jealous over our spouses instead of jealous of our spouses. There is a righteous jealousy which does not want our spouses’ affections to be given to someone else, and this jealousy is righteous instead of selfish because it is motivated by an honest belief that those affections – if given to you instead of someone else – would actually be the best thing for your spouse. In other words, you should desire the affection, attention, and devotion of your spouse, knowing that you will be a trustworthy recipient of those feelings. Probably the best way to illustrate this is to recognize that God is a jealous God because the giving of our devotion or love to anyone or anything else over Him is simply not right, and it’s disastrous for us.

Envy, on the other hand, is a bad thing in general. Think of some instances in the Bible where envy caused problems: Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 37; Haman against Mordecai in Esther 5; Jonah at Nineveh after the Ninevites repented; Lucifer, because his envy was tied to his pride.

In fact, it is primarily because of the relationship of pride to envy that envy is such a danger in marriage. There can be a tendency in marriage to seek what we think we deserve, rather than seeking to serve. Envy defeats service because envy says to your spouse, “You shouldn’t have that.” Or, “You shouldn’t have it your way.” And the hidden agenda is, “You shouldn’t have that because I’m the one who should have it.” Or, “You shouldn’t have it your way because I should be having it my way.” Such thinking leads to a failure to express the love of Christ.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Romans 12:15

The love of Christ is an expression of genuine empathy: You genuinely desire the other person’s summum bonum – their highest good.

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