Saturday, May 14, 2016

Believe the Best

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10 

The floor at Art and Naomi Hunt’s house was scattered with wrenches, screwdrivers, and a host of oddly shaped pieces of wood and metal. The task at hand? To construct a new gas barbecue. Art knew that Naomi was the more mechanically gifted partner in their marriage, but he was determined to put together this latest addition to their arsenal of modern cooking appliances. As Art struggled, his wife watched. Finally, progress stopped altogether, and Art reluctantly asked for Naomi’s advice. But instead of just giving her opinion, Naomi took the wrench from Art’s hand and began finishing the job herself.

Not surprisingly, Art felt rather emasculated, incompetent, and foolish. Now he faced a choice. He could believe either the best or the worst about Naomi’s actions. If he believed the worst, he would think, Man, she’s taking control. She doesn’t have any confidence in my abilities. Or, believing the best, he could tell himself, She’s going further than I asked her to, but she’s just trying to help me. That’s okay. Art chose the latter.

In a lifelong relationship, we regularly arrive at these emotional crossroads. We could go either way: give our partner the benefit of the doubt, or give ourselves the right to take offense. When we choose to see our spouse’s good intentions and base our reactions on them, we’re taking the road toward intimacy and away from unnecessary conflict. As Art Hunt understood, the real task at hand was building his relationship with Naomi, not putting together a new gadget.

Just between us…
  • How do we usually react when one of us steps in to help the other?
  • Do we see the best in each other’s motives? If not, why?
  • Do either of us give the other reason to question our motives? 

Dear God, my spouse is Your gift to me, and I’m grateful. Help me to always believe, see, and act on the best. Grant me grace to mature in this area. Amen. 

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Daily Readings for May 14, 2016

Ezekiel 36:22-27
Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

Ephesians 6:10-24
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your hearts. Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 9:18-26
While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 107: Part II
33 The LORD changed rivers into deserts, and water-springs into thirsty ground,
34 A fruitful land into salt flats, because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.
35 He changed deserts into pools of water and dry land into water-springs.
36 He settled the hungry there, and they founded a city to dwell in.
37 They sowed fields, and planted vineyards, and brought in a fruitful harvest.
38 He blessed them, so that they increased greatly; he did not let their herds decrease.
39 Yet when they were diminished and brought low, through stress of adversity and sorrow,
40 (He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes)
41 He lifted up the poor out of misery and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep.
42 The upright will see this and rejoice, but all wickedness will shut its mouth.
43 Whoever is wise will ponder these things, and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

Psalm 108
1 My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody.
2 Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn.
3 I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5 Exalt yourself above the heavens, O God, and your glory over all the earth.
6 So that those who are dear to you may be delivered, save with your right hand and answer me.
7 God spoke from his holy place and said, "I will exult and parcel out Shechem; I will divide the valley of Succoth.
8 Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my scepter.
9 Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I throw down my sandal to claim it, and over Philistia will I shout in triumph."
10 Who will lead me into the strong city? who will bring me into Edom?
11 Have you not cast us off, O God? you no longer go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Grant us your help against the enemy, for vain is the help of man.
13 With God we will do valiant deeds, and he shall tread our enemies under foot.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 33
1 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous; it is good for the just to sing praises.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp; play to him upon the psaltery and lyre.
3 Sing for him a new song; sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.
4 For the word of the LORD is right, and all his works are sure.
5 He loves righteousness and justice; the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.
6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts.
7 He gathers up the waters of the ocean as in a water-skin and stores up the depths of the sea.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to pass; he commanded, and it stood fast.
10 The LORD brings the will of the nations to naught; he thwarts the designs of the peoples.
11 But the LORD'S will stands fast for ever, and the designs of his heart from age to age.
12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD! happy the people he has chosen to be his own!
13 The LORD looks down from heaven, and beholds all the people in the world.
14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze on all who dwell on the earth.
15 He fashions all the hearts of them and understands all their works.
16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army; a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance; for all its strength it cannot save.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him, on those who wait upon his love,
19 To pluck their lives from death, and to feed them in time of famine.
20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.

Forward Day by Day Meditation for Saturday, May 14, 2016

Matthew 9:20-21 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.”

At a recent retreat, we began our day with Bible study. We gathered with our coffee and our theological degrees to reflect on this particular passage. We became involved with the nature of the hemorrhages and what her condition meant under the Jewish purity codes.

Until one priest said, “Isn’t it enough she needed to be healed?”

Well, yes.

Too often we become focused on the hows and whys of someone’s need for healing. Tell me the details. Just how, again, did this happen? And what did you do to cause this?

Our stories are important, but Jesus reminds us that our recognition of a need to be healed is enough. The details are simply details. Healing is not conditioned on telling the right qualifiers in our story or being completely blameless for our wounds.

We are simply asked to recognize our need to be healed, to reach out to Jesus.

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Giving Up Our Secrets

Mark 4:21–25 

“Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” Mark 4:22 

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” Much in our world is deceptive and dishonest: the rhetoric of political campaigns, for example, or the propaganda of advertising, with its slanted facts and testimonials. In a time that makes us wary, we long for honesty that breeds trust and nurtures hope.

A woman once came to me for counseling. For the next two years, we wrestled through the difficulties in her life. She was living a lie, and she didn’t even know it. Secrets had twisted her in so many ways that she couldn’t even say what her problem was. But finally God got through to her, wrapped his healing around her hurting heart, and took the kinks out of her troubled dreams.

When we first started counseling, the woman hid her pain behind clever tales and false fronts. She talks differently today. Her yes means yes, and she knows why. She doesn’t have to lie to God anymore, and she doesn’t have to invent stories for others. The doors of her prison have swung open. She has found God. She has found herself. She is free of secrets, and the way she talks shows it.

Straight talk is important in marriage. It is easy to distort the truth when we are doing the “dating dance” and wooing one another. We parade partial truths in hopes that some of our deeper secrets will stay hidden. The tipping point comes when we enter into the deeper relational stage we call “engagement.” An older term for that was betrothal, which literally means giving our troth, an earlier variation on the word truth. In other words, dating is playing games, but engagement, or betrothal, means we are now committing to truth. We are choosing to reveal more of ourselves so we can see each other wholly and love each other in wholesome ways.

The outcome of a good engagement is marriage, when, as Adam and Eve discovered, we find ways to be “naked and not ashamed” before each other. This is more than just undressing; it is the psychological honesty that allows us to meet one another in truth, peering into each other’s souls without embarrassment or threat of one of us walking away.

There may be times when too much honesty harms a good relationship, but it is hard to know how secrets can be part of a healthy relationship. God does not turn away from us when the secrets of our hearts are brought into the healing light of divine grace. Nor should we turn from those who trust us with the intimacy of private faults, disappointments, needs and dreams. As Jesus reminds us in this brief parable about a lamp, “Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” Especially in marriage.

Wayne Brouwer

Let’s Talk
  • How well do we know each other? How much can we entrust to one another? How are knowing and trusting related?
  • What do we know about each other that no one else knows? How have we used that secret information in healthy and nurturing ways? How have we abused it?
  • Are there secrets we keep from one another? Do we need to become more open with one another? How might we do that?


Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:30-31 

Evangelism is an important function of the church everywhere. But in communist Vietnam, followers of Christ cannot openly share their faith. Those who do are often threatened or imprisoned. In response, Open Doors developed several programs to help. One was a women’s discipleship program based on one-on-one relationships. It is called Priscilla Training.

A Vietnamese woman named Han says, “When I was young I went to church. We were a godly family. But I found the church very dull, very boring. The Bible did not speak to me. I knew some of the stories. And I listened to our pastor each week.

“One night when we were all asleep the police came and took our pastor away. They think if they take him away the church will die. They want all churches to die. They kept him in prison for five years. It’s natural this happens. I live in a communist country.

“When the communists tried to kill my church, it challenged my heart. I knew I had to be strong. Before, I was just a church member. Now I have to become a serious follower of Jesus.

“I started reading my Bible every day, and it became fresh to me. It spoke to my heart. It was very, very good feeling, and I liked it. It was good for my life. I wanted others to have God in their lives too.

“Attending a secret house church is a risk. But it is a greater risk going to a training class. And I decided to take that risk. I went far away to receive Priscilla Bible and leadership training. I felt God calling me to be in ministry. I want to teach other women what I have learned. My first disciple was named Tuyen.”

Tuyen says, “My friend introduced me to a godly lady. Her name is Han. She taught me how to study better, know God better, and be a true disciple of Jesus. I reach out to people and tell them all the good news I have in my heart, and the good hope I have in me today.

“A neighbor told me that a lady, a new follower of Jesus, wants to learn more about him. She will be my first disciple. I will teach her what I’ve learned from Han.”

God has equipped thousands of women through the Priscilla Training in Vietnam and all members of the church are thus able to help fulfill the function of evangelism.

In June 2011, Vietnam’s Evangelical Church celebrated its centenary. The government allowed the missionaries to Vietnam (who were still living and able to travel) to return for the celebrations. When they left in 1975, there were estimated to be 160,000 evangelical Christians in the country. In 2011 they found the church had grown to over 1.4 million. That’s nearly 900 per cent growth! During the centenary celebrations, Open Doors was officially given an award from the leaders of the Evangelical Church for help in training given through the difficult years. 

RESPONSE: Today I will honor women who fear God and share their faith with others in need of help.

PRAYER: Pray for more women in Vietnam to be able to effectively share their faith and train others.

Verse of the Day - May 14, 2016

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Read all of Psalm 139