1 Kings 12:25-33 (Part 3 of 3)

Jeroboam Makes Gold Calves

In the “which came first” category, there is the age old debate about the chicken or the egg. Then, in the 21st century church, a similar question is always raging. Which is more important? Do we adapt the message to the culture or do we adapt the culture to the message? There are quickly growing churches out there that are willing to sacrifice the entirety of Scripture to be in synch with the culture. Yet, at the same time, there are dying churches out there that do not interact with culture and see life as us vs. them outside our walls. Do we sacrifice the whole counsel of Scripture just to maintain relevancy? Do we close ourselves off from the outside world and write off the world outside our walls?

In defense of reaching outside our walls, we as churches or we as individual Christians should try to reach people far from God through unique and innovative ways that strikes a chord with those who do not know Christ as their Savior. Jesus himself went out of his way to make contact with those that were outcast from mainstream Jewish religious life. We are called to go. We are called to make contact. We are called to interact. We are called to demonstrate uncommon love. We are called to establish relationships. We are called to draw them toward the fellowship of believers. We are called to expose them to the gospel. We are called to do what the Holy Spirit directs us to do as He does His work in the sinner’s heart. We are called to celebrate with them as they become a believer in Jesus Christ. We are called to make disciples. We are called to make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

We must be aware of cultural trends and work out ways to take the unchanging message of God’s Word and present it in ways that are understandable to the changing nature of culture. But we must always let the Word of God speak for itself in its entirety. We can love people to God’s Word in myriad ways that are relevant to the culture but we must always let the entirety of God’s Word speak for itself. Allow it to convict hearts and change hearts. Our preaching and teaching is to take the truth of God’s Word and apply to current circumstances and let the Holy Spirit do His thing in people’s hearts. Do we change our methods of communicating with the world around us? Yes. We must figure out how to connect with the world we are called to disciple. Do we add to, omit, revise God’s Word to do it? No.

That idea of omitting, relaxing, revising of God’s commands just to meet a goal of maintaining the loyalty of the northern tribes is what struck me this morning and how that is similar to the debate we have in modern church in 21st century – about relevancy, about engaging the culture vs. the whole counsel of God’s Word. Let’s read what happened back in the day in 1 Kings 12:25-33:

25 Jeroboam then built up the city of Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and it became his capital. Later he went and built up the town of Peniel.[a]

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,[b] “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

29 He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. 30 But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.

31 Jeroboam also erected buildings at the pagan shrines and ordained priests from the common people—those who were not from the priestly tribe of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam instituted a religious festival in Bethel, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month,[c] in imitation of the annual Festival of Shelters in Judah. There at Bethel he himself offered sacrifices to the calves he had made, and he appointed priests for the pagan shrines he had made. 33 So on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a day that he himself had designated, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar at Bethel. He instituted a religious festival for Israel, and he went up to the altar to burn incense.

In this passage, we see that Jeroboam goes the lengths of establishing a brand new religious system just to maintain the loyalty of the 10 northern tribes. That certainly is not what God had in mind. In establishing this new religion to meet some political expediency of the moment, he led the people of the north astray. So much so that by Jesus’ time, their “religion” resembled nothing of the worship of the one true God. It was a man-made religion created to meet a political need, a popularity need of one king at a critical point in the history of Israel.

When thinking of this issue in light of the debate that swirls about cultural relevancy and the gospel message in today’s Christian world, we must realize that at some point, the whole counsel of Scripture will offend. Why? Because we are all enemies of God in the absence of Jesus Christ. Plain and simple. We are all sinners destined for hell in the absence of accepting Christ as our Savior. Thus, as enemies of God in the absence of Jesus Christ in our lives, we are going to find His Word uncomfortable and find it so uncomfortable that we will walk away from it if our hearts are closed to the Holy Spirit. Our thinking, our attitudes, our dispositions, our conduct, our ideologies, are all in opposition to God. James 4:4-5 tells us the same thing. We are enemies of God in the absence of the acceptance of grace through Jesus Christ. Thus, at some point, the Bible is going to offend us, even after we accept Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit begins the long journey of sanctification in our lives. The Word of God must be allowed to do its work that offends, convicts, and changes us. Each of us when we accepted Christ as our Savior were brought by the Holy Spirit before God and we were able to see the truth of God and our life in comparison to His truth. It is at the cross that we are completely and totally humbled by our own sinfulness and realize that hell is the rightful place for us in the absence of throwing ourselves at the mercy of God through His Son.

Thus, the answer to the debate is yes and no. Yes, we should be like Paul who connected the message of the gospel to whomever he met. He used Greek methodology with the Greeks. He used Roman methodology with the Romans. He used Jewish methodology with the Jews. But the message itself was always the same, always whole. Regardless of who we are or where we come from or how we can identify with Jesus Christ, we all have a need for Him. Yes, we use and should use differing methodologies to reach differing people. We should care THAT much about souls in the balance. We do not change the message itself though. We must allow the whole counsel of God to be front and center, not avoided, not omitted, not stepped around. We love people to the cross and then allow the whole counsel of God’s Word change them from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 12:25-33 (Part 2)

Jeroboam Makes Gold Calves

There’s an old saying that goes, “the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again and expecting different results!” Some old sayings, you wonder where they came up with the logic behind it. However, this one is so very true.

Just as an illustration from the sports world. Recently, in the college football national championship game, one of the key plays in the game was Clemson snuffing out a fake field goal attempt by Alabama on a 4th down play at the Clemson 22 yard line. They had six yards to gain for a first down. It was a gamble of the highest order. If Alabama was going to go for it on 4th down, they would have been better served to leave their offense on the field and either use the throwing talents of their Heisman runner-up quarterback or one of the bruising running backs that were averaging at least 6 yards a carry on the night. However, they went for a fake field goal. The odds of success of fake field goals are less than 40%. Less than half the time, a team makes the yardage to gain. And you guessed it, Clemson guessed correctly and tackled the runner for a two yard loss on the play. Alabama never recovered from that gamble. It was the third of four times that night that they had been inside the Clemson 25 yard line and came away without a touchdown. Three of the four times, they came away with no points at all, of which this fake field goal was one. The insanity rule would tend to tell you that a fake field goal is not the answer. Further, Clemson seemed to know it was coming by the way they lined up in a regular defense for the field goal try. Knowing the odds are stacked against you and bullishly going ahead with the plan is insanity also.

I bet each one of us could come up with a situation in which we have done the same thing over and over again and expected different results. How often have we seen our past odds of success and seen that they were low and do the same thing over again. Also, how often do we repeat the mistakes of our parents without even realizing that we are doing the same dumb thing that they did when they were our age? How often do we get advice not to do something but we do it anyway? With that in mind, let us read this passage, 1 Kings 12:25-33 once again, now:

25 Jeroboam then built up the city of Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and it became his capital. Later he went and built up the town of Peniel.[a]

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,[b] “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

29 He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. 30 But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.

31 Jeroboam also erected buildings at the pagan shrines and ordained priests from the common people—those who were not from the priestly tribe of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam instituted a religious festival in Bethel, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month,[c] in imitation of the annual Festival of Shelters in Judah. There at Bethel he himself offered sacrifices to the calves he had made, and he appointed priests for the pagan shrines he had made. 33 So on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a day that he himself had designated, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar at Bethel. He instituted a religious festival for Israel, and he went up to the altar to burn incense.

In this passage, we see that Jeroboam and his advisers did not learn from Israel’s previous disaster with a gold calf (see Exodus 32). Perhaps, they were ignorant of the past, or, maybe, they knew about it and decided to ignore it. There’s a lesson in that for all of us as Christ followers. It is through the study of God’s Word that we understand and become aware of God’s acts in history. It is through that study that we become more acutely aware of the ways of God and the ways of sin and then apply the important lessons we gain from Bible study to our own lives. If we learn from the past, you will not face disaster as a result of repeating the mistakes either others have made or that you have already made one or more times in your life.

Jeroboam thought this time things would be different, maybe? Maybe, he thought since the circumstances were different than when his people were in the desert that the results would be different? Or was Jeroboam just being selfish and driving people toward allegiance to him, personally, instead of God. Whatever the motivation, we know from the Bible that things never work out for people who set up idols and worship them rather than God. The people of Israel know this well. Even if Jeroboam was not truly a man of God and did not read the Torah as he should have, he had to have known just through conversations with family and friends and so on about the golden calf incident in the desert. It all boils down to placing his personal desires above understanding God’s Word and applying it to his life.

How often do we put our personal desires over what God’s Word says and then try to rationalize away why it will work for us or why God will excuse our deviation in this area or that area because of what we have been through or are going through in life? As Dr. Phil on television would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Why can’t we all just learn from God’s eternal Word and zig when it says zig and zag when it says zag. It is, after all, the timeless Word of God. It is tried and true. It is proven. But yet we think it’s different for us than for all mankind of all time just because it’s us.

Father, help us to learn from the past through your Word and then actually apply your Word to our lives. Let us not separate our understanding of God’s Word from its real life application to our lives. Let us begin to apply the wisdom gained from seeing the mistakes that God’s people make. Let us apply the wisdom gained from seeing the victories of God’s people when they obey God. Let us learn that because of your great love for us that you not only gave us your Son to reconcile us unto you but you gave us Your Word to help us to understand you and the way you want us to live through Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen. mine/ne

1 Kings 12:25-33 (Part 1 of 3)

Jeroboam Makes Gold Calves

Do you remember the peer pressure of school? The pressure to go along with the crowd is enormous all the way from kindergarten to high school and college. To go against the crowd is almost unthinkable. The mob mentality was alive and well when we went to school. Nothing has changed. It is still the same today. There have been many psychological experiments done that prove that the mob will most often crush the will of an individual. They will end up going along with the crowd where in an individual setting they would not do something that they felt was wrong or against their belief system. Sometimes, it’s just easier to take the easy way out and go along with the crowd.

Though many of are no longer in school, the easy way is often the route we take. Rather than standing up to the culture’s desires for satisfying self, we can often find ourselves, as Christ followers, having to make a stand or to compromise our faith. In today’s culture, the seeking and satisfying of our own personal desires is paramount. It is the new world order. When this country was founded, all the writings of the declaration and the constitution were aimed at the rights of individuals as part of a greater collective. The very structure of our government was to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However, somewhere along the way, our society has changed focus from what is the greatest good for the greatest number of people to the idea that personal rights supersede everything even if may be detrimental to the society as a whole.

Against this cultural backdrop of individual rights being paramount, we exist as Christ followers. In society, we no longer truly believe that there is a higher power in the universe and that we are own determiners of our own destiny. Thus, Christians are just by nature set up against the whole of society as we know it today. As Christ followers, we submit ourselves to God. We recognize that He is the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Since we believe in Him, we believe that God has the right to demand our obedience. We comply with God’s commands not because we are robots but rather because we love God and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ on the cross. But that fact that we believe in what and external authority says goes against the very grain of current culture. We are then often required to make choices to either go along to get along or set ourselves against the culture. To go along is often the easiest way out.

That was the thing struck me this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Kings 12:25-33 – how just by the nature of what being a Christ follower is all about sets us up against the culture in which we live. In this passage, the culture through Jeroboam was offering an easy way out from the hard part of being a member of the family of God. Jeroboam created these idols for worship as a replacement for the real worship of God in Jerusalem. How many people took Jeroboam’s easy way out. It was easier to go with the culture rather than stand up and say, “I believe in God” and what we are proposing here is not the true worship of God. How many times are we faced with this choice in our Christian walks? Go with the crowd or go with God? With that in mind, let us read this passage now:

25 Jeroboam then built up the city of Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and it became his capital. Later he went and built up the town of Peniel.[a]

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,[b] “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

29 He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. 30 But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.

31 Jeroboam also erected buildings at the pagan shrines and ordained priests from the common people—those who were not from the priestly tribe of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam instituted a religious festival in Bethel, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month,[c] in imitation of the annual Festival of Shelters in Judah. There at Bethel he himself offered sacrifices to the calves he had made, and he appointed priests for the pagan shrines he had made. 33 So on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a day that he himself had designated, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar at Bethel. He instituted a religious festival for Israel, and he went up to the altar to burn incense.

In this passage, we should note that calves were used by many ancient Middle Eastern cultures as idols to symbolize fertility and strength. Pagan gods of the Canaanites were often depicted as standing on calves or bulls. Jeroaboam shrewdly tapped into this understanding and placed the gold calves in Bethel and Dan, strategic locations. Bethel was just 10 miles north of Jerusalem on a main road, enticing the citizens of the north to stop there instead of traveling on to Jerusalem. Dan was the northernmost city in Israel. There, the people living far away from Jerusalem could be attracted by the convenience location of this “place of worship.” As the leader of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam wanted to establish his own worship centers. Otherwise, his people would make regular trips to Jerusalem and, in his mind, his authority would be undermined. Soon, this substitute religion had little to do with true faith in God.

All Jewish men were required to travel to the Temple three times a year (Deuteronomy 16:16) but Jeroboam told people it was too much trouble to travel all the way to Jerusalem so he set up worship centers in the northernmost and southernmost parts of the new kingdom. Those who obeyed Jeroboam’s more convenient way to “worship” were disobeying God. Some ideas, though practical, may include suggestions that lead us away from God. When reading this passage, we must remind ourselves that we should not let anyone talk us out of following God’s instructions and commands by telling you that it is inconvenient, out of step with the current times, or that it requires too much effort and/or sacrifice. Let us be reminded to follow what God’s Word says and what God wants from us, no matter if it is inconvenient, unpopular, or if it costs us time, energy, reputation, or resources. Being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ is often hard and difficult and requires us to stand with God rather than with the culture.

Help us Lord to stand with you when it is unpopular to do so. Help us to reach out to the world that has personal desire as it’s god in ways that are loving rather than condemning but yet help us to hold true to you in the process. Help to love the world around us and meet people where they are at but help us to stand firm in our faith. Help us to demonstrate that true freedom comes from obedience to Your Word.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 12:21-24

Shemaiah’s Prophecy

Knee jerk reactions, they are usually the worst decisions that we can make. A mistake on top of another mistake. Have you ever made a mistake and compounded it by making another one? I think that we have all been there. I remember when my brother and I were little kids, the cute little boys of a young Methodist preacher. The memory that comes to mind is when we were living in a little town in the extreme northwest corner of South Carolina called Walhalla. RT was 5 and 6 years old during our two years in that little town and I was 4 and 5. We were only 18 months apart in age so we were pretty close in physical development while there. We loved to play outside on the empty lot next to the parsonage. An empty lot and the imaginations of two little boys made for many hours of entertainment over there. One of the games would like to play though was not some imaginary battle between good and evil but rather and American pastime, baseball. We would play the equivalent of batting practice – as well as kids our age could play a baseball-based game. It involved a lot missed swings, missed catches, and a lot of running after the ball. It the batter missed on the swing, he would have to chase the ball behind him down the steep incline to our yard at the parsonage, next to the open lot. If the batter connected, the pitcher would have to chase down the ball after missing the catch or missing the grounder. We had a predetermined number of at-bats. It was three unless you got a hit beyond the pitcher. Then, you could stay at-bat until the pitcher caught your hit or stop a ball from getting past where he was pitching from.

On this particular day, my brother was connecting on all the balls that I was pitching his way. Being 4 my fielding skills weren’t the best so I was chasing down a lot of hit balls. Finally, I just got tired of it all. RT had been at-bat for what seemed like forever to me. In my frustration and not getting to do the fun part, the batting, I just gave up and said I didn’t want to play anymore. This angered my big brother and a fight ensued (as much as 4 and 5 year old boys can fight). Somehow during the tilt, my brother takes the baseball bat and boinks me over the head with it. That hurt A LOT. I immediately began to cry and ran into the house to tell Dad. He immediately pulled his belt off and went outside to find RT next door at the empty lot. Now, this is where one error gets compounded by another.

My brother sees Dad coming with an angry look on his face and his belt, nicknamed “the Black Spirit of Power”, in his hand. For some inexplicable reason, my brother did not just stand there and take his punishment. Right as my dad gets up to him, he takes off running toward the back yard of our house. This angered my Dad to no end. Having to chase his 5 year old son down to give him his punishment. At my view as a 4 year old, it seemed that RT got away from dad forever because time seems so much larger when you are that age. I am sure that the reality of it was that Dad was able to catch him pretty quickly. But RT was able to make down the embankment from the lot next door to our back yard at the parsonage. By the time Dad caught him, Dad was, shall we say, not very happy. That whipping my brother was more strokes than we would have gotten if he had just stood there and took his punishment. I had a bump on my head for a couple of days after that. Dad was not happy with my brother for an equal amount of time. My brother compounded one mistake with another. Dad would have been more lenient in his whipping and in the length of the daily reminders after that, if RT had just apologize and took his punishment as soon as Dad got out there.

Oh the memories of childhood that stick with you. I am 56 years old now and that memory of that day is still pretty clear in my mind, 51 years later. It is a reminder to us today that sometimes that we have to admit our mistakes, eat our humble pie, and try to restore relationships rather than following up one mistake by making another one. That baseball incident 50 plus years ago is what came to mind when I thought of how Rehoboam handled this situation in today’s passage. Let’s read what happens in 1 Kings 12:21-24:

21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Rehoboam’s foolishness divided his kingdom and, then, he wanted to reunite it by force. He made a huge political blunder that caused most of the nation to split away from Judah and start a separate nation. Then, Rehoboam compounds the error with wanting to go to war with his own people, his fellow Israelites, to restore his power over the whole nation.

Since in the last few blogs, we have been talking about marriage and this passage reminds me of how we act in conflict situations in marriage at times. Sometimes, we do something to hurt our spouse and then we compound that error by arguing about it and making our mistake their fault. Then things escalate to the point that the argument becomes about more than just one incident but a referendum on the whole marriage. Mistakes from the past all come boiling to the surface and pretty soon the argument is out of control. Spouses shut down. They don’t speak for days. When they do, the argument flairs up again. Negative comments about everything ensue. And after a while, the two of you don’t even remember what the initial cause of the argument was all about. Have you ever been there?

Why is it that we sometimes get so prideful when it comes to our spouses? The aim seems to be victorious over your spouse rather than restoring the marriage. So, we compound one error with another. We add insult on to injury. It kind of reminds of that rare gem of a movie that few people have heard of – The War starring Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood (when he was a young boy).

Here the plot synopsis from www.imdb.com

The War tells the story about a young boy named Stu (Elijah Wood) and his father Stephen (Kevin Costner), who is a recovering war veteran. Stu, his sister Lidia Simmons (Lexi Randall), and their friends are determined to build the ultimate tree fort during their summer break. Stu’s father has equally high hopes of rebuilding his life and the life of his family. Stu is constantly getting into fights with everyone who says a bad word about him or his sister. Especially a group of children, who Stu considers to be the lowest of the low, the Lipnicki’s. Stephen, Stu’s father realized what was worth fighting over and what wasn’t, and so he tries to help Stu understand that he needs to pick his battles. Lidia, meanwhile, is off in the Lipnicki’s junkyard, scavenging for the items they need to make the tree fort. She runs into Billy Lipnicki (Christopher Fennell) on one of her trips, and pays him ten cents to stay quiet. Once the tree fort is completely built, Billy spends all the money he got on ice cream. His father and brothers and sister find him with them as confront him about how he got all that ice cream. His eldest brother shaves a portion of his head and Billy tells about Lidia taking stuff from the yard. The Lipnicki’s go to the tree fort and make a dare with Stu, whoever swims across the water tower while it’s draining and back, gets to keep the tree fort. The Lipnicki’s back out of the dare, but Stu goes through with it. The Lipnicki’s promise to not take the fort, and one of the Lipnicki’s throw the lock and key to the fort on top of the old water tower roof. Stu gets the lock, but couldn’t reach the key. Later that day, Stu’s father is in the hospital because of an accident at his work. A few days later, Stephen dies. That day, the Lipnicki’s break their promise about staying away from the tree fort, and take it from Lidia and her friends. Stu finds his father’s old crate of war items, face paint, smoke bombs, grenades, and his father’s army tags. Stu and his friends start a war with the Lipnicki’s to get the tree fort back. The tree fort gets ruined in the process, and Billy Lipnicki goes to the water tower to try and get the key, to stop the fighting. Billy falls through the roof of the water tower and Stu jumps in after him. He and Arliss (Donald Sellers) manage to free Billy from the drain and get him on solid ground. However, Billy is ice cold and isn’t breathing. Stu and Lidia try everything they can to get Billy to breath again, and after a lot of slapping and yelling, finally Billy takes a breath. After that, the Lipnicki’s and the Simmons stopped fighting with each other. The tree fort never got fixed, and Stu was able to come to terms about his father’s sudden death.

The very thing that they were fighting over became a scorched pile of burnt wood and metal on the ground after all that. It was never rebuilt. The damage was not repairable. We are sometimes the same way in our marriages. We would rather burn down the fort than lose the battle. We may win the argument but when the fort is in tatters on the ground, what have we won. Rehoboam was about to do the same thing. He was willing to burn down the fort to say he won. He was willing to start a civil war just to get his way. He was wanted to prove that he was the winner. Meanwhile, the nations of Judah and Israel would have been ripped to shreds. What would he have won? He would have compounded one error with another. Is victory in our marriages so important that we burn down the house just to be able say we won?

Let us pray that we can realize that our marriage, the survival of our fort, our tree house, our nation, our relationship is worth more than being able to claim victory or defend our mistakes as being right! May we be able to admit to our spouses when we are wrong. May we be able to say, “I realize now that what I said or what I did was just plain wrong and that it hurt you. Will you please forgive me?” May we have be that humble! May we treat each other with the same level of love and forgiveness that God in heaven showed us through Jesus Christ. He did not have to sacrifice His Son on the cross as the payment for our sins. He could have just said, they can go to hell, but God loves us so much that He was willing to pay any price for our eternal survival. He was more interested in the relationship with us than He was about whether He had the perfect right to condemn us – which He does! May we love our spouses in the same way. May we see the relationship as more important than each of us individually. May we be willing to set aside our personal rights and claims and see that the survival of the relationship is more important than burning down the tree house with our pride and need to be right and victorious. When we burn down the tree house, what have we won?

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 12:1-20 (Part 3)

The Northern Tribes Revolt

Marriage break-ups, rock slides, the uprising of the northern tribes of Israel against the king, what do they all have in common? They don’t just all of a sudden happen. What you see publicly is the end of a long process that led to what you publicly see.

Our neighbors are going through a marriage breakup. It seemed shocking to us when we first figured out that the wife and kids were no longer next door. We have been living beside them for nine months now. They are very private people and have been real slow to get to know us. Their kids are just soooo cute. They love “Mr. Mark” next door. We used to talk every day when I would come home from work and they would be outside playing. Their dad and I would talk and the kids would constantly interrupt so that they could talk to Mr. Mark. Then, all of a sudden, the kids were not there anymore. The wife’s car was never there overnight. We began seeing her come by in the mornings to drop the oldest child off with the dad (I assume so he could take the little boy to school) while she kept the smaller kids and would drive off. What happened to this marriage? This apparent breakup of the couple next door makes me profoundly sad. I liked both of them and their kids were so cute and so smart. This apparent break-up most likely was a long time coming though. To the outside world, the break-up just all of a sudden happened. No marriage, though, just breaks up on a single day. It’s the end of a long, arduous road.

From my own experience,  marriages break-up long before one of the two spouses walks out the door and says “it’s over!” Marriages breakup by the day, the week, the month and the year that passes by when one spouse feels disrespected and lonely and unimportant to the other spouse. Marriages break up long before the outside world sees the real, tangible effects of the break-up – people not living together anymore, exchanging children, children crying at these exchanges, lawyers being hired, divorce hearings being held, and so on and so on. Marriage break-ups begin with small cracks. Marriage break-ups happen when the cracks in the marriage are not mended. Marriage break-ups begin when we could care less what our spouse thinks. Marriage break-ups begin when we become self-centered and make our spouse our enemy. Marriage break-ups begin when we look for our spouse’s imperfections and demonize each one. Marriage break-ups begin when we start to idolize the single life of others. Marriage break-ups begin when we start to think that we are trapped in a marriage rather than blessed to have someone who knows all our imperfections but loves us anyway. Marriage break-ups begin when we place ourselves, our rights, our wants, our needs, our desires above the marriage.

Just as rock slides on a mountain highway appear to just happen overnight. But the rockslide is the end result of a process that may have begun as late as when the first started excavating the mountain when they were building the highway. It may have begun even before that – over years and years when a crack first appeared in a rock. With that crack unattended, weather and time made it larger and larger until the point of the rockslide that everyone sees. That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage once again – how marriages don’t just all of a sudden break up. Let’s read how this idea of placing my own needs about the needs of others plays out in 1 Kings 12:1-20:

Chapter 12

1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt,[a] for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon. 3 The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. 4 “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

5 Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”

7 The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. 9 “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”

10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!”

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh.

16 When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,

“Down with the dynasty of David!

    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.

Back to your homes, O Israel!

    Look out for your own house, O David!”

So the people of Israel returned home. 17 But Rehoboam continued to rule over the Israelites who lived in the towns of Judah.

18 King Rehoboam sent Adoniram,[b] who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death. When this news reached King Rehoboam, he quickly jumped into his chariot and fled to Jerusalem. 19 And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.

20 When the people of Israel learned of Jeroboam’s return from Egypt, they called an assembly and made him king over all Israel. So only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the family of David.

In this passage, we see that these events mark the beginning of the division of the kingdom that lasted for centuries. Of Israel’s twelve (12) tribes, ten (10) followed Jeroboam and called their new nation, Israel (the northern kingdom). Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam and called their nation, Judah (the southern kingdom). The kingdom did not split overnight. It was already dividing as early as the days of the judges because of tribal jealousies, especially between Ephraim, the most influential tribe of the north, and Judah, the chief tribe of the south. Before the days of Saul and David, the religious center of Israel was located for the most part, in the territory of Ephraim. When Solomon built the Temple, Jerusalem became the religious center of Israel. This jealousy and others eventually reach their boiling point after Solomon’s death and causes the split of the nation. What can we learn from this passage?

This passage has been part of a three part series that relates it to marriage. That remains today in this final installment on this passage. Here, we see the breakup of the nation of Israel into two separate nations. How did we get to this point? Dignitaries outside of Israel may have been shocked to learn that what was the mighty nation of Israel all of a sudden breaks into two smaller nations. In 1 Kings we go from the height of Solomon’s reign to his death rather quickly. The fact that the author of 1 Kings makes short shrift of the final years of Solomon’s life must mean that there was nothing spiritually significant occurring during that period, nothing that was worth instructing future generations about when it comes to our relationship with God. Therefore, Solomon must have strayed greatly from the Lord during this time and become self-centered and oppressive. There is mention of all the building he was doing (none of which was instructed by the Lord apparently) and all the taxes that he raised during that time. So the seeds of dissent and the road to the break-up of the nation were sown by Solomon’s own arrogance.

The same is true in our marriages. Break-ups don’t just happen overnight. People don’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I will leave my wife/husband today!” It may seem that way to casual observers from the outside and we act shocked when it happens. However, on the inside of the marriage, break-ups are at the end of a journey where the spouses lose respect for one another and for the marriage that they entered into. Marriages fail long before the break-up. Marriages fail when we stop talking to one another. Marriage fail when we fail to consider the impact of our behavior on our spouse. Marriages fail when we do not treat our spouse as if their needs are greater than our own. Marriages fail when we do not try to understand our spouse’s point of view or our spouse’s feelings. Marriages fail when we lose the desire to spend time with and have things in common with our spouse (then marriage becomes simply logistics of life, particularly when you have kids). Marriages fail when spouses simply do not do life together. To do life together, you have to consider your spouse. When we focus on ourselves and only what we want, we are just people living in the same house. Just as Solomon did not consider what impact his actions would have on his people and did not consult them on anything and it resulted in resentment, so too can our self-centered behaviors cause resentment in our marriages.

Just as Jesus thought so much of us (even though we were imperfect creatures full of sin) and was willing to go to the cross for us, so too should we be about our marriages. To prevent trouble in our marriages, we need to let go of that cultural idea that this life is all about me. It’s not about me when I am married. It is about my spouse and me loving her so much that I would give my life for her. It is about me loving her even though she is not just like me and doesn’t think like me and doesn’t process information and feelings just like me. It is about me loving her anyway. Where did we get this idea that it’s all about me? Marriage is about two people becoming a couple. The trinity of God is made up of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who have co-existed for eternity and yet they are one. Our marriages should emulate, though we are imperfect sinners, the wonderful, complementary functioning of the Trinity where we have our individual natures but we are one. Marriage is not about me. When we make it about ourselves, you begin sowing the seeds of the break-up of your marriage. Just as the seeds of the dissolution of the united kingdom of Israel, just did not happen overnight, so too it is with our marriages. When marriages break-up, it’s not just some sudden thing. It is the end of a road.

Father, in heaven, I pray that we treat our marriages with the same love that you had for us when you sacrificed yourself for us so that we could no longer be condemned. Help us to love our spouses with the same love that you have for us – willing to set aside our own rights and glory in order that we may live and thrive. May we love our spouses for more than what they can do for us. May we love them for what we can do for them. May we love them that we would make sacrifices so that they could be taken care, feel loved, feel communicated with, feel secure. Help us to love our spouses with the agape love of Christ and not with self-centered love as to what they can do for me. It’s not about me.

Amen and Amen. ess that

1 Kings 12:1-20 (Part 2)

The Northern Tribes Revolt

Yesterday, we talked about the fact that Elena and I are passionate about mentoring couples who are either about to get married or whose marriages are in a tough place. There is an old saying in Christian circles that says, “God takes our mess and makes it our message!” That is certainly true in our case. We both have been down the paths of which we speak to our mentored couples about. We both have been through divorces. There is another saying in the counseling arena that says, “it takes two to get a divorce.” In both Elena and my case, we are people whose default behavior patterns are “just to get along.” We tend to not stand up for ourselves when others with more forceful personalities are involved in our lives. That was the case in each of our previous marriages. We pushed our feelings down and said nothing of the things that hurt us or made us feel less than when it came to our former spouses. We just went along to get along. Just accepting things that were against our desires or against our best interest. One thing that time and healing have showed us is that people will fill the vacuums that you leave open to them. We have learned that going along just to get along is no way to be married. We cannot be afraid to express our feelings. If the other person in your marriage values you, they will be willing to hear you and respect your feelings as being valid.

We came to learn that we played a role in our own demise in marriage. We never spoke up. Ground was ceded to the other partner to the point that it was no longer a marriage but one person getting their way to the point of crushing the spirit of such as ours. We were both so determined to be accepted, approved and liked that we lost ourselves at the altar of the approval of others. When you make approval and the lack of conflict your god, you lose who you are and the other person in the marriage will by default believe that this is the way things are supposed to be and live in that place of choosing their own path and us reacting to that. We know that marriage should be a place where both people are valued. Marriage should be a place where both spouses see the marriage as greater than their own individual needs and desires. That means that since two people make up a marriage we must actually care about the feelings and desires and rights of our spouse and respect them. We saw ourselves as victims for a long time but over time and through the work of the Holy Spirit we came to see that we played a role in our own demise. It is tendency of any of us to blame the other spouse fully for a divorce but we each play a role when a marriage falls apart.

So often today, in our culture, we are taught to look at for number one and that our own personal rights are paramount to anything and everything else. We carry this cultural mandate into our marriages. We think that our needs are the most important and that our spouse should naturally understand that and comply. I want what I want and you deal with the fallout is the attitude with which we often enter marriage. It is the American way. We are individualists. And particularly in today’s era in which we live, individual rights are considered more important than anything. No longer is the good of society considered in social issues. The needs of society today are placed below the full flower of self-expression of individual will. Thus, marriage in today’s culture pits the individual against the group – the group being the marriage of husband and wife.

That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage once again – how we place our individual rights today in marriage above the needs of the marriage itself. Let’s read how this idea of placing my own needs about the needs of others plays out in 1 Kings 12:1-20:

Chapter 12

1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt,[a] for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon. 3 The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. 4 “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

5 Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”

7 The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. 9 “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”

10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!”

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh.

16 When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,

“Down with the dynasty of David!

    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.

Back to your homes, O Israel!

    Look out for your own house, O David!”

So the people of Israel returned home. 17 But Rehoboam continued to rule over the Israelites who lived in the towns of Judah.

18 King Rehoboam sent Adoniram,[b] who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death. When this news reached King Rehoboam, he quickly jumped into his chariot and fled to Jerusalem. 19 And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.

20 When the people of Israel learned of Jeroboam’s return from Egypt, they called an assembly and made him king over all Israel. So only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the family of David.

In this passage, we see that both Jeraboam and Rehoboam did what was good for themselves, not what was good for their people. Rehoboam was harsh and did not listen to the people’s demands. Jeroboam established new places of worship to keep his people from traveling to Jerusalem, Rehoboam’s capital. Both actions backfired. Rehoboam’s move divided the nation and Jeroboam’s move turned the people away from God. We must always consider the health of our marriages or any group of which we are a part above our own personal desires. Making decisions in marriage or any other group setting that bring advantage only to you will cause you to lose more than if you had the welfare of others in mind.

In marriage mentoring or in counseling with other married couples, we often use the visual of making a circle with our hand and placing it up in the air slightly above our head and telling the other couple that it represents their marriage. Then, making two smaller circles in the air just below that, and saying that represents each of them. Notice that the circle representing the marriage is higher than the circles that represent them. We say that they should always place the marriage above themselves. Is this action I am going to take going to benefit the marriage and keep that circle above the individual circles? When we think that way, we must consider what our actions are going to do to our spouse or consider how it is going to make them feel. When we think that way, it changes our perspective. When both spouses begin to think that way, they gain new respect and love for the other. We get so caught up in our own view of life, it takes intention to think of the needs of the marriage and thus our spouse before we just run off and act the way we want. Just as Jeroboam and Rehoboam were both selfish in their acts, so too can we be in our marriages. Jeroboam and Rehoboam’s acts destroyed what was once a mighty and united nation. In the weakness the came after their selfish acts, they were susceptible to the attacks of the other nations in the region. Similarly, our selfish acts in marriage can bring about a similar fate.

When I think of how we should be toward our spouses in our marriages, I think of Jesus. Here he was – God in all His glory. He set aside His rights. He is the Creator of the universe but He so loved us that He gave up what He had a right to have and came to earth and lived among us. He loved us so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross for us. He did not have to do that. He has the ultimate set of rights as the Ruler and Creator of the Universe. If anyone had a RIGHT to be selfish, it is the Creator of All Things. However, He set aside His rights so that He could give us something eternal – a way to be reconciled to God. His great love for us was such that He set aside His glory to give us what we needed at the cross. If the Creator of All Things can do that, we must treat our marriages the same way. We should consider the needs of our marriage before we consider our own rights. It is the willing love for our spouse that we lay down of selfish needs and desires and make sure that they are taken care of. When we do that, something amazing happens – the other person reciprocates. Just as we love Jesus immensely for what He did willingly for us on the cross, so too can our marriages be made stronger by two people seeking to meet the needs of the others.

Amen and Amen. ){o._previousl

1 Kings 12:1-20

The Northern Tribes Revolt

One of the passions that Elena and I have together is marriage mentoring and/or counseling. The reason that it is a passion for us as a couple is that it allows us to do ministry together. We each have our own ministry vocations at our church but these jobs we must do on our own. However, with marriage mentoring/counseling, we get to do it as a couple. The reason that we are so passionate about it is that we want to dispel the cultural myth today that says we can throw away our spouses like we do a used up 2 liter soft drink container. Throw it away and just get another.

Why are we passionate about saving marriages or helping those who are about to get married? We have been down the broken road of failed marriage and it is a painful experience, far more painful than most people realize, far more impactful that culture says. In today’s culture, divorce is commonplace and almost expected. One-half of all first marriages end in divorce. Two-thirds of all second marriages end in divorce. When we are on in the throes of marital troubles, divorce seems the easy answer. It ends the arguments, the bitter fighting, the snide remarks, the sarcasm…or does it? If you think divorce is going to solve all your problems, think again!

Divorce has many economic disadvantages, both on the personal and national level. A study conducted by four family and marriage advocacy organizations suggests that divorce and family fragmentation costs American taxpayers more than $112 billion every year. The legal process of divorce itself can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention additional legal costs to enforce the divorce settlement agreement in some situations. Furthermore, both men and women suffer financially after a divorce, though women incur the most financial strain with an average 30 percent decline in their standard of living, as reported by Pamela J. Smock in her demography, “The Economic Costs of Marital Disruption for Young Women over the Past Two Decades.”

The effects of divorce reach far beyond money. There are many health consequences related to divorce that can affect a fragmented family both mentally and physically. Studies published in the “American Journal of Sociology” and the “Journal of Marriage and the Family” suggest that divorced men in most developed countries have twice the premature mortality rate of married men, and divorced women are also more likely to die at an early age than married women. Additionally, the years following a divorce present a greater risk of depression and other mental health disorders.

The effects of divorce on children depend on the age of the child at the time of the divorce. According to the University of New Hampshire, infants and toddlers seem to experience the fewest effects from a parent’s divorce, though many may experience appetite suppression or moodiness. Children older than 3, however, have greater difficulty adjusting to the separation and might believe that they are somehow responsible for their parents’ divorce. Both elementary-aged children and adolescents might act out with anger or suffer from mental anguish or depression. Some might experience divided loyalty between their divorced parents.

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence syndrome when it comes to getting rid of your spouse is simply not true. That’s why we, Elena and I, desire to see marriages saved. We have been through divorce ourselves. It is ugly. It is growth-stunting both emotionally and spiritually. It takes a person years to recover from a divorce, plain and simple. Regardless of whether you remarry quickly or not, you do not recover from a failed instantly. It takes, psychologist say, five to seven years to emotionally and spiritually recover from divorce – that is if you take the time to recover. If you jump right into another relationship, you may never fully recover from a divorce or it may take twice as long.

So, we don’t want to see people go down the same road that we went down. Further, divorce is simply not God-honoring. It disrupts families and takes their focus off God and onto themselves. Also, if we have a chance, we love to counsel or mentor couples who are engaged and planning to get married. We desire that they “do it God’s way” from the beginning. We always tell couples that we should always put the marriage above each of us as individuals. It’s bigger than both of us. It changes the perspective when you think of it that way.

That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage. It is about what advice we should follow in life. It made me think about the culture’s view of divorce and marriage vs. God’s view of it. Which advice are you going to take? The culture’s advice or God’s? Let’s read how this plays out in 1 Kings 12:1-20:

Chapter 12

1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt,[a] for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon. 3 The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. 4 “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

5 Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”

7 The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. 9 “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”

10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!”

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh.

16 When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,

“Down with the dynasty of David!

    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.

Back to your homes, O Israel!

    Look out for your own house, O David!”

So the people of Israel returned home. 17 But Rehoboam continued to rule over the Israelites who lived in the towns of Judah.

18 King Rehoboam sent Adoniram,[b] who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death. When this news reached King Rehoboam, he quickly jumped into his chariot and fled to Jerusalem. 19 And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.

20 When the people of Israel learned of Jeroboam’s return from Egypt, they called an assembly and made him king over all Israel. So only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the family of David.

In this passage, we see that Rehoboam asked for advice, but he didn’t carefully assess what he was told. If he had, he would have realized that the advice offered by the elders was wiser than that offered by his peers. To evaluate advice, we should ask if it is realistic, workable, and consistent with biblical principles. Determine if the results of following the advice will give a positive solution or direction, make the situation better, if not in the short term, in the long run, and be fair. We should seek counsel from those who have gone through this type of situation before and/or those who are wiser than we are. Advice is only helpful when it is consistent with God’s standards.

That’s why Elena and I are so passionate about marriage mentoring. We’ve taken the wrong advice and paid for it in our own lives. We want to see others take our advice of now knowing God’s Way for marriage and drawing on the experience of not doing it God’s Way. We have the battle scars to prove it. We have the experience to tell people the difference of the culture’s way and now an 11 year relationship based on doing it God’s Way. Which advice are you going to take? Whether it’s marriage, career, a job problem that you are facing, a friendship problem you are facing, a tough decision that you have to make? Whatever it is.

Whose advise are you going to take? Someone who gives you advice that is consistent with God’s Word or are you going to follow what the culture says for you to do? What’s it going to be? God’s way or the culture’s way?

Amen and Amen. en