Relationship with God


Song of Solomon 7-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He longs to seal us with His forever kind of love

The popularity of tattoos over the past decade by young and old alike has surprised me.  For someone who struggled over the thought of putting holes in her earlobes, I am stymied by the notion of permanently marking the body, intentionally.  Today’s tattoos are sometimes worn just because they are trendy and popular, but many depict commitment to a variety of things – loyalty to movements and ideals, likes and dislikes, people, places and things – a seal of loyalty, if you will, that will last forever.

Years ago a soldier going off to war would tattoo the name of his sweetheart on his arm to express his commitment to her while he was gone.  I’ve always wondered how the woman he eventually married felt about him bearing the name of an old flame.  I, for one, would not care much for it, but for the young soldier and his girl, it was almost a sign of ownership – she was his girl!  At the end of the beautiful love story of Song of Solomon, the Young Man was asked to wear his lovely Young Woman as a tattoo of sorts, a seal of ownership and commitment.

@ Song of Solomon 8
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.  For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave.  Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it.” (6-7)  The love of the Young Woman for the Young Man was a forever kind of love that would never be removed, sealed forever by the affection of his heart and by the protection of his arm.  In her committed heart, their love was as permanent as death, with a bright unique cable flame from its fire.  Wow!  I’d say a tattoo may be in order here.

This kind of committed love could not exist in our world without God because God is love.  It began in Him, flows out from Him and is complete in Him. He ordained the love found in Song of Solomon between a husband and a wife.  The depths, the intensity and the eternal commitment of the young couple were His idea, His plan for us.

God desires for us to be forever sealed to Him with a commitment even greater than that of this couple, love deeper than they felt and a fire brighter than they could ever know.  Just as the young couple yearned for one another, He calls us to search for Him, call to Him and surrender to Him, and place ourselves like a seal over His heart. We are His forever. 

Moving Forward:  His Word inspires and challenges me today on many levels.  That I remain forever sealed to him and to Him is my desire.

Tomorrow @ Revelation 18-22

“Deuteronomy 31-32 

Discover His heart:  He is our Rock, an immovable foundation

While I’m not an avid beach-goer, I have managed a few treks to the beach over the years, loaded down with beach chairs, towels, ice chest, and sunscreen. All that effort is spent to catch a few rays that will eventually dry my skin and give me freckles.  Somehow, it just doesn’t work for me; however, I digress. It’s definitely relaxing to listen to the waves and watch them blanket the shore with their glistening cover.  We build our sand castles and then watch the surf slowly eat away our creations, grain by grain, right down to the foundations. There’s something to be said about building on the rock – an immovable foundation! 

@Deuteronomy 32
The leadership of Moses was drawing to a close, and like most of us when our tenure in a position is ending, he shared his heart.  More importantly, Moses gave his final declaration from the Lord to the Israelites and did so in the form of a song before the entire assembly.  His song included Israel’s history, God’s warnings and words of hope. Shepherd, prophet, leader, warrior, writer, and songster! Moses was a man whose words deserve our attention.

“I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!” (3-4) When everything around us is shifting and changing, He is the Rock! When governments and institutions crumble and fall, He is the Rock!  When others abandon or fail us, He is the Rock!  There’s something to be said about building on the Rock!

“But Israel soon became fat and unruly…Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation.” (15)  I would imagine the crowd grew a little quiet when Moses sang this stanza. God delivered Israel from 400 years of Egyptian bondage – He was the Rock of their salvation! But they took Him for granted and abandoned Him to worship other gods. Just as we read about the Young Woman in Song of Solomon, sometimes we take for granted that He saved us from eternal bondage. He is the Rock of our salvation!

“You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.” (18) The Song of Moses became very personal in this verse, from they to you. As any father would do, God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage because He was the Rock who had given them birth.  He nourished and clothed the Israelites for 40 years in the desert because He was the Rock who had fathered them. He protected them from the hordes that came to annihilate them because He was the Rock, their father!  How could we ever forget the One who gave us new life, the One who delivers, provides and protects. He is the Rock, our Father!

“But the rock of our enemies is not like our Rock…The Lord says, ‘Look now; I myself am He! There is no other god but me!’” (31)  No other rock is like our Rock.  No other god is like our God.  I love the Dottie Rambo song that few have sung better than Whitney Houston on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack:

“I go to the Rock of my salvation
I go to the stone that the builder’s rejected
Run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When all around me is sinking sand
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.”

I pray Whitney went to the Rock in her final hours.  No other rock is like our Rock!

“When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, he added: ‘Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. These instructions are not empty words—they are your life!’”  (45-47)  He is the Rock of our salvation who has given us birth – there’s no other rock like our Rock.  These are not empty words – they are our life!

And today, especially this day, I am thankful for the Rock of our Salvation as we celebrate His coming to us! Merry Christmas, one and all! 

Moving Forward:  Another great song comes to mind, my theme today, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” No other rock is like our Rock! 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

Song of Solomon 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He calls us to fellowship with Him and with all those we love

Indifference in a marriage or in any relationship is an indicator of trouble and disharmony, and it’s a signal to us that requires a response.  I don’t care much for the old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” but familiarity does sometimes cause us to take for granted those who are dear to us.  The Young Woman of Song of Solomon responded to this challenge in our reading today and discovered the truth in another old adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” 

@ Song of Solomon 5
“I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling:  ‘Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.’  But I responded, ‘I have taken off my robe.  Should I get dressed again?  I have washed my feet.  Should I get them soiled?’” (3-4)  She heard her lover knocking and calling to her, but she hesitated to receive him because she had washed her feet?  Well, she was asleep and obviously in bed for the night, but this doesn’t sound like the Young Woman from earlier chapters, so desperately in love.  When she finally came to her senses, he was gone, leaving only the scent of his cologne on the door handle.  Help!

When we take for granted the familiar and the comfortable, we miss an opportunity to enrich that relationship and secure its future.  The Young Woman came to her senses, “I searched for him but could not find him anywhere.  I called to him, but there was no reply.”  He was already gone, and in her search for him, she met with further heartache and trouble. (7)  The longer his absence, the fonder her heart grew as she remembered his handsome features, his love for her and their friendship. (10-16)   We all love a story that ends well, and thankfully she finds herself with her beloved once again, a little wiser and more responsive to his love. (6:12)  A valuable lesson for us.

Jesus addressed this issue on another level in Luke 9 when he called to those around him, “Come, follow me.” (59)  Just like the Young Woman, they responded with Yes, but…“Lord, first let me return home and bury my father…Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.  But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’” (59-62)

Jesus was not insensitive to their family needs, but He was looking for devote followers.  He is knocking and calling at our heart’s door as well and is looking for quick response without excuse, regardless of washed feet, sleepiness or family needs.  When we respond to His call without hesitation, He helps us with the needs and challenges that may follow

We are challenged through our reading today to never take for granted the familiar, the love of our spouse, our children and our friends.  If we have been hesitant in our response to them, we should seek them out and cherish our time with them.  If we have been hesitant in our response to God, He is waiting to be found just like the Young Man, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13)   May our hearts grow fonder for those we love without the need of absence or hesitancy to wake us up, and may we be ever ready to respond to His call. 

Moving Forward:  I’m listening for the knock, for the call from those who are so dear to me, never wanting to take them for granted.  And I respond to His call for fellowship with me today. 

Tomorrow @ Revelation 12-17

I John 4-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God is love

My husband performs a beautiful wedding ceremony for young couples.  What I enjoy most about it is his challenge to the bride and groom about the kind of love on which they should base their marriage.  The English language has one word for love.  We love each other, we love chocolate, and we love sports.  Many other languages have several words that differentiate the type of affection being expressed.

In his wedding ceremony, Tom explains the four Greek words for love and how they apply to a marriage.  Eros is a sensual or passionate love and is conditional on how someone makes us feelPhileo is a friendship love and is contingent on similarity in interests or direction.  Storgē is the love shared within a family based on the family ties.  While these forms of love are valid, they are all conditional on something, and when the conditions no longer exist, so often neither does the love. 

Agape is unconditional, supernatural love that exists regardless of flaws and weaknesses in others, regardless of affection, regardless of love offered in return.  This love is higher and more perfect than any love that man can achieve by himself.  This love is God’s pure, selfless unaffected love, and John writes all about it today. 

@ I John 4
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (9-10)  In verses 7-21, John expressed the agape form of love 27 times, and knowing this helps us to understand that the love John is talking about is not love that we can achieve through our own desire or works.  We need God’s help.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (16-18)  As we follow the Lord and become more like Him, our love becomes more like His – pure, selfless and unaffected by the behavior of others.  It was God’s love that allowed Jesus and Stephen to forgive those who were killing them.  We won’t live with a fear of man, with fear of the future or with fear of judgment when we are filled with God’s agape.

The more we know Him and surrender every part of our life to Him, the more our human love changes to His perfect love, “our love grows more perfect.”  It is through His perfect love that we are able to love others with the pure, selfless love of I Corinthians 13, not only in marriage but in all of our relationships.  “We love each other because He first loved us.” (19)  If we want to know how to love others, love others the way He loves us!

Moving Forward:  May I grow closer to His perfect love today and reflect His love to all those I meet. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 23-25

Ecclesiastes 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our obedience to Him with eternal life in heaven

My husband and I are avid readers.  While he manages to read five books at a time, a little here and there until he has finished them, I enjoy reading one book at a time and giving it my full attention.  A real treat for me that doesn’t happen often enough is reading a well-written novel.  I have a friend who pages ahead occasionally to find out what’s going to happen and has been known to read the end of the book first.  I worry about individuals who do this.  There’s nothing like a plot building, collecting all its intricate parts and then exploding at the end with a grand finale.  Who would want to ruin that by reading ahead?  Almost like a novelist, Solomon has been building a story in Ecclesiastes, and today we read his grand finale.

We’ve read through some rather dark moments in Solomon’s life over the last twelve chapters: “Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless! …Everything is wearisome beyond description…all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,14)  Solomon had tried everything on earth to bring meaning to his life, but nothing worked. After years of searching, he finally came to this conclusion, “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him.” (2:24-26)  Everything is fleeting, at best, apart from the eternal God.

Solomon also brought us words of encouragement and understanding, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” (3) and “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” (5:20)  We can toil and strive to get ahead of God’s plans for us, but Solomon concluded that living in our moment and accepting His timing will bring the most peace during our brief stint on earth. 

@ Ecclesiastes 12 – The Grand Finale
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion:  Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (13-14)  Living with unbridled devotion to the One who created us and gives us breath, never assuming that role as our own, is the very least we can do to show our love and respect to God.  Obedience is a natural result of our devotion to Him.  Whether it’s our job, our family or sports, if we’re devoted to it, we are going to play by the rules.

Solomon’s statement that God will judge everything we do should confirm in our hearts that eternal life is inevitable otherwise there would be no need for judgment.  “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (3:11) Our hearts yearn for that day when we will live with God for all eternity as recorded in the Revelation.  I must admit, the Bible is one book where I’ve paged ahead to see how it ends, and guess what?  For those who love God, it’s all good!

Moving Forward: With a heart of devotion to Him, I move through this day in obedience to His commands, ever mindful of my eternal home. 

Tomorrow @ Malachi

Deuteronomy 7-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has adopted us as His very special treasure.

There’s nothing like being a part of a family.  Even with all of its ups and downs, black sheep and sibling rivalries, there are certain privileges afforded a family member that others are not given.  As long as we are a part of the family, we are provided with food, clothing, and shelter, and we are included in all the family gatherings such as family reunions, holidays and Will readings.

We don’t earn the right to be a part of the family by our good deeds or because we are perfect, but it is because our parents chose to bring life into the world.  Out of disobedience or rebellion, some have decided to leave the protection that the family provides, and they often end up living empty troubled lives, alone.  With the holidays just around the corner, I’m especially grateful for my family, and I want to protect it and all the privileges that come with it.  Oh, Israel, how could you desert the family!

Moses continued his instructions as the Israelites sat poised to enter the Promised Land and reminded God’s children of who their Father was, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.  The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!  Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.”(7:6-8)  And the Lord did not provide for His children because they were so good, “You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (9:6)  Ouch!

Moses also reminded the people of the responsibilities that came with being the children of God.  “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord…Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.  So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” (8:2-6)  Unfortunately, the Israelites did not accept every word that came from the mouth of the Lord and in their stubbornness and rebellion, most of them eventually deserted the family and left all the privileges that came with it.

Just like many childless fathers, God adopted or grafted in a new family, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”(Romans 11:17)  I’m so thankful to be a part of the family!  However, because of His great love, God is like the prodigal’s father in Luke 15, who waits and waits for His lost children of Israel to come home and rejoin the family by accepting His Son.

We, too, need to remember the privileges we have received as members of the family of God.  Because of Jesus, we have become “joint heirs” in all that God has to offer His children.  We are God’s special treasure as well.  We did not receive His blessing because we are so good, but simply because He loves us.  With His love and all the privileges I receive as His child, I can’t imagine why I would ever desert my family. 

Moving Forward: I’m encouraged today to walk in the privileges provided for me as His child, to protect the family name through my behavior and never leave the safety of His love and care. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 29-32

 

Hebrews 11-13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He’s set a race before us and cheers us along the way

Everyone needs a hobby, a way of relaxing or blowing off steam.  Some enjoy sports, golf, and tennis, etc., and others just enjoy reading a good book.  I’m married to a bicycling enthusiast.  Tom has several 500-mile rides under his belt and really enjoys the experience.  Me?  Not so much.  As a point of information, cycling is an expensive sport.  While there aren’t any green fees to pay, the equipment involved in cycling is costly.  A $79.99 bike is not going to make it on a 500-mile ride.

Bikers wear clothing that I view as rather…well, indecent, but the tight, lightweight clothing prevents the wind from catching it and slowing the biker down.  All the cycling gear is lightweight, including the bike itself.  Imagine a bike weighing 14½ pounds!  Racers keep everything as light as possible so that nothing slows them down.  Also, they are focused on the road ahead so that no debris in the road trips them up, sending them airborne.  Throughout the race, crowds gather to cheer them on as they ride, and when they cross the finish line, the crowds witness the victory.

@ Hebrews 12
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (1-2)  As we race toward the finish line of life, we need to remember the people of faith who have finished the race before us – Abraham, Joseph, Moses and all the heroes of Chapter 11.

Remembering the race of these faithful finishers will cheer us on to victory as long as we keep light and stay focused. A biker who has made the costly investment of a 15-pound bicycle is not going to put a plush, comfortable 10-pound seat on it.  It might feel good at the time, but it really would defeat the purpose of finishing the race in victory.  No, he’s going to keep it light.  Some sins cross our path that may feel good for the moment; but over the long haul, they only serve to trip us up and weigh us down.  We need to keep light.

If the racer takes his eyes off the road for even a second, he will miss the small stone in his path that will unsteady that skinny bike tire and cause a painful crash.  The road sets the biker’s course and is what provides his forward movement so he can’t afford to look at the distractions along the way.  Jesus is our course. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  We will only move forward to the finish line, eternity in heaven with the Father, by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the reigning Champion.  We need to stay focused.

Jesus is our example, our motivator and the loudest voice of all that is cheering us on because He was the first to finish the race in victory.  He knows just what to say to carry us through to the finish line.  “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (2-3)  I can hear the roar of the crowd, the cheer of the saints along the way to witness as we race forward to the finish line. They’re calling to us to keep light, stay focused and don’t give up! 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything but move forward today toward the finish line when I think of all those who are cheering me on.  We can’t give in, and we can’t give up! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 1-3

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