Relationship with Others


Leviticus 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides for those in need through the generous hearts of those who love Him

@ Leviticus 19
With four older brothers, the prospect of hand-me-downs was a little disconcerting when I was young.  Money, with all the amenities that it buys, was scarce in my early years, and those clothes were threadbare by the time they got to me. However, somehow beautiful clothes seem to magically appear for me to wear from time to time.  It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that a couple of generous families in our church periodically collected clothing for me and gave them to my mom. Yes, they were second-hand but not threadbare, in fact, they were beautiful!  When I wore them, I felt like a million bucks and didn’t realize how poor we really were during those early years.  God bless those generous hearts!

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

God instituted the first welfare program, the first method to meet the needs of those who were without food.  Instead of seeking to get that last grain or that last grape into their own coffers, God encouraged the harvesters to simply regard those who were lacking and provide out of their surplus for them.  What a concept!  No government programs, no welfare red tape, just generous hearts representing a generous God and providing for the needs of others. Imagine that.

A few years ago I was shopping at the grocery store when a woman walked past me wearing a dress that was familiar to me.  From some distinctive alterations that it had, I realized it was a dress I had bought and worn for a while and then donated to a ministry that provided clothing for those in need.  She wore it well, and that made me smile as I remembered generous hearts that had touched my life so many years ago.

“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.’”(2 Corinthians 9:7-9)  When we give cheerfully to those in need, God continues to bless us to do even more.  While I have remembered generous hearts from my youth for almost 50 years, God remembers them forever, and that, my friends, is a very long time.

Moving Forward: Shrugging off the selfish trends all around me, I pray that God will open my eyes to those in need and fill me with a great big heart of generosity. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 16-20

I Thessalonians 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to nurture and care for His young ones

We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2-3)  Paul loved his children. Well, at least we know he loved his spiritual children.  Almost two years earlier Paul had started a church in Thessalonica but had to leave the city abruptly because of hostility from the Jewish leaders (Acts 17).  He sent Timothy back to the city to check up on this new congregation because he was anxious to hear how they were standing up under the Jewish opposition. After receiving Timothy’s report, Paul immediately responded with a letter of encouragement and counsel to his dear ones in the church in Thessalonica.

@ I Thessalonians 2
Paul’s demonstration of his love and commitment to this new church reminds me of my feelings after the birth of my newborn baby girl.  I found myself constantly checking up on her, feeling for the rise and fall of her little chest, inspecting those diapers, just wanting to be sure she was okay.  You see, I just loved her so much and I needed to know that all was well with her.  With similar feelings, Paul wrote, “we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” (7-8)  He loved these new ones in the faith and wanted to encourage them and help them grow in the Lord

This causes me to think about the new Christians I encounter in my walk each day whether at church, in the neighborhood or on the job, and I think about how much God loves them and wants to see that all is well with them.  Many are filled with questions about their new faith and some even face persecution for their decision just as the Thessalonians did. They really need our encouragement and help.

Of course, just as Satan hindered Paul’s attempt to visit this church (18), the enemy will discourage us from helping new Christians. He would love for us to feel inadequate or too time-pressed to be of any help to them.  Just as my baby daughter did not need constant professional tending, these young ones in the Lord do not need a theologian.  They just need someone to check up on them and guide them along as they grow in Him.

Well, my newborn baby girl is now grown and a mother herself.  The joy she brings me as I watch her faithfully serve the Lord and raise her own family is indescribable.  I am blessed beyond measure.  And Paul, too, understood this blessing, “After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown, as we stand before our Lord Jesus when He returns?  It is you!  Yes, you are our pride and joy.” (19-20) Indescribable joy! 

Moving Forward:  I’ll keep my eyes and heart open today for the young, the newbies in the Lord, encouraging them, helping them and making sure that all is well with them. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 19-21

Proverbs 11-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He delights in our honesty and humility, and He rewards them with wisdom

A day at the Minnesota State Fair was always one of the highlights of my year when I was young.  Where else can you get fried cheese curds, sugary Tom Thumb donuts and food on a stick?  Yum!  My dad would always walk us through the Midway where the rides whirled over our heads and hucksters barked and called to him to take a chance at winning the big prize.  I wanted that big prize, the big cuddly stuffed something, but he always just kept walking, eyes focused straight ahead.

When I asked him one time why he wouldn’t stop and try to win a prize for me, he said that the games were crooked, the balls were weighted and the chances were slim – they couldn’t be trusted.  I never viewed the Midway and its hucksters the same way again. Since then I’ve walked through many midways in life, and I’ve tried to keep my focus straight ahead with added determination for my own life to never be described as one that could not be trusted.  Thanks, dad! 

@ Proverbs 11
“The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but He delights in accurate weights.  Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Honesty guides good people.” (1-3) Solomon addressed the problem of dishonest scales several times in Proverbs, where the weighing and measuring of foods and goods was common business practice and where heavy thumbs and hidden weights were tools used to cheat buyers.  Dishonest business practices still prevail today, but of course the methods are much more sophisticated and elaborate.  Why do people cheat each other?

It’s interesting that Solomon slips this little statement about pride in between two verses on honesty, “Pride leads to disgrace.”  When we feel that our gain and our advancement are more vital than that of someone else to the point of dishonesty, it is because we regard ourselves as better and more important. The definition of pride: a haughty attitude shown by somebody who believes that he or she is better than others. Ouch!

Clearly, pride throws the Golden Rule right out the window.  But, “…with humility comes wisdom.”  Humility: the quality of being modest, respectful and meek.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV)  Now that’s quite an inheritance! A prideful heart seeks to bless itself while a heart of humility is blessed by the Lord.

Whenever my motivation in any transaction or exchange, whether financial, relational or really anything is to bless me at an expense or loss to someone else, it’s time for me to evaluate that motivation.  The incredible One-day Sale at Macy’s where sale prices almost seem like stealing?  Acceptable!  Cheating the sales clerk, the tax collector, my spouse or a customer? Not good.  I don’t ever want to be like the dishonest huckster who cannot be trusted.

Honesty guides good people.” Honesty is a valuable guide through the midways of life.  It is humble, reliable, timeless, easy to remember…and it’s trustworthy!  So in light of these scriptures, the right way to gain or advance in life is to treat others in the way we like to be treated, with humility and respect, and we can be certain that honesty will come right alongside and help us do it. Our efforts will be blessed with wisdom and a rich inheritance! 

Moving Forward: Honest guidance today from the Golden Rule, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)  I can’t go wrong. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 31-36

Ezekiel 25-30 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs for repentance that stops the hand of judgment

Revenge – how sweet it is!  At least that seems to be a prevailing attitude in our culture.  Many have adopted the idiom, “Don’t get mad, get even.”  My husband tells a joke that is appropriate here – A 16-year old boy arrives home driving a brand new truck. The father shouts, “Where did you get that truck?  You don’t have any money.”  The boy replies, “I bought it from a lady down the street for $15!”  Well, this alarmed the father. What kind of woman would sell this truck for $15? She must have an ulterior motive.

The father rushed down the street and asked the woman why she did this.  The woman replied, “Well, I thought my husband was on a business trip, but I just received a call from him from Hawaii.  Seems he ran off with his mistress and is in need of money.  He asked me to sell his car and send him the money…so I did.”  Scary stuff, revenge is.

Revenge may bring some immediate gratification, but the long-term ramifications can wipe that smile right off a face.  Better to put payback in the hands of God, “Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)  In our reading today, Israel’s neighbors were about to feel the heat.

The seven nations surrounding tiny Israel had long persecuted and attacked God’s chosen people.  Even though His own people were sinful and rebellious at times, God would avenge them because they were His responsibility and not that of the surrounding nations.  Judgment was coming to Ammon, Moab, Edom Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and proud Egypt because they rejoiced at Israel’s devastation at the hands of Babylon and cheered at the desecration of the Temple.  Ancient racism toward the Israelites had filled their hearts, as well as jealousy over Israel’s many victories.

God’s vengeance was swift and these nations eventually met their own fate at Babylon’s mighty sword.  At the end of each pronouncement of judgment, God said something similar to, “When I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord.” (25:17)  Revenge did not come from Israel, it came from the Lord; however, He would have stayed His hand of judgment at the first sign of repentance.  In Ezekiel 18:23, God asked Ezekiel, “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?…Of course not!  I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.”  God is merciful.

From these scriptures we can learn about God’s attitude concerning our enemies.  He knows their past, present and future and why they do the things they do, facts we are seldom privy to.  He will often withhold dealing with an offense towards us because He knows that our enemy’s battle is really with Him, not with us, or He knows that restoration is in the future.  God is merciful; but without repentance, in due time judgment is His to give.

When we take matters into our own hands to get even, we may circumvent God’s divine plan to bring healing and restoration to our relationships.  Jesus said, “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also…Love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:39,44-45)   Sometimes we just get dizzy from turning that cheek so many times, and we start to think He just doesn’t understand the pain from the hurtful things said or done to us, the betrayal and the rejection.  But then, of course He does. Remember Calvary? 

Moving Forward:  Sunny today, with no chance of revenge.  Should an enemy develop throughout the day, I won’t get even – I won’t even get mad- because God is in control!

Tomorrow @ Luke 19-20

Proverbs 10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He purifies our hearts, producing wise words from our lips

With the advent of texting, tweeting and facebooking, not to mention old-school emailing, one might think that speaking has become passé;  but, let me reassure you, as long as at least two women know that there’s a sale going on somewhere, conversation will flow.  It’s just the way it is.  When my seven year old granddaughter chattered for 20 minutes the other day without noticeably breathing, I knew the art of speaking was alive and well. Solomon had much to say about the words we speak – perhaps something to do with having multiple wives – but regardless, his cautions and observations will save us from a great deal of heartache.

Classic wisdom for me is found in Proverbs 10:19, underlined in red in my Bible, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”  Simple, straight up advice.  All of us say words that cause pain at one time or another, intentional or not, and we would give just about anything to retrieve them.  Once our words leave our mouth or enter the social networks, it is impossible to take them back…frightening.  This thought alone should persuade us to guard our words, whether spoken or written.

Jesus took the impact of our words a step further, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)  Our words reflect what is in our heart, producing a double exposure, if you will, of not only our thoughts but also of our character.  Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

I have always wanted my words to speak life and not death, to speak blessing rather than cursing; but sadly, I have failed on occasion.  However, Solomon’s words encourage me to move on from spoken sins and mistakes and continue striving for words of wisdom, “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain…Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding…the words of the godly are like sterling silver…The words of the godly encourage many…The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice…The lips of the godly speak helpful words.” (11-32)   Oh, that I will always communicate the words of the godly! 

Moving Forward: Lord, touch my heart today to where my words, both spoken and written, reflect purity and bring encouragement to others. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 25-30

Luke 15-16 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He searches for His lost ones, rejoicing when they are found.

I lost my purse years ago.  Well, actually it was stolen out of my car and was lost to me.  It wasn’t a Gucci or Coach nor did it hold anything of great monetary value, but it was my purse, and all women know what that means – pictures, wallet, credit cards, driver’s license, make up and a special little Swiss Army knife that I would miss.  The police came and helped us search the blocks around my car in hope that the thief grabbed the $6.00 inside and dropped the rest, but we found nothing.  I missed my purse.

Through a series of unbelievable events throughout the night, everything was returned to me except for $6.00 and the little knife.  Well, I told everyone about this amazing story, and they rejoiced with me – the lost had been found!  A few months later I received a package in the mail, and when I opened it, I was shocked.  Inside was a brand new Swiss Army knife like the one I had lost, no return address, no one to thank. Crazy, but true.  Once again I told my story to everyone who would listen, and we rejoiced.  A long story, but I trust the joy shines through. 

@ Luke 15
Luke 15 is about lost things and the celebrations that occurred when they were found.  Lost sheep, lost coin and lost son all recovered with great celebration and joy.  We understand these parables because of the joy we have known when something we’ve lost has been found.  All of them speak to the heart of our Father who searches for us and watches for our return back to Him when we are lost.  The joy of reunion overshadows any sorrow or blame over the separation – that’s just the way He is.  When the prodigal son returned home, the father was, “Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him…‘We must celebrate with a feast!..He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (20,23-24) 

@ Luke 16
Luke 16 is about another kind of loss – loss of employment, something many can identify with today. The employee had been wasteful managing his employer’s money and now he had to give an account for it and leave.  Through some shrewd bargaining, the employee secured favor for his future with those he had been in business with around town by reducing the amount owed and then he settled up with his former employer.

Whether or not he was cheating his employer in this process or losing his own commission, we are uncertain, but the employer responded favorably, “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd…Here is the lesson:  Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends.  Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”(8-9)

Of course, Jesus was not encouraging us to be dishonest, but rather encourages us to take a lesson from this employee’s eventual wise bargaining, not his integrity.  With all the money, gifts and talents the Lord has given us to manage here on earth, we would be wise to share them abundantly to bless others, make friends and lead them to the Lord.  Eternal investments.

We will be entrusted with greater responsibility (10) and with the true riches of heaven (11) when we prove ourselves faithful with what God has given us to manage, whether it is money, time or talent.  He is the best employer I could ever hope to have – I want to do my best on the job! 

Moving Forward: I pray I will spend all that this day has provided with wisdom, making eternal investments that “moths and rust cannot destroy.” (Matthew 6:20) 

Tomorrow @ Philippians 3-4

Proverbs 7 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to a pure and moral life

Triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse filling…can you see it?  I see it every time I pass by the dessert counter at my favorite restaurant.  It’s not content to just sit there on the counter.  No, it calls to me. In fact, it walks right up to me dressed in its seductive ganache icing, surrounded by a blanket of silky sauce and a perfumed dusting of cocoa.  I inhale its fragrance, and it’s as if I hear it say, “You are alone and no one will ever know you allowed my sweet creamy mousse to kiss your lips, you deserve it.”

Seduced by its smooth flattery and clever words, I eat it, and then I am immediately filled with remorse, remembering “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” and all the things I know to be true.  I vow to never eat it again…until next time…when I walk that way again and it calls to me…triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate mousse filling…can you hear it?

All that to say that I understand seduction.  Although too many fudge cakes may send me to an early grave, there are seductions that will send me to an eternal grave. In Proverbs 7, Solomon warned his sons about the road that leads to the grave through seduction.  A much weightier subject than cake.

The way of the temptress is something to reckon with amid the vast array of seductive tools the enemy has at his disposal today.  When I started in ministry 45 years ago, adultery was something that happened in society but was frowned on and discouraged. Today, it is accepted as a part of social living by many and often celebrated throughout the media.  Men and women alike have yielded to the seductive call of the immoral man or woman, leaving behind precious children caught in the fray.

After counseling hundreds of hurting young people over the years, I can promise that there is not a man or woman on the planet worthy of sacrificing the security and peace of these dear ones – not one.  They may act as though everything is great; but believe me, for most, it is not.

“Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.  Obey my commands and live!  Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyesTie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.”(1-3) When I married and the beautiful wedding ring was placed on my finger, it wasn’t meant to be an ornament.  It was intended to be a safeguard, a watchman if you will, to keep me from sin as I remember its significance.

The ring, a circle without beginning or end, symbolizes eternal agape love that is not threatened by the seductress or seducer.  “So listen to me, my sons [and daughters], and pay attention to my words…Don’t wander down her wayward path.  For she has been the ruin of many…her house is the road to the grave.” (25-27)  Don’t wander over to the dessert counter, don’t go down the path to ruin Solomon warned.  Heed the watchman.

Moving Forward: I cherish my wedding ring today and all that it symbolizes – eternal love and fidelity and the commitment to God’s morality, written deep within my heart. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 13-18

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