Relationship with Others


Proverbs 25 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our example of patience and steadfastness 

Cool your jets.  Take a chill pill.  Back off.  Slow it down. Take a little time to smell the roses.  Don’t rush to judgment.  Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. Take it down a notch.  These are all phrases we use when life comes racing at us, when we need to pull in the reins and look before we leap and…sorry, the colloquialisms just keep coming.  Proverbs 25 has its own brand of cautions for us today. 

“Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great.  It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace.” (6-7)  Promotion is always better when it comes from the Lord rather than our own efforts alone.  Jesus actually provided us with a parable on this very subject in Luke 14:7-11 regarding a dinner guest.  He advised to take a less prominent seat at the table to avoid being asked to move should a more distinguished guest come to the table, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)  Sometimes being first in line isn’t helpful.

“Just because you’ve seen something, don’t be in a hurry to go to court.  For what will you do in the end if your neighbor deals you a shameful defeat?” (7-8)  It’s often said that 20 observers of any criminal act will have 20 different testimonies of what actually happened.  Jesus offered the solution for when we observe or experience something we believe is a wrongdoing in Matthew 18:15, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”  Don’t rush to judgment.

“A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” (14)  Wisdom would say it’s better to count the cost before we promise something we can’t deliver.  Most everyone remembers something promised to them as a child that never came to pass – those moments are hard to forget.

“Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones.” (15)  As they say, timing is everything.  Quiet, prayerful patience will do more to get the end result we desire from those in leadership than nagging or yelling.  Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but we always remember it demanded our attention rather than deserved it.  My mom never had to raise her voice to me in quick anger, but she had one killer of a look she would give, without breaking any bones, by the way.

For the laid-back person or someone who look at every angle of a situation and seems to get little done in life, Solomon’s cautions may not be needed.  Perhaps taking to heart Proverbs 24:33-34 would be more beneficial, “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”  In other words, get with it!

However, we all know someone who desperately needs his advice today.  Those Type A’s out there, always moving and clicking away, need to take a few moments each day to read these words of wisdom from Solomon so they will look before they leap, take a step back and punt, remember haste makes waste…enough!

Moving Forward: My prayer today is, “Lord, help me to say and do all that you have for me to say and do, without moving ahead of your plan and without driving anyone crazy in the process.”

Tomorrow @ Amos 5-9

Philemon (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is blessed when we generously forgive others

As a rule, we’ll do just about anything for our good friends.  We celebrate with them on their joyous occasions, and we run to them to give comfort and aid in their difficult moments.  It is disheartening to have a friendship dissolve over a dispute or offense.  In our reading today, Paul was treading on dangerous ground in his friendship with Philemon.

Philemon was a prosperous businessman in Colossae who hosted the church in his home.  Paul had nothing but good to say about him, “I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” (4-7)  A careful reader may catch that this is not just a casual letter, but one with an agenda of sorts, “praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith.”  A request was coming.

Philemon’s slave from the past, Onesimus, had either stolen from him or damaged his property and had run away.  This betrayal by someone he trusted had obviously caused heartache to Paul’s dear friend. Sometime later, the slave happened to encounter Paul in Rome and accepted the Lord as his Savior. Paul had some choices to make – keep Onesimus as his assistant and remain silent, turn Onesimus over to the Roman authorities where he could possibly face death or return him to Philemon for punishment.

And now the request, “That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you…I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus.  I became his father in the faith while here in prison.” (8-10) Circumstances had changed over the course of time. Yes, Onesimus was a slave, sadly a role that was acceptable at that time, but now he was a fellow believer.  Salvation is the great equalizer in life. “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:13).

Paul may have been referring to the meaning of the name “Onesimus” which means profitable or useful as he continued in his request, “Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.”(11) Paul was definitely placing their friendship on the line when he added a promise to personally pay everything Onesimus owed Philemon. He added, “I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!”  (19)

Although this comment sounds remarkably like a major guilt trip, Paul was counting on Philemon to remember that at one time he, too, was forgiven and set free from sin.  Jesus paid a debt for him that he did not owe just as Paul was willing to do for Onesimus.  This personal letter of Paul’s serves to remind us all of the forgiveness and grace that has been extended to us.  How could we not extend it to others?

In situations where others have cheated us or been unkind, it is so very helpful to remember that God loves them as much as He loves us.  He may not like their deeds, but He sent His Son to die for that very reason.  When we forgive and offer mercy to others, we are behaving like Jesus, and that could only be good. 

Moving Forward: Should the occasion arise today, I choose to forgive others for any unkindness, remembering that God loves them.

Tomorrow @ Numbers 21-24

Proverbs 23-24

Discover His heart: God sees our hearts and knows our thoughts

“Women and children first!”  I’ll never forget that phrase called out over and over again in the movie Titanic as survivors boarded the ship’s lifeboats.  It has become the mantra for all disasters, marine and otherwise.  The few men who pushed aboard the lifeboats as if they didn’t know the protocol were considered cowards, but actually, most men were lost at sea in that disaster.

Those in the lifeboats who ignored the cries of their fellow passengers seemed heartless.  What a helpless feeling to see hundreds and hundreds of people perish for such senseless reasons – pride in a vessel that could not sink and apathy towards others – outrageous!  Oh, that we would be even more outraged by the many souls perishing all around us! 

@ Proverbs 24
“If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; if you say, “Look, we did not know this”— does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?” (11-12) Some pretty tough words from Solomon, but very significant for us today.  It always amazes me that we think we could fool the One who knows everything.  When we fail to give the hope of eternal life to our friends and neighbors, we may fool them or those who are watching our lives, but we could never fool Him.

How could we not know? Our newspapers and newscasts are filled with stories from around the world of those who are killed because of their skin color, religion, heritage or simply because they are breathing – unjustly sentenced to die.  These atrocities should drive us to our knees with prayers of protection and rescue, they should compel us to give to compassion ministries for their relief and to respond to whatever doors are opened to us.  Our protest must be heard!

And speaking of those who are taken away to death, I can’t help but think of the millions of helpless little ones whose lives are snatched from them while they are growing in what should be the most secure place in the world for them.  We could never excuse ourselves by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.”  He knows that we know, yet we do so very little to stop it.

Most consider these verses a call for evangelism, “Rescue those being led away to death…” (NIV).  Rescue those who may not be innocent of sin but run through life unaware of sin and its penalty, ignorantly led to their death. The facts are this – sin entered the world in the garden, delivering a death sentence for all of us.  All those we encounter each day without the forgiveness of sin are on an eternal Titanic, forever lost from God.  Our merciful God doesn’t want anyone to perish, and He sent His Son to save them.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Everyone who believes in Him will not perish!  It takes so little effort for us to offer a hand into the lifeboat to those who are sinking.  However, we just seem to ignore their silent cries for help at times and look past their struggles to stay afloat.

A song from the old Salvation Army songbook that I heard as a little girl comes to mind.  Yes, the song may seem ancient, but the message is lifesaving. “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (F.Crosby) The words and story of this old hymn are all about rescuing those who are being led to their death, rescuing them with the message of Jesus.  A valuable read. (Read them here). 

Moving Forward: Solomon reminds me today that God knows me, and He knows that I know that He has given me a mission. 

Tomorrow @ Amos 1-4

Titus (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He calls us to train the young

I was standing in line at the store one day talking on my cell phone with a young mother about her newborn baby and some of the challenges she was facing. I guess when you get a little older, young adults feel you may have experienced enough in life to have some answers to their questions.

When I finished talking, the woman behind me in line said, “You must be a pediatrician.”  That statement brought a hearty laugh out of me and I replied, “No, I’m just 150 years old with a lot of experience.”  It did cause me to consider that if I had a dollar for every question I’ve answered over the past 50 years, I’d be a very wealthy woman, but then I am wealthy in ways much greater than dollars.  The pure joy I receive from helping out a frustrated wife or mom is beyond value.

Where are all the mentors for our young men and women today?  I question how I would have grown and matured not only in life but also in the Lord without the guidance from my amazing mom and other women in my church? How would I have made it without the encouragement from the pastor’s wives who raised me up in the ministry?  So many young adults have expressed to me their need for some helpful direction in their lives, some mentoring.  Are we just too busy today? 

@ Titus 2
Paul addressed this issue with young Pastor Titus, “Teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” (3-5)

Sometimes we feel that we are dealing with enough issues in our own lives and feel unqualified to train anyone.  Our lives should reflect wholesome teaching that honors God (1,3), but we need to understand where it is that most young adults receive their training today.  Far too many get their answers from their peers, from television and movies and from the internet but rarely from a Biblical viewpoint.  Help!

No, we don’t really need another responsibility or commitment, and sometimes our help is not appreciated when we do offer it, but all of us can train through example by living a Godly life before those who are watching us.  We can pray for God’s guidance to direct our conversations to those who really need some answers.  We can make ourselves available to help a new homemaker, a new mother or father in a time in their lives when they face the most uncertainty.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)  It’s encouraging to me to know that God’s comfort in my difficult moments in life can serve a greater good in helping someone else.  If for no other reason, there is a purpose for some of my life experiences because I am able to help and comfort others who are going through similar circumstances.

At this time each year, Americans remember and honor the lives that were lost on September 11 in the terrorist attack on our country, bringing back difficult memories to be sure.  It just seems that if radical Muslim terrorists can train their young men to fly airplanes into buildings to spread havoc and destruction, we should be motivated to train and mentor our young men and women to spread God’s love and restoration with their lives.  I think we can do that. 

Moving Forward: I open my heart and life today to the young ones who have questions and challenges, praying that He will direct my path to them and guide the words that I say. 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 17-20

John 13-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He considers us His friends.

What would we do without our friends?  We share just about everything with them, confide in them and trust them to keep it close.  I would hardly go to a stranger at the grocery store and tell personal information about myself, although I have to admit I’ve had many strangers share more than the basic communication with me at the store. I’ve decided I must have a very generic face and strangers feel they know me, or perhaps the Lord is setting up opportunities to share His love.  Either way, His love and truth are shared.

But with our good friends, we share all the extremes of our lives as well as the mundane little things that only our good friends would care about.  Sometimes we share information on our social networks that good friends are hungry to read but casual friends really don’t care about, and that’s okay.  We have buttons to handle that for us, like Ignore, Delete, Hide…oops, too much information. 

@ John 15
One of the most humbling days of my life was when, as a teenager, I read and understood the weight of John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves.  Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”  In my mind, I am His servant, but in His mind, I am His friend.  Because of the intimate things about Himself that He has shared with us in His Word and in our hearts, He could only be our friend.  This is NOT grocery store-sharing kind of stuff.  He has shared everything His Father has told Him – amazing!  This is an intimate relationship like none other.

Of course, the if clause is included in our friendship with the Lord, but it has nothing to do with His love for us because that is unconditional. However, if we want to be His friend, there is a condition to be met. “You are my friends if you do what I command… You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit…” (14,16)  We read in I John 4:14 that He loved us first and died for us (John 3:16), and this is what makes our friendship possible – He chose us.

We either accept or reject His offer of salvation, friendship and all that goes with it, and with our acceptance comes responsibility, as with any good friendship.  Our obedience to the Lord keeps that friendship alive as does our commitment to cultivate it through our love for one another. “This is my command:  Love each other.” (17)   If we’re going to be intimate friends with the Lord, we want to love and appreciate all His other friends as well, and, thankfully, God will help us do that. Friends forever!

The realization that Jesus is my friend has carried me through moments when earthly friends were not close by me, and when without Him, I would have felt so very alone.  When my friends are in need, I drop everything else to help them, and my friend Jesus is even more available to me than that.  He’s as close as the mention of His name.  I listen to the advice my friends give because I know they have my best interests at heart.  Even more so, my friend Jesus gives only the very best advice and direction for my life and He can be trusted.

Moving Forward:  I am a servant of God, willing to do all that He commands, but I know that I’m also His friend.  I want to be the best friend I can possibly be.

Tomorrow @ Titus

Proverbs 20-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we show kindness to others as He has shown to us 

@ Proverbs 21
I’ve always wondered if Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew what he was doing when he married so many wives.  Most men are challenged enough with just one wife, but perhaps Solomon thought, being so wise and all, that he could handle it.  His Proverbs, however, give cause to question that.

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (9)  “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” (19)  “A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.” (12:4)  “A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” (14:1)  “…a quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping.” (19:13)  And once again, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (25:24)  I think I see a theme going here.

Several years ago I saw an interview on television with one of Hollywood’s older starlets.  She and her actor husband had been married for over 25 years and that alone would grab our attention, but for Hollywood couples, 25 years is momentous.  When the interviewer asked her to what she attributed their lengthy marriage, she replied that every day they make a commitment to each other to be kind.  No matter how difficult a situation they may be walking through, they chose to speak and act with kindness to each other.  I thought that was great advice.

With the familiarity we have with a spouse comes a freedom to say and do what we feel when under pressure.  While we wouldn’t speak to another friend with brashness or rudeness, we often say to our spouse the very first thing that comes to mind…and sometimes that isn’t good.  Solomon later in the chapter throws in, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.” (23)  It’s just better to say nothing at all if we can’t say something kind.

Paul gave great advice in Ephesians 4:31-32 on how to treat others, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Remember the old saying, “Charity begins at home,” and hopefully it won’t stop there. 

Moving Forward:  I’m committed today to kind words and kind deeds in my home regardless of what this busy day throws my way.  My dear friend and husband is worthy of nothing less. 

Tomorrow @ Hosea 8-14

Proverbs 19 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He blesses our generous hearts

My husband has one of the tenderest hearts towards needy souls of anyone I’ve ever known.  Because of his generosity, I’ve always said if a man came to him with a desperate need for a wife and a mother to care for his children, Tom would be tempted to help him out and give me away.  He says this absolutely isn’t true, and I guess after over 40 years of marriage, I can assume that he means it.

One time a homeless man came up to Tom at our church during the lunch hour asking for money because he was hungry.  Tom rarely gave actual cash to those in this situation but would buy them lunch asking that they work a little in the church yard or help in some way, and this happened many, many times through the years.  When he asked this man to do some work, the man replied, “Work?  You want me to work?  I don’t work, I’m just a bum!”  Well, Tom had to appreciate his candor and shared the love of Jesus with him as they walked to the restaurant.

“If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” (17)  It’s a hard concept to accept, but it’s as if the Lord was now in debt to Tom.  It’s similar to when we take a client out to lunch on our dime, our company reimburses us for doing so.  Tom took the poor man out to lunch on his dime, so the Lord reimbursed him, to be sure.  Those of us who know Tom understand that it wouldn’t matter – he just loves to give.

“How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands…They share freely and give generously to those in need.  Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor.” (Ps112:1,9)  Just wanted to give honor today where honor is due.

The economic downturn has affected so many families today, and many have lost their homes and jobs.  But no matter how difficult things may get for us as individuals, there are so many others who have it much, much worse.  A simple meal or bag of groceries may be the only light they see in their dark tunnel.  “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” (Isaiah 58:10)  Our giving to others brightens someone’s world, and according to Proverbs 19, the Lord will reimburse us – we just can’t lose! 

Moving Forward: Planning to do some lending to the Lord today; but because I am so indebted to Him, I won’t be keeping a record of it. 

Tomorrow @ Hosea 1-7

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