Relationship with Others


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

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

Esther 1-5 (NLT Link) 

Discover His heart: He positions us to fulfill His purpose

Chess is a game of strategy using specific characters on a chess board with the ultimate goal of blocking the opponent’s king so he cannot move.  Many people find this to be entertaining.  In fact, I  joined dozens of people one time to watch a game of chess in Salzburg played on one of the town squares with chess pieces 3 feet tall.  Every move not only involved cerebral energy but physical energy as well.  I must admit that I don’t play chess.  I spend most of every day strategizing how to get accomplished all that needs to get done before bedtime, so why would I play a game of strategy for fun?

However, the different characters on the chess board do intrigue me.  Each piece has a specific function and direction of movement from the lowly pawn to the queen herself.  A pawn that is moved to the correct position can bring down the king – checkmate!  Imagine that!  When a pawn is positioned for a purpose, anything can happen.  Today we read about a lowly Jewish girl, some would call a pawn in the scheme of things, who was positioned for the purpose of saving a nation. 

@ Esther 4
While most believed that Esther had become the Queen of Persia because of her great beauty, her uncle Mordecai understood that God had positioned her to save her people.  Through the influence of his advisor, evil Haman, the king had issued a decree that all the Jews be killed, but Mordecai encouraged Esther to consider that she had been positioned for purpose. “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”(14)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position that we find uncomfortable for various reasons.  That position may be boring and dull, or it may be stressful and risky, or it may be downright painful.  Regardless of the reason, we just don’t like it.  We complain a lot and feel like we’re bumping into a brick wall as we try to change things, but have we considered the possibility that we have been positioned for purpose?

We may not save a nation in the position we find ourselves, but just as important to God, we may help to save a soul – a neighbor, co-worker, a sales clerk.  God loves every soul on the planet enough to position us for the purpose of reaching each one.  Or perhaps in our position right now, He is changing us and making us ready for His purpose.  Positioned for purpose!  May the question of Mordecai reach down through the centuries to open our eyes to the possibility that we, too, are positioned for a purpose, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 

Moving Forward:  I submit to the endless possibilities that His purpose has positioned me for today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 146-148

Song of Solomon 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He planned intimacy for us to enjoy

Tom and I recently celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary.  We thought we were really in love the day we got married, but when I think about our love today and how much it has grown over the years I realize our early love was just a drop in the bucket of what it would become.  Our young couple in Song of Solomon has just embarked on their marriage journey; and as can be expected, it is with great excitement. 

@ Song of Solomon 4
You are beautiful, my darling, beautiful beyond words. Your eyes are like doves behind your veil. Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are as white as sheep, recently shorn and freshly washed.” (1-2) Solomon, you sweet talker!  Well, he started out right – every woman wants to be called beautiful, but the references to farm animals are lost to me.  For the shepherdess woman, however, these words held their own special charm.  Solomon wooed his new bride with compliments, and compliments are never lost on anyone.

“Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon. Come down from Mount Amana…” (8)  The young man invited the young bride to come away with him as they started their home together and asked her to leave all the beautiful mountains and places she may have known in the past that held meaning for her.  This was the beginning of their marriage as Jesus described in Matthew 19:5-6, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Leave and cleave, one flesh, forever – this is God’s plan for us.

I must admit that even today, after all these years together, when I catch a glimpse of my husband across a crowded store or room and our eyes meet, my heart often does a little thing.  I’m not exactly sure what it is, but take it from me, it’s all good.  I’m relatively sure that Solomon understood it when he said, “You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes.” (9)

We may feel somewhat like voyeurs as we read the passionate words of this young couple so desperately in love, but the love language they share and the commitment they profess should only serve to enrich our personal relationships to be what God has intended.  Then, when we think of God’s love for us that is really too intense, too deep to be contained in simple words such as these, we should be challenged to come away with Him.  May we be inspired to leave all the things familiar to us in exchange for a time of intimacy with Him because His deep love has captured our hearts. 

Moving Forward:  I’m exceedingly blessed by His love and by his love today and so very thankful for both. 

Tomorrow @ Revelation 7-11

2 John (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His cautions protect us from today’s false prophet

Christmas is the time of year when the gift of hospitality is in full swing.  Homes are cleaned and decorated, ovens are filled with special treats for the holidays and families and friends meet to celebrate.  By January 2, most of us are exhausted from all of this frivolity and are happy to stay in the quiet of our homes with a bowl of soup, but it was grand while it lasted.

As a rule, we open our homes to our families and friends and even occasionally to those who are simply acquaintances, but we would never intentionally open the door to those who would disrupt our home or harm us.  Unfortunately, sometimes it happens, and the apostle John wrote a little letter of warning to us about it.

2 John is the second shortest book of the New Testament, second only to 3 John, but its size doesn’t limit its importance.  Some believe it was a letter written to a particular woman in the church who hosted traveling preachers as well as small meetings.  Others believe it was a letter to the church in general and a caution regarding the traveling preachers that it welcomed.  Regardless of its recipient, the message is a caution for us today as well.

John began his letter with yet another admonition to love, “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and He has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.  I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (6-7)  In the same breath as his message of love, John warned about false teachers who had infiltrated the church with the false message that Christ did not really come in the flesh to the earth but only seemed to have a body that died on the cross.  It was a heresy known as docetism, and it is still around today.

The same deceiver who perpetuated this lie in the early church will do everything he can to dilute the power of the cross today, and if we’re not diligent, we will invite these false prophets into our homes without realizing it.  When a popular television talk show host introduced a more “enlightened way to spiritual living,” many who claimed to be Christians ran to the stores to buy the suggested book.  In their very own homes, they watched the host and her spiritual guru on television spit out false doctrines that diluted the gospel of Jesus.

“If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement.  Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.” (10-11)  Not wanting to be partakers in their evil work, we want to be cautious of all those who enter our homes whether it be through the front door, through television or radio or through any form of media.

I especially enjoy entertaining family and friends at this time of year, but if I entertain someone I don’t know, let it be a dear soul in search of the Savior or perhaps an angel, “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”  I’d be willing to take in the whole bunch of Heavenly Hosts who announced the birth of Jesus and serve them, none other than, angel food cake! 

Moving Forward: May we protect our homes and families today from anything that would dilute or deny the Christmas message or the power of the cross. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 26-28

Song of Solomon 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He satisfies all our longings

“Are the stars out tonight? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright, ‘cause I’ve only got eyes for you…”  This old love song comes to mind every time I read the love story of the couple in Song of Solomon.  What a delightful portrayal of the passion and purity of love between a man and a woman!  Solomon tested our obedience with the Proverbs, he challenged our minds with the philosophy and questioning of Ecclesiastes and now he delights our hearts in Song of Solomon.  This book is not only an intimate love story about the covenant between man and wife, but it’s also a beautiful portrayal of God’s eternal covenant with mankind and Christ’s commitment to His bride.

“Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine.  How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance,” (1:2-3) said the Shulamite woman.  From the very beginning, we understand that the Song includes the passion of love.  In fact, at one time or another, it expresses three of the four meanings of love recently discussed (December 3 @ I John 4-5).  God intends for us to enjoy all forms of love, and here the young woman spoke of eros or the pleasure of love.  We can’t separate ourselves from the desire of this love because it is God’s gift to us to enjoy, but through the Song, the young woman delivered a challenge to the chorus of women around her.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.” (2:7)  Throughout scripture, especially the writings of Solomon, men are confronted with the challenge to remain pure, but now the gauntlet is passed to the women.  This love is reserved for permanent, monogamous marriage, and what a challenge for women today who are confronted at every turn with the enticement of premarital or extramarital sex.  For men and women alike, we will never experience the excited passion of Song of Solomon that God intends for us by diluting its intensity with lustful substitutions of any kind.  They only cause us to crave more and more and never satisfy what only God can give when He divinely blesses our marriage bed.

“I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots,” responds the King. (1:9,KJV)  I must admit that being compared to a company of horses is not really the love language I would want to hear at this point; but in fact, it is one of the greatest endearments a husband can express, outside of his wife’s ravishing beauty, of course.  With the term love in this verse, the King declared that his beloved was his friend and companion, the one he was familiar with, a love that was phileo.  Along with all the other joys of marriage, my husband and I are best friends, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (2:4) For the first time in the Song, the Hebrew equivalent to agape is used for love, the selfless, pure love from God.  The King’s banner represented a covering, a protection, an intimacy for the one he possessed and who possessed him, and God’s love for us is all this and more.  Be still my heart…

In response to our reading today, my heart is full of love for my husband and for my God who has divinely blessed our marriage covenant.  I can’t help but thank Him for the fulfillment of His love covenant with mankind in the coming of His Son to redeem us.  The joys of love while here on earth are but a foretaste of the perfect love we will share with Him through all eternity. I can only imagine. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful for my husband – thrilled and protected by his love and selfless commitment.

Tomorrow @ Revelation 1-6

Deuteronomy 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we bless those who serve us with generous hearts

I don’t think any novel has had more movies made from it than the beloved “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and I enjoy them all.  From the classic black and white version with Alastair Sim to the contemporary Jim Carrey rendition, and every movie in between, I love the story of a changed man named Scrooge.  Not only was the old Scrooge miserly in his giving to the poor, but he was stingy with his faithful employee, Bob Cratchit, as well.  His treatment of Bob was the historical raw deal, overworked and underpaid.  Of course, Dickens wasn’t the first to address the subject of stinginess.  Moses had it covered long before. 

@ Deuteronomy 25
“You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” (4)  We may not feel edified by this scripture, but keep reading because it’s more relevant than we may think.  Moses was addressing kindness and mercy towards the animals that toiled for the Israelites.  The oxen crushed the grains under their hooves for hours to remove the hard outer shells, and to muzzle them would deprive them of eating some of the grain for themselves.  Solomon wrote, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)  The sanitary conditions of this aside, even an ox deserves compensation for its labors.

Paul took this simple scripture to another level in the New Testament in I Corinthians 9:9-10, “For the law of Moses says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’  Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.”

How we treat those who serve us is important to God.  Employees who work for us, those who faithfully minister to us and individuals who make a living off of tips offered in gratitude deserve to share in the harvest.  Living the life of Scrooge is not a godly lifestyle.  It’s one thing to be frugal, but it’s another thing to be cheap.

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (I Timothy 5:17-18)  Paul took to heart our verse today from Deuteronomy, quoting it twice in his writings.  Those who preach and teach the Word of God “should be respected and paid well” for their faithfulness to the work of God.  The old school of thought that a pastor only works one day a week is pure ignorance.  Most pastors serve their congregations six or seven days a week and are generous with their time almost to a fault.  How cruel it would be a muzzle them by not providing for their needs.

During the Christmas Season when the spirit of giving is in the air, as well as throughout the year, let’s remember with generous hearts those who serve us in so many different roles and those who minister to us.  I want to be like the new and improved Scrooge of Christmas morning but without the nocturnal visitors.  “Ever afterwards..it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (C. Dickens)

Moving Forward: I thank God today for the generous hearts that minister to me and bless my life.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 5-9

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