Relationship with Others


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.  However, let me reassure you, as long as at least two women know that there’s a sale going on somewhere, the conversation will flow.  It’s just the way it is.  When my seven-year-old granddaughter chattered for 20 minutes 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’s 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 the heart, producing a double exposure, if you will, of not only our thoughts but also of the character we possess.  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.  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 significant monetary value, but it was my purse, and all women know what that means – pictures, wallet, credit cards, driver’s license, makeup and a special little Swiss Army knife that I would miss.  The police came and helped us search the blocks around my car in the 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 when something we’ve lost is 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 of 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 encouraged 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 once 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, some enticements 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 remembered its significance.

The ring, a circle without beginning or end, symbolizes an 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, fidelity and the commitment to God’s morality, written deep within my heart. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 13-18

Proverbs 5-6 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He watches over our steps, providing His wisdom to guide us

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.  Learn from their ways and become wise!” (6:6)  Lazybones – what a great word!  I’m planning to use it in a sentence or two throughout the day, hopefully not describing me.  I can testify that the ants in my kitchen are not lazybones.

My kitchen has been invaded by grease ants, and please be assured, they are not lazy.  One missed potato chip on the kitchen floor caused a frenzy of activity that included the entire neighborhood ant community, forming perfect lines to and from the chip – until I removed the chip.  But while that chip was their focus, they were busy and productive with no foolishness or stray steps.  Hmmm…could this be a lesson?

Solomon’s direction over the next few chapters in Proverbs involves instruction regarding moral and wise living.  The purposed activity of the ants was illustrated to guard against poverty and lack, but isn’t it also protection from the dangers of infidelity and foolish living? The old saying from the writings of Chaucer comes to mind, “Idle hands are the devil’s tools or workshop.”  A purposed focus keeps us on track, “Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (4:27)  When we are focused and productive, there’s little time for straying.

@ Proverbs 5
Much of Solomon’s writing focuses on fidelity and the sin of adultery, interesting coming from a man with so very many wives, but powerful nonetheless.  His heart’s desire was to spare his sons the pain that follows immoral living, and these are instructions we should take to heart.  Regarding the immoral woman (or man), he instructs:

1)  “Stay away from her!  Don’t go near the door of her house!” (8)  Don’t click on the website, don’t open the magazine, don’t watch the movie, don’t hang out at his/her desk, don’t think on vain imaginations…we know where the traps are set.

2)  Consider the consequences. “You will lose your honor…lose all you have achieved … someone else will enjoy the fruits of your labor…you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body.” (9-11) Nothing saddens me more than when a man (or woman) loses the honor and respect of his children.  How could anything or anyone possibly be worth it!

3)  Live life without regrets. “If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers?” (12-13) A life filled with if only this and if only that saps us of the joy and peace God desires for us.

4)  Enjoy your spouse! “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.  Rejoice in the wife of your youth…” (18)  Other pastures only appear to be greener.  They require the same amount of attention and care.

Solomon ended this chapter with, “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” (21) May He see us busy on our path of purpose, not sidetracked by the immoral man or woman or any evil that would take us off track. A life lived without regret! 

Moving Forward: No lazybones for me!  I’ll stay focused on the path that is set before me, looking neither to the left nor the right and rejoicing in the gift of my husband. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 7-12

Ephesians 4-6 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our example of how to love one another 

@ Ephesians 5
This is the time of year we celebrate fathers. Sermons are preached, and articles are written that honor, encourage and challenge them.  Not to be outdone, Paul wrote a little on the subject, especially in the area of husbands and wives. “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” (24)  Words to brighten just about any husband’s day! Of course, through closer scrutiny, we find that this discussion begins with “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.

For a wife, this submission means following her husband’s leadership role, and this thought troubles some women, needlessly I think.  If something should go wrong in the home, I find it comforting to know that it has happened through no fault of my own.  This makes me happy. “For husbands, this [submission] means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.  He gave up His life for her…” (25)  As I see it according to scripture, wives must be willing to submit, and husbands must be willing to submit and die.  I’m OK with this.

When we add together all the New Testament scriptures regarding the husband/wife relationship found in Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-19, I Peter 3:3-7 and I Corinthians 7:3, the true, unadulterated breakdown is as follows:

Wives are challenged to:
1) Submit to him as head of the home
2) Respect him
3) Not withhold affection
4) Bring holiness to her marriage.

Husbands are challenged to:
1)  Love her as much as he loves himself
2)  Love her to the point of dying for her
3)  Pray for her
4)  Protect her
5)  Please her
6)  Honor her
7)  Treat with understanding
8)  Never treat harshly
9)  Treat as an equal
10) Not withhold affection
11) Bring holiness to his marriage.
12) And if he does not treat her as he should, God will not hear his prayers.  Wow! 

@ Ephesians 6
While all this sounds very fair and balanced to me, she says with tongue in cheek, I can’t help but think of the tremendous responsibility this brings to the husband as the head of the home, not only concerning his wife, but also his children.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.  Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord,” (4) and “do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)

By His gentleness and compassion for children, Jesus modeled for fathers throughout the gospels how children should be treated, but what an overwhelming task for a father. No wonder our husbands and fathers are targeted by the enemy for destruction, leaving our many homes without fathers struggling to survive.  Destroy the king and the country soon follows.

Dads will open lots of ties, books, tools and other gifts at this time of the year, but without a doubt, the greatest gift we can offer them, dads and husbands alike, is our prayers for God to strengthen and protect them and give them the wisdom to handle the enormous responsibilities He has given them. 

Moving Forward: With a thankful heart, I pray today and every day for the wonderful father of my children and the fathers of my grandchildren.  I pray that God will provide all they need to carry out the great responsibilities before them. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 4-6

Exodus 37-40 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He stirs and moves the hearts of many to accomplish great feats 

@ Exodus 39
“And so at last the Tabernacle was finished.”(32)  Whew!  What a building project!  After detailed instructions from God regarding the building and furnishing of every part of the tabernacle, it was finished!

“So the people of Israel followed all of the Lord’s instructions to Moses.  Then Moses inspected all their work.  When he found it had been done just as the Lord had commanded, he blessed them.”(42-44)  Does it seem plausible that after months of defiance and disobedience, the Israelites would do anything just as the Lord had commanded?  Evidently, the Lord’s warning that His presence would not go with them into Canaan after the golden calf incident had made an impact.  Now, their obedience to His detailed instructions brought blessing from Moses.

How did this once stubborn, grumbling group of people ever accomplish such a feat as the building of the Tabernacle?  I remember the Sunday School song from long ago, “When we all pull together, together, together…how happy we’ll be.  For your work is my work and our work is God’s work…” I don’t mean to oversimplify this monumental task, but really, that’s how it got done!  They joined their efforts to God’s plan and the work began:

After the instructions were given, “The whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents.  All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord.  They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle…Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project.” (35:20-21;36:7)  So committed were they to the building project that they brought more than what was needed for the completion of the Tabernacle.  Hearts stirred, spirits moved.

Then the construction began.  Imagine the assembling of the curtains around the Tabernacle:  10 curtains of finely woven linen, embroidered with cherubim, each 42 feet long by 6 feet wide, joined together and 11 curtains of goat-hair cloth, each 45 feet long by 6 feet.  This involved teamwork!  As a seamstress, I couldn’t handle one curtain of that size by myself much less ten of them.  It took many hands weaving, embroidering, sewing and working together just to accomplish this one single detail of this elaborate master plan.  “When we all pull together, together…”

The lesson here is obvious to us.  It’s incredible what can be accomplished in our homes, workplace and churches when our hearts are stirred and our spirits are moved to give all that is needed, joining our efforts to His grand design to get the job done. Given the Israelites’ history of disobedience to God yet their ultimate success in building the Tabernacle, we should be able to accomplish just about anything if we put His mind to it and pull together. 

Moving Forward:  I respond to His stirring and moving in my heart and join my efforts with those of others to accomplish His plans for my home, my work and my church. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 5-9

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