Relationship with Others


2 Corinthians 11-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He provides loving shepherds to protect us from wolves in sheep’s clothing 

@2 Corinthians 11
It’s difficult to read about Paul’s humbling experience defending his ministry.  We know of his exploits of faith to establish churches around his world at that time, but apparently the Corinthians were not aware of them or chose to ignore them.  “Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool…I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more!…You have made me act like a fool—boasting like this.” (17,23;12:11)  Naturally Paul was embarrassed to defend his ministry.  After all, he was the one who had founded the church in Corinth, but now the circus had come to town!

Like well-trained carnival people, a group of false teachers had come to the Corinthian church with a pitch that sucked the congregation in under its influence. Like the famous circus showman P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and they were being duped.  Just like a father will do anything to protect his young child, Paul, who had fathered this young church, was willing to sound like a madman in order to shake the church free from this deception.  Had these false teachers endured beating, stoning, imprisonment and other dangers in order to preach the message of Christ?  Were they afflicted with a thorn in the flesh to insure humility?  Paul felt confident that they had not.

Unfortunately, these charlatans still exist today and their message extends past the local church right into our homes through all forms of media.  How do we keep from falling prey to false teachers who want to deceive us?  Paul gave us insight into their pitch:

  • Do they preach a “different Jesus than the one we preach…a different kind of Spirit than the one you received…a different kind of gospel than the one you believed?” (4)
  • Do they mesmerize their listeners through their smooth talking? (5-6) The Greeks were known for theatrical prowess, but content should never be second to performance.
  • Do they deceive about their credentials and require huge payment for their ministry?  (7-9)
  • Do they disguise themselves as servants of righteousness but their lifestyle does not confirm it (13-15)
  • Do they boast about human achievement? (18;10:18) Paul did so in his defense, but with disdain and embarrassment.
  • Do they attempt to tear down other proven ministries? (22-23) It’s obvious the false teachers had done their best to tear down Paul’s ministry or he would not have felt the need to defend it.

Paul ended his letter to the Corinthians just as any loving father would follow up a discipline, “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words:  Be joyful.  Grow to maturity.  Encourage each other.  Live in harmony and peace.  Then the God of love and peace will be with you…May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (13:11-14)  Paul obviously loved this congregation that he had fathered in spite of their failings.

Many ministries we view on television and the internet are valuable to the kingdom of God and serve a valuable role in the church.  They may reach people that the local church cannot reach, and I am thankful for their faithfulness to the call. Sometimes the credentials of media and itinerant ministries are difficult to evaluate, and sadly, sometimes we are fooled by impostors.

There really is not a substitute for the compassion and guidance of the local shepherd who is concerned about the growth and health of each of his sheep.  He is the pastor who is with us in the difficult times of life to help and strengthen, the one who tells us not what we want to hear but want we need to hear.  The pastor knows that he will face us each week and understands that his message must be consistent and honest.  There’s nothing like the shepherd who sticks with the sheep. 

Moving Forward:  I am thankful for my pastor today and pray God’s abundant blessings on him and on his family.  I will protect my eyes, ears and heart from those who seek to deceive me with a flamboyant but empty message.

Tomorrow @ Exodus 29-32

Luke 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the way we live, He sees our true repentance.  He gives the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word to counter the enemy’s attacks.

John the Baptist certainly had a unique style of ministry. “When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented.” (3:7-8)  Wouldn’t that approach draw the crowds today!  Perhaps he was dining on too many locusts and not enough wild honey, and, of course, camel hair can be so scratchy. (Matthew 3:4)

Actually, this voice in the wilderness, filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, discerned that many had come to hear his message simply to escape eternal punishment, as if he were a lucky charm.  He was looking for true repentance of sins and a changed life. John told his listeners to prove that they had repented by being generous, honest and kind to one another at the very least. (3:10-14) Great advice from the wilderness evangelist!

I’ve always known those who consider church-going their lucky charm, keeping the Big Guy happy with them, but never allowing His power to change their lives.  Because God loves their souls, He often allows challenging situations to occur in their lives to get their attention and to turn their hearts toward Him.  This is when we are able to step in to encourage and undergird them with generosity, honesty and kindness expressed by John in Chapter 3.  Time and time again I’ve seen those out on the fringe of God’s grace turn to a true relationship with Him.

It’s interesting to note that while Jewish Matthew’s genealogy only went back to Abraham, Luke the Greek went all the way back to Adam, proving once again that Jesus, our elder brother, is related to all mankind.  Luke’s love of details blesses me. 

@ Luke 4
I wish I could say that our walk with the Lord is paved only with wonderful moments, but that wouldn’t be true.  Fresh out of the carpentry shop at age 30, Jesus was baptized in water, filled with the Holy Spirit and started His ministry in the wilderness with a full-fledged frontal attack by Satan.  And sometimes we think we’re having a bad day!

The record of this encounter is filled with many truths about the Kingdom of God, but two of them stood out today in my reading.  Satan had been successful in his temptation of Adam and Eve, and the failure of Jesus would certainly have been a plus for him.  However, even trying to tempt Jesus proves one glaring fact:  Satan does not know the future.  Although he often confronts us with fears and outcomes that sound prophetic in nature, he’s just guessing!  He is offering what he wishes to be true; and just like Jesus did, we should resist him.

How did Jesus resist him?  By quoting scripture!  The two-edged sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in our armor against the enemy. (Eph. 6:17)   When He was under attack, Jesus did not hesitate to bring out His Sword to take down His attacker.  We keep our weapon sharp and ready for use by our daily attention to the Word and its application to our lives.  The enemy knows scripture too, but Satan’s misuse of scripture in his encounter with Jesus left him powerless – knowledge without relationship is futile.

Being the slow learner that he is, the enemy will make many attempts to bring us down just as he tried with Jesus, but armed with our fine-tuned weapon and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are invincible!  “Submit yourselves, then, to God,” is the often neglected part of James 4:7; submit first to Him and to His Word, then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (NIV)  Armed and dangerous! 

Moving Forward: As I carry with me His Word today, I face the day armed and dangerous against any attacks. With generosity, honesty and kindness – proof of a changed life – I will undergird and encourage those that He is drawing into true relationship with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 11-13

2 Samuel 15-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His mercy and forgiveness – the paradigm to follow

Charisma does not always a good politician make.  This is a lesson we’ve learned in recent years, and it certainly was true about the captivating Absalom.  One of the great sorrows of David’s life was the rebellion against him by his son, Absalom.  As if that wasn’t painful enough, others came along to kick him when he was down. 

@ 2 Samuel 16
Sadly, there are those who take advantage of us when we are fatigued, discouraged and weakened by our situation, and this is where David was in 2 Samuel.  Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, reported to David that Mephibosheth was attempting to steal back his grandfather Saul’s throne. This news from Ziba made David all the more susceptible to discouragement as Saul’s relative, Shimei, assaulted him with accusations, calling David the murderer of Saul’s family. Though Shimei’s words were untrue, David did not fight back because he believed that God would vindicate him if he was in the right.

Trouble upon trouble!  How could things go so wrong for David? Absalom was seeking to kill him, those he had helped in the past had betrayed him, others called him a murderer and his own son slept with his concubines, in plain sight on the roof no less, as prophesied by Nathan after David’s sin in Chapter 11.  One time a teenager asked me why the story of David and Bathsheba was in the Bible.  To her, the moral of the story was:  Do what you want, ask forgiveness and then everything will be alright.  As we read together more of David’s story, she saw things in a different light.  David had lost much. 

@ 2 Samuel 19
While the news of Absalom’s death threw the nation into a victory celebration, David was filled with remorse and grief, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!  If only I had died instead of you!  O Absalom, my son, my son.” (18:33)  No doubt David was filled with regret and shared the blame for Absalom’s rebellion because of the prophet Nathan’s words after his own sin with Bathsheba, “Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you.” (2 Samuel 12:11)

Although this was a dark time in the life of David and one filled with consequences, he went on to enjoy many victories because he had a heart of repentance.  He returned to Jerusalem to reign once again as king.  God did vindicate him in the very words of the one who had cursed him when Shimei cried out, “My lord the king, please forgive me.  Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem.” (19)  And David did forgive him, for the moment.  He showed kindness to Mephibosheth and rewarded those who had served him well.

David had received mercy from God in the past, and he was eager to show this same mercy to those who had hurt him – Absalom, Ziba, Mephibosheth and Shimei. Jesus spoke of forgiveness and mercy like this in Matthew 18:23-35 with the parable of the servant whose master forgave him a debt yet he was unwilling to forgive a fellow servant of a debt.  The outcome was not good. When we’re going through a difficult time, it seems there are always those who will come along to pour salt on ours wound like David had experienced.  Just like David, we would do well to remember the many great mercies God has extended to us and to also forgive those who hurt us in this way. 

Moving Forward:  Remembering your mercy to me, I will forgive those who hurt me or hurt those I love.   I pray that I will never be the one who pours salt on someone’s wounds!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 57-59

2 Corinthians 9-10 

Discover His heart:  He rewards and remembers our generous hearts

I’ve visited a few churches over the years where the congregations had a rather unique response at the announcement that it was offering time.  They would break out in applause and praises to the Lord.  No apologies were made for receiving the offering, and there was no hesitancy in giving.  All I can assume is that these congregations had learned the key to giving and looked forward to the opportunity to do so as found in Paul’s teaching in Chapter 9.  Blessed congregations! 

2 Corinthians 9
“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  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.” (6-7)

If we’ve ever received a gift that was given to us with reluctance or displeasure, a great deal of the joy that the gift could have brought to us was never realized.  In fact, we can look at the gift in the future and still feel sadness about the reluctance that came with it. No wonder Paul reminds us to give cheerfully to others.  God loves us when we give with a joyful heart, and He makes sure that there will be more to give in the future.  We are cheerful, the receiver is cheerful and God loves us – it makes me cheerful just to think about it!  But that’s not all…

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God… And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.” (11-12,14)

Our cheerful giving will not only be rewarded by God’s love for us, which in itself is more than enough, but we also will be enriched > enhanced > supplemented> deepened in every way!  And yet another bonus is that the recipients of our gifts will thank God and pray for us with deep affection.  I, for one, take all the prayers on my behalf I can get.

When we think about eternity in Heaven, we want our deeds to follow us there.  Paul offered a promise for those with generous hearts, one that will stand the test of time, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” (9)  So, there are actually two things that we will take with us into eternity – those we have won to the Lord and the memory of good deeds.

So, when we are tempted to hoard or close our hand in financially challenging times, we would do well to remember those less fortunate than us because we are God’s instruments to touch their lives.  Give, not haphazardly or unwisely, but give with generosity and with smiles on our faces.  When we do this, according to Paul, we really have a lot to smile about. 

Moving Forward:  Over and over again I’m reminded that I can’t outgive God.  He always wins! But I will give to others with a cheerful, generous heart and prove that His Word is true. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 25-28

Psalms 54-56 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He understands our sorrows and collects our tears

When I was just a young girl, I had a friend who really let me down and I was heartbroken.  My mom consoled me by letting me know that throughout life most of my friends would let me down at one time or another and that she would too. I remember saying something along the line of, “Thanks, Mom, for that encouragement.”  She went on to say that I would let my friends down on occasion as well, and sadly, she was right.  However, she continued by saying that there was one friend who would never let me down, one that I could trust in every situation every day of my life.  Of course, that friend is Jesus.

I’ve found my mom’s words to be true.  Sometimes we disappoint each other, but today we read about David who knew rejection and pain from those who were the closest to him. The pain was unbearable.  Hopefully we’ll never experience the depth of his sorrow, but if we do, we can run for comfort to the one who will never let us down just as David did. 

@ Psalm 55
Most believe Psalm 55 to be David’s response to the rebellion of his son Absalom, and the betrayal of one of his closest advisers, Ahithophel, a story we will read in 2 Samuel 15-19.  Absalom was out to kill him and steal his throne, and rather than face his son, David cried out to God, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!  I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.  How quickly I would escape – far from this wild storm of hatred.” (6-8)  Unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, it’s difficult to grasp the depths of pain associated with this kind of hatred from a relative or close friend.  I, too, would want to run away rather than face this pain head on.

David’s description gives us a brief look into Jesus may have felt at the betrayal of Judas.  “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that…Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion, and close friend.  What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” (12-14)  I think about how the denial of Peter must have stung the heart of Jesus at the most difficult moment in His life on earth.  God understands more than we can imagine our pain when we are hurt by others.

@ Psalm 56
“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  (8)  The One who knows how many hairs I have on my head, and probably the only one who knows their true color, also keeps track of all my sorrows and collects my tears.  This intimacy with my Creator and my God brings me to my knees.  How can I remain glum and sorrowful with Him on my side?  David expressed it well, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  What can mere mortals do to me?” (11)

Although I’ve known my share of pain, I have not walked this path of despair to the degree of David, and none of us have experienced what Jesus did.  However, God keeps track of all our sorrows and this tells us that we are not alone. He is with us, collecting teardrops along the way.  Even in all of this pain, David encouraged, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (55:12) 

Moving Forward: With the knowledge that He is with me and caring for me, I step out bravely today because I trust Him. 

Tomorrow @ Job 37-38

2 Corinthians 6-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

It’s the time of year we give honor and attention to the one person on this earth we know loves us unconditionally – Mom!  The list of great qualities our mothers’ possess is endless, but most will agree that generosity is right near the top.  Only a mother would stay up half the night sewing costumes or baking cupcakes for her children.  She will give and give until it hurts and then give even more, sometimes to a fault. A mom’s generous spirit reflects the love of God within her. Her thrifty manner with coupons and sales stretches each dollar and provides for the family. Unfortunately, in our reading today the Apostle Paul had to deal with a situation where individuals were less than generous and nothing like our mothers. They hadn’t learned the secret to financial freedom 

@2 Corinthians 7
Paul had a turbulent history with the church at Corinth.  The Corinthians had been plagued with insurrection within the church, misuse of spiritual gifts and flagrant sin, just to name a few of their problems.  Paul addressed their issues with a difficult visit as well as at least one previous letter.  Many believe the letter mentioned in verse 8, called the severe or harsh letter, was lost and not recorded in the Bible; others believe it to be I Corinthians.  In any case, their response to Paul had been cold at one time.

This letter, probably needed more today than in his day, was a rough one, “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.  Now I am glad I sent it not because it hurt you but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways.” (8-9)  At the time of this writing, Paul was in Macedonia facing many conflicts and admitted to discouragement (6), but Titus arrived from Corinth with the good news that the Corinthian church had responded well to the severe letter and Paul was encouraged. 

@ 2 Corinthians 8
Paul was encouraged, things were better and Paul took the big leap and decided to address the “M” word…money.  Paul was a brave man.  Citing the example of the very poor Macedonian church and their generous giving to the struggling church in Jerusalem, Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to do the same.  “I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.” (8)

As the saying goes, we know when someone is really a Christian when their commitment reaches all the way to their pocketbook.  Paul, always the disciple-maker, was willing to risk his new peace with this congregation in order to teach them about giving gifts.  “Give in proportion to what you have.  Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly.  And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” (11-12)

Paul’s instruction on giving was reasonable.  Jesus was blessed more by the extravagant giving of a widow’s all than He was by the large gifts of the wealthy in Mark 12:41-44.  I want to bless Jesus in that way.  In my heart, I want it all to belong to Him so that when a need arises, I’m not counting the cost, counting the percentages or counting the dollar signs. When there is a need somewhere, I want to give with joy, and like the widow, not miss an opportunity to bless Him.  To me, this is financial freedom. 

Moving Forward:  May I approach this day with a generous heart, blessing Him with my response to those in need of help. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 21-24

Exodus 17-20 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He considers us His special treasures

No visit to London is complete without a visit to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels of England, an interesting location for them to say the least.  The lower floors of the Tower display various methods of torture used in England’s history, and all I can say is that crime and punishment were taken very seriously in early England.  Help!

The Tower’s Jewel House, under serious armed guard I might add, displays centuries of priceless crowns and jewels viewed by millions of people each year.  At first I wondered why the royal family would take the risk to display their fortune, but when I considered the price I paid for my ticket to see the jewels, it all came together for me.  I appreciate, however, that they have chosen to display their treasure for the entire world to see.  And really, God has this same perspective about His special treasure. 

@ Exodus 17
Israel defeated the Amalekites!  What a great story from Israeli history.  The Amalekites were the evil descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau.  Although they were from the same bloodline as the Israelites, there was not a bond of brotherhood.  I call them evil because it was said of them that they killed purely for the pleasure of it, but their contest with the Israelites brought them no pleasure.  Due to Joshua’s leadership and to loyal staff who stood by Moses’ side, they were soundly defeated.

I’m always blessed by this great example of the role of under staff.  Moses climbed to the top of a hill to see the battle, but it was equally importantly for the warriors to see their leader.  I can imagine looking up and seeing the silhouette of my leader holding high his staff over his head like a banner, Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my banner.  Along side of him, I see his assistants, not jealous or lazy, not arguing or bored, but holding up their leader’s tired arms until the victory was won.  Oh, I like that!  Leadership has a heaviness to it that few understand, and those who support the leader ease the burden and enable the banner or standard to remain lifted until the victory is won. 

@ Exodus 19
“Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among the people on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.  And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.” (5-6)  What a great message of promise from God that Moses delivered to the Israelites that day!  God’s own special treasure!  But God’s desire was not to hide His treasure in safekeeping as we do sometimes with treasures.  No, God’s plan was for His treasure to be a testimony of His love and greatness for the whole world to see, drawing everyone to Him.

In every covenant or contract there always seems to be an if clause, and God included His if clause, “Now, if you obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure.”(5)  God knew what it would take to make and keep this strong-willed nation worthy of such a covenant, and He gave to Moses a list of practical guidelines laid out over the next several chapters for the Israelites to follow.  More guidelines were revealed over time, each attempting to bring holiness to His treasure.  Of course, after centuries of resistance, God finally had enough and personally came to His people through His son Jesus Christ.  The if clause was no longer just a list of guidelines to follow, but it was now a personal Savior to accept and follow.

It humbles me to think that through my adoption into this family (Romans 8:15), God considers me His own special treasure as well.  This is cause to jump for joy and/or fall on my knees!  I am, however, ever mindful of the if clause.  While no longer required to follow the endless regiment of laws found Exodus, I am still challenged to a life of holiness as I follow Jesus.  Then I, too, will be a testimony of His love and greatness for the whole world to see, drawing everyone to Him – His treasure. 

Moving Forward: As His special treasure, I am compelled to support the leaders I serve, making certain our victory.  And as His treasure, I seek the brilliance of His holiness today in my life that I may draw many others to Him 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 5-9

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