Tag Archives: relationships

I Samuel 19; It Takes Two To Tango

Saul had one goal in life, and it totally consumed him. He wanted David dead more than anything. David, on the other hand, had nothing against Saul. If David had his way, the two would be friends.

Throughout their story we will see Saul do many means things to David. But we won’t see David return evil for evil.

I would say that during the 23 years I was a middle school counselor, the majority of my time was spent dealing with adolescent friendships. More than anything academic, relationships were far and away the number one thing on the minds of those children. Most of the time a child’s instinct was to strike back at someone who they felt wronged them.

“She started it.”

“He hit me first.”

“She said something about my mom.”

“He was talking about me.

And somehow, in their minds those things seemed to justify their own bad behavior. I would often quote Romans 12:21 to them:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Most of the time they’d look at me like I had grown antlers or something.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who are mean to us. (Matt 5:44) Easier said than done, because I don’t think revenge is a concept exclusive to adolescents.

Have you heard the phrase, “It takes two to tango”? It takes two of you to have a battle. If one of you refuse to fight back, it isn’t a fight.

Saul heard that David was in Naioth. So the king sent some of his men to go get David. But when Saul’s men got there, they walked into a church service instead of a battle. They joined the church service.

So Saul sent another band of thugs to capture David. And when these men observed David and the people praising God, they praised God, too

This must have been quite the church service because Saul sent a third group of men to do the deed. The third group of men? They dropped their weapons and raised their hands in worship, too.

“Ok. Enough of this,” Saul must have thought. “If you want something done right, you do it yourself.” So with every intention of taking care of David himself, he marched into Naioth, probably spitting nails.

Something happened to Saul, though, when he saw the Spirit of God moving among the people. At least for the time being, he forgot his mission of evil, and began prophesying too, by the Holy Spirit.

Saul had expected to go to battle with David. David refused to go to battle with Saul. And at least for the moment, good did overcome evil, and David’s life was spared.

Matthew Henry said David was delivered, not as he’d delivered his lambs by killing lions, but by turning lions into lambs.

I like that idea.

Do you want to get rid of an enemy? Start by being nice to him or her. You might even turn them into a friend.  It’s not impossible.

It’s Scriptural.

 

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Numbers 1-3; Family

We celebrated my niece’s wedding this past weekend with a reception at the local arts’ center. It was so beautiful and so fun to honor the love of her and my newest nephew. To add to the occasion, our family from Texas traveled the thousand mile journey to join us. I got to see my Texas niece’s daughter for the first time, and hug on my sister’s new husband and his daughter. 35 of our immediate family gathered together for brunch on Saturday, then had an Easter Egg hunt for the eight little ones in our lives.

The five “Zehner girls” were all together for the first time in five years. We followed each other around like sappy puppies. No one wanted to miss a moment of our time together. And having almost all their children and grandchildren with us was nothing short of amazing.

Maybe that’s why this morning, as I read these first chapters in the book of Numbers, I was impressed with the fact that God told the Israelites to camp, and travel with their families. Yes, they were all God’s children. But they were divided into family groups, numbered as family groups, went to war as family groups.

I’m thankful for my family group. I won’t pretend that everything has always been as it was this past weekend. There has been hurt, and anger, and separation. There have been times when there was little or no communication with some of us. But as I sat together with my sisters, laughing and remembering the good times, as I watched our children enjoying each other, someone said, “Thank you, Bob and Ginny.” Our parents gave us quite a gift in our forever friends.

Some of you may be experiencing brokenness in your family group. I don’t know your situation. But I would encourage you to do what you can to fix it. Reach out to that one with whom you are estranged. Confess. Forgive. Encourage. Family units seem to be important to God.

If you are a parent I would suggest that you would raise your children to be friends. Model the behavior with your own siblings that you want to see in your kids. People don’t believe that a house full of five girls could exist without fights. But we didn’t get away with fighting. We weren’t allowed to be mean to each other,  and our parents never thought it was funny if one of us would strike another or take another’s toy.

I, being the oldest, was never given authority over my younger sisters. I can’t remember ever being “in charge” when our parents weren’t home. (Oh, I might have thought I was in charge, but I don’t think that position was ever really given to me). We weren’t all forced to fit into a single mold. I never heard, “Why aren’t you more like your sister?”

Parenting is hard. But how you raise your children will have a lot to do with the relationships you have with them when they are adults. I’m loving the adult relationships I have with my nieces and nephews, and their spouses. And I love that the second generation of Zehners are friends with each other, too.

 

Jesus’ friends were concerned for His family, His mother, brothers, and sisters. Jesus told them that we who do God’s will are his family. Yet, when He was on the cross, He looked at Mary, His mother, and told John to take care of her. There was still that family connection.

So I believe the Bible teaches that families are important. They can be those people who love you best, hold you accountable, encourage, and challenge you.

I’m praying for yours.

Genesis 40 How’re You Doing?

I didn’t get very far reading the familiar story of Joseph, the cupbearer, and the baker, when something convicted me. I don’t think I’ve ever really looked at this verse before.

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. (vs 6, emphasis mine).

I know that it’s hard to read people some times. But I have to admit there have been times when I recognized a look of sorrow or worry or grief on a person and looked the other way. Or I say the obligatory “How’re you doing?” and expect to hear the accepted reply, “Fine” and leave it at that.

But Joseph paid attention to how the two men looked. Then, in verse 7:

So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?”

Now here’s what I get from this:

  1. Joseph recognized the dejected look on their faces.
  2. He asked them specifically about it.
  3. He listened to what they had to say.
  4. He spoke honestly with them.

Joseph didn’t just tell them what they wanted to hear. I wonder what would have happened if the baker had heard the warning, confessed his sin, and asked forgiveness. Joseph told him the truth. But the baker did nothing with it. And the baker died just like the dream had predicted.

God is speaking to me today about my relationship with others. Jesus told us to love one another. In fact, He said that was the second greatest commandment. And sometimes loving someone requires us to get involved in their lives, to be a sounding board, or to point out sin in their lives so they can confess it and receive God’s forgiveness.

And God is asking me to pay attention. If I recognize a look on someone’s face that tells me something is up, I need to stop and talk to them, listen to them, and be honest with them according to Scripture.

God, if You want me to relate to people like Joseph related to these two men, I’m going to need You. Give me the ability to read people, and the courage to ask them what’s on their minds if You prompt me to do that. Let me show Your love by truly caring about them. Help me to be an encourager if encouragement is needed. Help me to be a mirror if they need to take a good look at themselves. And help me always to point them to You, and only You.

 

June 8 – Too Many Friends?

Proverbs 16-18

Can a person have too many friends? I guess that depends on your definition of friendship. You can “friend” a person on FaceBook and be one of a million other people who are friends with them, too. Some people never turn down a friend request so they can see their own numbers grow.

I, myself, have friended people from high school, others I knew thirty years ago when they were in middle school, but would never want to hang out with them or share my deepest concerns with them. Obviously, FaceBook friends are not necessarily friends in the old sense of the word.

What about online dating and social sites? Is an online friendship the same as a hold-my-hand, give-me-a-hug kind of relationship? I guess it can be in a cyber world kind of way. But I’m old enough to prefer a friend I can sit across the table with over a cup of coffee, enjoying each other’s company and sharing our hearts face to face.

Solomon says, “a man of too many friends comes to ruin…” (18:24) So, yes, I guess a person can have too many friends. A real friendship involves investing yourself, your time. That kind of friendship depends on mutual trust and affection. If you try to be a real friend to too many people, how far do you have to stretch? How thin can you spread yourself? Solomon suggests you’ll ruin yourself if you try.

Solomon tells us there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (also in verse 24). If you have that kind of friend, you are blessed. That person who knows you and loves you anyway, that one who will be brutally honest with you, encourage you to try something new, to put you in your place or pat you on the back. That one who defends you, stands up for you, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you into battle. That one whose arms are your safe place.

If you have that friend you are truly blessed. If you are that kind of friend to someone, you are blessed and a blessing.

But wait! If you are a Christian you HAVE that friend. His name is Jesus. He knows you and loves you, fights for you, encourages you, is brutally honest with you, and is certainly your safe place.

Are you that kind of friend to Jesus, too? Do you spend time with Him? Do you talk to Him every day, include Him in your choices, share with Him your dreams and concerns? Do you stand up for Him, fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Him?

That friend sitting across from me over coffee is a friend I cherish, one I depend on and trust. But that person will disappoint me, will fail me once in a while. And I’ll fail her, too. We are imperfect people.

Jesus will never fail me. And His is the friendship I cherish most of all, the friendship I will nurture above all others.

I will never have a million friends. I don’t need nor want a million friends. But I will lovingly care for the few people closest to me, will spend time with them, have their backs, encourage and chastise them. We will do that for each other.

But as precious are those relationships, none can compare to the relationship I have with my Savior. That is a friendship I can’t do without. He sticks closer than a brother. And I’m sticking with Him.

 

Completely Loved

I’m not married. And sometimes when I read about Ruth’s declaration of love, I get jealous. I have never been loved like that. I believe I have the capacity to love like Ruth loved. But I haven’t had the privilege of being loved so completely.

Then, in the midst of my pity party I almost hear God say, “What about Me?”

I read in Luke 19 where Jesus, surrounded by screaming fans, wept over Jerusalem. He wanted to protect them from what was ahead. But he loved them so completely he continued into their midst, knowing it meant his death.

I am reminded Jesus loves me like that. As beautiful as is Ruth’s declaration of love for Naomi, Jesus’ declaration of love for me is even more so. And every time I see a cross I am reminded of that declaration of love, a love that sent Jesus to Calvary. There is no greater love.

My response?

Don’t ask me to leave you, God. Where you go, I’ll go. Your people are my people. I’ll live and die with you. And, in death, I’ll continue to be at your side.

Not-So-Common Sense

The Proverbs are rich in common sense (or not-so-common these days). Today I read in chapter 16 where it says a whisper can destroy a friendship.

Why is it some people think they have to tell everything they think they know? Why do some stretch the truth or pass on an opinion as fact? Why is it some people are intent on stirring things up, living in drama every day? And how many friendships, even marriages, could be saved if we would learn to control our tongues? (Read what James has to say on that subject in chapter three of his book).

You might whisper the latest gossip into the ear of your closest friend, but once you do you have no control over where it goes from there. And you have no control over the hurt caused by your little whisper. The damage is already done.

It’s like the internet, social media. A hard lesson many people have had to learn is that anything posted can NEVER be completely erased. That picture will always be in cyber space, accessible to anyone. That email sent in private is not so private there on the server.

A whisper, a text, a post can destroy your relationships, can destroy lives. Are you ok with that? Are you willing to be a part of that?

It should be common sense to know that spreading gossip is destructive. It should be common sense to know that the less said, the better on most subjects, especially if the subject is really none of your business or the business of the person you are telling. But God knew we don’t always use the sense we have, common or not.

So he inspired men to write down some common rules of living. Like what I read today in Proverbs. Like what James had to say.

Next time you are tempted to pass on that juicy bit of information… zip it. Show a little not-so-common sense.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for our tongues. That amazing muscle helps us speak, taste, swallow, chew. It’s a pretty handy invention you have there. But God, may we be reminded the power we have in the use of our tongues. May we control them, whether tempted to whisper that gossip in the ear of a friend, or use our fingers to type out the words before we hit “send”. May the words of our mouths and the meditation of hearts be acceptable to you, Lord. And may we use our words to build up, encourage one another rather than be any part of tearing somebody down.

September 17

Ezra 8:15-10:44; I Chronicles 3:17-24

Many Israelites had married foreign wives. It was an act of blatant disobedience toward God. The marriages themselves weren’t the only problem. The Israelite men allowed their foreign wives to bring their false religions into their homes.

The New Testament warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Why is that? What’s the big deal?

We are commanded to be holy as God is holy. He does not tolerate sin, he does not condone sin, he is not in the presence of sin. And he demands the same of us. We are to guard our hearts. We are to flee temptation. We are to live lives set apart so God can be revealed in our lives. There is a thin line between being involved in the lives of unsaved friends in order to win them to the Lord and being legally, financially, emotionally identified with them.

The Israelites we read about in Ezra had to send their wives and any children they had by them back to their foreign countries. Their association with those idol worshipers had to stop no matter how deeply “in love” they were.

I don’t know what relationships you are in. But if you are dating a non-Christian I can tell you without hesitation you have to end it. The Bible is so clear about that. Trust God to honor your obedience. Don’t expect him to bless you if you are disobeying him.

If you are already married to a non-believer I’m not going to pretend to know how to counsel you. Maybe you went into the relationship unequally yoked or maybe you have become a believer since your wedding day. All I know is that you are going to have to work hard to stay true to God. 

What do you do if your spouse begs you to sleep in Sunday morning because that’s the only time you have together this week? What do you do if your spouse wants you to run errands together during the time you have set aside to read your Bible? What happens when your spouse wants to take the kids shopping or fishing instead of them going to church with you? The choices are endless and difficult. You will spend your life balancing being a godly man or woman, a loving and supportive spouse, a parent raising children to honor God, and a person caught in the middle.

God’s demand that we not be unequally yoked with unbelievers wasn’t given because God is a buzz-kill. It was given so that our lives would be better, happier, our homes more loving and united. I’m not advocating divorce on the basis that a spouse isn’t a Christian, don’t get me wrong. God hates divorce. I am advocating Christians date only Christians, however. And I am certainly telling you God demands Christians marry only Christians.

If you are in a dating relationship with a non-believer I am praying that you will have the courage to walk away before it’s too late. If that relationship is more important than God’s will for your life you have already brought an idol into your home.

If you are in an unequally yoked marriage I am praying for you today. May God give you strength and resolve to follow him without compromise. I pray for your spouse that he or she will see in you something that is better than what they have without God. I pray for wisdom, for love, for patience, for confidence, and direction.

May God be glorified in all our relationships.