Tag Archives: influence

Song of Solomon 7-8; 1 Kings 12

I think on key themes: influence, leadership, power. But there’s more: fear, insecurity, desperation, intimidation. At the core of all, it’s heart.

Rehoboam seeks counsel over a situation and is offered two different pieces of advice. He is influenced by his peers, but on a deeper level, there’s more.

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions! (1 Kings 12:12, NLT, emphasis added)”

It speak of his heart. These scriptures also glimpse the spiritual realm.

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh (1 Kings 12:15, NLT, emphasis added).

And this:

24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!’” So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded (1 Kings 12:24, NLT, emphasis added).

Jeroboam battles fear and insecurity in his heart. He feels his safety and very life are on the line.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

In the meanwhile, his actions may temporarily protect his physical body, but his spirit has trespassed into unsafe territory.

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,“It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:26-28, NLT, emphasis added)”

When I feel afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed; when I need direction and wisdom; when I feel alone or targeted–I recognize these are moments when my heart is vulnerable. The advice I seek or follow can lead me closer to God or farther away. If I keep my eyes focused on what’s in front of me, I risk reacting from a worldly perspective of here and now–but if I lift my eyes, I see a kingdom and an eternity–and that, indeed, changes everything.

Lord, I pray that I would keep your kingdom my focus. I recognize the things that poke and stoke my heart can be distractions and stumbling blocks. I realize too that these distractions and stumbling blocks provoke a reaction that reveals my heart. Oh that these occasions would provide cleansing and healing, to draw me closer to you and not distance me from you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 15-16; 1 Kings 16; Philemon

I didn’t see it coming. As Asa’s story unfolded, I felt bolstered by the prophet’s words: “Whenever you seek him, you will find him,” and “be strong and courageous” (2 Chronicles 15). Asa heard and took courage. He removed idols, repaired an altar, and called together the people. There were covenants made and sacrifices offered. Asa’s heart remained faithful throughout his life (2 Chronicles 15:17b, NLT. Note this.).

So I didn’t see it coming, when in 2 Chronicles 16, he would overlook consulting the Lord, a decision that carried crucial consequences. His first thirty-five years of reign were marked by an intentional abiding, but the last years of leadership are an unraveling of sorts–misplaced trust, anger and oppression.

What happened?

***

While disappointing to read, was it a surprise that Israel’s leaders were evil and angered the Lord time after time?

25 But Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 26 He followed the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat in all the sins he had committed and led Israel to commit. The people provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols. (1 Kings 16:25-26, NLT)

I think long on examples. I consider influences in my lifetime (some influenced me not to follow them!). But how often do I take into consideration my own words and actions and the influence they have on those around me?

***

I’ve spent the past few days working on a baby’s knit hat, and I’ve started it over so many times I’ve lost count. I noticed that sometimes the row was a stitch or two longer than it should have been, or that I dropped a stitch accidentally and there was a big hole in it. These mistakes weren’t made on purpose. They were so very unintentional.

***

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. (Philemon 4-7, NLT)

Paul writes to Philemon, reminding him of his generosity and love–and to take it a step further (to extend grace, forgiveness, or welcome to someone who has wronged him).

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! (Philemon 17-21, NLT)

Paul’s letter to Philemon reads like encouragement and caution.

***

I’m not responsible for the decisions other people make–and lately I’ve been surprised at how someone’s choice can influence my response. I do pause and wonder: should it? Like Philemon, if someone has wronged me, should I be less loving or generous in my own behaviors, or like Paul suggests–to do as much or more than expected? Do I stay true to how God has wired me? If I’m not intentional, abiding in Christ, I could look back at the fabric of the story of my life and see holes and wonder, “What happened?”

Lord, I’m so imperfect, but I know that you are at work in my heart. Help me to be true to who you’ve created me to be, independent of how another behaves. Some days effort seems grossly out of proportion to return. I am humbled and saddened as I wonder over the question of what’s in it for me? I pray that I continue strong, even in seasons of drought, because it pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ecclesiastes 7-9; Psalm 46; 2 Timothy 3

Yesterday was Independence Day in the United States. My family and I had a quiet day at home. But I was acutely aware of past celebrations: swimming, cookouts, a bonfire. As I walked around the yard, I stopped and remembered–Alan stoking a fire (that was the summer he was diagnosed with cancer; he died almost two years later); Linda and her wide-brimmed hat (disease took her away from us last year); another family staying later, wrapped in blankets as the evening cooled dramatically; Denise holding up a flag and smiling for the camera. Some of these, years ago but the memories felt fresh yesterday.

***

I think of her as The One Who Loves Me. She has called me lately to share her heart, thoughts, and fears. She has a heart catheter procedure scheduled tomorrow. She tells me the things she needs to say, just in case. She will call me again today, and she will tell me those things again, and I will do my best not to cry at the implication.

The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.

It seems so wrong that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. Already twisted by evil, people choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!”

The living at least know they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no further reward, nor are they remembered. Whatever they did in their lifetime—loving, hating, envying—is all long gone. They no longer play a part in anything here on earth. (Ecclesiastes 9:2-6, NLT)

While he was alive, and especially after his death, my father’s life caused me to think long on legacy. Paul’s printed words affect the future, but at the time, he was writing to Timothy. The words were to him.

10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. (2 Timothy 3:10-11a, NLT)

While we are here, we are known by those around us. Influence, example, purpose–these things speak of us and for us. I know the things I value, but does my life reflect them?

Thank you, Lord, for your word in my hands and heart. I want to be true to the person you designed me to be, to live this life to glorify you. You put songs and delight in my heart. Help me to live this life well.

Courtney (66books365)

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne! … 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8, 10, NLT)

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1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2; 2 Thessalonians 3

King Hiram sent a master craftsman to help build the temple. Solomon had a sizeable workforce. When people come together with a common purpose, great things can be done.

Second Thessalonians 3, Paul warns:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. 10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. 12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. 13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

14 Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. 15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14, NLT.

A message in the day’s reading on work, focus, purpose.

Paul writes of an example worth imitating–whose example do I imitate? Who is imitating my example? Just as when people come together with a common purpose, great things can be done, so too can great damage be done when idle hands let things fall into disrepair. Whether tearing apart what should be built, or neglecting the tasks at hand–idle living is linked to disobedience and shame.

How does that happen? Does it stem from a loss of focus or purpose? Or is it a shift in focus–towards self rather than towards the Lord? (Oh Lord, let me keep my eyes on you in the work you’d have me do at home, at church, within a greater community context.)

Lord, help me to keep your call on my life in perspective so that I don’t grow tired of doing good. I want my days filled with praise for you, and not complaint. You have given me wonderful work, and I am grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

From the archives. Originally published June 23, 2016.

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Proverbs 11-13; Psalm 8; Romans 13

The prompts were simple: What are you saying no to next month? What are you saying yes to?

Depending on the end goal, an answer could be no to donuts, busyness, or, as I chose, fear. One might say yes to exercise, moderation, or, as I chose, presence. It was a simple prompt. I looked over months of these prompts and I found I was saying no to a lot of things, including: fear, negativity, excuses. And yes to more, including presence, preparation, and discipline.

It seemed important to define the things I was rejecting and the things I was accepting. I think we can accept things we should reject without even realizing it. With three chapters of Proverbs in my reading today, a contrast is clear.

19 Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed.

20 Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
    joy fills hearts that are planning peace!

25 Worry weighs a person down;
    an encouraging word cheers a person up.

26 The godly give good advice to their friends;
    the wicked lead them astray. Proverbs 12:19, 20, 25, 26, NLT)

 

Here, wisdom and folly stand on opposite sides of the line. The choice is for the taking: truth or lies, deceit and evil or joy and peace, worry or encouragement, godly friends or wicked ones.

There’s a saying “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”

20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
    associate with fools and get in trouble. (Proverbs 13:20, NLT)

This year I’ve had frequent reminders to guard my heart. Guard it against what I allow to grow inside it. Guard it diligently regarding the external influences and circumstances around me.

Lord, sometimes circumstance muddles simple questions–what am I accepting, what am I rejecting? I spend time there, knowing those answers affect my heart and the issues of life. Thank you for your word for instruction and encouragement. Thank you for never leaving me (and the many treasured ways you show your love to me). Thank you for the sweet gift of good friends.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 28; 2 Kings 17; Psalm 66; 1 Corinthians 7

The power of influence. Old Testament readings show how easily entire nations are transformed by customs and beliefs of neighbors and leaders.

  • Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. 2 Chronicles 28:1-2, NLT
  • 22 Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord. 23 He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, “Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.” But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah. 2 Chronicles 28:22-23, NLT.

Who am I following? What are the things I value? When my time is limited, am I investing it wisely? In times of trouble, where do I turn for advice, direction, perspective, or encouragement?

 

She was like a sister, but years and circumstances separated us. When I saw her again, the familiarity between us was unfamiliar. In catching up, I listened as she discussed pursuits and influences. I found myself mourning the loss of people and passions she had abandoned. I reflected long on the powerful influences that were leading her.

The power of influence. It can start subtly. When I get to the end of whichever path I travel, is that really where I want to be? Do these examples and influences further me closer to the the things I value, or are they steps in a different direction, leading me away? How are they shaping my heart? Music, literature, programming, casual relationships–subtle shaping. The closer the tie grows or the stronger the focus, the more powerful its strength.

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you, to be aware of the influences around me and to discern the wisdom and cost of pursuing relationships and courses.

Courtney (66books365)

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Hosea 14; 2 Chronicles 26-27; Psalm 61; Matthew 20

“O Israel, stay away from idols!
    I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
    all your fruit comes from me.”

Let those who are wise understand these things.
    Let those with discernment listen carefully.
The paths of the Lord are true and right,
    and righteous people live by walking in them.
    But in those paths sinners stumble and fall. Hosea 14:8-9, NLT

***

O God, listen to my cry!
    Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth,
    I cry to you for help
    when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
    for you are my safe refuge,
    a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
    safe beneath the shelter of your wings! Psalm 61:1-4

 

***

25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28, NLT

***

Leadership matters. I look for examples of leaders in history pages. I look for examples of leaders all around me. I think long on the role I play as a leader and influencer–wife, mother, friend, neighbor, teacher–there are opportunities for influence everywhere. Where I set my gaze sets my course–and not just mine; the effects ripple around me.

Who is influencing me? And how does their influence affect my heart, my home and my other friendships?

Lord, please be at the heart of my heart. Please be at the heart of my home. Please be at the heart of my friendships.

Courtney (66books365)

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