The work that follows is so beautiful and full of Father's heart, I implore you, read every word. Cheryl McGrath, who blogs at Bread for the Bride is a woman after God's own heart and brings her strong gift for words and her ability to connect with the heart ofGod to us in this posting. Follow the link to read the full post.Really—don't miss a word!
He watched intently, wordlessly, as they departed the sacred Garden where all of them had walked together. There they had communed, talking, laughing and celebrating each other’s presence, while Spirit-breeze, the Ruarch, gently caressed their faces and the sunset marked the end of another perfect day in Eden. This day the sunset would not find them together, this day Eden would be lonely without the presence of the man and the woman. This day would never be forgotten by either God or human.
But even as His tender heart struggled with, endured and finally embraced the searing, unfamiliar pain of the unimaginable separation another emotion was rising forcefully within Him. Resolve. He had been betrayed and rejected. The freedom which had set apart the man and the woman, created in His very own image, had become the means of their treachery. Still, He would not have contemplated denying them that freedom. To do so would have meant they were less than His image, like the beasts of the field or the fish with which He had filled the oceans. [Read more here]
The King hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee. (Song Of Songs 1:4 KJV)
Today we see our first brush with intimacy between our Maiden and the King.
Out of a nation of women, the Shulamite catches the eye of the King, and He invites her into His chambers. The courtship is ON!
Just to be clear, marriage is a few chapters off, but here she gets the first taste of one on one interaction with the King. Up till now, she gazed at him from afar, but today they make the first moves toward relationship.
Picture a boy who grew up in the faith. He knows the Sunday School stories, perhaps he walked through a confirmation process in his youth. Jesus holds the place of a far off hero, a long ago superstar. Suddenly he encounters Him, perhaps during worship, or his time in the Word—a poignant moment in a sermon. A phrase jumps off the page—a lyric stirs his heart. He gets a glimpse of the beauty of holiness and he's ruined for anything else.
How can we keep this from being a one-time infatuation?
How can we avoid the persistent press of time separating our hearts from His?
She, our Shulamite, faces this question and the Song gives us three ways to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh while we live life in the midst of a world tugging for our attention.
Be Glad – The satisfied soul carries you a long way through the times of separation from King's chamber. Gladness—joy stands as one of the most powerful forces in life. The presence of the Lord—a visit to the chambers of the Lover of our Souls—stirs up joy. (In His presence is fullness of Joy! Ps 16:11.) Joy creates strength as we step out of the chamber. (The joy of the Lord is our strength. Nehemiah 8:10.) We move from the place of intimacy into the chaos of life with renewed strength fortified by enduring joy.
Rejoice – A worshiping soul refreshes your spirit as the sense of fullness fades. Rejoicing—Praise and Worship—draws the presence of the Lord. When we do not feel or sense His nearness. Worship will call to the surface the resident Spirit of God in us. (God inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 22:3)
Remember – A thankful remembrance of His words of love and acts of compassion in our lives will hold us for ages. In fact, as we rehearse our testimonies, it stirs up our faith and ignites our expectation for His next act on our behalf. The recounting of a testimony is the seedbed for our next miracle. [Tweet This]
These 3 postures can take us through the “dry” times and hasten the return of the springtime. They will hold us fast to our Savior, even when we are in the valley of apparent separation.
Draw me after you and let us run together! (Song of Songs 1:4 NASB)
Today's verse gives us the outline of the Song of Songs. We'll find it is also a broad-stroke of God's plan for the Christian life and our walk with the Lord. We will come back to this idea over and over again as we study this wonderful Song.
What we have is our maiden's two-part heart cry.
"Draw me." I long to be with You in intimacy, Lord.
"Let us run." I desire to move in ministry with you, Lord.
But there are times when we mess this up in the church.
Have you ever seen this happen?
A young man or woman is wonderfully touched by the awesome love of the Savior and begins to come to church. They are so completely engrossed with worship and would do anything for the object of their love.
They so want to please the Lord that they “report for duty.” They volunteer for everything. They are there every time the church opens its doors.
We put them to work gladly and work they do, but soon the zeal begins to fade.
We have shut down a critical area of the Lord’s work in a life. We do this all too often.
Don’t get me wrong here. I've been in church leadership. I know too well that getting people involved can be a challenge. Getting folks to chip in and join the workforce is not easy.
By the same token, we are going to see in dramatic detail how this works itself out in the life of the Shulamite. We'll observe how this strategy fails in her life in the first part of the Song.
Here’s the thing.
In God’s economy Intimacy begets Productivity, but there is a gestation period. As in the natural, so in the spiritual. [tweet this]
Fruitful life is intended to flow as a matter of course out of intimacy.
And this is the pattern for a healthy, burnout proof, long life of ministry. We must not short-circuit the romance phase.
When we push people into ministry too soon, we can inhibit their ability to continue to return to intimacy, and they will face burnout. Intimacy refreshes, and when we elevate ministry over worship, we cripple the ability of our ministers to be refreshed and refueled.
We must also be careful not to judge others by the season we are in. We may be in a season of worship, and we can look at the worker bees and think – they just don’t get it, while at the same time the worker bees are thinking that the worshipers are no earthly good.
Both Wrong – God’s work in us takes time, and seasons are the way He works.
Perhaps you're feeling burnt out in ministry. Maybe it's time to call out to the Lord, Draw me.
Are you sensing a restlessness in your soul to do more? Perhaps your cry needs to be, Let us run.
I'd like to introduce you to a new friend I've made through a Facebook writing group, and the blogging world. Lynn Hare blogs at LynnHare.com. Today she posted this song with its lyrics and I fell in love. It is such a clear declaration of what God has done for us. I think you'll love it, and I hope you'll follow Lynn's blog too.
Therefore the maidens love you. (Song of Songs 1:3 NASB)
Who are these maidens?
In the Song of Songs, they come up from time to time. They act much like the Chorus in a Greek play might, taking on many roles.
When they are referred to as the maidens or virgins, we will take them to be those who have not yet begun to passionately pursue Christ.
Can you make that a little plainer Ben?
Ok – how about this? These are fellow believers who look at your passion for the Lord and think you are just a bit unbalanced. When they observe your worship, sometimes they think, “I wish I loved God like that,” and sometimes they say to themselves, “Well, he doesn’t have to make a fool of himself, does he?”
You know these people. They do love God, and there is some level where they wish they had your passion and your zeal.
They are in a different place in their walk with the Lord today, but one day soon, they may find themselves calling out to the Saviour “Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth” along with you.
If, as you read this, you find yourself among the maidens, looking askance at our passion wasted Shulamite, know that you can have this passion too. Paul told Timothy to stir up the gift that was given him.
If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, and let me tell you this. The Holy Spirit is head over heals in love with Jesus, and if you allow yourself to be moved you will be too.
Go for it!
Thanks for stopping in this week. Come back next week when we look at the Shulamite’s 2 part life cry.
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.”[b]32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. 1 kings 18
We’ve got to get ready in the simple every day parts of our lives. If you want fire in your life you don’t just go “boom here I am, I’m ready” – you prepare.
The amazing encounter with God, the fire falling on the altar came after the altar was rebuilt, after the trench was dug, after the wood was cut and after the ox was prepared. All of these elements take work. Digging. Building. Hard Labour. Elijah had to prepare for the fire to come.
Paul puts it like this – fan into flame. Press on. Run the race.
Chop the wood. Pray. Read the Bible. Go to church. Serve. Give. Worship.
Do the everyday things to make your life an altar for the fire to fall.
Have you heard the song out of Bethel Music called Spirit Move? Written by Kalley Heiligenthal, Amanda Cook, and Brian Johnson, its words caught my attention.
The chorus goes like this.
We are fixed on this one thing
To know Your goodness and see Your glory
We’re transformed by this one thing
To know Your presence and see Your beauty
I found my spirit in love with this song, but my mind resisting it.
Do you know what I mean?
My spirit told my mind, it’s OK, but my mind kept saying, but… but… but…
You see, my mind went to Romans 12:2, a verse that took hold of me about a decade ago, and has not yet let go.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2 NASB
God spoke to me directly about this verse. He taught me that if did not look like Jesus it was because my mind needed to be enlightened. And more than that, if I wanted to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus, I would need to stop believing some lies. He showed me that, to the extent that I was not like Jesus, I would have to change what I believed and thought. That was the path to true transformation.
So my mind tripped over the second couplet in this chorus.
We’re transformed by this one thing
To know Your presence and see Your beauty
It kept shouting - we’re not transformed by the presence, we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds.
You see, my mind wanted control of all transformational activity. Ben, it told me, if you are going to be transformed, you’ll have to study and learn, and feed ME! I want INFORMATION and I’ll get you looking just like Jesus.
For the record, that is not how the revelation came a decade back. It was not a food fest for my brain. It was a sweet revelation that I didn’t—couldn’t be walking with perfect theology, because I didn’t look much like Christ.
Tonight I was reminded of a revelation that God blessed me with nearly three decades ago. I still remember it, because I was in the back yard raking leaves. God started to speak to me about this very well know passage in 1 John.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. - 1 John 3:2 NASB
The revelation that struck amidst the fall leaves was simple.
When we see Jesus, we become like Him.
There it is again. Transformation. But this time it’s not mind, it’s vision.
God spoke to my heart that day if you can see Me you’ll be transformed into my image.
Today, on my ride home from work, God spoke once again. These are not two separate means of growth. It the same thing.
Think again of Isaiah and his encounter in the throne room. (Isaiah 6) His mind was renewed as he saw the beauty and magnificence of the Lord. His vision of holiness completely renewed his mind. When He heard the voice of the Lord, his will was conformed to the Lord’s. When he pressed into the presence of the Father, he found himself acutely aware of his shortcomings and in complete agreement with His will.
He was transformed by this one thing - knowing His presence and seeing His beauty.
So my spirit was right, and my mind has relaxed, and now I can fully embrace this wonderful worship song.
With no further ado,
Written by Kalley Heiligenthal, Amanda Cook, and Brian Johnson
Verse 1 I feel it in my bones You’re about to move
I feel it in the wind You’re about to ride in
You said that You would pour Your Spirit out
You said that You would fall on sons and daughters
Pre-Chorus So like the rain come drench us in love
Let Your glory rush in like a flood
Chorus We are fixed on this one thing
To know Your goodness and see Your glory
We’re transformed by this one thing
To know Your presence and see Your beauty
Verse 2 I can see it now Your kingdom come
I can hear it now the sounds of Heaven
You said that if we ask we’ll receive
We are asking for the greater measure
Pre-Chorus 2 So like the rain come drench us in love
Let Your power rush in like a flood
Bridge So come and blow on through
Spirit move, we’re ready for You
To come and blow on through
Come and do what only You can do
When I started blogging in 2012, I knew basically no one in the WordPress community, but I wanted to write. So, I like many others, just started to write. I'm not sure how it happened exactly, but one day I started getting lovely, encouraging, and sometimes hilarious comments from my now dear friend Stella. She had a different name, but the same sweet and friendly way.
She's a brilliant poet, and her prose will draw you into the world she has created. Check our her blog here.
Well, she recently reviewed my book, Encounters With Jesus, and I wanted to share her review here, with you all.
So - here goes:
Book Review–Don’t Miss This One!
Ben (Benjamin) Nelson, of Another Red Letter Day—a man I may never meet personally, but am proud to call brother—has written and published an anointed book. Encounters With Jesus is beautiful, from cover to lovely cover. Ben takes us through “40 days in the life of Jesus…through the eyes of those He touched”.
I first came across Ben’s blog six years ago and was impressed with his knowledge of the Bible, as well as his clear, concise, and engaging writing style. In his book, he’s written the short “encounters” to reflect a distinctive new shimmer on the Biblical passages from which Ben has drawn them.
Throughout each “encounter”, Ben intersperses a verse or two from The Message Bible which adds to the “you are there” feeling you’ll enjoy as you read. And although Ben suggests you not read the book in one sitting—but rather one story per day—I found it’s really hard to stop, once you open the first page.
I rarely do book reviews—and yes, I’m a little biased, but not over-much. This book will bless you in a way that warms and lights you up inside…and it makes a wonderful gift, too. It’s available on Amazon.com—so treat yourself to something special!
I’m already looking forward to Ben’s next book—that’s how good Encounters With Jesus is.
Thanks so much Stella! As I have told you before, your encouragement during my earliest days of writing online is a big part of why I decided to put Encounters out there in the first place.
If you've not gotten your hands on a copy of Encounters With Jesus, what are you waiting for? This is a great time to walk through the life of Jesus. March 1st is he beginning of Lent this year, and those 40 days would be well spent taking a fresh look at the life of Jesus.
Get your copy here. It's available in paperback and kindle.
If you want to use it for a Bible Study or discussion group, quantities of 5 or more, email me (Ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com) and I can get you a price break.
“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” my wife said when she realized Jesus was our only hope.
My son was sick—dying really—and the doctors gave us no hope. They couldn’t even give a name to his malady. He couldn’t keep his food down, and breathing caused such pain it made him shudder. For the last week, he’d had no more than a few cups of milk. He was dying. My little Marcus would leave this life as a twelve-year-old, and leave his mother and me broken.
It came on him suddenly, just three months ago. At first, we thought he had the flu. There were times we thought he would melt from the heat his body produced. Food was harder and harder for him to hold down. The doctors tried everything. I called in doctors from all the neighboring towns. Each one had the same advice. “Try to keep him comfortable.”
I’m a Roman, noble by birth. I’m part of Rome’s occupying force here in Galilee. I’m not military. There are many of Rome’s military forces spread over the region, but I’m here to create Roman culture. My counterparts and I come to these satellite conquests and live Roman lives. This way the people of our new territories can see what Roman life looks like. We live in relative luxury when compared to the rest of Capernaum. This luxury includes the servants we brought with us from Rome. I miss my homeland, though, and have wondered more than once if Roman doctors could heal my son.
My butler brought his family with him from Rome when we moved here four years back. They lived together in a suite of rooms in the servants quarters, off the main house. He is my most trusted confidant. I speak with him about things I would not even share with my wife.
Three days back, my butler mentioned that Jesus, the healer, was back in Galilee—in Cana. We had talked about taking my son to him a few weeks ago, but the reports had him in Jerusalem and around Judea. My son was too sick to travel that far. But Cana—Cana is only a few hours from here.
We first heard of this healer a few months back, when my butler took his wife to find him. It was one Saturday night after the Jew’s Sabbath was over, right here in Capernaum. He told me, the next day, there had been dozens of people waiting outside the home where Jesus spent his Sabbath. When He emerged He healed every one of them. Not one person went home without a touch from this healer, including my butler’s wife. She had been suffering from vision loss since he came into my service. In any practical sense, she was blind. But when he came back in that night, there was a ruckus in the servants quarters. I went to see what was going on and found a full-blown party going on. When he saw me, he didn’t even apologize for the noise or seem concerned. He ran over and gave me a hug. His eyes were wet with tears.
“She can see,” he said through his tears.
I looked at her across the room and our eyes met, and she was nodding. It was true. She was completely healed. She could see.
So when he told me Jesus was back in the area, I told him to get my horse and carriage ready. Then I ran to my son’s bedside. I found my wife holding him, tears running down her cheeks.
“What is it?” I asked.
“He’s gone,” she said.
“Dead?” I asked.
“No,” she answered, “but close. He’s not responding to anything anymore.”
“I want to take him to see the healer—up in Cana,” I said.
“He can’t travel. He’ll be dead before you get him in the carriage.” She said.
“But the healer is back in Cana. He can save him, I’m sure of it.” I urged.
“No. I won’t let you take him,” she insisted.
“Well, I’m going anyway,” I told her.
I threw on my cloak and rushed for the door.
“You’re leaving now?” she asked. “It will be nightfall by the time you reach Cana.”
“Look at him,” I said. “He’s at death’s door. I must see this man as soon as possible.”
“Just go, and go now before it’s too late,” she finally agreed.
I ran out the door and found the horse and carriage ready for me in front of the house. I briefly explained I was going alone. We separated horse and carriage and saddled him. I was off for Cana.
My last look at my son panicked me. His body seemed limp, his color, gray. I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I had to find this healer and all I knew of his whereabouts was Cana.
When I got to the town, I headed toward the magistrates building near the town center. But before I got there, I saw a crowd gathered in the square. In the center was a man who seemed to have everyone’s attention. As I approached I began to understand why. His words drew me like a bee to a blossom. The sound of His voice seemed to exude peace if that’s even possible. After two hours riding in panic, a calm from without began to press its way into my soul.
When the crowd saw the royal insignia on my horse, they made room for me. I dismounted and walked through the assembly to Jesus.
He stood before me in silence.
“My son is at the point of death,” I began. “He may be dead already, but I’m sure if you will come with me to Capernaum, you can make him well.”
Jesus turned from me to address the crowd.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”
“Sir,” I almost barked, feeling the panic rising again. I gathered myself and started again, this time with a forced calm. “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said, “Go; your son lives.”
The confidence in His tone—in His words—banished my fear and I believed Him. Three words turned my fear—panic—into peace. I turned and headed back toward my horse. I stopped. I realized I hadn't thanked Him. I turned to go back but He had His back facing me, holding another man in the crowd who knelt before Him.
As the evening hurried toward night, I found an inn at the side of the road. I slept well all night long, and that surprised me. I hadn’t slept that well since before my son fell ill.
I started awake, disoriented, forgetting where I was. For a split second, worry pressed upward from the depths. Then I saw my cloak and gear and remembered everything.
Only minutes after I left the inn, my butler and I met in the way.
“Master, master, your son lives!” he was calling as he ran to meet me.
We rejoiced for no short time, and then I asked, “When? When did things change?”
“Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him,” came his answer.
“It was Jesus!” I said with confidence. "That’s when He spoke the words."
“Words?” he asked.
“Your son lives,” I answered. “Those three words saved Marcus’ life. Three little words. Your son lives.”
We would be a few more hours on the road, but there was no gap in our talk of this fellow, Jesus. My servant told me of the things he had seen in Capernaum, and I told him my story again, and again, and once more.
“Your son lives.” His words resound in my mind.
When we arrived at home, my son greeted me at the end of the walk. He started telling me what happened at home, while I tried to tell him what Jesus had done. In the end, I told my story to everyone in the household. I told my son, my wife, my other children. I called all the servants together and told them to bring their families. I then recounted the miracle for them as well.
All who heard believed in this Healer from Nazareth.
To read the original story, see John 4:46-54.
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2017
If you enjoyed this story you can find forty more like it in my book Encounters With Jesus. It takes you, as you read, from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.