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About Ben

Ben is an author, speaker, teacher, blogger, storyteller, IT geek, and student of the Bible. His heart is to see men and women reconciled to the Father and walking in all He has created for them.

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Tell me, O You whom my soul loves, Where do You pasture Your flock, Where do You make it lie down at noon? (Song of Songs 1:7 NASB)

Three major detractors pulled our maiden away from spiritual vitality into a kind of religious funk. She didn't like what she saw in the mirror, her elder brothers and sisters were dousing her enthusiasm and finally, her own relationship with the Lord suffered neglect. The intimacy she brushed up against in her first encounter with the Lord faded in her memory. The pull of ministry stirred by her early passion, under the pressure of her peers, caused her to step away from her first love.

Like the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2, she was getting the good stuff done, but leaving ‘One Thing’ undone.

Today, she get’s it. It drives her to prayer. And check the focus of her prayer

Tell me, O You whom my soul loves, Where do You pasture Your flock, Where do You make it lie down at noon?

The fastest way to bring life back to a withering vine is to reconnect to The True Vine.

Above the din of her distress, her heart cry makes itself audible once again—I just want to know Your tender care.

Let’s walk right through it.

First – You Lord are the ONE my soul loves – she identifies herself as a Jesus Lover. She knows her life has been out of balance. But her desire for intimacy with the Lord takes back the ground her distresses gave up. Her vineyard succumbed to the chaos of nature—the old nature.

Next – Where do You pasture Your flock? I want to be where You are. I know you will care for me. I know you will help me prune my vineyard. I know time in your presence will recenter my heart and life.

Finally – Where do You make it lie down at noon? I understand a sheep will only lie down and rest in the heat of the day after it has been thoroughly fed and watered. For the sheep to lie down it must be completely satisfied!

Here Solomon inserts into this Song of Songs a throwback to his father's wonderful Psalm, the Psalm of the Shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:1-3 NASB)

Her heart cries out for His tender and loving care.

If you're like me, the business of life and ministry can get you running so hard, you edge away from time spent with the Lord in the secret place. You see that Jesus, who faced every temptation we do, faced this pull too. When He learned of the death of John the Baptist, He longed to be alone with His Father, but the press of the crowd kept Him from immediate retreat. He pushed through ministry, not brushing anyone off, but still focussed on getting into the quiet place. (Mark 6:17-46)

Don’t let life and ministry be the undoing of your vineyard.

Call out today and tell Jesus, the Great Shepherd, that you want to be fed in the green pastures, and drink from the still waters.

BenSee you next week!

Ben

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They made me caretaker of the vineyards, But I have not taken care of my own vineyard. (Song of Songs 1:6 NASB)

We have arrived at the third of three disasters that have presented themselves in quick succession to our Maiden. Keep our paradigm in mind, the Maiden is an individual, passionate—and at this point in the story—newly ignited, Christ follower.

Disaster one – she looked in the mirror and didn't see what He saw. In the light of His glory and grace she felt dirty.

Disaster two – she ran into the men and women of the bucket brigade who were put off by her passion and zeal, and did what they could to dampen—or drench—her spirit.

Today we find that our young woman is thrust directly into ministry. I hinted at this in an earlier post, but today we see the fruit of too much ministry and not enough intimacy.

Does this sound like anyone you know? (Check the bathroom – they might be in the medicine cabinet looking out.)

  • Every time the Church doors are open she's there.
  • She volunteers for everything in the bulletin:
  • Nursery work
  • Set up and tear down after the pot luck
  • Teaching Sunday School
  • Chaperoning the Sr. High retreat
  • Painting and Maintenance day
  • Spring cleanup
  • Leaf raking
  • Filling the communion cups
  • Cleaning up the communion cups
  • Dusting the pews Bibles (you wouldn’t want dusty pews Bibles would you?)
  • Collecting the art work left behind by the little ones after church.
  • She even signs up for creating sign up sheets.

Then she faces the problem of what to do next week.

You get the point. She is immediately overworked, and what happens next? Her spirit begins to call out for God. She remembers her intimate encounter with the Lord, and thinks “This is not what I signed up for.”

Her vineyard goes uncared for and begins to show signs of neglect.

Those who should be stoking her up and feeding her passion, are actually (and I assure you this is unintentional) drawing her away from what makes her so valuable to the Body of Christ – her connection to its Head.

In the song, her vineyard or garden is her personal spiritual life.

We (maidens) must make our own relationship with the Lover or our Soul of paramount importance in our lives.

We (church leaders) must make ‘How to love God well’ a major part of instruction for young believers. We must guard against allowing anyone to become over committed to program. When program trumps Spiritual life, program must die. Let's stop sacrificing young God lovers for the sake of keeping programs in place.

The first time I taught through this Song in a Sunday School setting, when we came to this third disaster in the maiden's life, there was a couple in the class who had been working with pre-k children in the Sunday School program since their college student had been pre-k.

They were so hungry, and their own vineyards ached for nourishment. Don’t get me wrong. They were not back-slidden, just desperate for some teaching that did not involve crayons. They craved something to dig their teeth into, that would help them tend to their own spiritual lives.

Does your vineyard need tending? Don't be afraid to set something down so you care for your own spiritual health.

Thanks for stopping by.

See you next week.

Ben

 

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My mother’s sons were angry with me (Song of Songs 1:6 NASB)

For the last two weeks, we looked at the Maiden’s first big problem. She felt dirty on the outside but had beauty on the inside.

Today we get a look at a second crisis in her walk with the Lord – Momma’s boys.

It is interesting to me that she does not say “my brothers.” Instead, she calls them "my mother's sons." Are these some kind of wicked stepbrothers?

First, we have to understand the age-old question – who’s your momma?

The great commission in Matthew 28, puts the job of evangelism squarely on the shoulders of the Church. And throughout the ages since then the Church has been in a motherly role. It is her job to make disciples. A young babe in Christ is said to need mother’s milk of the word.

Consider:

Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal. 4:26)

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, (Gal. 4:19)

As apostles of Christ…we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children (1 Thes. 2:6-7).

The interesting thing to me here is that the Church is made up of people and these people are our brothers and sisters.

But as a new believer you might feel more like an outsider, and so we find the phrase “mother’s sons.” Our girl, new to the faith, feels a bit outside the camp.

Worse than that, after her intimate encounter with the King, she has a zeal and passion that sets her apart.

I know that many of you have been there. You are (or were) that passionate guy or gal who just won’t shut up about the Lord. You’re the ones in the lobby of the Church talking about your God encounters throughout the week, while everyone else is talking sports and fashion.

Ray Comfort (writer, speaker, evangelism teacher) says (I paraphrase here) that when he was a young Christian he had great zeal and passion, and told everyone he ran into about Christ. He was on fire. And over the years (long pause here) he has never cooled off. He is still on fire for the Lord with the same zeal and passion for the Lord as ever he had.

I love that. I feel like that is my story. I might say that years and experience have given me a different perspective on some things, but the passion is there, and one of my favorite things is to see a young Christian, full of that “first love.”

So here is the problem. There are many in the Church who have left their first love. And when they run into our maiden – our zealous, passionate firebrand – they feel a twinge of conviction.

So begins the unsanctified bucket brigade. They immediately start dousing our maiden’s fervor. They don’t want to be around her, they don’t have that same passion, and are not as consumed by a desire for the presence of the Lord like her.

This causes a reaction in the maiden—perhaps a twinge of self-righteousness? Our holy zeal can develop an edge of condemnation. Why aren’t they where I am? Why don’t they want to talk about the Lord? Why don’t they want to spend their Saturday on the street with me preaching to passers-by?

And so, strife infiltrates in the Body of Christ.

Take a step back today and consider – are you a firebrand in the hands of the Lord, or are you in the bucket brigade?

We all need correction, and I want you to stop and listen to the Lord today.

Put Down your Buckets!

Those of us in the Church for years need to be cheerleaders, mentors, equippers, throwing logs (or even accelerants) on the fires burning in our young brothers and sisters. Put down your buckets!

Those of us who are full of zeal and passion be careful with not to write off your elder brothers and sisters. Many have known your zeal and inwardly want it back.

God put us together for a reason, so we can “spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)

BenThanks for reading today.

See you next week

Ben

"Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, For the sun has burned me."  - Song of Songs 1:6 NASB

There are three books in our Bible attributed to Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. We know the Song is a love story, but Ecclesiastes is the musings of a man frustrated by the futility of life. In it, he uses the phrase "under the sun" twenty-seven times, in the NASB.

Solomon uses "under the sun" to mean "in this life," and throughout the book, it's a look at the natural life.

Where Ecclesiastes comes across as a huge "why bother" toward life in the natural, Song of Songs demonstrates that life in the Spirit sets a purpose in our hearts and a love for life and ministry.

Paul echoes Solomon's disparity in Romans 7.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. - Romans 7:21-25 NASB

And this is where we find our Maiden this morning. Right at the end of Romans 7.

Don't look at me. I'm ashamed of what I have become in my life "under the sun." Life directed by my old man, my lower nature, has left its mark on me. If you stare at me, I'm afraid it's all you will see. I'm marred by the sun.

When Adam and Eve surrendered to the will of the evil one, their first move was to cover up, and next, to hide.

LIfe lived in the shadow of shame leaves us hiding from the Holy.

It takes courage, and the call of the Spirit on our lives to cry out with David,

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. - Psalm 139:23-24 NASB

We'll get there, but today, we're hiding in the bushes.

Lord, we need to hear Your voice today, reassuring us that You are willing and powerful enough to heal the damage done by a life lived "under the sun."

Thanks for stopping by today.

God is able!

Ben

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I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon. (Song of Songs 1:5 NKJV)

Our girl spent the evening in the King's courts and experienced His personal care for the very first time. Now she knows what Isaiah learned in the year that King Uzziah died.

Leonard Ravenhill

Leonard Ravenhill, the revivalist from the last century, often preached a sermon from this text (Isaiah 6) using the outline, Woe, Lo, and Go. You can listen to it, or even download it, at SermonAudio.com. It's wonderful.

He outlines Isaiah chapter 6 like this:

"Woe is me! For I am undone." (vs 5) When I get into the presence of the Lord the first thing that strikes me is how I really don’t belong here. I am filthy, dirty, DARK and unfit for the Kings Presence.

"Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." (vs 7) The blood of Jesus purges opens the way for me to enter this place, and not be consumed.

"Go, and tell this people." (vs 9) Intimacy leads to productivity. When I see how consumed my Holy Savior is with His people, I am drawn into His vision and His mission. My only response can is, "Here am I, send me." (vs 8)

So let's look at our maiden. She spends the evening in the King's presence and when she gets home she begins to examine herself. One look in the mirror tells her the whole story. She is earthy, from working outside and from the years in the hot sun of the Middle East.

She is dirty from "everything under the sun." This is the phrase Solomon used in Ecclesiastes to talk about the world's influence. Jesus told Peter to sit still while He washed his feet. Peter did not need a bath—just the cleansing from the dust of the roads of life.

Then she remembers His words to her—He says I am lovely—I picture this like the scene in West Side Story. Maria dressing for the dance. “I feel pretty,” and our dark beauty dances about the dressing chamber remembering her evening with the King.

Tents and Curtains

The tents of Kedar she speaks of dot the white sands of the wilderness. Made from dark animal skins, they stand out in stark contrast to the white sands. She highlights the dramatic contrast of life in the sands and dust of these base tents, to the pristine curtains she observed in Solomon's courts. These spectacular curtains adorned what was possibly the most beautiful palace of all time.

Dark and dusty on the outside, beautifully adorned on the inside.

So it is with you and I. Any time spent in introspection, gazing into the mirror of the Word, will turn up dirt—things you know you need to change—places you know you need to do better—things that stir up shame.

It leads you to repentance—to a clearing of yourself.

Then you take the bread and cup of God’s love and see that He has made you lovely and perfectly acceptable in His sight—more than acceptable—desirable! You are the apple of God’s eye, the rose of Sharon, the lily among thorns. You are the object of His passion. In the bread and wine, you can see the immense value the Savior has placed upon you, and the love lavished without regard to cost.

Like the coal from the altar in Isaiah's vision, the bread and wine remind you of your purged state. You may have the outward appearance of filth, but you have been washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb.

Hallelujah!

O the joys of the presence of the Lord!

Come back again next week, won’t you?

Ben

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!

The Magnificent Pursuit

pexels-photo-24289-pursuitHe 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]

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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.

Thanks for coming by this week.

See you next week

Ben

2

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.

But WHY?

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.

  • Infatuation
  • Passion
  • Intimacy
  • Gestation
  • Birth
  • Productivity

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 hope this helps

See you next week

Ben

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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.


East and West ~ Jonathan David Helser

Today I’m excited to share my #1 favorite song with you:
“East and West” by Jonathan Helser from the album Live at Home.

“There’s no mistake I can make that could ever make you change Your love.”

Enjoy this 4-minute video and soak in the vast floorless sea of God’s mercy.

East went lookin’ for West
And never found him
Guilt went lookin’ for my past
But only found love

I heard about a sea where
Sin sinks like stones...

Head over to Lynn's page for the rest of the lyrics. They are not to be missed.

Thanks for coming by.

See you again soon,

Ben

 

7

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

The great hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote these anointed words, first published in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1740. This is one of 19 stanzas to the work we now call O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing.

These lines flooded my mind the other day during prayer. These words pack so much truth—revelation—about the power of Christ's finished work on the cross.

Often we look at the cross and consider it a solution to one problem. We think that the one and only thing that happened on the cross was the forgiveness of our sin.

Jesus forgave our sins—Hallelujah!

There is more—much more!

He broke its power.

What power?

Sin’s power to immobilize us—to paralyze us in a fog of spiritual apathy—broken.

Sin’s power to keep us from prayer—broken.

Sin’s power to keep us from fellowship—isolation—broken.

Sin’s power to keep us from ministry—broken.

Sin’s power of addiction—broken.

Sin’s power to cause shame—broken.

All the lies satan would have us believe about ourselves, how we’ve been ruined for God’s use, stand exposed before us as we embrace the cross of Christ. [TweetThis]

And yet, though there is no longer power in sin’s lies, many believe them, standing forgiven yet disempowered for life in the Kingdom of God.

The cross bought us the freedom from every chain with which sin bound us. We are raised with Christ in newness of life, to walk as He walked:

Unhindered by guilt

Unshackled from shame

Unmoved by satan’s lies

Unashamed to take up the banner of Christ’s love and carry it to the world that lies captive still to the broken power of sin.

Let’s rise up this day and shake off the broken chains that hold us back, and go forward into battle.

As I write these words, I picture a World War II liberation force marching into Nazi death camps and flinging open the gates, with the wonderful news—the war is over and you are free.

Hallelujah!

Thanks for coming by,

Shine where you're screwed in,

Ben

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