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2

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

2

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

4

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]

5

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

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

4

be-strong-courageous

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.

Chopping the wood takes time, effort, and consistency.  It is often done in the unseen places, in private preparation.  [To read the rest of the post head over to One Passion One Devotion]

4

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,

Spirit Move

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


Thanks to Bethel Music for these lyrics.

Thank you for stopping in today.

Shine where you're screwed in,

Ben

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