My beloved went down to his garden, To the beds of the spice, To delight himself in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
Song of Songs 6:2 YLT
When the Lord comes into His gardens (yes, He has many) we see Him engaged in two activities.
We have seen in the Song of Songs that the Lord’s gardens are the inner lives of those who have given themselves to Him. A few weeks ago we observed that the maiden in the Song gave her garden to Him to do with as He pleased.
The way I see this, is that the Lord comes to us (so glad He makes house calls) and ministers to us in our (well His) garden, our secret place. He comes to His garden to tend to it. That ministry looks a lot like a shepherd’s care. He feeds us, cleans us, keeps us near the good drinking water. In danger, He is present with His rod and staff to protect. In our moments of folly (oh yes we do) He is present with His rod and staff to correct and collect us.
If you remember the Shepherd King called His maiden the lily of the valley and again a lily among thorns. And so He gather’s the lilies. Part of His care for us is to join us to the gathering of lilies – a.k.a. the church – His body. I challenge you with this idea. Next time you walk into your church gathering (whether you meet in a living room or in a cathedral) take a look around and see if you can see the beauty of a field of lilies.
Here in the North East US it is lily season. I love to walk past a garden with a pack of Tiger Lilies reaching up toward the sun. Or flocks of that shorter variety that look like a parade of trumpeters announcing the coming of their king.
Jesus, our Great Shepherd delights to shepherd us and gather us. His heart is toward His gardens, their cultivation and care. Do you share His heart for His people?
Lord, help me to appreciate the others You have gathered. Will You share Your heart for them with me. Can You help me see them as You do?
In the beginning Elohyim¹, the One God who is True and who Lives, the God who is Three in One, the God besides whom there is no other god².
And this true, living God who is perfect Oneness is also a community of three divine personalities: the Father, divine Lifegiver; the Son, divine Utterance; and the Spirit, divine Breath. In the eternal community of Elohyim each Member is covenantally connected to the other two Members. Disunity, desire for dominion and conflict are unknown. Within this community of absolute love working through absolute authority, unbroken Oneness flows continuously between the Members in perfect fluidity of purpose, intention and will. [Read more]
The New Testament is generously seasoned with the phrase “one another.” One of these “one anothers” that comes up three times is “encourage one another.”
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:25 NASB
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:13 NASB
Look at the power of encouragement!
We are told to encourage one another to break the power of sin to harden us.
Think about the way sin works in a believer’s life.
If you are anything like Adam and Eve it might go down like this.
That old foul-mouthed liar tempts you.
You look at the beautiful cookie. (I am quite sure it was a cookie tree – that forbidden fruit – don’t you think?) It sure looks like it would taste good. And that smell… It’s beautiful, and old scaly, he said it would make me wise like God. I need that cookie!
But when you eat it you get the big surprise. You do in fact know something you never have known before – shame.
Your favorite thing to do every day was to walk with the Lord – to talk with Him – to laugh – to love.
But now you were not looking forward to seeing the One who made you, the One who loves you. Instead there was a twinge of something new in your stomach.
Is it fear?
Is it guilt?
Is it shame?
Is it self-loathing?
Oh the wonders of the knowledge of good and evil.
Apparently you already knew good – what you have now is the knowledge of what evil does to a man or woman’s heart.
Thanks for that, you liar!
So now, Christian – though you know somewhere deep inside that Jesus has paid for your sin – bore your shame –cleansed you from ALL unrighteousness – in the pit of your stomach there is a “run and hide” working.
So you pull out a bolt of fig-leaf camouflage and start putting together a ‘run and hide in the bushes’ outfit.
The lie of sin is not just in the temptation. It’s always a lie that gets you to sin in the first place, but the bigger lie is what it does with your mind and heart after the fact. Somehow – so says your recently fooled heart – Jesus – who, by the way, died for you when you were His enemy – no longer loves you because you sinned.
What you need right now is a brother or sister. One who will encourage you with some truth. One who will pull down some fruit from the tree of life – a nice tasty morsel of living word.
So what about today – what day it is? Oh – check it out – it’s today!
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:13 NASB
Hey – have a great day – and encourage someone TODAY.
She brought me a toothbrush, and a clean pair of yoga pants. And underwear.
She didn’t ask if I needed some skivvies before schlepping across town to hug her friend at the hospital. Obviously, asking someone “Do you need some underwear?” will always be an awkward question, no matter how close you might be. Instead, she walked around her own quiet house at dawn, and asked herself: “What might someone wish for after two all-nighters in the hospital?” This is how you do love.
He came and prayed.
He didn’t ask if he should come. Despite knowing he’d battle rush-hour traffic, and would likely miss morning appointments, he still arrived in the early hours. He opened his Bible, and tenderly read a Psalm that his daddy had read to him as a boy, when he was too scared to sleep. This is how you do love.
If you’re like me, I often don’t do love very well. It’s not for lack of love, or an earnest
... for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.(Matthew 6:24 NASB)
I am having one of those chicken – egg moments (and no I don’t mean that I am pondering the wonderful bird that you can eat both before it’s born and after it’s dead.)
Riddle me this.
Does serving God lead to loving God?
Does loving God lead to serving Him?
As I work through the Song of Songs on Saturdays, I am finding that if I love Him well, it better prepares me to serve Him without holding back.
But then again, verse almost feels like it's saying you fall in love with the one you serve.
So here is a tip for every day life – get ready – it's a bit off topic – but should help somebody out there.
If you are having relationship troubles – perhaps with your spouse or your parents, or your kids, or your neighbors, or your boss, or your (ok – you're thinking of someone – stick a word here that describes your relationship and goes with the flow of my rant)_____________, try serving them.
First act of service – pray for them. Do it now – they're already stuck in your brain.
Next, do something you know they will appreciate without being asked.
Hey – I know it won’t fix every relationship, but as a Jewish sitcom mom from the 1960’s might say – ‘It couldn’t hoit!’
Picture this with me – when a relationship goes from good to bad, it does not happen in one fell swoop (usually – I do get that there are exceptions.) Often it is more like a wall built one brick at a time, over time, until you can no longer see the face of the one that you love, only the ‘dead or alive’ wanted poster on the brick wall of offence.
So, if today, you take down one brick of offense you have turned your relationship around. You've turned the momentum in the opposite direction.
Oh – and you know I am not talking about allowing them to become your Master (with a capital ‘M’ – there is only room for one of those, and that needs to be Jesus. We will get back to that – but for today just a little slice of Dear Abby.
Thanks for stopping in.
Post Script - I am on vacation this week, and working on other things. I thought I would pull up this favorite of mine from December 5, 2012. Hope it blesses you today.
Check out this related post from my new friend Sue at pen2paper: Building Walls
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.
Song of Songs 5:1 NASB
The maiden (OK in my mind that is me – the individual believer given over to a life abiding in Jesus) has just handed the keys to her garden, her own personal inner life over to the lover of her Soul.
The Shepherd King (Jesus) has come to her garden, accepted it as His own, and what is the first thing He does. HE INVITES HIS FRIENDS!!!
What happened to intimacy?
What happened to privacy?
What happened to my own personal relationship with Jesus?
I learn from this wonderful Song of Songs that my relationship with Christ is anything but private. I am born again as a part – a member – of the Body of Christ.
He created me with specific talents and strengths, and the day His Spirit took up residence in my newly regenerate soul, He began giving me gifts. He allows me to hear the call from His heart to mine, and then…
He gives me to the body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12 we see a list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but in Ephesians 4 we see the gifts of Christ. The Spirit gives us gifts, many of which play out a new abilities. But Christ’s gifts are men and women given to the Church.
You are a gift from Christ to the Church.
Don’t let satan rob the Church of one of Jesus’ greatest gifts – YOU. [Tweet this]
I don’t know how they do the offering or collection in your church. In mine we usually ask the Lord to receive our gifts and then the ushers come forward and the music plays. Sometimes a soloist sings, other times we worship, and once in a while we watch a video.
Imagine with me for a moment the Pastor standing up just as you were about to toss your envelope with your tidy tax deduction into the basket and said:
WAIT – STOP – HOLD EVERYTHING!
Nobody puts another penny in that basket until we fix what happened at the business meeting last week.
The Church will not accept another offering until reconciliation is obvious. End the factions or end the finances! You pick, but I can no longer allow you to pretend to give to God, when you can’t forgive your brothers and sisters.
That might shake it up a bit – you think?
God is more interested in your relationship with your brothers and sisters, than He is with your money. [Tweet This]
If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24 NASB)
The last thing I want to bring out here is the imperative that first shows up in John 13, right after Jesus washed the disciples feet. He tells them:
John 13:34 - A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
This phrase ‘one another’ as applied to the church shows up 39 times in 36 verses in the New Testament. I have included the full listing here. Twice in the last week, I have sat with a group of believers and read these aloud. I would recommend that you do the same. You can do it alone, but I think it is striking as you hear others read them as well.
Clearly the 25 times that love in mentioned in these verses is inescapable, but you will be surprised by what other “one anothers” you see repeated.
Don’t miss this wealth of godly treasure.
John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,
Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
2 John 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
OK, how could we possibly obey even a portion of these 39 instructions if we are not sharing our lives with others?
I am not talking about going to Church on Sunday either. I am talking about living in community. Getting together with others. Sharing life, hopes, dreams, fears, successes and failures.
Each of us in Christ need to be in relationship with others who are walking out their faith. Sometimes pulling them along, and sometimes being dragged forward ourselves. No Christian has arrived at the place where he or she no longer needs the body. Christian life does not work the way it is supposed to when we walk alone.
Believe me, I have messed this up more than once in my life. Many of you reading this can probably point out specific times you have seem me do it. I have allowed rigid doctrines or personal preferences or even hurts or slights to separate me from people God was using to speak into my life.
Which one or ones jumped off the page for you today?
I am so glad you asked! For your three "WHY"s I will give you three outstanding purposes the Church serves, both in the life of the believer and in the plans of God. Here they are in no particular order.
Equipping the Saints
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. - Ephesians 4:11-16
Here we have a description of the gifts of Christ. This “He” points specifically to Jesus rather than to the Holy Spirit, which is interesting in itself. The Spiritual gifts as detailed in other passages such as 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and Romans 12:6-8 manifest in activities that the Spirit empowered Christian might “do,” whereas these gifts in Ephesians 4 speak more of a positional gifting.
I take the time to mention this, because the evangelist mentioned above certainly does evangelism, but moreover, his roll in the body of Christ is to equip others to do the work of evangelism. The Pastor not only shepherds the flock, but trains others and gives them the tools they need to walk out the life of a sheep.
God assembles local bodies and gives gifts to these bodies for our equipping.
Check out the language here –
equipping the saints for the work of service
attain to the unity of the faith
attain to … knowledge of the Son of God
attain to … a mature man
grow up in all aspects into Him
growth of the body
building itself in love
This is one of the main reasons we join together with other believers. These people are in part a fulfillment of His precious and magnificent promises which help us to become partakers of the divine nature, and escape the corruption that our lusts bring to the table.
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. - 2 Peter 1:3-4 NASB
House of Prayer
When Jesus dumped the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, and drove out those who were buying and selling, he said:
And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS'? But you have made it a ROBBERS' DEN." Mark 11:17 NASB
When He spoke of the physical temple, it was a type of the true temple of God – His people. This is another function of the body of Christ. We are to pray for one another, and pray for those not yet in Christ, the world, and the coming of the kingdom on Earth as in Heaven.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20
This passage is often called the Great Commission. We have looked at what the Church does within its own doors, but the great work of the Church is the mission Christ gave us. When the scripture says “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” the ‘Go’ here is better understood ‘as you go’ or ‘as you carry on with your activities.’ The real command in the commission is ‘make disciples.’
Sometimes we Christians get our rolls reversed. Jesus told us that He would ‘build the Church.’ His instruction to us is to ‘make disciples.’ Notice He does not tell us to make converts. Rather we are to make disciples. A disciple is a learner under discipline, a student, a follower. Paul said imitate me as I imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
In summary, the purpose of this One True Church comes down to this, that all men might know Him and be conformed to His image. [Tweet This]
We equip those in Christ to do the work of the ministry.
We pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers (whom we have equipped)
We go into the harvest and make followers
We equip those followers to do the work of the ministry.
We pray the Lord of the harvest...
Well – you get the idea.
Thanks so much for coming.
I hope these studies on the Church are an encouragement to you.