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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

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

Many Waters - SoS header

"I want you to swear, O daughters of Jerusalem,
Do not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases."

Song of Songs 8:4 NASB

This couplet comes up three times in the Song. The first two times there is a third line added:

"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you do not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases."

Song of Songs 2:7 and 3:5

Each time this injunction follows the embrace of the Lord. He’s not speaking to her, but to the daughters of Jerusalem.

As she grows in her love and trust of Him, after each new demonstration of her faithfulness to Him, He lavishes affection on her, and then sets her aside for a time. Not out of circulation, but safely set in a place of intimacy.

It’s important that we never lose this place of intimacy.

She entered into life with her Lord way back at the beginning, when she knew nothing of Him except His embrace. He let her stay there, in the chamber for a while, before He set her to work in his kingdom. Then she was full of fear and alarm at the idea of leaving this holy place.

Those who saw her, who interacted with her, found her to be fully consumed with this Lover. She was useless to the kingdom, but desperately in love with the King.

Now that she has taken her place in ministry, taken her rightful position as full partner in ministry with the King, it would be easy for her to get caught up in ministry—to eat, drink, and sleep ministry, and forget her first love.

The Lord brought this very failing to the attention of the Church of Ephesus. In Revelation 2:1-3 we see that the Lord is pleased by her actions:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. Revelation 2:1-3

But there is a problem:

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. - Revelation 2:4

They needed to go back to the chamber—back to that intimate place that led them into all those wonderful acts.

We go through seasons in our Christian walk, but our seasons should be punctuated by His presence. It’s more important that the work itself.

If we allow ourselves to drift away from the secret place, our works slide from being the outworking of our intimacy, to something religious and dead. As Paul warns Timothy, one of the dangers of the last times would be people who looked like they had it together but had no power:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. ... holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. - 2 Timothy 3:1, 5 NASB

The ‘power’ comes through connection to the vine—intimacy with the Lord.

Is this a time when you need to reconnect with the the power source—the vine? Don’t let Christian activity lull you to sleep in your relationship with the Lord. Now that our maiden is mature, it’s more important than ever for her to stay connected to the Lord, and bask in His embrace.

benheadshot1Thanks for stopping in.

Shine

Ben

4

Many Waters - SoS header

I long to bring you to my innermost chamber—
This holy sanctuary you have formed within me.
O that I might carry you within me.
I would give you the spiced wine of my love,
This full cup of bliss that we share.
We would drink our fill until…

Song 8:1-2 ~ The Passion Translation

Have you had a chance to check out ‘The Passion Translation?’

I just love it! It’s brand new, and only coming out one book at a time. One of the first books translated by Dr. Brian Simmons was the Song of Songs ~ Divine Romance.

These verses are so clear in their description of the bride and her Lover, Jesus. He so clearly reveals the heart of the redeemed as he translates these first couple verses of Chapter 8.

Innermost Chamber

This verse takes me to the last discourse again. Where Jesus spent the evening of His betrayal with the disciples. This is where we learn of his intention to form this sanctuary, this innermost chamber within us.

Jesus tells us that His Father’s house has many dwelling places. We are the temple of the living God, we are His dwelling place. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” That place is this innermost chamber.

Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. - John 14:23 ESV

God on the inside!

This is not only our hope, it’s the hope of Glory!

The Father has formed in you a holy sanctuary made to His exact specification so that Father, Son and Holy Spirit can take up residence in you.

Hope you brought your shoutin’ shoes today, cuz that’s a place for a Hallelujah!

I urge you (Ben) to press in to that innermost place this day. Seek the one who formed it within you for the purpose of intimacy.

All life flows from intimacy.

If anything is going to be born, it will be from intimacy.

If there be any fruit, it’s the result of intimacy.

Ben NelsonPress in today.

Ben

I have a favor to ask of you. If you've read my book, 'Encounters With Jesus' would you leave an honest review on Amazon. It would be so appreciated. If you haven't got yours, grab the paperback here, or the kindle here.

Thanks!

3

Image Credit - graphicstock.com - licensed for use
Image Credit - graphicstock.com - licensed for use

Let us rise early and go to the vineyards;
Let us see whether the vine has budded
And its blossoms have opened,
And whether the pomegranates have bloomed.
There I will give you my love.

Song of Songs 7:12 NASB

The Song teaches us time and time again about the importance of intimacy in our relationship with the Lord. It shows us how our ability to minister effectively is birthed in the bedroom (closet) of one-on-one worship and time spent gazing into the eyes of the Savior.

But worship is so much more than spending ‘alone time’ with the Lord.

Our bride now woos her Lover out into the vineyard where their activities will be nurture and care for that which was birthed in that bedroom (closet.)

What happened within this maiden? What happened to the girl who would not follow her Lord out into the hills and mountains for fear of what might lie out there—in the wild?

What happened to the young woman who had her own garden, and tended it alone?

Do you remember when she gave Him her garden? (SoS 4:16)

When we give our lives to Him, He shares His heart with us.

When your heart cries out to Him, “What’s mine is Yours,” He responds saying “What’s mine is yours.” All those who call on His name—His vineyards—His flocks—now fall on your heart. As you minister with Him, nurturing, pruning, helping to graft in other branches, you find that there is an exchange of love, a fulfillment beyond what you have known in the secret place.

Life becomes an act of worship and worship is life. [Tweet This]

The secret place remains a priority, but it’s not the only place your love is expressed.

The Lord’s plan for us is full of wonder in every step.

Thank you Lord for drawing us, for sharing your heart with us, for the life we would never know without you. Blessed be Your great name.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Walk in the light.

Ben

5

Many Waters - SoS header

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]

Ben NelsonThanks much for stopping by.

Don’t be a stranger.

Ben

5

Irises from Presby Memorial Iris Garden
Irises from Presby Memorial Iris Garden

When Jesus take ownership of His garden (formerly your life) what does He do?

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

This garden in the Song of Songs is the soul of the believer, prepared for the Master, and then given to Him. We have seen the Shulamite mature to the place where she gives her life to Him and holds nothing back.

Once He takes ownership of her life, what does He do?

Comes

Jesus comes into His garden.
He takes up residence.
He makes her His dwelling place.

One thing about giving your life to the Lord, you will never be alone again. As Jesus came to the Garden of Eden and walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, so Jesus comes to us as we give ourselves to Him.

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. – John 14:23

Gathers

That which pleases the Father is the fruit we bear. As we begin to display the fruit of the Spirit, it demonstrates more and more our likeness to Christ. As our garden flourishes with godly character the Father is glorified more and more.

The common knowledge of our day is that ‘people don’t change.’ That’s why when a man or woman is born again, when the Spirit of God begins to change a man from the inside out, the world takes notice. God is glorified since the world cannot deny the hand of God in this great work.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. ... My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. - John 15:2, 8 NASB

Eats and Drinks

The Lord said to the multitudes,

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. - John 6:56 NASB

The fact that the Lord partakes of the sustenance and in fact the sweetness that the garden offers, demonstrates that He has become one with the believer. Life in Christ is not a one-way street. It is intended to be a partnership. We eat the bread and drink the wine of His blood and He eats of the honeycomb and drinks of the fruit of our vine and the milk from our herd.

The Father’s intention is that we become one with Christ, and He becomes one with us. We hear this and say it all the time, but do you understand what is offered here. If we are one with Christ, and He is one with the Father, it is God’s will and intention that we become indistinguishable.

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. - John 17:23 NASB

As we grow, the world’s ability to distinguish between Christ and the Christian grows ever smaller.

John the Baptist prayed that Jesus would increase and He would decrease. How does that work? The difference between Jesus and His bride grows ever smaller.

Invites

Though our relationship with the Lord, to a great extent, is carried out in private, He shares us with His Body. The body of Christ is the household of faith. We cannot have Him without Him sharing us with His Church.

In Ephesians 4 we see that Christ’s gifts to the Church are people. The Spirit gives the believer abilities and fills them with power as described in 1 Corinthians 12. Jesus Himself gives people. You are a gift to the body of Christ.

Life Wasted?

As we give ourselves fully to the Lord, He will have more and more to do with our lives. Perhaps we should call it active intimacy.

I have heard folks contrast a life of worship or intimacy, with that of working in the kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we press it, as we give ourselves fully over to the Lord, He is going to make full use of our life. You were created unto good works, which the Father designed for you.

My prayer today: Lord,

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Frances R. Havergal, 1874

 

Ben NelsonBlessings,

Ben


Jesus said:

But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:17-18 NASB)

What does fasting have to do with intimacy you ask? Walk through this with me for a few minutes.

John the Baptist taught his followers to fast often. As they observed the disciples of Jesus moving from party to party, and carrying away baskets full of food, and pitchers of wine, they began to wonder why their deal  did not include their least favorite part of discipleship – fasting.

Here is how it went down.

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Matthew 9:14-15 NASB)

So let’s talk about this mourning for a minute. You are probably asking what does mourning have to do with intimacy?

What does it look like to mourn a loved one?

You miss him.

You think about him.

You remember good times you had together.

You long to be close yet again.

Mike Bickle puts it like this: A mourning heart is fiercely discontent and desperately hungry for God.

We can put aside our plates, and press in with our hunger for God.

This type of fast – this intimate fast is – has at it’s core desire. A desire to be closer to Jesus, to be alone with Him, to know Him.

Remember that Hillsong worship song from the 90’s, “I want to know you (more)”

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause I want to know you more

That is exactly what is going on with this fast. We are pushing every hindrance aside, out of the way so we can know Him more (pardon my grammar.)

Thanks for stopping in today.

I hope this is helping.

Tomorrow I will talk about some more of the nuts and bolts of fasting.

See you then.

Ben