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For your love is better than wine. Song of Songs 1:2b NASB

What does wine say to you?

  • Luxury?
  • Desire?
  • Passion?
  • Intoxication?
  • Longing?

Our humble maiden is struck with all of this.

She looks at this Shepherd King and this lowly maiden from a nearby village is drawn into the thoughts of luxury, of the lush life, of a life with the man of her dreams in royal robes and plush surroundings.

She sees his rugged handsome beauty and she wants to spend time in His arms.

One look as He passes by stirs passion deep within her.

She imagines that drinking deeply of the scent of Him would surely intoxicate her.

She has a deep longing for intimacy with this man!

You know, for Christians our longings can be tricky. We feel like passion is a problem. We try to suppress our longings—to bury them. For centuries, longings of any kind have been frowned upon in the Christian world.

We find ourselves expressing our longings in ways that are destructive, and so we begin to repent not only for the sin but for the longings and desires themselves.

This is a problem since God created these longings and built them into who we are. They are deep inside, and if we live life suppressing our longings and passions, we end up denying the very life God intended us to live, and the wonderful things He intended us to feel and experience.

Mike Bickel and Deborah Hiebert wrote a book called “The Seven Longings of the Human Heart” where they detail 7 longings (there may be more, but this book lists 7) in every human.

  • A longing to be fascinated
  • A longing to possess and feel beautiful
  • A longing to be great and successful
  • A longing to know intimacy without shame
  • A longing for assurance of being enjoyed
  • A longing to be wholehearted and passionate
  • A longing to make deep and lasting impact

These longings are not part of out sin nature, they are built-in by our creator. They require attention and management, but not necessarily suppression.

In fact, God’s intends fulfillment for each these completely in your life, both here and in eternity.

Don’t forget, this is the God who put in the pen of David

“Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”(Psalm 16:11 NASB)

This is from the God who created pleasure. What sorts of deep passionate pleasures await us in heaven. I suspect it is more than we could ever think or imagine.

Personally, I love my life here, but I can’t wait.

Fact is, God’s intention is for us to walk in a great measure of this pleasure and wonder here and now, and as we unfold this Song we will see the joy and fulfillment of partnering with the One who created us, and designed us, and bought us, and loves us all to crazy!

Come on back next week!

See you then,

Ben

Wine photo credit: keeva999 (on vacation) via photopin cc

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And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NASB)

Counselor

Proverbs 8 poetically personifies Wisdom. When I read it, I can’t help thinking to my self – hey – That’s Jesus!

The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world. When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, When He set for the sea its boundary, So that the water should not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men. (Proverbs 8:22-31 NASB)

Doesn’t that sound like Jesus, the only Begotten of the Father, the First Born of all Creation? Doesn’t it sound like The Word of God made flesh?

What is counsel but wisdom applied to your circumstances?

One of the most important verses for our training in righteousness is in James where it tell us:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NASB)

And what kind of counsel did He give?

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (Luke 4:32 KJV)

His counsel comes with power – authority. When He gives you guidance you can have complete confidence that this is the right way to walk.

Do you need wisdom applied to your circumstances today? Don’t hesitate. Don’t hold back. Run to the throne room where we have an open invitation. [Tweet This]

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NASB)

Ben NelsonMerry Christmas

See you tomorrow

Ben

 

The Cross
photo credit: joysaphine via photo pin cc

So, there I was innocently pondering my post on Spirit and Truth, thinking about the fact that

“the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB)

and that Jesus quoted

AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.(Mark 12:30 NASB)

and that Jesus told the woman at the well

true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.(John 4:23 NASB)

and that Paul told the church in Rome

“by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NASB)

and I thought there is way too much in my life keeping me from anything so complete and uncompromised.

Cross in Manhattan Skyline
Cross in Manhattan Skyline

I know that the Lord is slow to anger and full of mercy, that He has separated my sins so far from me, they are unfathomable.

Nevertheless, I am drawn to His wonderful cross once again, and taking stock of my shortcomings and compromise I once again ask Him for forgiveness and mercy.

Blood applied to my compromise – forgiveness requested and received, and now

I stand
My arms high and heart abandon
In awe of the one who made it all

I stand
My soul Lord to You surrendered
All I am is Yours

(The Stand – Hillsong United)

BenI have found the Messiah, come follow Him with me!

Bye for now

Ben

medium_175774797

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NASB)

You are probably thinking to yourself by now – move on to the next verse already. Yeah – me too. But I am stuck on one more thing here.

There is a link that Jesus draws here between service and love, and it has been getting under my skin for the last week or so.

Clearly God’s intention is for us to love people, neighbors anyway but what about stuff? Are we allowed to love stuff?

Here is the problem. There is just stuff I love.large__597174047

  • Pizza pops into mind.
  • A good night sleep
  • A comfy chair
  • A brisk walk
  • A vacation
  • Spreadsheets (I can be a bit of a geek at times)
  • My lap full of Mac
  • A good MLT (mutton lettuce and tomato for those of you who don’t love
  • The Princess Bride)

https://i0.wp.com/ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMjM0Nzk5NTc4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDA2MzgxNA@@._V1._SY317_.jpg?resize=211%2C317Saturday morning I was talking with Larry (my dear friend and frequent Saturday breakfast buddy) about this and he pointed out that I am probably not loving my pizza with agapaō. This made me happy.

So what is the difference?

Agapaō is an active love – love that expends itself for the good of it’s object.

My love for my Mac is more like a buddy – buddy kind of love – more of a Philly kind of love. (referring to that brotherly love – phileo) We like to pal around together, but I don’t look to it as my master.

Stuff can become your master, and so become an idol. When you start organizing your life around it – working your schedule around your stuff – putting people off for your stuff – then perhaps you have a stuff problem.

I have a simple one question quiz that will help.

What/Who comes first in your life?

If your answer was Jesus – no worries. If your answer was anything else – I have a simple solution.

Make Jesus first.

There – that was easy.

Ben

Thanks for coming by today.

Ben

Shadow photo credit: Sarah Korf via photo pin cc
Pizza photo credit: callme_crochet via photopin cc

 

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 NASB)

While we are on the topic of servant-hood (see Friday’s post) I want to bring the surface a definition many miss.

Much is said in the Word about the righteous and the wicked. Proverbs contrasts the two on a regular basis. So how can you distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.

There is a clue in Malachi (the Italian prophet.) Check out this verse:

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. “And they will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Malachi 3:16-18 NASB)

Notice a couple things: First, a man’s son serves him. This amplifies what I said yesterday about the place of a servant being augmented, not replaced, by sonship.

Next see that the way to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked is to look their service. Those the Bible calls wicked are not wicked by virtue of their evil deeds, but by lack of service toward God.

Can you let that sink in a bit.

Christianity is a life of servant-hood – not slavery mind you. The word in the Greek is doulos and usually implies a servant by choice. One who has returned to serve a master from a position of freedom.

The best modern-day example of this that I can think of is the Moravian missionaries who sold themselves into slavery to bring the gospel to an island of slaves. You can read about it here: Moravian Missionaries 

As you move into a more intimate relationship with Father God, don’t forsake the privilege of serving Him.

Thanks for reading today.

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)

Here is one that might not be obvious, but it is so powerful.

Daniel was one of God favorites.

In Daniel Chapter 9 he records an amazing prayer and the response he received.

So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.” (Daniel 9:3,22-23 NASB)

I highly recommend you read the whole text. Daniel 9 - Blue Letter Bible

Two things strike me about this.

First, notice the intensity with which he is pursuing his request. This was no throw away prayer. He was pressing in with everything he had to obtain his answer.

Prayer

Supplications

Fasting

Sackcloth

Ashes

Daniel was seeking God for one thing with massive intensity.

So what was the object of all this passion? This blows my mind. He is not praying for a loved one’s (or even his own) healing from some life threatening disease. He is not praying for help with some financial crisis. He is not praying for the right political regime to take office.

He is asking for understanding – for clarification of scripture.

Get this now – He was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, and he wanted to make sure he had it right. He wanted to make sure he was not misunderstanding what he was reading. He was looking for how this passage should impact how he was living.

He did not just accept the common understanding of the passage from the main stream. He pressed in to hear what the heart of the Father would speak directly to his heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you go out and create your own pet doctrines. But sometimes a verse jumps off the page at you – doesn’t it?

When it does, you need to be diligent and gain understanding that will impact your life.

When God calls your attention to a passage, you need to seek His face and learn from Him where He wants to apply it IN YOUR LIFE.

If the Word of God is not changing your life, you must change that.

Let me bring 2 more scriptures into this conversation.

Solomon said (and I love the old KJV for this one)

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7 KJV)

I might recommend all of Proverbs 4 here.

Solomon – the wisest man of all times - tells you with every ounce of “get” in you, you must get understanding. Don’t be satisfied if it is not making a change in your life.

The final text I want to bring to the table today is from James.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (James 1:22 NASB)

When you hear the word, and do not find its intersection with your life, no transformation is possible. [Tweet This] You become deluded into believing that by simply reading the Word you are justified.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So then when God puts a passage on your heart, you might consider skipping a meal or two and pressing in for understanding. He promises that if anyone asks for wisdom, He will gladly supply it.

Thanks for stopping in today.

Ben

So after all these impossible expansions of the law, we get a brief and fleeting whiff of the why behind them, and the motivation keep us focused.

in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:45 NASB)

Loving like this holds this wonderful promise. But it is so much more than an IF – THEN statement.

In other words Jesus is not just saying IF you do all this stuff THEN you will be accepted into the wonderful status of sonship. And thank goodness, because that is anything but freeing in my mind. That straps a burden on me that there is no way I could bear.

Here is what I am thinking – let me know if this rings true to you.

When we love like this we are a biography. We are painting a picture of a much better lover. We are a photograph of the greatest Lover of all time. We are a representation (or should I say re-presentation) of our Father.

In the old days when you saw a man and his son you might look at the son and say “You’re the spittin’ image of your father” and that is what Jesus is saying here. When you love your enemies etc… you are the spittin’ image of your Father.

Yep – that’s it – I think we have nailed it. And that’s what I want them to say about me today – how about you.

You’re the spittin’ image of your heavenly Father!

Thanks for reading today.

Walk with Jesus.

Ben

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

My Beautiful Bride and I - circa 1979

and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matt 5:42b NASB)

OK – time for a life story. In our 34 years of marriage, my wife and I managed to accumulate a huge amount of debt. Take it from me, this is not a good life plan.

My wonderful wife has always pressed for a budget, and would read me book after book on how to manage your money.

We tried naming it and claiming it, praying over it, speaking to it, and the ever popular whining about it.

Still in debt! Thankfully still in love (which is a huge miracle – she could have quit that after the first 32,423 times I didn’t follow the budget.

Anyway – recently we got hooked up with a Dave Ramsey FPU class and it has turned our finances around. Not because of new information, but because he motivated me to change my behaviors.

Dave Ramsey - Debt Killer

His radio show into includes the phrase “where Debt is Dumb.” One of his major tenets is do not borrow or lend money ever. He uses this verse to explain how all debt is bad.

The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. (Proverbs 22:7 NASB)

Debt changes our relationships. If you lend a friend money, you are no longer just friends, your are master and slave. Same with family – you can get so you begin to judge how they are spending their money because they are not paying you back with it.

This is working well for me until I get to Jesus’ word and see that He says if someone wants to borrow from you, don’t run the other way. Just jump on that.

Why does Jesus contradict the wisest man who ever lived? Was Solomon wrong, or is Jesus wrong – or is Dave Ramsey wrong.

Nope – none of the above.

Jesus, in the Luke version of the Sermon on the mount (perhaps a different day, perhaps the perspective of a doctor rather than a tax collector – who knows) give a bit more of Jesus’ instructions on lending.

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:34-35 NASB)

OH – I GET IT – You can lend all you want, just don’t expect to get anything in return.

In other words – when you lend – you give – and forgive the debt immediately. Consider what you lend to be a gift, not an investment. [Tweet This]

By the way – that is actually what Dave Ramsey says too – Don’t lend – give help when you feel led, and if they pay you back – awesome, if not you still have a friend or family member.

Live with open hands today!

Thanks for stopping in. Come back soon.

Ben

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matt 5:22 NASB)

Just a quick observation here. Your words can get you in a heap of trouble! If you are like me, a verbal processor, you can be hip deep is poo before you know what hit you, just by speaking before you consider your words.

Here Jesus it talking about the massive harm you can do to yourself, not to mention the wounds you inflict on others with your words.

In God’s economy (and let’s be honest, His is the only economy that really counts) words are the most valuable, and powerful commodity.

After all – He used words to create everything that exists. He used words to bless and to curse. And He sent His Word to save, deliver, and heal us. [Tweet This]

So how are your words? James asks this question:

Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? (James 3:11 NASB)

Is your mouth a polluted fountain?

We can do better! Think before you speak. (yes you, Ben) Let’s use our mouths to bless and not curse!

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted. ~Amy Carmichael

Thanks for reading today.

Ben

photo credit: BombDog via photo pin cc