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Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; (Song of Songs 1:3 NKJV)

What is fragrance?

What does it do?

Here’s the thing. When our Song speaks of fragrance it is not talking actions. Not the visible actions of a Shepherd King, but rather the invisible features of thoughts and emotions – His passions.

When we talk about God and emotions we (the Church) have a strange box for God. We feel like God has this amazing joy when we are born again, and He spends the rest of our lives angry with us.

There is even a theological argument out there that says that God does not change so He cannot have emotions.

This is all so messed up. We are created in the image of God, emotions and all. If we learn nothing else from the Song of Songs, it is that we have an emotional Father.

There is, however, action in this verse and we don’t want to miss it. The fragrant ointment is poured forth.

Here we see the internal essence of Jesus, His thought life, His emotion, His passion, poured out by the declaration of His name. Last week we looked at His name, but today I want to draw your attention to this idea.

As His name is declared, His passion is revealed. [Tweet This]

Observe:

When He said His name was JEHOVAH-TSID-KENU  "The Lord is our righteousness" He was demonstrating His passion for transforming you into the righteousness of God in Him.

When He said His name was JEHOVAH-SHALOM  - Our perfect peace - He was demonstrating His passion for creating peace between you and God as the Prince of Peace.

When He said His name was JEHOVAH RAPHA  - I am the Lord Your Physician or I am the Lord Your Healer – He was demonstrating His passion for healing you to the uttermost.

Interestingly enough Paul talks about fragrance too.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NASB)

The fact is, as our life declares by word and deed the name of Jesus, His passion is poured forth on our circle of influence, and it has an impact. It may draw some to Christ, and it may push some away. In any case, when you stand for Christ your life will no longer be neutral.

Do you need that ointment poured forth in your life today?

Do you need that healing balm, that peace that defies understanding?

Let the name of Jesus wash over you even now. Declare His name out loud over your circumstances today.

If you are sick say out loud something like “I am yours, Jehovah Rapha – the Lord who heals me”

If you are stressed instead of blessed – declare “I am yours, Jehovah Shalom”

Hey – we are not talking magic words, or secret formulae here. But there is power in the name of Jesus.

That’s good, isn’t it? Share what you learned, or what fresh revelation you received, or even what made you mad here today. Has His name poured out in your life changed your reality? Share!

Come back next week for more of the Song. Believe me, we are just scratching the surface here.

Ben

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We have undersold the power of prayer—well, I have.

Prayer seems like a great idea for some of those projects that are beyond our control.

Prayer makes me feel like I’m doing something when I’m in a circumstance where I’m limited to only prayer.

Prayer is our last resort.

But the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. - Romans 8:26 ESV

These are great and encouraging words. It’s wonderful to know that even though I don’t know how to pray the Holy Spirit has it.

But there’s a little word in this bit of encouragement that tells me we’re missing it.

The word? Ought.

Oughts have become rather frowned upon in today’s Christian circles, and I’m not trying to popularize guilt and condemnation again. I’m glad the Church is moving away from the use of guilt to make us behave.

And yet, we have an ought. Thankfully it comes couched in the Lord’s great provision for our shortcoming.

What is the solution for our weakness? Prayer. The fact that ought shows up here implies to me that there should come a point in a Christians life when he is able to pray through some of his own weaknesses.

OK - that’s all good, but I’m not there—right? Are you? Maybe so.

Here’s the ah-ha for me.

When I don’t know how to pray to solve my weakness, what does God do?

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. - Romans 8:27 ESV

He, by the Spirit searches our hearts and minds and finds the weakness and …

fixes it? - No

sends help? - No

makes us strong? - No

The Spirit prays—intercedes on our behalf.

God’s own solution to our weakness is not the taking of some action but to pray.

I’ve always thought that we pray and God acts. Or we pray and God puts in our heart the courage to act and the wisdom to know how.

But I’m thinking that the whole work is done in prayer. Words passed between mortal and immortal, between man and God. Short of that words passed between Spirit and Father.

And the result of this intercession?

All our circumstances work together for the believer's good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28 ESV

This most famous of verses is the middle of a paragraph about how the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to deal with our weaknesses.

My circumstance shines the spotlight on my weakness, and the Spirit carries me before the Father and stands as my advocate, pleading for me—for you.

Do the circumstances dissolve? Not necessarily. Do the problems fall away? Maybe yes—Maybe no. Is a great outcome promised? You bet -

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. - Romans 8:29 ESV

Through the intercession of the Spirit, I am conformed to the image of Christ.

So what do I do with that little ought?

My prayer must become—Lord, teach me to pray. Help me partner with the Spirit and participate in my own transformation.

Yes Lord!

Teach me to pray as I ought!

BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by.

Have a great 4th of July!

Ben

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Many bemoan the evil of our present day. This is not new. All of my life, the generation ahead of me looked back at the “good old days” and now my generation is doing the same.

We read or hear the headlines of current events and we become disheartened.

Perhaps this is why Paul’s words to the Galatians jumped out at me this morning.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, - Galatians 1:3-4 NASB

Paul informs us that the Lord Jesus Christ by giving Himself for our sins, rescued us from this present evil age.

So why is it that we feel like captives to the evil of our present age?

We can’t say that in Paul’s day it wasn’t as bad as it is today. In Paul’s day the put the Christians in the Colosseum and fed them to lions—burned them at the stake—slaughtered them like so much cattle.

Paul was beaten with thirty-nine lashes five times, stoned, beaten, mocked, imprisoned, all by the evil of his day.

And yet, his heart cried out FREEDOM.

The evil of his day, evil done around him, evil done to him, did not hold him.

He pursued the Father’s business.

Want to go into the family business with me, my brothers and sisters.

We may need to shake ourselves and realize we are free in the midst of the mess of our day.

Free to love our neighbors.

Free to preach the gospel.

Free to shine the light of Christ in the darkness, this gross darkness.

Free to season and preserve our generation with the saltiness of Christ in you (me.)

Are you with me?

benheadshot1Thank God I’m free!

Don’t forget to shine!

Ben

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The Prophecy of Agabus by Louis Cheron

Yesterday, I posed a question. Here are a few verses we were considering:

After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. ...

As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:4, 10-12 NASB

The Question:

The ponderable on the table here is whether the disciples were right and Paul should have stayed out of Jerusalem. Or was Paul hearing perfectly, and the disciples were missing the point of what the Spirit was saying. They came pretty close (but not perfect - that’s a conversation for another day) as to what would happen when He got there. But did they mis-read God’s intention for Paul.

What if I told you Paul  could have stayed or gone and never missed God’s best for him?

Many Christians are stuck because they find themselves unable to make a decision. They are afraid they will miss God’s best in their life, if they make one wrong move.

I’m not talking about sin here.

Trust me on this, if among your choices is a clear violation of who God is and what He has commanded, there may be some consequences in your natural and spiritual life.

But let’s get back to Paul’s situation. He had what he believed was the voice of God (I’m not saying it wasn’t) and the council of men and women of faith.

Agabus was not some fly by night, hot and cold saint. He had a solid record of good prophecy. This is from about ten years earlier:

One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. - Acts 11:28 NASB

So who missed God?

What if?

What if the Father gave Paul the choice?

What if he could have picked either one and ended up in God’s perfect will?

What if God was able to work in and through Paul even if he chose not to go to Jerusalem?

Paul taught us in Romans 8:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28 NASB

And the writer of Hebrews tells us:

… for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6 NASB

Paul was a called and diligent seeker after God’s heart. The fact that He would again face chains did not persuade him to fade back from where He believed the Lord was leading.

This was not like his canceled stop in Bithynia:

and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; - Acts 16:7 NASB

Applied:

So - let’s bring the question closer to home. Can you miss God’s best for your life?

Again, let’s put blatant sin out of the picture. If that godly woman in your church makes you think you should divorce your wife, and marry her, think again (or stop thinking altogether because your brain needs a break—or brakes.)

But what if you find yourself, in diligent pursuit of the Father’s will, with two or more really good options? What if your oikos (the circle of fellowship and love the Lord has placed in your life) is not giving counsel that resonates or clarifies.

Just go for it.

When He said He would work all thing for your good, He really meant all things. God has seen the potential outcome of every choice you have ever made, or ever will, and has a plan ready to go.

Have you ever gotten a video, with an alternate ending. God’s got racks and racks of alternate endings with your name on them. Each one ends well, not only for you, but for all of His vast family.

It’s a little mind-blowing when you start to take all the choices made by all those called by His name and mix up all the possibilities. Factor in the chance circumstances that get sprinkled liberally into our lives. Now ponder how the infinite mind of God has fashioned our destiny from all that.

I can’t find words immense enough to even describe the mind and heart of God.

So be encouraged. Don’t be afraid to act. As long as you’re not violating love—aka God’s law—follow God’s leading as best you can and believe He will take care of the rest.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by today.

You’re a blessing. Keep shining.

Ben

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The Prophecy of Agabus by Louis Cheron

After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. - Acts 21:4 NASB

I have a question for you.

I've heard smart Christians, godly men and women all, come in on both sides of this question. I'd love to get your take.

Here's the situation:

Paul is traveling all over the world preaching the gospel. Everywhere he goes the disciples (Christ followers) prophecy over him. They have heard from the Holy Spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem.

Agabus, by a prophetic demonstration showed him that chains awaited him there.

As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. - Acts 21:10-12 NASB

Paul took it as the kindness of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave him foreknowledge of what he faced. He faced hard times as he obeyed the call of the Spirit on his heart to go to Jerusalem.

The others took it as a warning from the Spirit not to go.

What do you think? Why?

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A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. - Acts 16:14 NASB

The Lord is still in the heart opening business, and He still uses us to speak.

Lydia was a Jew, and worshiped God in her own way. Paul didn’t let her alone with the attitude that she was in a good place as a worshipper of God, even though He worshipped the same God.

He preached Christ to her.

As Lydia pursued God, He found her.

Paul spoke - Lord, lead me to those who are seeking you. Give me words to speak into someones life today.

The Lord opened her heart - Lord, open the hearts of those I cross paths with that they might respond to Your call.

benheadshot1That’s enough.

See you again soon.

Ben

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And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. - Acts 15:39 NASB

This is a sad chapter in Church history, and not the last.

Barnabas had been Paul’s first ally and had spent probably close to a decade (years anyway) traveling with him. They had seen and done many miracles together—not the least of which was Paul’s own resurrection (or near resurrection—he was at least mostly dead in Lystra.) They had led hundreds, perhaps thousands of new believers into faith. They had planted churches throughout Asia Minor. They with Peter stood together before the council to declare that God was saving gentiles (a fact for which I am very thankful.)

And yet, there came a day when there was a “sharp disagreement” and they parted ways.

One thing to note here. Neither one of them went home and quit the ministry. They did not close up shop. They did not shut down. They did go their separate ways. But as they went they continued in ministry. The church continued to back them up with prayer and commissioning and their ministers continued to be fruitful.

This is the way the Passion Translation puts it:

After the believers prayed for them, asking for the Lord’s favor on their ministry, they left for Syria and southeast Turkey. Every place they went, they left the church stronger and more encouraged than before. - Acts 15:40-41 TPT

I’m not making and space for division. I’m not saying we should split over our differences. I don’t think it pleased the Father to have these two apostles split. And I don’t think it was the best for either of them. I don’t think it was God’s plan all along to have division in the body.

What I see is the wonderful grace and mercy of our heavenly Father to continue to work with us when we are broken. He does not lift His grace and anointing even when we are thick-headed and stubborn. His mercies truly are new every morning.

In the end Paul and Barnabas were reconciled and John Mark forgiven, and that is as it should be. But in the mean time, these men went on about the business of the Father.

Isn’t God good?

benheadshot1Thanks for stopping by.

See you again soon,

Ben

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Christ And The Rich Young Ruler - Heinrich Hofmann

 

You know the commandments - Mark 10:19

When the rich young ruler asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus does not make him the same offer He made Nicodemus or the woman at the well.

But there is a similarity in the way Jesus leads this young man and how He guided these others. He used what they did know and drew them in to what they lacked.

With Nick, He talked about what could be observed about what was unseen.

With the woman holding a vessel, He talked about water.

With this young man, he talked about the law.

You know the commandments.

How did Jesus know he knew?

Luke tells us, in his account of the meeting that this young man was a ruler – perhaps a ruler of the synagogue? Or perhaps he was in Jewish garb of some sort.

Or perhaps Jesus was just leading him to the same conclusion that Paul makes with the Christians in Rome when he makes a case for the universal law known by all men.

…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. - Romans 1:19-20

He ends the first chapter (I know – he did not write it in chapters) with this stunning declaration

…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. - Romans 1:32

That verse always makes me stop.

This “them” and “they” is referring to all men.

They (all men) KNOW the ordinance of God.

They (all men) KNOW the price set for unrighteousness.

They (all men) practice and approve.

And so I can say with Jesus

You know the commandments.

Hmmm…

Ben NelsonThere is more to say – come back again.

Ben

Hey - check out my recent retelling of the encounter with this rich young man: What Am I Lacking?

 

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Thanks to Pastor J. for the Church Photo - Check out his blog - Lillie-Put: http://josephelonlillie.com/

Today – a short discussion of why many, if not most, Christians celebrate a Sunday Sabbath, and what the Bible has to say about it. I hope you will allow me a bit of word study here.

I will preface this post as I often do, stating that I am not a scholar. My info comes from study of concordances and other reference works, and some teaching I have received along the way, but I am not a Greek expert – or even a Greek student. So please take this as offered – my slightly informed opinion.

For starters lets get the dogma out of the discussion. Paul clearly says it does not matter how you celebrate your Sabbath. I am convinced that there were Saturday Sabbatarians and Sunday Sabbatarians in the early church, and Paul addresses it this way:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. - Colossians 2:16-17

[We will have to come back and ponder the second half of this verse soon, since it hints at my question from last week – What was this Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a Christian?]

Back to today’s question – Saturday or Sunday.

As I have been studying the Sabbath for the last couple weeks, I found that when I search the New Testament for the word Sabbath I get  61 matches in 56 verses. On the other hand, if I search the Greek word most often translated Sabbath, “σάββατον – Sabbaton” I get 68 results in 62 verses.

The funny thing is that the word is most often translated Sabbath or Sabbaths – like this:

And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, - Acts 17:2

…but other times it is translated like this:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. - Acts 20:7

The only real difference is this little Greek word “εἷς - heis” which is translated first or one. If you will remember from our discussion last week, the names of the days in Hebrew (again – I read this, I am not a scholar) are simply numbers – first day, second day… except the Sabbath – the only day with its own name.

If you look at the word Sabbath in the NT, it is most often speaking of Jesus, or Paul doing something involving the Jews, either in the synagogue or temple, or someplace they were gathering on their Sabbath day.

So how do we get a Sunday Sabbath?

Check out this verse where it is actually used both ways in the same verse.

Now after the Sabbath [Greek- Sabbaton], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [Greek – heis Sabbaton], Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. - Matthew 28:1

You can probably guess what is happening in the context here, can’t you. This is the resurrection of Jesus Christ! This is the day of all days, when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit collaborated in the most important event since God started the clocks running in the beginning.

This day was so significant, that the Jews who followed their Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, began to celebrate The First day of the week – Sunday to us – as their new Sabbath. You will notice every time the New Testament translates this phrase “heis sabbaton” it is either referring to the resurrection or the gather of the saints.

So then this verse at the beginning of Matthew 28 is somewhat of a transition from a Saturday Sabbath to a Sunday Sabbath.

In reality, in the life of a believer, everyday is set apart for God, right?

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalms 118:24

So in one sense there is no distinction. But I think we see in these couple of verses from early Church that Sunday was the day the Church gathered to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and share in community.

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. - Acts 20:7

On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. - 1 Corinthians 16:2

As we are the body of Christ, it is important that we spend time in community, in fellowship with other parts of the body. The early church ate together, they prayed together, they learned and were taught together, they shared what they were hearing from the Lord together, and they gave into the needs of the body, and to the poor together.

I urge you not to forsake the gathering of the body. Everything Christ commanded us has to do with our relationships. Let’s foster community where we can. [Tweet This]

Sorry – got off topic there.

You can celebrate a Sabbath any day you want, but I am sticking with Sunday.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

Shine where you’re screwed in today.

Ben

Hey - if you enjoy these posts, and are on Facebook, would you do me a favor and click "Like" over on the side bar? Thanks!

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photo credit: Rennett Stowe via photopin cc
photo credit: Rennett Stowe via photopin cc

Today’s red letters are from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. - Luke 6:38

I know that nine out of ten times (perhaps 99 out of 100) when this is taught, the lesson is about money, but I think it has a much broader reach. The fact is that the context is that of relational advise more than money advise, though Jesus’ words are flowing back and forth between giving, and loving, and judging, and well, just life in general.

And that is what I want to use for my application today, LIFE.

Are you stingy with your life? Do you keep all of your “self” to yourself? Are you a life hoarder?

Have you ever noticed that when you pull back from living your life in community, your life begins to dry up? At first it might feel like you have a bit more freedom, nobody asking you to serve, nobody poking at your life, or getting in your stuff. But soon, you feel like life is not fulfilling. You go through a rough patch and there is no one to stand beside you.

I don’t think we realize that life is a commodity, and we are not given life to hoard and keep to our selves, but the life we are given is meant to be shared, spread around, planted, given away.

Now, I know there are some of you out there who give away all the life that you have, and keep none for yourself, and of course you are the ones reading this thinking – “I should get more involved” – Well, perhaps not. Be sure to save some of your precious life to sustain your family. He who does not care for the needs of his own family is worse than an infidel – that goes for your time and love and life, as much, or more than it does for your money.

But if you find yourself feeling alone, left out, forsaken, consider whether you have stopped sharing that wonderful commodity that God has put in your hands for the express purpose of sharing – YOU.

Do you want to unstop the flow of life into your world? Share what you have, and God will press it down, shake it together and pour so much life back into your lap you won’t know what to do. [Tweet This]

How was Jesus able to feed 5,000 people? By taking the tiny offering of a young boy who was willing to share.

Paul said it this way:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. - Galatians 6:7

Spread some life today!

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

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