Thursday, June 19, 2014

Song of Solomon: One Chain of Thy Neck

Hello again!  It has been awhile since I've decided to do a study for my blog.  I've been very busy, making sure my kids take their state tests for school, attending Ligonier's West Coast Conference, and the every day dramas of life.  The conference was a blast, and there are more quotes, pictures, and stories from my time in Seattle on my Facebook page if anyone is interested - the dates of the conference were June 5th & 6th, but there are also posts about it dated the 7th and maybe the 8th after I got home.  But without further adieu, let's get started with this new study.

I've had this idea for awhile, to delve into Songs a bit more and bring up another pearl.  A while ago, I asked the Lord about the necklace in Songs and why it's so important.  There is reference to it in Songs 1:10, & Songs 4:9.

We read, "Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."

I understand why a glance from her eyes would ravish the heart of the Beloved, but her necklace?  What's that all about, Lord?  I know there's no idle word in Scripture, so this is likely more than poetry.

I didn't find the answer right away.  The Lord let me ponder the meaning of the necklace for some time.  It wasn't until I was reading along in another book that an idea started to take root.  At first read, this passage doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything.

The passage is Judges 8:26:

And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.

In this Scripture, Gideon requested the men of Israel give him the earrings of their prey, likely so that they wouldn't idolize the gold over Yahweh.  They willingly gave the spoils and spread them out upon a garment.  When I read this passage, the Holy Spirit nudged me to remember the necklace in Songs.  But Judges doesn't elaborate further on the chains of the camels.

Besides, who wants to think about the chains of a camel as being attractive to the Beloved?!

But the Spirit kept nudging me to think about it.  The camels' chains were their reins.  Perhaps they were a bit ornate, but they were used to lead the camel and tell it where to go.  Okay, Lord, seed planted.

I just so happened to be reading another passage for leisure one day, not for study, in the book of Proverbs.  When I read it, I sat up and my hair stood on end.  Proverbs 1:8-9:

My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

I had even written this in my Bible's margin months earlier:

"Instruction and Law are like fine necklaces, or as reins that tell one where to go."

WHAAAT??  Immediately I remembered Songs and Judges, both how the necklace gave the Spouse beauty to the Beloved, yet also how the chains guide the camels.  Here in Proverbs, we see the same idea.  Instruction and law guide the believer.

This idea is further solidified in Proverbs 3:3: "Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart" and Proverbs 3:21-22: "My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck."

Another sister verse to Proverbs 1:8-9 is Proverbs 6:20-21:

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
Indeed, this is the true meaning of the Spouse's necklace in Songs.  Let's revisit what these Scriptures say:

"Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold."  ~~Songs 1:10
"Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."  ~~Songs 4:9

In the context of the supporting Scripture elsewhere in the Bible, the mystery of the golden necklace in Song of Solomon is solved.  The chains that turn the head of the Beloved are instruction, commandment, law, mercy, truth, wisdom, and discretion.

With just one chain, she ravishes His heart.  With just her mercy.  With just her wisdom.  With just her truth.  We see the chains of her neck which lead her through life are actually attributes of God.  She reflects her Beloved by being like Him.  Out of her eyes she reflects Him, because His Spirit indwells her (dove's eyes), and she also reflects Him through her character and the way she lives.  His attributes govern her life.  His attributes are her adornment, as a necklace of fine gold.

Interestingly enough, both Songs and Proverbs were written by King Solomon.  I have found many "keys" to Songs in Proverbs.  Perhaps King Solomon spelled out his wisdom in Proverbs while veiling that same wisdom in the poetry of Songs.  It seems to me these two books decipher each other at times.

Not every secret in Songs is in Proverbs.  But I bet you'll never read Proverbs in the same light again.

Praise God!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rich Young Ruler vs. The Blind Old Beggar

In my private study time of the Bible, I came across a familiar story in Mark 10.  It is the story of the rich young ruler.  He is unnamed, but mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I'm sure most of us are familiar with this story.  The Lord makes mention that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to Heaven.  This is a powerful statement, prompting the disciples to question, "Who, then, can be saved?"

What I noticed in my study, however, was the contrast between the rich young ruler and the blind beggar outside of Jericho at the end of the chapter.  The beggar is mentioned again in Luke, but not at all in Matthew.  It is only in the Gospel of Mark that he is named: Bartimaeus.

In rereading both of these accounts, we can see the differences between the men right away, and it doesn't take a genius to see why one man is saved and the other is not.

First, let's start with the rich young ruler.  His story is in Mark 10:17-22.

In his account, we see him running to Christ, and kneeling before Him.  He says, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

Christ responds with, "Why do you call me good?  There is none good but God."

First, I believe this was a subtle hint that if He is truly "good", then He is truly God.  However, in studying this further, I believe the Lord was making a point to this wealthy man, that men are not "good" by their works.  He is reminding him that there is none that are good (Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3).  With a caveat - except for God.  Why?  I'll get to that.

After the Lord's rebuke, Christ then goes into the Law, and how the young man knows the Ten Commandments.  The man affirms that he has lived by the Law since he was a young lad.  Then, the account says the Lord *loved him*, and told him a very hard truth - to sell all he has and give it to the poor.  Not only that, but take up his cross and follow Him.

The rich man walked away grieved, because he had much wealth.

Notice a few things about this account.  First, he made an assumption that Christ was "good".  He'd heard about the Lord's works, and therefore assumed He was "good".  Christ IS Good.  He's the only man who ever was truly "good", because He is also God.  But in telling the rich man there is none good but God, we can see this person does not believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Next, Christ goes through the Commandments, and the rich man puffs up with pride.  He's kept the Law his whole life!  Surely he, too, is a good man.  Christ's rebuke that no one is "good" but God goes right over his head.  We know this because of his pride, but also because of his original statement to Jesus - "What shall I do...?"  He is probably well-liked.  Loves accolades.  Loves being told how wonderful he is.  Perhaps he's made his wealth single-handedly, being the one who loves to DO things in order to get them done.

Of course, we know in light of the entire Gospel message, it is not by our own works that we are saved, but by the finished work of Christ alone.

In telling this rich man to sell his possessions and take up his cross, Jesus is telling him to become poor, to be looked down upon, and to be a curse - as everyone who hangs upon a tree (a cross) is a curse (Deuteronomy 21:23).  Considering this man's pride, wealth, and love for prestige, this is not an attractive perspective.  Likely the Lord told this man to sell all he had because his wealth had become an idol.  It needed to be cut out of his heart.  Christ isn't saying His followers need to be beggars and dirt poor, but rather, that nothing should remain in our hearts that hinder us from following Christ.  Once this man "cut off his hand" and "gouged out his eye" (figuratively speaking), he would then be freed from his idolatry.  When that idol is gone, he would joyfully take up his cross to follow Christ.

That is why Jesus continued saying it is hard for those who trust in money to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  They are idolaters, and therefore their money is their God.

Now, let's contrast Bartimaeus.  His account is found in Mark 10:46-52.

Bartimaeus was begging on the side of the road outside of Jericho.  When he heard the commotion of the crowds, he asked who was passing by.  The moment he knew it was Jesus, he cried out, "Yeshua, Son of David! Have mercy on me!"  Some told him to be quiet and hold his peace, but he cried out all the louder - "Yeshua!  Son of David!  Have mercy on me!"

Now, notice the difference in what these two men called the Lord?  The rich young ruler called Him "good Master", but Bartimaeus calls Him "Son of David" - he knows Jesus is Messiah.  We also see he cries out for mercy.  He is asking the Lord to be merciful to him, but he does not leave his spot by the side of the road.  Unlike the pomp of the rich man who rudely ran up and intercepted Christ, this blind beggar can do nothing more than cry out for mercy - and wait with hope.

Yeshua stops and calls the man over.  Likely Christ's disciples tell him that the Lord calls to him.  Without hesitation, the man casts away his garment and came to the Lord.

Again, see the difference?  What did this man own?  Likely that garment.  Probably not much else - and he just cast it aside. 

Then, Christ said the very words that first caught my eye.  "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"

Again, the contrast between this man and the rich man are clearly seen.  The rich man wanted to know what HE could do to gain the Kingdom.  The beggar asks Christ to do a work for him.

The beggar asks not for wealth nor happiness nor revenge on those who've taunted him.  He doesn't ask for any vain thing.  Seriously, what would you ask of the Son of God if you had His rapt attention?  He asks only for his sight.  He does not doubt.  He's likely heard of others who've regained their sight.  I have no doubt old Bartimaeus prayed to Yahweh for the Messiah to come to Jericho.

And so He did.

Christ saw Bartimaeus' great faith, and his faith made him whole.  He says, "Go your way."  Immediately he regained his sight, and the account said he "followed Yeshua in the way."  His way was with Christ!  He had likely become one of the many disciples who followed Him from town to town.  That beggar probably lived by the side of the road.  He had no home to go home to, therefore he would follow the Lord.  Not only did he receive his physical sight, but he gained spiritual sight as well.  He took up his cross and followed Yeshua in the way.

Since he is named in the Gospel of Mark, and not only that, but it is said, "Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus", it is highly likely that the Twelve knew him.  At least Peter did, as Mark followed Peter and wrote down the Apostle's account of the life of Christ.  What a lovely ending for this poor old man who cried out to Jesus and was given mercy.  Since he is specifically named, he was probably well-loved.

The stark contrast between these two men are obvious.  Pride and humility.  Idolatry and belief.  What must I do...what will Christ do?

Mercy was given to Bartimaeus because he recognized Christ as the Messiah.  He called upon the name of the Lord and asked for mercy.  His request wasn't selfish, but it was a request upon which all the Glory would be given to God.  His heart held no idols.  His hope was in God for bringing the Messiah to Jericho.  I think I would have loved to know this Bartimaeus.  One day, I shall meet him in glory.

It is in comparing the rich young ruler with blind Bartimaeus that we come to understand who was truly blind, and who could truly see.

Praise the Lord.  \O/


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Son of God Movie Review


For those of you who know me, you know I LOVE Yeshua.  More than anything.  So when I heard a new movie was coming out about Christ, I was... skeptical.  A lot of Christians rejoiced at the news, but for me, I wondered if it would be true to the One I know so well.  Faithful Christians do not have the budget to make a decent Christian movie, and Christian movies made by Hollywood seem to fall short.  Even the epic, The Ten Commandments, which I ADORE, went off the rails with the fictional romance between Moses and Nefertiri.

One of my most favorite, faithful movies to Scripture, that is both accurate and deeply respectful, is the animated Prince of Egypt.  The music, the actors, and the subject matter all came together and coalesced into an amazing spectacle of God's glory (of which I'm STILL waiting for the Blu-ray!)

The Son of God seemed to be nothing more than The Bible miniseries from the History Channel on the big screen, considering it was made by the same people and with the same actors.  But it is not rehashed material we might have seen on TV, as they did go back and reshoot many new scenes for the movie.  So be at peace in knowing this isn't simply the miniseries in theaters, there is new material.

However, because it's not the miniseries, they do not bother retelling some of the events they told previously.  We all know by now they've cut the scenes with Satan.  They also cut scenes of Jesus exorcising demons and healing the blind.  What they did keep was important miracles, feeding the five thousand, raising Lazarus, and healing the paralytic man lowered through the roof.  However, the movie was not in chronological order according to Scripture.

Miracles and events bounced around, as if it was fluid and linear, but anyone worth their Bible stories will know some miracles did not follow others according to the Scripture record.  Some things were even glaringly changed, likely to tell a story rather than be faithful to the Word.  Case in point, Christ told the disciples to leave without Him and He would meet them on the other side of the lake (the famous walking on water to catch up with them story - Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6).  Then He went to go pray.  Likely He needed to mourn the death of John the Baptist.  However, in the movie, Christ finds out about John the Baptist in Nazareth after He reads the scroll of Isaiah, but Christ was rejected in Nazareth *before* John's death and the episode with the five thousand and walking on water.  I don't understand why they bounced around in the movie and had Nazareth after feeding the five thousand.  That bothered me.

The movie assumes you know Scripture, or have at least a passing knowledge of Christ and His disciples.  They do not explain Mary Magdalene at all, aside from a blanket statement about Christ calling many other disciples who followed Him.  The only disciple He calls specifically is Simon Peter.  Also, the raising of Lazarus is disjointed, because there is no foreshadow, no explaining who Martha and Lazarus are.  And this brings another dig against the movie - they omitted Mary of Bethany.

Mary of Bethany is one of my "Biblical heroes".  You cannot tell the story of Lazarus without the beauty of Mary of Bethany.  She was the one who anointed Christ's feet with her expensive perfume - the only anointing for His burial that He received.  But she doesn't even have an actress to play her, as I only saw Lazarus, Martha, & Mary Magdalene present.  It was almost as if Mary Magdalene had taken her place.  But she is not the same woman.

Another peeve of mine was they used Nicodemus as one of the main antagonists, seemingly against his better judgment, by the orders of the High Priest.  In the movie, it was Nicodemus who challenged Christ about paying taxes to Caesar, for instance.  And Joseph of Arimathea... we'll just have to guess which Pharisee he was - perhaps the one who mentioned that holding court at night with no witnesses was illegal.  He wasn't named at all.

THAT SAID, here is what I loved about the movie.

First of all, it opens with old-man Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos.  The Apostle John is also another of my Biblical heroes, so I was quite excited to see the movie open with Him.  The Son of God was loosely based on John's Gospel, as the first words of the movie are from John 1:1-14.  LOVE that.  The Word became flesh.  YES!!

Secondly, it doesn't begin with the virgin birth, it goes back, way back, and flashes scenes of the Garden, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, Goliath... and from John's voice talks about how He was *always* with us.  LOVE!!

When we get to the virgin birth, the Star of Bethlehem shines in the shape of a cross.  Nice touch.

When Christ first meets Peter, He picks up a stone, inspects it, then puts it back down.  Unless one is familiar with Peter = Rock = Upon this rock, they might miss the subtle foreshadow.

Upon reading the scroll of Isaiah in Nazareth, Christ doesn't actually "read" it.  He opens the scroll and then... recites it, without looking at the scroll.  I loved that He knew exactly where in the book they were reading AND the words of the prophecy, as He *is* the Word of God.  He wouldn't have had to read it at all.  I loved that little tidbit.

I've often wondered if Christ's parables were based on actual events, actual scenarios, and apparently, I'm not the only one.  Christ tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in front of Matthew the tax collector's table, and we are made to believe the humble Publican was likely Matthew, who'd turned his face from Heaven, asking God to have mercy.  LOVE that perspective.  John MacArthur has made mention in his book, "The Jesus You Can't Ignore" that Matthew was likely fed up and convicted about what he was doing.  When Christ called Him to follow, there was no hesitation at all.  The movie also portrayed this about the Apostle Matthew.  It was wonderful to see.

The crucifixion scene was shown, and they pulled no punches with Christ's wounds, however, not to the extent of The Passion of the Christ.  While Gibson's movie focused on the gore, Son of God focused on the determination of Christ to be crucified.  He said the very words assured to send Him to death before the Pharisees - claiming to be God as "I AM", and He didn't mince words with Pilate.  But the scene I ADORED, that I've *never* seen any other film of Jesus Christ do...  The bloodied, wounded Yeshua of Nazareth was hauled to His feet after falling through the streets of Jerusalem - then embraced and kissed His cross.

In that moment, tears.  I couldn't stop them.  Through that cross, I am His.  In effect, by kissing that cross, He was kissing ME.  So poignant, so powerful, and whoever thought of that in the script or even if it was impromptu by the actor, WELL DONE.  With that one, amazing scene, they captured the essence, the grace, and the absolute LOVE of Almighty God to save His children.  Along with that, when the cross was finally upon Golgotha's hill, our Lord *crawled* to it, determined to be nailed upon it.  This reminded me of a musing by Bruce Marchiano (who also played Christ in The Gospel According to Matthew) in his book "In the Footsteps of Jesus", which mentioned the resolve of Jesus to do whatever it took to be crucified.  In that, my heart warmed again for the One I know as my Beloved.

They were faithful to the earthquake that hit after Christ's death, as well as the gathering wind and clouds.  However, the eclipse wasn't shone, and the Temple Veil simply fell rather than being rent.  The movie goes beyond the crucifixion, which I was happy to see, as I always felt let down by The Passion of the Christ that Gibson didn't dive deeper into the Resurrection.  It is the Resurrection, after all, that gave validation to all of Christ's claims.

We do not see the "redemption of Peter", which is a bummer, because I think it would have tied everything together from the beginning to the end of Christ's ministry, telling Peter (and the gang) to (again) toss their nets for a catch.  Jesus asked Peter three times "Do you love Me?" to atone for the three times he denied the Lord.  Considering Peter lamented that the Lord was "gone" and he couldn't ask for forgiveness (before the Resurrection), I'm surprised that scene wasn't there.

What really took me off guard and pleasantly surprised me, is we finally return to the aged Apostle John in his cave upon the Isle of Patmos.  He's contemplating all he'd seen in life, and then we hear... the words of Christ from Revelation 1 speaking behind him.  What?!  We get Revelation goodness in this movie too??  YES!!

It is sweet indeed to see the venerable John reunited with Christ, and you know what's coming, but they stop short of full disclosure on Revelation (obviously), but allude to Christ's return.  YES!  So disappointing, however, that John just says, "Amen" instead of "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"  That would have been the perfect ending to this movie.

While the Son of God has its flaws, I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by this movie.  The Gospel message is presented somewhat, they did mention Christ having authority to forgive sin, that He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and that those who believe on Him shall never die, HOWEVER, there is no specific talk of repentance, so a glaring omission there.

With it's flaws, it will likely upset purists and theologians, because bouncing from story to story in a disjointed way didn't really need to be done.  Christians have raised brows because it's been endorsed by the likes of Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey, and Roma Downey's questionable ties to the New Age movement made me nervous.  But...  even so...  with these dings against it, there is no doubt in my mind that God will use this movie in a mighty and powerful way to reach those who need to be reached.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly for the "little touches" they included, such as referencing the Old Testament stories and subtle nods to more mature Christians who recognize what that kiss by our Savior upon the wood of the cross actually means. 

All in all, I enjoyed this movie and would see it again.  In fact, I'll likely buy it when it comes out on Blu-ray.  The end credits were shown along with scenes from the miniseries, to CeeLo Green singing, "Mary, Did You Know?"  And while some Christians raised a brow at this music choice, this is actually one of my *favorite* renditions of the song.  CeeLo Green might not be a model Christian, but let us not forget that Christ came to call sinners to repentance.

Never in my life have I experienced what I did in that theater when the final credit rolled.  It was almost... holyNo one spoke.  Everyone was silent and left quietly.  Even my children and I, who had been talking and giggling before the movie, *whispered* on the way out of the theater, even after the house lights had been turned up.  Oh yeah.

God was there.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Treasure of Heaven

Introducing my new eBook, The Treasure of Heaven!  Click on the cover to take you to the buy page.  If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow the eBook.  The print copy can be found here.

This book means a lot to me.  I hope you'll give it a read.  The Church needs to learn how to treasure her Bridegroom!  \O/


Have you ever beheld the beauty of Jesus Christ?  Have you ever contemplated His worth?  Has the depth of the Atonement ever stirred your heart with profound adoration for Him?  Christianity these days has a low view of the Son of God.  Believers have forsaken lives lived with fiery conviction in favor of an easy, comfortable existence.  They pant after God’s blessings rather than panting for God alone.  As a result, the Church seems stuck in an endless adolescence, never moving on to deeper maturity in the faith.

The Apostle Paul wrote about a glorious Savior who’d captured both his heart and his mind.  The majesty of the Messiah was a reality to him, and a half-hearted commitment to his King was unthinkable.  What did Paul know about Christ that modern Christians do not?  What made him fearless and bold when he faced adversity?  How could he continue on, fighting the good fight, when so many painful things happened to him?  Simple.  Paul had discovered the Treasure of Heaven, the worth of Christ Himself.  Once that light had shone abroad in his heart, nothing else mattered but proclaiming Christ and Him crucified.  May we all discover this Treasure as well – the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Lonely Christian

My Christian walk is the very definition of ironic.  I am an introvert at heart.  I love being by myself.  I thrive on feeding my mind.  I adore reading, contemplating, and sitting in the silence.  My perfect day would be peaceful and solitary, enjoying the sunshine, listening to birds, reading a book, and watching the butterflies.  My perfect evening would be stargazing and listening to the crickets.  By myself.  In fact, being social and attending functions with large groups of people is draining.  I often have to retreat to the solitude of the bathroom in order to ground myself.  I sometimes yearn to go home and curl up with a good book.  I've never been good with vain conversations, so I feel fake and forced. 

And yet... I find myself lonely.  All the time.  But it has nothing to do with "being alone" and everything to do with "being other".  There aren't many who are like me.  Who else strives after God?  Who else seeks to find Him?  Who else studies, as well as reads, their Bible?   Who else reads old-timey preachers?  Who else gets excited over personally owning an actual hand-written page of sermon notes by Charles Spurgeon?  Who else listens exclusively to Christian music?  Who else prays on a daily basis?  Who else CARES about Christ like I do?

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that my loneliness isn't so much to find common ground with someone about Christ, either.  I also feel alone in church settings.  I feel alone among other Christians.  Even they are not like me.  I suppose I have a certain mindset - I want to worship and adore Christ.  I don't want to be superficial.  I want to be all in, I want to pursue God with my whole heart.  I want to dive in, head first, and never emerge from God's Living Water.  I want to plumb the depths of the Bible.  I want to explore the heights of Heaven.  I want to know Christ as I am known, I want to soar up on wings like eagles.  I want to run and not grow weary.  I want to be genuine, I want to know the length and width of grace.  I want to walk as He walked.

But no matter what church I go to, it is all "surface".  Talk of tithing abounds.  For a good chunk of the service.  Worship is loud and the songs are repetitive.  Bible translations closest to the original Hebrew and Greek are overlooked for more happy-go-lucky translations with modern slang and idioms that dangerously water down the Word of God.  It's iffy if the pastor actually went to seminary, and the sermons are more like self-help seminars than expounding Scripture.  If you actually find a church that exposits Scripture, there is no depth to the teaching like Spurgeon or Whitefield used to preach.  Where are these anointed preachers like the men of old?  They were only men, after all.

This loneliness within me is more like a hunger.  I am ravenous for...something.  For the longest time, I didn't know what I was hungry for.  I felt empty no matter where I looked.  I thought perhaps I was lonely for a Christian friend.  Perhaps hungry for better worship.  Or more solid teaching.  I realized my loneliness was due to the fact that not only am I unlike those around me, I'm also unlike fellow Christians.  Why?  We worship the same God, the same Christ.  And yet, they don't hunger for the same things I do.

I believe it is because the Church is stuck in adolescence.  No longer are "Bereans" the norm in our churches today.  It is very rare to find a mature Christian who's grounded in sound doctrine, much less one that looks up a teaching in the Scripture to see if what the pastor says is true.  I say this because things that seem very natural to me always amazes others when I speak of them.  Elementary things, like our sins exchanged for Christ's righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The Resurrection of the Saints (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).  The fact that we're kings and priests of God (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10).  And salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8).

I'm no learned theologian.  I'm just a woman who reads my Bible and prays a lot.  I also read a LOT of old sermons, because I collect them.  There's a certain something about them that I cannot get enough of, what the old preachers called "unction" that seems to be missing from today's pulpit.  It's as if these old sermons are perfumed with spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices... (Songs 4:14)

The more I thought about all these things, the more I realized I am lonely for Christ.  I hunger for Christ.  I wander around, looking for His fragrance, searching for His countenance, but He is elusive, like a young stag upon the mountains of Bether.  One might find Him within in an individual believer, but the Church at large seems to have drifted from her First Love in favor of whatever Spiritual gift they might receive.  Signs and wonders are the flavor of the day, not what Christ has done, what He is doing, and what He has yet to do.  Experiences and tradition trumps the Word of God and Bible studies are few and far between.  The focus is on blessings, not on the Blessed One.

O, Lord, what must it take for Your Bride to gaze upon you as the Chiefest among ten thousand?  When will the Spirit and the Bride shout, "Even so, come Lord Jesus"?  Fan a flame in us, Yeshua, ignite our hearts for Your glory.  Elevate our view of You, high and lifted up, and allow Your spouse to clearly see, know, and love her Beloved.

I want to breathe Heaven's air, I want to look into Heaven's eyes, I want to hold Heaven's hand.  I want to live the abundant life and experience Heaven on earth.  I strive for this through my own prayer and study.  But it pains me that others don't do the same.  I have a sensitive soul, and it hurts to know fellow brothers and sisters are content in their plateaued level of maturity.  I'm vexed that they don't seek more wisdom, that they don't seek God for the sake of seeking more GOD.  My heart aches with the knowledge that they're only fooling themselves when they claim to love Yeshua with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, because His fragrance is not on their skin.  His light is not in their eyes.  How can we say we love Him if we don't act like we love Him?

Often, I feel like Jeremiah, crying out for the people to hear me.  Christ is WORTHY.  He is absolutely Glorious.  I wish the entire world could see Him as I see Him.

I miss Him.  Plain and simple.  He's not gone from my life, in fact, Christ is at the very center of my life.  My heart beats for the One who keeps my heart beating.  But I miss Jesus in others.  I've never met Spurgeon, but I miss his fiery zeal.  I've never met Edwards, but I miss his resolve.  I've never met Lewis, but I miss his wisdom.  I've never met Tozer, but I miss his conviction.  I've never met Bounds, but I miss his prayers.  I've never met the Apostle Paul, but I miss his boldness.  I've never met Mary of Bethany, but I miss her absolute adoration of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Only God can see the heart, it's true.  But it is also true that if we spend time with Jesus people will recognize Him in us.  Just like the face of Moses, we too shall glow.  Pray for God to preserve you, to grow you, and to know you.  Ask for Him to blossom your wisdom, your faith, and your love.  Tell Him you want to shine the Beauty of Christ to others, and ask Him to teach you how to rejoice always and in all things give thanks.  If we draw near to God, He shall draw near to us.  How can we not want to get close and live within our Mighty Fortress?  We were made for more than this!  We are more than conquerors!

Brethren, do not allow the refined gold of your faith to become the tarnished brass of this world.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Song of Solomon - Under the Apple Tree

Today I was feeling a bit melancholy.  I don't know why, perhaps for a purpose, otherwise I wouldn't have opened my Bible to the Song of Solomon.  I wanted to encounter the Beloved once more; I wanted to reconnect to that magnificent love of God found in Christ, my Heavenly Bridegroom.

Most of you are likely familiar with my other studies on the Song of Solomon.  They are some of my most popular blog posts.  I felt compelled to do another after re-reading Songs, this time on the apple tree.

If one takes a rudimentary perusal of the Bible, they'll notice the apple is a big theme throughout.  Israel is the apple of God's eye (Zechariah 2:7-8).  God wants His Law to be the apple of our eye (Proverbs 7:2).  And words fitly spoken are like apples of gold (Proverbs 25:11).  It's up for debate whether or not the fruit Adam and Eve were tempted with was an apple, but with all the imagery regarding apples in Scripture, I'd be surprised if it wasn't an apple. (Likely a Honeycrisp apple, because seriously, those are the most amazing apples on Planet Earth.)

But I digress.  :P

I noticed something in Songs regarding the apple tree that caught my eye.  Keep in mind, this is my own interpretation, so this may or may not speak to you.  However, I've been studying Sovereign election and free will lately, and it would seem God is helping me along in that respect.  I'm not a strict Calvinist, however neither am I a tried-and-true Armenian.  I believe in God's Sovereign election and our free will working in harmony, almost like prayer.  When our will aligns with God's will, nothing can stop us!  When our will aligns with God's will in regards to our election in Him, we thus become His children.

For months now, I've been stymied by the apple tree in Songs.  What stumped me was the talk of the spouse's "mother" in the second reference.  Here are the two verses in question:

Songs 2:3:

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

Songs 8:5:

Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.

Right off the bat, we can interpret what the apple tree represents - the Beloved - Christ Himself.  It is a metaphor for the Lord.  In the first reference, we hear the spouse (the Church) speak of her Beloved, and how all other trees (other men) are barren of fruit in comparison to Him.  Therefore, she sat down under His shadow (His protection, His refreshment) of her own free will, and did so with joy (with great delight).  She tasted and saw that He was good (Psalm 34:8).

The second reference is now the Beloved speaking to His spouse about Himself - again with the imagery of the apple tree.  Here, He tells her that He is the one bringing her forth from the wilderness to rest under His branches.  "Leaning" upon someone gives the impression that the one leaning is weak, has no strength, tired, thirsty, aching, and can only make their destination through the strength of another.

But notice, even though she's coming out of the wilderness leaning upon the strength of Christ, He tells her He "raised her up under the apple tree".  And then He talks about her mother bringing her forth there.  Weird.  Right?  Maybe not.

Here, I believe we see Christ telling us of His Sovereign election.  Our mother bore us under the shadow of the apple tree.  It doesn't matter if our mother found her shade under the tree.  I think that's what was tripping me up, because not everyone's mother is a believer.  But this isn't about the mother.  It's about the spouse.  Through the election of God, the spouse's mother bore her under the apple tree, He raised her up under the apple tree, and when the time came, she sat down under the apple tree of her own choice with great joy.

Sovereign election and free will working in harmony!

The thing about the mother in Songs is that the spouse laments that her Beloved wasn't born of her so that she could kiss Him and not be despised (Songs 8:1).  She goes on to say that she would lead Him into her mother's house to become a part of her family (Songs 3:4, Songs 8:2).  But what we see in Songs 8:5 is that the Lord Himself has brought the spouse into HIS family.  Even though the Beloved talks about His spouse being the choice one of her that bare her (Songs 6:9), we clearly see that He also says it was HE who raised her up under the apple tree.

Therefore, while her mother bore her, it was the Beloved who raised her.  He is her Father.  Through His great love, it was HE who brought her into His banqueting hall (Songs 2:4).  It was HE who drew her, it was HE who brought her into His chambers (Songs 1:4).  She did not go on her own without Him.  But she did go with great delight.  And she finds comfort in His apples (Songs 2:5).

Within the Song of Solomon, we see the Beloved entreating His spouse to "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Songs 2:10).  We hear the Beloved knocking while His spouse sleeps (Songs 5:2).  And what happens?  As a result, she seeks Him (Songs 3:1, Songs 5:6).  This is the pattern of God toward His children.  He seeks us, He woos us, He loves us...and we seek Him, we woo Him, we love Him.  The Song of Solomon is a beautiful picture of romantic pursuit between the Beloved and His spouse - the Church.  By His grace, He seeks us first, always.  And we respond by seeking Him.

Christ seeks His spouse first - Sovereign election
The spouse's response to Him - free will with joy

This study might be a bit simplistic and general with regards to election and free will, but it really intrigued me.  Of course, the Lord knocks on the door of every heart (Revelation 3:20), but it is only His Bride, His Love, His Fair One, who opens the door (Songs 5:6).  Yet notice - it is in the knocking, it seems, that we fall in love with Him:

Songs 5:2:

I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.

 "My heart waketh".  That's a beautiful image.  Christ stirs us out of our slumber.  He stirs our hearts.  Yet when we rise up in love and open the door, He isn't there - He sought us, now it's our turn to seek Him.  Songs likens the Lord to a roe or a young stag (Songs 2:17, Songs 8:14).  He leaps and skips over the mountains, and we must chase after Him.  But He's promised that if we seek Him, we will find Him (Matthew 7:7-8).  And when we catch Him, He whispers in our ear, "Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!" (Songs 4:9-10).

He chooses us.  We choose Him.  We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Christ will absolutely pursue all those the Father has given Him (John 6:39), and all those the Father has given Him has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

Our salvation is secure, because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).  Therefore, believer, Christ's election made sure that your mother bore you under the shadow of His apple tree.  And in love, the Beloved raised you up under the shadow of His apple tree.  And when He finally desired to arouse and awaken your love (Songs 5:2, Songs 8:4), you tasted His sweet fruit and sat down under His apple tree - with great delight (Songs 2:3).

Sovereign election and free will.  Harmonious, glorious -- victorious!

Praise His holy Name!  \O/


Friday, December 13, 2013

Standing in the Waterfall

I have a problem.  However, most Christians wouldn't believe it's a problem.  In fact, some might scoff in disbelief.  I've taken stock of my own walk with God compared to others, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm not like other brethren.  I'm strange, different, and quite odd.


I never get spiritually dry.  

You know those familiar laments - "I'm so far from God..."  "My prayers just seem to hit the ceiling..."  "It's like God isn't listening..."

This never happens to me.  And while I'm not trying to brag about it, I have noticed my predicament and wondered why?  What makes me so different than my fellow Christians?  I doubt myself often.  "My time is coming," I think to myself.  "Just you wait, Becka.  Everyone has dry spells."

Yet as each day passes, as each week passes, as each month passes, God is still there, God still speaks, God is right there with me.  What is going on?  And why don't other Christians live lives such as this?  Have I found some secret to keeping God before me and beside me (Psalm 16:8)?  I know it's not because I'm "special".  God's grace is undeserved.  There is nothing in me, save for Christ, that impresses the Lord God Almighty.

So I asked Him, "Lord, please show me why I never get spiritually dry.  Allow me to pass this on to my brethren, so they can know how to never lose sight of You."

God, as He's so apt to do with me, gave me a picture in my head.  I immediately understood.  But let me explain a bit.  He also gave me a few Scriptures to help bring the picture together.

First of all, let me describe my typical day.

I listen to sermons.  Sometimes only sermon snippets, but I've got YouTube, podcasts, and such to listen to.  I love to explore old-timey preachers, so I'm always on the look-out for great, Christ-exalting, Scripture-expositing sermons since there seems to be a terrible lack of them in today's pulpits of cheap grace.

I pray all day.  Not only do I try to have a specific prayer time every day (be it morning or evening), I pray all day, every day.  God is my "invisible Best Friend".  I talk to Him about what's for dinner.  I laugh with Him over the antics of my children.  He comes with me to the store.  I ask His opinion all the time.  This never really stops.  My kids are used to Mom "talking to herself".  My husband thinks I'm weird.  But I am ever in God's shadow.

I don't listen to secular music.  I often have no clue who the next up-and-coming band is.  Kids or hubby will mention so-in-so and I have to admit, "I don't know who that is."  Aside from some golden oldies and music from the 80's, I never listen to the world's music.  I'm just not a fan.  I've been doing this since I was a kid.  I would get up and get ready for school by listening to Christian radio.  On the way to school, I'd pop in some Christian tapes (don't judge lol).  I've never had a huge desire to listen to songs that go on and on about how hot someone is, how they're partying at the club, or the raucous electronic cacophony known as dubstep.  So go ahead, world, lick your dirty construction equipment and wear your nasty meat dresses.  I'm not interested, nor am I impressed.

I make a choice, every day, to shine Christ.  Since I'm a stay-at-home mom, I try to get out of my house at least once a day.  Usually this involves going to the store or to my local coffee shop.  I know there will be lines.  I know I might have to wait.  But I don't let it bother me.  I have to keep my thoughts captive to Christ, so this is a great way to test my patience and grace with others.  Also, I get to touch people with a smile and a kind word, even after waiting in long, annoying lines.  I'm not always the model of Christ, but I try to be.  If I yell at my kids for no good reason, I always apologize afterward.  In fact, if I'm ever in a bad mood, it's likely because I've missed my prayer time, or I haven't been talking to God throughout the day.  Even skipping my praise music makes me grumpy.  Having that constant connection with God is a big way for me to keep Him close.

I don't read fiction.  I am so satisfied with studying God, that it almost feels like fiction is a vain waste of time.  Every book I buy is a book by a favorite author/preacher that furthers my knowledge about God or His Word.  And I read them voraciously.  I'm never without my pen for underlining.  I'm not one to freak out about marring a book, so I underline and mark up the margins with notes if I so desire.  If this thought makes you cringe, you can always get a blank journal and write your notes/thoughts in there.  But ever since I've begun studying my books rather than merely reading them, I've retained more and learned more about God, His creation, and His Kingdom.  Every night before bed, I read-read-read.  I'm constantly trolling the "bargain bin" on for good deals.  The slightly imperfect books are the best, because there's hardly any imperfections and you get the book at a great price.  Once I'm finished with one book, I pick up another.  I have a huge pile of books that needs to be read, but I have an equally huge pile of books I've already read.  The overwhelming feeling of not having enough time to read them all fuels me to get through the pack as fast as I can, and the giddy desire to find great deals on books ensures that pile will never diminish.  It's rather a catch-22.  I sometimes wish I could open my brain and pour the books in.

In the same way, I study my Bible.  I try to get my nose in the Word every day.  I decided not too long ago to buy a Bible with scant notes (in other words, NOT a study Bible), and then highlight the text myself and write my OWN notes in the margins.  This has been instrumental in fueling my love for Christ, my need to know Him, and my faith in Him.  A Christian must never, never, NEVER skim the Bible in favor of the next best-selling book from the new hot-shot pastor.  The Bible is God's written Word.  How can any of us have true, abiding love for Christ, the Living Word, if we don't study and treasure His inspired Book?  As Spurgeon said, "Visit many great books, but LIVE in the Bible."  Amen.  If you need help with this, pray Psalm 119 over yourself.  God will awaken a renewed love for His Word in your heart if you're sincere and humble before Him.

Do you see a common denominator in my daily activities?


Everything I feed my brain is God.  All my fountains are in Him (Psalm 87:7).  I learn of Him through online sermons.  I pray to Him all day long.  I sing to Him whenever I turn on my music.  I try to shine Christ to everyone I meet.  I study His Word, I don't just skim it.  I study deep truths of God in my leisure time.

There are a few Scriptures that give us a clearer picture of how a life that never gets spiritually dry stays that way.

First, the obvious, James 4:8 - "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."  People who are spiritually dry might believe they abide in Christ, and thus are unsure why they're dry, but I am skeptical if they abide in Yeshua at all.  Taking a look at my experience, if God is distant from a person who saturates themselves in Him, there must be some lesson of God's all-sufficiency they still need to learn.  Have they not fully surrendered to His Lordship?  Is there someone in their lives they haven't forgiven for wronging them?  Is there an old, familiar sin they refuse to repent of?  Remember, repenting isn't merely being sorry for the sin, but turning from it all together and walking in the other direction.  One who claims to saturate themselves in God, yet seems distant from Him reminds me of these verses in James 1:23-24: "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like."

Perhaps these folks do spend time in deep study and still remain spiritually dry.  But they must not put into practice the precepts they learn in study.  They go away and forget what they look like.

Second, Psalm 1:1-3 - "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."

Here, we see that the man whose delight is God's Law (the Bible), and the one who studies day and night is "blessed".  The effect of this delight and daily meditation is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields fruit - and whose leaf *does not wither*.  

More Scripture to ponder this Truth:

This isn't a "sometimes" thing.  This is a "day and night" thing.  We must be diligent to seek God and daily meditate on Him.  Not just every day, but ALL DAY.  I understand we all have jobs.  We're all busy.  I home-school my children, do chores, run errands, pay bills, and make dinner, among other things.  I know what it's like to be busy.  But even so, we should be so saturated in God, we're like a sponge floating in a sink full of water.  That sponge will never dry out.

In fact, the picture the Lord gave me was quite telling.  Some people only walk beside the still waters.  Others might dip their toes.  Yet others might wade out into the deeper depths.  But God has told me the secret to never becoming spiritually dry.  

Stand directly in the waterfall
of His grace and joy,
all day, every day,
and never emerge. 
 Praise the Lord!