God’s Beauty School

We often think of being held by God, but the Creator of the Universe is also “held captive” by us. Song of Solomon 7:5 “…the hair of your head is like purple; a king is held captive by your tresses..:“

Mike Bickle says, “In Scripture, hair spoke of one’s dedication to God. The hair of a Nazirite was an outward sign of their dedication to God (Numbers 6). A Nazirite did not cut their hair. Her hair is like purple which speaks of royalty. Her dedication is like the resolution of a king. The bride’s dedication holds the heart of God. His love is so powerful that it binds Him to weak people who love Him. It is His glory to be captivated by love for his people. His unique ability is to love those so much lower than He. His heart is “held” by us. He possesses all authority, but He gives His heart without any reserve to His Bride.”

It is dedication that is so attractive to Him. Roland Baker says, “He is searching for faithfulness in how we handle everyday little things. Even in our conversations, tensions and disagreements, every time someone disappoints us or we feel hurt and misunderstood, we are learning to suffer in these situations, we are learning to be selfless. This is basic Christianity.“

Learning to be selfless is God’s beauty school. He is ravaged by the one who can stand up hairdressingsalonto the enemy and is faithful in hard times. We must slough off the need to be blessed and honored, and rejoice in the privilege of His anointing and call on our lives: That call is to be a servant of Christ. The difficult situations are His training exercises – exercises for God’s richer purposes.

Paul describes it in Ephesians 3:7-8

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of al the Lord’s people,this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.

We hear no complaint in his voice. He doesn’t list all his trials and tribulations. He calls himself less than the least of all the Lord’s people. Paul understood his place, and knew the privilege of his calling. He knew the love of God, and he basked in it.

 

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Seeing is believing

Your eyes like the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. (Song 7:4)

Mike Bickle quotes Ephesians to make the point that the eyes speak of our ability to receive revelation.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

The Bride’s eyes are like the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. The gate of water-219874_1280.jpgBath Rabbim was a resort area with clean water in the once royal city of Heshbon. These pools were not muddy but clear and easy to see through. As the Bride of Christ, seeing clearly should be our first priority because seeing (really knowing Christ) is the doorway to growing spiritually.

Paul’s complete prayer for the Gentiles in Ephesians 1:18  was for them to realize [come to know] what they have in Christ. “I pray…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

Seeing is that “knowing” which Paul prayed for in Philippians 3:10a,b “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” When we really “know” without having to see or feel, we can go through anything. We have His power in us. We do not have to go somewhere to pick something up; we carry it with us. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“For this very reason [to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world], make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind…” 2 Peter 1:4-9a

These Scriptures have been like a divine eyeglass polisher for me this morning. I pray they have been helpful to you, as well. It’s a whole new twist on “Seeing is believing.” Ha! Amen.

Doing things the hard way

Your neck is like an ivory tower… (Song 7:4)

When my husband and I were launching our children, we were also taking in Japanese japanstudents as boarders. There was a program in our city that had a contract with Japanese families to provide housing for their young people coming to attend the community college in our town. Since we had a 5-bedroom townhouse and our children were moving out, we rented the third-floor bedrooms to Japanese students. One of the things I remember during our cultural training to prepare us for accepting the students was that the neck was a very private part to them. The neck was almost like the breasts or the thighs to Americans. Japanese girls were taught not show cleavage or bare their shoulders. We were taught to keep our eyes above the neck.

I think of this when I read Song of Solomon this morning. The Bride’s neck is like an ivory tower. The Free Dictionary of Idioms online describes an ivory tower as a place “protected from the problems of ordinary life, so out of touch one can’t empathize with the ordinary”. Mike Bickle says, “In Scripture, the neck speaks of the will that can be stiff-necked (resistant) or submissive. The rebellious neck speaks of pride (Isa. 3:16). The Bride’s will is like an ivory tower which is rare and costly. Her resolute choices are as costly as an ivory tower which provides her protection.”

Roland Baker shared today how the power available to us can be traced back to our choice to participate with Christ in His suffering. Philippians 3:10

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

I taught Messiah College nursing students the foundational course in the major. I used to tell them how much suffering people could spare themselves if they simply followed the foundations of good health, prevention. In fact, most of health care would not be needed if people lived in moderation: if people would choose to eat well, maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, would work hard (exercise), not engage in dangerous sexual practices, limit alcohol consumption… A World Health Organization study covering 35 nations states that 60% of all chronic health problems are due to poor lifestyle choices. (1) Lack of a strong will and poor choices make and keep people sick. The will either empowers or steals our power.

Think about this as it relates to Kingdom-building. Every decision has an impact. Can He count on us? When my son was asked why the company he now works for should hire him instead of the other interviewees, he responded, “All of us could work out the logistics of the job. Everyone in your pool of candidates can do the math, come up with a strategy, and propel the project intellectually. What I have that the others don’t, is passion. I want to see you succeed and will give you everything I have to make it happen. I will not quit!”

He got the job.

(1) Ziglio E, Currie C, Rasmussen VB. (2004). The WHO cross-national study of health behavior in school aged children from 35 countries: findings from 2001–2002. J School Health, 74 (6): 204– 206.

 

 

The first will be last

Song of Solomon chapter 7 is a description of the ministry of the mature Bride of Christ. Today’s verse concerns her ability to nurture.

Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. (Song 7:3)

Mike Bickle says that a mature church can not only care for one fawn, but she can also give a double portion, enough for twins. The verse is speaking of giving milk. Babes are nurtured through milk from the breast. She is ready to nurture the harvest that she births. Her breasts are like youthful fawns (young deer less than one year old) in contrast to being elderly and without the ability to nurture with milk.

I think about this as I was with my younger sister late yesterday afternoon. She had just been to visit our sister who has been ill and off work for a couple of months. Her body is racked by years of substance abuse and an inability to get over an event in her life that has left her with post traumatic stress disease. Her way of copying is through alcohol. I watch my younger sister (8 years my junior) make daily phone calls and weekly visits to my struggling sister (4 years my junior). I do not seem to have the milk my hurting sister needs, but my younger sister does. In fact, she has enough to nurture her and me. I am discovering that I have a front-row seat watching the mature Bride minister to the immature sisters.

Song of Solomon 8:8 speaks of us

We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister in the day when she is spoken for?

The mature Bride remembers her immature sisters. She does not forget them as she moves on to deeper things. On the contrary, she sees them as her responsibility in the Body of Christ. This is so powerful to me, and the lesson was not lost on me as the youngest (chronologically speaking) of us sat at my dining room table with me last evening and lead the discussion as to how she could move ahead to help our sister in crisis.

Like the daughters of Jerusalem in Song of Solomon, the “little” sister is the one little in faith who easily loses her courage in difficulties. I am a little sister. Our sick sister is a little sister. We both have our issues. I cannot deal with my sick sister and my sick sister cannot deal with life. Mike Bickle says little sisters with no breasts means she is unwilling and unable to nurture others with the milk of the Word (1 Cor. 3:1-2). She fellowships with those she hangs out with, but neglects to take responsibility for others. Being overwhelmed with her own problems, she remains a spiritual babe who is focused on herself. OUCH!

The Bride is not offended by her but helps her, and is mature enough to know she cannot do this alone. When the Bride speaks to Jesus she says, “we have a little sister,” because she is working closely with Jesus. She is in partnership with Jesus, has discovered that His opinion is the only one that matters. She works for an audience of One. She finds peace in Jesus’ eyes and this removes many emotional hindrances in her life. Her spiritual identity allows her to enjoy a radiant confidence to walk in her place before God.

I’m watching a mature bride operate. I’m learning.

What’s with that large waist, Church?

Your waist is a heap of wheat set about with lilies. (Song 7:2)

Mike Bickle describes this verse in Song of Solomon as a picture of a church ready for the harvest. “The daughters see the Bride as prepared for the coming harvest. A heap of wheat speaks of an abundance of wheat which only occurs during the harvest. She is pictured as pregnant (large waist) with an abundant harvest. She is pregnant with the harvest wheat that is set about with lilies. The harvest that comes forth from her will be established in purity and holiness.”

It’s Advent in my church’s calendar. Each week we light a candle in an Advent wreath IMG_0456counting down the time when Jesus is born. Mary is very pregnant at this time. She is within weeks of delivering our Savior. Every day she becomes more and more full and increasingly ready for the “outing”. The daughters who watch the Bride in Song of Solomon feel this same sense of expectancy in her. They know she is excited and see how focused she is on the birth, nurture and growth of the buds in the garden (among the lilies). Everything in her is for this: She was born to birth new believers and nourish them to maturity. [Come back tomorrow for the nourishing part.]

I was getting my driver’s license renewed yesterday. As I got out of my car to go into the place where they take my picture for on my license, someone yells to me. “Hi! How are IMG_0455you doing?” I looked over and saw it was the husband of our church pianist. He is always very friendly, smiling and has a hearty greeting. He was there for the same reason I was so we went into the driver’s licensing center together. We had not been talking but a couple of minutes when he began talking about the news and how we, the Church, had much to do to get everyone ready to meet Jesus. Oh, my heart, the excitement in his voice and the love for others he exuded. Now…this is Church!

The mature Church is pregnant with the things of God. She carries all the goods. It is burdensome, but that burden is light because it is His vision and He walks with us. It is our purpose to deliver the goods. Perhaps this is a good reminder this Advent season as we see a pregnant Mary on a donkey in our mind’s eye. Emmanuel: God is with us! God is inside us!

 

Navel Training

2Your  is a rounded goblet; it lacks no blended beverage. (Song 7:2)

Ten attributes of the Bride are given in Song of Solomon 7:1-5. These are the attributes given her by the sincere ones personified in the Song as the daughters. They are those who love Her and stand with her. The attributes listed and described in these verses relate to her ministry, ten characteristics that are practical definitions of holiness and fruitfulness. They are marks of the mature church.

Mike Bickle discusses what the navel signifies in the Song. “The navel speaks of the nourishment a child receives in their mother’s womb. This refers to our formative years in the Lord as the time when inner life in God is developed. A rounded goblet speaks of a healthy navel. This is opposite of being malnourished. A goblet which lacks no beverage speaks of a full range of nourishment. She is healthy with a balanced diet consisting of all the necessary nutrients for a strong life. This speaks of a good spiritual foundation in our life.”

Jesus’ church should be full of a good percentage of well-nourished, in-full blooms. They are much-needed for the buds. Each day a bud is to become more than it was the day before until it, too, blooms. Blooming is the purpose of our lives. God will do whatever it IMG_0450takes to get us to bloom. I spent the past 3 days with my 12-year-old granddaughter, Kira. (She’s my namesake. Kira is Persian for sunrise.) Her nose is shaped like mine which makes us look alike. She said her other grandmother told her that her days as a teenager were easy because she was not a Christian. She did everything she wanted to do and did not feel guilty about anything. She told her that once she became a Christian, life got hard. She had standards and she found it challenging.

Kira says, “It’s not easy following Jesus.” We talked about choosing the road less-traveled. Roland Baker says, “To be on track (what the Song describes as a rounded goblet), we must have a balanced understanding of God’s Word. This comes only through hard times. Hidden in suffering is value so deep and wonderful that it is essential for a holistic understanding of faith and the basis for everything that really matters. Suffering for righteousness’ sake is the road to joy. Kira gets this. She truly does.

“For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2

I was an obstetrical nurse for 30 years. I saw thousands of navels. I also cut thousands of umbilical cords to shorten them and clamp them after the babies were detached from their mothers. At the detachment, the baby is expected to breathe on its own, feed on its own, and carry out its bodily functions on its own. The whole reason for those months in the womb is to prepare the human for life outside the womb. Earth readies the believer for life eternal. Our earthly experiences are meant to bring out the best in us. It is the place where we are shaped for Kingdom living.

Our navel is God’s constant reminder that we were placed on earth, but earth is not our home. Think about that!

Look at those thighs!

1How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a skillful workman. 2Your navel is a rounded goblet; it lacks no blended beverage. Your waist is a heap of wheat set about with lilies. 3Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. 4Your neck is like an ivory tower, your eyes like the pools in Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim. Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looks toward Damascus. 5Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel, and the hair of your head is like purple; a king is held captive by your tresses [hair]. (Song 7:1-5)

The opening of Song of Solomon 7 is a description of the Bride by the maiden girls who have been watching her. Remember that they have seen her running the streets looking for her Beloved. They have seen her demeaned and criticized by the watchmen on the wall as she searched. They have seen her go to the walnut groves to get to the garden and begin to tend to the buds among the blooms. She has been undaunted. They are amazed that nothing deters her. She just keeps on going.

fitnessMy daughter and I go to the gym to exercise 6 days out of every week. She has over 100 pounds to lose so I meet her there so she goes. I used to go twice a week. At that level of dedication I’d get on the treadmill and do 30 minutes at an incline of 3.0 and I would be in my fat-burning working range. I thought I was working hard. I noticed really quickly that going 6 times per week really increases the results. I am now working at an incline of 10.0 to get my heart rate to the fat-burning range for me. My thighs are rock solid and I can eat a treat or two during the day and not gain weight. My daughter has lost almost 30 pounds in 6 weeks!

Mike Bickle says Song of Solomon 7:1 speaks of this when the daughters note:

The curves of your thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a skillful workman. (Song 7:1)

“The Bride’s thighs or legs speak of the strength behind her walk in God. Jesus’ legs are like pillars of marble (Song 5:15). The curves of her thighs speak of the muscular definition in her legs giving her strength. This athletic feature was developed through much discipline. Thus, her strong walk is costly and esteemed as rare like the jewels worked on by a skillful workman.”

Ah, yes, discipline… Today I go off with my granddaughter to teach a session of Born 2 Fly. I have been preparing for this since summer. I apprenticed by being a helper with a group in a town near where I live. Since then, I have been diligently trying to gather groups, learn the materials and reach out for interest. Not much has happened in the last 6 months, but I kept preparing. Then, my friend Ann, whose daughter teaches Biology through Malawi Alive in Africa, said she mentioned the anti-trafficking curriculum to the school administrators where she teaches. Ann is going to Africa to visit her daughter this month. The Malawian school administrators have arranged for her to teach 10 apprentices in Malawi so they can help her teach two classes of 50 children each in after-school programs there. Ann panicked. She had never taught Born 2 Fly. Ann had 3 groups to teach and I, the experienced one, had none. God said, “Why don’t you get some girls together so they can help Ann learn the story. That way she can watch how you do this?” The session I am teaching today is with my granddaughter and two other teens who have agreed to come to “give Ann practice for Malawi”. Who knew?

The Lord’s ways are unexpected. You simply can’t predict what He will do. Roland Baker says of he and his wife’s missionary work in Mozambique, “We joke about being disorganized, but I think it is one of the things that makes what we do so ‘of God’. He gets all the glory, because so much of what happens is in spite of  and not because of us. He gets all the glory , because He gives us every good idea we have.”

The dance of two camps

Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon you! What would you see in the Shulamite—As it were, the dance of the two camps? (Song 6:13)

Today’s verse teaches us that there are two responses in the church to the church: those who are begging the church to come to them and those who are wondering what others see in her. Mike Bickle says Song of Solomon calls them two camps. The church separates into the sheep and the goats, the angelic and the demonic, the sincere and the insincere.

There are always two extreme positions in the Body of Christ. Those who pursue Jesus with great fervency and those who do not, which leads the discerning student of the Scriptures to eventually realize that wholeheartedness is the core issue of many divisions, not maturity.

BakersRoland and Heidi Baker are astounded at what God is doing in Mozambique because they simply show up every day. They arrived there years ago with no support, no financial back-up plan, nothing except a fervency for the lost. Roland was impressed when Jesus left the 99 to seek the one lost lamb (Luke 15:3-7). Heidi and Roland read that and say that is why they are in Pemba. Pemba is a sparsely-populated area of Mozambique. Most missionary organizations choose to go to big cities where they can get the most return for their investment. The Bakers were looking for the one. Roland says, “That is not good math. It is not sensible. It does not make sense in the Lord’s eyes. It does not even make sense for many missionary societies and churches. It is not a good use of people’s resources and gifts. Ninety-nine percent seems like a good ratio. One percent is not a good ratio. It is a low success rate. BUT GOD does not see people that way…. God wants the one, too.”

Consequently, Roland and Heidi did not go with the pastors and churches whose strategy was to stay in the cities. They went to Pemba and began to take care of orphans, street children, beggars and outcasts, and God showed up. The adults around them got jealous that the street kids were being saved and having dreams and visions. They watched as the kids started to preach, cast out demons and see people set free from years of sickness, spiritual and emotional oppression, fear and grief. The dead were being raised. God was mighty in the midst of their ministry, called Iris. Soon, like the daughters in Song of Solomon, the pastors and leaders wanted in on it. They demanded a Bible School be opened so Roland and Heidi could teach them what they knew.

Today Iris has put more money into Mozambique that any other nongovernmental organization. Millions of dollars every year go into the national economy through Iris. Roland and Heidi never ask for money, but it comes. The fervency of the Bride through the Bakers woos and shuts down the opposition. Remember the jealous watchmen on the wall in Song of Solomon who struck and wounded the Bride in Song 5:7. They sarcastically challenge the daughters’ respect for the Bride (who they recently censored) by saying, “What do you see in the Shulamite?” or “Why do you want her to return?” They undermine the daughters’ desire to look to the Bride for spiritual input.

Are you being criticized in your church? Are there warring factions in your body of believers? Song of Solomon says this is how it is. Your job? Faithfulness and fervency in what He has called you to do. It is an upside-down kingdom and the ones God uses are not always the earthly leaders. God will take care of the details. Amen.

Compelled by love

Before I was even aware, my soul had made me as the chariots of my noble people. (Song 6:12)

Yesterday we left the Bride in the gardens beyond the walnut groves. She was looking for those in the garden who needed her – the young ones just beginning their walk with the Lord. While she is down in the valley working with the budding vineyard, suddenly her soul becomes like the chariots of her noble people. Her zeal for the garden overcomes her. She is surprised by the zeal she feels for others. The Bride’s soul moved like a chariot. Mike Bickle says in the ancient world, a chariot was the fastest and easiest way to travel with luggage for a long distance.

This verse from Song of Solomon makes me think of a similar one in Isaiah where the Lord said we would “mount up with wings like eagles so that we would run and not be weary and walk and not faint”. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14 “…the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

Mike Bickle says only through the power of the Holy Spirit will the end-time church overcome. Song of Solomon gives an end-time snapshot of how it happens. As the Bride went down to see how the work of God was progressing, she was suddenly overcome with desire to help others. She is compelled by love. Instead of being put off by the immaturity, pride, wrong applications of the Word, and lack of discernment of these “budding vines,” she is surprised by the tender compassion that she feels.

Her heart moves forward in this burden without any resistance like a swiftly moving helpingchariot. She is surprised by this new movement of her heart. Before she was even aware, she had new desires and burdens, but they were coupled with great enthusiasm to help others. This is the work of the Spirit. My missionary friend, Karol Smith, in Belize said a young woman came into a woman’s prayer meeting she attends. The woman is a very young believer and has a lot of baggage from her days away from the Lord. Karol was so blessed when the women of the group simply surrounded the young woman in love. Mike Bickle says the chariot was the fastest and easiest way to travel with luggage in the ancient world. These Spirit-filled women, like swiftly moving chariots, carried this woman and her baggage easily to the throne of grace.

I think of this as I prepare my Born 2 Fly lesson for Saturday. I was frustrated that all the pieces of it were not falling into the slice of time I had. My self-imposed deadline to submit my teacher’s plan is today at 9 am. After days of struffling, I sat down at my desk this morning and in one hour it all came together. The Holy Spirit is faithful. He does come “before we are even aware”. He makes our souls as chariots, as wings of eagles, as joint heirs with Christ. He makes us ready to go into the garden, to see how the buds are doing, to see if the pomegranates are blooming, to spend the day with Him.

 

 

Garden of nuts

I went down to the garden of nuts [walnut grove] to see the verdure of the valley, to see whether the vine had budded and the pomegranates had bloomed. (Song 6:11)

In Song of Solomon the Bride goes to the garden because that is where her Beloved is. He is feeding His flock and she wants to be with Him in His work. The path is through a garden of nuts. Mike Bickle explains the significance of this:

The garden includes a walnut grove, which gives treewalnuta clear picture of spiritual truth. Walnut trees have dense shade, thus they provide refuge from the summer heat as well as having economic value in producing food. Oil is also produced from walnuts that was used to making soap, which speaks of cleansing. Its leaves were used in medicinal ways to aid in physical healing.

The life in a walnut seed is on the inside. However, the seed must die and be broken before it can provide food, oil, or healing for others. We must die to ourselves to provide food, cleansing (soap), and healing for others. The life within is hidden and not immediately observable.

As those of you who have been following along with me through the Song of Solomon know, the Bride has passed the test of discipleship. She has gone through the breaking and testing. As a mature believer, she can now move swiftly through the walnut grove in order to “see if the vine had budded or the pomegranates had bloomed”. She has spent her time in the walnut grove and is now ready to go to the part of the garden that needs her maturity. She goes to the young ones. She does not go with impatience or a critical spirit. She goes with enthusiasm for the “Great Commission”. Her enthusiasm for the work comes from His enthusiasm for her while she was immature. She loves because He first loved her. Passing through the walnut grove reminds her where she has come from. This keeps her humble and ready for Kingdom work.