The Reward of True Love

Mark Batterson wrote a book entitled “God is Not Safe” where he puts forth the idea that God walks in the hard places of the world and expects those who follow Him to go there, too. Today’s verse from Song of Solomon 8:6 tells how we prepare.

Set me [Jesus] as a seal upon your heart…its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.

Song of 8:6c describes the Holy Spirit in us as “a most vehement flame”. Mike Bickle describes the seal of fire as “the progressive impartation of the Spirit’s power in pouringflame5 God’s love into our heart (Rom. 5:5). The seal is our present tense experience in fellowshipping with the Spirit.”

Rolland Baker describes what it is like to live having set Jesus as the seal of the fire of God in his heart. “In the Amplified version of Psalm 4:8 it says ‘You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.’ We receive daily death threats on our cell phones, but [Heidi and I] both lie down and sleep. Why? Because we know Who is in charge of us, and we know He is not leaving us alone. All around us can be chaos and disorder , but we can dwell in safety and in peace.

Our peace isn’t dependent on us understanding anything. It doesn’t mean we have to solve all our problems. It doesn’t mean we know what we are doing all the time. It means we can dwell with Someone Who does. Proverbs 1:33 says, ‘But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil. (NKJV).’ That is just priceless. Especially when you have enemies like ours.”

The seal of God on our hearts keeps us in the fight. Mike Bickle explains, “The highest reward of true love is found in possessing the love itself. Those who are wealthy in love do not look at price tags. Anybody can quit except a person in love. When we are tempted to quit, the obstacle in our path is that we love God. God is raising up a people who will not quit. Paul spoke of this love that will pay any price. He laid down his open doors of opportunity.

I…count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8)

Nothing is stronger or more valuable than the seal of God, that vehement flame that cannot be quenched or drowned out. Winston Churchill, “Never give up!” Christ shows us how.

 

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Waterproofing

A prayer from Psalm 91:1-5
Lord, I thank you that I dwell in the shelter of the Most High. There I rest in the shadow of the Almighty. There I say, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” I thank you that you save me from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. I feel you cover me with your feathers and there under Your wings, I find refuge; Your faithfulness is my shield and rampart. I do not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day. For all these gifts I thank You. Amen.

Although I would not have used the examples that King David used in this Psalm if I prayed my own words, I use them this morning to praise Him for peace that passes waxsealunderstanding. It is dark, quiet and still here as I type, but His flames of 🔥 fire seal my heart (Song of Solomon 8:6d). I am making ready for my day. “Many waters cannot quench love (God’s fiery love), nor can the floods drown it.” (Verse 7). I’m waterproofing with His burning bush fire!

 

Jesus, the Jealous Lover

[God’s] jealousy as cruel [demanding] as the grave; Song of Solomon 8:6c.

It’s Christmas day. Jesus is born. He is the One people had been looking for Him for millenia. And.they.come. They come to see the bitty baby. There is just something about Him. My goodness, kings traveled miles across desert sands to bring Him gifts, angels announced His birth and told shepherds they didn’t want to miss this and to get over to the straw-laden manger. What were they expecting?

Expectation, ah! There is the rub. Ann Voskamp’s mother always said to her, “Expectation ruins relationships.” The shepherds had no expectation, neither did the magi. They simply came when summoned. Angels summoned the shepherds. A star summoned the astute kings. When they got there they accepted what they saw.

Song of Solomon says Jesus is jealous and demanding. Really? Can we accept that? We were expecting something else, weren’t we?

Mike Bickle says, “God’s love in us is as strong as death; nothing escapes its grasp. God’s love in us is as strong or as comprehensive as death. Nothing in the natural realm escapes the power of death. Its grasp is comprehensive. So also, God’s jealous love will not allow any areas of darkness to escape its grasp. It is “as cruel as the grave,” or as demanding as death.”

laserJesus came as Light of the World. We often think of starlight or the light of the sun as it shines above us, or the small light of a candle. We may have missed it here. We might want to think laser, light saber, raging fire.

Mike continues, “Jesus as the Jealous God wants all of us. We walk with God according to the light He gives us. [We may only be ready for a small candle flame, but He’d really like to give us His entire light show.] When we obey that light, the Spirit gives us more to show us how to increase in our love.

Do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?” (Jas. 4:5)

We must earnestly ask Jesus to come to us as the God of jealous love who demands everything. This is the highest thing that God will give the human spirit in this age.

“For the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God…” (Ex. 34:14)

Jesus wants to reveal Himself to us as more than our savior (forgiver), healer, and master but as the jealous Bridegroom God who will not relent in His pursuit of us until He has all our heart.”

This Christmas consider again why He came and your part in His plan. People are watching and and they want to know if God is with us. Can they tell He is living His life with you? O Come, o come, Emmanuel.

 

 

It takes God to love God

Those who read here are looking at Song of Solomon 8:6-7 today. It begins with making Jesus a seal on our hearts. The context for understanding God’s seal of fire is found in understanding the Father’s commitment to bring forth an eternal companion for Jesus, a Bride equally yoked to Him in voluntary love. Obedience to Jesus is mandatory, yet love is always voluntary (Phil. 2:9-11).

6 Set me [Jesus] as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love [God’s love in you] is as strong as death, [God’s] jealousy as cruel [demanding] as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. 7Many waters [sin, pressures] cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

The love God wants the Church to have is the same love that He has with the Father

“I…declared Your name…that the love with which You loved Me may be in them…”
(Jn. 17:26)

Mike Bickle says it takes God to love God. We need the Spirit’s supernatural help to love God with all our heart. The anointing to love God is the greatest gift that the Spirit imparts to a believer. The Holy Spirit is the all-consuming fire and the living flame of love that baptizes us with His fiery love so we pour that same love out on others.

The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit… (Rom. 5:5)

 “He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Lk. 3:16)

To set Jesus as the seal on our heart means to invite His fiery presence to touch (seal) our heart. We ask Jesus into our heart and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell there. He is fiery, but he is a gentleman. We must invite Him in. Once in, He requires us to cooperate with Him in the grace of God. We set Jesus as the seal on our heart by putting on the Lord tailoring-2575930_1920Jesus (putting on the new man).

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh… (Rom. 13:14)

the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to…[God’s] image…
(Col. 3:10)

 

put on the new man which was created…in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)

It is our gift to Him that we voluntarily cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our life. It is the work of the Spirit both to will and to do the Father’s good pleasure because it takes God to love God. We cannot do this kind of work, this loving, without Him.

This idea that it takes God to love God is a whole new idea to me. I think about this as I put on my armor this day. I put it on in obedience to Him, but it is He who does the dressing. He makes it functional. He makes it “fit”. He knows my every measurement. He tailors it to me.

 

Tidings of suffering and joy

At this time of year we sing an old hymn “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” where the sheet-musicchorus repeats “O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.” The message of Christmas is that our Savior is coming. He will rescue us. He will bring us relief. These are tidings of comfort and joy. Yes, I believe they are. He lifts our burdens, forgives our sins, seeks the lost, releases the captives, delivers us from evil. He gives us the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to live inside us. It all sounds so lovely, but…He also says He has not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34), and we must learn to use the sword.

His left hand is under my head, and His right hand embraces me. 4I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases. (Song 8:3-4)

God works with us in unseen ways (left hand) and in ways we can feel (right hand). Verse 4 refers to times and seasons. Mike Bickle says the Holy Spirit is speaking here and tells the Bride He has ordained strategic seasons in each person’s spiritual life, seasons where He desires to establish our heart in new and deep revelations of His heart. The Spirit warns the Daughters of Jerusalem (the immature believers) not to disrupt or disturb the devoted ones with the Bride’s heart in this season by their opinions and judgments.

This is the third time in Song of Solomon the daughters are warned not to disturb the Bride. “Don’t arouse or awaken my love until it pleases.” (2:7; 3:5; 8:4). In 2:7, He uses the same phrase “don’t disturb her” but adds the phrase “by the gazelles of the field” because the Bride was immature and lacked stability. She could be tossed to and fro because she lacked maturity and stability. We’re now in the last chapter of the Song. This is no longer the case because she has passed through seasons where her heart was established in new and deep revelations. They keep her grounded.

In the early days of her call to the mission field, Heidi Baker had a vision of Jesus. He held a cup out to her. It was a cup of suffering and joy. He asked her if she would drink it. She said, “Yes.” Rolland writes in the devotional for today that they have been drinking from that cup ever since. “That cup has kept us from becoming bland and boring. It has kept our hearts soft and our eyes focused. It has kept us humble….Somehow God gives us the grace, time and time again, to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor.”

There were many “Daughter of Jerusalem” that tried to dissuade the Bakers. They heaped on their criticisms and judgements, but the Bakers were undeterred. They had heard from the Lord.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:9-10.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget the pomegranate juice!

It is now less than one week before Christmas and all over the television are stories of those who collect gifts for poor children who would have no presents if the person or organization in the media’s story had not raised the funds to supply them. I see pictures on Facebook of piles of gifts ready to be wrapped for distribution, and bellringers outside stores with red money collection pots and boxes with Toys for Tots signs.

Everytime I see such activity I think about the distribution. How is that done? There is a

Barb Horn

Barb readies for Christmas.

local lady here in my city who collects toys. She neatly displays all the toys by age appropriateness and lets parents shop during one 2-hour period the third Saturday in December. The gifts are all of equal value. Each parent can select one gift per child. This system blesses my heart. It spares the poor parent the embarrassment of having the children see strangers bring gifts to their house, and it makes them a part of the process. They have to get there, shop and prepare the gifts for giving.People want to be loved and cared for. They want someone to commit to friendship with them. My friend, Barb, does this. Her Christmas gift center is in the midst of her neighborhood. As the parents come, she greets them by name, gives them a hug if they reach out for one and feeds them one Thursday per month for fellowship.

The verse for Song of Solomon today is

I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate. (Song 8:2)

Mike Bickle interprets these veses to mean that the Bride longs to give her best to her Beloved. He is an intimate, like family. She prays, “I would cause You to drink of spiced wine, of the juices of my pomegranate.” (Song 5:1). One would mix wine with spices when hosting an honored guest because it a much more pleasant drink.

It was much more expensive but it was appropriate when seeking to honor a guest with their best. She longs to give her best to Jesus regardless of how much it costs her. In saying, “I would cause You to drink,” she promises to attend to His every desire as she serves Him as her honored guest.

The juice of my pomegranate speaks of the sweet things of grace that she experiences in her inner life. The foundation of her ministry is what she experiences in the secret place with God.

Rolland Baker says that people don’t want to be converts, they want to be a part of our  life.  Jesus plainly said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40) Whatever we do, we do as “onto the Lord”.  This makes the delivery as important as what is delivered. My friend, Barb, knows.

 

Behave Yourself!

1Oh, that you were like my brother, who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be despised. 2I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate. (Song 8:1-2)

This is the beginning of chapter 8 in Song of Solomon. It is the last chapter of the book. Today’s segment describes the Bride’s boldness and humility in public ministry. Her deep passion for the Lord is so powerful that she wants everyone to have it. She wants the depths of her private times with the Lord to become the norm for the public church. She wishes her Lover were like her brother, her brother who shares the same mother as she.

Mike Bickle explains, “In that time and culture it was improper to express public firstdateaffection to members of the opposite sex that were not in one’s immediate family. She wishes that she could publicly relate to Jesus with the liberty that she had with a brother. She could be more “familiar in public” with her brother than her fiancé. She longs to boldly show her loyalty and affection to Jesus in public. She prays, “O, that You, Jesus, were like my brother.”

She recognizes the necessity to be restrained in public in certain aspects of her private life with Jesus. There are certain expressions of our life in God that are meant to be kept private. There are intimate expressions of prayer and worship that are not best suited for public settings.

12Since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. 19…in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding…than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20…do not be children in understanding…23…if the whole church comes together…and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Cor. 14:12, 19-20, 23)

I belong to a woman’s prayer group. There are 6 of us who really believe prayer is essential to our lives of faith and that together we can gain insight and power to change ourselves and our communities. In that group there is a woman who weeps constantly. She is so full of the Spirit that she groans under the weight of intercession and laughs when she feels the burdens lift off her as she gives them to Jesus. This makes me uncomfortable. This is how she acts when she and Jesus are along and she keeps that persona in the group.

One day my cyber-friend, Karol, saw my Facebook page comment about the prophecy that Donald Trump would become the next president. I posted the link to that prophecy. Karol private messaged me that perhaps I should not be posting the private things of God for the world to see. I did not know what to do with that comment. I’m also a bit at a loss with how I feel about those chain texts and Facebook posts with prayers that you are to cut and paste and send on to bless others.

While Mike Bickle takes me to Scripture that tells me to be wise in my public expression of the Gospel, I am jerked back the other way by Rolland Baker in his devotional today: “Don’t let people decide what your meetings should look like or what should happen in them. Don’t let people define how you worship God and how you pray. Let God do what He wants to do in you. God doesn’t need a PR agent to tell Him how to come across, how to make Himself look better and protect His reputation. ”

Ah, yes, this is a matter of prayer for me. I am still growing in the Lord. I’m sure I’m rarely “on the mark” in the behavioral area, but I intend to keep showing up.

 

 

Irritating Joy

Nothing is more irritating to joyless people than joy. It is annoying for the unhappy to see happiness, especially where it makes no sense to them. My older son suffers from depression and anxiety attacks. He had a young friend, Taylor, who suffered horribly from mast cell activation disease. Mast cells, a type of defensive white blood cell in our bodies, decided to attack her own body cells one day. The attacks threw her into violent seizures. She would use as many as a dozen epi-pens per day to keep the mast cells calm so she would not seize. She also had to take prednisone to decrease white cell activity. The medicine caused her petite athletic frame to swell like a balloon.

TaylorBeforewith MomTaylor was a soccer star at her high school. She was vibrant and her sense of humor was contagious. She loved life and spread joy wherever she went. She babysat my son’s sons – my grandsons. When my son suffered his first mental breakdown at age 40, Taylor could make him laugh. My son is naturally funny, but sometimes he just couldn’t laugh, but Taylor could make him laugh.

In the prime of her life, mast cell activation disease reared it ugly head. My son was very angry. How could this happen to such an incredible girl? Taylor, however, retained her joy. She loved Jesus. She didn’t understand why Jesus would have her go through this TaylorHarrysMaxhorror, but she did not let it stop her from shining His light through her life.

My son would often say, “How do you keep positive, Taylor? How can you laugh and make jokes?” He’d call me and ask me why God would not heal Taylor. He’d say, “Mom, I’d even become a preacher if God would heal her.” THAT was really saying something. Such situations do not make sense, but I do know that if someone can show the joy of the Lord while suffering, the world takes notice. So does heaven.

My son lost his sweet young friend a month ago. Many people who loved her celebrated Saturday at a local pub. It would have been Taylor’s 21st birthday. Her mother reserved a room at a local pub so countless friends and family who loved her daughter could gather and celebrate her life. The place was packed.

This morning the faithful Bride says in Song of Solomon:

There [in the midst of service, in the midst of life] I will give you my love. The mandrakes give off a fragrance, and at our gates are pleasant fruits, all manner, new and old, which I have laid up for you, my beloved. (Song 7:12-13)

  1. The fragrance of the mandrake flows as the Bride labors in love together with her Beloved in the harvest. The mandrake fruit has a purple flower with a beautiful fragrance. Mandrakes symbolize intimacy with God. Barren women in ancient times used to use the mandrake fruit to enhance their chances of bearing children. It became known as a fruit associated with love and fertility because of the story of Rachel who, while struggling with barrenness, was told by her sister Leah to use mandrakes. The unspoken idea was that she might gain a higher chance of fertility (Gen. 30:1, 14-16). This is the only time outside of the Song that the mandrake is mentioned in Scripture. Even to this day, the mandrake fruit in Jewish traditions is known as a fruit associated with love.
  2. The impact of her ministry results in pleasant fruit. There is joy in knowing that the fruit of her ministry is pleasant to Jesus (Song 4:16). Having fruit at my gates speaks of it being before me.
  3. The Spirit gives us treasures from our life of loving obedience and faith that are laid up in heaven. We lay them up to give to Jesus. She laid up pleasant fruits for Jesus, her Beloved.
  4. We will cast our treasure at His feet when we stand before Him (Rev. 4:10). This stored up treasure will be our crown on the last day. Our life goal is to accumulate riches to offer at Jesus’ feet on the last day. Our toil and sacrifice is motivated by love for Him. This is what compels us to go to the fields of service.

Taylor has gone to Him. She had treasure to throw at His feet, and the scent of mandrakes. We have her legacy and witness.

 

 

 

 

Joy, the Fruit of Undistracted Intimacy

23in labors more abundant27in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—28besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Cor. 11:23-28)

Paul, the great apostle, knew what it was to work with Jesus. His concern for the church drove him; He was passionate about her.  Following that passion, however, he falls in love with  Jesus. Over time, the love of Jesus outdistances his passion for the church as his primary motivator. His heart begins to break with the things that break the heart of God. He discovers the how faithful Jesus is and how forgiving, and he becomes undone. Paul discovers what what Solomon wrote about hundreds of years before. The Bride sets out in ministry to give her love and, in the process, gets His

11Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the field; let us lodge in the villages. 12Let us get up early to the vineyardsThere I will give you my love. (Song 7:11-12)

Mike Bickle says, “The Bride experiences undistracted intimacy with Jesus in the midst of ministry. “There” is the place of selfless labor, the risks of faith, disappointments, and mistreatment. She embraces both being drawn along in intimacy and running together in ministry (Song 1:4). She learns to love Him while serving others instead of losing her intimacy in the rigors of ministry. She runs effectively with Jesus in the fields and villages that He might receive His inheritance from them.”

I am reminded of Psalm 37:4-5, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” When two hearts beat as one, there is undistracted intimacy. Delight means “a high degree of gratification or pleasure : joy; also : extreme satisfaction.” When what brings me joy is the same as what brings Him joy, He gives me the desires of my heart because they are what He wants for me anyway.

Rolland Baker says joy is the incredible force that keeps him and Heidi going when thejoy “going” gets rough. “Countless Christians over numerous ages have gone through severe suffering and discovered a new level of joy through it and in the midst of it. The joy does not happen when the suffering is over. It is not relief, akin to respite. It is joy “in the midst” while suffering is still taking place. This is what makes it so supernatural. Without the suffering, you don’t get that kind of joy. The more you suffer, the more you are fast-tracked to joy….Sometimes, in the worst times of persecution, we have sensed the most joy and experienced the sweetest communion with Jesus and each other.”

Nehemiah 8:10 “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Rolland said it is true. He has found it to be so.

Jesus – For the Long Haul

There is a change that happens between chapter 6 and 7 in Song of Solomon. Early in Song of Solomon the Bride commits herself to work in ministry but there is a distinct change as the Song goes on. In chapter 6 she says

11I went down to the garden…to see whether the vine had budded… (Song 6:11)

By chapter 7 she has assessed the situation and is ready to commit herself and her time BrideCallingin the fields and knows she cannot go alone. She calls for her Beloved to go with her.

11Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the field; let us lodge in the villages.

This is such a lesson to me. How many times have I done ministry without Him? How many times have I simply signed up and went ahead? Ministry is important because it is in the midst of ministry, the Bride learns to truly love Him, but to have that happen He must be with her.

. 12Let us get up early to the vineyardsThere I will give you my love. (Song 7:12a,c)

I’ve heard many in ministry say that those they minister to give them so much more than they give. Yes! In every ministry there is a part that feeds back to those ministering, but those good feelings from service will not sustain the Bride in ministry. She needs Jesus for the long haul.

Mike Bickle comments, “The Bride experiences undistracted intimacy with Jesus in the midst of ministry. “There” is the place of selfless labor, the risks of faith, disappointments, and mistreatment…. She learns to love Him while serving others instead of losing her intimacy in the rigors of ministry. She runs effectively with Jesus in the fields and villages that He might receive His inheritance from them.”

Initially, the Bride moves into difficult ministry with an infatuation for her Beloved, but it will not sustain her. She must learn real love as they work together in ministry. This real love forged in ministry spawns another incredible force that will sustain her. Without it the Lord would not have been able to endure the cross and without it His Bride will not be able to endure the hardships, cruelties and persecution inherent in sustained ministry. Come back tomorrow to find out what it is!