The Bride in Bib Overalls

Roland Baker says Christians need to get back to the basics. Matthew 25 describes what those are: give food, give water, give clothing, and give your presence. These are the ways to love that people can feel, appreciate and receive. It is the kind of love God wants us to show. If we choose not to do this, we are telling Jesus we would not do it for Him.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

The choice of whether or not we give the basics has eternal consequences. In chapter 6, the Bride in Song of Solomon has made her decision. Mike Bickle explains:

11I 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)

The garden of God is mentioned nine times in the Song. The Bride goes down to God’s garden to help the plants that were budding and blooming. She taught the daughters that Jesus is found in His garden feeding His people (Song 6:2-3). Thus, she goes down to His garden to partner with Him because she wants to be with Him where He is. Of course He is with His young ones, the buds! She is willing to go to unfamiliar territory because she sees the immature Church. She sees God’s vineyard without much fruit, but she also sees there are buds and blooms. Song of Solomon says she wanted to see the verdure, or the vibrant greenness, of God’s garden. She was once a bud so she knows what needs to be done to keep the buds blooming. Her call is to keep God’s garden flourishing in the midst of the valley in this fallen world.

womanfarmerGod has given each of us a garden plot. It needs watered, fertilized, weeded and pruned. I have a new picture of what I need to go out into my day today. Usually I see a warrior woman in armor with a sword in her hand. Today, like in Nehemiah’s time, I see I have to have my sword in one hand, and my watering can and hoe in the other. This is not a problem. I have bib overalls under my armor. I am ready!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

No room

My friend, Ann, and I were preparing to gather a group of girls for a Born 2 Fly program this Saturday. Immediately, I ruled out my house as the gathering place. It is only 900 square feet. There may be room to gather a group of girls for study, but definitely there is no place inside big enough to play games. Freezing temperatures outside eliminate going outside to the yard. Ann, on the other hand, has a large house with two huge living areas and a basement. It was a no-brainer, but then I read my devotional from Roland Baker.

skyscraperRoland and Heidi lived in Hong Kong, the fourth richest city in the world, but the community they lived in was not among the wealthy. Roland said it was cramped and full of people living on top of one another. Their apartment complex alone had over 60,000 people in it. It was so crowded they didn’t have to go anywhere to start a church. They simply opened up their space and began ministering 24/7. It was called the Home of Loving Believers. They always had huge woks of Chinese noodles on the stoves. Prayer teams and counselors were available for people to talk with, and they were open all the time. People came off the streets all day with all kinds of problems, and God moved mightily in that tight space.

Mike Bickle continues to teach about the church as the Bride of Christ in Song of Solomon.

10Who is she who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as an army with banners? (Song 6:10)

Three times in Song of Solomon the Spirit asks, “Who is she…? (Song 3:6; 6:10; 8:5). The answer: She is the forward-looking one (she knows the sun will rise in its time), she is the one who shines (fair as the moon she shines because she clearly reflects the light of the sun), she is the one who rules because she has learned how to be God’s weapon in His Kingdom (awesome as an army with banners).

The Bride is to be ready at all times. She is the front line. Roland encourages us to ask Jesus about His plans for the people around us today, for the places that seem too inconvenient. He reminds us He has a plan and… we have a part in it.

Holding hands

As the few of you know who have been following my thoughts here know, I have been reading Song of Solomon for the past month. It is a romance – a Bride and Bridegroom treatise – written in poetic language. In order to underscore  a point he was making this morning, Mike Bickle took me to Ephesians 5:25-27

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

I have no words to describe what came over me by reading again, perhaps for the thousandth time in my life, “…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”. We are loved unto death, His death. In fact, we are the cause of it. He fell for us – hard. There is simply no explanation for this. Jesus created us. We were a bad creation. He fixed us. The only part we play is that He wants us to “be with” Him.

Roland Baker says, “I am so happy I hold hands with a man who died that I might live.” hands-63743_1920Holding hands…what a picture. I taught Sunday School for 4 siblings a couple years ago. They were an unruly bunch. As I worked with them, however, I discovered the reason for the turmoil was that the one girl simply could not sit still. She was perpetual motion, and she kept the other 3 in perpetual motion (mainly to stay out of her way, as I think back on it now). Anyway, when I had a real important point I wanted to make in the lesson and during memory verse time, I had the four of them hold hands.

Holding hands stabilized the group. It kept them in place and focused. She hated it. She’d roll her eyes and say, “Why do we HAVE to hold hands?” The others didn’t seem to mind at all. I ask myself this morning, “What kind of hand-holder, am I? Do I struggle to get free or do I relish the strength and focus as well as the opportunity for learning that comes in holding hands?”

I think I’ll give thanks when I take my husband’s hands this morning. We always hold hands for grace before breakfast. There’s more to this simple act than I realized. Hmmm.

 

 

 

I am not an angel

Today’s verse from Song of Solomon made me think back to a teaching I had a long time Patago. I was reading a book about the conversion of Pat Boone. The name of the book was “A New Song.” He gave the book that title because he said once he accepted Jesus as his savior, he could sing a new song. Is is called the song of the redeemed in scripture. I learned that only humankind can sing that song. The angels cannot; in fact, no other created being can do that. We are unique, so unique that Jesus became like us so He could really know us, and, ultimately, save us.

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, He [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because He Himself suffered when he was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 (NIV)

He was made a little lower than the angels…so that, by the grace of God, He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 (NIV)

Having been made perfect through suffering, He makes men holy. As members of the same family, Jesus is not ashamed to call us family. Hebrews 2:11 (paraphrased)

Today in Song of Solomon we find ourselves in the royal courts of the heavenly bridegroom. The primary point is to see that Jesus’ Bride has more honor than all the hosts in His court. Jesus is surrounded by a host of glorious beings with different ranks, but the Bride surpasses them all.

8There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins without number. (Song 6:8)

Mike Bickle explains: “The numbers 60, 80, and a group “without number” represent the different degrees of glory in Solomon’s court. The 60 queens had the highest ranks in Solomon’s court. The number with “queenly glory” is the smallest number listed. The concubines were next in rank with 80. Concubines in a king’s court had lesser honor than queens, yet still more than virgins because they were legally part of the King’s family and owned property. The virgins were in the King’s court as “staff members,” but had no legal claim to the King’s family or property.

Of all the glorious hosts in Jesus’ courts in the eternal city, He has only one Bride. The “only one” is translated “is unique” (NASB/NIV). She is unrivaled. She has no competition. Jesus is saying, “Of all the attendants in My court, she is the only one I want and the only one that I would die for.” Jesus is saying to her what she said to Him (Song 5:10, 16), that she is unique or a one of a kind, and has captured His heart. She is the chief among ten thousand in His heart as He is in her heart. He wants no other.”

angelWe, His Church, are the only ones who can sing the song of the redeemed. I think of how the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest.” when He came into the world as a human. Angels minister to man because of Jesus. He has given us a new song that angels cannot sing. Can you grasp that? He loves us best of all. We are His Bride. If that kind of love does not grip you. If that kind of love does not empower you. If that kind of love does not seize you so deeply that your life course is transformed…well, maybe you are an angel…?

 

 

 

Hair, teeth and temples

All of the following is from a synthesis of Mike Bickle’s teaching on Jesus’ Praise of the Mature Bride from Song of Solomon Chapter 6

5Your hair is like a flock of goats going down from Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep which have come up from the washing; every one bears twins, and none is barren among them. Like a piece of pomegranate are your temples behind your veil. (Song 6:5c-7)

Chapter 6 of Song of Solomon begins the bridegroom’s description of the mature Bride, the Bride as He sees her after the testing. Remember she was tested first by withdrawing His presence from her (Song 5:6), and second, He allows the spiritual authorities to mistreat her (Song 5:7). The Bride responds to God in love (Song 5:8). The Jesus of Gethsemane drew her into His sufferings, and she passed the test.

Jesus describes her maturity by highlighting three aspects of her character signified by her hair, teeth, and temples. They refer to her dedication (hair), life in the Word (teeth), and godly emotions (temples). These are same qualities that He prophesied of when they were only budding virtues (Song 4:1-3). Now they have come to maturity in her life. Song 4:1-2 describes her eyes, hair, teeth, and temple, as does Song 6:5-6. Song 4:2 adds the word shorn.

The Bride’s hair speaks of her dedication to God. The hair of the Nazirite was an outward sign of their consecration or dedication (Num. 6).  Her stately hair (dedication) is the result of being well fed on the Word of God.

5Your hair is like a flock of goats going down from Gilead. (Song 6:5)

Goats going down from Mount Gilead were healthy. The pastures there were abundant.

Her teeth speak of the ability to chew solid food, thus to receive the meat of the Word (Heb. 5:12-14).

6Your teeth are like a flock of sheep which have come up from the washing; every one bears twins, and none is barren among them. (Song 6:6)

  1. We receive the meat of the Word and maintain cleanliness, or healthy teeth, by long and loving meditation on God’s Word. In this way, we keep as clean as the sheep who come up from when the shepherd washes the mud off (Eph. 5:26-27; Jn. 13:10; 17:17).
  2. Her ministry fruitfulness comes from her life in the Word. To bear twins speaks of a double portion of fruitfulness. She is compared to the sheep in which none are barren. A diligent life in the Word guarantees fruitfulness (1 Tim. 4:6-16). The sheep in this passage are both clean and fruitful due to their life in the Word (Jn. 15:7-8).

The Bride’s temples being like pomegranates (red in color) speaks of her godly emotions. The temples (cheeks) reveal one’s emotions.

7Like a piece of pomegranate are your temples behind your veil… (Song 6:7)

veilBehind her veil speaks of her hidden life in God. Her disposition is sweet and her emotions of love for God and her modesty is genuine when no one is watching. It is not just a show before people as in Song 4:3.

Yes, she has matured since He first began this journey with her. Having been married for many years, I can testify to this kind of a journey. What my bridegroom and I were together 47 years ago is not at all where we are today. I am heartened that all things are working together for good (Romans 8:28). My earthly Beloved has been such a model of my heavenly One.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget the one

Matthew 15:21 – 28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

The woman had no idea what she had just done to Jesus. She stood strong in the face of His refusal. She knew He was her answer so she did not give up. Jesus marveled at her faith, “Woman, you have great faith!” She had overwhelmed Him.

This is what Solomon speaks of in Song of Solomon 6:5 when the Bridegroom says to the Bride  “Turn your eyes away from me, for they have overcome me.” Mike Bickle says, “The greatest warrior in history is “conquered” by our love, when we are true to Him in times of testing….He is overcome by weak and broken people who truly love Him. While [the Bride] feels nothing in her time of testing, He feels so much. Our love for Him in the midst of the testing is more precious to Him than we understand. We do not know the impact our love is having on His heart because we did not feel His presence in the time of testing.”

Mike says, “In this age, we will never understand the fullness of the impact that we have on Jesus’ heart.” Heidi says God notices and releases His power when we stop for one person, when we care for those around us. She urges us to simply do the next right thing, and see what He does. Heaven comes down when we do. Heidi says, “Don’t despise the small.” The Canaanite woman was there for one person.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

About a half dozen middle-school girls were invited to Born 2 Fly. Three are coming. May God release His power in these young ones’ lives. He is teaching me the heart of mission, His heart. He is teaching me my part in His work. More tomorrow…crumbs

 

 

 

Feeding instructions

In Song of Solomon 1:7 the Bride asks Jesus, “Tell me, where do you feed Your flock?” In Song 1:8, Jesus gave her a threefold answer.

7Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed Your flock8O fairest among women, follow in the footsteps of the flock, and feed your little goats beside the shepherds’ tents. (Song 1:7-8)

StarPerhaps it’s because I just took my two sweet grandsons, ages 8 and 11 to see “The Star,” the first children’s movie about the Nativity in decades, that my mind went right to the feeding trough manger when I read these verses. I never thought of the manger bed as a foreshadowing of the purposes of God before. It hit me like a ton of bricks, “Hasn’t Jesus always been about feeding us and giving us instructions as to how we can help Him feed others? Of course, He would come in a feeding trough!” As the Bride of Christ, He and we are a team in carrying out His purposes, so one of the Bride’s first questions is not surprising. She wants to be with Him so she asks, “Where do you feed Your flock?”

He tells her how to find the place and then what to do when she gets there:

  1.  Track the flock. Find their footsteps. Follow their footsteps and you will find them.
  2.  Feed the flock. Once you find them, feed them.
  3.  Work under the authority of the flock’s leaders (the shepherds).

Heidi and Roland Baker said they were given a lot of advice when they started out as missionaries. They were advised to host leadership meetings and seminars in highly populated areas to attract the business people and the rich and famous. They were told such actions would cause a “trickle down” effect. Mission money had been poured into research to define target areas to maximize mission efforts. The Bakers looked at that research, and then, asked God where they should go. He lead them to Pemba, Mozambique. According to the research, nothing should have happened there, but they followed God. Roland says they have found the people in Pemba to be the most responsive group they have seen anywhere in the world. “God has done immeasurably more than we could have dreamed or imagined there.”

God doesn’t start revivals based on statistics, percentages or data. He starts moves of His presence when His people fast and pray and call upon Him. Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me and I will show you great and marvelous things you do not know.” Ask Him, then listen to Him. He may take us somewhere unlikely (remember Bethlehem), but when He is with us, the unlikely becomes likely.

He’s teaching each of us how to fish, how to track, how to minister. He says there is a trail and we are to follow it to the ones He has uniquely shaped our hearts to serve. Are you on His trail?footprints

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church: The Place of Intimacy

IMG_2797The organ was playing as our youngest church member was backing down off the platform behind the altar where the preacher stands behind the pulpit. She ran to grab her blanket. She was getting ready to move. As the organ music swelled she began to bounce and, once her blanket was securely in her hand, she began to wave it as she bounced. She was happy and she was free.

Heidi says the only place we can be truly free is before God. We can’t be free at the market or at the office. Some may be a little freer in the shower, but other than that, church should be the most unrestrained place we go in the world. It should be the place where we show God just how we feel about Him in any way He gives us. Jenevie wanted to wave her blanket and bounce with abandon. Remember how David danced before the Lord in 2 Samuel 6. When his wife, Michal, complained, he said, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this,…(v. 21-22).

In Song of Solomon, the young maidens ask the Bride where her Beloved is. She replies

2My beloved has gone to his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. He feeds his flock among the lilies. (Song 6:2-3)

His garden is His worldwide church. Mike Bickle says the Bride is repeating what she was taught earlier when she asked in Song 1:7, “Where does Jesus feed His flock?” She was told that Jesus dwells in His garden to gather and feed His people, and she found that is where His people grow in intimacy. It is where they can stand in His presence freely.

His garden (singular) speaks of the worldwide Church, which is made up of local churches or the gardens (plural). The bed of spices speaks of the manifestations of grace. Each ministry is a unique spice. Each “spice bed” in the garden has a rich fragrance of Christ. Oh, how He loves when all the ministries gather together. I think of my church family and the richness of the Lord’s garden as the people’s differing gifts come together to make us who we are.

I was thinking He must smile as we gather, but that is an understatement. Song of Solomon 6:4-5 says of the church

4O my love, you are as beautiful as Tirzah, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners! 5Turn your eyes away from me, for they have overcome me. (Song 6:4-5)

He is overcome by a banner-waving, song-singing, feet-tapping, tears-streaming church. He is overcome! So you want to be an overcomer? Go to church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sight unseen

In Song of Solomon 5:9 the maidens ask the Bride why she loves the Bridegroom so much? She responds by listing His attributes. Mike Bickle says Song 5:10-16 is one of the most powerful revelations of Jesus in Scripture.

10My beloved is white and [dazzling, NASB]…chief among ten thousand. 11His head is like the finest gold; His locks are wavy…12His eyes are like doves…13His cheeks are like a bed of spices…His lips are lilies…14His hands are rods of gold…His body is carved ivory…15His legs are pillars of marble…His countenance is like Lebanon…16His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend…

Mike fleshes out the Scripture which describes what draws the Bride to her Beloved.

  1. His head: His sovereign leadership over all
  2. His locks: His dedication to God and the Church
  3. His eyes: His infinite knowledge, wisdom, understanding, discernment
  4. His cheeks: His diverse emotional makeup
  5. His lips: His Word
  6. His hands: His divine activity
  7. His body: His tender compassion
  8. His legs: His walk and administration of His purposes
  9. His countenance: His impartation to His people
  10. His mouth: Intimacy with Him
  11. He’s altogether lovely: His comprehensive beauty

andieheadThe detail the Bride gives in her description makes me think about a scene from the movie “Groundhog’s Day” where the man lives the same day over and over again until he gets it right. He loves this girl and he is obsessed with her (lovesick). At one point in the movie he sculpts her face out of a mound of snow. When it is finished she is utterly amazed at how much the sculpture looks like her. She asks, “How did you do that?” He says, “I could do it with my eyes closed. I have studied your face so long and so often. ”

The same is true for the Bride. She has so much faith in Him that she can recount His features and attributes with ease. This ability leaves her content and at rest, like David in  Psalm 131:1-2

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Roland Baker says this psalm is the perfect picture of a strong, responsible, mature adult Christian – a child curled up in its loving mother’s arms. Jesus said “whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:4). In fact, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). Roland calls this “growing down”. In the upside down Kingdom, we are not meant to grow up, but to grow down. The lovesick Bride in Song of Solomon keeps the Beloved in her mind’s eye much like a toddler (a weaned child) keeps her eyes on her mother as she ventures out to explore the world, running back to touch her now and then for reassurance. Child development experts say that something amazing happens at about age 18 months of age that changes how the child is able to move in the world. Cognitively, a child comes to know that something exists even if they cannot see it. They call this object permanence. The child of a trusted mother becomes confident the mother will always be there even if she can’t see her. In the spiritual realm Jesus uses this as a picture of faith, the certainty that God is there even when we cannot see Him or feel Him. It is a sign of maturity. The Bride’s got this!

How can I get rid of self?

This is not a suicide blog! This is not a “how to” on ridding the world of my personhood. God wants and needs each of us. He created each person unique and complete for a specific purpose, but HE wants to empower us. He doesn’t want us running on our own steam. He wants the Holy Spirit to fill us with holy power so we don’t run amuck and don’t run down. He wants us to run on His ideas and character.

The Bride in Song of Solomon does not give up in the face of opposition and isolation because she is focused on Jesus, not on herself. (Song of Solomon 5:10-16). She overcomes her self-focus by going deep in searching out Jesus’ beauty. Revelation of His attributes brings stability to her heart, and it will bring stability to ours when we go through the storms of life. Mike Bickle says when he is in turmoil he reads books on the attributes of God. He provides a list of some of them to help us get started: The Existence and Attributes of God (Steven Charnock), Knowledge of the Holy (A. W. Tozer), Knowing God (J. I. Packer) and The Pleasures of God (John Piper). He’s also written several books on the personality of God (Passion for Jesus, The Pleasures of Loving God, After God’s Own Heart) himself.

Roland Baker says he and his wife, Heidi, get called “wacky nut jobs” all the time. He says the miraculous power of God is normal and natural in their everyday lives – so much so that they make no contingency plans. They do what God asks them to do and EXPECT Him to show up. He says this is in stark contrast  to most ministries that are planned around the premise, “What if God does nothing, what are we going to do?” They spend so long working out how they are going to network to find the right people or organization to get their funds in place. Everything is set up and predictable, leaving absolutely no room for surprises, no room for the Holy Spirit to move. Proverbs 19:21 says it so well:

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. (The Message)

Roland tells us to not be so organized that we push God out of our lives. Oh, my! This hits me right between the eyes. I was trying and trying to get the right everything to get Born 2 Fly off the ground [no pun intended]. Nothing was working. One week ago I said to my friend. I am just going to invite a few young girls I know and have a small gathering. I had no helpers. I had no meeting place. I had no resources. I set a date and began to call mothers. I was absolutely amazed! Everyone said, “Yes.” In fact, I had started to think I should be having another session in the near future and tell the mother that the child’s cousin or friend or neighbor would be invited to that group as the numbers wanting to come started to expand beyond the meeting space I had, but this was not my meeting, so I didn’t. Hmmmm. What a nice problem!

In addition to one mother providing a place of meeting, other mothers began to childrenvolunteer their talents. Some would bring snacks, some would donate art supplies, one mother would lead games and ice-breakers, etc. etc. What I had been trying to do for months was all coming together in one week! That’s when I realized what Roland Baker and Mike Bickle are telling me today. I had not left room for the Holy Spirit. I was operating on the contingency plan. He has everything I need. He is altogether lovely. In my extreme self-centeredness, I had forgotten Him. He wanted to surprise me, and I wouldn’t give Him the chance.

Tomorrow we will go through Song of Solomon 5:10-16 and talk about the majestic beauty of Jesus. Jesus wants us to have the most exciting days because of Him. Let’s focus in!