Insights from Song of Solomon – The Test of Rejection in the House of Friends

The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my cloak, those watchmen of the walls! – Song of Solomon 5:7

In Song of Solomon 5:7 we see a clear spiritual picture of one test that all believers will rejectioneventually go through in our journey with God. To give some context, the Shulamite maiden has gone out to look for her beloved after he had withdrawn his presence from her in a season of testing. We need to understand that God never tests us to see how we will respond for He already knows. He wants us to see what is in our heart so we can get healed and delivered and grow into maturity. Someone once said – you never fail God’s tests, you just get to keep taking them over and over until you pass. The longer I walk with Him, the more I realize how true that is. Now, if I feel I’m being tested, I ask Him to help me pass it so I DON”T have to take it again!

The maiden goes out into the city streets in search of her beloved and runs into the watchmen, who represent spiritual leaders or authorities. Watchmen are responsible to stand guard on the city walls during different watches of the day and night, and alert the people to prepare for battle should an enemy approach. In her zeal to find her beloved, they beat and wound (or bruise) her and take away her cloak, or covering.

A stranger can accuse or slander you, but only someone you’re in relationship with can wound you. David spoke of this in Psalm 55:12-14: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.  But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.”  If you haven’t faced this test already, you probably will, just as many of the saints in Scripture did.

David faced rejection and betrayal with Saul who became jealous to the point of trying to murder him. Joseph endured this from his older brothers. Moses was rejected by his own people, and later by his brother and sister. Jacob was betrayed by his uncle, Laban, and Jesus was betrayed by Judas; these are just a few examples. So what response is God looking for when we face similar trials? In Song of Solomon 5:8, the maiden passes the test by remaining lovesick and unoffended: “O daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you — if you find my lover, what will you tell him? Tell him I am faint with love.”

Betrayal and rejection from leaders or friends is painful, but we must forgive and refuse to take offense if we want to grow in spiritual maturity. Jesus is our chief example, for He was not only betrayed by Judas, but rejected by humanity – the ones He created in His image and then died to save! He understands what it feels like and enables us, by His all-sufficient grace, to follow His example and that of the Shulamite maiden. He is waiting for a lovesick bride that refuses to allow offense or anything else to come between them.

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Insights from Song of Solomon – God Enjoys Us in Our Weakness

Song of SolomonDark am I, yet lovely… Song of Solomon 1:5

Like the Shulamite maiden we are well aware of our darkness – our failures, sins, and shortcomings. So many believers live under a cloud of guilt, shame, and condemnation, believing God must be thoroughly disgusted and disappointed with them because of their inability to measure up. This mindset not only brings continual feelings of despair and defeat, but also causes us to look at others with a critical, judgmental eye. Whatever you look for you will find, and whatever you focus on grows bigger in your mind. Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we harbor self-bitterness or self-hatred, we will tend to treat others in the same way, causing a multitude of problems in our relationships.

We so easily make God in our image, projecting our frustration and anger toward ourselves onto Him; this is just one of many lies we often believe about Him. Yet the truth is, He loves and even enjoys us in our brokenness, immaturity, and weakness. The maiden acknowledges her brokenness but also testifies of her loveliness before God. This is not arrogance or presumption, but rather a correct understanding of the heart of God for His beloved bride.  Jesus clearly demonstrated the depth of His mercy, love, and compassion in His willingness to physically become like us, suffer beyond our ability to comprehend, and die in our stead. His heart is always full of tender compassion and love for us because He is love.

Through His death and resurrection we have received the gift of His righteousness so that when God looks at us, He sees us as perfect through His blood. He loves us in the same way He loves His Son, the One He spoke of in saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) He placed His Spirit within us, imparting a sincere heart that desires to fully obey Him. Our spirits are willing and longing to please Him in spite of the weakness of our flesh. He sees the end from the beginning so He is able to view us from an eternal perspective as His beloved bride who will walk in obedience to Him forever and ever.

When God calls us lovely, it is because of these things; He doesn’t look at the things we look at; He sees beyond the surface. Just as a parent loves and enjoys their child completely at every stage of their growth and development, He loves and enjoys us in ours. He knew what He was getting into when He chose us. He is not disillusioned with us, for He never had any illusions about us to begin with. He knows us completely and enjoys us as we grow and mature in and through Him. Ask Him to show you how He sees and feels about you!

Do you believe God enjoys you in your weakness? If not, why not? Comment below.

Insights from Song of Solomon – The Kisses of God’s Word

Studying Song of Solomon gives tremendous insight into God’s ways and the process He listening eartakes us through to bring us to maturity. Understanding the process can help us to cooperate with Him, rather than resist as Israel did during their forty year wilderness wanderings. By His grace, we can embrace the process and accelerate our growth rather than prolong it, and who doesn’t want that?

The first thing we see is the maiden’s heart, awakened to her need and desire for more of God’s love. A hunger has stirred within her to hear His Word, His voice, and her response is to ask – “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.” (1:2) Jesus said that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matt. 12:34) God’s heart is full of love, so His mouth speaks words of love and affirmation to His beloved children. His words are powerful, able to create something from nothing, and have the power to transform our hearts and lives.

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Isaiah spoke God’s words saying, “Give ear and come to Me; listen, that you may live.” We were created in such a way that we MUST hear the voice of God. Our lives depend on it! Jesus said His sheep knew His voice and didn’t listen to the voice of a stranger. (John 10:27) In order to hear Him, we must make time and be willing to listen.

God created us for a love relationship, which includes sharing the deepest things of the heart. Any relationship requires communication in order to work – who would want to be involved with someone who only talked all the time and never listened? He has given us everything we need in order to communicate with Him, even though we can’t see Him – He put His Spirit within us to help us, to remind us of what He has said, and to guide us into all truth. (John 14:16, 26) We all have the same amount of time every day, and we always make time for the things that are important to us. Like the Shulamite maiden, we too can ask Him to speak to us, as long as we are willing to listen.

What is your greatest struggle in listening to God? Comment below.

The Healthy Way to Handle Negative Emotions

In over ten years of ministering to people seeking emotional and/or spiritual healing, I argumentshave found that many believers are uncertain about how to handle their negative emotions. This was true for me as well until I discovered through my own healing journey, a simple, biblical process that may help you or others you know that struggle with this issue. First, it’s important to understand that negative emotions in and of themselves are not wrong or sinful. However, the ways in which we handle them can be. Reacting wrongly usually compounds the problem that caused the negative emotions to begin with, leaving us and others even more hurt and confused.

When dealing with negative emotions, there are typically two different ways most people I’ve encountered respond. (There may be other ways that I’m unfamiliar with.) Some people tend to stuff their emotions down inside, keeping them hidden from others. Others seem to do just the opposite. When the emotion is anger, this would look like a temper tantrum, an angry outburst, or fit of rage, and these reactions could be verbal or physical, or both. Both of these methods are inappropriate and unhealthy for everyone involved.

Stuffing or suppressing negative emotions on a long term basis can lead to serious health problems. Stress, fear, and anxiety are contributing factors in many diseases, both physical and mental. We were not created to carry these painful emotions inside of us, and doing so can be just as destructive to our body, God’s temple, as eating poorly or abusing drugs or alcohol. Stuffers usually fail to properly confront other’s hurtful behavior which enables them to continue to hurt us and others; this too is unhealthy.

On the other hand, pouring out our negative feelings to others can be equally harmful to them and to our relationship with them. Lashing out at others in anger for example, can seriously damage any relationship, especially if it happens frequently, and can wound the one on the receiving end. This method of response is also wrong. So how do we handle these emotions?

The biblical and therefore best, way to deal with negative feelings is to pour them out to God. He already knows how we feel anyway, and He won’t reprimand us for feeling the way we do, as people often will. The book of Psalms is full of examples; Psalm 142 is just one of many: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of Your goodness to me.”

Taking our negative emotions to God is healthy. He can handle them and we can release them so that they don’t hurt us or others. I challenge you to try it and see for yourself!

How do you typically deal with negative feelings? You can comment below.

The Perplexing Ways of God

sunraysYou’ve probably heard the saying, “God works in mysterious ways,” but what does that really mean? Have you ever stopped to consider His ways? Ever wondered why He does things the way that He does? Does it matter, and if so, how important is it for us to understand His ways? The longer I walk with the Lord, the more clearly I realize one thing – He never, ever does anything the way that I think it should be done. Have you noticed this too? I don’t think I’m the only one, at least I certainly hope not!

As a new believer this was probably the most frustrating aspect of my relationship with Him. I just didn’t get how He did things, or why He always did them in a way that I would never consider doing them. So often I was sure I had figured out how He would answer a certain prayer or fulfill a particular promise, only to discover usually years later, that I totally missed it – again. He may have answered the prayer or fulfilled the promise, but I never saw it until I looked back, usually after a heart wrenching trial, to find that the trial was the way in which He brought it forth.

The Scriptures speak about God’s ways in many places. One that has helped me is Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  This makes it really clear that God does things differently than we would because He thinks differently than we do. Therefore, to understand His ways we must learn to think like He does. Romans 12:2 tells us how, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Renewing our minds is a lifelong process that comes through reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word. This takes time, effort, and energy on our part, requiring that we make it a priority in our lives. As we begin to understand how God thinks, He promises that we will know that His will for our life is good, it is pleasing or acceptable, and it is perfect, lacking nothing. Coming into agreement with His will makes it somewhat easier to cooperate with His ways of accomplishing it. Resisting His ways from lack of understanding unnecessarily prolongs the process He must take us through in order to fulfill His purposes for our lives.

Israel’s forty year trek in the desert (that was actually only an 11 day journey) is a great example of this. Hebrews 3:7-11 describes what happened: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried Me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.’ So I declared on oath in My anger, ‘They shall never enter My rest.'” Failing to understand God’s ways can keep us from fulfilling God’s will for our lives and none of us want that.

So what does this mean and what must we do? Make time each day to spend in the Word, letting the Holy Spirit speak to you. He is our Teacher who leads us into all truth. Ask Him for wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, His will, and His ways. That is a prayer He will always answer!

If God is Good, Why Does He Allow Suffering?

tearsThis is perhaps one of, if not the most asked question of all time and a subject that has brought much controversy and confusion since the days of Job. This issue is the reason many claim to not believe or even forsake their belief in God. Let me be quick to say I certainly don’t have the answer, but as one who has both seen and been through much suffering, I have a few thoughts to share on the matter.

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I experienced trauma that leaves deep wounds in the soul causing confusion, distrust, low self-esteem, anger and identity issues to name a few. This later led to many poor choices in young adulthood that brought more pain and regret. I reached one of my lowest points in my early 30s when I seriously contemplated suicide though I was married with two small children and all the material things most people would love to have.

It was at that point I cried out to God telling Him I no longer wanted my life and if He did, He could have it and do whatever He wanted with it. Things began to change very quickly but it was not all for the good. In my late 20s I had been diagnosed with a degenerative bone disorder that my doctor told me would require having both of my hips replaced. After crying out to God that day a few years later, I came to the point of needing surgery.

Within two years I had both hips replaced with unexpected life threatening complications after both surgeries. Five years later I was told both hips had failed and would need replacing again. By this time I was attending Bible college, teaching at a local women’s shelter, serving in my church, homeschooling our two girls, and participating in a citywide prayer group. I didn’t understand why this was happening again, especially after I had given my life to Jesus and was serving Him as best as I knew how.

Over the next two years I went through the surgeries again with the same life threatening complications after one of them. I questioned if God was even real and if so, did He know or care about what I was going through. I became angry with Him though I didn’t realize it at the time. After recovering from the surgeries I received much healing and deliverance ministry and a few years later God called me into full time healing, deliverance, and prayer ministry.

Three years after starting the ministry I fell twice within thirteen months, breaking my left femur both times and had to have yet another hip replacement – the third on my left hip. Two years after the second fall an infection developed in my left leg and I have been battling that for almost two years now. Though I certainly don’t understand all of this, I can say with certainty that God has proved Himself faithful through it all.

I believe that suffering exists to a large degree because we live in a fallen world that came through the sin of our ancestors, Adam and Eve. Sin and suffering were never God’s intent but He allowed us freedom to choose and unfortunately their choice brought suffering upon the whole world. Much suffering comes as a result of our own poor choices as well as those of others. We also have an enemy that is out to steal, kill and destroy as much as possible in our lives. (John 10:10)

Even so, God in His goodness didn’t just sit back and watch us suffer, instead He chose to enter into it so that He could identify with us in it. Stripping Himself of His divine power, He willingly chose to take on our frame and become like us in every way. Yet unlike us, He resisted every temptation and sin known to man. In the most inconceivable and incomprehensible act of suffering and injustice ever to be seen in human history, He actually became sin on our behalf so that we could receive what we could never deserve through our efforts – the life He intended us to have from the beginning.

Though suffering is very much a part of life in this age, God promises to bring good from it when we love Him and submit to His ways by His grace. (Rom. 8:28) Suffering is the primary means He uses to conform us into the image of His Son, the One who “learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) Though I don’t understand all of what that means, I am learning to trust that He always knows what is best for me. Suffering doesn’t mean He is angry or that He is punishing us, though that is what I once believed and what many still believe. It is not always a result of sin as Job’s friends believed and wrongly accused him of, as many continue to presume today.

He IS good even in the midst of suffering and He has proved that over and over again. The day will soon come that He will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17) and suffering and pain will be no more. Until that time He promises to comfort us in our troubles, that we might comfort others in theirs with the comfort we receive from Him, for He is the God of all comfort. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

How has He brought good out of your suffering?

What Does Unity Look Like?

There has been much written, preached and taught on the subject of unity in the Church in recent years. Much of it is based upon Jesus’ prayer in John 17, specifically, verses 20-23: “My prayer is not for them alone… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me… May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”  Most of the teaching that I have heard or read has emphasized unity as some sort of agreement among the brethren. As in, let’s focus on the things we agree on and build unity upon these essential doctrines of the faith.

Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that understanding, somehow I think we have missed the point of what Jesus was praying. Without going into a long exegetical explanation of this passage, I want to share some thoughts I’ve pondered after years of prayer and meditation on this particular topic. First of all, Jesus never taught anything on what we generally refer to as doctrine, so I seriously doubt unity on the basis of doctrine was what He had in mind.

As the basis of this prayer, He uses the union between He and the Father. Jesus and the Father are in perfect union because they are one in every sense of the word – one in heart, mind, and spirit. There is no discord or division whatsoever between them. They are one in the sense of fullness, completeness, and wholeness. Fullness, because there is nothing lacking within or between them; completeness in that each of them is complete in and of themselves; and wholeness meaning that they are without any flaw in their character or nature.

Jesus prayed that we would be one in the same way He and the Father are one. The phrase “complete unity” in John 17:23 literally means, “perfection; to complete; accomplish; consummate (in character);” not exactly the unity of agreement on issues of doctrine. Another reference to unity found in Ephesians 4:13 gives greater clarity: “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  This is the goal He is after in all of us, becoming complete and mature in our faith and in our knowledge of His Son so that we can be as He is in this world. (1 John 3:2)

In essence, I believe Jesus is praying that our union which comes through intimacy with Him, would be such that we would become whole, complete, mature, and perfect in Him (Matt 5:48). As a result, we would take on the fullness of His nature and character, first as individuals and then as a corporate body. Then, and only then, will the world see Him exhibited in and through us, and believe that He is who He said He is, the Son of God, sent by the Father to save all who come to Him in faith. This prayer is one we can rest assured, will be answered.

What does it mean to you to be one with Him, as He and the Father are one?