Posted in 2Samuel, Psalms, Song of Songs

Honest to God

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” Song of Songs 2:14

God wants to hear your voice. Not an echo of somebody else, not a voice that has been lost in religious tradition, He wants to hear the real you. David said in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being.” God values honesty above all else. He wants to see your face, not a religious mask that you may think He wants to see. With God honesty is where the action is. When sin is real to us, then confession is real, forgiveness is real, His Presence is real, and the hope He alone gives is real. If something is wrong ask the Holy Spirit to show you what is going on in your heart.

When we are less than honest as Christians, we may still appear religious, but our hearts go lukewarm. I think the reason why “the hiding places,” are mentioned is that we can easily play Christian when we are around others, but it’s not as easy when we’re alone. Psalm 51 records David’s prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. No doubt David had played the part of “man of God” all the way through and no one would have known if God hadn’t spoken to Nathan the prophet about what David had done. When Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2Samuel 12:7), David’s heart was pierced and he once again became honest in his innermost being.

When we are being real with God He delights in our fellowship, our worship, our work and even in our fun. It may be painful up front, but honesty always brings us closer to God. You don’t have to put your best foot forward because He knows what the other one looks like anyway. And guess what? He still loves and likes you.

Posted in Ephesians, Revelation, Song of Songs

The Proposal

“I am dark but lovely.” Song of Songs 1:5

I love to officiate weddings because engagement is such a beautiful picture of what is happening on planet earth right now. Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and we will sup together.” (Revelation 3:20)  Jesus’ knock is His proposal to the human race today.

When Paul gives the original marriage text of a man leaving his father and his mother to be joined to his wife, and the two becoming one he gives this explanation, “This is a mystery, but I speak of the relationship of Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32) Every earthly wedding is pointing to another wedding; the wedding feast of the Lamb. Right now, everyone who has said “yes” to Jesus is engaged to Him and called to be part of that eternal partnership.

The reason I preach the gospel at weddings is that many people who don’t regularly come to a church assume God’s not interested in them, and nothing could be farther from the truth. They don’t feel like they’re “the type” of person Jesus loves because of sin they’ve committed or shame they’re carrying or because they haven’t been to church lately. On a mission trip, I gave the example of a $20 bill to demonstrate our value before God. First I held up a crisp $20 bill and asked how much it was worth. Then I stepped on it leaving a footprint. “Now how much is it worth?” I asked. Then I crumbled it up in my fist and threw it away. When I found where it had gone, I picked it up, unwrinkled it, and asked for a third time, “How much is it worth now?”

When people betray us, abuse us, or belittle us, it’s easy to feel we have less value. When we sin against others and against God and experience the shame and regret of having done things we can’t take back, we naturally feel devalued. But before God we’re like that $20 bill. Nothing we’ve done, or had done to us makes God love us less.

We are dark, but lovely to Him. You are the one He desires and He is knocking. He’s knocking through pain, through beauty, through sin you can’t conquer on your own… even through weddings, church services, and weekly devotionals! But no one gets engaged just by someone asking; we need to say “yes.” We need to open the door by saying from our heart, “Jesus, come in, love me, wash me, and make me who You want me to be.”

Posted in Hosea, Song of Songs

Embracing the Wilderness

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her… In that day you will call Me ‘husband’ and no longer call Me ‘master’.” Hosea 2:14, 16

The wilderness seasons of life are difficult. You feel alone, unappreciated, and frustrated. This is Joseph serving in prison; Moses taking care of a few sheep for years; David being chased around a desert – why would a God who loves me lead me into the wilderness?

First, so you will experience His tenderness. As long as God is just a concept to us we will not understand what our lives are about. God doesn’t lead us to the wilderness to punish or scold us; He wants us to know who He really is. We naturally assume God loves productive and impressive people (because that’s who people love), but all that is stripped away in the wilderness. God’s love for us transcends what we do or how we appear. God loves you. He made you and He redeemed you, first and foremost, so you could have a relationship with Him.

Second, so He can change our identity, or how we think about ourselves. “In that day…” In what day?  In the day where we experience the tenderness of God in the wilderness; then our motivation will change. Instead of performing for a master, we will be like a beloved bride to her husband. God will become our delight not our duty; our Protector, Provider, and Friend; not just the One we are accountable to.

So how do we respond when God allures us to the wilderness? Usually we fight it by blaming people or blaming God, or we get discouraged and want to give up. All that our wrong responses do is prolong our time in a place we don’t want to be. Let’s embrace God’s purpose in the wilderness. Let’s press into Him and bring our loneliness, anger, and frustration to the cross. Let’s pick up our Bibles and ask Him to speak to our hearts.

One day very soon we will come out of this season changed by the tenderness of God. It will be said of you: “Who is this coming out of the wilderness leaning on her Beloved?” (Song of Songs 8:5)

Posted in Hebrews, Psalms, Song of Songs

Prolonging God’s Discipline

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves and He punishes those He accepts. Endure hardship as discipline.” Hebrews 12:6-7

God doesn’t want to constantly discipline his children any more than earthly parents want to. He tells us in Psalm 32 He wants to guide us with only His eye, but He also assures us that He will use bit and bridle if He has to. Earthly parents tend to either under or over discipline, but our Father in heaven disciplines us perfectly for our good. (Hebrews 12:10)

What is often imperfect is our response which can lead to a prolonged discipline that was never intended. Here are two natural, but wrong responses to discipline:

  1. “Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline.” We sometimes miss what God is trying to do in our lives, so we end up blaming people, the devil, or “bad luck” for something that God is trying to use to get our attention. Don’t just plow through life; listen for what God is saying. He wants to use our unhappiness to drive us close to Him so He can make us holy. (Hebrews 12:10) He uses hardship to soften us and beautify us if we will let Him. If we keep running away from difficulties He wants us to face, He will just bring larger ones until we finally slow down and listen to Him.
  2. “Do not lose heart when He rebukes you.” God loves us so much that He won’t let us go the wrong way without eventually intervening. If you think hardship is evidence that God has rejected you, you will become disabled by the very thing God intended for your healing. (Hebrews 12:13) When we believe the lie that God has rejected us, we end up on the disabled list and God waits for us to come back to Him like the father waited for the prodigal. When we doubt God’s love, darkness keeps us from the intimacy and adventure that should be ours in Jesus.

Let’s respond quickly to our Father and come out of the wilderness leaning on our Beloved. (Song of Songs 8:5)

Posted in Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs

Hidden Shame

“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

A man once described his walk with God as being on a treadmill. He felt he could never make progress because eventually he would stumble again in the area of lust. Every other area, he found, he could set his will and be victorious, but he was utterly defeated in this area and it was robbing him of confidence with God.

How do we overcome immorality and the shame it brings?

  1. Wage war against it. Jesus died on the cross so we could be forgiven and have a new beginning. Many today have stopped fighting and changed the gospel to a license to keep sinning in this area. They say something like this to themselves: “God understands how weak I am and why I’ve stopped even trying to be sexually pure.” No, He doesn’t. He didn’t stop when it was difficult for Him, He shed His blood, He took the shame and pain of the cross and drank the cup of the wrath of God for us. How can we stop fighting to be pure because it’s too hard?
  2. Wage the right war. After we’ve set our heart to be pure it is easy to get into wrong thinking, so here is a warning: If we try to wage war against our own sexuality we will become angry with God. God made us sexual beings. The fact that you’re attracted to the opposite sex is not sin, it just means all the equipment is working. Jesus said lust in the heart is like adultery, not a thought in the mind. When a lustful thought comes into your mind, you are being tempted, you haven’t yet sinned. Don’t let the thought have a place; press delete instead of downloading it. It’s not a sin to be tempted!
  3. Get into the word of God. “Your word have I treasured (hidden) in my heart, so I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11) God wants our fantasy life, and all hidden thoughts to be transformed by the word of God.   
  4. Delight in God’s love for you. We are dark but lovely to God. (Song of Songs 1:5) I honestly don’t think anyone can win the lust battle without experiencing the higher pleasure of God’s love for them. It can be hard for men to connect emotionally with God, but it is really important. In Christ, we are the favored, beloved, children of God. His plan is for our success, not our failure!