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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lessons from Solomon - Pay Attention

At the end of the first chapter of the Song of Solomon, we find his fiance' attending a great banquet of the king to whom she was to be married. As she looks at the great King Solomon in all his royal splendor, her mind is captured by the wonder and strength within the object of her love.

I wonder how many of the wives of Solomon had become accustomed to life in one of the most famous courts of the world? How many had become bored with the splendor they were given? How many had wondered outside of the walls of the palace in search for something different; substituting the worthless for the magnificent just because it felt more exciting, more exhilarating, somehow better.

As the Shulamite fiance' stares googly-eyed at the object of her love, and wonders into the realm of fantasy about the marriage which is to come, Solomon notices her.

In verse fifteen, Solomon seems to suddenly feel his fiance' staring with wonder-filled eyes at him, and says to her, "How beautiful you are, my darling; how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves." (nasb) To which his fiance', shaking herself gently from the realm of fantasy to enter into focus upon the real-time interaction of love replies, "How handsome you are, my beloved, and so pleasant! Indeed, our couch is luxuriant!" (1:15-16, nasb) In a moment, all the excitement of deeply seeded fantasy is expressed in words like, "handsome," "pleasant," "luxuriant." But oh how those words meant so much more than what might be seen on the surface.

It sounds silly in our modern context, doesn't it? "You're beautiful!" "You're eyes are like _________!" "I can't believe how handsome you are!" "The way you take care of me turns me on!"

In the daily grind of our daily lives, we often forget to notice the splendor of love, and life, and beauty. It's rarely the case that beauty does not exist around us, but that the negative, the monstrous, the ugly is so much more exciting to talk about somehow.

Today, pay attention. Pay attention to the good more than the bad. Be distracted and intoxicated by the blessings of life and love. Look around you, perhaps even right there next to you at the dinner table and notice someone other than yourself; and then, tell them what you see. TELL THEM WHAT YOU SEE. The intoxication of that which is holy can bring focus to that which is crucial, beneficial, and good.

Try it, if even just for a moment... you might just be surprised at how amazing life can be!

The Peace of Christ to you today!

Pastor John

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Mindset of a Tuesday...

Ahhhh, Tuesday!

I love Tuesdays! Every Tuesday, I have the exquisite opportunity to sequester myself for studying the text, history, and application for my next sermon... and my brain says, "ahhhhhhh!"

What is it about focused attention that allows us to find rest? The weekly date with my wife gives rest to my marriage. Meeting weekly to worship the Lord with His church gives rest to both the soul and the congregation. Reading daily in the Word of God gives focus and refreshment. And for me, taking the greater part of a work day, once a week to study, gives rest to my mind.

It's the day when I break out my Hebrew flash cards and give myself a refresher course. It's the day when I catch up on so much reading left undone on other days. It's the day when the meditations of other days come to cooperate in etherial fusion and find balance, clarity, and direction.

My wife knows to try to keep things from coming up on Tuesdays... my staff knows to try not to schedule appointments for me on Tuesdays... my mind knows that it's going to be AWESOME and I find myself getting giddy about a day of focus.

I don't know but that you're probably thinking, "what a freak!" Or maybe you've found the beauty of solace also.

Solace, I've found, is as wine to the soul; and solace shared with the Almighty, as enjoying the finest wine in the serenity of the most exquisite of fellowships. Once uncorked, it is lovely to the palate; and once finished, it is sad and beautiful and full of promise all at once.

The old ones used to say to one another, "Pax Christi ad Vobis..." "peace of Christ to you". In your day of speed bumps, instant messaging, and general quickness, I pray you'll find solace and engage the God who made you, indeed the Christ Who would save you.

Pax Christi ad Vobis! This is my prayer for the both of us today.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Morning...

The boundless energy of children on Saturday morning is...

Depending upon your state in life, the end of that sentence might look completely different, like a story with optional endings! As the father to a three year old and five year old, it's probably most of those things sometime within the morning.

At some point it's the 'aaaaaarrrrrrgggggggghhhhhh' amidst a half-awake snore as I realize that the footsteps are coming up the stairs to our room. It's the little smile that creeps over my tired, 'oh it's early,' mind as they hand me a gift of a pencil or a toy. It's the cacophonous thunder as they play chase and holler for no apparent reason and I struggle to hear my own thoughts and give up on adult conversation. It's the joy of being 'bowled over' as they crowd to hug me to the ground and refuse to be anywhere but with me. In the end, it's simply joy... it's happiness... it's good.

Sometimes we miss the good, indeed the wonderful. The inconvenient joy of Saturday morning with children is the best thing I can imagine for waking up on a day off. It's not what I would do without them, and the only thing I want to do in light of them. Somewhere in all of that is a lesson for life, and love, and investment. Somewhere in all of that is a difference in my time not only with them, but with my bride... not only with my bride, but with my God. I don't have to nail it down to get it. It's simple. It's where the joy is. It's sometimes where we want to go, and sometimes where the pleasant surprise is.

And that, my friend, is Saturday morning... as the children vie to hold my hands again, and I'm reminded that it's time to stop typing!

Peace of Christ to you... as that's exactly what I'm enjoying here!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Lessons from Solomon - The Horse Standard

painting by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

"We will make for you ornaments of gold with beads of silver." (Song of Solomon 1:11 - nasb)

Yesterday as I preached this text after a week of study and meditation, I was reminded afresh that Solomon was taking notes for his bride from the ornamentation of a horse.
Now it wasn't just any horse, of course, for a horse is just a horse unless its an Arabian horse (ok, stop the music from Mr. Ed)! The fiance' of Solomon had so diminished herself, that in Solomon's retort, it was as if he stumbled upon an odd solution. In communicating to his fiance' the idea that she was as the finest and most beautiful of all creations, he realized that even the horses of a king are reminded of their worth by bridles decorated with gold and silver... so shouldn't the wife of a king be so reminded as well?!

I wonder if we forget this principle.

Can our spouses, our loved ones, simply open their eyes and find our love constantly proclaimed all around them? Is the fact of love, passion, and commitment so obvious that to herald it from trumpets would be to simply proclaim the overt and obvious?

Sometimes we treat our horses better than our wives, our cars better than the mother of our children, our toys better than the love of our life, and maybe that's why love is often forgotten even as it sleeps side by side each night.

It's just a thought.

Peace of Christ to you!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Question of the Day

April 14, 2010

Question: Why is it exactly that we are supposed to base marriages off of the Song of Solomon?

From: Janie

Thanks for the question, Janie!

First off, I'll tell you that when leading a couple through their pre-marital preparations, the Song of Solomon is one of the last texts I lead them to encounter together. Before that point, we have discussions out of very direct teachings of the Old and New Testaments centering upon such things as the Biblical structure of marriage, the roles of husbands and wives, submission and cooperative living, etc.

However, when looking into the intimate courtship process, the Shir Ha-sharim (Song of Songs/Song of Solomon) is, in my opinion, the clearest, "no holds barred" approach to the intimate relationship between a man and a woman. There is no doubt about the moral mandates which Solomon trampled in his days as the King of Israel. In fact, many of the pluralistic maladies and practices of the Israelites in the following generations, find their roots in the influx of religions which accompanied Solomon's non-Israelite wives. The reality, however, is that Solomon, imbued with the greatest of human wisdom by God, reveals to us the most excellent of insights as He records the courtship, romance, and marriage of himself to the Shulamite bride.

There are, then, clear transports of principle to our relationship with God. However, to equate this book as purely allegorical to that divine relationship would be out of sync with the style of that marriage allegory held elsewhere in Scripture. In simple English, Solomon gets way more explicit than do prophecies relating God to His people in a marriage allegory.

So what can we learn from the Song of Solomon? Godly passion.

Godliness and intimacy are not separate concepts; indeed, God Himself created the beauties of human intimacy. Solomon explores those in this book and gives us a pathway toward lifting high the fulfillment of one another in marriage. I believe that this practice alone could save countless marriages today, and provide keys to future success for people not yet married.

All that being said, its also just absolutely beautiful literature! Enjoy the poetry, I wish you could read it in the Hebrew! Discover God's "gold standard" for intimacy! Accept and embrace nothing less!

Pastor John

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

This morning, JeeP came to work with me for a while. Its one of the little perks of being a pastor, that really just results from the nutty hours and weekends spent at the office, causing my family to feel very much at home in my study at the church.

For those of you who know me, you know that everything in my office has a story. Now that sounds like an exaggeration, but if it is at all, it's a very small one; so when the kids come up, they often spend copious minutes gazing about the room, asking about things of interest they see on the bookshelves or on the walls, climbing into my lap to get my perspective on the room, and repeating the process countless times.

This morning, I came in ready to get to work, letting JeeP dive into the toys and books I have for him here... but he had a different idea. "I wanna sit in your wap." "OK, buddy, come on up," I said, and the morning changed shape for a little bit.

Have you ever noticed that God's plans are better than your own? This morning was just such a case. As we sat at my desk, I thought, "Why not go ahead and read the Hebrew I was about to read anyway?" So we sat and read the Word of God in the ancient language, and he loved it. We settled back into my chair, and discovered the beauty of high Hebrew together, as thousands of years of spiritual heritage melted away from the lowly perspective of my desk chair. Next, JeeP decided he wanted to read from what I call my "weddings and funerals Bible." "OK," I said, beginning to realize and soak up the deeper things that God had prepared for me this morning. So... we "read." Soon the stories of Jesus which he's learning intertwined with the perspectives and imaginings of a three year old little boy, and amazingly enough, the reality of the grace of Christ emerged as we discussed the fact that Jesus is strong enough to slay even the biggest, meanest dragons.

It may seem like a little thing to some, but in the perspective of aging life that passes all too quickly, I learned something this morning, and so did JeeP. Life is all about trades, and the trade-off of a life of ministry is often all-consuming. This morning, the life of a simple pastor collided with the life of an amazing three year old. There is no separation, but gestaltic totality; for in the eyes of the JeeP I'm just his Daddy. The cost of discipleship was, for today, the willingness to travel the unexpected path, and to borrow a phrase, "that has made all the difference."

The same Jesus who is strong enough to slay the dragons, is far wiser than my feeble mind can fathom; and in that wisdom, somehow brought my heart and mind to focus clearly on the beauty of His Word through the magic of my little boy.

Perhaps someday I'll get to repeat these moments with his children, or maybe with Jordan's, but for today, life has been enriched beyond what I had thought with the simple payment of the cost of discipleship I had not expected.

May the peace of Christ overwhelm you!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

JeeP's Adventures

JeeP (coming through the office door): "Daddy, you're my friend."

Me: "Ah, thanks JeeP. You're my friend, too, and I'm sure glad you are!"

I stretched out my hand to him, which usually gets a running jump into my arms, but this time, he took my my right hand in his right hand and shook it like a little man.

Wow... now that's livin!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Passion

One-thousand, nine-hundred, and seventy-nine years ago today, Christ began His day knowing that He would end it with His final earthly celebration of Passover. Knowing it would be followed by painful prayer, unjust arrest, beatings, and His own crucifixion.

This morning, our family attended morning prayers at the church I am blessed to pastor. It was early and the kids were dressed and ready, but wrapped up in their favorite blankets and holding their favorite stuffed animals as we drove to church. About half-way there, I began to tell them why we were all going together this time. You see, they are used to me going every Thursday, as our church makes this a regular practice, but normally, they are fully engaged in getting ready for school, the day, and just generally being kids. But today, we all got up and drove together.

And so I began to tell the kids about what happened today those many years ago. Jordan asked how I knew it was that many years, and I told her something that was sobering to me even as I said it, "because we know the exact day when Jesus died to pay for our sins," I said, "and we know the exact day when He rose again from the dead." It came out easy enough, but struck me as it did.

Had I consciously considered lately that the events of the Christ are not fictional, not dramatized beyond reality, not conformed to myth after all these years? Have I lived in such a way as to practice the historical reality, the datable fact, that Jesus, who is the Christ, died an absolutely undeserved death so that I would not have to pay the deserved price for my own disobedience to God? How easy it is to consider the acts of love and passion of Almighty God toward we rebellious men, and somehow neglect to practice the presence of that reality.

ONE-THOUSAND, NINE-HUNDRED, and SEVENTY-NINE years ago, Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man, died on a Roman cross, at the neglect of a Roman Governor, at the demand of the people of God, so that all men, women, and children, might have the opportunity to be forgiven, and in so being, be restored to a life of service relationship with Almighty God who created us.

On this day, tonight those many years ago, He was arrested by the priests He ordained, betrayed by one of His own disciples, and tried before a kangaroo court in an abomination of the laws and precepts He established for His holy people. He did this willingly. He did this by choice. There is no myth which could be greater than the reality.

Tonight we commemorate His sweat of blood in the garden; we remember the betrayal and arrest and marvel as He healed the ear which Peter severed off the soldier there to arrest his Lord; and we enter into a night of prayer because to sleep a full and deep night's sleep on the night where-upon Jesus was so cruelly tortured is somehow just not right.

In my weakness tonight, I know that I will sleep... and it is His grace which buys me the peace upon which I rest. But for a few hours, I will keep watch with you; and in communion with the Saints who walked with the Christ, seek to keep watch if only for a time.

May my life be more worthy of His blood than it was yesterday; for today, we remember.

Peace of Christ to you all!