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day 20 - I am my Beloved's

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Read the Bible verses related to each devotion.

  2. Then follow the actions and prayers for yourself and a nonbeliever at the bottom of the page.


READ Song of Solomon 7



The story I am about to tell you is true, but it may shock you and test your ability to believe. And I am ok with that. If I had not lived through it, I would not have believed. But nowadays, everything is “shocking.” Even those things that aren’t. Sometimes, those telling the story try to make it shocking so that others will follow. If you have to shock people to follow you, you will have to shock them to keep them following you. And then what have you actually done? They will only follow you until someone else shocks them. And no one can always be shocking, because that is not how life with Christ is. There are always ups and downs, but never ALWAYS shocking.


So, in this story, I was at a place of compromise. I had struggled with sin; my sin was exposed by the kindest Man alive—JESUS! He was gently leading me and everyone else around me. After exposing me, I had to stand, completely vulnerable, before all and say I am sorry. So, when someone is hurting, then you have to let them recover. Jesus, in His perfect leadership, put me on the sidelines in the trauma ward to recover. It was supposed to be a 6-month period. The plan; I would take time to rest, and then jump back into the game. But if you are being led by God, things go exactly according to plans and right on time—His plans and His timing. It was not according to my plan or my timing. But that is good, because following my plan is what got me into this mess.


So, what did I do during this time? I cried out to God. More specifically, I remember the day that changed my life forever. I was driving down the road, working hard to serve the body of Christ. (If I was honest, I was the older brother working at a distance in the field with a bad attitude. Working because I had to, not because I wanted to.) It was in the moment that Jesus spoke to me. He said, “Son, I love you!” And then the most unusual thing happened to me. I felt God’s presence leave my body.


Looking back, I understand that I was entering the dark night of the soul from Chapter 3. You remember, where the Bride was awakened under the apple tree to the king’s love, but she had failed to leave her present comfort to follow after him. In my story, God had awakened me to His joy and love, but I had failed to enter into a season of sanctification that He was inviting me into. God was kindly calling me to walk holy, but I did not listen. So, He got my attention by knocking my knee out of joint. (Remember day seven.) It was during this time that I learned three important things.


First of all, God is Sovereign over everything. (I just had to learn to trust the process.) Second, the first commandment really must be first in my life. (In my life I had put working for God before loving God; this caused a mess.) Last, my identity was not in what I did, but in who I was before God. (I had worked to build a ministry, and not worked to love God and serve His purpose.)


At this time, I was taking a sabbatical from being a pastor, and was supposed to use that time to rest and recover. So, I set up a meeting with a seasoned pastor, got a part time job mowing lawns, and met with a local artist to learn to draw, because that seemed relaxing. I read my Bible daily, and prayed for at least two hours a day. (Mind you, I could not feel God at all. I did it because I had to, not because I wanted to. But God, who is rich in Mercy met me.) It was during that season that God orchestrated four situations that changed me.


First, I was in a meeting with the seasoned pastor. He asked me a great question, “What was it like the first time that you realized you were not a pastor? You know, when the people no longer called you pastor.” I was mad at him, and certainly mad at that statement. I tried to defend myself. I wanted to shout out, “I am a pastor,” but the words did not come, because I was no longer the pastor of the congregation. Then it hit me; I had made an idol of my life. My identity was in what I did, not in who I was before God—in the secret place.


Second, I met with the artist. During the first lesson, he taught me to draw my hand without looking at the paper. It was pretty neat. The second was still fruit, then the third was drawing my face, while looking in a mirror. And when I was done, I looked at the paper and was shocked. The artist said, “You captured your eyes well, very intense.” The picture showed the eyes of someone that was trapped, beaten down, but not broken. It was pride. Holding onto me, holding on to what I had built, holding onto my identity in what I do, not in who I am before God.


Third, I could not feel God at all, and that was frightfully awkward. I did not know what was going on. Like the Shulamite, I was searching, but I did not find Him. I searched daily, but could not find Him. I could not feel His presence. At that time, I had to put off my wedding. My fiancé and her family were distraught. My father-in-law, wanting to protect his family (and rightly so) was asking me what was wrong. “You used to be someone that I was proud to have as my son-in-law, but now you are a wild guy that mows lawns and stares a lot. What happened?” I was silent. I was silent a lot in those days. But I searched for God every day, until two years later.


Fourth, I was walking down the street on Father’s Day on my two-hour morning prayer walk. I could not find Him, but I knew He was nearby. Today felt different. I had begun to feel God was near, but had not had that moment where I felt His Presence. I shouted (God does mind if we shout), “Let me serve You.” And then, on the sidewalk, a bloodied student came up to me and asked me where he was. He told me he had been at the bars the night before and woke up bloodied with a torn shirt in the bushes. He wanted a ride to his father’s house, which was 250 miles away, to say, “Happy Father’s Day.” I don’t know who looked more startled. I told him he was in Buffalo, N.Y., and I shared the gospel of Jesus with him all the way to my house. Amazingly, he said yes to Jesus living in his heart, and I gave him a new shirt to replace the one that was bloodied and torn. I was thankful. Jesus had heard my prayer. I thought He was letting me back into the kingdom. But then, my worst days were to come.


So maybe you have gone through something like that? Or, maybe you have not. But I bet you have gone through a time when you could not feel God’s presence. It is at that moment that you realize Mary did chose the better part, to sit at Jesus' feet. And getting back to Him is worth the journey no matter what. And with that, let’s pick up with this amazing love story, which is coming to a close, between the Bride and Bridegroom. The story of the Shulamite and king Solomon.


When last we left her, she had just found the king. He had vindicated her by restoring her and others, and had asked, “Who is this?” Some people really wanted to know who she was. But others were jealous, because whenever someone is promoted, someone is jealous. However, God will vindicate you. But only when He knows it is the right time. And those that are actually seeking truth will also vindicate you. You will only get others to truly vindicate you if you let God defend you. (Side note: sometimes people get mad at my silence, but I am actually checking my heart, and letting God defend me.) And the defense comes to the Shulamite from true friends of God. And the the king speaks a most beautiful defense.


How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your thighs are like jewels…2Your navel is a rounded goblet…Your waist is a heap of wheat set about with lilies. 3Your two breasts are like two fawns...4Your neck is like an ivory tower, your eyes like the pools in Heshbon…Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon…5Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel, and the hair of your head is like purple; a King is held captive by your tresses [hair].” (Song 7:1-5)


These true friends see that the king loves the Shulamite, and they know the whole story. They have watched the transformation in the Shulamite from the day she caught the eyes of the king. Her life has captured the heart of the king. They know who she was, and who she has become. They are also provoked by watching her life. They are explaining what is beautiful in her: feet, thighs, navel, waist, and many other body parts. This is not an outward beauty pageant as much as it is her inner attributes coming out.


A true lover and friend will see the inner work; the work that has happened between you and God. And they will speak those qualities forth. They won’t criticize when things aren’t going their way. The question is, will you let God defend you? And, will you be one that criticizes others when God is promoting them? What will you use your mouth for? Let’s check our hearts and find out what God is thinking and feeling.


And after the others vindicate her, guess what? The king jumps in and says,


“How fair [beautiful] and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! This stature of yours is like a palm tree, and your breasts like its clusters. 8I said, “I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches.” Let now your breasts be like clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and the roof of your mouth like the best wine.” (Song 7:6-9)


He is totally in love with her, and he is declaring she is like a palm tree—a tree that will not be moved and is beautiful for others to look at. This is an important time. She is being vindicated, but not a moment too late or soon.


Usually, we want God to vindicate us in the midst of the storm. When we are being accused, we want someone to defend us. If no one defends us, we usually step up and try to defend ourselves. And if that fails, then a lot of things happen. First, we are mad at God for not defending us. We are mad at the people that hurt us, and we are mad at our friends for not helping. Last, we get mad at ourselves for getting into the mess. I want to encourage you to stop, take a breath, and just ask God for help. Trust that He will vindicate you in His time. He always comes at just the right time to grow your heart and others.

Then the Shulamite says,


I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me.” (Song 7:10)


This is the 4th part of her story of love. Amazingly, she is maturing in love. At first, her relationship with God was all about how He made her feel. Now, she is declaring, “I am under the king’s safe leadership, and He has strong affections for me.” She is safe in the arms of Love. Today, we get to go on a journey of trust and love. We trust that God loves us, and we know He loves us. I want to stand confident in this. I want to declare, “Jesus, I totally trust how You are leading my life, and I know everything You are doing in my life is because You love me.”


Come, my Beloved, let us go forth to the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded, whether the grape blossoms are open, and the pomegranates are in bloom. There 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 7:11-13)


The Shulamite is ready to go into all the kingdom and serve the purpose for the king. This is a huge difference from the beginning when she was just growing in love. His will has become her will. She is no longer just concerned for the comfort of a morning breakfast; she is now an advocate in the life and mission of the king. And she knows that this is the place where she will actually grow in divine love with the king.


In the same way, our will becomes God’s will. Our desire is to do the will of the King. And in that place, we are fruitful in love. No matter what identity or our ministry title, we want to do the will of God. We may be the main stage speaker in a stadium gathering, or we may be the one picking up trash—as long as we are in the will of God, we will grow in love. Our passion is His will. This is the path of sanctification and growth in love. This is the direction that we need to go to grow in mature love.


ACTION4U

Take time to listen to this. And then understand what is “Real Love.”

https://www.ihopkc.org/prayerroom/#asset/wh1j8xz4/auto/true

When you are done, pray the prayer below.


PRAYER4U

“Father, take my life; take all of me. I know You and You alone are righteous, but make me righteous like You. I know You and You alone are holy, but make me holy like You. Today, I ask that You would vindicate me. I put myself in Your hands. No matter what people say about me, I live for You and You alone. What do You think and say over my life? Take me; I am Yours. Your will is my desire, and there I will grow in LOVE!”


ACTION4ONE

Hopefully, you have set time to meet with the one you are praying for. This is where you will share your testimony; the story of what Jesus did in your life. So take a moment to practice what you will say. I like to be able to share in ½ hour, but each time it is different. Let me explain. I have 100’s of stories that made up the story of God redeeming my life. He has, is, and will always be active in my life. But which story is best for the person you are talking to? STOP! Pray and ask God which story will bless the person you are talking to. Which story will speak into their situation and help them overcome?


PRAYER4ONE

“Father, You are awesome. Thank You for letting me pray for __________ these 20 days. But right now, I ask that You would give me the testimony that I need to share so that they would grow in love with You. Today, speak to them. Today, convict them by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Today, anoint me to share Your Gospel message, and Father, help them come to church.”


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