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"As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27:17


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THE SONG OF SONGS

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Song Chapter 3 Sweet Dreams

Posted by Lorraine Serra on October 4, 2016 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (6)

Have you ever had a restless night? Sometimes

dreams can seem so real, so frightening you can't

get back to sleep. Or sometimes they are very

encouraging and you never want to wake up!


 

It has been said that dreams are the way in which

the subconscious mind filters through and processes

those things which concern us in our waking hours.


 

Fear, longing, excitement, frustration, worry, anger,

peace, disappointment, you name it! Our very busy

minds and emotions can show up in our dreams

in stories that are usually symbolic, not literal.


 

I don't know about you, but I've had the one where

I'm falling....how about you? Or the one where I'm

flying. Talk about opposites!


 

Did you ever show up naked in a classroom or

workplace in your dream? So uncomfortable!

 

But, usually my dreams don't provide an ending!

I'm left hanging, wondering what that was all

about!   How about you?


 

In Chapter 3 of Song of Solomon, the Shulamite

woman seems to relate a dream which any

engaged woman with wedding jitters might have even today.


 

She is extremely stressed looking, searching,

desperate to find her man! Running through

the streets, she is asking in the town square and

pleading with the night watchmen,

 

“Have you seen the one I love?”


 

I wonder if her feet were running

in bed as she experienced this dream?


 

It sounds like she is overwhelmed

with fear that maybe he has changed his

mind about the wedding? Is she experiencing

inner turmoil about her value, her worthiness?


 

She can't find

him anywhere.


 

Then, coming out of the “wilderness”,

she sees her king, surrounded by valiant

warriors, carried on a royal couch arrayed

in gold, silver, purple. Her fears are

put aside because her bridegroom, her Beloved

has arrived for the wedding!


 

How wonderful that the dream becomes

reality and her restlessness is replaced

by promises fulfilled. 



 

Well, we know from our study so far

that this song poem is the beautiful story

of God's love for His people Israel, so

the symbolism is rich, historical and

still true for us today.


 

The restlessness of the night is very

much like our own. We can be

so overwhelmed with doubt and

anxiety with the challenges in our lives.


 

We can feel inadequate

and far from Christ, our King. We may feel

uneasy, unworthy, feeble in our attempts

to know Him and live in a way that

honors Him.  Is that you?   At times, it's me.


 

Yet, our King has demonstrated so clearly

that His love for us is sure and constant.


 

“God loved the world so much that He gave

His one and only Son, that whoever

believes in Him shall not perish, but have

eternal life.” John 3:16  What a promise!


 

“Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God

that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 8:39

This fills me with confidence~



He longs for us to embrace His gifts of love, joy,

wholeness and healing.  Why do we so often refuse

to lean on Him?  To trust Him?  Why do we lay down our burdens

for a while, only to pick them up again?


 

 

When we have entered into that loving, trusting

relationship with Jesus Christ, we are His, and

He never leaves us whatever may come in our lives.

 

We all know it ain't a perfect world. Never has

been, never will be. 


 

In the Song, Solomon uses the term “wilderness”

to symbolize this world so  full of troubles, lies,

distractions, violence, hatred, and insincere relationships.  


Yep!  2016 still feels the same way!


The Shulamite woman is so

distraught until at last, her

Beloved  arrives to claim his bride.  

Her story can be our story!


 

We, too, can rejoice, for our Beloved, Jesus Christ

has come for us!  He has promised to

carry us through this treacherous world

safely. We, the church, His bride, have

the eternal promises of our Bridegroom.


 

He alone wears the crown of victory over

troubles, over our sin, failures, and doubt.

Christ brings us into His own heart, and

desires that we bring Him home into ours.


 

Our wedding feast begins when we say

“I do” to Jesus; I do believe You are the

Son of God, that because of your great love

for us, you willingly died on that gruesome

cross in full payment of our sin

debt.

 

I do believe you arose back to life from the grave,

in full demonstration of your power over everything,

even death, and I give you my heart, my trust and will follow You.

 

I do believe you are a covenant King

who keeps His promises forever and

I will be forever with you, both now

and in Heaven.

 

Saying, “I do” to Jesus gives us a

model of love to enjoy for ourselves as His treasure, and to

share with our spouse and others.

Treasure Christ as He has treasured you!

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today

and forever. Hebrews 13:8   Hold fast to this truth and

“sweet dreams”, my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Song Chapter 2: A Covenant Love

Posted by Lorraine Serra on May 18, 2016 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Around my neck of the woods, one can often

catch a glimpse of a most lovely demonstration

of serenity and peace: mama deer and their

fawns grazing and resting and playing in an

open field.


Solomon clearly enjoyed watching these

timid, gentle animals. He alludes to them

three times in his Song Poem, creating

a repeated refrain which causes us to

wonder at its meaning.


Let's take a look at Song Chapter 2 verse 7.

“I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem. By the

gazelles or by the does of the field,

Do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.”


The Shulamite offers what seems to be a

warning to the daughters of Jerusalem. But,

is it a warning, or a plea, or something else?


“I charge you”, she says. Sounds pretty strong

and a bit threatening. Other translations read,

“I adjure you”. Sounds just as rough. I get

visions of an arrest and conviction!


Yet, another translation I found states,

“Promise me!” What a difference!


Studying God's Word is an adventure, sometimes

a challenge, but always worth the effort to

be enlightened and changed by it's life-giving

instruction.


So what do deer, gazelles, promises, and

passion have to do with anything here? What

does this refrain mean? What does it teach?


Among the interpretations I have studied

in various commentaries by church fathers

and theologians a key theme arises in this

repeated refrain:


A Call to Rejoice in the Purity

and the Power of a Covenant Love.


Two words: Purity and Power.

One exceedingly wonderful word: Covenant


The model is Christ's love for

the church, and ours for Him. The blessings are

available as practical advice for passionate lovers,

as well.


First, because this verse has been debated, here is

something to consider:


“Do not awaken love” can be interpreted as a call

to self-restraint and responsibility. It is truly a

protection from the devastating effects of feeling

used and abandoned, rather than cherished and treasured.


Purity keeps couples clear-minded

in evaluating the depth and sincerity of a relationship.  How committed is each person.  Is there evidence of sacrificial love, mutual respect?


The power of the covenant of marriage is God's

design.   By that design,  a covenant is unbreakable.   While that may seem dauntingly frightening, we can see why God directs us to listen to His guidance and apply it.


Yet, even if we have sided with the culture in

this area, it is always possible to turn back to God, and

receive His unbreakable, always available covenant love, forgiveness and a fresh start.  That's good news!  


Today, if you need it, if you want it, confess your weaknesses and failures to the Lord who already knows, and already loves you unconditionally!  Come to Him, bow before Him and receive new life.  Obey Him, and find the peace that surpasses all human understanding!


Now then, let's look at how the Shulamite woman addresses her girl friends, and

other women who may be watching with a critical eye.  


From my study, I have brought her possible meaning into our modern language:


“Promise me! Don't you dare

disturb the beautiful relationship that I have

with the king! Our love is tender, authentic,

and peaceful as the deer resting in the shade.   Do not act like dogs

who flush out the does for the hunt, trying to

destroy what we have.”


Wow! I sure didn't get that the first time I read

the refrain. But, this warning not disturb or stir up trouble makes sense. As the saying

goes today, “Haters will hate.” It can be pretty

difficult to ignore the haters, the critics.


In today's culture in particular, our love relationship with

the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, is under constant attack.

But, we are called to press on and stand strong in our

faith, armed with the truth of God's Word, the unique

sacrifice of Jesus, and our testimonies of His hand at

work in our lives.


His pure and powerful covenant

love is unbreakable, indestructible, and unfailing, even though at times we

may fail or grow weary.


This proved to be the case when Solomon got a bit lost and failed. (1 Kings 11).

Oh, he suffered the consequences, but, God still loved him and even

had a plan to set him forever as an example

of His covenant love towards the wayward and rebellious.


I find it quite intriguing that the man who had a thousand

wives obviously knew in his heart that his lifestyle did not

honor God, the One he served in humility and with passion

at the beginning of his reign.


Though he made poor choices, and indeed, set himself up for

destruction, Solomon returned to his first love, the

Lord God Almighty.  In his Song, Solomon cries out

about an authentic love....a covenant love...a one and only love.


The Shulamite and the King are the beautiful picture of what God

intends for couples, and for all His believing children.

 

Wow. With a heart full of wisdom born of regret, Solomon

wrote for all the world, by God's inspiration, critical lessons for life, both in

this Song, and in his book Ecclesiastes.


A genuine covenant relationship grows and deepens

over time and blooms when God centered, God

ordained.  The marriage covenant takes time and commitment. 


Take it from me, at 38 years and counting, all the rocky roads in my marriage to John were only straightened, smoothed and satisfied in Christ.  I have found my peace in God's covenant love.  John has, too.  It is Christ's covenant with each of us that has taught us to honor the covenant with one another.


When we humbly seek God's will, He has promised He

will direct our steps and make our path straight....in

relationships, in our work, in every area of life.


As a much wiser Solomon wrote: “I have amassed everything

to delight the heart of man, but have found it all meaningless.

Fear the Lord, obey his commands. This is what brings

true joy to man.” (paraphrased Ecclesiastes Chapter 12)


Lord, I thank You for the beauty of Your Word. Rich instruction

for our joy, our peace, our prosperity in mind and heart. 


As we meditate on it today, Lord, let it come alive in our hearts to make us genuinely

open to Your covenant love....a Forever Love....and to give

thanks. Amen.

Song Chapter 2: We Are Beautiful

Posted by Lorraine Serra on May 10, 2016 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Further study and prayer over the first verses of Chapter 2 reveal an even more stunning beauty and identity for believers all because of Jesus Christ.


First, like a rose of Sharon, or a lily of the valley, we are clothed with a distinct beauty and a lovely fragrance.


From Isaiah the prophet to Paul the Apostle, countless references speak of our being clothed or adorned with the righteousness of Christ. This means, that though we are sinners and often fail in our efforts or attempts to please God, yet, He has loved us completely by providing a Savior who perfectly paid our sin debt, and crushed all our sin when He took it upon Himself at the cross.


We have been forgiven, and Christ has given us a new identity, more stunningly beautiful than we could ever acquire for ourselves!  At the cross, Jesus exchanged with us His beauty and sinlessness for our weakness, failure, our sinful condition.


When we have accepted this free gift from Jesus, confessed our sinfulness and need of Him,  and asked Him to be Lord of our lives, we are clothed in His goodness, our sin is covered, concealed, blotted out, and God sees the perfection of Jesus when He looks at us.    A distinct beauty!


As we diligently follow Jesus, a lovely fragrance develops in our hearts; the aroma of Christ is what Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians 2:15. I remind myself all the time that as an ambassador of Christ, I need the Spirit of God in me to teach me and develop in me a more lovely fragrance around others for Jesus' sake in order to draw others into relationship with Him.


It is His Spirit within me that gives me self control, kindness, gentleness and more love and patience than I can muster on my own.


What a privilege to be adorned as a rose and made pure as a white lily, and fragrant with an aroma of the Spirit of God in my words and actions, all because Jesus as given me an identity as His own!


Second, in a world of cynicism, hatred, and struggles which engulf us as thorns among the lilies, we know our strength and help comes from our Beloved Lord. That banner over us, described in verse 4 has stretched as far as the east is from the west. The cross of Christ is the banner which stands alone through the ages. No greater love is there than a man lay down his life for his friend, and Jesus laid down His life when we were still sinners, before we knew Him, before we invited Him in, humbled ourselves and received His precious gift.


Are you overwhelmed, disappointed, hurting, sick or fearful?   Come to the banqueting table of Jesus who provides much at the feast: Rest for the weary and hope for the hopeless.


Come sit under the shade of the Almighty, whose sweet gifts are spread out before you: gifts of a clear conscience, peace, an everlasting hope and His presence always with you.


Eat, drink, the Bread of Heaven and the Living Water, which are available at all times in the Word of God, the Bible, and through His Spirit dwelling within us. 


What a feast!  What a Host!


Lord, thank you for inviting me to dine with You daily. I am grateful to live under the banner of your Love, the canopy of Your many blessings and graces today and always. Fill me all the more with Your Spirit, I ask, that I may know You and share Your everlasting love with fearless passion. Amen.

Song Chapter 2: Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Posted by Lorraine Serra on April 22, 2016 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Years ago the television actor Telly Savalas played a character

named Kojak. He coined the phrase “Who loves you, baby?”

It went down in history much like another well known phrase,

“Go ahead, make my day!”  Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.


Isn't it interesting how a phrase can label, or identify a person?

Chapter 2 in Song of Solomon begins with just such a discussion of

identity. From what I am reading, the Shulamite woman comes out declaring her own

identity as a RESULT of who loves her!


Chew on that for one minute! She says she is the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. (plural!)


Her Beloved prince says she is a lily among thorns! Could this be where we get the phrase “A rose among thorns?”


She then responds to his kind words by describing her Beloved as an apple tree with sweet fruit offering tremendous comfort and protection in its shade. Are these two characters just the most endearing lovebirds ever?


I wonder what would happen if I told my husband he is my apple tree? Ha ha! I've never used that one, but I do call him my "hero" all the time!  Terms of endearment are precious and enriching to a relationship. In this case, there is yet another poetic metaphor full of rich substance for us to consider.


Researching these images opened up the proverbial can of worms! Was there really a rose of Sharon? What lily is referenced here? Did she say it, or did he?


More importantly, what is the message Solomon wants us to receive and how can we apply it in a life-giving way to our lives and relationships?


Geographically, in the region of northern Palestine, near the Shulamite's hometown, there are open, marshy fields between the mountains and the Sea of Tiberias. These open plains are known for abundant flowers blooming in vibrant colors. They are fragrant, and spring up among thorny growth, and deer love to eat them. No surprise!


In a sense, they are common, lowly, nothing rare about them. However, they are sought after for their incredible beauty and wonderful aroma. The Shulamite woman here humbly declares that her position has been changed!    She has been raised up from her lowly, common background by the personal love of this Beloved Prince!


I daresay it sounds a bit like Cinderella! Solomon seems to have provided the prototype for future writers, and foreshadowed the very salvation plan of God for all people! 


What a picture for us as believers.   Christ, our Prince, our King, has lifted us up out of the soggy, marshy, dangerous fields of our self-centered existence in a world full of danger and sin. He has become for us a safe place, our shade as the strong apple tree, pouring over us and into us the most delightful gifts of His love, His presence, His forgiveness and grace, His guidance and help.


She has been changed by the Beloved. Have we been changed by our beloved Christ?


When we truly grasp Christ's strong and everlasting love for us, well, a new identity is born. His Excellency, His Majesty chooses us to be His alone, one who will always be protected, guided, strengthened for our work,  and provided for!


We can feel certain that indeed, we are invited to His banqueting table, no matter where we come from, or where we've been or what we've done or failed to do.   Invited!  To become part of the forever family at the King's table.  A free gift of sonship, daughtership.  And it's all because of Love, Perfect Love. Jesus Christ is the Giver of Life and Love.  What is our response?


Lift up your head, oh children of God! You are chosen, deeply loved, highly favored.  His banner over you is love! Until next time....


Precious Jesus, my Lord and King, you have graced me beyond measure! Thank you for drawing me close to Your heart, and giving me access to know You more deeply. I want to abide under the shade and shadow of the Almighty, and to learn from You and follow Your plan for my life. You have given me a new identity: highly favored, deeply loved, Child of the King. I praise You with all that I am. Amen!

 

Song Chapter 1: VERY Firm, VERY Fine, and VERY Fragrant

Posted by Lorraine Serra on February 12, 2016 at 12:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Throughout Chapter 1 of Song of Solomon, we have learned of a unique love between the Beloved and the Shulamite shepherdess woman. Revealed for us is the picture of a King choosing an unlikely bride. Royalty embraces the commoner. It seems she may even have been an outcast of the community, yet she finds herself seated at the King's table.


What kind of love is this? Through the conversation in verses 7 through 17 we hear a sweet tenderness exchanged between these two lovers. I might call it a “triple threat” for any and all successful relationships: 3 Cs Compassion, Consideration, Compliments.


But, humility and respect are required from the start. Mutual humility and respect. After all, that is the essence of Christian love.


Let's look at what the Shulamite says in verse 7. She addresses her Beloved in humility and with respect, “Tell me, O you whom I love”. How's that for an opening line? She shares from her heart about being “one who veils herself”which is another way of saying “one who is an outcast”. She wants to know how to become one who is part of his flock, part of his community.


And there it is: the basic human desire to belong, to be valued and cherished, to be loved and appreciated.....would you say that is a high priority in your life? Some of us may take it for granted. I know that I do unless I pause to appreciate all the people in my life, both family and community.


Drifting happens when we fail to pause in our busyness and put aside our distractions. Be honest. Have you ever asked yourself, “Is that all there is?” “What am I missing?” In moments of frustration or exhaustion, do you ever suffer from “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome?


Israel did, often drifting from their first love, the Almighty God. They went their own way looking for something better than the nurturing, protective relationship with Yahweh. They served other gods, and they served themselves. The result was always disastrous.


Solomon is again painting a symbolic picture and sending a message to Israel, that though she has been outside of God's will, His love remains firm, unchanging. He has waited for her to return to the flock of her own accord. God is so gracious and forgiving. He waits for us as well when we have wandered away.


And with great compassion, God shows Israel the way back. The Beloved tells his bride-to-be to return to the old ways. Follow in the footsteps of the flock and those who have gone before you. Join with the community and seek to serve God. He is all about restoration, second chances and a fresh start.


This foreshadows the incredible grace of Jesus Christ. “Come to Me, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28


With consideration and compliments the Beloved encourages her and esteems her in verse 8: “If you do not know, O fairest among women.” How tender! How loving! We can be so careless with our words. How easy it is to blurt out a condescending and hurtful response when someone disappoints us or seems to have missed the incredibly obvious!


This model of 3 Cs, compassion, consideration and compliments, goes a long way to creating unity, peace and real love. The Beloved overflows with compliments, comparing her to the fine horses he brought up from Egypt, bold and strong and beautiful. He has adorned her with the finest gifts, chains of gold and ornaments, which set her apart as so special to him.


I read a beautiful interpretation of the symbolism here: As believers in Christ, we have been adorned with the finest gifts. Our ornaments are His peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, joy. Think about that for a minute. And Jesus is like the bundle of myrrh which the Shulamite describes in verse 13. His enormous, unchanging love is such a sweet and fragrant bouquet to hold tight.


What a gift!  We hold Him in our hearts.


Because of Jesus' death on the cross, taking the punishment for our sin and wanderings, and His Resurrection to life eternal, we have received the finest ornaments of all: we are clothed in His righteousness and given an eternal position as a child of God.


Do you have a sense of this beauty in your life? Is this exquisite relationship with Jesus front and center? Perhaps you have a deep ache of loneliness, even within a relationship.


I have been there, too. I have felt lonely, overlooked, betrayed. It's a consequence of living among imperfect people. But, I have an unchanging, perfect, always available and present Lord who never fails me, who never leaves me, who never lets me down.


Do you know Him? Do you desire to be one with Him and His flock?  Desire is the first step, then action.


Pray with me: Lord, I sometimes feel so empty, lost and confused. I run one way and then another. I desire to have an undivided heart. Forgive me for my wanderings, and please enter into my heart now. I want to know Your presence and Your peace. Settle me and center me, O Lord. With Your help, I am going to trust You and learn more of You. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so much. Amen.


Our response as believers to this loving Lord is like the fragrance of an expensive ointment. Our awareness of His presence within us overflows all around us.  And like the beams of cedar and rafters of fir described in verse 17,  this relationship is very firm, very fine and very fragrant indeed. 




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SONG CHAPTER 1: SHIFTING POSITION

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 27, 2016 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Black and white, dark and light, stained and clean, dull and bright, focused and confused.


Opposites. We often see these as distinctly separate. One or the other. Either or, not both simultaneously. However, when applied to the human heart, the human spirit, the human personality, I think it's fair to say that indeed we are a little bit of both at the same time!


Are we all two-faced or double-minded? Are we schizo? Can we become more single-minded and consistent? How can we have an undivided heart? Let's find out.


Solomon, in his wisdom, addresses this dichotomy in his poem as the Shulamite woman suddenly comes under the scrutiny and judgment of the daughters of Jerusalem. In verse 5 she is, all at once, defensive. I was surprised by this unexpected shift and searched for the deeper significance of her words. The wisdom of Solomon indeed goes beyond the surface!


The poem offers help to us as spouses, as individuals, and as the church. Let's take a brief look at some of the symbolism.


“I am dark, but also lovely....like the tents of Kedar, and like the curtains of Solomon.”verse 5


In response to the harsh glances of the other women, the Shulamite explains that her skin has become dark, sunburned and worn from working in the vineyards. Why would this matter? Well, there is the underlying question of how this simple girl was chosen by the Prince to be his bride! There is the sense that she isn't worthy!   I'll bet there is even a sense of jealousy.


Evidently, becoming the family vine dresser was a result of an angry moment among her siblings. We don't know what the problem was on the surface, but it is clear that she has had a tough time. She has suffered greatly, both physically and emotionally.


The scholars I researched indicate that she compares her skin color to that of the black sheep skins used by nomads in a region called Kedar, symbolic of a rough and dirty lifestyle.  It may also be Solomon's commentary on the Jewish nation's wandering in the desert for 40 years because of their stubborn hearts.   By describing herself in this way, she is admitting a humbled status. 


But, at the same time, she quickly emphasizes that she is lovely like the fine, rich tapestries and curtains hanging in Solomon's temple. She recognizes her dual status: humbled, yet chosen. 


Can it be that Solomon is painting a picture, once again, of the relationship Israel has with her God? Throughout her history, the people have often rebelled against their first love, their Creator, and suffered much as a result of their choice. Yet, that blackness of suffering, sin and disobedience, is covered over again by the matchless beauty of Divine, relentless, forgiving love. Israel was humbled in the desert, yet remains God's chosen people.


She may have scars within of guilt and remorse, but God sees her as still valuable.   He graciously adorns her in royal robes, giving her a position as His own.


Wow. What a picture! Can you apply this in your life?  I think it is amazing how the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ is woven throughout scripture.  We, as believers, have our scars, our guilt. We know that we have had dark moments within that have separated us from the God who loves us.  It has been our choice.  And we have experienced consequences.


Yet, when we confess that we have “not kept our own vineyard” (verse 6), that is to say, we have not spent time digging into the good soil of God's Word and Presence, pulling out the weeds of discontent and rebellion, our repentance results in receiving the royal robes of Christ's perfect love and righteousness.   Joy explodes.


We are not condemned. We are loved.   We are not fined.  Our debt has been paid by Jesus.


Though we deserve abandonment and suffering as a result of our rebellion, we receive forgiveness, open arms, and the invitation to become the Bride of Christ. The simple peasant girl has been chosen by the Prince. And so have we.


This may just be the foundation of every fairy tale ever written! But, this is no fairy tale. This is the Gospel. It is powerful to realize that the church, despite her blackest moments in history, is ever invited to be restored to her King. We are most valuable indeed. He will never let us go. Repentance leads to that renewed relationship with God.   It is what gives us value, peace, joy and purpose.


Quite a lesson. How will this inspire us to develop an undivided heart and a single-minded devotion to our spouse, our loved ones, our friends? I encourage you to meditate on just how precious you are to your Prince of Peace. Then, let that love overflow.  This free ebook might help you go deeper. Until next time, walk as one chosen and be blessed!

 

 

Song Chapter 1: Draw Me Away!

Posted by Lorraine Serra on September 24, 2015 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

 This poem just drips with sweetness, pleasing aromas and beauty! From beginning to end, it depicts such a special and rich, unbreakable bond of love.


Throughout the Song there are references to fragrances, ointments, gardens and fruit. One commentator stated that “the Song is like Israel's favorite fruit, pomegranates, alive with color and full of seeds.” What a picture! There must be many “seeds of wisdom” in this poem.


It would seem that the Jewish nation understood the symbolism at a much deeper level than we do today, because in the second century, one of the greatest Jewish rabbis, Akiba ben Joseph, said “In the entire world there is nothing to equal the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel.”


To me, that is a call to investigate, appreciate and apply such beauty and wisdom to my life. I hope you will discover the value of this study as well.


The scene begins abruptly. The Shulamite woman who is betrothed to her Beloved, enters the banquet hall just simply raving about him! She is accompanied by the ladies who celebrate with her the wedding which is to come.


How beautifully she describes her passion for him, his excellence above all others, and the admiration all the women have for him. And to think, He chose her as his bride! You can sense the excitement building right from the first verse.


Notice the phrase in verse 2, “For your love is better than wine”. Hmmm. Did you wonder why this comparison? In Chapter 4:10, the Beloved king responds to her with the same phrase, but, he addresses her as “my sister, my spouse”. What a deep and sweet connection!


It reminds me of Adam exclaiming to God upon meeting Eve, “At last, this is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” The Song establishes a relationship so close, so intimate, it is as though they are related by blood, just as siblings. Intertwined forever. Nothing can sever this relationship.


Why is love better than wine, more delightful than wine?  Hmmmm.  Wine is a fragrant drink. It takes a long time to make. Fine wine is lovely in colors, smooth, intoxicating, valuable. It is poured out to “make merry the heart” in celebrations.   Well, think about this:


According to Romans 5:5 “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit”. Because of Christ, we have a bond with God through the Holy Spirit. That love is poured out continually to us and never runs out or wears off!


The Spirit IS the bonding power of love which connects us deeply to both God and to one another.   What else could do more to “make merry the heart”?


I think the analogy makes sense and is as timeless as Jesus who “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 The Song is a picture of the love relationship God has with His people and the longing of His heart to keep us close, connected, intimate. And despite mankind's rebellion, God remains faithful, drawing us even as a young man woos a young woman.  His love is intense, relentless and unending.


Jesus said, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5    We know that vineyards have been producing wine as an important commodity for Israel's economy for centuries, just as in many parts of the ancient and modern world.   


It seems this is a brilliant teaching tool for Solomon's audience and for us today as a portrait of love both spiritually and practically.  Israel was well aware of it's unique relationship with God, their provider, protector, lover.   The healthy vine produces great wine. The healthy marriage  depends on Jesus the Vine.  


Keeping this in focus, we can join the Daughters of Jerusalem who accompany the bride. With them we can bow before the Lord, Our King, rejoicing and celebrating the beauty and intensity of this sacred love as they sing out in verse 4, “We will remember your love more than wine.”


And we do remember that love, in the cup of wine that Jesus offered to His disciples at the Last Supper. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  So, what do you think?   Is wine significant in the scriptures?    Does this symbol of covenant mean anything to you?  Do we think of married love as sacred?  As covenant?


Suddenly, the Shulamite woman cries out, “Draw me away!”   It seems so intensely desperate! It is the cry of heightened anticipation. Such love, joy, desire overwhelms her. She just can't wait to be his and his alone, precious, treasured, deeply loved.  Oh, that this would be the cry of our hearts!  Oh, that we would be immersed in this sacred covenant of love!


Well, what can we take away from just these first 4 verses? 


What rich pomegranate seeds of wisdom are here for our understanding?  While the imagery is a marriage, the lessons here are also important to individual relationships.


First, I believe we should speak words of admiration, appreciation and blessing to our spouse or loved one.   We should never assume that once said is enough. The human heart yearns for love to be expressed...in words as well as actions. Never underestimate the power of simple, heartfelt words! Just think about how often you may have silently grumbled, “It would be nice to hear a 'thank you' once in a while.”


Be generous with your words, and authentic, to be sure. If you can't get in touch with that tenderheartedness,  spend some quiet time praying for your spouse or loved one, and asking the Lord to revive the JOY of your love, counting the blessings, seeing past the shortcomings to celebrate the most wonderful qualities.


It is remarkable how this can change the atmosphere in a relationship. We all need praise and appreciation every once in a while.  It may take some time, but God is in it!  As the daughters cried out, "We will run after you!"   Press on, stand strong in trusting that Jesus wants to draw you both to Himself!


Second, remember to draw near to God by the Holy Spirit continually. We know that in ourselves we can become distracted, disgruntled, weak and ornery. Seeking the Lord softens our hearts and relieves our burdens. That constant pouring out of His love towards us revives our souls and makes merry our hearts. From this place of contentment in Christ, we can offer sincere words of praise and thanksgiving to God first, who is worthy of our praise! Then, we can offer those expressions of gratitude and appreciation to our spouse honestly, tenderly.


In my own marriage of 37 years, and in my relationships with others, I know without a doubt that the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me and empowers me to move past myself, and reach beyond my needs with a love and concern that goes deeper than what I possess....it is the gift of God. It has been a deliberate choice for me and my husband to be passionate for Jesus, to be drawn away by Him!


Have you discovered it, too?   God bless each of us in the journey!

 

A Love Story Part I - Meet the Cast

Posted by Lorraine Serra on September 5, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

At first glance the Song of Solomon resembles a

play with lead characters and a chorus line. It is!


But, just who are these characters and what is the purpose

of this book within the Bible?

If you have already read through even the first

chapter of Song, I bet you have some questions, too.


I have read three commentaries written by

respected scholars and I am overwhelmed by

the depth of symbolism and connections made

to the history of the Jewish nation,

and the prophecies of the future kingdom of God

through Christ, the King of Kings.   It is no surprise, then, that the designation of  "Song of Songs" means "the most exceedingly excellent song of all".  


That being said, either the writer, King Solomon, known as the wisest man on earth, was an extraordinary narcissist, or he was overwhelmed by the Divine Inspiration that ran through his pen to the page.  


One commentator remarked, "Not even Shakespeare could author a poem of such beauty and substance."   Well, I discovered that "song of songs" is a Hebrew  idiom which characterizes something as incomparably excellent and superior to all. 


It would be equivalent to "holy of holies", meaning "most holy place" or the very presence of God himself.  In another scripture we can find  "highest heavens", referring to a place above our earthly realm.  Therefore, I think Solomon was overcome with joy and praise at what God had given to him!



Two early Christian church fathers, Origen (3rd century theologian),

and Jerome (5th century theologian), tell us that the Jews

forbade the Song to be read by any until he was thirty years old.



Why? Well, just reading it with carnal, human eyes, it is

plain to see the erotic influence it could have.   Though modern readers might mistake this for a romance novel, we are going to see that it is much more.


It certainly needs a degree of spiritual maturity to

appreciate the holy mystery of love which Solomon

sets forth. Let's discover the mystery of God's great love for us,

as He inspired Solomon to pen this beautiful song/poem.



So, we meet the Shulamite woman, the bride-to-be.

A Shulamite is a Palestinian young woman. She is presented

in this allegory as a shepherdess, a vine dresser, a midnight

inquirer, the spouse of the prince and the daughter of

the king.


Most wonderful is the meaning of the word!   I learned that

Shulamite is the feminine for Solomon. In Hebrew, it means,

“Daughter of Peace”. How interesting!


Solomon means,

“Prince of Peace.” The rich roots of the Hebrew word for "peace" in both cases,

means complete, whole, healthy, safe, harmony and undividedness.


That's not what I was thinking! How about you? It is

not just the absence of conflict or war. 


When you and I pray for peace in our homes, in our country, in our world, we now have a much broader understanding.  And that is exactly what Solomon spoke about in his Proverb 4: "Get wisdom!  Get understanding!"



The Beloved is a king in his palace, who has chosen her

to be his spouse. Now, why would a king choose an apparently

common woman to become his wife, his queen?



What would cause a king to elevate this simple girl

without royal blood to a place of honor at his side?

In ancient times, kings arranged marriages for their

sons and daughters to royalty of other lands for political reasons.


Considering just these few observations, it has

become clearer to me that there is a bigger, deeper,

more timeless and enduring story being told

here.


She is a picture of Israel, also known as the “Daughter of Zion” and

he is a picture of Christ, “Prince of Peace”.   The Jewish rabbis explain this as the union between Jehovah God and ancient Israel.  Christians see it as Christ and the church and individuals can also see it as their personal union with their Saving God, Jesus Christ.  


It is true in all these cases, because there is One God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,  and we are all his people, one church of believers.


Unity in love and peace.   God's desire for us.  But,  this reminds me of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem, those who rejected Him and His message of salvation.  He prayed to His Father, "Make them one, even as You and I are one."  The message of union, oneness, wholeness and harmony depicted through the marriage of the Shulamite and the King is a precious revelation of God's heart towards us.   Oh, the wisdom of God!


How exciting to dig into the scripture. We have

much to learn here that I pray will enrich our

love for God, and deepen our love and respect

for spouse, and for everyone we love.  This wisdom could change the world!  And we are in most dire need of transformation from hearts of stone to hearts of true, vibrant, God inspired love!


Until tomorrow, please read carefully the

first 4 verses and share with me any observations

or questions on my Facebook page for community

discussion!


Or, email me [email protected] 


 O Lord God Almighty, How marvelous are your works indeed!  Please open our minds to appreciate the great wisdom you have shared with us through your servant, King Solomon.  Like him, we seek your face, we need your wisdom to truly experience the peace you offer to us, the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen!



 

Introduction to Song of Solomon

Posted by Lorraine Serra on September 2, 2015 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

A Love Story For All Time


Full of passion, beauty, ecstasy and joy in marriage,  the Song of Songs is a profound song/poem rich with history and symbolism. With an inspired pen, King Solomon, known as the Wisest Man who ever lived, has recorded lessons for romance and commitment in marriage. He has also provided a picture of Christ's love for the Church, and God's unbreakable covenant with the nation of Israel.   Most scholars agree this is not meant to be an allegory, but a divinely directed love song to all people from our foremost Lover, the Creator God.


Perhaps you've heard this verse from Solomon's epic song/poem in the works of William Wordsworth and William Blake: “For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone.” We will discover other verses echoing the images and words from the Old Testament and the New.


Love is the key word in the Song. This love presents the passionate desire between a man and a woman and celebrates the potential of marriage grounded on covenant principles. It is truly beautiful, and stands true through the ages. Who can resist the power of these verses: “I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine”; “You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes.”


Does that make your heart melt? Does that draw you in? It does for me.


But, beyond passion, Solomon presents the desire of God's heart for us. “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!” Just as marital love cannot flourish without time alone, neither can our relationship with God blossom without spending private time with Him. This is a covenant principle, one that is unchanging and proven through the ages:


Love requires devoted presence and time.   Friendship, too, requires presence and time.


“This is my beloved, and this is my friend.” Here is the essence of the Song, and the cry of the human heart.  Trust and assurance in a relationship.  Even more significant is this:


To know we have friendship with God, to be certain of His love, unconditional love, is the most liberating experience possible.  Nothing can ever separate us from God's love demonstrated in the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.


As we study through the Song and the Biblical parallels within it, I pray we can grow to appreciate God's amazing love poured out for us in Christ and let it flood over into our marriages, our engagements, our friendships and our communities.


So, friends, read through the Song of Solomon, sometimes called Canticle of Canticles. It is located right after Ecclesiastes and before Isaiah. I pray the lessons we learn will enrich and enhance our lives in surprising ways!


I invite you to mention any verses that jump out for you on your first read through. Feel free to post them on my Facebook page and we can talk about them there in community.


Talk to you tomorrow!     Love & prayers,  Lorraine


Facebook.com/Born2Praise2

On Being Stuck

Posted by Lorraine Serra on May 28, 2015 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I have been feeling sort of stuck for the past week. Has that ever

happened to you?


It is a feeling that can come and go from time to time. The very

nature of its sudden appearance and subsequent disappearance

makes me realize that we can all suffer a bit from the “overwhelm factor”.


It's as if I fall into a big hole piled up with too many tasks

to accomplish, too many goals to meet, too many voices

to answer to, those of others and those in my own head, too.

Is it burnout? Is it time for a break? Is it guilt?


Maybe it's the expectation that spring means

cleaning, weeding, mowing, and getting back in shape.

Yikes! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!


Whatever it is, it certainly makes me feel stuck,

unable to do anything at all!


My energy is low, my enthusiasm is shriveling,

and while I am still moving through the normal

activities of life, it seems so much the same old

same old. Can you relate?


It is so hilarious to me that I can burn with passion

about life and then flip flop in the opposite direction.

No wonder Jesus calls us to live for Him....to die to

self. Because the self can be so demanding, and

so disappointing!


Thank you, Jesus, that You

love me even when I am so weak and useless!!

I confess that my time spent in scripture has

been on hold for about one week. Oh, I have

listened to Christian music and watched

Christian TV. And my heart gets a little

nudge, my spirit feels like a starving child

in Sudan pleading for just one more bowl

of life-giving food.


Is that a startling picture to you? Well,

I know this picture is the reality for me.

I am starving, my Savior is right beside me,

where He always is, and I have been too

wrapped up in my weird self feelings to open

myself in order to be filled again.


Self....self scrutiny, self criticism, self

doubt......Turning away from my Lord

to focus on self....just look where it got me!!



I've been here before...No doubt I'll be

here again. But, if anyone else can benefit

from knowing you are not alone in

this, then let's get back in the scriptures

to find our hope, and our eternal joy, no

matter what else is on our plates!



Amen? Amen!


Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:

old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians  5:17


I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13


For His mercies never fail. They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness, O Lord!

Lamentations 3:22,23



 


 

The Highest and the Best: Who You Hangin' With?

Posted by Lorraine Serra on March 16, 2015 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

 

Last time I started to rant a bit. I think you might have

sensed my frustration. I become frustrated with the world,

with myself, and with people in my life from time to time.


We all want more of the good things of God, don't we?

Things like peace, harmony, health, fulfillment in our

work, and in our relationships. We want an end to conflicts.

We want an end to terrorism, racism, poverty, evil of every kind.

We want more love in the world.


So, what we really want is more of Jesus!

But, the world around us laughs and tries to choke

the Spirit right out of us.


That is, unless we get unshakeably solid in our

belief. That kind of immovable, unalterable faith

comes by experiencing God.


You know, I can read about Paris, but there is

nothing like being there!


I can know about sky diving, but there is

nothing like actually making the jump!


Likewise, there is no permanent transformation

in life apart from knowing Jesus, God the Son.

By spending time with Him through reading the Bible,

and talking with Him and listening to Him, we can experience

all those things we really desire.  All our efforts fall short,

get sidelined, or simply fail without supernatural help!


This is why obedience in following Him is required: in order

to reap the many benefits He has promised!


A promise of presence:

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey

my teaching. My Father will love them, and we

will come to them and make our home with them."

John 14:23


A promise of a help:

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Matt 11:30


A promise of support:

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Phil 4:13


A promise of good outcomes:

"For we know that all things work together for the good of

those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes".

Romans 8:28


Discovering the highest and the best is

achieved by hanging out with the highest

and the best....Jesus Christ Himself!!


It was HE HIMSELF who took upon His body

the scourges, the nails, the cross, the humiliation,

the punishment that we deserve.


It was HE HIMSELF who bought our freedom from

sin with His own blood, and secured our forgiveness,

our healing, our abundant life eternally.


Who are we hanging out with? Who are

we listening to and learning from?


“These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.” Jesus said

in Matthew 15:8, quoting from Isaiah.


Oh, may we never be so insincere!


I pray we all hang out with Jesus every moment!

As we do, we will become more and more aware of

His beauty, His care, His direction, His love,

all of which will transform that stoney heart

into one which lives and breathes for Him!


That's when we begin to discover the highest and the best!

He lives. He is present. He makes all things new. He is

hope, He is supply. And He is always the Savior, reaching

out to help us again and again.


Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1


Though we may fail, we are never abandoned or punished.

We are “in Christ”. Covered and embraced by His redeeming sacrifice.

But, let's not take it for granted. Bow, bend, humble yourself. No one

has ever given so much of Himself to us as Jesus Christ.   He is

worthy of our obedience and faithfulness. Can we give

Him anything less?  


He has provided a plan with plenty of instruction. If we keep

coming up short, then perhaps we might want to try His ways. 

We just might discover the highest and the best!



O Lord, I am a helpless sinner, but for Your amazing grace and

mercy! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus, for drawing

near to me. I draw nearer to you, each day, seeking to know You

as deeply as I can, and to fulfill the purpose You have for me.

I know that You are coming soon! My pilgrimage

upon this earth is temporary. Help me to live in anticipation of

all the glorious things you have prepared for those who love You!  Amen!


"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined

what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

Obedience: Though We May Fail

Posted by Lorraine Serra on March 11, 2015 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Many of us memorize and quote certain scriptures because of the

immense hope and promise they contain. 

These truths make possible the release of our past

and the fresh start of our future, daily! Some are more

popular than others. 


Today I want to challenge all of us to go truly

beyond the surface to discover God's highest and

best for us.  But, first.... Do we even really want to?


Do we believe Him, know Him, and trust Him? 

How authentic is our relationship with Jesus? 

Does it really matter in your life and mine?


The reason I ask is because Jesus calls us to

share the Good News.  But, we cannot share what

we do not know,  and what we do not truly believe.

We are not likely to be attracting

others to Christ if we are not living the "abundant life" ourselves.


Sometimes it seems to me that we all talk a good game,

but we sure can fall short in living it out, more often than not.


Do you agree?  Please post your comments on my Facebook page!


I feel that for all of us it is time to grow up, more each day, and to

continue growing always in order to become

more effective Christ-followers in the world,

with the help of the Holy Spirit.


 To be sold out for Jesus,

living beyond ourselves and powered by His Spirit means

we should be fearless and confident, not prone to failure.


Where are we lacking, and why?


I believe Jesus wants us to be on a truth quest, 

not a happiness quest!  The difference is huge! 

Do we thrive or just survive in this life?   If we don't

like the answer to this question, then perhaps it is

time to ask this one. 


How can we shake off what doesn't bring value and dignity

and worth into our lives and relationships, as

God has designed for us?  We need to find out because that

is the abundant life of God!  Relationship with Him and others.


Let's take a look at scripture, the Living Word of God! 

It is crucial that we consider the reciprocal nature of

God's Word, for ourselves and for others who need the Lord!! 



We do our part, and He does His. He offers, we choose.

Our part involves making the choice and then

following it up with obedience. 


Look at these favorites:


“If the Son sets you

free, you are free indeed”, John 8:36


“You will know the truth and the truth

will set you free” John 8:32


"Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit

who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2  


In just these three powerful scriptures there are

three choices that are entirely up to us:

Know the Son, Know the Truth, and Know the Spirit.  


This is the requirement.   This is the free will choice we

must make if we are to experience God's highest

and best for our lives.

 

It is a choice of FREEDOM vs FAILURE.


You might think I should say Freedom vs Bondage.

Sure, that is the likely comparison.

But, here is what the Lord is showing me.


This is a battle for outcomes.  What is the outcome you seek?


I would like to suggest that failure is

the product of bondage (sin, disobedience, pride)

while freedom is the product of obedience (submission, Spirit controlled life)


We can know about the Son, about the truth, and we

can choose to "do" faith once or twice a week at church.

If we choose not to go deeper, and practice the essential presence

of God Almighty, we gain nothing. We are play-acting.


We miss the highest and the best that He has for us.


The primary path to authenticity is that we truly know Jesus. 

I would suggest that if we truly know Jesus, and submit to Him,

then we would not fall into the bondage that produces failure so often!


Practicing the presence of God is incredibly powerful!  Awareness

redirects our focus, and subsequently our behavior and choices.


Jesus is ever present. He is ever praying for us at the right

hand of the Father. Romans 8:34


Think about that next time you are about to lose

your temper, or you think about adultery, or

you get ready to abuse your health.....

Hey, we all face similar struggles...yet, Jesus is

always with us. Though we may fail, we

have our High Priest at the ready to give us

strength not to fail!!


Did we remember to ask?

When we fail to show kindness, self control, obedience

and ignore God's voice inside, we should be

just plain broken hearted!   Why?


Because sin is serious business. Christ died to

free us, forgive us, and provide release for us

and to enjoy the abundant life!


But, since we still have the freedom to choose,

we can most certainly say,


“Thanks, Jesus. I sure appreciate your love and grace.

And I know your grace is always available. So,

I am gonna stray a bit right now, but,

I'll be back! And, of course, I know you'll

be there for me.


I want to throw up! How cheap I make the

great grace of God by living my life with

this attitude!


Yet, I've done it. Bet you have, too.

Shall we choose to grow up? 

If not today, then when?  


Jesus is not a liar.  He said to test Him, see if He doesn't

live up to His promises to supply our every need.  


 Let's live today with Jesus on our minds.

Make today count for eternity. Somebody is watching you. 


Somebody needs the hope that only Jesus

can give....through you, and through me.  Amen!  


Thank you, Jesus. You are more than enough for me.

 Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!  Fit me for Your service today.  Amen.




Obedience: Burden or Blessing?

Posted by Lorraine Serra on March 5, 2015 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)

“His commands are not burdensome.”

So He says in 1 John 5:3

Obedience.....Burden or blessing?

To discover the answer to that question, and the

subject of obedience, we need to look at the other verses

surrounding that 5 word statement.


“For this is the love of God, that we keep His

commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world;

and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith.”


God's motivation in drawing boundaries

through commandments is LOVE.

Of course, because God is LOVE. 1 John 4:16

So then why are we so rebellious? Why

do we negotiate and rationalize so much?

It all started when we were about 2 years old

and began spouting off the word, “No!”.

And what did our loving parents do about that?

Gentle discipline, re-direction, and teaching.

A parent's LOVE is what motivates her

to set those boundaries, require that behavior

and reward the obedience and submission.

Born of love, concern for safety, training

for a future full of promise, strength and

success, a concerned parent prepares his

child for a future with good outcomes.

I bet every parent says to their growing teen,

“Please listen to me.

I don't want you to learn this the HARD WAY!”

And in the end, no matter how many rebellious

episodes come along, most people are thankful

for the boundaries and discipline their parents

enforced, though they hated it in the moment.


Is God any different? NO! Which is why

the Bible tells of REWARDS for obedience.


and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith.

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes

that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5: 4 and 5


NOT BLIND FAITH! Faith in the God of Heaven and Earth,

revealed to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, alive

and active in our lives when we choose to

invite Him in. He has prepared good outcomes for us!


Lest we continue to rebel and shake our fist at God

like that two-year-old we used to be, or storm out

the door with a few choice expletives on our lips,

like that self righteous teen we used to be,

let's step back again for a moment.


God wants our relationship with Him, and

our obedience to Him, to be motivated by

LOVE as well!  What parent enjoys

submission from their kids out of fear!


Only when our love for Jesus overshadows

and trumps our love of self, will we see

the victory that faith promises. And, be

sure, it will require self denial at times,

but the reward is guaranteed to knock

our socks off!


Consider the mystery of Jesus'

words, “For whoever wants to save their life

will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me

and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24

and Matt 16:25


And let's not forget the incredible declaration:

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny

themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”Matt 16:24


No wonder Paul so often used the metaphor

of being a loyal soldier following the

captain's orders, or, if you prefer,

the athlete following strict and disciplined

training in order to win the competition.

It sounds so hard, so stark, unbearable!


But, Jesus assures us, "Come to Me,

all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon

you and learn from Me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matt 11: 28-30 

What a promise!


Let's meditate on these verses for a couple of

days and listen to God's heart for us.


Talk to you soon. I am praying for all of us.


Lord, we are in awe of Your love for us. Help us

to go deeper to follow You in everything.  We need to

relinquish control, and invite You into

our circumstances. Help us to lay down our

rebellion and test You, try You, be sold out

to You, and see how Your promises come

to pass. We can safely do this, because

You are always faithful. We love You, Lord.

Help us have the courage to prove it!  Amen!


Next time:  Though we may fail....



 

The Highest and the Best: Lord of Victory

Posted by Lorraine Serra on February 24, 2015 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

The display of God's power and authority here

in Joshua Chapter 3 is overwhelming. Let's continue to learn from

where we left off last time.


God has demonstrated His faithful

care of His people once more in

a time of what could be called

“impossible trouble”.


We observed that Joshua listened,

trusted, obeyed, and reaped great

benefits for himself and his nation

because God was the Lord

of his life.


This command to cross the Jordan

River at flood stage is staggering

to me on many levels for all that it

represents to us.


Of course, God did not need the ark, or

the priests, or any human thing at all to

accomplish this event.  Still, the ark was

the tangible symbol of God's

presence with the people. Symbols

are helpful for all of us.


So how about this other symbol, or at least,

that's how I interpret it, in verse 16?

Isn't it interesting that He caused the water to pile up on hold

at a city called Adam? Adam means

“man” or “mankind”.


Ha! To me, it is very symbolic. It

suggests a couple of

things: God saying, “Hold it right

there, O Man, if you think you can

do anything apart from Me! See,

I AM the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.

I am the God of the Impossible.”


Oh, yeah. This speaks to me. How about you?


It also symbolizes, or suggests to me,

that God would one day redeem

the sin of Adam. As the first Adam

created a barrier, a dam, if you will,

between God and mankind, so,

Jesus, the Second Adam,

would one day come and indeed break that

sin barrier and restore the relationship through

a flood of grace and mercy going forward forever!


Halleluia!


I also noticed in this account, that it was

the priests here, not the usual Levites,

who were instructed to carry the ark.

Again,  how interesting!


And not only were they called

to carry it, they were called to

STAND STILL in the midst

of a perilous setting, providing

encouragement for the people.


Wow! Is that a lesson for leaders?

Is that a lesson for us?


Even with a wall of standing water

at your back threatening to crush

you at any moment, stand firm!

Even in the midst of criticism,

mocking, political attacks and

the rest, stand firm in the authority

God has given you!


Do you think this took just a

wee bit of courage and faith?

Do you think this is an example

of the kind of trust we should

have in our Commander, our Lord?


There is so much in these two

chapters of Joshua to meditate

on. But, something that has

really jumped out at me which

has implications for all of us

in a very personal way is this:


This account obviously

mirrors the crossing of the

Red Sea, when Moses led

the people out of slavery

in Egypt in the book of Exodus.

How interesting that God uses

a similar humanly impossible

setting of crossing a river to

establish Joshua as God's chosen

successor to Moses. I don't

think the people could miss

the intent, do you?


However, something is

very different.


At that time, in Genesis,

the people were

running away from their enemies.

Here in Joshua, the people

are moving straight towards

their enemies!  Jericho is before them!


And God was with them in

both scenarios.


Can you grasp how these scripture

accounts are for us today?  Can we discover

God's highest and best for us through these examples?


Whether you and I are today

running from the enemies of

our past, or running towards

our enemies to face them head

on, the promise of God, as

Lord and Commander, is

that the battle belongs to Him!


"The horse is made ready for the day of battle,

but victory rests with the LORD." Prov 21:31


"Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."

Psalm 20:7


"See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him

and not be afraid. The LORD God is my strength

and my song; he has given me victory." Isaiah 12:2


"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

John 10:10

 


Listening to and obeying our

Commander, our Supreme

Authority, wins the battle.

We don't argue, we don't

negotiate. Instead, just like a soldier,

we follow orders.


If you have received the

grace of God through Jesus

Christ, but have not yet

felt the freedom and victory

He has for you,

perhaps you have not yet made

Him Lord of your life.


Lordship requires submission

and obedience. And He will prove

Himself trustworthy time and

again.  Test Him in this and see.



“The eyes of the Lord are on the

righteous, and His ears are open

to their cry. The Lord hears, and

delivers them out of all their troubles". Ps 34:15, 17


O My Lord, I don't want to be just

a hearer of Your Word. Take me deeper!

Reveal to my heart Your instruction and

Your words of knowledge. Correct my

mind, cleanse my heart, and strengthen

me to rise above my limitations so

that I may live in a way that is pleasing

to You, whom I want to honor and

bless every day. Amen.


NEXT TIME: A closer look at submission and obedience in making Him Lord !

Discovering the Highest and the Best - Making Jesus Lord!

Posted by Lorraine Serra on February 20, 2015 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Is Jesus the Lord of My Life?

Good question. Do you think it is important?

If we truly want to discover the highest and the

best God has for our lives, then we should really

want to get this answer right.


To some it seems elementary. See if you

agree:


"Of course He is my Lord. When I came

to accept Jesus as my Savior, I knew it was the best

day ever! I couldn't get a better deal....


Check it out!  I got the free gift of salvation,

forgiveness of sin always,

release from guilt and shame, a fresh start,

the promise of eternal life and the presence

of the Holy One who would never leave

me, always love me, eternally, forever, no

matter what, done deal.


Too good to pass up! I didn't earn it, it

was a gift. I didn't pay for it. It was a gift.

Jesus suffered in my place on that Roman

cross, and I reap the benefits. Great deal!"


OK, perhaps I sound glib, but, many of

us very easily say, "Jesus is my Lord and Savior".

And I don't want any of us to stop saying it! 

I want us to just think about it.


Is He really?  Yes,  Jesus brought grace and

truth...we like the grace part, the Savior part,

the "I will always love you" part.


But, the "Lord" part....well, now, that requires

accepting the truth part.

And that's the hard part....the truth:

We are self absorbed, self determined,

self ruled by what we want, need, desire.


We are "lord" most of the time as we wallow

around in our selfishness and feelings of entitlement,

often creating struggle, conflict, anxiety, depression,

brokenness of every kind.


It isn't necessarily obvious to us, but,

it's probably very clear to the people

around us. And, if we listen

to those who love us, we just may get

a glimpse of who we really are, in

stark contrast to who we think we are.


Are you following me here?


I just want to shake things up a bit,

because this is about going deeper

with God, which is definitely risky,

unless we get clear about Lordship.


And since Lordship denotes supreme

authority, I ask the question once more:

"Is Jesus Lord of your life?"


In all honesty, there are areas of my

life which are still in process.

How about you? This is a HUGE QUESTION!


If we highly esteem the Almighty, and worship

Jesus as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Sovereign

and Supreme Authority,

then we must admit we all fall terribly short.

Praise God for the incredible gift of grace!


Recognizing this, let's look to scripture, the

Living WORD of God, for help with submitting

all of ourselves, all areas of life to the Lordship

of Jesus because it is His command, His desire,

and it's all for our benefit when we do! 


He desires the highest

and the best for us!  But, if we can't listen and

submit to Him, then we mess up the plan! 

We just may be blocking  our own blessings!  Truly!


I'm serious: Think hard on this, and ask the LORD to reveal

where you need to make a change by making Him Lord,

laying it all down and relinquishing control to Him.


How would our lives look and impact others

if we focused our eyes on Jesus as Lord

consciously and with determination?


Joshua is, again, an excellent example.

So, this time, let's read Joshua Chapter 3.

Please pay special attention to verses 14 - 17.

Bet you can't stop! I love this account! Go on. Read it!



What do we see here? How would you say

Joshua answers the question, "Is God Lord of your life?" 


We see Joshua listens to God, actually hears

Him. Clearly, after wandering the desert for

40 years with Moses, Joshua is well acquainted

with God! Still, he needed to take personal

responsibility for his continuing relationship

with God after Moses' death, and so do we!


 Only then could he know, without a doubt,

when God spoke to his mind and heart.


We see Joshua trusts God's instruction, never

questioning, even though this seems

illogical and impossible.


We see Joshua obeys God's instruction,

without hesitation, and his leadership

helped everyone else do the same.


We see Joshua and the people reap the

benefit of listening, trusting and obeying

God's instruction...they crossed the Jordan

River, during the season of highest flow,

on dry land.     Glory to God!


Reading on in Chapter 4

you will see where I got my "Standing Stones of God's Faithfulness"

list idea mentioned in the 2 previous posts.

It is such a vivid example for us.


We will look at a few more examples going forward.

I pray you are encouraged to desire a closer walk

with God and truly making Jesus the

Lord, the undisputed Commander of

your life!     I sure am! 


When it comes to the benefits of doing so,

meditate, repeat, even memorize this

wonderful psalm of David, written some

300 years after Joshua:


From the New Living Translation

Psalm 1: 1-3

"Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners,

or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law of the Lord,

meditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

and they prosper in all they do."


We are so blessed! That's a promise!  


Lord, my Lord, Thank you for your grace.  Thank you for your Word. 

Open my eyes, ears, heart and mind to know You as my Lord

in all areas of my life!  Amen!

 


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