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Song of Solomon

[His call] “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse … Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” [Her response] “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” [but later] I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” — Song of Solomon 5:1-3, 6

Some see the Biblical “Song of Solomon” as nothing more than ancient poetry but within its pages there is an important lesson — no relationship remains static, it either grows or quietly wains.

Whether with Christ or each other, within a church or secular organization, relationships are quietly built or diminished with personal responsiveness or its lack.

Seth Godin, motivational speaker and blogger, puts it this way

“Most partnerships don’t end up in court.

Most friendships don’t end in a fight.

Most customers don’t leave in a huff.

Instead, when one party feels underappreciated, or perhaps taken advantage of, she stops showing up as often. Stops investing. Begins to move on …

Just because there are no firestorms on the porch doesn’t mean you’re doing okay. More likely, there are relationships out there that need more investment, quiet customers who are unhappy but not making a big deal out of it. They’re worth a lot more than the angry ones.” — Read Seth Godin’s complete post here

It takes alertness to the subtle change and a reaching out.

— fritz@langgang.com
See related post: “Jesus Passing By” – May 21, 2011

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At a local scooter club I heard a safety saying, “Dress for the fall, not the ride”. I took it to advise being prepared for difficulties not just the enjoyment. Today my daily Bible reading surfaced a scripture with a similar message but in a larger context.

Two are better than one … if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up … and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. — Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

My culture values independence and, certainly, we all are sometimes forced to stand alone in difficulty but all too often we do so unnecessarily and to our peril.

We dress our lives, so to speak, for the ride and don’t consider the fall. This is why it is essential to pick (and be) a good spouse, one with godly character who will follow through with the vow to love for better and for worse. This is why it is important to actively seek a good church and a good pastor, people who can say the hard things without offending. This is why it is essential to be and actively seek friends with godly character, who can give the right kind of encouragement. All three (spouse, community, friends) together should be sought for strength like a three strand cord, holding should any single strand fail. Going it alone easily ends in disaster!

Anyone can follow Christ when living is easy. Don’t wait for a storm, take the easy times to prepare for when it gets hard — “Dress for the fall not the ride.”

— fritz@langgang.com

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Set these persons over the people as officers of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times. They should bring every major dispute to you, but they should decide all of the minor cases themselves.” — Exodus 18:21b-22

Moses, on the advice of his father-in-law, built an authority structure like a large pyramid — leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, thousands with Moses on top. If someone had a need they would go to their local leader, working tougher issues up the pyramid as needed to Moses.

But the Church is NOT intended to be like that, though many are. Jesus had a different model.

But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice …. they know not the voice of strangers. — John 10:2-5

A cursory reading leads one to think Jesus is referring to himself as the shepherd but he is not!

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. — John 10:7

If Jesus is the door who, then, are the shepherds? Our pastor’s, of course. And how should they lead? By example and by knowing their sheep by name. You can’t do that with a pyramid!

The New Testament model for Church is not a pyramid but a relationship with individual members. If your pastor doesn’t know your name find a real pastor. If you think God called you to pastor get to know your sheep not just your leaders. Eat with them, visit them, live with them, love them. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.

— fritz@langgang.com

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Eugene Peterson, Presbyterian pastor and author of “The Message Bible”, writes of his desire for the perfect congregation — one where the people are holy, alert, responsive to God’s word and experiencing glorious revival.

He decided that kind of place doesn’t exist, and he has a term for keeping that kind of image in our minds:

“Parish glamorization is ecclesiastical pornography — taking photographs (skillfully airbrushed) or drawing pictures of congregations that are without spot or wrinkle, the shapes that a few parishes have for a few short years.

These provocatively posed pictures are devoid of personal relationships…

Ordinary congregations are God’s choice for the form the church takes in locale, and pastors are the persons assigned to them for ministry.” – Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, page 22

God uses real people and real relationships, not airbrushed images, to grow us and his kingdom.

– fritz@langgang.com

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“What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” – 1st Corinthians 14:36

There’s a curious little literature construct unexpected in the Bible, yet, there it is!

Paul has a “woman-hater” reputation among the uninformed and failure to recognize this construct is partly to blame.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers about church life and how to exercise the gifts of the Spirit.  Then, almost out of context he writes,

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. – 1st Corinthians 14:34-35

That’s where most stop, without looking at the next word.

That next word, “What!”, is translated various ways and sometimes not at all, but in the original language it not only means, “What!”, but presents a negative to what was just said, sometimes even accompanied by a “God Forbid!”.1 Today, it would be like us presenting a silly idea then saying, “NOT!”. This better translation is further indicated by Paul’s choice of the following word, “YOU”, which literally means, “You men”.

So, Paul is really saying, a little sarcastically, “Everyone can exercise the gifts of the Spirit in Church except your women.   They should be silent, getting their understanding of God from their husbands because it’s a shame for them to speak! — Not!  Does the word of God come just from you men?! Of course not!”

The Holy Spirit moves equally on both men and women and Holy Spirit’s ministry is valid for all!

“I will pour out my spirit … and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” – Joel 2:28b

Let God’s gifts flow!

-fritz
1 – 1st Corinthians 6:15b-16a

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And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. – Genesis 2:18

God gave the “Good” pronouncement on everything he created except one – Adam’s aloneness.

Adam was good but his being alone wasn’t, so God made man into a community1 – first with a partner, then through that partner a family.

Some like being alone – no one to be hassled or disappointed with, no one to get in the way or make you wait, no one to limit your freedom or to say, “No!”; but that’s not God’s way.

God has always been a community (in his case – Father, Son, Spirit) and community is his intent for us.  He makes a place, in the Community of faith, for everyone who will accept Christ, if we will but coöperate and choose his way over our own.

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. – Psalm 68:6

– fritz

1 – Genesis 1:27

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“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; .. the word of knowledge … faith … gifts of healing … the working of miracles … prophecy … discerning of spirits … divers kinds of tongues … the interpretation of tongues.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. – 1st Corinthians 12:8-12

The Apostle Paul draws the analogy of the differing gifts of the Holy Spirit as being like different body parts and, indeed, we are different parts of Christ’s body, the way he functions in the earth today.

Just as we could hardly expect a person to be a good ball player without practice, we can’t honestly expect the body parts of Christ to function together without “practice”, either.

This is where churches find their fulfillment. The local church must be willing to provide a safe place to “practice” without fear of rejection, otherwise it is just taking up space. As we practice we get it wrong sometimes, this is to be expected and should be allowed; a good pastor will help by coaching and encouraging. The more we practice the better we get.

Churches are not the body of Christ, believers are. Churches are to be the safe place believers practice and exercise so they become really good at it on the field.

– fritz

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