Rise Up, My Love (296): Do You Feel Like God Doesn’t Speak to You?

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Cause me to hear it.” Speak to me! Sing to me! Let me hear your voice. Tell me what’s on your mind and in your heart. Tell me about your fears and worries. How can I help you if I don’t know what’s troubling you? Tell me about your joys and triumphs. Let me rejoice with you. Tell me about your loves and hatreds. I want to understand you. I want you to understand yourself. I want you to understand me. Speak to me. I want to know that you hunger and thirst for me. I am the Bread of Life and the Water of Life. If you open your mouth wide, I will fill it. Cause me to hear your voice!

Are there times in your life when you feel that God isn’t listening to you? If so, examine yourself and ask God to reveal any sin that might be separating you. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). If you feel that you cannot hear the Lord’s voice speaking to you, and that your voice is falling on deaf ears, then lift up your voice and “cause me to hear it!” “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).  Sometimes it’s possible to feel distant even if we’re not knowingly rebelling against God’s clear guidance from scripture or his Spirit’s still small voice in our hearts. That has happened to me. Sometimes things are going so smoothly that I just start to wander off a bit on my own, not paying attention because the way looks clear. When I realize I’m feeling empty and distant, I now understand that I’ve been drifting, and I cry out to God, “Help! I want to be close to you!” As the psalmist wrote: “Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it!” (Psalm 69:18).

The Lord is so good! “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 34:15). A note of comfort: All believers are “righteous” by definition because we are justified by Christ. His righteousness has been imputed to us (see Romans 4:11). “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:17). “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). God wants to hear our voice calling out to him.  This is his last request to us…the last thing he has asked us to do on this earth before he returns to carry us off as his eternal bride! Like the fiancé who is gone and loves to hear his beloved’s voice on the phone…our Lord longs to hear our voice! Have you ever wanted to know what God’s will is for you? Look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Let him hear your voice. Cause him to hear it!

Rise Up, My Love (294): Who Are Our Companions?

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” This is the husband’s cadenza. What is his last request for his beloved? That he might hear her voice. Tell me, if you can’t be physically present with the one you love, what’s the next best thing? For me, it’s talking on the phone.

Someone asked me what convenience I’ve enjoyed most since the beginning of the new millennium. Without a doubt, it’s having a cell phone small enough to slip into my purse and carry with me everywhere. My cell phone is programed and voice activated, so all I have to do is say my loved one’s name, and that person’s number is automatically dialed. With kids scattered from California to New York and even Italy now, one of my chief delights in life is being able to hear their cheery voices any old time I want! What a blessing! It takes a lot of the sting out of being separated. (And today, thanks to smart phones and internet, we can even see their faces!)  “The companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it.” Our companions hear our voice…but how much more does the Lord long to hear us speaking to him! Actually, the verse doesn’t say our companions, or even your companions, but rather the companions. Who are “the companions?” According to the dictionary, a companion is “a person who accompanies or associates with another; a comrade; a person employed to assist, live with, or travel with another” (American Heritage, 384).  The root words refer to those who eat bread together. I was struck by the fact that being a companion is not exactly synonymous with being a friend, although certainly companions may also be friends. “The companions” is more closely related to “the business associates,” such as those individuals with whom we work every day. There is a sense in which this verse should encourage us to pay more careful attention to what we say to our coworkers, because “the companions hearken to thy voice.” Those we work with day by day are listening to us, whether or not we can tell, and they are being affected by what we say!  Above all, what is the message that God wants us to be telling “the companions?” In Exodus 3:16-18, God told Moses to gather the children of Israel together and tell them that God would deliver them from slavery and lead them “unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” God concluded by saying, “And they shall hearken to thy voice.” Listen to that! “And they will hearken to thy voice.” “The companions hearken to thy voice.”  Those around you do hear you. What are you telling them? What is the message you are preaching by your deeds and speaking with your heart and tongue? Beloved, is there any more needed message in this world today than the message that God will deliver us from our bondage and lead us “unto a land flowing with milk and honey?” Have you thought about what it means to “flow with milk?”  When I used to nurse my babies, I produced an incredible amount of milk. Sometimes while I was nursing, my husband would come over to watch, and the baby would pop off the nipple to look around and see his daddy, which would usually earn him a big squirt of milk all over his little face and ear. I mean, I was flowing!! The baby would fuss, but Alan would just smile and say, “Contented cows make good milk.”  A land flowing with milk and honey is a land where there’s peace, contentment, and an abundance of nourishing sweetness. On the spiritual level, “the companions” must be those with whom we associate because of our position as the king’s bride rather than simply the friends we have selected by personal choice. “The” companions are those who are also dwelling in the king’s gardens. We have all been engaged by the king to live together, to work together, to assist one another, to break bread together, and to travel together through the king’s gardens and into his celestial city.  “The companions” are fellow pilgrims we interact with through our church and other ministries. They also “hearken to our voice.” I graduated from a public high school but was able to attend a Christian university. My anticipation was that college would be sort of a Christian “Mecca” where I could relax and just “fit in” because everyone would love God and be zealously preparing to serve his Kingdom causes. My older and wiser spiritual brother, who was a senior at the same school, prepared me by saying, “Just remember, no matter where you go, you’re going to be either a missionary or a mission field.”  In this world, no matter how good our Christian organization or spiritual fellowship, all of us are works in process…growing, changing, backsliding, moving forward, needing encouragement, needing correction…needing each other to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord and calling one another on to love and good works. Until we get to heaven, there is no such thing as settling in to “status quo” mentality. The companions will be listening to our voice. May our speech be holy, gracious, and full of love and truth!

(Thank you, Bob Hardee, for sharing you gift of photos with scripture verses!)

Rise Up, My Love (293): Paradise Lost and Found

Song of Solomon 8:13 “Thou that dwellest in the gardens…” How do we live in a spiritual paradise in a world of paradise lost? The secret is in learning to dwell in the sanctuary God has created within our hearts! He makes us his “garden enclosed” (Song 4:12). As we surrender to his care and yield to his chastening, he plows and plants, waters and weeds, prunes…and prizes his garden. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, and so it is that deep within the individual believer the gardens of the king are developed.   He creates his paradise where it cannot be scorched by the sun or devastated by disaster. On the day I first wrote this, Hurricane Frances, a tropical storm as large as the state of Texas, was pounding parts Florida with one inch of rain per hour, and Hurricane “Ivan the Terrible” was coming on its heels as a second incredible category four monster. Many of Florida’s paradisal gardens could have been destroyed in a day…but not God’s gardens. His paradisal gardens, blooming in our spirits, are warmed by son-shine and watered by the wellspring of eternal life.  The Holy Spirit, the king’s master gardener, readies our hearts for communion with him, so that the king may say, “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse,” and we may say, “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.” “Thou that dwellest in the gardens…” Oh, beloved, what an amazing privilege to be known to our Lord as the one who dwells in the gardens. What a challenge!  If you feel like you are in the desert, know that this is not God’s intention. He desires that we be dwelling in the gardens that he has created for us. “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). God is near to us right now. Are you his? Are you dwelling in his gardens? If you are, then why not stop and thank him for his amazing grace and love!  On the other hand, if you have never given him your heart, please surrender to him this very minute and let him create a paradise found within you! If you became a Christian earlier but have since quenched the Spirit so the living water cannot flow and your garden seems withered away to nothing, or if you’ve barred the door of your heart so the master gardener cannot work, and your garden has turned into a jungle of tangled weeds, then come back! Stop running. Surrender to God and let him begin his work anew. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).