The Song of Solomon is an amazing piece of Hebrew love poetry. It deals with love on so many levels – romance, friendship, sex, and perhaps even paints a picture of God’s relationship with His people. It is filled with metaphors that would make some blush, as well as practical tips to keep love alive and flourishing. One such tip is a warning: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NIV).
Ancient Greeks called foxes “bushy tailed vermin that plunder the vines”. Yet, Solomon’s warning isn’t for just any fox, it’s the “little” foxes we ought to be concerned about.
In the context of a love poem, the vineyard might be a picture of the relationship between the lovers. There are times in any relationship when we wrestle with “big” issues. We might look at the little foxes and think they are nothing more than a cute little nuisance, at least compared with the big problems we might face. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the big problems. Yet, perhaps just catching and removing a few of the smaller issues could change the whole atmosphere of a relationship, one from striving against each other to working together.
That little fox might be a little bit of bitterness. It could be letting your mind wander just a little too much in unhealthy places. It could be refusing to accept a small flaw in your partner. It could be a little bit of jealousy. Catch that little fox and toss it over the fence.
Part of what makes Job a messy book comes in trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong in the book. Job’s friends said a lot of “right” things, but they were things that didn’t apply to Job, and so in the end they were “wrong”. Even though God calls Job a man who has spoken what is “right” about God (Job 42:7), Job doesn’t quite handle himself correctly through the entire ordeal. Job has charged God being “out to get him” (Job 6:4) and being “unfair” (Job 27:2).
Now I don’t think God’s “self-image” is shattered by a little grumbling on our part. But there’s a bigger issue when it comes to our complaining, and it’s that we flat out don’t know what we’re talking about. We think that what we see with our eyes and experience with our senses is the complete picture of what God is doing, when it’s not.
When God shows up in the book of Job, He starts with questioning the extent of Job’s knowledge. God talks about just a few of the amazing things of His own creation. Job begins to realize just how little he really understands about life. Job says, “You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me”. (Job 42:3)
Friends, when you’re tempted to complain about your troubles, it’s not a bad thing to realize that you might not see the bigger picture. There is only One who knows the bigger picture and He is both wise, good, and loving. You really can trust Him.
One thing for sure about life is that it is not “neat and clean”. There are times in life that are nothing but messy and difficult. It’s when life is so difficult and confusing that people start asking questions. They wonder why things are happening. Or they can wonder what they did wrong that resulted in the pain they’re in.
Sometimes during these times of trouble, people will turn to religion. Religion seems to be a place with answers. Different religions will give a set of answers to the problem that is described to them. Some of us study long and hard to memorize the prescribed set of answers to every given situation.
The problem comes when we think we have the answers to a specific situation, only to find that the answers don’t really apply to that situation. That’s the problem that Job’s friends had. They saw everything as black and white. They were convinced that trouble only comes because somebody has done something bad to deserve it. And they were completely wrong. They had lots of “knowledge”, but no “wisdom”.
Job had to listen to his “friends” condemn him over non-existent transgressions. At one point, Job says, “But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?” (Job 28:12 NIV)
The life of Job is a difficult one. It’s extremely messy. For much of the book there are no real answers to his pain. Be careful of sharing your “answers” when what you need is to learn wisdom (see Job 28:28).
Since Pastor Rich is out of the office this week, Dave Dunagan wrote this week’s article:
Sometimes I think about what it must have been like to live in Bible times. It would have been awesome to be present when Moses lifted his arms, watch the water separate, step out upon the dry land, and then pass through to the other side of the sea. Imagine being with the children of Israel as God led them through the wilderness, standing in awe at the sight of the “fire by night” and the “cloud by day” as He directed their path in the desert. If only I was there to see all these wonders with my own eyes, my faith would be strong, and I would not be tempted to sin and disobey the Lord.
Yet, the Bible tells us that those who were present did stumble and sin and that God in His righteousness judged them.
The Bible, speaking of the children of Israel, tells us “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them… Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” (1Corinthians 10:5-6)
Let us take this as a reminder that it is easy to stumble. Every day we need to keep our eyes focused on the Lord. Every day we need to seek His help for “…God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1Corinthians 10:13)
Beloved, let Jesus be our example. Let us seek to stay on His path and follow His lead. Then you’ll be able to walk in victory!
Since Pastor Rich is not here this week, Dan Looney wrote this week’s article:
The constitution guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. However, you have to catch it yourself.
Countless studies have been done regarding depression and sadness. Psychologists and scientists have concluded that therapy and drugs can offer relief. Recently, modern science has begun to research how happiness works and have discovered some amazing truths.
Studies have shown that our circumstances account for only 10% of our level of happiness, and about 50% comes from what the study called our “genetic set point”. What I find most interesting is that the remaining 40% comes from “intentional activity”, which includes our values, helping others, living a healthy life and a sense of community or belonging. These things are under our personal control.
I like science. In this case, as with many other studies, science unintentionally reinforces God’s word. God has been teaching us for thousands of years what science is discovering today.
Can happiness be described with these words…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? God tells us to love our neighbor, to help one another and to gather together. We belong to the community of believers. Let your “intentional activity” be Jesus. Trust Him. Your happiness depends on it.
Nehemiah had a great concern for the city of Jerusalem. Even though the Jews had begun returning to Jerusalem, the city’s walls lay in ruins and the people were unprotected from enemy attacks. When the people of the city heard that Nehemiah had come to help them rebuild, they all pulled together and the work started. Nehemiah 3 might sound like a long boring list of names to you, but don’t miss the lessons hidden in it.
First, there is a work to be done. Until Jesus returns, you and I are charged with kingdom business. There are lost people who need to be found. There are saints that need to be nourished, comforted, and strengthened. The work we face is a “great” work (Neh. 6:3).
Second, things go easier when we all do our part. I counted about fifty individuals or groups of people that took part in the project. Many hands make quick work. We all are members of the body of Christ. We all have a part.
Third, the work just may start at home. It seems that many of the builders took the responsibility of building the section of wall that covered their neighborhood. Some built right next to their homes. More than one builder was sure that their family was involved. “And next to him was Shallum the son of Hallohesh, leader of half the district of Jerusalem; he and his daughters made repairs” (Nehemiah 3:12).
It is a good work that God has called us to be a part of. Find your spot on the wall, grab a trowel, and let’s build together.
A few weeks ago I was having one of my crazy busy weeks. I am blessed to have good friends around me who care about me, and Dave Dunagan is one of them. Dave jumped in and asked if he could help out with anything so I asked him to write my weekly “Pastor to Person” article. You may remember that article. It was about asking for forgiveness and how God is waiting to forgive if we only ask. When Laurie (my secretary) printed the bulletin, we noted that Dave had written the article. When I put the article on my blog, I mentioned Dave. But when I sent out the “Pastor to Person” email, I forgot to mention that it was written by Dave. The response was hilarious and embarrassing. One friend wondered about the daughter mentioned in the article since I only have three sons. Another friend told me it was the best article I’ve ever written. I had a great laugh over that one. I explained to both that I had forgotten to note in the email that Dave had written the article. Then yesterday the Fullerton News-Tribune put a couple of my articles together and printed them in their “Faith” section. And of course, the first article was … Dave’s.
Here’s my point. Learn to apologize a little quicker and more fully than me. Paul wrote, “Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right” (2 Corinthians 7:11). Dave, would you forgive me?
We have electrical, phone, and cable lines running behind our house. A few days ago my wife spotted one of the lines down and hanging loose in our backyard. When Edison showed up, they told us it was a power line. And to think I almost picked it up.
Power can be deadly unless you know what you’re doing. We are constantly reminded of the dangers of immorality and greed, yet the abuse of power can be just as seductive and deadly. When King Jehoshaphat died, he had seven sons, but it was the oldest, Jehoram, that Jehoshaphat gave the throne to. “Now when Jehoram was established over the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself and killed all his brothers with the sword, and also others of the princes of Israel” (2 Chronicles 21:4).
Jehoram didn’t have to fight for his throne, it had already been given to him by his father. He didn’t kill his brothers as a way of “establishing” his authority, because he was already “established”. Yet he killed them anyway. When a person tastes power, it can certainly mess with their mind.
Handling power requires humility. Even when you find yourself with power as “king” over your own realm, you must cultivate humility. The humble man doesn’t need to promote himself, a good reputation will take care of that. The humble man doesn’t feel threatened by his brothers, he learns to serve instead of destroy. A good electrician knows how to handle high voltage lines. Be sure to handle power carefully.
If you’re sick and the doctor gives you a prescription, what do you do with the prescription? I guess the answer to that question depends on how bad you want to get better. God gave Solomon a prescription for a time when the nation might become spiritually sick. God said, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). I love our country, but to be honest, I think we have become quite ill. We are heading down some pretty dark paths. As believers, we need to decide how bad we want our nation to get better.
First, the prescription is for those who know God, not for those who don’t. We don’t need to be pointing fingers at people who don’t know God. The prescription is written for us, not for them. Second, we need to humble ourselves. Spiritual healing requires humility before God. We don’t need to be looking down our noses at others, we need to be on our knees looking up. Third, we need to pray and seek God’s face. We talk about prayer, but talk is cheap. We need to pray. Fourth, we need to turn from our wicked ways. There is plenty of darkness out in the world, but we need to be concerned first with what’s going on in our own lives and hearts. We need to repent and turn up the light in our own lives.
Does the news about our country have you a little sick to your stomach? Maybe it’s time to fill the prescription.
I think that much of what I perceive as happiness in my life is based on my attitude more than it is my actual circumstances. And I’m finding that much of my attitude depends on what I’m feeding my mind with. If I’m feeding my mind with mental junk food, I can get one of those mental sugar highs, and then find myself crashing in an hour. When I spend too much time consuming the stuff I’ve got on my DVR, or clicking on unhealthy things on my screen, I might find a minute or two of “up”, but it will be followed by an hour or two of “down”. Yet when I feed my soul something a little more healthy, I seem to be a little more emotionally stable.
I might see everything around me doing well and still find reasons to complain and gripe. Yet sometimes things in my life seem to be difficult, and I am able to maintain a positive attitude. I think it’s all about diet, soul diet.
How is it that an attractive, wealthy movie star contemplates suicide while a Christian quadriplegic is able to experience hope and joy?
That great theologian, Yogi Berra, once said, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.”
Look for good, healthy food to feed your mind. Feed your soul with something that will give you stability and the strength to move forward.
The Psalmist wrote, “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92).
God’s Word is healthy for you beloved. It’s the best “soul food” of all.