Johnny Cash and The Song of Songs

Recently Derek and I re-watched the 2005 movie Walk The Line – starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in the true story of Johnny Cash and June Carter.  It’s an old favourite of ours and full of wonderful songs that we love.

In the story of the movie, Johnny was besotted with June from the second he laid eyes on her.  After then, he only had eyes for her and he continually pursued her. He was never going to give up until she finally said yes to marrying him. Johnny Cash’ life was messy and the romance between the two was also messy to start with before they finally got it together and the rest is a pleasant history.

The morning after watching the movie, my darling husband had woken with one of the songs they sang together in his heart. The song is called “It Ain’t Me, Babe” although Derek had a sense of new words for the song. In the movie Derek had ‘seen’ that despite all the portrayed mess and brokenness of Johnny Cash’ life and his relationship with June, there was a beautiful love story and through it the Lord was revealing His very own relentless love and pursuit of His own Bride, the Church.  My darling man was deeply touched by this shadow/type of the Lord’s love for His Church. (Isn’t that just like the Lord, to make something beautiful out of something broken?)

So we sat down together and changed some of the words to reflect the Reality, the Truest Lover pursuing His Beloved. After doing this, we noticed that the words now reflected in some small way, the call of the Lord to the Church found in The Song of Songs where the King calls His lover to come out from behind the lattice, to go with Him, that He is the One she is looking for. He even brings her flowers.

“Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, Climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, He is looking through the windows, He is peering through the lattice. My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along…The flowers have already appeared in the land….the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land…Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!…(Song of Songs 2:8-13)

I must arise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares I must seek him who my soul loves….Have you seen him whom my soul loves?…I held on to him and would not let him go…(Song of Songs 3:2-4)

I searched for him but I did not find him, I called him but he did not answer me…I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, as to what you will tell him: For I am lovesick”..(Song of songs 5:6b-8)

We decided to record ourselves singing these new words to a backing track we found on the web, to send it to some saints and well, I feel to post it here along with the lyrics the Lord gave us. There is no image on the music player so you can read the lyrics while listening.

” It Is Me Church”
It Ain’t Me Babe (original Song Title)
Johnny Cash and June Carter
(Written and first recorded by Bob Dylan)

Come away from your window.
Leave it with all due speed
I am the one you want, babe
I am the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong
To protect you and defend you
Who will never do you wrong
Someone to open each and every door

Yes it is You, Lord
Yes, yes, yes it is You, Lord
It is You were looking’ for, Lord

Come lightly from the ledge, Love.
Go lightly on the ground
I am the one you want, Love
I’ll never let you down
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
To pick you up each time you fall
To gather flowers constantly
And to come each time you call
And will love you for your life forever more

Well it is Me, Love
Yes, yes, yes it is Me, Love
It is Me you’re lookin’ for, Love

You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’ll promise to never part
Someone to gaze your eyes upon
Someone to share His heart
Someone to die for you forever more

Yes it is Me, Church
Yes, yes, yes it is Me, Church
I’m the Life you’re lookin’ for, Church

Disclaimer

The original song was written by Bob Dylan and appeared on his fourth album in 1964.  We claim no ownership to the song and will not be professionally recording our version 😄

 

 

A Time For God’s Favour

The other week the saints we meet with were exploring various aspects of Christ’s character, revealed in the Old Testament saints. In preparation for our gathering, I was looking through the book of Esther, searching for the aspect of Christ’s authority revealed in her life.  It’s such an amazing story and there was much of the Lord’s character that I could see reflected in Esther, His humility, His calling, His willingness to lay down His life and His being the deliverance of His people. However, I did struggle to see our Lord’s authority characterised in her life at first glance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Esther, in a nutshell, she was a Jewish girl raised by her cousin Mordecai and taken into the king’s harem, later becoming his queen. The king had no knowledge of her Jewish heritage.  Mordecai would sit at the gate of the king’s palace to hear of the fate of the Jewish people discussed among some of the king’s men. Mordecai got word to Esther of the plans that were being made behind the king’s back, to destroy the Jewish people and Esther was challenged to face the king to seek his favour on behalf of her people. Esther was afraid to go into the king’s inner court and sent these words back to Mordecai;

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden sceptre so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days” (Esther 4:11).

Mordecai, full of faith that God will deliver His people come hell or high water, sends a reply to her that if she remains silent at this time that the Jews will be delivered from another place but her and her father’s house will perish. He then poses the question to her, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Upon hearing these words sent by Mordecai, Esther obviously ‘sees’ her calling in God, and that she indeed had a responsibility to respond on behalf of her people. She had been given the authority of royalty, she had been placed in a position where she could have the king’s ear if he showed her favour. So although clearly still afraid, Esther says yes and asks for prayer and fasting for her. She then makes this glorious statement in which we can really see the humility and sacrificial heart of our Lord;

“…if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Then, Esther makes her plans to approach the king. She puts on her royal robes and stands in the inner court of the king’s palace in front of the king’s rooms and when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, the bible says “… she obtained favour in his sight, and the king extended to Esther the golden sceptre which was in his hand... “(Esther 5:1-2).

Then the king says to Esther, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you” (Esther 5:3).

Well, four days after reading this story the Lord’s light shone into my heart to see Christ’s authority revealed in Esther.

We come into the Father’s throne room through the name of Jesus. Christ is our access to God’s favour. God’s sceptre is always held out toward us because Jesus has opened the door of the throne room for us to come in and fellowship with God, commune with Him and banquet with Him.

Through Christ, God welcomes us and says what is it you want? What is your petition? What can I do for you? More than just up to half the kingdom is offered to us, no, God has given us His entire Kingdom through Christ because of the Father’s love for the Son, and now we share in the Son’s inheritance.

Christ is the golden sceptre in God’s hand that is held out toward us. Christ is the favour of the Lord to us.

The year of the favour of the Lord has come in Christ Jesus, our living Lord.

Death Becomes Her

In the early 1990’s there was a film called ‘Death Becomes Her’. It starred Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. Basically, it was about a woman who took a potion to keep her looking young but it actually meant she lived forever even after being killed and while her body decomposed.  The title of this old movie came to my mind during the week reflecting on the life that the Lord has called us to as believers.

As believers into Christ Jesus, we were crucified with Christ and buried with Him. Christ rose from the grave and we are now only alive in Him. It is now no longer us who live but Christ who lives in us. We have been crucified to this world. No longer “I” but “Him”. This death that we have entered into by way of faith in Christ Jesus as Son of God has made us beautiful in God’s sight.

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16)

In the Song of Songs we see how Christ our King (represented in King Solomon) speaks of His death and resurrection in chapter 4 verse 6;

Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh (death) and to the hill of incense (resurrection).

He then tells His Beloved (us) that there is no flaw in her. In other words, through His death and resurrection, we have become flawless in His eyes. She was/we were always beautiful to Him but now through His death she/we have become flawless!

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)

His death and resurrection has done it all and the church is brought forth as His bride. It is at that point that He addresses her as His bride in verse 8 & 9;

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride…You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride…

As she begins to know Him and express Him, she ministers to Him. And then in Chapter 5 verse 5, she experiences the cross;

I arose to open for my lover, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the lock…

This cross-like experience leads her into a time of searching for Him desperately because she has come to see who He is and how she loves and longs for Him more than life itself.  In Chapter 6 & verse 5 we read how she has been transformed through the experience of the cross in her life and in her pursuit of Him above all else.  As a result of this transformation the King says these words to her;

Turn your eyes from me, they overwhelm me…

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Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

Death becomes us, saints. Our death in Christ and His resurrection Life in us, and our daily taking up of our cross, makes us beautiful in His sight.

How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights! (Song of Songs 7:6)

 

 

How Can One See Christ in IKEA?

 

Well, you know about IKEA, don’t you? It’s that Swedish store (that’s more like it’s own planet!) that sells ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances and home accessories?  It’s extremely popular. Not just what they sell, but their stores! Their stores are crazy places – massive, exciting, they’re almost like Disneyland for furniture shopping!

Well, I first visited an IKEA store here in Perth, WA last year.  Yes, it is an amazing place, quite extraordinary and very interesting. I don’t think their stuff is all that brilliant but I get what all the fuss is about considering variety, quality, price, and the fair dinkum adventure that is just walking around the store! A lot of people are crazy for it.

The thing about IKEA, at least in Australia, is that they’re not very common. While a lot of popular chainstores can be found in almost every suburb these days, not so with IKEA. In fact, they only have one or two at the most in the states of QLD, NSW, VIC, SA and WA. That’s like, 10 in the whole country! They don’t have a store in the Northern Territory (which kind of makes sense since it’s mostly desert), or the ACT and they don’t have one in Tasmania.

So how do I see Christ in IKEA? I see that where a Christ-centred community is, is not that common. They’re not found in every suburb, on every corner, or every 20kms apart, not even in every town, or every city, or even in every state and more than likely not even in every country!

If you’re part of a truly Christ-centred community where Jesus Christ is actively THE HEAD, and the only Head of that community of believers, then you are as rare as IKEA. Probably rarer. And I strongly encourage you and your community to seek the Lord continuously on His plan for your community toward HIS purpose.

IKEA sells the furnishings and gadgets but CHRIST-centred community/ekklessia is THE HOUSE. Saints, we have so much more to offer the world than IKEA does. We have the Creator of all things, the Centre of all things, the Head of all things. We have the One whose only motivation is LOVE, to offer the world.

So here’s to praying that more and more of these Christ-centred communities/ekklessia’s start popping up all over the world, in every country, every state or county, every city, every town, every suburb and in every street!

We’re Kept In The Vine

So, in our little backyard there is a vine. The vine by all appearances looks dead to me. In fact, I thought it was dead and some months ago endeavoured to untangle it and pull it off the other tree and off the fence that it is all wrapped around. It looked very untidy because it was just a brown stick-like vine all coiled between the ground plants and the foliage of the tree next to it. It was very hard to pull at and undo, so typical of me, I gave up :-).

Then the other week I noticed – there’s this cluster of beautiful bright purple flowers in the middle of it! There’s bright fresh green leaves in the same cluster. When I first noticed it through the window, I had to do a double-take. I thought “what?” There’s flowers growing on that vine? And they’re so beautiful, and rich in colour! It’s quite odd though because there’s no other signs of life anywhere else on the vine.

I would have expected if there was new growth, it would start coming through all over the vine, not just in one section alone. Looking at it again today when I took this photograph, I was reminded of how it is God’s job to keep us in His Son – the reality of the picture Jesus gave us of Him being the Vine and us being the branches. Looking at this cluster of flowers where it seems there’s no other life on the vine, reminded me that God is faithful to Himself and therefore faithful to us.

Ephesians 1:4 tells us very clearly that it was God who placed us (believers) inside His Son;

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. 4For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love 5He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will,…

Jude 1:24 tells us that it is God who keeps us in His Son;

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Philippians 1:6 tells us that it is God who perfects and completes in us what He Himself started;

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns

Dear saint, be assured that these promises are yes and amen because Christ is the Yes and Amen of God. You and I are in Christ. We are as in Christ as the life is in that vine to produce beautiful flowers. We share His royal blood – the colour of purple. And although there may be seasons and times where it appears there is no life at all, the Life is always there. The flowers are always there hidden inside that vine until God Himself brings them through as a beautiful display of His Son’s Life and for His very own glorious inheritance.

Wow. What a God we have. What a Christ.

Beyond the Reef – In ‘Moana’

Google Images

In the recent children’s animation movie ‘Moana’ there are a number of very powerful scenes that if you look behind what you’re seeing on the screen, you can see something of the Spirit realm to which you and I belong. Of-course, these are only shadows & types.

One scene that really spoke to me was concerning Moana’s ancestors. Her ancestors were voyagers, you see. However, over time her people had decided to remain safe and no longer would venture out past the reef where all the best fish could be found for food. This reminded me of how the church has lost it’s way, she has lost her heart. The church was once a vibrant spiritual organism growing in her ongoing discovery into the Son of God as she lived out of His life that indwelt her. You’ve only got to read the book of Acts to see that. But she has become insular, self-protective and has lost her desire to know Him beyond what she is spoon-fed. She has shrunk back.

She has become afraid of the reef – the cross. In ignorance and spiritual immaturity, she hides from the pain and suffering of the cross that Jesus told us to take up and carry daily. She only desires comfort, knowledge, familiarity, knowledge without experience. She has settled for stories of Jesus instead of living His Resurrection Life that lies beyond the cross.

As the story goes on,Moana ventures out past the reef and things happen which is a great picture of portions of Christ’s body/church today. Yes folks, be encouraged for many saints all over the world are embracing the cross in its various and perfectly fashioned forms by the Father, venturing out past the spiritual reef and breakers, so to speak, in search of knowing a greater Christ than they’ve ever known before. Brothers and sisters in Christ are rising up in a growing desperate pursuit of Christ who is our real food, our real drink, the food that satisfies, the drink that quenches all thirst forevermore.

Coming back to Moana – Typically, once she has faced her fears and trials she eventually achieves the goal she set sail for. When this happens, the animators give the viewers a climactic explosion of life in a glorious scene of Moana sailing on the wild seas and watching with wide eyes of wonder, her ancestors on their boats riding the waves all around, passing her on their journey. The two realms of time & eternity are revealed simultaneously.

This scene spoke me to me of that great cloud of witnesses that we read about in Hebrews Chapter 12, verse 1;

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

I was reminded of our roots – that we as believers are sojourners, voyagers in our discovery of Christ and all that He is. He is the mighty ocean. He is the reef (the cross) and all that is beyond the reef yet to be discovered. He is the resurrection and the life! Our lives are meant to be lived out as an adventure in knowing Him through our trials and tribulations for the glory that lies before us – truly knowing Him!

Those trials and tribulations can come in all shapes and sizes. Yet, in all peril, we are travelling a path well trod by those who went before us – like Moana’s ancestors who forged on past the reef and through storms and danger carrying their adventurous spirit to find richer food and a richer existence as a result. So we can do the same in our journey in knowing Christ with hearts of faith.

Those saints who have walked the ancient paths of knowing God through all their trials and tribulations, perseverance and endurance, can really be thought of as our spiritual ancestors. I’m not talking about spiritual ancestors such as some indigenous tribal communities or new agers hold to that are not of Christ. I’m talking about spiritual ancestory in light of the reality that those of us who are in Christ, are called the children of Abraham – not in the flesh but in the spirit.

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are Abraham’s descendants are they all his children. On the contrary, “Through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned.” So it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as offspring.…(Romans 9:6-8)

We are the children of the promise because we have believed in the One who was sent, the Seed of Abraham, who was in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – that is Christ Jesus. We have now been made one with Him by His Spirit.

Let’s get one thing straight. The journey of the believer is a spiritual one. That means it is not of this realm. It is not an external journey of a type of ‘godly’ behaviour, rules and appearances. It is a life lived by another realm, the realm of the Spirit.

…It is the only place in you that comes from the other realm, the heavenly realm, the external realm…It is the place where I (Christ) live as the connection between heaven and earth….(New Day, Milt Rodriguez, 2013).

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes… (Ezekiel 36:26)

God causing us to walk in His statutes (measure, ruling, commandment, covenant, proclamation) is a spiritual act on His behalf, done by God Himself Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ God is causing you to walk in His statutes as He has caused countless other saints to walk there before us. Thousands upon thousands of saints have lived and died before us, having carried their cross daily as they walked the same paths of knowing Christ beyond the reef.

Is the Lord calling you to venture out from the comfort and conformity of life on an ‘island’ and go beyond the ‘reef’ to travel the ancient pathways trod by thousands of saints who’ve gone before?  Do you feel in your spirit that there is much more to discover and explore of and in Christ than you’ve ever known before? Do you sense that He is worth the desperate pursuit? Do you believe there is Life awaiting you on the other side of the reef?

Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

 

The Kindness of The Good Master

Once we were slaves to sin and to this world. We were born into sin. We were enslaved, in bondage, held as captives and unable to free ourselves. But 2000 years ago a man who was both Son of Man and Son of God, came to us and set us free.

He loosed our chains, they fell off. He broke off our shackles. He washed us clean and healed our wounds. He removed the veil from our eyes. Then He said to us “It is for freedom’s sake that I set you free” and “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed”.

Captivated by Him, His beauty, His glory, His splendour, His love, His compassion, His kindness – we knew that to have freedom apart from Him would be no freedom at all. We saw the kindness and mercy of the Good Master and we willingly gave up our freedom which was no real freedom at all, to make ourselves His bond-servants. We wanted to be with Him forever. We dedicated our lives to Him.  Where else could we go? Where else would we go? For He held and still holds the words of Life.

“Thou hast set us free, Master. Now we belong to Thee”.

 

How Solid Is Your Righteousness?

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18, NIV).

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you unblemished in His glorious presence, with great joy–(Jude 1:24 Berean version).

Let us rejoice and celebrate and give Him the glory. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. She was given clothing of fine linen,” linen bright and pure. For the linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints(Rev 19:7-8).

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9, NIV). 

The scriptures often use pictures as shadows or types to point to a heavenly reality such as “wool” or “snow” to represent the pure righteousness we have now been given through faith in Christ.

During my sleep a few nights back, a picture entered my mind of a pure white giant glacier and these words came to mind…”Solid Righteousness”.

This image of a glacier all pure white and unblemished, untainted by humanity or any being and so incredibly solid, spoke to me of these things; the completeness, permanency, the unfathomable depth, power and strength of the righteousness we now have in Christ.

Christ’s work in saving, redeeming and sanctifying us is as solid as solid can be. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been made ‘solidly’ righteous.

How To Use Your GPS

For some of us, our life decisions can lead us down a path we didn’t really want to go and to a destination we didn’t want. A decision to take that job, move to that area, date that person, eat that kind of food, live that kind of lifestyle, hang out with those kind of people – these decisions can take us on a path that can leave us feeling lost or confused, disappointed or frustrated or much worse. We can find ourselves traveling on a really rough road that can take us a long time to ‘get back on track’. Even years sometimes!

Chatting with a dear friend the other day, we were talking about how God seems to always lead us back onto the right path in our lives, in spite of our mistakes. You know how sometimes we make silly decisions? Or maybe that was just me 🙂

I use a GPS a fair bit these days, to find my way around the streets that are all unfamiliar to me here in Perth. However, sometimes I still take a wrong turn or think I know better and find that I’ve gone off the path the GPS was sending me on.  Sometimes I’m just not paying attention or listening properly. Selah.

When this happens with the GPS, it has a momentary brain spasm to work out where I’ve gone and then it adjusts my route to re-direct me back toward the destination.  You see, the destination doesn’t change, and just like the GPS, God too, will always steer me back toward His purpose in my life.  This beautiful verse in Romans 8:28 says it all;

And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 

The thing is, that in God our destination never changes. Our destination is always toward God’s Purpose. Christ being known, revealed and expressed is always our destination. And God has this remarkable way through Christ who is our life, of always leading us towards that purpose, yes, even in spite of our mistakes along the way.

God is like our own spiritual GPS ( ‘God’s Perfect Shepherding’). Christ is our Google Maps! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the way to the Father. So next time you use your GPS, perhaps you can see the Lord as your Perfect Shepherd in a new way. Using your GPS you can reflect on how in His mercy and love toward us, He is always leading us back onto the right path, toward His glorious purpose of seeing Christ formed in us.