November 23

Song of Songs 8:5-7 (NIV) 5Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover? Under the apple tree I roused you; there your mother conceived you, there she who was in labor gave you birth. 6Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. 7Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

The bride has lost her identity in her lover. As He approaches, she clings to Him and is not recognizable apart from Him. This is where Christ longs to draw us. It is a place where those who see us associate us with Christ. We frequently find our place alone with Him and give Him our love. There is time for corporate worship, but if you do not spend time alone with Him, how can you say you truly love Him?

She asks for Him to place her like a seal over His heart, like a seal on His arm. He has done both. The pierced side and arms will forever be a seal of His love for us. He is at the right hand of the Father with those marks that proclaim His love. We could call them love wounds. When He first met with His disciples He displayed those marks to ease their fears. It is a love as strong as death. No greater love has anyone than to lay down their life for the one they love.

If He loves us like that, He will jealously guide us away from anything else that would compete for our affection and attention. That zeal for us is like a blazing fire. He would consume all else so we would be completely His. That is the picture you see as Jesus cleansed the Temple with a scourge of cords.

Meditation: What a love He has for us! You cannot purchase it. You cannot earn it. He has set His love upon you, and nothing can turn it from you. How will you respond?

November 23

James 1:2-4 (NIV) 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This must certainly sound strange to most ears, joy in the face of trials. James explains that we should be joyful because the testing of our faith develops a quality of character in our life that is like that which Christ exhibited, perseverance. Without that quality, our effectiveness for the Lord will end when the going gets tough, and it will get tough. That is why the Lord allows the trials of many kinds to come our way.

Trials are like an old method of growing winter rye. When it sprouted, the farmer would tramp on it to keep it from growing. This caused the roots to grow deeper, finding more nourishment. It also kept the rye from maturing too quickly and freezing.

God is more concerned about your preparation for eternity than He is about your temporal happiness. He is making you into a mature and complete Christian, one who lacks nothing. The training process is not easy. Solid growth comes through difficult conditions.

Do you feel tromped on? Are you wondering why it is so hard when you are still so young in Christ? Trust the Great Farmer. He is working something into your life that you desperately need if you are going to produce fruit. It is the only path to maturity. So don't complain, be joyful! God has a plan for your life. This trial is for a glorious purpose. You need it. You will learn more quickly when you recognize that it is a necessary process for your growth.

Meditation: The trials in my life are developing Christ-like character. That is a reason for joy in the midst of them.