THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

October 17, 2018

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

I am beginning a series this week, but I have no idea how long or short it will be. It will be a surprise to us all! I'm going to begin by setting the groundwork.

There is something that has been heavy on my heart for quite some time now, and the Holy Spirit has been speaking, in depth, to me about this and showing me many scriptures and how they connect. I knew that I would eventually be writing on this topic, but honestly, Jon and I needed to first have a heart to heart discussion and work through some things; and I needed to have a deeper understanding of scriptures in order to effectively share.

What I'm going to be writing about is marriage and the biblical perspective of what the relationship between a husband and wife should look like; and how that relates to Jesus being our bridegroom and us being His bride.

Whether you are married, single, divorced, or widowed, I believe that each of us can learn from scriptures and glean something fruitful from this study.

I have heard it said that many people have a difficult time relating to God as their Father, especially those who didn't have a close, healthy relationship with their earthly dad. If a person had an abusive father, or one who was absent from their life, it's hard to relate to God as being a loving, faithful, caring Father. Even those who had a dad that was present in the home, but who didn't make time for his children or show his love, sometimes struggle with this. Some may have had a father who was a good man that worked hard and provided for his family, but who didn't know how to be a good father. Many view God as a disciplinarian who is watching and waiting for them to mess up so that He can execute judgement and punishment. The truth is, God loves each of His children more than any of us can comprehend and He sees each as a special treasure. It is individuals that struggle with feeling worthy of His deep love and seeing ourselves as His most beloved sons and daughters. Our relationship with God, as our Father, is rarely as loving and fulfilling as is should be due to us not understanding His deep love and His desire to be our Heavenly Daddy.

Several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me something and related that concept to marriage. Jesus is our bridegroom and we, the church, are His bride, but it is difficult for many of us to wrap our minds around that and truly understand what that means. I believe that it is especially difficult for men to view themselves as the bride of Christ, because in earthly culture, the bride is always the woman. I also believe that many women have a hard time comprehending what it looks like, having Jesus as their bridegroom and viewing themselves as His bride.

I began praying that Jesus would show me a picture of what this looks like and deepen my understanding of what it means, because I want to live as His bride and see myself as such. In our conversations, He began pointing me to the relationship between a husband and wife and what God had originally ordained that to look like. I realized that I had very little comprehension and understanding of God's plan for marriage; as well as His plan for His Son and the church as the bride. I didn't know nearly as much as what I thought!

Recently, during a time of prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me that God's original design for marriage and the relationship between a husband and wife, was to be a mirror image of the marriage and relationship between Jesus and His bride. But over time, that has become very distorted until very few couples fully understand that, so they don't have that type of marriage.

It is like looking at an old photo that has become faded and wrinkled and torn with age. Someone may look at it and try to figure out who the people in the picture are. The images are still there, but they are hard to distinguish and the original details are hard to make out. You may question things in the background or the style of clothing worn or hairstyles; anything that may give a clue as to when and where the photo was taken. At times, the only way you may be able to figure it out is to ask family members or friends if anyone would have a better copy of the picture, or perhaps a negative hidden away somewhere so that you could have a new copy made.

The truth is, God's word does give a clear picture of what His design for marriage is supposed to look like. But it is up to us to study the scriptures and pray and ask Him for clear understanding and guidance and wisdom, in order to follow His plan. And guess what? God's plan really is for the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church, and the relationship between a husband and wife to look the same; to be mirror-images of one another. I found a scripture that supports that fact.

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NLT) says, "As the Scriptures say, 'A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one."

The Passion Translation says it like this: "For this reason a man is to leave his father and his mother and lovingly hold to his wife, since the two have become joined as one flesh. Marriage is the beautiful design of the Almighty, a great and sacred mystery -- meant to be a vivid example of Christ and his church."

I believe that the marriage between many couples fail to represent the example of the relationship between Christ and his church. In fact, most marriages can't be distinguished between a christian marriage and a non-christian one.

Jon and I had a lengthy discussion about our marriage recently, and we both agreed that ours didn't fully reflect the pattern that God designed. Our relationship was not a vivid example of Jesus and His bride. We've been married for thirteen years, but did others look at our marriage and see a mirror image of Christ and His church? When we searched the scriptures, we saw God's original plan laid out and knew that there were areas that we needed to work on.

We are a work in progress and desire to have the marriage that God designed for His children. We want to come to the place where our marriage is a vivid example of Christ and his church!

In the upcoming weeks I will be sharing scriptures and what the Holy Spirit has revealed.

In life, there are many times when we have to make choices; some are more difficult than others. The best choices often require change and a lot of work; but the end result is we get to experience God's best. The fruit that we get to harvest is more plentiful, and we can rejoice in knowing we chose wisely and the labor was not in vain. Settling for less may seem like the easier route, but overall, the results bring heartache and we never get to experience God's best blessings for our lives.

Jon and I have chosen to study the scriptures and work on making our marriage look like God's original design. We both desire God's best for us personally, as well as for our marriage. It takes time, takes work, but we believe that it will be well-worth our effort and hard work.

Next week, I will go more in-depth on what scriptures have to say and what we've learned. I pray that as we go through this study, each of us will glean something very meaningful and will see significant changes take place in our marriages, as well as in our relationship with being the bride of Christ.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

There are many scriptures that compare our relationship with Jesus and marriage. Some aren't so obvious. In Mark 14:25 or Matthew 26:29, when Jesus said, "I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new...", He was quoting a standard wedding engagement ceremony from His time. I'm sure Loretta will share many more of them over the next few weeks.

I'd like to add an illustration, if I may. It has to do with how deeply we seek after God's presence and His glory. We've been discussing that in our mid-week services at church, and it's very good.

I'll start with the marriage side of the analogy because I think it's more generally easy to relate to.

In the wedding ceremony, each new spouse traditionally makes an oath to the other. Even if it isn't written and signed, that forms a binding contract. If that's what each spouse wants, then the rest of their life together, they could simply focus on the oaths, and nothing more. They can love each other, honor each other, and even cherish each other just enough to live up to the vow. They live a marriage contract.

On the other hand, if the spouses want more, they can have a deep intimacy. They can be eager to see each other, eager to show off their spouse to other, wait impatiently for an opportunity to sneak a kiss, and enjoy looking for little things to get their spouse to smile. They can live a marriage relationship.

Now, that's much how our relationship with God is. We can either just live up to our commitment to follow Jesus, and turn away from our old life, like the marriage contract. Or we can look forward to having a serious conversation with Jesus, look for chances to introduce Him to others, and truly desire to give Him reason to smile. We can spend time basking in His glorious presence. If we want to, we can have the full marriage relationship with Him. He certainly wants to.

ON THE MENEWE:

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken

5-6 boneless chicken breast

1 (24-ounce) jar salsa

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 package taco seasoning

Juice from 1 lime

Chopped jalapenos (optional)

Place all ingredients in a crock-pot. Cook until chicken is tender and can be shredded with a fork.

Serve on buns as sandwiches.

My favorite way to serve is in tortillas as chicken tacos. Top with toppings of your choice: shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, etc.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

October is 'Pastor Appreciation Month'. I encourage each of you to do something special to let your pastor know how much they are loved and appreciated. I have a sister who is a pastor, as well as two brother-in-laws. I know that it truly means much to a pastor, as well as their family, when not only churches do something special to honor them; but it also means a lot when individuals do something special.

Here are just a few suggestions and ideas: give them a card telling them how they have impacted your life or a sermon that has really touched you; pray for them, but let them know that you are praying; send them a random text letting them know that you are thinking of and praying for them; put a QT gift card that can be used for gas or a restaurant gift card in with a special note of encouragement; cook a special treat for them to enjoy; anonymously leave them a gift on their front porch or in their church office; have your kids color them a picture or write them a message; if you have a special talent, use it to make something handcrafted as a gift; mow their lawn; wash their car; if they work, find out their lunch schedule and drop off a surprise lunch to them; etc. The ideas are unlimited! Be creative and do something this month to honor your pastor and let them know how much they are loved!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Sometimes your difficulties are less about your enemy being against you,

but more about the Lord wanting to show you that He is for you. - Priscilla Shirer

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org