What Does Unity Look Like? Part 3

So how do we live that life that Christ calls us to live in Biblical Unity?  We do that with the very attitude of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-5 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”(NIV)

We’ve been united with Him haven’t we? We have been through the Kiddushin. The legal document has been signed. The mohar has been paid. We are His. Legally we are His wife. We have been united with Christ. Be like minded here and now. Not in the by and by but right now. That’s what Paul wants to see in God’s people in this Philippians passage.

We should all be about building that one Temple. I don’t want to work with that church down the street because I want my church to grow first.  If we worked together a little bit more maybe all of our churches would grow. Make sense? There wouldn’t be any empty spaces in our pews or chairs, as a matter of fact we wouldn’t have enough room.  And he goes right on to talk about the attitude of the servant who was willing to humble Himself even unto death.

Romans 12 tells us a little bit more about how we should live this life, the life that gives living sacrifices. We must put our pride aside in order to be that sacrifice. Romans 12:1-5 & 9-13 states, “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.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others…Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”(NIV)

 

The world likes us to be divided.  Because it can talk about us that way. True? The media has a field day with this divided church.  So how do we talk about those hard subjects together, I’m going to tell you how. We get on our knees together and if we get up after two or three times and we still disagree we don’t say, “Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”  No.  We keep praying together because there is one faith, one Spirit and that same Spirit is in each one of us, therefore, if our ideas are different than one of us, some of us, or even all of us are not listening to His Spirit.  So we keep praying together, we keep talking to each other and we keep searching our Ketubah, searching His Word, and we keep praying on our knees together, together.

I know it just doesn’t sound practical does it?  How can that really be?  It’s called being full of the Spirit, living according to His will and not our own and about what pleases our husband and not what pleases us. This Christian life is not practical. Who ever said it was?  Let’s face it, the things He asks us to do sometimes are not what we want to do.  Do we love Him enough to do it anyway? Do we trust Him enough to do it anyway? When my son was younger we would often have this talk that went something like, “Trust me, you have to trust me!  Son, you have to trust me. If you don’t trust me, how are you going to trust God when He tells you to do something that you don’t necessarily want to do?  Mama’s practice.”  You see you and I are practice for each other. When we do the things He asks us to do, He is letting us practice. He’s letting us practice being obedient. He’s letting us practice being the servant. In His mercy, He is letting us practice.

 

John 17:20-26 says,  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:  I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.  Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”(NIV)

 

That we may be one. That He may be together with my wife. That is His heart. There was a wedding in the garden.  You see our human history began with a wedding and our human history on this planet is going to end with a wedding and wedding feast.  From wedding to wedding, that is who we are.  That was the whole purpose for which we were created.  He gives us the whole picture of husband and wife on this planet while we are here so that we will understand what His hearts desire is for us to be with Him.

 

In Ephesians 5:31-32 Paul says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.”(NIV)

 

About the Bridegroom and the Bride. That is the whole reason He gave us the wonderful privilege of marriage on this planet. So that we can have a picture of what He wants with us.  I have a wonderful husband, but he is not perfect. But we do have a perfect husband and one day He is going to put a crown on our head and we are going to be one.  Is that your hearts desire?  More than anything else?  I hope so.

I suspect the more we search out His heart and the more we seek His face the more we will look like Him and we will live much more like He lived.  How did He live?  He lived like a Torah observing Jew without the Tradition of the elders.  We know that we will be living by His Biblical calendar and Feasts in His kingdom according to Zechariah 14 and other passages.  Food for thought isn’t it!

We will be studying the Wedding and the Wedding Feast next.

Awaiting His Coming!

Vicky

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What Does Unity Look Like? Part 1

These next three posts may be some of my more controversial posts yet.  I hope you will bear with me through all three.    I am going to try to really drive home a point and the importance of true Biblical unity.  There may be times when it gets uncomfortable, but then again our Savior did not die so we could be comfortable.  He died so that we could be transformed into His likeness.  With that being said lets begin.

Our history started with the church understanding that whether Jew or Gentile, there was no difference.  However, even within that early history there was division.  And we cannot talk about this subject without hitting a very important topic.  Let’s look at I Corintians 1:10-13, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.  What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”(NIV)  Does that sound like we could just replace a few names and be very contemporary?  The congregation in these verses were even meeting in the same house.  Notice they were not fighting over the style of music, but on who was there leader.

Now let’s go to chapter 3 and read verses 1 though 8.  “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”(NIV)

What is Apollos and what is Paul?  Let’s plug in some other names here:  John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Calvin…..  We have a tendency to follow mere men and go with the opinions of mere men instead Scripture, instead of standing together as one in Christ.  Is that not what a denomination is?  And I write this as a Southern Baptist Pastor’s wife who loves her denomination.  But my denomination is NOT the church!  We’re just a part of it, doing our part.  Laboring for what God has given us.  That’s all!  That’s all any denomination is, doing it’s part.  If denominations ever get so arrogant as to say, “We are the church”, we are in disobedience. 

Like I said this is going to get uncomfortable.  We don’t like to talk about this very often.  And you can read this and say, “Yes, Vicky your absolutely right”.  Yet at the same time we don’t like to have those very important conversations.  You know the ones I’m talking about, those theological discussions on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc. 

We have an unspoken rule in our society that basically says when you go to Uncle Tom’s house you don’t talk politics and you don’t talk religion.  Right?  We’ll we have an unspoken rule in the church that say’s, “When ya’ll get together, don’t take about doctrine.”  Just don’t go there.  Why?  Because we act like mere men when we go there?  But is avoiding those topics the desire of God?  And are we willing to leave behind the milk for the solid food even when we come together.

We have to ask ourselves if our husband wants a dysfunctional bride.  The answer, of course, is no He doesn’t.  Yet a bride that does not talk to each other is dysfunctional.  A family that doesn’t talk to each other is dysfunctional?  Isn’t that how we would classify that?  Is there a branch of your family that refuses to talk to each other or refuses to talk about certain topics? 

I want us to read a few verses in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1-6, 11-13, and then 16.  It says,  ”As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”…“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”…“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”(NIV)

What does that peace mean again?  Oneness.  It represents that covenant, that everlasting covenant.  So when we get together and we talk doctrinal stuff and we start arguing and saying, We’ll I think this and I think that and that’s just the way it’s going to be and we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.  Are we not acting like mere men?  Yes, we are.

This is food for thought until our next post.  I hope I have not run you off.  We will discuss this again next time and then in part three we will discuss how we are to act toward one another.  How do we function as the Bride of Christ in true unity. 

A Member of the Bride,

Vicky

Esther: Queen of Persia

Esther is first introduced to us in chapter 2:7 as Hadassah the adopted daughter of Mordecai.  We are told according to the NIV that she “was lovely in form and features”.  What does that mean?  These are two separate Hebrew words here that can both be translated “beautiful” and therefore emphasizing her physical beauty, however, the first can also be translated “pleasant” and the second translated “favored”.  Both definitions are very important because it points out that not only was she beautiful in form but also in character.  These second definitions are also ones repeated often in our story and so must be taken seriously.

When the edict of Xerxes went out many young women were brought to the citadel in Susa, but if you remember Esther already lived there with Mordecai.  Therefore, Esther was one of the closest and therefore first to be brought to the harem within the actual palace of the king.  She along with many others were entrusted to Hegai the eunuch in charge of the harem and the one responsible for preparing the girls to go into the king.  This was a long process that would take a year to accomplish. 

It was Esther who first caught the eye of Hegai.  She “pleased him and won his favor” and so he immediately began to put her through the purification rites and to provide her with the best food.  What is interesting about these two words her is that not only do they mean “pleasing” and “favor”, which they do and you remember these words are important, but both of these words can mean either “pleasing” or “favor” and they can also both mean “best”. 

In other words, Hegai thought Esther to be pleasing, pleasing and the best, best and so he showed her favor, favor.  I am emphasizing these words because of their importance and also to remind you that when a thought is repeated in Hebrew, either with the exact same word or not, it is done to add weight to the point.

Hegai not only began her purification, but also gave her seven maids from the king’s palace and moved her to the “best” accommodations within the harem.  This again is emphasizing what he thought of her and her chances for being the one selected.

Then we find out that she has been commanded by her father, Mordecai, not to reveal who her people are or her homeland.  The text makes it clear that she followed this command showing her to be obedient to her father and loyal to her people.  She is a young women of character and distinction.  She knows who she is and what that means. 

We also see the love her father has for her as he goes everyday to inquire of her at the harem courtyard.  These two, father and daughter, are very close and loyal to one another.  It is not until verse 15 of chapter 2 that we learn that they are actually cousins.

This part of Esther’s biography reminds me of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 45.  It is found it verses 10 and 11 where it says, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house.  Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”  This is the Psalm of a wedding that foreshadows the great wedding in Revelation 19.  We are to forget our past focus only on our Lord, our Bridegroom.  Here Esther is to do just that, she is to focus on her potential bridegroom.  The difference is that Esther is doing it to protect herself and her people.  She is also from God’s family, Israel, and it is the king in this case who will be joining through marriage, even though he does not yet know it.  Remember, I said in an earlier post he is looking for a home for his heart.

Esther underwent her required twelve months of purification, no doubt having some religious significance within Zoroastrianism.  When it was her turn to go to Xerxes, presumably one of the first, she asked for only what Hegai suggested she take. 

It is at this point I find the statement in verse 15 quite interesting that states, “Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her.”(NIV)  I find this interesting because it seems to be out of place or at the least unexpected at this point.  We already know she has won the favor of Hegai and it is yet to speak of the favor of Xerxes so who might the text be referring to when it says “everyone”?  Possibly, Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the concubines, perhaps the other young women, perhaps her maids,

I can’t help but wonder if there is another important person this may be referring to.  My thoughts go to Xerxes mother, Atossa.  Remember she is still alive at this point and I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with the selection process of the next queen, at least in her own mind anyway.  If that is the case, this is a huge statement and not one so out of place.  Notice though we are once again hearing how Esther won the “favor” of people.

Finally, she is taken to the king in December of 479 B.C. or January of 478 B.C.  She would only return to the king if he called for her by name, until then she would remain in the part of the harem where the concubines dwelt under the protection of Shaashgaz. 

Yes, this does imply that their night together was a physical one, an intimate one and Scripture gives us no indication that it was not.  Regardless, she is now waiting to see if he will call for her again or if the rest of her life will be spent alone in the harem.

Scripture does not leave the reader to the suspense that Esther must have felt at first.  Rather, it lets us know very quickly that Xerxes loved Esther more than the others.  This love he felt for her was not purely physical, but much deeper than that; even to the point of friendship. 

They liked each other in a genuine way that makes for a strong bond and marriage.  It is obvious that he not only loved her for her beauty, but that they also enjoyed each others company as well.  Esther won the favor of Xerxes, this word “favor” can also be translated “grace”, she found grace with him.  She also won his approval, the word “approval” can also be translated “mercy”.

Therefore, with Xerxes, Esther found grace and mercy.  He was pleased with her so he made her is wife and queen by setting a crown on her head presumably at their wedding.

Xerxes then throws a banquet and calls it, “Esther’s Banquet”.  He is not showing off his own glory, but that of his Queen.  She has become a reflection of him and his glory or majesty.  He does not keep his bride hidden, but shows her off and once again the officials and nobles of the kingdom, i.e., family, are there.  He doesn’t stop there, but declares a holiday in the provinces, which would have included Israel, and lavishly gave out gifts.

The symbolism in this portion of the account is breathtaking. 

Remember in an earlier post I said that Xerxes is a type of Christ.  Well, here it is obvious and shines through with abundance. 

Yeshua our King has found his bride and paid for it all.  He paid the bridal price, He paid the cost of the wedding and the banquet.  He gives out gifts through His Holy Spirit.  He has chosen us to be blameless and holy and made us so through the sanctification or purification of the Holy Spirit.  He has made us a part of His family according to His good pleasure and will, by His grace and mercy.  He has lavishly poured out His favor or grace upon us. 

What an awesome picture of the wedding that is to come.  What a glimpse of the fulfillment of the mystery of the Bridegroom and His Bride.  It becomes so obvious doesn’t it?  Now do you see why I said this book was also prophetic?

Rejoicing in our King,

Vicky

Unity in the Home

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body.  31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.(HCSB)

Many people in our culture take offense at this passage because of how, on the surface and detached from the rest of the book, it would appear to be subjugating women.  That is far from the reality of this passage.  Never does God tell husbands to subjugate or lord it over their wives.  NO Where!  This passage is actually doing the exact opposite.

Imagine for me a human being.  They have a head and a body, correct?  If you detach the head from the body, what happens?  The body dies.  Both are vital and needed.  Remember that Paul has already, back in chapter one, said that the Messiah is the head of the church, His body.  Marriage here in chapter five is being used to illustrate a much larger truth than just how husbands and wives are to live with each other.

I want to deal with the specific issue of husbands and wives for a minute before moving on to the bigger picture.  Notice what each are called to do.  The wife is to respect her husband.  She is to submit to her head.  She needs him.  To not respect is to say she does not need him and to effectually cut him off.  She would be killing herself and him in the process.

Yes, she is submitting to the needs of her husband, his need for respect.  This is a huge issue for men and it is the way God made them to be.  It is their emotional blood flow, so to speak.  They have a need for their wife to respect them because for them it is the wife saying, “I need you”.  She is submitting to his needs above her own.  Paul tells us that as believers we should all think of each other as more important than ourselves.(Phil. 2:3)  Obeying this mandate as a wife is doing nothing more than obeying the one in Philippians as a believer.

Next, God tells the husband to love his wife.  Why?  Because that is her need, her emotional blood flow.  In order to live and thrive a wife requires love.  It is how God made her.  It is the husband saying, “I desire you in my life, in every area of my life.  You are wanted”.  In this the husband is to submit to her need above his own.  Otherwise, he would be cutting off his own body and thereby killing himself.

In a marriage there must be this unity and this passage gives the way that is achieved.  He, the head, belongs to the body and she, the body, belongs to the head.  If they are going to survive they need each other and so each must be sure to give the other what the other requires to survive, respect or love.  If this is done then the head and body function together with much greater ease and unity.  In so doing they each survive and thrive.

That leads us to what God is illustrating to us.  This relationship is what He wishes to have with His people.  This is the story of the Bridegroom and the Bride.  Yeshua is our Bridegroom and we who put our faith in Him, who follow Him, are His Bride.  According to this passage, this is a profound mystery.  Notice that our oneness with each other is called the mystery in Ephesians and our oneness with Him is called a profound mystery.  This is beyond anything we could have thought of or imagined.(Chapter 3)  

That is why it is so important to preserve the true picture of marriage because it speaks of the relationship He desires with us.  To change the picture is to attempt to tarnish or twist the reality.  For the last 50 years our culture has seen deliberate distortions and downplay of marriage.

Most prominently today, our culture, along with the enemy’s help in deceiving our culture, is beginning to accept more and more the distortion and calling it good. 

Marriage is and from the beginning has been between a man and a woman, but our culture is debating redefining marriage to include being between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.  What picture does that give of God?  It is not two bridegrooms or two brides that offer us the accurate picture of the relationship God wants with us. 

I am not saying that people in these relationships realize what they are saying, but to be sure the enemy does and he seeks to distort and twist all God wants for us.  And to be sure God knows what it says, that is why this particular sin is called an abomination. 

The enemy wants people to concentrate on their
“rights” to be happy and purposefully turns them away from what the reality of what they are doing says about God.  That is why it is called deception. Eve sinned based on deception, but it was still sin. 

The first relationship we see in Scripture is marriage of one man and one woman.  The man represents the Son of God (Luke calls Adam the son of God) and Eve represents the Bride of Christ, the Bride of the Son.  In the end we see the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride.  One is the picture of the other and to distort and twist it into anything else is the enemy’s attempt to distort and twist what it represents, what it will be in the end. 

It is for this reason the church must hold the line on true marriage because we must insist on reflecting the light of the true relationship God wants with His people.  Anything else is from the realm of darkness and based on deception. 

Bride of Christ – Hold the Line, no one said it would be easy to insist on the accurate picture to a world who desperately needs our Bridegroom when all it seems to want to do is reject Him.  

Our Bridegroom wishes to have a spotless Bride, one without wrinkles or blemishes.  He paid for us with His own blood.  It is the least we can do to hold tight to His promise as His bride.  One day He will come for us and call us to Himself.

This picture is a profound mystery. 

Vicky