Covenant Marriage

“I have never heard that before.”

I have heard-and said-this sentence many times over the last eight days. It started with last week’s sermon when John set before us the picture of the two trees in the garden.This week, John and Luanne shared with us stunning perspectives on marriage, Christ and His Church and Communion that many of us were completely unfamiliar with.

Following these two profound sermons, I have had conversations full of questions like,

“How have I never heard this?”

“Why was this never taught?”

“How could we have missed this?”

All of these questions give us the opportunity to blame someone else for what we didn’t know. The church we grew up in, our parents, our circumstances, etc… But here’s the thing:

Both of these sermons are found, firmly grounded in and proven by the Word of God.

These two messages that have profoundly affected many of us are not actually new news. They are ancient truths. So why didn’t we know? Why hadn’t we heard it and understood before now?

Because now we have finally gotten tired of eating someone else’s communion.

What in the world do I mean by that?

I think for a long while now, much of the collective Church has been content to eat what’s on the table in front of us. Whatever has been dished up, we have consumed without raising objection–even if the food is cold and stale. We’ve been happy to do things as they’ve always been done. And we have accepted as truth what was possibly nothing more than washed-up tradition and works of fiction.

The result of this kind of diet is both tragic and beautiful. Tragic because we are what we eat. And if we haven’t been eating Jesus… we aren’t being Jesus. We are seeing this play out in churches, communities and nations like our own where many Christians are not living the love of Christ and the Good News is being used to wound rather than to welcome.

But there is a beautiful result, too. A result that has been the catalyst for sermons such as the two we have experienced the last two weeks.

We get hungry for something more.

In God’s great faithfulness to us, He stirs our hearts as His Spirit moves to open eyes and ears and hearts to the Truth that has been there all along. And we get hungry. We begin to pray prayers like these:

 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT) 

[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight] into the true knowledge of Him [for we know the Father through the Son]. And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people),  and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19 AMP)

The thing about praying prayers like these? God loves to answer them. He loves to take us deeper into Himself because He loves us and He desires that we earnestly seek Him. He longs that we get it. That we get how wide, long, high and deep is His love for us so that our eyes may be enlightened by a spirit of wisdom and revelation to grasp and cherish the hope to which He has called us.

Can we have a really honest moment? We have held the Truth in our hands and missed it. We have claimed to know Jesus but lived like we don’t. We have let our faith grow stale and complacent, been content to be spoon fed a lesser gospel void of the passion and intimacy God desires to have with His people.

There is no one to blame but ourselves. We hold the living Word of God in our hands. We have a personal relationship with Jesus and His Spirit abides in us who believe. If we have never seen these things before, it’s because we have never looked. We have forgotten our first love and though He has never ceased His pursuit of us, I think we have allowed our love for Him to cool and become commonplace when He desires to sweep us up into the wild romance of truly living in step with Him.

And… He doesn’t shame us for missing it. He doesn’t scold us. He doesn’t accuse.

He gently, lovingly comes and offers us the cup of His covenant again. And again. And again

He comes to us, His Beloved, and He invites us to remember. To remember that we are His bride, bought with a price, sealed as His. To remember that the day is coming when our Groom will come and take us to the place He has prepared for us. Even when we are the unfaithful, adulterous fiance, He comes and invites us to reconnect to Himself.

God is stirring up His Church. He is aligning the hearts of His people and connecting messages across the globe. He is removing scales from our eyes and tearing down lies we have believed. He is reminding us that His Word is alive and His Spirit is moving and what will be our response? Will we be the generation that reaches to the ends of the earth saying,

 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. (Revelation 22:17 NLT)

What is your response? Jesus is holding out the cup of His covenant, His promise to you, to me. Will we say yes to His proposal? If we’ve said yes, will we renew those vows and live from the understanding that we are His Beloved and He is ours?

We may have never before heard the truth in all its fullness the way we did this weekend. But now we have. And it is the most beautiful invitation into the fullest life with Jesus, the life He longs for us to say yes to.

What will you do with what you now know? What will I do with it?  I pray we each will lay aside the stale communion we have grown accustomed to and enter into the intimate, personal communion that Jesus desires we experience with Him.

–Laura

The year was 1999. John and I were home from the mission field for a few months. During that time, we attended a conference, and during that conference one of the speakers asked us to close our eyes, to picture Jesus however we saw Him, and to visualize Him looking us in the eyes and saying “I love you.”  I closed my eyes, I visualized Jesus the way I picture Him, but I could not get myself “one on one” with Jesus. In my vision, I was part of a multitude and Jesus was telling all of us collectively that He loves us. When that moment in the conference was over, I leaned over to John and asked him, “Was that hard for you?” He said no. I was deeply disturbed and knew that I had some work to do around knowing that Jesus loves meYes, He loves all of us. But He also loves each of us.  We have to know that. We have to know that. We have to KNOW that.

I began by asking God to show me, to teach me. I had a part to play in this too–to believe that what He says is true and to replace lies with truth. As I began to believe and let myself experience that He loves ME, my entire relationship with Him began to change. All of a sudden, I didn’t have a quiet time out of duty, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) wait to get away with Jesus one on one. Prayer wasn’t a before meals and before bed habit, it became a life-line, an ongoing conversation, a joy. Loving others wasn’t a forced “supposed” to, it became an outflow of His love flowing through me. Serving in the church and elsewhere wasn’t an obligation or a “have-to”, but became weightless–an honor, a privilege, a divine partnership.

ALL of the abundant life that Jesus promises hinges on us knowing that we are loved individually, and the natural response to that love is love.

I continually ask Him to help me understand it, to grasp it more deeply. Laura referred to Ephesians 3:16-19 in her writing  “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. THEN you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”  

In the last month I have heard these verses from four different, unrelated speakers, and the “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep” part was the K-Love verse of the day not too long ago. God is speaking loudly to His bride—“Please, Church, get this! I LOVE you. I LOVE you, I LOVE you.”

So, when I came upon  the paragraph in Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way, about the cup that Christ offers being a marriage proposal, I had to know more.   I have been blown away by what I learned, by what I shared. How could any of us settle for “religion” when Jesus himself has proposed to us?  Oh– I pray that we get it!  There is no one like Him, no love like His, and nothing else in all of creation has the power to transform my life, your life, and this world. Do you believe it? Do you believe that He loves YOU?

Jesus says to you–you the individual you– I Jesus, take you from this day forward to love you, to comfort you, to honor and keep you, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others be faithful to you as long as we both shall live. Will you accept my offer, will you accept my life and give me your life, your love, your faithfulness in return?

What will your response be?

–Luanne

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5 thoughts on “Covenant Marriage

  1. First—I LOVE this sentence that Laura wrote: “Because now we have finally gotten tired of eating someone else’s communion.” I will chew on that longer than John and Luanne chewed on their marriage communion bread.

    So much ran through my mind during yesterday’s message. I honestly couldn’t take notes fast enough. I am not sure I can make what is running through my mind coherent. My thoughts go to “X” and then I find I’m skipping to “Y” and back to “X” again. I’ll give it a shot and see how this goes.

    My first thought was the silence of the bride to be as the negotiations were being held. She had no input. That was, to me, a picture of God calling us to salvation. Maybe we are present or hear words spoken as the negotiations are going on, but unless He offers salvation to us, we can’t receive it. Once it is offered all conversation ceases until we either reach out and take the cup or we lower our face and reject the offer.

    My next thought may be odd but it crossed my mind none the less. Who does the father of the bride to be represent? All of the other pieces made sense to me, but the father of the bride had a significance that I still can’t quite fit. More chewing…

    I found myself shaking my head at those who scoff at the Bible. A book written by that many authors over such a span of time and yet the picture of Christ paying for our sins PAST, present and future was so incredibly clear to me, maybe for the first time, ever. The groom not only offers a dowry for the bride’s value but to pay her father for all of her past. That was a very “WOW!” moment for me.

    Last, that I’ll mention (but far from last in my thoughts), is the coming for the bride. Yes. It was obvious to me this represented Christ returning for His Church. But, I also heard in it when Christ calls each of us home in the present day. The Father says, (Verne’s paraphrase), “It is time…go and collect Your bride from the broken world and bring her to You to celebrate for eternity.” What amazing peace!

    Luanne: I had my own moment in time when being with Christ was no longer a before meals and at bedtime ritual. For years now I race home to be alone with Him. I wrestle with doing and going at times because I’ve not found anywhere else I’d rather be even if the choices are very, very good. What makes me get up and go is that I can’t be His light or His hands and feet sitting at home. I have to be out to watch for where He is already at work and step in and do what He’s called me to do there—to love extraordinarily.

    There is so, so much more but I’ll just chew some more in silence on those points for now. I’m already so excited to be in the house of the Lord again next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Verne, I thought too about the bride’s father and haven’t come to a resting place yet, but because God is God, and His ways are mysterious, I wondered it that too is Him? He calls us His children. He loves us dearly. Did God the Father and God the Son “negotiate” over us? Philippians 2 suggests that it could be… Just a thought. I’d love to hear your further insight. –Luanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am pondering that possibility. I didn’t share more of my thoughts because I have a bad tendency to overthink.
      I have to listen to the message again when I can stop it and write down my thoughts. Perhaps, then, things that are still muddy in my mind will become more clear and the Spirit will reveal to me what is and what isn’t of importance to pursue further.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am indeed tired of eating another’s communion and just sipping at the lukewarm and watered-down broth ladled into my spoon. Any new insight that makes a “ritual” into relationship is invaluable in my walk with Him. I kept coming back to the receiving of a new name during the Covenant ceremony. To be honest, I actually bucked at the idea of taking my husband’s last name, as my name was a huge part of my identity and lineage as my father’s health declined. It took a great deal of setting that aside and trusting that the new name would become just as special. When God gives us a new name, it can be equally difficult to walk away from the past names that have plagued and shamed us for so long (inept, unloved, abandoned, unforgivable, etc). He gently renames us as Beloved. That’s all- we are His Beloved, and it comes with the best engagement ring of His Spirit. Laura and Luanne, so much to process and marinate in this week!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Abi, I love what you said about it being difficult to walk away from the names that have plagued us for so long and accept the name of His Beloved. That is so true and something I have battled as I’m learning to live into the identity God has given me. Those names that we have believed and allowed to become our identities reach deep into our hearts with a vice grip that refuses to let go. Gratefully, the power of the Holy Spirit within us is stronger than the lies we have believed and as we lean in, He gently pries the lies away and replaces them with truth. Thank you for sharing your thoughts… beautiful perspective!! ❤
      -Laura

      Liked by 1 person

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