Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Our Priorities ... As Women

God gave Solomon, and us by extension, an outline for godly women to strive toward. We find this outline in the book of Proverbs, chapter 31, and verses 10-31. So I will quote it here from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition. But I will also add a modern point of reference for our understanding. Let’s get started!

Read more here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Though We Are Single … We Are Still Christ’s Bride

How do we go about building a close - spiritually intimate - relationship with Jesus?  As His Bride, this is the most important thing we can learn while we are on the journey to our last, greatest and most important life-long relationship – eternity with Him.

There are times in the lives of some men and women that we find ourselves alone, and perhaps we are not happy with our periods of aloneness. And yet God has said: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 KJV. This solitary life, no matter the way it was instituted, can be a blessed time; and was given by God for your benefit, according to the verse we just read.

Nobody wants to live alone. God created us to be family units, joined to a spouse to raise our children and serve Him. He said in Genesis 1:18; And the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (NKJV) And then God created Adam’s wife. But the marriage partnership is to be an example – a mirror image, as it were – of our personal relationship with God. Our daily walk with Him is to resemble the commitment and interactions of a human, Christian marriage.

But how are we to interact with the creator of the universe on such an intimate basis; like we would with a physical spouse? No, it is not physically possible to wrap your arms around someone who is everywhere at all times and yet not visible to the human eye. So, do you walk into your home at the close of the day, kick your shoes off and shout to the heavens, “Hi, Honey, I’m home.”???

While this thought makes us giggle at the visual we see, it isn’t really practical – or fulfilling – in any sense.

So, what is it like to be intimate with the Lord? This is what we will endeavor to uncover together. We will look at the ancient Jewish marriage practices and customs. We will also look at scriptures on relationships and word definitions from the Strong’s Concordance and Webster’s Dictionary to gain a fuller meaning of them. In this way, we will gain a better understanding of our relationship with Jesus and the intimacy we should share with Him.

By now many of us have spiritual mentors to walk with us on this journey, mature persons of like faith who are there for us in our struggles and triumphs. They will be most valuable while we are in our learning process. Another useful tool for us is a journal where we can record our thoughts and feelings during this time. This for future our reflection and to share with your mentor for help during times of trouble and celebration in times of triumph.

Shall we begin?

Ancient Jewish Marriage Customs & Practices Mirror Our Relationship with Jesus as Types and Shadows things that have happened and things which are to come.

Recreation of Ancient Temporary Bridal Camber

Ancient Jewish Marriage Customs and Traditions:

Now, most of us think of marriage as a relationship that begins after the wedding takes place; but this wasn’t so in ancient Israel. In the first century – and possibly for many generations before - marriage consisted of three parts or steps; with the wedding being the culminating event that began the final phase of a marriage and the beginning of a family. The first step was the Arrangement. This was followed by the Betrothal and culminated about a year later with the third part - the Wedding Ceremony.

It was expected that all children would grow to be married. From infancy, they learned of the sacredness and sanctity of the marriage covenant, its blessings and burdens; and of course, the seriousness of its responsibilities.

Likewise in Scripture, we see these same traditions being followed in our marriage to Jesus. Just as the marriage begins with the arrangement  and the selection of the bride; so, too, believers in Jesus have been chosen as our Messiah's Bride: He “GOD” chose us in Him before “the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4); “You did not choose me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16); “From the beginning God chose you” (2 Thessalonians 2:13); “But you are a chosen people” (1 Peter 2:19).

It is interesting to note that in the biblical example of Abraham, Isaac, and Eliezar, that the arrangements are initiated by the father, in the name of the son, through the means of the servant. It becomes even more interesting when we realize that the servant’s name, Eliezar, means "comforter" or "helper". And so, ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who plays the part of the "matchmaker". He is the "Comforter" - the "Helper." It is He who calls us to enter into this union with our Bridegroom. It is He who remains to guide and protect us as we journey to meet our Beloved Bridegroom.

By the first century the custom had developed that, after the arrangements had been initiated, when he reached marriageable age, the young man would travel from his home to the home of the young woman and approach her father to discuss the arrangements prior to the betrothal. There he negotiated with her father concerning the Bride Price he would pay to make her his own. This Bride Price is far from being a modest token; it was often the equivalent of a year’s wages or more. It was intended to be costly to the young man, tangible evidence of his love and willingness to sacrifice on behalf of his chosen one.
They would also negotiate over the contents of the written marriage covenant; which stated among his promises to her father concerning his ability to care for and keep her. It also served the purpose of showing the father of the potential bride how much – or how little – the prospective groom understood about the responsibility of taking on a wife and building a family.

Once the young girl's father found the Bride Price and covenant acceptable, the prospective groom would be allowed to approach her with his proposal. This "proposal" was in the form of a cup of wine. The young man would pour this cup, take a sip, and then set it before the young woman. To accept the proposal, she would drink it "to the dregs" - taking the bitter with the sweet. In doing so, she was binding herself to him. At this point, the marriage covenant was established and the young man and woman were legally bound to one another in a state called "betrothal". Betrothal was so binding, in fact, that it could only be broken by a religious divorce, a "get", which was available only to the groom during the betrothal period, but only for reasons of her infidelity. From that moment the bride was declared "sanctified," or set apart exclusively for her bridegroom.

After the cup had been taken, the bridegroom would make an announcement to his bride that went something like this: "I'm going back to my father’s house to prepare a place for you, and when he says it is ready; I will return and take you there to be with me forever."
The bride, in the meanwhile, spent her time learning, from the women of her family and his, how to please her husband and preparing to live as a wife. She was presented with a dowry by her father as part of her inheritance, to equip her for her new life. During the time of separation, she also prepared her wedding dress, gathered her trousseau, and made herself ready for the return of her beloved.

In our relationship with Christ, just as the young man would travel to the home of his intended bride, Jesus came from His Father's house to the home of His bride, the earth.
Our Bridegroom has given us bridal gifts to show the value He places upon us and to help us remember Him during these long days of separation. Just as a bridegroom would have told his bride that he would go to prepare a place for her, Our Bridegroom has said: "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2-3).

The culminating step – the Wedding Ceremony – is known as "nisuin" a Hebrew word which literally means “taken.” This is based on the Hebrew verb "nasa", which means "to carry" or "to lift up". Nisuin is quite a graphic description, as we shall soon see.

As the bride was awaiting the return of her betrothed, the bridegroom was building and decorating with increasing anticipation. Then finally the chamber would be ready and his father would tell him, "It's time." The excited bridegroom would assemble his groomsmen to accompany him on the trip to claim his bride. They would set out at night, making every attempt to completely surprise the bride. For this reason, the returning groom was often referred to as “a thief in the night.” But, there were strict rules this“thief” had to follow.
When the wedding party reached their destination, the bride and groom would enter the bridal chamber that he had labored so long and lovingly to prepare for her. Once the door was shut, the couple would spend seven days together in a time of seclusion. No one else, with the exception of select servants, would enter the chamber during this time and the couple themselves did not leave until the Bridal Week was concluded. The groom's father, meanwhile, would have assembled the wedding guests, who would be gathered together with him, waiting to celebrate the new marriage. 

Now, as the guests outside enjoyed the festivities, the bride would present her dowry to her new husband and the young couple would share another cup of wine together, the “Cup of Completion.” Outside the chamber, the groom's father would hold a sort of "Open House" that lasted for seven full days, as we can read in Judges 14:10-12, for example.

Chuppa or Modern Jewish 'Bridal Chamber'
At this time, we who are a part of the family of God are all in the Betrothal - or preparation period – of our marriage relationship with Jesus, our Bridegroom. We should be spending our time learning to communicate with Him. Learning what things please Him and displease Him; and learning how best to serve Him in all areas of our life. We should be building up our dowry with the gifts of our Father and bringing more people into the kingdom as brothers and sisters and a part of Christ’s Bride. Titus 2:3-8 tells the older women of the church to teach the younger their proper roles; “…to love their husbands …” etc. If this example holds true for a natural marital relationship, it also holds true for the spiritual. More mature Christians are to teach, or disciple, the new members of Christ’s Bride in their proper roles in His body; how to love their new Husband and the rest of the family of GOD.

I heard a Preacher on the radio one morning saying that he looks for things that he is passionate about to use in drawing closer to Jesus. One of his passions was to drink a cup of hot coffee on a dark cold morning out on his front porch.  This was something he could use that would draw him into a more passionate relationship with Jesus. He would take his ‘coffee break’ and use it as a time of praise and worship unto Jesus while enjoying his morning cup. 

I play the flute and sax, at times I get so into the worship of this instrumental music it is like I am “praying” the instruments, not just playing them. I love to sing, so I may use my voice as an instrument of prayer and praise, too. I hope this is understandable because I don’t have any other way to describe this experience.

I also get very close to Jesus when He whispers His words in my ears for me to write – such as this and my books, articles, poetry, and stories of all kinds. I really get lost in another place between this world and the realm His Spirit lives in when I get into my writing and music. It is so different that I really have no words to explain it to you.

I know that God has given each of you talents, events or places that bring out the best in you, too. Things and places that you are very passionate about. You have to find in those places, in those talents and/or events, where you can be closest to Jesus. Go into that passionate place with HIM and spend time. Only then you will know what I am talking about. I encourage you to find those things that you are passionate about in your everyday life and use them as an outlet of intimate, personal worship with your – with our – Bridegroom, Jesus Christ! I believe that the ecstasy I encounter when I get into these intimate times with Jesus is very like – though in the spiritual realm, not the physical – the special times that are shared between a husband and wife. Because that is exactly what they are. There is no other way to describe the special intimacy I have with Jesus when I get into these places of worship.

When we learn to be intimate with Jesus, our Bridegroom, we will know how to relate better in our marital relationship with a mate of God’s choosing as our spouse – when/if He calls us into marriage. Because all of the principles we have taken from the ancient Jewish marriage practices are the natural types and the shadows for the spiritual marriage we have with Him.

I pray that each of you finds this special relationship with our Lord as I have found, and continue to find today. It is truly amazing! Discover who you really are in Him and grow in His grace in the process!

Because children were under the complete authority of their fathers, the arrangements would be made by the heads of the households; the father of the groom-to-be taking the initiative. Although the customs had changed somewhat by the first century, the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Eliezar is a classic example of the arrangement being initiated.

While it was the responsibility of the father to select a bride for his son, many times this wasn't practical or possible. So the father would delegate this responsibility to a representative. This representative eventually became known as the marriage broker or matchmaker. Often the matchmaker would remain with the young woman to protect and guide her on her journey to meet her groom.

Just before he left his intended, the bridegroom would present his "chosen one" with a bridal gift, a token of his love for her and his promises made on her behalf. Its purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their separation of his love for her and of his promise to return to take her as his wife. Then the bridegroom would return to his father's house, where he occupied himself preparing a bridal chamber in anticipation of their wedding day.

Just before the expected day, she would immerse herself in a ritual bath to symbolize her "rebirth" into a new life. All through this waiting time, the bride wore a veil whenever she went out as a symbol of her consecration to her groom alone. As time went on, she would assemble her sisters and bridesmaids who would go with her and attend to her until the wedding ceremony began. Each would have to have their oil lamps ready and would wait at the bride’s house every night on the chance that the bridegroom would come along with his groomsmen and sweep them all away to a sudden and joyous wedding ceremony.

The Scriptures are our written covenant, where over and over again God declares His love for us and HIs promises to provide for all our needs: “For my God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches…” Philippians 4:19. And the Bride Price our Bridegroom has paid is the highest possible—He gave His life.

We can see the negotiations between the groom and the father of the bride paralleled in the events that occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane, but we have to realize that in the case of our Bridegroom the Father plays a dual role. He is not only the Father of the Groom but of the Bride, too. His will concerning the price is very clear—He places great value on us -  His Bride.

Just as the bridegroom would pour a cup of wine for the bride to drink to seal the marriage contract, we see Jesus pouring this cup for His Chosen in Matthew 26:27: "Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

The Cup of Redemption symbolized the cup of His life, which was soon to be poured out. We, as the Bride, take on His life when we drink the cup of His Salvation.  And what did He say when He gave thanks? There is just one Jewish blessing over the wine and it has been said for thousands of years: "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine."  These may have been the thoughts He had, if not the very words that He used. We are ultimately that "fruit." Our Bridegroom is praising the Father for bringing forth His Bride just prior to setting the cup before her in the proposal. At Christ's last Passover Celebration with His disciples’ -  just prior to the crucifixion - Jesus’ disciples drank of this cup. They accepted the offer of His life for themselves and for all generations of believers who would follow after them.

Just as the bride would undergo a ritual bath symbolizing her "rebirth," turning aside from former things & starting her new life with her beloved, we too undergo water baptism which symbolizes our "rebirth."

Just as the bride would be given a dowry by her father, we too are given gifts by God our Father as a portion of our inheritance, to help us prepare to live as the wife of the Lamb.

The rabbis were kind enough to insist that they give the bride a warning as the groom and his entourage approached her father’s house. One of the groomsmen would shout something like "Behold, the bridegroom comes!" This would be followed by the sound of a "shofar" (a ram's horn, or biblical trumpet) just in case their shout wasn't enough to rouse the bride and her attendants from their slumber.

When the bride heard the shout and sound of the shofar, she knew she only had time to grab her luggage and light her lamp, for the time of waiting was over. Her sisters and bridesmaids also had to have their lamps trimmed and ready. To say that the terrain in Israel is a bit rocky would be an understatement and it is seriously doubtful that anyone would try to navigate the dark roads of ancient Israel without a lamp to light their way.

The bridegroom would wait outside while his groomsmen rushed in to steal away the bride and her attendants. People in the village would, of course, be awakened by all the noise. They would see the lamps, hear the shouts and the laughter, and realize a wedding was underway. Many would come out and join in the procession as the wedding party made their way with singing, and dancing, back to the home of the father of the groom.

Do you remember that I mentioned the new couple wouldn't leave their chamber during this time? I personally think this next custom might have had something to do with that fact. You see, the marriage had to be actually consummated before the celebration could begin since Jewish Law said that the bride and groom become MUST become "one flesh" before their marriage was recognized.

While the couple was in seclusion, the "friend of the bridegroom," the forerunner of a modern groom’s Best Man, would stand near the door of the bridal chamber and wait to hear the bridegroom's voice. When the marriage had been consummated, the groom would tell his friend – handing him the blood-stained sheets as proof - who would then announce the good news to their assembled guests. Only then could the celebration start.

At the end of the week, the bride and groom would make their long awaited "Official Appearance" to the cheers of their guests. They would share a joyous meal, the Marriage Supper, to honor the new family unit. The bride would have discarded her veil by now as she a married woman, fully given to her husband. All could now see exactly who it was that the groom had chosen.

After the Marriage Supper, the bride and groom, now husband and wife, would travel back through the village, to the place of their permanent dwelling – most often the bridal chamber they had recently vacated – now freshly cleaned and decked out with the bride's belongings – to live out this last step of marriage and the first days of their family life.

Just as the ancient Israeli bridegroom could return for his bride only after his father approved their new dwelling and gave the word, our Bridegroom told us: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32-33).

We, as the Bride of Christ, are now consecrated, set apart and awaiting the return of our Bridegroom. We should not be distracted by others who would try to "woo" us with contracts of their own, such as false teachers; or the world and the things in it. We, too, wear a veil, the covering of the Spirit, showing our consecration to our Beloved. Our consecrated, set-apart, ways should speak to those around us of the promises we have made. (The apostle Paul spoke of the removing of our veil in I Corinthians 13:11-12; "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.")

We should be spending time preparing ourselves for Jesus’ return and learning to live in a way that pleases our Beloved – Jesus Christ. And we should live in hopeful expectation and confidence of His return: "Looking for the blessed hope - the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior. Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13. This return of Jesus for His Bride is made very clear in Scripture. It seems to me that the "nisuin" tradition of the early Jews must have been in Paul's mind when he wrote to those with questions about Christ’s return: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

I want to focus for a minute on the term, "caught up". One of the common objections made by those who don't believe in the “Rapture of the Church” is that the word "rapture" is not found in Scripture. I agree. This word is not found in English translations. However, the Scriptures have been translated into many languages, one of them being Latin. The word "rapture" is an anglicized version of the word "rapere" from the Latin Vulgate, which is translated "caught up" in the passage quoted above. When the Bible was translated into other languages, this Latin term continued to be used in many of then in its anglicized form. (I can see why this may have been done – sort of “poetic license”, as it were. The term “The Rapture” has a much better ring to it than “The Caught Up".)

While there are other arguments against this position, this particular one should be laid to rest. Incidentally, the Greek version of this word is "harpazo" and the Hebrew word is "nasa", from which we get the word "nisuin" - the word used to describe the last portion of the marriage customs (I have added the quotations, italics and underlining for emphasis and/or clarification).

This same preacher also took field trips into various cemeteries to walk among and read tombstones. He drew closer to the Lord as he read of the different people who had gone before. I am not quite sure how these cemetery trips draw his passions out and bring him closer to Jesus, but I was able to use his examples to look into my own life and draw upon my personal passions to list a couple that I use to bring myself into more intimate places in Jesus.

I am a very musically grounded person in that, if I am not hearing the praises of heaven, in heart and head, I know I have fallen short in some area. So I start searching out where I am lacking, that I may quickly repent and get back into that special place where His Voice reigns.

When I am in the best place in my relationship with our Bridegroom I can HEAR Him whisper his songs of praise in my ears and feel his VOICE reverberate throughout my entire being; thus putting me in a place where I MUST sing to Him what He is singing to me.


  • What things are you passionate about? List at least three.
  • How can you use these passions to draw closer to and become intimate with Jesus?
  • Ask Him to use those talents He has given you to be passionate for Him:­­

Dear Lord,
Show me where my passions lay and how to incorporate them into my personal times of worship ...