Home – Part 2

What do I mean by saying Christ is my true home?  I’d like to answer this question in the context of marriage.  From creation through eternity, the marriage relationship stands apart from all other relationships as the most significant and intimate one of all.  (This is why it is an important institution to protect!)  There is no other relationship that describes the connection between God and his people throughout the Old and New Testaments like marriage.  Recently, I’ve been studying the betrothal customs of biblical times.  The insights I have gained have helped me to understand the relationship between Christ (the bridegroom) and those who are called by his name – the church (the bride).

– In biblical times, the father of the bridegroom was the central figure in choosing the bride for his son.  This is a difficult notion for Westerners who are accustomed to identifying,  “falling in love” and choosing their future spouses.  It was the responsibility, the privilege, and honor of the Hebrew father to find a suitable helper for his son.

Similarly, God the Father has done this by choosing his son’s beloved. “He chose us before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Ephesians 1:4  God initiates the relationship between Jesus and his bride.  This concept would have been easily understood by Jews who recognized that they were a chosen people.

– There was a betrothal ceremony which solidified the covenant between the man and woman a year or two before the actual marriage took place.  Although betrothal is often associated with engagement in Western culture, it was far more significant and elaborate in biblical times.  During a betrothal ceremony the groom offered a payment for the bride.  Christ, our groom, has paid the bridal price for us: his death in exchange for our sinful lives.

–  The practice of modern engagement and biblical betrothal have something in common:  there is a promise to marry signified by both.  However, engagements are less binding.  Betrothals carried the legal distinction that the bride now belonged to the groom.  Although not yet married and still not living together, she had a new name.  Her identity was found in her relationship to the groom.  In biblical times, only a divorce would nullify a betrothal.

Today, as the Bride of Christ, believers have a new identity.  Believers are forever called by his name and belong to him.  Their lives are to be lived for him alone.

– In biblical times, the bridegroom provided a garment for the bride to wear.  The groom might furnish fine linen and jewelry for the bride.  Those who have been betrothed to Jesus have been purified and clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

God gave the apostle John a revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos of the marriage feast between Christ and his bride.  “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready; it was granted her (provided for her by the groom) to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” Revelation 19:7-8  Jesus has provided his bride a garment of purity, righteousness and holiness, fit for the marriage ceremony with the Son of the Most High God.

– It was customary, after the betrothal ceremony, for the bridegroom to return to the father’s house for a year or two to prepare a place for the wedding feast and for the couple to live together as man and wife.

At the Passover dinner in the upper room on the night he was betrayed, Jesus, declared, “If I go  prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3  Until I studied the context of biblical betrothal and marriage customs, I never fully understood the significance of this statement.  Jesus, as bridegroom, was preparing his disciples for the period of separation until his return.

–  During the period of waiting, the bride would prepare for her bridegroom’s return.  She knew that he promised to take her to a new home, but she did not know when.  She lived in a state of readiness until the day he would return and they would consummate the relationship.

As the Bride of Christ, believers are awaiting the Bridegroom’s return.  The Apostle Peter describes the day that the Lord will return in the third chapter of his second epistle:  “According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot of blemish, and at peace.” v. 13-14

Upon Jesus’ return believers will be united together with the Living Lord.  Everything in our lives that means home – spouses, families, friends, place, familiarity, comfort, security and fulfillment will, when Christ returns, be consummated in the marriage of the Bridegroom and Bride.  All of our longings for intimacy will be satisfied in him.  In addition, Jesus will provide a new home, a new heaven and earth to live together.

So what does that mean to those who believe?

1)  Recognize that home and longing for home are earthly glimpses of a deeper reality that can only be satisfied in Jesus.

2)  Prepare for the day of Jesus’ return by being “diligent to be found by him without spot of blemish, and at peace.”

3)  Rejoice that you belong to Jesus through his atoning sacrifice on the cross.  You are his bride, you are called by his name, and he will, one day, take you to a place that he is preparing to live together for eternity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Home – Part 1

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I’ve been thinking a lot about home ever since I left Illinois two weeks ago.  I lived west of Chicago for twenty-three years, longer than any other place in my lifetime.  I was born and raised (graduating from high school) in Yonkers, NY.  My college years were spent in Holland, Michigan, seminary years in New Brunswick, NJ, five years in central NY (Ron’s first church) in the magnificent Finger Lake region, and four years (second pastorate) in suburban northern NJ.  My parents lived in Ocean City, NJ for nearly a decade before and after I was married, so home was there (which I loved because I enjoy walks on the beach!)  Now, Los Fresnos, TX is my home.

While I was back in Illinois to visit my parents, I had the opportunity to see all my siblings for the first time since 1997.  I also had the amazing privilege to see each of my kids and grandkids and spend some time with a few treasured friends.  It was an unexpected trip and blessed one as I connected with people I love.  Being with them gave me a sense of belonging.

Sitting in Midway airport (Chicago), I was once again conflicted by the notion of home.  Leaving my parents, children and family gets harder and harder with each parting.  Mom and Dad are getting more frail and it is only a matter of time when we will say our final good-byes.  My kids and grandkids are precious to me and I miss being part of their daily lives.

But I also missed my husband and my relationships in Texas.  In four years I’ve developed meaningful friendships here and am deeply committed to the vision of To Every Tribe Ministries, the mission agency of which we a part.

So how do I define home these days?  A seasoned missionary once said that she only felt home in an airplane!  After talking with a group of missionary-student wives last week on the topic of loneliness and living apart from family and familiarity it was clear to me that my true sense of home can only be found in my relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is my source of joy, comfort, strength and fulfillment.  As long as I seek to satisfy this longing with places or people, I will always be dissatisfied.

St. Augustine wrote, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.”  Everything that means home for me, the desire for love, belonging, intimacy, protection and rest can only and ultimately be found in Christ alone.  Houses are temporary.  Friends and family are flawed by sin and are with us for only a while.  But Jesus Christ is perfect and everlasting.  Through his substitutionary sacrifice and death on the cross, he has made a way for us to belong to him for eternity in the presence of a holy God.

In my next blog, I will explain more.  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the biblical customs of betrothal and marriage.  Jesus is not only the person to provide our insatiable desire for relationship, he also provides a place we call home.

Honor Your Father and Mother

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Last Wednesday, I made an emergency trip to DeKalb, IL.  My mom (88) and dad (91) live in the health care center of Oak Crest Retirement Center.  Last August, Dad fell and broke his collar bone, three ribs and a hip.  Because of aspiration issues, he developed pneumonia at the same time.  His recovery was courageous and inspirational.  I was able to stay in IL from August through the end of October.  However, as I was packing my car to return to Texas at the end of October, Mom fell and broke her hip.  Since then, each of them, through hard work and determination, has regained the ability to walk with walkers.  They are my heroes.

Three weeks ago, Mom developed a terrible cold accompanied by a cantankerous cough and bronchial congestion.  A week later, Dad came down with it.  However, since Dad had, just the same week, begun eating pureed foods for the first time since last August (he’s been feed through a feeding tube ever since) it was difficult to know if Dad had a cold or had aspirated food.  Because Dad was getting worse, and aspiration pneumonia generally ends in death, I hopped on a plane.  Dad has improved due to O2 and nebulizer treatments but his and Mom’s coughs continue to linger.  It doesn’t appear that these are the “final days” of Dad’s journey so my time here is more relaxed than I had originally anticipated.  

This visit has been precious to me.  I’m well aware of the gift of having time with my parents.  There is an unmistakable quality to life when one is aware that time is fleeting.  It’s similar to holding a newborn or spending moments with a loved one at the airport.  You want to hold them in your arms for as long as you can so that your brain will be imprinted forever.

Until recently, visits with my parents were accompanied by trips to the hardware store, Kohls, or restaurants.  Often Ron and I would get involved in some project at their condo or apartment.  But this trip is different.  We don’t do much of anything but sit.  And we watch television together like old reruns of The Waltons and Fox News.  We have attended two chapel services.  (It was a meaningful moment when my Dad, who is NPO – nothing by mouth – took communion. He survived!)  

The last couple of nights I’ve stayed until my folks were tucked into bed.  I love sitting on the edge of their beds and talking to them before they go to sleep. I’ve even been able to massage my mom’s tired legs and feet.  How special it is to be able to do for them what they have selflessly done for me over the years.

Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12  Just like all the commandments that were given to Moses, this one is meant to show us our sinful, self-centered, rebellious hearts.  It may be the first commandment we break as soon as we are able to assert our own will!  However, it is a command that is meant to benefit us in our relationship with our parents, by bringing glory to God.  

It is also a commandment with a promise attached.  I don’t have a commentary to read an explanation of what that would mean for you and me, but this I know, I am blessed when I honor them.  

This coming weekend, my three siblings (Glenn from Colorado, Jean from Indiana and Carol from Sycamore, IL) and I will be together with my parents in DeKalb.  It has been at least a decade since the Barrowman family has been together.  How wonderful to share this time together to honor our parents and rejoice in the long days that the LORD our God has given to us.  

Thy Kingdom Come

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This is the fourth Spring that Ron and I have spent in Texas.  Spring is much more subtle here.  The deciduous trees lose their leaves during the Winter months, but so much remains green that Winter is hardly noticeable to a Northerner.  Ron continues to mow the lawn.  It’s not as often as during the rest of the year and he always remarks that he’d rather mow the lawn than shovel snow.  Birds from the North find our neighborhood a good place to vacation for the Winter!

But Winters in the North are very different.  They are marked by naked trees and brown lawns from October to May; freezing temperatures that chill you down to the bone; long stretches of sunless days; and a universal resignation, “This is what life is like if you live in the North.”  Sometimes the longing for Spring is so palpable, you sense it everywhere you go.  Even strangers at the grocery store or doctor’s office will ask, “Will Spring ever get here?” 

Last week, I was speaking to my dear friend, JoAnn, from Naperville, IL.  JoAnn and I talk about our kids, husbands, recipes and diets, but we also talk about the economy, culture, politics, and world events.  Last week we had been discussing a report by medical ethicists from Oxford University which stated that newborn babies could be killed if their parents decided that they were not wanted due to unforeseen medical issues or disabilities.  JoAnn (who has a 28 year-old son with Down’s Syndrome) and I lamented about the slaughter of children who would not ever have the opportunity to live because, as the ethicists claimed, they are “morally irrelevant.  Towards the end of the conversation JoAnn remarked, “Don’t you long for Jesus to return?”  JoAnn’s heart was responding to living in a world under the dominion of sin, brokenness and lies, just as a person who is weary of Winter longs for Spring’s return.

Isaiah the prophet gives us a glimpse of what that day will be like, when Jesus returns to reign:  For as the earth brings forth its sprouts as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. Is 61:11

Let’s not give in to universal resignation that states, “This is what it’s like to live in this world.”  Instead, let’s earnestly pray, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

 

Foggy Mornings

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Misty mornings are quite common at this time of year where we live in Texas.  Daytime temperatures are often in the eighties but nighttime temperatures can get down in the fifties.  The condensation in the atmosphere from the change in temperature combined with our proximity to the Gulf of Mexico contributes to extra moisture, hence the heavy fog.

We live on the edge of a hayfield.  Bordering the field is a hedgerow of trees, home to migrating birds, and beyond that, a barn of horses.  But on foggy mornings, I can not see any of it.  Sometimes, when I have to leave the house early, it is somewhat frightening to get behind the wheel of a car, not able to see more than a couple car lengths ahead of me.  However, I know that by late morning, the fog will lift and the sun will make what is unseen clear.

The apostle Paul speaks similarly about his knowledge of God in his first letter to the Corinthian church.  He says, For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known ~ v. 13:12. Even Paul, the great scholar and church planter, admits that his understanding of God compares to nothing more than a reflection in a poor quality mirror.  However, just as certain as I am that the fog burns off by late morning, so too, Paul asserts, God will one day be seen face to face!

There is much I still have to learn about God through His word.  I believe the Bible gives us the clearest picture of His character, promises and purpose throughout the Old and New Testaments and, more specifically, through the life, death and resurrection of His Son.  But it is only a glimpse of His glory.  One day we will see Him face to face, and we will finally know, just as we are known.  

His Son is going to return, and He will make what is unseen clear.  Looking forward to that day!

I Would Be Unstoppable If . .

No too long ago, I was on the hunt for the perfect fabric at Hobby Lobby when I saw a metal sign that said, “I would be unstoppable if I could just get started!”  For $3.40 it was a bargain I couldn’t refuse!  I keep it at the doorway between my garage/exercise/sewing room to motivate me to “just do it.”  As most people who know me would probably agree, I’m pretty good about coming up with ideas, but not so good with the follow-through.

Blogging is one of those things that I’ve often thought I would like to do but found it hard to get started.  I’ve been encouraged to blog from people who have seen some of the stuff I’ve written over the years.  But frankly, I’ve wondered whether or not I have the discipline to keep at it.  The template for this blog was designed over a year ago by Ron (the “techie”) but I just couldn’t get in gear.  Disciplining myself, whether it is for exercise, dieting, flossing, or bible reading, just isn’t part of my natural bent.  

But here I am.  Not unlike Samuel and Isaiah, who both said, “Here I am,” to the Lord, perhaps blogging is not so much about what you do or say, but being available to say something that connects the hearts of the writers and the readers.  And like Samuel and Isaiah, I desire to know God and make Him known.  

So, by the grace of God and by the power of His Holy Spirit within me, I just may be unstoppable if I just get started.  Only time will tell.  I hope to spend my time blogging about the ways God is working in my life and how He teaches me.  I’m passionate about His character and promises and about finishing the task of making His name known throughout the world.  (Did you know that a third of the world has never even heard the name of Jesus?)  

I can assure you.  I come to this task with fear and in trepidation.  There is so much that I do not know and I do not want to present myself as an expert.  But I remember an illustration that Bill Hillegonds, the chaplain at Hope College would often use, “We are all beggars, showing one another where to find bread.” That’s all that I am.  

“Here am I.  Send me.” ~ Is. 6:8