Wednesday, May 9, 2007

All We Like Sheep

All We Like Sheep

It happened in July, 2005, in rural Turkish village. Sheep were grazing in the field on a beautiful summer day. The shepherds had left the herd to graze in the fields while they ate breakfast. As they were eating, one of the sheep jumped off the cliff. Over the cliff’s edge he went, dropping down 45 feet to his death.

I’m sure you’ve heard before sheep aren’t exactly the brightest animals. But even the shepherds were surprised at what happened next. After the one sheep had jumped over the edge of the cliff, another followed. And another. Still another. Another after that. In total, about 1,500 sheep jumped over the edge. Approximately 450 sheep from the herd died. It was reported the sheep at the bottom of the pile started to cushion the falls of the following sheep, which is why only slightly under one third of the herd perished.

How many of us are following the crowd today? “Give up, already.” “Get on with your life.” “You deserve better.” “You have Biblical grounds.” “No one should suffer like you are.” “God wants you to be happy.” Lies, all lies!!! Lies from the very pits of hell, designed to cause you to stumble, to cause you to fall into the world’s way, and not listen to the voice of God calling you to a better way – to His Way.

We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.

(Isaiah 53:6a, The Message)

As we listen to the world telling us to handle our marriage the world’s way, and not God’s way, we are like those sheep, jumping off the cliff.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
(Hosea 4:6 NKJV)

So many people choose the wrong path, following the crowd. Sadly there are many among those following the wrong path who claim Christ as Savior. Twice in the Gospels, it is recorded that Christ saw the crowds following Him, and they were described as “sheep without a shepherd.”

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 NIV)

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34 NIV)

In the story I mentioned above, we see what happens when sheep are without a shepherd. They get into trouble. Quite often, BIG trouble. Who are you listening to? Are you listening to the voices telling you lies? Or are you listening to the voices exhorting you from the Word of God?

If you’re here today, and reading this message today, God has spoken to you in a very powerful way about marriage, and most especially YOUR marriage. He has conveyed to you that His Plan is one man, one woman, for a lifetime. He has you, your spouse and your family in His hand.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:27-28 NKJV)

Fortunately, we do have a shepherd – The Good Shepherd. He has told us what to do in His Word. Don’t listen to the voices of the world, or else you may just go right over the cliff to your own peril. Listen to the voice of God, from His Word, telling You how much He loves you, your spouse and your family. Listen to how He is telling you that He heals and restores - not just a wounded heart, but also a wounded marriage and family. Follow His direction, and watch Him be victorious for you.

Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your judgments,
He has cast out your enemy.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
You shall see disaster no more.
In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“ Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
“ I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly,
Who are among you,
To whom its reproach is a burden.
Behold, at that time
I will deal with all who afflict you;
I will save the lame,
And gather those who were driven out;
I will appoint them for praise and fame
In every land where they were put to shame.
At that time I will bring you back,
Even at the time I gather you;
For I will give you fame and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I return your captives before your eyes,”
Says the LORD.

(Zephaniah 3:14-20 NKJV)

Passages marked “The Message” are "Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

Passages marked “NIV” are Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Passages marked “NKJV” are Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Becoming One

Becoming One

When was the last time you were at the ocean? I want you to think about the ocean, what it is like. Can you smell the salt water, and taste the salt in the air? Can you hear the seagulls?

Think about walking on the shore, barefoot. The sand is squishing between your toes. Every now and then, a wave is lapping upon your feet.

Look out over the water. Are you taken in by the immensity of the ocean? How great, how vast it is. It has a power, a force. Continuous and never-ending, always moving, always changing, always living.

As you walk along the shore, the waves come up higher and higher upon your legs. You may come to a point where you decide to walk in the water up to just under your knees, or even go in for a swim. As you are walking in the ocean, or swimming in it, you are becoming one with the ocean, and one with its power.

The same is true with a relationship with Christ. At first, you may have “dipped your toes” into Christianity. Try it a little, as one of your options. Or maybe when you discovered Christ, you just dove right in, like swimming in the ocean. You just went right on in, and never once looked back. Maybe you were gradually taken in by Christ, little by little, like walking on the shore, going a little farther in, bit by bit, and then before you knew it, you were in fully.

Just like with the ocean, as time goes on, you become one with Him. We can even get caught up in the immensity of the family of Christ, how large and vast it is, just as we get caught up in the immensity of the ocean.

A similar process happens in a marriage, a process of becoming one. It’s like taking two pieces of paper, gluing them together, and leaving the paper there for the glue to set and dry. Once that glue has set and dry, you can’t separate those two pieces of paper. Not without leaving little bits of the one piece on the other, tearing and ripping.

That’s the problem we are going through. You can’t separate what God has joined together. No matter how hard we struggle against what God joined, it can’t be separated.

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV)

If we try to separate what God joined, you end up with messy pieces, holes and tears in those pieces of paper, bits of one and the other stuck to the opposite site.

But praise God, despite how hard we struggle against what God joined together, He still can put it back together again. Not only does He put it back together again, it is even better than it was before!

Trust Him. He made us one with Him and He made us one with our spouses. He can and will restore and redeem our situations.

You will no longer be called Deserted,
and your land will not be called Desolate;
instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land will be married.

For as a young man marries a virgin,
so your sons will marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices over [his] bride,
so your God will rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:4-5 HCSB)

Passages marked “NIV” are Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ©, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

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