Finding the Way When Your Marriage Is Broken

When I was in college, one summer I spent several weeks doing door to door book sales in Tennessee with my friend. After some time, I decided that gig wasn’t for me. I headed back home to Michigan and was driving through the night.

After several hours on the road, it was dark and I found myself going around a loop in Indianapolis. I took an exit to get oriented because I recognized that somewhere I took a wrong turn. I found myself in a broken neighborhood where there were boarded up houses. I kept driving and it seemed like I would never escape this city as I hit every red light. 

After about nearly an hour, I finally figured out my bearings and got back on track. While I grew frustrated with my situation, I came to the point where I admitted that I had made a navigational error. I eventually took the time to evaluate my situation, and to seek the guidance of the map (pre GPS and iPhone days). Then I followed its instructions and made my way back home safely.

Reflecting back on this little experience has reminded me of the simplicity of the Gospel and the power it has in my life and marriage.

Sometimes we find that our marriage is not on the path we planned when we said until death do us part. Whether we have developed bad habits, undisciplined lifestyles, poor communication, financial hardship, or whatever it is, we can easily become discontented with our spouse. Suddenly, our marriage is not in a place we anticipated going when we said I do.

Those frustrations are the first warning signs that your marriage is going down the wrong path. You are quickly headed to a destination that will bring you great pain if something does not change.

The Good News is that if you find yourself lost in your marriage, know that you can arrive safely to the Ever After that you always dreamed of.

When Mark wrote his Gospel, Israel was not in a good place. She too was lost as ever. Stripped of her prosperity and security in her land, over the centuries she was raped and pillaged by the powerful nations of her day. Where was God? What happened to His promises? Was God’s relationship with His people over?

Mark writes to Israel in order to encourage them. To let them know that God sees them circling the dark streets of their “Indianapolis.” To let them know that all is not over.

In fact, His love for them was about to shine greater than ever.In Mark 1, Mark is acting like a GPS when he writes of everyone from Jerusalem and Judea repenting and being baptized. Baptism and repentance were on the road map to get back to the Promised Land. The Messiah was near, and Israel’s relationship with God would change forever.

Looking at the map ultimately would lead Israel to Jesus Messiah, and Israel’s road home would be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The same is true for our marriages today.

If you have woken up recently and found yourself in the darkness and isolation of a broken marriage that you just cannot seem to fix, know that there is hope for you. This hope is ultimately found when both you and your partner fix your eyes on Christ and submit your will to His.

Both you and your partner must resign to allow Christ to be King. Turning to Jesus is your first turn to navigating your way back home to a healthy marriage that is intoxicating with love.

The truth is that eventually we all come to signs that tell us we are not where we should be. We all know when we are not loving our spouses well. We know when we have lived deeply in selfishness and isolation in our marriage.

The problem with your marriage is not your marriage. The problem in your marriage is the sinfulness of two individuals who have selfish hearts that wander and go astray. That is what leads the relationship down roads of brokenness.

When we find ourselves on that road, the tragedy would be to quit driving altogether. The tragedy would be to keep driving down the same path that led us to where we are. The worse tragedy would be to look at the map and then ignore its instructions. But sadly these reactions are what many of us do when the joy and blessing of a wonderful marriage is within reach.

For me to get back home that dark night in Indianapolis, I had to read the map, compare it to where I was located, and start doing what it said. This is what Israel had to do. This is what we all have to do in our marriages today.

In my own marriage, my wife and I are continually finding hope when we too repent and turn back to Christ after making decisions that have caused us great pain.I have personally witnessed the testimonies of marriages once broken by evil- even as dark as multiple affairs and sexual addictions- that are now thriving and impacting other marriages with a message of hope found in Jesus Christ.

How are you doing? Have you made decisions that have wreaked havoc on your relationship with your spouse? Or perhaps, are you looking to get beyond pain that your loved one may have inflicted on you?

Your path to healing begins with Christ who loves you unconditionally- when you buy in to the fact that He is working in your midst, even when you cannot see beyond the darkness of the storm in your life. It begins by experiencing that gracious love and then ultimately pouring it out on your spouse.

Loving your spouse when you are on a broken road might mean seeking guidance and starting to make decisions that will bring life to your marriage. Or  admitting where you are wrong. It might mean saying, “I’m sorry. I hurt you when _____. In the future, I will ______. Will you please forgive me?” Your destination to a healthy marriage is in sight. Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?

Leaning Into God’s Love

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart (Ps 73:1).

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (Ps 73:28).

Last week my wife and I closed on buying our first home. It was a wonderful experience- except one thing. While we were doing the preliminary walkthrough I went up into the attic. My wife asked me to take down the ugly curtains on the sun dormers.

So as I reached across to tear them down, my foot pivoted and leaned into this old particle board that was falling apart- instead of pressing into the rafters like I should have done. I thought it would be OK, but before I knew it, my foot went through our ceiling! Needless to say, I made my first trip to Lowe’s.

In the Christian life, many of us share the same kind of experience spiritually. We listen to sermons about God’s love. We read about his love. We tell others about his love. Yet, ultimately we do not lean into his love. We look around to find something that looks safer, and before we know it, what we have leaned into breaks through and lets us down.

God’s love is like the rafters on a house. It holds everything together. It is meant to be leaned into. It supports us. When we lean into something else- like the affections of another person, the thrill of buying new things, or self-destructive behaviors (i.e. alcohol, drugs, premarital sexual activity, etc.), we will lose our footing in life.

God created us to lean into him. 

We think that if we get that new job we would be better off. Or we might think that if we could just be married, we would be satisfied. Or if we were able to have children life would be complete. Yet, we get the new job and yearn for the old. We get married and our spouse causes us great frustration at times. Children make us lose sleep and require so much energy leaving us exhausted.

Spiritually, we say that if we just go to church more, read our bibles more, start new traditions, we would fare well. Yet, these spiritual activities will let you down. We are still left craving and unsatisfied. How is that, you might ask?

Spiritual activity is not intended to satisfy you. It is intended to teach you. Just like there is a difference between observing a traffic sign and following its instruction, there is a difference between doing spiritual activities and actually being spiritual. Spiritual activity is intended to inform you and remind you about the love of God so that you will lean into it as you experience life. 

All of life will let us down if we try to lean into anything but God’s love.

This is difficult because the new job, relationships- whether a spouse or having children or friendship, shopping, substances and even spiritual activities will let us down. Trusting in these things will have the same result as me stepping on old particle board. They are not intended to be leaned into.

Instead, we must come to the point where we start to press our feet into God’s love. This means coming to a realization and acceptance that no matter what we go through in life, no matter what happens, we trust God’s sovereign love for us. It is the transition between saying, “I know that God is a God of love…Of course God loves his people…God loves the Church,” to “I know that God loves me“- even through even the most difficult circumstances.

How Serious is God about His Name?

The Dung Gate at the outer wall of Jerusalem

Malachi 1-4

Focus: Malachi 2:2-3, “If you do not listen and take seriously the need to honor my name,” says the LORD who rules over all, “I will send judgment on you and turn your blessings into curses–indeed, I have already done so because you are not taking it to heart. I am about to discipline your children and will spread offal on your faces, the very offal produced at your festivals, and you will be carried away along with it.

Falling in love is easy to do. Remaining in love over time can prove to be quite difficult. Israel was a nation called by the name of God. When God identified them by His name (Deut. 28:9-10), it signified the joining of the two in very close unity. God made a covenant with His people, and it was filled with abundant blessings- designed to bring life and peace (Malachi 2:5)- for Israel if they lived according to His ways. God had Israel’s best intentions for her. Yet, over time, Israel’s only consistent pattern was her inconsistent love for Yahweh.

When the prophet Malachi wrote, it was over 100 years after God had returned Israel back to the Land after their exile to Assyria, Babylon and Persia. And as time faded, so also did Israel’s love for the Lord. They violated the Law of God by offering blemished sacrifices and kept the best animals for themselves; they were disloyal to God; and they committed unspeakable sins. Israel did not take seriously the need to honor God’s name. This had serious consequences.

God was warning Israel through Malachi. He would not tolerate the defiling of His name. God cares when His people offer Him second best. He cares when His people fail to honor Him with their treasures because they are keeping the prized possessions for themselves. God cares when His people approach Him wrongly in their sacrifices. God cares when His people’s love for Him fades. He cares about their disloyalty. He cares so much that he would bring ultimate shame on His people if they won’t turn back to Him.

God said that he was about ready to spread offal on the priest’s faces- the faces of those were supposed to be “holiest” in Israel. This would be the utmost shaming of a person. The offal was the internal organs of sacrifices, feces and all, that was discarded and taken out the Dung Gate to the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna, AKA known as Hell in the NT). At the Valley of Hinnom there was a constant fire that would burn up and consume anything deemed unclean. The dead bodies of criminals were also taken here. So it is no minor infraction that Israel has committed. God said that he would smear “poop” in their face and that they would be carried away (out the Dung Gate) with it. God cares that His people honor His name! He cares when the love of the hearts of His people grows cold toward Him.

We can all learn from this. I am also guilty of letting my heart grow cold at times. It is a frustrating thing, but that is why the Lord asks us to repent. To repent just means to return to the Lord. God wants us to return back to our first love for Him. When we have done this, then we will no longer offer him the “seconds” of our lives. We will give Him the first portion of our time, talents and treasures. How is your heart? How is that reflected in the sacrifice you give to the Lord throughout the week– and not just on Sunday?

U-Turn: a signpost for the spiritual journey

Focus: 1:3-4, “Therefore say to the people: The LORD who rules over all says, “Turn to me,” says the LORD who rules over all, “and I will turn to you,” says the LORD who rules over all. “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets called out, saying, ‘The LORD who rules over all says, “Turn now from your evil wickedness, “’ but they would by no means obey me,” says the LORD.”

God’s love for His people is unlike any other love that I have ever witnessed in my life. Throughout the message of the prophets, we can see God practically begging His people to return to Him- not in a desperate sort of way, but in a way that demonstrates deep concern and yearning for their well being. God’s love for His people is truly remarkable.

In 1:3, the Lord said to His people, “Turn to me.” God wanted his people to return to Him with their whole heart. As I read this, echoes of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel ring throughout my ears. In Deuteronomy 30:1-3 the Lord promises Israel that when His people are taken into captivity in far away lands because of their disobedience, if they turn to the Lord and obey him with their entire mind and being, then He will have pity on His people and reverse their captivity! In other words, God said that if His people were ever found lost and lead to captivity in distant lands, then the only way back was to do a spiritual U-turn.

When Zechariah prophesied, Israel was far removed from the Land and God’s covenant protection. Centuries, kilometers and a broken relationship separated Israel from the Lord of the Covenant who had practically divorced them. Yet, Yahweh gives Zechariah a message to the decedents of His faithful followers who received the Covenant as they were about ready to set foot in the Promised Land. The message was, “return to me.”

While the more recent ancestors of Zechariah’s contemporaries had hardened their hearts against God and walked away from Him like an adulteress woman, God was reminding Zechariah’s audience of His promise to return to His people if they come back. Even while those present to hear Zechariah’s message may have only had an intellectual knowledge of the Promise, they were again being implored to return to the Lord with their whole hearts so that they could return to the Land and enjoy the freedom and fruit of the Covenant. God says, “Turn back!”

This teaches us a couple things. First, God has always initiated relationship with His people. We must only respond accordingly. Second, repentance never begins with a heart that is transformed. Repentance is the U-turn for the heart that is lost in captivity from sin. Therefore, no matter how screwed up our life gets or how far removed from God we try to run, we have the opportunity to be reconciled back to right relationship. God’s promise always remains for any remnant of people who trust in Him, even if they suffer because of the rebellion of others. So our hearts should not be discouraged if others will not turn back to the Lord when we do. God is faithful and will save those who love Him.

The Great Lover, The Great Pursuer

Isaiah 41-45

Focus: Isaiah 45:22-25 Turn to me so you can be delivered, all you who live in the earth’s remote regions! For I am God, and I have no peer. I solemnly make this oath- what I say is true and reliable: ‘Surely every knee will bow to me, every tongue will solemnly affirm; they will say about me, “Yes, the LORD is a powerful deliverer.”’” All who are angry at him will cower before him. All the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the LORD and will boast in him.

Reading this promise that God gave to His people is stunning. God is making his case against His people’s infidelity, but even as he presents His case, he pleads with them to return to Him. Israel was an idolatrous nation. They worshipped idols and their hearts were preoccupied with other gods- Baal and Ashera. But the Lord demonstrates that there is no other true God besides Him. He is God alone. He has no peer. Yet, while Israel was unfaithful, He did not completely reject them. In fact, he pursued His people.

The God of Israel was great and merciful to His people. Even while their hearts wandered, He had great patience when they rebelled. Not only that, but God went after His people when they walked away from Him. He went after them like a lover who goes after his bride. God promised that Israel’s great affair with other gods would one day come to an end. She would be vindicated by the Lord and boast in Him. What does that mean?

Israel’s sin brought her into severe bondage. It ruined her. Yet, the Lord was compassionate and had a special love for His people- even when they went in directions that were not life giving. Even when His people rebelled against Him, God pursued them with His great love. Why? So that they would boast in Him.

There is nothing more life changing than when a person has messed up and has nowhere else to go. Their life is in chaos and there is no hope. And then another who is compassionate and merciful reaches out to that person who is hopelessly dead in their tracks. The guilty person is pardoned and accepted. The shame is gone, and the one who extended the hand is seen as a hero and deliverer who can be trusted. That is what God did for His people Israel. Ultimately he did it through the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2 says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father. Jesus Christ is God’s hand reaching out to His people. His death on the cross is the sacrifice that vindicates anyone who trusts in Him. No matter what we have done in life, God has still pursued us. He is the great Lover who pursues His people so that they will live in a way that brings life. It begins by accepting Jesus extended hand, releasing guilt and shame, and boasting in Him- the great Lover and Pursuer of our life.

Below is a video about what a Lover IS NOT:

Spiderman, Batman, Wolverine, Jesus… and You

Matthew 26:42, “He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done.”

imagesSome of my favorite movies are about superheros. I enjoy epic films like Batman, Spiderman, Wolverine, etc. I could go on and on. Apart from the fact that these movies do a great job illustrating how real people are in constant need of rescue, I think most of us identify with these movies because there is a deep part in all of us that longs to be a hero. We all want to be the one who tears off our top layers revealing that inner warrior who valiantly comes to the aid of someone in need.

Today I finished reading through the Gospel of Matthew. It was truly captivating as I saw Jesus life through a different lens. Jesus is a hero. Most people would not think of Christ in this way, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrate that Jesus is a hero who came to save the lost.

In Matthew 26, Jesus received a hero’s welcome. The woman with an alabaster jar honored Christ by anointing him in preparation for his burial, yet Jesus’ own disciples failed to see the grandeur of what was about to happen. Jesus was preparing himself for the pinnacle event of all history, his death and resurrection!

The story of Jesus’ life also presents an antagonist. Every good story needs one. Satan and sin were at work in the lives of people trying to prevent Jesus’ dramatic rescue of humanity. Judas was certainly the iconic darling in the last stages of Satan’s plot against Christ and humanity. While Jesus prevailed in his mission, he was not surprised. Heroes expect opposition.

I believe that the single greatest reason Jesus prevailed is because Jesus was born to be a hero. He was sent by the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. In his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus reminds us that “Your will must be done.” Jesus was sent to drink from a cup that could not be taken away from him. Not just anyone can be a hero for humanity. Jesus was sent by God for this very task.

Jesus’ life also proves his heroism. There was not a single time when he failed, even while he was betrayed and left alone by those closest to him. He was faithful to his mission. I remember in Spiderman when Peter was rejected by his best friend Harry. Yet Peter (Spiderman) continued in his mission faithfully. No matter what, heroes live their life by what they know to be true and not by what happens to them.

Jesus also took a beating for humanity. He suffered emotionally, spiritually and physically on our behalf. The wrath of God was poured upon Christ even to the point that he was deserted by God.  This role of Jesus is equivalent to the scapegoat in the Old Testament. During the Day of Atonement a priest would lay his hands upon the head of a goat and pray over it confessing the sins of God’s people. The sins were imputed upon the goat and the goat would be sent out into the wilderness abandoned and alone. When Jesus hung on the cross, he received upon himself the sins of mankind. Jesus was abandoned as the wrath of God raged against him on our behalf as he hung on the cross and was in the belly of the earth for three days. Heroes freely carry the burdens of others. Heroes suffer when they must. This happens in every epic story.

During the 3 days Jesus carried our burdens in hell, his followers were scattered. All hope seemed lost. But Jesus was being victorious yet he was unseen. Finally, on that Easter morning, three days later, Mary went to the grave to find it empty. Jesus had risen! He was alive, and he showed himself and was seen by his followers and over 500 people in Jerusalem. Jesus prevailed. Heroes prevail. No matter how many times a hero is beaten down, they always seem to come back. Jesus did, and he is coming again.

So what does this all mean? Jesus had a cup that was made for him to drink. He drank it for you and for me. It was an awful cup, but He did what He knew to be true and prevailed through His suffering no matter what the opposition. Jesus carried the weight of our sin and rebellion against God and will save those who turn to him. The reality is that we all have junk that has touched our life and affected our attitude and spirit towards God and people. No matter how hard we try, this natural bent toward rebellion seems to ebb ad flow back into our life. It is difficult to shake. Life transformation occurs when we realize that we need to be rescued. Jesus is our hero we can count on to bring life change.

Second, as we trust Christ to rescue us, our attitude towards others can be expected to change. So often, people tend to find Christ as their hero but no one teaches them to take the next step. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.” Peter left all believers with a hero’s welcome. There is a grandeur that we should all embrace. We have been prepared through Jesus’ example to be a hero.

The final verses of Matthew outline our commission. We have been instructed to make disciples who make disciples intervening in the lives of the lost through love and good works that they too might know Christ. This will mean living life by what we know to be true, freely carrying the burdens of others, and prevailing no matter what. A follower of Jesus is a hero who points to the ultimate Hero.

As I think about this, I am humbled. I am reminded of the disciples who scattered under pressure. I am reminded of the people I am called to love. People are difficult to love sometimes, especially when they are different than me. Am I being a hero to someone? If so, how? What can I do to get involved  in someones life in such a way that will bring hope and significance to them so that they too can know their Hero?

The Platinum Rule

Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.'”

images

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” They are found in Luke 6:31. We call this phrase The Golden Rule. More than a simple Children’s moral, the Golden Rule challenges us to extend our virtue to those we do not like. In it’s context, Luke 6:31 inspires us to treat even our enemies like we ourselves would like to be treated. Jesus says in Luke 6 that anyone can love someone who loves them back. That’s easy. What’s not easy is loving those we do not like, we consider an enemy, or those who are different. Dramatic transformation, both for the giver and receiver, will occur when radical love is extended towards those most difficult to love.

So fast forward to today’s passage, Matthew 25:40….

Keeping mindful what Jesus taught in Luke 6 will help reveal a connection between the two passages. We are to do unto others as we would do unto the Lord. This is more like The Platinum Rule. We cannot say that we love God if we do not serve his “brothers or sisters”. The connection is that the way we treat others is indicative of our love for Christ and if we are truly serving Him.

The King does not distinguish between our friend or enemy, but we often do in how we extend our services to others. I would guess that we tend to serve and love those who are most like us or those whom we like most. So we must be intentional to get out of our comfort zone in how we serve others. There is no greater way to measure whether we are being true followers of Christ than to examine the way we treat people, regardless of whether we like them (or are like them) or not. Jesus’ family is not limited to those we might simply like or those whom it is easy or convenient to serve.

I am challenged to think about my sphere of influence. Who am I serving? Who are the people of my day who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick or imprisoned? Who are the people that I know that I have the ability to serve in some way? Am I going to bat to be an extender of justice, mercy, righteousness and faithfulness in the lives of others? Do I go beyond my comfort zone to reach these people? What I do for them is what I am doing for Christ.

God’s concern for the innocent and weak, marriage and divorce

Matthew 19:4-5, “[Jesus] said, ‘Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?'”

imagesToday , as I write, I am going to try to proceed with sensitivity and humility, especially as I have dear family and friends who have suffered through the torturous pain of divorce. My heart is grieved because of the brutality that has been committed against the innocent in divorce, even by well intentioned people of the Church. And for the record, a lot of evil has been committed in the name of religion, especially when it comes to this topic. But, as I study this passage, I do notice a couple principles that are encouraging.

First, as God is extending His hand before man, pointing them down the path that leads to fullness and life, we will find that marriage between one man and one woman is a landmark that God wants us all to enjoy. As we study Jesus who is addressing the Pharisees cornering Him in a debate about divorce, what I hope we can see is that God is greatly concerned about the innocent and weak.

Jesus points back to God’s intentions for marriage. He says “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife…” For what reason? To find the answer we must go back to Jesus’ reference in Genesis 2 where God created Eve for Adam.

Back in the Garden….

One of the first responsibilities God gave to Adam was to cultivate the land. He was to take responsibility for God’s creation and he had the unique privilege of naming all the animals. As God was bringing the animals to Adam for them to be named, Adam discovered his need: there was not a suitable helper for him (Gen 2:20). That is, there was nothing that corresponded to him, no companion or anything that related to Adam.

God’s response to this problem was, “It is not good for the man to be alone. (Gen 2:18)” God said that he would make Adam a companion who corresponds to him. Man was created to do God’s work in relationship with another. From the beginning, marriage was created to serve each member in marriage. Each person in the relationship had a distinctive purpose. Not only that, but marriage was an institute created as a natural means of physical, spiritual, and emotional provision for the man and woman.

In the Ancient Near East, and at the time of Jesus, it was often detrimental for the woman to be divorced. Women who were divorced could not necessarily just get up and get a job to put food on their table. Their provision was solely dependent on their husband if they were married- or on their father if they were not married. For the woman who was divorced, she could not certainly count on her family to take her back into the household because assumptions made by the community about the divorce could bring shame on the family. So she would often be left destitute. It was not a good thing for divorce to occur.

Fast forward to Jesus…

So Jesus says, “What God has brought together, let no man separate.” Woman is God’s provision for man as a wonderful gracious gift to help him accomplish his tasks that have been given by God, and man is made to live with the help of woman. Two are better than one. Of course, in the intended circumstance, it would not be good to separate.

Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away? (Matt. 19:7) The Pharisees were asking why Moses allowed for divorce. The certificate of divorce was given to the innocent dismissed wife of a licentious husband. It was a certificate to document the divorce that was given to the woman so that she would be free to marry again. That way, if she chose to marry again, the original husband could not claim that he never divorced her and accuse her of adultery. Divorce was allowed as a way to protect and provide for the innocent who suffered on account of the hardness of heart of an unfaithful spouse.

The husband who divorced the woman did not necessarily dismiss her because of his own immorality. He could have done it for financial reasons or other motivations. In this situation with the Pharisees, I think that what Jesus was getting at is that we are to pursue Oneness in marriage.

When Jesus provides the exception for allowing divorce (immorality) he stresses that if a man divorces and marries another woman, he commits adultery. In this situation, it seems that Jesus was speaking against an individual who becomes infatuated with a person other than his spouse, or an opportunity for personal gain, and pursues another. The principle: lust and greed for another person or opportunity are not acceptable grounds for the violating member of marriage to divorce the other. We are to pursue reconciliation and oneness in marriage and to keep our vows before God and the community that we would love, protect and care for the one we married.

So looking at everything in context, I can see that we can draw a few humble conclusions or observations.

1. We are all the “innocent and week” in some sense. Because of God’s concern for us, he created marriage as a vehicle to accomplishing the tasks he has given us. Marriage was an institute created as a natural means of physical, spiritual, and emotional provision for the man and woman.

2. Divorce is not good. Even in today’s culture, divorce has shown to have detrimental effects on all members of a family. God does not want us to divorce per say, but neither does he want us to live together “undivorced” because of a contract. The goal is oneness. God wants us to pursue oneness with each other and fight for reconciliation against a hardening of heart that leads to divorce.

3. We must be careful to guard our hearts. Proverbs says that it is the “wellspring” of life. A hardened heart allows for lust and greed. This is essential because Jesus does not prescribe divorce, rather he prescribes faithfulness to God and the spouse. When we make vows, we are expected to fulfill them- especially when our vow is to love and care for another! Marriage is the most direct means of extending God’s love, justice and mercy. A hardened heart equates to a drift towards unfaithfulness.

While this text doesn’t necessarily speak to these principles, here are a couple others that Scripture does support.

4. We must be careful how we treat and perceive those who are going through a divorce or who have been divorced. Ultimately, especially for the Community of Christ, our responsibility is to simply love others and to be there for them. We do not ever know the big picture or a full picture of anyone’s marriage except the 1/2 of our own marriage- if we are even married. But if we know someone who is openly at fault causing a divorce, then we should do what we can to keep them accountable to their vow. If we know someone who is suffering on account of another’s hardness of heart– unfaithfulness- then we should love them and support them during the decisions they make through such difficult trials.

5. A lifestyle of habitual authenticity in community is vital to a healthy marriage. We need to be open about our struggles- the hurts, habits and hangups. The counsel of others can help us effectively deal with these problems that will plague any marriage. The problem is that such authenticity is rare to find and difficult to achieve and maintain. But the difference is like that of dealing with a scrape before it gets infected. An infection that goes too long without treatment will eventually cause the flesh to die. In such a case, amputation is inevitable.

Marriage will help us to see our scrapes. We need to show them to others who can help us treat them with the Biblical “ointment”- truth and love. Authenticity keeps us from hiding our wounds until they are infected. When our hurts, habits and hangups rule in our marriage, the marriage begins to stink like an infection before others. People notice. Left untreated, divorce is inevitable. So if you are struggling in marriage, tell someone before your infection gets worse!

People of the Path

imagesToday is my son John’s 9 month birthday. He is our first child, and I have to say that it has been a huge blessing and humbling experience to raise him. I have learned that raising children is a huge task that requires lots of patience, humility and love.

As my wife and I celebrate the gift of our son, I am reflecting on some of the reading I did in the Bible yesterday. I read through Matthew 1-7. After Jesus’ birth, he gets baptized by John the Baptist, and then enters into temptation for 40 days. When he has been “initiated” (if you will) into ministry, Scripture records some of Jesus’ first teachings at the Sermon on the Mount.

Throughout this sermon, we hear Jesus say over and over again, “You have heard that it was said…” When he is speaking this phrase, he is referring to the teachings of the religious leaders of His day, the pharisees. They, like those of many religions, confused rules with relationship. The pharisees used their rules as a way to control people. They were religious tyrants. That problem still exists today.

Throughout the Sermon, what we are really seeing is Jesus undoing everything that the leaders had been teaching. Relating to God does not come by following rules in the way that was being prescribed. Rather, God gave Torah (The Pentateuch) to His people to show them the way of the path. It was to be a finger pointing the way to his people so that they would know what path they were to be on– how to properly relate to God and each other in a way that will bring life and joy.

So throughout this sermon, Jesus is demonstrating how we can find true life and happiness. What I found encouraging was when he wraps up his teaching on the Mount, he says,

7:24 Everyone 27 who hears these words of mine and does them is like 28 a wise man 29 who built his house on rock. 7:25 The rain fell, the flood 30 came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock.”

Basically, life is going to be giving us some beatings. We live in a broken world where injustice exists. But if we want to survive the beat-downs, we must be people of the path (the house built on the rock). We need to learn God’s ways that bring life and joy: Love others. Keep the heart pure. Reconcile committed relationships. Keep your word. Forgive. Give to others. Pray and know God’s love and provision for His people. Be mindful of your own shortcomings before being quick to think less of others because of their imperfections. Ask God. Treat others as you want to be treated.

If we want to survive the tough nature of life, we need to be people who are committed to loving others no matter where they are at in life. Be willing to show them the path, but make sure you are on the right path yourself.

I am so thankful for the joy of having this new life, John Samuel, for the past 9 months. My prayer for him is that he will see God’s hand pointing the way. The reality is that his life will not be perfect and he will be let down by others. But I will do what I can to help him see God’s hand pointing the way.

Fully Devoted

3/12/09 4:45pm

Joshua 21-24

Pericope: Joshua 24:14-15

Today my wife and I received a letter from our electric company. It turns out that our contract is expiring and they want us to renew. Of course, the first thing I did was google “compare power prices dallas texas.” I found one rate as cheap as 10.7 cents / kwh. That’s pretty decent! It’s cheaper than the 13.7 cents/ kwh we are paying now. So it looks like we will be switching to something cheaper. My wife and I are certainly not committed to any particular company. We’ll bounce from place to place to find the best rate.

I think that refraining from commitment is the norm for today’s culture. We are skeptical of long term commitments. They can become hand cuffs to our lives binding us away from the freedom we enjoy. Of course, choosing a power company does not have to be a serious deal. But there are areas in life where we should consider a stronger devotion. Relationships with people, jobs, & churches are just a few entities which deserve a higher commitment level.

In the Old Testament, we see God working for the redemption of man. He is sovereignly orchestrating history to provide restoration for His people. He has a Chesed love for His people. And one thing he requires in return is full devotion to Him. This may seem selfish, but it really isn’t. Being fully devoted to God is directly connected to inheriting His blessings. It is the bridge to being restored back to the life we were created to have. In Joshua 24, Joshua goes back over the covenant with Israel. It is a sort of “renewed vows.” The people are exhorted to fully obey God with integrity and loyalty. Loyal devotion is about what Joshua exhorts God’s people to commit to. He says, “Choose this day who you will serve.” Joshua knew the opportunities that existed which would strive to divide the hearts of God’s people. Devotion to God means full devotion. Choosing Yahweh cannot be done at the same level as choosing a power company. There is no room for ambivalence. Many of us heard about this year’s “Bachelor” who had to choose between 2 women. He flip floped on his choice and hurt his fiance. His choice had consequences. Choosing Yahweh cannot be done in the same light. The consequences for God’s people are more severe when they flippantly turn away from Him. It does not mean a bad wrap in the press and poor P.R. It means either inheriting the blessings of restored relationship with God and a fuller relationship with man or being carried away into the bondage of a life without God and his blessings. As we look at all those “options” which would deviate our devotion to Christ, it is essential to choose well. Not only is our immediate freedom at stake, but so also is our eternity in relation to Christ.