Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2 Questions on Divorce (Part 6) What about abuse and the safety of the abused?

Hello again everyone.  I pray all are well.  This has been an interesting series for me in a challenging time. With my computer down and the difficulty of typing up this type of stuff on a phone, I have had to get creative about the blogging process. Writing about divorce is not exactly the most comfortable experience in the world.  I really have no idea who looks at it and who doesn't.  I also know that it is an extremely sensitive subject for those have been through it or are in the midst of it.  I would not want anyone to think that I do not understand that.  It is only because of my own personal experiences, not with getting a divorce, but with being approached by people who have had troubles and actually want to know what God really says about it, that I speak to it at all.

This can be difficult information to come by in this do what feels good and look out for #1 society we live in. There are many who do not care what God says because they are self-professing non-Christians.  Then there are those who are willing to twist what God says on any number of subjects because they actually think it is good for the people they are advising.  They believe it is better to compromise God's word rather than to try to help people rightly understand and apply God's word, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

No matter what, I do not ever want to be one of those people.  I do not pretend to know everything about the bible, but I do understand a lot.  I have spent a considerable amount of time studying on and thinking through the subjects that I speak to.   I know that scripture gives a lot more clear instruction and information than many let on, and can be much more helpful taken just as it is than people believe.  The Protestant Reformation began because Martin Luther believed the same thing.  He believed in the clarity of much of scripture and in peoples right to read it for themselves.

Speaking to divorce is not ever intended to be a hammer over the head of those who are having trouble or those who are already divorced or remarried.  My only goal is to provide some basic biblical information relating to the subject and to suggest that all hope is not lost.  God does want your marriage not only to survive, but to thrive.  No matter the circumstance.  There is not a scenario that can be thought of in which God has not worked miracles.  While His answer may not always be yes, it is always do all you can unless I give you a way out, and even then don't give up without a fight.

I have spoken to the allowances that God's word speaks to relating to divorce and I have spoken to suffering not only as it relates to difficulties in marriage but also in general.  As always these are inexhaustible discussions.  There is always more to be said.  But in the spirit of blogging, I seek to create some             constructive, biblical thought processes verses trying to cure the problem, as it were.

So What About Abuse?
Perhaps someone has wondered in all this talk of tuffing it out, trusting God, and suffering well, "What do we do with cases of abuse regarding the spouse or children?"  Many well meaning people have suggested that abuse must be an allowance for divorce in God's eyes because God certainly doesn't want to see any spouse stuck in an abusive marriage either male or, as is the majority of cases, female.

I would agree that God's ideal scenario is not a woman or children getting abused verbally, emotionally, psychologically, or physically.  It doesn't exactly jive with loving your neighbor or your enemy.  It also doesn't fit at all with God's purpose for marriage which is to represent Christ's relationship with the church. No where does scripture suggest that Christ abuses his bride.  In fact, Christ took great amounts of abuse on behalf of His bride.  Christ also places great value on children and does not take kindly to their abuse.

God's Faithfulness and Our Faithfulness
However, there is also no where in scripture where God suggests that abandoning our marriage covenant is the answer either.  In fact, Christ has taken rejection upon rejection from His bride and continues to be faithful.  In the OT book of Hosea, God instructs the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. When she rejects him and is unfaithful, God instructs him to go after her and remain faithful to his commitment.  Though it is debated as to whether this is a literal story or intended as an allegory, it is clear that this book is recorded for us as an example of God's faithfulness to His people in the face of repeated rejection in unfaithfulness.

Divorce is often the knee jerk reaction in these situations but it need not be the end result. These are difficult truths in the face of marital suffering but they are also beautiful opportunities for encouragement regarding God's faithfulness in every circumstance.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit know what it is to be rejected, beaten, scoffed at, scorned, and ignored by those they love.  If we are expected to represent Christ's faithfulness, what do we do when domestic abuse is a problem?

If Not Divorce Then What's the Answer?
How do we apply the biblical standards for marriage and divorce when the physical safety of the spouse and children are at stake?  This could be an ongoing discussion, studies and conferences are held among professionals, not only to discuss the abused, but to discuss ways to help the abuser.  There is so much out there sociologically regarding this matter.  I am not an expert on the psychological reasons that often play into abuse.  Let it suffice to say that the abuser is often a victim themselves.  They are acting out of past pain that they often do not understand themselves, if they are even fully aware that it exists.  I do believe however, that there is a biblical way to handle situations of abuse that can protect the abused while discouraging divorce that is pursued by the abused.

The Church's Responsibility
We as the church must ensure that we are keeping our ears and eyes open for signs of abuse among our members.  In addition, our members must know that the elders and deacons are available and desiring to help provide safety and shelter for the abused.  They must also make it clear that they are willing to lovingly confront and try to help the abuser figure out what is going on.

It is the job of the leaders of the church, to lead the church body in providing safety and support for the abused while looking for a way to bring resolution and restoration to everyone involved.  The end goal is saving the marriage and restoring the family.  It may take time, but if we truly believe that God is a fan of marriage and that a patient, forgiving, loving response to offense is desired in every circumstance, then we are responsible to pursue that.

What If the Abuser Will Not Repent?
If you read the last couple of posts then you will remember that I spoke to the case of the unbelieving spouse.  My conviction is that if an abused, believing spouse is doing all they can, with the help of the church, to fight for their marriage while remaining safe, then they have upheld their end of the covenant commitment.

If the abuser is exhibiting no desire to repent and work toward getting help then they are lacking the righteous fruit that is expected of a true believer in whom the Spirit of God is working.  If they are a member of a healthy church then church discipline would be the next step.  This would possibly involve the eventual removal of membership from the church with an understanding that the church is no longer recognizing the abuser as a believer.  If they were not a church member or professing believer to begin with, there is still a place for teaching the abuser of their need for Christ.

If the abuser presents as an unbeliever that is shows no interest in responding to a call for repentance, then they will likely leave of their own accord.  Many abusive spouses are not gonna stick around if the pressure is being put on them to get it together and they see that the abused spouse has the support of their church family.  Now, after much effort to rectify the situation in as loving and biblical a way as possible, you have biblical grounds for divorce.

Is it really that simple?
While I have presented this in an abbreviated form, I am not at all suggesting that this is simple.  It is quite often I'm sure, a grueling, painful process that will require much pastoral care and patience on the part of all parties involved.  It will likely involve professional counseling as well.  As I said, I am not an expert.  The only reason I speak to this at all is because there are many more out there dealing with this challenge than there are being offered solutions by the church.

I would encourage anyone who is in this kind of a scenario, or knows someone who is, to engage your pastoral staff if they do not know about it. Tell them your situation and ask for their help.  If they are unwilling to get involved then quite frankly, you may need to look for a pastoral staff that is interested in helping you find a solution.  They are out there.  The church should be a safe haven for all who need it.  But please whatever you do, if you are the abused, don't stop looking for help.  Find a safe place, pray for your spouse, and don't give up.  God has not disappeared. He is there.  He loves you, He knows your circumstances, and He has a plan.

As always, I am just one lone guy trying to put my convictions and heart out there to be used by God in anyway He sees fit.  If it helps one person in thinking through this difficult challenge in life, for themselves or for someone else, then it is worth the risk of any criticism that I may receive for daring to speak to it.

Love in Christ,


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2 Questions on divorce(Part 5) When Is Divorce Acceptable? Considering Adultery.

What about adultery?

Jesus first speaks to divorce in Matthew 5:31-32 in which He says, "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him giver her a certificate of divorce'.  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

When asked about divorce in Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus makes it very clear what his stance is regarding divorce and what His definition of marriage is.  He also makes it clear what his one allowance is for divorce. It goes like this:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him.  They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"  "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."
"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. 

Mark 10:1-12 tells pretty much the same account except toward the end in Mark 10:10-12 this account is given.  And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.  And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

Most scholars believe that Mark was the fist gospel written and that Luke and Matthew used Mark as a starting point and adapted it to their audience, not changing any of the truths in Mark, nor bringing any less truth, rather different perspectives.  With this in mind many scholars believe, as do I, that the texts in Matthew regarding divorce in the case of adultery could apply to either spouse.  In other words, a woman may divorce her husband in the case of marital infidelity just as a man may divorce his wife.  This makes sense because Jesus holds them both accountable, and guilty of adultery, in cases where one divorces the other without the offense of marital infidelity.

I will probably speak to this again in this series but I want to make a point to say here that no one should be looking for a way out of their marriage.  As believers especially, we should always bear in mind that marriage is a covenant relationship between man, wife, and God.  It is intended to represent Christ's faithfulness to the Church.  This is most difficult to do, yet most clear, in moments of infidelity.   We must never forget that Christ is faithful to his bride, the Church, in the face of continual infidelity.  Christ's death was necessary because of our unfaithfulness and his love continues to be faithful in the face of our continual struggle with sin. The Old Testament book of Hosea is a beautiful picture of Christ pursuing His bride even as she is unfaithful.

 With that in mind I would say two things.  One, if your spouse is a repeat offender and unrepentant  i.e.  they have no interest in fidelity or continue to make excuses then biblically, you have every right to pursue divorce. In those cases, quite often, you know about it, you have tried to hang in there and there and give it a chance multiple times and it is time.  In many cases, the offending spouse makes it "easy", so to speak, in light of the previous post because not only do they cheat, but they leave as well.  In this case they have not only committed adultery but they have shown that they are not bearing the fruit of a believer in their marriage by leaving their commitment for the other woman.

I realize that this hurts in an indescribable way and it no amount of justifying the divorce helps to take away the pain of the infidelity.  I in no way want to be insensitive to this.

Number two, I would encourage anyone who experiences the heartbreak of marital infidelity to be willing to fight, to a point, for marriage even in the face of that.  Especially, if their spouse is repentant and is making an effort to reconcile.  It will take a lot of work.  In the spirit of loving your enemy and turning the other cheek we should be very careful not to see the offense of adultery as a one and done.  Christ certainly does not do that to us.  I would not dare to suggest that this is easy or will not be painful.

Christ Feels Your Pain
Scripture reminds us however that  Jesus, worked tirelessly to satisfy the demands of the law by living a perfect, sinless life in our place.  He then satisfied God's just wrath against our sinful failure to obey the demands of the law by experiencing the worst pain their was to experience.  Not only did he experience the physical pain of crucifixion, but he experienced the emotional and spiritual pain of being separated from His Heavenly Father so that we would not have to be.  He took all the guilt, shame, and punishment due our sins onto himself.

He did this for His faithless bride.  So there is no guilt, shame or pain of any kind that you could experience due to marital infidelity that Christ cannot relate to.  For this reason, you can lean on him for strength and comfort in the midst of this storm.  Whether you are fighting for your marriage or letting it go, Jesus will grieve with you, walk with you, and when necessary carry you through.

My Prayer
My prayer for those going through the pain of divorce for any reason that is biblically supported, is that this serious would encourage you to fight and do everything you can to see success.  But also, to provide the knowledge that their is hope and healing when things don't work out.  Jesus still loves you and as the ever-faithful husband, he is not going anywhere.  He will never, leave you nor forsake you(Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).

Until the next time.

Live Coram Deo-before the face of God.


Friday, July 18, 2014

2 Questions on divorce(Part 4) When Is Divorce Acceptable? The Unbelieving Spouse.

This post comes almost verbatim from part 7 of the "Wanna Save Your Marriage" series entitled "The Unbelieving Spouse".  This is the first of two scenarios in which scripture gives us permission to break the covenant of marriage.  As always I encourage you to go back on the blog page and look at the posts from this series.  They are found in the fall months of 2013.  I tried to cover most of the issues that surround marriage struggles and often lead to divorce in our day.  I pray this helps.  Here we go.

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-17, The Apostle Paul dovetails his teaching on a healthy sex life between a married, believing husband and wife, with the relationship of a married believer and non-believer.

Let me preface this with 2 Corinthians 6:14 which states, "do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers". Now, while the context of this statement has no direct correlation to marriage, it can certainly apply.  It is often used in relation to marriage while it's larger context regards any and all relationships.  It isn't that we should not associate with unbelievers, rather that strong bonds or partnerships should not be made with them, to include marriage.  As we will see, however, this does not permit a believing spouse to initiate divorce with an unbelieving spouse.

Divorce Between Two Believers
He begins with this statement in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, "To the married I give this charge(not I but the Lord):  the wife should not separate from her husband(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife."  This was contrary to Roman law which would allow "no cause" divorce.  Unfortunately America has lined up with the Romans of that day by giving us "no fault" divorce.  Between believers in a marriage, biblically speaking, divorce and remarriage with someone else is not really an option, short of the case of adultery.  And I believe that forgiveness and at least one second chance should be encouraged, even in that case.  More on that in next post.  God commands us, as believers, to honor our covenant commitment and fight for our marriages. This is not popular however, this teaching came straight from Jesus (Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).

Divorce Between A Believer And Unbeliever
In 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, Paul goes on to flesh out the idea that if a husband is married to an unbeliever or a wife is married to an unbeliever that they should not divorce the unbelieving spouse.  He states that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified via the believing spouse, as are the children.

Here Paul is suggesting that the overall lifestyle of the family will likely be influenced in a more holy fashion by the presence of the believing spouse, NOT that the unbelieving spouse will be justified before God(i.e. get to go to heaven) by the believing spouse's faith.  However, if you are doing all you can and the unbelieving spouse decides to leave and divorce the believing spouse then the obligation is broken.  The believer may, but is not required to, pursue the marriage even further.  In the case that they have decided further pursuit will not be beneficial, they are released from their commitment that they may marry again to a believer.

I have spoken, I believe, at length regarding this matter as it has been tied into discussions in other posts.  I had not however, actually dealt exclusively with this text and this topic alone.  I felt it was important as I believe there are quite a few people out there that may be struggling with just such a scenario.

As always, I want to encourage you to fight the good fight of faith.  Pray hard, live out the love of Christ, know the word of God and lean on Jesus.  Learn to appreciate the grace of God in your own sinful life and then pray for that same grace to be poured out in the life of your unbelieving spouse.  God is the only one who can change their heart and He loves and responds to the prayers of the saints.  Albeit not always the way we think He should.  Continue to strive to pursue satisfaction, as found in Christ, when it is not found anywhere else.  God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Miracles can and have happened in marriages such as the one's discussed.  As I have said before, God is a fan of marriage. He wants to see you succeed.

If He releases you by way of allowing the unbelieving spouse to leave, then so be it.  Until that time comes, again, fight the good fight of faith for your unbelieving spouse.  That is God's will according to the scriptures.

Be patient with your spouse and be patient with the Lord.  He has been patient with you.  His answer may still be yes.



Monday, July 14, 2014

2 Questions on Divorce (Part 3) How to Suffer Well

(This was originally written as part of a post on suffering in marriage but so much of it applies to all of life, including divorce considerations that I used most of it for this post as well with adjustments or additions.  Thus the references to marriage.  These referenced posts can be found on the blog page during the fall months of 2013.  They are in the series "Wanna Save Your Marriage")

How to suffer well?!  What kind of an idea is that!  I shouldn't have to suffer in my marriage.  If their not gonna change and I can't be happy then I'm getting out!  Ever heard that before?  Ever heard someone else give that terrible advice to someone who is unhappy in their marriage?  I have.  More times than I would like to think about.

I have also heard many sad stories of coworkers or family, very recently, who are in marriages that they want to fight for but their spouse's heart is not in it.  Or the spouse has walked away already.  What do you do in that situation? How do you fight every natural sinful, selfish inclination to look out for #1?  Why should you?  I just want to make it clear that at no time am I suggesting that a healthy understanding of suffering makes it a snap to deal with.  It is called suffering for a reason.  God does, however promise to walk with us through it.

As a we move forward I believe a healthy look at what scripture teaches on enduring suffering will serve the posts to come regarding divorce.  There is much unhealthy, non-biblical teaching regarding suffering.  As if somehow God has nothing to do with it or that it is outside of His control.  Make no mistake.  We serve a sovereign God.  No suffering happens without His permission and oversight.  He is always in control and He always has our best in mind.  Much more could be said, but I hope to provide a biblical context for understanding God's purposes and promises regarding suffering.  Please stick with me.

What About Abuse?
There is one subject that is a struggle much more than it should ever be in some marriages and that is abuse. Many ministry leaders have made the argument that abuse should be an acceptable consideration.  I have had discussions with friends and family on this topic as well.  It has gotten considerable thought consideration in my mind and I believe there is an appropriate response that deals with safety and support of the abused spouse without compromising the biblical standards regarding justified divorce. I wanted to include this here because I can see the subject of suffering in relation to divorce bringing the thought of abuse to mind.  I will speak to it and I believe it will make sense.

Suffering in relationships comes in many forms and if you are married, you have likely endured it to some extent.  I have been there and so has my beautiful wife.  We have both experienced moments in our twelve year marriage and the six years of dating prior to marriage, when we were not very happy with each other.  If we were going to break up or get divorced for the reasons that people often do these days, it would have already happened.  While we are, gratefully, both pigheadedly committed to our marriage vows and deeply don't want to hurt our children, there have been times that it was almost like emotional divorce, even though we would not actually legally divorce.  That, my friends, can be just as painful as the real thing.  It has just that glimmer of hope that you are still together and it might improve.  Gratefully for us it has.

So what now?
The fact is that most marriages have rough spots.  Spouses do not typically remain exactly the same forever. They grow in their faith or lack there of.  Common interest's sometimes change and become less common between you.  Sometimes they experience health issues that affect how they act toward you or others. Depression is a big challenge in this day.  Sometimes busy lives, work distractions, and a lack of communication form a gap that creates an undercurrent of bitterness or resentment in one spouse or the other, or both, that is not always apparent until it has become a serious problem.  I have already published my post to men regarding their responsibilities in marriage and ways that they can positively effect change. Before I publish my post to women regarding their unbelievably important and invaluable role as wife and helpmate, I want to share with you some ways in which the bible addresses suffering.  But not just suffering in marital struggles.  We need a working knowledge of what to expect and how to handle all suffering.

How does scripture address suffering?
As I have grown in my knowledge and understanding of scripture I have become keenly aware of the Spirits use of that knowledge to change my heart and hold me accountable.  Whether it is caused by persecution from perfect strangers or coworkers, or it is the result of emotional struggles within a family, or it is your own illness or the illness of someone else, suffering is very real.  We need to know what the bible says and how it is applicable.  Before we get to the less pleasant realities of suffering in this life lets look to the hope that the future holds for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Suffering is not eternal for them that believe.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 gives us the hope that we need to hang on through any and all trials and tribulations. Verses 7-15 essentially state that no matter what suffering we must endure, whether emotional, physical, psychological, or spiritual, we must continually remember that we are but jars of clay, carrying the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and awaiting the eternal resurrection that will be obtained through the consummation of all things at Christ's triumphant return.  Verses 16-18 tells us that, "we do not loose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  

This is great news that must be revisited in order that it may carry us through past, present, and future sufferings.  Always keep your eyes on Jesus and run the race with confidence, knowing that victory is certain as long as you persevere to the end in repentance and obedience.(Matthew 24:13, 2 Peter 1:8-10)  Now on to the realities that we must face until this eternal glory, free of suffering, comes to pass.

Expect to suffer in this life
Don't get me wrong, you don't have to walk around fearing it.  But you should expect it.  The triumphalist ideal that God doesn't want you to suffer; and that at the cross Jesus wiped out all suffering related to this short life here on earth that is not directly related to persecution, is inaccurate.  The Apostle Paul, as well as many other faithful men of God have suffered persecution, emotional trials and physical ailments, and it was not because they lacked faith or obedient devotion to their Lord and Savior.

As we will see, many a scripture speaks to the character building purposes of the allowance of suffering in this life.  Jesus in no way shied away from the idea that we would endure suffering for his names sake.  He called us to take up our cross, an instrument of torture, and follow him on a path of self-sacrifice for the glory of the Father.  Jesus explained in Matthew 10:34-36 that "a man's enemies will be the members of his own household."  In John 16:33 Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.  Paul spoke extensively about his own suffering, rejoiced in it, and instructed us to do the same.  He expected that if he was going to walk in the footsteps of a Suffering Savior, that he could expect to suffer as well(Colossians 1:24, Philippians 3:10).  He understood that there was glory to be gained for the Father through our suffering; and revelation to be had, of the Father's goodness and faithfulness through suffering.

Suffering is necessary for our spiritual growth
Romans 5:3-5, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
 Romans 8:18, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

-God ordains all blessing and suffering(Isaiah 45:7).  He has a purpose for it.  As explained, it produces perseverance, character and hope.  This hope grows, with the character, through the perseverance.  This hope is what carries us through the suffering.  We are to rejoice.  But how, you ask?  We must keep an eternal perspective.  We must always see every trial as preparation for the glory to come.  We must remember that this life is but a vapor(James 4:14).

We expect suffering and know that it is not unique to us.
1 Peter 4:12-13, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed"

-Now I will grant you that, especially if you continue reading through vs. 19, this suffering is more in reference to suffering persecution for Christ's name.  However, there are absolutely times when suffering in marriage comes at least in part as persecution from your spouse and maybe other family members for converting to Christianity.  It could also come in the face of doing what is right in the eyes of God regarding your marriage even if your believing spouse is not.

1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man."

-We must remember this.  Make no mistake, trials and suffering will lead to temptations.  Temptations to retaliate or leave when we should stay, for example.  They are all common to anyone who is suffering.  We must remember that Christ endured suffering, rejection, and temptation.  He knows your struggles and He promises to walk with you through them.

God will not remove all suffering in this life, but He will see you through it.
Isaiah 43:1-2"But now, this is what the Lord says.  He who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:  Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Psalm 34:17-19"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken."

-Many scholars believe that the last line about the broken bones is a reference to Jesus who had not one bone broken on the cross.  The overall picture of these scriptures is that we will suffer.  However, we can cry out to God and we can expect that He will be there with us, sustaining us, and restoring us on the other side.  Ultimately, He will deliver us from all suffering for eternity through the consummation of all things at Christ's return.

We come to know God better through suffering.
There are other scriptures that speak to this but one of my favorites is from the book of Job.  Job is a book entirely devoted to the doctrine of suffering.  Many things are discussed through this wonderful book, but what is most precious to me at this point comes from Job 42:5.  After a rather intense, mostly one-sided discussion between Job and God in Job Ch.38-41, Job realizes his fault in daring to question the sovereign God of the universe about his own suffering and loss.  He is not however, embittered or ill that he did not get all the answers.  No, you see, God spends a lengthy period of time speaking of His clear control in creating and setting into motion EVERYTHING that comes to pass from massive storms to massive animals and from the highest heavens to the depths of the sea.

It is not that we do not exert our will and have responsibility for our actions but, that God was there at the beginning, is here observing and interacting with His creation, and will be there at the end; and that He is ALWAYS in control.

What is Job's response in Job 42:5?  "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you." That's beautiful.  The revelation that Job gained of the awesome majesty of a Holy God was priceless. As it happens God restored all that Job had lost and then some.  That is not promised in this life, but it is in the life to come.

Rejoice in your suffering.
If you read Job 42:1-6 you get a sense of joyful repentance.  He is sorrowful in repentance at his pride in questioning God, yet there is a joy to be had in the new revelation he has of God.  Did you notice in Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, and 1 Peter 4:12-13 that we are instructed to rejoice, be joyful, or count it all joy that we suffer.  Do you find it odd that scripture teaches this?  The reason for this is found in the surrounding subtitles of this paragraph.  Through suffering we come to know God the Father better, we become more aware of the Holy Spirit's empowering presence, and we become more dependent on Jesus. Rejoice in suffering because through suffering, we are conformed more and more into the image of God that we were originally intended to reflect.

Jesus is there through it all
These are but a few, of a multitude of scriptures that speak to the reality of suffering, the purpose of suffering, and of hope in suffering.  I want to give one more reference straight from the mouth of Jesus.  Though it is applicable to times of suffering, it is really intended as a call to surrender your life to Him with the promise that He will help you bear the load.  It is found in Matthew 11:28.  In it Jesus states, "Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls."

You see, God's purpose in our existence is two fold.  To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  When you learn to trust him, then you learn to rest in him, then you can enjoy him.  In all of these aspects, He will be glorified through your life.  As the Pastor/Author John Piper has coined the phrase, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.".

Learn to be satisfied in God and all that He is, through the scriptures, and He will be more than enough for you when times are tough and those whom you love most on earth are not satisfying your may just save your marriage. Consequently, He will be glorified all the more in your life, thus creating an awesome Christian witness...and that we should want, because people will want to know how in the world you can seem so satisfied and joyful in the midst of trial and tribulation.  Then you get to explain the joy of knowing Jesus.  What an awesome privilege.

I pray this encourages you through the hard times, in marriage, or anything else in life.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

2 Questions On Divorce (Part 2) The Church's Neglect

The Church's Neglect
Before I go any further there is one thing I would like to clarify.  It is a truth that many have expressed and is something I agree with.  Many years ago, the Church as a whole began neglecting divorce.  The Church stopped addressing it as a significant, life-changing event that is a selfish, destructive, rebellious act not only against each other, but against God himself.  

They then began teaching people to recover from it rather than avoiding it all together. The Church all but ceased teaching that, other than a couple of very specific circumstances, scripture does not allow for remarriage of divorcees.  It actually teaches that it is considered adultery to remarry outside of these very specific scenarios.  

Please don't misunderstand.  Scripture does not teach that divorce or remarriage is an unforgivable sin, but it is a slap in the face of God's intended purpose for marriage.  This purpose was not, for us to be blissfully happy, never struggle, and never have to work at an intimate, covenant relationship.  It's original purpose was to "be fruitful and multiply" and spread God's image and glory throughout the earth.  Unfortunately, sin quickly corrupted man's ability to accomplish this.  Now marriage is intended to be a representation of the relationship between Christ and His Church.  Included in this is the expectation that we will be fruitful and multiply, and spread His image and glory throughout the earth.  

Divorce scandalizes that purpose and steals glory from God by distorting the image that is intended to be a direct representation of His love for His church and His church's love for Him.

Reasons for Divorce 
These are as numerous as the stars.  The reasons to end your covenant commitment of marriage are as nebulous as a cloud that constantly shifts and changes shape.  It seems almost anything can be written off under the guise of irreconcilable differences.  In other words, "it just got to hard."  Divorce has become common place now.  You don't even need a good reason.  It is just a fact of life.  Many times it is celebrated without the consideration of the wounds within that will take much longer to heal than even the individuals involved realize.  To say nothing of the emotional trauma that it causes the children of these divorced parents for years to come.  Divorce is the epitome of selfish acts.  It is the end all, be all of the Burger King philosophy that says we can and should have it our way, right away.    

Marital Compromise
The Church's neglect of addressing divorce and holding professing Christians accountable has had a great deal to do with the moral decay of our nation and the world.  It has had a great deal to do with the current compromising of the institution of marriage even within supposed "evangelical Christianity" that manifests itself in a social agenda supporting gay-marriage that is most prevalent in Europe and the States.

The Church's neglect of addressing divorce has much to do with the destruction of the family unit and the development of the modern day family that has gone from having two mom's and dad's because your parents divorced and remarried, to having two mom's or two dad's because the moms or dads are married to each other.

Ignorance is Bliss
This statement is quantified in this subject matter by the fact that ignorance of what God's word teaches regarding divorce has led to the idea that bliss comes from pursuing happiness at any cost.  If you look at the statistics, most professing Christians don't look any different than non-Christians.  The reason for this is that too many people have no idea what the bible teaches regarding what constitutes the basics of Christianity.  To say nothing of what they know about the application of Christian principles to our daily lives, to include marriage and divorce.  This goes back to the watering down of the gospel and the man-centered, Burger King Christianity style of preaching that is coming from so many pulpits, and has been for the last 20-30 years as divorce has been on the rise.

We Are Not Innocent
I am not writing this with the intent of conclusively placing all blame entirely on the Church.  Oh no.  We, as individuals, bear a tremendous responsibility.  At the end of the day we are all sinners.  We are all prone to self-indulgence.  And, we will all be held accountable for our individual choices.  If we are truly Christians then we ARE the church.  Yes, teachers and preachers hold a special responsibility and accountability. However, when we stand before God Almighty at the white throne of judgement, He will not excuse a single decision we made that was contrary to His word because it was or was not taught properly or at all.

Ultimately we are ALL responsible for reading God's word ourselves and knowing what it says.  We are all responsible for holding each other accountable according to God's word, admonishing and encouraging each other toward truth and good works in Christ.

Don't Be Angry, Be Responsible
So, if you find your self feeling convicted by anything that you may read here or in any other post regarding this subject and getting angry about it, I want to challenge you.  Ask yourself, are you interested in biblical truth no matter how unpleasant, or are you interested in maybe continuing to lie to yourself about feelings or thoughts that you have that are contrary to God's word?  Are gonna be angry and offended, or humbled and responsible?

It's For Me Too!
I have to make this choice as much as the next person.  My wife and I do not have the perfect marriage.  We disagree, we argue, we don't like each other very much sometimes.  But for myself, when I look at the mirror of God's word, I am continually taken to the woodshed regarding my responsibilities as a husband and father.  I am constantly reminded of what Christ has done, and continues to do for me as a member of his bride, the Church.  Consequently, I am continually reminded that he died to himself for me.  He gave all for me.  Even  as I reject Him by my sinful actions at times, He loves me anyway.  And I can do no less for my wife.  I love her very much.  But when my love for her runs short of motivating the appropriate response,  my love for my Heavenly Father and my desire for my life to bring Him glory must take over.

I must not get angry at the discomfort or difficulty of the truths found in God's word regarding marriage and divorce.  I must be responsible and faithfully strive to apply these truths to my individual walk and consequently, to my marriage for as long as we both shall live.

Glorify God
I love my God and I want to put Him first in all things.  No matter where you are in this discussion:  married, separated, divorced, or remarried, I pray that, in your current circumstance, nothing is more important to you than glorifying God with your life for the rest of your life, no matter how hard it gets.

Now I ask you to journey with me as we take an honest and sometimes painful look at what it means to fight to avoid divorce or to honor the biblical consequences of divorce depending upon the circumstance.

An Unclear Ending
I am not sure how this series will end at this point.  That is, I have a general direction however, there are so many different scenarios that can be considered in marital struggles and considerations of divorce.   So I will strive to deal with a few as honestly and biblically as possible and we'll see how it plays out.

I know I am just one lowly blogger and that my opinion may not mean much to many.  But if one person is impacted positively to the glory of God on this matter then it will have been worth the effort.  I just ask that you do me a favor and if you like what you read and you think it might be helpful to someone else, share it with them.  I truly want to have as broad an impact as possible in everything that I write.

Changed hearts and transformed lives for the glory of Jesus Christ is truly the only motivation that I have for writing this blog.

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone),


Friday, July 11, 2014

2 Questions I've Been Asked Regarding Divorce?

Hi there!

Many of you know that I wrote a multi-post series entitled "Wanna Save Your Marriage" in the fall of 2013. I received some feedback.  A little good, a little bad.  The good feedback was fairly general and the bad was mostly from one person, though there are certainly others who would disagree.  This person is close in that they are family.  However, we only keep in touch here and there so I did not know that this person was going through a very recent separation at the time.  They were very sensitive to my challenges regarding scriptures stance on divorce and fighting for your marriage.  Their response came to the first post of the series.  I have no idea if they read any of the others which may have clarified some things.  

It would not have changed what I said, because I was not striving to beat up anyone and I made that very clear in that first post.  I also cannot avoid this topic because it may be offensive.  I still felt bad though and wondered why someone who is a professing Christian and who is going through a separation that their spouse was pursuing, not themselves, would be so angry with me for pursuing truth in relationship to the biblical marriage commitment.  You would have thought they would want me to encourage others to try hard to avoid what they were going through.  Still, separation hurts and creates fear of divorce because that is usually where it leads.  Since then I have been asked a couple of questions by someone in a similar circumstance that got me thinking.  Maybe, somewhere in the recesses of their minds these thoughts were turning.  I don't know?

Two Questions, Two Thoughts
This next person knew that I read the bible, believed the bible, and was trying to live it out.  Consequently they sought me out to ask me a couple of questions about their situation.  One, "had they done everything they could to fight for their marriage and were they justified in leaving their spouse?"  Two, "were they going to go to hell for it?"  I thought, "Wow, here is someone who is actually seeking biblical truth in response to their marital trials."  They were also kind of wondering if it was their fault, even though they seemed to know it wasn't.  I also made me consider a third question.  How many people perhaps wonder what God thinks if the divorce is not their fault?  What if they have done everything they can do?

These questions made me consider two thoughts to try to address.  One, "there are still people who profess Christ and are not willing to let go of their marriage without a fight, and without biblical grounds."  Two, "I need to answer these two questions more thoroughly in case anyone else in my circle of influence has had similar thoughts."  I don't know how many people actually read what I had to say about divorce and marriage but I am responsible to ensure that I don't mislead or cause unnecessary worry or guilt.

I write on this subject because it burdens me to see so many struggling in their marriages and so many not really having a proper understanding of what the bible teaches.  Marriage is not easy but it is worth it. However, if for reasons only know to God you have done everything possible and your marriage still fails I want you to understand what God expects based on scripture given certain circumstances.  I also want to make perfectly clear what causes someone to go to hell.(Hint: It's not divorce under any circumstances.)

Some of this will be similar to previous posts on the subject, some may be a little new.  However, I believe we cannot think about this too much because it is so prevalent in our day.  Destruction of the family unit is one of Satan's greatest ploys for coming against the Church of Jesus Christ. 

Short and Sweet
In the interest of desiring not to loose readers on this, I will strive to keep these short and probably post a little more frequently over the next couple of weeks.  Kind of a series concept again, like the other.  I hope that is ok.  At the end I am planning a post that speaks to the responsibility of the Church regarding divorce.

Love in Christ,

Coram Deo (Living before the face of God)


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wretched Man That I Am! (Condemnation vs. Conviction) Part 2

As I stated in the first part of this post, there is a very real struggle in this world between the fear and guilt associated with condemnation and the sometimes uncomfortable but always beneficial effects of conviction and admonition.

Condemnation Recap
I hope that the previous post helped to quell much of the misunderstanding regarding condemnation.  If we are in fact, Christ professing, salvation possessing believers striving every day to obey the full counsel of God, then you have no reason to live under condemnation.  You have no reason to allow guilt to weigh you down.  You can take that thought captive(2 Corinthians 10:5) and cast it in to the sea of forgetfulness where God casts all your sins(Micah 7:19).  

You can live with the peace that your right standing with God does not come from any measure of success you experience in obeying the law of God.  Rather, your salvation is based wholly on the righteousness of Christ's perfect life and sacrifice for sin.  The fact that you desire to fight sin and pursue righteousness is evidence of your salvation.  If there is any confusion about that please go back and read the first part of this two-part discussion.  It is fleshed out further there.

Conviction and Admonition
Now for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the admonition of fellow Christians and Christian leaders. These are the two means by which we are kept on the difficult path to the narrow gate that leads to righteousness and eternal life(Matthew 7:13-14).

I am concerned because I have seen so many professing "Christians" and supposed "Christian" leaders that are compromising the word of God and watering down the gospel because they don't want to make people uncomfortable.  They don't want to offend anyone.  Somehow, they have come to the conclusion that they/we are the ones who are responsible for changing hearts and helping lost souls to experience the love of Christ.  Consequently, many feel that we must make the message of the gospel more palatable, being only encouraging and positive and never daring to speak of our sinfulness or mention hell.

Please don't misunderstand me.  God absolutely allows us to be a part of the process that calls people to Christ and teaches them what it means to live a God honoring, holy life.  And, we are responsible to obey as a part of that process.  However, that does not give us permission to preach anything less than Jesus Christ and Him crucified nor does it allow us to negotiate which truths must be taught or which truths must be applied to our lives as believers.

Conviction is that internal check that comes when we are exhibiting, internally or externally, traits that are contrary to scripture.  Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit as the word is read, heard, and applied.  The word can certainly be read by an individual apart from any other company but the Holy Spirit.  It can also be heard in the same manner by reading aloud.  I have heard it said that "if you want to hear God speak to you in an audible voice, read the bible out loud".  It is tongue in cheek, but it is no less true.  All that we need to know about who God is, what He has done, and what He expects can be found in His word.  Many times the Holy Spirit brings conviction by another route.

Admonition is generally considered to be coming from other people.  While certainly God can and does admonish via the reading of His word, He instructs his followers and especially those He places in positions of spiritual authority to admonish others with the word.   In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy in this way.  He says, "All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."  

Reproof and correction fall under the category of admonition.  Make no mistake, every preacher of God's word, every man in a position of elder or pastor are responsible to preach and uphold the full counsel of God, every jot and tittle.  They must preach what scripture says, not what they want it to say.  Scripture does not contain only encouraging words and positive messages of overcoming sin and adversity.  It does not suggest that love conquers all, no matter what you do or how you live.

Scripture is loaded with instruction to believe, repent, and obey God's commands as evidence of our love for him.  It is full of statements indicating that if we are to live for Christ, we will be expected to die daily to ourselves.  And Hell which is hardly spoken of except in jest or as a figure of speech in this day, was taught about more by Jesus than any other biblical figure.  In fact, He spoke more of Hell than He did of Heaven.

These are not popular truths.  This is probably not going to be a popular blog post.  It may be read by few or many but there will likely be those who do not like what I am saying.  I want to challenge you that this applies to all of us to some degree.  However, even if you are on the right track and most of this does not heavily apply to you, you know of people to whom it does.  Either they are inappropriately applying God's word themselves or they are sitting under teaching that is doing it.  Either way, we have a responsibility to admonish those that are heading in the wrong direction in either of those scenarios.

Dangerous Lies
We live in a world where much of "Christianity" is laden with liberal messages suggesting that God not only loves us the way we are, but made us the way we are, therefore we should not have to change who we are.
Many pulpits are incredibly unbalanced, teaching supposed benefit upon benefit of being a believer, while rarely, if ever, mentioning our condemned state as sinners in need of a Savior.  Even those whom are saved need to be reminded of their need for the Savior because we still have the tendency to begin relying on our own strength.

Many pastors are making the grave mistake of assuming that everyone within earshot is a Christian and consequently the cross is more often a sidebar rather than the center through which everything else flows. Many of them, unfortunately have nationally or worldwide, televised programming of these horrible, man-centered messages.  This is creating a culture that values the gift over the giver.

Even worse than this is that these teachings are deceiving an increasingly secularized world into believing that they are not in danger of eternal damnation in a tortuous Hell.  Much of the world does not even realize that they are in need of a Savior.  Many of those that do realize they need a Savior think that profession of
faith = possession of faith.  They think that because they prayed a prayer, walked and aisle, or signed a card, perhaps all three, somehow indicates that they are now safe from hell fire.  Many then either go on living life as usual, or pick and choose which parts of the bible to believe.  What makes matters worse is that there are many liberal pastors and "professing Christians" who will lead them to believe that this perfectly ok.  Either because they don't know any better or because they have truly self-deceived themselves regarding what constitutes genuine Christianity.

The Need
This is what makes biblically based conviction and admonition so desperately important.  This is why we must understand the difference between guilt, based in condemnation, and discomfort based in healthy, blood bought, Holy Spirit driven conviction.  We as believers, whether shepherd or sheep, have got to be ok with the convenient and the inconvenient aspects of God's word.  In the same way that a child is uncomfortable with correction and behavioral adjustment via unpleasant discipline sometimes, we must be ok with the same.

Scripture says that the Lord chastens, corrects, and rebukes those whom he loves(Proverbs 3:12) that they would be zealous and repent(Revelation 3:19) and that they would share in his holiness(Hebrews 12:6-11).

What Christ Died For
This is what the cross was all about.  It was not about us feeling good all the time or getting what we want all the time.  The cross was about a people set apart for a purpose.  A chosen people from every tribe, tongue and nation that, once saved, would spend the rest of their lives striving for perfect holiness.  They would live, dying to themselves, and striving for that which brings God most glory and shows genuine love for His son.

Jesus did not say, "if you love me, you will love others as I did, but you don't have to do anything that feels contrary to your nature."  Jesus said, "those who love me, keep my commandments...whoever does not love me, does not keep my words"(John 14:21-24)  Before Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, he left us instructions to make disciples, baptize new converts, and teach them to observe ALL that He commanded(Matthew 28:18-20).  Not some, not what is convenient, not what does not require change and discomfort.  Keep all of God's word.

Eternal Significance
I know I have gotten serious and preachy.  I know this is lengthy and I am sorry.  I am sure some may have already stopped reading or are thoroughly displeased with the direction of what I have said.  We must understand the eternal importance of this topic.  This IS life or death, forever.

Those who embrace Spirit wrought correction via scripture and the admonition of other bible believing brothers and sisters in Christ will persevere to the end.  It will not all be unpleasant, but experiencing the joy of your salvation and assurance of eternal life in the here and now comes from learning to walk in obedience. The pleasantries are fruit that are sometimes birthed out of non-pleasantries.

However, those who refuse to apply the whole counsel of God will find otherwise.  Those who have refused to submit to the full authority of God's word and have only applied what feels good or natural or that seems to line up with our sin-stained human ideal of love will likely be sadly surprised.  They will likely find that they have been walking the easy path to the wide gate and that when they get there, it is locked.  They may find that on the other side is Jesus saying "depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you"(Matthew 7:13-23)

My Plea!
Please consider what is being said here.  Please consider all of the commands and warnings, convictions and admonitions in scripture.  They are there to help us all stay on the right path.  They are there to help us make our calling and election sure.  For if we obey scripture and pursue righteousness and Christ-likeness we will never fall(2 Peter 1:10).  "Do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights"(Proverbs 3:11-12).

God is patiently waiting to return, that all who would repent, believe, and pursue holiness, while awaiting his return would do so.  For He does not wish that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance.  So do not listen to those who would ignore or twist scripture to their own destruction.  Rather grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ(2 Peter 3:8-18).

To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.


With all sincere love concern,