The Big D

Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63

I will admit, I LAUGHED OUT LOUD when reading this month’s outline for the Bible Journal project. A deeper focus on one topic, maybe just one verse. I scroll down to my assignment: April 14th, Divorce, Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63.  Lord, you really are just hysterical sometimes!

My parents are divorced, I married someone that is divorced, and my own marriage has been on the brink of divorce. I don’t know if this makes me a subject matter expert, or so completely biased that I’m the last person that should be journaling today. HA!

As Jesus addresses all of the different topics in His sermon on the mount, He explains, clarifies, and helps us find FREEDOM in living more fully focused on God. Specific to divorce, He reminds us that when separating/leaving your spouse, you need to give a legal certificate for divorce (don’t just stop living with them). He explains that without the actual certificate of divorce, you would be causing sin (adultery) if/when the person remarries. He also reinforces the acceptable grounds for divorce – adultery.

Clearly the Lord takes marriage vows seriously. They’re not only vows made to one another, but to Him. He doesn’t want them broken, and when they must be, He wants order even in the brokenness.

The topic of divorce brings a lot of controversy – today, and apparently ALWAYS – both in and outside of the church. I’m guessing it’s because divorce is the result of sin, which begets more sin, even beyond the divorcing party. Family and friends can find themselves judging, gossiping, harboring bitterness, anger and hatred. Divorce can really bring out all of our ugly. And all of our opinions and infighting.

I wish none of us ever had to study these verses or apply them to our life’s circumstances. I’m no stranger to the heartbreak and pain of divorce. It’s real, raw, and just plain awful. The wounds run deep and the healing is rarely linear. While I don’t have the answers, I will share a few general points of encouragement based on some of my experiences:

If you are a child of divorced parents, please believe, more than anything, that this is not your fault. Whatever sin was in your parent(s) lives that led to this, it’s not what you wanted and not what God wanted. I hope you know that God wants to help you heal from all of the hurts this brought you. I pray your parent(s) can repent and seek forgiveness from God and from you and relationships can be restored. Most of all, I pray that you can have a deep relationship with your heavenly Father that brings overwhelming love into your life. He loves you, and He knows every tear you have shed (Psalms 56:8).

If you are considering separation/divorce, or already in the middle of it, please, take your time.  Seek biblical counseling and cling to any amount of hope you can find. Remember, God is still in the business of making miracles!  Go to the word and pray for direction. God doesn’t contradict Himself – the Holy Spirit won’t press upon your heart to move in one direction that is contrary to Jesus’ spoken words.  Our God is a perfect way-maker – even when we can’t see a way, He goes before us.  I can’t always get my mind around the long-term picture, but I can trust Him in this moment, right now.

If you are divorced, and there are any areas you still need healing, cry out to the Lord. Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce, almost all parties harbor feelings of failure, guilt, resentment, or unrest. Seek the Lord, He is the best healer and perfect forgiver – He doesn’t want us stuck in a pit of bitterness, shame, sin, or self loathing. He wants to make you whole in Him. All of our life experiences can be used to glorify Him. Revelation 12:11 exemplifies how we can be OVERCOMERS – by Jesus’ blood + our testimony of His work in our life.

If you are a friend or family member of someone in the middle of a divorce, I have found the best support can be listening and praying. Take a step beyond praying for them, and actually pray WITH them. When asked for advice, leverage the scripture on the areas surrounding divorce. Encourage biblical counseling. Be a source of hope and healing. Try to not get sucked into gossip and slander. Take time to cover yourself in the Armor of God before offering any words.

We know that all sin is unrighteousness against God, whether it’s the sin of gossip, divorce without basis, lying, etc.  On this side of heaven we may feel the consequences greater of one sin compared to another – but it’s not in our wisdom to rank them and put each others’ sins above or below our own.

Wherever this heart-pouring on divorce finds you, you can forget all of my thoughts and opinions and remember this:

God wants everything BUT divorce in His relationship with YOU. He wants us reconciled to Him in a committed relationship for eternity! People will fail. God does not fail. He won’t let you down – He’d rather die than live without you!

Refreshed

“Make room for us in your hearts” (2 Corinthians 7:2). Paul writes this toward the beginning of Chapter 7 of 2 Corinthians, and I just love it. First, a bit of context. It would never have occurred to me that some may not have welcomed Paul upon his arrival in Macedonia, where the Corinthian church was located. But many did not! In fact, Paul tells us, “Even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Paul and his companions were tired and troubled. Can you relate? I know I can.

It’s interesting to note how Paul responds when he is exhausted and stressed. First, he knows the source of his comfort: God. Next, Paul explains the means by which God comforted him: “(God) comforted us by the arrival of Titus”. Knowing Paul was stretched thin personally and professionally, God sent a brother in the faith to encourage him. Take a minute to think about when God has sent someone to you at a time when you really needed encouragement. I remember when I was going through a difficult time, my college roommate arrived on my doorstep – uninvited, after driving for an hour in the middle of a New England winter! And this was before cell phones – so she wasn’t even sure I’d be home! But she showed up. She listened. She encouraged me. She made me laugh. And when she left for work the next morning, I felt comforted. God sent her to me, knowing I needed encouragement.

Did you think of someone who encouraged you? Perhaps you might call or send them a quick text thanking them for comforting you.

Paul also notes that Titus himself was encouraged by the Corinthian people. The very people who Paul was ministering to encouraged the person sent to comfort Paul! Listen to what Paul writes: “And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” (2 Corinthians 7:13) Could my friend possibly have been encouraged by me as well, as Titus was by the Corinthians? I’m not sure – I certainly was more focused on receiving than giving comfort at that time in my life. But maybe I did encourage her in some way, and maybe someone who encouraged you also received comfort from you, or those around you, at the same time.

Finally, Paul notes that he himself was encouraged when the Corinthian people encouraged Titus. Paul writes, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you…so that I rejoiced still more.” (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) What a full-circle idea! Paul is troubled and tired. God sends Titus to encourage Paul. The Corinthians encourage Titus, and this fact also encourages Paul. Amazing!

How can we apply this to our own lives? First, we must look for ways that God wants to use us to comfort and encourage others. And when He calls us to do so, we must respond. Second – and this is perhaps even more difficult – we must be open to receiving comfort and encouragement. So many of us – me included – have a difficult time asking for help, or receiving it when it is offered. Perhaps if we consider the help a divine intervention from God, we will be more ready and willing to accept it, and allow ourselves to be refreshed.

Daily Washing

Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles 5–6; Hebrews 10; Amos 4; Psalms 148-150

This past week I wrestled with the daily events between home, work, school and other commitments sprinkled in and out. In the midst of my yearning for putting the “No” in November I was juggling many things. In the middle of this circus I was losing sight of God and His will for how I should be handling everything. In hind site,  much of what I was trying to accomplish was on my own. This selfish attitude lead to a shortness of patience, love, and understanding for those around me. I sinned and fell short by my own selfish desires to control a situation. Unfortunately, my lack of faith had succeeded once again.

After many prayers and apologies I still felt this guilt over letting my family and God down. I turned to God’s word and asked for direction.  Prayerfully, there is only one way out of this situation and it was through Him. I needed to surrender it all to Him and hear His voice instead of my own.  In Hebrews 10 I’m reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Back in Hebrews 10:3 as people gathered for sacrifice on the Day of Atonement , people would be reminded of their sins and felt that guilt all over again.  But by His grace, Christ has provided us with permanent forgiveness that once we have confessed this we need not think of continue to cause pain. We are all broken and yet cleansed by an amazing God who sent his only son to die for all of our sins.  Encourage growth in our daily lives by applying and living out God’s scripture in all areas of our lives.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

As we face these struggles its important to continue to encourage and meet with other Christians sharing our faith and love. We can help provide the strength we need to make it through each day.  I’m grateful for this daily group of writers, our weekly small groups, and the messages we hear each Sunday that deepen our relationship with God. Yesterday, I was talking with Micheal Summers about this scenario and he reminded me of the conversation Jesus had with Peter in John 13.  What a timely reminder. In Humility of Love by Grace to You, the authors remind us how Jesus provides us with spiritual washing when we confess and submit to Him.  Thanks Mike!jesus-washing-apostles-feet_1299230_inl

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Thank you for reading and being in the scripture together daily.  Psalm 150 reminds us to,  Praise Him for Everything!

Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Psalm 150:2

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6 

So what spiritual cleaning do you need?

Any dust collected on your feet?

We need our feet washed every day. As we walk through this world with our earthly desires we can get our feet dirty.  1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us [literally, keep on cleansing us] from all unrighteousness.”

Thank you Jesus for washing our sins away. Amen

Because He Lives – Matt Maher

Read Humility of Love by Grace to You.

Build Up!

What are the some of the ways to maintain a healthy relationship? To name a few:

  • Communication
  • Unselfishness/focus on the needs of others
  • Quality time together; enjoying each other’s company
  • Investment; acknowledging the relationship is an entity, and actively investing in the entity
  • Honesty

A friend recently made an observation regarding my relationship with my wife and he asked me what I believe are the contributing factors to the success our relationship. First, how great is it when someone we know asks such a question! I was instantly grateful for this friend to care enough to observe and ask. The question itself reminded me that people are always paying attention; analyzing the behaviors of others, and curious about relationships for many reasons.

My response to the question was similar to the list above, but when I shared this story with my wife, she immediately added “we compliment each other”. She was referring to giving compliments of encouraging words (as Merriam-Webster defines compliments):

  • a remark that says something good about someone or something
  • an action that expresses admiration or approval

Amy’s response was a reminder to me as to her own appreciation for compliments and certainly caused me to wonder the last time I complimented her on something. Compliments when given with pure intentions (or if you’re a Five Love Languages fan, “words of encouragement”) are outward acts reflecting our inward heart. They symbolize the focus on others and typically measure the depth of the relationship (for example, complimenting someone’s smile as opposed to identifying one of their personal strengths and sharing how you see them using that strength in an effective way).

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul focuses on the theme of using spiritual gifts for building up others instead of ourselves. What a gift this chapter was for me to read today having just had the conversation last night with Amy regarding building each other up. God moves in mysterious ways, we just need to pay attention!

2 Samuel 3; 1 Corinthians 14; Ezekiel 12; Psalm 51

On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:3, 5, 26)

Father God, thank you for placing people in my life who have encouraged me in love and faith. Specifically in the last 36 hours, I’m completely humbled, honored, and in awe to reflect on so many names of people who have built me up! Amy, Robbie, Rick, Jared, Preston, Peyton, Pamela. May I continue to see these acts of love as gifts from you God. Show me where I am selfish in relationships and where my focus needs to turn toward others, that I love unconditionally so that you may be glorified. I cannot thank you enough for the love you have for us which is reflected in the death, burial, and resurrection of your son Jesus to save us from our sins. May this day glorify you. Amen.