The Truth

Today’s Reading: Matthew 5:33-37, Psalm 64

Good Morning! I’m so happy to be with you again Monday morning readers. This week, we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s reading focuses on oaths. When I think of the word “oath” I think of serious situations like testifying in court or taking an oath of office. In our society we view an oath as a promise to tell the truth, a promise to do no harm or a promise to do our best to protect people. When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount sometime around 60 AD, an oath not only implied keeping one’s promise but also had significant spiritual implications. Jesus is emphasizing the importance of telling the truth. Keeping our word or oath is one of the few forms of earthly currency we have. It builds trust and makes committed human relationships possible. Jesus’ teaching on oaths has three distinct facets:

  • You must keep your promises to God. Back in 60 AD, Jews avoided using God’s personal name when taking an oath. Instead they would use a reverent sounding substitution in order to appear sincere. How often do we as Christians make a promises in the name of God whether in church, at small group or in our community. The Bible condemns making vows or taking oaths casually when you know you aren’t fully committed to keeping your word.
  • Jesus tells us not to take oaths at all. This seems counterintuitive, but Jesus’ message is that our word should be enough. He encourages us to act with integrity in all areas of our life. When we do so, we can be our authentic selves and therefore do not have to make promises in order to redeem trust. If we tell the truth all the time, we will have less pressure to back up our words with an oath or promise.
  • Do not swear by your head. What Jesus means is that we do not have the authority to create or destroy things over which God has authority. Swearing against God aligns us with the enemy. Just as he attempted to assume God’s position, so do we when we attempt to sit on a false throne.

Oaths are needed today because we live in a sinful society. Trust is a powerful element of our ability to interact as sinners. Psalm 64 says:

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,  from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose;  they talk of laying snares secretly thinking, “Who can see them?” They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. (Psalm 64:2-6)

 Jesus calls us to be genuine in our pursuit of honesty and personal integrity. He asks us to keep our promises to God and ask for forgiveness when we fail. The grace in this lesson is that God always keeps his promises to us, no matter how many times we fall.

Peace and blessings this week

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!

It was before the Lord

Two recent Bible Journal posts have mentioned verses or themes from Matthew 5-7 (also known as the Sermon on the Mount). Stephanie’s post on 3/10 and  Lyndon’s post on 3/12 mentioned loving our enemies.

2 Samuel 6 also reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount. I wonder if Jesus had these stories of David on his mind as he gave this sermon. Jesus would have heard these stories and understood the text from being a young boy, so it seems quite possible.

David had been celebrating and worshipping God, he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14a). We witness David not holding back whatsoever, giving his all solely for the glory of God.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b]they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

As David returns to bless his household, he is greeted rudely and angrily by his wife Michal. Why did Michal respond the way she did? 2 Samuel 6:16 says she “despised him in her heart”. Ouch, his own wife!

This chapter doesn’t tell us her reasoning for being upset. I’ve got some thoughts on this, and all relate to what I believe is the root for most of our sin: Selfishness.

  1. Was Michal jealous that David put God first in his life?
  2. Was Michal full of pride and embarrassed that David lowered himself before the people, dancing like a maniac? As though the king should behave more “kingly”.
  3. Was Michal bitter that David held greater esteem than her father (Saul)? Did she think the throne should be in her own family?

Whatever the reasoning, I see this as persecution directly related to David’s love for God and his desire to serve him first. This brings me again to the Sermon on the Mount.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

David’s response to Michal was more than fair, and he chose to keep it above board without snarling back insults at her. I loved this statement “It was before the Lord” because it reflects his priorities and that he really didn’t care what anyone thought about what he was doing – he cared about being right with God.

39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

All of this once again leads me to the cross. I don’t know exactly what it feels like to be despised but Jesus does. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life yet he was despised, betrayed, beaten, spit upon and unjustly killed. He didn’t have to do any of this, but he did it anyway in direct obedience to The Father’s plan, for our sins. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice. I choose you today. Amen.

Today’s readings: 2 Samuel 6 & Psalm 38

Extra credit reading: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)