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!

A way out.

Today’s reading in 1 Samuel 25 has a fascinating story where David shows kindness to a man named Nabal, then humbly asks Nabal for a favor. Nabal’s response is selfish, rude and offensive. David is so furious he makes plans for revenge, and a bloody one at that.

I see God’s story and our story throughout this chapter. I love how God speaks to us in every Biblical story showing us his good nature, his good plans, his love, his mercy, and his grace!

  1. There was a gift, one that wasn’t earned: David’s initial assistance to Nabal. I think of all of the gifts we are given on a daily basis from a loving God that point to him as the giver, asking for our hearts to turn to him, to acknowledge him as the giver, give thanks, and give back to him what is his.
  2. The response to the gift was sinful. This is our sin. We too often take God’s good gifts and use them for our own selfish desires or we don’t acknowledge God as the giver by thanking him.
  3. God’s vengeance is justified in that without Jesus, just one sin can separate us from him.  Our vengeance is not justified (as David planned to do). Vengeance is God’s: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
  4. Forgiveness was requested. Nabal’s wife Abigail lowered herself, humbly begged for forgiveness and acknowledged The Lord.
  5. Mercy is granted. Praise God loving us and for his plan for salvation through Jesus Christ! All we need to do is humble ourselves before him and acknowledge Jesus and our slate is clean.
  6. God’s eventual judgment of the non repentant heart. Yikes! “And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.” (1 Samuel 25:38)

What also was clear in this chapter is the reminder that God always gives us a way out when we are tempted to sin. David was tempted yet given a way out through Abigail’s intervention.

On my heart through writing this post were some of the lyrics from the song “Do it Again” by Elevation Worship. He makes a way when it seems there is no way… something about this part of the song nearly always brings me to tears.

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

Praise God for this promise and the countless times he’s given us a way out. Amen.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

Today’s reading links: 1 Samuel 25 & Psalm 26

His Plans Cannot Be Thwarted

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 6 and Psalm 7.

We read yesterday about how God caused tumors to come upon the Philistines because they had taken the ark. They now realize they have done a terrible thing and want to know what to do. The priests tell them to make a sacrifice and put the ark on a cart with two cows. If the cows go to Bethshemesh, then they know what they have done was bad and the Lord has caused these tumors to come upon them. If the cows go somewhere else, it was a coincidence. Where do you think the cows went? Right to Bethsemesh. In fact, they went to the field of Joshua there.

Have you ever done something so bad you don’t think God can possibly forgive you or turn it into good? Has someone else ever done something so bad to you that you don’t think God can forgive them and you doubt how God can turn it into good? I’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark enough times to know that taking the ark of the covenant is probably a bad idea. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Philistines repented like we should do when we sin, but they did look for direction on what to do and God gave instruction through the priests and led the cows to go to Bethshemesh so they knew it was not a coincidence. The ark is now on its way back to where God wants it, despite their actions. After Israel was defeated in battle and the ark was taken, if you were one of the Israelites would you have ever thought the Philistines would want to give it back on their own accord and that two cows with no one leading them but God would bring it back? I highly doubt it.

How often do we doubt God’s plans and His grace for us in our sin, as well as His plans and grace for other in their sin? His grace is greater than we can ever imagine and His plans cannot be thwarted in the midst of our personal sins and the missteps of others. God will work everything for the good. Romans 10:8 says, “but God shows His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How blessed are we that when we sin and make mistakes, all we have to do is turn to Him and trust Him! He will make it right. In fact, He already did nearly 2000 years ago on the cross.

Suit Up

Today’s reading is John 19 and Psalm 121.

John 19:7-8 reads, “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law and according to that law he out to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” Prior to this in John 19:6, Pilate said he found no guilt in Him, yet we know in John 19:16 he delivered Him to be crucified. Why was Pilate afraid, and why did He deliver him to be crucified, even though he found no guilt in Him? He could have been fearful of Jesus being who He said He was, but most likely he was afraid of a riot, and he did not want the word to get back to Caesar that he could not effectively govern his region. A riot during Passover would be even worse and the word surely would get back to him and may cost him his position.

How many times in our lives do we cave to the demands and temptations of this world because we are trying to please others for our own good and don’t want to stir the pot and start a riot? We either commit a sin of commission ourselves or don’t speak out about something that’s not in line with the Word and commit a sin of omission. We fear not fitting in or being ostracized by friends or co-workers, or maybe even fear of losing our job. Sometimes though, it’s just apathy. Every day we see things the world tells us is ok and normal that we know the Word tells us is not. Yet, how often do we stand up God and His truth from His Word? I know I often cave just like Pilot. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Thankfully, we know we are not condemned by these sins. Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We know from reading later in John that His death, burial, and resurrection make us right, whole, and one again with God. As Psalm 121:1-2 reads, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made Heaven and Earth.”

As we move forward and think about future tests, battles and temptations to heed to the demands of this world let us look to Ephesians 6:13 and pray we do as it instructs us to. “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Made Clean

Today’s Reading: Matthew 8 and Psalm 81

Today’s chapter from the Gospel of Matthew reads like a collection of short stories.  We hear about five separate miracles performed by Jesus. I must admit, I never like to read collections of short stories. Mostly because I’m always left wanting more. It feels as if I’m just getting to know the characters and understand their circumstance and then the story ends. But, like all good novels, the Bible doesn’t disappoint. When we consider these miracles collectively we see the common thread: Jesus the Messiah. Of course, this is Matthew’s purpose, to show the Jews that He is the eternal King.

The first story we hear is about Jesus healing a man with leprosy. When I first read it, I breezed through the text. It’s a familiar tale, one we have all heard as children in Sunday school. Often, we use it to teach children not to judge by outward appearance. It’s so convicting when Jesus reaches out and touches the leper in verse three of chapter eight. But what surprised me was the leper says in verse two,

“Lord if you will you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:2

 The title of the chapter is, “Jesus Heals a Leper” and yet, what we hear is the leper asking to be made clean. I checked several other translations and found that each time, the request is the same, “Lord make me clean.” Yes, the man wants to be healed. He wants to be cured. Just like leprosy, sin is an incurable disease. Only the hand of Jesus can cure it. Only the love of Jesus can truly clean our soul. So is there a difference between being clean and being cured? I’m not sure. The leper had to be inspected by a priest and be declared clean before Jesus’ miracle could be authenticated. The HSCB translation notes that Jesus performed many of his miracles through touch but he certainly had the power to heal by command and a great distance from the sufferer. Touching the leper was an expression of deep compassion since doing so put Jesus at great risk.

All of this leads me to ask, how can I ask to be made clean? I’ve prayed fervently for healing over the years. All three of our children have faced significant health challenges. But maybe, I’ve placed my focus on the wrong outcome. Perhaps by boldly asking for Jesus to reach out and touch our broken lives, we can be made clean. What are the sins in my life that need to be wiped away? How can I accept my ragged edges, my incomplete spiritual self and become content with the slow process of being made clean? Our Psalm today echo’s the idea of God’s goodness in our waywardness,

“I remove the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress, you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud.” Psalm 81: 6-7

 He answers us out of our thunderclouds. He can wipe us clean and in doing so, heal not only our physical wounds but our hearts as well. Boldly ask Him and as His word says, He will answer.

 

Into the Light

Today’s Reading: 1 John 1

Today we begin our study of 1 John. As we fall in to the routines of fall, I find myself struggling a bit to find the rhythm of a new schedule. I’m teaching my children once again to be diligent with their school work, to do their best in after school activities and to go to bed on time. In a way, John is writing to the Christians in 70 A.D. about a similar season for recommitment. By the time John writes this letter, Christianity has been around for more than a generation. Despite surviving significant persecution, the primary challenge was declining commitment to the faith. The NIV study Bible commentary says this about 1 John: “Many believers were conforming to the worlds standards, failing to stand up for Christ, and compromising their faith. False teachers were plentiful, and were accelerating the church’s downward slide away from the Christian faith. John wrote this letter to put believers back on track, to show the difference between light and darkness.” This description of early Christians certainly echoes our modern lives. We are tested daily by societal values versus the values instilled in us by Jesus Christ. I like the idea of getting “back on track.” After all, isn’t that the miracle of God’s sacrifice of his only Son for us. We get to begin again, we get do overs, we are allowed to get it wrong as long as our heart is always working toward what is right. By confessing our sins to Him and coming in to the light increases our fellowship with Him. True confession also necessitates a commitment not to continue to sin. John says this about confession in verse 9:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1: 9-10

So, if God has forgiven our sins through sacrificing his Son, why do we need to confess? Through the process of re-commitment and admitting our sins to our Heavenly Father we can grow closer to him in three ways:

  • Agreeing with God that our sin is truly a sin and that we are willing to turn away from it
  • Ensuring that we don’t conceal our sins form him and consequently from ourselves
  • Recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on His power to overcome it

(adapted from NIV study Bible-Zondervan)

Through my study of His word today, I’m able to see that I go a long way to conceal my sin from myself and therefore my God. I’m bolstered by the idea of stepping into the light and recommitting myself to a clean slate. Lord, help us as your faithful servants to recommit to you. Help us to use this season of change to strengthen our relationships within our families and most importantly with you. We love you Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Purpose of Comfort

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians are painful to read.  Yesterday David asked if any of us had ever experienced having a person we were trying to help question our motives and speak negatively about us to others.  I sadly answered yes in my heart as I read David’s prompting.

That experience was difficult for me.  Today’s reading challenged me to grow. Especially verses 3-7.

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

God is our comforter.  Παράκλησις, translated as comfort here, could also be translated ‘encourage’.  It holds in it the element of acceptance, council, and courage.  As if to say God is the one who finds our sorrow acceptable (or not) and strengthens us to continue on (if it is acceptable, more on this latter).

Παρακαλέω, translated as comfort three times in verse 4, could also be translated as urge, implore or exhort.  This helped me understand the activating (or reactivating) nature of this word as if strengthening one to get back in the fight.  God provides us the strength to continue Glorifying Him.

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

‘That we’ is a purpose clause.  God strengthens us so that we may be strengthened and encourage others.  Citing God’s character as the Comforter; the source of strength gives God glory.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

This was the most challenging part for me.  The comfort supplied has no limits, so long as our sufferings are in Christ.  Put another way, God supplies us with all the comfort we need for righteous suffering.

The question then became, what if the suffering was not righteous?  That is, what if the suffering was actually a result of my selfish ambition, seeking my own glory and not God’s?  This was my wake up call.

If I did not receive strength and comfort for the sorrow I felt, does it then mean that it was chastening rather than suffering for Christ?  I am inclined to consider this deeply.  Afterall, are we to believe that all suffering is because we are seeking Christ glory perfectly?  If not, as I reflect on a past wound that lingered too long, that sapped my strength when I know it shouldn’t have, I am inclined to think it was due to my sin and pride.

Ouch and amen! God is the righteous One who judges.  I am the sinner who is judged.  God is the Merciful One who gives grace.  I am the one in desperate need of His mercy and grace.   Admitting this depravity is the first step to receiving that which I need from God.  Confessing our Sin is our humble gate that protects God’s glorious reputation. (see extra credit below)

6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

We are to thank God for the righteous suffering.  We will know it by the degree to which we are supernaturally strengthened.  This is to be shared with and passed on to those who suffer.  All the time giving glory to God as the Strengthener.

7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

 

Extra Credit: God’s Glory and Confession of Sin

All things were created for God’s glory. (Revelation 4:11, Isaiah 43:7)  The proud are too busy seeking their own glory to give God His glory.  Confessing our sin proclaims God’s character as holy and His Law as right. (Luke 23:41)  Not confessing our sin is a way of blaming God for sin.  Notice the first sin and how Adam blames God. (Genesis 3:12)  Confessing our sin humbles us and gives God glory. (Joshua 7:19) In summary, when we do not confess our sin it is disagreeing with God, a form of attack on His reputation.  When we say, “God I deserve this” it agrees with God and brings Him glory.  We were designed to bring God glory.  This is one way we can do it.  Confessing our sin.  

The world says, ‘find your strengths and play them up.” the Word says “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Corinthians 12:10)

Actions Have Consequences

When I was in high school there was a night that I remember very well. I remember that night because I was with some of my friends hanging out at one of their homes, as we left we came out to find ice cream all over our windshields. We found out who did it and did what any other teenager would do…we planned an attack of our own.

 

We got eggs and flour and set out to find a car that one of the other guys owned. We eventually did, and I sat and watched as my friends started egging and flower bombing this car. I knew what they were doing was wrong but I kept my mouth shut. We ended the night in an all-out paintball gun war in my parent’s front yard (we lived out in the country) but that’s beside the point. The point was that my friends did something wrong, I knew it was wrong, and I didn’t say a word about it. In the end, it ended in disaster.

 

1 Corinthians 5 talks about this in the church. The chapter specifically talks about sexual immorality but I think this is something that can be taught about any sin. This chapter talks about the hard truth that sin is still a part of our lives and can easily start to take over our lives if we are not watchful. This chapter talks about a man committing sexual immorality by sleeping with his father’s wife. It may be easier to think about this in a different way. What about that time your coworker started to gossip about another person and you just sat there and listened. Maybe you didn’t participate but you knew that it was wrong.

 

Whatever the situation, it is your responsibility to stand up for what is right. God called us to go out to all nations and that could be as simple as your work, your friend’s house, or your own home. We have this responsibility because of love. If we truly love everyone and want to see them go to heaven, we stand up to wrong and with God’s help, we lead people out of the darkness.

 

Romans says that the wages of sin is death, so why wouldn’t we stand up against sin? Why wouldn’t we tell our brother or sister that what they are doing isn’t right? Paul ends this chapter with this, “Purge the evil person from among you.” This stuck with me. We try to focus a lot on spreading the gospel to all nations and but sometimes we disregard the church itself.

 

Christians are imperfect and sin-filled people too. We too can fall right back into the enemy’s grasp. Paul is saying that we need to focus some of our efforts on making sure that the church stays free of the enemy. Let me clarify I don’t mean that the church needs to be free of sin, I am saying that the people who are actively sinning and choosing to do so need to be spoken to. Not only are they acting in a way that leads them away from eternal life, their actions may also lead to false interpretation of Christianity by a new believer.

 

I don’t want you to go around looking at whom you can judge by their sinful behavior but I do want you to look around at some of your close Christian friends. Today, start to pray that the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to any evil that needs to be purged in you and the people who are close to. Just like my story about my car wars experience, I knew what I was doing was wrong and it ended in disaster. If we choose to keep allowing wrong to happen and not standing up against it, it will end in disaster.

A Believer’s Battle with Sin

Sanctification is the separation of the believer from his sin.  This separation is a believer’s ongoing struggle and a battle with himself.  It is internal.

In chapter 7 of Romans, Paul’s internal struggle with sin reveals how sin wages war against the Christian.  Do you struggle with sin?  (God’s word says you do. Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8, Isaiah 53:6)  If you are ready to admit that, the next step is to accept it.

The peace that comes with accepting how we relate to God (we are sinners that have turned away from Him and if we believe in Jesus our sins will be forgiven) will feel like a heavy load being lifted from you.  Remove the expectation that you need to be perfect to become a Christian or that once you become a Christian you will no longer battle with sin.

It is not about you being perfect – it is about Jesus being perfect.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christians motivations to hate sin and flee from it.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way, when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christian’s motivation to hate sin and flee from it.

Here are some notes from a sermon (first link in the resources below) on how sin battles with a believer:

  1. It is within us. James 1:14-15
  2. It is a battle of the mind, of our thoughts. Romans 7:23, 1Peter 1:13
  3. Victory is in Christ.
    1. Confess your sin to the LORD and ask his forgiveness. (1John 1:9, Proverbs 38:13)
    2. Ask the LORD for the strength to refuse to entertain sinful thoughts.  (2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 1:7)
    3. Avoid evil. (Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 18:7-9)
    4. Draw nigh to the LORD, pursue His Word.  (Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:6)

Here are three great sermons that will arm you with the truth regarding separating from your sin:

  1. Sanctification and Sins of the Mind
  2. Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking
  3. Breaking Sin’s Grip

Deliver Him to Satan?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

August 31st, 2016

When first read, 1Corinthians 5:5 can have a puzzling effect on the reader. At least it did for me. Still when I read this and other similar instructions it causes me to slow down and think deeper on what I’m reading. A command to hand someone inside the church over to Satan, to abandon them, seems like it could be at odds with love which never fails (1Corinthians 13:8). It gives a feeling that we are being told to give up on a person. A closer look shows that is not the case at all.

  1. Abandoning the person to their owns ways will give them the best chance at learning the right way (1Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps condoning sin may have the opposite effect. God’s law is everywhere, convicting iniquity and reinforcing truth. It is there to help us understand that we are sinners in need of saving (Romans 7:7).
  2. The more I study this I have come to believe it is a matter of humility. The prideful lie is that this person’s salvation rests on our shoulders. That God is relying on us and us alone. That we must save them. More, that if we were to somehow offend them, that we would be responsible for their lack of salvation. That removing them from the congregation would somehow be our choosing to condemn him. If this were to be believed think of the consequences. How the sinful behavior could corrupt the whole (1Corinthians 5:6-7). Instead I think the truth is to love them in peace and entrust them to God, exercising the perfect balance between love and justice. The scripture tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The conclusion here I believe is that Paul was not giving up on this person but rather that he was committing them to God’s sovereignty and trusting in God’s plan for showing people their need for Him.

God thank You for Your justice that makes everything right: Selah. Thank You for Your love, perfect with no conditions. Thank You for Your Grace and Your mercy LORD and for coming to save us. May we love others with the love of Christ that You have given us. May we be fishers of men. Amen.