Tag Archives: Jesus

The Christian’s Guide To Marriage and Divorce

Let me begin by stating that by writing this I am not trying to create a law for the church, and neither am I trying to state an opposing argument to the teachings of others on the subject of marriage and divorce.  Instead, I’m responding to a need.  Divorce is epidemic.  I’ve heard statistics of anywhere between 35 to 50% of marriages end in divorce (though the exact figure is actually harder to calculate than one might think).

 

Additionally, this article is not intended to bring condemnation on you, regardless of your past decisions or the situation with which you are currently in.  Likewise, this article isn’t intended to help justify getting a divorce.  After all, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:17 (All scriptures are NIV unless otherwise stated) that “each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.”  This means that you shouldn’t abandon your marriage or change your family status simply because of new information.  Instead, keep seeking the Lord and make the best of your situation.  The grace of God is sufficient for your circumstance.

 

With that being said, my audience for this piece is Christians considering divorce, Christians who have gone through a divorce in the past, and believers who are considering entering into a relationship with another previously divorced individual.  This is obviously a sensitive subject, so I encourage you to read and stay with the article all the way through to the end.  I truly believe that this message will be good news for the hurting — especially my conclusion!

 

TO THE DIVORCED AND THOSE CONSIDERING DIVORCE     

 

In Malachi 2:16, God clearly says, “I hate divorce.”  I think this is important to point out right from the beginning.  God is not for divorce.  It isn’t the best option.  If you are considering divorce, I believe that you should do whatever you can to reconcile your marriage.  Most at this point say, “I’ve tried that and it didn’t work!”  If this describes you, then perhaps you won’t like what I have to say next.  There are circumstances where scripture permits divorce, which we’ll discuss shortly, but never does scripture permit divorce for the following reasons:

 

    1. Because you aren’t happy.  It isn’t the job of your spouse to make you happy.  Happiness is a choice.  Even in prison, Paul was able to operate in the joy of the Lord.  Seek out biblical help to gain insight and principles to positively affect your marriage and restore joy in your life and relationship.
    2. Because you fell in love with someone else.  According to scripture, this is called adultery, and it’s one of the greatest enemies to marriage.  Every single one of us, at some point, must confront evil desires that try to draw us away from our mate.  James admonishes us to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Likewise, Proverbs 27:20 states, “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.”  If you just allow yourself to follow every single feeling or attraction that you have, you’ll always be blown around like the wind.  If you leave this relationship, because you “fell out of love,” you’ll leave the next one the same way.  Love is a choice and marriage is a commitment to choose to love your spouse, even when it’s hard.
    3. Because it’s challenging or difficult.  People seem to have this misconception that the problems in their marriage are the result of being with the wrong person.  This isn’t the case.  Regardless of God’s original intent, your spouse became the right person the moment you said, “I do.”  Difficulties in marriage, and all relationships, stem from self-centeredness.  Proverbs 13:10 in the KJV states that “only by pride cometh contention.”  This means that pride is the cause of the contention and strife in your relationship.  This shouldn’t condemn you; instead this understanding should encourage you and equip you with the power that you need to end strife forever in your marriage.  Get it at the root by partnering with your spouse to eradicate self-centeredness on both of your parts.
    4. When your spouse wants to stay married to you.  This is assuming that your spouse isn’t or wasn’t unfaithful and is not potentially harmful to you physically.  1 Corinthians 7:12-13 says, “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.”  If your mate is willing to work and live with you, you shouldn’t leave or divorce him or her, even if your mate is not a believer. Obviously there are cases when the situation is unsafe due to substance abuse or violent abusive tendencies.  In these situations, it might be necessary to separate for the sake of safety, but still I believe God’s best would be to pursue your mate’s emotional well-being and to seek reconciliation and healing if possible.  Divorce in these situations should be an absolute last resort. (Please note, both parties’ physical safety in a marriage is paramount. If you are unsafe or undergoing physical abuse, seek a safe harbor immediately.  I personally don’t believe that God would ever require someone to stay in a situation defined by abuse.  Don’t wait!  Surround yourself with godly counsel and people who can help you walk through the difficult decisions related to your situation. You don’t have to go at it alone.)

 

When is it Permissible to Divorce?

 

Under the Old Covenant, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 gives specific instructions on divorce and remarriage under the law:

 

 “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.”

 

Jesus provided further commentary on this passage in Matthew 19:8, “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.

 

Jesus’ teaching was so strong on this topic that it caused his disciples to say (in verse 10), “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”  Jesus’ disciples seemed to think, if the rules are this tough, it’s better to never get married!

 

Regarding this, John MacArthur states, “The rabbis had taken these laws and broadened them to permit divorce for virtually any reason.  Under the rabbinical laws, if a wife displeased her husband in any way, he was entitled to divorce her.  Jesus stated that this was never the purpose of Moses’ Law.  In fact, Jesus’ teaching on divorce was given specifically to refute the rabbinical loopholes.”

 

Jesus strategically used the law to expose the sinfulness of the self-righteous Jews of his day.  As Paul says, in 1st Timothy 1:8-9, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.  We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…”  Jesus took the Law to the extreme and used it to expose those that were trying to use the Mosaic Law to promote their own selfishness and agenda.  The teaching of Jesus stopped them in their tracks.

 

Paul later clarifies the doctrine of the church regarding marriage and divorce in 1St Corinthians 7:10, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  Some might be surprised to find that the commands for marriage and divorce actually appear stricter under the New Covenant.  Paul agrees with Moses by stating that divorce isn’t permissible (except for marital unfaithfulness), but both Paul and Jesus added to the Mosaic law by teaching that if you DO get a divorce, you should remain unmarried.  This instruction, in my opinion, is addressed specifically to the spouse seeking divorce, in order to expose their motives.

 

But what about the finished work of the Cross?  Didn’t Christ die to free us from our sin?

 

Absolutely, but Christ didn’t free us so that we could sin, but rather so that we could be freed from sin.

 

So does this mean that if I get a divorce, God won’t have grace for me?

 

If only I could answer this question that easily, but, ultimately, I believe it comes down to the condition of the heart.  If you are simply looking for a spiritual excuse to divorce your spouse, how can God bless that?  But if you go through a divorce, despite your best efforts to seek the Lord and make things work, why would you think that God’s grace is not present in your life? Many times over the years people have come to me for counsel wanting to divorce their spouse, but they’re afraid of the spiritual ramifications of divorce.  At this point, they’ve already divorced their spouse in their heart, but think that by maintaining the marriage from a legal standpoint that their righteousness is intact.  This is sort of thinking is steeped in self-righteousness, and carries an inherent misunderstanding of law and grace.

 

On the flip side, too often churches have made divorcees feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom of God — this shouldn’t be either. Is divorce greater than any other sin a man might commit? Are couples living in continuous strife and grief any better? Is it better to remain unmarried post-divorce and become riddled with depression, lust, or even sexual sin?  The real question is what’s in your heart? Why do you want to get a divorce? Why do you want to remarry? These issues aren’t as black and white as some might prefer, but I believe being honest with our hearts is the only way that we can really live in confidence before God and man and find wisdom to walk through our present circumstances.

 

Many times people seem to want me to answer their question, “Can I get a divorce or not?” It is so hard to make blanket statements about this though, because situations do vary considerably.  Those looking for a “rule” in the New Testament won’t find it; much like the rich young ruler, Jesus will simply answer, “There’s one thing you lack.”

 

Even in writing this, I’m well aware that someone might try to twist certain liberties or permissions to justify doing what they want to do.  At the end of the day, I can’t be responsible for that; neither can the Word.  This is just one of many reasons I believe aspects of Paul’s writings are vague on the subject — the new covenant was never intended to become law, but rather principles based upon love.  My intention in writing this is to speak to those who are trying to do the right thing, to follow God’s word, and to break free from the guilt and condemnation associated with their past.

 

If you are married and considering divorce, seek solid biblical counsel, and more importantly, seek God for strength and hope.  Remember, it took time and effort to create the hurts in your relationship and in the same way, it’ll take time and effort to bring healing and to regain intimacy.  Don’t give up early, don’t rush the process.  Give it time and healing will come in your life — regardless of the final state of your marriage.  God is faithful!

 

 

 

When is it Better to Remarry?

 

First Corinthians 7:8-9 provides additional insight into the question, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry:  for it is better to marry than to burn.

 

Paul says that if you’re unmarried or a widow, it’s best to remain that way, but if you cannot, it is much better to marry than to be bogged down by feelings of lust, loneliness, and dissatisfaction.  The word for “unmarried” in the Greek, means simply that – unmarried.  It’s different from the word for “a virgin,” and doesn’t seem to take into account the person’s history or past.  Essentially, Paul is stating that regardless of your past, it is better to marry, than burn with lust and passion.

 

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

 

First off, if you haven’t yet, read the section above, as I believe it will give some biblical insight into the nature of divorce and God’s perspective on the issue.  Beyond this, it’s important to note that divorce in most cases (almost always) is the result of two people’s shortcomings and failings and not just one party.  More often, when one party has an affair or files for divorce first, they typically are seen as the “bad guy” (or gal).  But in divorce, everyone loses; no one leaves unscathed.

 

Also, let’s be honest — no one really knows what goes on inside of a relationship between two people and we need to be careful of making quick judgment-calls as to fault, etc.  As the saying goes, “It does take two to tango.”  Often one’s behavior is simply a response to the other’s behavior.  You treated me like this, therefore, I’ll do this, and so on it goes.  As marriage counselor Emerson Eggerichs calls it, couples enter the “crazy cycle,” spiraling downward until someone eventually can’t take it anymore and the relationship is inevitably dissolved.

 

You need to be honest with yourself and with your spouse or significant other.  If you’re divorced, it’s okay to take ownership of your short comings and your mistakes in the relationship.  You’re human – and we all make mistakes.  Some mistakes have greater impact and consequences in our lives, but as Paul shares with the Roman church, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Take ownership and learn from the mistakes of your past.  In fact, simply blaming the entirety of your divorce on your ex does little to help your new husband or wife.  They would be much better off knowing realistically what caused the problems in the relationship.  If they really love you, they’ll want to understand and work with you through these struggles or past tendencies.

 

Except in extreme cases, there are most likely things that both parties could have done differently to salvage the relationship.  The exception would be in extremely abusive relationships, either physically or emotionally, where one party is being victimized.  As tragic as these situations are, many of them (note not all) could have been avoided all together by not rushing into a relationship without taking time to really know the other person and their past.  In no way though does this excuse the abusive person from their behavior.  Rather, it should serve as a warning as to the danger of rushing into relationships or just naively assuming that “once we get married they’ll change.”  In entering marriage, you should assume that the person will never change and in fact, their problems are likely to get worse.  After all, while dating we are all on our best behavior.

 

Often times, I’m asked if as a Christian, it’s okay to marry someone who has been divorced. (Earlier I dealt with if it’s okay as a divorced Christian to get remarried, which in some ways is the same answer.)  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV), “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord):  A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled from her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  For obvious reasons this teaching isn’t very popular.

 

Paul starts off in this passage and tells the church, as a charge from God, that husbands and wives should not separate from each other.  This is God’s best.  Marriage is supposed to be a picture of God’s love towards us.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, many have ignored this charge or been unable to live under it.  But Paul (and the Lord) anticipates this, and states, “But if she does”.  And then he goes on to give instruction that if someone does divorce, that she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.

 

I think it’s important to point out that these instructions were given to Christians within the church.  Personally, I believe that if divorce or remarriage happened prior to a person coming to Christ, then Paul’s instruction aren’t applicable.  It is also important to note that Paul was not writing to the person whose spouse divorced them, but rather to the Christian person who filed for divorce and decided to leave.  If they are leaving for reasons other than physical abuse or marital unfaithfulness, then they should remain unmarried.  Marriage should be treated with the highest level of respect and not abandoned lightly.  This charge should make someone considering leaving their marriage for superficial reasons think twice and should be a motivation to try to make it work.  Unfortunately, many ignore this and leave anyway.

 

Throughout scripture, marriage is used as the closet analogy of Christ’s relationship with the church.  Scripture tells us that even when we are unfaithful, that He will remain faithful to us.  We would do well to learn from Christ as to how to love our spouse and have a successful marriage.

God’s Grace in Marriage and Divorce

 Some of you might ask, so where is God’s grace in all of this?  Obviously, as with anything, it is ever present and is sufficient towards us in all ways!  First off, if this is the first time you’ve heard any of this teaching or you’ve recently became a Christian, or you’ve been divorced before and are now remarried, engaged to be married, or are wanting to get remarried someday, I don’t believe Paul’s words are meant to condemn you or to restrict you from enjoying your life as a Christian.

 

Beyond all of this, the Bible teaches that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Were you divorced and later became remarried?  Stay as you are, there is grace for you.  Did your spouse divorce you?  You are free to remarry.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstance.

 

As a Christian, did you divorce your spouse for reasons other than abuse or their unfaithfulness?  Repent and realize your mistake, God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Of course, the best case scenario would be to restore your failed marriage (assuming they haven’t yet remarried).  If you divorced your spouse prior to becoming a Christian, you are not bound to your previous life, God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Personally, I believe, you are free to marry.

 

Are you considering marrying someone who is divorced?  If, as a Christian, they divorced their spouse for reasons other than what scripture provides, how do you know that they will not do the same to you?  This is not a situation to enter into lightly.  Seek the Lord for wisdom in what you should do.

 

As I think about this, really the only person who might be offended by this teaching is the believer who is currently thinking of divorcing their spouse for ungodly reasons.  And for that, should you not be offended?  If that is you, repent, change your heart, and seek counsel on how to restore your marriage.

 

But if you do get divorced, I tell you the same as Paul states, you are not to get remarried; for you are making that choice now with full knowledge and with rebellion towards the truth.  As James reminds us in 4:6, “But he gives us more grace.  That is why scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Greatest Leadership Mind in the World

Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dr. Dean Radtke may be the only hope left for the modern church as we know it. Yah, yah, I know…our hope is in Christ, but perhaps more than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, Dr. Radtke has harnessed the leadership principles of the Bible, specifically those of Jesus, and developed a usable and repeatable system to train and disciple next generation leaders. In a recent episode of The Lucas Miles Show, I was able to talk in depth with Dr. Radtke, founder of The Ministry Institute, as he shared life lessons derived from his 70 plus years circling the sun, including tales from his time in the US Navy, his favorite former distraction at Grand Central Station, as well as what compelled him to give up millions in retirement stock options for Jesus.

Here is a link to the full exclusive interview with Dr. Dean Radtke:

 

1 Comment

Filed under The Lucas Miles Show

The Shack Revisited

Since the release of my article, The Shack:  A Story of Freedom or Force?, I’ve received an almost constant stream of hate mail regarding the concerns that I expressed, not about the film itself nor even the book, but rather the beliefs of the author, which he himself expressed clearly in his new theologically driven book, Lies We Believe About God.  In this Young states, among other things, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

My article in response to such bold and blatant theological error, which has received significant traffic and support over the past few days, was criticized as being unfair to Mr. Young, judgmental, and offering unsubstantiated accusations.  Because I am simply unable to respond to each individual diatribe that I have received over the past few days, I felt it best to assemble my response and to clarify my position, in a single follow up post – which I felt is only appropriate to call, The Shack Revisited.

To begin with, let it be known that I have never met Mr. Young, though I am certain that we have nothing short of a long-list of mutual friends and acquaintances, including pastors, journalists, filmmakers, etc.  From all of these mutual relationships combined, not once have I ever heard anything but wonderful things about Young’s disposition, character, and personal integrity.  As a fellow author and filmmaker, I also have the utmost respect for his creativity and talent, which are beyond evident in The Shack.  In fact, I have nothing against the man. I simply don’t agree with his theology, especially that which is expressed in his new book.

Contrary to this generation’s thin-skinned opinion, disagreement doesn’t equal insult.  I’m absolutely certain that Mr. Young and I agree about many things regarding the nature of God and the gospel of grace, but I would ask, “Are a few commonalities reason enough to ignore the false doctrines that he also holds, such as Inclusionism and Christian Universalism?”  The Apostle Paul didn’t think so.  He and Peter had much in common, but this didn’t stop him in Galatians 2:11 from calling Peter out for his doctrinal drift and theological error.  In doing so, I’m not questioning Mr. Young’s salvation, nor the beauty of his book, rather his love affair with progressivist theology, which is as equally harmful, if not more so, than Peter’s unwillingness to let go of his legalistic tendencies and constant people pleasing.

I’ve been amazed this past week at countless Christians who have been presented with excerpt after excerpt of Mr. Young’s own words describing his adherence to spurious doctrines such as Inclusionism, “Open Hell” (if he believes Hell exists at all), and Universalism, only to look the other way or justify his beliefs as being taken out of context.  Ironically, these same individuals, I have found, are among the first in line to call out legalistic tendencies in mainstream authors as an aspersion against the gospel itself.  Yet, when the pendulum swings the other direction, into liberalism, progressivism, and at times, antinomianism, all remain silent.  The consensus seems to be that there is no evidence for Mr. Young’s doctrinal drift and that The Shack is only a work of fiction, but this just isn’t the case.

In fact, Mr. Young’s own co-writer of the Shack, Wayne Jacobsen, said in an article he penned himself for Lifestream.org that when he first received the manuscript from Mr. Young that “universalism was a significant component in the resolution of that story.”  Mr. Jacobsen, in reference to his objection to Mr. Young’s position on Universalism, states, “Paul hoped to convince me I was wrong and sent me his paper on universalism.  We spent some time discussing it, but in the end I felt it took too much linguistic gymnastics to bend Scripture to that conclusion.”  As the article continues, Mr. Jacobsen explains that Mr. Young agreed to allow him to remove the theme of Universalism from the Shack in order to make the story more palpable to the audience that needed it the most.  Although Mr. Jacobsen was successful in removing the overarching concept of Universalism from the story-line, he says nothing of removing this line of thinking from his co-author, Mr. Young.  In fact, if anything, Jacobsen only further reinforces my concerns, that Young is not simply an Inclusionist, but a Universalist as well.

With that being said, I don’t believe the issue for the church is as much Mr. Young’s personal theology, as it is the obvious idolization of a fictional story by believers.  Hearing people speak about The Shack, one would think that Mr. Young has presented a clearer gospel than Jesus himself.  This is problematic for multiple reasons, but most importantly, it demonstrates the love lost in the heart of the church toward Christ and his word.  Like a desperate housewife bored with her first love, the church has revealed that it is on the prowl for a new gospel that is more exciting than the first.  This I intend to address further next week in a new post entitled, “Legalism or Progressivism:  Which is More Deadly to Faith?”

Until then, those who know me, should recognize that if the issues I’m describing where merely related to a movie, I would never take the time to present such a case, but in no way is this about a single author or a current film, but an evolving distrust for the church, the Bible, and ultimately for God.

“Who is wise?  He will realize these things.  Who is discerning?  He will understand them.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

– Hosea 14:9

 

8 Comments

Filed under Articles

Is God Rigging the Election?

“God is in control,” shouted one church-going woman recently in a conversation about politics when a man suggested that someone other than her candidate might win the election due to millions of Christians’ lack of political involvement.  But is she right?  Is God really in control?  And if this statement is true, then what does it really mean?  Is the election rigged…by God?  Are our efforts in voting, campaigning, and sharing our various political platforms meaningless and unfruitful?  Does the real outcome on November 8 belong not to the American people, nor corrupt politicians, but really to God Almighty?

If you ask many Christians, I think they may answer yes.  But is this what the Bible says?

As I mention in my book,   Good God ; The One We Want To Believe In But Are Afraid To Embrace, the Bible never states ‘God is in control’.  Rather, the Bible portrays a world where personal responsibility matters and where humankind receives the fruit of the seeds that we plant.  But this biblical truth of personal responsibility is often eclipsed by what I refer to as “the doctrine of the extreme sovereignty of God.”  And although the idea that

HEMPSTEAD, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican Nominee for President of the United States Donald Trump meet for their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Monday September 26, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“God is in control” has become a normal way of viewing God, it sadly leaves people to assume that everything that happens in the world, including the outcome of elections, was either approved by God or directly caused by our heavenly Father.

The reality is that the doctrine of extreme sovereignty is birthed out of convenience.  If everything that happens is “God’s will”, then it’s easy to divert the attention off our personal shortcomings, or political apathy, and chalk up the outcome of life, and the upcoming election, to God’s master plan.  I suggest that this is exactly the line of thinking which has allowed and perpetuated the current anti-Christian culture and lack of biblical values in our society.  Christian apathy in political participation has resulted in the passage of unconstitutional laws, which have unduly and illegally separated church and State.  Christians have falsely concluded regardless if they get involved in the political process, the outcome is divinely rigged.  Whatever God wills will happen.

Because of this, corruption has thrived, values have become distorted, and all the while the church is mostly silent – after all, God is sovereign.

Or is he?

Some might be surprised to discover that the word sovereign never appears in the King James Version of the Bible.  While it is found over three hundred times in the Old Testament of the New International Version – as in “sovereign God” – it is simply used a moniker equivalent to what is translated in the King James Version as “Lord God.”  In fact, never in one instance, even in the New International Version, is “sovereign” used to describe God in the sense of “controlling everything”.

With regard to politics, some would argue that Romans 13 definitely substantiates the idea that God is responsible for “establishing all authorities”.

However, the Message bible shines some additional light on the meaning of Romans 13:1-3 which reads,

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.

Another translation (J.B. Philips bible) provides additional insight by stating “all legitimate authority is derived from God’s authority”.

Paul never intended this passage to be a blanket endorsement from God for all those who are in power.  He simply stated that legitimate authority comes from God.  This isn’t referring to particular candidates and specific individuals, as if every politician has been hand selected by God, but rather it’s speaking to the benefit of the rule of law, and how godly laws help protect society from an infestation of evil and those who participate in it.

Some might attempt to prove God’s hand in the political process by referencing Old Testament passages in the Bible that mention God appointing certain men to be rulers in the Old Testament, like King David, Jeroboam, or even the prophet Jeremiah.

But we have to take note that these men were in a nation that actually recognized God’s directives and leadings.  Israel, when they weren’t in rebellion, gave God a say in the governance of their nation and, as a result, God’s voice was often heard and the people affirmed his leading through their acceptance of his choice.  Today is no different, throughout the earth, God is still preparing and elevating people to lead and govern, but this doesn’t mean that every nation always accepts his choice or acknowledges his plan.  In fact, a perfect example of this would be 1 Samuel chapter 8, where Israel demands that Samuel appoint a king over the people.  In this instance, the people rejected God’s form of government for the nation, and instead forced Samuel to appoint a king for the people – a king who’s reign was full of lies and ended in corruption and rebellion against God, I might add.

God’s will for Israel was originally rejected, causing him to pivot and eventually give the people what they wanted – an earthly king.  But think of all of the pain and hardship that could have been avoided, however, if Israel had sought God’s plan for their country from the beginning.  How many lives would have been spared?  How many wars would have been avoided?  We may never know, but what we do know, is that the people played a role in the outcome of the nation.  The same is true today.

We stand at the crossroads of one of the most important elections our country has ever had.  The media wants us to believe that it is a circus and a laughingstock, yet the potential results are anything but funny.  The next president will most likely appoint three or more Supreme Court justices who will define the rule of law regarding moral and social issues like abortion, sexual identity, and religious freedom.  In addition, they will be at the forefront of perhaps one of the greatest oppositions that this country (and perhaps the world) has ever faced – radical Islamic terror.  Who stands in office matters.  Your vote matters.  Your political involvement matters.  There is no separation of church and State, because the church is filled with individual private citizens with a right to vote, speak out, and be involved.  Should we do so in love and respect?  Absolutely!  But whatever we do, let us not for one second succumb to the lie that God is in control of the outcome of this election or any election for that matter – because God doesn’t rig elections and he loves mankind enough to allow us the freedom to decide our future, our politicians, and the outcome of our nation.

What will you decide?

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles, Uncategorized, World Events

On Claiming Early Church Fathers (Part 1)

Recently, I’ve witnessed a string of universalist pastors and teachers making claims that many well known early church fathers were in fact universalists themselves.  As a long time student of the philosophical writings of early Christian thought, I have been quite perplexed to witness these claims and see so many of them go unquestioned.  Specifically, the two that I hear most often are Origen and Irenaeous.

Origen, perhaps the most common church Father to be claimed by universalist teachers, is often highlighted for such extreme universalist notions that even Satan himself is redeemed; but rarely does anyone quote where he said this.  In actuality what Origen actually said is this, “So, too, the reprobate will always be fixed in evil, less from the inability to free themselves from it, than because they wish to be evil.” (First Principles 1.8.4)  It seems from Origen’s viewpoint, that all creation, including the devil could be saved, because of free will, but that it would in fact be their will to remain reprobate because of the desire to live in wickedness.  Furthermore, Marc Cortez, a theology professor at Wheaton College, adds to our understanding of Origen’s theology, claiming, “Origen’s point was that Satan did not want salvation because his free will choice.  He (Origen) writes in a letter defending himself against the above accusation, that anyone who would claim that Satan would be saved was a “madman.””

On more vocal universalist thinker recently claimed that Irenaeous was also a known universalist.  This was perhaps the most surprising to me.  In his writing, Against Heresies 1:10:1, Irenaeous himself writes, “[God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemous among men into everlasting fire.” 

By no means do I expect that one blog post should be viewed as an appropriate discourse on the mountains of writings by early church fathers, but I do hope that it may cause some to do their homework more and not just believe everything they read.  Can one find quotes and bizarre doctrines being presented by Origen or St. Gregory of Nyssa – of course they can!  But one philosophical proposition does not make someone a universalist.  I love what Paul Helm offered on the subject, “The trouble with these claims that we have been examining, vague and insubstantial as they appear, is that once they get into print that fact alone provides credibility to the view, at least to some minds. But printer’s ink is no substitute for evidence. Another reminder of the importance of primary sources, and the danger that what may count as ‘scholarship’ may in fact be nothing other than the retailing of opinions that no-one ever takes the trouble to check.”

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Human Connection: Additional Thoughts 10

Today I’m wrapping up The Human Connection Part 3. Together we will discover that God wants to bring out into the open that which has been concealed and to touch us on a heart level. It is on that level that he desires for us to walk out lives that are fulfilled and meet the potential he has placed in all of us.

So, finally Jesus gets through in Mark 4:24-25.  Jesus asks if we bring a lamp and put it under a bowl? Instead, don’t we put it on a stand? Because whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed. And whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. Consider carefully what you hear. With the measure you use it will be measured to you. And whoever has – will be given more. And whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

Now, if your Bible is like mine, those verses have a header and they are put into a different category under a different title. But Jesus is actually using those words to answer his own rhetorical question. He tells us this first secret to the kingdom. He says – Look – if you don’t get this one, how are you going to be able to get any of them? And he shares the parable of the seed that was sown.

In the end he says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And he shows us that what has been hidden is meant to be disclosed and what has been concealed is meant to be brought out in the open.

Then he says that whoever has – more will be given to him. And he who doesn’t have – even more will be taken away. And essentially, what Jesus is saying is the secret of the kingdom. It’s that God is always in the business of revealing himself. He is always in the business of giving you life.

There’s not one version of this parable where the sower stops sowing the seed or the sower saw the soil and decided not to toss it there. The sower is generously unveiling and revealing and disclosing his truth, his power. Jesus says – if  you can’t understand this simple fact, that God is in the business of revealing himself and God is in the business of revealing truth, how are you going to understand anything?

This is the crux to understand all the other truth that is revealed. God wants to reveal himself to us. He wants to show himself to us. He wants to unveil what has been hidden in the past and he is in the business of doing this.

God says take note of what you hear – and he’s not just talking about our ears. He’s talking about our heart level. Take note of what seed you allow in and what you embrace. Because sometimes we embrace stuff that is capable of killing us and ideas that choke life and twist our hearts while completely contradicting the straight pathway that God wants to give us. God wants to create this in our lives in order to allow him to flow through us.

God says whoever has will have more and he says and whoever does not have – more will be taken from him. Basically what this means is – you get more of what you have.

You get more of what you have.

You get more of what you have.

But, you say, “I don’t deserve anything.”

Guess what! Then you probably won’t get anything. It isn’t saying that God is going to do this. It is saying that your heart will create its own reality in this way. And what you believe about God and what you believe about yourself will shape your life. And if you believe that no one is going to like you and that no one wants to be your friend – you’re probably not going to have that many friends.

But the person who believes, “I’ve got value and I know God made me as an individual. I have gifting here.”

That person is going to prosper in that area.

Every single thing we hold onto and we believe – we will get more seed planted according to that guide. We get more of what we’ve got.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Human Connection: Additional Thoughts 9

We’ve learned why Jesus used parables and how our hearts can possess different kinds of soil according to where we are at in our faith. Today I’m going to share why we, at times, find ourselves offended by the very truth God uses in our lives.

In Mark 4:16-17 pressure arose because of the Word. Persecution arose because of the Word.

I always thought the word was preached and people were persecuted and because they were persecuted they backed away.

But the word in the Greek simply means pressure. What happens is that sometimes we are that thorny soil where the Word is preached. And it creates pressure in our lives and we can’t handle it, so we run from it. We back away.

That pressure is sometimes external and sometimes it can be persecution. But sometimes it’s that we’re not able to hear it.

I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating: The truth that has the most potential to set you free has the most potential to offend you as well.

Sometimes we get a word that is preached to us and it causes pressure. It creates offense. It creates something that we’re uncomfortable with, so we back away from it. And these thorns and thistles come in and choke that truth out because we can’t handle it at this point in our lives.

I shared with someone this year. I invited them to sit down and explained that I was never this direct – but they were setting up this unhealthy scenario. We have this softball team and people ask me all the time, “Have you won yet?” And it’s like this perfect pitch you can’t let this go by. And it was like that with this person. He had set me up with this perfect opportunity.

So, I told this person, “I’m going to be very direct with you. If you jump on this it will totally transform your life.”

I just put it out there – and they couldn’t touch it. They couldn’t deal with it. They couldn’t hear it. They had to argue every single way around it. I’ve seen this 100 times before. I’ve told people if they’d just do this one thing – whatever that thing is pertaining to them and I’ve added that it will transform their lives…They just couldn’t touch it yet.

So this offense is created by the word because it’s the word they need but it’s like that thorn in your foot. You know it needs pulled out, but you don’t want anyone to touch it because it hurts – really bad. And we push back.

But we don’t have to. If we seek God in all things and open our hearts to what he has for us – we will find that we become less offended at the truth and more open to what God wants for us and how much he wants us to experience his best – all the time.

Leave a Comment

June 15, 2014 · 12:35 pm

Human Connection: Additional Thoughts 8

Let’s take a look today at God’s word and what Jesus taught through parables and why he used them in the first place in order to help us become more connected to Him.

Mark 4

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

In Mark 4 Jesus teaches the parable of the sower. The farmer tosses the seed – some on rocky soil, some lands on thorny and thistle soil, some lands on the path, and some lands in the good soil.

The seed that landed in the good soil produces a crop of 30, 60 times the normal amount. He begins to break this down for his disciples – what it means. Interestingly, the first things the disciples ask is for more explanation. And in verse 13 he asks them if you can’t understand this simple parable – how will you understand anything?

You see, they weren’t looking with eyes of faith. They couldn’t comprehend. I should note that at this time the disciples weren’t even born again yet. They were hanging out with Jesus and they accepted him as a person and teacher and followed him. But they didn’t yet grasp that he was the savior of the world and that he was their righteousness. They didn’t realize that it was Jesus who makes us new. Of course, it wasn’t available to them yet because Jesus hadn’t yet died.

He then begins explaining the parable to them. He tells them in verse 11 that the kingdom of heaven has been given to us. And to those on the outside he speaks in parables and this is the secret of the kingdom. He was revealing it to them.

And Jesus walks them through the parable and explains that the seed equals the Word of God and the soil is our heart and the heart has different places, depending on where we’re at.

Your heart can be really good soil in one part. Maybe you know your value and you can love others, but when it comes to your finances you don’t grasp your worth. In that area it isn’t rich soil yet. And so we self sabotage in that area.

We never go beyond where our heart is at. We find an exit plan. We find a cheap excuse why we can’t move into this new thing because we aren’t ready.

But God is saying, “Come with me. I want to bless you. I want to expand your horizons and your belief and who you are. Because with me — all things are possible.” And God wants to do all these things with us and yet we resist.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Human Connection: Additional Thoughts 5

So, we know now that behavior modification doesn’t create heart change. We have to understand that when we connect to God we realize – it’s about what He has done on our behalf – not we have done.

Let me share an analogy with you. I had this kid on my shoulders in the pool and I slipped into the deep end. The kid on my shoulders had Aspergers and was having a great time. He was laughing and kicking and splashing and enjoying himself. He didn’t realize what had happened.  He didn’t know I couldn’t get air and that I was taking in water below him while he was having a good time with his legs wrapped around me.

And the more I pushed to the surface, the less capable I was of getting there with an 85 pound kid on my shoulders. So I did what was the most counter intuitive – I pulled his legs and pulled him under. Immediately he kicked off of me, realizing then what was happening and I was able to come up for air.

This is like the kingdom of God. Jesus lost his life in order to save us. We have to die to self in order for him to raise us up. And the usual method is behavior modification. But behavior modification is incapable of producing the results we want.

Another analogy involves the house my wife and I recently bought. The house has a Koi pond. The pond was really cool and came with fish and we really enjoyed it. Then? Algae.

The pond turned really green and was out of control. The water turned leprechaun green. So we went to the store and bought the proper solution to get rid of the algae. What I wanted to do was just take the skimmer and pull off the algae.

You ever do that? It’s like gardening. You pull the weeds and they come back again. That’s behavior modification. You can pull your weeds, but they’re going to come back every single time.

If I want to get rid of the algae I have to change the nature of the water – the chemical makeup. You have to create a balance on a deeper level and not just skim the surface.

Eventually we’re going to fail if we do this on our own. But if we begin to straighten our heart in order to get connected with God – something happens.

Thankfully, we’re not alone in this. It’s not up to you, by yourself, to straighten out your heart. God is in the business of giving us new hearts. That’s what new birth is. That’s what born again means. Once you put your faith in Christ, the old you dies on a spirit level and the new you comes to life in Christ.

Next week I will wrap up part 3 of this series with more truths God shares with us in his word and in our world – empowering us to live a life that is free in Christ.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Week 18 Devotional: Jesus’ Sacrifice

“Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.  He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27)

Have you ever wondered if Jesus’ death really was enough to pay for the price of your behavior?  I know I have.  When I was a kid, I would take communion every week at church and each week I would ask God to forgive my sins.  I can remember one week in particular when I had used a curse word during the week.  It was the first time I had ever cussed and it just slipped right out of my mouth.  I was certain that I was going straight to hell with gasoline underwear.  This isn’t to excuse my behavior, but what I didn’t understand was that the sacrifice of Jesus wasn’t just for the sins that I had committed before I accepted Christ, but that his sacrifice was a sufficient payment for all sins for all time.  By my attitude towards the death of Christ, I was communicating that God’s sacrifice wasn’t enough; it’s the height of arrogance.  Here I was thinking that God’s payment for sin was inferior to cover my failings.  Boy was I mistaken.  Here Hebrews tells us that God actually overpaid the price of sin.  Old Covenant priests had to offer sacrifices every day, but Jesus’ sacrifice was a onetime payment for the sins of the whole world!   Your sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven – rest in that today!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized