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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.”

 

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Is Justin Bieber a Real Christian?

Justin-Bieber-Expected-to-Release-Album-in-2015-News-FDRMX-1024x576As someone who spends time ministering in Hollywood, I hear questions like this all the time. “Is so-and-so a real Christian?” It’s happened recently with Selena Gomez, Shia Labeouf, Chris Pratt, and now, Justin Bieber. The young pop star recently was quoted in Rolling Stones magazine stating, “I just wanna honestly live like Jesus… We have the greatest healer of all, and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in.”

Honestly, I’m amazed that the first question that so many have after hearing words like that is whether or not it’s real. Why doubt? In a day where most Christians are afraid to invite a friend to a weekend service or are unwilling to retweet their pastor’s latest 140 character message, a passionate and faith-filled testimony like JB shared in Rolling Stones should be applauded. I read the article and wanted to get saved all over again! How awesome, that someone so influential would risk their fame and open themselves up to so much potential criticism by telling the world the impact that Jesus has made in their life! I would take 1 new convert like Bieber over 300 unmotivated-sour-faced-know-it-all Christians any day of the week, even without ever winning a Grammy!

Earlier this year, Justin attended the Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia. Kudos to Hillsong BTW, because they limited the media’s access to Justin while there and protected his privacy, so that he would feel comfortable attending. At my church, Oasis (www.oasisgranger.com), because of my influence in entertainment and role in coaching top performers, we have regionally and, at times, nationally known figures attend church frequently. They are there to worship – not sign autographs or take selfies. It’s important that people give them their privacy and let them set the precedent of what’s acceptable behavior. The last thing they need is someone saying, “So are you really a Christian?”

Obviously no one knows what’s in someone’s heart, though we all love to think that we do, but personally, I’m cheering for Justin. Will he “fail” publically? Perhaps, but I know one thing, societies’ criticism and skepticism of celebrities’ faith sure doesn’t do anything to help them stand. In fact, I would partially blame the church’s incessant need to sniff out if someone’s conversion is real as one of the reasons why those in the spotlight have trouble living a life of faith from the beginning. Think about it – Celebrity X finds Jesus and tells the world about it. Next the church (you know the place that is actually supposed to receive them and welcome them in) responds by criticizing the legitimacy of their experience and offering judgment instead of acceptance. What do you think this does in the life of the new believer (aka Celebrity X)? Failing to be accepted as a “real Christian”, celebrities like Justin are often forced to follow Jesus in isolation and without a community of faith. Like a sheep that’s stranded away from the flock, this makes them more prone to attacks from the enemy, discouragement, and stumbling. Then when they “fall”, instead of offering grace, the church responds with an “I told you they weren’t a real Christian” attitude and only further pushes them away.

Our skepticism may very well say more about our own lack of faith in the working of the Holy Spirit, than it does about whether or not an individual celebrity actually had a real change of heart. Why should we be surprised when someone like Justin Bieber gets saved? Because of his past behavior? Really? What about our past behavior? Have you ever had too much to drink? Have you ever looked at pornography? Told a lie? Guess what? The Bible teaches that if you’ve stumbled at just one point you are guilty of breaking the whole law! If we are going to question Justin Bieber’s salvation based upon his behavior, perhaps we should also be questioning our own.

So am I saying that he should just get a pass on his behavior? No, I’m saying he got a pass and it’s called the Cross! I’m not implying that sin doesn’t matter, but I am stating that our behavior is not what determines our salvation. Sure, true salvation produces good fruit; but let’s not pretend like we never stumble ourselves. If most Christian’s lives were as public as Justin’s, we’d probably question their salvation too.

Justin Bieber Switches On The Westfield Stratford City Christmas LightsBeing in the spotlight is never easy. Nor are the pressures of the entertainment industry. What is easy though is standing on the sidelines and judging someone else’s performance that is actually in the game. Are there some that use “their faith” as a means for selfish gain? Absolutely! Are there some who claim they have a relationship with Jesus, but have no evidence of the fruit of this relationship in their life? Without a doubt! But can’t we at least allow a young man some time to figure things out before offering judgment regarding his spiritual integrity? Wouldn’t you want the same courtesy?

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The Power of a Humble Heart

There is perhaps nothing more powerful than a humble heart.  Humility, the most misunderstood of all virtues, is the ability to accept and acknowledge God’s opinion and perspective in our lives.  This is where the power lies.  The moment I accept and embrace God’s perspective, I share in his strength and am able to flow in his plan.  This level of empowerment is often missed in our traditional understanding of humility.  Typically, when defining humility, most would only associate it with being lowly in spirit, but this is incomplete.  True humility, simply put, is being sensitive to God’s perspective in our lives.  This definition allows variety in our personality while keeping the emphasis on embracing God’s perspective.  Regarding this level of empowerment, Psalm 149:4 states,For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”  The surest way to victory is to embrace God’s perspective and that is that he “takes delight in his people”.  When we know God’s love for us, we are empowered to be truly humble. 

In this, when I know that I am loved, it becomes quite easy for me to admit fault, acknowledge weakness, and seek forgiveness from those around me.  This kind of humility seems may seem counterintuitive to our minds, but only in reaching this level of security in God’s love for us, can we ever really be free to be ourselves.  To admit fault, seems like such weakness, but in reality, it brings power.  In fact, humbling yourself to those around you, confessing your weaknesses, in actuality is the greatest sign of God’s power and personal confidence working in your life.  A truly great person, one who is fully established in who they are in Christ, should have no complaint in admitting their shortcomings, for regardless of their weaknesses; they know their position in Christ.  Additionally, they know Paul’s confession in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “for when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Like Paul, when we walk in true humility, we gain access to the power of God and begin the road to abundant victory in every area of our lives. 

Only a person insecure in their faith, unsure of how God feels about them, would struggle to demonstrate or show weakness.  This ignorance and insecurity causes them to overinflate their abilities, refuse to see their flaws, and make the false assumption that they are always right.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they desperately try to cover their shame with anything they can find.   Their self-worth is so low, that acknowledging one more fault, in their mind jeopardizes their personal value more than they are able to bear.  Therefore they stand firm in their positions and behavior, refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones to blame.  In actuality, all of us make mistakes, even the most spiritual of people.  In every situation and conflict, we all play a part.  Resolution comes by acknowledging this.  The sooner we acknowledge our weakness to those around us, the quicker we will begin to overcome our relational conflict.  Breakthrough is as close as our willingness to acknowledge our humanness.  (Please note, in Christ, we are complete in our spirit man.  In our spirit, we are righteous, holy, and perfected forever.   But in our minds and flesh, we are still being renewed day by day; none of us have fully arrived.  To only take the perspective of the spirit, will cause you to ignore areas of your mind that are still in need of renewal.  To only take the perspective of the mind, causes us to fail to notice our fullness in Christ.  So as far as God is concerned, we are blameless through Christ, but as far as our brothers and sisters are concerned, we must acknowledge our faults.)

As we further strive to maintain a life defined by humility, below are a few questions to consider.

1.)     When was the last time that I took even partial responsibility for another’s pain or an incident of relational conflict?

2.)    How often do I ask those around me how my behavior patterns affect their lives?  Would I be able to receive and deeply consider their answer if it was a negative response?

3.)    If humility is embracing God’s perspective, what am I doing in my daily life in order to gain this perspective? 

4.)    Make a list of 10 behavior patterns that you display (i.e. running late all the time, have trouble listening) and how these patterns might affect those around you. 

5.)    Make a list of as many promises as you can think of regarding God’s perspective towards you. 

6.)    Return to these questions often.

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Calling All Church Planters!

Thinking about planting a church?  Then you NEED to check out www.oasnet.org .  The Oasis Network For Churches is looking for qualified church planters and pastors who are passionate about the Gospel of Grace and the finished work of Christ.  Currently, the Oasis Network is working with pastors and church planters in the US (Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois), East Africa, Sweden, St. Lucia, Mexico, Malaysia, and many more places to come.  For more information, visit our website www.oasnet.org or call us today, 574-247-9800.  We are looking for YOU!

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Vitalized Couples

Last night at Oasis Granger, we hosted 5 couples for our 2nd meeting of Vitalized Couples – a discussion oriented teaching group focusing on giving life to marriages. Last nights topic was, “How to Affair Proof your Marriage”. As the class started I was amazed by the transparency and honest by which couples shared. A topic like this would be so easy to just say the easy, safe answers, but these couples got raw. Here is a short list of some suggestions that couples had to help increase intimacy in relationships and to “affair proof” marriages.

-maintain honesty regardless the cost
-have daily sex
-if possible, spouses should not travel without each other alone
-set aside time each day for honest talk
-ask each other questions about needs, emotions, health of relationship, etc
-always tell spouse right away about any contact with a past boyfriend or girlfriend
-be understanding of spouses struggles, knowing that based on Christ’s definition of “adultery”, we are all guilty of breaking it. No one is faithful 100% of the time but God.
-help spouse discover and face their own heart; become more self aware.

That is just a few of the tips that our couples had for building safer, stronger marriages. I’m proud of everyone for sharing and I’m believing that this group and Oasis Granger are going to have the best marriages on the planet! Next Vitalized Couples is a dinner date to Olive Garden, Nov 13th (friday) at 7pm, across from UP mall.

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New Song, “New Creation”, From Fellowship Church

Not sure how I feel about the painting…but I think it’s a great song.  Hope to hear it soon at Oasis.  Minus the paint.

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Oasis Mexico Mission Trip 2008 Photos

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The Use of Symbolism in the Bible

It is perhaps undeniable that symbolism is used throughout the scriptures.  The psalmists paint vivid word pictures as they describe God’s unchanging nature and his mighty works, Paul uses countless analogies to portray the contrast of law and grace, and even Jesus himself uses parables and symbols to share the wonders of the kingdom of God.  All of these things, parables, word pictures, types, shadows, and analogies is what I’m referring to when I say “symbolism”.

In this same vein, as I’ve been studying scripture further, the more types and symbols I discover.  For instance, I’ve been looking at the story of Noah, when he sends out the raven, and then later the dove on both occasions.  As I’m studying this, I see more than just a man on a boat trying to save all the life in the world, but I also see a picture of the Holy Spirit.  Noah, as a type of God, sends out his spirit in the form of a raven and a dove and it had place to rest, so the spirit returned unto him.  Though as time past, “in the fullness of time” as it says in Galatians the Spirit found one olive branch to land upon in the person of Christ.  Next, because of this single branch, God released his Spirit again and it was finally able to dwell on the earth (a symbol of what happened on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts).

Now let’s talk about this.  Is the story of Noah true?  Yes, I believe it is.  And anthropology seems to agree with this, as almost every people group has a “flood” story.  Did God intend for the story of Noah to be a foreshadowing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?  If you ask me, I would say absolutely.  My personal belief is that the Bible is like a deep painting that has layers and layers of color and texture making it impossible to search it’s fullness.  But let’s say that wasn’t God’s intent.  Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that it never even entered God’s mind that somebody like me, however long after the days of Noah, would look at this story and come up with the conclusion that there was a deeper meaning in this account than just a single family, countless animals, and a heck of a lot of water.  What if God never intended the story to speak that?  Is it then wrong for me to interpret that?  My answer is “no”.

Let me ask this…when you look at a tree blooming in the spring, is it wrong for you to think of God’s beauty?  Or as you sit under a starry Colorado night, is it wrong to meditate on God’s vast depths?  I would again say “NO”…absolutely not.

Now, with that being said, can symbolism be dangerous?  Absolutely yes!  If I approach scripture, and interpret some meaning of a certain obscure passage that the writer, nor the Holy Spirit, even intended, harm can result.  I believe this is most commonly seen in the prophetic realms.  One reads an Old Testament prophecy and plugs in their assumption of what symbol mentioned equals which country, based upon current events, and whamo!  There you have yourself one potentially harmful prophecy.  (Not at all implying that this is always the case.)

Obviously, anyone can make scripture say just about anything they want it to; leading to control and manipulation.  Oh, this scripture means Koolaid and this scripture means poison….that’s how a cult forms.  So how do you navigate scripture while receiving the full benefits of symbolism while avoiding the pitfalls?   I utilize these rules when looking at Biblical symbolism.

-Biblical symbols have to be interpreted through the Bible.  (i.e. Christ is often referred to as an “olive branch”)

-Biblical symbols have to edify other truths of scripture.  For instance I would be wary of some “new” truth in scripture.  New to you is one thing, new to the believers throughout time is another.  I look for symbolism to give a fuller picture to the truths of the Word, as in the story of Noah.  I already new how the Holy Spirit came into the world, because Christ clearly teaches this, but the Noah account gave me a clearer picture of God’s heart in the matter and the importance of Christ.

-Biblical symbols should always elevate Jesus.  If the symbolism you’re using does anything other than elevate Christ, I would question it’s validity.  All of scripture points to Jesus, our symbols should be no different.

In fact, I think this final principle is perhaps the key.  The life of the believer, the truth of the Word, and the beauty of creation, all point to Christ.  Our revelations should always lead us to Him and His great love.  This is best seen in Revelation.  People reads John’s prophetic book and they come up with all sorts of conclusions.  For me, I haven’t figured it all out, but this I know.  In the first few verses it says, ‘this is a revelation of Jesus Christ”.  That tells me if your interpretation paints a picture of anything other than the person of Jesus…you’ve read it wrong.

The Word is a deep water….blessed is the one that takes the time to navigate it’s fullness.  Have a great week.

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Lost in Space!

Lucas with Joe and his wife LisaLucas with Joe JohnsonYellow SubmarineRocket at Space CampGreat sign at Impact Ministries in Huntsville, AL

Above are some final photos from my trip to Alabama. Notice the yellow submarine… 🙂

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Alabama Continued….

Above are a few pictures from yesterday from my time with Dave Sumrall.  We met for breakfast at Cracker Barrel and got to catch up with all that’s happen over the last few months.  (I think it’s been since October since I’ve seen him.)  As usual, I ordered way too much food, and couldn’t eat all of it.  When will I learn!  Afterwards we went to visit a large mega church down here that Dave has relationship with called Church of the Highlands.  We were greeted by Michael W. Smith – no not the song writer, but the pastor….  Michael was a great guy, who has a very similar role with their network that I do with OasNet.  He works a lot with church planters in the start up phase, etc.  I thought we hit it off well and I’m hoping to be able to utilize him  as a resource in the future.

The church was really impressive.  They grew from 4,000 to 8,000 in 6 months earlier this year.  Their building was awesome too.  Very well done.  Above are a few pictures from our visit.  (Though I totally spaced getting a picture of Dave and I together…)

Later that day, I had some lunch, read and emailed for a bit, drove around exploring, ate dinner at a Cajun grille near my hotel and had some really good Creole dish that the waitress recommended….awesome!  As Vic would say, “It’ll make your tongue slap your brains out!”

I concluded the evening my watching Lost, which seemed to be crazier than ever tonight….wow!  Ladies and gentlemen we have just entered the world of time travel.  Fasten your safety belts.

Today, I’m meeting an old high school buddy, Jim Whitehead, for lunch, before driving up to meet Joe Johnson in Huntsville.  Hope to load a few more photos tonight.

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