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Sober Up…So That You Can Pray

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7 (ESV)

One of the reasons that people don’t pray well is that they live in a cloud. They may be praying, but they are not praying soberly.

Certain situations come upon us in life, and they make us sober up. You know where I’ve seen this a number of times?  In marriage counseling. Mostly it’s men. Through years of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen guys come to me and they say, “Pastor, I can’t believe it, my wife wants a divorce.  Tell her not to divorce me.”

And then I’ll say, “Well, tell me the story.”  And when the man begins to do that, almost invariably, he begins to allude to the fact that he has not treated his wife very well through the years. He has neglected her through working too much or spending the evenings with his buddies, or he has treated her like a hired girl, or just taken her for granted, or whatever.  And sometimes it goes on for 10, 20, 30 years.

And you know what happens – one day, she comes and says, “I want out.  I’m divorcing you.” Now, she may or may not have a biblical reason, but one thing is sure – she is just too tired to take it anymore. And the moment she says that, do you know what happens?  I’ll tell you what happens…He sobers up. Now you get it, right? He wasn’t necessarily drunk.  He was just a fool living in a cloud…and now he’s awake. Now, he looks at this wonderful woman who has put up with him through the years, and he snaps to attention.  It’s like he was dreaming and now he wakes up.

Aside from coming for a visit to see me, a man in this situation will begin to act quite differently…if she gives him a chance.  He will begin to realize what he had, and his life will change.  He will sober up.  And if that man is a true Christian, I’ll tell you what else he will begin to do…he will begin to pray.  He probably hasn’t given very much time to praying about his marriage in the past, but now that he’s sobered up, he starts to pray.  And he will pray as if everything depends upon his prayers.

Now listen to what Peter is saying:  Wake up!  The end of all things is at hand.  It’s smelling salts for an unconscious man.  It’s a cold slap across the face. The end is near. Therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the sake of your prayers.

This is the kind of spirit we have to have if we want to pray well.  You see, a lot of people pray; not many people pray as if their life depends on it, as if their children depend on their prayers, as if their marriage depends on their prayers, as if their church depends on their prayers.  Many people pray, but I doubt that most of them pray…soberly.  To be sober in prayer is to understand what is at stake, and when you understand that, you get blood earnest.  And earnestness in prayer is one of the great keys to prayer.

“The Devil is aware that one hour of close fellowship, of hearty converse with God in prayer, is able to pull down what he hath been contriving and building many a year.” – John Flavel

“If I had only prayed more…”  “Oh, that I had prayed a hundred-fold more!” – Dr. Andrew A. Bonar

For Monday, November 16th: 1 Peter 5

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Secret Sauce in Evangelism

Man counselor caught in between fighting yelling coupleWhat would you tell a mom and dad desiring to spread the faith to their kids? Or what do you think is the key to passing on your faith to friends at work? We often believe that the secret is a winsome presentation of the gospel, or having good answers to the tough questions, apologetics and such. And to be sure, we need to present the gospel as clearly as possible. Certainly, we need to try to provide people with answers to their questions.

But Jesus said that there is something about love and unity between Christians that helps people see that our faith is real and true. For instance, in John 17:23, Jesus prays to His heavenly Father that His followers “may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me.” (emphasis mine)

Paraphrase: Jesus said, “If you are unified, people will know that I am from God.”

So Frances Schaeffer called love…the final apologetic. Apparently, if you get everything else right – if you prove that Jesus is God, and you prove that the Bible is true, and you show conclusively that Jesus rose from the dead, but you miss love and unity, apparently it’s very hard for the world to see that Jesus came from the Father. This makes sense, because after all, true evangelism is Spirit-driven.

This is why Paul was so concerned about the Philippians having the same mind…about unity at Philippi, because unity is…huge. So Paul wrote:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV)

Unity was a big deal to Paul because the spread of the gospel was a big deal to Paul – this comes out in Philippians chapter 1, where Paul writes about those preaching with wrong motives – “But what does it matter, the important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached, and because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18 NIV) You see, Paul just wanted the gospel out, by hook or by crook, and even if you were preaching it with wrong motives, he didn’t care.

But get this – since Paul was so fired up about spreading the gospel, he was fired up about unity and love.

A clear application is in the home: Moms and dads, as you want to pass on the faith to your kids, you probably already know the basics – read the Word with them, and pray with them, and make church attendance a priority, etc. But in the midst of all you’re doing, do something else: Do your best to get along, to love one another, and when you fight, as Diane and I did (ahem, sometimes still do!), yes, even in front of the kids at times, then make up in front of them too.

And, by the way, you are divorced, please don’t lose heart – for praise God, He moves in every situation. But do your best to treat your ex-spouse lovingly and kindly now.

Because as strange as it may seem, your marital unity is one of the biggest ways that your kids are going to see…that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus has really come from the Father.

For tomorrow, Thursday, August 6th: Philippians 3

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Divorce and Remarriage in Light of Eternity

Seminary never really prepared me for marriage and divorce issues in the church.

My professors tried, mind you, and I got the basics in my New Testament and ethics classes.  It was there that I came to the common evangelical understanding of when divorce (and thus subsequent remarriage) was appropriate or permitted. Like most, I hold to an understanding that divorce is permissible in cases of adultery (usually of the unrepentant type) or desertion by an unbeliever. At Edgewood we use this criteria to determine whether we can perform a wedding of someone who has been divorced.

But…I’ve found through the years that it is almost always very difficult to sort these things out in the vicissitudes of day to day life. Circumstances are never as simple as the ethics textbook led me to believe they would be. So many times I have felt coldly clinical and legalistic as I have tried to think through a person’s circumstances which might make remarriage possible. I need…we need…to be biblical, but applying biblical standards always feels so hard.

But I get good instruction on these issues as I read Paul’s word to the church at Corinth on divorce and remarriage. In 1 Corinthians 7, we find that when Paul considered these issues, he was moved and motivated by thoughts of eternity. In other words, when the question came up of whether divorce was permissible, Paul gave standards which we need to follow, but he also asked, “Which course might lead my unsaved husband/wife (and children!) to trust in Jesus?” Consider…

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 1 Corinthians 7:11-16 (ESV)

I know that some couples are suffering greatly in their marriages. And I feel for men and women married to unbelievers, especially when these believers have unsaved spouses who are quite antagonistic toward Christianity. I have heard many sorrowful stories through my years of pastoral ministry. And as we have already said, there are surely sometimes biblical reasons for divorce. (And by all means, if you are feeling unsafe, or are being hurt, talk to us at the church and we will help you get to a place of safety.)

But aside from all this, Paul makes the powerful case to hold on if at all possible…because sometimes unbelieving wives and husbands are “made holy” through their Christian spouses. And of course they are! How many non-believing spouses have trusted Christ through the faithful witness of their spouse? Surely many are enjoying eternal life now because a spouse held on.

And what he says about children is probably an even greater motivator to most people, for even if someone cannot be motivated to hang in there to save an antagonistic spouse, they are likely to be moved by thoughts of their kids in eternity: “Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” Wow. As we think about eternity and our longing for our beloved children to be there with us, staying married is apparently important, even staying married to an unbeliever. So ask the Lord for His grace, either to hang in there now in a tough marriage, or even possibly…to consider reconciliation.

All that said, whatever your story now, remember that God can save anyone, including your ex-spouse or your children of divorce. So ask Him to move…and keep asking; He loves to save the children of believers in all circumstances.

For Thursday, May 14: 1 Corinthians 8

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What Jesus Taught About Marriage

Rog and Di wedding

A joyous day, May 30, 1992

After 10 years of marriage and two children, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (not pictured 🙂 ) announced in March of 2014 that they were divorcing, only they didn’t call it that; the phrase they used was “conscious uncoupling.”

The (former) Hollywood power couple was guided by the husband and wife team of doctor and dentist Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami, who believe that divorce can have benefits.

From a Today.com article:

“High divorce rates, the doctors write, should be viewed in the context of our ‘skyrocketing life expectancy.’ ‘Our biology and psychology aren’t set up to be with one person for four, five, or six decades,’ they write, though noting that couples who do reach those milestones are to be envied, and also writing that just because a marriage is long doesn’t mean it’s happy and fulfilling.”

Well, who knew?  According to the expert dentist on marriage and her doctor husband, we weren’t meant to be in long commitments. Well, some may turn to a dentist for wisdom on matrimony, but I would rather turn to the Lord Jesus, who clarified the truth about marriage in Matthew 19…

Here are 4 truths about marriage we find from the Lord in this passage:

1. God is the one who joins two people together. To the individuals who are married, it always feels like they have made the decision to tie the knot (and thus they feel they can make the decision to “uncouple”), but Jesus assumes that when two people are married, it is because God joined them together (vs. 6), and because that is true, no man or woman (either inside or outside the union) should try to separate them. In other words, to seek to separate a married couple, or to seek divorce from within a marriage, is to seek to undo the very work of God. The phrase Jesus uses from Genesis 2 is, “Hold fast.”  Let not man separate.

2. When God joins two together, they become one flesh. One reason that divorce is so incredibly painful is that it is spiritually ripping the one flesh bond apart. This ripping is one of the many spiritual things that we cannot physically see in life, but ask anyone who has been divorced or who has watched one up close.  It actually feels like you are being sawn in two.

3. Marriage is always between one male and one female. Into our sexually confused world, Jesus, the Author of Life, says that God made them male and female. And according to this Author Jesus, marriage is always between a man who leaves his father and mother, and his wife. Therefore, Jesus assumed what civilizations have assumed for thousands of years: marriage is always and only heterosexual.  Even more than that, twice in the passage he calls them “two”, not “three” or “four” or more, as might be the case for polygamous relationships.

4. A hard heart will drive people to seek divorce. Not always, of course. Divorce and the desire for it arise for a myriad of reasons. For instance, in this passage, Jesus gives the reason that divorce is warranted (sexual immorality), and Paul said divorce was permissible when an unbeliever had deserted (1 Corinthians 7), but many times, a man or a woman seeks divorce because they have a hard and calloused heart.  I remember meeting with a young woman many years ago who told me she had fallen out of love with her husband, but that she still considered him a good friend.  Maybe she didn’t know it, but she had just driven a dagger into her good friend’s heart.

And while we’re on the topic, this 2 minute video from Tim Keller gives a grace-filled and biblical Christian response to the question of homosexuality:

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28th: Matthew 20

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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