For Better or Worse

Consider with me what the Lord teaches us about divorce and how we are to abhor it. (Matthew 5:31-32) This can be a difficult and emotional topic to tackle, so let’s look at what Jesus says. On the heels of adultery, Christ Jesus turns to the issue of divorce and introduces His subject by saying, It was also said. You will remember this was spoken by Jesus in response to what was being taught, or how the Word of God had been altered. Now our Lord Jesus Christ is a strong Bible preacher, who calls out the current watered-down teaching of His day by fleshing out Deuteronomy 24. Where the Law of Ole Mo states a man could give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away, Deuteronomy 24:1~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, (NIV) Some Jewish leaders taught that indecency, or uncleanness, in a wife could refer to anything displeasing to her husband, such as burning his toast, or not keeping house to his standard. 

Thus in Israel, a man could divorce his wife by simply passing a note. Does anybody remember 4th grade? Passing a note that asks, Do you like me, check Yes, No, Maybe?  (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Talk about No contest, because this was considered a domestic matter it didn’t require going to court. Therefore, it’d become very common. Moreover, those who believed in easy divorce also permitted remarriage after divorce. Today’s numbers are in the neighborhood of 42-45% of marriages end in divorce and jump to 60% for a second marriage. Delving deeper, we learn the largest reason cited for quitting, is basic incompatibility at 43%, infidelity at 28% and then money at 22%. 93% of marriage failure rests on our decision making. As one pontiff recorded Marriage is a bond between a person who never remembers anniversaries and one who never forgets them. (Ladies wait for your BOAZ—Ruth 2) Saints hear me, these numbers and trends do not have to own our marriages.

At Mt. Beatitudes Church, Jesus Christ says we need the power of God to work in our lives. Men, we say, is that what you are wearing? Wives hear you look fat, so change! Though innocuous when we spoke, it’s passed through her filter, and she heard an indictment. Why? Because men and women hear differently. Ladies, when your husband says help me with this, what does he mean? He wasn’t asking you to take a look, to share what you thought, or even offer an opinion. Rather, he is saying, grab this, jump in and do right away, or I may raise my voice and lose my cool. 

Jesus looks at the congregation and says stop taking the easy way out. Failure to listen to and live with God will doom us to make some egregious errors, oftentimes caused by poor hearing. Remember 1 John 2:16, for where our eyes look, our mind will wander, and our heart will soon follow. But this doesn’t have to be our history, because Christ Jesus came to make all things new and that includes stale marriages. Still, the conservative Jewish leaders taught divorce could only be on the grounds of adultery, which is to say any form of forbidden sex. This is not Bill Clinton’s definition it is God’s, and in its broadest sense, it includes all sex with anyone other than our spouse, in any form. In the Old Testament, to prove His utter contempt for adultery, God commands Death. Leviticus 20:10~If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. (NIV) Jesus is reiterating marriage that is to be truly considered, before entering into a covenant. Later in 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul will add abandonment and Peter will add abuse to the list in 1 Peter 3:7 (be considerate, respectful, in the gracious gift of life, so nothing hinders your prayers). Every husband should memorize this.

I believe God is angry with husbands who don’t try to understand their wife and show her honor, as well as wives who do not respect their husband and thus, He doesn’t listen to their prayers. (Ephesians 5:22-33) If true, what does God think about a husband who abuses his wife physically, sexually, or emotionally? As a note to wives: God loves you and commands your husband to honor and love you. If he habitually abuses you physically or sexually you have every right to protect yourself. Separate from him as a way to help him change. I did not say leave him for another man. But if he truly loves you, he will change. If he truly loves God, he will change.

God’s way is always for us to change and become more like the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29) 2 Corinthians 5:17~Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV) We must let God work in our life and marriage. Marriage is hard work, ask Evelyn with 60 plus years of experience, and she’ll share it’s worth it. To recap, the Bible shares three reasons for divorce: adultery, abandonment, and abuse. 

If our desire is to follow Christ Jesus, we must learn to Walk in the Way of Righteousness and not just be religious. This takes considerable prayer, learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit and make small adjustments each day. Remember our journey through life and faith is a long-distance race. So, we come and study God’s word daily, connecting with other believers in small groups, and worship services to be encouraged and to encourage. Who might you encourage in their marriage today? Pray and ask God to help you share how He wants to work in and renew their marriage.



Unordinary

Today, we return to Mt. Beatitudes where we have learned how the scribes and Pharisees were a very religious and pious people in their practice of faith. Yet, Christ Jesus tells His listeners unless their righteousness surpasses the scribes and Pharisees, they will never enter. (Matthew 5:20) Our Lord is sharing that what God desires is not a list of do and do. Isaiah 28:10~For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there. (NIV) The passage shares the stupidity of a whole parcel of believers who want mindless following and box-checking faith. When what the Lord truly desires is a personal relationship Genesis 3:8~Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…(NIV). Are you truly aware that God genuinely desires to walk and talk with you, each day?

As Noel Regney penned, Do you hear what I hear, Ringing through the sky, a shepherd’s song high above the trees, With a voice as big as the sea. Do you hear what I hear: Hillside Jesus Christ asked, Are you righteous or just religious? If we have His righteousness imparted, by faith in Jesus Christ as Paul shares in Philippians 3:9, then we will do seven things, as we follow Jesus Christ The first three we discussed last week: Follow Biblical Commands (5:17-20), Control Our Anger (5:21-26), and Counteract Lust (5:27-30). This week as we again return to our periscope of Matthew 5, we consider the last four points of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. 

Why not take time today to put yourself in the Way of Righteousness, by asking God to reveal to you this week how He would like to remake you in His own image. Take time to also pray for your family and how God will use them and for grace to be shared, as they are often a tool of our Heavenly Father.



Blessed are the poor in spirit

If there is a place we all need to counteract in our lives, it’s probably lust. Most of us want something, we want something and Jesus says to us that if we are to counteract lust then we are going to have to dig into the Word of God. (Matthew 5:27-30) Now wanting something may not be inherently sinful, but what we do with that desire and how we allow that desire to grow and be cultivated matters. At this point in His sermon, Jesus now quotes the 7th commandment in Matthew 5:27~You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (ESV) Adultery refers to a person having sexual relations with someone other than his or her spouse. Most standing there felt pretty good about themselves. I can even hear them talking back to Him. That is right Jesus, reach up on that clothesline, put a dime in the meter and park it there preacher. To wit Jesus says, I will park it here. Matthew 5: 28~But I say to you that everyone who looks (βλέπω blepō) at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (ESV)

(βλέπω blepō) is a verb meaning to look, it’s present tense, denoting a continuous action, it’s repeated—looking. So lust begins with a look, we perceive, discern or process and then understand. See the progression of the word Christ Jesus used? Martin Luther offers us some practical advice, you cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. Jesus says that adultery begins in the heart as the act of lust is conceived and grows to bring harm to those around us. Just ask King David who lost a warrior, his own child, and even the Lord’s favor for a season, all because of lust. Moreover, the act of lust is more serious than our random musing of lust because it harms more people. Why? Because lust is a sin. Left unchecked, lust leads to wrong acts. Fantasy will build a desire for reality. The acting upon a thing, which will cause more sin in our lives, which in turn causes more pain, pain for us and those around us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act and reap a habit. Sow a habit and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny. I want to encourage you today by reminding you of Our Takeaway: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 5:3.

When we set out to counteract lust, we do so by making a commitment in advance. We need to learn what our triggers are. If you are a man and yoga pants are a trigger, then do not go to a yoga or spin class. For there will be a temptation. If you know that romance novels spark you and light your fire, then do not read them. If porn is a problem cut the chord. We do this in advance. Listen to Job 31:1~I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. (NIV)

To avoid lust, make a covenant with your eyes not to ever think about it. Jesus continues his message hillside that day with some hyperbole. Saying pluck out and cutoff (Matthew 5:29). Jesus was telling us to ruthlessly root out the things in life that cause us to stumble and fall in our faith. Saying dispose of sin, by making your mind up in advance because this will radically change your life. All sin begins in the mind—as our thoughts lead to actions and which will reap habits and alter our character. Therefore, to counteract lust, we need to change how we think. Take a look at the list of eight things Paul posits for us in Philippians 4:8~Finally, brothers, and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (NIV)

If we are righteous and not just religious, we will conform to all the commands in the Bible, as we learn better how to control our anger, and counteract the lusts placed before us. Take time today and focus in on confessing one of your shortcomings and then choose one of the eight Paul offers to replace it with.