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Monday, June 5, 2023

Is Your Marriage Headed Toward Divorce?

Image from Forbes
"What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  (Matt. 19:6)
June 23, 2002 I married Kathe Lloyd. After we had known each other for several years, I approached her and asked, “You are someone I would be interested in marrying someday. Would you like to start dating?” And so we began, then got engaged, married, and had a hope like so many, that we would have a good marriage and a long life together. After all these years, despite some minor and major differences, we have been able by the power of God to love, forgive and still be together.

Unfortunately, for millions of others their story is different. Their marriages have ended in divorce or are headed that way. Our family is no different. Between Kathe’s side of the family and mine, there have been 16 divorces, spanning three generations. Plus, since God called me into the ministry in 1990, I have seen up-close story after story of tragic endings to marriages.

What does God have to say about all this? He created the first man and woman, then officiated humankind’s first wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, after that perfect wedding held in the spectacular Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the corrupting influence of evil entered into the world. This influence affected Adam and Eve’s own family and has every other family down to us. Consequently, multitudes of marriages have ended in divorce for most of human history. Even so, God has continually fought back against these forces that seek to destroy what He instituted.

When our wise Creator sent His beloved Son from heaven to earth, He addressed the massive divorce problem in His own culture. “…Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…” (Matthew 19:3-8)

You can see Jesus was facing a situation in which people were not seeking to save their marriages, but instead they were trying to find a religious or legal rationale to end their marriage. How did Jesus respond? He took people back to the beginning, to the first wedding in the Garden of Eden, to show them what their Creator’s perfect standard was, and still is, for marriage. For He said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Even in the face of widespread divorce and evil everywhere, God’s command has not changed. But Jesus’ opponents, who obviously wanted divorce to always be an option, pressed Jesus on why God (through Moses) allowed for it. Jesus gave a bold and direct answer, “Because of the hardness of your hearts…” Or put in other words, “Because of the evil within you.” This is the deeper reason why couples end up in the courthouse.

Is your marriage headed toward divorce? Is your hardness of heart causing the trouble? Often there is one spouse, where if he or she changes course, the marriage stands a chance at avoiding divorce. If you are that spouse, I pray that you will examine your heart. Then humble yourself before God. Admit your failings to Him, and cry out with all your being for Him to save you and your marriage. It may seem impossible because of what you have done, but with God nothing is impossible.

A prayer for you – Lord God, Jesus came to die and rise again that sin would not triumph. Defeat the sin of divorce that is knocking at the doors of so many homes. May spouses turn to you in desperation to save their marriage. Perform miracles, O God! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

My Body, My Choice

Image by Anne from Pixabay
"Have you ever known someone who took pride in saying something like, 'My body. My choice. I am going to live however I choose?' They are right!"
Have you ever known someone who took pride in saying something like, “My body. My choice. I am going to live however I choose?” They are right! Every person does have the human right to live and do with their bodies, whatever they want. However, it is also true, that though a person has the freedom to choose, they do not have the freedom to decide the consequences of their choices.

Look at the following statement from the Bible regarding one’s personal choice about sex. “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who [chooses to be] sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous…has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ…” (Ephesians 5:5)

Those are strong words.

What is God saying? He is strongly communicating that people who choose to engage in sexual immorality have serious consequences, and it does not matter the religious professions he or she makes.

Let us look at the meaning of sexual immorality. God is our Creator and He has established a perfect standard for all His creation to live by, no matter if they agree with Him or not. That standard is a sexual union only between a man and woman in the bonds of a covenant marriage relationship. However, due to mankind’s natural bent toward selfish living and away from God’s standards, outside of a small faithful remnant, this has been violated for most of human history. The sexual activities people are engaged in today are nothing new. It may seem new to us, but a review of world history, will show the current perversions of God’s sexual standard, have all been done before. And I use perversion intentionally, which refers to something that has been distorted from its original purpose.

How has God’s sexual standard been distorted? Through accepting a twisted and deceptive definition of love. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Godly love is an important foundation of God’s sexual standard.

Godly love is demonstrated through Jesus when He suffered, died and rose again for the whole world that has fallen short of His divine standard. When He sacrificed Himself for humanity, He deliberately chose to lay Himself down for our good. He shows that real love is bound up in a choice to serve and give up one’s life for another, regardless of feelings.

Godly love between a husband and wife is shown through selfless service one to another, including in their sexual relationship.

When it comes to sexual immorality, there is no godly love, only a perverted love. How so? Because it is about being controlled by sexual impulses and feelings of attraction, then yielding our bodies to them in order to pleasure ourselves. And there are no limits, no boundaries. We are told by our culture that real love is being able to express that love however we choose. That is a twisted kind of love and far from God’s standard.

If we choose to engage in sexual immorality and practice a perverted love, then we must be prepared for the consequences, which are “…no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ…” That means we will have no part with God, in this life and the next. And it does not matter if we say we are Christians, or have asked Jesus into our heart. For the evidence of a genuine inward faith in Jesus, is a life that conforms to His standards.

If you have fallen short of God’s standards, is there hope? Yes! No matter what you have done. Just call out to God, stop your sexual sins and turn to Jesus with all your heart. Then heaven’s gift of forgiveness and newness of life will be yours.

A prayer for you – Lord God, we confess our sexual sin. We have called it love, but realize it is not. We admit how we have failed your perfect standard. According to your mercy, please forgive us and wash us clean. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Cross: America’s Only Hope

Photo by sspiehs3 from Pixabay 

"If you take a few minutes to read any local or national news, you will find tragic stories. They often surround a person or group of people making poor moral choices that harm themselves and others. Somehow in the process, they convinced themselves that what was wrong, was right. This is at the heart of the crisis in our nation. The battle we face is not a political or ideological one. It is a spiritual one."

Above America’s dusty and grim skyline is an image. If you look carefully, you should be able to see it. There is one image of a long vertical wooden beam, then a second one of a shorter horizontal beam. Then slowly they come together and form the image of an old wooden cross that is blood stained. And there is a light shining from the heavens down on the cross. That is the vision of America’s only hope.

It is the sign of the cross. It is where Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and died for the sins of Americans and the whole world. And the hope of this cross lay in its purpose.

At Jesus’ birth an angel announced to shepherds in a field, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Save means “to rescue.” Rescue from what? Sin, which are the wrongs we do against ourselves, others, but primarily against God our Creator. Sin is what lives within our hearts. All of us are born with it. It is that natural bent within us to pursue our own desires, versus God’s. It is that sense of refusal to submit to His ways. Our sin is demonstrated in every lustful image in our mind, every selfish thought and act, every hurtful word spoken. It is like an inner moral rot that we are blinded to, and work to justify.

Jesus was sent from heaven to die, to recuse us from this. His suffering and death were the only means through which it could be done. The corruption by religious and political figures that sentenced Jesus to death was unjust. The crown of thorns pushed down into his head was excruciating. The tearing apart of Jesus’ flesh through gruesome whippings was bloody. Jesus’ weak body being hung on two pieces of wood, by being nailed to it through his hands and feet, was inhumane.

The horror of the cross illustrates the severity of our wrongs. Though we do not see them as evil, in the eyes of God they are. Our actions are unjust, wicked and only the cross can satisfy the punishment that is due for them.

Despite what we think of ourselves, in the courtroom of God, our horrific sinfulness requires the ultimately penalty of death. However, in the greatest display of mercy the world has ever known, God Almighty provided a better way to satisfy His justifiable penalty. He sent His Only Son to die in our place. He poured out the rightful punishment due for us on His perfect, sinless and holy Son. Jesus lovingly took our place.

And what is the validation of all this? Jesus not only died, but three days later rose from the dead and is still alive today! His resurrection means He overcame and conquered all our sinfulness that was poured out upon Him. He destroyed it all! He is the victor over sin, death and the Devil himself. Now because He lives, so can you. Because He has conquered, so can you. That is the hope of the cross for every individual and that is the hope of America!

Through the cross, a hard-hearted man can become loving, a bitter woman can become compassionate, a divided nation can become one.

A prayer for you - God in heaven, we can see the darkness of America. Evil and injustice in so many places. We are a broken people. Only you can save us! Examine our hearts O God. Help us to turn from our sin and to you for mercy. Wash us. Make us clean we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.