Vocabulary of Divorce

Preaching through James is proving to be a deeply convicting labor.  Over the last two Sundays, we have delved into the sin of partiality, as James tackles it in Chapter Two, verses One Through Thirteen.  Though he applies it directly to economic status (rich or poor), we had to explore ways in which we may knowingly or unknowingly commit this same sin in our church today.  While I hope I supplied enough examples and illustrations to help my listeners examine their hearts, I want to now add another category of people that I think we often treat with partiality in churches today:

Divorcees.

Believers who have been divorced cannot win for losing in evangelical churches today.  I realize many hold firm convictions in the matter of divorce and remarriage.  I personally have strong convictions informed by texts like Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7.  But I also must be humble enough to recognize other Bible-believing believers and scholars do not see it exactly the way I do.  So, this issue is kind of like eschatology – it demands an ongoing humility, not a dogmatic judgmentalism.

So, though I might not think a certain divorcee should get remarried, I cannot castigate that person or mistreat them as somehow “sub-Christian” if they do in fact remarry.  Neither can I be disappointed if a divorcee chooses to remain single, despite all the best attempts to match-make inside the church.  These decisions are deeply personal, and every divorcee carries bloody scars that will never fully heal until Resurrection Day.  So, may “mercy triumph over judgment” in these matters for us, dear friends.  To help us think more deeply on this subject, I am pasting below some thoughts from our sister and Biblical Counselor, Lori Beard:

I hate the vocabulary of divorced people. I hear them talk and it breaks my heart. Things like, “Well I don’t have to have her back until 10. Surely he won’t get mad if I keep her a little longer.”  Or,  “Well I can’t pick my kids up till 9 and they leave at 12 so we won’t be able to do dinner.”  Or, “This is not my weekend. My kids cannot go.”

It appears to me the ones most affected are the kids.

The other language that drives me crazy is that of those who are married and have never been divorced, but have a struggling marriage. Things like this, “Nothing could be harder than staying in this marriage.”  Or, “I cannot wait until I am free of this hurt.” Or, “When he leaves I am done with him finally.”  It never ends.  It’s as if divorce is being anticipated!  Maybe even looked forward to?  

I also have figured out I hate the language of those married, who believe they have it all mastered, towards divorcees.  Things like, “Well, they should have married better.”  Really?  So you knew something divorced people did not?  Or was it by grace alone that you married who you did?  Or this, “They neither one had the guts or commitment to stay.”  Really?!  Did you ask them that or just assume as you made that horrifyingly hurtful blanket statement?  Or this, “Well, if she would have just thought before she married him.”  What if she did not just think but she prayed for hours?  She sought counsel from several pastors?  She went through intense premarital counseling? And what if your assumptions have crushed an already crushed person.

Words have so much power.  Often good power.  Like, “We the people” or “I have a dream ” or “Nothing to fear but fear itself.”  But they can also destroy and cause damage that is unseen, but is suffered for years. Be careful. Be careful. People are listening. So is God.  

A healing tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Prov 15:4).  

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Give Thanks

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:17-19).

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, do not let Black Friday darken your Thanksgiving!

During the sermon last Sunday, I mentioned the prayers of my Granddaddy McWhorter.  My Dad used to recall from his childhood how his Dad’s prayers were chocked full of gratitude.  It made a mark on Dad.  In my Dad’s last decade of life, I noticed how his prayers also just grew more robustly grateful.  It was if his heart were about to explode with thankfulness for all the Lord Christ had done for him.

I was 10 when Granddad passed onto glory, but I do also have a few memories of his prayers.  When I was a kid, we typically gathered at my cousin’s house in Danville, KY for a Thanksgiving feast.  Often, Granddad was called upon to “say the blessing.”  His prayers were a blessing!  Though as a child, I thought the prayers were a bit long, looking back now as a man, I am so appreciative.  He always seemed to have a long list of blessings for which he thanked God.  He was filled with gratitude.  And it bled over into his life attitude.  He was a joyful, happy man who loved Jesus and knew that “every good and perfect gift comes down from above” (James 1:17).

Brothers & Sisters, we do have so many reasons to be grateful to God.  I do not think I need to make a list for you.  I need not insult your intelligence.  You are very capable of making your own list.  And you should.  And you should fill your prayers, not just this week, but every week, with thanksgiving.

Do not lose the flow, the connection between “pray without ceasing” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”  Dare I suggest that if you do the latter (give thanks in all things) you will find yourself more often doing the former (praying without ceasing).  And “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

God always knows what’s best for us.  Thankfulness impacts every facet of our lives.  Find a truly grateful woman and you will also find a humble woman.  Find a thankful man and you find a prayerful man.  Locate a teen with an attitude of gratitude and you will locate a teen with true joy in Christ Jesus.  It’s impossible to be thankful while simultaneously murmuring and whining.  Thanksgiving to God in Christ for His innumerable and unmerited favors literally grounds our identity.  No self-esteem issues are likely to creep into a Christian’s life who spends significant time on her knees praising God for all His benefits!

Find a thankful believer in Jesus, and you will find a Spirit-powered believer in Jesus.  Again, do not disconnect “pray without ceasing” and “give thanks in all things” from “Do not quench the Spirit.”  Perhaps nothing douses the Spirit’s flames in our hearts as quickly as a complaining, ungrateful attitude.  How can we possibly be unthankful, dear Christian, when

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things” (Rom 8:32).

O Christian Brothers and Sisters, give thanks!

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Due Process

A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed.  Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established . . . and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother.  So shall you purge the evil from your midst” (Deut 19:15-19).

that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses (Jesus as recorded in Matthew 18:16).

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord (Prov 17:15).

Our nation is at a cross roads.  Few can doubt it.

The #MeToo movement arrogantly calls itself an “era.”  Every day someone on the news or social media refers to the “MeToo Era.”  That seems rather arrogant for a movement that has only been around a year or so.  Only several decades will tell whether there was any lasting impact from this movement.

Right now, thanks in part to the Judge Kavanaugh hearings, there is a fairly strong backlash against the #MeToo movement.  The upcoming elections will be fascinating!  But the backlash, at least among some, is not against standing against legitimate abuse.  It is not against standing against denigrating women or stifling their voices.  No!  All sane and even half-way moral people are against abuse.

The backlash is against what this movement seems to be trying to do.  That is, change the paradigm of due process that has been the heart and soul of America for over 200 years:

Innocent until proven guilty.

Or,

Guilty upon a single accusation.

This is critically important stuff for our society!  For any society.  The principle of being innocent until proven guilty was drawn out of the Word of God.  While I realize America is in no way Old Covenant Israel, nor is our nation the Church, that does not mean that the principle of due diligence to prove someone’s guilt has no merits.  It has tons of merit!  And if you are the accused, you will most definitely want and expect due process to demand corroboration and evidence beyond a shadow of doubt before you are scalped.

We will never know what really happened on the day in 1982 described by Professor Ford.  I am not God.  Given the scant evidence and lack of corroboration, I cannot possibly come to any definitive conclusion regarding Judge Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence.  But because I strongly hold to due process (innocent until proven guilty) I must at this point assume the Judge innocent of the specific charges brought against him by Professor Ford.

Hearing someone’s voice, or listening to someone’s story, is not the same thing as automatically assuming its truthfulness.  Truth must correspond to reality.  And from a worldview perspective, what we are seeing with the #MeToo movement is a logical conclusion to 50+ years of ethical relativism.  Relativism – the idea that truth is not absolute / objective but is rather relative / subjective – has been taught in our public schools and universities for at least 3-4 generations now.  What effect does that have upon a culture and society?

Well, we are hearing people tell women, “Speak your truth.”  The key word in that exhortation is “your.”  Your truth.  Her truth.  Their truth.  His truth.

What happened to just the truth?

It collapsed under the barrage of relativism that has brought us to this precipice.  This precipice where whatever we think about anyone or anything is our truth; and therefore is true.  Facts?  Evidence?  Corroboration?  Two or three witnesses?  Reliable witnesses.  Not the kind hired by Jezebel to condemn the good man Naboth (1 Kings 21).  Not the false witnesses that slandered the Righteous One Jesus (Matt 26:59-61).  Good, proven witnesses.

To help give a more honest perspective on what is really going on beneath the surface of this national conversation, maybe we should all ask ourselves, “Would this be happening if President Trump had nominated a woman for the Supreme Court?”  Granted, the Left hate conservative women, but I think we all surely must admit that this uncorroborated accusatory tone would not be happening if the nominee were a woman.  Turns our Relativism is never satisfied with genuine equality.

God help us if we abandon objective truth as a society.  God spare us from giving up on the dogged pursuit of Truth with a capital T.  We will disintegrate into social, moral, ethical, familial and economic chaos.  Come to think of it, that’s exactly what we see happening, isn’t it?

Is the #MeToo movement horrible and evil in all aspects?  Not at all.  To bring more attention to real abuses in our society is a good thing.  But I pray this movement can somehow find its way back home to good old, biblical due process.  I pray this movement anchors itself in objective truth.  For that’s the only way to truly show love for the hurting and disenfranchised.  Condemning the righteous or endorsing the guilty are abominable to the Lord.  And that is never good for anyone, anywhere at anytime. 

Lord Jesus, You are the Truth.  You said God’s Word is truth.  Will you lead our nation to reacquaint itself with the concept of absolute moral truth anchored in Your revealed character and Word?  God, please do not allow Your true churches, filled with the redeemed in Christ, to drift away on the ocean of relativism.  Keep making us people of compassion who love so much that we insist on speaking Your truth to them, even as we listen to them.  Lord, we have all lied at some point.  Lord, we all have sinned.  All of us did evil things, especially in our younger years.  Father God, if someone ever accuses us as Your people of something that is true, give us grace to humbly admit it, confess it as sin and seek forgiveness from You and the offended person.  If we are falsely accused, help us not revile back, so that we glorify Jesus by following His perfect example (1 Peter 2:18-25).  Help us keep entrusting ourselves to our Heavenly Judge who does all things justly.  God, please keep exposing lies in our society and then give us grace to renounce them and cling to what is true, noble and good.  Most of all, Lord Jesus, we praise and thank You for receiving the “due process” of God’s wrath against our sins.  Because we have been shown such immense mercy in Christ, we can and must show mercy to others.  May we demonstrate that mercy even in the way we speak of Professor Ford, or other women who bring accusations.  And may we show that mercy to the accused as we diligently work to discover the truth corresponding to reality.  For Christ’s sake, amen.      

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Judging the Judges (Part 10)

It’s all downhill from here.

That epitaph could be written after the death of Samson.  Israel just goes from bad to worse.

Let’s see, first there’s Micah and his mother who uses 1,100 pieces of silver to make an idol which she has the gall to dedicate to Yahweh, the One True God who hates and forbids idolatry!  Micah then turns his home into a little mini-temple to false gods made of metal.  Micah even talked a Levite into being his own personal “priest” in his house of idols.  The Bible’s summary simply cannot be improved upon:

In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (17:6).

Then the tribe of Dan decided they wanted this apostate Levite to be their priest (Judges 18).  So they stole him away along with Micah’s household idols.  They then proceeded to rape, pillage and burn the city of Laish, which had done them no harm.  They re-named the city Dan.  This is how idolatry works, folks.  A false god (i.e., Satan) is never satisfied to only enslave one household.  Idolatry spreads like gangrene.  And it infects men’s souls.  It makes them more evil than they could ever imagine they would be.

Next, we encounter this delightful little story of a Levite who stays overnight in the territory of the Benjaminites.  The men of the town surround the home where an old man is graciously hosting the Levite and his concubine, demanding that the Levite be sent outside so they can have their way with him sexually.  The old man refuses, but the men’s persistence must have worn down their resistance because the Levite eventually has the bright idea to just let the men have their way with his concubine.  Lust always demands satisfaction.  It dominates a person and cares not who it victimizes.  They raped the woman all night and she died the next morning (Judges 19).

This led the Levite to cut his concubine’s corpse into twelve pieces and send them to the twelve tribes of Israel.  (My guess is the concubine would have preferred this pitiful excuse for a man to have killed her prior to her being raped all night by homosexual men.  No doubt she would have chosen death over her “husband” throwing her to the wolves.)  Anyway, the twelves tribes are incensed when they realize what has happened.  They gather for war, but first ask to hear from the Levite what happened.  He tells a very self-justifying version of the event, which leads them to go to war against the Benjaminites.  The Tribe of Benjamin is nearly wiped off the planet.  Tens of the thousands of men die in the civil war (Judges 20).

The tribes of Israel then start to feel sorry for the men left of the tribe of Benjamin.  There were no wives for them because they had all vowed not to give their daughters in marriage to them.  Their brilliant solution to that dilemma was to go slaughter wholesale the people of Jabesh-Gilead, sparing only 400 virgins.  Those virgins were then forced to marry men of the tribe of Benjamin.  The men who still had no wives were then told to go steal their wives from the people of Shiloh (Judges 21).  Utter chaos and moral insanity.    

What can be said except to let the Lord’s epitaph on this whole sorry episode in Israel’s history stand as written:

In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).

The End.

Well, we better hope not!  Else we all go to hell.  Mankind left to himself.  Apart from God’s grace.  Without God’s redemption.  Absent of faith in the true, living God.  That’s what Judges shows us.  This is what life looks like when God lets sin run unchecked.  When every person becomes his or her own standard of morality.  When relativism reigns in homes and schools and governments.  The Book of Judges is a little glimpse of hell.  A foreshadowing of the destiny of any people or nation that refuses to submit to God’s good rule.

We Christians can all say of the Book of Judges, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Perhaps no other Book in the Old Testament so clearly displays our need of a Righteous Savior.  A Redeemer to absorb God’s wrath against our sins and to satisfy true justice in our place.  A God to graciously give mercy.  A Lord to change our hearts and to rule over us at the level of our wills.  If Christ is not King, we are lost forever.

But Hallelujah, our God reigns!  As the modern hymn written by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell says it, “Our sins they are many, His mercy is more!”

 

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Judging the Judges (Part 9)

Delilah.

The name conjures up images of a vixon, a sultry temptress, an irresistible woman.  Napoleon had his Waterloo.  Samson had Delilah.

The account of Samson and Delilah may well be the most well-known episode in the Book of Judges, and one of the most popular in all the Bible.  So, I need not recount it in any great detail here.  Rather, let me just draw out some lessons for us:

  • Many a man’s weakness is exposed by beautiful women.  Samson was a lover of women, and not in any godly sense.  He was promiscuous.  Women were his gods far too often.  As we saw last blog post, he was the proverbial ox led to slaughter.  Sexual attraction between a man and woman was a good gift from God.  Sin has trampled it under foot.  If godly men do not “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim 2:22) they will bring ruin into their lives.  Just like Samson.  Flee.  Don’t fight.  Flee.  That’s God’s strategy for lust in our hearts.
  • The longer Samson remains in a relationship with Delilah, the more stupidly arrogant he grows.  When he finally did reveal the secret to his great physical strength, he awoke from his almost drunken sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free” (Judges 16:20).  The next line is haunting. “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”  Sin had so blinded him that he did not even realize God was no longer in his life, giving strength to his spirit and body.  The Philistines gouged out his eyes and made him a slave.  But it all started with a spiritual blindness and hardness of heart.  Putting a woman before God.  Presuming that because God has graciously given him some victories in spite of his sin, that God would most assuredly continue to do so.  Not heeding any wise counsel.  The ox lowed blissfully all the way to the slaughter house!
  • Delilah fades away once Samson is at the moment of his greatest need.  This kind of woman always does.  She hurt Samson intentionally.  Played him like a fiddle.  Enjoyed the sex along the way.  Then moved onto the next victim once Samson’s eyeballs were plucked from their sockets.  Evil is resident even in the hearts of women!  Our extreme brand of feminism in America today needs to be reminded of this truth – sin is no respecter of gender.  Was Samson at fault?  Yes!  But so was Delilah.  And as far as we know, unlike Samson, she never repented or sought God’s mercy.
  • God mercifully blessed Samson with His presence at the very end of his life.  While working as a slave, Samson’s hair grew back.  But of course the hair is merely symbolic of God’s gracious power and presence in the man’s life.  Without God, Samson was nothing.  Without God, nobody is anything.  Samson’s simple prayer in the party hall of God’s enemies is, “O Lord remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28).  God heard that pitiful plea for mercy.  And God granted the request of Samson to “Let me die with the Philistines.”  Our Lord is merciful beyond compare.  Our Lord will judge His enemies.
  • Samson is no Jesus.  This should not even need stated!  But as a Judge, a Deliverer, Samson serves as an anti-type.  He foreshadows Christ, but only by way of contrast.  We are told “the dead whom he [Samson] killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (Judges 16:30).  I guess from a human perspective Samson goes down as a war hero.  But there’s never been a War Hero like Jesus!  By His death, He kills death!  By His death, Jesus brings eternal life to His people.  Yes, even God’s enemies.  Even a Philistine like me.  As Jesus dies, He prays for His enemies, “Father, forgive them.”

Jesus is the Judge of all judges.  Jesus is the Deliverer of all deliverers.  The strongest of men die.  But through faith in Christ, we all, from the least to the greatest, can live forever.

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