Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

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Matthew 19:1-12 – E-MAIL FROM JESUS ON MARRIAGE

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, He left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed Him there, and He healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap Him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And He said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10 Jesus’ disciples then said to Him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” 11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”   

E-MAIL TO JESUS FROM ME

Jesus, You are so old-fashioned. You think that from the beginnings of creation and probably beforehand (very old-fashioned), God invented marriage. If that’s the case, then modernity can only try to interfere with it or break it, but will fail since it is firmly established by God. You are saying that His original intentions remain unchanged. So no court or government can change the nature of what God has established. 

This makes sense to me, Lord. If marriage was designed by human beings and particularly by our present cultural hegemon (ruling class) who commandeer the social commentariat (media) we would see the downward annihilation of the basic union that holds society together, the family.  

But what I love about You, Jesus, is that although You are still being as vigorously questioned by the religious Pharisees of our day, You still show Your love for all people, while not buying into all of the popular cultural norms we try to justify. 

I recall that Paul says in Ephesians 5:22-33, that God created marriage to be a picture of Your love for Your church. It speaks to me of Your absolute faithfulness. Jesus, You are not going to write us a letter of divorce. You, at least, are faithful to Your Bride – the Church. We are not always as faithful to You as time and time again we choose to conform to the world around us.  

It’s easy to see then, why You hate divorce, Lord. It’s because You love marriage. Especially since marriage is designed to reflect the relationship we can have with You. But through hard-heartedness, many remain divorced from You, Jesus and from eachother.  

It occurs to me that divorce and other invented marriage anomalies, even unwittingly, picture a war on the beauty of the gospel, God’s grace, and faithfulness and on the basic unit of our society, the family.  

It seems to me that You make Yourself clear. God has designed marriage, so we don’t need to redefine it. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant relationship, as is our bond with You, Lord Jesus. 

Lord, it’s difficult to stand up against those who feel they can decide what the cultural position should be. The vitriol concerning gay marriage is an example.  

Nevertheless, as a Christian, I am compelled to stand up for my faith and to proclaim the answers from the Bible for living a life as God intended from the beginning.  

I’ve been reading some history, Lord. When You taught these principles, Jesus, women were regarded as property to be possessed by men. They had no rights. Women were abused: used and discarded, neglected and violated. Divorce was common. And the principles outlined clearly by Moses were often challenged and twisted to mean whatever the hegemon decided.  

The social commentariat that You spoke with would come up with all the loopholes or blatantly disregard God’s original intentions to proclaim their views as law. Leprosy and childlessness became reasons for divorce and along with countless other complicated reasons to break the marriage vows that God intended for a lifetime.  

Jesus, You didn’t side with Shammai or Hillel, respected Jewish scholars, but to what God originally intended and to God’s Word. As always, though not forever, You extend Your grace and forgiveness to those who respond to Your Word and Your love by entrusting their lives to You, Lord Jesus, in relationship. 

“Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together. I love the way You use the imagery of a yoke (joined together). Two oxen are yoked together, and they work together and are more effective in their work than they are separate. This is the picture of a man and woman united as one. Adam Clarke says  when persons (a man and a woman) were newly married, they put a yoke upon their necks,  to show that they were to be one, closely united, and pulling equally together in all the concerns of life.”  

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NLT) 

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT). 

Thanks, Lord. I value my marriage and love my wife. I also value and love my relationship with You. Help me to live out these principles.  

Yours, 

Ross 

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Matthew 19:1-12 – E-MAIL FROM JESUS ON MARRIAGE 
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, He left Galilee and went down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. 2 Large crowds followed Him there, and He healed their sick. 3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap Him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And He said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 7 “Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” 10 Jesus’ disciples then said to Him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” 11 “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. 12 Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”    

 

PS I found three commentaries particularly helpful when looking at Matthew 19:1-12 – Christ-Cantered Exposition – Exalting Jesus in Matthew, and Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Loyal (Matthew) and Ivor Powell commentaries. I have paraphrased some of their material because of their obvious desire to be faithful to the Biblical text.

In summary, the Bible tells us,

  • God invented marriage.
  • Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and believers and the loving relationship believers share with Him.
  • Marriage is a covenant made with God and a man and a woman for a lifetime. (Incidentally, this means He did not include group marriages, or gay marriages or many of the other marriage departures from His original intention that we have today.)
  • God intensely dislikes (hates) divorce because it is a departure from His original intention. This is because he loves marriage and faithfulness. In the same way, we could say that God hates unbelief because He loves and wants the best for men and women. He may hate divorce but not the one divorced. He may hate unbelief but not the person who does not believe.
  • God, in His grace, regulates the anomaly of divorce, just as he forces no-one to believe in Christ. Nevertheless, …
  • There is only one reason for divorce and that is adultery due to hardheartedness.
  • There is only one reason for a broken relationship with God and that is not trusting in Christ as Lord and Saviour.
  • God is always forgiving and He is always faithful.
  • God, in Christ, will never be unfaithful to you.
  • If you are single, that singleness can be an advantage in serving God’s purposes.
  • If you are married, love your spouse in a way that pictures the love of Christ to those who respond to Him by entrusting their lives to Him.
  • If you are considering divorce, remember that divorce is an anomaly to what God intended for your marriage, and pictures hard-heartedness towards Christ and towards His love for those who entrust their lives to Him.
  • If you are divorced because of your partner’s adultery and single, rest in Christ’s love for you. Serve Christ in your singleness or possibly in a future marriage.
  • If you are divorced because of your adultery and single, admit to God that you have sinned and turn from that sin by entrusting your life to Christ and serve Him in your singleness.
  • If you are divorced because of your adultery and have remarried, admit to God that you have sinned and turn from that sin by allowing your present marriage to reflect Christ’s love for you and serve His purposes.

Pastor Ross

 

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One © by Ross Cochrane – Created with Blender

Matthew 19:7-11 – EMAILS TO JESUS – About Marriage and Divorce – Part 2

 

The Pharisees Write to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

We are offended and insulted. You don’t seem to realize that Your words are the source of misunderstanding and can significantly damage our standing in this community. You have impugned our character with Your accusations and implied that we have flagrantly disobeyed the law concerning divorce. This amounts to hate speech and Your public ridicule amounts to defamation. We take offence and have no intention of turning the other cheek. Your slanderous, libelous or defamatory comments have caused us to consider legal action.  

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S) team.

 

A Man Who Has Considered Divorce Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I have seriously been considering divorcing my wife for a younger woman I am interested in. You got my attention today when You said ‘a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 

As a potter, I was reminded of a deep brown clay and a light yellow clay I mixed together recently to make a pot. After it was fired, my customer dropped it on the way out and it broke in half. Although it was broken in two, the 2 halves will never be the brown and yellow clay again, but each half will always retain the substance of the other. The image has disturbed me since You spoke.

I guess that’s why I was interested in how you responded to what the Pharisees said to You concerning divorce.  They asked You, “… why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?”  

I was hoping you would say something which would back up what I intended to do, to show me a way to make it a little easier to divorce my wife. But You were more concerned with keeping the marriage relationship strong. I must admit, You masterfully cut across the attack of the Pharisees and that’s why I am writing this letter. 

I thought the Pharisees had You cornered when they spoke about what Moses said, but you didn’t flinch. You replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.”  

You also made me think when You said rather forcefully, “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

You made Your point crystal clear and went a lot further than I was willing to hear. You didn’t allow any leeway. I had never really considered directly what God intended for my marriage and, like the Pharisees, I was more interested in what Moses the lawgiver said about concessions for a divorce. 

When they tried to imply that You were setting Yourself above Moses, You kept bringing what God originally intended into the argument. This didn’t sit well with me at first but when I think of what God originally intended then I can see that God believes in my marriage more than I do. The master potter has mixed the clay and fired the pot to last a lifetime, … if well cared for.

So if God wants marriages to succeed, then He doesn’t want me to be looking for loopholes in the law to accommodate my failures in working on my marriage. I can see that He wants me to look for ways to normalize a strong marriage. He doesn’t want me to look for the exemptions to accommodate my sexual fantasies, but to find ways to enhance my faithfulness.

You have given me perspective. Lot’s to think about. All this time I have been blaming my wife for our marriage difficulties rather than addressing my own hard-hearted attitudes. 

When we married I never contemplated that one day I would consider divorce, but I have incrementally edged us towards the precipice, and deliberately tried to make her life miserable to justify my sinfulness. 

During one argument with my wife, I warned her of my intention to divorce her. It caused her such pain, and I can see why divorce is not what God originally intended. 

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that you have messed with my thinking. It’s too soon to give up on us yet. It’s better to just go with what God wants and see what happens, even when it would be easier to simply write her a letter of divorce.

Lord, thankyou for softening my heart. I’ve got a long way to go, but thankyou for helping me to look for the incremental changes that will bring healing grace and restore trust to my marriage.

A convicted follower

 

Divorced Wife of a Pharisee writes to Jesus  

Dear Jesus,

I was in the crowd today and heard what You said about divorce and adultery, but you didn’t go far enough!

Leviticus 20:10 (NLT) says “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.” That’s what you should be saying! Re-marriage wouldn’t be a problem. Further adultery wouldn’t be an issue then.  ‘Til death do us part.

The Scriptures clearly say that the penalty for adultery is the death penalty, but You ignored this. I know that since this was written, God seems to break His own rules and offers grace to those who deserve death, but why?

Why should grace be given to my scoundrel husband? Why should it be so easy for him to leave me? Moses wrote it clearly enough in the commandments, “You shall NOT commit adultery or covet your neighbor’s wife”. So why is it that my husband should get away with adultery and with leaving me for my neighbor’s wife simply by writing me a notice of divorce? You didn’t give any answers for this!

I’d be the one throwing the first stone at both of them. He doesn’t deserve God’s grace. Something inside me had died. Why should he live?

I overheard your disciples say, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”  I agree! Finally some sense. It’s not worth the pain.

If my husband wasn’t ready for the commitment, he shouldn’t have married me in the first place. It’s meant to last a lifetime, through the good and bad. Even You said that. And I agree. It’s a spiritual commitment. A gift from God that shouldn’t be split apart.

I know that King David got away with adultery because God was gracious to him.  He deserved death. Why is God so gracious? And Solomon was even worse. And don’t bring up Hosea and how he forgave his harlot wife, or talk to me about forgiving my husband. I won’t! I can be just as hard-hearted as him. I’m through with my husband, with Moses, and God and You too!

As far as I am concerned, God is far too gracious to adulterers and that’s all I have to say.

An Angry Divorced Wife

 

Divorced Wife of Pharisee writes to Jesus Again

PS  I’ve been meeting with some women who are all divorced. One of them is a young woman who once felt like me, but she has not remained bitter since becoming a follower of You. I envy her peace and even her faith. She was the one who encouraged me to write to You. Perhaps I’ll stay with her for a while, but don’t get the idea that I agree with the kind of mercy You are peddling to hard-hearted sinners like my husband.  

The truth is, I don’t really want him to die. I wish he would repent, but it seems I will now remain single for the rest of my life. You said some remain single. As You say, “Not everyone can accept this statementOnly those whom God helps.  My friend is praying that God will help me. …  

Dear Jesus,

After the explosive email I sent to You the other day, I thought I had better write to You and apologise. It was my hurt speaking. Somehow I know that you will forgive me. Something struck me about what you said about those who remain single all their lives. You said, “Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”  

For the moment I choose not to marry again, even though, according to the principles you have taught, I am able to remarry. You see, even as I write, I have decided to become one of Your followers, something I thought I would never do.

And I have chosen not to seek marriage again. Like those who remain unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, I have chosen to come under Your authority as my Lord and King; to serve the purposes You have set for my life. This is a radical but welcome change that has occurred in my life.  

I’ve been talking about my husband not repenting of his sins against me but not realising I needed to repent of my own sins towards God and that all of us need God’s grace if we are to be saved. 

Single for The Sake of the Kingdom

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Matthew 19:1-2 – E-MAILS TO JESUS

The Pharisees write to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

We didn’t realize You were coming into our area but now that You have arrived we notice You are attracting large crowds. Proselytising is strongly discouraged in our community. 

We, the Pharisee Investigative Group Surveillance, will be on hand and will see to it that you and your followers are scrutinized with the appropriate checks and balances of all you say and do.

We ask that you comply with the following

  • Do not speak against religious and government authorities, local customs and laws.
  • Do not share heretical teaching, or engage in defiling acts such as healing or associating with undesirable people such as sinners and those with leprosy or Gentile dogs, especially on the Sabbath.
  • Do not throw furniture or act violently in and around the temple or synagogues.
  • Do not leave food scraps around after meal times
    • Do not refuse to answer the questions of the Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance group or hesitate in asking for any further legal advice.

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S.)

 

A Woman Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

1 You finished teaching in Galilee today and You said You are going down to the region of Judea east of the Jordan River. Large crowds have been following You there and You have been healing their sick. I just wanted You to know that I am going with them.

It is difficult to make the adjustment of leaving, but I know that I must move on. One painful season of my life has finished. 

I almost left it too late. Making the right move depends on making sure you make the right choices. It’s not always easy, is it? I knew I had to go from here but I wanted so much to put it off. That’s partly why I am writing this letter.

Unlike me, You always understand the right time to go. When You finish saying what You want to say, You just move on, so resolute for some reason to move ever closer to Jerusalem. I am not sure why.

Jesus, I have noticed that You never stop people like me from following You. Even though I am all alone and have no right to expect anything from You, somehow I know that when You welcome the crowds, You are welcoming me too.

In fact, I have discovered that believing what You say for my life is a continual journey of following You, Lord. You say You still want to heal people like me on the inside and make me whole.

I feel safe with You. You will never turn me away or leave me to face the journey of life alone, but neither will You compel or coerce me to obey and follow You.

I am praying that God will help me in the next part of the journey but I know it will not necessarily be easy.

Jesus, You simply invite me to come, and in coming, I know that I must turn from all else, from the directions I could take to the directions You want for me to take. You say we have all gone astray from God and that You are the only way back.

I have found that this is what faith is all about. Simply turning around and following You, instead of trusting in the direction I wanted to go without You.

I just wanted to thank You.

Yours,

A follower.  

 

The Pharisees Write to Jesus

Jesus,

We warned you about associating with sinners, the sick, proselytizing and teaching about culturally sensitive issues. You will now be subject to the public questioning of the Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S) team.

 

A Woman Follower Writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

3 Today, some Pharisees came and tried to trap You with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 

They seem intent on wanting to trap You, to set You up and discredit what You teach. They want to see You fail. You can speak freely but only if You agree with their point of view.

You are healing the sick but they are more concerned about a theological issue concerning divorce. Go figure.

I felt as if they were looking at me. Why did they choose this question? One of them looked at me with derision. Do they know my secrets, a Christ-follower who is divorced? I shrank back into the crowd. But I don’t feel rejection from You, Lord, only respect.

I think I know what the Pharisees are doing. That’s the reason for this letter. There is more to their question than meets the eye. Their question has political overtones.

That’s why I am warning You, Lord, but already it seems too late. I know You are not concerned for political games but I also know that Your forthright views won’t endear You to the Pharisees. The truth is that the Pharisees don’t only want to trap You, Lord, but they want to get You into trouble with King Herod. Herod does not tolerate those who say anything against divorce.

I was a friend to Herod’s wife, Phasaelis. King Herod has divorced her. I tried to warn her about Herod’s affair with his own niece, Herodias, and it was me who helped her escape to her father, Aretas, king of Arabia.

When my husband found out I had helped Phasaelis, he was furious. He did not want to be associated with me for fear of King Herod’s wrath, so he divorced me, and threw me out of the house. He threatened to turn me in to the authorities.

And that’s why I am hesitant to follow You now that you are moving closer to Herod. 

King Aretas has put a contract out on King Herod’s life for the shameful way he has treated his daughter. He has declared war on Herod and there is a bitter battle taking place on the Northern border.

And Lord, it’s not only Herod You should be concerned about. You should know that Herodias, Herod’s niece, and lover, is just as dangerous as Herod himself. She caused Your friend, John the Baptist, to be murdered.

When Herod arrested John the Baptist, Herodias sought to justify her relationship with Herod, but John the Baptist denounced her “marriage” saying that it was against God’s law (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). John was just like You, anything but politically correct.

Herodias didn’t like anyone exposing her sinfulness. Her conscience was seared with a life of excess, and she had the political backing to get her way. With a heart as black as the dungeon wall in which John the Baptist was imprisoned, Herodias tried to rid herself of what she considered to be an irritation, this badly dressed and ill-spoken man, … and she succeeded.

Herod granted her request. It was quite a table that had been set. Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, murder and the macabre all sat together at the king’s table that night as John’s head was brought in on a platter. You see, it doesn’t pay to say anything about God’s views on the marriage relationship. It is considered to be hate speech.

I know You are not intimidated by the dangerous question the Pharisees asked. But Lord, they are trapping You into speaking against Herod’s incestuous, adulterous marriage, even indirectly, and this could get You into a lot of trouble and I don’t want this to lead to Your death, too.

I would recommend that You leave this place as soon as possible,

Yours,

A Concerned Follower

 

The Pharisees write to Jesus

Jesus!

How dare you question our theological understanding! Your narrow views about the Scriptures are not wanted here. Not once did you mention the views of our esteemed Scholars and experts, Shammai and particularly Hillel, who have interpreted the Scriptures to be more culturally appropriate? This matter will not end here.

Pharisees Investigative Group Surveillance (P.I.G.S.)

 

A Woman writes to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

I’ve been thinking about the way You answered the Pharisees when they asked You about divorce. You answered their question. 4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” You replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 

They wanted to argue and impose their thinking upon You, not read the Scriptures in order to understand what God was saying to them.

You cut across the plans of the Pharisaical social engineers, beyond all the popular opinions of the Romans and Jews, beyond all their justifications and You went back to what God has already declared in the Bible. I love the way You said, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?”

The simplicity of Your statement struck me. You said that God created them male and female for the purpose of marriage. I am a Roman woman and I am so aware that we Romans practice polygamy, homosexuality, adultery, incest, keeping of concubines, prostitution, and divorce. But you made it clear that the original blueprint God made for marriage involves one man, one woman, who become one in Marriage.

5 You said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 

I’ve been thinking about this Oneness. You seem to be suggesting more than just the physical union but a oneness like a spiritual glue that God uses to bond us together as a husband and wife and this eventually leads to us to become a mother and father ourselves.

My husband and I had a son. You said a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife. But Your words only remind me of the pain I feel.

When my husband divorced me, he took our son. Our son, the miracle of the oneness of our marriage, torn from me. 

You expressed it well. 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 

My divorce at first left me with less than I started out with. I felt bereft in every way, split apart from the oneness I experienced with my husband and torn apart from the expression of our oneness – our only son. I miss my son with an unbearable pain and all I can do is ask God to protect him.

Yet, despite the devastation and pain, my relationship with You has somehow made me whole. If only my marriage had the oneness I experience spiritually as I trust in You. If only my husband knew that it was God who joined us together.

Yours,

A Reflective Follower

Part 3 – Genesis 21:14-21 – MY KINGDOM FOR A GPS!

Destination Straight Ahead!

When we left to Pastor a Church in the Whitsundays we left our children, Ben and Rachel, behind in Sydney. Rachel was still in her late teens, but both of them were already involved in Hillsong Church and did not want to leave. We remember the pain of driving off without them and for the next 10 years we commuted between the Whitsundays and Sydney every opportunity we had. It’s so strange leaving home WITHOUT YOUR KIDS. It is normally the other way around. In Genesis 21 Abraham’s pain must have been so much worse as he realised he would never see Ishmael again.

“So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he SENT HER AWAY with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.” (Genesis 21:14 NLT).

Abraham gives her JUST ENOUGH supplies for a journey to the NEXT WELL. He doesn’t send them away with a caravan of supplies, just food enough to carry on her back. HOW CRUEL IS THIS? (Abraham really doesn’t know how to treat women well). How does he expect her to survive in the desert? He doesn’t give her a plan on what she can do with her life now, but hopefully he tells her how to get to the next well. The tension and emotion in the air as they leave must be thick.

DIVORCE is never pleasant, especially when children are involved, but Abraham doesn’t count on them getting lost. Most people don’t stop to think about the consequences of divorce or how much it will effect the next generations.

Hagar is now a HOMELESS SINGLE MUM with no resources in a hopeless situation and there’s no women’s shelter in sight. Like so many REFUGEES today she has been through a conflict that has led to her being deprived of a husband, with devastating results.

She heads in the general direction of her old home in Egypt, but sure enough, without a GPS, she MISSES THE NEXT WELL. “When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears.” (Genesis 21:15 NLT) 

Perhaps Ismael is thinking of the fun he had made of baby Isaac and the consequences of his actions which has led them into this desert, but whatever it is, all laughter and cynicism is gone and He begins to cry out to God. In Genesis 21:17 it says that “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.” 

God of course already knows what is wrong but he wants Hagar to articulate to Him what she knows of her situation so he sends an angel with these questions. GOD’S INTERVENTION INTO MY CIRCUMSTANCES IS SO OFTEN ACTIVATED BY MY CONFESSIONS. “What wrong? Don’t be afraid. Speak to Me. Trust Me”. It’s a good policy Just keep speaking to God when life isn’t working out as you planned.

It seems Hagars GPS wasn’t broken afterall – GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM. All of sudden Hagar sees the well. So often the answers I need are right in front of me but I can’t see them until I pray (Genesis 21:18-19). Hagar is sent to encourage Ishmael with WORDS OF LIFE AND PRACTICAL HELP.

God bless you Church as you do as 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” I recited this verse to a woman some time ago and she said “I couldn’t do that. Why would God be interested in my worries and cares.” HE IS! Romans 8:35-37 (NLT) says, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” 

Ishmael “became a skillful archer,” (I once was given the mechanism for a crossbow. I wonder what happened to it?) Anyway, “he settled in the wilderness of Paran (Arabia). His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt.” and they all lived in conflict with Israel sadly ever after.  

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 21:8-13 – THE LAST LAUGH!

What a Waste!

It was a boring job packing books and I remember we would look for ways to have a bit of fun in the warehouse. When people found other work and left the warehouse they were BINNED!

Usually it was TIM who organised a BINNING with everyone, and he would LAUGH THE LOUDEST. We would gang up on the unfortunate victim and lift them into a large industrial rubbish bin and stand around laughing at the shocked look on his face, then just walk away and leave him to climb out. I know it sounds a little cruel but it was all in good fun.

When I announced that I was leaving to Pastor a Church in the Whitsundays, I found out that Tim was planning to BIN me! So I decided to turn the tables on him. I would secretly arrange for Tim to be binned instead. I organised the whole thing with all the guys and planned it meticulously. It would be kind of like COLLECTIVE REVENGE.

I was so excited that day as we snuck up on Tim and I shouted “NOW!” but so totally shocked when they PICKED ME UP INSTEAD and binned me. The laughter and smirk on Tim’s face told me that he GOT THE LAST LAUGH. To this day I can’t work out how he did it.

There was a lot of laughter surrounding the birth of Isaac. Even Ishmael got in on the act with another dimension.

Genesis 21:8-10 (NLT) says that “When … Sarah saw Ishmael-the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar-making fun of her son, Isaac, .. she turned to Abraham and demanded, “GET RID OF that slave-woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”” All of a sudden Ishmael isn’t smiling anymore. THE LAST LAUGH WAS ON HIM.

The rift between Sarah and Hagar leads to Hagar being DIVORCED by Abraham (Genesis 21:9) and sent away. At first glance this seems so wrong and must have had a profound impact on Ishmael as the last ties to his father were broken. Abraham was as upset as any loving father would be and most likely prayed about the situation which was causing such conflict, but surprisingly in Genesis 21:12 (NLT) “God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” It seems God agrees with Sarah!

Why is God OK with the jealous rage of Sarah in wanting to get rid of Hagar and Ismael? Is Sarah going to get away with this kind of attitude? It seems as if she will. Nowhere are we told that Sarah went to God to pray about this situation.

As the laughter disappeared from Abraham’s face too, God reminds him that Isaac’s descendents are the key part of God’s purposes (Jesus will eventually come from this line). But God tells Abraham “I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” 

When I am most conflicted, and the devil seems to be having the LAST LAUGH, God’s Word speaks to me and I am reminded that HIS PURPOSES are bigger than MY CIRCUMSTANCES. It may not seem to make sense at the time, but God knows what He is doing. I can trust Him. Abraham has learned this lesson several times already.

Ishmael was Abraham and Sarah’s idea of how to fulfil God’s promise, but when it comes to the crunch, you have to make a decision. The question that Abraham and I must decide on is “Will I respond to my circumstances in such a way that I live by the power of His Spirit or will I rely on my own good works?” I will never gain God’s approval until I am willing to put away my HUMAN EFFORT and trust in Him.

Galatians 4:21-31 uses this story as an illustration. Two Mothers, two sons, two covenants and two ways of living. You can’t live in harmony by trying to live by HUMAN EFFORT and still hope to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT and inherit the promises of God.

God bless you Church when you decide to put away a life based on human effort which will enslave you and you embrace a life of trusting in the promises of God which will release you to live how God intended. When you do, the last laughter of sheer delight that you will hear will be from heaven’s corridors.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 5 – Part 16 – GOD WANTS US TO BE HAPPY, SO WHY DON’T WE GET DIVORCED?

Years ago, Julie and I began to have difficulty in our marriage. I was spending all my time pastoring a small Church and our relationship was being neglected. It suffered to the point where I needed to take time out of ministry and we needed to do some repair work. That was a major decision and we know what it’s like to go through the difficult process, the road less travelled, of restoring that which has been lost, and for me, of learning what it means to be a better husband. It’s horrible at first, but when we made that choice, at the end of the day we are still married and I have an even better relationship with Julie than I had before. God is so good!

I am always disturbed when Christians take the dreadful step of divorce. If Christians can’t make their marriages work, who can? My heart breaks for them because they have usually left it too late before they come for counselling. Christians like to hide the fact that their marriages aren’t working, especially at Church. By the time they do come, they simply want to justify their decision. They tell me things like “God would not want me to live the rest of my life with someone I don’t love, would He?” or “God wouldn’t want me to be so unhappy?” I tell them as best I can that there is more to a marriage than an emotion of self centred well-being, but that doesn’t always go down that well!

Now I know it’s not simply a matter of, as one person put it, “being married but not engaged”. That’s worse still! But when a couple divorces, it is heartbreaking to see the aftermath of hurt and devastation which touches the lives of their children for years to come, and the legal and emotional battles that are fought to break that covenant. By the time you are divorced, you have had to violate a number of very binding promises you have made before God and eachother. That alone has devastating and lasting consequences for us emotionally, socially and spiritually – in every way. It is no wonder that God says “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, … “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,…so guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” (Malachi 2:16 (NLT))

In Matthew 5, Jesus is teaching His disciples some leadership principles on the mountain, preparing them for ministry and all of a sudden He comes up with radical new ways of interpreting the topic of DIVORCE. It is so radical that even many Christians today ignore it! Jesus makes the outrageous claim that “a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32).

Are we to take Him literally? YES!!!

Now notice that Jesus has just finished speaking about ADULTERY and now he speaks about DIVORCE. The two things are so often related. He says Adultery is more than the actual sexual act. He is more concerned about the thought life that gives rise to Adultery and says that lust is already an act of adultery. Then He speaks about the real meaning of divorce.

The horrible thing about adultery is that it breaks the connection between husband and wife. The covenant relationship along with faithfulness, hopes for the future, love for eachother, and trust are all broken. If you are Christians, then the physical, emotional, AND SPIRITUAL connections are broken (Matthew 19:5-6).

So what do we get from all this? First of all God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) Divorce is permitted when Adultery has taken place, but the reason it is permitted is for the protection of the innocent party due to the sin of the other party. Sin always gets in the way of enjoying what God wants for us. Divorce is only permitted because of sin and is not a part of God’s original plan for our marriages.

Jesus said in Matthew 19:8, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended”

Unless there is unfaithfulness in the marriage, as a Christian, God expects that you will have the same attitude toward divorce as He does, and you will see it as a violation of His expressed purpose for your marriage.

Divorce in the case of adultery means that the innocent party no longer has to remain trapped in a hopeless and intolerable situation. Remarriage is permitted for the innocent person, and I use the term “innocent” as referring to the one who has not committed adultery. Jesus may permit divorce in these limited circumstances but never commands divorce. God shows clearly in Hosea 1-3 that a wife who has committed adultery can be forgiven and restored. I presume this applies to a husband as well.

Where a divorce is not because of adultery or because an unbeliever initiates the divorce, the Bible says there can be, and we are to seek, reconciliation, or else remain unmarried. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 says, “A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.” When you get a divorce where no adultery took place, then in God’s eyes you are still married. Marrying someone else means that you place yourself in a position of committing adultery, because God doesn’t recognise the validity of the divorce unless adultery took place. That’s how specific the Bible is about marriage and divorce.

Now, let’s get rid of the legal side and speak about hope for marriages.

When someone receives Christ as their Lord and Saviour, it means you begin a new life. According to John 3 you are born again and in 2 Corinthians 5:17, a genuine Christian has become a “new creature”. It means that it is not only possible but necessary to live out what God has revealed about marriage and divorce from the point of his or her relationship with Christ. Marriage, after all is a beautiful picture of the relationship of Christ and His Church.

 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Someone said “This does not mean that Christ immediately erases painful memories, bad habits or the underlying causes for past marital problems, but that He begins a process of transformation through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. A sign of becoming a Christian will be a willingness to obey what Christ has revealed about marriage and divorce through the Word of God.”

What am I saying in all this?

Seek to honour Christ in your life and in all your relationships and mostly in your marriage. I read somewhere that we need to be careful what you let into our senses–what we see, what we hear, and where we go. Whatever we allow in our minds is going to have a great impact on us. Pray for purity. Avoid potentially tempting situations, like travelling alone, or going to places alone where you will be vulnerable. Stay accountable to your spouse and build your marriage.

God bless you Church as you treasure the marriages you have and as you take the road less travelled to find the answers you need to have a great marriage.

Pastor Ross