Tag Archives: divorce

Will Jesus do many miracles among us?

A few years back I met a missionary from Africa who was here in Tennessee sharing the gospel with Americans.  I was fascinated (and convicted) as he shared the heart he and his church back home has for the lost here in my own backyard.  One thing he said to me I’ll never forget:

In Africa, we witness miracles all the time because we depend on them.  Without God meeting our daily needs, we would die.   The reason you see so few miracles here in America is because you’ve learned to depend on technology and modern medicine to meet your needs.   God is not so necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life where God is absolutely necessary, where I am increasingly dependent upon him to meet all my needs.   This is true of me less than I care to admit.

March Madness is right around the corner and you’ll no doubt hear many players and coaches reciting a line I remember hearing often during my brief time playing ball in high school:

Leave it all on the court.

After this game, don’t be the one who looks back with regret that you didn’t give it your all.   I wonder at times whether I will one day look back on my life and be satisfied that I left all behind for the sake of Christ, who left all to give me life.   I wonder if I will one day know all that could have been accomplished by God’s power working through me had I believed the impossible.

Or will it be said of me that Jesus could not do many miracles with Chad because of his unbelief (Matt. 13:58)?   I’m sure he’s done and will do some.  But many?   How much is many?

When I moved into Church of God country I witnessed for the first time in my life the gift of tongues and interpretation in full display.  Growing up a Nazarene I had never seen this gift.  I didn’t believe it was still in operation.  But churches in Cleveland, Tennessee proved otherwise.  Why is the gift of tongues a dominant gift in the Church of God but rarely if ever heard in the Church of the Nazarene?  Maybe because people growing up in the CoG have faith that this is a gift for them.

Why do so many preacher’s kids grow up to become pastors themselves?  Maybe because they saw their imperfect parent rising to the call and had faith that maybe they could, too?

Maybe miracles happen where people come to expect and believe that they will.

This may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but what we believe about ourselves comes to pass.   If you and I believe we can do something, than we will, or at the very least, we will die trying.   And if you and I believe we can’t do something, we won’t, nor will we try.

When I was floundering in my sexual addiction there were numerous things I believed wrongly, but two are pertinent to this post:

  1. What I’m experiencing isn’t sin, but addiction.
  2.  I’ll always be an addict

The turning point for me in my life was when I came to my senses and saw how my behavior was not due to me being an addict but due to me being a sinner.   I was a slave to sin.

The distinction is an important one, I believe.    My experience has been such that when I saw myself primarily as an addict, I did so to my detriment.   My identity as an addict put a veil between myself and a miracle working God, causing me to place my trust in a program to provide at best a daily reprieve from my addictive behavior.

But when I saw myself as a sinner, a person who has become addicted to sinning in a particular way, there was a seismic shift in my spirit.   Naming my condition rightly opened up the door for the Holy Spirit to minister to that condition.  It tore the veil separating myself from God and helped me to see that there is indeed a remedy for sin – the blood of Christ – and that in his grace and mercy he has provided wonderful tools (such as the steps, a group of brothers, a sponsor, and most importantly, his Word) to enable me to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh, one day at a time.

There is so much brokenness in our world today.  So much that is outside of God’s intended design for us.  I see it in my own heart.  I see it in my family. I see it in our churches.   And the world cannot be healed or saved when the church is sick.  I believe God is aching to heal us of our brokenness, that this has always been the case, yet we are so often unaware or unwilling.   Jesus is calling out to us still, like a mother hen, longing to bring us under his wings.  But so often we reject the message, and the messenger (Luke 13:34).

Whether the issue be pornography, divorce, homosexuality, greed, lust, anger, racism, etc., it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the church and the world.   And this is to be expected.  For when the body of Christ ceases to name these things (and more) as sin, it ceases to avail herself to the One who died to destroy the work of sin (1 John 3:8).    We see so little victory over these sins because we do not believe victory is possible. 

It is imperative that we get our thinking – our hearts – right and aligned with the Spirit of Truth if we are to experience the joy and freedom Christ purchased for us with his blood.   It is imperative we do this for the sake of our mission to the world which has not seen, nor has it heard, nor has it entered into their hearts what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).

May it be said of all of us one day that we left it all on the court, and within our midst, Jesus did many miracles.

The #1 cause of divorce is marriage

A counseling session this morning was an hour well spent.   He unpacked for me and my girlfriend a concept he calls “The Bullshit of Oneness.”  This idea, he said, is so ingrained in our understanding of marriage that it has become marriage itself, thus the reason why it is the number one cause of divorce.

The bullshit of oneness, he explained, is derived (in large part) from our culture’s misappropriation of Genesis 2:24 where man and woman become “one flesh.”   What the beginning of Genesis is trying to do here is expound upon our God-given task to “be fruitful and multiply.”    Becoming “one flesh” is about procreation. It’s about sex.

But that is not how many, if not most of us have been taught to think about one flesh, or oneness.   We have taken this to mean that I am no longer my own, and she is no longer her own, but we are now one.   My desires should now be her desires, and her desires should be my desires.    My friends should be her friends, and her friends mine, because we are now one person rather than two individuals.

If you don’t believe that the bullshit of oneness is so pervasive in our cultural understanding of marriage, especially in the church, just look at our marriage ceremonies.   Look at how the bride and groom each extinguish a candle, which represents their individual selves, only to light a unity candle together.   Or how they take individual cups of sand and pour them into one container as the priest points out how impossible it would now be to pluck out each person’s individual grains of sand.

It’s no wonder so many marriages end in divorce when our expectation of marriage is that on our wedding day, our partner is no longer their own but mine, and I am no longer my own but thine.   We divest ourselves of ourselves so that we can now become something until this point we had not been:  her or him.

When marriage is defined as this bullshit of oneness it is no wonder that marriage is the number one cause of divorce.

This was certainly my experience in my marriage which ended in divorce.   I was raised drinking the cultural church Kool-Aid about marriage and thought, at least subconsciously, that I was doing it wrong if I was not losing myself so that I could make my spouse happy or holy.  My job as a husband was to meld myself as well as I could to her, and her job as a wife was to bend her will towards mine, so that we were “one flesh,” no longer our own.  This only caused disappointment, pain or shame when the other person exhibited their own oneness.

I remember the first time I went hiking after my divorce and realized how much I loved it.   How liberating it was to discover that there were parts of me that had lain hidden and barren for years because I was abiding by the bullshit of oneness creed for so long, without really knowing it, and feeling that unless we both enjoyed hiking (or whatever) than I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it.

Today I am grateful that I can be me in my relationships.   I’m grateful that through my program of recovery I am learning that I am worthy of love for the person I am, not the person someone wants me to be.   I’m grateful that I’m learning that I cannot fix people, places or things and that my relationship with my girlfriend is the healthiest when we are both mindful of this fact and working on ourselves, not the other.   We are learning that it’s not necessary to extinguish our individual candles in order to burn as one.   I like her light and she likes mine.   I think we can create even more light that way.  That’s pretty awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

God Has Chosen Our Heritage

Last week, the day after Thanksgiving, I had the honor of speaking at my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary celebration.   Some family members have since asked for the words to that sermonette, so here they are.    Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for inspiring such ideas!  

There is this wonderful word tucked away in Psalm 47 which came to life for me as I thought about what I might say today.   It reads, God chose our heritage for us (Psalm 47).    This strikes both a note of grace and mercy for us today.   Grace because today we celebrate the joy and love of such a heritage and give thanks for numerous ways grandma and grandpa’s shared lives have had a profound impact on so many.   Mercy because the shade this family tree provides, under which we are gathered here today, is similar to the shade of another tree, the cross of Christ, which summons us, even demands of us, a response.   

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 God has chosen our heritage for us and we would do well today, even in the midst of great celebration, to inspect the fruit of our own trees.

 As I told people why were making the trip from TN to PA – that my grandparents were celebrating their 60th year as a couple – the responses I received were all the same:  wow, you don’t see that very often.    

 Sad, but true.   What is so sad and tragic about this observation is the lack of testimony on God’s earth of the sacredness of covenant between two people and the witness it should provide the world of God’s solidarity with us. 

 I don’t think grandma and grandpa would mind me saying that what we celebrate here today should not be considered a miracle or something extraordinary but what ought to be commonplace, particularly among those who claim to live under the shade of the cross.  Marriages that persevere through decade after decade, which carry on through seasons of feast or famine, which determine to live by faith rather than feelings, which make a choice to love in the same way God has made a choice for us ought to be the rule rather than the exception among we who have been given such a heritage. 

 God has chosen our heritage for us.  It is fitting that we should take this time to consider how we will honor God’s choice towards us, even as we honor my grandma and grandpa.   Such is God’s mercy.

God has chosen our heritage for us.  It is fitting to celebrate today the race Grandma and Grandpa have run and continue to run.  We are all benefactors of their steadfastness.  Grandma and Grandpa, I hope the presence of all of these here today says to you how much your marriage has touched so many lives.  Such is God’s grace.     

Is Marriage Meant to Make Me Happy?

I read a blog post from my friend, Joe, titled, “Is Marriage the New Divorce?” which prompted the writing of this.  In that article, Joe makes this statement:

Married is the new divorced. If you get married before twenty-five people expect you to get divorced. Of course, if you get married after twenty-five, people expect you to get divorced too. If you’ve been married for more than a few years and you tell people you’re happy being married, they look at you as though you’re crazy.

I believe he’s right.  Divorce today is so common and accepted that long-lasting marriages, like the 60 years of marriage my grandparents will celebrate this Thanksgiving, are not just rare, but odd.

This is true whether one professes faith in Christ or not.  Divorce rates among people within and without the Church are identical.  This is not all that surprising since churches today seem to pander more towards people’s happiness rather than their holiness.

In Gary Thomas’ excellent book, Sacred Marriage, he challenges the idea that marriages exist to make us happy.  Rather, he argues, marriage is God’s means to make us holy.   Holiness can lead to lasting joy, which surpasses the fleeting feeling of happiness.

But holiness does not come without a fight.   Thomas rightly observes that we live in a nation of quitters.  We have lost our eternal perspective which can and should help us to better bear our crosses.   I know that for myself, in time’s past, it was very hard for me to endure any sort of suffering when I had little interest in eternal things.   I bought into the lie that suggests that people can be so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.   The truth is that anyone who sets their gaze upon the things of Christ, as Paul directs us in Colossians 3, will be of infinite value on earth as well.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col. 3:2-4, ESV).

It’s in the context of this passage that Paul gives guidance for loving and bearing one another, being thankful in all things, submission and sacrifice towards our spouse, forgiving each other as we have been forgiven in Christ, enduring one another with patience, compassion towards one another as well as putting to death our fleshly instincts of lusts and passions (our overwhelming desire to satisfy ourselves rather than God).

Our ever-climbing divorce rates signal a lack of persistence in living a holy life.   Instead we are chasing the ever-elusive carrot of “happiness” that we feel we deserve and wrongly assume God wants.

1 Peter 1:16 does not read, “Be Happy, for I am Happy” but “Be Holy, for I am Holy.”  The man or woman who claims to be a Christian is deceived if they think this command is optional and is not actively pursuing it with all their heart, soul, body and mind.

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Thomas writes,

The holiness that will be rewarded in heaven is a persistent holiness.  Read through the entire Bible, and I promise you, you won’t find one reference to a “crown in heaven” that goes to the person who had the “happiest” life on earth.   That reward just doesn’t exist.  Nor is there a heavenly ribbon for the Christian who felt the least amount of pain (pg. 110).

My wife, Amy, can anticipate such a reward from our Lord.   When she had every right to divorce me for my unfaithfulness she chose instead to surrender her felt needs of attaining personal happiness and pursue instead God’s radical call to holiness.   As Amy chose to focus on the things that are above she became a living signpost here below of the God who forgives and heals and restores.   Our marriage today is a testimony to the sort of joy that can come from a life submitted wholly to God’s will rather than our own.

Tragically, this sort of testimony has become the exception rather than the rule even among Christian marriages.   Amy and I talk often about how sad it is that our story of reconciliation and forgiveness is heralded among Christians as miraculous and extraordinary.   While we give glory to God for the work He has accomplished in us, both personally and as a family, we contend that our story ought to be common-place among the Church.   We pray for and long for the day when people will hear our testimony and compare it to numerous examples of the same they have experienced in their own church.

Your past, like our own, may be littered with sinful decisions and mistakes.  God is faithful to forgive and is more than willing and able to bring healing to your soul.   It will not come without a fight, nor will it come by pursuing your own happiness.   It comes through the pursuit of holiness.  And this is God’s will for you and I, beginning today.

How will you choose to be holy in your marriage today?