Jeremiah 3 records God’s conversation with the prophet when He says He gave Israel her certificate of divorce because of her unfaithfulness. This got me thinking about the root cause of disunity in any setting, including marriage. What is the lie that causes relationships to fracture?

Out of curiosity I did a Google search on what causes divorce and there were the expected issues of financial problems, abuse, lack of emotional support and/or communication, boredom, and problems with intimacy. But these are symptoms (and they can be horrific) –  they  are not the disease.

The lie, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, is that we often believe we need something other than God to fill the void we were born with. A dream house, a dream vacation, a dream career, or a dream spouse can never be enough to fulfill one’s longings. But, if the unrealistic expectations are there, then dissatisfaction inevitably follows and in a marriage this may lead to infidelity, even if no papers are filed or no court action is taken.

Author Tim Keller agrees with Kierkegaard when he says, “. . . the normal human ego is built on something besides God. It searches for something that will give it a sense of worth, a sense of specialness and a sense of purpose and builds itself on that  . . . if you try to put anything in the middle of the place that was originally made for God, it is going to be too small.”

As Sam Yeiter inquired of us last Sunday, are we keeping in step with the culture, or are we in step with the Spirit? The culture tells us we have a right to do whatever it takes to be happy, and to believe all our dreams can come true. Going to scripture we see how Christ sacrificially and unconditionally loved His bride the Church. Christ submitted to the will of the Father. We are asked to love and submit like this – and that’s no lie!


This passage begs a lot of questions–too many to address in this brief blog.

Something that has always bothered me about this passage are Paul’s parenthetical statements.  What does Paul mean by saying “not I, but the Lord” and “I, not the Lord.”  Does that mean the truths qualified by the first parenthetical statement are inspired scripture, whereas the truths qualified by the second statement aren’t inspired, authoritative scripture, so they can be rejected?

What is going on here?

I think this is what is happening.  Paul sees the content of verses 10 and 11 as a recapitulation of what Jesus had already said, most famously in the Sermon on the Mount: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery”  (See also  Matthew 19:1-9 and Luke 16:18).  By saying “not I, but the Lord,” Paul is indicating that he is not saying anything new here but simply restating what Jesus has already explicitly taught.

In the next paragraph (verses 12-14) when Paul then says “I, not the Lord,” he is indicating that what he is about to say is not a repetition of Jesus’ teaching but rather something from Paul.  Paul was simply indicating the source of the teaching.  Today we would see all of it, whether from Jesus in Matthew five or Paul in First Corinthians seven as Holy Spirit-inspired authoritative teaching.  In the end, the source is the same, namely, God.

The biggest question of the passage has to do with remarriage after divorce.  Sorting out that situation requires more space than we have here.  Let it suffice to say that in this whole passage Paul is preaching that one shouldn’t rush to change his or her situation, whatever that might be.  Instead, Paul puts an emphasis on learning contentment in Christ and prioritizing serving the Lord, no matter what one’s status in life might be.  Neither divorce nor remarriage is the real and ultimate answer to our needs.  Jesus is.  Before rushing to find resolution in another status, maybe we should first seek to be faithful in the station in which we find ourselves.


Jim and Joan have been married for six years, and life has become rather routine—even their moments of intimacy.

Maybe it’s time to pursue a close relationship with someone new, a friend at work or in their athletic or social club.

Jill is a successful elementary school teacher, just a few years out of college. She would like to have a relationship with a young man, but there doesn’t seem to be any in her circle of friends.

Maybe she should go online to find a possible dating partner or just start dating around to see who might be available.

John and Jane have been dating for nearly two years. Because they both have entry level jobs they have no sense of financial security.

Since “everyone is doing it,” maybe they should move in together to share expenses.

Joe is in his early twenties; he’s something of an introvert. Like all young men, he has longings for an intimate relationship, but he doesn’t make friends easily. He’s very lonely and he’s looking for some way to satisfy his needs.

Is it time to brave up and hit the bar scene. Or maybe he could log onto the many sites on the Internet or gaze at the readily available raunchy magazines to assuage desires for intimate relationships.

Jeremy and Janice Jones are empty-nesters. Their grown children have families of their own and are doing well. The Jones, however, don’t seem to be getting along at all, and the great divide is growing.

Is now the time to seek a divorce lawyer? They likely would be happier without the bickering that often comes with the proximity of marriage.

These eight fictitious (but realistic) folks have several social factors in common. All attend Friendly Community Church, at least spasmodically. Like everyone else they have lots of social activities available to them, and they are greatly influenced by the behavior they see portrayed in the media and the conduct of their friends, both in and out of the church. Frankly, they sometimes consider making some changes to fill the void they’re feeling in their relationships.

These examples might well represent someone we know. For that matter, could one of them be you? Modern society offers a lot of opportunities to develop relationships whether in inter-personal activities or through social media. For the Christian, however, there are biblical principles to help in making such thorny decisions. Here are a few from Scripture with the overall principle “flee from immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18):

Your body is a temple of God. Honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
God has brought you to him by paying a great price—his Son’s death). (1 Cor. 6:20)
Both marriage and celibacy are gifts from God. (1 Cor. 7:7)
Sexual intimacy is to be restricted to marriage, which is honorable and is intended to be monogamous and permanent. (Hebrews 13:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24; 1 Cor. 7:39)
Marriage partners are to lovingly submit to each other. Intimacy is important and not to be neglected. (1 Cor. 7:4-5)
Divorce is a last resort and then only for limited causes. (1 Cor. 7:10; Matt. 19:8)
For a believer, marriage is restricted to another believer. (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14)

Accepting Jesus as Lord is the essence of being a Christian (Rom. 10:9), Recognizing him as lord in our daily lives and in every relationship is the evidence of being a Christian. Maybe the most difficult place to realize his lordship is in the most intimate of relationships.

Thank you, Father, for making us your children and giving us the Holy Spirit and your Word to enable us to live above reproach. We acknowledge our dependence on your grace and mercy to live in a manner that honors you in our familial relationships.


(There are numerous songs on this record; those summarized below are not necessarily in chronological order.)

Song #1: Maybe you know the story of the infant abandoned by her parents and left to die in an open field. Fortunately, a wonderful benefactor came by and took great care of the little girl, all the way to adulthood. The man lavished on the young woman everything a girl could dream of, and she “became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.” The Benefactor turned out to be the King, and she was his queen.

Unfortunately, against all reason, the queen used her “fame to become a prostitute.” Everything the King had blessed her with she reused in her corrupt practices. (You can read this awful story in Ezekiel 16. Beware: It’s like the script of an X-rated movie. You will be aghast at the reprehensible acts of the queen-turned-prostitute, an analogy for the Chosen People who chose not to be “chosen” after all.)

Song #2: You probably also know an even older story of an ethnic race of people enslaved in Egypt for centuries. On eagle’s wings, God rescued them, leading them to the Promised Land. He lavished on them amazing blessings—including the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey—but they turned against him, violated his #1 commandment, built a golden calf, and offered sacrifices to a despicable idol . . . as if an inanimate object could be for them what the Creator God of the universe had been! (You can read this appalling story in Exodus 32. Beware: God became angry enough to destroy the whole lot of them.)

Song #3: Long before either of these stories, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them” (Gen 6:5-7 NLT). (You can read about the disastrous flood in Genesis 6-9, which killed every person on the earth except Noah and his family.)

Song #4: Moving on to the New Testament, we should think that God sending Jesus to the earth would, by all rights, have led to an entirely different outcome. This was God’s very own Son, after all. But Jesus told a shocking story about something happening right under the hearers’ noses. A man had a vineyard that he had rented out to some farmers. After a while he sent a servant to collect some of the harvest. But the farmers sent the servant away empty-handed. The owner followed up sending another servant, but the farmers treated him even worse. Then the owner sent his own son, and, of all things, the farmers killed him. (You can read this vexing story in Luke 20. Beware: God can take the blessing he had intended for certain people and give it to others.)

Song #5: Now we would especially expect this story to be opposite of the rest. Though Jesus left the earth and ascended back to heaven, he said his followers would do even greater things than he had done. He also promised that the Holy Spirit would indwell them and lead them into the truth. Unfortunately, we find in the final books written in the New Testament clear evidence that the terrible sinfulness evident in the Old Testament was prevalent in the early church too: false prophets, heretical teachers, blasphemers, blots, blemishes, brute beasts, accursed brood, blackest darkness. (You can read about these who had confessed Christ but became entangled again in wickedness in 2 Peter 2. Beware: “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”)

APPLICATION: Sometimes we learn the best lessons from people who have failed, especially when we commit ourselves to not making the same horrible mistakes. So let’s do all we can to not be part of the endless broken record! Let’s run to holiness (from sin) and break the record! We can be a new song!


“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

God could have squashed evil.  Nothing could have been easier for him.  And we often wish he would have.  But then we remember that we are evil.  Had God used his power to eliminate evil, he would have destroyed us, too.  It would have been the end of us.  Instead of ending evil by ending us, God chose to overcome evil with good.  That is, God sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  God overpowers our evil with his grace and goodness.  He doesn’t force us to change with the threat of violence.  Instead, he woos us with love and then transforms us with the unsurpassed goodness of his grace in Christ Jesus.  And then he calls us to emulate him.  What does this look like?

  • It means giving a big tip to a grumpy waitress.
  • It means not honking the horn angrily at a bone-headed move by another driver.
  • It means showing kindness to those whose opinions and lifestyle you don’t share.
  • It means saying “Welcome to America” to someone from a majority Muslim nation.
  • It means gently responding to an angry, insulting word.
  • It means considering the hurts that might be driving someone’s obnoxious behavior rather than thinking up ways to take him down a notch or two.
  • It means absorbing rather than demanding reparation for losses.
  • It means serving your spouse when he or she hasn’t been charming.
  • It means not demanding fairness but rather trusting God to deal justly with people in his time.
  • It means being patient.
  • It means not keeping a record of wrongs.
  • It means treating others as you would like to be treated, not as they deserve.
  • It means depending on God’s grace and the power of the indwelling Spirit rather than following the natural instincts of our flesh and culture.
  • It means about a million more every day things along these lines.

If those who claim Christ as Lord would live out this text, the world would know that Jesus is Son of God.


Accountability Partners actively provide advice & prayer about prolonged appalling patterns of abusive power. It’s always phun to play with words, but seriously, confrontation of a brother or sister in Christ works best in the context of trusted relationships.

If a friend who is a believer sins against you, share the gossip in the guise of a prayer request, or at the very least, hold a small measure of resentment against the sinner. Wait! Which person is the sinner? Be honest – were you really sinned against or were your feelings (pride) hurt? Do you ever get snagged in the Speck vs. Plank-in-the-Eye dilemma? Should we protect against hurting someones’s feelings or face the possible awkwardness of exposing a wrongdoing? Do these questions lead to a paralysis by analysis or to prayer, grace, and forgiveness?

Dull paring knives are virtually useless. Proverbs 27:17 states the oft quoted phrase, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” When we lovingly sharpen each other we all become more effective in ministry. This practice of sharpening is an opportunity to fulfill the law of Christ. In referring to the fellowship of Christ followers Paul says we are to carry and share our burdens; lament over personal sin; advise each other on how best to repent of the sin and then rejoice when there’s victory over the sin.

As brothers and sisters in the Lord we are to be characterized by exhorting, encouraging, and admonishing with God’s Word. Man cannot live by food and fun alone! When we spur one another on toward love and good deeds, sometimes the spur digs in and is uncomfortable, but necessary.



Our gut reaction to these passages is, “Yeah, but…”  We immediately take exception and then try to think of exceptions to the rule.  But what is the rule, exactly?

The rule is that mercy triumphs over justice.  Goodness is more important than getting even.  Showing grace is even better than defending our rights.

It’s all irritatingly un-American, and we squirm uncomfortably under the implications.

Our uneasiness is hypocritical, though.  We all like being treated with mercy, goodness, and grace.  And in Christ Jesus we all have been treated with mercy, goodness, and grace.  God has not given us what our evil deserves.  God let the truckload of his justice run full speed into Jesus on the cross.  What we get from God instead is forgiveness and goodness.  As a result, God’s grace should be the defining truth of our lives.

If God’s grace is the defining truth of our lives, then we should be willing to extend grace to others.  In fact, showing grace to others is the best way to say “Thank You” to God for his grace towards us.

It may gratify you to win your case in court, but wouldn’t showing mercy please our Father in heaven more?  In the end, which is more important: defending our rights or reflecting God’s goodness?  Once we’re in heaven, what will we care about: having gotten what’s owed us here or having reflected God’s mercy in this life?

No one said it would be easy or painless.  It certainly cost God a lot to show us grace.

The phrase “do not resist an evil person” is particularly troublesome.  At the least, it means that we are not to return evil with evil.  Instead, we are to return evil with good.  It doesn’t mean we ignore justice but rather that we choose not to take justice into our own hands.  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).  The Lord often uses secular authorities to carry out his justice; that’s what they’re there for.

One can think of situations that stretch this principle to the breaking point.  For example, this principle is not a rational for passively accepting and staying under physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  But even in those situations, revenge is not an option for the believer.

We like to wear the WWJD bracelet.  Actually living like Jesus…  Well, that can feel a lot like dying sometimes.  But you can’t say he didn’t tell us that.