Here are the results of that reflection:
First, I remembered the major study I conducted in marriage before getting married the first time. Marriage is integrally entwined with sex, or as Genesis puts it becoming one flesh. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2: 24.
In biblical times, they did not have the kind of marriage ceremony we have. A man and woman made a covenant at the time of the betrothal. This set each apart for each other. Usually, a wait followed, while the man prepared a place to live with his wife—often a room on his fathers house. The woman and her parents prepared everything she needed to set up her home, including her dowry. Then the groom would send word to the bride and family to expect him. The groom, his best man, and other friends would march from the new home to accompany his new bride there. They would all march from her father’s house, to their new home. Upon arrival, the couple would enter their bedchamber to consummate their marriage. The wedding was a feast of celebration begun by the family and friends, later to be joined by the happy new couple. With this understanding, you can easily see why Jesus would allow a divorce only in cases of adultery. It breaks what constitutes marriage—both the covenant and sexual relationship.18
This understanding of marriage and sex being inescapably intertwined is further confirmed in 1 Corinthians 7:1–5, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This entire passage is in the language of command. I also noticed the word for deprive in verse 5 is the same word used for defraud in chapter 6 and verse 8. I concluded that withholding sex is indeed a form of sexual unfaithfulness.
Some would argue that a remarriage is a perpetual state of adultery but there is reason to question this. It is counter to what we know about the grace of God. “When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 If we truly confess, he is faithful to his own nature. As he says in Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
I asked Highland’s preacher at the time about this (who is also my cousin). He suggested I look to the example of David. David’s sin with Bathsheba betrayed Uriah, one of his mighty men. And the cover-up involving murder was even worse. They suffered terrible consequences for their sin, with the death of the child of their adultery. However, all indications are that David was forgiven, once he fully laid his guilt before the Lord. He clearly expresses both, in the Psalms.19 And he remained married to Bathsheba. It is amazing that God chose Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s second son, to succeed him on the throne. David’s other, older sons had more “right” to this position. Yet, God chose to honor the son of this marriage. He chose to bless their marriage—despite its beginnings. And, at the end of David’s life, it was written that he had fulfilled God’s purpose for his life in spite of his great mistakes.
My guilt in committing adultery is no light matter. I felt the consequences long after confessing my sin and receiving forgiveness. But I am confident in that forgiveness and have seen God bless our own marriage, in amazing ways.
Note: I hesitate to add this study. I believe this conclusion is quite a legitimate view of scripture, but also feel those who oppose my marriage have a legitimate view as well. This is true even though I believe my own view is more correct. So, I do not feel comfortable recommending another person act on it. If any reading this are considering adultery to be an out for a bad marriage—please don’t! Beg God to walk with you to a solution. I urge any facing the same decisions I made, to divorce and remarry—take it very seriously. Plead with God to lead you to a right decision in your own life.
18 Bromiley, G. W. 1979. The International Standard Bible encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans. vol. 2, p 1998
19 Psalm 32 and 51

The brightest Supernova in the sky

A few days ago astronomers released a study of a supernova first discovered in 2016 and declared it the brightest in the sky — five hundred times brighter than the average supernova. Most of you are probably aware that a supernova is the remains of an exploding star.

After seeing this news I read several articles on science websites, including Nasa Science’s. By definition a supernova has at least five times the mass of our own sun. Our “little” sun has room for 1.3 million earths inside. You can imagine a bit of just how large this supernova, designated SN2016aps, is.

Linda and I are listening to a great book by Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder. In chapter one he has this quote, “President Theodore Roosevelt had a routine habit, almost a ritual. Every now and then, along with the naturalist William Beebe, he would step outside at dark, look into the night sky, find the faint spot of light at the lower left-hand corner of Pegasus, and one of them would recite: “That is the Spiral Galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is seven hundred and fifty thousand light years away. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our own sun.” There would be a pause and then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we feel small enough! Let’s go to bed.”

Like Ravi, I’ll now encourage you to read these words from Psalm 8, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. . . . When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers . . . , what is man that you are mindful of him? . . . You made him ruler over the works of your hands” (verses 1, 3-4 and 6).

Indeed, look to the skies and feel true wonder at the hands of our God.

Imago Dei

Last week, our passage for our morning devotional was 1 Corinthians 15. Thursday, we looked at verse 39, “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.” Until recently, I was always puzzled by this verse. How is our flesh different than the animals? I got that we are also spiritual beings but I did not understand that our flesh is actually much different than the animals.

Coincidentally, or maybe providentially, a few days earlier, I read the last of the fourth chapter in Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of Disciplines, a section called Imago Dei. Willard makes a point from creation in Genesis 1 — unlike the flesh of animals, man’s flesh was designed to receive the breath of life from God and thus made in God’s image.

I’ll let you read his words and then come back with some of my thoughts on it in Part 2.

“But the Genesis account of our creation tells us more than just God’s intention for our place in nature. We are different than the rest of creation for another reason beyond our dominion over it. The manner of our creation was different from the rest of creation too. Before humankind, preexisting substance is simply commanded to bring forth a life form. In the case of humans, however, God imparts something of himself to an earthen form specially shaped to receive it. Genesis 2:7 states, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (ASV).
Our earthly form seems from this wording to have come “alive” only in conjunction with the giving of God’s “breath” or spirit to it. The term “living being” occurs in 1:24 and again in 2:19, referring to creatures with the power of movement in the air, waters, or earth. These earlier living beings had come forth from dust or water at God’s command. Now, in humans, the “living being” emerges from shaped dust as a result of the influx of God’s spirit.
Whatever the precise details of the process—and we must beware of filling them out in a manner that would be blasphemous of the nature of God—the human too becomes a “living being,” with an animal nature, but with a vast difference—we have a nature that is suitably adapted to be the vehicle of God’s likeness.
The two sides of the great human contradiction, dust and divinity, then, are set in place. Human creatures, like all living beings, have a life of their own. But though that life is mortal and short, it is still a life in
which we alone among living beings can stand in opposition”
“52 / The Spirit of the Disciplines”
“to God—in order that we may also choose to stand with God.
If it were not for this ability, we could not fill our part in Go”
“d’s plan, because we would just be puppets. And no puppet could bear his likeness or be his child. The human body itself then is part of the imago Dei, for it is the vehicle through which we can effectively ac- quire the limited self-subsistent power we must have to be truly in the image and likeness of God.
And herein lies the the pivotal concept about our nature we need to understand when we begin talk of redemption. Let us try to make this point as clear as possible since everything turns upon it in practical theology.
In creating human beings in his likeness so that we could govern in his manner, God gave us a measure of independent power. Without such power, we absolutely could not resemble God in the close manner he intended, nor could we be God’s coworkers. The locus or depository of this necessary power is the human body. This explains, in theological terms, why we have a body at all. That body is our primary
area of power, freedom, and—therefore—responsibility.”

Churches Embracing Sin

Someone posted an article on fb that reports a church deciding to accept pride, gossip, sorcery, covetousness, theft, and sexual immorality alongside their acceptance of homosexuality over a decade ago. The article was from the Babylon Bee. Now I know the Babylon Bee is satire, not real news. But honestly, can’t you see a day when some churches will accept most “modern” lifestyles? We are already beginning to have people claim that their involvement in beastiality is merely an alternative lifestyle and they want the right to marry their pet. The same is happening with pedophilia.

I am convinced most churches do not see many sins for what they  are – traps, burdens and heavy weights that ensnare us. All sin trips up our walk with the Lord. We are doing no one a favor by just accepting such in peoples lives. We want to truly love them — share  that these are not the way to happiness and God has the answer. We must also share our own struggles and encourage them with stories of deliverance.

False Trails In Meditation 1

As I am writing about meditation, I feel the need for a warning. I read one of the more popular books on the subject last year, Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. I took my time going through the book, taking a week or two on each chapter, rereading it a few times. I was appreciating the first third of the book. Then the main point of the book began to be how to empty yourself. Certainly we go through the process of dying to self. And we are to have the same attitude of Jesus, who emptied himself to become truly human.  When we emulate this attitude we are ready to serve others. But for Merton the attitude of emptying himself becomes the central point of his meditation. He moves into chapters on detachment, inward destitution, and renunciation. “If nothing that can be seen can either be God or represent Him to us as He is, then to find God we must pass beyond everything that can be seen and enter into darkness. Since nothing that can be heard is God, to find Him we must enter into silence. Since God cannot be imagined, anything our imagination tells us about Him is ultimately a lie and therefore we cannot know Him as He really is unless we pass beyond everything that can be imagined and enter into an obscurity without images and without the likeness of any created thing.” *

By the end of the book Merton indicates that if you seek this process of self emptying long enough, you will come to a place of complete darkness. “And it is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close to us for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.” **

I thought, “How can this be getting closer to God, for ‘God is light and in him is no darkness at all’?” (1 John 1:5) Much of this clearly goes against scripture — the blood of Christ and the power of the resurrection are what make us pure. The Word and all of creation declare the Glory of God.  These are not lies. Though our understanding is quite incomplete, we can learn much and we are changed. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” The book simply has way too much focus on self. This did not fit the lessons I had already had on contemplation. I learned long ago in my struggle with lust that as long as I was focused on my sin and my weakness, I was stuck. It is only when I began to focus on God’s holiness and his strength that I began to be able to truly overcome. I began losing interest in the book as Merton’s teaching appeared to me to be more Buddhist than Christian and slowed down even more. I only reluctantly finished the book.

Providentially, about the time I began the book, I also started to occasionally look at what articles were being published by The New Yorker. Their take of politics is a good deal different than mine but they are famous for good writing. You can read a few articles a month without a subscription. To my surprise, they had an article entitled “Thomas Merton, the Monk Who Became a Prophet,” December 18th. Many encounters with Hindu and Buddhist monks are referred to. The article includes a quote from Merton’s biographer, Rowan Williams, on how Merton “could give almost equal veneration to Catholic and Buddhist traditions.” It is quite clear where Merton received his teachings on emptying yourself.

Though I enjoyed most of Firstlights by Sue Monk Kidd, I need to warn you that she is a fan of Thomas Merton and includes two references to Zen Buddhism. I wondered where to go next in my reading on contemplation. I was wanting to find more on contemplating the nature of God. I found a few wonderful tidbits in the sermons of Jonathan Edwards. But I was hoping for a book. In checking out a number of books on Amazon, I found some more which are referred to in either the description or the reviews as a marriage between Eastern and Western meditation. And many others who also seem to mainly emphasize emptying yourself. Evidently this theme goes back in Christian meditation literature to at least the 4th Century.

Our enemy, the Devil has long used the tactic of mixing other religions into the worship of Jehovah. Every time the Israelites gave into this it was to their great detriment. He continues to do this today.  Deepak Chopra has written a fiction entitled, Jesus, A Story of Enlightenment. In the book Jesus is guilty of joining a plot to commit murder and fulfilling his lust. He doesn’t really understand his life until he travels to mountains in the east to learn from a Guru. Chopra’s Jesus has nothing to do with the real one. His motives for creating him are clear on the front jacket, “I don’t want the Jesus in this book to be worshiped, much less to push him forward as definitive. The events of the tale are pure fiction. But at a deeper level, the Jesus in this book feels real because we’ve gotten a glimpse into his mind. One flash of insight answers many prayers.” This is pure deception, he simply wants Jesus to be mixed in with his own version of  “spirituality”.

Long we’ve been tempted to mix in a love for worldliness. Now we are tempted with many other religions including Wicca, New Age, fascination with aliens, even the worship of angels. Much of American and European society are currently offended by pure Christianity. The temptation is strong to compromise in this area as it would make us more acceptable to them. I urge you to take care, be sure to worship only the God of the Bible. And make the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the largest focus in your meditation. It will change your life, it certainly has mine.

* Thomas Merton “Seeds of Contemplation”, ch. 19 From Faith to Wisdom, p.102, Anthony Clarke, Wheathampsted, Hertfordshire, April 10, 1961

**Thomas Merton (April, 1961). “Seeds of Contemplation”, ch. 35 Renunciation, pp.200-201, Anthony Clarke, Wheathampsted, Hertfordshire, April 10, 1961

Come with me and rest

Sunday I had the opportunity to preach and spoke on Meditation. I decided yesterday to follow it up with some lessons on walking with God.

This morning I was reading a bit that fits right in this plan from Firstlights by Sue Monk Kidd. She talks of the need to stop in our day for a few moments and be present with God. She then brings up a passage I didn’t remember, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31 NIV) This verse is tucked in just before Jesus feeds the five thousand.  The disciples had come back from being sent off two by two to preach repentance, heal, and cast out demons. They no doubt were still pretty excited when they got back. But Jesus could tell they had not even had time to eat. He then invites them to come along with him to rest. They did not really get the chance as the crowd followed them. But they did have a pretty amazing meal.

Mrs. Kidd points out that the difference between nowhere and now here is a small space. We really need to take moments through our day to be truly present, not just rushing through our to do list. We take these moments to recognize God is with us. If we don’t the day will seem a blur. We may miss lessons of the day or God speaking to us in a small voice. God does remind us to “be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)


Jesus, light of the World

During the Christmas season I reflected on Jesus coming as the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). I thought of how many songs and decorations are associated with light. In all the darkness of the world, we need his light.

Today I read a thought connecting theology and science by Andy Walsh in a blog on Jesus Creed called “It Is All Relative”. He points out that there are many principles in science which are constant. One is the speed of light in a  vacuum, about 300 million meters per second. This is true regardless of the relative speed of the one seeing the light. The only objects which can actually move at the speed of light are things without mass, such as protons.

Much of our society today is preaching that all morals and truths are relative. They do not understand how Christians believe in absolutes. That is because they do no know Jesus. He is our absolute, our constant in goodness, truth and morals. Though he was tempted in the same ways we are, he remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15). This makes him the only one who, morally speaking moves at the speed of light (without the weight of sin). Our goal is to “walk in the light as he is in the light” 1 John 1:7.

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