When Marriage Goes Bad

In the last post I pointed out the amazing price Christ paid so that we might be a beautiful bride. You would think that in light of this kind of love we would respond by loving Him without reserve. Yet, the truth is, many of us find that we repeatedly fail to love God with all our hearts, our souls, and our minds. While we may be ashamed that we fail to love as we ought, I wonder how often we stop to view our lack of love through the eyes of God. Ezekiel 16:4-32 helps us understand that our failure to love God rightly is much worse than we might realize. I will include the text below for you to read.

And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, “Live!” I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.

But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord GOD. And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood. 

And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD), you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring… How sick is your heart, declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

God asks, “how sick is your heart?” The answer is clear; more sick than we can even comprehend. The picture is indeed bleak as we consider the depths of our depravity. If we fail to consider how bad our state is, if we remain self-confident, “building vaulted chambers for ourselves,” then there is little hope for our souls. Yet, if we consider our sins and “remember the days of our youth,” then hope remains. It is in this lowly state that we can join David in praying the words of Psalm 51.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

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The Most Costly Wedding

It seemed like the news was full of weddings today. I believe all of wedding interest in the news is in preparation for the April 29th wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. However, in my humble opinion, there is a much more exciting wedding coming in June.

One of the articles that I saw this morning discussed just how extravagant, and expensive, weddings are. According to Tom Barlow, the author of the article, the most expensive wedding in recent history cost over 100 million dollars. The second most expensive was the Prince Charles and Diana wedding. Barlow says the Diana’s dress alone was $15,000. But it’s not just royalty weddings and celebrity weddings that are expensive. Barlow claims that the average US wedding costs $24,000.

If you are like me, you may think this isn’t simply extravagant, its exorbitant. But before we are too quick to pass judgment, consider what Christ paid for his wedding day. Paul says in Ephesians 5:25-27,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

When held next to the death of the Son of God, $100 million dollars becomes an embarrassingly meager expense. He gave His life so that His bride would look stunning on their wedding day. No wedding, and no marriage, will ever be as extravagant and glorious as that of Christ and His church.

And the most amazing part… we are the bride! We are the beneficiaries of this great gift! In response, how in love with Christ ought we to be? How eager to know Him and serve Him? How committed to walk worthy of our groom? How committed ought we be to living as one who is holy, without spot or blemish?

A Little More on Evil

My good friend Jonathan Micke, has logged several requests for a follow up to my recent post, “Morality and the Problem of Evil.” In the post I made the following remark, “it doesn’t take too long in Scripture to find out exactly why God has allowed evil and to see how He has conquered it.” However, as Jonathan has pointed out, “there are probably many who read that and think ‘I’ve read the Bible plenty of times and I don’t know why [God allowed evil or how He conquered it].”

The truth is, the whole answer for evil is not available to us. But there are a few points that the Bible teaches us to keep in our minds.

1. Evil is the result of sin.
The beginning of Genesis teaches us that God created the world and it was very good. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed which was a picture of their innocence and purity. There was no evil to be found. But, in the 3rd chapter they choose to disobey God and evil and all of it’s ill effects takes the world by storm. Adam and Eve are all of the sudden aware of their own guilt (aware that they are evil) and they realize they are naked. God places on them the curses they earned by their evil actions, the chief of those being death. Even the earth suffers the effects of evil as it now produces thorns and experiences death, just as Adam and Eve.

The point is, God is not evil and He did not create evil. Instead, the Bible clearly teaches that evil is the rejection of God and his commandments. The result of evil is guilt, suffering, and death.

2. Evil does not diminish God’s glory or thwart God’s plan.
Another fun thing about creation is that we get a glimpse of why He created he world. Psalm 19 tells us “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Romans 1 tells us, “His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” It is clear that the purpose of creation is to show how great God is. The amazing thing about evil, it does the same thing.

The Bible is full of ways that God uses evil for his good. One of the most clear is near the end of Genesis. Joseph has just forgiven his brothers for faking his death and selling him into slavery and he is giving them food to help provide for them in the famine. In spite of this generosity, his brother’s couldn’t believe that Joseph would ever really forgive them for what they had done. To reassure them, Joseph says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Isn’t that interesting. Even when God allows us to do evil things, He is able to accomplish a greater purpose out of it.

3. God conquers evil.
Perhaps the most amazing truth in all of the Bible is that the most evil event in the history of the world is also the greatest event in the history of the world. Think about it. What could be more evil than the crucifixion of the Son of God? The fact that we, just mortal men, would mock him, spit on him, crown him with a crown of thorns, and finally crucify him… what could be more evil? Yet through this event God has chosen to save anyone who will call on the name of Jesus. This sounds similar to the story of Joseph, but magnified on an infinite scale.

The very reason Jesus took on flesh and died was so that he could conquer evil. Hebrews 2:14-15 explains that the whole reason that Jesus became a man was so that that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” It’s this truth that gets Paul to say in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

What’s more, if creation is to display God’s glory, how much more does his victory over evil and death display his glory? Philippians 2:8-11 tells us,

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

While we can’t know every reason that God might allow any given occurrence of evil, I think we can always say a few things with confidence. 1. God himself is not evil, we are. 2. No amount of evil can diminish God’s glory or thwart His ultimate plan for His creation. 3. His defeat of evil at the cross is the single greatest event in history and it demonstrates how glorious He truly is.

Marriage Protection

Dad always told me that “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Perhaps more than any other period of my life, the last two years have demonstrated that the even the most stalwart institutions can crumble. America has shut down the space program, the nation’s biggest car companies have filed bankruptcy, and some the nation’s largest banks have closed their doors. However no institution has suffered as much as marriage.

Safeguard Guarantee Company points out;

Approximately 2.3 million weddings take place in the United States alone each year. Historical data indicates that about 50% of first marriages ultimately will be dissolved via divorce (according to divorcemagazine.com) and more than 60% of remarriages. Of the projected 23 million weddings that will be consummated in the United States between 2006 and 2015, over 11,000,000 of those marriages will likely be legally dissolved in their first 15 years. And because children of divorced parents are three times more likely to get divorced than their counterparts from successful marriages, the US census now estimates that only 33% of couples married today will celebrate their 25th anniversary.

You might think that Christians would be exempt from these troubling statistics but it seems that we are not. Almost everyone can point to a pastor or Christian leader who has lost his ministry, his marriage, and his family because of his own impurity. While there are many reasons that Christians marriages are failing, none seem so glaring as the impurities and immorality of Christian men.

Safeguard Guarantee Company suggests that in the face of these depressing statistics we should seek to protect ourselves. However, they protection they offer doesn’t protect the marriage, but the finances. They explain, “There is no company in the world that currently provides insurance against the often devastating financial impact of divorce… until now.” But for me, that “safeguard” just isn’t good enough. I am not looking for protection after the marriage is over, I want protection that will keep the marriage from ever ending in the first place.

To protect my marriage against the impurities that are looking to destroy it, I can think of only one guarantee that I can rely on. The Bible says that if I want to protect my marriage, I must keep my ways pure, and if I want to keep my ways pure I must guard them according to God’s word.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:9-11