Let God Set You Free From Overwork

Do you ever worry that you’re not getting enough done?

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” -Psalm 127:1-2

Are you anxious?  Weary?  Worn down from feeling like the weight of the world rests on you and your ability to achieve results?  STOP IT!

In this Psalm of Solomon is the reminder that anxious overwork will not bring the fulfillment and peace you imagine.  On the contrary, it is futility to think and act as if your destiny is wholly yours to command.  Your loving Father wants to free you from responsibilities you were never intended to carry.

Notice, of course, that it is not a bad thing to build, or to watch, or even to rise early and stay up late.  The key is the attitude and frame of mind you hold in the midst of your daily life and work.

Your Father wants you to rest and let Him take care of the results you’re trying so hard to produce on your own.  He wants you to trust Him in every way, especially in those places you feel it all depends on you.

Let go.  Let it all depend on Him.  Work hard, yes, and be diligent.  But, receive the rest God wants to give you by trusting Him to take care of the timeline and results.

 

When Does Marriage Really End?

Thursdays are usually geared towards answering theological questions I receive in my role as a pastor. They tend to be longer and more detailed than the other days, and I hope the topics are helpful in your journey.
—Pastor Phillip


Marriage is hard.

As a single man, I look forward to being married and having a family one day, but this is the statement I keep hearing again and again about marriage, that it’s hard work.  One preacher said it this way, “You can’t put two sinners together and expect things to always go smoothly.”  Good point.

Yet, even though many say that marriage is the most difficult thing they’ve ever done, the Bible tells us that simply giving up is not an option.  We are called to approach marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:31-32) and He certainly doesn’t give up on us when things get hard.  However, there are examples in Scripture where divorce is permissible, but sometimes the lines can be hard to define.

I grieve to see so many in our day going through the pain of divorce and infidelity.  It’s disheartening, and I know for me it takes an intentional effort sometime to resist the spirit of fear that can try to creep in that such things are inevitable.  Praise the Lord that they do NOT have to be inevitable, and there IS hope for us as the people of God!  Of course, we must do our part as well and try to walk in wisdom.

Along that line, here are two questions I received on these issues, and some thoughts that will hopefully be of some help.

– – – – –

QUESTION 1: “When does marriage end?  Does it end at the “legal” end when a divorce becomes final?  Or, does it end in biblical terms at the moment when a spouse commits adultery?

The Bible speaks of marriage not as a contract, but as a covenant. There are several differences between the two, but the one that applies most in this case to this question is simply this.

In a CONTRACT (as far as I know), once one party breaks the terms, the contract is officially null and void in the eyes of the law. This is because a contract is inherently based on DIStrust and therefore has provisions in place that explicitly invalidate the contract in the event of a breach.

A COVENANT, however, is based on trust, not distrust. This means that when a spouse commits adultery, they have indeed broken the “terms” of the covenant, but Biblically that doesn’t necessarily mean the marriage is over. Moses and Jesus and Paul are the Biblical figures who spoke to the issue of marriage and divorce, and in each case the idea is that in cases of infidelity, divorce is an option, but not a requirement and certainly not an “automatic.”

So, according to scripture, marriage “ends” when the divorce is finalized according to the laws and customs of the culture of which the couple is a part. (This is why the Old Testament law spoke of “a certificate of divorce” in Deuteronomy 24, a passage on which Jesus comments in Matthew 5, Matthew 19, and Mark 10.) However, in the case of adultery, this is an option, not a given.

 

QUESTION 2: “Is someone that is in the process of divorcing their spouse committing adultery if they are dating someone while they are separated from their spouse?”

This question is a trickier one, because the concept of “dating” is a relatively new invention in our society, and didn’t exist per se in “Bible times.”  In those cultures the norm was usually arranged marriage, or if not arranged by the parents, it was more a matter of a man proposing to a woman’s family and being granted permission, and that was that.  The idea of a man and woman spending time together “getting to know each other” in unsupervised environments has no real Biblical precedent that I know of.

That said, here are a few principles I believe would apply.

1) Jesus said “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)  This speaks to the idea that it is a violation of the original covenant to enter into another covenant in its place without proper justification.

Jesus speaks to some of the dynamics of this a few verses earlier, “the two shall become one flesh.  So, they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)  The big issue from a covenantal standpoint is sexuality, the “two becoming one.”  Obviously, then, someone in the process of getting a divorce should not be intimate with someone else, though of course they also shouldn’t be intimate until they are married again!

2) Expanding the principle of “two becoming one,” we know that if a man and woman are married, they should not be developing intimate emotional relationships with a member of the opposite sex, either.  This is one of the big problems that comes up with office relationships, where the excuse becomes, “well we didn’t ‘do anything’…”  Maybe nothing happened physically, but there was an emotional bond that was created and the heart of the married person (or persons) was led astray.

Here’s why this is an important point.

Again and again in Scripture, God issues judgement against Israel because they “turned their hearts” after other Gods to worship them.  THEREFORE (long explanations aside) according to this principle, someone who is in the process of divorce but has not completely finished it should not be building intimate “heart” relationships with others, because that is still violating the terms of the covenant.  Even though the covenant is in the process of being terminated, it is still in effect until the last details are finished up.

On a positive note, by refraining from building intimate heart ties with others during the divorce process, that leaves the door open for God to do a restorative work in the hearts of the couple and bring them back together!  He can and does do this, and it would be wrong to close off that possibility.

3) Finally, if “dating someone else” is less like the heart-to-heart connection of being “boyfriend/girlfriend” and more of a casual getting-together with multiple other people for companionship, I would not say it was sin, though I would approach it as a wisdom issue and say that one should be very careful.

– – – – –

I hope the points above have provided some helpful perspective. As I said, I grieve the state of marriage in our time, and pray that God may use each of us who follow Christ to actively “drive back the darkness” by helping people walk with wisdom and grace and thus honor their covenants of all kinds before God… and may we do the same.

 

Self-control sets you free

SELF-CONTROL SETS YOU FREE

Do you struggle with self-control sometimes?

“Older men are to be…self-controlled.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior…and so train the young women…to be self-controlled.  Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled…For the grace of God has appeared, training us to live self-controlled…lives.” -Titus 2:2-6, 11-12 (selections)

I find it interesting that not only in this chapter but all throughout the book of Titus, Paul urges the people to embrace the discipline of self-control.  It is significant that Titus was a pastor in the city of Crete, a place known for everything but self-control.

Surrounded by constant temptation and encouragement to simply “go with what you feel” and pursue pleasure at all costs, Christians in Crete had a simple choice: to be slaves to their own whims and the spirit of the world around them, or to master their actions through the power of the Holy Spirit and thus live in true freedom as servants of Christ.

The same choice is given to us as well.

We may find it hard to be self-controlled, but to not be controlling ourselves is to be controlled by any and everything else that comes our way.

The good news is that God wants more for His children than that!  He wants freedom for us, and has given us everything we need to walk in it today.

Walk in self-control and let God’s Spirit set you free!

Self-Control Sets You Free

 Do you struggle with self-control sometimes?

“Older men are to be…self-controlled.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior…and so train the young women…to be self-controlled.  Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled…For the grace of God has appeared, training us to live self-controlled…lives.” -Titus 2:2-6, 11-12 (selections)

I find it interesting that not only in this chapter but all throughout the book of Titus, Paul urges the people to embrace the discipline of self-control.  It is significant that Titus was a pastor in the city of Crete, a place known for everything but self-control.

Surrounded by constant temptation and encouragement to simply “go with what you feel” and pursue pleasure at all costs, Christians in Crete had a simple choice: to be slaves to their own whims and the spirit of the world around them, or to master their actions through the power of the Holy Spirit and thus live in true freedom as servants of Christ.

The same choice is given to us as well.

We may find it hard to be self-controlled, but to not be controlling ourselves is to be controlled by any and everything else that comes our way.

The good news is that God wants more for His children than that!  He wants freedom for us, and has given us everything we need to walk in it today.

Walk in self-control and let God’s Spirit set you free!

 

You Can Have Peace Even When You Disagree

Do you ever get frustrated when people disagree with you?

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” -2 Timothy 2:23

Whether football teams or fall elections, Bible translations or Macs vs. PCs, there is no shortage of things that people can get fired up and passionate about.

Yet, for we who follow Christ, God calls us to not let any difference of opinion turn into divisive opposition against other brothers or sisters in Christ.  We are to be passionate about people, about pursuing faith and love and peace together, and while it is fine to have preferences and vital to also pursue truth, we must remember that the way in which we pursue is just as important as the what.

Pursuing peace doesn’t mean giving up on truth, it just means picking our battles a little more carefully than most.  It doesn’t mean agreeing with everybody or affirming incorrect beliefs, but that when people don’t see things our way, we don’t see their disagreement as a threat.

May we be people who walk in the freedom to disagree, yet still walk in peace.

 

You Will Never Be Forsaken

Do you ever fear God might abandon you?

“I will keep Your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!” -Psalm 119:8

I used to worry that God might leave me if I didn’t do what I was supposed to, but today there’s not a place in my heart that is afraid of that at all.  I don’t have to ask Him not to forsake me; I know He won’t!

How can I be so sure?

Because when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) it was a cry that meant two things.  It was a sign of my despair on His shoulders, and it was a promise of His triumph on my behalf.  It meant that He was taking my place, bearing the abandonment that I should have experienced for my sin.

If you have trusted Christ for salvation, then you can be confident of this today: Since Jesus was forsaken for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), God will never forsake you for yours!

The Psalmist keeps God’s law in order to receive His favor, but as followers of Christ, you and I have received complete favor through Christ as a gift.  That means that now, we get to keep God’s law not out of fearful duty, but grateful love, and no matter how well we “perform,” He will never forsake us.

He will never forsake YOU!

 

Things For Which I Am Thankful

When was the last time you made a list of all the things you’re thankful for?

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  -1 Thessalonians 5:18

I am thankful for a mother who taught me proper grammar…and lovingly insisted on it.

I am thankful for a father who taught me that the most important thing isn’t just getting the job done, but doing it with character and a good attitude.

I am thankful for brothers who always looked up to me, even when I let them down…and who now are men I look up to in many ways as well.

I am thankful for a godly heritage on both sides of my family, for men and women who served the Lord and taught their children to do the same.

I am thankful for chocolate.

I am thankful for coffee.

I am thankful for the many generous people who continue to give me Starbucks gift cards so that I can continue to feed my habit.

I am thankful for cool breezes on hot summer days and warm covers on cold winter nights.

I am thankful for tears, because they remind me that I am alive.

I am thankful for laughter, because it reminds me why being alive is a good thing.

I am thankful for pain, because it reminds me that this life is but a passing shadow on the way to a glorious eternity in Christ.

I am thankful for pleasure, because it reminds me of His goodness right here and now.

I am thankful for the Bible, for it guides and protects my heart from darkness, and steers me back to light whenever I veer off course.

I am thankful for the Church, for it sustains and supports me through relationships between God’s people, His literal hands and feet on the earth.

I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, who whispers to me which way to go and reminds me who I really am in Christ.

I am thankful for the cross, for it stands as God’s eternal testimony of both His love and faithfulness, and His holiness and justice.

I am thankful for music, the fabric of my soul.

I am thankful for fabric, the covering of my body.

I am thankful for my body, the vehicle I’ve been given to carry out God’s will for my life.

I am thankful for God’s will, because it is always perfect, always right, and always good.

And I am thankful for these fingers that can type thoughts on a page, these thoughts that give words to these feelings, and these feelings of gratitude which themselves are just like everything else for which I am thankful…

Gifts of grace from my Father.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  -James 1:17

How about you?  What are some things YOU are thankful for?

 

God Wants to Build You Up, Not Beat You Down

Have you ever felt “beaten down” by the Bible?

“With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.  In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.”  -Psalm 119:13-14

I once heard that in Australia (and a few other places) they have a concept called “Tall Poppy Syndrome.”  The idea is that people who stand out too much or upset the status quo should be “cut down to size.”

Have you ever seen the Bible used like that, not just as a set of rules, but as a ruler to measure people and beat them down?

Certainly, the Law of God serves the needed purpose of bringing conviction, but while that is sometimes necessary, it’s never God’s first choice for His children.  The Psalmist “delights” in God’s laws (“rules”, “testimonies”) because he knows that they are like a ruler, and that God’s desired purpose for that ruler is not that it would be used to cut His people down, but build them up!

As followers of Jesus, we are “being built into a spiritual house together” (1 Peter 2:5) for God’s glory, and the commands of God are there for the Master Builder to use as He shapes us for His purposes.  The Law is for our joy and our good, not to hurt us, but to help us rise up into the fullness of who God created us to be.

God wants to use the Law not to beat you down, but to build you up in Christ.

Receive it!

How To Move Forward With Confidence

Do you ever wish you had more confidence to do what God’s called you to do?

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  -2 Timothy 1:6-7

Because it is God’s Spirit that dwells in us, we can have confidence in moving forward into all He has called us to do.  If it truly is His Spirit that is leading us, then He has also already provided everything we need to accomplish everything He’s instructed us!

His gift is a flame to bring light to the world.  The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16a), so He’s certainly not going to give up on the world now!  That means He’s also not going to give up on you.

Let the Holy Spirit inside of you burn like the flame the Bible says He is, and let us fan that flame into a holy inferno of power and love, and be disciplined to manage it well!

May you trust Him today, and let that trust be manifested in a holy boldness to move forward into your destiny in Christ.

 

You Have the Power to Persevere

Do you ever feel like just giving up?

“But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” -1 Thessalonians 2:2

It’s easy to give up in the face of struggle and opposition.  Often we give up after mere disappointment, much less outright “persecution.”

Yet, the Apostle presses on, not timidly, but with boldness.  Why?

He is filled with the truth that it is God Himself who is working in and through Paul and his companions.  He is tapped-in to the life-giving flow of the Spirit of God and it is from that power that his bold persistence comes.

In Christ, Paul has supernatural power to persevere…

And so do you.

 

GET YOUR LAUNCH LIST BONUSES NOW!

Let's do this together.

WHAT TYPE OF ORGANIZATION IS THIS FOR? (Primarily)