Jesus

Loophole

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Loophole:

an error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it (merriam-webster.com)

I didn’t think of myself as a quitter, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t so sure anymore.  Marriage had turned out to be more than I bargained for.  It was too hard and I wanted out.  There had to be a way, something I’d overlooked or read wrong that would give me the loophole I wanted.  Little did I know that in my search to get out of our marriage, I had inadvertently started a wrestling match with God.

It was in Matthew 19 that I saw a loophole forming, right there in verse 11:

Not everyone can accept this statement, only those whom God helps. 

And the more I thought about it the clearer it became …only those whom God helps.  Right.  If God was for this marriage it would be easier.  There would be peace.  I began to see hope.  Yes, divorce is a hard process but afterward, life would improve for everyone.  It had to be better than what we were presently experiencing.  I could see my loophole getting larger.

… Until God asked me if I was a eunuch.

Wait?  What? …. A what?

Have You Not Read?

When God asks you a rhetorical question, you just know He’s got your number.  We’ve seen this line of questioning before. Jesus did this with the Pharisees back in verse 4:

Jesus answered, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?

… have you not read …?  Obviously, they had read it – they were the religiously educated, Jesus knew that.  Yet, the intent of his question indicates they missed something. … just like I was missing something too.

I missed it because, like the Pharisees, I was looking for something that wasn’t there.  Fishing for an excuse, any excuse to twist God’s Word to my benefit.  Any excuse that says it’s ok to give up on marriage, on a spouse … on a person.

To challenge the Pharisees, Jesus began with an overview from way back in Genesis, as though they really hadn’t read from their own scriptures.  But before He could finish, they interrupted Him with another question.  Then the disciple’s interjected with a comment of their own.

Misfire From Both Sides

On the one side of Jesus, the Pharisees are saying they should be able to break the marriage contract whenever they choose.  And on the other side, the disciples are emphatic about not even venturing into a marriage if it’s going to be a covenant situation.  Both sides had different reasons but both groups were missing the bigger picture in order to avoid doing the hard work that marriage sometimes demands.

First:  The Pharisees want to be able to trade-in for a new partner:  Jesus tells them their focus is all wrong.  Their reasoning is that if they have all their Ts crossed and Is dotted through a contract of divorce, dissolving the marriage along with the contract is clean and tidy: sanitized.  The paperwork is all in order.  But Jesus wants them to look back further than their own relationships, beyond themselves, back to when marriage was established and grasp its original purpose:  Not a contract; rather, a covenant to stay together.  But they won’t have any of it, instead, they shot back in rebuttal:

“If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

Jesus tried to be a teacher and help them but they resisted with technicalities.  So He responds with more deliberate words, You are the stubborn, hardhearted ones to pursue divorce in the first place.  But if that weren’t enough Jesus pushes back with more, So you want to play hardball with technicalities?  I have a technicality for you.  You thought you could just divorce by saying your spouse cheated so you could find someone better?  It doesn’t work that way.  You want to leave your marriage?  Alright, but you cannot ever get married again because you will only bring your hardheartedness into another marriage.

WOAH-WAH

Apparently, there’s no trading in, or trading off.  Only trading out.  The technicality is too much for them, they got more than they bargained for.  They came out to play Jesus for the fool, but instead He bested them at their own game!  And they just quietly disappear before the end of the chapter.

And then:  The Disciples don’t even want to start without an escape clause.  Jesus recalls Genesis 2 in an effort to draw our attention to the original purpose of the male/female design of creation:  so that they would covenant in marriage.  No escape clause is the whole purpose.  Remaining single because there’s no escape clause goes against the intended design.  The only pure motive for choosing to not marry is to serve God.

At this point in the conversation, Jesus had turned his attention to the disciples and was directly addressing them.  The only people that don’t have the capacity to accept the covenant of marriage are eunuchs, everyone else does.

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said, “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

I wasn’t a eunuch (as God rhetorically reminded me) which put me in the category of everyone else.  It applies to …everyone …else?  I didn’t like that very much.  “God, You’re not actually saying that it does apply to everyone else, are You?  Just that it doesn’t apply to eunuchs.”  OK, that was wrong, I knew it.  I had tried the same trick that Pharisees had: a technicality.

Although there was less confusion about my own heart, I was still disillusioned about our marriage. It didn’t seem fair.  What about him?  Why am I the one with the hard heart towards him?  I could feel God’s hand pull me out of my self-pity pit:  “No, it’s not Darrell you will become hard hearted towards … it’s Me.”

This was my game changer:  It’s not about my spouse and me, but God and me.

Accept it, if you can

If I left our marriage my faith would weaken because I wouldn’t have given God the chance to come through for me.  To demonstrate His power through me … through our marriage.

To leave Darrell would be to not trust God to work out all things in our marriage. Leaving him would also be saying to God that Darrell is such a lost cause that even the Creator of the universe isn’t able to do anything in him.  I would be saying that God is not able to finish the good work He started on our wedding day.

And if I didn’t trust Him in this area of my life, what would be the next area that I would withhold from Him?  And then the next?  God is everything He says or nothing at all.  I don’t get to pick and choose the areas of my life that He gets dominion over.

So.  I’m not a eunuch, clearly.  My only other choice was to seek a divorce with a hard heart towards God.  Or, stay in admittance that Christ’s teaching on marriage was for me to accept.

With that thought, my loophole vanished.

 

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Serving through sex (Part 2 – Serving is not submission)

serving through sex

First of all, my apologies to those following this series. My delay in posting is because I’m having a difficult time keyboarding. I’ve completely damaged the muscles in my back – the one supporting the shoulders (trapezius) – and as a result am only able to type for about 10 mins at a time before they start to ache and then burn. Not only that, but my kitchen work has been seriously affected as well. I’m one of the those people who finds it very difficult to sit still … day after ….day, in order to recover; because this recovery must be done while I lay on my back (pun intended, sort of 😉 ) Anyway, all I can do at the moment is read. That’s it. No note taking and researching or writing.

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In Part 1 I explored the difference between the attitudes of have to have sex and want to have sex. When our mindset is “I have to have sex” we set ourselves up to serving the rules and the law: Being obligated. But when our mindset is “I want to have sex,” we can experience the same powerful transformation that Jesus demonstrated in the garden of Gethsemane: Our hearts will be changed through adapting to God’s plans.

The reason many of us have of a hard time wrapping our minds around this juxtaposition is because we try to reason in our flesh that we need to understand what God is asking of us before we do it. We wrestle with thoughts like:

  • “If it would just make sense then I could adapt.” Or,
  • “If I just knew how this was going to turn out.” Or,
  • “If I do this, how can I be sure that it will be fair?”

Or at the very least, we want to be assured that our spouse won’t take advantage of us in the slightest. It seems we want some kind of guarantee before stepping out in faith. In more lucid moments that are free of conflict, we know this is an oxymoron.

Yet, that is precisely what happened in the exchange between Jesus and God – from an earthly perspective, Jesus got the unfair shake:

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried – our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins! –Isaiah 53

In Luke 22:42a, Jesus clearly expresses that execution is not His preferred course of action: please take this cup of suffering away from me. But then in the second part of the verse His change of heart is evident, Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.

 “YET” is the morph from head to heart!

The question we have to ask is how, how did Jesus make this mental shift? The answer: love. He placed His love for God so far above Himself that He was willing to do anything for Him, even to be executed. He demonstrated that love by trusting God. He didn’t need to understand God’s will to want it, He just knew that God is trustworthy and His ways are always excellent.

Love doesn’t say:

  • I will obey and serve with a grin & bear it type of attitude
  • I will obey and serve because it’s what is required & necessary or what I should do

What love does say is, I want to do whatever Your will is.

Serving is for one another not marriage

Service is what we give to others and it’s a great thing. In fact, we are told to serve our brothers and sisters with agape love. For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another.–Galatians 5:13

Even done willingly– it’s still a have to. But, when you’ve adapted your heart, your mind is completely renewed, but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideas and its new attitude], (Romans 12:2).

Substituting the word served sexually in place of submitted sexually is an effort to equalize so that serving looks the same in all relationships. No more or less. All the same. But the truth is, all relationships are not the same, nor are they equal to each other.

Marriage is distinct and completely UNlike any other relationship. No other bond is referred to as a huge mystery, a living and visible demonstration of Christ and His Church. And no other relationship commences by a covenant with God Himself. Therefore, no other relationship carries the weight of glory that marriage does.

As such,

God requires much more from us in marriage

than any other relationship.

Submission is for her OWN

A wife is never told to serve her husband, but to submit to him. Replacing serve for the word submit is a mental twist so the heart doesn’t actually have to fully yield to the complete change at the deepest level of relating: becoming one flesh. The flesh seeks to hold onto even the smallest vestige of itself, while at the same time appearing to be altered.

The closeness of the marriage relationship presses in on each spouse in its own way, forcing* us to give way to the spirit over the flesh. The majority of this pressure comes from living in a dual relationship. With both of us being members of Christ’s body, this means that I have a brother in Christ that I am bound to because he is also my husband; I’m Darrell’s sister spiritually and at the same time his wife in the natural. Yes, I serve my brother in Christ, but it is equal to serving any of my brothers (and sisters) in Christ.

However, in marriage I submit to my own husband. In all of the references regarding submission in marriage God added the little word idios meaning own**, signifying that the submission to this particular brother is separate, different and unique to him alone.

Serving is an act – it doesn’t require change between one performance of obligation and the next. When we lump serving in marriage together with all other Christian serving we only blur the uniqueness of the one-flesh purpose between husband and wife and diminish the value of sex. Serving through sex is a method for a wife to compartmentalize the act itself. She will be able to have sex and at the same time not be fully engaged: only as much as she has to be.

God hasn’t defined exemptions for submission that depend on what area of marriage you are talking about. Submission in the bedroom is no different than submission in the kitchen or the living room, or any other area of the home that the marriage lives in.

When I trust that God’s ways are excellent I will adapt to His plan for marriage. The submission of my whole self in marriage will demonstrate to God that I am all in. Nothing will be held back. I won’t be stuck in the mindset of having to serve my brother through sex. Instead, my transformed heart will want to have sex with my husband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

*Forcing: Job 5:18; Psalm 51:8; Isaiah 60:10; Lamentations 3:32

**OWN: Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:15.

Serving through sex (Part 1 – Adaptability)

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I’ve heard a few times about the idea of ‘serving’ your husband through sex because it’s a need he has. I don’t like that view or the term ‘serving’ as it relates to sex and as the weeks rolled by, I saw it again and again. Every time I saw it, I liked it less and less. This term, serving in the context [of sex] has the slight nuance of obligation (see duty, onus, burden, and liability) to it.

My first feeling is, serving appears to be something you do for the benefit of someone else. In this context, its serve your husband sex for his benefit. And although that might seem right (Proverbs 14:12); somehow it rings false. I think this whole idea of a wife serving her husband sex is an approach that will backfire in the end.

So I want to peel back this idea and see what it exposes.

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When I let the word serving roll around in my mind, the first thing I’m faced with is a choice: have to OR want to; along with a whiff of resistance – it seems like serving could almost, be placating*.

*to appease or pacify, especially by concessions or conciliatory gestures

*soothe, assuage, mollify.

How did Jesus view serving? If God is renewing my mind to be like Christ’s, then I can look to His example. When God requested that Jesus go to the cross:

  • Did Jesus do it to appease or pacify God?
  • Was His agreement to God’s plan a conciliatory gesture?

Jesus wasn’t double minded. He wasn’t thinking, “Omg!! You want me to do what!? Do I have to?” But speaking out, “I want to do this.” I don’t think so. On the contrary, Jesus grabbed a-hold of God’s idea and adapted His own will to God’s plan of the cross.

HAVE TO / WANT TO

When Jesus saw there was no other way, He adapted immediately to God’s plan. This morphed His have to into the want to (Luke 22:42). When Jesus chose to adapt to God’s plan for His life, as hard as it was, His heart was no longer divided between have to / want to, and the human part of His mind was renewed (Romans 12:2) and it showed in His willingness. God’s plan became Jesus’ plan – they were united.

Adapting enables the flesh to grow up*. Adapting is what changes the stoic ‘have to’ in our flesh of obedience into the loving ‘want to’ in our spirit. (Ezekiel 11:19)

SCENARIO 1: What would you think? Someone who’s serving at church in the nursery because it‘s a need, but they have no interest in children. They’ve been watching your kids for about 6 months and then you overhear a conversation they are having outside of the church on their cell phone. They don’t really like kids that much. Sure they are cute and everything, but it’s not really what you’d like to be doing. However, you feel God will bless you because there is such a need for it – and there was no one else to do it. Would you really feel comfortable and happy with your kids there? Or would you feel better with overhearing a conversation of someone who said, that they really loved kids, in fact they just enrolled in a child care course because their heart really is for kids – they want to.  Or, scenario 2.

SCENARIO 2: You’ve got this good friend who you‘ve been sharing your life with. You meet every 2 weeks for a coffee and a chat. You’ve become very good friends and feel comfortable in sharing your struggles in marriage with her. You need to drop off something at a different friend’s house and your other friend (the one you’ve been confiding to) is there. They are out on the back deck and don’t know you are there. You decide to surprise/scare them by quietly sneaking up to the gate and barging through with a big smile on your face. NO intentions of eaves dropping – because you completely trust both of these women. But as you approach the gate you hear … not what you expected. Your deeper friend is sharing how she really enjoys your company except when you share about your problems in marriage. She finishes her conversation by saying that, it’s what friends do for each other, they serve each other and this is her Christian duty to serve in their friendship.

See, it doesn’t leave you with a true feeling of warmth and care — it’s not authentic.  It is truth … from the obedience of the mind — but not genuine.

Is it just semantics? I don’t know. Let’s try a different angle and drive it down a little deeper into our own personal experience. Look at the flip-side, from ‘serving’ him sexually (his need) to ‘serving’ her relationally (her need).

SCENARIO 3:  You overhear your husband talking to a friend, “I took her [his wife] out for dinner and a movie last night. I didn’t really feel like it, after the day I had I would rather have unplugged into a book or movie, but God says Christian serving is good, and this kind of serving falls on the husband’s shoulders because God made her with this need, so I ‘loved’ her by SERVING her.”  What a shock to hear; you were thinking that you really had a great time of relational intimacy.

If I over-heard that conversation I wouldn’t be feelin the love. I wouldn’t get a sense of being genuinely engaged in a real relationship of any depth; but more of having been appeased.

He is in the mindset of “I have to” not “I want to.” It feels deceitful and is an affront because when we read, For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), we know God didn’t mean for Christ to love the church through conciliatory gestures.  Have to is serving. Want to is loving. I don’t want my husband to have to love me; I want him to want to love me.

So, back to the sex of it … as long as I feel that I am serving my husband through sex, it will always be a conciliatory gesture and never authentic genuine love.

***IT IS ADAPTABILITY THAT CHANGES THE HEART FROM HAVE TO SERVE INTO WANT TO LOVE***

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Part 2 – Submission is not serving. Serving is not submission.

 

 

 

*Did the God part of Jesus need to grow up His flesh? Probably not, as the God part of His nature was completely mature all ready. However, the part that was fully human need the flesh contended with. This is part of the testing and suffering that He had to endure to be the first born among many. Jesus lead the way, in demonstration with His own life, to show us what it really means to obey with the right heart.

Are You Timid & Afraid?

timid and afraid

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What storm are you encountering … right now … at this very moment?  When your marriage boat set sail on it’s journey everything was on a nice even keel; but now it’s anything but ‘smooth sailin’ and you have no idea where all the rough waters came from.

Does this present storm have you wanting to turn and run away in fear?  How would you respond to Jesus as He asks you:

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The disciples were clambering in a panic from their emotions.  When crisis brings chop into our marriages I think we do the same thing, we end up paralyzed from our emotions and are faced with a huge temptation to focus on the circumstances and all the bad that could happen instead of all the power God has.

Isn’t this always our first wail to God?

make it stop  ~  make it go away  ~  make it be over

– always from our emotions.

I’m like one of the disciples, my default is to scramble to wake up Jesus before it gets too bad … before it gets too tough.  What I’m really asking God to do is to change my circumstances.  The disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform 3 miracles, yet when the storm hit, they still didn’t trust.  I think this is why Jesus was agitated with them and why He calls this “little” faith.  The answer isn’t in God changing the people around us or the circumstances we’re in (as we often ask Him to do), but in Christ alone.  Diligently trusting.  Diligently staying and standing, trusting that God will finish what He started.

~ Diligence is definitely the key  ~

In 2 Peter 1, Peter lays out the track that will lead to a bigger faith that is the close intimate relationship Jesus is looking to have with us.  For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue …

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Without diligence faith will stay “little”.  Changed circumstances won’t grow you closer to Jesus.  All this does is keep your faith muscles weak from lack of exercise, which puts you further away from intimate knowledge of Jesus and authentic fellowship with Him. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Then, when you find your marriage in the middle of a terrible storm, your faith isn’t big enough to allow you the peace needed to stay with it.  Don’t forget, Jesus was asleep during the storm.

Circumstances of the storm

  1. They were fisherman accustom to being on all kinds of water; they knew storms – this one was bad.
  2. They didn’t plan it, or plan for it.  Zero control over it.  And no help from anyone else.
  3. Their response revealed where their faith really was.  Nothing like a good surprise storm to reveal your true level of courage on the open water.

They wanted Jesus to change the circumstances they were in; for Him to stop the storm and for it to be all over.  But Jesus wanted to show them a different way to get on the other side of it.  He wanted them to ride-out the storm by conquering through faith in Him.

Circumstances of a storm in marriage

  1. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your spouse, people are not static.  We are all healing, growing and changing.  We are all capable of sin because we are sinners.
  2. Offences come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colours.  We have no control over how Satan is going to try and divide a marriage.  You can guarantee he’s not going to be upfront … he hides and pushes from behind and it feels like you are capsizing.
  3. Nothing like a good spur of the moment crisis to reveal where you really are in your faith.  How I respond to offence will show me just how much of my heart has been molded into the image of Christ.

How do you pray for your spouse when your marriage is confronted with crisis?  This is when our true character of faith emerges.  No rote responses.  No practice runs or plans of eloquent words.

There’s really only 2 choices:

  • Fear:  Pray for the circumstances to change, asking God to remove our hardship and make it easy so that we don’t have to exercise faith.  We want God to take away free choice and change those around us and what they are doing.
  • Faith:  We boldly stand in the confidence that comes from a bigger faith, diligently trusting as God shapes us into conquerors.

Similar to worry, which literally divides your strength in half, fear will eat away at the faith that is needed to sustain you through a storm in your marriage.  It will lead you by the nose as a blind coward that is timid and afraid.  Diligence in faith will drive you to where the real power is:  closer to Christ.

The next time you and your spouse find your placid pond whipped into a frenzy of a storm, try asking yourself:  What am I going to focus on, the storm or Jesus.  It takes work and training to resist the temptation to rush to Jesus with that prayer of, “change everything else,” instead of, “with Your power, change me.”

Happiness Versus Joy – do I see what’s in me? (part 1 of 2)

Joy and happiness are often perceived as the same thing and although they share common elements, they are in fact, very different. It is joy that gives birth to real happiness.  Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference as happiness can (and often does) masquerade as joy, and as such, can be temporarily bluffed.

But with joy, it can’t be faked.  The difference is seen in the true behaviour of real responses.  From where are they extracted?  Jesus says, for whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  Joy will lead to happiness but happiness doesn’t have the strength or ability to lead to joy.  Happiness is fleeting, fickle, deceptive, undependable and selfish.  Joy is permanent, consistent, potent, authentic and selfless.

When you sing of joy, and praise God for who He is (when it is easy or outcomes are what we expect –  a child graduates with honours or has just been accepted into university; you sell your house in record time in a crawling market; your church breaks ground to start a new building; you get that dream job you’ve been waiting for, or even a good praise and worship time on Sunday)  this very well could be joy.  But more often than not, what is revealed to us is that, as long as we are walking on the “glory path” — things are going ‘our’ way, the way we want – it’s all good.

Then, someone treats us selfishly, is mean to us, forgets us, or is thoughtless.  Uhoh, circumstances have changed – it isn‘t going ‘our‘ way anymore.  All of a sudden there’s pressure.  What we thought was joy is exposed as only happiness.  Happiness is shattered through the proof of what’s in our thoughts and heart as the evidence leaks (or sprays) out through our mouths, countenance and behaviour.

The good man from his inner good treasure, flings forth good things.

And the evil man out of his inner evil storehouse,

flings forth evil things.

Matt 12:35

Is my joy stronger than the happiness in my marriage?

What oozes or sprays flings out when pressure squeezes me?