on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: June 7-13

Among the things that happened on this week in American Restoration Heritage history:

June 7

June 7, 1838 – Today, a preacher gets a hearing – while losing much of his own.

The Stone-Campbell movements have now been officially unified as one for the past six years. And today, in Indianapolis, Indiana, a gathering of Restoration Heritage churches gets under way. No less than one hundred and fifty churches are represented by those present. Naturally, this is deeply gratifying and thrilling to the featured speaker, Barton W. Stone. He addresses the crowd five times during the course of this six-day meeting (June 7-12).

However, during the course of this conference, Stone inexplicably suffers a sudden and significant loss of hearing. His health had been seriously challenged by illness two years previous, but he had long since made a full recovery. Three years from now he will suffer a stroke and be partially paralyzed, but he will make a full recovery from that, too. However, Stone will never regain any of the hearing he loses during this week’s conference. In fact, he will steadily lose much of the hearing he has left during his six remaining years of his life, a hard blow to one who has helped so many hear the good news of Christ.

June 8

June 8, 1814 – Never underestimate the power of granddaughters.

The three year-old Brush Run Church is located in Washington County, Pennsylvania (near the southwestern corner of the state) and Alexander Campbell has been its preacher for the past two-and-a-half years. Alexander, having resolved when he entered ministry to never accept money from a church for his work, serves the church “for free.” He had gone against his father’s advice when he had made that decision, and so, his father (Thomas) had predicted that Alexander would wear many a tattered coat through the course of his days. Thus far, Thomas’ prediction has proven correct; Alexander is anything but a prosperous man and his father can do precious little about it.

Now, to the west, in neighboring (eastern) Ohio, opportunities for growth are developing. Consequently, many of the members of the Brush Run Church have their heads turned that way, so much so that they’re seriously considering relocating the church to Zanesville, Ohio (a hundred miles to the west). And today, the little church votes on that very matter. Their decision? Move to Ohio.

Now at this time, Alexander and his wife, Margaret (Brown) Campbell, have been married just over three years. They have two children: two year-old Jane and eight month-old Eliza. Margaret’s father, fifty-two year-old John Brown [no, not that John Brown] is a very well-to-do farmer and carpenter who owns no small amount of land in several places. Margaret is the apple of his eye and his two young granddaughters have a hold on his heart. To say that he is disheartened by the thought of them moving far off is an understatement.

And so, John makes Alexander an offer he can’t refuse: he’ll give Alexander a 140 acre farm in nearby Bethany, Virginia (about ten miles from Brush Run) if he’ll just not make the move to Ohio.

When all is said and done, Alexander and his family are set for life with a farm in Bethany, the church doesn’t move … and John Brown gets to keep bouncing his two granddaughters on his knees far more often than might have been. Land for granddaughters; good trade. And especially so since John will outlive his daughter, Margaret (who dies in 1827 at the age of 36) and one of these two granddaughters, Jane (who dies in 1834 at the age of 22).

June 9

June 9, 1851 – I say, preacher, when are you ever going to get around to talking about dancing … and how on earth are you going to do it?

Today, a frustrated John Rogers pens Alexander Campbell a letter, a portion of which reads:

“It is now seven years since I felt myself called upon, in view of the increasing disposition to frivolity in our churches, to prepare and publish a discourse against dancing, as an amusement. … most certainly it is still on the increase in this section of Kentucky. … ‘Watchman, what of the night?’ I call upon you, my dear Bro. Campbell, in the name of God – the the name of the crucified one – in the name of poor, bleeding Zion; upon Bros. Richardson, Pendleton, and every editor and every scribe who can lift a pen, and every orator in this Reformation, to speak out in a voice of thunder, and say, O say! is this the goal to which you have been driving the car of this Reformation! … to introduce … the elegant, healthful, inoffensive, improving practice of social dancing into our families! …

“Bro. Campbell, more than a year ago I wrote you in reference to some of these matters, and urged you strongly to present your views concerning them. You promised me you would; but a press of business, I suppose, has prevented. … Are Christian parents to be allowed to send their children to dancing school, and have social dancing in their houses? Is the church to tolerate and encourage all this? Circus going, card playing, as an amusement – theatre going, and all kindred practices? Give us, my dear brother, your best thoughts on this subject.”

Campbell publishes Rogers’ letter in the August 1851 issue of the Millennial Harbinger (MH) and responds:

“The subject laid before us in the above communication from its excellent author, merits our profound consideration and that of all the brethren. We will attend to it in our next. – A.C.”

Campbell does just that in the September 1851 issue of the MH (pp.503-507). He confesses that he has not:

“… for more than forty and five years, seen a dance [Campbell is 63 years of age at this time], and but once before that, (having been, by mere accident, precipitated in its midst;) and, still more unfortunate, having, during its progress, fallen most profoundly asleep, acquired no accurate knowledge of the curious affair.”

To fill in his gap in understanding, Campbell then turns to Webster’s dictionary and references to dancing in the Bible “to make amends” for his “shameful ignorance of the mystery.” Having done so, he continues:

“… in New Testament manners and customs, in evangelical ordinances and usages, the word, nor the idea of dancing, is not found. ‘Is any one merry,’ says the Apostle James, ‘let him dance.’ That is an Episcopalian Testament. It is not our version of it. We read it by authority of King James, ‘Is any merry, let him sing psalms.’ He does not say let him dance. Still, if I saw a Christian man or woman hymning or singing psalms and dancing, I could not condemn him, because I read of one so joyful in the Lord that he entered into the temple walking, and leaping, and praising God. …

“But why introduce Bible authorities in this case? Who claims precedent in Holy Writ for courtly balls and midnight masquerades? Surely no disciple of Christ!! To play the fool at a masquerade, is no very honorable amusement for a saint or sinner. … Why look to Paris, the metropolis of atheism, sensuality and crime, for any other fashion or custom than those which drown men in destruction and perdition? I would say, if need there be, to every brother in the land, ‘Lift up your voice like a trumpet, cry aloud and spare not. Show Israel their transgressions and Jacob their sins:’ for because of these things ‘iniquity abounds – the love of many waxes cold.'”

June 10

June 10, 1880 – Today, as both a close friend and fellow brother in Christ within the Restoration Heritage, Jeremiah Sullivan Black writes a letter to James A. Garfield. At the time, Garfield is running for nomination as the Republican candidate for the office of the President of the United States. Jerry Rushford continues the story, and as he does so, he quotes an excerpt from Black’s letter to Garfield:

“Another Disciple who could not conscientiously give his support to the Garfield candidacy was Jeremiah Sullivan Black. When Black heard the news of Garfield’s nomination, he was torn between old Democratic loyalties and his strong personal friendship with Garfield. But he could not bring himself to vote for the Republican party.

“‘I am sure that if elected you will try your best to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God,’ he wrote Garfield. ‘But to a certain extent you are bound to fail, for in our country the leader of a party is like the head of a snake—it can only go as the tail impels it , and your tail will be a very perverse one.’

“When Black was called upon to campaign for the Democratic ticket, he willingly complied. In the heat of the closely contested race, Black took the stump aggressively against Garfield.”

Garfield replies:

“I know how grounded you are in the ways of political thinking which seem to you just and for the highest good of your country — and so all the more for that reason I prize your words of personal kindness. … Succeeding or failing I shall none the less honor your noble character, great intellect, and equally great heart.”

And Rushford tells us the rest of the story:

“When the Credit Mobilier scandal [of 1872] became an issue [just a little later] in the campaign, Black testified that Garfield had actually held stock in the company and had received dividends as well. This accusation seriously damaged the Garfield-Black friendship. They never saw or wrote to one another again.”

[Aside: Garfield faces William H. Hancock, another former Union General of the Civil War, as his Democratic opponent in the 1880 Presidential election. Hancock’s running mate (for Vice-President) is William H. English. English had edged out Richard M. Bishop in the bid for the VP nomination and Bishop, like Garfield and Black, was a fellow Christian within the Restoration Heritage.]

June 11

June 11, 1835 – Today, the tension between the kingdom that is not of this world and the kingdoms that are of this world manifests itself in the life of a man.

Today, in Overton County, Tennessee, William Harrison Fleming is born to a veteran of the War of 1812 and his wife, William & Mary (Hall) Fleming. God grants son William seventy-five years of life. In 1859, at the age of twenty-four, he marries. The following year he is baptized into Christ and, soon after, decides to become a preacher. However, before he can take up preaching, the passions that flame up into the Civil War build and on July 30, 1861, Fleming chooses to enlist as a Corporal in Co. B of the CSA, 25th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. Just short of a year later (August 10, 1862) he is simultaneously transferred to Co. D and promoted to serve as its Captain.

During the war the 25th will experience some of the worst the war has to offer. In January, 1862, the 25th reports that it has six hundred and eighty-three men present for duty. During the Battle of Murfreesboro (aka: Stone’s River; Dec. 31, 1862 – Jan. 3, 1863), over one-third of the 25th’s men become casualties. Nine months later at Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863) the regiment loses so many of its men (nearly forty percent) that it is necessary to consolidate those who remain with those of the 44th Tennessee. [Chickamauga is the Civil War’s second bloodiest battle. In it the 25th is a part of Fulton’s Brigade, a force that engages John T. Wilder’s famed “Lightning Brigade’ at the Log School House on the first day of battle. During the battle’s second day of fighting, the 25th engages, among others, W.C. Whitaker’s command at Horseshoe Ridge. Many of Whitaker‘s troops are from Ohio and a percentage of them are a part of the Restoration Heritage. Whitaker himself is a graduate of Bethany College (though he spends this day “deep in his cups ” [drunk]). And, during the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff (aka: Fort Darling; May 12, 1864) the 25th/44th again loses over a third of its men.

At the time of the 25/44th’s surrender in April 1865 only four officers and twenty-one men are present.

Regarding Fleming’s service in the military, H. Leo Boles writes (in 1930):

“He was reputed to be a gallant soldier who commanded the respect of his fellow soldiers and superior officers. The scenes of a soldier’s life were registered vividly upon his mind, and he never forgot the hardships which he and his comrades had to endure.”

“Scenes” and hardships.” Such understatement for man’s inhumanity to man.

After the war, Fleming returns to his wife, Martha, and to farming and, in 1868, begins to preach. Boles tells us something of his ministry:

“He preached in Kentucky, Texas, and Tennessee. However, most of his work was done in Tennessee, in the counties of Jackson, Overton, Clay, Putnam, Pickett, Fentress, and White. … Brother Fleming was a farmer by occupation. He cultivated his farm and made his support for himself and family on his farm. He received very little for his preaching and expected nothing. … Brother Fleming worked through the week during ‘crop time’ and preached on Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes he would ride horseback more than twenty miles on Sunday morning and preach twice on Sunday, and return home the same night and be ready for his farm work early Monday morning. … Brother Fleming baptized hundreds of people, and is said to have married more couples than any other preacher in that part of the country.”

Fleming dies in 1910. His body is interred in the cemetery of Flat Creek Church of Christ in Overton, Tennessee. The stone is the most prominent one in the cemetery, located close to the center of it and towering over all of the other stones. A person is naturally drawn to it by its appearance to take special note of it; however, it is not grandly adorned. Other than the text of inscriptions, a single image is engraved on it: an open Bible. And like many gravestones, aside from the usual listing of name, birth, and death, a quote is included. However, the quote on W.H.’s grave are the words of Scripture (2 Timothy 4.7-8a):

“I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course
I have kept the faith
henceforth there is laid up
for me a crown of
righteousness.”

Another Scripture quotation is included for W.H.’s wife, Martha (d. 1933). The words are those of Jesus in Matthew 5.8:

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

From what is included – and what is not – on the Fleming family gravestone it is quite clear exactly which kingdom and which battles in life the Flemings wanted emphasized and remembered should a person stands at their grave: life, death, and the word of God. The utter simplicity of it and the emphasis on the rule of God “preaches” still.

However, many years later, no doubt with many good intentions, some well-meaning soul(s) added something to the grave, something Fleming and his immediate family had deliberately elected not to include: a large bronze marker noting W.H.’s allegiance to the Confederacy, his military rank, and unit. Indeed, a small Confederate flag often adorns the site. And so, at least as it seems to me, the subject has been changed; changed from pointing toward the holy and good deeds of God to the horrific and deadly deeds of men. And so, the struggle between kingdoms continues. And so, let us preach the word, the good news of peace.

June 12

June 12, 1812 – Today, a church witnesses the baptism of their preacher and six others.

In Buffalo Creek, Washington County, Pennsylvania, about noon today, Thomas & Jane (Corneigle) Campbell, Alexander & Margaret (Brown) Campbell, Dorothea Campbell, and James & Sarah Hanen (Henon), are immersed by a Baptist minister, Matthias Luse (Luce). Most of the members of the Brush Run Church, as well as a large number of others “attracted by the novelty of the occasion,” witness the event. The following excerpt from Robert Richardson’s Memoirs of Alexander Campbell gives us a glimpse into the moment.

“[In days prior to their baptisms, Thomas] … suggested … that in view of the public position they [Thomas and Alexander] occupied as religious teachers and advocates of reformation, it would be proper that the matter should be publicly announced and attended to amongst the people to whom they had been accustomed to preach; and he requested Alexander to get Mr. Luce … at whatever time might be appointed.

“[As everyone was gathered for the baptisms] … Thomas Campbell thought it proper to present, in full, the reasons which had determined his course. In a very long address, he accordingly reviewed the entire ground which he had occupied, and the struggles that he had undergone in reference to the particular subject of baptism, which he had earnestly desired to dispose of, in such a manner, that it might be no hindrance in the attainment of that Christian unity which he had labored to establish upon the Bible alone. In endeavoring to do this, he admitted that he had been led to overlook its importance, and the very many plain and obvious teachings of the Scriptures on the subject; but having at length attained a clearer view of duty, he felt it incumbent upon him to submit to what he now plainly saw was an important Divine institution. Alexander afterward followed in an extended de fence of their proceedings, urging the necessity of submitting implicitly to all God’s commands, and showing that the baptism of believers only, was authorized by the Word of God. …”

“Alexander … stipulated with … Luce that the ceremony should be performed precisely according to the pattern given in the New Testament, and that, as there was no account of any of the first converts being called upon to give what is called a ‘religious experience,’ this modern custom should be omitted, and that the candidates should be admitted on the simple confession that ‘Jesus is the Son of God. …’

“The meeting, it is related, continued about seven hours …”

“At the next meeting of the church of Brush Run, which was on the Lord’s day [Sunday, June 16] succeeding the baptism of the seven, thirteen other members … requested immersion, which was accordingly administered by Thomas Campbell, each one making the simple confession of Christ as the Son of God. On subsequent occasions, some others came forward in like manner, so that the great majority of the church speedily consisted of immersed believers, upon which, the other individuals who had been in the Association abandoned the cause, being unwilling to follow the reformatory movement any further. …

“Immersion had been unanimously adopted as the only true scriptural baptism; infant baptism had been finally and absolutely rejected as a human invention, and the simple confession of Christ, made by the early converts to Christ, was acknowledged as the only requirement which could be scripturally demanded of those who desired to become members of the Church.”

These baptisms are not the first for Brush Run Church members. On July 4 the preceding year (1811), Thomas Campbell had baptized Abraham Alters, Joseph Bryant, and Margaret Fullerton in Buffalo Creek.

Earlier today, one of those previously baptized, Joseph Bryant, had received word that war had been declared on Great Britain and that a muster of volunteers was to take place. Bryant had ridden off to be a part of this muster, only to learn on his arrival that the word is false (the declaration of war will not occur for another two weeks yet). Galloping back to Buffalo Creek, he arrives in time to hear just a bit of preaching before witnessing the baptisms. One of those baptized, seventeen year-old Dorothea, is one of Alexander Campbell’s little sisters … and Bryant’s future wife.

June 13

June 13, 1803 – Today, a man is born who rises to mightily influence many who will touch the lives of far many more.

Today, Benjamin Franklin (“B.F.”) Hall is born in Nicholas County, Kentucky. During the course of his years of ministry, Hall, among other things, influences John Mulkey and Barton W. Stone on the matter of baptism being “for the remission of sins,” is instrumental in the baptism of Tolbert Fanning (the future editor of the Gospel Advocate) and John A. Gano (father of R.M. Gano), mentors Mansel W. Matthews (a fellow dentist, Sam Houston’s physician, and a preacher in north Texas), plants the Restoration Heritage in Little Rock, AR, keeps company with men like Alexander Campbell, T.W. Caskey, and Jacob Creath, Jr., and becomes a long-time, close friend of Collin McKinney (planter of many Restoration churches in north Texas).

However, between grave financial difficulties, a torturous second marriage that ends in divorce, and his spirit during the Civil War that can perhaps best be described as macabre, his influence for good becomes seriously crippled and wanes through the years. In his autobiography, Hall laments:

“Owing to my second marriage my life has been a sad disappointment.”

Hall’s fascinating autobiography is available for reading online.

[cf. the post for March 7 in this series for more on B.F. Hall]

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles I’ve found to be interesting.

Apologetics, archaeology, manuscripts & Mark’s Gospel: Earliest Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Apparently Found

“Craig Evans, who is most certainly a careful scholar, has announced the discovery of a piece of Mark’s Gospel that may well date to 80-90 A.D. making it by far the earliest portion of any NT book yet found. … We must await the publishing of the materials and the evidence for these claims, and then the vetting of the claims by peer scholars, but thus far, it looks like Craig is on to something big!”

Children, divorce & parenting: ‘Kids Are Resilient’ and 7 Other Lies Divorcing Parents Should Stop Believing

“As a former divorce mediator, and current couples and family mediator, I have heard every excuse that parents use to feel better about breaking up their family.”

Climate, ecology, global warming, nature & pollution: Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says

“A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. ‘We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,’ said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science. … Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.”

Deception, false claims, heaven, lies & personal testimonies: Boy Says He Didn’t Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book [required reading]

“Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.”

God, suffering & the problem of evil: If God Is in Control, Why Does Bad Stuff Keep Happening? [essential reading]

“You can never look at the way the world is and read God’s purposes off from the way the world is. It’s always more puzzling and confusing than that. … Part of our trouble is that in the Western world, we’ve assumed that God is, as it were, the celestial CEO of this thing called the universe incorporated. And then, as one of Woody Allen’s characters says: ‘I sort of believe in God, but it looks like He’s basically an underachiever.’ In other words, He’s not a very good CEO, He’s not good at running this show. But actually, the world is much more complicated than that. It’s not simply a machine or a business with God as the CEO. God is involved with it in ways which it’s hard for us now, particularly in the modern world, to grasp.”

links: this went thru my mind

Divorce: The Divorce Surge is Over, But the Myth Lives On

“Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since. About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce …”

Economics, the middle class & wages: This is Why the Middle Class Can’t Get Ahead

“When’s the last time you worked overtime? How about the last time you worked overtime and got paid for it? If you’re in the middle class, probably not recently. Only Americans who make less than $23,660 a year are automatically eligible for time-and-a-half pay after working 40 hours a week. Today, that’s only 11 percent of salaried workers. It didn’t used to be this way …”

Noise, quiet & silence: We Need More Silence in Our Lives [essential reading]

“Face it. We are afraid of what will happen if we turn off all the noise.”

Pride, self & self-righteousness: Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness [essential reading]

“…  what if we’re so used to seeing self-righteousness on the right that we’re blinded to the self-righteousness of the left? And what if we are so good at smelling self-righteousness in others that we miss the stench coming from ourselves?”

Youth ministry: Youth Ministry and Culture

“The Youth Ministry Initiative recently posted a series of videos from their Summer of Study program. The Center’s Skip Masback interviews participating scholars on the topic of culture and youth ministry.”

sum of the sermons: hitched, hurt & whole

Recently, at the request of my shepherds, I preached a three-part sermon series on marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Hitched, Hurt & Whole). While the audio files of these sermons are available from MoSt Church’s website (www.mostchurch.org >audio/video >sermons), I thought it might be helpful to try to sum up the heart of all three sermons in a single post that can be read.

Of course, it should be obvious that no three sermons can cover all the bases of this vast field, and I make no claim for these studies to be comprehensive. However, my sincere prayer is that these sermons, and this post, will be found helpful in aiding us all to go further in discerning our Lord’s will for us in this complex and complicated trio of subjects.

As always, continue reading and studying, reflecting on and practicing, what you understand God’s word to be saying, with an ever open mind to development and growth of understanding, and with a humble heart, knowing your own weakness and the frailty and needs of others.

HITCHED (marriage)

Since marriage is a gift from God, anyone who enters into it ought to view it as a sacred thing. God designed and instituted marriage to be between a man and a woman, both of them playing an equal role in the marriage covenant.

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2.18) “… God ‘made them male and female.’ … and ‘the two shall become one flesh.’ … Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10.6,8-9)

A couple best treats marriage as a sacred thing by continually submitting to each other in all things. Both the husband and wife must be all in and for the long haul in order for a marriage to be all it can be.

“… submit to each other out of respect for Christ.” (Ephesians 5.21)

When both of these elements are kept in play – looking up to marriage with great respect and looking out with respect for our marriage partner as much as for ourself (or more) – a marriage stands on two strong legs and is hard to knock down. When both husband and wife actively and consistently seek to express and demonstrate their care for each other in even the smallest of ways on a daily basis, how blessed a thing it is for all to see. And certainly, the Spirit of God sees such and can then work much good through the union of such a man and woman, husband and wife.

“God is fair. He doesn’t forget what you do and the love you’ve shown for his name’s sake when you served, and continue to serve, God’s holy people.” (Hebrews 6.10)

Application: God’s people need to be at the forefront of humanity in modeling the sacredness of, and mutual submission inherent in, marriage.

“Marriage must be honored in every respect …” (Hebrews 13.4)

HURT (divorce)

Make no mistake about it: God hates all divorce and holds his arms up against it. But, divorce happens, and God himself is not removed from the pain and suffering of divorce himself for he has been down that road before and wishes no one to have to go through what he has experienced.

“… I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel … So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.” (Malachi 2.16) “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce …” (Jeremiah 3.8)

Never lose sight of this equally great truth: God loves all of the divorced and holds his arms out to them. God loves all the people of the world, with no exceptions, and his love is genuine and active, practical and powerful; his Son Jesus then comes across easier on the divorced than some (sadly) might wish him to be.

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28)

At the same time, Jesus is harder on divorce than most people people understand him to be for he did not offer any “exception clause(s)” whatsoever so as to make one (or more) kinds of divorce “good” or “legitimate.” To understand Jesus so (in Matthew 19.9) is to terribly misconstrue his teaching. For it is clear that the Son of God hates divorce just like, and just as much as, his Father.

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Luke 16.18)

Application: God expects his people to channel, embody, extend, imitate, model, and reflect his hatred of all divorce and his love for all of the divorced.

“… as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1.15-16)

WHOLE (remarriage)

Since God has said from the start that it is not good for man to be alone, we can say that God wills, and enables, a divorced person to not shrivel up and die after a divorce, but to get up and move on with their life, a move that might, or might not, include remarriage. Let us not forget that a deep and wide thread of thought runs through the course of all of Scripture declaring the goodness of marriage and the distinct challenges of living alone, and so, let us not be hasty in trying to prohibit a second marriage.

“It is not good that the man should be alone …” (Genesis 2.18) “… it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion … if you marry, you do not sin.” (1 Corinthians 7.9,28)

And so, whatever path a singled-again person chooses (to remain single or to remarry), let us pray for, and work toward, helping people move up in their life with God. Contrary to what some believe, teach, and practice, there is literally nothing in our life that cannot serve as a vehicle for spiritual growth if it is good, and it is approached with a word from God and a word with him … and this can include remarriage.

“The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some … will turn away from the faith. …They will prohibit marriage … Everything created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4.1,3a,4-5)

I’ve found one of the most common and healthy prayers – when prayed with sincerity and mindfulness – among people of God within our heritage to be this simple, single-sentence prayer: “Guide, guard, and direct us.” When we ponder what we are saying when we pray such, are we not saying that life is so exceedingly difficult, dangerous, and distracting, that we require constant, divine intervention to just make it down the road another day? This is true for all of us, and can be even more true for some. How much better then for us to pray such a prayer often, rather than judge, those who have traveled through the valley of the shadow of divorce and have found, or seem about to find, fresh pasture and water in remarriage. God does not expect us to try to unscramble scrambled eggs.

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand).” (Romans 14.4)

Application: God’s people do best by the remarried when they actively encourage, rather than subtly (or even openly) discourage, an existing relationship.

“Find a good spouse, you find a good life—and even more: the favor of God!” (Proverbs 18.22)

links: this went thru my mind

Here are five links to some thoughtful reading.

American history & Native Americans: The Horrific Sand Creek Massacre Will Be Forgotten No More

“The opening of a national historic site in Colorado helps restore to public memory one of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated on Native Americans.”

Children & parenting: Giving Your Kids the Gift of Discouragement

“… let’s distinguish “discouragement” from being a downer or jerk or disheartening your children. A certain kind of discouragement is designed to make folks feel badly about themselves and their abilities. That’s not what we’re after. To discourage someone is simply to persuade them against an action. Encouragement, then, is to give support or confidence for an action. Parents cannot be one-note. We have to both encourage and discourage, lest our children be ill-equipped to face the world, deal with reality, and run amok. Discouragement allows the people we love to focus more intently on God’s gifting in them.”

Climate change, environment, perception, pollution, persuasion & public opinion: Why Doesn’t Everyone Believe Humans Are Causing Climate Change?

“Only 40% of Americans attribute global warming to human activity, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. This, despite decades of scientific evidence and the fact that Americans generally trust climate scientists. … while the scientific community had converged on a consensus, the general public had not, at least not in the U.S. … Whatever we can do now will be heroic for our great-grandchildren, and whatever we do not do will be infamous.”

Marriage, perseverance & promises: When Marriage is No Longer Exciting

“How might a worldview that exalts the sweeping, passionate adventure shape our expectations of a covenant promise that remains, even in the dullest years?”

Remarriage: Four-in-Ten Couples are Saying “I Do,” Again

“In 2013, fully four-in-ten new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before, and two-in-ten new marriages were between people who had both previously stepped down the aisle …”

LIFE group discussion guide: whole

NOTE: We’ll use the discussion guide you’ll find below in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow night (Nov. 23). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning on remarriage (Whole). To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon (or sermon series).

To consider and contemplate the place of remarriage among Christians.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2.19 NRSV)

• He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10.11-12 NIV)

• To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife. (1 Corinthians 7.8-16 NRSV)

• I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin … (1 Corinthians 7.26-29 NRSV)

• A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7.39 NRSV)

• The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some … will turn away from the faith. … They will prohibit marriage … Everything created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer. (1 Timothy 4.1,3a,4-5 CEB)

Relation

Use the following icebreaker question to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Have you ever repaired some broken something and it turned out stronger than before? Tell us about it.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. What is the meaning of the phrase “only in the Lord” in 1 Cor. 7.39? Study what scholars have written.

2. Read 1 Timothy 3.2 and Titus 1.6, comparing them in various translations. Is Paul saying a remarried man isn’t eligible to serve as an elder, if a man is married he must be a “one woman kind of man” or what?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. The church has generally made life for the remarried: (a) easier, (b) more difficult, (c) both, or (d) other.

2. Why shouldn’t remarriage be an option to those whose divorced mate resists reconciliation or is dead?

3. Fill in the blank: “Most arguments against the divorced being allowed to remarry sound ______ to me.”

4. Studies have shown that with each successive remarriage, most marriages are less likely to last. Why?

5. A divorced friend tells you privately that they’re considering remarriage. What advice do you offer?

6. How does one determine how much time to give a divorced mate an opportunity for reconciliation?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Urge all believers within your sphere of influence, to marry a maturing disciple (if they marry at all).

2. Refuse to “look down on” or “keep at arm’s length” the remarried. Rather, accept and strengthen them.

LIFE group discussion guide: hurt

NOTE: We’ll use the discussion guide you’ll find below in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow night (Nov. 16). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning on divorce (Hurt). To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon (or sermon series).

To examine and declare some of Scripture’s teaching on divorce.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man’s wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession. (Deut. 24.1-4 NRSV)

• … I hate divorce, says the Lord … So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. (Malachi 2.16 NRSV)

• 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. (Matt. 5.31-32 NIV)

• Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. … Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matt. 19.3-6,8-9 NIV)

• 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 NRSV)

• To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Cor. 7.10-11 NIV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Brainstorm two lists: (a) one of physical things that break easily and (b) one of things hard to break.

2. “When I’m hurting in a big way, one of the most comforting and truly helpful things to me is to _____.”

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. God knows very well what divorce is like for he has been through one himself. Read Jeremiah 3.6-10.

2. Read Leviticus 20.10-16. Do these texts help inform your understanding of the meaning of the phrase “except for sexual immorality” in Matt. 19.9 (especially in light of the original question in 19.3)? Explain.

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Consider all the hurt you’ve known (and/or experienced) from divorce. Why would God hate divorce?

2. Engage: “Jesus is simultaneously harder, and easier, on divorce than many Christians are today.”

3. Some see adultery as “the only Scriptural reason for divorce.” What then of abuse, abandonment, etc.

4. What can disciples do to minister rightly and well to the divorced? What must Christians not do? Why?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. For your mate’s sake, strive to eliminate the vocabulary of divorce, or threats of such, from your speech.

2. Watch the lives of, and seek wisdom from, those who have enjoyed a healthy marriage for many years.