It’s been a tough week for our country. Riots at political rallies. An increasingly course discourse. Much angst in the world.
And I know you are feeling it.
Well, consider this PODCAST to be a bright and beautiful shot of much-needed adrenaline to your system, some refreshing encouragement from Jesus’ heart to yours.
Let’s begin our discussion with this: It is one of the most precious, and quite frankly priceless privileges in the entire Bible. I am referring to the one verse that concludes the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews. One glorious verse that speaks volumes, both to the original readers of this verse, and to us as well.
But before I read it to you, I must first set this scene: As its title suggests — Hebrews — this book was written to Jewish believers in Jesus. These precious people lost everything when they become committed Christ-followers. Unlike the letters of Paul, written to local gatherings of believers in a given city — Rome, Corinth, Philippi — this letter was written to Jewish (Hebrew) believers struggling everywhere throughout the Roman Empire because, due to relentless persecution, they were scattered, far and wide.
We get only the barest of glimpses into their desperate circumstances from cryptic statements such as these:
“Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever” (Hebrews 10).
Or this in Hebrews 13:
“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”
No one was exempt. Not even someone as faithful as young Pastor Timothy, protege of the Apostle Paul, of whom we read in Hebrews 13:
“I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.”
For the first generation of Jewish Christ-followers, times were tough, their circumstances dire. So in order to encourage them, the writer of this great book made to them (and to us!) this precious promise:
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Emphasis upon that shockingly bold word “boldly.”
Trust me. That thud you just heard was sound of their jaws dropping and hitting the floor as the original readers scanned those words into their suffering souls, for reasons that you will soon hear.
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While I am away speaking at one of my all-time favorite places on Earth (Hartland Christian Camp), the topic of this encore PODCAST is one of those subjects that touches us all, deeply and profoundly.
The ripples of any divorce, every divorce spread their concentric circles far and wide.
Which compels us to take a sober look at exactly what Jesus DID SAY HERE in Matthew 5:31-32, as well as — and perhaps especially — what Jesus DID NOT SAY HERE.
Because once again, this is one of those passages which, when lifted out of its context — both Scriptural and Cultural — is so often and so tragically made to say something other than what Jesus intended for it to say. Heaping truck loads of unnecessary grief and guilt upon poor precious people who are just trying by God’s grace to rebuild their broken lives.
Trust me! Over the years, having dealt up close and personal with many, many people, I have heard some of the most atrocious applications of this passage. This to the point where emotionally and spiritually fragile individuals, whose lives have just been rocked by their own tragic divorces, now have whatever fragments they have left of their broken lives crushed by well-meaning, but grossly misinformed, Christians errantly and judgmentally spouting this passage. And then in fine Pharisee-esque style, walk away from them, leaving untold wreckage in their wakes.