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Divorced and Christian.

Divorce hurts. Almost everyone reading this has been affected by divorce.  You know the pain, it fades but can leave a raw nerve that heals slowly. Although God hates divorce He loves people and He is in the healing business.

The church is not immune from divorce. About 50% of 1st marriages in the US end in divorce but Focus on the Family reports that couples who “…generally take their faith seriously…”, (that means work at it) have about a 38% divorce rate.  I have seen figures that say the divorce rate is the same or higher inside the church as outside but there is a difference between people who call themselves Christians and people who take their faith seriously. (Read the article)

My parents divorced after 18 years and I went through divorce myself after 9 years of marriage. I have since remarried, am working on my 19th year of marriage and incredibly blessed with a great wife who I have 4 children with. However, the years I lost with my first two sons are gone. While our relationship today is very good we went through some difficult times as I struggled with my responsibilities to my sons vs my responsibilities to my new, growing family.

I know the pain of seeing my sons under another man’s care. Seeing my sons living in a situation that I didn’t approve of broke my heart. Hearing about them being spanked by their mother’s boyfriend enraged me. Listening to them call me out on my own poor decisions was humbling, convicting and heart breaking.

Many of you know what it is like to have your young children living under a roof besides your own. You know the difficulty trying to parent children who live under two sets of rules. You live with the split time on holidays and the animosity as you or her explore new relationships. The lingering hurt feelings often make it difficult to sort out issues that seem like they should be more easily managed. Divorce sucks and, like other scenarios, we seldom see the end results in the beginning of the process.

We all make mistakes in our lives but it is the mistakes that hurt other people, especially our kids, which hurt the worst. The good news is that God’s mercies are new every day and every moment of our lives is a new chance to start over. I love the saying, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”  The moment we turn to God asking for help, the process of healing and restoration starts. The visible results of that process, especially in other people, often take longer than we think they should.

I have a friend who continuously wishes his ex-wife would act more reasonably. His sentiments are no doubt shared by most men and women in similar situations. My feedback to him is always the same, “Stop worrying about her, focus on what you need to do.” Taking care of what we need to do, pressing into God, deepening that relationship, leading by example and “taking care of the plank in our own eye before worrying about the speck” in someone else’s is the only way we can move forward.

Regardless of our current circumstances, as we commit to developing our relationship with God, we can live out a model for our children to emulate. If, by our actions, we can show them a life worth living maybe they don’t have to make some of the same mistakes we made. I don’t want my children to be spared the challenges that result in growth but I pray that each of them avoids the pain of divorce.  I am committed to living for Him and showing my children the beauty of a life and a marriage that is Christ centered. Please God, help me walk that out.

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Brothers

When I first got saved I had a lot of deep questions like, “Who am I going to hang out with?” It was quickly apparent that most of my friends weren’t immediately interested in the same commitment I had just made and I was sure the church was not filled with men I’d be able to relate to.

Turns out the church is filled with men who are also working on developing a closer relationship with God. Men working through their own issues but heading in one direction.  Like any group there are naturally people we are more inclined to gravitate toward on a personal level. Regardless of how I might feel about the personalities of other men in church, I do share something with most of them; we are committed to developing a closer, biblical, relationship with God. This is like the trump card that covers everything else.

My faith is in Christ, not my friends but I need my close friends to help me walk out my faith.  I appreciate their encouragement. I appreciate that they check in with me through the week and see how I am. I am grateful that there is someone out there taking my name to the God in prayer. I am grateful that some ask me the hard questions and I am committed to being honest with them. I am not friends with every man in my church. However, I could develop a close relationship with any man in my church that has a sincere desire to follow Christ. Not only that, but I need those kind of friendships and so does he.

When we find ourselves, alone, isolated and answering to no one, we are in danger. This is another example of God’s way being different than man’s way. The world often portrays the self-made, pull yourself up the bootstraps man as the ultimate man; going it alone and ultimately alone and victorious on a mountaintop. The heroes of the Bible are humble, rely on God’s strength, God’s wisdom and they have strong relationships with other godly men.

In Mark 6 Jesus sends out the 12 in pairs of two. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 72 men in pairs. The apostles often traveled in pairs and we see them relying on one another throughout the New Testament. Moses had Aaron. When David was home alone, not surrounded by other men, he didn’t do so well.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” James tells us, “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Proverbs is full of advice about Godly friendships including, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” 27:17, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship” 12:26, and “A friend loves at all times…”17:17.

There are also many cautions about who we are friends with and who we spend our time around. While Jesus is commonly known as a “friend of sinners” it is because he knew they needed salvation. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”

One of my pastors was recently explaining how our church is a welcoming, diverse place. To look around our congregation you would see the homeless, the affluent and everyone in between. The intent is that the church is open to those seeking and welcomes people who are looking for answers. We welcome the hurt and broken who are looking for something and they don’t even know what it is except relief from their pain and confusion. The answer is the peace, love and warm embrace of a loving Father. Jesus meets seeking people with love in their time of need and then calls them into relationship and discipleship. Our relationships should reflect the same thing.

Jesus spent considerable time alone with God. He invested Himself in relationships with people that were trying to grow. He had little time for the religious, self-righteous, condescending “haters” of the day. He was open to all but loved them too much to leave them as He found them.  He was the influencer, not the influenced. He was the salt, He seasoned His surroundings and encourages us in the same endeavor.

Christ is our model in all things and His relationships are no exception.  Men, to grow in our faith, lead our families and finish this race strong we must have close relationships with a few Godly men. The place to find those men is in church. To instigate and develop those relationships may require leaving our comfort zone and it will require time and effort. The cost of not developing these relationships is stagnancy or failure. The benefits are strong relationships with true brothers.