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Lou Di Lorenzo

Till Death Do Us Part

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For those of us who are married, if you used the traditional marriage vow, or if you used more modern vows, you would have used these or similar words – “till death do us part”. This is the promise we make to our spouse. These are the words we use in our commitment to them. That is the promise we are making. Till death would part us, if that is the promise you make, then that is the promise you should keep.

So, if anything but death is an option for you to end your marriage, then why would you say these words, “till death do us part”? Why not tell the truth, promise what you mean? Perhaps you should say something like – Till adultery, or abandonment, or abuse do us part.  But you can’t because the Marriage Law doesn’t allow for that.

In Matthew 19:3-12, Jesus speaks about marriage, and says;”Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). The man and the women are now one flesh. Marriage is an institution made by God, for all humanity, at creation.

The two become one flesh through sexual union. God made us to be to together in that way, and for life. So it says; “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”, (Matthew 19:6). When divorce breaks a marriage, it is against how God made us to be. Divorce breaks one of the most intimate relationships on earth. It harms children in the relationship, no matter how old they are. It also harms society—the adultery of one person will affect at least two immediate families, and many other family members and friends.

Jesus said that faithfulness in marriage is an image of His faithfulness to the church. Ephesians 5:31-32; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Let us reflect the faithfulness of Christ to us, in our faithfulness to our marriage partner.

 

To Respect Our Parents

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What does it mean to respect another person? The dictionary tells us that respect is a feeling of deep admiration or having a sense of esteem or of great worth for another person. In his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:3-8), Paul emphasises one aspect of children and grandchildren looking after the physical needs of their parents and grandparents. If your parents are old and cannot look after themselves, then their children should be the first to look after them.

Let children be kind to their parents. This may mean providing for them financially (e.g. helping them with their financial affairs, paying bills for them), but it can also mean looking after them when they cannot look after themselves (e.g. taking them to medical appointments, arranging for the care they need,  taking them into our home and caring for them there).

”Let them first learn to show godliness to their own household” (1 Timothy 5:4). The emphasis here is that since your parents supported and nourished you when you were young and helpless, so you should support them when they are old and need to be cared for. Parents should not be left to the care of the church or the government when they have children who can care for them. How can we be kind to others if we do not first show kindness and care to our own family?

Then comes the statement in 1 Timothy 5:8, if you don’t look after your own family, you have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. If we profess Christ as Lord, then we do what He tells us to do. As a Christian, our faith is also shown by our actions (James 2:26). Our faith is so often seen by our actions. We are to be kind towards other people, particularly to those in need.  So when it comes to our own family members, this requirement is even more glaring. True love respects; so our parents need for respect should come first and foremost, always before us.

 

Let’s Be Honest

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In Acts chapter 5 we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. When Peter confronts the two he does not accuse them of greed or materialism, but rather of lying. Then, Peter does not accuse them of lying to the leaders of the church, but rather, lying to God (Acts 5:4). So it is saying here that lying to the church is equivalent to lying to God. No wonder it says that the whole church was in fear about this (Acts 5:11).

In the church today we do not believe in killing people for lying. We are too nice and pleasant with each other for that. We would rather lie and keep things pleasant than tell the truth and make ourselves as honest before men as we should be before God. Yet in this first century church, they believe that being a truthful community before God is so important, it’s a matter of life and death.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus speaks against making oaths. An oath was used as a way of confirming that what I say, I will in fact do. Something like, As God is my witness I will do this… But the Pharisees had worked out ways around this. They said that if you swear by other names, e.g. by heaven or earth or Jerusalem or by your own head, as long as you were not directly using God’s name to swear by, then if you break such an oath, that was OK, because you did not formally swear by God’s name.

But Jesus says all these things belong to God anyway, so they should not be used to make a false oath, or allow you to break your oath. In fact Jesus is saying that you should not need to use an oath at all. You should be a person of integrity. Your reputation should be such that people know when you say something or make a promise, you will always keep your word. Honesty should just be part of our nature. If we make a promise to God or to people and we don’t live up to it, then we are using God’s name in vain, because as sons and daughters of God, our character is to be like His, always truthful.

 

What’s The Big Deal About Marriage?

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God designed marriage in order to meet our need for companionship and to provide an illustration of the relationship between God and His church.  But for this kind of companionship to happen, it means marriage needs to be a primary relationship for us. God didn’t create parents for Adam, nor children, but He
did create Eve for him as his wife. This means that the a marriage relationship is the most
important relationship, not the parent-child relationship. A man (and woman) must leave their father and mother and hold fast (cleave) to their marriage partner (Genesis 2:24).

To have true companionship in marriage it must be a permanent relationship. If you have
children, they’ll be with you in your home for just a few short years. But your partner will be with you for life. To “hold fast” or cleave, means to stick with, hang onto, hold onto like flesh hangs onto bone. It means being glued together. You get married and you stick together. After quoting Genesis 2:24, Jesus adds to it – “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:5-6.

The foundation for a marriage is a commitment of the will. The marriage relationship is
primarily built on this kind of commitment rather than just feelings of romantic love. It is
commitment that holds two people together as they go through various difficulties in life. You should never use the threat of divorce when going through difficult times or conflict together.

For great companionship a marriage needs to be exclusive. Monogamy is how God designed
marriage. One man, with one woman, for life. God’s intention from the beginning was for Adam to have one wife. He didn’t make many wives for Adam!

For companionship in marriage we need an intimate relationship; and “they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This emphasises a sexual union (1 Cor. 6:16), but it is so much more than that. There is a physical, emotional and spiritual oneness together. One flesh emphasises the trust, openness, and deep sharing that this permanent and exclusive relationship will bring.  Without the lifelong commitment, the sexual relationship will never bring the satisfaction God designed it to give.

For those of you who are married, may God Himself be the one to help and enable you both to do this.

 

Why Am I A Sexual Being?

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As Christians we believe that God created humans beings in His image, intentionally male and female, each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationship. Sexuality is a glorious gift from God to be offered back to Him either in marriage or in celibacy.  As we read in Genesis 1:27-28a, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.  And God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.  

By creating mankind in His own image—as male and female—God created human sexuality. It is part of His design, and God said it was good. It was God’s idea, His gift to us. When you look at our sexuality, it means we are the same species, but of different gender.

The bible clearly teaches that the sexual bond is to be experienced in the confines of an exclusive, lifelong marriage commitment (Genesis 2:24). But the single celibate life is often only defined as the sexless life. Single people are still sexual beings. And to look at it from the perspective of what you can’t have rather than what you can, is to miss what Jesus and Paul say about the single life. The scripture does not say that the single life is preferred to the married life, as if it’s more spiritual, but nor does it say that it is less than the married life either. They are two different ways of life, both to be used to show our undivided devotion to Jesus.

What Jesus and Paul said about the single life being good, equal to and in some ways preferred to the married life was revolutionary in a culture where marriage and family was the only acceptable way for a man or woman to live. Our society is not so different today. Paul’s main encouragement is his conviction that our devotion to Christ be the most important thing, whether single or married. But the advantage of being single is that you have less to distract you from devotion to Jesus (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Women and men were made by God so that together, we may reflect the image of God. Let us do that together, whatever state we are in—single or married.

Life With No Regrets

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May all of you have a wonderful 2017, filled with God’s joy and grace for you. May the Lord lead and guide you through 2017. May God bless you this year, but most importantly, as you may also go through difficult times, remember it is also God’s purpose for you. Be wise and use every circumstance for His glory.

What are you taking into 2017? What baggage are you carrying with you from the past?
A group of students from a university in New York decided to do an experiment. In the middle of New York City, they set up a chalk board and written at the top, they asked – “Write your biggest regret”. The board attracted many people walking by, and was soon filled, and refilled to overflowing. These were the most common regrets:

Burning bridges
Not speaking up
Not being a good husband
Not spending enough time with family
Staying in my comfort zone
Not saying “I love you” enough
Not making the most of every day
Not being a better friend

What do you notice about this list? Most answers involve the word “not”. They were about chances not taken, words not spoken, dreams never pursued.

But Jesus has given us a clean slate from our past. All our sins have been forgiven. Not just the sins of the past, but any sins you are yet to commit—they are all made clean, with the precious blood of Jesus.

 

The Most Deadly Weapon

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Morgan Blake, from the Atlanta Journal wrote, “I am more deadly than the screaming shell from the Howitzer. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, and wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me. No purity pure enough to daunt me. I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenceless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea, and often as innocent. I never forget and seldom forgive, and my name is gossip.

With our lips, we can severely hurt others. By the words we speak, we show the thoughts and feelings we convey. Proverbs 10:19 says – “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Don’t be the fuel for another person’s fire. Don’t be the wood that keeps the fire burning. Don’t be the one who starts the fire.

In some detailed research by the University of Arizona, it was found that most people use around 16,000 words in a day. There is no significant difference between men and women. In a year, all the words we use could fill over 100 average sized books. And as many husbands and wives know, by the time they have come home men have already used up there 16,000 words for the day, but women are just getting started.

The question is not how many words I’ve used today. But rather, how many of those words have been used to build others up, encourage, speak truth and love into the life of another person? How can we best use the words that we speak each and every day? Does our speech measure up to the faith that we proclaim? The right words signify a righteous life. Are my words consistent with my claim to be a follower of Jesus? Are yours?

Committed to Christ’s Mission

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There is only one church, one Kingdom of God, but the New Testament (NT) speaks of many local churches. We have letters in the NT written to seven specific churches with thirty-three local churches mentioned in the NT. When a person became a believer in Jesus they did two things—they were baptised and they joined a local gathering of believers. As Paul said in Romans 12:4-5; “For as in one body we have many
members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

We are part of the local community of God’s people. As Christians we are part of the body.
In the NT, people in the churches recognised they were in community together. There is no such thing as Individualist Christianity. “He (God) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) A kingdom has a king. The king has subjects, and his kingdom has a community together, where we function as God’s people.

It is God who makes us part of His family when we come to faith in Christ. But then we are to become part of a local body of believers in covenant relationship with one another, living in community together, agreeing to live together based on biblical principles, and working
together for Christ’s mission.

Today we can do this together. Let us commit together to membership at CrossCulture. For those who are already members, we will renew our membership covenant with each other today. If you are not formally a member of this church, please seriously consider being baptised, or if you have already been baptised as a believer, then become a member of this church. Let us stand and say together – Membership count me in!

When family fails

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In Genesis 37:12-36 we have the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery to traders who take him to Egypt. From having dreams that indicated authority over his brothers, and being Jacob’s favourite son with the coat of many colours, to being lost to his father and a slave in Egypt. This story speaks to us about brothers (a family) who do not have any relationship with God as their forefathers did.

Within the family we see no unity among the brothers. They are simply sons of four different mothers continuing the strife which has, it seems, always existed between them. There is no brotherly love between them, just self interest. The only thing that unites nine of the brothers here is their hatred of Joseph. And they are oh so willing to deceive their father.

But nowhere in scripture do we see more easily the sovereignty of God, as we see it in the life of Joseph and his brothers. While Joseph’s brothers were actively trying to make sure Joseph’s dreams never came true, nothing can prevent or even delay God’s purposes being fulfilled. Job 42:2 – I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

God has his purposes and we can be part of God’s plan by our obedience to Him. But even when we go against God, we can never stop God’s purposes being fulfilled. We still have to take responsibility for disobeying God, and there will be consequences. But God still works out His plans through our sinful actions. God always remains sovereign and in full control. Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Truly, God knows how to best care for us. The most dangerous place to be; is when we feel safe and secure in our own strength. No place is safer, than when we are looking to God for our protection and provision. When our children leave the safety and security of the parent’s nest, they will only be secure in the hands of the God who made and cares for them.