“Just Divorced”

Neal Pollard

My sweet daughter-in-law, Chelsea, was incensed about how cavalier a “California-based” couple were about their divorce. She sent me the link to the article and it’s hard to believe this is not “fake news” or an April Fool’s joke written on a December day. The BuzzFeed News article, written by Remy Smidt and entitled, “These Parents Threw A Lit ‘Divorce Party’ To Make Their Split Less Awkward,” and subtitled, “Eat, Drink, And Remarry,” features a couple, married more than 20 years. They have two daughters, 20 and 18, who helped them plan their party. There was catered food, drinking, dancing, a “divorce cake,” and a life-sized poster of them both that says “just divorced.” Judging from the many comments below the story, a great many find their idea novel, noble, and neat. The daughters seem happy for them, the couple are cordial and friendly, and all that is missing is a line like “they each, separately, lived happily ever after” (article here).

In Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9, Jesus taught, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” In that context, He gives an exception that allows one to divorce and remarry (fornication, Mat. 19:9). Yet, He is anything but lighthearted when He says it. The situation when such divorces occur is most grave. To God, marriage is a sacred, solemn vow that, as is often stated, requires “for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness or health, until death…” For a myriad of reasons other than Jesus’ stated exception, a great many husbands and wives give up on their marriages. They may not be lighthearted and all smiles, as Michelle Mahoney, Jeff Becerra, Rylie and Emma were, but they have about as much regard for God’s design and intention for marriage as this interesting family.

Through the ups and downs, the give and take, the good times and bad times that are inevitable between a husband and wife throughout time, something beautiful can be built. It requires growth, maturity, unselfishness, compromise, and mutual submission, but as God is the founder of this wonderful institution He knows how we can be best served. His regard for marriage is such that He uses it to illustrate the bond between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22-34). Our society may be enamored with a disposable approach to something God meant to be permanent but may we be devoted to the daily effort and blessing of something God put in place at the very beginning of time. As we do, we will be blessed for it!

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Daniel And Susan Bakeman

Neal Pollard

In the annals of American history there is a remarkable story you may not know.  Daniel Bakeman was born on October 9, 1759.  He married Susan Brewer on August 29, 1772, though not yet a teenager.  Soon thereafter, he joined the American army during the Revolutionary War.  Not only did he survive the war, he lived almost another 100 years.  When he died on April 5, 1869, he was most likely the last surviving veteran of the war that made us a country.  He lived about four years after the end of the Civil War.  As remarkable as that distinction is, he also was part of another world record that still stands to this day.  His marriage to Susan lasted until September 10, 1863, when she passed away.  That means the Bakemans were married for 91 years and 12 days!

I cannot find anything about the details of that marriage, though they left many descendants who carry, through various spellings of the family name, the names Bachman, Beckman, Bakeman, Bateman, and even Baker (genealogytrails.com).  Various archives indicate that Mr. Bakeman was spry and humorous to the end and that Mrs. Bakeman exhibited needlework she had done without the aid of glasses when she was 102.  They lived and died in a town called Freedom, and Mr. Wakeman holds the distinction of having voted in every election from Washington to Grant!

As remarkable as his military distinction is, his marriage distinction deserves higher honor.  He fought in and survived a war that lasted less than ten years.  He endured hardships, who knows how many ups and downs, and undoubtedly some trying marital moments en route to almost a century of marital bliss.  They were together to the end, an exaggerated example of commitment and highest love.

You will almost certainly fail to break the Bakemans’ record for length of marriage, but you might exceed what they enjoyed for depth and breadth.  What are you doing to build upon the highest love for your spouse?  What daily investments are you making?  Your marriage will be remembered by those who know you.  How it will be remembered is something over which you exert full control.  Make it a legacy of lasting love!

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Twenty-Four Blessings Of Being Married To A Godly Spouse

Neal Pollard
My dad performed the wedding ceremony for Kathy and me at the Manchester church of Christ in Georgia on May 22, 1992, which, as I’ve been reminded, was also the last show for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. It was also the day Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia joined the United Nations. But, all in all, it was a quiet, ordinary day in the world. For me, it was anything but ordinary! It was day one of a life that has been full of surprises, enjoyments, discoveries, and a full array of experiences. Certainly, there have been some lows but also many more highs. It has, in so many ways, been full of blessings. Anyone who marries a faithful Christian can anticipate so many blessings. Consider just a few:

  1. A companion who loves your soul.
  2. A mate who puts God above you.
  3. A spouse who will influence your children to love God.
  4. One who is bearing the fruit of the Spirit to live life with.
  5. One who stays connected to God faithfully, in Bible study and prayer.
  6. One with whom your most important activities revolve around Christ.
  7. A partner who gladly embraces her God-given role and place.
  8. A mate who holds you accountable to the role and place you should fill.
  9. One who is not chasing the world’s ideals, not being led by its values and expectations.
  10. A companion with whom your conversations constantly involve the spiritual.
  11. One who knows what good clean fun looks and feels like.
  12. One whose orientation is to serve and not to be served.
  13. A spouse who creates trust and confidence that sustains you even when you are apart.
  14. A consort who loves the body of Christ, the church, and who is interested in its members.
  15. One whose greatest beauty (and attractiveness) is to be found beneath the surface.
  16. A partner who will treat you with respect and dignity, not demeaning you or running you down.
  17. One who is more focused on pursuing your happiness than passively waiting for you to cause theirs.
  18. A spouse with whom your most fulfilling moments are spent serving your Lord.
  19. One who looks for opportunities to reach your neighbors and other associations for Christ.
  20. A mate whose emotions are most stirred by spiritual things.
  21. A lover who is exciting and alluring because of her faith and not in spite of such.
  22. One who forms goals with you, short-term and long-term, that point toward eternity and lead toward heaven.
  23. A help-meet you become more desirous of growing older with every day you are growing older.
  24. A partner you like more the more you know her because she’s being transformed more into the image of Christ each day.

What an enjoyable exercise, literally counting the blessings of a life lived with a faithful Christian mate. Please do not interpret this as a suggestion that marriage is trouble-free, challenge-free, conflict-free, and pain-free. It is none of these, but persevering through the troubles, challenges, conflicts, and pain can be one of the forces that strengthen our marriages. Let us build marriages that cause us to celebrate our anniversaries, having a deeper appreciation for the person God gave us to walk through this vail of tears with—a person with whom we can find enormous nuggets of fulfillment and genuine joy in even life’s darkest episodes. Have you let your mate know how much they mean to you? If not, why not stop whatever you are doing and tell them. Even better, show them! They are one of your choicest blessings!

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THE PATTERN FOR MARRIAGE

Neal Pollard

Matthew 19:1-12 records an incident where, because the Pharisees are trying to test Jesus (vs. 3), He has occasion to reveal His will about marriage.  As we analyze this text, we find several notable facts about marriage. These verses show us the mind and will of God on an institution that is increasingly under assault. Consider four facts about this great passage of Scripture.

This is from the Christ. One of the more common arguments made even by supposed biblical scholars is that Jesus never condemns homosexuality. But what does He do? He defines marriage (4-5). The law of exclusion says that what God doesn’t authorize in His Word is forbidden in doctrine and practice. The Lord has authorized marriage as an institution between man and woman. He did not have to say, “…but not between a man and two or more women” and “not between a man and an animal” and “not between two people of the same gender.” He makes clear what He sees marriage as being.

This is from the creation. Other passages tell us Christ is actually the Creator (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2). So not only does He, as Deity, designate what marriage is—He designed it in the first place. Jesus reaches behind changes made to God’s marriage law under the Law of Moses and cites how God designed it “from the beginning” (4). Anything that does not conform to His pattern in this text runs counter to God’s original intent. You may not that this excludes more than same-sex marriage. It excludes adulterous marriage (vs. 9) as well as sex outside of marriage (this is implied here: “joined to his wife,” not “girlfriend”; of course, “fornication” or “sexual immorality” is dealt with explicitly in many other New Testament passages). Jesus goes back to the creation to state the pattern for marriage as being one man and one woman for life.

This is a command. It is not a command that you have to be married, but if you do get married you must conform to Christ’s will concerning it. We see this in the force of Jesus’ “but I say unto you.” He is exerting His right of authority, even showing His law trumps the Law of Moses. A person who is looking to be married must make sure their relationship conforms to His command.

This is controversial.  It is not just the homosexual community who balk at Jesus’ words here. I have close family members (and so do you, probably) whose marriages are at odds with what Jesus commands in this context. Jesus Himself forewarns that this is a difficult and narrow teaching (10), a rejected teaching (11), and a teaching that calls for extreme sacrifice (12). I dare say there is as much blowback from the heterosexual community as the homosexual community where this passage is clearly taught. In either case, it comes down to whether we will follow the command of the Christ, the Creator. Our submission or rebellion cannot change the immutable (i.e., unchangeable) nature of Divine truth.

Marriage is a beautiful gift given by a loving God. Though society may corrupt it and seek to redefine it, but the will of God stands forever. May we have the courage, humility, and strength to take Him at His word and conform our lives to it—on this and every subject.

Dangerous Clothing!

Neal Pollard

Have you ever heard of clothing that puts you in the hospital?  A 35-year-old woman in Adelaide, Australia, had to be treated at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for loss of circulation.  She was on an IV for four days! Why? The official report used scary words like “hypoattenuation,” “oedema of muscles,” and “myonecrosis.”  The bottom line was that her skinny jeans were too tight.  Coupled with squatting frequently while helping a family member move and wearing these overly compressed pants, her legs and lower extremities were so numb that she could not walk (via jnnp.bmj.com).  The truth is truly stranger than fiction.

Is there any dangerous clothing in your closet or wardrobe?  Especially as summer weather heats up, some reveal clothing that could be dangerous to themselves and others.  Consider this.

  • Clothes may be too tight.
  • Clothes may be too short.
  • Clothes may be otherwise too revealing.
  • Clothes may contain provocative words or sexually suggestive phrases.

Frustrating for both those trying to defend or condemn immodest clothing is the fact that Scripture does not give specific guidelines for clothing God finds either acceptable or unacceptable.  True, we can point to how God clothed the first couple in the Garden of Eden, but they had the right to see each other completely unclothed.  We can talk about the priests’ garments under the Old Law, but they wore it doing things, offering animal sacrifices and worshipping with mechanical instruments, that keep us from binding that as a pattern for clothing today.  New Testament passages about modest clothing (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4) seem to primarily address over-dressing, though the principle about clothing which can easily produce lust may be applicable.  Yet, especially clothing that strongly resembles lingerie and undergarments, extremely short-shorts, clothing that clearly outlines parts of the body that should not be publicly seen, and the like can be dangerous for the wearers and the observers. God made men and women sexual creatures, and clothing that “feels” and “looks” sexy can stir feelings in people toward people they do not have the right to feel.

As we assess the clothing in our wardrobes, it is good to ask some important spiritual questions:

  • Does it help me present my body as a sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1)?
  • Does it reflect that I am conforming to the world or being transformed by God’s will (Rom.12:2)?
  • Is it an “anything” that causes my brother to stumble (Rom. 14:21)?
  • Is it “lust-producing” (cf. Mat. 5:28)?

Frustratingly, this requires some common sense and some thoughtful examination.  Individuals must use propriety in the absence of a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not.”  Yet, neither should we feign ignorance in a world where fashion designers tout clothes that are “hot,” “sexy,” “dangerous,” or the like.  No preacher or Bible teacher can force their personal standards of modesty on anyone else, but he or she can appeal to the heart and ask that Christlike love for the souls of others be exercised.  After all, clothes can be dangerous even if they don’t land you in the hospital!

Who Can Find An Excellent Wife?

Neal Pollard

An excellent wife, who can find?
Her worth is far above gems.
Rack your brain and search your mind,
To find a brightness that time never dims.

Her husband implicitly trusts in her,
For this he will lack no gain,
She is trustworthy and spiritually sure
For as long as her days remain.

She’s shrewd and savvy, industrious
And constantly on the go,
To the poor and needy she’s generous
Through her deeds others her husband they know

Though out and about, her household she serves
How well she looks to its operation
Her children and husband give the praise she deserves
They claim her with pride and elation

Mere physical charm and beauty do not measure
The excellence of wife or of mother
But her fear of the Lord makes her a true treasure
And crowns her with charm like none other.

Giving Away Your Wedding Ring

Neal Pollard

Brooklin Yazzle, a Mesa, Arizona, wife and mother, apparently handed out her wedding ring with the Halloween candy last week.  She had taken off her ring and put it in a candy jar to help her children carve pumpkins.  Later, things got hectic and she absentmindedly dumped her ring along with the candy into a candy bag to give to children.  Complicating things, among her treats were plastic rings.  She has made an appeal through the news to get it back, stating that while it isn’t worth much monetarily it has great sentimental value (FOX News).

Many of us can relate to such a mindless blunder.  To my everlasting chagrin, I lost my wife’s High School class ring back while we were dating (she married me anyway!).  It is not uncommon for a person to remove their wedding ring to work or play, but removing it in such cases is to protect it from harm or loss.

The American Community Survey and the Daily Beast collaborated to provide a list of the “Divorce Capitals of the U.S.”  The ignominious top ten list, from “top” to bottom, is: (1) Panama City, FL, (2) Sierra Vista, AZ, (3) Charleston, WV, (4) Medford, OR, (5) Reno, NV, (6) Deltona, FL, (7) Pueblo, CO, (8) Palm Bay, FL, (9) Jacksonville, FL, and (10) Grand Junction, CO. In six states, the divorce rate is between 12.64-14.35% per 1,000 people, age 15 and older (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, and Oklahoma). Yet, the best of states still average 6.05-7.65% (Ashley Reich, The Huffington Post, 11/4/13).

This survey is but an example of a trend that is only tempered by a falling marriage rate, as more and more couples are living together without the sanctity of marriage. It shows that the dissolution of marriage is not confined to one area of the country, or more like in a “Red” or “Blue” state.  Are there steps we can take to keep our wedding rings?

  • Spend time together.
  • Have shared interests.
  • Focus on pleasing your spouse more than being pleased by him/her.
  • Make marriage a priority, not an afterthought or a “no thought.”
  • Make spiritual investments together (devotions, prayer, serving, etc.).
  • Spend time with couples whose marriages are healthy and happy.
  • Practice hospitality together.
  • Keep romance alive.
  • Keep Christ King of your home.
  • Avoid pettiness.

This list is not exhaustive, but it already gives all of us areas to work on and improve in.  We should remember God’s feelings, who said, “I hate divorce” (Mal. 2:16). Let’s hold on to our wedding rings!

SEXUAL DEVIANCE

Neal Pollard

On this trip to Cambodia, there have been insights into some things I did not know and reminders of things I did know.  Polygamy is routinely practiced in the villages, trafficking of minors to wicked and perverse men is a problem, and promiscuity is getting more common.  Some of these issues are matters of exploitation, while others are matters of choice in the culture.  However, these kinds of departures are to be found all over the world.  In our own country, a great many live together and engage in a sexual relationship without the thought of marriage.  Divorce without biblical reason and remarriage is commonplace.  Homosexuality in the last few years has been a cause celebre, something you are confronted with just about everywhere you turn.

To say something is sexually deviant does not mean that it is not popular in a culture.  If deviance means “different from what is considered to be normal or morally correct” (Webster), a lot of things condemned in scripture are considered normal by people today. The world may not see these departures are deviant, but what the world thinks cannot overthrow the will of God.  God made us and knows how we best function in every area of life.  He also created sex as a blessing for people to enjoy within the boundaries He has set.  We deviate from that standard to our own individual hurt and to our own society’s peril and demise (cf. Prov. 14:34).  Jesus warned that what came out of man’s heart defiles him, defilement that includes evil thoughts, fornication, adultery, coveting, wickedness, and sensuality, among other things (Mark 7:20-23).

No country or even time has a monopoly on sexual deviance. The Bible warns about it in both testaments, with even graphic illustrations of the problem and how God feels about it, but He does so because He knows what’s best for us.  The couple (or individuals in the marriage) who turn to pornography to “spice up” their marriage will suffer for it. Those who tinker with God’s marriage plan in whatever way will see the bitter fruit of it.  What God wants is for us to see what He has laid down for us to follow, strive to follow it, and enjoy the great reward that comes in doing things His way!  We must not deviate into deviance, but will do so to our own hurt! Let’s keep confidence that His way is the only way and it is the best way.

Five Reasons God’s Law Of Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage Applies To All

Neal Pollard

People approach the very sensitive subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage in several ways. Some, ignorant of what Jesus says about it, are a law to themselves and come up with any number of “alternatives” including living together without marriage, homosexuality, adultery, and the like. Some have become stricter than Jesus, saying that divorce for any reason is a sin. This is making a law where God has not (Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). Some have become less strict than Jesus, making allowance where He has not. One of the most common allowances is the idea this law does not apply to everyone. Also, some have tried to make the sin of adultery something other than what context shows it to be. Here are five reasons why God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage applies to all.

(1) Jesus Goes Back To The Beginning Of Creation (19:4,8). Jesus is not teaching something that was limited to His own time and it certainly was not an articulation of the Law of Moses (see 19:7-8). Instead, Jesus goes back to the dawn of time to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Jesus, in giving His command, reaches behind Moses to “the beginning.” This shows a timelessness to the command. God designed it a certain way, man distorted it, and Jesus dictates a new way that is universal in nature. He points ahead by pointing back to the beginning.

(2) What God Has Joined Should Not Be Separated (19:6). When two people have a right to be married, whether or not a preacher or religious person performs the ceremony, God is joining those two together. Verse nine gives God’s only exception for allowing the marriage bond to be severed and only then for the one against whom fornication is committed (the “innocent party”)(see the last phrase in verse nine). There is no qualifying phrase beyond that one exception to justify ending one marriage and forming another.

(3) Jesus’ Teaching Is Explicitly Clear (19:9). It truly takes “expert help” to misunderstand what Jesus teaches here. Take out the exception and here is how the “rule” reads: “Whoever divorce his wife and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” That could not be clearer! The exception is also perfectly clear.

(4) The Disciples’ Reaction (19:10). Their reaction is actually extreme. They conclude that it is better not to get married. Jesus does not validate such thinking, but it gives us insight in to what they understood. Jesus’ law for marriage, divorce, and remarriage is stringent! If “adultery” merely meant “covenant breaking,” would the disciples react so? One would simply need to “repent” of having broken their marriage vows, and then enter another marriage. If Jesus meant that, the disciples would hardly have reacted at all.

(5) Christ’s Final Response About Eunuchs (19:11-12). Jesus clears up any doubt by how He ends this discussion. He speaks of three classes of eunuchs-those born that way, those made that way by men, and those who make themselves that way “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” Being delicate here, we understand what it means to be a “eunuch.” That cuts to the heart of what our Lord is saying and one of the blessings accompanying the marriage relationship. Those who divorce for reasons other than the exception Jesus gives in verse nine would have to be in that third category of person discussed in verse 12.
This is not a truth that can be delivered with cold stare, pounding fist, and judgmental heart. It is one that more likely will be accompanied with breaking heart, blinding tears, and extreme hesitation. Probably nothing is more unpleasant to teach, but as part of the “whole counsel” (Acts 20:27) it must be taught. Culture cannot be the authority on this matter. Neither can emotion. Instead, as always, we must let Jesus be the authority (cf. Col. 1:18; 3:17; Matt. 28:18).

Our Congregation Follows The Biblical Pattern For Marriage

Neal Pollard

In the spirit of our ancient, spiritual forebears, Peter and John, even in the face of social pressure, political correctness, and even governmental legislation, letting all laws and mandates be condemned which violate or transgress His Law, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Ac. 5:29).  For that reason, however cultures and civilizations change or regress, we will continue to believe and teach what the Bible says about marriage.  Believing that God’s people must stand with Him, however hard, we believe:

  • “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Mat. 19:4).
  • “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Mat. 19:5).
  • “Because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband” (1 Co. 7:2).
  • “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Co. 6:19).
  • “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
  • “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Mat. 19:9).
  • “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Rom. 7:2-3).
  • “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously” (Mal. 2:16).
  • “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Rom. 1:26-27).

We will not and cannot make laws where Christ has not, but neither can we loose or nullify that which He has bound.  Whether such a position makes us mainstream or fringe, accepted or rejected, we cannot alter the book meant to alter us.  Whereas the Bible is the mind of God revealed to us (cf. 2 Ti. 3:16-17), we will humbly yield to Him and it no matter the cost.