This page is mostly for personal and spiritual posts (a.k.a. non-fiction).
My fiction-only blog, about my novels and other similar examples of popular art, can be found here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Favorite Songs - My Eyes Are Dry, by Keith Green

(Are there some songs that never get old for you? You can listen to them over and over again, even after you've just listened to them, and you still enjoy them? When they also make you think about interesting and important stuff, you get the kinds of songs I'm talking about in this series of blog posts.)

Facebook is often referred to as Fakebook, and with good reason. Our posts are more about what we wish our life would look like than what it really looks like. Well, this post (which I will share on Facebook) will be a dose of reality.

I was recently reminded of the song "My Eyes Are Dry" by Keith Green when I did my Bible reading for the first time in a while (that's a big part of my problem, by the way). I read Isaiah 35 and then Charles Spurgeon's comments on it, and I realized that one section unfortunately described me.

Spurgeon was commenting on Isaiah 35:3, which says that God's people will "rejoice even with joy and singing... they shall see the glory of the LORD and the excellency of our God." He says:

A wonderful sight to see, for there is one of the most lovely sights in the world when the glory and excellency of God are to be seen in the works of his grace in his own people. It is such a sight that it makes men first rejoice in their hearts, and then rejoice with their tongues. They shall “rejoice with joy and singing,” which is the double rejoicing of the heart and of the lip. Well, these must be a favored people who, wherever they go, can make others glad after this fashion. Brethren, they must be full or they could not overflow! They must be themselves alive, or else they could not quicken the desert places. They must themselves be in flower, blooming like the rose, or they could not make the wilderness so full of verdure. The Lord grant that we may be in that state that we may be able to go into the wilderness. There are some of God’s people that cannot trust themselves to go where they are wanted, because they have not grace enough. They are so weak that they are like the weak man standing on the river’s brink, who cannot leap in to pull out a drowning man for fear they should be pulled in themselves. But, oh! they are blest indeed who dare go into wildernesses and into the solitary places, and carry the transforming benediction of heaven with them till the wilderness changes its dress, and the brown of the and sand gives place to the ruddiness of the rose, because God has come there with his people.

The part of that quote that describes me in recent days, I realized, is the negative part in the middle (in bold). I haven't been rejoicing in the Lord and receiving His grace as I should, so I haven't had much to give to others spiritually, and haven't even wanted to at many times. I realized that I was not at a good place and the song "My Eyes Are Dry" came to mind. So I started to sing and pray it to the Lord, as I have at many such times of spiritual dryness in my life. That's one of the reasons it makes my list of favorite songs, along with the fact that it has such a beautiful, haunting, moving, and memorable melody.

In addition to praying the words of that song, I went on YouTube and downloaded a couple dozen songs by Keith Green that used to be a regular part of my listening diet but I haven't heard for a long time. I'm adding them to my regular rotation, and I encourage you to rediscover his music or discover it for the first time, whichever may be the case. Here are some of my other favorites by Keith, all of which are especially helpful when our eyes are dry and our hearts are cold:

Create in Me A Clean Heart
Dust to Dust
I Don't Want to Fall Away from You
Grace By Which I Stand
Cut the Devil Down
I Want to Be More Like Jesus
Make My Life a Prayer to You
Romans VII
Rushing Wind
When I Hear the Praises Start
Oh Lord, You're Beautiful

(I made a playlist of those songs on YouTube, for myself but also for you. Would you consider taking just about 30 minutes to listen and pray through them?)

The good news is that I feel revived after hearing those blessed songs and praying their words to the Lord, but the bad news is that if I don't keep filling my mind and heart with His Word and making use of the other means of grace, I will quickly slip back into spiritual coldness and deadness, like a branch cut off from its vine.

However, if I do abide in Him, I will bear much fruit, as Jesus said, and the positive side of Isaiah 35 will be true of me. Here are verses 5-6 and Spurgeon's comment on them:

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert." See what the presence of Christ does. See what the presence of Christ’s people will do when he comes in them and with them. They make the wilderness rejoice. But, besides that, the dwellers that are found in the wilderness—these lame and deaf people—get the blessing. Oh! may God make us to be a desert to others of this sort.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What God has joined together... (A Biblical understanding of divorce and remarriage)

In March of this year I had the gracious privilege of speaking to about 40 pastors and their wives at two conferences in Kampala, Uganda. During part of each conference, I presented what I believe is a biblical understanding of divorce and remarriage that takes into account all the relevant passages of Scripture and brings them together in a consistent system. As a summary and teaching tool, I used some carefully worded propositions with supporting references, which those Christian leaders (and others through the years) have found to be helpful.

I realized recently that the propositions weren't available anywhere online, so I'm remedying that with this post. Much of my learning about this issue can be found in this statement by the elders at John MacArthur's Grace Community Church, where I served on staff and wrote the original draft of the statement. But I've always found that these propositions are a simple and helpful format for teaching and discussion, so I'll reproduce below the one-page version of them that I've often printed out for those purposes.

At the center of my "system" for understanding and reconciling all the relevant passages (and also at the center of the propositions page, interestingly) is Jeremiah 3:6-10, which is often overlooked but absolutely critical to these issues. I think my best contribution to the thorny questions about divorce is how I point out that since Jesus used only one word for his "exception" in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, his Jewish audience must have known what he was talking about, and undoubtedly they would have been familiar with Jeremiah 3:6-10, a striking and memorable passage where God divorces Israel. And the word porneia that Jesus uses in Matthew is found four times in four verses in the Greek Septuagint version of that passage. So when they heard that word, they would have understand that Jesus was talking about unrepentant sexual sin, because that was the grounds for God's divorce of Israel (twice it says "she did not return"). It then follows, like I say in the propositions, that the only time divorce is acceptable to God is when reconciliation to a monogamous, cohabitant relationship is not possible.

I've also recently added a proposition (IV) about criminal physical abuse, because the issue always comes up in discussions about grounds for divorce and is in the spotlight now more than ever (see this post about a well-known theologian who changed his view).

Limits on time and space keep me from elaborating about all this further as I do in my teaching, but you can listen to the recordings at the link in the first paragraph below and also correspond with me in the comments or any other way. I welcome any and all dialogue about this important issue. But here are my propositions:


by Dave Swavely

The following propositions, summarizing my views on the biblical teaching about divorce and remarriage, are the result of many years of considering the exegetical, theological, and practical issues facing the church today. An explanation of the biblical basis for each of these propositions is available in a series of audio files that can be streamed at…

I.   Because of the sacredness of marriage and the seriousness of covenant vows (Gen. 2:24; Eccl. 5:4-6; Mal. 2:14-16; Mark 10:2-12), all biblical means should be exhausted to keep any marriage together (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 7:12; 1 Pet. 3:1‑7). Divorce is only allowed by God in rare and extreme circumstances (Matt. 19:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:10-15), and long-term separation as often practiced today is neither biblical nor wise (Matt. 19:6; 1 Cor. 7:1-5, 15).

II.   When even serious sins like abuse, sexual immorality, or separation occur in a marriage, but repentance occurs and reconciliation to a monogamous, cohabitant relationship is possible, then the faithful partner should forgive and reconcile (Luke 17:3‑4; Matt. 5:23‑24; Eph. 4:32). Reconciliation after divorce is not possible when one partner is remarried or is an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14ff; 1 Cor. 7:39), but it is a necessary fruit of repentance when two believers have been divorced and are able to remarry one another (Mal. 2:13‑16; Matt. 5:32, 1 Cor. 7:11).

III.   When one partner resists all means of reconciliation and refuses to maintain a monogamous, cohabitant relationship (through unrepentant sexual sin or desertion), then the faithful spouse cannot fulfill his or her covenant obligations and is released from the moral responsibility to do so (Jer. 3:6‑10; Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 7:15). When that marriage bond is severed through divorce (Deut. 24:1-4, 1 Cor. 7:11), the faithful spouse is then free to marry another Christian (1 Cor. 7:8‑9, 27‑28).

IV.   Criminal physical abuse often falls into the category of “desertion” (1 Cor. 7:15) because unrepentant abusers prove that they do not want to live with their spouses. Such abuse should be reported to the police as well as the church (Rom. 13:1-5, Matt. 18:15-17) and an initial separation should occur for the safety of the victim (Prov. 22:3, 27:12). If abusive partners do not repent and change significantly, they should be treated as unbelievers who don't really want to live with their partners, because legal and/or safety considerations would keep the abused partners from returning to the home.

V.   Believers who have been divorced prior to their identification with Christ and the church, and cannot be reconciled because their former spouse is an unbeliever or is remarried, are free to remain single or marry another believer (1 Cor. 7:20, 24, 27; 2 Cor. 5:16‑17).

VI.   In cases where an unbiblical divorce has taken place in a single person's past, the leaders of the church should help that person to repent and "unscramble the egg" according to biblical principles (Heb. 13:17; Matt. 18:18). If true repentance has taken place and reconciliation is not possible with the former spouse, then the forgiven believer could pursue another relationship under the oversight of his or her spiritual authorities (1 Cor. 7:27-28, 36-39; 1 Tim. 5:11-14). 

VII.   In cases where believers have been divorced and remarried unbiblically, the answer is confession and repentance (Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:8-9) and then continuing in their current marriage according to biblical principles (Eph. 5:21-33), because they are now bound to the obligations of the covenant made with the new spouse (Deut. 24:1-4; 1 Cor. 7:17-24). 

If my writing is a blessing to you, please consider supporting me: