Mark 10 – Divorce

I sat down the other day to get back to my Bible reading, but I didn’t get very far. Jesus’ words on divorce in the beginning of Mark 10 really made me think.
Mark 10:1-12 – Jesus in this passage gives no acceptable reason for divorce. None. Luke 16 agrees, but both Matthew 5 & Matthew 19 show Jesus making an exception for sexual immorality. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 seems to broaden this slightly by allowing at least separation if an unbelieving spouse desires to leave the believer. Paul says the believer is no longer bound in such cases, which seems to imply that divorce is appropriate.
Today, of course, divorce happens for far more trivial reasons. Of course, there are reasons that aren’t so trivial such as abuse. Was there no spousal abuse in Jesus’ or Paul’s day that they did not feel compelled to address it? I hardly think that’s possible. So why didn’t they? It seems that the abused wife would be one whom Jesus would want to protect and address, yet he did not. So we are left to search our own souls and dig through he old and new testaments to determine for ourselves what is best.
Of course then there are situations where folks divorce and then become believers. Are they given a fresh start? Does it become like they were married? A lot of questions but not many definitive answers. The new testament only covers a couple of the many scenarios we might encounter. It seems that God is content to simply state that he hold marriage in high regard and we ought to as well. We must keep that in mind as we ponder these things and sort them out as we need to.
This reminds me that Codepoke has written some good, thought provoking stuff last year on divorce. This post in particular speaks to a way to interpret Jesus’ words that handles the seemingly glaring omission of abuse. The big question being – What if the recorded words of Jesus weren’t his only convictions on the topic? Codepoke’s post was inspired by this compelling Christianity Today article by David Instone-Brewer. He makes the argument that Jesus wasn’t answering a universal ‘when is divorce OK’ question but rather a specific question on a specific controversial kind of divorce popular in Jesus’ day called the ‘any cause’ divorce.
These ideas are attractive to me for the same reasons they are attractive to Codepoke. They provide compassion and a path of escape for the victims of abuse and neglect. (Read this older post from Codepoke too on how divorce might be seen, actually, as mercy from God.) Of course, that does not make it true or valid, but it does seem to mesh with our Lord’s compassion shown in other areas, like the woman caught in adultery or the good Samaritan as well as the constant drumbeat of the Old Testament about caring for the neglected and outcast. Codepoke points out the same, stating that he’s not yet completely comfortable with the position (or at least he wasn’t last November), no matter how attractive it may be or how neatly it seems to tie up some unclear loose ends. I’d say that most Christians have found the idea that a woman cannot escape an abusive marriage unless the man cheats a little uncomfortable and frankly have looked the other way when such a woman in fact gets a divorce.
I have to say that I’m more ready than Codepoke was to accept this. It makes too much sense to me for a lot of reasons. Have a read of Codepoke’s post (and the thoughtful comments as well) and the CT article and let me know what you think.

The Father In Law I Never Knew

It’s interesting how you get to see other sides of people at their funerals. Folks talk of their memories and you get to share in snippets of their lives that you weren’t privy to before. Why do people tend to wait to do that until after they’re gone? These two images of Maria’s father struck me as two images showing sides of the guy I never knew.
When I first met him, he was in his early 60’s, so in my mind he was always an older man and grey haired. The picture of this dashing man in his 30’s, with the jet black hair and that pencil thin mustache caught me by surprise.
But the Robert Steeves I really wished I had known was the one in the top picture. The man standing in the prison corridor, Bible in hand. This is the minister who ran a prison ministry for 4 or 5 years in the 80’s, who had an unrealized dream of a place for prisoner’s families to stay when visiting. The man who opened his own home to a few of those families. I see a man with a vision, a passion and a ministry of his own.
But the man I knew didn’t go to church regularly anymore. Oh, his faith was still real, I don’t question that, but I wonder why the passion that would lead a man to preach in a prison wasn’t there any more. He was no longer engaged in ministry the way I see him here.
I wonder what happened to that passion. Was it just the toils of aging that took it away? Was he burned out taking care of those in society who most would rather ignore? Was there no one else to share his passion and hold up his hands as he got weary? I’ll never know and I never had, or took I guess, the opportunity to ask.
One thing I did know is his concern for his daughters’ welfare. Each and every time we visited, from that first trip when we were either dating or engaged, as we were prepared to leave he’d shake my hand and tell me “You take good care of her now.” This was no parting pleasantry, it was said with authority. Maybe it’s just a trick of memory, but I remember those first few times before he really knew me, he wasn’t about to release my hand until he had an acceptable answer of “I will”. It was a serious question and it made an impression on me as a young man. I got the impression that there would be consequences if I failed.
Even as the years passed and he knew me better (and our daughters were born), each parting was still the same. “Take care of those girls” he’d say. The edge of his words were softened, but the seriousness was still there.
Last Wednesday, as we left Moberly MO, I felt a pang of sadness as there was no reminder to take care of these girls. But don’t worry Dad, I will.

Tough Times

Sorry it’s been a slow few weeks around here, it’s been a challenging time for us.
First, my wife’s an accountant and it’s been tax time, so her part time job this time of year turns into 40-50 hours per week. Normally she’s home when the younger two kids get off the bus, but not now. On top of that, she’s back in school pursuing her CPA. This term she only has one on line class, but she still has to log in several times a week, there are homework assignments and case studies to do. Of course it’s hardest on Maria, but it does affect the whole family.
Then, Easter weekend, shortly after arriving at my Mom and Dad’s Friday night, we got a call from Maria’s brother that her Dad was in the hospital. He had emergency hernia surgery and was on a respirator and it didn’t look like he was going to be able to come off of it, yet he was demanding they remove the tube. We got Maria a flight out of Detroit to St. Louis where she’d rent car to drive 2.5 hours to Columbia, where he was in the hospital. They removed the tube and he managed to pull through, even though all the docs had said he wouldn’t. It was certainly a relief, although his oxygen levels remained dangerously low.
She also learned that her grandmother, who’s health (like her Dad’s) had been failing for some time, was not doing well either. She had been battling dementia for a year or two and hadn’t really been ‘grandma’ for a while now. She was in hospice and the family was being told it wouldn’t be long. Maria returned to Columbus Sunday night, leaving her Mom torn between needing to be with her recovering husband and her dying mother.
Maria’s grandmother passed away that Tuesday and we made plans to head to Rushville IL for the funeral that next weekend. It was both sad and yet a bit of a relief as her quality of life had gone down significantly in the past year or so.
That was the weekend of the 30th. A little over a week ago, on Saturday the 12th, we learned that her Dad had apparently had a stroke the night before. Her mom awoke to find him still in his chair, unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital where it was confirmed. There was no indication he recognized anyone at all. He had requested no heroic measures, so it was only a matter of time before his body caught up with where it seemed his mind had already gone. In the early morning hours the following Sunday, he passed away.
Her Mom had remarked a while back as their health was failing that she was afraid that she was going to loose her husband and mother in the same week. Unfortunately, she was too close to being right as in reality, it was not quite three.
So this past week we made another trip west to Missouri to bury Maria’s father. Because of his recent suffering, it was once again sad and yet a relief.
Of course, regular life – colds, school, clarinet lessons, choir practice, gymnastics, church, dishes, laundry – goes on in the midst of it all. Ironically, emotionally I think we’re all doing OK, but physically we’re drained, Maria more so of course. She returns to part time in a week or two, so that’s good, but next term she’s taking 3 classes instead of 1. She flat amazes me with what she takes on.
Anyway, that’s where I’ve been of late.

Google Search Term

It’s sometimes amusing to see the search words that bring folks to Not today. In my Google Analytics report this week, on the last page of six, the last entry of 50, I discovered that one person came here by searching for this:
did god take my child because i could not give up my cd collection
I normally glance over this list, but that last entry stopped me in my tracks. Maybe it was a whim, but my site (the June 2004 archive page) is somewhere down around 25 on the Google list. That’s 3 pages in. That’s long way to go for a whim.
There’s no way for me to know who that was or why they went searching. I don’t know if they will find their way back here or not and I certainly won’t presume to answer for God. I’ll just ask, if you do come back here again, please, go read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and watch Jesus. Watch Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Watch him heal the demon possessed boy. Watch him stop a woman’s bleeding and with it, remove her shame. Watch him weep with the family over Lazarus’ death. And then watch him raise him again. Watch him heal on the Sabbath, knowing it will anger those in charge. Watch him rebuke the leaders for their lack of compassion. Watch him heal the forgotten, the outcast and the unclean, restoring not only their health but their place in society. This is God at work, directly, in the lives of flawed men and women. This is who God is.
God showed up here with us in Jesus to demonstrate his love for us, not only on the cross, but in three years of ministry. A ministry full of compassion, healing and restoration.
I can’t begin to imagine the heartache behind a question like that, but God can. Seek him and don’t give up until you’ve found him. I can’t promise that you’ll find the answer to your question, but God promised you that you will find Him, if you’ll seek. I hope that in finding Him, you at least have the comfort that there’s love behind whatever the answer is.

Mark 9 – Moses & Elijah and a Convulsing Boy

Mark 9:4 – How did they know it was Moses and Elijah? Did they hear Jesus call them by name? Did Jesus introduce them? “Moses, I’d like you to meet my friends Peter, James and John. Elijah, come over here …” No wonder Peter was a little frazzled.
Mark 9:10 – Imagine the conversation here – “What did he mean ‘rise from the dead’? I mean, if he’s going to rise then he’s got to … no way, he’s the savior!” 😀
Mark 9:19 – I can imagine Jesus’ frustration. He goes up to get some encouragement, from old friends and from his father, leaving the disciples for just a little while. And while he’s gone, they haven’t learned enough after these years with him to heal one boy. Sheesh, people, come on!
Then again, I’ve been with Jesus for more than a few years. Could I heal one boy? When will my faith mature?
Mark 9:20-24 – To me, this is one of the funniest scenes in the gospels. Here’s this father, brought a boy to be healed and got nowhere with the disciples. But now Jesus is here, and the evil spirit gives them a show, throwing the boy down right there. He’s convulsing and foaming at the mouth. While the boy is in the throws of the seizure, Jesus turns and calmly asks “How long has he been like this?” I can see the Dad, turning from his boy, thrashing on he ground, and Jesus. “Uh, from childhood … ” No wonder he says “If you can do anything …” The disciples couldn’t do it and now Jesus seems oblivious.
I wonder if this doesn’t’ teach us something about Jesus. That he doesn’t get freaked out when the situation turns on him. He knows the outcome, who cares if it’s out of control for now. He knows it’s going to be fine. Perhaps he’s testing the father’s faith a bit too, revealing the cracks in his convictions. When those cracks come to light, Jesus calls him on it and the father cries out a single statement that proclaims both his faith and his need for help with it at once.
Mark 9:29 – So, if it can only come out by prayer – when in the story did Jesus pray? The time line doesn’t show any gaps, certainly no time for “I’m going to the mountain to beseech the father on your behalf. Await patiently for my return and you shall be delivered!” There’s a seizure, a conversation with dad, a statement of faith, a command and the spirit comes out. No pauses, but somewhere in there, Jesus prayed. He prayed the prayer that made all the difference, a prayer than could only possibly be a single, maybe two, short sentences.
So, our prayers, even the most critical, need only be a sentence or two to be effective.
Mark 9:38-41 – There’s a lesson in there when folks who we think aren’t ‘of Jesus’ are doing good works in his name.

Mark 8 – Feeding Another Crowd, Rebuking Peter

Mark 8:1-10 – Since there’s a similar story in Mark 6, I’m sometimes tempted to think this duplicate is an error, a mistake of Mark’s memory. Surely, this didn’t happen twice, right? But why not? John tells us at the end of his gospel that there were many things left out that Jesus did. Jesus healed more than one beggar, raised more than one dead person to life, why wouldn’t he have fed more than one crowd? For some reason, this miracle seems more unbelievable than the rest. I guess I can picture a man getting healed, I can see it happening. I can’t picture how 7 loaves and a few fish feed thousands.
Mark 8:14-21 – They missed Jesus’ point about the Pharisees and Herod, thinking he was chastising them because they forgot the bread. Perhaps their failure was on their hearts, maybe they were hoping he hadn’t noticed, so when he said ‘yeast’ they thought of the lack of bread. But Jesus points out that they never need worry about the lack of bread, he has proven himself able to deal with that challenge. This is a more subtle way of saying what he did in Matthew 6 – don’t worry about the needs of this world. I know that you need to eat and I will provide. Instead, be focused on heaven and concern yourself with the things that will misdirect you away from there.
Mark 8:22-26 – I wonder, why didn’t the first time ‘take’? Surely, it wasn’t Jesus’ failing. Was it the man’s lack of faith? Were there two conditions that needed to be healed, and Jesus tackled them one at a time. God decided that we needed to see Jesus taking two steps to heal this man, but decided that we didn’t need to know why he did. I wonder what the point we are to take from it is.
Mark 8:32 – I’ve wondered in the past if the disciples didn’t’ hear these teachings of Jesus referring to his coming death and dismiss them as a parable that they didn’t quite understand. Surely, it couldn’t mean what it sounded like? But Peter here clearly understands, but he thinks that Jesus is wrong. No Jesus, that’s not how it goes! We are not doing this that way! Peter had forgotten who was the master and who was the disciple.
Mark 8:34-38 – We used to twist this to mean that Jesus was teaching us to share our faith. His purpose was to go to the cross, ours is to make disciples, therefore take up your cross = share your faith. It’s pretty easy to use similar logic to read all kids of things into what Jesus was saying here.
Reading it this time, however, I see the broader context. Jesus just spoke of his coming death and rebuked Peter for it. He then clarifies what’s to come. He would not be put on the cross, he would take it up himself. He willingly would relinquish his life here on Earth for the joy of the life to come. If we are to follow him, we must do the same. Pick up our own crosses and lay down our Earthly lives. He reinforces the point by saying the best Earthly life we can achieve is worth nothing compared with eternity.
It’s not about any one practice or doctrine, it’s about changing our minds & hearts to look heavenward. If we do, then our actions will follow.

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