Let it be so ...

This statement is so interesting because it can be used in so many different ways. One time I did laundry and left a red shirt in with other clothes and then I made a lovely pink shirt -- let it be so. At the DMV I was in a line that would have taken all day, but a kind employee had grace and let me cut in line (to the chagrin of the 200 people in line) -- let it be so. Good, bad or other -- the phrase can be used to just explain this happened especially when I can’t do anything about it. Pastor Paul, however, used it in a way that encapsulated Corinth culture, and applied to divorce/separation.

In 1 Corinthians 7:15 Paul says, “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace." After statements about remaining together for God’s design for marriage, for holiness, for the good of the family; Paul now says let it be so ... God has called you to peace. Why does Paul make this ambiguous statement? Because his hope is to allow everyone to have peace with one another if you can (Romans 12:18).  He is saying to people who came into the church with unequally yoked marriages do everything you can to remain together (remember these people did not grow up in a church!), By remaining together it would allow God to work. However, sometimes you have to “let it be so” if your unbelieving spouse leaves, for the sake of peace with others and unity. We are to strive for peace and unity because Jesus modeled that for us. He came into this fallen world to bring peace with one another and of course with God. He did this to show us the need for understanding during difficult times.

When the pain is unbearable, when life doesn’t make sense, when people hurt us, when choices send shock waves, we do everything we can, and then we look to God. Jesus came to give peace during tribulation (John 16:33). We are to turn to God in prayer in everything so our hearts and minds can be protected in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-8).

I think Paul said “let it be so” knowing he would be asking believers to choose peace in the midst of heartbreak. He knew the God of peace would be there in the hurtful and struggling times. There is hope in those times and there are people here to help.

Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor

Working the System

Nick Saban, who has been the head football coach at the University of Alabama since 2007, was recently quoted as saying something along the lines of, “You gotta work your system, even when the results aren’t there, and trust they will come in due time.” If you know anything about college football, you know the results have come for Nick. He is one of the most successful coaches around.

Part of God’s maturity system for some of us is marriage. But marriage can be hard, and especially so when one is married to an unbeliever. But that doesn’t mean we quit working the system, does it?

My father-in-law John and mother-in-law Carrie were not Christians when they married. Along the way Carrie became a Christian and experienced a profound and lasting transformation. Not so with John. Among other things, God used her marriage, her kids, and her life circumstances to form her more into the image of Christ. And all along the way John just watched. He wasn’t interested in the least bit. He didn’t discourage her walk with God or her spiritual leadership of their three daughters, he just didn’t participate. And he didn’t leave. He wanted to be married to her. He loved her deeply.

As Carrie stuck in there, she didn’t have any specific promises that God would save John, but she did have the hopeful “For how do you know?” of verse 16. I believe she held tight to that as she lived out her life of faith and growth in front of him. No one has ever had more of a front row seat to watch the transforming grace of God working in a life than John.

In the year 2000 Carrie was unexpectedly called home to heaven. Her race was finished. She did so well. But John was still unmoved by the gospel…until about five to seven years later. I’m sure my wife remembers the day vividly when her dad called and shared the news that he had committed his life to Christ. It sure seemed out of the blue for us. But what great news!

Carrie had worked the system, trusting God would bring the results He had ordained. And brought them, He did. She grew in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and in due time her husband was won over and converted. And while I know not every story ends like this did, we can all have full assurance, as we follow Christ, that He will grow us to maturity, that He loves our spouses even more than we do, and that He will work in their lives for His glory.

As we close out today’s devotional, just remember this - He’s got a plan and He’s got your marriage in His hands.

Scott Smith
Connection and Growth Pastor

Applying Scripture

One of my favorite classes in seminary was Biblical Hermeneutics. In the class we learned how to study the Bible. It’s a class that’s served me well over the years. The professor taught a three-step process for studying the Bible:

~ Observation: what does the text say?
~ Interpretation: what was the message for the original readers?
~ Application: What is God saying to us today?

The application part of the process is often the most challenging because we are taking a message that was given to a specific audience, and applying it to a different audience who live in a different context, while attempting to do that in an honest way.

As I was reading through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I noticed that application was something Paul dealt with as well. In 1 Corinthians 7:10, he wrote, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord)...” “Not I, but the Lord” means that he was taking Jesus’ teaching and applying it directly to the Corinthian believers. It was straightforward and applied to them exactly as Jesus taught it. However, in verse 12 he wrote, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord).” I love the honesty Paul exhibits when he wrote, “I, not the Lord.” He’s shooting straight and telling the Corinthians that he didn’t receive this teaching from Jesus and in order to speak to the situation the Corinthian believers were in, he needed to apply Jesus’ teaching to their context, rather than simply relaying Jesus’ teaching to them. He was going beyond what was written or taught at the time.

We know that Paul did a good job of application because his instruction was guided by the Holy Spirit and canonized in Scripture, but it still took work to discern God’s leading. Application always takes work because it’s going beyond what is written, and discerning what God would say to us today. Applying Scripture is often more of an art than a science because Scripture doesn’t speak directly to every situation we find ourselves in. Paul had to do that 2,000 years ago, and we have to do it now.

Applying Scripture to life is a great joy, but it’s not easy. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you apply Scripture to your daily life. First, make sure that your application is in alignment with the teaching of Scripture as a whole. Second, look for examples to follow, promises to embrace, or prayers to echo. Finally, prioritize the teaching and commands of Jesus, seeking to be obedient to him above all else.

One of the things Paul subtly points out is that God wants to meet us in the unique situations of our lives, and by the power of his Spirit and through the instruction of Scripture, he will be faithful to guide us. Today, ask him to help you apply Scripture to something you’re facing in your life.

Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

Divine Design

1 Corinthians 7:10

Marriage was designed by God for a bigger purpose than just itself. Marriage is a depiction of our relationship with God and Christ’s relationship with the church. Just as we are called to love, study, know and respect our God, we are also to do the same in our relationship with our spouse. As such, our marriage relationship becomes one way we can glorify God here on earth. (That doesn’t mean all Christians must get married. God calls people to the single life for important purposes as well).

But what about couples who get a divorce?  First we should remember God says, “I hate divorce,” not to hurt those already suffering from broken marriages but to reprimand unfaithful spouses. Malachi 2:14 says, “The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” The religious teachers asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matthew 19:3). Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). Jesus then noted that the Law had allowed divorce only because people had a “hardness of heart” and were bent on doing what they wanted anyway. Please remember divorce was never part of God’s original design (Matthew 19:8).

So why would God say he hates divorce? Well, divorce is destructive, not only to the souls and lives of the couple, but to friends, family and children, if they have any. God hates the pain of divorce. God in his infinite love for us, would never want divorce to tear us apart emotionally or physically. He knows the fallout and collateral damage divorce causes is sometimes irreparable. God’s directives aren’t meant to punish us but to protect us. (However, living in a miserable marriage where there is no peace is not part of God’s divine design either. Both destroy the example of a Christian marriage to those around them and bring no glory to God).

Every marriage has difficult seasons. I believe God will reward those who dig deep, work hard, ask for forgiveness, and keep trying again and again. It’s not always going to be pretty, but when you fight through challenges together, you are stronger on the other side. As Christians, we have the opportunity to live out God’s divine marriage design to those around us. We can lift our spouses up and let them know how important they are to us and God every day.

To those living with the repercussions of divorce or separation, know that God loves you and desires to heal the hurt in your heart and give you purpose and a hope. We have people and groups here to help you. The same is true of people struggling in their marriage. Please reach out, God wants to help and so do we.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant

Best in the Broken

Series: 1st Corinthians - Sacred Sexuality
1 Corinthians 7:10-16 |
Speaker: Pastor Ryan Paulson

May 15, 2022: On Sunday, Pastor Ryan Paulson continued our recent multi-week series in 1 Corinthians. We're currently in the 3rd season of messages, Sacred Sexuality.

Temptation Island

There is a show on Cable TV called “Temptation Island.” And while I’ve never watched it, Wikipedia tells me it is based on the premise of bringing several couples to an island where they live - separated from each other - as a group of singles of the opposite sex with the idea of testing the strength of their relationships before making a lifetime commitment to each other. Some couples make it, others don’t.

As we’ve been learning, Corinth was a bit of a “Temptation Island” where accepted promiscuity and religious prostitution tested the sexual fidelity of many a marriage. The problem in the Corinthian church, as you well know, was that failure was seen as normal, particularly from the point of view of the husband.

If you or I were sent off to a “Temptation Island” so to speak, I wonder what would be there? What would pull us to consider getting, or to actually get, our needs met outside of marriage, even if they are being somewhat met inside of it? What would tempt our hearts away from our spouse? What would cause us to step out of bounds, either physically or in our hearts? For guys, the temptation to wander might come in the form of an image, be it pornographic or otherwise (think of how desirable it is sometimes to linger over an Instagram picture or an attractive woman who crosses your path). For the women, whose husbands might have become a bit less romantic and attentive than they used to be, the temptation to wander might not come in an image (though it might) but rather in the printed word. (It was surprising to me to find that Christian women read Fifty Shades of Grey just as much as non-Christian women.) “Mommy Porn,” as some of this literature is called, fills the Kindles and Nooks of many a Christian woman.

As we do our best to be disciples of Christ in a society that thinks nothing of letting its collective heart turn to people other than their spouse to get certain needs met, we would do well to remember this isn’t what God wants for us. It’s better to let a need go unmet than to fulfill it in a sinful way. But that’s not the way of the world, is it? The ethic of “Temptation Island” is to make sure all our needs are being met, while the ethic of the kingdom of God is to trust Him to meet our needs while living faithfully to Him and His ways as we wait on His good hand of provision.

Scott Smith
Connection & Growth Pastor

Let's Take a Break

I told my wife I wanted to take a break. She was devastated. Just kidding, that never happened. When one person says that to their partner in today’s culture it pretty much means we’re finished. But the Apostle Paul gives accommodation for taking a break in the marital relationship; not a break from being married, but taking a break, or fasting, from sexual intimacy in order to focus on prayer.

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Cor 7:5

Fasting is taking a break from eating solid food. Humans need to drink water to survive, but they can take a break from eating for days at a time. Jesus did it for 40 days before beginning his public ministry recorded in the gospels, Luke 4:1-3. The human body has a natural response to fasting. Most of us feel that response every day when our bodies tell us, or compel us, in various ways, to think about and go get food.

Our bodies compel us toward other behaviors too. Sex is an obvious one. There are others we may not think about much, but there are benefits to being intentional about our compulsions and practices with them. Take breathing as an example. We don’t usually think about it. But there are times when people try to focus intentionally on their breathing: during exercise, swimming, or activities that require fine motor skills. Control of breathing and growth in the timing of it and strength in it can be a great benefit for one’s body and life.

I wish something inside would compel a focus on God the way bodies naturally compel a focus on getting food, getting air, or getting sex.

This is what fasting is for. An intentional practice to help people focus on God. When fasting, whenever your body makes you think about or crave the thing you are fasting from, turn to prayer. Think about and focus on God instead. Dr. Bill Bright wrote a small guide to successful fasting and prayer. He begins the guide with these words, “I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest.” Those words sound like a great goal for any person and every relationship to strive for. So, maybe right now would be a good time to take that break.

John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

Hard Work

Almost twenty-seven years ago my husband and I sat in our pastor’s office, starry-eyed and ready for a marriage of utter bliss. The pastor told us that our homework was to figure out two words that describe the key to a good marriage. We came back the next week with all sorts of eloquent phrases but none were the two simple words that he was looking for: “hard work”. Today, Jaisen and I would both say that this was the best marriage advice we have ever been given.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses the chaos of the culture and then shows them a better way. What better way requires an attitude of love, sacrifice, and a complete willingness to put the other person before yourself. What many don’t realize though is that giving brings about more joy and contentment than any human perception of receiving ever could. In this seventh chapter of first Corinthians, Paul is speaking directly about the sexual relations and attitudes of the people, but I do believe that this message filters into all other areas of life as well. When a man or woman is willing to put the physical desires of the other above their own, they are demonstrating love, sacrifice, and a servant’s heart that brings peace, joy, and contentment. This is also true when we are willing to give and sacrifice emotionally and relationally.

I am beyond blessed to be married to a man who deeply loves Jesus and is willing to put his family and others' needs before his own. As a Navy Chaplain, he has sacrificed comfort and stability in order to provide the same for me and our children. We all have sacrificed what many deem as a “normal” life with the understanding and mutual agreement that this is God’s calling on our lives. Staying connected across oceans and time zones is not easy but it is doable when you are dedicated and intentional. The long periods of time and distance have been lonely, challenging, heartbreaking, and sometimes almost unbearable. In all honesty, I have had multiple, “why?” and “really… again?” conversations with God. While the challenges are not simple, remembering that the solution is simple, “hard work” does bring about peace and focus. And oh, nothing compares to that moment when we finally get to greet each other again with a sweet embrace!

You may not be married to a sailor, but no doubt you’ve sacrificed, or at least you’ve been asked to. Marriage is hard work, but when you decide to put the needs of your spouse above your own, the rewards are endless.

Lynette Fuson
Director of Care & Counseling

Marital Duty

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. - 1 Corinthians 7:3

Throughout history, the majority of our world’s view of sexuality has been driven by a very male-focused view of sex. Men have typically been the aggressors who have sexual “needs” that a woman has a duty to fulfill. In fact, the general sexual mores of most societies tend to be manipulated by men, in order to cater to men’s supposed “needs.” For this reason, our views of sex and sexuality have become very self-centered. It is about meeting my needs and knowing what I want. Even now, in our enlightened days, where men and women are much more equal, our views of sexuality have only become more selfish. For this reason, I find it incredibly interesting that Paul completely reverses this trend.

Paul does not begin with a male-centric view. In his view (thus the Biblical view), sex is not the first and foremost duty of the woman to her husband, but the duty of a husband to his wife. This may only seem like a subtle shift, but in those days, this was a massive change! Sadly, women were often treated as property or, even worse, as sexual play toys (not a far cry from how far too many people see women today). Paul is suggesting that it is the husband's duty to take care of her needs first. This changes everything!

In case you think that I am reading into this a little too much, the words that immediately precede this verse are, “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” Yes, Paul used an active imperative here. This is a command. This is a “should” that applies to all married people. And while the command applies equally to both parties, I am thankful the man’s duty is mentioned first, because in so doing, Paul places the onus on the husband to lead by taking care of his wife before he thinks about himself. The Biblical view of sex within marriage is one of mutual responsibility to serve the other. There is no hint of selfishness here. Sex is supposed to be an act of intimate service within the marriage covenant, not simply a place where you try to get your needs met.

So, whether you are married or not, I want you to hear today the radical and all-encompassing nature of the Christian Biblical ethic. It is an ethic and a worldview that teaches us to always put the needs of others above our own … even in matters as intimate as the marriage bed. Why? Because the way we treat people really does matter. Because all people are important. And mostly because we follow the One who gave us the ultimate example of selfless love on the cross. Let’s commit today to live like Jesus in every aspect of our lives.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

What’s Going On Here?

One of the things that I love about being a follower of Jesus is witnessing the transformational power of the gospel in the lives of those who receive it. This transformation happens as the Holy Spirit applies the truths of God to the believers' lives. For about 2000 years the Holy Spirit has been transforming the behavior of millions of Christians, most of the time in contrast to the behavioral standards of their cultural settings.

When the apostle Paul came into the city of Corinth to preach the gospel, the Corinthians held as normal some very corrupted standards of sexual behavior. In Corinth it was normal for the husbands to have sexual relationships with multiple women, including prostitutes and slaves, while the wives were expected to remain sexually loyal to their husbands. As people within the city began to respond to the gospel and continued to learn from the apostle Paul the fundamental principles of God’s Word, a sexual behavioral transformation took place in the lives of the new believers. Unfortunately, as the apostle left the city, the Corinthian church became very tolerant of sexual sin (1 Cor. 5:1). Apparently, some of the Corinthian male believers considered sexual relationships outside of the context of marriage to be compatible with their new life in Christ (1 Cor. 6:15).

As news about this came to the apostle Paul's ears, he decided to write 1 Corinthians to remind them, among many other things, about some sexual principles that every married follower of Jesus ought to put into practice (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). In this section of the letter, Paul’s intentions were not to ask the Corinthians to abstain from sex altogether, but to reinstruct them in the matter of scriptural sexual morality and to admonish them to avoid the practice of adultery. Paul’s teaching most definitely set an expectation for all-male married believers of the city of Corinth that was very countercultural to their social stratum.

According to Paul’s teachings, every male married believer was expected to remain sexually loyal to his wife in a setting where this was only expected of women. This principle was so transformational that as more believers lived it out, it became one of the distinctive of early Christianity. Within the church, Christian wives were addressed by their husbands as equals and female slaves were no longer treated as sexual objects. So yes, Paul’s teachings were as radical back then as they are right now, but God intended them for the good of His people and the glory of His Name.

Pastor Esteban Tapia
En Español Pastor