​IN TIMES OF NEED…

I was in need.
But instead of helping me

I helped you. 

I did because I realized 

Your need was greater than mine.

But did that erase my own needs?

No, it delayed my own needs being met. 

It’s called sacrifice, fellow feeling.

Being Christian, maybe.  

But after your needs got met

You forgot to “help me help me”.

Somehow you forgot that sometimes 

Unmet needs produce more needs.

So eventually my needs did increase. 

Maybe I did mention my needs at a point.

Maybe I never did.

But somehow I thought you will just know

One good turn deserves another.

Maybe I thought you knew

How unwise it is not to return a help.

I thought you knew

Not keeping to a promise creates unsavoury reputation 

And breaks the beautiful chain 

Of being a blessing to others.

Maybe I got it all wrong.

Maybe I should have just rather helped me. 

But by not helping me help me, 

You have now created in me

A fear of helping others. 

But no, others we must continue to help

Because it’s our Christian duty to.

And our defaulters we must forgive.
©Mark Gadogbe (McApple), 2016

Marriage & Personal Development Author 

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Fornication…

“If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife”
~~Exodus 22:16

Many believe that in our present day and age, the enforcement of the Exodus 22:16 verse/law would be a great encouragement to fornication. Some also think applying Mosaic Law in the New Testament dispensation is like crucifying Christ again.

In others view too, if the focus of the new testament is only about fleeing fornication, then what happens in a situation when someone is unable to follow the rules all the way through and where do we find a remedy for that situation. Are they totally condemned because they couldn’t flee?

Again, others feel there should be a balance so we don’t try to live the Christian life only on the basis of the New Testament, after all the Bible in its entirety is our manual, not just the New Testament.

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So what do I think? I think both verses (Exodus 22:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:18) being in the Bible makes the Bible a holistic book.  Though there are some varied histories behind the Exodus verse and what was the norm in those days, I do not believe the verse is meant for pagans; neither do I believe it is there to encourage promiscuity or the lack of self control. And whether or not its application or relevance should be left to die with the practice of old and not brought into modern day Christianity, the reality is that I believe God in His infinite wisdom knows that even in today’s Christendom, some will get caught up in a situation where they are unable to exercise self-control and have “unmarried sex” and maybe have pregnancy on their hands before marriage. And what should then be the Bible’s requirement when that happens to a virgin or woman of marriageable age? Judge and condemn them because “fornicators” shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and on that basis prevent them from getting married because of the sin? Should they be made to look like the worse of sinners as some Churches do or be allowed to marry even when they are willing?

I do not see the application of Exodus 22:16 as condoning wrong or encouraging sin but just the recommendation of the Word of God. Repentance will not be required of Christians and mentioned in the Bible if God was oblivious of the fact that Christians do sin or will sin (not as a habit though). All sin is sin; fornication (whether a one-time act or serial act) is an equal sin as any other sin. Christians do mess up, don’t they?

Far from it, I’m not encouraging fornication; just sharing my thought on the Exodus 22:16 verse. Premarital sex is a sin and that’s undisputed! Premarital sex is sexual immorality and all sexually immoral (I believe those whose actions have become a conscious habit and not just someone who once fell into sexual sin and repented) will NOT inherit the kingdom of God!

sexual-sin

But what’s the atonement for every form of sin as the Christian knows and lives by? Isn’t it simply a genuine repentance and change from one’s old ways (though some consequences of one’s sins cannot be undone)? And aren’t all Christians, including Pastors, only being perfected in that regard? Is it not true that we all are not perfect; at least, not yet?

So yes, I’m not encouraging premarital sex. I’m only saying that the practice where a Christian brother and a Christian sister are made to feel like the worse of sinners when either by “mistake” or some unrestrained passions they fornicate and even refused marriage by the Church even when they are willing to is too extreme and not a balanced Christian principle in my view. Of course I do not expect the Church to encourage sex before marriage or preach it, but neither do I expect the Church to assume that Christians are without sin. Christians were sinners before accepting Christ and Christians are not without sin after accepting Christ.

What do we sometimes see in Churches? Some churches decline such folk marriage even when the people involved have acknowledged their sin, repented and are willing to. Some churches say they have to punish or discipline the people involved in order to maybe purge out the sin or serve as deterrent to others. To do this therefore they instill certain rules. In some churches the Church Pastor brings them before the whole congregation and shames them, telling of their act. Then, the “fornicators” (not the appropriate tag because I don’t believe someone who fornicates and then repents still qualifies to be called a fornicator) when in Church cannot sit among the congregation but at the far back of the church in specially reserved seats for such folks. He/she is also not allowed to partake in communion; neither is he/she allowed to come near the “altar”, among other restrictions.

The Biblical basis for such actions is sometimes “absurd” to me; but surprisingly many Christians submit to these kinds of treatments by the Church, maybe out of respect for Church elders or “Church discipline”. Those who are unable to handle the ill treatment just leave the Church altogether.  Church discipline especially regarding dating and relationships is a very sensitive and divisive issue to many Church folks anyways.

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When two people are unable to exercise self-control which leads them to fornicate, I’m convinced the Biblical solution is to pray for them and encourage them to repent and mentor them. And should pregnancy be the outcome, they should be made to consider marrying especially if they are of marriageable age and offered as much help that the Church can in that regard.

Isn’t that what Exodus 22:16 recommends? Even if marriage is not the option they want to pursue, a lot can still be done for them other than shaming? Why a Church will rather chose to not encourage the praying for, mentoring and marriage option, but be interested in shaming and “disciplining” instead is what is sometimes not [biblically] clear.

Nonetheless, here’s how one Dr Lawson Stone interprets Exodus 22:16:

“Clearly this text has no idea of justifying or legitimizing any kind of sexual intercourse prior to marriage, but is a sanction enforcing marriage as the only setting for sexual union. The Church’s emphasis on sexual sin appears selective, harsh and hypocritical”

Well, the thing with opinions; they are so varied!

God help us!

(PS: Fornication is sin; as much as you can, flee it!)

 

© Mark Gadogbe (McApple)

Marriage & Personal Development Author

Divorced Marriage Counsellors

When the world (including Christians) looks at marriage counsellors, they often want to see “perfect” people or people in “perfect relationships or marriages”. Very often we come across debates on whether or not divorcees should be marriage counsellors in the Church or not; and whether or not they are qualified (seeing that they couldn’t hold their own marriage together) to counsel would-be couples. Not just counsellors, but also Pastors who have had the unfortunate situation of going through a divorce are not spared the “bad image” and their credibility always raises eyebrows.

If you ask for my personal sentiments, I would say we don’t need “perfect” people or only people with “perfect marriages” to counsel us…we just need the truth of God’s Word. And that can come from even divorced couples or divorced Pastors.

Today’s Church likes to “play clean” and whilst preaching the essence of God’s forgiveness and restoration, the Church is still the first to castigate people whose sins come to the fore, even after they have repented. The Church will even try to deny them of continuing in their God-given calling even after they have repented and God himself probably have forgiven them.

Or the fact that God hates divorce means He hates the people involved too just like that?

It’s quite funny sometimes how the Churches scream things like “all are sinners”, “there’s none righteous”, “our righteousness is a filthy rag before God”, “God forgives all sins”, etc, which means they understand (maybe superficially) that no man (the holiest of Christians alike) is without sin. But when sin presents itself before them, they try to then not associate with it even in its “repented form”. Every Christian sins whether we like it or not; Pastors, Shepherds, Prophets, Ministers, what have you, all sin! And divorce is an equal sin as any other sin! But does that make anybody less of a Christian? People commit “weightier” sins in the Church, then repent and continue still in their roles. Could it be that some sins are not as glaring as the “sin of a broken marriage” that’s why Counsellors who experience divorce cannot continue in their calling?

marriagebroken

There is the story of a Christian Minister whose marriage was experiencing divorce and managed to keep it private (secret) for a few years before it went public when all hopes of salvaging it was lost. I’m tempted to believe that in all those years of secrecy, if he/she were a Counsellor in the Church, he/she would have still continued in that role until the point where it became public. And if that was the case, what puts him in good standing to give marriage counsel while working through his “secret divorce process” and what puts him not in good standing to perform same roles after going public? Have we not seen, heard and read about Pastors who are divorced and still continue in their Pastoral callings; some even re-marrying…and God’s still working through them?

Then again, not every Christian who is divorced had wished to be or is happy about it; and not every Christian who is divorced is the cause of the divorce. So why then do some still think that they are not worth being called good Christians or even worthy of giving good advice?

Taking counsel from a divorcee in Church is not a case of being unequally yoked or taking counsel from ungodly folks; is it?

No, these are Christians…and very good Christians in many cases! Nobody while marrying prays for a divorce I guess? They made a mistake and so what? Many of these folks are people who have regretted their actions and for some, if only their partners were willing, they would do anything just to restore their marriages. But sadly, many times it’s just a situation one cannot salvage. Sadly divorce seems an easier option than putting in the hard work to restore a breaking marriage; thus not surprising how amicable divorce processes are.

'Was your divorce amicable?'   'It was more amicable than the marriage.'

OK…one more story before we wrap up.

There’s the story of a female marriage Counsellor of a Church who discovered after 25 good years of marriage that the husband had been married to another woman even before her. As it were he had deceived her prior to their marriage about his marital status and there was no evidence of him being already married or perhaps she had just trusted him enough not to seek it. But as it now is, he’s fathered a child with this other woman too whilst still in this marriage. Two wives! And she’s only now finding out after 25 years! Now she’s worried that her own marriage has been a lie from the start and here she is a Counsellor who has advised couples for many years. And now she’s worried if she divorces the man, all the people she’d counseled and many others will say how come she a Counsellor has not been able to manage her own marriage. She’s worried her Church folks will begin seeing her in bad light and opine she’s not a good model to would-be couples and should not continue counselling. Question is what’s her crime? And why can’t she continue counselling people?

You see, we always make that mistake and see fellow Christians as our element of perfection. A divorced Christian is no less a Christian than those who are not; neither a divorced Pastor less a Pastor than others.

Maybe we have created a mess for ourselves in Christendom thinking divorcees cannot be good Counsellors so we make do with people who look clean outside but with so much filth and garbage going on in their homes only trying to deceive everybody that they have got it all together.

Who knows, on the judgment day we may be surprised to find that many divorcees are even better than those whose marriages are intact but with a billion hidden sins; sins weightier than the “sin of divorce”, maybe.

Does God forgive divorced couples and restores them in good standing as Christians when they seek His forgiveness? Or are they perpetually condemned on the grounds that He hates divorce and thus can no longer have a place in His kingdom? Well, ponder hard!

 

(PS: Not justifying divorce; God still hates divorce. His will is for all marriages to work)

 

© Mark Gadogbe (McApple)

Marriage & Personal Development Author

Restoration…

The axe forgets; the tree remembers the scars,

Tomorrow at the scent of Heaven’s rain,

It will sprout again bearing fruits,

Fruits to which you will come to feast,

Forgetting you once cut short a life,

That God did not allow to die.

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Mark Gadogbe (McApple)

Divorce

God hates divorce and thus admonishes we all guard ourselves in spirit and not break faith with the wife of our youth (Reference: Malachi 2:16). He however accepts that you can divorce on the grounds of infidelity, even though this “window of opportunity” as it seems to many wasn’t God’s original intent. The phrase “But it was not this way from the beginning” in Matthew 19:8 justifies that God’s original intent for instituting marriage between man and woman was for permanency. God wasn’t instituting something contractual that can be dissolved at will. His intent was not to create a marriage institution that must be entered with thoughts of and perhaps willingness for divorce in mind even before entering in a manner that warrants the signing of a prenuptial agreement.

Speak even to a number of Christians on the subject of divorce and the one thing that is clear is the very high willingness to divorce (as the very first resort) at the first sign of a spouse’s infidelity rather than to forgive. Nothing wrong but just that I feel that someway somehow, that “window of opportunity” is quite pushing some “Christian” married couples to treat their partners in ways that pushes them into the temptation of adultery. In many marriages today, the temptation for adultery is so high because of the feeling of deprivation of one thing or the other. Sadly some partners that feel unhappy with their spouses do treat them quite intentionally in unloving ways hoping it pushes them into adultery so they could have good “Christian” grounds to divorce them.

Granted you might even have experienced infidelity in your marriage. Will you let go or forgive? It’s a personal choice and there’s nothing wrong with both. Of course, infidelity shatters many things in a marriage just lie our sins do alienate us from God and His love for us. But if we have a heart as BIG as God and a love as agape as His and will show mercy and decide to “love in spite of” and not “because of”, any kind of wrong (including infidelity) should be possible to forgive.  Rules are rules but MERCY changes the rules and God has demonstrated it towards us in our many cases of sinfulness and has set for us an example that it is possible to forgive and still live with and love as before a spouse that has cheated but seeks forgiveness.

“While adultery is grounds for divorce, it’s also grounds for forgiveness. And you will never be more like God than when you forgive”
~~Craig Groeschel

For every good and successful Christian marriage, a lot of MERCY must be at work. Nonetheless, that must not be taken advantage of to keep doing wrong and offending.

Indeed, God’s intent and rules for marriage has become trivialized just like divorce became permitted simply because of man’s disobedient ways and  hardness of heart. How do we expect marriage to last when we know we have created suitable conditions to come out of it at anytime we so desire? How will anybody give absolute commitment to or make all the hard work (which mostly require coming out of one’s comfort zone) for something that one can easily come out of at the least discomfort or displeasure?

In a matter of days my wife and I would be celebrating our first marriage/wedding anniversary and as I write this post I was again reminded of the words of the song we used as background music during the exchange of our vows:

I pray for Grace that we would go all the miles God has destined for our marriage!

Cheers!

Mark Gadogbe (McApple)

 

MARRIAGE IS ENJOYABLY HARD

Marriage is the hardest work that you still enjoy best. A lot of people complain about many things in their marriage that stresses them out yet when asked if they are willing to let it all go on those grounds for an independent solitary life are quick to say no. Of course we human beings are created with a high need for intimacy and an attraction to something quite different from the stuffs we are made of. The attraction is not the problem but living with and accommodating the differences is the real stress, but who can do without interdependence?

Knowing how to disagree and work through your disagreements is thus a vital key in holding marriages together because whether you like it or not you will have so many things to disagree about in marriage.

I am not exempted because my wife and I do have many disagreements too. But the thing is many of these disagreements I do not even remember anymore because the initial hurts seem no longer there because we’ve quickly worked through it. Many of the disagreements you even think back on and find to be very funny, trivial, unnecessary and avoidable…and yet which could have rocked your marital boat or relationship so bad beyond repairs.

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Guess all we humans tend to either focus or dwell too much on the bad stuffs in relationships than the good stuffs. One silly or even accidental mistake from one partner will just within minutes cancel out all the million good deeds and nature of the person! It gives a feeling like you’ve just been bad and worse all your life or all the period you’ve being with each other and that’s so deadening! Nobody just wants to make room for the bad stuffs at all…just the good! Meanwhile, life as well as marriage is made of both good and bad moments. The heartbreaking part is that in majority of cases, only a few of those bad actions are even done intentionally to hurt the other.

Many times I have realized that one of the quickest way my wife and I have ended disagreements and hurtful feelings for the other out of one person’s actions or inactions is when any of us are quick to remember and tell the other something like “Honey, you know I wouldn’t intentionally do anything to hurt you right? I didn’t mean to offend you…it wasn’t intentional”. And like magic that begins to calm the storm. Of course, that’s not what entirely calms it but it starts the process because we both are fully convinced that all things being equal, we wouldn’t intentionally seek to hurt each other. And once that reminder comes, all other things begin to fall in place.

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I believe no conflict in marriage should be unsolvable. Well, that’s how God intentioned it when He instituted marriage. No wonder Jesus said even divorce on whatever grounds was not permitted by God in the original intent (Ref: Matthew 19:8). God wouldn’t have loosened up on His original intent to now permit divorce on the grounds of sexual immorality if not for the hardness of man’s heart (Ref: Matthew 19:9). But even with this permission I believe God is still not pleased with the breaking of marriage on grounds of sexual immorality looking at the fact that considering all the heinous sins of man He still doesn’t throw man away but picks him up, forgives him, cleans him up and relates with him like nothing has happened. I believe He expects close to same with all marriages; that no sin in marriage should be too difficult to forgive once forgiveness is sought.

No wonder the caution to love her like Christ’s undying love for the Church is a very deep and spiritual thing that the physical/carnal man cannot do. It takes a very spiritual husband/wife to forgive and still remain married to an unfaithful partner whether or not such a partner has repented of the act. I guess someone will begin to use that as a criterion for choosing a marriage partner. Good luck! Haha.

But seriously, a Church/creation lost in sexual immorality Christ will still reach out to, forgive and bring back to himself as long as genuine repentance is made. The same attitude I believe God expects of all marriages under the New Covenant even though permission has been given for divorce. This is why marriage is serious business to God and should not be trivialized.

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Attitude and behavior I was taught are the major sources of conflict in marriage and as long as with the help of God we develop good Christian attitude and wisdom in handling our marriages, we are sure to save them and fulfill God’s intent for establishing it. “So many people have the will to have a strong marriage but don’t have the skill” Kathy Beirne said. I pray the Holy Spirit teaches everyone the skills we need to make our relationships and marriages work.

worksThanks for your attention dear reader!

God bless!

~Mark Gadogbe (McApple)