Posts Tagged ‘divorce’


While at Baptist Bible College it was common to have conversations with a friend about some gal that had captured their heart and now they were considering asker her to marry them. My standard reply was to imagine falling into a dark bottomless pit and all the way down you could see the words flashing in neon “Forever and Ever and Ever” It was a not so subtle reference to the bottomless pit that Satan will be cast into one day.

There would be an occasional chuckle, or nervous laugh, but the truth was in our minds that marriage was a serious undertaking that impacted the rest of your life. In 1870 a wife would be lucky if her husband lived past the time the youngest child left home. In 1911 the average marriage lasted 28 years. By 1967 that average had reached 42 years. Paul Harvey got to the point that he wouldn’t even mention your anniversary unless it was 60 and most of the time 70 years of marriage.

Now 70 years of marriage would seem like an eternity to most folks. But with medical care advancing, if a couple stays together, it is no big deal anymore to see at least their 50th anniversary. We have at least three folks in our church that have been married over 60 years.

What this means is that you have an opportunity to build a real history with each other. Now with digital cameras, you might be able to remember it all.

History as A Timeline

With our American brains we see time as a line with various dates and events marked on it. It is a linear view of history. Time is the determiner of when things happen. We got married on a certain day. We had children on such and such a date, we bought this house on a certain date, we sold and bought another house, etc. The kids went to this school at such and such a date, graduated from High School, College etc. Everything fits on the timeline of our life.

Biblical View of Time and History

To understand how marriages have the opportunity to enjoy “Sacred History” it would be helpful to understand a Biblical view of History.

This is where an understanding of ancient Jewish view of History comes into play. The ancient Hebrew perception of time was not abstract like our modern view; instead, it was connected to the idea of specific events, and because of this event specific orientation the people of Israel “found the idea of a time without a particular event quite inconceivable” [Von Rad, v. 2, page 100]. So, for the ancient Jews the concept of “time” was understood only in relation to particular events: There is a time of giving birth (Mic. 5:2), a time for animals to be gathered together (Gen. 29:7), a time when kings go forth to battle (II Sam. 11:1). The tree yields its fruit ‘in its time’ (Ps. 1:3), and God gives his creatures food ‘in due time’ (Ps. 104: 27); that is to say, every event has its definite place in the time-order; the event is inconceivable without its time… [Von Rad, v. 2, page 100].

Psalm 31:15 which reads, “My times are in thy hands” [KJV,RSV]. The Jews of David’s time did not think of time like we do, they viewed life as being made of many times, or a series of times.

Biblical Jews See God as the Lord of History

Specifically, the Jews saw time as a series of specific events initiated by God. Time did not exist as an independent reality, but existed only in relation to divinely initiated events. I will use my wife to illustrate how the Jews viewed history.

My wife views our history not by dates but by whom she was pregnant with at the time. I’ll mention a particular event and say when did that happen and she’ll say – well it had to be so and so year because she was pregnant with Tonya or somebody else. If it happened when she wasn’t pregnant with any one, she can’t remember it or can’t recall the year. Her concept of time is totally event related.

All of their festivals and observances celebrated a Redemptive Act of God. The exact time was not important, but their celebration and identifying with what God did was important.

I believe in heaven that time will cease to exist. We will simply live in events in happenings. We’ll be able to participate in the crossing of the Red Sea. We’ll be able to watch as Jesus feeds the multiture. We’ll watch as Peter walks and then falls into the Sea. We’ll watch as Jesus rescue him. It won’t be a movie, it will be the real thing. Time will cease to exist, and we will be totally event oriented. It will be totally about seeing how God has redeemed us and mde us trophies of His grace.

God’s Relationship with Israel

Karl Barth (a famous theologian) was challenged by an atheist to prove the existence of God. His reply was quite simple – the Jew. For over 4000 years the Jews have kept a separate identity while all the other races of man came and went. Yet the Jewish people with their worship of Yahweh has continued on in spite of losing their land, being persecuted in countless ways down through the centuries. Still, the Jews continue on, worshiping and following the same Yahweh that revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This relationship that God has with the Jewish people is nothing short of miraculous. The Old Testament reads like a Sacred History of His love for these people. That relationship has gone through so many phases it is nothing short of a miracle that God still call them “My People.”

Exodus 6:7 (ESV) I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God calls them “My People” because He shows His redemptive Power and Love to the entire world through His relationship with them. The good, the bad, the ugly shows to all the world that there is a God who has the power to save you if you come to Him.

Joshua 4:23-24 (NIV) For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Nehemiah’s Prayer (1:9):

Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your dispersed be under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’

God’s History with His People is SACRED, because His Name Dwells With Them

Time after time He showed his steadfast love. He showed how He would persevere. God’s relationship with Israel has gone through various stages:

  • Times of joy and celebration
    • Deliverance from Egypt, victory at Jericho, Esther, David, Solomon
  • Seasons of frustration and anger
    • The judges, King Saul, the Jews in the wilderness
  • Times of infidelity and apostasy
    • The golden calf, the Split of the Northern and Southern Kingdom, King Ahab Jezebel
  • Times when God seemingly abandoned them
    • The Holocaust
    • Other times of persecution
  • Seasons of silence
    • After Joseph’s death until Moses
    • The period between Malachi and Matthew

God’s relationship with Israel mirrors the relationship between husband and wife

Marriage CAN be a Sacred Journey

Marriage: A long journey that two people take—and a sacred one.

Sacred –  dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of God.

Marriage is the journey of two stumbling sinners falling toward God and each other and all the while experiencing events and experiences that can demonstrate the redemption of God to a lost and dying world. You simply have to see God as Lord of your History. You dedicate your TIMES to show forth God to a dying world!

We all have a history of ‘times’ with our spouse. There were moments of labor and delivery, struggles to conceive, financial pressures, financial success, problems failures, struggles, joy. What makes that History Sacred is whether or not we see God as Lord of our History, and devote our marriages exclusively to show the steadfast and persevering love of our Heavenly Father. The events of your life, good and bad, become a testimony to God’s working in your marriage.

With God the exact dates are not important, but the fact that you acknowledge Him as the Lord of your Marrige History is! Think to the darkest moment of your marriage – God was there. Think of the greatest moment of your marriage – God was there. Every high and every low demonstrates the redemptive Love of God. Our marriage is meant to reflect the Sacred History the Jews have had with God.

God called a young man and told him to marry a prostitute. So Hosea went and found Gomer. It wasn’t long before she left him to return to her lovers.

Hosea 1:2 (NLT) When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.”

You have heard the story. She leaves him, has chilren by her lovers, comes back, leaves, finally she comes back because her lovers have lost interest in her. Hosea says she will no more play the harlot. God points out the picture between marriage and His relationship with Israel:

Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT) “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day comes,” says the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’

Marriage is not always good, not always bad – sometimes it just is.

“Marriage is a long walk two people take together. Sometimes the terrain is very interesting, sometimes very dull. At time the walk is arduous for both or for one. Sometimes the conversation is lively, at other times, not much to say. The travelers do not know where they are going, nor exactly when they will arrive.”

Marriage must become good with living with routines.

To have a good marriage takes time. Working through problems, enjoying special occasions, coming together in times of setbacks. You must decide to see God in the routine of your marriage just as much as you do in the mountain top experiences. The same thing that will keep your marriage together through “sickness and health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, is the same thing that will keep you growing as Believer in Jesus Christ. It is a little thing we call perseverance.

The Spiritual Discipline of Perseverance

Perseverance is “steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.” Perseverance is different from endurance. Endurance can indicate “putting up with,” “bearing up under,” or merely “tolerating” a demanding circumstance, implying a definite passive quality. Perseverance or prokarteresis suggest more than mere toleration of a circumstance because they have definite proactive characteristics. It means “to be earnest or strong toward; to be constantly diligent; to adhere closely to; to continue instant in; to be steadfast with a person or thing.” The Greek verb proskartereo (Strong’s #4342) is most frequently translated into English as continue in.” Its closest English synonym is “persistent.” Both contain a strong sense of continuous persistence toward achieving some activity.

This quality must be rediscovered in our marriages if we are to commit to seeing the History of our Marriage as: “Sacred”. Some experts say it takes 9 to 14 years for a couple to “create and form its being” (Oliver, Conjugal Spirituality, p 33) Becoming One in your marriage takes time. The problem in America and with such a high divorce rate is that we have become a nation of quitters:

  • Job
  • Marriage
  • Family
  • Political party
  • Church
  • Faith (1 Tim 4:1)

A young lady named Marti finally got married. Before marriage she brough all this luggage of failed dating relationships and failed family relationships. After the first year of marriage Marti and her husband were experiencing some hard times, complete with the fights and frustrations that often accompany adversity in a marriage. After one bad fight, Marti prepared herself for what she thought was inevitable: her husband would leave her, just like all the others before. Her husband was a Christian fimly committed to the idea of Covenant Marriage. While she was sulking in the other room, he came into her ans said these simple words: “I will never leave you.” I will stay with you and we will work through this problem.

The Necessity of Perseverance

Luke 8:11-15
Jesus told the parable of the different soils and how the seed reacts. The thing which determined whether you had a good crop is persevering:

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (NIV)

James 1:4

James 1:2-4 (HCSB)Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Our maturity with God is directly related to our perseverance, the way we stay active and seeking Him, even though we can’t see Him through the tears. Too many people quit God, quit the Church because of some little hurt, or because the feelings are not their. Faith in God is not about Feelings. Enjoying your Sacred History together will involve time when the feeling just aren’t there.

Romans 2:6-8

God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.(NIV)

Perseverance through trials and difficulties creates beauty and meaning for your life. God will grant you glory and honor. If you are self-seeking in your marriage, and reject the truth of God’s Word, you will gain God’s wrath and anger.

  • “You have to be happy in the moment” can’t sustain a relationship
  • When couples go through normal downturns, Satan starts to whisper “you married the wrong one”

Preachers have played into Satan’s plan by bending the truth to fit the circumstances of the day. We make excuses for the Truth and open back doors of excuses and denial. Like the Christian pastor who wanted me to leave the word sublission out of my sermon to the couple i was marrying because “We ignore that Scripture in our church. We don’t see it as relevant”

Pulpits across America must stop excusing the Truth of God’s Word! We must preach the truth and the truth is that God hates divorce.

I believe the wrath of God may be upon America not necessarily because we have taken God out of the schools. God didn’t call the schools of America to preach the truth. God called His preachers and pastors and church leaders to proclaim His truth. He calls every Christian couple to be witnesses of the Gospel. That witness is the Love and Forgiveness of Jesus Christ as shown in a Marriage that is Life Long, because God’s Love is Life Long!

Preachers have stopped preaching the truth that God Hates Divorce. We excuse it, we tolerate it, we find more and more ways to make it OK. We’ve even have Divorced Pastors leading churches. If there is any wrath upon America it is because the church has become self-seeking and has rejected the truth of God’s Word.

To Reject the Truth is to Risk Gods Anger

Persistence makes no sense unless we have a keen sense of eternity. What is the focus of your heart? Is your focus on living a life that is preparation for Eternity? Perhaps God is using your difficult marriage to prepare you for your Eternity! So you have had a rough couple of years, even decades, what is that when compared with how you will spend ETERNITY?

The Bible doesn’t mention rewards for those Christians who are the happiest of have felt the least pain or experienced the least sorrow!

Priority of Sacred History is Eternal Priority.

2 Thess 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christs perseverance.

Sacred History means being persistent in doing good! Marriage goes through many seasons. Sometimes you simply have to get through it. This is merely a season, and it is foolish to quit perservering during a time when any marriage would have to adapt.

Reject Self-Seeking Behavior

If there is no heaven, divorce makes sense. But if there is heaven and God and Judgment, does the cost of divorce (God’s wrath and anger) justify the jeopardizing your future?

Divorce is a failure of love, forgiveness, patience and at the very least a failure in judgment in choosing a difficult partner in the first place. But we must realize we are all failures at some point.

According to Matthew 5:28, I and virtually every other man must be considered an adulterer. One lustfull look and Boom! we have fallen. One angry outburst “You Fool!” and I’m in danger of hell fire. (Matt 5:22). While Jesus is certainly a picture of God’s Holiness and High standards, He is also a picture of Mercy and Forgiveness.

  • He forgave the woman taken in adultery, even though she deserved to be stoned(John 8:11)
  • He told his disciples that if anyone puts their hand to the plow and then turns back, is not worth of the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).
  • Yet he forgave each of His disciples for running away, and especially forgave Peter who even denied knowing Him.)Mark 14:66-72)

If you have gone through the pain and heartache of divorce, you serve no one other than the devil by fixating on something that can not be undone. The Scriptures says humble yourself in the sight of God and He will lift you up. The is no exception clause for God grace against divorced people.

If you are in a difficult marriage, I exhort you as Jesus would to hang in there. Do more than hang, do all you can to follow Jesus commands for relationships. Most of those are contained in his sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, 7. Divorce is not the same as denying Jesus or leaving your faith, but it is a dangerous decision spiritually. However, Even God’s word has allowed that there may be conditions in which it is a right choice.

  • Matthew 19:9 records the exception for infidelity.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:15 reveals the situation when an  unbelieving spouse abandons a believer.

Be AWARE of the ‘times’ of marriage that rock a couple’s intimacy

  • New born babies
  • Potty training
  • Toddlers
  • School Activities
  • Strains at Work
  • Debt and Stress
  • Empty Nesters
  • Dealing with Sick Inlaws
  • Dealing with sickness later in life

To evaluate your marriage at that point is foolish and short-sighted. By quitting or looking elsewhere you will block God from the Sacred History of Redemption that He is building in your marriage. When we leave someone, don’t pretend there won’t be spiritual consequences. God is angry when we abuse his children.

SEE THE NEED FOR A SACRED HISTORY

In these “muddied” versions of Psalm 2. I have changed the nations and Kings to read Husbands and Wives. Instead of seeking your own way, God warns us to submit to God’s royal Son (or kiss the Son in KJV) lest He becomes angry. Our persevering in our marriage is SO important to God!

Psalms 2:1-3 (NLT) Why are you husbands and wives so angry? Why do you waste your time with selfish plans? You prepare for battle; you plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” you cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at you. Then in anger he rebukes you, terrifying you with his fierce fury.
Psalms 2:10-12 (NLT) Now then, you husbands, act wisely! Be warned, you wives! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal Son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

Consider the Sacred History of Joseph

Consider Joseph and his response to his wicked brothers. As you consider it, imagine he was responding to a difficult spouse:

In Genesis 50:20 Joseph tells his brothers that they intended harm to him when they sold him into slavery. He also told them that God was active in all this “in order that” (i.e. to the intended and accomplished end) good might come to him.

Family solidarity takes hard work, much imagination and constant self-criticism on the part of all the members of the sacred circle. A successful marriage is not one in which two people, beautifully matched, find each other and get along happily ever after because of this initial matching. It is, instead, a system by means of which persons who are sinful and contentious are so caught by a dream bigger than themselves that they work throughout the years, in spite of repeated disappointment, to make the dream come true.—Elton Trueblood

What if the Spouse Wants Out?

We can’t see the consequences of our divorce. We can’t predict the chaos, the confusion, the hurt and the effect upon our children and their marriages. Marriage can produce tensions and hurts so intense that reconciliation would take more energy than either partner could possess in ten lifetimes. In many cases God can provide the energy; in some cases people are just not willing to accept it, or to do what God says is needed to do. Divorce is an easy alternative. Sometimes we have divorced forced upon us. Even so, our maturity before God must be considered and become our driving motivation. Even when we are sinned against, we can grow through the experience by the grace of God.

The message of Eternity and Pleasing God and bringing glory to God is this: We draw closer to God by honoring the history of our marriage, even when our spouse leaves and divorces us. God can use this to draw us closer into His heart.

The Whole Point of Having a Sacred History is “THAT MY NAME MAY DWELL THERE”

If you want God’s Name to dwell in the History of your marriage, then you would be wise to follow these steps:

1.Realize that God has a purpose for your “Times”
2.Thank God for all the “times”, even those when you thought He forgot you or left you.
3.Ask Him to bring healing to your heart for the “times” when you were hurt or disturbed by what God seemed to allow in your life.
4.Dedicate your remaining ‘times’ to show forth God’s Remptive Love to those around you.
5.Tell your spouse you are committed to building a Sacred History with them for the rest of your life.

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  • We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars-Oscar WildeRefining Fire of Marriage
  • They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake…Alexander Pope
  • Because marriage, more than any other relationship, reflects God’s involvement with us and bears more potential to draw our hearts to heaven, it can more readily give us a taste of hell (Dan Allender & Tremper Longman III)

We all associate the image of fire with hell. And many marriages in American have gone through this fire of Hell. Whether the marriage ends or the couple stays together, marriage is seen by some as hell on earth.

The Apostle Peter was well acquainted with fire.

Peter knew refining fireHe denied Jesus while warming his hands over fire. Jesus questioned his love while fish were roasting over fire. In both cases he associated fire with a test. One he failed another he passed. I think that is why he wrote these verses in 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT):

1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT) So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Fire is certainly viewed as destructive and dangerous. Fires destroy forests, but fires also lead to renewal. Fire burns away the dross surrounding certain metals and reveals the pure gold or silver. The fires of life can destroy our marriage, or, if survived, purify our marriage. The fires of our marriage can draw our hearts to heaven or leave us with the taste of hell.

In the Movie Fireproof

FireProof - the Love DareCaptain Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is a firefighter in Albany, Georgia. His seven-year marriage to Catherine is falling apart. Neither one understands the pressures the other faces, and after a heated argument in which Caleb screams in Catherine’s face, she declares she wants out of the marriage, and takes off her wedding ring.

While Caleb claims to his friends and co-workers that Catherine is over-sensitive and disrespectful, Catherine simultaneously claims to her peers that Caleb is insensitive to her needs and doesn’t listen to her. Further catalyzing Catherine’s motivation for divorce is Caleb’s addiction to Internet pornography and a large sum of money ($24,000, to be exact) he has saved up for a fishing boat he intends to buy, ignoring the fact that Catherine’s disabled mother is in need of hospital equipment that she cannot afford, and which insurance refuses to cover. Caleb tells his father John about the impending divorce, and John challenges Caleb to commit to a 40-day test called, “The Love Dare.” Caleb reluctantly agrees to do the test, but more for the sake of his father than his marriage. Catherine initially sees through Caleb’s half-hearted attempts to win back her heart, which deepens Caleb’s frustration. But with his father’s encouragement, Caleb continues with The Love Dare, and eventually makes a life-changing commitment to God, unbeknownst to Catherine.

The movie has some various twists but the end result is Caleb and Catherine realize they need each other, and at the end they renew their vows in an outdoor ceremony, this time as a covenant with God. Their marriage becomes FIREPROOF.

Marriage is a Covenant

Marriage a Covenant to GodDid you see your marriage vows as a marriage Covenant? Did both you and your spouse get married knowing you were making a covenant before God! You did, whether you realized it or not.

Definition: a binding and solemn agreement to do or keep from doing a specified thing; compact

We know of Covenants from the Bible. God put a rainbow in the sky as a covenant that He would never destroy the world by rain. He made a Covenant with Abraham, He made a Covenant with David, He made a Covenant with all who by faith believe in Jesus Christ. That Covenant was sealed by the blood and body of Jesus.

When we get married, we enter into a covenant before God. In a Covenant, you make a binding agreement to stay with this woman or man until they die. In that Covenant we also promise to do so and so.

Most people believe “Well, my husband broke his promise to love me, or take care of me or so and so, so it’s OK for me to break my promise to him.” Or, well my wife is no longer the person I married, so my vow does not apply.

We Draw a Line in our Marriage

We Draw a Line in our Marriage“I’ll keep my end of the covenant as long as you don’t cross over this line.” I’ll keep my word as long as you don’t … … … But as soon as you do, that’s it, I’m out of here!

That would be OK if marriage was merely a contract between two humans. But it isn’t. Marriage is a Covenant before God. Whether you believe in God or not, marriage was designed by God and no marriage is undertaken without His knowledge. God is in every marriage, whether you are a Christian or not. In fact, God often uses marriage to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Your marriage vows are made to God as well as your spouse. Regardless of what specific sins you commit, you are still married before God. You have entered into a Covenant with Him, and He wants you to keep to your WORD. It is binding, there are no exception causes, right person or wrong person, you are held to your word by God. And God will use this spouse that you married to work His will in your life.

So this morning, I want you to consider not taking the Love Dare, but the God Dare.

I dare you to bring God into your marriage, and to hold Him accountable for your love for your husband or your wife. I challenge you to trust God to use whatever sin besets your marriage, your relationship, your love to work His will in your life and make you like Jesus Christ. Regardless of where you are in your marriage, each day you get up and dare God to show you how he is using your spouse to make you like Jesus.

The God Dare is to Learn to Love and Forgive your spouse the way God does, and to realize that He will use your spouse to make you like His Son!

No partner left behind – unless you are my spouse

Dont Leave Your Spouse BehindCaptain Holt was a firefighter. He lived by the fireman’s creed “Never leave your partner behind

The Army Ranger Creed “Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

No man left behind, No partner left behind. These are your buddies who serve by your side, who watch your back. If they should suffer harm, you don’t run to save yourself, even t the risk of your own life you rescue them.

We make a vow, a covenant to marry this man or this woman, but as soon as they cross over the line, or fail to live up to what I expect a marriage should be, we cut the line and run?

  • We are expected to save our bunk-mate but not our bed-mate?
  • We are expected to do our job rather than keep our Vow to Almighty God!

We all stumble in many ways

James 3:2 (NIV) We all stumble in many ways.

We All Stumble in Many Ways

Joe works hard for his family. His job requires long hours, with a long commute to boot. He leaves early gets home late. Joe complains that his wife Cheryl is always on the computer, chatting with friends. He gets home and she is on the computer. She seems to chat more with her friends than with him. Cheryl complains about how he is never home, and when he does he just flops down in front of the TV. She complains about his big expenditures and how he has run up the credit cards. He never has time for the kids.

marriage lose respectThe reality is that Joe and Cheryl have become adversaries. They still loved each other, but in reality they resented their spouses and resented their marriage. They are like Caleb and Catherine Holt, resenting each other and looking for a way out.

If we are honest, we have all experienced times when we resented our spouse. We may have even asked that question – did I marry the right one? Did I miss God’s perfect will? Or we meet someone else who seems to be our “soul-mate” and thank we are missing out on life. Marriage is the proverbial “ball and chain” and we are living as a condemned man or woman. Such questions can lead to contempt for our spouse, contempt for our life, contempt for our marriage.

If marriage is to accomplish what God intends, and that is to make us Holy, to empower us to be Victorious in Christ, then there are some fundamental decisions we must adhere to, and they center upon what God delights in! We must take the God Dare with our marriage. We must trust Him with our spouse.

We must commit to seeing our marriage as God sees it – the way to bring holiness to two stumbling sinners.

I have talked with so many men, so many wives who were totally frustrated with the behavior of their spouse. They won’t stop doing this, they won’t stop doing that. They treat me so and so. I always ask, have you told your wife or your husband how you feel. They will usually say, they don’t want to listen to me, or they will say yes, but it doesn’t do any good. They might change, but pretty soon they are right back doing so and so again.

I simply tell them to bring God into the situation. Simply tell your husband or wife that you are not expecting them to change, in fact you don’t care if they change or not. You have given them to God and are trusting Him to work in their life to make such and such like Jesus. That may scare them, or make them laugh, but that is not enough, you need to tell your spouse that you are asking God to use them to make you like Jesus.

So honey, if you mistreat me, God will use that to make us both like Him. He will teach me to forgive and to love those that persecute or hurt me, and God will open your heart to see how your actions or words are hurting Him. God will use our marriage to produce the character of Christ in our lives. He will use our marriage to prepare us both to live with Him in heaven.

Marriage makes Stumbling Sinners into Holy Saints

How does God use Marriage to Refine stumbling sinners and Make us Like Christ?

There are certain qualities that are ever present when we are dating. These qualities are often what single out that guy or gal from the rest of the herd.

Yet these very same qualities are the ones that seem to be tested the most in our marriage, and yet will bring that sweetness of the fruit of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Those Qualities are Respect, Selflessness, and Acceptance. When you are dating, thinking they are the one, you notice how they respect you, think you are something. They listen to you, your thoughts and opinions are important. There is selflessness about them. They sacrifice what they want to do what you want. They seem to put you first. They accept you the way you are. They love that thing that you are so embarrassed about. They seem so close and loving; they accept me and love me just as I really am.

Something about marriage will test these qualities. Yet these qualities are what we need to be like Christ.

Marriage and Respect

Marriage and RespectRespect for others, respect for Life is foundational component of society. Without respect for life murder is commonplace, without respect for authority society breaks down into anarchy. Without respect for others it becomes every man for himself.

Jesus was the picture of respect. From the lame, blind, poor, tax collectors, prostitutes, people of all walks of life were treated with respect by Jesus. His respect for His Father was greater than anything, and that led Him to throw the money changers out of the Temple. That led Him to call Hypocrites those who burdened people with so many restrictions that they could not come to God.

We find it easier to respect an image, an ideal rather than actual real, flawed people.

We fall in love with this striking woman or gorgeous hunk of a man. We have this ideal in our mind – they will love me, they will treasure me, they will protect me, they will provide for me. But the closer we get the more flaws we notice. Instead of an airbrushed beauty we discover wrinkles, moles, flaws. Instead of that dashing white knight we find a guy who scratches and belches and had bad breath at times.

Our ideal mate is in reality made of flesh and blood. We discover they can be selfish, tired, non-communicative, boring. And as the ideal gives way to the reality, often times our respect and admiration turns to resentment, and even contempt.

When our respect slips into contempt, it’s because I am weak, not because my wife is failing. If I was really mature, I would have the same compassion for her weaknesses as Christ does. Respect is a spiritual discipline, an obligation I owe my wife.

  • Contempt is conceived with expectations
  • Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.
  • You chose what you obsess over – expectations or thanksgivings.

PERSONAL TESTIMONY

In the mid-eighties Lydia and I went through a rather difficult time in our marriage. We had six children ranging from 2 to 10, selfishly I had bought a big house that we really couldn’t afford, money was extremely tight, the economy sucked so business was bad, my dad was under a great deal of stress. My wife was under a great deal of stress. I was under a lot of stress.

Instead of focusing on God and what he wanted me to do, I focused on unfulfilled expectations. My dad wasn’t paying me enough, Lydia wasn’t paying me enough attention, she wasn’t taking care of the household duties, and she was worn out, living in ratty sweats. I began to resent my life ad even resent my family and my wife.

overboard4Then I remember watching the movie “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. He was a single dad with four hellishly awful boys and he finds Goldie Hawn washed ashore with amnesia. He convinces her she is Annie, his wife and he brings her home. At first it is too much for her, but she gets the house under control, the kids under control, Kurt Russell under control. Wow, she becomes super Mom and Super Wife. I wondered why Lydia couldn’t do that. Stupid expectations, stupid unrealistic expectations.

Just when my marriage was about to fall apart because I did not respect and value my wife and all she was doing for me, God brought me to the place where my wife and my children were all I had. I saw my wife in an entirely new light-her love and respect for me, even though I had failed and disrespected her. She stuck by me when my brothers kicked me out of a company I had regarded as my own, as my life, as my reason for living. God showed me that without my wife and my children, I was nothing. She stuck by me the next few years as we struggled financially, and then started a paving business. She put food on the table for six growing children when we barely had enough to feed ourselves.

I’m not saying my wife is a perfect saint, but her decision to stay with me even though I was a stumbling and resentful sinner who did not show her the respect that God desired, brought about a change and work in my life that resulted in God showing His ability to transform stumbling sinners into strong saints.

  • Husbands – You Are Married To A Fallen Woman in A Broken World.
  • Wives – You Are Married To A Sinful Man in A Sinful World.

Get An Eye Check Up

Get an Eye CheckupJesus lays out an amazingly simple solution – check your eyesight for splinters and specks before you start complaining about the planks in your wife’s eye.

If you say “But my wife is the one who has the plank”, you are exactly the one Jesus is talking to. Jesus wants us to have humble spirits, humble hearts. We must cast off contempt and resentment and learn the spiritual discipline of respect.

Look at the people Jesus loved and offered respect-publicans, tax collectors, adulterous women, prostitutes, financial cheats, traitors, betrayers.

He washed their feet, he spent time with them, and he ate with them. Where was His contempt? There was none. He gave them His respect, He gave them His hand. We need to extend our hand of respect to our wives, our husbands, regardless of their sins.

Marriage and Selflessness

Once we have obtained that goal of marriage, most men will move on to what they are all about – Ambition and Accomplishment. Wives nowadays are about the same thing, perhaps on a smaller scale.

Marriages become preoccupied with accomplishments. We brag about our job, our money, our car, our home, our friends, our deer, our golf game. These accomplishments become a substitute for the selflessness and humility that are the foundation of intimate relationship.

The man is off making his way in the world, trying to provide for his family, while the wife is either working as well and at the same time becoming a taxi-driver and errand girl for her children. Instead of the intimacy that marriage is designed for, it becomes a series of accomplishments and errands.

Marriage and SelflessnessBill McCartney became famous overnight in Christian circles in the early nineties. A successful college football coach, he started Promise Keepers, which swept the nation. Yet his wife was lonely and hurting, which led to severe depression, during which she lost 80 pounds. Her busy husband didn’t even notice. She said she felt like she was getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Bill admitted his hard-driving approach to the ministry was distracting him from being a promise keeper to his wife and family.

Once he realized what was happening, he took the drastic step of retiring from coaching and stepped away from Promise Keepers to devote his life to his marriage. The McCartney’s are together and thriving in their marriage relationship today because of his decision.

Too often spouses struggle because one is making the other look smaller, while promoting them self. In marriage, being Godly is being selfless. I am no longer free to pursue whatever I want. I am no longer single; I am part of a team.

Marriage is about reining in your ambitions to what God wants. And God wants your marriage to be alive and thrive. But we must experience the cross daily. Jesus Christ set aside His ambitions and powers to become a selfless servant. He went all the way to the Cross, dying for you and me. God says we must be willing to die for the benefit of our marriage, our spouse. Paul said he died daily. Husbands, wives need to discover that selflessness that attracted them in the first place. That selflessness is a daily bowing before the Cross and dying to what each other wants and living to what God wants.

If I was the type of husband who expected my wife to cook for me, have sex with me whenever I wanted, keep a perfect and quiet home for my enjoyment. I would be the type of Pastor who would “browbeat you to fall in line regardless of your particular gifts and talents.”

Likewise if a wife abandons her family to ambitiously serve God, she will likely display the same lack of compassion and empathy for others as she does for her own family.

Our ministry and service to and for God is based on selflessness, and that is an integral part of marriage. God wants us to have the mind and heart attitude of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Marriage is about selflessness, about putting the needs of your spouse first. Those ambitions and accomplishments mean nothing if you lose your wife or your husband.

PRAYERS – If you fail to practice selflessness in your marriage, it can hinder your prayers.

1 Peter 3:7 (Phillips NT) “similarly, you husbands should try to understand the wives you live with, honoring them as physically weaker yet equally heirs with you of the grace of eternal life. If you don’t do this, you will find it impossible to pray properly. (Hindered)

Word is ekkoptō, to cut off. Without this quality men, you will keep getting dropped calls when you are praying. Your prayer life is inextricably tied in with your relationship with your wife. Why should God care about your prayer rquests when you don’t consider your wife’s needs?

Marriage and ACCEPTANCE

Marriage and AcceptanceWhen most of you that are dating, I imagine you had your spats. There may have been that fight followed by a long phone call and hopefully then that makeup kiss. The acceptance was there, the reconciliation was quick, complete, without damage to the intimacy of your relationship. In fact, often the misunderstanding brought a renewed and deeper intimacy.

Marriage is acceptance to the extreme. We are constantly confronted with things that we don’t like about our spouse. We either accept them and move on, or we argue, get hurt, stop talking, and stop having relations.

Marriage forces us into the intense act of reconciliation and acceptance. It’s easy to get along with people if you never get close to them.

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

If there is no acceptance in the marriage, things get really icy!

Marriage dissatisfaction reveals unrepented sin. Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance. Sin, wrong attitudes, personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erodes the relationship.

We all enter marriage with sinful attitudes. When these attitudes surface, the temptation will be to hide them so they are not so well known, or flaunt them out of ignorance or pride.

Dating is like a dance where you try to put your best feet forward, look your best, act your best. But spouses need to admit their sin and not run or hide from it, but use the revelation of your sin as a means to grow in the foundational Christian virtue of humility, leading to confession and renouncement and acceptance.

Then grow further by adopting the positive quality that corresponds to the sin you are renouncing.

  • If you’ve used women in the past, practice serving your wife.
  • If you’ve been quick to ridicule your husband, practice giving him encouragement and praise.

View marriage as an entryway into sanctification-as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes and give you an opportunity to address them before the Lord.

Here is what happens in a selfish marriage. Our partner does something she or he know ticks us off. It could be anything, but let’s give an example like, he goes out with the guys or hunting or something when you had something else planned.

Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) “In your anger do not sin… and do not give the devil a foothold.

When we get angry or upset or feel neglected, we usually have a fall-back sin that we excuse and resort to. Kind of like, “we’ll I’ll get you back”. Anger and or feelings of contempt give room for the devil to maneuver in our lives. That old temptation rises, but this time we are powerless to resist. Or we resort to a learned bad behavior.

When the marriage is actually designed by God to be a mirror so we can we can our sin and weaknesses, confess and clean up, sometimes we throw the mirror down and break it.

We are accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6) Husbands and wives must realize that each has ugly sins that will surface from time to time. But they must be committed to accepting the ugliness and working through it to producing that peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Marriage is a Spiritual Discipline. And disciple is painful:

Marriage is Spiritual DisciplineHebrews 12:11 (ESV) for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Marriage is Seasoning for heaven

Mark 9:49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.”

Stress-free, comfortable marriages are an indirect desire to remain an “unseasoned”, immature Christian.

God has ordained that our refining process takes place as we go through difficulties, not around them.

We must go through the Red Sea, into the fiery furnace, through the River Jordan, to the Cross. God gives victory through our problems. Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)

Like climbing a difficult mountain, we need to step back and say “this is tough, how do I keep loving this person in the face of this challenge?”

Would I rather live a life of ease and comfort and remain immature in Christ, or am I willing to be seasoned with suffering if by doing so I am conformed to the image of Christ?

If it was so easy to love someone till death do you part, why would we need to promise to love each other “till death do us part?” It is precisely because our society knows such a promise will be sorely tried and tested.

WE DON’T PROMISE TO EAT OR TO BUY CLOTHES.

Every marriage comes to a time when the “RUB” goes the wrong way. It is for those times such promises are made.

The Seasoning “Rub” of Marriage is for Eternal Glory

Gods Seasoning Rub of MarriagePaul wrote in 2 Cor 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Any Sports Team-football, baseball, soccer, can go undefeated if they play weak teams. We love teams that have given it their all and have championed against the powerhouse team. We love an underdog that has vanquished a mightier foe. There is something about a struggle that brings out the best in our teams. We know when they’ve given it their all.

Young couples need to hear that: “A good marriage, a lasting marriage, an overcoming marriage is not something you find; it is something you work for! There will be struggles, there will be trials and tribulations, sometimes from without and sometimes within. You must learn to crucify your selfishness. There must be times of confrontation, and there must be times of confession. Eventually through the refining fire of this relationship will emerge a relationship of beauty, trust and mutual support.”

Working through problems is taxing. It is much easier to go shopping or dancing with the gals or go out with the guys or a sports game than to deal with intimacy issues or rejection issues or a relationship that is cold and going nowhere. It’s easier to look elsewhere for emotional satisfaction.

When you see marriage in the light of God’s design, then you realize there are spiritual benefits to working on this relationship, and therefore there are eternal benefits.

Otto Piper: “If marriage…is a disillusioning experience for many people, the reason is to be found in their passivity of their faith. People dislike that the blessings of God may only be found and enjoyed when they are persistently sought (matt 7:7; Luke 11:9) Marriage therefore is both a gift and a task to be accomplished.”

Don’t run from the struggles of marriage. Embrace them. Grow in them. Draw nearer to God because of them. Through the struggles of marriage you will reflect more of the spirit of Jesus. And thank God He has placed you in a marriage where your spirit can be perfected.

JohnWesleyJohn Wesley married a widow at the age of 48:

A greater source of trouble was his marriage to Mrs. Vazeille, February, 1751. Having come to the conclusion that “in my present circumstances I might be more useful in a married state,” he speedily consummated his design. Unfortunately, he could scarcely have hit upon a more unsuitable woman. Of a bitter and angry spirit — indeed, almost if not quite insane — she became the torment of his life. A number of times she left him, and again returned. She defamed him in private, and seized his letters and put them in the hands of those she knew were his enemies, interpolating so as to make them bear a bad construction. In one or two instances she published them. At times she was outrageously violent toward him, and there was always little else in their intercourse than constant connubial storms.

Wesley was almost worn away. February, 1756, he writes: “Your last letter was seasonable indeed. The being continually watched over for evil ; the having every word I spoke, every action I did —small and great — watched with no friendly eye; the hearing a thousand little tart, unkind reflections in return for the kindest words I could devise, ‘Like drops of eating water on the marble, At length have worn my sinking spirits down.’

Yet I could not say ‘ Take thy plague away from me,’ but only ‘ let me be purified, not consumed.’ “Wesley patiently endeavored to win her to a better mind, but all was in vain. His domestic wretchedness was protracted through thirty years, until she died October 8, 1781.

His love letters to her make tender reading. “My dear love, I know not how to stay a day at any place without writing a few lines,” he wrote to Molly on April 2, 1751. “I wonder at myself. How is it that absence does not lessen but increase my affection? I feel you every day nearer to my heart. O that God may continue his unspeakable gift! That we may both daily increase in faith, in zeal, in meekness, and in tender love to each other!”

But after only three months into their marriage, Wesley seems to have been troubled by the increasingly jealous disposition of his wife. “My wife, upon all supposition that I did not love her, and that I trusted others more than her, had often fretted herself almost to death,” he wrote. Wesley talked with her about it and “by the blessing of God the cloud vanished away, and we were united as at the beginning.”

Sometimes Mrs. Wesley drove a hundred miles to see who was with her husband in his carriage. John Hampson, one of Wesley’s preachers, witnessed her in one of her fits of fury, and said, “More than once she laid violent hands upon him, and tore those venerable locks which had suffered sufficiently from the ravages of time.” She often left him, but returned again in answer to his entreaties. In 1771 he writes: “For what cause I know not, my wife set out for Newcastle, purposing ‘never to return.’ Non eam reliqui ; non dimisi; non revocabo.” (I did not forsake her; I did not dismiss her; I shall not recall her.)

Charles and Anne Lindberg

linddeadCharles and Anne Lindberg had their 18 month old baby kidnapped. A ransom was paid, but the boy never returned. The boy was found 10 weeks later, dead, in the woods near their home. His body had been ravaged by wild animals. Reporters snuck into the morgue and took pictures of the badly decomposing body and put them on the front page.

She started writing, something that her husband’s fame had prevented. She wrote: “One can perhaps say that sorrow also played its part in setting me free” She expounds, “What I’m saying is not the old Puritan truism that ‘suffering teaches.’ I do not believe that all suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable”

A difficult marriage, in and of itself, may not cause us to grow, to become holy. We must respond with understanding, love, patience, and a pursuit of virtue within that difficult marriage.

There is no room for victims in a difficult marriage. To become holy we must commit to virtue in the midst of difficulties. We can’t control how our spouse will act or how the world will act, but we can control how we will act and how we will respond. Seeking after holiness, virtue in the midst of hardship, abuse, neglect puts you in the driver seat. There are no victims in God’s marriage design.

Virtue means strength of character. It is power to do right, make the right choice, power to overcome the weakness of sin, bad choices

Anne Lindbergh wrote that “Undoubtedly the long road of suffering, insight, healing, or rebirth is illustrated in the Christian religion by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

There is not a marriage represented in this sanctuary that has not experienced sorrow, not experienced trials. There isn’t a shared bedroom in Cass County where tension doesn’t occasionally or even frequently lift its snarling head.

Seasoning Brings Life

Anne Lindbergh wrote Second Sowing:

grain comes to life in second sowingFor whom the milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?
For whom the love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?
That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September’s floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.
Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.
There is no harvest for the heart alone;
The seed of love must be
Eternally
Resown

As long as our pain and wisdom and lessons remain locked up in the heart or hoarded high in barns, they remain sterile and unfertile. Useless. To grow in the midst of difficulties, we must rip open the bags of grain and seeds and pour them out wherever we see fertile ground.

My Marriage is Worse than Most

olderadultsYou don’t understand what I’ve been going through!

Accept this: We often can’t choose which trials we faceSome of us have physical maladies. Unfortunately we do not get to chose whether we get cancer, kidney stones, arthritis, eyesight loss, brain aneurism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, diabetes. We all must face the truth that our body will degenerate as we get older. You don’t get to pick which part goes out of whack.

1223CharlesNita8We need to have the same attitude with our marriage. We each experience certain things with our spouses that are difficult to accept. One may struggle with alcohol, one with smoking, one with drugs, one with addiction to pain killers, one frail health, one anger, one physical abuse, one unhealthy sexual proclivities, one with Alzheimer or dementia, one with wandering eye, one with poor communication skills.

Sometimes we “put up” with the problem because of the benefits. We’ve all seen movies or TV stories about politician’s wives who put up with certain failings because of the “benefits” of her life.

But when there is not that benefit, when the struggle or hardship is so overwhelming that it obscures everything around it, such hardships become chains, a taskmaster, a tyrant, a brutal burden.

Where do you draw the line?

Look to God and forget the LineI will love my wife as long as she doesn’t do this, weighs this, stays this way. If she does this, gets this disease, looks like this, I’m out of here! What kind of Honorable person does that. Not one who shows respect, not one who is selfless, not one who is accepting. Not one who is willing to be seasoned by their Covenant before God!

There is no line in God’s Marriage Book. He has no lines with us. If Christ lives in your heart, there is total acceptance. There is no longer any sin that you could commit that would put you over the line into hell. You are His.

TotallyMarriedOur marriage is a picture of God’s Love and acceptance for us and His total satisfaction for what His Son Jesus Christ did. If we are like Christ, there is no line we can draw in the dirt. This man, this woman, God wants us to stay joined to the rest of our lives. We are both stumbling sinners, we have both been loved and accepted because of Christ. God is using our marriage to conform us to Jesus Christ. We must live by the God Dare, and trust God to use our spouse to season and perfect and discipline us, and to yield that peaceable fruit of righteousness.

  • TOTALLYMARRIED Christians Focus on the Eternal Benefits of the refining fires of marriage
  • TOTALLYMARRIED Couples Focus on Pleasing God

You are either seasoned to death or seasoned to life!