Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’


women are powerfulIn preaching through 1 Peter, I find myself staring at chapter 3 and wondering how I can possibly make it relevant to 21st Century American women. I know that most women under the age of 40 will hear these verses and inwardly think, “no way…, you don’t know the man I’m married to” or “if I do that I will be taken so taken advantage of.” These verses run so counter to what schools and media portray to girls and young women that I thought it would be best to re-write the Scriptures to reflect how most American women are taught to think. If you think I am wrong, let me know, but I think this is very accurate. The bullet point is the verse restated in 21st Century societal practice.  woman power

1 Peter 3:1-6

(1)  Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,

  • Likewise wives, get along with your husbands, as long as they obey the Word, and do not interfere with your rights,be a woman a man needs

(2)  when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

  • for they must earn your respect and will be treated as they treat you.

(3)  Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—

  • Keep up with all the latest fashions, for you must present a visually successful and attractive image to influence others and keep your husband’s attention.

Woman wth meek and queit spirit(4)  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

(5)  For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,

  • And remember this is the 21st century, and women have been empowered to lead and succeed, and no longer have to follow behind men. Your power to succeed is within you.

Sarah called Abraham Lord(6)  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

    • You no longer have to follow antiquated stereotypes, for you have the power to be your own woman. In marriage as in life, view yourself equal to men

    • So, you think I am being ridiculous? No, the idea of a 21st Century American woman being a “Sarah” and calling her husband “Lord” is ridiculous to 98% of Christian woman. This notion is laughed out of Evangelical churches. Perhaps “Godly Women” give it lip service, but in reality this is a foreign idea in modern America. Woman who follow this are looked down upon with scorn and even derision. So how does a Pastor teach this with authority and application that makes sense in modern America? He can’t without sounding either crazy or chauvinistic. However, I believe there is a way to teach 1 Peter 3 so it makes sense to a modern woman. In order to do so, we must view these verses in light of the “template” that Peter wants us to place over these verses. It is a template that came to frame his whole way of living. Stay tuned…resilient woman

      woman has to fight for it

 

woman or power

  • WE CAN DO IT WOMAN POWER

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God-Centered SpouseDo you remember what is was like to “fall in love”? Even the wisest man that ever lived, Solomon, could not understand how a man and a woman fall in love:  “There are three things that are too hard for me, really four I don’t understand: the way an eagle flies in the sky, the way a snake slides over a rock, the way a ship sails on the sea, and the way a man and a woman fall in love.” Proverbs 30:18-19 (NCV)

While we may not understand why certain people “fall in love”, we do understand why people “fall out of love.” Because of trials, wrong priorities, selfishness, needs go unmet and two people who were once falling toward each other “in love” are falling away from each other in either hatred or indifference.

Helen Rowland states: “When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of all the other men she knew for the inattention of just one man.”

Mudpreacher and lydia datingI remember the first time I ever laid eyes on my wife to be. I was in charge of a freshman reception and was chatting with the incoming freshmen. It was outside, late August, and I was naturally checking out the incoming freshmen girls. I turned around and noticed this shy gal with the sweetest smile and expression. I went over to talk with her and her friends, but there was just something about her that grabbed my heart. She had the sweetest spirit of any girl I had ever met. Well, it wasn’t but a couple months and we were engaged, and marriage came within nine months of our meeting. (Just a coincidence)

We were flying back from our honeymoon and this guy next to me asked if my trip was business or pleasure. I said pleasure, I’m on my honeymoon. He looked at me, mystified, and said, where’s your wife? I said, a couple rows back, cuz they couldn’t get our seats together. We were still at the gate and he said, I’ll be happy to change seats. I said, “Naw, that’s ok, we’ve been together all week.”

Hopefully you can remember those days when you excitedly ran to meet your future wife or husband. You may have even met them at the door wrapped in Saran Wrap, or with a sexy nightie. But soon those days melt away to kids and diapers and headaches. If you’re lucky the kids still come to the door to excitedly greet you. But after they get older, hopefully your dog comes and greets you, wagging his tale. But once he gets too old, you are pretty much on your own.

Studies show that married couples spend an average of just 27 minutes a week actively communicating.

I’m not talking about, Honey, what do you want for dinner? You respond “Ugh” They say OK. That doesn’t count.
I’m talking about meaningful shared conversation.

Most of us fall in love, and if we are not careful, we let trials, selfishness, neglect, anger, problems lead us to fall out of love.

Two Stumbling Sinners Falling Toward God and Each Other

We need to realize it’s ok to stumble, it’s ok to fight, it ok to have struggles in your marriage, as long as you are falling the right way. Falls are inevitable, but we can take some steps that will enable us to control the direction we fall.

Just as my wife and I fell in love rather quickly, the danger is always there that we fall out of love. We learned that love is not a passive emotion. God intends us to actively engage in love, to be purposeful with our love, just as God actively uses marriage to accomplish His purpose for our lives. God wants our marriage to be much more than polite “civil” arrangements. He wants us to be dynamically involved with Him in allowing this marriage to make us more like Jesus Christ.

If you have stopped moving toward your spouse, you have stopped moving toward God. The opposite of “agape” love isn’t hate, it is “apatheia” which is no emotion, indifference, apathy. If you are not purposefully moving toward your spouse, you are indifferent toward your spouse. To make matters worse, if you have stopped moving toward your spouse, your love for God is lacking. God has inextricably combined our love for our spouse with our love for Him.

DIFFICULT FOR MEN

communication difficult for menThis active moving toward your spouse is more difficult for men.

1. Men Are Less Communicative

  • We think warm and fuzzy thoughts about our wife
  • We have trouble expressing those thoughts
  • Men do not realize the damage they do by simply staying quiet

2. Men View Independence As Sign Of Strength And Maturity

  • We must be willing to stand alone
  • God is always moving toward people
  • To flee relationship is an act of cowardice
  • Easier to get someone young
  • Maturing relationship challenges his authority and power
  • We sulk when we don’t get our way.
  • We can’t take the “give and take” of a real relationship, so we pour ourselves into our work and play.

God calls men to centrally move toward your wife. This moving toward your wife is what will mold you into the image of Christ.

There Will Be Emotional Highs and Lows

Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) wrote a little poem which expresses what many couples feel at one time or another. She directed this toward God:

Dear God,
I hate you.
Love, Madeleine

Her love for God is the foundation of her hate. Even though she hates Him at the moment, she says she still loves him. Even in the moments of anger, betrayal, exasperation and hurt, we are called to pursue this person, to embrace them and to grow toward them.

WE EACH MUST INITIATE INTIMACY

annie hallMarriage is much more than “I agree to never have sex with anyone else.” Marriage is a GIFT of SELF that goes way beyond sexual fidelity. You can have a great marriage in the eyes of the world by doing many external deeds of love, but all the while you are holding back the most precious gift-your inner self. That gift must be consciously and continually given through communication.

Verbal Communication

You need times of communicating, not just through raised voices. You each need to learn how to accommodate your spouse and their particular communication skills or lack thereof:

From Annie Hall: Alvy addresses a pair of strangers on the street:
Alvy Singer: Here, you look like a very happy couple, um, are you?
Female street stranger: Yeah.
Alvy Singer: Yeah? So, so, how do you account for it?
Female street stranger: Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Male street stranger: And I’m exactly the same way.
Alvy Singer: I see. Wow. That’s very interesting. So you’ve managed to work out something?

Physical Communication

While men certainly need to discover the importance of nonsexual touching, most wives discover that if a woman is not pursuing her husband sexually, just about every other movement toward her husband will go unnoticed.

“A wife may demonstrate her love in many ways, but it is often negated by her rejection or lack of enjoyment of sex. You may be a great housekeeper, a gourmet cook, a wonderful mother…but if you turn him down consistently in the bedroom oftentimes those things will be negated. To a man, sex is the most meaningful declaration of love and self-worth” (Love that Lasts, p 152). Men and women just have a totally different view about the importance of sex:

In the movie  “Annie Hall” you see a split screen with Annie and Alvy both in conversation with their respective therapist:

Alvy Singer’s Therapist: How often do you sleep together?
Alvy Singer: [lamenting] Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
Annie Hall’s Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Annie Hall: [annoyed] Constantly. I’d say three times a week.

Now communication either verbally or physically is not the focus of this message. (THANK GOD)
What I do want to emphasize is this, communication is important to please God and see Him working in your marriage.

  • Some of you men may say “Why should I talk to her or be affectionate when she never wants to have sex?”
  • Some of you women may say “Why should I have sex when he never talks to me or shows me he cares for me?”

The question you should ask is how can I keep moving toward God when my wife or my husband is causing me so much pain or frustration or problems. The answer will be found in how God wants you to keep falling toward your spouse when you want to do the exact opposite.

Typically a marriage book will say “Well you have to do A if you want to get B! Husbands, if you do this it will get her revved up and jumping into bed. Here is the point-if marriage is about making God happy, it involves a lot more than going to sleep with a smile on your face. God wants to use your marriage for your spiritual benefit and growth. It’s all about God remember?

MARRIAGE METHODS

Differing Approaches to our Spouse1.Self-Centered

  • Withholding Approach –Selfish, moving away, marriage is more about getting what you want
  • Wanting Approach – Basically self – centered; you realize to get what you want, you have to give a little. So you move toward each other, but you still guard yourself. Marriage is a continual process of give and take, but the intimacy is on a constant roller coaster.

2. Spouse-Centered

This is the Willing Approach. You have given your marriage to God and you realize that your spouse is important to you, right or wrong. So you pay her attention, you focus on her needs, you treat her with love. She does the same for you. It’s not always perfect, but for the most part you are willing to honor your spouse.
You can still fall short of spiritual intimacy and growth.

There is a spiritual discipline that you must consider following. It is the:

3. God-Centered

This is the Waiting Approach. You add another dimension to the willing approach. You consider God as you seek to love and communicate with your spouse. In fact, God is the very reason you fall toward her, communicate with her, have physical relations with her. You treat your relationship with your spouse as you do God. No matter what God does good or bad in your life, He is God, and you owe Him your undying devotion and attention. No matter what your spouse does or says, they are your spouse, and you owe them your undying devotion and attention. Wait means “To wait or to look for with eager expectation”

The waiting approach applies if both spouses are moving toward God, or if only one is.

  • Psalms 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
  • Psalms 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.
  • Psalms 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
  • Hosea 12:6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
  • Psalms 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

A Christian is never dependent upon the response of others to grow spiritually. He is looking to God and waiting expectantly Our relationship with God is dependent only upon our heart decisions. If you have truly given yourself to God, you will want to give yourself to your spouse. If you are holding back areas of your life from God, you will hold back parts of yourself from God.

The WAITING APPROACH TO MARRIAGE

Waiting Approach to Marriage1. God’s Will and Pleasure is Supreme
2. God uses your marriage and your spouse to refine you into likeness of Christ
3. Just as you keep moving to God, you must keep moving toward your spouse by giving yourself (whether they do or not)
4. You look to God with expectation of His provision and power in your marriage.
5. You Forgive your spouse
6. You Serve your spouse

Fellowship with our spouse that mirrors our fellowship with Christ is one which acknowledges our sinfulness and embraces His forgiveness. The challenge is not to keep on loving the person you thought you married, but to love the person you did marry! (A Sense of Sexuality, p. 197)

Falling Forward will always involve Forgiveness

Marriage must have forgivenessThe Prodigal God showed us that while the Father let the son go, he was constantly looking out for the return, so that He could fall forward upon the neck of his son. We can’t depend upon someone else to determine what we do. God was actively seeking the lost when He sent Jesus to this earth. We often use our spouse’s sin to pull back, to hold back to Withdraw. We all sin, so even in our sin we should fall forward into the arms of God and the arms of each other.

A Stonemason was charged with inscribing a headstone for a woman’s husband. He inscribed the husband’s name and this common phrase: “Rest in Peace”
A few months later the wife discovered that her husband had been unfaithful. In a fury she returned to the stonemason and had him add these words to the gravestone:
Rest in Peace…
Till we meet again.

None of us got married for the reason “It gives us an opportunity to forgive!” But we certainly must…

How to Build a Forgiving Spirit into your Life

1.See Yourself as God Sees You – A Stumbling Sinner

Spirit of ForgivenessTo constantly be moving forward to God means we must be continually forgiven. To see that same spiritual growth in our marriage, and to move toward each other, we must also practice forgiveness. We do so by realizing our need for forgiveness on a daily basis. We must see that sin is anything that we do without dependence upon God. We don’t hold up God’s Law to our spouse and say “How Could You!” If anything, we hold up God’s Law and say forgive me Father, I am unclean. I have no right to condemn.

Romans 3:20 (NIV) Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

The law wasn’t created by God for two spouses to hold each other up to an impossible standard with which they can beat each other over the head. A “self-righteous” spouse is an obnoxious spouse, even though they are momentarily blameless. Eventually the spouse will slip to. The worst thing you can do is to hit your husband over the head with a Bible Verse.

2.Realize to Withhold Forgiveness is to Invite the Cancer of Bitterness into Your Life and Marriage.

Hebrews 12:12-15 (ESV)Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Focusing on the sin invites a cancer into your life. God says to lift your hands and strengthen your knees and make straight paths, so you can be healed. To not do so, to not forgive, to not seek holiness, you are blocking God from your heart. Instead, bitterness will crust and harden your heart, it will spread, and it will bring more trouble into your life and those around you. This is especially true if you are in a second or third marriage. If there is still unforgiveness from those prior marriages, you are bringing bitterness into your present marriage.

Shoah is a documentary film on the Holocaust. In one scene the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising talks about the bitterness that remains in his heart toward the Germans. “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you!”

3. Forgiveness invites God’s Healing Into Your Marriage and Life

James 5:16 (ESV) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Example of Forgiveness

How Can I ForgiveGary Thomas tells of Melissa and Bryant, who after 25 years of marriage began facing a severe problem. Melissa discovered Bryant had been cheating on her. She had contracted an STD. Melissa remembers the day Oct 16 1997. She went totally numb. She tried to find answers from the Bible, but she could find none.

To compound the problem, Bryant was pastor of the church they attended, and Melissa sang on the worship team. To her horror, she remembered she was to sing this Sunday at a special service in which most of Bryant’s family would be there. One of those people was her unsaved brother-in-law who was dying of lung cancer.

Surrounded by Bryant’s family, Melissa led the worship team and listened to her husband preach. Then she watched as their brother-in-law came forward and received Christ as his Savior. She thought that even though her pain was devastating, it wasn’t bigger than God.

She remembered looking at her husband and saying “I know I have to forgive you and I’m going to. But she was not flooded with a great sense of forgiveness. She was confronted with the truth of having to forgive.” Forgiveness was the only way she could stay right with God.

In the months that followed Melissa was constantly confronted with forgiving her husband. She learned that there had been more than one affair, and she knew she was in her rights to kick Bryant out of her life. But she said “Forgiveness was the harder option, but I never felt in my heart that divorce was the right thing to do” “I’ve always lived my life by conviction and the harder road is not something I’m afraid to take.” I’ve learned that even when you are in great pain, we’re not excused from considering others and from carrying out our call to witness to God’s faithfulness.”

Melissa told Gary that forgiveness kept bitterness and anger at bay. It saved her marriage, brought Bryant around and moved Melissa many steps closer to more fully modeling the person of Jesus Christ. Melissa took the bitter juice of her marriage and by offering that to God, made spiritual honey in her life.

We love the sinner but hate the sin. Except when it comes to our spouse. Yet, turn the tables around and we love ourselves in spite of our wretched sin. We learn to forgive ourselves to maintain our own health, So why not our spouse?

“As an old man, Bill, looking back on one’s life, it’s one of the things that strike you most forcibly–that the only thing that’s taught one anything is suffering.  Not success, not happiness, not anything like that.  The only thing that really teaches one what life’s about–the joy of understanding, the joy of coming in contact with what life really signifies–is suffering, affliction.”Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith by William F. Buckley, Jr. (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1997) p. 211; quoting Malcolm Muggeridge.

(This accords with the ancient Greek proverb “pathein mathein”–“to suffer is to learn” and calls to mind that most mysterious of NT verses, Hebrews 5:8, “Though a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.”)

A God-centered spouse who practices the Waiting Approach:

  1. Waits Upon God
  2. Gives YourSelf By Communicating
  3. Forgives Your Spouse
  4. Waits Upon Your Spouse by Serving

The Waiting Approach requires you to actually wait on your Spouse. You become a servant of your spouse.

Falling Forward will always involve SERVING

Marriage is about becoming a servantThe essence of our falling forward toward God, toward our spouse is found in Phil 2:
Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV) If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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!

Most marriages begin by bringing certain things to the table:

  • Wife brings her body, her admiration, her dog, her funny personality, her debt, her money, her organizations skills, cooking abilities…
  • Is my wife attractive to me, will she take care of me, wash my clothes, feed me, take care of the home, keep it nice, look good when we go out…
  • Husband brings himself, his career, money, strength, confidence, hopes, dreams, debt, money, endurance, strength, cooking abilities…
  • This is why we marry: Can this guy support me, would he make a good father, do I find him attractive, will he make me feel special and loved.

If you keep expecting from your spouse, you will keep going through those withholding – wanting – willing cycles. Eventually you either get too hurt, or too tired or too anything. You end up leaving because your found someone else that meets your expectations better, or you end up settling, living as individual people separated by a wall of politeness and preoccupation with what you want to do.

A God-Centered Spouse keeps falling toward God and that spouse He brought into your life. You don’t fall away, you fall toward.

  • Forgiveness is a must to keep the hurts from piling up and building that wall of separation.
  • Servant hood is a must to keep you falling toward your spouse.

SO we must learn to ask ourselves: How can I serve my mate? Most people do not enter into marriage with the idea of becoming a servant. It is demeaning to women, and emasculating to men.

Why is it empowering to give yourself as a servant to our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet demeaning or emasculating to give yourself to your spouse as a life-long co-servant? To fully sanctify the marital relationship, we must live it together as Jesus lived His life-embracing the discipline of sacrifice and service as a daily practice. In the same way Jesus gave His body for us, we are to lay down our energy, our bodies and our lives for others, especially our spouse.

Instead of “will you do this for me”
“Will you accept what I want to give?”

You become consumed with how well you are carrying out the duty of serving your spouse.

SERVING YOUR SPOUSE

Serving Your Spouse1.Serving Because God Lives Within Me

1 John 3:16-18 (ESV) By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

2.Serving Because I Want God To Live In Them

John 3:17 (NIV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

  • Serving not because they deserve it
  • Serving regardless of reciprocal treatment

3. Serving With A Willing Spirit

Eph 6:6,7 doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men (your spouse)

  • Dutiful isn’t necessarily beautiful
  • Beauty of God is reflected in our attitude and Spirit
    • Verbal expressions –sigh, puff of exasperation, rolling of eyes, hunched up shoulders, the headache grimace, grunting when I have to do something.
    • Expressed attitudes reveal a self-serving spirit, a wanting spirit, a selfish spirit.

4. Serving in Practical Matters

a.Time & Money

  • Quarrels over money reflect a demand to “own” our own life rather than serve each other with our money, our things and our existence.
  • How much am I willing to sell my marriage for-30 pieces of silver?
  • Ask, how does spending this money serve my spouse?
  • Am I putting money before my spouse?
  • Same applies to our time and the things we use to occupy it.
  • Am I spending time to serve my spouse?

b.Sex

In 1958, when Player won his first tour event in Kentucky, he was asked for his reaction to a new Callaway driver he had helped develop and used during the victory. “Like a fool, I said that if I had to choose between the driver and my wife, well, I’d miss her,” Player recalls, laughing. “A week later I’m at the next tournament in Oregon and I walk in the (hotel) room and there’s my driver on the bed with a negligee wrapped around it.

  • Sex brings a husband and a wife under tremendous relational power.
  • Sex can cure everything from depressions, to migraine headaches, although those usually keep you from wanting sex.
  • Sex between a husband and wife can be a powerful experience in serving.
  • Likewise it can reveal the lack of serving.

The problem with illicit sexual behavior – sex between other people besides a married husband and wife, is it focuses on getting. Sex becomes the preoccupation, rather Than the needs of the spouse. Each spouse should constantly be asking:

  • Is sex something I’m giving or withholding
  • Is sex something I’m demanding or offering
  • Is sex something I am using as a tool of manipulation or as an expression of generous love?
  • If God looked at nothing other than my sexuality, would he consider me a mature Christian or as a near pagan.

God-centered Spouses see God in every aspect of their marriage.

See God in Your MarriageForgiveness and Serving-two powerful results of focusing our lives on God. When our spouse errs, hurts, even abuses us, we forgive for Christ sake who loved and gave himself to us. This forgiveness is not dependent upon anything our spouse does. We must not allow any bitterness or resentment or hurt or pain get in the way of our relationship with God. We must not allow our partners sin build a wall of bitterness on our heart.

Serving is the way we see God in a more powerful way. We need to see Him in our lives, or else we won’t have the strength or the spirit to serve. We must see that by serving our spouse, we are serving God, and God will use this to open our spouse’s heart to God. We must see the importance of service in every aspect of our marriage – money sexual relations, spending time. Marriage and the willingness to serve will bring the reality of the cross to your life.

Do you see the face of God in your spouse? Do you see God as your Father-in-Law, watching the way you regard his son or his daughter.

Servant LeadershipJesus knew that the time of His death was near. He also knew that none of his disciples would stay with him. He knew Peter would deny Him, Judas would betray Him. Yet Jesus went one by one and washed their feet. Do you think he really rubbed Judas feet till they hurt? No Jesus washed each one as if he was washing the feet of His Father. He wanted God to be so much in their lives.

Becoming TotallyMarriedAre You Falling Toward Your Spouse? Or Are You Falling Away?


  • 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!


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.

  • Contempt is conceived with expectations
  • Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.

You chose what you obsess over – expectations or thanksgivings.

If you say “But my wife is the one who has the speck”, 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.


God had a reason for marriageWhy did you get married? Why do you want to get married? Answers are varied, but usually focus on love, completeness, happiness, maybe even hotness…, lust, some people even throw in God.

But did anyone say they got married to be please God? I don’t think so.

Marriage is a big deal throughout the world. There is something within normally wired men and women that draws us together. We are drawn into relationships, and those relationships usually end up in marriage.

Me-MarriageIn the 21st Century we have come to regard marriage as a “me” thing. It must make “me” happy. It must have romance, it must have spontenaity, it must meet “me” needs. Books are written on how to compromise so that both me’s in the marriage are kept happy. Gone are the books about subjection and submission and pleasing the husband. Gone are the books about ruling your home and discipline and leadership. They have all been replaced with books about tolerance, sensitivity, freedom, acceptance and sharing responsibilities.

starter marriageChildren are raised with the idea that life is all about them and what they want, and so they go into marriage expecting the same. Most have experienced their parents divorcing, so they have this pre-programed attitude that if their spouse fails to meet their needs, they leave and move on to someone else. We have even come to accept the reality of “starter marriages” and how they can be beneficial in opening our eyes to the hardships and struggles that marriages often have.

As most young people enamored with the romance and beauty of extravagant marriages and honeymoons soon discover, marriage quickly turns into the excitement of driving across Kansas and seeing an occasional overpass. Too often couples see marriage as an ideal that they want to have in their lives, but it soon descends into hurt and disappointment and even resentment and hatred.

Mature-MarriageSo most couples who survive the turmoils of learning to live with a person of the opposite sex and opposite thinking, trade the romantic “Me-Marriage” for realistic “Mature-Marriage”. Instead of leaving the marriage because of selfish expectations, they stay in the marriage and learn to settle for or tolerate each other. The marriage becomes “livable” and “convenient”.

Is the “Me-Marriage” or even the “Mature-Marriage” what God had in mind when he created Eve for Adam?

God from the very beginning told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it”.

Marriage is about Life and EnergyMarriage was designed to be full of Life and to Subdue this World for God! Marriages are to Conquer, to Win, to be Victorious! God designed Marriage to generate energy and LIFE, not just energy to survive each other, but to subdue the world! God’s marriage generated energy to Overcome and have LIFE!

God is all about Life and Life that is Abundant, Fruitful and Fulfilling! God designed Marriage to accomplish His purpose!

God designed marriage so that the challenges and problems a couple faces should be transformational- should bring them closer to the power and purpose of God! Marriage is all about the Life that God wants us to Live!

Now if marriages are to accomplish what God wants, they can’t be about Me or even We.

Marriage Designed to make us HolyAnd if Marriages are about Victory and Conquering, they shouldn’t be boring or lifeless or settling and mature. They should be about Life! The life that God gives.

We need to see marriage and our relationships with our spouses in a different light. We need to see them as God designed.

  • God did not design marriage to make us happy, but to make us Holy.
  • God did not design marriage to benefit us, but to Empower us!

We all got married with dreams in our heads.

Sexy-Nightie-or-Ratty-Sweat-PantsI imagined Lydia would make a great pastor’s wife. I could see her faithfully by my side as I preached to admiring audiences. But somewhere along the line my dreams of saving the world turned into the nightmare of feeding six children, of Chuck E Cheese, of braces, and fighting about watching Terminator instead of Pretty Woman for the 30th time.  Seemingly overnight we went from sexy nighties to ratty sweats. What happened to those dreams? Is this what marriage is really all about?

So What does God Want Marriages to be?

What was His design – “Sexy Nighties” or “Ratty Sweats”? How can Marriage make us Holy and Empower us to be like God, and accommodate any attire, any stage of life? This is the purpose of this series of messages – to discover God’s design for marriage, and to discover how to become TotallyMarried.

There are two Non-Negotiable beliefs that we must embrace if we are to become TotallyMarried.

1. Marriage requires a 24/7 commitment.
2. Marriage requires a new and selfless life.

If we are to discover God’s purpose for marriage, we must commit our heart to God, without reservation. If we are to discover God’s purpose for marriage, we must surrender our will, our notions, our preconceptions to Him.

Marriage Designed to Please GodGod Designed Marriage to Please Him!

1 Corinthians 7:1-2 (NIV) Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

1. “So Much Immorality”

God knew we had needs and so he designed marriage to deal with those needs. But those needs aren’t limited to sex, for marriage will also deal with anger, selfishness, pride, inadequacy, loneliness, anger. We never enter marriage perfect. We bring our character needs with us, and marriage is designedby God to deal with them.

2. God uses Marriage to Confront our Needs

No one who is afraid to face themselves as they really are should ever get married. Your spouse will quickly figure out your deficiencies, idiosyncrasies, strengths, weaknesses. Marriage reveals and often brings to the forefront our character needs and deficiencies.

3. You Decide if Marriage will Shape and Empower You.

Marriage is a Stress test for heartMarriage is all about relationships and is the most strenuous “relational exercise” you will ever have. Marriage is a stress-test for our heart. Failure to deal with character needs will result in fights, relational walls, alienation, bitterness and worse. Marriage becomes God’s principle means for preparing us for eternity, as He uses marriage to mold and conform us to His Son, Jesus Christ. You can accept God’s purpose and design, or you can kick and scream and throw a fit.

4. Marriage Reveals There Is No Substitute For God.

Anyone who thinks their mate will complete them or give them total fulfillment soon discovers that will not be the case. God is our source of fulfillment and peace. Marriage simply reveals our need for Him. Your spouse is designed to complement you, not complete you. We are only complete in Christ. Therefore, we must look to God anytime we feel our spouse is not meeting our needs, or neglecting us, or even abusing us.

Marriage-is-a-signpost5. Marriage: Signpost Pointing Us to God

Marriage is used to Explore and Know God. You can either be married in a vacuum and deal with life on your own, or you can accept that God has a purpose for your marriage and that is to use it and the problems and trials to explore and know Him. Marriage can be a daily reminder of God’s presence in your life. Everything about our marriage is designed to reveal Him in a more powerful and real way.

6. Marriage Pictures Reconciliation

marriage about reconciliation

There is no better word to describe God’s heart toward man than RECONCILIATION. The Entire Bible is God’s message of what He has done to reconcile man to Him. He offers this hope to His people, who have constantly rejected Him and killed His prophets and even killed His Son:

Isaiah 62:5 “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you”

So much of the Word illustrates marriage and its picture of RECONCILIATION.

  • God became united with flesh in Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Christ is seeking His bride for the wedding to the lamb (Rev 19:7) where we will enjoy the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14)
  • Jesus reconciled God to Man so that we can know Him and have a relationship with Him.
  • Marriage is the place of reconciliation that displays the Father’s Love to the world.
  • Marriage pictures the ongoing relationship between Christ and His church.
  • Couples will face moments of reconciliation constantly through their marriage.

7. We Must Chose between having a Man-centered vs. God-centered View of Marriage

  • Man: We will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts, desires and expectations are met. ( Marriage is all about my enjoyment.)
  • God: We preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator (Marriage is about God’s Glory)

Marriage Pleases God8. God Designed Marriage to Please Him

2 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV) So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

Paul says our goal in life should be to please God. Marriage is  more than happiness, sexual expression, bearing children, companionship, mutual care and provision. Marriage is designed be God to PLEASE HIM! We ask not “What will make me happy”? We ask “what will make God happy?”

2 Corinthians 5:15 (NIV)And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Married couples are to use their marriages to LIVE FOR HIM!

9. Marriage Fulfills the Ministry of Reconciliation

Marriage Pictures Ministry of Reconciliation2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (NIV) So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Marriages model Christs forgiveness, selfless love and sacrifice.  Marriages that fail send a message to the world that I have stopped loving someone and  have broken a promise I made many years earlier. Sad that Barna notes Born Again Christians have a divorce rate that is higher than non-believers (27% to 23%) How can children believe us when we tell them God’s promise to Love and forgive them is secure when they can’t see that we honor our word.

Divorce signals that at least one of the Spouses has failed to put the Gospel first in their lives.

10. Successful Marriages require a commitment to Christian Duty.

700 year old treePictured is a 700 year old tree in the Northern Cascade National Park. These trees grow so old in the Northern Cascades because the constant rain and wetness ofthe  forest minimizes fire from lightning strikes.

  1. The Western Slope of the Cascades are so wet that lightning strikes cause relatively few fires. Traditional forests face lightning initiated fires every 50 or 60 years.
  2. Christian marriages will still be stuck by lightning-sexual temptation, communication problems, frustrations, trials, hardships, unrealized expectations. If marriages are heavily watered with an unwavering commitment to please God, the conditions will not be ripe for a devastating fire to follow the lightning strike.

If I am married only for my happiness, and my happiness wanes for whatever reason, one little spark will burn the entire forest down. But if my aim is to proclaim and model God’s ministry of reconciliation, my endurance and marriage will be fireproof.

Totally Married in God's Design11. We must practice the Spiritual Discipline of Marriage.

I must put my own relationship with God first. Sticking it out is a victory in and of itself. A 700 year old tree commands our attention simply because it has endured so long. Christians can command attention simply by staying married. When asked why, we say “would you like to hear more about the good news of reconciliation?” Of course, if our hearts are committed to God and pleasing Him, He will use our marriage to energize us and bring His Life to us!

Marriages Are The Message Of Reconciliation This World Needs To Hear And See.