Posts Tagged ‘self-centered’


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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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?


jesus feed the disciplesThe Elder Brother is listening to his father beg him to join the feast. Suddenly he gets it! In a true story we see a group of Elder Brothers led by Peter go on in, in spite of their miserable failures. They go to shore and feast with the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ. What happened? What truth has to get hold of Elder Brothers to cause them to DIVE ON IN like Peter? Hint: Enough introspection, its time to DIVE IN!

Jesus didn’t want His disciples to spend too much time regretting or feeling sorry for their sins. In one touching moment the Lord Jesus let his disciples know that He is not about the Past but about the Future! Jesus wanted them to know He is Lord of the Future, and wanted them to focus on that. He knew they had gone back to their fishing because they were upset and disillusioned about His death. Even though Jesus had been upfront with them, they had responded like selfish Elder Brothers and gone back to what they knew best – fishing. But even that proved empty and fruitless.

The-Disciples-Big-CatchSo Jesus spoke, and their nets were filled. They came ashore, and Jesus prepared a feast for them. Then He focused on the biggest failure of an Elder Brother – Peter. But His words were to all Elder Brothers. He said, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter knew in that instance that his return to fishing meant he was putting it before his Lord. But rather than admit it in front of the others, he saidYes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “then feed my lambs”

jesus-peter-lovest-thou-me (2)

Now there was an obvious disconnect going on here. Jesus wanted to know if Peter “agape” loved him, and Peter insisted he “phileo” loved Jesus. The third time Jesus used “phileo” to meet Peter where he was at, and he pressed the point, “well, then, FOCUS ON THE FUTURE and feed my sheep!”

The Father knows where all Elder Brothers are at, and He still wants us to come in! He’s not about where we have been, He is all about where we are GOING! He’s about the REJOICING!

If Elder Brothers are going to go in, they can’t dwell on the past mistakes, they must focus on a growing love for the Father and taking care of HIS SHEEP! It is not about the fish, its about the sheep!

jesus to peter Focus on the futureSo as an Elder Brother, I’m diving in and going in to the feast because I realize I love my Father, and He wants me to feed His sheep, those younger brothers (and older) that know His voice! I realize it is not about what I want, but what the Father NEEDS, and that is sons who will care for His sheep! And the only reason I am emboldened to dive in is because the Father is ALL ABOUT THE FUTURE, NOT THE PAST!

Do Elder Brothers need to dwell on their mistakes, mourn over all the younger brothers they have offended, grieve over all the hurts they have caused the Father?

No! What the Father wants is for us to turn away from our self and GO IN and REJOICE!

Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NLT): “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.”

REJOICE I AM FORGIVENI’m going in, and I am NOT going to sulk in the corner brooding over my failures and sin. The Father wants me to REJOICE. The Father wants ME! He desires a RELATIONSHIP with ME! I’m turning away from my self effort and selfishness, my pride and arrogance, my independence, and I’m going to fall at my Father’s feet and let Him kiss my neck! I’m going in and kiss my younger brother’s neck! I’m diving in to my Father’s AMAZING POWER, GRACE AND LOVE!

Jesus wants to be Lord of our PAST, but He can do it ONLY if we allow HIM to be LORD of our FUTURE!

The only sorrow any brother should have is that which leads us away from our mistakes and plants us FIRMLY IN THE ARMS OF OUR SAVIOR! This life is all about who has our heart!

Lovest thou ME? Then forget those things which are past and press toward the Father’s Heart!

Come on, it’s time to DIVE in (watch the video on YouTube):

There is a supernatural power In this might river’s flow
It can bring the dead to life
And it can fill an empty soul
And give a heart the only thing
Worth living and worth dying for, yeah
But we will never know the awesome power
Of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away
Into this holy flood
So if you’ll take my hand
We’ll close our eyes and count to three
And take the leap of faith
Come on let’s go

Elder Brother Dives InI’m diving in, I’m going deep in over
my head, I want to be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow,
in over my head, I want to go
The river’s deep, the river’s wide,
the river’s water is alive
So sink or swim, I’m diving in

Father: I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes as an Elder Brother, and I now know you have forgiven me, and love me. But I’m taking your hand and I’m going in, heart first, sink or swim, I’m diving in!