Marriage Should Not be Static

October 11, 2018 at 10:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last time I looked at Isaiah 62:1-4 and developed the principle from Verse 1 that marriage should not be secret. Additionally, marriage should not be static.

And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

Isaiah 62:2

One day the Lord will give His people a new name. As Christians we are associated now with suffering and failure, unpopularity and persecution, but there there will come a day when non-Christians (described as “Gentiles” in Isaiah 62:2) – even the mightiest of them – will see the glory that our glorious God shares with us.

In marriage, wives get a new name when they get married. Husbands do not, except collectively. A married couple comes to be known as the “Smiths” or the “Joneses” or the “Wilsons.” For Christian married couples we should not be satisfied with a shared and commonly known “new” last name. We want to achieve even more names that reflect glory on the Lord of our marriages. We want to be the married couple about whom people say: “They go to church;” “They teach their children to pray; “They look so IN LOVE.”

When you refer to your spouse in the presence of other people, don’t fall into the worldly practice of speaking disparagingly about him or her, calling your husband, “my old man,” or calling your wife, “the old lady.”

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Your spouse may know you’re joking, but we’re talking about other people and their perceptions, and what they think of marriage in general and yours in particular. Don’t let the way you talk about your marriage become static. Avoid terms that are presumably supposed to be funny, but, in reality, reveal boredom, dissatisfaction, or exasperation about your spouse or your marriage. Don’t say rude things like “the old ball and chain” or “the battle axe.”

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

“Hearers” in that verse is plural, and being “edified” means being built up, not remaining static. Unkind words, and, worse, false unkind words, not only fail to minister grace to the one you are saying them ABOUT, or saying them TO, but to everyone else listening in, or to whom they are repeated.

You don’t want your spouse telling his or her friends bad things about you, but the best remedy for that is not to swear your spouse to silence. The best remedy is to give your spouse good things to say – to improve yourself, with God’s help, as a spouse, rather thank merely trying to hush up the talk about your relationship.

Next time we will see that marriage should not be spurious.

Marriage Should Not be Secret

September 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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After the initial novelty of marriage wears off, it can be easy for some spouses to view our marriages as just a fact of everyday life – part of who we are and what we are allowed and not allowed to do because of the fact that we are married. Even Christian spouses, if not regularly involved in church ministry that emphasizes the importance of marriage, can forget that what is taught in the Bible must be applied not only to how we think about marriage, but how we live within our marriages. Most secular marriage counseling, and even much church-related marriage counseling and teaching, focuses on things like finances, parenting, scheduling and time management, jobs and careers, hobbies, communication, etc. If we’re not careful we’ll spend so much time and energy trying to figure those things out, that we will miss the significance of God’s true intentions for marriage, and will fail to plumb the depths of the greatest source of wisdom concerning marriage: the Word of God.

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:1-4

The children that God has entrusted into my care as a father have some pretty unusual names, and people have been known to occasionally give them a hard time because of it. For this reason, I’m the last person to make fun of someone’s name. However, there are some names – names that in years past were popular – that have simply gone out of style, and that you just don’t hear much anymore. Take, for example, the name “Beulah.” Do you know anyone named Beulah? It was a fairly popular name from 1890 to 1911 (which also happens to be the year that the famous hymn “Dwelling in Beulah Land” was published). In 1901 almost 4000 out of every one million baby girls were named Beulah. However, the popularity of the name plummeted rapidly after the turn of the 20th Century, and last year only ten out of every one million baby girls were named Beulah.

In Isaiah 62:4 the name Beulah means “married,” but the context is not, strictly speaking, marriage itself. Isaiah 62 is talking about how God will restore exiled Israel, and, in a greater sense, how He will regenerate, renew, and restore all His people in the New Covenant Church. However, it is a very relevant passage on the topic of literal marriage because it gives insight into how God – the Creator of marriage – expects marriage to be.

I. Marriage should not be a secret.

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace…

Isiah 62:1

To hold our peace means to be quiet. We should not be quiet about our marriages. They are great vehicles for glorifying God. Fallen sinners do not naturally (nor should they) trust and commit to each other, but as Christians we do not wear the label of fallen sinners as our primary identity. We have been redeemed by God’s grace, and we are allowed and encouraged to advertise this reality.

… I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

Isaiah 62:1

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Three groups of people immediately come to mind when I think about those who need to hear that Christian marriage is absolutely wonderful:

A. Young people who will soon be of the age to consider marriage or possibly get married

Marriage is not for everyone, but it is for most, and it is a great gift from God. It should be seen as a goal strive for and a victory to obtain, not as the end of freedom and the beginning of a life sentence of fun-denial.

B. Non-Christians

Whenever I see a pagan couple who claims to have a happy marriage, it is bittersweet. I’m thankful for the “common” grace of God that keeps them from killing each other, but I know that their marriage could be so much better.

C. People having marriage problems (whether they are Christian or not)

Every time you speak of your marriage you might be giving marriage advice or acting as a marriage counselor, whether you intend to be or not. The last thing someone struggling in his/her/their marriage needs to hear is another complaint or gripe about marriage. People need encouragement. They need to see how wonderful marriage truly can be. Is it bragging or boasting to sound off about how much we love our marriages? No! Because people are supposed to see our “good works” not so they can glorify US, but so that they may glorify OUR FATHER which is in Heaven!

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

Isaiah 62:1

Don’t be bashful or withdrawn about your marriage. A torch is given for the purpose of lighting up the darkness and showing off the Truth.

Next time we will see the importance of spiritual growth within our marriages.

A Newlywed Pounding?

September 20, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: Now I know what a “pounding” is in the context of church, but I still don’t know why it’s called that.

Answer: You’re referring to the practice of welcoming homeowners into a new home by helping them stock their pantry with groceries. I sympathize. The first time my wife and I heard about it in church (many years ago), they were calling it a “newlywed pounding,” and boy did we giggle through the rest of the service. Actually, my wife giggled, and I chuckled manfully in a deep baritone, but you get the idea. So we looked it up after church, and it seems to have originally been a Quaker practice, from the days when most food item staples were purchased by the pound: a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, a pound of butter, etc. Personally, I think it’s one of those things (like “potluck dinner”) that could probably use a name makeover.

Submission and Honor in Marriage

August 27, 2018 at 10:46 am | Posted in I Peter | 1 Comment
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Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

I Peter 3:1

There are the levels of rank in the army of the Lord. A wife who will not come into subjection and submission to the will of her husband, or a child who will not come under subjection and submission to the will of a parent, will have a very difficult time submitting to the will of the Lord.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:7

Husbands and wives are joint heirs of gracejoined together by God for His glory. The wife who will not submit, and the husband who will not honor, both rob God of His glory. An earthly father who is zealous for his daughter’s well-being will certainly deal harshly with a son-in-law who mistreats that daughter. How much more will the Lord deal harshly with a husband who mistreats a daughter of God? Husbands will answer to God for how they have treated His daughters, probably even before they answer for have they have handled their church-related ministry responsibilities.

The “likewises” in v. 1 and v. 7 refer not just to Abraham and Sara, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our spouses are not just given to us by God for our pleasure, nor merely for companionship and comfort.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 5:22

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:25

God has joined spouses together as part of His plan to conform us to the image of Christ. Christ loved – and gave Himself for – people who were originally unresponsive to, or actually opposed to, His love. If we hope to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, we must learn to submit to, to honor, to obey, to love in spite of unresponsiveness or opposition, to love unconditionally and CONSISTENTLY our spouses.

To My Wife: Thank You

December 20, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As we celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary, I am so thankful for a wife that has been faithful to pray for me over the years. I am convinced that her prayers have been one of the chief means through which God has seen fit to deliver me from many sins, to grant me great blessings, and to protect me from much danger and evil.

I also want her to know how grateful I am for her influence on our daughters. With each passing year I recognize how much they become more and more like her – which is a very good thing! By God’s grace, I desperately want the children that He has entrusted into my care to be faithful, kind, compassionate, joyful, teachable, and to have a desire to know Christ in deeper and more mature ways. God has certainly used my wife to accomplish this in their lives.

My wife and I serve in a local assembly of believers (a “church”). We believe that this is God’s plan and will for nearly every believer. My wife has a strong commitment and love for our church family. There is no doubt that my own ministry there would be much weaker and less effective without her help and partnership.

After 26 years of marriage, my wife and I have certainly had our share of arguments. As someone who grew up playing competitive sports, and who now “argues” for a living, I have a real aversion to losing an argument. I am thankful that when I lose an argument with my wife (which is often, simply because she is usually objectively right while I am objectively wrong), she doesn’t think of it as “winning.” She thinks of it as graciously dealing with a problem, “working things out,” or having a disagreement. I love her for this.

When my wife and I said our wedding vows we promised to love each other for better and for worse. The vast majority of these last 26 years have been “for better” moments (at least for me!), but we have had some “for worse” moments, too. We’ve come through these “for worse” moments by the grace of God, but His grace at these times has shown brightly in and through the faithfulness, strength, wisdom, humility, and perseverance of my beautiful and brilliant wife. I love her very much and thank the Lord for her – and for the gift of 26 years of marriage.

Biased Marriage Counseling

November 10, 2017 at 11:31 am | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: I have Christian friends who are thinking about ending their marriage. Someone told me to give them this advice: “Before making your decision about divorce or reconciliation, seek balanced counsel rather than biased counsel.” What do you think of that advice?

Answer: Sorry to be blunt, but that advice is garbage. I’m sure whoever came up with that had good intentions, and there is a line of thinking out there that says, talk to some people who think you should reconcile, and talk to some people who think you shouldn’t, and weigh the pros and cons. But think about it! Stop and really think. Does the Bible say anything like that about marriage? Tell your friends to talk to people who are EXTREMELY biased – biased in favor of Jesus Christ. He let vile wicked sinners nail Him to a Cross so that we would have the power and the freedom to forgive, to reconcile, to restore, to promote righteousness – not to drag through the mud a relationship that He created to glorify Himself. (See Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4.)

A Pair of Paradoxes

May 16, 2017 at 10:24 am | Posted in Mark | 8 Comments
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Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. The Pharisees were getting desperate. They had questioned His miracles. They had questioned His background. They couldn’t really question His teaching, but they had tried to refute it with tradition. Now they decided to try to trap Him with controversial questions.

One of the classic ways to make a Bible teacher squirm is to ask him about divorce. No matter what he says, somebody is not going to like it. There is often a temptation for the teacher to think, “I have to be careful with what I say. I don’t want to sound too harsh and alienate the students who have been divorced.” However, the faithful Bible teacher will say, “Jesus talked about divorce, and I should, too.”

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

Mark 10:2

The Pharisees probably also reasoned that John the Baptist had been killed for talking about marriage. However, Jesus knew just what to do when faced with a controversial question: He used the Bible.

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:6-9

This is the first paradox in Mark Chapter 10: Two shall be one. A paradox is something that seems contradictory, but is actually logically consistent in reality. Divorce is man tearing apart what God has – in His perfect will and in His supernatural power – joined together.

Examples of other paradoxical teachings in the Bible are:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Corinthians 2:10

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

II Corinthians 10:6

The second paradox in Mark 10 has to do with adults becoming little children.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Mark 10:13-16

Our modern society devalues children, as shown by the prevalence of abortion, abuse, neglect, divorce, lack of spiritual instruction, and lack of proper education. Let the LITTLE children come unto Me, said Jesus. He did not appoint the Disciples to go get some crayons and puppets and put on some entertaining children’s activities. Little children tend to respond to the offer of a warm invitation with cheerful acceptance. Unless they have been seriously hurt in some way by someone they trusted, they do not respond with suspicion, reluctance, or a dread of the responsibility that the invitation might entail. Jesus reached out directly into the lives of others, including children. As His followers, will we get involved with people who are not as equipped to face their circumstances as we are?

Next time, we will see the second “pair” of paradoxes in Mark Chapter 10.

Having a P.C. Marriage

May 11, 2017 at 11:29 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

I Corinthians 7:25-26

“Virgins” in Verse 25 means young women of marriageable age who have not yet married. “I have no Commandment of the Lord” means that Paul did not have a direct quote from Jesus, even though He still wrote with inspired authority. This goes back to the beginning of I Corinthians Chapter 7: given the persecution faced by the Christians in Corinth, and, really, throughout the early chruch, there were definite advantages to being single. And, keeping in mind the previous section on how salvation in Christ Jesus does not automatically change our earthly identity or legal status or career calling, we can say that, even for those who are already married, it is good to:

I. Know Your Present Condition

Use your condition to deal with the present distress. If you are single and facing persecution, consider remaining single. If you are married and facing persecution, remain married. Do not let the present distress change your condition or your commitment.

II. Know Your Permanent Commitment

Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.

I Corinthians 7:27

This does not sound like very romantic language. To be “bound” sounds like slavery and to be “loosed” sounds like freedom, and it may feel that way at times, but we are not to be regulated by our feelings. We are to be regulated by the Word of God and our commitments and covenant promises.

III. Know Your Painful Circumstances

But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

I Corinthians 7:28

Again, the Holy Spirit through Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about the difficulties of marriage in a time of intense persecution, but the Bible never condemns marriage itself.

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;

I Corinthians 7:29

This is a sobering thought for unmarried young men and women, but it is also a strong reminder for the married that we are not promised bliss. In a world that hates Christ our Lord things are bound to get rough.

And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

I Corinthians 7:30-31

Marriage ought to be permanent in this life, whether it be joyful or excruciating, but it is not eternal. The good things we do in Christ will be rewarded in eternity, and the suffering we endure at the hands of those who abuse the relationships and institutions of this world ordained by God WILL come to an end.

IV. Know Your Persistent Care

But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

I Corinthians 7:32-34

We know that worry and anxiety can be considered sinful, but there are things about which we are commanded to be concerned. And, the reality is, for those who did not remain single, we have a holy obligation to care for our spouses – to be concerned about them, and to see to their needs as best we can with God’s help.

V. Know Your Profitable Contention

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

I Corinthians 7:35

These warnings against marriage are not given just to encourage confused or frustrated single people. They are also intended to be heeded by married couples to remind us that there is profit in caring for a sinner, and to remind us that, as a spouse, I too am a sinner that had to be cared for by Jesus. There will always be distractions from the work of the Lord. Those who are unmarried must think carefully before adding another distraction. Those who are married must remember that distractions are given to us by God not to annoy us, but to help sanctify us. Marriage can be seen as a snare or it can be seen as a safe workshop.

A Knowledgeable Marriage

April 20, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 2 Comments
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In a previous post I discussed I Corinthians 7:1-10, and explained that, if you are married, God wants your marriage to be F.I.N.E., meaning that He wants the physical intimacy between you and your spouse to be frequent, inviting, natural, and exciting. He also wants you to know the real reason for your marriage.

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

I Corinthians 7:11

Marriage was designed by God to be permanent in this life.

But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

I Corinthians 7:12

This is something which the Lord Jesus did not say in person during His earthly ministry, but it is just as authoritative since it is being said by the Holy Spirit through Paul. Believers should only marry other believers, but the failure to do so is not a ground for divorce, nor is the salvation of one spouse after the wedding, even when the other spouse refuses to get saved. Furthermore, the hostility of the unbelieving spouse toward the believing spouse because of his/her conversion is not a ground for divorce.

And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

I Corinthians 7:13-14

This does not mean that the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the sense of salvation, but that he is set apart as part of a household with a Holy Spirit influence, and possibly the recipient of special blessings due to one-half of the one-flesh relationship being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Also, a nullification of the marriage would make the children illegitimate in a sense, and would damage the blessing of their exposure to strong Christian influence.

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

I Corinthians 7:15

This does not authorize divorce for abandonment, as many suppose. It simply prohibits hostile and forceful attempts to prevent physical separation.

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

I Corinthians 7:16

This is an obvious figure of speech, meaning that a Christ-like testimony in the face of opposition and even persecution within the household can often be instrumental in winning an unbelieving spouse to Christ. Remember, your marriage is not primarily for your happiness, for you, or even for your spouse. It is for God to use as a means to illustrate and preach the Gospel in an unbelieving world, and for means of our sanctification.

The Know-Nots view marriage as an institution of convenience or a societal contract. The Knows know that marriage is a holy covenant relationship ordained by God, and that the love between a husband and wife is supposed to be a picture of the love between Christ and His bride, the Church.

Here’s a Quarter, Thanks to the God Who Cares

December 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Tomorrow (Deo volente) my beautiful, intelligent, loving wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Well, I’ll be celebrating, anyway. Due to financial constraints it may not be all that much of a celebration for her, but we’ll see. 25 years is one of those “big” anniversary markers, but I’m not really sure why. I suppose it’s because of the association of the number 25 with the idea that 25 is a quarter of a century. This makes sense in a larger historical perspective, but has anyone since the days of Noah and Moses lived long enough to be married for 100 years? Not likely. The truth is, my wife deserves to be honored, cherished, and celebrated for every single year she has had to put up with me, and, realistically, for every single day that made up those years. I could not, in my most focused and vivid analytical planning or my wildest dreams, have come up with a wife so wonderful. Only God could have created her.

I am always thankful when God answers my prayers, but He did not answer my prayers concerning what kind of a wife or marriage I thought I would like to have. No, He has done way better than that. Whether we are talking about her faithfulness, her godliness, her dedication, her kindness, her sense of humor, her beauty, her intelligence, or her skills and talents as a mother, what I asked God for fell way short of what He has done. In a striking paradox, not only is she reassuringly consistent, but she manages to surprise me each and every day.

I praise the Lord for the wonderful gift of my wife, my marriage, and the myriad and untold ways in which He has blessed it by His grace. May we, as spouses, friends, parents, and covenant-partners, draw closer to Him and glorify Him with our marriage, in the name of, and for the sake of, Jesus Christ.

Here are a couple of previous anniversary notes which still apply:
Marriage: The Long and the Short of It
One Crazy, Wonderful Day

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