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

December 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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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

John Piper: S.W.I.M. to be Married

May 19, 2016 at 10:15 am | Posted in Quotes | 1 Comment
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Marriage is an unfathomable ocean of God-given meaning, not a backyard swimming pool for lounging in as long as we feel like it.

John Piper

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33

Decrees on Discipline and Divorce

April 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Matthew | 2 Comments
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Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:15-20

This passage of Scripture deals with church discipline. It is not a fun procedure. Regardless if you are the one being disciplined or one of the ones involved in doing the disciplining, it is a serious matter and a daunting task. But it must not be neglected. Sometimes surgery is required on one part of the body to keep the whole body healthy.

Christians should exercise self-discipline first. There must be obedience to the Word and agreement in prayer. The goal is restoration in the body and the removal of sin.

Humility is an overriding theme in Matthew Chapter 18, and humility is the key to forgiveness.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

Matthew 18:27

This is what God did for us, and He wants us to do it for others.

In Matthew 19 the King returns to confront His enemies head on. There is another occurrence of the transitional phrase which Matthew uses:

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;

Matthew 19:1

Jesus’s enemies tried to ensnare him with questions about marriage, but Jesus taught what marriage really is. It is a covenant before God rather than merely a contract before the state.

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Matthew 19:3-6

Marriage is a God-ordained form of government, but the vows made at a wedding are vows made BEFORE GOD Himself. Neither the civil government nor the Church have any real rights to “make up” laws concerning marriage. These are ordained by God. Both the Church and the civil government are to be witnesses of the vows since both have an interest in disciplining or arbitrating binding agreements, but the Bible also has the authority to forbid marriage.

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Matthew 19:8

The problem of divorce was never a problem with the King’s plan. It was and is a problem with man’s heart. Why did God allow Moses to make a concession in this matter? Because the union of marriage is physical, not spiritual.

One Crazy, Wonderful Day

December 21, 2015 at 10:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Today my wife and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. Since there are 24 hours in a day, I suppose we might think of our marriage so far as one long day, with each year representing an hour. If so, this has been one crazy day!

From the rush and panic of getting ready for a busy day, to the quick interlude of a lunch-hour break, to a long grueling afternoon of hard work, to the relief of a “happy hour,” to the excitement of a romantic evening on the town (or in the home!), to late-night discussions, arguments, tickle-fights, cuddling, and laughter, to the darkest, most frightening midnight hours of learning to trust and lean on each other for support and comfort, to a morning of new hope and joy, it has been a “day” given to us and arranged by God for our good and His glory.

I am thankful beyond expression for my wife. When I woke up this morning, by her side, I realized she is just as stunningly beautiful today as when we first met. She is my sister in Christ, my friend, my counselor, my partner, my helper, my passion, and the love of my life. When God (the same God Who had already given me eternal life and salvation in His Son, Jesus!) wanted to do something else really, really special and wonderful for me, He gave me Laura Hampton to be my wife. I thank Him and praise Him for her, and I ask Him, by His grace, mercy, and love, to bless us and keep us together all the days of our lives.

Show Me Where

August 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Are you a Christian who was outspoken in your opposition to the government’s and the Supreme Court’s celebration and legalization of gay fake-marriage? If you were, and if your circle of friends and acquaintances and co-workers is much bigger than 10, then I would be surprised if you haven’t encountered all sorts of nonsensical, irrational, just plain lame, and downright dumb arguments trying to point out just how wrong you are.

I saw this one recently: “Oh it says gay marriage is a sin in the Bible? Wonderful, now show me where it says so in the Constitution.”

Clever, huh? Whoever made that one up probably sat back smugly and thought, “Ha! Now I’ve got those Christian bigots! Let’s see them get around this one!”

Okay, I’ll give it a try. First, the Bible doesn’t mention the term “gay marriage.” That’s because marriage is specifically defined as a union and a covenant between people of different genders. It is definitionally impossible for two people of the same gender to be “married.” However, it does state plainly that all homosexual activity and thoughts are sinful. And, no, the Constitution doesn’t specifically talk about homosexuality or gay fake-marriage, but the Constitution omits a long and varied list of things that are wrong. The Constitution doesn’t mention shin-kicking or purse-snatching or playing Yahtzee in the middle of the interstate. The first two of those are really bad, and the third is really dumb and dangerous, but the Constitution is just not that kind of document.

The place you go to determine the “right-or-wrongness” of things having to do with marriage and sexual sin is the Bible. And, remember, since the Bible is the Word of God, it would trump the Constitution even if the Constitution condoned gay fake-marriage.

Why Is Marriage So Honorable?

July 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage [is] honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:1-8

Marriage is honorable in all, but Hebrews 13:4 seems seems like a strange place for a principle about marriage. The surrounding passage is dealing with the difference between how Christians are supposed to live, and the way the ungodly, by default, live unloving lives. The word translated as “honorable” is usually translated as “precious,” and it reminds us that our marriages are very valuable things. They are to be cherished and cared for and never taken for granted – analogous to the effort that some people put into protecting a family heirloom or some great treasure that has come into their possession.

Sadly, most married Christians know more about the gadgets on their phones than about the intricacies of how our marriages are supposed to work and look. Marriage is supposed to be reflective of the love between Jesus and His Church. Therefore, adultery and whoremongering are things that are certainly antithetical to this relationship and image.

Marriage is supposed to be conducive to contentment, which is also reflective of Jesus and the Church. Therefore, covetousness would not accurately reflect that relationship.

Marriage is supposed to remind us to rely on God, not on our own faculties.

Marriage is where we learn headship and submission, authority and obedience. In the crucible of marriage we kill our selfishness and learn the joy of serving.

Finally, marriage is a good reminder that no one makes a good Jesus except for Jesus Himself.

Going Beyond Fairy Tale Marriage

October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hosea | 5 Comments
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We prefer our love stories to be fairy tales, but the reality of marriage is not always sentimental. Few marriages are a perfect story-book from beginning to end. The Book of Hosea shows the stark reality of what it means to love in difficult circumstances. It shows marital love from the perspective of God’s love for us.

We can not be sure of exactly what happened, but Hosea married a woman named Gomer who either: (1) was already a harlot (prostitute); or (2) became a prostitute after the wedding. Then he ultimately redeemed his wayward wife in obedience to his prophetic call, as one of the greatest demonstrations of sacrificial love in the Bible.

And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

Hosea 2:19-20

God used Hosea to demonstrate His betrothal covenant to His people, and in our marriages we need to exhibit the characteristics and attributes of God’s covenant relationship with us.

Righteousness

God the righteous imputes the righteousness of Jesus to all who are truly born again.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:20-21

We have no authority, standing, or ability, as sinful human beings, to impute any sort of true meritorious righteousness to our spouses (or to anyone else for that matter, regardless of the erroneous and heretical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and its fictitious “treasury of merit”), but we must stand for righteousness on behalf of our spouses. We must be good husbands and wives and try to avoid sin to protect the sanctity of our unions.

Judgment

God’s judgment against sin was satisfied in the Cross for all who believe. We deserved God’s judgment, but Christ intercepted it in love.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Romans 5:18

Jesus willingly bore the judgment He never deserved. We must bear unrighteous judgment at times on behalf of our spouses.

Lovingkindness

God redeemed His people because He loved us and wanted to show us kindness.

At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Jeremiah 31:1-3

As redeemed creatures we were “meant” for God. In marriage we must think of ourselves as “meant” for each other – ordained by God to show His glory in our union and relationship, and practically, to help work out our sanctification.

Mercies

God withheld from us what we deserved.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

In marriage must never punish each other for things for which God has already punished Jesus. Be merciful to each other.

Faithfulness

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

God is perfectly faithful. We are not. However, we need to do our utmost, with God’s help and by His grace, to be faithful spouses.

Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 3 Comments
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The very first human friendship in the history of the world also happens to have been the very first marriage.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We tend to think of “friendship” and “love” as being in two different, although overlapping, spheres, but friendship is one of the most important ingredients in “love.”

Listen to how the wife in Song of Solomon talks about her husband:

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Song of Solomon 5:10

She says, “My husband is awesome – I would not want anybody else.”

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

Song of Solomon 5:11

My wife has a slight variation on this when she talks about me: “He is very handsome – his bald spot shines like a diamond.”

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

Song of Solomon 5:12

“He doesn’t have beady eyes.” (Always a plus!)

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

Song of Solomon 5:13

“I like his aftershave and even his breath smells good!”

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

Song of Solomon 5:14

“He has strong hands and six-pack abs.”

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

Song of Solomon 5:15

“He has nice legs and his profile is stunning.”

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

She is really carried away with this dude’s looks, and she’s telling this to the other women, but she is referring to him as her beloved and her friend.

I have devised an acrostic from the word S.P.O.U.S.E. to remind us of the importance of friendship between husbands and wives.

S.olace

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Be a friend to your spouse by loving her or him at all times – especially in adversity. That’s what solace is: comfort in times of distress.

P.roximity

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendship means staying close by – being there to help when a need arises. The relationship of marriage is less meaningful without the proximity of friendship.

O.penness

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Be a friend to your spouse by communicating openly, honestly, and frankly. Your spouse needs to be the friend you confide in – and the one whose confidences you keep.

U.sefulness

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Friends give each other gifts. It might just be time and attention or it might be material gifts, but being at your spouse’s disposal is the gift of usefulness. There are few things more discouraging than having a useless spouse.

S.upport and S.anctification

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 22:11

Kind words are supportive and helpful words are the marks of true friendship, but true love is always love in truth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Friends sometimes fight, but they fight to the glory of God, and they fight with a purpose. They fight in love, and God puts them together to make each other stronger – like iron.

E.ncouragment and E.xhortation

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A good spouse has to batter the other spouse occasionally (figuratively, not literally!), but then we have a duty to bandage the wound in love.

Seven Marriage Resolutions

August 8, 2013 at 10:35 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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The great “love chapter” of the Bible (I Corinthians 13) is not, strictly speaking, about marriage, but marriage is certainly supposed to be nourished by real love, and real love never stops pursuing.

Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

II Corinthians 12:14

The Apostle Paul gives more evidence of his love for the Corinthian church in II Corinthians when he says he is ready to come see the Corinthian believers for the third time. In marriage we must have a desire to pursue our spouses over and over again. Real love is content with the person, but it can never be content with the depth of the intimacy.

Paul did not want to be burdensome to the church in Corinth, and your pursuit of your spouse should not be burdensome to him or her. This is romance, not stalking. Real love respects boundaries while seeking permission to be let inside the boundaries. Marriage is not about what you can get from your spouse. It is about getting to your spouse.

Well-meaning but misguided parents turn their children into idols, and, if you are not careful, you will do the same to your spouse: depending upon your spouse to meet needs which can only be met by Jesus. As Jonathan Edwards taught, what you idolize, you will eventually demonize when that idol (as it must) lets you down.

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

II Corinthians 12:15

Notice that Paul was “very glad” to sacrifice himself, and to allow the church members to sacrifice him. His love for them was not dependent upon their behavior. It was based upon their relationship in Christ, and his relationship to Christ.

Lists of resolutions became somewhat fashionable in evangelical Christianity around the time of the movie Courageous and the literature that supported it, so I don’t want to seem like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon here, but I did write a list of resolutions that I made to my wife pursuant to this lesson. May the Lord help me to keep them.

1. I will love you against all odds and will never stop loving you
2. I will do my best to be a blessing, not a burden, to you.
3. I want you for you – not what you have or what you can do for me.
4. I am willing to give everything I have for you.
5. I will take responsibility for your welfare.
6. I will never be satisfied with the love I have for you – I will always seek to love you more.
7. I will not use you or exploit you or treat you as thing. I will treat you as God’s daughter.

An Irascible Marriage

March 25, 2013 at 9:02 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 7 Comments
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In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area, surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations (I Corinthians 7:2-5). Here are the tactics we have identified so far by which he tries to break through our defenses:

1. Spies: Spies try to sneak through the wall by pretending to be our friends. They tell us that, for some reason, the area of sexual temptation is not going to be a problem in your marriage. We deal with these spies by identifying them and executing them with Scriptural ammunition (I Thessalonians 4:3-4).

2. Tunnelers: These are sent by Satan to burrow under the wall by preying on our concupiscible appetites (Colossians 3:5). We combat these by recognizing that our sensual appetites are gifts from God, but were created by Him to be exercised in the freeing confines of marriage only. Thereby, we whack them back down into their holes and pour Scriptural cement into the tunnel to stop them from coming back.

3. Wall-scalers: These assailants try to climb right up and over the wall. They attack our thought life with lies that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. We combat these assailants by pulling them down – by exposing vain speculations to the Truth of Scripture (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

The fourth area of attack comes in the form or assailants who are not as sneaky, tricky, or subtle as the other three. These are employed by Satan to try to simply batter down the walls. They are the siege engines of spiritual warfare. This is very different from how we normally expect Satan to attack. So far, all of our lessons on protecting your marriage in the area of intimacy have focused on defeating Satan the tempter – Satan the deceiver – for that is his primary tactic. But remember, he is also Satan the intimidator. Satan wants to intimidate you by bombarding you with so many lies that you begin to question God or to doubt His goodness or to be afraid to fight. If you back away from the protective walls of your marriage and hide in the compound, he will batter them down.

However, just like in the area of temptation, God has also equipped us to fight back in the area of intimidation. Satan the tempter tries to prey on our “concupiscible” appetites. Satan the intimidator would like to frighten us into forsaking our “irascible” appetites. (These terms come from my study of Scriptural principles which line up with some of the teachings of Thomas Aquinas.) Sensual appetites are pleasurable. Irascible appetites (or what I might call “reasonable” appetites) direct us toward objective good which we must discern by reason since they are not pleasurable. Satan is battering at the walls. There is a temptation to cower and drop out of the battle. Things like sexual immorality and temptation, as they are depicted and advertised on television, the tabloids, the internet, and other media can be dealt with to some extent by avoidance. But encounters with immodesty, enticement, and emotional predators must be dealt with more directly if, as married Christians, we are still going to participate in hands-on ministry. Married people have a protective wall, but it must not be a stationary wall. If our marriages are forts against sexual infidelity, they must be forts that travel. They must travel to hospitals, to the homes of those with needs, to the mission field, to the marketplace, to the job site, to church. Satan would like to accuse and intimidate you into being so scared of being “worldly” that you don’t venture out into the world at all.

But God says differently. In the next lesson we will take a look at three irascible appetites which God has given us to combat the accusations and intimidations of Satan as he attacks our marriages.

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