Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

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“Book of Elkanah – What Not to Say to Your Wife” – Nov. 9

November 9, 2015

“Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?””  1 Samuel 1:8

I suspect that there was a “Book of Elkanah” that never made it into the Cannon of Scripture.  We only have one passage from the “Book of Elkanah”, which was recorded in 1 Samuel 1:8.   However, I am confident that this could not have been the only passage espoused from the oracle, Elkanah.

In fairness to Elkanah, I believe that every husband pens their own collection of romance-killing proclamations.  These collections are the thoughtless, misguided, and blatantly stupid sayings that periodically have come out of every husband’s mouth.  There are just some husbands whose epistle of stupid sayings have more stanzas than average.  I bet that the Elkanah’s book was a thick book; it probably included multiple volumes since he had two wives.

The story of Hannah reminded me of the typical failure of most husbands in marriage.

Most husbands, myself included, have failed in the same manner as Elkanah.  His knuckled-headed attempt to comfort his wife Hannah has to have made it into  the book.  I chuckled a little as I read the story of Hannah, but it reminded me of my theory as to the common source of these common novels.

Consider what could possibly have motivated Elkanah to say to a woman who probably had just received evidence, once again, of her infertility:

“Hey Babe, be happy; you’ve got me. I’m better than ten sons.”

I don’t think that Elkanah was really thinking about Hannah when he spoke those words.  His attempt at comfort reveals the person who was really paramount upon his mind.  Elkanah was thinking more about himself than Hannah and he had a pretty high opinion of himself.

This motivation troubles most husbands and marriages.  Marriage reveals the heart condition of every man and it is why I say with confidence that every husband has penned his own “Book of What Not to Say to Your Wife”.

I have now been married longer than I was single.  I know that my selfishness has been revealed by saying some pretty stupid things to my wife.  However, I hope that the frequency of those entries have gone down over the years.   In fact, the frequency of entries should decline with years for every Christian husband but not necessarily due to an understanding of how to live together.  The entries should become scarce because of an increasing personal sanctification that is supposed to be happening in a follower of Christ.

A husband’s words to his wife are an accurate reflection of his sanctification.

It is why we see men in all stages of married life playing the role of husband poorly. One does not have to look very far to see a myriad of lackluster attempts.  I have seen incompetent husbands newly married, packing small children, at kid’s graduations, and in retirement.

Time and experience does not necessarily make us better husbands.

We must consider the standard for the Christian husband; it is daunting:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.”  Eph. 5:25,28

One cannot be truly competent as a husband without the help of the Spirit.  Husbands have to die to the terrible idol of self in order for them to be what God intended them to be in marriage.  Every man should desire to be a God glorifying, selfless husband.  We should not be satisfied in marital incompetence.  We should not deluge ourselves into thinking that we are good husbands if our spouse’s sanctification exceeds our own and she’ll just forgive us for the selfish things we do.

Every Christian husband should be embarrassed by their personal authorship of a “Book of What Not to Say to Your Wife”.  We should all strive to make that horrible book as thin as possible.

May Jesus Christ be the husband that we characterize in our marriage and not Elkanah.

“The Puritan ethic of marriage was first to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, then to proceed with God’s help to do just that.”
~ J.I. Packer

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.   Thank you for enabling her to forgive me for all the selfish words that I have spoken.  Lord, bind us together despite our sinful natures.  Father, help me to love her as you love her.  Help me to see her as you see her.  Help be to die to myself in order to be the husband that you have called me to be.  Lord, grant her patience as you continue to refine me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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BROKEN, NOT JUST BENT- Nov 10

November 10, 2014

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The desperate melody of Pink’s song Just Give me a Reason sends my mind into a memory garden; past the memories of acquaintances, friends and family who sing to me the lyrics of this song, “we’re not broken just bent, we can learn to love again; we just need a reason to love again”. I sadly shake my head as their dew clouds my eyes. “Your love is not enough; a reason will never remove what is written in your scars, you’re broken not just bent”, is all I can think.

I feel the pain of a husband whose wife sought the embrace of another. He sings “We are just bent, we are not broken. We just need to learn to love again; we just need a reason to love again”. Oh, the scars!

I imagine the quiet lament of a young mother slipping away into overwhelmed neglect. She sings “we are just bent, we are not broken. I just need a reason; just a little bit will be enough; we can learn to love again.” Oh, the scars!

I grieve for a pair of empty-nesters’ loss of connection. They sing “we are just bent, we are not broken. We just need another reason; just a little bit will be enough; we can learn to love again.” Oh, the scars!

I cry out over the children scarred by their parent’s broken dreams. They sing “we are just bent, we are not broken. They just need a reason; just a little bit will be enough; they can learn to love again.” Oh, the scars!

We are a broken and scarred people.

Surrounded by brokenness, the norm makes the just bent seem a counterfeit.
Being broken, we never know what it is like just to be bent.
In our inner brokenness, we lack a visible comparison of how things should be; how things can be.

I know of no better example of our brokenness then the struggle of broken people to maintain love through a life time.  There is no hope written in the scars inflicted by broken-hearted people upon the ones they’ve proclaimed to love. The best those scars can achieve is an earthly wisdom of cause and effect.

The highest state of these scarred unions is a learned state of peaceful brokenness, continually learning to love again… Oh, the scars!

I don’t think it’s sin to be broken. It’s the result of sin to be broken.
~John Piper

Sin has broken us all and it continues to break and re-break those who live according to the flesh. … Oh, the scars!

True hope lies not in our scars but in the scars of Another.
True love flows not from our sinful hearts but from the Source of all love.

My mind returns to that painful garden of memories and transcends it to see a forty-something man with too much gray in his beard; a man who knows his own heart; a man whose inclination is not to love his wife well. He is a man who wants his own. He wants to be made much of. He is prone to wander. He desires all the pleasures this world has to offer.

Yet, he knows what that heart produces. He fears the product of his own heart; that in his quiet cerebral world the woman he loves may one day sing “we are just bent, we are not broken. We just need a reason; just a little bit will be enough; we can learn to love again.”

He doesn’t want the scars.  He knows that his marriage can be crushed just as all those he has watched crumbled.

Therefore, he clings to the good news.

We are not bound to a life of peaceful brokenness, continually learning to love again. Those who are in Christ have been set free from the shackles of sinful brokenness. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We have been given the Spirit of God to create in us holy fruit, pleasing and acceptable to our Father.

Consider the freedom of the glory of the children of God that comes from the union of two children of the Most High, whose eyes are not focused on each other but set upon the things of the Spirit. That is a union destined to overflow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

That is how two broken people can maintain love through a life time.

However, it starts by acknowledging that we are broken and not just bent, receiving the free gift of Jesus Christ as the payment for our sinful hearts, and daily setting our all on the One who has shown us perfect love.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for my wife. Thank you for our marriage. Lord, protect our marriage. Shepherd our hearts and keep us from wandering from you. Lord, you have been so faithful; you have been with us through every step we have taken together. Every victory has been through your power within us. Never once have we ever walked alone. Never once have you left us on our own. Lord, may our union bring glory to you through all the days you have given us together.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“GUARDED FROM COMING TO TERMS” – Nov 30

November 30, 2013

“And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

PetI am always searching for advice on triathlons, running, cycling, and swimming.  This is how I coach myself.  I know  it is not as good as the real thing but it is all that I am willing to pay for.  In my typical search of cycling blogs, I ran across the (Coming to Terms with) Becoming the Other Woman blog.  It did not contain the content that I was seeking but it affected my heart to the extent that I could not set it aside and get on with my morning devotions.

This blog chronicles the path of a nurse’s affair with a doctor.  I was once again reminded of the advice of my father.  I wrote about his advice in The Petraeus in all of Us so I won’t repeat myself.  However, I will repeat my heartfelt warning to myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Beware of who you befriend!

The nurse’s story struck a chord with me due to the commonality of circumstances.  Her relationship started through cycling.  Her bond with this other man developed through the familiarity of work.  They grew to the point of being able to complete each other’s sentences.  They relied upon one another and confided in each other.  They become one with each in an affair of the mind before they ever took it to a bedroom.

Her commonality of circumstance is a path open to most of us if we are not careful to guard the path.

I ride with a cycling club that includes female riders.
I work with women.
I go to church with women.

I love and praise God for the women who are in my life.  I appreciate all that they bring into this world.  My world is such a better place due to the women who inhabit it.  I know that I could covet the affections of one of these other women if I were to allow my heart to wander.

However, I am called to one woman – my wife.

I know the danger of another woman being able to complete my thoughts.  I do not want another woman to confide in me.  I do not want to share myself with another woman.  Affairs are rarely fits of passion.  They are slow estrangements from the one who we committed our lives to.  We must take care to protect our affections.  We must guard the access to the oneness of our hearts.

I know that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are flirting with the affections of others.

I know that there are some who are enjoying the pursuit of someone who is not their own.

I know that are many out there who fantasize about someone other than their spouse.

I know that there are some who are so unhappy in their marriage that they long for companionship.

Auzigog / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I plead with you to stop!
I beg you to open your eyes to what you are really doing.
I implore you not to seek emotional affirmation from someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.

I beseech you to guard you heart.

Do not come to terms with being the other man or woman.
Do not believe the lie, buried in coveting, that this other person will satisfy you.
Do not strive up or awaken love for someone else.

Seek your satisfaction in the One who will not disappoint.
Be completed by the only One who can truly complete you.
Know the joy of abounding love and faithfulness that comes only from God.

Bring your healed and redeemed soul into your fragile and flawed marriage and
then let God transform your marriage into the glorifying union it was meant to be.

Start with guarding your heart.
Begin with taking care in who you are befriending.

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you for my beautiful wife – she is my beloved and my friend.  Thank you for bringing her into my life – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.  Thank you for all the joy that has come into my life through her.  Lord, you know that I am prone to be dissatisfied for no real reason.  You know that I have a thirst for what is false through the media.  You know that my eyes glance over the grass on the other side of the fence.  Father forgive me for my covetous heart.  Thank you for guarding my heart.  Thank you for keeping me from the adulterous.  Lord, keep my marriage pure; bind our hearts to one another; interweave our emotions so that we may be one.  Lord, lead us to rely upon You for our satisfaction rather than each other.  May we glorify you in our lives and our marriage.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MARITAL SPIRIT” – Oct 28

October 28, 2013

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since, they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  1 Peter 3:7

Mall food court

Mall food court (Photo credit: Gaulsstin)

When I accompany my wife on a clothes shopping trip, I have an abundance of time.  I seek out the bench or chair, tucked away in some corner to make husbands feel less self-conscious of their surroundings.  While my wife beats every sales rack for the elusive prey of reasonably fitting jeans, I watch people.

You can learn a lot about a person by watching how they treat people.

Particularly revealing is the interaction of couples.  The shock of high divorce rates will no longer be a surprise once you spend a little time in the mall.  I sit in my little observation corner, watch, and shake my head:

I have seen a man marching down the middle of the aisle, barking orders over his shoulder to the mother of his children and their progeny.  I see a loud, manly, man with little regard for the impact of words.

I have seen a fashionista ricocheting down the aisle, enamored by the glamorous contents of sales racks with passing concern for the burdened man-servant kept in waiting.

I see a group of couples meandering along.  I hear a boy make a joke.  I see the payoff of laughs that he receives and I can see the impact on his girlfriend, who has to pay the bill.

I watch a family with every hair in place and every shirt tucked in.  There are obvious exacting standards at work within the family.  I wonder if those standards are held in place by one of the spouses demanding and unrelenting obsessive compulsions.

I watch a pack of young men ogle someone’s daughter with the same demeaning assessment as they make when purchasing a steak.

I watch young women freely displaying their produce in the proud manner of a farmer.

I cringe at what I hear.  The grate on my nerves comes from both what is spoken but also how words are expressed.  The honoring word is a rarity.  The respectful phrase seems endangered.

Couple talking on the Seine bank, Paris

Couple talking on the Seine bank, Paris (Photo credit: Laurent Scheinfeld ;-))

We should not be surprised by the difficulty that we have in our relationships when you consider how elusive the gentle and quite spirit seems to be.

Peter encourages our marriages to be characterized by honor and respect.  Men and women have different roles but honor for one another should be evident as we conduct our lives together.  Consider all of the problems that arise when we fail to honor each other.

I will inevitably hurt my wife if I am rude to her.
I will inevitably alienate my wife if I am indifferent to her.
I will inevitably crush my wife’s feelings if I am forceful to her.
I will inevitably devalue my wife if I refuse to listen to her.

When I respect and honor my wife as a fellow heir of Christ, it makes it easier for her to be respectful and honoring of me.  Her subsequent response to me makes it easier to honor her more.  The cycle of honor can become a wonderful catalyst to oneness between a man and woman.

I know of only one spring that produces this precious catalyst.  Marital honor flows from the spring of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Peter encouraged the women:

Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  1 Peter 3:3-4

However, this is not just an encouragement for women.  Men are encouraged, multiple times, to have the same spirit; to be gentle and to be slow to speak.  The admonition to have a gentle and quiet spirit is for both men and women in our specific God ordained roles.  We are encouraged to have the same spirit because it is the fruit of the Spirit of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Galatians 5:22-23

How much our relationships would improve if we were more gentle with one another?

How many conflicts between men and women would be averted if more self-control was employed?

This is why you can learn a lot about a person by watching how they treat other people.  The fruit of our spirit is on display in how we treat other people, particularly our spouse.  No one can hide their spirit within the closeness of marriage.

We have problems in our marriages because we don’t have enough respect and honor.

We don’t respect and honor one another because one or both spouses lacks a gentle and quiet spirit.

We don’t have gentle and quite spirits because we lack the fruit of the Spirit.

We lack the fruit of the Spirit because we are not walking in the Spirit.

couple

couple (Photo credit: Michael Sarver)

For those who are single, do not be blinded by your desire for a relationship.  A prospective spouse should be evaluated on the fruit of the Spirit in his life.  You should know where he walks before you join him.  Is he walking in the Spirit or does he spend more time walking in the world?  There will come a time when the fog of romance burns away.  If you want to be in a relationship that is built on honor and respect, then it has to start on the sure foundation of Christ.  Do not settle for second best.

The same is true for marriage.  Marriage is a beautiful dance of individuals, maturing through time.  There are times when partners can get out of rhythm.  The beauty of a marriage between fellow heirs of Christ is that there is a unity of Spirit that can be relied upon.  It is the fruit of the Spirit that sets the beat of our hearts.  When our steps are in concert with the Spirit, the catalyst of honor and respect will start to spring forth in glory to our Father as a couple lives as servants of God.

The honor and respect in our relationships tells us a lot about our walks with God.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.  Thank you for her gentle and quiet spirit.  Thank you all the work that you are doing in her life that has produced such wonderful fruit from your Spirit.  Father, continue to do that work.  Continue to do that work in me.  Lord, give me a gentle spirit.  Give me a quiet spirit.  Teach me how to honor my wife like I should.  Help me honor her in my thoughts, actions, and words.  May our marriage bring glory to you as we strive as a couple to serve you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MARRIAGE OF THE CONTROL IMPAIRED” – June 7

June 7, 2013

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.”  1 Corinthians 7:2-3

wedding in church

wedding in church (Photo credit: Brian’s Tree)

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite this groom and this bride in holy matrimony. Marriage was ordained by God in Eden and confirmed in Cana of Galilee by the presence of the Lord Himself, and is declared by the inspired Apostle Paul to be honorable among all men. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God.  Whereas, it would be good for these two to remain single as Paul was single, they have determined it is better for them to marry because they can no longer exercise self-control.

These two are inflamed with a passion for one another that is beyond their self-control to resist the temptation of sexual immorality.  Therefore, this groom and this bride come before us to enter into this concession we call marriage as a safeguard against the temptations of Satan due to their lack of self-control.  It is fitting, therefore, that we should on this occasion, begin by asking God’s blessing on this marriage service. Let us pray.

I have never been to a wedding ceremony that started out this way but most adults understand the practical advice that Paul is giving us.  We need to build into our lives safeguards to help us fight temptations in areas where we know we are weak.  One of the roles of marriage is to provide an appropriate avenue for inflamed passions.  An important role of marriage is sexual purity.

I realize that there are a lot of couples who enter into marriage without sexual purity being one of the reasons.  There are a lot of wonderful blessings and reasons God has given us the institution of marriage.  However, it is a mistake for couples to forget about this important and practical function of marriage that safeguards both the husband and wife from sexual temptation.

There have been countless examples of marriages and families being shattered by a spouse who sought the satisfaction of their passions beyond the bounds of marriage.  The need for self-control never subsides.  For most, the fact that they are married is an acknowledgement to their lack of self-control.  The marriage bed is part of the discipline that marriage people should use to keep their bodies under control.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:27

It is a disgrace, the number of ministries and witnesses that have been damaged due to Christians failing to discipline their bodies and keep them under control.  This is not limited to the marriage bed.  A married couple is a team.  A man and wife should be striving together in all aspects of their lives to assist each other in disciplining their bodies to the glory of God.

If one lacks self control of their tongue, the other should help them in keeping it shut.

If one lacks self control regarding a substance, the other should give up their freedom to help them beat that addiction.

If one lacks self control in overeating, the other should limit their self to help them.

If one lacks self control in their responsibilities, the other should encourage them not to be a sluggard.

If one lacks self control of their anxieties, the other should speak the truths of God’s promises.

San FranMarried couples who are walking together in faith have a huge advantage in the disciplining of their bodies.  We all have our weak areas.  A spouse should know their partner’s weaknesses.  A loving spouse will want to help their partner have victory over their particular weakness.

I want my wife to run her race of faith well.  I want her to finish well.  I want her to receive the prize.  Therefore, I am committed to helping her.  She wants me to help.  It is an expression of my love for her.  She doesn’t need help with her strengths.  She needs help with her weaknesses.  I need help with my weaknesses.  I need her to help me in those areas of my live where my self control is lowest.  I want her to help me.

We show each other love by supporting each other in our respective weaknesses in order that we will both be better at disciplining our bodies as we run our race of faith.

May our marriages be all that they were intended to be including a safe haven for bodies which are control impaired.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.  Thank you for giving me a person who loves me and wants to help me follow you better.  Thank you for giving me a person who is committed to my well-being.  Father, may your blessing pour out on her.  May your face shine upon her.  May your Spirit fill her and abound in her.  Lord, help me to help her.  Give me wisdom in how I can practically support her in her weaknesses and may you give her the desire to help me in my weaknesses.   Father, we want to give you all the glory in our marriage.  We want to run well as a couple and as individuals.  We want to finish well.  Lord, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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