Tag Archives: marriage

Peace for the Storm-Tossed Family

Quite frankly, I wasn’t eager to read about “the storm-tossed family.”

But as I began to read Russell Moore’s latest book, I had to restrain myself from bombarding a friend with texted pictures of underlined passages from the book.

You may not be eager to read about the tossing of a storm, but you will definitely want to learn “how the cross reshapes the family,” which is the subtitle of The Storm-Tossed Family. Published by B&H Books, this new book on marriage and family is excellent.

Family as Problem, and Family as Solution

Moore’s opening premise is that just as storm clouds bring life-giving rain as well as devastating floods, so our families can bring to us our greatest joys as well as our deepest sorrows. The same waters that threaten to drown us can become the waters that float our boat.

storm-tossed family

“The family is not only part of the problem, … but part of the solution” (page 30). Eve’s first son murdered her second, but another Son rescues us all.

God uses His design of family to heal our families. Our marriages and families are torn apart with conflict and cruelty until we are born into God’s family, where we are loved with the lavish affection of the Father and the friendship of spiritual brothers and sisters. Through covenant vows, we receive a glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We look forward to celebrating at a Wedding Feast and living “happily ever after.”

Family as Spiritual Warfare

Moore recognizes that the family is the battleground for spiritual warfare. Our objective is not escape; it is victory. This is a battle worth fighting, and it is a war we can win.

How then shall we live in our families so that our joys are eternal instead of elusive? How can we navigate our lives so that our burdens are redemptive instead of destructive? The answer is found in the cross. Like the family sometimes, the cross is a place of pain and rejection, but it is also the door to joy and connection.

Living Crucified Lives

A cross-shaped home is an intriguing concept, but it is much more than that. Learning to incarnate the gospel in our own lives is the most important thing we can do. Many see the cross as a relic of the past, but if we are to experience transformation in the present, we must recognize that the cross is our constant pattern for daily living.

How does the cross shape us as children and siblings, as spouses and parents? I think we live cruciform lives in three ways.

1. We live cross-shaped lives as we continually die to our own self-will. Our own will is not necessarily sinful, but clinging to it always is.

2. The gospel transforms us so that we can love others sacrificially: we are willing to suffer for the benefit of another. We are willing to be wounded so that others may be healed.  As we suffer willingly and forgive generously, we re-enact the gospel.

3. The gospel renews our thinking so that we can receive our burdens as blessings. God knows how to use the snarled threads in our marriages and families to untangle the knots in our own souls.

God-ordained suffering is always redemptive, which means that God uses it to reverse the curse in the world and in our lives personally. When our spirits are yielded to God, our hardships will always prosper us spiritually. In the Hands of God, our suffering will not deprive us, demean us, or deform us; instead, it will deliver us. It will heal us and enrich us.

The cross of suffering is not an obstacle to joy for those who crucify their self-centeredness there: instead, the cross is the very means to joy. The invitation to pick up our cross (“come and die”) is the invitation to intimacy with God Himself and the invitation to share His joy.

Core Issues

I am thrilled to see fantastic truths about marriage being shared in this book, and I pray that its much-needed message will reach a huge audience. I appreciate Moore’s understanding of the unique partnership within the covenant of marriage, and I am delighted to read his discussions of masculinity and femininity, which are favorite topics of mine. Although I don’t agree with Moore on everything, I recommend this book as one of the best on marriage.

This book does not list “five tips for resolving conflict” or “six things you should never say to your wife.” Those things may be helpful, but they are secondary issues. (For those who are familiar with Radiance, you will understand when I say that The Storm-Tossed Family deals with mattress issues, not sheets.)

The primary issue in marriage is to get our own hearts right and to understand the purpose of marriage. With a sound doctrine of marriage, Moore explains the underlying principles which provide a solid foundation for dealing with secondary issues.

Let me share some great statements from several chapters.

From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:

“Men are warned [in Scripture] … against passivity and refusal to take responsibility…. Women are warned … against signifying a lack of need for the male….” (page 86)

“Headship does not refer to power but to responsibility.” (88)

“Headship will not seem often to the outside world to be ‘being the head of one’s house’ at all. Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (89)

“We are created for cooperation and for complementarity. We do this not through the will-to-power but through the way of the cross.” (94)

storm-tossed family

“Marriage matters then for everyone because marriage is not just about marriage. Marriage is about the cross.” (95)

From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:

Moore tells engaged couples that “they can’t construct their own vows” because “apart from the rest of the community, they do not know what vows to make. … [T]he primary purpose of covenant vows is not in reference to one’s feelings in the moment but to one’s commitment in the face of the unpredictable and the unimaginable.” (104)

A wedding “is not a party for the couple, celebrating their individualized love. … Those gathered are not an audience but witnesses…. In a Christian marriage, the gathered witnesses are a sign that the church is here to hold the couple accountable to their vows before God. The marriage is not just about the couple but about the gospel. This means the marriage is the business of the whole church.” (105)

“Intimacy means that you love these realities [of your spouse’s strengths and vulnerabilities] … without either taking the other’s strengths for granted or resenting him or her for not having other strengths. Often, the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ in a marriage is not a real person with which a spouse is having an affair, but instead is an imagined, idealized husband or wife to which the spouse is constantly compared.” (117)

“Whether married or not, you bear a calling to support and uphold the marriages within the family of God….” (123)

We “will find joy and peace and wholeness in our marriages when we stop expecting marriage to meet all our needs, and start seeing marriage as a war to find contentment in the gospel.” (123)

From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:

“Affairs are usually not about a lack of happiness [in marriage] or a lack of sex. … The devil knows the way to take one down is not through a deficient spouse but through a deficient self” [that is, not finding one’s identity in Christ]. (143, 145)

“Ingeniously, the satanic powers have found a means to direct human erotic energy in a direction that ultimately saps one of erotic energy, and in due time, of the very possibility of human intimacy. The powers of the age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make this seem irresistible….” (150)

“In both artificial Eros and in artificial romance, there is the love of self, not the mystery of the other.” (151)

From “The Road To and From Divorce”:

“How can Christians … speak to issues of social justice and the common good without addressing what is no doubt the leading cause of ‘orphans and widows’ (James 1:27) in our midst? How can we speak … about ‘family values’ while speaking in muted tones on the issue of divorce and at full-volume on other matters?” (162)

“John the Baptist telling Herod he could not have another man’s wife is a quite rare profile in courage in almost any era.” (163)

“The shift in evangelical attitudes toward marital permanence does not seem to have come through any kind of theological reflection or conversation at all. Instead, our approach to divorce seems to have meandered just a bit behind the mainstream of American cultural patterns. … We have grown accustomed to a divorce culture….” (164)

Moore believes that marriage “is to be part of the discipline of the church” (174). He claims that every “marriage that the church solemnizes should be a marriage the church takes as its responsibility” (175).  These statements may surprise some readers and will probably raise some eyebrows. I was surprised … and pleased, and this passage raised a cheer from me! It deserved another “thank you, Russell Moore!” text.

Cherish the Blessings

Moore also addresses the topics of children, parenting, family traumas, and aging. In each chapter, he shares clarifying perspective and profound biblical truth.

The book concludes with strong encouragement:

Your family, whatever it is, will bless you, maybe in ways you don’t even notice in the blur of busyness at the moment. Stop and notice these blessings. Listen to what God is telling you through them. … Do not be afraid. … Whatever storms you may face now, you can survive. If you listen carefully enough, even in the scariest, most howling moments, you can hear a Galilean voice saying, “Peace. Be still.” (297)

Thank you, Russell Moore, for writing The Storm-Tossed Family. May a multitude of homes be reshaped by the Cross.

“The Harry Potter Girl,” Marriage, & God

ID-10035357 (1)In her speech at the U.N. headquarters last week, Emma Watson announced the #HeForShe campaign, which encourages men to support women’s rights.

I wrote about the new movement, feminism, and marriage in this article for StartMarriageRight.com.

Click HERE to continue reading.

 

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marriage according to the Master

summer-fun-on-the-lake-1-834491-mLooking for God’s direction concerning
your marriage? Here is some clear instruction from 1 Corinthians 7—along with some encouragement and challenge, too:

Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other….

[I]f you are married, stay married. This is the Master’s command…. If a wife should leave her husband, she must either remain single or else come back and make things right with him. And a husband has no right to get rid of his wife.

… If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. …

bike-friends-1008533-m[I]f the unbelieving spouse walks out, [God calls us to handle this] as peacefully as we can. You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.

“Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”

What Fills Your Marriage?

Here is a book that I would recommend even if it were nothing more than its title: Grace Filled Marriage. But now that I have finished reading Grace Filled Marriage, I am glad to say that I can recommend not only the title but also the entire book!

If “grace” refers to all the gifts springing from goodness and love—gifts such as acceptance and forgiveness and kindness—then grace is exactly what every marriage needs.  In this hope-filled, easy-to-read book, author Tim Kimmel explains what it means to fill a marriage with grace.

Here is a collection of quotes from the book:

GraceFilledMarriage[M]ost marriage don’t struggle from a lack of love; they struggle from a lack of grace. (3)

Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost. (65)

[We can be spouses who believe that] divine grace [is] bigger than human disgrace. (113)

The primary feature of a heart of grace is that it lives to trust God. (118)

When you and your spouse are talking your way through tough issues, the goal of the discussion should always be unity, never victory. … If you consistently win arguments with your mate, guess what you get to sleep with every night? A loser! (161)

… God is glorified when we fight for our marriage, pray like mad, and trust him to deal with our unrepentant spouse. (161)

He’s a bigger God than any mess you or your spouse could have made. (172)

[Problems are] opportunities to enjoy a front-row seat to [God’s] sustaining grace. (186)

Love that comes from God is unique: … it’s delivered in abundant quantities … and graciously (as though it’s an honor on the part of the giver). (217)

True greatness is a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others. (218)

Jesus passionately met our needs. He wants his love pouring through us to passionately meet our spouse’s needs. (221)

There’s a lot resting on your mariage. Big stuff. God’s kingdom stuff. Even though you record your marriage in years, there’s an eternal dimension to what your union represents to God’s grander redemptive story. There are a lot of people whose lives will be impacted by how you live out your love—even people in generations way on down the line from you. (234)

Your marriage is worth all the grace that you can pour into it.  May God fill your life today with His generous, lavish grace.

A very blessed Thanksgiving to you!

The Kindle edition of Radiance: Secrets to Thriving in Marriage RADIANCEwill be FREE on Amazon from November 29 through December 3. Learn God’s amazing design of marriage, women, and men. Whether your marriage is great or struggling, God is able to make you thrive right where you are. This encouraging book will share with you the secrets of a healthy, radiant spirit.

If you have a Kindle and also AmazonPrime, you can borrow the ebook for free during November and December.

May your spirit feast bountifully on the goodness of God during this special week of giving thanks to Him, the Source of every good gift.

“Her” Prayer

Last week, I shared with you a husband’s prayer. Today I want to share with you a wife’s prayer, based on Scripture. May God honor your prayers as you honor Him.Differently His and Hers

I thank You, LORD, for my husband and for Your awesome design in creating him; thank You for shaping him for greatness, for strength, and for success. Thank You for using my husband to bless me, and thank You for giving me the privilege of serving You by serving him. Help me to serve him well.

By Your Spirit, I submit today to my husband’s needs. Give me insight into those needs; give me the desire and the ability to minister well to those needs. Help me to bring him good, not harm, every day of my life. I pray that he would be able to have full confidence in me and that he would lack nothing that I could provide for him.

Help me to respect my husband today in ways that are meaningful to him; show me how to encourage him, affirm him, and add strength to him. Help me to supply to him what he cannot supply to himself. Keep me in awe of who You made him to be.

Help me to support him in the responsibility that You have given him to be the “head” woman-praying-840879-min this marriage. I recognize that he has an accountability before You that I do not have. Help me to respect and appreciate the weight that You have placed on his shoulders; help me to cooperate with him in Your plan.

Help me to be a wise woman who builds her house of marriage; please don’t let me tear it down with my own foolish hands. Show me how to use the “tool” of relationship skills that You have given me to create, not to destroy. Give me the wisdom to know how to build my husband up; give me the understanding I need to establish a strong friendship with him. Give me knowledge of my husband and of Your ways so that the “rooms” of our marriage will be filled with the “rare and beautiful treasures” of laughter, kindness, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Help me to keep a quiet spirit before my husband–a calm, peaceful spirit that trusts You. Keep me from controlling or manipulating,  condemning or rejecting. Help me to specialize in reverence and purity. Make me beautiful by making me holy, no longer belonging to myself but delighting in belonging to You. Give me the wisdom and the strength to do what is right. Help me not to be afraid but to trust You.

Help me to keep a continual “welcome!” in my spirit, accepting my husband graciously for who he is. Help me to keep choosing to like him and to keep determining to enjoy him. Allow me to see through his eyes so that we will experience the oneness that You have given us; knit us together as You desire.

Thank You, LORD.

(Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 14:1; 24:3-4; 31:11-12; Ephesians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:13; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:4)

“His” Prayer

Do you have “his” and “her” towels at your house?his and hers
How about “his” and “her” prayers?

Today I want to share with you a husband’s prayer, based on Scripture.  Next week, I will share a wife’s prayer. And as always, I am glad to hear your thoughts, too!

I thank You, LORD, for my wife and for Your captivating design in creating her; thank You for her beautiful gifts and strengths. Thank You for using my wife to bless me, and thank You for giving me the privilege of serving You by serving her. Help me to serve her well.

By Your Spirit, I submit today to my wife’s needs. Give me insight into those needs; give me the desire and the ability to minister well to those needs.

man-praying-788582-mLORD, in yielding to Your plan for marriage, I acknowledge that You have given me the responsibility of being the “head” in this marriage: I am accountable to You  for the well-being of my wife. As You protect and provide for me, enable me to protect and provide for her.

Help me to lay down my life for her today in every way that You direct. Help me to lay down selfish ambition and self-focus. Help me to lay down my independence so that she can be dependent upon me and so that I can be dependent upon You. I choose to die to belonging to myself so that I can belong to her.

Show me how to “wash her feet,” ministering to her in ways that will make her radiant. Teach me how to care for her as for myself, nurturing her spirit so that she thrives. Show me how to love her well–with gentleness and with affection. Give me eyes to see through her eyes so that we will experience the oneness that You have given us; knit us together as You desire.

Help me to cover her as a roof covers walls, fabric-1-502205-mwilling to endure life’s harsh elements in order to shelter her; help me to cover her with tenderness and comfort as a blanket brings warmth on a cold night. Help me never to cover her with violence or even harshness–in action, word, or attitude. Instead, help me to be considerate as I live with my wife, esteeming  her as a “equal partner in God’s gift of new life.” Keep me mindful that my disrespect to her hinders my prayers to You.

May I be a faithful priest in our home, willing to sacrifice for my wife’s sake and willing to stand before You on her behalf.

Show us how to “relish life” together.

Thank you, LORD.

(Ecclesiastes 9:9, MSG; Malachi 2:16; Ephesians 5:25-33; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 2:2, KJV; Colossians 3:19, NIV or NLT; 1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

 

Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 3)

How are you praying for your marriage? Here is a prayer, based on Scripture, that will enable you to fight for your marriage using “the sword of the Spirit”:

LORD, I lift this marriage to You. In the spiritual realm, I want to surround this marriage with prayer and praise, just as the Israelites surrounded Jericho. “Marching” around this marriage, I honor Your Name as holy. I acknowledge You as Sovereign Lord, and I declare that this marriage belongs to You and that I belong to You.

Lord, fight for us! By Your own right arm, intervene. Tear down every satanic stronghold in our spirits.¹ Bring it down to the dust—shattered, never to rise again.Tear down every stronghold built upon rebellion against You and built upon the lies of lust, greed, and pride.

In the Name of Jesus, I ask that  “the strong man,” the enemy of this marriage, be bound.² Bind up his lies; bind up his accusations and condemnations. In the Name of Jesus, I pray that the captives be set free.

I ask that every wicked scheme of the evil one be thwarted. I ask You to throw the forces of darkness into disarray; rout the enemy through division and confusion so that the enemy is utterly defeated. I pray that no weapon forged against us will prevail.³

Expose what the enemy is causing to fester in the dark, and reveal Yourself as the Healer and the Victor.  Make us aware of enemy tactics, and reveal to us the lies that we are believing.  By Your Spirit, flood our spirits with powerful truth, overwhelming and displacing every deception. Scatter the darkness with a mighty unleashing of liberating and healing Light.

Keep us from thinking that we are each other’s enemies; cause us to know that Satan is the enemy. Deliver us from the decaying disease of  self-centeredness, and free us to feast on Your glory. Deliver us from thinking that this covenant of marriage demands too much and takes too much from us; free us to know that giving to one another is what heals and enriches us. Break the chains that tell us we must protect ourselves and provide for ourselves; free us to know that You “withhold no good thing from those who do what is right” (Psalm 84:11, NLT). Set us free as we believe that You are trustworthy, that You are the unfailing Need-meeter, that You redeem our pain with glory, and that all our joy is found in You.

O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You and praise Your Name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done and will do marvelous things, things planned long ago. I trust in You, and You save us. (adapted from Isaiah 25:1, NIV)

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¹ Specifically name any strongholds that God has revealed to you, such as anger, an addiction, a critical spirit, bitterness, or fear.
² Matthew 12:29
³ Isaiah 54:17
• Other Scriptures used are Isaiah 59:16, Isaiah 25:12, 1 John 2:16, Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 54:17, 2 Corinthians 2:11, and Ephesians 6:12.

See also:
Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 2)

Shared with Woman to Woman Ministries

Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 1)

“LORD, I lift this marriage to You. I ask You to put Your hedge of protection around this marriage and to thwart every enemy scheme against it.

‘Catch for us the little foxes’ that would eat away at this relationship–the little foxes of busyness and the little foxes of unresolved hurt feelings (Song of Songs 2:15). Help us to see beyond the surface issues of the physical realm; help us to see the deeper realities of the spiritual realm all around us.

Please give us new insight into one another; give us new understanding of one another’s needs and struggles. Help us to have hearts that always move toward one another and that are always for one another. Give us the strength to do that even when our feelings are pushing us to turn away from one another or to turn against one another.”

Over the next few weeks, I would like to share with you a series of prayers for marriages. You may want to use these prayers for your own marriage, or you may want to use them as you pray for others.

I invite you, too, to share some of the ways in which you are praying for marriages.

May God bless you as you fight on your knees!

See also:
Fighting for Your Marriage … on Your Knees (Part 2)

Calibrating the Compass of Your Heart

We tend to think that we love someone when that person attracts us. When we no longer feel attraction, we feel that we no longer have love. We see others as magnetic-like forces with the power to attract or repel us.

But are we really helpless magnets compelled to move toward attracting forces? Could it be that love is more than attraction?

God says that love is choosing to walk toward someone. Maybe attraction is not the decisive force; maybe we are.

With God’s help, we can calibrate the compass of our heart so that we move toward our choices. Godly love is a force within us which moves us toward someone whom we have chosen; it is not an external attraction that works upon us.

If we are married, we can set our compass so that the arrow of our heart points toward our covenant partner; we can determine to walk steadily in that direction, regardless of the pulling or pushing of other forces.

How Fluent are You in the Language of Apology?

You have probably heard of the five love languages, but are you familiar with the five languages of apology?[1] Here’s the basic idea: there are five components to a full apology. Many people find that one of those components is especially important to them. An apology with just that one key element is a satisfactory apology to them; but if that one key element is missing, then the apology feels incomplete to them.

Here are the five components of an apology:
1) Expressing Regret:  “I am sorry.”
2) Accepting Responsibility:  “I was wrong.”
3) Making Restitution: “How can I make this up to you?”
4) Genuinely Repenting: “I will try never to do that again.”
5) Requesting Forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me?”

Once you have determined your spouse’s language of apology, you will be able to apologize in ways that are meaningful to him or her.  If you fail to include that one key element, however, your apology will seem insincere or weak to your spouse.

Understanding that we have different languages of apology allows us to receive more graciously the apologies of others because we recognize that others may be sincere even when their style is different from our own.

“You cannot repent too soon, because you do not know how soon it may be too late.”  Thomas Fuller

“An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.” Lynn Johnston

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”  Corrie ten Boom

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Jesus, Matthew 5:7, NIV



[1] See The Five Languages of Apology by Jennifer Thomas and Gary Chapman.

Why Eve Came from Adam’s Side

We can call bitter “sweet,” if we want. bitterThat’s nothing new. (See Isaiah 5:20.) But this semantic violence fails to produce anything more than confused thinking: changing labels does not change essence.

If we call homosexual union “a marriage,” then we need another word for this: God’s design for one man and one woman to reflect the harmonized diversity within God’s one essence and to suggest the creative power of that unity.

The Biblical definition of marriage is much more than a legally recognized relationship of emotional and sexual attachment. Marriage was designed to reveal the very nature of God.

1040039_shoesGod’s image is uniquely reflected in the union of male and female because the fullness of the Godhead encompases both masculinity and femininity. It is ironic that the homosexual community promotes the word “diversity” because a core problem with homosexual union is its lack of that very thing. The beauty of both musical and marital harmony lies in the rich complementing of differing notes or genders, not identical ones.

Why did God create Eve from the side of Adam? There was purpose in that: since Eve came from Adam, their union was able to represent oneness instead of “twoness.”

 

 

Encouraging Your Husband Spiritually

How can you encourage spiritual growth in your husband?

You could try leaving ID-10081339tracts on your husband’s pillow, reading Scripture loudly when he walks by, or keeping yourself busy by attending lots of church functions. You could, … but please don’t! It won’t work, and both of you will be miserable! Fortunately, God has given some trustworthy directives that won’t backfire. We can use the acronym RAPID to list several ways in which you can bless your husband, whether he is a believer or not.

Respect your husband. You may not respect everything that he does, but you can always respect the man God created him to be because he is an immortal spirit made in the image of God Almighty. Be continually aware that your husband is created for greatness and honor. He is designed for strength and success. Stay in awe of that.

Maintain a “zero-tolerance policy” against critical or demeaning thoughts of your husband in your own mind and spirit. Rehearse to yourself the truth of his great value. See his failings as brokenness and spiritual captivity, not as personal attacks that threaten your spiritual well-being.

Accept him. Accept him for who he is at his core.  Keep a warm “welcome” in your spirit to your man. When you communicate to him, “I accept you, and I desire you,” then your holiness becomes beautiful to him and can attract him to God.

Pray. Pray for yourself, and pray for your husband. Pray for insight into your husband’s needs and for wisdom on how best to minister to those needs. Pray for God to show you how to respect your husband in ways that are meaningful to him. Pray for God’s work in your husband’s heart–not that your life will be more pleasant, but that his life will be more blessed.

Invite your husband. God has designed wives to be like fragrance, inviting their husbands into holiness. We are called by God to be magnets that draw our husbands to God; we are not called to be whips that drive our husbands to God.

Your faith will be inviting to your husband when it makes you inviting–that is, joyful, pleasant, and cooperative. A woman who is critical and unhappy does not make her God appealing.

ID-10034285Determine to enjoy him. Make it a matter of your will, not your feelings. Insist upon enjoying him. “Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day …” (Eccl. 9:9, MSG). Focus on strengthening your friendship with him.

Become a 1 Peter 3 woman. God will give you a resting, calm spirit as you trust Him. Draw your strength and encouragement from Scripture, from prayer, and from godly girlfriends who will encourage your marriage commitment.

Be assured that God wants you right where you are to serve Him in a very powerful and significant way. God will be faithful to meet your needs so that you are then able to minister to your husband.

May God bless you in special ways as you serve Him in your marriage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who is getting your crumbs?

Are you giving your spouse your best “bread” or the leftover “crumbs”?

When Jesus spoke with the Greek woman about the children’s bread and the pet dogs under the table, He was not belittling her; He was explaining His priorities and being faithful to His calling.

Our spouses are our first priority and our highest calling. We want to give our best attention and energy to our spouses.

Who is getting your best “bread”?

 

 

Seen Any Pictures of Worship Lately?

How can we best understand the essence of worship? There may be no better illustration of spiritual worship than physical marriage. What marriage is between a man and woman is what worship is between God and His people. Although marriage and worship are expressed in and enhanced by activity, both marriage and worship are primarily matters of relationship.

In marriage, I choose a man to be my husband, I commit to belonging to him, I celebrate him, and I value him above all else. This tells me what it means to worship God! To worship God is to choose Him to be my God, to commit to belonging to Him, to celebrate Him, and to value Him above all else.

In our marriages, we love by eagerly serving, by giving ourselves for another’s delight, and by delighting in another. We live lives of worship as we serve God eagerly, give ourselves to Him for His delight, and delight in Him.

Marriage is how we participate in an intimate covenant relationship with another human being; worship is how we participate in an intimate covenant relationship with God.

 

The Dancing King … had a Demolishing Queen (continued)

You may have guessed that we would not be able to watch the dancing king without noticing the seething shadow up in the palace window. If the king had noticed, it may have been because he felt the scathing heat of that shadow reaching him even in the streets below.

When King David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he set a great example for his people by worshiping God with gratitude and with celebration. However, on the same day, his wife Michal set a very different kind of example: she modeled for wives what not to do.

With one caustic sentence, she tore down her marriage “with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). With bitterness, she belittled. With contempt, she criticized. With disdain, she despised. Michal accused David of not knowing how to be a king, but the truth was that Michal did not know how to treat a king! As a result, Michal suffered immense heartache and personal loss.

Just as husbands can learn from David in verses 12-19 of 2 Chronicles 16, so wives can learn from Michal in verse 20. A woman is wise who guards against sarcasm, scolding, and scorn–not only in words, but also in thought. Unlike Michal, a godly wife uses life-giving words and a respectful attitude to “build her house.” In that kind of house, the hearts of both the king and the queen can dance.

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How to Change Your Marriage … Right Now

How do you see your marriage–as a power struggle? a fight for your rights? a duty? a trap? Let me suggest a radically different perspective. What if you saw your participation in your marriage as an act of worship? If you will see your “wife-ing” or your “husband-ing” as an act of worship, your marriage will become a whole new thing to you.

Romans 12 tells us to present our bodies to God as acts of worship; we can do this with our marriages, too! We can offer to God our involvement in our marriages as acts of worship. With each action and each thought toward our spouses, we can say to God, “I present this as an offering to You.”

Worship involves choosing and valuing. Husbands can worship God by saying to Him, “I will love this woman by sacrificing myself for her because I choose You as my God and because I value You above all else.” Wives worship when they say to God, “I will respect this man and prioritize his needs because I choose You as my God and because I value You above all else.”

When we “do marriage” as an act of worship, nothing is ever wasted; nothing is ever lost; nothing is ever in vain. Even bitter circumstances are fully redeemed in the sweetness of worship. Ugly hurts are transcended by the beauty of holiness. Acts of love which cost us deeply become the expensive perfume which we are pleased to pour on the feet of Jesus. Every act of genuine worship enriches us; every time we love our spouses as an act of worship to God, we are enriched.

In our marriages, we want “love as worship” to be a consistent lifestyle, not sporadic incidents. We are committed to this worship whether or not our spouses join us in this perspective. Yielded to the Spirit, we embrace our marriages as sacred places of deeply profound worship.

Forget Your Marriage!

Forget your marriage. 

Why would someone who is committed to encouraging marriages tell you to forget your marriage? What I mean is this: Focus on your spouse, not on your marriage.

Trying to achieve a certain kind of marriage can make us crazy! This is misplaced energy; we are actually off-target when we are focused on the marriage itself. We do not take our marriages with us to heaven; we take people with us to heaven. We have been called to love someone, not to create a particular kind of marriage.

Focus on loving your spouse, serving his or her needs as God directs. This will have the effect of blessing your marriage, of course; but you will have a much healthier focus. You can thrive when you let go of trying to manipulate your marriage and instead focus on valuing your spouse. Your spouse is the real treasure, not the marriage itself.

When I say, “forget your marriage,” what I mean is this: Focus on what your loving looks like, not on what your marriage looks like. As we stand before God, we are not responsible for the condition of our marriages; we are responsible for the way we serve in our marriages.

We can torment ourselves by continually measuring our marriages against our version of the ideal marriage. We can live free from that! Instead of evaluating our marriages, we want to evaluate ourselves as husbands and wives. As we ask God for insight into the needs of our spouses, we also ask God to enable us to minister to those needs according to His wisdom and purposes.

(adapted from Radiance: Secrets to Thriving in Marriage)

The Emotion that Devours, continued

When we are wronged, how can we handle our anger? We answer that best when we look at what God does when He is wronged.  John Piper considers this in his book This Momentary Marriage: “But even though God has never done anything that legitimately pro­vokes our anger at him, what has he done about the breakdown in our relationship with him? He has taken initiatives to heal it—initiatives that were infinitely costly to him” (p. 151).

When we are wronged, we can reflect God by thinking like this: “In my spirit, I will walk towards this person in love. I will join Christ in this situation. I am willing to suffer so that this person can be healed.” Just as Christ was willing to suffer in order to love me well, so I can be willing to suffer in order to love others well.

Although the work of atonement was completed at the Cross, the work of redemption (turning ashes into beauty) and sanctification (turning self-centered, diseased people into Christ-centered, healthy people) is ongoing. It is an awesome privilege to be invited to partner with God in His work. Not only does He promise to reward us well, but He promises that He Himself will be our great reward. There is nothing greater than that!

This means that when I am tempted to be angry about what is happening to me, I can instead yield to the Spirit so that the situation belongs to Him and not to me. Not only does this allow His power and wisdom to replace my weakness and foolishness, but this also changes the suffering of that situation into His suffering, instead of mine.  Double-yoked with Christ, I delight in being drawn nearer to Him; sharing in His sufferings, I delight in bringing pleasure to Him as the desires of His heart are being fulfilled.

   In summary, here are the three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead:

1. Recognize that my enemy is my anger, not what someone else has said or is doing. It is my bitterness that devours my soul.

2. Choose to be an active giver, truly believing that the best blessings come through giving.

3. Choose to join Christ in His sufferings in order to love others well and to gain intimacy with Christ.

When we do these things through the Spirit, every bit of our lives can be infused with the beauty and joy of God.  That, I think, is awesome.

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The Emotion that Devours

In reading “my new favorite book on marriage,” I was interested to discover an entire chapter devoted to the topic of anger. Author John Piper bases much of his discussion in This Momentary Marriage on the Biblical directives given in Ephesians 5:21 through 6:4. When the apostle Paul speaks to fathers in this passage, he gives one strong warning: “do not provoke your children to anger.” Of all the things that Paul could tell fathers, why does he choose this one thing? Piper recognizes that anger is being highlighted here as a critical issue in the home.

As Piper points out, anger “devours almost all other good emotions. It deadens the soul. It numbs the heart to joy and gratitude and hope and tenderness and compassion and kindness.” When we work to conquer anger, not only are we freed of that misery, but we also “unlock” our hearts “to a dozen other precious emotions that make worship possible and make relationships sweet” (page 150).

There are three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead. Here are the first two:

1. Recognize that my anger is the enemy, not what someone else has said or done. It is my bitterness that devours my own soul, and it is my resentment that is bringing harm to me. Anger is  destructive when it is based on lies. We often choose to believe the lie that someone else is messing things up for us.  But the truth is that every single thing that comes  into my life, whether it is a trivial frustration or a horrible evil, can be used by God to advance His trustworthy purposes. Everything that God has allowed to enter my life has been charged by God to prosper me.

2. Choose to be an active giver, believing that choosing to give is a great gift to myself as well as to the other person. I can choose to give grace, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, and honor.  I can consciously choose to walk in love toward someone when my natural reaction would actually be to run away or to attack. When I choose to walk toward another in love, powerful things happen in the spiritual realm: the enemy is weakened, strongholds collapse, chains of bondage are broken, and captives are set free.

When we are mistreated or misunderstood or unappreciated, we gain an even greater opportunity to give and to create spiritual impact. That is why James says that we can “consider it pure joy” when we encounter problems or pain. Situations that tempt us to be angry are the very opportunities that allow us to give so that we are enriched. Our spirits are naturally ingrown—a condition which leads to decay and death. Giving is what heals the sickness of our spirits.

(We’ll look at a third way to combat anger next time.)

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My New Favorite Book on Marriage

“Yes! Yes! That’s right! That’s it!” That was my ongoing mental refrain as I read This Momentary Marriage by John Piper last week. It is an excellent primer on marriage, dealing with the most basic, most essential, and most profound aspects of marriage, such as the purpose of marriage, the key strengths of marriage, and the roles of headship and submission. I highly recommend this book! You can purchase the book, or you may download the free PDF of the entire book by going to the Desiring God website:   http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/this-momentary-marriage.

Piper does a great job of emphasizing the foundational truth of marriage, which is that marriage is a picture of the love relationship between Christ and His bride. On that topic, here are several excerpts from This Momentary Marriage:

Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part” or “As long as we both shall live” is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.  (p. 25)

Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel. (p. 26)

 Marriage is more wonderful than anyone on earth knows. … The reason we need the Spirit’s help [to understand the glory of marriage] is that the wonder of marriage is woven into the wonder of the gospel of the cross of Christ, and the message of the cross is foolishness to the natu­ral man, and so the meaning of marriage is foolishness to the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14).  ( p. 29)

 

A “Word for Your Marriage”

“Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7, RSV).

The apostle Paul gave this instruction to all believers in Christ. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out that these words also create an excellent guideline for husbands and wives to apply specifically in their marriages.  While imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to his niece, who was engaged to be married. In “A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,” Bonhoeffer gives this counsel:

Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your heart. … From the first day of your wedding till the last, the rule must be: ‘Welcome one another… for the glory of God’ ….That is God’s word for your marriage.

What a great application! The Greek word used in Romans 15:7 is proslambano, translated as “welcome” in the RSV, and as “accept” in the NIV. Proslambano means “to take to one’s self; to take as one’s companion; to take or receive into one’s home, with the collateral idea of kindness; to receive, i.e. grant one access to one’s heart.” (www.blueletterbible.org)

Certainly, proslambano is something to offer to our spouses–especially to them! Continually, we can be welcoming to our spouses as we receive their presence with warmth and with gladness. We can receive them with kindness and grant them access to our hearts. Instead of sensing rejection or mere tolerance, our spouses can live “welcomed” by our spirits.

As our spouses interact with us, what do they encounter?

Padlock.

 

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 13: The Marriage Version (with my apologies to King James)

Though I speak to my spouse using diplomatic “I feel” messages and skillful conflict-resolution strategies, but do not love, I am become as sounding brass or as a car alarm that won’t shut off. And though I have an advanced degree in marriage counseling and understand the mysteries of why people do what they do and have all knowledge of psychology; and though I read a mountain of books on relationships, but do not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my good efforts to fulfill my duties, and though I burn up every drop of energy in being a great spouse, but do not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love is patient even when a spouse does not change; love is kind even when a spouse is thoughtless; love does not envy another marriage; love is not impressed with its own marriage skills.

Franciscan Fine ChinaLove does not save its “fine china” manners for company; love is courteous and polite. Love looks out of a spouse’s eyes to see from another’s perspective. Love is not easily provoked and thinketh no evil; instead, love assumes a spouse’s best intentions. Love does not delight in any threat to the relationship, but rejoices in healing and in strengthening. Love always protects the marriage, always believes that a spouse is priceless and made in the image of God, always trusts the promises of God, and is always confident that God’s grace is deeper than any need. Love never shuts its heart, never forsakes its covenant commitment, and never rejects a spouse.

Child rolled tongueLove never faileth: but whether there be prophecies that “you should move on with your life,” they shall fail; whether there be tongues that say that “your spouse is a jerk,” they shall cease; whether there be knowledge that “you deserve better than this,” it shall vanish away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became married, it was time to put away childish things, such as self-centeredness and quitting and valuing what feels easy.

For now we see through a glass, darkly, and there is much that we do not understand about our spouses, about ourselves, or about God’s ways; but then, face to face with God, we shall know fully what glorious things He has been doing through our marriages, just as He knows fully now how to love us well.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Head Signs

Old Testament Nazarites, such as Samson, wore long hair as a symbol of consecration to God. In the New Testament, married women wore long hair as a symbol of marital consecration. The Scriptures say that this sign of submission is important “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10, NIV). Could it be that godly submission to a husband provides a wife with a spiritual covering which is recognized by angels?

The writer of Hebrews tells us that angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:4). Do angels see a spiritual mark, as it were, on godly wives, indicating that these are the ones whom the angels are to serve?

A man who is not considerate and honoring toward his wife loses spiritual strength; his prayers become impotent. (See 1 Peter 3:7.) Perhaps in the same way, a woman who is not submitted in spirit to the needs and glories of her husband loses the personal ministering of angels to herself.

Although the sign on the head need not be literal, the spiritual principle is firmly established: the way we obey God in our marriages has profound implications for our spiritual status—and, therefore, our entire being.

Responses to Nakedness (last time!)

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, was He cognizant of the fact that He Himself would soon be in the same situation of being exposed before others? As He hung on the cross, Jesus experienced all of the varying “responses to nakedness.” There were accusers (like the serpent); there were those who mocked and sneered (like Ham); there were those who fled and “hid their faces” from another’s disfigurement (like the priest and the Levite); and there were a few who honored and ministered to the wounded one (like Shem, Japheth, and the Good Samaritan).

How do we, as God’s people, respond to revealed brokenness in our spouses? How do we respond to exposed neediness in their spirits and souls? We can reflect God Almighty, the One whose image we bear, when we do the following:

  • when we resolve always to move toward our spouses emotionally and spiritually,
  • when we graciously offer healing,
  • when we pour out from our own lives (although we are also broken and needy),
  • and when we resolve to bring honor to our covenant partners.

In hanging on the cross in nakedness and shame, Jesus did what the Good Samaritan could not do: He took the wounds onto Himself, took the nakedness onto Himself, and offered His own clothing and wholeness to the broken man. This is what God offers to do for each one of us: take the shame that we are trying in vain to hide with our flimsy fig leaves, and fully cover it instead with His own skin.

God’s response to our nakedness is to make it His.

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Responses to Nakedness (part 3 of 4)

Do you think of one more person in the Scriptures who lay naked and vulnerable before others? Jesus told the story of a man who was brutally attacked by robbers on the road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho. In this parable, we again see contrasting responses to nakedness:

1. Both the priest and the Levite saw the wounded man, but they “passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31, NIV). This represents a common response to the exposed vulnerabilities of others: we turn away. Whether we walk away because of fear, indifference, or some other motivation, our turning away functions as rejection to the wounded person.

2. The Samaritan, however, did not turn away. When he saw the wounded man, “he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (verses 33-34, italics mine). From his own resources, the Samaritan provided the care that he could, and he enlisted others in appropriate ways to provide additional care.

The Samaritan models for us another godly “response to nakedness,” a response that is critical in our marriages and sometimes in other situations, too. When neediness is revealed to us, we may be tempted to turn away. We may be fearful or limited in ability and resources. However, we can respond with courage and with compassion, resolving to move toward the other person; we can pour out from our own lives to bring healing and to restore honor.

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Responses to Nakedness (part 2 of 4)

Drunk and naked in his tent? That is how we find Noah in chapter 9 of Genesis, and it is a  startling situation to find. After all, Noah was introduced to us as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9, NIV). This unusual situation, although it may be uncomfortable for us, provides an excellent illustration of the “approaches to nakedness” principles.
1. Noah’s son Ham “saw his father’s nakedness and told” others about it.  This is the way of the serpent: when nakedness (weakness, wounding, or sin) is revealed, it is used to shame, dishonor, or accuse.
2. In contrast, when Shem and Japheth learned of their father’s nakedness, they “took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness.Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.” (Genesis 9:23, NIV) This is God’s way: when nakedness is revealed, the one who loves will seek to bring healing and to restore honor.
In marriage, when we encounter the wounds and brokenness (“nakedness”) of our spouses, we can choose to respond like the serpent and Ham, or like God, Shem, and Japheth. If we choose to shame or degrade, we reduce ourselves spiritually to crawling on our bellies and eating dust, like the serpent. If we choose to dishonor, we will find ourselves cursed as “the lowest of slaves,” like Ham (Genesis 9:25, NIV).
However, instead of shaming, we can work to bring healing and honor. Like Shem and Japheth, we can walk into the darkness and make effort to restore honor. While we do not love the brokenness, we willingly enter those areas and work to love well in those areas. When we do this, we are responding as God responded to us.

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