Category Archives: Marriage

THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE

It is imperative in these days and the ones to come that we are clear on the definition of marriage as defined by the author of marriage. It is not an interpretive matter for views apart from God’s view, though called marriage, are not marriage. Ray Ortlund masterfully brings the definition to light and one to make sure you understand and pass on to your children so they do not get confused. Ray writes:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  Genesis 2:24

It is not true that the Bible teaches multiple views of marriage, and therefore the Bible’s clarity is diminished on this question.  The Bible does record, for example, that “Lamech took two wives” (Genesis 4:19).  But the Bible is not thereby endorsing polygamy, but indeed is casting doubt on polygamy.  The role of Lamech in the text is to show “a progressive hardening in sin” (Waltke, Genesis, page 100).  We invented polygamy, along with other social evils.  But God gave us marriage.

The Bible defines marriage in Genesis 2:24, quoted above.  Here is what this significant verse is saying:

Therefore.  This word signals that Moses is adding an aside to his narrative.  It’s as if we are sitting in Moses’ living room, watching his DVD of the creation of the universe (Genesis 1) and of man and woman (Genesis 2).  At this point he hits the pause button on the remote, the screen freezes, he turns to us post-fall people watching these amazing events and he says, “Now let me explain how what God did so long ago is normative for us today.  Amazingly, we still retain something beautiful from the Garden of Eden.”

A man shall leave his father and his mother.  In a culture of strong bonds between the generations, this is striking.  A man’s primary human relationship is no longer with his parents or ancestors.  He breaks away from them for the sake of a more profound loyalty.

And hold fast to his wife.  A man, in marrying, enfolds his wife into his heart.  He rejoices to identify with her: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (verse 23).  At every level of his being, he becomes wholeheartedly devoted to her, as to no other.

And they shall become one flesh.  “One flesh” is essential to the biblical view of marriage.  It means, one mortal life fully shared.  Two selfish me’s start learning to think like one unified us, sharing one everything: one life, one reputation, one bed, one suffering, one budget, one family, one mission, and so forth.  No barriers.  No hiding.  No aloofness.  Now total openness with total sharing and total solidarity, until death parts them.  Moreover, Jesus explained that, behind the word “become,” God is there: “What therefore God has joined together . . .” (Matthew 19:6).  He also made it clear that the word “they” in Genesis 2:24 means “the two” (Matthew 19:5), thus establishing one man/one woman as the biblical norm.  What we see then, is that marriage is not a product of human social evolution; marriage came down from God.  And he defined it for us.  He has the right to.  It belongs to him.

One mortal life fully shared between a man and a woman — this is marriage, according to the Bible, because Genesis 2:24 is not a throw-away line.  Its very purpose is to define.

What’s more, the apostle Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to take our understanding a step further — an amazing step: “We are members of [Christ’s] body.  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Ephesians 5:30-31).  Notice his logic.  “We are members of Christ’s body.  He loved us.  He chose us.  He gave himself up for us.  He will present us someday in splendor.  We are united with Christ now and forever.  Therefore, our union with Christ is the reason why, a man and woman get married and live united as ‘one flesh.’  Human marriages are miniature social platforms on which the gospel is to be displayed.”  The final reason why men and women fall in love and get married is because the whole human story is, most deeply, a romance coming down from above.

Marriage is a gospel issue.  That is why clarity about its definition matters to Christians.  If we depart from, or fail to stand up for, the biblical view of marriage, we are taking a step away from the gospel itself.  The whole Bible is the story of the marital love of God, as I demonstrate in this book.  Our whole lives are that story, if we have eyes to see.

Marriage is more than human romance, wonderful as that is.  It is more than close friendship, wonderful as that is.  Marriage is the display of Christ and his Bride in love together.  A beautiful, tender, thriving marriage makes the gospel visible on earth, bringing hope to people who have given up believing there could be any love anywhere for them.  That is why biblical marriage deserves our courageous loyalty and articulate defense today.  Its true meaning is understood and embodied and sustained only by the power of the gospel.

We can’t turn the clock back to the days of the Christian social consensus our nation is throwing away.  But we who say we believe the gospel must stand up for the biblical definition of marriage.  We must cultivate beautiful marriages ourselves.  We must suffer social and legal penalties bravely.  We must pray for revival.  We must wait for the inevitable collapse of every false view of marriage.  We must lovingly serve all who suffer for their attempts at false “marriages.”  And we must go to church this Sunday and worship the living God with all our hearts, so that we ourselves are sustained for faithfulness over the long haul, because this isn’t going to be easy.

HT: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2015/06/26/what-is-marriage-according-to-the-bible/

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PLEASE DO NOT GIVE US ROMANCE LESSONS!

HAY BALES 3Here is another article that Deb and I can really identify with. We are hopelessly in love with each other and would consider our 41 years of marriage highly romantic. But, I do not overly “romance” my wife and we are not touchy, feely and dramatic in any way. I know at many marriage conferences they attempt to stimulate romance which we make clear if we are the main speakers we have no intention going down that road (so if you are planning to attend the Maranatha Bible Camp Couples Retreat – you are safe). If romance is sparked, it will be a Holy Spirit thing and not by my suggestion. Not that being romantic is wrong, it is just not our style. .. George

By Kim Shay, http://philippians314.squarespace.com/

My closest friend and I had a chuckle yesterday about something she’d read regarding how men can keep the romance alive in their marriages. It was written from a Christian perspective, so there wasn’t anything nasty in there.

I am not an overly romantic person, and that’s good, because my husband isn’t the type, either. And that’s okay with us. If he was to sit down, at candlelight, look into my eyes, and recite poetry, we’d both end up laughing. We love candlelight, but we have never been what I would call romance lovers.

That isn’t to say that he hasn’t done things that are romantic. When we’d been married twenty years, between him and a friend of mine, a plan was hatched for me to visit her in California. He did all of the arranging himself. That was romantic. For him, having Rice Pudding for dessert fosters romance. Maybe we’re weird.

Last night, after my husband read what I had read, he took up one of the author’s suggestions to sing to me, and he began to belt out “Unchained Melody,” and in a strange twist of irony, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” After the pets ran away and hid, he stopped. Most of the time when my husband sings to me, he does it to generate laughter.

After the furor died down, my husband looked at me and asked me seriously, “Would you ever want me to do any of those things?”

I told him without hesitation, no. And I told him that what is the most romantic thing to me is twofold: consistency and follow-through. My husband is one of the most consistent people I know. Relationships with moody people are hard. I don’t do those kind well. He is not moody. And when he isn’t juggling forty things at work, his follow-through is great. I have a husband who calls me almost every night shortly after 5:00 to ask me if I need anything before he leaves the office. How romantic is that?

In talking to my adult children about matters of the heart, I point them regularly to those two qualities. It is essential for both husband and wife. I dated someone who was unpredictable and moody. Those things were what made me look closely and realize that we were not compatible. Romance may take work, but the effects are often fleeting and need to be conjured up again tomorrow. Romance is subjective. Consistency fosters security and trust. When a man stands before God and his family and vows to love his wife as himself, and as Christ loved the church, he’d better know a thing or two about being consistent, because “until we are parted by death,” can be a long time. A lot longer than it might take to scratch out a few lines of poetry. If a woman really wants the poetry, then, yes, her husband might want to give it a try. But not every woman wants a poem.

The suggestion to keep the romance alive in a marriage is a good one. But the best piece of advice a man could give another man, in my opinion is this: know who your wife is. If a man knows his wife well, talks to her, listens to her, and watches her, he’ll know what is romantic to her and what isn’t.

WIVES: LET YOUR HUSBAND LOVE YOU

My note:  I recall having a time I went through this with Deb. We are past it, hopefully. I do appreciate greatly though as a husband that Deb receives my heart felt expressions to her as not manipulative or meant to be insincere compliments to make her feel better. I often say to her when she thanks me, “It is not a compliment, just speaking facts”  🙂

By Kristen   http:// http://www.whenathome.com

I get it. The kids have been climbing on you all day. One or both of your boobs have been exposed 87% of the day and you’re sick of being clawed at, sucked on, licked, punched, kicked, pulled, snotted on, cried on, spit up on, pooped on, and peed on. You’ve wiped butts and noses and counters and walls all day. You’ve battled attitudes and arched backs and Dora the Explorer since dawn and you’re tired. So. So. Tired. I know. I really really do.

I know you don’t want to be touched and for some reason, an innocent compliment can offend you. When he says, “You’re so pretty”, you think he’s mocking you because you’re in the yoga pants you’ve been wearing 4 days in a row and your hair is either falling out of your scalp or tied so tightly on top of your head that your eyebrows are permanently surprised. You think when he hugs you he’s just trying to do the thing that made all this chaos start in the first place and that ticks you off. Please. PLEASE. Listen when I say these things.

Stop. Take a breath. Recharge. Try again.

He’s been away at work all day. He’d much rather be with you. All of you. He’s missed your face, your voice, your smell, and your touch. He’s had to deal with whatever crap he has to deal with in order to provide for the family that he loves. He doesn’t enjoy walking out the door every morning, but he does. Every day. For you. For them.

He does think you’re pretty. He wouldn’t lie to you. He doesn’t need to say those things. But when he walks in the door and the first thing he sees is the love of his life, don’t convince yourself that he’s thinking about anything other than how absolutely beautiful you are. Cause guys are weird. Once they fall in love with you, there’s nothing you can wear, no amount of weight you can gain, and no lack of make up that will make them see you any differently. You are their love, their bride, and after he’s been at work all day, you are a sight for sore eyes.

So instead of rolling your eyes, huffing and puffing, throwing out gut kicking comments about how he has it easy, doesn’t understand, is lazy, a jerk, whatever comes to your beautiful stressed out brain… BREATHE. Look away from your day and see the man that won your heart.

Let your husband love you.

Because he needs to love you. As much as you need to receive the love he has for you, he needs to be received. He needs to be welcomed, embraced, and loved. Even if the last thing you want is to be touched or to hear how amazing you look when you feel insecure and disgusting. Let him love you. Don’t push him away. If you do, I can guarantee there will come a day when your cold shoulders and eye rolling will have trained him to stay away. There will be a day when you will need to be hugged and need to be reminded of how amazing you are and he won’t know how to tell you.

So suck up your pride, your anger, your frustration, and your crazy and just…be loved.

The Six Deadly Enemies of Marriage

The first enemy, neglect of foundation, is essentially the theme of the couples retreat Deb and I will be doing, “Taking Hold of God in Marriage.” I will be developing an argument that our view of who God is and what he has done, does have a deep impact on our view of our marriage and spouse.

Article written by Tim Challies

Marriage is under attack. Marriage has always been under attack. The world, the flesh and the devil are all adamantly opposed to marriage, and especially to marriages that are distinctly Christian. Marriage, after all, is given by God to strengthen his people and to glorify himself; little wonder, then, that it is constantly a great battleground.

I have been thinking recently about some of the foremost foes of Christian marriage and, really, the foremost foes I see creeping up to assault my own marriage. Here are 6 deadly enemies of marriage, and Christian marriage in particular.

Neglect of Foundation

Marriage is from God, about God, to God, and for God, so we neglect God at our peril.

The enemy of marriage that deserves to be at the very top of the list is this one: neglecting the foundation—neglecting the biblical foundation. The Bible makes it clear that marriage is an institution decreed by God and an institution meant to glorify God by displaying something about him. The great mystery of marriage is that the covenantal relationship of husband and wife is a portrait of the covenantal relationship of Christ and his church. Marriage is from God, about God, to God, and for God, so we neglect God at our peril. It is only when the biblical foundation is in place that we are able to rightly understand how a husband and wife are to relate, how they are to take up their separate roles, and how they are to seek to bring glory to God both individually and as a couple. To build marriage on any other foundation is to neglect the rock in favor of building upon the sand.

Neglect of Prayer

Private prayer is essential to the Christian life, and prayer as a couple is essential to the Christian marriage.

Prayer is our lifeline, the means through which we praise God, express our gratitude, confess our sin, and plead for help. The couple that prays together is confessing before God that they are dependent upon him, that they are unable to thrive without him. Private prayer is essential to the Christian life, and prayer as a couple is essential to the Christian marriage. Here, kneeling at the bedside or sitting by the fire, the husband and the wife meet with the Lord together, praising him for his goodness and grace, confessing their sin against him and against one another, and pleading for his wisdom and help. When prayer ceases, the couple is tacitly proclaiming that they can survive and thrive on their own, that they do not need God’s ongoing, moment-by-moment assistance. Prayerlessness is a great foe of marriage.

Neglect of Fellowship

Another great enemy of marriage is a lack of fellowship—local church fellowship. Satan loves it when he can compel an individual to withdraw from the church; how much better when he can draw away a couple or a whole family. When a married couple leaves the church, or even pulls back to just doing the bare minimum, they are leaving the place where they are meant to see healthy marriage modeled, where they are able to worship together side-by-side, where they will find friends before whom they can open up their marriage so others can see and diagnose their struggles. Marriage thrives in the context of the local church and withers outside it.

Neglect of Communication

Just as Satan wants a couple to stop communicating with God through prayer, he also wants that couple to stop communicating with one another. Free, open and regular communication is key to any relationship, none more so than marriage. When a couple is able and willing to communicate, they are able to admit and work through the difficulties, they are able to share both the joys and the sorrows that are inevitable in a life lived together. Too many couples stop communicating, or perhaps they never learn. Instead of working through issues, they allow them to remain, to fester, and to become toxic. Communication is key to a healthy marriage, and lack of communication is a perilous foe.

Neglect of Shared Interests

Shared interests motivate shared time, shared conversation, shared passion.

When a couple is dating it is rare for them to find they have nothing in common, that they have few shared interests. But as time goes on, as they become husband and wife and settle into normal life, they can so easily fall into their separate routines. Now they live alone together, two people carrying on their separate lives under the same roof. Shared interests motivate shared time, shared conversation, shared passion. It can be a hobby, it can be an activity, it can even be a television show, but it ought to be something. The neglect of shared interests is a great enemy to a healthy marriage.

Neglect of Sex

God was good to provide that strange and mysterious gift of sex in order to bind a husband and wife together in a unique way. Sex is the superglue of a healthy marriage, and yet most couples are never far from neglecting it or from replacing it with pornography or something, anything else. The Bible demands that a husband and wife maintain the sexual relationship in all but the narrowest of circumstances—with mutual agreement, for a short time, in order to concentrate on prayer. There are inevitable times when nothing seems more difficult than pursuing the sexual relationship and nothing seems easier than neglecting it, but to neglect sex is to directly disobey God. To neglect sex is to disregard one of God’s great and indispensable gifts.

If Satan cannot destroy a marriage, he will at least determine to weaken it. To neglect any of these 6 things is to invite his presence and to welcome his influence.

HT: http://www.challies.com/christian-living/6-deadly-enemies-of-marriage

The Surest Way to Promote God’s Good Plan for Marriage

By Dan Doriani

After a decade as senior pastor of Central Presbyterian church in Clayton, Missouri, Dan Doriani will return to Covenant Seminary full time beginning October 1, 2013. He will serve as vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology.husband blesses

With additional time to assess last week’s Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, we can see how both advance America’s move toward accepting and affirming gay marriage. Analysts disagree about what comes next, but many believe the language in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion will soon let the Supreme Court declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Wherever we live, same-sex marriage is probably coming soon. Kennedy wrote that DOMA is unconstitutional because of its “interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages.” DOMA’s effect, Kennedy said, is “to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.” DOMA’s “principal purpose is to impose inequality . . . to disparage and to injure” people who, Kennedy concludes, live in less respected forms of marriage.

Reacting to these decisions, many Christians are pleased by the way rights have been extended to an often oppressed group. Whatever our view of marriage may be, we must know that the law of Moses often insists on equal legal protection for all (e.g. Exod. 23:8, Deut. 16:19). On the other hand, Genesis states and Jesus reaffirms God’s good plan for marriage: “From the beginning the Creator made them male and female. . . . For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt. 19:4-5). Many of us are troubled by the Supreme Court’s decisions because they show how our nation’s allegiance to biblical norms is eroding. But the paramount question is this: How does this ruling change things for the church and the cause of Christ and the gospel?

In a vital way, nothing changes. Jesus is still our living Lord. As Russell Moore has said, the gospel doesn’t need family values to flourish: “Real faith often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. That’s why the gospel rocketed out of the first-century from places such as Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome.” None of these cities had moral systems that promoted healthy marriages. In fact, the very contrast between Christian marriages and the wreckage of pagan marriages extolled the virtue of Christianity. One respectable philosopher, writing in an era of moral chaos that included slave concubines and easy divorce, even said in a wedding speech that a husband’s adultery should be viewed as a sign of respect for his wife: “It is respect for her which leads him to share his debauchery, licentiousness, and wantonness with another woman” (Plutarch, “Advice to Bride and Groom”). This sort of nonsense strengthened the appeal of Christianity.

Let’s remember, too, that this is hardly the first time an America court or legislature has promoted or tolerated actions contrary to biblical morality. We think of abortion and Roe vs. Wade. Sadly, states don’t just allow gambling—they actually promote it. The state cannot, however, force us to gamble. And while compulsory abortion is practiced in parts of China, our laws give us every freedom to promote life, which we do.

For those who are prone to despair, a word on abortion is apt. Through persistence and courage, abortion has been rolled back. In the 1980s, my state of Missouri had an abortion rate that exceeded 20 percent of pregnancies. Today it is 8 percent, and the rate is even lower in the upper Midwest. Since the abortion rate remains as high as ever in some states (near 40 percent in New York), it seems that gentle persuasion can create a moral consensus. Not long ago, this sort of progress in the protection of the unborn seemed impossible.

Adorn the Gospel

The recent decisions of the Supreme Court in no way restrict our freedom to marry, have children, and love each other. If anything, recent decisions should prompt us to rededicate ourselves to Christ-like love in marriage. The Christian marriage ideal attracted many pagans to Christ in the apostolic age. And when the Reformers restored the biblical teaching on marriage 500 years ago, it enhanced the call to the gospel of Christ. When Reformers like Martin Luther married and became faithful husbands and fathers, their conduct adorned the gospel. May our marriages become an ongoing testimony to God’s purposes.

Jesus said, “From the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female.'” We use this statement to promote God’s ideal and rightly so, but let’s remember that Jesus made that statement in order to correct an error in his age and ours: rampant and arbitrary divorce.

Sadly, the rise in same-sex marriage is possible in part because our culture has strayed so far from God’s plan for marriage. Casual cohabitation, promiscuity, and easy divorce all erode the appeal of God’s ideal. Church conduct looks all too similar. What then?

First, we should tend our marriages, steadily regarding our spouse as God’s great gift (Prov. 19:14). At its best, Paul says, the love of a Christian marriage reflects the love of Christ for the church. A strong marriage can adorn the gospel (Tit. 2:10). Waves of good marriages will make the case for God’s plan more effectively than any state or federal law.

Not long ago I was seated at a wedding reception next to a Christian professor who did his doctoral work at one secular university and now teaches at another. He said that the great majority of his fellow professors are secular and non-Christian. Nonetheless, they love their Christian students. He explained why: On the whole, they are far more likely to come to class faithfully and well-prepared. They are willing to argue their convictions. They are active in campus life. They volunteer to do worthwhile things and they keep their commitments.

The Christian faith and Christian ethics have lost the home-field advantage in our culture. But we are still free to present our faith and the gospel. We can do that with words and with lives that show the beauty of the gospel. That is the surest way to promote God’s good plan for marriage.

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/07/02/the-surest-way-to-promote-gods-good-plan-for-marriage/

 

Marriage Conversations

I’ve been here lots of times 🙂

3 WAYS THE GOSPEL CHANGES MARRIAGES

Here is a great article by our neighbor down the road in Omaha Nebraska and fellow-soldier in the gospel, Erik Raymond, Pastor at Emmaus Bible Church

Newtown2When a new leader is appointed in an organization change is inevitable. The incoming boss will set policy, establish tone, and reflect an attitude in their organization. The same is true for our marriages. The new leader I am referring to here is not a new husband but rather the true husband, The Lord Jesus Christ.

We know from the Scriptures that a Christian marriage is never simply a union of two people but two people united together in Jesus Christ. This is another way of saying that Jesus is our head, the Lord and the life-giver of our marriage. When a couple embrace the truth of the gospel, whether in conversion or sanctification, there are always corresponding changes associated with Jesus being the head of the marriage. Below are three of the more common changes that Christ works into a marriage as he rules it through the gospel.

1. From Selfishness to Service

Every single sin flows from the reservoir of self. We displace God and others in favor of ourselves. It is disastrous and painful. Nowhere is this inversion more glaring and hurtful than in marriage. But when the gospel comes home there are pronounced changes on this front. The irritable wife becomes patient and kind with her husband because Jesus was patient and kind with her. The self-absorbed husband finds more joy in learning about his wife’s interests than the side-story of his favorite athletes. This is because he realizes that she was made by God and for God as well as the truth that the Spirit continues to powerfully work more of Christ into her life. This is attractive and compelling in a way that home-runs and touchdowns can’t ever be. The gospel comes home and turns our hearts away from ourselves (selfishness) and towards our spouse (service).

2. From Laziness to Engagement

If you don’t think laziness is a problem in America, consider the fact that we have a chair, the “Laz-e-boy” tailored to and marketed to the American male. And it sells! Laziness, much like selfishness is bent toward the self, but it gets its marching orders from the comfort committee. We desire comfort and refuse to do anything difficult because it could be uncomfortable. Laziness is chiefly about preserving and promoting the perception of personal comfort. And laziness lies, a lot. We know there is a problem in our marriage but also know that it requires a change, perhaps even a painful change. So what happens? Laziness says, “Oh, I’ll get to this another time.” Or laziness says convincingly, “It’s not that bad. I’ll be all-right.” But this is laziness talking not Jesus the Governor of our lives! Doubtless you can imagine how this would undermine Jesus’ plan for growth and change in you and your marriage. But when the gospel of grace comes home we become engaged in our marriage. We are no longer passive spectators hoping to maintain a culture of comfort and security through sanitized mediocrity. Instead, we become about what Jesus is about: pursuing Christ likeness by means of painfully putting sin to death.

3. Self-Righteousness to Humility

Self-righteousness is that devilish mindset that we possess merit in ourselves that commends us before God and men. While selfishness loves to retreat to self, self-righteousness loves to boast in self. At its heart this opposes the gospel which pivots on our need for and our reception of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Self-righteousness in a marriage is as subtle as a raised eyebrow while humility is as noticeable as joyful affection. During a dispute a wife may bring some concerns to her husband. If he is self-righteous he may begin to refute her with “hard” evidence. If things get sticky his fearless inner defense attorney will powerfully articulate his innocence while also bringing charges against his wife. Self-righteousness in marriage is always defending because we perceive that we are always under attack. This is to be contrasted with the gospel which teaches us that we have already been sufficiently attacked, critiqued and judged. The cross is the verdict. We are guilty. But the beauty of the gospel is that while we were infinitely sinful we were also unfathomably loved. This brings humility and assurance. When the gospel comes home in a marriage we will more quickly silence our internal attorneys while basking in the truth of the gospel. It is only here that we can in humility grow together into the likeness of Christ.

When the gospel comes home in a marriage there is a definite change in policy, tone, and attitude. The marriage comes to take on the characteristics of its leader. In the case of the gospel, there can be no better leader and no more important change for us and our marriage.

 

RESCUE: The Goal of Giving our Children a Vibrant Faith

One of the beautiful things about the gospel is that it produces a living and vibrant faith. It is our daily protection in that through faith in the gospel I have salvation, justification, peace, and an understanding of the Word of God. Through it I am being transformed from glory to glory. I have all I ever need for life and godliness, freedom from the power of sin, and my Sabbath rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

I can go on and on but the point is that we should want our children to possess such a faith.  That their understanding of the Christian faith through the Word of God would be informed through the central meaning of it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Next to the tragedy of a child who never grasps the gospel, is the child who may make some level of profession of faith and then walk away.

Tom Bisset in his book, ‘Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith,” lists 4 main reasons why some people leave the faith.

  1. They encounter troubling and unanswered questions about the faith. They see the tough issues of life and do not see a Christian answer. These can be theological questions or just questions of doubt. They may be told “you just need to believe” and so they will leave in the name of intellectual honesty. Some of the material that is available in the name of apologetics is intellectually weak and at times dishonest.
  2. Their faith just does not work for them. The Christian faith is presented as one where there should be peace, joy, and happiness as found in the promises of the Bible. They become disillusioned with the church, with other Christians in watching their lives and ultimately disillusioned with God.
  3. Other things in life become more important than their faith. The person becomes preoccupied by such things as seeking pleasures, ambitions, personal issues or just some of the hard realities of life. Pretty soon a secular view of life displaces a sacred view based upon the Scriptures. The person begins to drift just like a boat from its moorings and their faith is a beam on the horizon.
  4. They never personally owned their own faith. In other words, there was not authentic repentance and faith. They simply conformed to the spiritual expectations of their parents and others and did what was required to show belief such a saying a prayer and being baptized. Then when faced with the reality of life later their faith collapsed because it was thin on the outside and hollow on the inside.

This is why the Deuteronomy 6 paradigm and the preaching of the gospel to yourself and to your children every single day and into all aspects of life is imperative. If they do not see the centrality of the gospel in the affairs of mankind, it will become irrelevant to them.

DISCOVERING THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL IN MARRIAGE

I am currently going through the book “When Sinners Say I Do” (Shepherd Press) by Dave Harvey for about the sixth time. I decided a couple of years ago to use it as a guide for pre-marriage counseling and the results have been transforming and powerful to the counselees as well as myself. Here is a quick review of what this book brings to our understanding of marriage and will hopefully compel you to read it as well:

Many of the books on marriage address the symptoms of marital challenges but neglect what is the real problem. Dave Harvey states, “the cause of our marriage battles is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It’s the sin in our hearts – entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception. This is taught clearly and consistently in Scripture, from the first sin to the final judgment.”

In reading this book we are encouraged to develop the tools to diagnose our heart and then flee to the gospel for help. “God wants Christians to delight in marriage. And He has made provision in the gospel to do so. But we can’t truly understand the gospel, or even the basic problems of every marriage, until we come to terms with the undeniable reality of sin. Men and women (and me) find real hope when we realize that God uses marriage to reveal the heart and change the soul.”

So what is wrong with my marriage?

Me and my sin. I am the sinner or as Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:15, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” To say that I am a sinner is to stare boldly at the fundamental reality that many people don’t even want to glance at. But when we acknowledge the fact that sin holds considerable sway in our lives, several things become clear.

First we find ourselves in some pretty good company including all the heroes of the faith in and not in the Bible from Old Testament times until now. They all experienced the battle with sin.

Second we acknowledge what everybody around us already knows – particularly our spouse. But, by far the greatest benefit of acknowledging our sinfulness, is that it makes Christ and his work for us precious to us. Only sinners need a Savior. Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32 “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Often we think that issues like communication are the biggest problem with our marriage. But when we realize that our battle is against sin, it helps the gospel shine brighter in our heart and marriage. Bad communication can be a big problem in marriage, but it is not fundamental. Bad communication is the result of ignoring sin that desperately needs the grace of God and hope of the gospel to speak life.

What shapes your marriage comes down to your theology. By theology I mean your view of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and the gospel. Theology governs your entire life and it determines how you will live in your marriage day-to-day and year-by-year.

The Foundation of our marriage is the Bible: The center of the Bible is Jesus Christ. The Bible fills marriage with significance as it speaks as an authority on what marriage is to be.

The Fountain of marriage is the gospel. God did not just send Jesus to be an example of moral goodness and to teach us how to live – He sent Him as the answer to the sin dilemma and to propitiate His wrath against sin in order to restore us in a relationship with Him. The gospel is the ultimate solution for our sin and is the center of theological truth. We remain in our sin even though we have been saved and we need the gospel every day to resist sin.

The Focus of our marriage is the glory of God. Marriage is not just something God invented – it is something that belongs to Him. It exists for Him more than it exists for you. It is for our good but more so it is for God’s glory.

So, what is the key to a thriving marriage?

It is dealing with sin. When we apply the gospel to our sin, it gives hope to our personal lives and in our marriage. The sin that remains in our heart opposes God and our spouse. It obstructs our joy and our holiness and eclipses thriving, healthy marriages.

The hope that arises from the gospel is the beginning of a sweet relationship and marriage can become a living, thriving union where sins are confessed and forgiven.

As Thomas Watson once wrote and Dave Harvey repeats often in his book, “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.”

BE CAREFUL OF THE CULTURAL NOVACAINE

Seems like in our part of the country we are being bombarded with the issues of homosexuality and same sex marriage. Our brother, Erik Raymond, who is the preaching pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Bellevue, Nebraska wrote the following article on his blog OrdinaryPastor.com which I want to share because in the midst of the information blitz, we cannot lose sight of a biblical worldview of what is happening. We have a tendency as Evangelicals to fall into one of two extremes, becoming blind or picking specks out of other people’s eyes. This will help sharpen your focus. Erik writes:

President Obama’s recent statement concerning his views of same sex marriage has generated no small amount of discussion and controversy. In what was doubtlessly a political calculation the President made that statement couched in political and attitudinal terms. That is, this new take is his personal view. He has personally has come to a place where he can now accept and stand behind same sex marriage.

This change is not restricted solely to the President. Advocates for Gay rights have tirelessly worked to change the public perception of same sex couples. Over the last 15-25 years America has done a near 180 on the issue. The attempt has been to sanitize and normalize homosexuality.

There have been countless actors, musicians, athletes, and politicians who have publicly spoken out in favor of Gay rights. Many from these same spheres have themselves disclosed that they themselves are gay. It has become commonplace to have television shows and movies with gay characters. Characters like Oscar on The Office have helped to gradually move the meter on public opinion.

Now NBC is set to debut a new show this fall entitled The New Normal. What is the premise? Two guys are married and of course can’t have a child of their own. They hire a surrogate to begin their family. This is not simply an attempt at normalization from Hollywood it is a realization of it on Main Street. In a short period of time recently my wife and I saw a gay couple walking on our block, my son saw two guys kissing at their lockers at school, we visited a potential home purchase owned by two men, and have seen many (many) gay couples at the grocery store. And listen, we are in Omaha! This is, after all, “somewhere in Middle America.” While it may not yet be “The New Normal” homosexuality is surely becoming more or prevalent and more accepted.

Now, what does this mean for Christians? What does this mean for missions?

Among other things,

It means that we better get justification and sanctification clear. This is such an epidemic in evangelicalism; we aim to justify the church and sanctify the world. The world is not going to keep the Ten Commandments, walk in the Spirit, or glorify Christ…they can’t! They are unbelievers and they will act like it. This should not surprise us. We can recall our own unbelieving lives and we have read passages like Romans 3. The transformation into Christ likeness comes out of being declared not guilty and righteous in God’s eyes (Rom. 5.1). This comes by the merit of Christ in his doing and dying for sinners like us. We cannot expect unbelievers to look and act like believers. Having our these theological categories straight will greatly aid our interaction with the new normal.

It means that we better be clear about the character of God. The repeated theme is that “God made me this way and he would not want me to be unhappy.” The issue is not as much about the morality of the unbeliever but the character of God. Who is God? How did he create? Why did he create? How does he communicate what morality is? How do we know what he values? All of these questions drive us back to the Word of God for objectivity rather than subjectivity. God’s love is characterized by holiness and truth. You cannot know or experience the love of God apart from truth. In order to feel his love we must know him. Before we go about arguing about the cultural usages and understanding of particular Greek words there is priority to understand and communicate who God is.

It means that we better be clear about the problem. Far too many times I have heard evangelicals talk about homosexuality like our job was to get them to become heterosexual. If we can just get them to be straight then our work is done. The Christian objective in missions is to see people become Christians! This means that we want to see all sexual sinners become worshipers of Jesus. This includes fornicators, adulterers, porn-addicts, homosexuals, or whatever other category you can think up. The goal is to become a believer who turns from the worship of self to the worship of God. It is to turn from rebellion that is characterized by the suppression of truth to the submission that is characterized by obedience to the truth (Rom. 1.18-25; 3.19-27). The central issue is worship, or idolatry. The central answer is always the gospel.

It means that we better be clear about our tone. Can you lovingly engage a homosexual with the gospel in a winsome, tactful and still faithful way? Can you love them? This is really a question that I think evangelicals need to wrestle with and decidedly answer “yes, we must!” Pivoting out of the points above, that is out of the gospel, we have to see our own weakness and neediness. Who among us is not needy of the grace of Christ? Then we must lovingly and faithfully talk to others about it. If you can’t get control of yourself and speak the words of grace and truth to someone who is straight or gay then you need to ask God to give you a bigger heart. Ask him to shake you of pride and work gospel compassion down into you. I know that God is saving a lot of people from a gay lifestyle and I pray that he will continue to do so. As missionaries we need to speak and act like we actually want him to.

CONCLUSION–Be Prophetic from the Center!

The “new normal” is upon us. How will we respond? D.A. Carson has rightly said, “It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins, what we need is to be prophetic from the center.” That is, preaching against issues that flow out of a rejection of the gospel (sexual sin, abortion, etc) are peripheral and must be addressed by means of the core gospel, that which is of first importance.” (1 Cor. 15.3-5) In light of these ever-changing times, may this timeless charge become the “new normal” for us as evangelicals.