Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

No one stands before the preacher on their wedding day and says, “I wonder how we can get a divorce?” 

But as time rolls along, little things creep in and marriages begin to crumble. How my heart breaks when I hear of couples having marital problems that have reached the point of separation and/or divorce.  In view of the rich blessing of marriage which God created and said, It is not good for a man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), I want to help all of our marriages in the blog posts to come.  Therefore, I will be sharing some very practical thoughts that can divorce-proof your marriage if you will put them to practice on a daily basis.  A good marriage is the product of daily work and the grace of God.  Remember, with God, all things are possible!

So, how can you “divorce-proof” your marriage?

  1. Make a habit of praying together.

Jesus Christ’s work on the cross opened up the Holy Place for us to come boldly to the Throne of Grace (Matthew 27:50-51; Hebrews 4:14-16).  There we meet with our God through Jesus Christ in a most intimate way (Matthew 11:28-30; John 15:1-7).  Since our marriages are a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church for which He died and rose again, then intimacy with Christ and our mate should be found in our prayer relationships.

Consider what happens when a husband and wife pray together:

  • You get honest with God and with each other.
  • You cannot be mad at each other and pray at the same time.
  • You both come to know the heart of God and the heartbeat of each other.
  • You both share your burdens, heartaches, and sorrows with Christ.
  • You both share in answers to prayer that bring rejoicing.
  • You learn much about each when you pray together.
  • You develop a rich intimacy before God and with one another.
  • You will grow closer to God and to each other.
  • There’s something special about hearing each other’s name called out in prayer.

Here’s the testimony of one couple who have reaped the joys of praying together.  This is taken from the book When Couples Pray Together.  It is sadly out of print now.

“I have yearned for a marriage with spiritual intimacy.  And praying together has enabled us to experience an incredible sense of intimacy.  When we pray, I feel an indescribable tenderness toward my husband, and have been so blessed by his openness, honesty and generosity of spirit which he demonstrates in his prayers.  I’ve often thought about how a couple can manage to be completely physically intimate with each other, and yet finding praying together to be so so hard.”

So how do you get started?

  1. Find a suitable, mutually agreed upon time.  This may be after meal time, before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning.  If you don’t commit to a time for prayer, you will never find time to pray. (My wife and I hold hands and pray together before we go to sleep.)
  2. At first, be brief in your prayer time. You don’t have to pray long, drawn out prayers.
  3. Talk to God just like you talk to anyone else.  Don’t get caught up in all the prayer phrases and cliques.
  4. Go back-and-forth:  Perhaps you praise the Lord for one thing and then your spouse praises God for one thing.  Then you thank the Lord for one thing, and then your spouse thanks the Lord for one thing.  Then you ask the Lord for one thing, and then your spouse asks the Lord for one thing, etc.

I close with a telling statistic: Of couples that pray together daily, less than 1% of them have a chance of ever experiencing divorce (Gallup Poll by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement, 1997).

James 5:16          Pray one for another. . . . And with each other!!!

Stir the Embers! (3)

What “log’ have you added to the fire of your marriage in the last 24 hours?

Just as you must continue to stoke a campfire to keep it burning, you must do so in marriage, and that on a daily basis.

How easy it is to take our wife for granted.

Too many relationships are built on what the husband or wife does or doesn’t do for each other.

Today, husband, take your wife by the hand, look her in the eye, and share with her the reasons why you love her. Do not mention any of her actions, what she does or does not do. Share from your heart her inward qualities, her character traits.

“Sweetheart, I love you because you are . . . .”

Find a quiet place to be alone. Take your time. Be real. Enjoy the moment. Confess sin if need be. Encourage her. Be one. No finger pointing.

Then, pray for your wife with thanksgiving acknowledging the work of God’s grace in her life in the past, the present and the days to come.

Stir the embers!!

Stir the Embers! (2)

“Feed the fire!”

That’s another way to say, “stir the embers.”

I love my firepit out back! There’s just something special about a fire on a cool evening, fixings for s’mores, my wife, and the sun setting behind us.

My family and others laugh at me about how much I love building a fire. One thing is for certain, if I don’t feed the fire or stir the embers, it will go out. And, I’m always a bit disappointed to see a good fire come to an end because guests have left or it’s time to call it a night.

As my wife and I approach our 41st wedding anniversary, we are reminded that stirring the embers is a constant need if any marriage is to thrive and survive!

Marriage is a blessed grace gift from God that He owns (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:4-6), and He enables its fulfillment even in the toughest of times (1 Peter 3:1-7; 4:1-11; 5:5-10).

Here’s five “logs” to add to the fire of your marriage lest it fade and die out. You do not want to just be married in name only, sadly so distant from each other.

Log #1 Keep on dating long after you have been married! This can happen at home, in the backyard, at the kitchen table, at the coffee shop/bookstore, at the beach, in the mountains, downtown, or in another country.

Log #2Do not let your children come between you and your spouse. You vowed to love and cherish your spouse until death do you part. You promised to let no one come between you and your spouse.

One of the greatest securities you can offer your children is to have a fun, loving, devoted, gospel-driven marriage!

Log #3 Hug and kiss! Repeat. Hug and kiss! Repeat. Hug and kiss! Repeat. — Like you wanted to and did when you were engaged!! Don’t fall into the trap of quick pecks/kisses!

Log #4Leave loves notes or cards around the house, in a book, on the mirror, attached to the stirring wheel in the car/truck, or via texts.

Log #5Make prayer with each other a priority on a daily basis! Even if you are out of town, call on the phone.

How’s your marriage fire right now?

Do the embers need to be stirred?

Well, have at it! Throw a log on the fire right now!!

Stir the Embers!

Has the fire of romance waned over the years?

Have children or work or busy schedules come between you and your marriage relationship?

Sometimes we are so prone to keep wishing for what we don’t have that we forget what we do have, and . . . sometimes what we long for is right in front of us.

Here’s an idea to help you. Make sure the children are in bed at a set time. Husband, you order a personal pan pizza from the shop nearby and be ready to go get it or have it delivered. Wife, get out your best china and crystal glasses. If you don’t have these, then the best tableware and glasses will do. Don’t go cheap with paper plates and paper napkins. Create a mood, an atmosphere that says, “This matters.”

Set a time to meet in the bedroom. No TV, no phones and notifications, no internet, no children. Add candlelight, romantic music, a small table with cloth napkins and each other. Be ready when hubs arrives home with the pizza or is delivered.

Go back to the days when you were dating when you just loved to hear each other breathe!!

As you enjoy your pizza, . . .

  • Share five reasons why you love each other.
  • Share one way to improve your marriage . . . without “finger pointing.”

Once you have finished your pizza and discussion, then watch a movie. Just enjoy each other’s company!

One more thing, it’ll be okay to leave the dishes until morning!

Stir the embers!!

15 Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well.
16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
(Proverbs 5:15-18)

I Married My Sister

No, I did not!

But, marriages can seem like that.

What does a marriage look like for a man if he treats his wife like a sister?

  • Someone I am forced to get along with or I get in trouble.
  • She’s just a “bud” in my life.
  • Certainly can’t kiss her! Remember the old sports line, “A tie is like kissing your sister!”?
  • She’s not my completer (Genesis 2:18).
  • She’s your “partner in crime” to bring out the worst in each other.
  • There’s competition between you in school, on the ballfield, etc.
  • You relate to each other on a different plane than God intended.

Husbands, if we get too busy, caught up in our own plans, games, demands, and work, your marriage can take on a brother/sister look rather than two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

So, what needs to happen for marriage to be as God so ordained?

  • Surrender to God’s will for marriage and enjoy His plan. He will give grace to correct any misdirection your marriage. Marriage belongs to God and only operates in its full capacity as we follow His directives, as we submit to His all sufficient grace (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 5:18-33; Romans 6-8).
  • Your wife is your intimate companion, friend, sweetheart, confidant, helper, encourager, lover, etc.
  • Yes, you can kiss her!! Has it been a long time since you embraced and passionately kissed! Go right now and have at it!!!
  • Yes, she completes you in the way God intended. She is not your competition or enemy.
  • You can certainly have some “partner in crime” prank times, but your goal is to bring out the best in your wife, not the worst. Pray with her; share what God is teaching you from the Word; listen to her; point her to Christ; compliment her often; keep pursuing her; help around the house with clean up and maintenance; when you are with her, be all there and have eyes only for her!!

Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well.
Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets?
Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
and always be enraptured with her love.
(Proverbs 5:15-19)

If you have a sister, be grateful, but if you are married, be enraptured!! Go have another passionate kiss and embrace!!

Practice, Brother!!

The oft-spoken adage and biblical advice for preachers is, “Practice what you preach!”

Well, since having completed an eleven blogpost series on overcoming discouragement in ministry, my wife and I put Post #7 to practice.

Last week we “got out of Dodge” and headed for a week of rest at Edisto Island, SC.

To make the week purposeful and full of memories, we took the word “READS” and used it as an acrostic for each day’s goal. After all, you usually spend time reading when you get away like this.

Here’s a sampling of our time with the hopes of encouraging you to “practice what you preach.”

R – REST

  • Each day, we did not let ourselves be driven by a clock. We had quiet, leisure mornings on the deck overlooking the golf course with our Bibles, journals, study books and coffee. We did read a lot on the beach, too!
  • When we went to the beach, which we had basically to ourselves, we just sat or strolled along the shore. One day I looked at Denise and said, as if I was being asked by someone at home, “Well, preacher, what did you do on vacation?” “Nothing!”
  • Wherever we went in the car, it was slow driving; no hurry.

E – EXERCISE

  • Although I did not get to run on the beach, I really enjoyed running through the Ocean Ridge Wyndham property!
  • Denise and I walked around the property hand-in-hand in the evenings!

A – ADVENTURE

  • Played Putt-Putt golf (Denise won, made four hole-in-one’s, just missed two others). So I bought her an ice cream cone for her “trophy”!)
  • Botany Bay shoreline at high tide with a storm brewing!
  • We have always said that the vacation begins when we leave home and ends when we arrive back home. Therefore, our “out-of-the-way” trip to Charleston, SC, was a great adventure: Handy & Hot Restaurant, King Street shopping, and strolling along King and Meeting Street to view the historic homes.

D – DINNER

  • We had seafood every day!! Some of the best was at Roxbury Mercantile (Twice), Edingsville Grocery Restaurant, and Pressley’s!!
Roxbury Mercantile

S – SPECIAL

  • The historic Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island is a must see! There is a small Prayer Chapel on the property. We stopped on Tuesday and Thursday (National Day of Prayer) for a time of prayer together that was very special!
  • Since we love ice cream, each evening I served Denise mint chocolate chip accompanied by a mint chocolate chip cookie served in a tall stemware glass. Cheap ice cream, Aldi’s cookies, but served up in special way.
  • Cheese sandwich picnic!!
  • Sunsets
Prayer Chapel

Practicing can be fun when you have your best friend, wife, and sweetheart of 41 years alongside!

Now! That was a great way to stay away from or overcome discouragement!!

Do you need to practice what you preach?

Spontaneity on the Scenic Route of Marriage

Husbands, when it comes to expressing your love for your wife, it doesn’t always have to be high dollar!

While on our way home from vacation, we took a scenic route side trip to one of our favorite cities. Over 42 years ago, we shared a momentous picnic in its famous park which holds fond memories for us.

After strolling the downtown streets, in-and-out of the shops, and then walking through some of the residential area, we made our way to the park. My wife said, “I wish we had a picnic lunch we could share.”

Well, that was not in the plan upon arriving in the city, but spontaneity can be fun!

Since we had a few food ideas left over in the cooler and dry bag, I told Denise to find a park bench and to wait on me.

Within five minutes or less, plain cheese sandwiches on delicious rolls (we had no condiments), mint cookies and a tangerine were plated up and accompanied by our favorite soft drink, Ale 8. With food, drink and napkin in hand, I headed to the park bench.

“Well, this is the best I could do!”

I loved the look on Denise’s face and the tear in her eye!

What a romantic time we had eating our dry cheese sandwich that tasted like a $15 Reuben!

The recounted memories, time in prayer thanking God for all the years together since that infamous date, and just being together was in the words of one of my grandsons, “Super cool!”

So husbands, take time to enjoy the scenic route in marriage. You lead. Be spontaneous. Cheese and bread sandwiches can really be good!!

A Dark Room: My Heart & Abortion

Having held my lifeless stillborn daughter in my arms almost 35 years ago can bring a rising level of emotions to my heart when I consider the current scenario being played out in the SCOTUS Roe v. Wade “leak” and upcoming ruling.

My heart. Yes, . . . that’s the key word in the previous sentence. Years ago, I heard someone say, “The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.” What gives that principle gravity is the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said, For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:21-23). What Jesus describes here is the fallen condition of our heart.

Described in Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

The heart, as referred to in the Word of God, is not the vital human organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies; that keeps us going, moving, breathing. The heart is summed up in all that we are . . . our emotions, our will, our mind. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that the heart determines the course of your life (NLT).

The whole of the abortion issue is one of the heart. Man by his very fallen nature has a heart that is selfish, short-sighted, manipulative, greedy, lazy, hedonistic, irrational, unreasonable, murderous, wicked, covetous, sensual, proud, corrupt, deceitful, faithless, ruthless, confused and much more.

Romans 1 describes the heart that refuses to acknowledge God as “foolish” and “darkened” (1:21).

The world’s response to abortion, those who perform abortions and those who have an abortion are simply . . . following their heart. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

Now, I have just described my own heart. All of the above characteristics dwell within me, too. The only difference . . . at the age of five, based upon the truths of God’s Word and by His grace alone, Christ came to live in my heart, took up residency within me, and now I do not live the Christian life, Christ lives His life through me (Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13; John 14:17-23; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 1:27).

As a disciple of the Lord Christ Jesus, the worst decision I can make each day and throughout the day is to follow my heart, to go my own way. Man left to himself destroys himself and those around him.

The only way to overcome the battle that rages within me, my heart wanting to have its own way, is to surrender to Christ within me. He is life and has the words of life (John 6:68-69; 14:6; Matthew 11:28-30).

The answer to the abortion issue and the downward spiral of my heart is the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ.

As I think back to those days after the stillbirth of Ashley Marie, I am oft reminded of the dear lady who Denise visited in the hospital three months later who had experienced the same. When my wife walked into that room filled with sorrow and pain, she entered into the darkness of that dear mom’s heart when she said, “I just went through the same thing three months ago.” Then and there, Denise was able to share Christ with her.

Because of the condition of my heart, I can empathize with all in this world who are for abortion at any level. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Each of these need Christ. Each of these need someone to share the message of the gospel with them.

Especially needed is the dear mom who now lives with a broken heart, the painful scars of her decision to have an abortion. For you dear lady, there is forgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ. To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [God] made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:6-7).

Today, may we have an opportunity to enter into that dark room of a heart filled with sin, sorrow, pain, and brokenness and share the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

Today, will you turn to the light in Christ alone and be set free from the dark room of your heart?

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#4)

My dad weighed a 119 pounds when he entered the Army and 125 pounds when he was married. Me, I think I weighed 125 in the third grade! 🙂 I wore huskie size jeans in the first grade! I always said that my dad ate to live, and I lived to eat!

I am a “foodie,” and, since college days, I have had a battle with my weight, up and down, up and down. Several years ago, that all changed. Please take what I share below as truly coming from a caring heart for you, my brother.

So men, one of the ways to overcome discouragement is to exercise and eat right.

There are several ingredients to helping you accomplish this need:

  1. You have to honestly and humbly admit that you need to change and then choose to make this a life decision. No one can guilt you into it nor change you. It is by the grace of God, prayer, and the will to say “yes” and “no.” Let me say that several years ago, an evangelist friend had a loving, stern talk with me that was extremely helpful, but you must make the choice.
  2. Be ready for the long haul that takes a day-at-a-time; a meal-at-a-time.
  3. Choose a diet plan that will enable you to go for the long haul. Personally, I have seen too many spend mega bucks on a strict plan just to see the weight return in a short period of time. My wife and I used Weight Watchers and ate our own food. Over a period of a few months, I lost a total of 80 pounds.
  4. Exercise. For me, my favorites are running and hiking. My wife loves to briskly walk the farm road near our country home. Do what is best for you.
  5. Speaking of my wife, a diet/exercise program is so much better with a companion on this journey or even a group of other ministry friends for encouragement and accountability!
  6. When eating out, share a meal. For a very long time, my wife and I order one entrée and split it. That also means no appetizer or dessert. Of course, we enjoy desserts and other special foods but we do not gorge! Remember, the very best bite of every food item is the first one. After that, you are headed toward . . . “Oh, I can’t eat anymore'” and the taste has diminished!!
  7. As you lose your weight, get rid of your clothes that are now too big. You are not going back!!
  8. The most convicting and challenging thing that moved me to change was my testimony before the Lord as a man and a pastor and my love for my wife. You see, food became an idol and an unholy habit before my God. Also, as a pastor, how could I challenge the folks I shepherd to live disciplined lives when I was not disciplined in my eating habits. Men, the belt around our waist should not be “a leather fence around a chicken graveyard” as so many preachers have joked about over the years! Our bodies were created by God, belong to God, and are sustained by God. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  9. As for my wife, I am so grateful that she has set a high standard for herself in this regard. She is so disciplined that she eats one bite from a candy bar, puts it in the drawer, and she might go back to it next week or next month! 🙂 Seriously, my love for eating was greater than my love for her. One of the best ways I could demonstrate my love for her was to lose weight and start being fit, if for no one else, just for her!!
  10. For any of you who need to loose weight and exercise, do not let the following statement discourage you. Hopefully it will motivate you. Remember, the older you get, the harder it becomes to lose the pounds. So, get started; begin somewhere (small or big) and stay at it! Your wife, your body, your heart, your cholesterol, your health, your congregation, and you will be glad you did. Most of all, it is pleasing to God!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

I realize that this step could be very difficult for some. This post was not written to shame or further discourage you. Men, I’m cheering you on!!!! No matter your situation, begin with the Lord in prayer. He’s able.

It’ll Get Away From You!

My wife is a planner, organizer, and a go-getter! I owe the warmth and coziness of our home, demonstrated in so many ways, all to her. And, she doesn’t just sit on her accomplishments, she maintains certain areas of our home with daily care. According to her, if she didn’t, “it would get away from her!”

This reminds me of marriage; it too requires daily maintenance. If not, “it’ll get away from you!”

What are some daily maintenance needs to keep your marriage moving forward in the early days and even after 40 plus years?

Touch one another. A warn embrace, a long kiss, an arm around her shoulder, holding hands, sitting close to each other at church, massaging her shoulders, etc. How easy it is to become mechanical and monotonous in your relationship. Furthermore, do not let your children and schedule drive you apart. Spend time daily in each other’s arms. If you don’t, your marriage will get away from you!

Listen to one another. Last night after supper, we sat at the dining room table and talked for 30 minutes or so. No one was in a hurry. We shared about the day and about a huge burden on our hearts. We connected and made an investment in our marriage. If you don’t, your marriage will get away from you!

Forgive one another. This is an ingredient that is so necessary to maintain your marriage on a daily basis. Because a marriage is made up of two sinners, grace and forgiveness are extreme necessities. Here’s great biblical counsel—Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32). This is an action that must be obeyed no matter the circumstances. If you doubt this is true, look at the cross. If you believe it is impossible, look in the empty tomb. If forgiveness is not a sweet (and sometimes hard, but always right) part of your marriage, it’ll get away from you!

What will you do today to maintain your relationship in a way that honors God and keeps your marriage from getting away from you?