He Adores Her

Feeble and weak, he shuffled a bit wobbly toward the couch carrying a prized possession. In my 89 year old father-in-law’s hand was a photo mousepad. As he sat down on the couch next to me he said, “This is a picture of Mil (Mildred) and me after our first date.” He then proceeded to tell, with great delight, a bit of laughter, and a tear of joy how he got his sister to sit in the back seat of the car so the girl of his dreams would join him in the front seat. And as they say, “The rest is history.”

Continue reading “He Adores Her”

Get Off the Interstate: Picnic for Two With a View

A hurry-up life-style results in a throwaway culture.

Chuck Swindoll

Indeed, many, many marriages are thrown away or put-on-the-back-burner because of the hurried pace and expectations of today’s society. There’s little time to develop attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize the culture of a good, godly marriage.

So, I offer a simple solution that can have positive “cultural” effects by way of two examples. If you don’t live in East Tennessee or travel these roads, just adapt to your neck-of-the-woods!

Continue reading “Get Off the Interstate: Picnic for Two With a View”

But We’ll Be Late! | The Pastor’s First Ministry

There she was, sleeping so soundly. After a very draining week emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, my wife was snuggled securely in bed in a deep slumber.

“What time is it? What day is it?” Those were her words when I awakened her.

Slowly she crawled out of bed and began to make herself ready for the day.

What day was it? Sunday.

What time was it? Suffice it to say, she had overslept!! Didn’t hear her alarm either.

We have pre-service prayer meeting on Sundays at 8:30. As I watched the clock and began to fix her a to-go breakfast, she came down the stairs. My wife was ready to go to church on the outside, but I could see that she was not on the inside. And based upon my ever present “I’ll fix this situation” manhood, I declared, “I’ll go on ahead, and you can come in your Jeep.”

Wait a minute! It’s raining, she’s fighting off a migraine, and she is definitely not crusin’ along on all eight cylinders.

It was then and there that my first ministry captured my attention. Serving my wife was more important than being at prayer meeting on time. She had no business driving by herself. She needed her husband. She needed her pastor. She needed her friend.

Pastors, Christian leaders, missionaries, we are so prone to put the ministry above our wives, leaving her in the dust with her brood as she carries seven diaper/book bags, Bibles, a purse, and wearing her “running shoes” to keep up with you. I mean, after all, you are the pastor and you must be there to open the door and lead in prayer! What will people think if you are late!!!

Men, you know the words of Matthew 22:37-39 quite well. May I encourage you to remember that your wife is your neighbor. She is to be loved more than your church congregation (Ephesians 5:25). Your ministry to your wife, and your church member, I might add, is an example to all the other believers. She is your first ministry.

Fighting the urge to drive a bit more aggressively and take some of the curves on two wheels, we had a nice, easy and enjoyable journey.

Interesting enough, folks gathered for prayer as always, and . . . we were the second ones in the parking lot. No harm done. Compassionate, caring love shown to my wife.

Thank You, Lord, for stopping me in my tracks and reminding me what is of greater value.

“C’mon, Hon. Take your time. I’ll wait. Let’s go together.”

Twitter and Humility

In today’s social media world, anyone can become a celebrity in a matter of seconds! Post a video or tweet or reel that grabs the attention of many in a short span of time, and you can have “rock start” status!

A word of caution, if I may . . . there is only one celebrity, one individual that is worthy of undivided attention, one person that is to be lauded, followed and worshipped. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).

There is only one celebrity!

If we are truly born again (John 3:1-18), a follower of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:26), then He lives in us to live His life out of us (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). This is the preeminent status for us in this life! This is who we really are.

Therefore, let’s be careful when and if our numbers begin to climb that our pride is not stroked by how many followers or commenters we have. Any influence in this world we have only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit as He exalts the Lord Jesus Christ for the glory and honor of God the Father!!

Remember the words of John the Baptist . . . He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).

Faithfulness and loyalty to God is much more important than being a celebrity.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage #6

One Year & 41 Years of Marriage

A marriage declines over a period of time. As I said at the beginning of this series, no man decides on a whim to get a divorce.

Sadly, the decline occurs when marriages experience more “withdrawals” than “investments.”

Obviously, if you continue to use your debit card without putting any funds in the bank, your withdrawals will overcome your investments and your are overdrawn. You have a negative bank balance.

Some husbands and wives are overwhelmed in their marriage; their “marriage bank account” is depleted and dry.

If that is you, may I encourage you make the following investments?

Investment #1: Believe that no marriage is too far gone to be recovered and renewed by God’s grace.

The absolute, preeminent starting point for every sin, heartache, issue, perplexity, uncertainty, fear, sorrow, risk, hardship, etc. is with God (Psalms 61:1-3; 66:1-5; Matthew 11:28-30).

Read, meditate and pray through each of the passages of Scripture given above and below and others, calling out to God on behalf of your spouse and your marriage. The best investment you can make is prayer! Please don’t underestimate the power of God in prayer! He is able, and His grace is sufficient!!

Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. (Jeremiah 32:17)

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity. (2 Corinthians 9:8 AMP)

Investment #2: Forgive one another now and often.

Our old sin nature and our heart will lie to us telling us that we don’t deserve such treatment; that we have a right to be happy; that holding a grudge and seeking revenge is the way to go!

At this point, you must look at the cross and see Christ taking your place as your substitute (Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Peter 2:24), paying the price for all your sin by His blood and forgiving you all of your sin, past, present, and future (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14; Hebrews 9:22). Now you are no longer under condemnation or the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9; 8:1).

With that view, if you are born again; a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you cannot hold a grudge over your spouse, pour out your wrath upon him or her, or keep a record of wrongs done to you, in other words, get “historical.” Just as you have received the covering and removal of your sin by the precious blood of Christ in forgiveness, you must forgive, too!

There’s a form of debt in your marriage (and all relationships) far more dangerous than financial debt.

It’s relational debt.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is not talking about personal finances or budget. Instead, he’s talking about something that’s supposed to happen in healthy relationships—forgiveness.

Why is it such a struggle to forgive? Why don’t people forgive at all? The sad reality is that there is short-term power, albeit destructive, in refusing to forgive the other person. There are dark “benefits” in keeping someone else in our relational debt.

Keeping a record of our spouse’s wrongs gives us the upper hand in the relationship. There is power in having something to hold over another’s head. There is power in using a person’s weakness and failure against them, so in moments when we want our own way, we pull out some wrong against our spouse as our relational trump card.

How ugly and selfish is that?

It seems almost too obvious to say, but forgiveness is a much better way than unforgiveness. It’s the only way to live in an intimate, long-term relationship with another sinner. It’s the only way to negotiate through the weakness and failure that will daily mark your marriage.

Forgiveness is a relational transaction that needs to occur in moments when sin has gotten in the way of the unity, love, and understanding between a husband and wife (or any two people for that matter).

Paul David Tripp

Forgiveness lifts the burden off our shoulders of bearing wrongs and restores what has been broken.

The more you are willing to pursue forgiveness, the more you experience its blessings. It’s the only way to deal with hurt and disappointment. It’s the only way to have hope and confidence restored. It’s the only way to protect your love and reinforce the unity that you have built. It’s the only way not to be kidnapped by the past.

Canceling relational debt is a beautiful and necessary thing, not only for your marriage but in every single relationship in your life. (Paul David Tripp, Wednesday Word, 2/23/2022)

What investments will you make in your marriage today? Grace and forgiveness will restore any broken relationship if you will “lay down your sword” and run to the cross in utmost humility. (James 4:1-3, 6-10)

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (5)

So far this series, we have seen at least four ways to divorce-proof your marriage:

  1. Make a habit of praying together.
  2. Reject living your lives on two separate tracks.
  3. Don’t make a habit of sleeping single in a double bed.
  4. Humble yourself and do not wait to seek help when needed.

Now, you say, “How did you come up with this list?”  These are common threads seen in all the couples we have counseled over the years whose marriages were falling apart. 

The fifth way to make sure your marriage is divorce-proof is to make communication a priority. 

Let’s begin with the “mute” side of things:

  • When you go out to eat, you are not engaged in conversation; your mind and your eyes wonder all over the place.  You are more interested, for instance, men, in eating, watching the TV screens or checking your phone than creating meaningful conversation.
  • You limit your conversation to the basic elements of the day such as:  “What time will you be home?” or “Who’s getting the kids at school today?” or “What’s for supper?”
  • Neither husband nor wife are willing to take time to listen to each other share about their day and their personal cares.
  • You connect in more meaningful conversation with your children and co-workers than your spouse.
  • You do not discuss future plans, purchases, or goals.
  • You carry past hurts and offenses around in your heart for days, weeks, months, years.

How do you correct this “mute” situation?

  1. Set aside a time each day to just talk to each other.  If you have children, have a set time for them to go to bed each night.  Don’t let your children come between you and your spouse working on your communication.  If you are empty-nesters, talk with each other in the morning or at a meal.  Give each other at least ten minutes of your undivided attention FOR TALKING. . . and concentrated listening.
  2. The person you should have the most intimate conversations with is your spouse. Therefore, guard emails, Facebook messages, texts and tweets to the opposite sex.
  3. Men, you initiate the conversation.  Your wife is longing for you to talk to her which helps fulfill her need for security.  It tells her that she’s important and what she has to say is important.  Ask her about her day, her concerns, her disappointments, what God is teaching her from the Word, about her ambitions and desires, what she has been thinking lately about life, church, school, the children, etc.
  4. Wives, talk about things that matter to your husband—his work, his goals, his desires, how God is working in his life, etc.  Please take this in the right spirit please, wives, learn to be quiet and let him talk.  Don’t interrupt.
  5. Let love cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Don’t harbor grudges, offenses, or bitterness.  Talk lovingly about what concerns you and respond biblically.  Take it to the cross; run to Christ (Philippians 2:5-11; Ephesians 4:29-32).
  6. Learn to be transparent and vulnerable with each other.  Trust has to be developed, but complete openness between one another is priceless.  This produces wholesome intimacy (Genesis 2:25).
  7. Return to the days when you had a love language that was all your own with pet nicknames, love songs, terms of endearment, whispering in each other’s ear, etc, etc, etc. Do you catch my drift?????

Recently, while standing in line at a funeral calling, I became acquainted with a young man in front of me. He asked me how long I had been married, and I said, “41 years and it’s gets better every year.” Quickly he said, “What’s your secret?” I answered “Work at your marriage every day.”

So, which one of you will start the conversation going today?

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (4)

So, you just had another disagreement.  Cross, jabbing words were spoken.  Anger is written all over your face.  The strength of the door frame and hinges have been tested again.  You are courtroom sure that you are in the right! What are you going to do? 

The fourth way to make sure your marriage does not end up in divorce is to humble yourself and not wait to seek help.

Marriages don’t disintegrate over night.  They eventually reach the critical point when:

  1. You think “hiding it under the rug” will make the problem go away.
  2. You refuse to accept that you have a problem.
  3. You think you can work it out on your own by your own schemes.
  4. You are too proud to ask for help.
  5. You are more concerned about what someone might think of you.

If you are in this situation, stop fooling yourself into thinking it will get better. 

First, admit to God your problem/sin as well as your insufficiency to correct it. 

Second, be honest with your spouse in a loving manner. 

Third, call on a trusted friend, pastor or mentor who will give you loving, forth-right biblical counsel (not tell you what you want to hear).

Forth, repent and change. 

Last of all, walk by faith in the principles and promises of God’s Word.

Proverbs 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 11:14  Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety

Proverbs 26:12  Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Ecclesiastes 7:8  Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

James 4:6  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

If you are in vocational Christian ministry and your marriage needs refreshment; perhaps a caring, listening ear, and/or a place to just get away, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. My wife and I would love to connect with you!

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (3)

Years ago, country music artist, Barbara Mandrell, made popular a song entitled, Sleeping Single in a Double Bed. The song laments the husband’s departure and how lonely the nights are without him by her side. I’m not condoning the song, but sadly, this song title is played out in many marriages night-after-night.

So, what’s another way to divorce-proof your marriage? Don’t make a habit of sleeping single in a double bed.

The Word of God says, Marriage is honorable (esteemed worthy, precious, of great price, and especially dear) among all, and the bed undefiled (pure); but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:4-5). 

What are some things we can learn from this passage that would correct this marriage-killer?

  1. Marriage is honorable because God ordained it at creation (Genesis 2:18), and it is recognized as such by all three persons of the Trinity (Matthew 19:1-9; John 2:1-11; Ephesians 5:18-33).
  2. Marriage is honorable as a lifetime commitment between one woman and one man (Genesis 2:18-25; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:1-9; Ephesians 5:18-33).
  3. Marriage is honorable because it is physically and spiritually fulfilling.  When marriage is not given its rightful place, then discontentment and covetousness sets in.  The temptation to “graze in other fields” and think that what you have is just not good enough leads to a broken home and a reproach to Christ. Just as Christ said He would never leave us or forsake us, so should a husband and wife follow suit.  The plans and provisions of God for man and woman is sufficient for all of life.
  4. Marriage is honorable and the bed is too.  The marriage bed refers to sex within the boundaries of marriage.  Take heed to the following from Pastor Steve Cole:

But the Bible affirms the pleasure of the sexual relationship in marriage, both for men and women. Solomon instructs his son to let his wife’s breasts satisfy him at all times, and to be exhilarated with her love (Prov. 5:19). The Song of Solomon extols the joys of sex in marriage for both partners. Paul tells both husbands and wives that they do not have authority over their own bodies, but their spouse does, and that they have a responsibility to meet the sexual needs of their mate as a preventative to immorality (1 Cor. 7:2-5). Sarah refers to sexual relations with her husband as having pleasure with him (Gen. 18:12).

Sex in marriage is directly related to the interpersonal relationship. God designed it that way. There must be mutual sensitivity, caring, and respect in the relationship between husband and wife as the foundation for the enjoyment of the sexual aspect. But I am emphasizing what Paul states, that it is a God-given preventative against sexual sin (1 Cor. 7:2). I once counseled a couple where the husband had fallen into adultery. He and his wife had not had sexual relations in over ten years and she assumed that everything was just fine! He was really angry about this, but he hadn’t said anything. When a neighbor woman became friendly, he fell. Sadly, the couple eventually divorced. It all could have been avoided if they had followed the clear teaching of Scripture: “Stop depriving one another” (1 Cor. 7:5).

So, you want to divorce-proof your marriage, then honor what God said is honorable!  Here are some practical steps:

  1. Go to bed together.  Turn off the TV, the computer, the video games, etc.  If you are making a habit of staying up while your spouse goes to bed, you are not creating an environment of intimacy, love, care and prayer.  One of the sweetest things you can do before drifting off to sleep is pray while holding hands and together casting all your care on the Lord.
  2. Put the children in their bed.  I realize that our little ones can be frightened by storms, for instance, but your children need to know that your bedroom is your haven, not theirs.  They have their rooms.  Our children should never become a hindrance to a healthy marriage.  What a paradox—you let the children sleep with you and it becomes an obstacle in your marriage because you have put them before your spouse. Then if a divorce happens, the children are the ones who get the worse end of the split!  Even in reference to the bed, you need to show your children what a real, honorable marriage looks like.
  3. Make your bedroom a place you really want to be.  If the marriage bed is called honorable by God, then make the bedroom honorable.  Make up your bed in the morning and have nice blankets and covers on your bed.  Make your bedroom inviting.  Don’t stack stuff up on the dresser or leave clothes piled up on the floor or your bedroom looking like a dungeon.  Make your bedroom a castle even on a meager budget.  Add some romantic touches like candles, music, pictures with love quotes, etc.
  4. Don’t go to bed angry.  Ephesians 4:26 reminds us, Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  Anger has destroyed many marriages.  Here’s where praying and forgiveness, whether you feel like it or not, would be so helpful to diffuse and correct any situation of anger.
  5. Don’t make up excuses for not sleeping together.  So, for instance, your husband snores. Get some earplugs, medical help, play music, whatever, but let your marriage vows of “for better, for worse” be fulfilled here.  Now, I realize that health issues may cause you to sleep elsewhere, but if all is well, please sleep with your spouse. Make up for time away a night during the day! Remember, your flesh and the devil will give you all the excuses you need to destroy your relationship.

God is able, and He is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 9:8)

No more sleeping single in a double-bed!!

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage (2)

41st Anniversary Dinner Date at Beauty Spot on the AT

As I mentioned in the previous post, 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, the shine wears off of that glorious wedding day, the demands, conflicts, pressures and distractions of life crowd in, and husbands and wives begin to take each other for granted.

Furthermore, no married couple ends up in divorce court because they decided on a whim to take a drive downtown to visit the judge and end their marriage! But, sadly, somewhere along the line, the marriage begins to deteriorate and divorce becomes a potential reality.

Here’s another way to divorce-proof your marriage.

  1. Reject living your lives on two separate tracks

Genesis 2:18, 23-25,  And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.  And And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

God intended for a husband and wife to have a close, intimate relationship by cleaving to one another, sharing life together and not living on two separate tracks.

One of the ways to accomplish God’s plan, no matter how long you have been married or how old you are, is to go back to doing the things you did when you dated before marriage or in those early years of marriage. 

Too many couples stop dating after they are married.

Man likes a conquest, so when he finally is married, he has conquered.  In his mind, since he has won over his bride, it’s time to move on to the next conquest.  Therefore, he often leaves his wife in the dust!

Dating can be so much fun!! 

Now, I have to admit that my dating life in high school and college for the most part was hazardous at best!  I will say that my eyes lit up like Christmas morning when I went to college and heard that there were three girls to every one guy!!  Hubba, hubba!! 

No matter, dating comes with its own set of actions that quite frankly need to be carried on into and through our married lives.  To maintain and enjoy the grace gift of marriage, put some spice back into your life!  Act like you are dating again.  Go through the list below and start enjoying each other again. 

Remember when you dated?

  • You were always thinking about each other.  No way you could have a profitable day at school or work because he/she was always on your mind!
  • You looked for every chance to be with each other.  School or work would not end soon enough!!
  • You left little reminders here and there to remind your sweetheart of your love and devotion.  It might have been a note left in a conspicuous location, their favorite candy bar, a “call up on the radio and request their  favorite song” reminder, a romantic card sent through the mail, a phone message, etc.
  • You held hands as you walked through the amusement park.  You were always looking for that ride that gave you good reason to snuggle up!  You were just hoping that she would be afraid and seek the shelter of your arms!!  You shared some popcorn and a Coke as you sat under the shade tree and looked so adoringly into each other’s eyes.  Fun times at the amusement park!
  • You talked for hours and hours and hours and hours on the phone!
  • You dressed up for each other.  You wanted to look sharp!  You smelled good, too. 🙂
  • As a man, you always paid the bill on a date, opened the car door for her, seated her at the table, showed her great respect, and was her protector.
  • You had fun together!

Take some time to read Song of Solomon 1:7-19 as a couple. Note how the Shulamite and the Beloved are talking to each other, praising each other, adoring each other. They were intentionally spending time together . . . perhaps on a date!

Husband, plan a date with your sweetheart this week? Enjoy the wife of your youth (Proverbs 5:18).

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!!!