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!!

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?

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?

Just Being Together

Valentine’s Day seems to call for “over-the-top” dates, gifts and excitement. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. To me, Valentine’s Day is exciting and adventuresome in so many ways!!

This year, our Valentine’s Day was not a fancy affair at all. Quite frankly, this year’s “day of love” was simply . . . just being together. It was so special as we literally took the scenic route in marriage !!

For starters, I fixed Denise’s favorite breakfast, French Toast, and served it with ham and assorted fruit. Everything was plated and served on a tray in the family room.

We shared cards, and my Sweetheart gave me a gift. She received a dozen roses on Friday!

Mid-morning, I gave Denise an optional plan for the day which included some of our favorite destinations. She surprised me with an option not mentioned—-Let’s go hiking!” Well, that was music to my ears!!

We headed out with our trail lunch and hiking gear for Rocky Fork State Park and Whitehouse Cliffs. This is a two-mile round-trip hike that is a somewhat strenuous, consistent climb. We took our time, stopping for a hug here-and-there and genuinely enjoying the quiet solitude.

From there, we headed south to Weaverville to Well-bred Bakery for a slice of delicious raspberry chiffon cake!! Oh my!! Light and tasty!! Definitely pairs well with “Jamaican me crazy” coffee. We were hoping to eat at Stoney Knob Restaurant, but they are closed on Mondays. So we decided to eat our supper backwards beginning with dessert.

Pink Champagne Cake

Denise had declared earlier in the day that it sure would be cool to be up on Wolf Laurel at sunset! Well, well, well, your wish is my desire! Supper options are very slim between Weaverville and Wolf Laurel Mountain, but I remembered a pizza shop just off the exit. Been living on a whim all day anyway, why not try it! Delish! Chicken ranch pizza in a styrofoam box at the top of mountain with a stellar sunset and your gal—romantic and delightful!!!

What was the best part of a somewhat unplanned, spur-of-the-moment Valentine’s Day? Just being together!

Guys, ask your girlfriend or your wife what they like most, and I would venture to say that the majority would answer, “Time with you.”

Just being together on the scenic route in marriage is always a win!!

Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

Ready for Monday?

Here’s a few ideas for a fun, romantic date.

Game Night Date: Choose three eating establishments (coffee shop, restaurant, bakery). Take three games (Shut the Box, Take Two, Quixx) and play a game at each location. Start off with a game at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Make reservations for dinner at Chop House. Drive to Bristol and enjoy Blackbird Bakery. Game on!

Bookstore Date: After a meal out, head on over to a local bookstore and locate a cozy corner. Find a book for each of the following categories, five books in all. 1) A travel book that describes your dream vacation spot. After locating the book, bring it back to your table and read about it to your spouse. Put the books away and search for . . . 2) A children’s book that you enjoyed in your childhood. Return to your table and read it to each other. Put the books away and search for . . . 3) A book of love poems. Same as #2, but be sure to hold hands and look into each other’s eyes. 4) A hobby book. Same as #2. 5) A cookbook with a recipe that you would surely enjoy! Do the same as #2. Book it!

Put the Kids to Bed Date: After the kids are tucked into bed with instructions to stay in bed, order up a pizza. Pull out the china or good dinnerware and have a candle-light pizza party in your bedroom. Play some romantic music. Verbally share 14 reasons why you love each other. Talk about ways to grow your marriage and mature your love for each other. Take it from there!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Guilt-Free Valentine’s Day

Who’s getting married this Valentine’s Day weekend?

According to the LA Times, “Valentine’s Day is L.A.’s hottest wedding day” of the year. “In the last decade, Los Angeles County couples have chosen Valentine’s Day for their weddings more often than any other day — by far.” (LA Times, February 14, 2019)

The subject of Valentine’s Day and marriage is way cool to me! Having been married 40 1/2 years (June 20), I can tell you that romance, love, dating and all that comes with being married is a rich blessing! It’s fun, adventurous, takes daily maintenance and is way cool! Now, hang on a minute. Don’t get the idea that our marriage has been “and they lived happily ever after!” because that has never happened in any marriage!!

Although God created marriage (Genesis 2:18-25) in a perfect state and environment, sin crept in and marred the blessed arrangement. The issue today is not marriage but two sinners coming together in marriage.

Speaking of sin, there is a one that has been swiftly gaining ground in America and around the world for the past few decades, especially in the 2000’s—-couples living together before marriage or living together and never being united in marriage. Folks, I say this from a heart that cares for you and is at the same time grieved by how sin continues to mar the sacred gift of holy matrimony.

First of all, no matter how hard you try to make life work your way, God’s way is always the best because His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), righteous and holy (Psalm 145:17), one of steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 25:10), and higher than your ways (Isaiah 55:9). We are exhorted in Galatians 6:7-8 that you cannot “out-box” God nor can you get away with your sin. Therefore, living together outside of the bonds of marriage is an affront to God. It is living in rebellion, sin, and pride.

Second, God says marriage is to be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4). Please let this passage sink into your heart! Because marriage was created by God, it is to be held in honor.

Grant Richison in his commentary on this passage says correctly, Marriage is “honorable” because it is a divine institution. It is the basic building block for society. The word “honorable” means to hold with great esteem. Physical love among married people is “honorable.” It is something that must be held in great respect. It is intimate companionship (Gen. 2:18). Any form of sex outside of husband and wife is dishonorable in God’s eyes.

The undefiled marriage bed belongs only to a husband and wife who have been united in marriage. Sex between a man and his wife is holy, pure, and beautiful, but is defiled and perilous to the couple who choses to live together and have sex outside the bounds of marriage.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . . Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 18).

He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. (Proverbs 6:32-33).

Sex is for marriage, and marriage is for sex. God wants us to save sex for marriage not because it’s “bad” or “dirty”— but because it’s unique, exclusive, and wonderful. Sex isn’t just casual fun. And it’s not just a feel-good way of expressing mutual love. It’s about two people becoming one flesh. Jesus says, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5, ESV; quoting from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24). [Focus on the Family]

As noted earlier, God’s ways are always best. God created marriage and has laid down His instructions for marriage. Life does not work in rebellion against its Creator. Furthermore, you don’t own marriage, God does. Therefore, you do not have the right to “call the shots” as to how you will handle marriage and all that God has intended for it. A man who surrenders to the will of God will never live with regret and shame (Psalm 32).

If you are living with someone outside the bonds of marriage, repent and run to the cross of Christ and accept God’s forgiveness. Also, please read the following: Three Lies About Premarital Sex

Valentine’s Day can be a guilt-free holiday of romance and joy if you follow God’s way!

How To Talk About Your Church

  • “Well, I walked into church, and no one spoke to me!” 
  • “Every Sunday, my heart is stirred, and I leave knowing I have met with my Lord!” 
  • “Our preacher (fill-in-the-blank)!” 
  • “All our church knows to do is ask for money!” 
  • “Our kids’ ministry is awesome!”

These and a whole host of other statements, both positive and negative, true and false, have been and continue to be said about the local church. In connection with yesterday’s post, Covid’s Speech Lesson, I want us to consider what is said to others about the local gathering we attend. Let’s look at one of them.

“Our church (or, That church) is so unfriendly!”

There’s a quick remedy for that one. Proverbs 18:24 reminds us, He that has friends must himself be friendly.  Next Sunday, before you get out of your car, pray by yourself or with your spouse or your family, “Lord, I surrender to You, Who dwells in me, to be friendly, compassionate, listening, and caring to all we meet. And, lead us to the seats in the auditorium where You want us to sit today that we may help move folks around one step toward Christ.”

Think about it. If we are given to say that our church is not friendly, then perhaps we are not friendly because we are the church. We as born again believers are the body of Christ. Therefore, when we gather, we are more than just friendly on “the outside.” We desire to go deeper by showing mercy to those around us. We greet others with a firm handshake or a fist-bump or with raised eyebrows (for mask-wearers) and a word of greeting. Try to refrain from the norm, “How you doing?” and move on.

If you are greeting a visitor/guest, stop, speak to them, give your name, listen for their name(s) and use their name(s) immediately so you can begin to remember it. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider how you can make them feel at home; as if they were entering your living room. As you chat with them, don’t be in hurry. Introduce them to those serving at the Welcome Center. Ask questions and give guidance to the auditorium or nursery or fellowship area. Pray with them.

Sometime during the week, send a thank you note or a text or give them a call to let them know you have prayed for them. Make sure they know you genuinely care.

True friendliness is grounded in the person of Christ. He spent time with His disciples and others (John 3:22). He initiated conversations (John 4:7-42). He came to serve others (Mark 10:45). He prayed for others (John 17). He visited in homes (Luke 19:1-10). He reached out to sinners (John 8:1-11).

Since we can do all things through Christ as He lives His life through us, we can ignite a culture of biblical friendliness in our local congregation that will be contagious for Christ and to others!!

“That congregation is so friendly! They are genuine; they really care!”

Marriage Moments

There are many of these throughout the day.  The word moment is defined as “a very short period of time, a little while,” and it also refers to importance.  So a “marriage moment” happens when in the course of the day you plan or act spontaneously to take a brief amount of time to express your love, concern, and attention for your spouse because he or she is of  great significance to you.  Your marriage life is a weighty matter.  Both of you have decided to grow your marriage, enjoy each other, and not get used to each other as the days go whereby you don’t take each other for granted and your marriage grows stale.

It had been a taxing, stressful day which had an affect our on relationship.  Needing to stop my routine and work attitude of “let’s get this job done and move on to the next one,” I poured out on the bar counter all of our Scrabble tiles for a game of Take Two.  No phones, no music, no distractions, just a moment with my wife having fun because she and our marriage are important.  You see, a long marriage is made up of a WHOLE BUNCH OF MOMENTS over the years!

Need some help? Here’s a few marriage moment ideas:

  • Kiss longer; no peck and run!
  • Play a quick game of UNO, Take Two or Farkle after supper at the kitchen table. (Tell the kids to go to the living room, work on their SS lesson or homework. They need to understand that Mom and Dad need some fun time, too.  Don’t let your kids run the house!  Teach them how to respect your time and how to sit still. You also need to teach them what a good marriage is all about.  They are watching you.)
  • Call each other in between appointments, send a text or Facebook message. Build up some excitement for the end of the day or week. Give your spouse something to anticipate!
  • Go sit down on the back porch under the full moon and sit realllllly close!! Say you don’t have a back porch or a swing? You do have an old blanket and a backyard, right?
  • Sing your favorite love song to each other while dancing in the living room.
  • Hug like you were dating!

Proverbs 5:18 – Let your fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of your youth. . . for a moment and then a whole bunch of moments!!