There’s Still Fire in Furnace!

This week, I had the joy of speaking with a man who has been married for over 60 years, and he said, “There’s still fire in the furnace!” My sweetheart and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary in June, and we’re still stoking the fire, too!

How do you keep “the fire in the furnace” so your marriage does not grow cold and lifeless? Well, here’s a few tips that I hope will help. I’m sure I have shared some of these in previous posts, but we need to be reminded again and again to keep putting another log on the fire!

  1. Work at your marriage every day.

Don’t let a day go by without kissing each other (ban the peck!), holding each other, complimenting each other, eating a meal together, sharing your heart with each other, and don’t let someone or something come between you; especially your children!

  1. Do the little things.
  • Leave little love notes around the house or in the car or in his suitcase if he travels.
  • Bring home a candy bar for him or a dozen roses for her.
  • Hold hands.
  • Send a text message telling each other how much you love each other.
  • Husbands, seat your wife at the table and open the car door for her.
  • Speak well of each other in front of the children.
  • Pray together.
  • Read the Word together.
  • Flirt with your spouse, and only your spouse!!!
  1. Date once-a-week. 
  • Starbucks and play a game.
  • Pizza on china plates after the kids go to bed.
  • A drive through the country with the windows down, a picnic basket, blanket, and your favorite romantic music as you head to that secluded spot along the creek, in the mountains, or just down the road.
  • Movie and popcorn.
  • A stroll around the neighborhood, hand-in-hand, talking about why you love each other.
  • Share a sundae at Sonic and smooch like you did when you were dating!  (And we know you did.)
  1. Have fun!  
  • Don’t be a fuddy dud, a kill-joy!
  • Laugh at yourself!
  • Walk in the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control)
  • Enjoy each other; enjoy being with each other; your spouse should be your first choice always as your dearest companion.
  • Stop at Chickfila, get an ice cream cone and sit outside under the umbrella tables. Enjoy sharing just the one cone!
  1. Wherever you go, make it an event.
  • Make even walking through the grocery store or the mall with your spouse a fun time!
  • When you leave the house, tell each other how good they look!
  • Serve one another.
  • Make meal time, especially supper, a well-thought out time even with the children.  Be intentional.
  • Pay attention to each other.
  • Serve together at church; put your whole heart into worship; wear it out!!
Love is...Color Monday 2 December 2019 | Artful Asprey Cartoons

May I encourage you to take inventory of your marriage? Be humble.  Be honest.  What needs to change?  God didn’t create marriage for man and woman to be miserable.  As I heard years ago, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.”  You will have hard times in marriage, but choose joy.  Put these five things to practice by God’s grace and enjoy the grace gift of marriage for a long time to come!!

Go ahead; add another log on the fire right now! Keep the furnace hot!

The Best Place to Go With Your Wife

Aierdi farmhouse in the Basque region of northern Spain.

My wife and I have been blessed to travel to many beautiful places in this world (Israel, Spain, Alaska, Maine, British Columbia, to name a few). Each location has afforded us some very special memories and excitement!

The best place that we have ever gone in our married lives, and we have gone there many, many, many times in our almost 40 years together as husband and wife is . . . The Throne of Grace (Hebrews. 4:16). The view from there is eternal, true, hope-filled, majestic, and absolutely transcendent.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Husband, Your Wife Needs You, sir, your wife is longing, perhaps crying out in prayer, for you to be her loving, servant leader, daily pointing her to Christ. Without reservation, I believe that joining with your wife in prayer is the best way to disciple her and sanctify her as her loving, serving Christlike leader (Ephesians 5:18-33).

Husbands, you should be the leader in prayer in both your marriage and your home, rather than your wife.
Luke 18:1 – Men ought always to pray and not to faint!
1 Timothy 2:8 – I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting
1 Peter 3:7 – Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
James 5:16 – Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Men, your wife will embrace the security she longs for when you take her by the hands, kneel before her or sit beside her on the couch and pray with her at the Throne of our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, living, holy God!

  1. Ask God to help you pray with your spouse. Ask Him to give you the desire to pray with her, the place, the words and the wisdom.
    1 John 5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hear us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
  2. Set some goals & boundaries. a) Keep it short if praying with her is a challenge for you, or if this is new to you. b) Keep is simple. Just talk to the Lord about what is on her heart and yours. c) Keep it safe. Don’t air out your offenses against your wife in prayer. This is not a time to fight, but to surrender in humility. d) Keep it supportive. Show great care in prayer before your wife and the One Who invites you to cast all your care upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).
  3. Keep it fresh
    a) Pray Scripture. b) Pray before you leave for work. c) Change up meal prayers. d) Pray when a need arises; when she has a burden. e) Pray during a conflict; it’s hard to be mad when you are holding hands praying. f) Pray before you go to sleep at night. Make a call to pray with her even when out of town. g) Use prayer reminders (i.e. post it note on the fridge, mirror). h) Send your wife to a Ladies Prayer Advance i) Share your answers to prayer!!! j) Spend time in prayer just praising and thanking God. Make no requests. Try it and see how quickly you lapse into requests! k) Pray back-and-forth. Husband prays about something, then the wife, then the husband and then wife, etc. That’s really praying with one heart united in purpose. You see, prayer is a conversation with our Heavenly Father.

Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Husbands, your wife needs you to pray with her and for her; to go with her to the Throne of Grace. After all, you are one flesh, right?

“Prayer makes a godly man, and puts within him the mind of Christ, the mind of humility, of self-surrender, of service, of pity, and of prayer. If we really pray, we will become more like God, or else we will quit praying.” – E.M. Bounds


Husband! Your Wife Needs You!

How does she need you? She is longing, perhaps crying out in prayer, for you to be her loving, servant leader daily pointing her to Christ.

How many times I have seen the wife leading the home because the husband will not take the lead. Sometimes the husband wants to lead but his wife won’t let him. Neither are submissive to God first so they can live out Ephesians 5:18-33.

Could it be, men, that you are making decisions all day at work, and you are just worn out and weary of that role when you get home? Maybe the home you grew up in did not manifest this kind of leadership. Perhaps you will be willing to say, “I need help before I can help lead my wife.” May I offer some suggestions?

The best way for a man to lead his wife is through a discipling model. What does that look like? Let’s consider one aspect of that today with more to come in future blogposts.

Disciple your wife in the Word of God.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:25-30).

Understanding that what I am about to describe to you will not happen, the following scenario motives me to loving discipleship of my precious wife. Using the analogy from the Ephesians passage above, just as the Church will one day, indeed, be presented to Christ in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, I picture myself holding my wife in my arms (which I still can do, btw) and presenting her to Christ, a lady who has been nourished and cherished in discipleship by me, her husband. I long to “present” my wife, my bride, to the Lord having done all to point her to Christ; to have given her every opportunity to grow in Christ; to have encouraged her in every way to be like Christ.

Leading my wife to Christ is the most important part of being her husband. In eternity, all the temporal things given to her will not matter (Proverbs 31:30; Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:1-4).

Husbands, consider the following suggestions:

  • As you read and study the Word, be sure to share with your wife what God has been teaching you.
  • You could read a devotional book together in the morning before you head off for work. If your departure time is before she gets up, then call her on your first break and read the devo on the phone or read a portion of God’s Word on the phone and discuss it.
  • Take your wife to church every Sunday so she can hear the Word preached.
  • Read a good book together; perhaps one on marriage, prayer, communication, conflict.
  • Make sure she attends a ladies’ conference periodically to be refreshed, revived, and encouraged in her walk with God.
  • Participate in a small group Bible study today. Even if your wife has been a believer longer than you have, she needs you to lead her spiritually.
  • Don’t leave Christ at home when you go on vacation. Make your vacation a time of revival and renewal in your walk with the Lord. Choosing a Bible preaching church on Sunday is more important than your choice of vacation spot, restaurants and recreation.
  • Bring your wife her coffee, etc. in the morning so she can be encouraged to be in the Word.
  • Perhaps you have your “man-cave,” but make sure she has her place where she meets with the Lord every day.

Husbands, your wife needs you! Begin by discipling her today, leading her to Christ.

(The lake picture is taken from a house where Denise and I have the blessed grace privilege of going periodically to meet with the Lord to pray, study and grow together.)

For Cryin’ Out Loud!

Well, I did it again!! Third time!

First time, I totally destroyed it.

Second time, I broke off a piece but was able to glue it back on.

Third time, well, look at the picture above!

When it happened last week, my wife was standing in the garage watching me. She threw her hands into her face and wildly gestured that I was about to hit the side of the garage door frame, but . . . it was too late! Me, well, I was absolutely frustrated and seeing dollar signs! And in Cunningham fashion repeating to myself, “Dear, oh, dear!!”

Bless her heart, when she got in the passenger side of her Jeep, she simply said, “It’s just stuff.”

There are so many applications to this story.

  1. In eternity, it will not matter. Yes, I need to be a good steward of what the Lord has entrusted to me such as a vehicle because it belongs to Him . . and it is my wife’s Jeep! But it is just stuff that I will leave behind someday. So why get so uptight about it (Revelation 21:1-7).
  2. Once again, the frail condition of man was on display. As for man, his days are like grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourishes (Psalm 103:15).
  3. Plastic does not compare to metal. So much of this world’s things or desires are plastic and hold no value or longevity. 1 John 2:17 reminds us that the world is passing away along with its desires.
  4. Just as the mirror shattered, so does some of the things in this life. As I read this morning, Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever (Psalm 125:1).
  5. Getting old along with failing eye sight are reminders of a better day when Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  6. Everyday is a reminder of our total dependence upon God for wisdom, strength, endurance, and supply. I am weak. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him (Psalm 28:7).
  7. Here’s another time to preach the Truth to myself and not listen to myself.
  8. I am not in control of anything! Even my driving. Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor (Proverbs 18:12).

Although I do not drive my wife’s Jeep very often, and now you know why (hahaha), every time I look in that mirror, I’ll want to say, “For cryin’ out loud,” but I will be reminded of one or more of the lessons of life as listened above.

Might as well go ahead and enjoy the journey. We are not Home yet!

Huh?

Communication!  Wow!  For 5 1/2 years this has been more of a challenge than it has ever been in our marriage.  Why?  Because of my hearing.  Now, I am guilty at times of the “selective hearing syndrome” that we men seem to contract in older years.  In all seriousness, my hearing is declining hampered in my left ear especially, and with my wife’s soft voice, . . . oh, brother!

One of most needed areas of constant attention in a marriage is communication.  How interesting that I make a living talking, yet the lack of communication has been such a struggle for me in our marriage.  I can talk the “hind legs off of a mule” but struggle to interact consistently with my precious wife.  So, in a transparent fashion, I hope to help us in a crucial area of marriage.

Why do we as men need to take time, to make the effort to listen, to talk, and to thoroughly communicate with our wife?

 1.  Our wives need the security of our listening ear.

They want to know that what matters to them matters to us.  They want to know that they are more important than Joe at work, Josh Heupel in his orange and white, and Michaels and Collingsworth on Sunday night!   For many wives, if they are moms at home with little ones, all they have had all day is communication on a three and/or five year olds level.  They need adult interaction when the hubs gets home without his iPhone, iPad and other distractions.

  • Ephesians 5:23 – God intends for the man to be the head, the leader in the home. Wives find security in our loving, servant leadership.  One of the greatest ways you can serve your wife in a Christlike fashion is to talk and listen to her.  Doesn’t Christ always listen to us?

 2.  Our wives want to know what we are thinking because they love us and intimacy is very dear to them.

  • 1 Peter 3:7 – We will begin to understand our wives when we open up to them because they will feel free to share their heart since you have been open, honest and transparent with them.

 

3.  Our wives need to hear communication that glorifies God.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – or whatsoever you do includes our communication with our spouse.
  • Ephesians 4:25 – Our wife is our neighbor and we are members one of another if we are born again believers.
  • Ephesians 4:29 – Good, grace-filled communication that edifies the hearer glorifies God.

Please do me a favor.  Don’t make excuses or think my comments are one-sided.  I realize it takes two to make a marriage, but the point of it all is, God expects us to lead and live with our wives as loving, serving leaders.  Begin by simply taking 10-15 minutes-a-day to look at each other, no distractions, and listen to each other; talk to each other.  By the way, remember when you were dating?  Both of you would hang onto every word . . . even when you didn’t have anything to say on the phone, you just loved to hear each other breathe!!!  🙂

Get honest on your knees before God.  Ask Him to give you strength, ears to hear, words to say, a humble spirit and a passion to glorify God.

I reckon I’d better turn up my hearing aids!! 🙂

Men and Women Text Differently – Tim Hawkins brings some humor to it all.  Enjoy this short video. K?

Lighten Up!

When’s the last time you and your spouse just had a good ol’ belly laugh? Perhaps you even cried you laughed so hard!

With all the stuff that we have come through in 2020 and continue to do so, laughter is hard to find.

I remember as a boy sitting around the supper table after church on Sunday night hearing preachers, missionaries, church members, etc., telling jokes and stories which were accompanied with many moments of boisterous laughter! Nowadays you tell a joke and somebody’s gonna get offended.

I’m not discounting the seriousness of COVID, but with the masks and the accompanying fear, few people are having a good time, laughing, smiling, and enjoying life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. (Proverbs 15:13)

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

So, with that said, have you and your spouse been laughing lately? You know, it might be that your marriage is drying up (Prov. 17:22) because you have forgotten how to have fun; you’ve been too serious; you’ve just let 2020 get you in the heart!

Well, let’s fix that!

  • What did you do when you were dating that you might consider to be silly now? How ’bout rolling back the clock and do it again! Only you can decide what that is.
  • Watch a funny, wholesome movie or an episode of the Andy Griffith Show or the Tim Conway dentist routine on YouTube.
  • Pour water on your spouse while they are in the shower. Just be ready for the payback.
  • Go on a light-hearted date and stop by a card rack at a card shop or grocery store and read funny cards to each other!
  • Head on over to the ice cream store, local bakery, or restaurant. Each of you inconspicuously, of course, point out a couple nearby and make up a story about them by what you see. Have fun with it . . . just between the two of you. By the way, folks over the years have probably said some things about you! 🙂

One of the reasons I have loved the preaching of Chuck Swindoll over the years is his infectious laughter. In his book, Laugh Again, Hope Again, he says, Isn’t God the one who urges us to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”? Why do we always think that means singing? Seems to me the most obvious joyful sound on earth is laughter… I’ve seen folks quote verses like “Rejoice in the Lord always” while their faces look like they just buried a rich uncle who willed everything to his pregnant guinea pig. Something is missing. Can’t you just hear him laughing?!?!

Image result for love is laughter

So, this week as we head into Valentine’s Day, how about taking a cue from Ken Davis’ radio program and “Lighten’ Up!” Have at it! It’s time! I’m sure your marriage could use a good dose of laughter meds!

Simply from a pastor’s heart!

Keepin’ It Fresh!

My wife and I love to take scenic drives through the country.  While often pointing to beautiful farms, well-kept houses and lawns, and the continual mountainous scenes around us, we are also greeted with run down houses covered over with vines and bushes as well as dilapidated stores that once held a consistent, thriving business.  How does a house that was once new become an unpainted relic of the past?  One of the reasons is simple neglect.  Take several days of neglect, add them together, and the house is in disrepair.  In some cases, it is no longer inhabited.

Image result for rundown house mountains free images

This reminds me of marriage.  Marriage cannot run on auto-pilot.  Every day, you must work at keeping your marriage fresh and up-to-date.  Neglect is like a vine that grows up around a house that eventually takes over.  Here are some simple daily maintenance tips to help your marriage stay fresh:

  • Say “I love you” often throughout each day and look at each other in the eye when you do.
  • Hold hands. Touch is invaluable.
  • Kiss often and linger every once in awhile.
  • Have prayer together before you leave for work in the morning and at night before drifting off to sleep.
  • Send a love note text during the day.
  • Be ready to meet each other at the end of the day; come home ready to make a connection mentally, emotionally, and physically.
  • Spend time together for 10-15 minutes sitting on the back porch after the kids go to bed.
  • Talk to each other; have much more than an adult/child conversation.

Don’t let your marriage look like a run down, uninhabited house!  Remember, that house did not get that way overnight!  Do your maintenance work today! Celebrating Valentine’s Day will be much sweeter, too! Enjoy!!

Brief Retreats

Last week I celebrated my 62nd birthday tucked away with my wife in a cottage on Watauga Lake in East Tennessee. Besides acknowledging another year of life and my wife making the day special, we went away for other reasons, too.

First of all, just as Jesus went withdrew Himself from the crowds (Matthew 14:23) and went to the mountain to pray (Luke 6:12-13), we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to do the same (Matthew 11:28-30). Two days removed from cell phones, internet, normal life, distractions, and responsibilities is an investment in your walk with Christ that is more than worth the effort. You have time to pray, listen, write, read, and be still. All you need is your Bible, journal, a ready heart, and a quiet place.

Second, marriages need maintenance like many other things in life. No matter if your marriage is humming or in need of a tune-up or a major overhaul, you and your spouse need brief times away to talk, plan, be attentive to each other, pray, read, play games, take a walk, laugh, sit on the porch swing, take a hike and share what God has been teaching you. All you need is place to get away and leave everything else behind.

May I encourage you to plan a brief retreat in the next six months? You need it in your walk with God and your marriage needs it. Sometimes, it’s good to retreat before you can advance.

Celebration in a Trailer

In 160 days, Lord willing, my wife and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage! What’n the world? How could it be 40 years for a couple of young newlyweds?!?!?!

Well, reality is, it will soon be 40 years.

In our first year of marriage, we celebrated in a special way on the 2oth of each month. Last week I told Denise we were going to do the same thing in 2021. You see, after these many years together, you continue to celebrate! You continue to work at your marriage every day! You dare not put your marriage on auto-pilot! You still have fun!

Our first month’s special celebration, July 20, 1981, did not fare too well. Denise had set the table with our new fine china, crystal and candlelight. She also prepared a new recipe . . . lasagna broccoli roll-ups. The atmosphere was so romantic with the smell of good food and the sounds of love music wafting through our 14×70 house trailer “castle.”

After seating my sweetheart at the table and leading in prayer for the food, we plated the new dish and took our first bite. Well, that’s where the brakes were applied to this dreamy evening. As I chewed and chewed, I needed to chew some more. Can you say, “dry” and “ricotta cheese” . . . a lot of ricotta cheese?!?! Add to this situation that I could hear my dad in my head saying, “Don’t ever say your mom can cook better.” What was I to do? I wanted to extract this snowball-rollin’-downhill bite, but no way at that moment on your first 20th celebration with fine dining! What was I to do?

I looked across the table and saw the look on my wife’s face. Can you spell relief? She swallowed (her bites are never as big as mine), and said, “This isn’t good is it?” Happy days are here again!!

Well, we have laughed about that night many times. Denise continues to make new recipes, and fortunately when it wasn’t that good, we have both agreed. (She is an absolutely outstanding cook). She still uses her china and crystal. We still create romantic meals. We continue to celebrate!

Marriage is an awesome grace-gift created by God. With both spouses intentionally working at it every day and adding into the mix the ingredients of laughter and forgiveness, you will have something to celebrate, too!

A Husband’s Discipling Leadership

Husband! Your wife needs you!!

How does she need you? She is crying out for you to be her loving, servant leader! And, if you have sons, they really need dad to lead in the home!

How many times I have seen the wife leading the home or the husband wanting to lead the home but the wife won’t let him or the husband refusing to “step up to the plate” and lead.

Could it be that you are making decisions all day at work, and you are weary of fulfilling that role when you get home? Perhaps you came from a home where loving, servant leadership was not on display. Maybe, you would admit that you really don’t know how to lead.

May I offer some suggestions, some help?

The best way for a man to lead his wife is through a discipling model. What does that look like?

  1. Lead your wife in prayer. More than being the leader in prayer for your meals, Pray with her in the morning before you leave for work. Pray with her at the moment she shares a burden with you. Pray with her over the phone when she is away visiting family, attending a ladies’ event or just from the office. Share your prayer burdens as well as your answers to prayer with her. Hold hands and pray with her every night before drifting off to sleep. The greatest place you could ever go with your wife is to the Throne of Grace together in prayer (Psalm 16:8; Hebrews 4:16).
  2. Lead your wife in the Word of God. As you read and study the Word, be sure to share with your wife what God has been teaching you. You could read a devotional book together in the morning before you head off for work. If your departure time is before she gets up, then call her on your first break and read the devo on the phone or read a portion of God’s Word on the phone and discuss it. Take your wife to church every Sunday so she can hear the Word preached. Read a good book together. Make sure she attends a ladies’ conference periodically to be refreshed, revived, and encouraged in her walk with God. Participate in a small group Bible study. Even if you wife has been a believer longer than you have, she needs you to lead her spiritually. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:25-30).

Wives, may I say, let your husband lead. Encourage him. Build him up. Even if he doesn’t do it the way you think he should, be thankful for any advancement. Sometimes this is just rough territory for a man. Pray earnestly for him and love him! Trust a sovereign, omnipotent God to do His work in your husband’s heart. Remember, try as you may, you cannot change him. (If your husband does lead in your home, rejoice, encourage him, keep praying for him, follow him and be his biggest cheerleader!)

More on this discipling leadership in another post to come. In the meantime, may you both surrender to Christ working through you to accomplish His plan and purpose in your marriage. Because the tomb is empty, you have hope!