Me, Marriage, and the Culture


Who me?

I don’t know what to do….The problem is too big, I can’t do enough to help….I don’t have anything to offer…. They just need to do what is right….My marriage isn’t that great….I’m not a counselor or a pastor.

These thoughts are the common reaction when a person is challenged to be involved in the big issue of our day - strengthening marriages.

As Christians, we often focus exclusively on one area, such as evangelism. For non-Christians, many believe that everyone should have the freedom to do what they want and that their personal lifestyle doesn’t affect me.

Others beliefs and behavior affects all of us. Most of all, the life of a Christian has a profound impact on a person’s openness to Christ. Evangelism often bounces off hard hearts because Christians don’t want to be involved personally in another person’s life.

Research clearly shows that the breakdown of the family brings poverty, higher rates of juvenile delinquency, higher rates of failure in school, and higher rates of broken relationships. The problem belongs to all of us! The problem is very close to God’s heart.

God called on the people in Ezekiel's day, I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land…. (Ezekiel 22:30a)

He was calling for two groups of people - some to build and some to stand in the gap.

Some are equipped or called to build the wall of protection for the family. Some will stand in the gap.

Living Well is building. We have already produced training workshops for churches to build marriage strengthening ministries. We come alongside churches to build those ministries. We build into the lives of many couples through personal two-on-two guidance and through classes.

God may be calling you to be one that stands in the gap by mentoring a younger couple or older women/men mentoring younger women/men... or working on marriage strengthening programs…. Supporting those who build.

One Person Can .....

The Bible talks about the older training the younger. A mentor is not a teacher or a counselor. A mentor is someone who shares their experience. Every person has experience that he can share with someone else - mentoring.

Mentor: Someone whose hindsight can become your foresight. Anonymous

We can be intentional about spending time with a younger couple - encouraging them, listening to them, praying for them, believing in them.

Every Christian that is involved in a church can ask the leadership to include classes/ministries to strengthen marriages. Some can even offer to lead a class or help with a class.

You can support those who are building the walls to preserve marriages and families - support them in prayer, in donations, and by adding your voice of affirmation.

Perhaps, most importantly, you can do all that is possible to strengthen your own marriage for the sake of others who are watching - and they ARE watching.

…. by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15 CEV)

Please see our next post - This Road Leads to .....

THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY Marriages in the Bibles, part7


New love is the brightest, and
long love is the greatest, but
revived love is the tenderest thing known on earth. 
Thomas Hardy

In the U.S. today, according to research, at least 90% of Americans believe infidelity in marriage is wrong. Yet, infidelity/adultery/affairs emerge over and over in marriages. Behavior does not reflect a person's verbal opinion but it reflects the values of a person's life.

In 1988, research found that 77% of women and 64% of men said that adultery had been relevant to separation or divorce.

The most common belief is that people who have affairs aren't happy in their marriage. Shirley Glass (author of NOT Just Friends) writes, In my data, 56 percent of men who entered into affairs said they had ''happy'' or ''very happy'' marriages, compared with 30 percent of women. For men, the strongest predictor for having an affair is their attitudes and values about monogamy. For women, it's marital unhappiness.

Bad marriages don't cause infidelity;
infidelity causes bad marriages.
Frank Pittman

When a person marries, he is saying "yes" to one woman and "no" to all other women in this world. And women are doing the same. Somewhere along the life of the marriage, a man or woman forgets the commitment of his/her vows and allows his mind and emotions to consider an involvement with another person.

In our culture today, many people spend more time with a person of the opposite sex in the workplace than they do with their own spouses. Being faithful in marriages takes diligence. If I ever believe that I am immune to the attention of the opposite sex, then I am in danger.

Jerry Jenkins wrote a great book many years ago about protecting your marriage. I first read the content as a series of articles that he wrote for Moody magazine. He later put them into a book and it has been republished more than once. The book is Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It. He clearly shows how easy a person can slip into an affair, especially in the workplace. He also shares what he has done to protect his marriage and what each of us can do.

In the Bible, God gives us a great example of a couple with an extreme situation with infidelity. Hosea and Gomer exemplify the relationship between God and His people. He tells the story of the unfaithfulness of this bride and how her husband chases after her. The story is to show God's faithfulness to His people, even when they are unfaithful, how He chases after them and never stops loving them.

Hosea and Gomer's story is one of the ugliest marriages in the Bible, but it also shows that ugly marriages can still be redeemed and restored. The very first thing God ever said to Hosea tells us about his unlikely marriage. 

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” So he married Gomer. (Hosea 1:2-3a). 

Some believe that God was commanding Hosea to marry a woman who had formerly been a prostitute. Others contend that taking an adulterous wife would merely refer to marrying a woman from the northern kingdom of Israel, a land which was guilty of spiritual adultery. 

Whatever her past, he found his heart drawn to her in deep and unselfish love. God directed him to take her as his wife, and so it was that Gomer, became the unlikely wife of the this young preacher.

Somewhere Gomer became dissatisfied in her marriage and became involved with other men. She was extremely unfaithful. God uses the marriage of Hosea and Gomer as an illustration of His relationship with the nation of Israel as she ran after idols, other gods. 

Gomer may have had a man supporting her or a series of prostitution encounters. She ends us broke and homeless. She is for sale in the slave market.

The ugly part of this marriage is easy to see. But the good is beyond what any of us can imagine. We are not saying that God calls everyone to go to such great lengths after one partner has left and been promiscuous. But in their culture, women had very few ways to support themselves. She was being sold as a slave.

God shows us some strong marriage qualities through this relationship.

FOREVER LOVE

God tells Hosea not to give up but to go after the love of his life. Buy her back, take her home. Hosea did that.

The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods… (Hosea 3:1)

FAITHFUL

Hosea was faithful, even though Gomer was unfaithful. He shows us what God does for each of us. He is faithful, even if we are unfaithful. Hosea had an undying love for his wife. God has an undying love for us.

FORGIVING

How many times should a husband or wife forgive? Some contend, “If I keep forgiving I simply affirm him in his pattern of sin.” Or “If I keep forgiving, she’ll think she can get away with anything she wants.” Others say, “If I keep forgiving, it’s like putting my seal of approval on his behavior.” Or “I can’t take another hurt like that. If he does that one more time, I’m leaving.” Those are human responses.

Listen to the response of the Lord Jesus. You see, Peter had asked the Lord this same question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” The Lord’s answer was, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21, 22). That is a great deal of forgiveness. In fact, Christ was simply saying in a captivating way that there is no end to forgiveness.

We can love like that.
We can forgive like that.
We can bring the hurts in our hearts to Christ.
When we fully forgive, our minds will be released from the bondage of resentment that has been building a wall between us, and we shall be free to grow in our relationship with each other.

God can restore your marriage - even if one person has been unfaithful. In fact, your marriage can be better than it has ever been before! We have seen it happen!

Resources for overcoming infidelity:
FamilyLife
Focus on the Family
Smart Marriages page (not just Christian resources)

More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come.

For previous posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Hosea and Gomer

THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY Marriages in the Bibles, part6

"I couldn't work with my husband [wife]!"

Some couples declare that their marriage would not survive the stress of working together also. We work together in our nonprofit ministry right now and have worked together earlier in our marriage in another career.

We love working together. We like the teamwork that we developed in marriage transferring to the workplace. Most importantly, however, is the teamwork of ministering together in church and in our nonprofit.

During college and early marriage, we wandered from church. In our late 20's, God brought us back. A few months after being involved again and studying God's Word, we started ministering together ..... and we still are. We have worked together in ministry almost continuously for over 30 years.

As we have worked and trained in the marriage ministry area, we began to see many other couples working together in that field and advocating teaching as a team. Although we have usually taught in the same class or seminar, we would take turns on the sessions. Now, we teach most lessons as a team, both of us studying, both of us getting up together speaking back and forth.

For us, the teamwork of teaching as a team is a visual demonstration of what we believe.

PRISCILLA and AQUILA

We have a great example of a marriage team at work and in ministry with Priscilla and Aquila. They were companions, friends, and work-mates. It takes a mature relationship to be able to work together.

Worked Together

They worked together making tents. Paul first met them as he looked for a place to make tents himself. He ended up living with them, staying in Corinth for 1 ½ years. They became good friends and they heard him teach extensively. [read their story in Acts 18:1-4, 18-20, 24-26]

Grew in the Lord Together

Not only did they live and work together but they suffered exile together. Then they both came to know and love Jesus Christ together. Now they were one in Christ, and His love made a good marriage even better.

 Every relationship is strengthened through the oneness of the Spirit. Marriages can move to a new level through that oneness if both people know the Lord on an intimate, personal level.

Think of it, eighteen months of intensive Bible study under the greatest Bible teacher in the early church. How Aquila and Priscilla must have grown!

Sharing the Word together strengthened their love for each other and their spirit of togetherness. Christian marriages will be all be strengthened when husbands and wives read and study the Word together.

Served the Lord Together

When Paul left Corinth for Ephesus, they accompanied him, and he left them there when he embarked for his home church in Antioch.

Aquila and Priscilla may not have been public speakers, but they were students of the Word, and they loved to share it with others. They were willing to invest the time necessary to take one young man, Apollos, under their spiritual care and pour into his life the things of Christ. And as a result of this encounter with Aquila and Priscilla, he became an effective servant of God whom some of the Corinthians later placed on a level with Peter and Paul. [1 Corinthians 1:12]

When Paul left Antioch on his third missionary journey, he traveled through Asia Minor by land and returned to Ephesus, where he remained teaching the Word of God for approximately three years. During that period of time, he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians and said, "The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house." [1 Corinthians 16:19]

When Paul left Ephesus for Greece, they evidently believed God was directing them back to Rome. Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans from Greece on that third missionary journey, and he said, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house." [Romans 16:3-5].

We do not know what happened, but somewhere, somehow, Aquila and Priscilla together risked their own lives to save Paul’s. His two friends were willing to give everything in the service of the Savior, even their lives.

Priscilla and Aquilla stand as an example of one of the great marriages of the Bible. Their names are always used together. They stood together, worked together, ministered together, and sacrificed together.

What an honor to be seen as a couple who glorified the Lord with their marriage!

"A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short."
Andre Maurois

More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come.

For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer

THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY Marriages in the Bible, part5

And what we can learn from them!

Joseph, the husband of Mary, offers a stark contrast to the foolish Nabal of our last post.

Is there anything new to say about the most famous mother of all time and her husband?

We often analyze their faith and their responses to the angels who brought the amazing message of God's son coming to earth through Mary's womb.

Can their situation correspond at all to marriages today?

A woman today will not give birth to the Son of God. Most marriages today don't have the same cultural procedures that they had as a Jewish couple over 2000 years ago.

At that time, when a couple became "betrothed", they made a lifelong commitment. This engagement period gave the groom time to prepare their home. Then he would come to get the bride at any time for the wedding. The betrothal could only be broken by divorce.

Joseph illustrates a man of integrity at a crucial point in history. God describes the man that was to be the earthly father of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:18-25).
 
Joseph was, in many ways, a remarkable man. He had many strengths that made him a great husband.

Think about how important this family was. We don’t know a lot about Joseph after Jesus was born, except that he was a carpenter. He was still leading the family when Jesus was 12 and got separated from his family.

But we don’t know anything about Joseph after that. He wasn’t mentioned when Jesus began his ministry at the age of 30. Most people think he must have passed away. Some people even think that Jesus had to support his family after Joseph died and that is the reason that he waited until 30 to begin his ministry.

Traits of Joseph in regard to his marriage:
  1. Followed GodThe Bible says he was righteous. He listened to God and he obeyed God. Any man today will be a better husband if he follows the Lord.
  2. CompassionateWhen he found out Mary was pregnant outside of marriage, he didn’t want Mary to be disgraced publicly, even though he thought she must have been unfaithful. He was going to divorce her quietly until a messenger of God came to him to explain the circumstances. A good marriage requires compassion even when we think that we have been wronged. We act in compassion no matter how great the offense. We want to do whatever is best for that person. I am more concerned with the other person's feelings than my own.

    Even when it was time for her to give birth, he went to great lengths to find a place for her in privacy. He cared for he with tenderness and strength.

    Fortunately, in our day, when it is time to give birth, arrangements have already been made at a hospital. But how does a husband respond when his wife says "it's time?" Does he respond with tenderness or is he gruff because his sleep was interrupted or he had to leave work? Does he respond in strength and know what to do at that crucial time or does he panic?
  3. FaithfulHe kept his promise of marriage to her, he followed through and married her. He was humble enough to suffer whatever humiliation might come his way because of Mary's pregnancy. When faced with a humiliating experience, does a husband remain faithful to his wife or does he become angry or leave her?
  4. Self-controlledHe did not have sex with her until after Jesus was born, so that she would remain a virgin in accordance with the Scripture. Today, we won't have that same circumstance that requires self-control, but we have many others. If a man is separated from his wife because of his work, does he use self-control to be sexually pure? When approached by other women, does he use self-control or does he take advantage of the opportunity? What if a wife is unable to have sexual relations because of physical problems, will he remain faithful to her?
  5. Good stepfatherHe treated Jesus as his son. He trained him spiritually and in a trade. Jesus became a carpenter like Joseph. We may not think of Jesus growing up with a stepfather, but he did. How many stepfathers show the kind of character of Joseph to a son whom he knows that he did not father?
Joseph serves as an inspiring role model for husbands and fathers today.

Good marriages don’t just happen; they take work. They take a devotion to the Lord, faithfulness, humility, self-control, and compassion.

More GOOD, BAD, and UGLY to come.

For other posts in this series:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The First Marriage, The Good
Part 3 - Adam and Eve, The Bad
Part 4 - Nabal and Abigail
Part 5 - Mary and Joseph
Part 6 - Priscilla and Aquila
Part 7 - Hosea and Gomer