Category Archives: Marriage

Foundation 5a: Friends of the Opposite Sex (In Marriage)

This is part 5a of a series I am sharing from Bible.org.

As I was reading through genealogies in 1 Chronicles, I found myself searching for some of the meaning that I know is in there.

2 Timothy 3:16

 16All Scripture is [i]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [j]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man or woman of God may be [k]fully capable, equipped for every good work.

I was struck by how many had multiple wives and concubines. They could not possibly be living out God’s purpose for marriage as intended. I found a good study on it that I wanted to share. I will be highlighting a series of articles I found on marriage on Bible.org.

To be clear, the following material is from a series on that site, and is not my work. It is worth highlighting and reading. This is one that is probably a good idea to walk through with your spouse, or potentially future spouse if you know who that will be. It is also good for sharing with children or adults who are not married as it helps them understand God’s purpose before they approach that significant decision in their lives.

—Link to Bible.org: 5a. Friends of the Opposite Sex | Bible.org

—Link to PDF: 5a. Article_ Friends Of The Opposite Sex_ _ Bible.org

How will you handle friendships with the opposite sex in marriage? This seemingly unimportant issue can often cause great strain and conflict within a marriage.

This topic came up while I was working as a Navy Reserve chaplain at Great Lakes Navy Base. While there, I attended a two hour group pre-marital counseling session for sailors. The chaplain running the session asked the sailors this question, “How many of you have friends of the opposite sex?” The whole class raised their hands. The next question was, “How many of your fiancés have friends of the opposite sex?” The whole class raised their hands again. Finally, he said, “How many of you plan on keeping it that way?” Each of the sailors looked at each other trying to discern what the right answer was, but eventually, all of them raised their hands again.

The chaplain then began to describe a formula of how relationships develop and progress further than friendship. He said:

I know there are people in here who think their fiancé was the only person in the world they could ever fall in love with. However, let me quickly burst that bubble for you. There is a formula for love, and it is pretty simple. It is having a person of the opposite sex + time together + intimate sharing. Those are the only three things needed for you to become seriously attracted to someone, and it potentially can happen with anyone.

Those of you who plan to keep your friends of the opposite sex, I would highly discourage it. Do you think most people who end up having affairs, initially planned to cheat on their mates? No, many times it happens simply because the couple did not have a rational plan about how they were going to interact with the opposite sex. They began to have fights and then one spouse went to share their problems with a friend of the opposite sex. When this continually happened, it created vulnerability and intimacy, eventually leading to an affair. Or, one mate had a job that required travel while the other stayed home, partied, and hung out with the opposite sex when the mate was away. Again, this produced the simple formula of the opposite sex + time together + intimate sharing, leading to problems.

These are not uncommon scenarios; they happen all the time. To make it worse, throw alcohol into the picture. Then anything could happen. It only takes one drink to lower your inhibitions…

The topic of friendship with the opposite sex is a topic every couple should consider before getting married. Personally, my wife and I talked about this before marriage, and we both agreed it was very difficult, even as a single person, to have a close relationship with the opposite sex without someone’s feelings eventually getting involved. Not impossible, but difficult.

How did we decide to handle it? As a pastor, I have to minister to females, but I am very careful about being alone with them unless it is necessary for confidentiality. When I am going to be alone with a female for an extended period of time, I always try to let my wife know and make sure she approves. If the counseling will be continuous, I will probably ask her to get involved.

In addition, before I got married, one of my best friends was a female, and to be honest, feelings sometimes got involved. However, we never went further than friendship. In marriage, it was very important to me for my wife to become close with this female if my friend was to remain a part of my life. By God’s grace, my wife now has a closer friendship with her than I do. For me, this was the only way my friend and I could continue to have a close relationship. With that said, my relationship with this girl is not even close to where it was previously because now my wife gets all my intimate thoughts, fears, plans, and time alone. That intimacy is reserved for my wife alone. And, by God’s grace, this close friend is now also married, and her intimate thoughts are reserved for her husband.

Consequently, this is a very important issue for couples to discuss and to create a plan for. When not properly addressed, it often becomes a source of conflict and tension within a marriage and sometimes it can be destructive. How will you handle relationships with the opposite sex?

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, lead and guide us in our relationships with others so that we would strengthen our marriage and keep it as a set apart relationship in our lives in a way that brings honor and glory to You. Amen. 

 Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

—-

Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Foundation 5: Conflict Resolution In Marriage

This is part 5 of a series I am sharing from Bible.org.

As I was reading through genealogies in 1 Chronicles, I found myself searching for some of the meaning that I know is in there.

2 Timothy 3:16

 16All Scripture is [i]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [j]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man or woman of God may be [k]fully capable, equipped for every good work.

I was struck by how many had multiple wives and concubines. They could not possibly be living out God’s purpose for marriage as intended. I found a good study on it that I wanted to share. I will be highlighting a series of articles I found on marriage on Bible.org.

To be clear, the following material is from a series on that site, and is not my work. It is worth highlighting and reading. This is one that is probably a good idea to walk through with your spouse, or potentially future spouse if you know who that will be. It is also good for sharing with children or adults who are not married as it helps them understand God’s purpose before they approach that significant decision in their lives.

—Link to Bible.org: 5. Foundation Five: Conflict Resolution in Marriage | Bible.org

—Link to PDF: 5. Foundation Five_ Conflict Resolution In Marriage _ Bible.org

How should couples resolve conflict in marriage?

Conflict is, essentially, part of human nature. After Adam sinned in the Garden, conflict ensued. When God asked him if he had eaten of the forbidden tree, he did not simply say, “Yes.” He said, “The woman you gave me, gave me the fruit and I did eat.” He indirectly blamed God and directly blamed the woman. The woman then blamed the serpent. When sin entered the world, so did conflict. In fact, God said that one of the results of sin would be conflict between the man and the woman. The wife would desire to control the husband and the husband would try to dominate the woman by force (Gen 3:16).

As we go throughout the biblical narrative, we continually see the fruit of sin displayed in conflict. In Genesis 4, Cain killed his brother Abel. In the same chapter, Cain’s son, Lamech, killed another man and boasted about it. In Genesis 6, the world was full of “violence,” and God decided to wipe out its inhabitants through the flood. However, the flood didn’t change the nature of man, and therefore, conflict has continued throughout history. The world has known no time without war or conflict, and unfortunately, marriages are not exempt.

Paul taught that one of the fruits of the flesh, our sin nature, is “discord” (Gal 5:20). We are prone to offend others, to be offended, to hate, to withhold forgiveness, and to divide. Sadly, all these fruits are prone to blossom within the marriage union. Couples should be aware of this, and therefore, prepare to resolve conflict in marriage. How should couples resolve conflict in marriage?

In Conflict, We Must Have the Right Attitude

The first principle necessary to resolve conflict is to have the right attitude—one of joyful expectation in God. It is good to remember that conflict does not necessarily have to be detrimental to a marriage relationship. Conflict, as with all trials, is meant to test our faith, reveal sin in our hearts, develop character, and draw us closer to God (cf. Rom 5:3-5Jam 1:2-4). Paul said this: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). Similarly, James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3). Paul said that we should rejoice in sufferings, and James said we should consider it “pure joy” when we encounter them because of God’s purposes in them. God does not waste suffering, including conflict within marriage. God uses conflict to make us grow into the image of Christ (cf. Rom 8:28-29), which should be our ultimate goal.

Many times God uses our spouse as sand paper to smooth out areas in our life that don’t reflect Christ. It has often been said, “Marriage is not about happiness; it is about holiness. And when we are holy, then we will truly be happy.” In marriage, we enter the ultimate accountability relationship, which is meant to help us grow as God’s children (cf. Eph 5:25-27).

Therefore, as James taught (James 1:2) and Paul taught (Rom 5:3), we should encounter marital conflict (and all trials) with joyful expectation, not because we enjoy suffering, but because we know God’s purposes in it. We worship a God who took the worst sin that ever happened in the world, the murder of his Son, and made it the best thing. It is for this reason that we can have a joyful expectation, even in conflict. This isn’t a denial of pain. It is both a recognition of pain and a future hope. It is like a mother giving birth. Even in the midst of pain, there is a joyful expectation. Many couples, who have gone through very difficult conflict, developed some of the strongest marriages—marriages used to counsel and repair others.

What is your attitude when you encounter conflict with your mate? If we don’t have the right attitude, if we are angry at our mate and angry at God, if we are depressed, bitter, and disillusioned, then it will negatively affect our behavior and our spouse, and therefore, reap harmful consequences in marriage. Conflict is really just an opportunity to grow, and we should view it that way.

What is your attitude during conflict? Do you have a joyful expectation of the work that God wants to do? Do you expect him to make you holier? Do you expect him to strengthen your capacity to love? That’s how Scripture tells us to view all trials.

In Conflict, We Must Develop Perseverance

In continuing with what Paul and James taught about trials, both taught that trials produce perseverance. Paul then said perseverance produces character and character hope (Rom 5:3-4). James said that we should “let perseverance finish its work so that we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4, NIV 2011). In marital conflict, we must develop perseverance so we can produce the fruits God wants to cultivate in our marriage.

This is difficult because the natural response to trials and conflict is to bail or quit. And that’s what many couples do. At some point they say, “That’s enough; I can’t live like this” and they quit. Some do this by divorcing, others by distancing themselves emotionally and physically, as they stop working to fix the marriage. However, Scripture teaches us to persevere in trials, which includes conflict. The word means to “bear up under a heavy weight.” God matures us individually and corporately as we bear up under the heavy weight. He teaches us to trust him more. He helps us develop peace, patience, and joy, regardless of our circumstances. He helps us grow in character as we “let perseverance finish its work.”

In order to resolve conflict, we must develop perseverance. That’s essentially what we promised to do in our wedding vows. We committed to love our spouse in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. We should be thankful when it is “better” and persevere when it is “worse”. For those who do, there is fruit. Paul said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Do you feel like quitting? Hold on, because God has a harvest for you if you don’t quit.

In Conflict, We Must Sow Good Seeds

Not only must we have the right attitude when encountering conflict, but we also must sow the right seeds to resolve it. Paul said that whatever we sow, we will also reap (Gal 6:7). Sowing and reaping is a principle God set throughout the earth, and it is at work within every marriage as well. If we sow negative seeds, we will reap negative fruit. It we sow positive seeds, we will reap positive fruit.

Sadly, even though we all want a positive harvest in our marriage, we typically respond in ways that are counter to that. A wife wants her husband to spend more time with her, but in order to get that, she criticizes him. The fruit she desires is opposite of the seed she is sowing. The seed of criticism will only produce a negative fruit in her husband. Similarly, a husband, who wants intimacy with his wife, actually begins to withdraw from her. He withdraws hoping that this will draw her closer, but it actually does the opposite. The negative seed of withdrawing cannot produce the positive fruit of intimacy.

In conflict, we must do the opposite of what our nature desires. We may have a desire to raise our voice, and/or to hurt the other person, but these seeds will only produce negative fruits and potentially destruction in the marriage. To resolve conflict, we must always sow the right seeds.

Similarly, consider what Paul taught about how we should respond to an enemy. He said:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:19-21

Paul taught that in response to an enemy, we must overcome evil with good. Instead of responding with anger or seeking revenge, we should sow kindness and generosity. If he is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Instead of being overcome by evil, we must overcome evil by continually sowing good.

What good seeds can we sow while we are in conflict? Maybe, it could be the good seed of a listening ear. It could be the seed of affirmation. It could be the seed of service. Certainly, it must be the seed of unconditional love. In conflict, we must sow good seeds to reap a good harvest.

With that said, we must always remember that conflict resolution is very much like farming. Sometimes, it may take months or years to get the harvest we desire. Many become discouraged while waiting for their spouse to change or for the conflict to be resolved. Typically, in that discouragement, people start to sow negative seeds that only hinder the harvest they seek. A verse worth repeating while considering conflict resolution is, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). We must not only sow good seeds, but we must faithfully do it until God brings the harvest. We plant and water, but only God makes the seed grow in his time (cf. 1 Cor 3:6-7).

What type of negative seeds do you have a tendency to sow when in conflict? How is God calling you to sow positive seeds to reap a positive harvest?

In Conflict, We Must Talk to Our Spouse First Before Others

Another important principle to apply in conflict is talking to our spouse first before talking to anybody else. This is a principle that Christ taught about dealing with sin in general. In Matthew 18:15 he said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

This is important for several reasons. First, it shows respect for our spouse. It is disrespectful to discuss a problem with our mom, our friend, or anybody else not first discussed with our spouse. If our spouse finds out, it may actually cause more conflict. Secondly, every story has two sides, and those who are closest to us (such as family and friends) may not have the ability to give us unbiased counsel. Even for myself, as a pastoral counselor, I have to work really hard to not jump to conclusions after hearing only one side of the story. This does not mean that we shouldn’t talk to those closest to us, we should, but only after trying to resolve it with our spouse first. And when we do talk to others, we should still respect and honor our spouse.

Christ taught that when somebody sins against us, we should go to that person first (Matt 18:15). Many couples increase their conflict by bringing others in without first seeking to resolve it with their spouse alone.

In Conflict, We Must Seek Wise Counselors

Though this point may seem like it contradicts the previous one, it doesn’t. Christ taught that we should confront a person in sin one on one, and if they don’t respond, then invite others into the process, including the church. Matthew 18:16-17 says this:

But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Though this was originally spoken about a brother in sin, it certainly applies to sin or conflict within marriage. God made us part of the body of Christ, which includes our marriage. When a natural body is sick, it often results in fever. In a fever, the body simply recruits itself to bring healing. In the same way, a Christian marriage needs the body’s help to stay healthy. Marriages should always operate as a part of the body of Christ, but in times of difficulty, they need the body’s help even more.

For many, this is countercultural. While in serious conflict, many couples hesitate to invite anybody into their marriage to help. Pride keeps them from exposing themselves and getting the help they need. This is actually another result of the Fall. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, they looked at one another, saw their nakedness, and hid. They then put on fig leaves. At the Fall, humanity lost its intended transparency. We hide from one another; we put on a fake smile even when things are bad. We hide behind our clothes, our houses, our jobs, and our hobbies. We are deathly afraid of people knowing us: our insecurities and our problems. We even hide from God, as Adam and Eve did.

However, in order to build the healthy marriage God meant for us, we must be willing to expose ourselves and seek help. In Matthew 18, Christ said that if approaching the person in sin does not work, we should bring one or two others for accountability. If that doesn’t help, invite the church. And if that doesn’t help, the church should lovingly discipline the erring mate. This is difficult, but if we are followers of Christ, we must trust he knows best. God wants to use other godly people to speak into our marriage and sharpen it as iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17).

Who would you invite to help your marriage? They should be wise people who can understand you, and who are walking with Christ—preferably a married couple. Solomon said: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Prov 11:14).

Every president or king selects a cabinet with many advisers. The cabinet advises the president on foreign policy, educational reform, health care, etc., and this multitude of counselors helps bring victory. In the same way, a marriage needs a multitude of counselors, especially when in conflict. Yes, a couple should try to resolve the problem together first, but after that, they should seek help.

This should be considered even before getting married. Who will be your “many advisers” that make victory sure? It could be your parents, a wise couple in the church, your pastor, your small group leader, etc. The selection of these wise counselors takes great wisdom because all counselors are not created equal. These counselors should primarily use the Bible, as Scripture is sufficient to train us in all righteousness. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says this:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God’s Word is useful to train and equip us for every good work, which includes marriage. Those who disregard Scripture, do it to their own peril and that of their marriage.

In finding counselors, ideally, the couple would agree on whom to approach. But at times when one mate doesn’t want help, the other mate may still need to seek help in obedience to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18. This is how Christ intended his church to function. Not only should we depend on God, but we should depend on one another. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you” (1 Cor 12:21). By not using the body, we spiritually impoverish ourselves. Independent couples may spend their entire marriage spiritually sick, or even worse, the marriage may end in divorce.

Who are your wise counselors who help you achieve victory? Have you and your mate considered this question? Are you willing to allow the church to be involved in your marriage as Christ desires?

In Conflict, We Must Immediately Seek Resolution

Another important principle that must be applied in marriage is to seek to resolve conflict as soon as possible. Both mates should agree to this principle early in the relationship. Paul said in Ephesians 4:26-27: ”In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Paul says to get rid of anger before the day is over, because if we don’t, it will give Satan a foothold. What does this mean? “Foothold” is war terminology. It means that unforgiveness and anger will give Satan a door to continually attack a person or a relationship.

We learn more about this from the Parable of the Merciless Servant in Matthew 18:23-35. In this story, a servant owed his master a great amount of money, so he begged for mercy. The master forgave him the entire debt. However, this servant had a fellow servant who owed him a smaller debt. The servant with the debt pleaded for mercy, but the servant, who had been forgiven, instead threw him in prison. When the master heard about this, he became very angry and tossed the servant, whom he had previously forgiven, into prison to be tortured by the jailors. Listen to what Christ said to his disciples about this parable: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Christ said to the disciples that if they didn’t forgive others from the heart, God would do the same to them. Who are these torturers? No doubt, they refer to Satan and his demons (cf. 1 Sam 16:14, 1 Cor 5:5, 1 Tim 1:20). This is the consequence for harboring anger and unforgiveness towards others. If God has forgiven us of every sin we committed and will commit, how can we justifiably hold grudges against others, especially our spouse? When we choose to hold anger and bitterness, God hands us over to the enemy for discipline.

For many couples, because of their disobedience to God in holding bitterness and anger, their marriage has become a playground for the enemy. He lies to them; he accuses them. He tempts them to go outside of the marriage, and he also may bring sickness and other types of consequences for their rebellion (cf. Lk 13:11-16Job 2:4-7).

To make this situation even worse, Scripture says when we are walking in unforgiveness, God will not forgive us (Matt 6:15) and he won’t hear our prayers. Peter called for husbands to be considerate of their wives and to treat them with respect so that nothing would hinder their prayers (1 Peter 3:7). A marriage where the mates hold bitterness and anger towards one another is a marriage where prayer is powerless, which opens a greater door for the enemy to attack and bring destruction.

When in conflict, we must seek resolution immediately. Certainly, we can’t force somebody to forgive us or to desire to work things out. However, we can do as much as possible to live at peace with someone. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Are you holding a grudge against your mate? How is God calling you to seek resolution?

In Conflict, We Must Be Willing to Sacrifice

Intrinsic to the Christian life is sacrifice. We follow a Savior who left heaven and all the worship offered to him there to come to earth as a servant and die for the sins of the world. True followers of Christ should be known by sacrifice. In fact, Christ said that one could not be his disciple without taking up his cross daily (Lk 9:23). This life of a sacrifice should be especially displayed when in conflict. Paul said this to the Philippian church who was struggling with an internal conflict (cf. Phil 4:1-3):

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Philippians 2:3-5

In the context of a call to unity (cf. Phil 2:1-2), Paul said the Philippians should “do nothing out of selfish ambition”. The primary reason couples struggle with discord is because of selfishness. One person wants this, while the other wants that. However, Paul said to do nothing out of selfish ambition. In conflict, one must ask, “Is this desire something God wants, as displayed in his Word, or is this my preference?” Most conflicts are over selfish preferences instead of over something that genuinely matters, such as loving God and loving others, the two greatest commandments (cf. Matt 22:36-40).

Instead of being driven by self, Paul said to “in humility” consider others better than ourselves and to seek the interest of others. In conflict, one must ask, “How can I seek my spouse’s betterment or desires over mine?” Essentially, Paul was calling the Philippian church to live a life of sacrifice in order to be unified (v. 2). This sacrifice was further magnified when he said, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (v. 5). In the rest of the text, he described how Christ gave up his rights as God, took the form of a servant, died on the cross, and how God exalted him for his sacrifice (v. 6-9). This is the mind that should be in Christians, helping them to walk in unity with their brothers and sisters. And this is the mind that should be seen in every marriage, enabling them to walk in unity instead of discord (cf. Eph 5:25).

Christian couples should resolve their conflicts by caring more for their spouse’s desires than their own. They should humble themselves even as Christ did. He gave up his comfort and his rights to serve us.

How is God calling you to sacrifice in order to resolve conflict or a potential conflict in marriage? Is he calling you to give up a friendship that is a bad influence or causes discord? Is he calling you to help more around the house, to care more for the kids, to start participating in something your spouse enjoys but you don’t, to spend more time with your spouse instead of doing something else? How can you demonstrate Christ’s sacrifice in your marriage? Sacrifice is the secret to resolving conflict, while selfishness is the catalyst of conflict.

In Conflict, We Must Love Our Spouse Deeply and Cover His or Her Sins

Finally, when in conflict, we must love our spouse and cover his or her sins. First Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” The Greek word for “deeply” is an athletic word used of muscles stretching or straining.

This is a rich word-picture of our love during conflict. In the same way a muscle must be strained and stretched to develop and become stronger, God often strengthens our love through conflict and difficulty with our spouse. Even though this stretching hurts, it actually results in a greater capacity to love. Therefore, couples, who deeply love and cover one another’s sins while in conflict, gain the ability to love more deeply. Certainly, this must be an encouragement as we stretch our love to cover our spouse’s sins while in conflict.

Stretching our love will often mean overlooking and forgetting the failures of our spouse. First Corinthians 13:5 says love “keeps no record of wrongs.” God will call us to not even bring up some issues. While others, he will call us to firmly speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and work towards a resolution, especially when it involves sin.

How is God calling you to love your spouse deeply and cover his or her sins in order to resolve conflict?

Conclusion

Because sin became part of the human nature in the Fall, we are prone to conflict, even conflict with those we love most. For that reason, we must wisely prepare for conflict because it will happen in the marriage union. We can resolve conflict by:

    1. Having the right attitude: one of joyful expectation, instead of wrong attitudes.
    2. Developing perseverance instead of quitting physically or emotionally.
    3. Sowing good seeds to produce a harvest of righteousness in our marriage.
    4. Talking to our spouse first before talking with others.
    5. Seeking wise counselors to help us navigate conflict.
    6. Seeking to resolve conflict immediately to prevent opening a door for the devil.
    7. Sacrificing our rights and desires for our spouse.
    8. Loving our spouse deeply and covering his or her sin.

Conflict Resolution in Marriage Homework

Answer the questions, then discuss together.

1. What was new or stood out to you in this session? In what ways were you challenged or encouraged? Were there any points/thoughts that you did not agree with?

2. Most couples usually argue over similar topics. These are called “triggers”. This might be when the woman shops, the man watches TV, somebody doesn’t pick up after him or herself, etc.

Write down all the common triggers for arguments in your relationship. Why do you think these triggers commonly cause you or your mate to get angry?

3. In the session, we talked about not sowing negative seeds. Which negative seeds do you typically sow when in conflict (i.e. withdrawal, criticizing, complaining, seeking revenge, seeking to win arguments, etc.)? What about your spouse? How have you seen these negative seeds produce negative fruit? How can you sow positive seeds instead to reap positive fruit?

4. Solomon said in the multitude of advisers there is victory (Prov 11:14). Who would you talk to as a couple if you were having marital problems? If you were to choose a mentor couple for your marriage (someone to ask questions, to talk to about problems or successes, or even meet with regularly), who would you choose?

*Read the “Friends of the Opposite Sex?” article and answer the following questions:

5. What are your thoughts about the Chaplain’s warning to the sailors about relationships with the opposite sex?

6. How will you handle relationships with the opposite sex? What specific things will you do in order to protect your marriage from open doors?

7. Do you have any other thoughts or concerns about this issue?

8. After completing this session, how do you feel God is calling you to pray for your marriage? Spend some time praying.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, help us to look to Your word to lead and guide us in conflict resolution in marriage. There will be storms and conflict. Let us not turn to the wrong counselors or the ways of men for how we are to resolve conflict. Let it draw us nearer to each other and to You as we strengthen ourselves by overcoming difficulty together in a Biblical manner.  Amen.  

 Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

—-

Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Foundation 4: Communication In Marriage

This is part 4 of a series I am sharing from Bible.org.

As I was reading through genealogies in 1 Chronicles, I found myself searching for some of the meaning that I know is in there.

2 Timothy 3:16

 16All Scripture is [i]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [j]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man or woman of God may be [k]fully capable, equipped for every good work.

I was struck by how many had multiple wives and concubines. They could not possibly be living out God’s purpose for marriage as intended. I found a good study on it that I wanted to share. I will be highlighting a series of articles I found on marriage on Bible.org.

To be clear, the following material is from a series on that site, and is not my work. It is worth highlighting and reading. This is one that is probably a good idea to walk through with your spouse, or potentially future spouse if you know who that will be. It is also good for sharing with children or adults who are not married as it helps them understand God’s purpose before they approach that significant decision in their lives.

—Link to Bible.org: 4. Foundation Four: Communication in Marriage | Bible.org

—Link to PDF: 4. Foundation Four_ Communication In Marriage _ Bible.org

At the core of every healthy marriage is the ability of a couple to successfully communicate with one another. Communication can be difficult because each individual may have a different background, experiences, and sometimes even culture, which all affect communication. In addition, 60 to 90% of all communication consists of body language, eye contact, facial expressions, and tone rather than words. Communication is a skill that must be learned and practiced in order to have a successful marriage.

The Bible teaches us a great deal about communication, since God, the author of the Bible, is a communicator. When he created the heavens and the earth, he did it by communicating. He said, “Let there be light.” In fact, through nature he speaks to us every day. David said this:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

God speaks to us through nature, telling us of his great glory and splendor. He also speaks to us through his Son, who came to the earth not only to die for our sins but also to give us the Father’s words. In fact, John called Jesus “the Word” (John 1:1); he was the very communication of God. Jesus said this about his teaching: “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me” (John 7:16). And, ultimately God speaks to us through the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17). God is a communicator, and man, who is made in the image of God, is a communicator as well.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

What do you think Solomon meant when he said the power of life and death is in the tongue?

Solomon understood that as people made in the image of God, we similarly have power in our tongues. We have power to create and power to destroy. We can encourage people and lift them up with our words or destroy them with our words.

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was very mistaken. Many people carry great hurt and pain from words spoken over them years ago. They were ugly, skinny, fat, not smart enough, not athletic enough, not social enough, etc., and that stigma stayed with them for years. In the same token, people who have had encouraging friends, family, and community typically are confident and hopeful. In fact, words spoken over people can even affect their destiny. James, the brother of Jesus, taught that even though the tongue is a small member of the body, it controls the body. It guides the body like the bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a ship (cf. James 3:1-6). There is a tremendous power in our words to give life or bring death.

The power of communication is especially important in the context of marriage. By our words, we can develop a beautiful and prosperous marriage that glorifies God. And, by our words, we can destroy the very gift and mission God has given us in marriage.

In this session, we will consider principles that will enhance communication in marriage. We will study the importance of growing in knowledge of your mate, honoring and accepting gender differences, always speaking edifying words, listening to your mate, and learning to remain in Christ.

Know Your Mate

The first principle that will enhance communication is simply getting to know your mate. Peter said this in 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” “Be considerate” can also be translated “dwell with them according to knowledge,” as seen in the KJV.

What type of knowledge must the husband develop in his relationship with his wife in order to respect and honor her? The husband must develop knowledge of his wife’s person. Each person is uniquely made. Things that bother the wife might not bother the husband. Things that excite the husband might not excite the wife and vice versa. There is often miscommunication in marriage simply because couples do not know each other well enough.

The husband must learn what makes the wife happy, what makes her sad, and what angers her and use this information to build her up and communicate with her better. Even though Peter speaks to husbands, this is certainly true for wives as well. In Greek, the word “know” typically refers to not just an intellectual knowledge but also an experiential knowledge. The husband and wife must know each other intimately so they can better communicate with one another.

How should they develop this knowledge? As Peter said, they develop it by spending time with one another (i.e. “dwell”). While dating, couples often spend as much time as possible with one another, but sadly in marriage, quality time starts to fade. The husband has work; the wife is caring for the house and children and possibly working as well. As the children get older, the husband and wife spend more time focusing on the children and less time on one another. As this rhythm continues, they eventually get to the point where they no longer know one another at all. These two individuals change every day and to continue to know one another intimately, they must make time for one another. This time could include yearly couple retreats, weekly date nights, and daily times of intimate communication. My wife and I try to spend at least the last hour of every day with one another, without the TV or computer on. By doing this, we aim to get to know one another better.

The more distant spouses become, the greater they struggle with communication. This is also true of pre-married couples. Courtship and engagement are very special seasons that help lay the foundation for future building. Couples who communicate well, know each other well. And those who don’t know each other well, don’t communicate well.

How is God calling you to strategically grow in intimacy with your mate?

Honor and Accept Gender Differences

The next principle necessary in marital communication is not only knowing your mate but accepting and honoring your mate as the man or the woman God made them to be. A common source of miscommunication in marriage is the simple fact that men and women are different. Not only does the opposite sex have many physical and emotional differences but communication differences as well, and these differences are often amplified in the marriage union. A great amount of fighting in marriage comes from not understanding and accepting these differences.

Many women grow up with a female best friend who they share all their feelings with, and in return, the best friend primarily gives affirmation. Men are typically more goal-oriented communicators. Communication is meant to accomplish something. Often male communication is used to decide where one is going, how to get there, and then what to do after getting there. It has a goal in mind. Whereas for a woman many times the goal is different. The goal could be as simple as expression, feeling heard and accepted.

Often women cry out, “Men!” And men cry out, “Women!” Both cry out in despair because they cannot figure out the other. The Bible teaches that God chose man and woman for one another. Eve was taken from Adam’s ribs and formed perfectly to match him. Though different, man and woman were made for one another, and when unified in a godly marriage, there may be no greater way in which they demonstrate the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27).

In creating man and woman, we can be sure God was aware of the immense differences that could cause conflict in their relationship. Therefore, he gave clear instructions in his Word about how to navigate the communication gap in order to have a successful marriage.

Again, the apostle Peter, a married man, said this in his epistle:

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7

Peter called wives the weaker partner (or weaker vessel) and commanded husbands to be considerate of them and to treat them with respect (or honor). What did he mean by the woman being the weaker vessel? Certainly, it means weaker physically, but it probably means much more than that. One interpretation is that weaker vessel has the connotation of more precious or more delicate vessel. Because the woman is more delicate than the man, he is more prone to hurt her physically, emotionally, and of course, verbally. For this reason, Paul commanded husbands to not be harsh with their wives (Col 3:19). Many times, the husband becomes harsh with his wife simply because of their differences—the different ways God made them. Therefore, Peter calls for husbands to not only be considerate of these differences but also to honor them (1 Peter 3:7). Though Peter speaks to the husband, the wife, certainly, must obey this as well. She must be considerate of her husband and the way God made him, and honor those differences.

As stated before, many men and women, instead of honoring the differences God created in the opposite sex, dishonor them and set out to change them. The man wants the woman to be more direct, to stop being so lady-like, and so sensitive. The woman wants the man to be more sensitive and to listen better. Certainly, there is much we can and should learn from the opposite sex. With that said, we must always “honor/respect” the unique differences that are rooted in how God created them. God made males and females different from one another.

Surely, as many married men do, Peter probably started out trying to make his wife more like himself. But Peter learned that God uniquely created women and those differences were to be honored. Therefore, this is an important principle to remember in marriage and one that God commends. Honor the unique characteristics of the vessel God created for you.

In my marriage, this has helped me tremendously. Where previously, I wanted my wife to change; I couldn’t understand or accept her thinking. I’ve learned to accept and honor her as the more delicate vessel. God made her different from me, and praise God for those differences. Instead of trying to change her, I am learning to daily accept and honor her more. I want her to feel the acceptance and joy that God has for her uniqueness. In addition, I’m also learning how much I need each one of those unique differences.

Pre-married couples should learn to accept the differences in their mate, to honor those differences, and to learn from them. Since God made the woman to help the man and the man to help the woman, they need to learn from one another. Learn how to honor those differences, and make your spouse feel accepted and honored for being who God has uniquely made him or her to be. This mutual honor will enhance communication.

Always Speak Edifying Words

Related to honoring our spouse, God makes it very clear that we should never dishonor him or her through our words. Watch any movie or TV show and you will see people disrespecting and dishonoring one another. Sadly, this often happens in marriages, in direct conflict with God’s commands.

Paul says this in Ephesians 4:29-30:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Through Paul, God commanded us to never let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. This includes cursing, blaming, accusing, gossiping, lying, etc. All these are unfit for Christians to speak, especially in the context of marriage.

Paul also gives the positive directive of speaking “only” words that build the other up according to their needs (v. 29). In marriage, the majority of fights would never begin if couples spoke words that build up rather than tear down.

Psychologists have affirmed a useful method to aid in this process called using “I statements” instead of “you statements”. When a wife says, “You never listen to me!” and “You don’t care about me!” This automatically makes a husband feel attacked and go on the defensive.

Instead, it is suggested that we use “I statements” such as: “When you start talking before I finish sharing, I feel like you’re not listening to me.” “When you watch TV all night, I feel like you don’t care about me.” This is simply giving information, instead of accusing one of personal wrong. And, it opens the door for evaluating these feelings instead of fighting. This is a great tool that will help one speak only words that edify, especially when dealing with a potentially sensitive topic.

Practice the Art of Listening

In conjunction with speaking only words that edify, Scripture also gives us further teaching about healthy communication. James, the brother of Jesus, said, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

In order for a person to only speak edifying words, they must master the art of listening. Here are a few tips to aid in becoming a better listener. One should:

1. Practice listening to what your spouse is saying.

It has often been said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we talk. This is a wise principle in communication. We must practice listening.

Something that will help with this is practicing “active listening.” We do this by repeating what our spouse said in order to get confirmation. For instance, one could say, “This is what I hear you saying, you feel neglected when I watch TV all night. Is that correct?” By repeating, you get to clarify your spouse’s words and intentions. You also show him or her that you are trying to understand, which is important in communication.

2. Practice listening to what your spouse is not saying.

Many times, there is more communicated by what a person is not saying than what is actually said. Communication is between 60 to 90% nonverbal. Sometimes, just the fact that a spouse is quiet may say a great deal. It may say he is not feeling well or he has more to talk about. This is something a good spouse will learn to discern. Study your spouse’s body language and tendencies in order to enhance communication.

3. Practice listening to the Holy Spirit.

God wants to give us wisdom to minister to the uniqueness of our spouse. He knows our spouse in a greater way than we do. Therefore, we should practice praying, even sometimes during conversations, so we can hear what God wants us to hear and say what he wants us to say (cf. Neh 2:4-5). James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

4. Practice speaking less.

Of course, in order for a person to clearly listen to his spouse and God at the same time, he must learn how to talk less. Solomon said this in Proverbs, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking” (10:19, NKJV). In many relationships, people talk way too much and, therefore, listen way too little, which leads to constant arguments. James said we should be quick to listen and “SLOW TO SPEAK.”

Learn to Remain in Christ

As mentioned, Scripture gives us many principles about communication since our God is a communicator; however, with that said, one must realize that understanding these principles is obviously easier than putting them into practice. The Bible teaches that not only do we need God’s wisdom but also God’s power to communicate well because of our propensity to sin. Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

These principles can only be successfully applied to a pre-marriage or marriage relationship if the people involved are walking closely with their Savior and abiding in his presence. When you remain in Christ, God will give you the fruits needed to be successful. These fruits include patience, self-control, love, forgiveness, and even the right words to say. Remaining in Christ is the secret to fruitful communication for both spouses.

How do we remain in Christ? Remaining in Christ includes, but is not limited to, disciplined prayer, Bible study, regular church attendance, serving, repentance of sin, and simply put, drawing near to Christ daily. By remaining in Christ, we recognize our inability to communicate well, and how, apart from his grace, we will destroy what God has given us. And for those who humble themselves daily before God, they will find great grace to communicate in marriage (cf. James 4:6, 10).

Conclusion

As we consider communication in marriage, we must remember God is a communicator and we are made in his image. Therefore, we are made to communicate. As we rely on God, through practicing principles in his Word, we can begin to use our communication to build our marriages instead of breaking them down. And, by his grace, we can start to realize his original plan for marriage—a union that brings glory to him and is a blessing to all.

Communication in Marriage Homework

Answer the questions, then discuss together.

1. What was new or stood out to you in this session? In what ways were you challenged or encouraged? Were there any points/thoughts that you did not agree with?

2. Peter said to dwell with your spouse according to knowledge (1 Peter 3:7, KJV). What intimate knowledge about your mate have you discovered that is especially helpful when communicating? What intimate knowledge about yourself would help your mate better communicate with you? How will you continue to cultivate this intimate knowledge in the marriage relationship, especially when life becomes busy with work, kids, ministry, etc.?

3. It is very common for couples to have communication problems in part because of gender differences and gender expectations. Are there any common miscommunication patterns in your relationship that may come in part from gender differences? How does a miscommunication often begin and what are its triggers?

4. What changes can be made on your side to better navigate these miscommunications? What spiritual or practical techniques will be used to enhance communication?

5. What ways have you experienced the importance of abiding in Christ for communication? How will you protect and cultivate an abiding relationship with Christ? How will you help protect and encourage this abiding relationship in your mate?

6. Write your parents a letter, an email, or give them a call to ask questions. Ask what positive attributes you possess that will help in marriage. Ask what negative attributes you possess that might hurt your marriage and find out how you can fix them. Ask for any pointers that will aid in achieving successful communication in marriage and a successful marriage in general.

7. Write your mate’s parents a letter, an email, or call them and ask them questions. Ask what positive attributes does your mate possess that will help in marriage. Ask what negative attributes does your mate possess that might hurt your marriage and find out how you can fix them. Ask for any pointers that will aid in achieving successful communication in marriage and a successful marriage in general.

8. After completing this session, how do you feel God is calling you to pray for your marriage? Spend some time praying.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, help us to strengthen our marriage with righteous communication. Guide us through Your word and lead us in the right attitudes and approaches to build relationship with each other and You. Help us to be understanding of how we are different from one another and how that should affect our communication. Amen.  

  Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Foundation 3: Commitment In Marriage

This is part 2 of a series I am sharing from Bible.org.

As I was reading through genealogies in 1 Chronicles, I found myself searching for some of the meaning that I know is in there.

2 Timothy 3:16

 16All Scripture is [i]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [j]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man or woman of God may be [k]fully capable, equipped for every good work.

I was struck by how many had multiple wives and concubines. They could not possibly be living out God’s purpose for marriage as intended. I found a good study on it that I wanted to share. I will be highlighting a series of articles I found on marriage on Bible.org.

To be clear, the following material is from a series on that site, and is not my work. It is worth highlighting and reading. This is one that is probably a good idea to walk through with your spouse, or potentially future spouse if you know who that will be. It is also good for sharing with children or adults who are not married as it helps them understand God’s purpose before they approach that significant decision in their lives.

—Link to Bible.org: 3. Foundation Three: Commitment to Marriage | Bible.org

—Link to PDF: 3. Foundation Three_ Commitment In Marriage _ Bible.org

Many marriages were destined for trouble from the utterance of the words “I do.” When the couple publicly declared, “I do”, they really didn’t understand what they were committing to. They had no comprehension of what true commitment was. They entered marriage thinking that divorce was a viable option in their pursuit of self-fulfillment and happiness, or they naively thought that it could never happen to them. For many there isn’t much difference between their commitment in dating and their commitment in marriage. Marriage is just another way to express how much they love someone.

In many cultures, including the biblical culture, they practice arranged marriages, which typically has a very low divorce rate. In those cultures, “love” is more than just feelings; it means commitment. Love as a feeling will have seasons of strength and seasons where it seems to diminish totally. Marriages based primarily on one’s feelings will have the consistency of the ocean during a lunar eclipse. This is why you often hear people say, “We just fell out of love,” when divorcing, which means they lost the early feelings they had in the marriage.

In this session, we will consider love as a form of commitment. My favorite definition of love is “to give not caring what one gets in return.” Many would call this love, agape, the Greek term for God’s love for us. To agape means a married person is saying to his or her mate, “If at some point I don’t have loving feelings for you, I will still love you. If you get sick and can’t respond in love towards me, I will still love you. If you treat me unlovingly, I will still respond in love towards you.” This type of love is divine, and it is this love God originally meant to be experienced in marriages.

God’s Covenant Faithfulness with Abraham

In considering love as a commitment, let’s look at God as an example of one in a committed loving relationship. We will see this in God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15Genesis 15:7-21 says:

He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’ But Abram said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?’ So the LORD said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.’ Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’ When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.”

Do you know anything about a blood covenant? A covenant is simply a binding agreement between two or more people. But, often in ancient times, they would seal the covenant in blood. In fact, the word “covenant” really means “to cut”. They would take a few animals, most likely cattle and birds, and cut them in half. One person would walk through the sliced pieces essentially saying, “Let this happen to me if I break this covenant.” Then the others would do the same.

In this story, God promised to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan. Abraham replied to God in verse 8, “How can I know that I will gain possession of it?” God responded by initiating a blood covenant with Abraham. However, what makes this covenant interesting is that in verse 17 God walks through the pieces by himself without Abraham. He virtually said, “Let this happen to me if I don’t fulfill this covenant.” He put the ownership of completing the plan exclusively on himself, apart from Abraham’s compliance.

As mentioned in session one, marriage was originally meant to be a reflection of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). God made Adam and Eve in the image of himself. Yes, they were made in the image of God independently, but even more so together, as one flesh (Gen 2:24). Therefore, in marriage we are meant to reflect his love, his commitment. Scripture actually teaches that God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8), and though, we are not sovereign like God or holy like him, we are still called to imitate him in all relationships and especially in the marriage relationship (cf. Eph 5:22-33). Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

There is a sense in which we must have the same type of commitment with our mate that God had with Abraham. Abraham previously had committed to following God and fulfilling his will. In Genesis 12:1-3, Abraham left everything to follow God; he committed to God. But God’s commitment to Abraham was unilateral, meaning God would fulfill his covenant even if Abraham failed. Similarly, in marriage we are saying, “I will do all that is in my power to love you when you fail me and to love you even if you don’t love me. I will seek to love you as God has loved me. I am committed to you.” No doubt, this is difficult. But this is how God loves us, and it is how we should love our spouses.

God’s Covenant Faithfulness with Israel, Abraham’s Seed

Another example of God’s commitment to his people and what our commitment in marriage should look like is seen in the book of Hosea. God told the prophet Hosea to marry a woman who would eventually become a prostitute and cheat on him. God was going to use Hosea’s marriage to display his commitment and love for Israel, who had been unfaithful to him by worshipping false gods. Look at Hosea 3:1-5:

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 and love the sacred raisin cakes.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.’ For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.”

After Hosea’s wife had left him and cheated on him, he sought to restore their relationship in obedience to God. While prostituting, she somehow became a slave. Hosea bought her out of slavery and took her back as his wife (v. 2). Hosea’s love for his wife was meant to reflect God’s love for the people of Israel. Israel had cheated on God, and yet the Lord still took them back, which reflects his committed love. Many theologians believe Israel’s current state was prophesied by these verses. They are currently without priest, prophet, or sacrifice as they have rejected God. But when Christ returns, then they will be restored to God—their faithful covenant partner (v. 4-5).

Again, here we see God’s covenant faithfulness. He will one day take his wife, Israel, back, even though she committed spiritual adultery. God covenanted with Abraham and his descendants, and he will be faithful to fulfill that covenant.

As Christians called to reflect God’s image, we must seek to model his commitment to his people, his bride. It was this type of commitment that Hosea modeled in his marriage. He took his wife back, even though she cheated on him. By doing this, he modeled God’s love and commitment to Israel. Marriage was always meant to symbolize God and his love for his people (cf. Eph. 5:22-27).

It is difficult to imagine a marriage partner being unfaithful or failing us in any way, but it is wise to consider your response to unfaithfulness even before entering the marriage covenant. If one of the purposes of marriage is to be a reflection of God’s relationship to his people, then we cannot but consider this. As believers, marriage is not primarily for our self-fulfillment and happiness; it is to bring God glory as it reflects him.

In addition, we must consider this type of commitment because we are marrying people who are infected by sin and are prone to fail. If we are going to model God’s love and commitment in marriage, we must ask ourselves, “Are we truly willing to be committed to our mates through the good and the bad, success and failure?”

In most marriages, couples are only committed when one person keeps his or her side of the covenant. However, that looks nothing like God’s love. Marriage is different from dating. It is supposed to be a committed love, a persevering love, a hopeful love, especially when the relationship is tough. Again, one must ask himself even before getting married if he is really willing to display this type of commitment.

God Hates Divorce

As mentioned previously, arranged marriages have a very low divorce rate, and this may be true, in part, because of the great amount of shame that comes with divorce in those cultures. This is interesting to consider since there is very little to no shame for divorce in many other cultures, especially in the west. It has almost become popular. I read a bumper sticker the other day that said, “I am always right! Ask my two ex-wives.” Divorce has become almost expected, which is why so many people are choosing not to marry and to instead just live together. And if they do marry, they realize that they have a “get out of jail” card, which they keep close to the chest.

This attitude is obviously very different from the way God views divorce. Consider God’s anger over divorce in Malachi 2:16. It says:

‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

Here in this passage, God rebukes the Israelites because of how common divorce was in their culture. God said he hated the violence divorce created in the family, and he taught the Israelites to guard themselves and to not break faith with their wives.

Moreover, let’s look at how Christ dealt with divorce in the New Testament. In Matthew 19:9, Christ says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

In Matthew 19, Jesus gave one of two exceptions that can break the marriage covenant. The first is adultery. In a marriage where there is unfaithfulness, if the innocent spouse leaves the union, he or she is free to remarry. However, Christ said that if anyone married a divorced person, not under the exception of adultery, they would be living in a continual state of adultery. Why would they be in a continual state of adultery? This is because God still sees the divorced person as married to his or her first spouse. The first exception that can break the marriage covenant is adultery.

With that said, we must still remember God’s ideal. Even though adultery breaks the marital covenant and allows the innocent spouse to seek divorce and remarriage, that still is not God’s ideal. As seen in the book of Hosea, Israel was adulterous in their relationship to God many times, but he still continually took them back. As the prophet Hosea imitated God’s committed love, he took his own adulterous wife back. Even under the exception, God’s ideal is for the couple to restore the relationship, and by doing this, they demonstrate his committed love. Look at what Paul said about divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. He said:

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Those who get divorced, for any reason other than adultery, must remain unmarried or reconcile with their mate. This includes situations where there is abuse, irreconcilable differences, etc. Marriage is supposed to be a life-long relationship, and when a person divorces, Scripture says he or she should remain single.

In the case of divorce because of infidelity, the cheating spouse should be encouraged to seek reconciliation. If that is impossible, they must recognize that cheating is not an unforgivable sin. Jesus Christ died on the cross for all of our sins and there is forgiveness available (cf. 1 John 1:9). However, forgiveness does not always remove the consequences. If reconciliation is impossible, the cheating spouse must accept God’s forgiveness and give himself to a life of serving the Lord as a single person. God will give him grace to fulfill that call and will make him fruitful, if he is faithful. As for the innocent spouse, God’s ideal is for her to seek to restore the marriage. If that is not possible, she is free to marry another.

Why are we considering divorce and remarriage in a pre-marital/marital counseling study? It is because those who want to follow God’s design must understand how important the marriage covenant is to God. For God, marriage is to be a committed relationship that is essentially unbreakable. Those who break it, except under adultery, are to stay single and continue to pursue the Lord.

These regulations for marriage are strict and were given by God to discourage divorce. In a society with no regulations and no shame with regards to divorce, it has become rampant and a viable option in a difficult marriage. Scripture teaches marriage is a covenant which should reflect God’s covenant with us. Even when we fail him and turn our backs on him, he remains faithful because of his covenant which he sealed with the blood of his Son.

What is the second exception that would break the marriage covenant?

In Romans 7:1-3, Paul said this:

Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.

Here, Paul taught that the second exception, which would allow for remarriage, is death. Death breaks the marriage covenant. Marriage is a physical covenant that makes a couple one flesh (Gen 2:24). They become one in body, soul, and spirit. Only a physical thing can break this covenant and that would be adultery or death. In fact, in the Old Testament a cheating spouse was put to death, and then, the faithful spouse was allowed to remarry (Lev. 20:10). In the New Testament, this is no longer true, but the cheating spouse is called to remain single.

Again, it should be heard that divorce is not an unforgivable sin. God’s love and grace are experienced in an even greater way in our failures. Where sin increases, grace increases all the more (Rom 5:20). God certainly wants to give grace to restore divorced couples to one another and more importantly to himself. As the church, Christ’s body, we must love and comfort those who suffered through a divorce. With the advent of sin, marriage has been severely damaged, and sadly, most, in some way or another, will be affected by divorce. But where there is sin and brokenness, we, as God’s church, must seek to be conduits of God’s abundant grace so there can be healing and restoration for all who suffered.

Doesn’t the amount of commitment required for marriage, especially a bad marriage, sound scary? It almost sounds impossible. The marriage union is supposed to be a lifetime commitment, without a “get out of jail” card. It is meant to be something that can only be done through God’s power. In fact, when the disciples heard of these rigid stipulations, they responded with a similar awe. They said, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt 19:10). That’s how strict the stipulations seemed to the disciples, and it should also challenge us as we consider this lifetime covenant.

Again, why do you think God made the marriage covenant so stringent?

Simply put, our God hates divorce, and he intended for people to marry and stay together forever. Our legal system provides strenuous consequences to discourage people from stealing, killing, raping, etc. Heinous crimes can incur a potential lifetime sentence in prison or the death penalty. Extreme consequences deter sin in society. This is the same thing God has done with marriage.

He wants people to know that marriage is a life-long calling. It is a covenant commitment and the only way out is to, essentially, remain single. Because people in the church have not been taught this or truly considered it, they have adopted the culture of the world, which looks at divorce as a viable option or as a necessary consequence of seeking self-fulfillment and happiness. If divorce is necessary to find happiness they say, then so be it. And, therefore it has become increasingly common even among Christians. Statistics reflect no difference in the number of divorces occurring in the church compared to those outside the church. However, since marriage is meant to reflect God and his love for his people, it is meant to be a union based on commitment. It is a union in which both say, “I will love you even when you are unlovable, and even when I don’t feel like loving you. I will love you like God loves me for his glory and his fame which is my purpose in life.”

Conclusion

Have you ever looked at marriage in light of this kind of commitment?

Just as God covenants with his people through the good, the bad, and the ugly, so must we consider marriage as a lifelong covenant. It is a covenant based on commitment and not feelings, for feelings come and go. We approach this covenant realizing the potential consequences of not fulfilling it, just as people did in establishing an ancient covenant. We must come into this covenant seeking to resemble and reflect God’s covenant love for us.

How do you think understanding the realities of this sacred covenant should affect premarital couples or those already married?

Certainly, at the minimum, it should make couples re-evaluate their commitment. They should ask themselves, Am I truly willing to love like God loves and commit like he commits for his glory and joy?”

Commitment in Marriage Homework

Answer the questions, then discuss together.

1. What was new or stood out to you in this session? In what ways were you challenged or encouraged? Were there any points/thoughts that you did not agree with?

2. What disciplines will you continually practice in order to help maintain your faithfulness and commitment in marriage? What steps would you take if you were having serious difficulties in marriage? How would you help restore your union? (Include who you will seek help from.)

3. Write down all the strengths of your mate which may aid having a committed and successful marriage.

4. Write down all the weaknesses of your mate which may hurt having a committed and successful marriage.

5. Write down all your strengths which may help having a committed and successful marriage.

6. Write down all your weaknesses which may hurt having a committed and successful marriage.

7. Discuss these with your mate. What action steps should you take as a couple to work on any weaknesses?

8. (If your mate is not willing to work on weaknesses, then you should discern how dangerous these weaknesses are, if they are something you can live with, or if his or her unwillingness to work on them may be a foreboding sign of not being willing to compromise in the future. This might be something worth talking more about together and/or bringing up with your pastor or mentor in order to further discuss and evaluate.)

9. After completing this session, in what ways do you feel God is calling you to pray for your future marriage? Spend some time praying.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, help us to look to Your word for truth about marriage and the commitment we should have to it. Let us not look to how man redefines marriage, considering it temporary or optional to divorce  in our culture. This is not a whimsical covenant to be entered and exited at our convenience. It is You and You alone who define what is right and good in Your eyes. Help us to have courage and discernment in standing firm in marriage, even when storms may come.  Please bless marriages for Your people for our joy and to glorify Your name. Amen.  

  Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Foundation 2: Gender Roles in Marriage

This is pat 2 of a series I am sharing from Bible.org.

As I was reading through genealogies in 1 Chronicles, I found myself searching for some of the meaning that I know is in there.

2 Timothy 3:16

 16All Scripture is [i]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [j]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man or woman of God may be [k]fully capable, equipped for every good work.

I was struck by how many had multiple wives and concubines. They could not possibly be living out God’s purpose for marriage as intended. I found a good study on it that I wanted to share. I will be highlighting a series of articles I found on marriage on Bible.org.

To be clear, the following material is from a series on that site, and is not my work. It is worth highlighting and reading. This is one that is probably a good idea to walk through with your spouse, or potentially future spouse if you know who that will be. It is also good for sharing with children or adults who are not married as it helps them understand God’s purpose before they approach that significant decision in their lives.

—Link to Bible.org: 2. Foundation Two: Gender Roles In Marriage | Bible.org

—Link to PDF: 2. Foundation Two_ Gender Roles In Marriage _ Bible.org

In this session, we will discuss God’s roles for the husband and wife in the marriage union.

Why are gender roles so important in marriage? For one, God designed marriage, and when people do not follow his design, the marriage is destined for problems. It is important for us to know and follow his design, even when it is countercultural or contrary to what we are accustomed to.

We can discern the importance of gender roles by considering the first marriage in the Garden of Eden. Gender roles was essentially the first thing Satan attacked leading to the Fall. By tempting Eve instead of Adam, Satan was manipulating her to usurp the authority God had established. The Fall happened when Adam followed Eve who was deceived by Satan (Genesis 3:1-6).

God’s original intention was for the husband to lead the marriage, which can be clearly discerned from Scripture. In this lesson, we will establish the husband’s authority by looking at the creation narrative. We will consider the perversion of gender roles as a result of the Fall, and then we will consider God’s reestablishment of the husband’s and wife’s roles by looking at other key Scripture passages.

Let’s first start with a biblical foundation for male leadership. How do we see this established in the creation story?

God Created Adam Before Eve to Demonstrate His Authority.

In the creation story, God first made Adam and then Eve as his helper. Genesis 2:18 says, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul used the creation order as evidence for men being the leaders/teachers in the church and not women. Look at what he said in 1 Timothy 2:12-13: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

Some have tried to explain away Paul’s teaching on male leadership in the church as simply cultural and, therefore, not applicable to the church today. However, Paul’s argument for male leadership was not just a cultural argument. Paul used a creation argument for the establishment of male leadership, meaning that God established this order from the beginning. Certainly, in the ancient culture, birth order was very important. The first born child would often receive a double portion of the inheritance. Birth order showed one’s rank. Similarly, Paul said God’s creation of Adam first was not haphazard but by sovereign design. It was meant to show his leadership in relation to his wife.

God established the husband’s authority in the home from the beginning of creation, and Paul’s argument was that this authority should continue to be reflected in God’s church.

In what other ways do we see the husband’s authority reflected in the creation story?

Adam’s Naming of His Wife Demonstrated His Authority

Another evidence of God’s original design for male leadership in the home is demonstrated in the fact that Adam named his wife. We see Adam’s naming of his wife in two parts. First, in Genesis 2, God called for Adam to name all the animals. After naming them, God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and, from his body, God created Adam’s wife. Then Adam immediately named her. Genesis 2:23 says, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’” As Adam originally named the animals, he then named his wife “woman.” Secondly, after the Fall, he then called her “Eve” because she would be the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20).

Similar to ancient times, naming in our culture still is a reflection of one’s authority. Parents name their children since they are the authority. God’s design for Adam to lead his wife can be clearly discerned from the creation story, both in the creation order and in the naming of his wife.

Gender Roles Were Perverted in the Fall

In the Fall, Satan tempted Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. Scripture actually says that Eve was deceived but not Adam. First Timothy 2:14 says, “Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Why does it say that Adam was not deceived but the woman was?

Remember, in the context of 1 Timothy 2, Paul is making the argument that women should not be the leaders/teachers in the church (cf. 2:12). He seems to be making the argument that the Fall happened because Adam willingly followed his wife instead of being the leader God had called him to be. Eve was deceived, and Adam followed even though he knew it was wrong. Satan’s temptation disrupted God’s original order.

With that said, let’s consider the effects of the Fall on gender roles in marriage. God said this about the effects, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’” (Gen 3:16).

What did God mean when he said to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”? The meaning is ambiguous, but it is made clearer by considering the use of the Hebrew word “desire” in other texts

In Genesis 4:7, God used the same word to describe “sin” trying to dominate Cain and provoke him to anger over God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering. Listen to what God said to Cain:

Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’

Here the word “desire” means to control, and thus, we can understand the effect of sin on the distinct roles of the husband and wife (or man and woman). The wife would try to control the husband, and the husband would try to dominate the wife. The battle of the sexes was one of the results of the Fall.

We have seen these effects throughout history in many ways. In some cultures, the husbands are apathetic, spiritually lazy, and sometimes absent, consequently the wife has to lead the home. In others, the husband tries to dominate by force and the woman has very few rights. The domination of the male has been seen in the fight for women’s rights throughout history. Many societies abuse women and treat them like a piece of property. This was never God’s original design. This came as a result of sin—the man would try to rule the woman by force.

We certainly see the effects of sin in the dating realm. It is displayed in the predatory male who wants to dominate and sleep with as many women as possible. It is also displayed in the predatory female who seeks to control men with her beauty and use them to attain all of her desires.

Most importantly, we see this battle in the home, where the husband and wife strive for power—marring God’s original design. God is a God of order; he understood that the institution of marriage could not function properly if it did not have clear leadership. This is true with any institution: the military, business, school, and even church. Therefore, God intended for the husband to be the leader in order to achieve his original purposes through marriage.

Obviously, this teaching is controversial. People seem to believe order and leadership in marriage means inequality. However, this is not true. A general and a private are equal in person but not equal in rank. Rank is needed to bring about good order and discipline in the military. Leadership is needed to accomplish the mission without discord. Similarly, God has a great mission for every marriage. It is the basic unit of all society, and when it is out of order, all of society is out of order. Therefore, he established clear leadership for this purpose.

Now, with that said, what should the husband’s leadership look like practically? What should the wife’s submission look like? The husband is not supposed to be a dominate tyrant and the wife is not called to be a doormat. In the beginning, God called Adam and Eve to rule and steward creation together. This loving and orderly partnership was meant to accomplish God’s mission on the earth.

What should the husband’s and wife’s roles look like in marriage? Personality and upbringing make each godly home different, but the basic roles and principles should be the same.

The Husband Must Love His Wife

Instead of using his leadership to control or dominate his wife, God calls the husband to use his leadership to love his wife. God planned this from the beginning. The husband would lead through loving his wife. What should this love look like? Paul teaches that the husband’s love should mirror Christ’s love for the church. In Ephesians 5:25-28, he says:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

What can we learn about a husband’s love from Christ’s example?1

1. The husband’s love must be realistic.

The husband should have no fantasies about the woman he is marrying (v. 25). Christ loved the church, but he knew she was sinful and disobedient. Christ gave his life for the church while knowing her faults. His love was realistic.

In marriage, both mates must grasp this reality. In fact, much of pre-marital counseling is destroying the false expectations set up through romantic comedies and Hollywood. The husband must love realistically. This woman does not walk on water; she has been infected by sin just as he has. She must be reformed daily by God’s grace, and she must be loved through her faults. Scripture says, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Having a realistic love is important for both mates because if they don’t have it, they will become disillusioned. No doubt, one of the reasons for such a high number of divorces in the first year of marriage is because most love is not realistic.

2. The husband’s love must be sacrificial.

He is to love her as Christ loved the church and be willing to die for her (v. 25). It should be understood that if anybody feels like the wife’s role is unfair, they should give more thought to the man’s. It is much easier to submit to someone than to give one’s life for that person. This love that the husband is supposed to embody is impossible apart from the grace of God. To love sacrificially means the husband must often give up other things in order to serve and please his wife. He must sacrifice for her. He must sacrifice time, friendships, career, entertainment, hobbies, etc., in order to love his wife like Christ.

3. The husband’s love must be purposeful.

The purpose of Christ’s love is to make the church holy, cleansing her by washing with the Word (v. 26-27). Christ’s purpose is to make the church a perfect bride. Similarly, the husband must love his wife through teaching her Scripture, getting her involved in a Bible preaching church, and encouraging her to get involved with the ministries of the church.

He must seek to cultivate not only her character but also her calling, so she can fulfill God’s plans for her life. He must help her discern her gifts and talents and encourage her in the use of them for the glory of God. This purposeful love also means at times admonishing her to help her know Christ more. Every man should consider if he is ready and willing to love a woman in this way even before getting married. Is he ready to be a spiritual leader? Is he ready to be devoted to the spiritual development of his wife?

4. The husband’s love must be personal.

He must love her as his own body (v. 28). Every day the husband brushes his teeth, combs his hair, and clothes himself. Every day he maintains his body. Sadly, husbands often go weeks without ministering to their wives. It is very easy to get so busy with life, work, and ministry that one inadvertently allows weeds to grow in his marriage. Love must be personal. He must love her like his own body. He must daily take time to cultivate a happy home.

When the world hears the phrase “male leadership,” it often has negative connotations, but it should not if properly understood. Consider what Christ taught his disciples about leadership in Luke 22:25-27.

Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.’

As described in Luke 22, male leadership primarily means greater service. Christ told his disciples that whoever wanted to be the greatest must be like “the youngest.” The Jewish culture was very hierarchical, meaning that the youngest would always serve the oldest. But, Jesus spoke to this hierarchical culture and said that true leadership is servant leadership. To lead means to be like the youngest—the servant of all. True leaders will forego their right of being served in order to serve others. That’s how husbands should be in marriage. They should be constantly humbling themselves in order to serve their wives.

Christ demonstrated this leadership in John 13, when he did the work of a slave by washing his disciples’ feet. There is nothing negative about this type of leadership. God always intended this type of loving leadership for the marriage relationship, and the husband must daily seek to cultivate it.

What other traits should characterize gender roles in marriage?

The Husband Must Submit to Christ’s Leadership

First Corinthians 11:3 says: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

In this verse, we see the divine prerogative: Christ submits to God, the man submits to Christ, and the woman submits to man. If the husband is going to lead his wife according to God’s design, he must first submit to Christ. It is for this reason that a wife must submit to her husband, for when she is following her husband, she is really submitting to Christ’s delegated authority.

This brings a grave responsibility to each husband to know Christ’s leading. He must truly be somebody who abides in God’s Word and prayer so that he can discern God’s voice. The man considering marriage should ask himself, “Am I pursuing the Lord in such a way that I can know his voice in order to lovingly lead a wife and a family?” It has commonly been said, “Only those who are near, hear.” The husband must be near Christ, his head, to hear his voice. Only the husband who is near Christ will be able to model Christ and lead properly.

This is also important for single women to hear and consider because not every man is spiritually fit for leadership. They should ask themselves about a potential husband, “Does this man love Christ? Is this man following Christ? Is he spiritually fit to lead?” One can be sure that if a single man is not faithful in following Christ, he will not be faithful when married. Scripture says that he who is unfaithful with little, will be unfaithful with much (Luke 16:10, paraphrase). Husbands must continually be submitting to the leadership of Christ in order to properly lead their homes.

The Wife Must Submit to Her Husband’s Leadership

As mentioned previously, in submission to Christ, the wife must submit to her husband. Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

Scripture commands the wife to submit to her husband as though she were following Christ. The word “submit” is a military word that means to “come up under.” Like a sergeant submitting to a colonel, the wife must submit to her husband in every area, unless it would cause her to disobey her Commander and Chief, Christ. In every decision, the woman must obey her husband, unless his leadership is leading her to sin. In military terminology, this would be called an “unlawful order.” The wife must wisely discern this.

With that said, this certainly does not exclude the wife’s ability to make decisions on her own. Christ in leading us gives us many responsibilities and a form of autonomy under his authority. In following Christ, he often does not tell us to go to the left or to the right or when to rest. Scripture calls for us to be wise people and use the principles given in Scripture. Similarly, the wife may have many areas of leadership under her husband’s authority.

For some, the wife will be autonomous in the area of caring for the home, even though she is still under her husband’s leadership. For others, the wife will oversee finances. Good leaders recognize others’ strengths and lean on them in those areas. This will be true in every marriage, and it may look a little different in every marriage.

This may be a revolutionary concept that a newly married woman must come to grips with. No longer is it simply, “Am I honoring the Lord in my actions and endeavors?”, but also “Am I honoring my husband, who the Lord has called me to follow?”

Consider the honor given to Sarah because of the way she submitted to her husband, Abraham. First Peter 3:5-6 says this:

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Sarah called her husband master, and Scripture says this is one of the characteristics that makes a woman beautiful to the Lord. A female considering marriage must ask herself, “Am I ready to honor and submit to my husband as unto the Lord? Am I willing to submit to his plans as he hears from God?” The one who is not willing to submit should consider if she is really ready to be married.

The Wife Must Submit to Christ’s Leadership

Again, Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Not only does this teach that wives must submit to their husbands, but the implication is that they must first submit to the Lord. The husband is just a representation of Christ’s leadership, no matter how frail that representation may be. It is in submitting to Christ, abiding in his Word, and loving him that the wife will find the ability to submit to her husband. This will be especially true in dealing with a husband who doesn’t know the Lord or who is far from him. First Peter 3:1-2 says this:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

The husband’s leadership applies even when he isn’t following God. In that case, the wife’s submission to Christ is even more important. By submitting to Christ, she will find ability to love and submit to a difficult husband and this submission may bring transformation and even salvation to his life. However, this is only possible when the wife is submitting to the Lord. Jesus said in John 15:5, “Abide in me and you will produce much fruit” (paraphrase). The ability to love, to have peace, to have patience, to forgive, etc., all comes from God.

The single woman considering marriage must ask herself, “Am I daily submitting to the Lord’s leadership so I can faithfully submit to my husband’s leadership?” This daily submission to the Lord prepares a woman for marriage.

Also, the single man considering marrying a female must ask, “How is her submission? Does she faithfully submit to the Lord? Is she faithful in church attendance, daily devotion, and service to God?” For if she does not submit to the greater, the Lord, then she will not submit to the lesser, her husband. A wise man will consider a woman’s obedience to God when seeking a wife. God has called for the wife to first submit to Christ so she can faithfully respect and submit to her husband.

The Husband and Wife Must Train Their Children Together

Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” “Fathers” can also be translated “parents” (cf. Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

This means that both parents must work together to train the child and not exasperate him—leading him to rebel by dominant, loose, or unfair leadership. Parents must demonstrate godly leadership that models Christ, teaches the children God’s Word, and draws them to a closer relationship with the Lord.

This is an impossible task for one parent alone and that is why God has given spiritual responsibility to both. The husband should still ultimately oversee this training, but the responsibility is shared. For that reason, parents must come to an agreement on how to train the child. If there is no unity in the training, it will have hazardous effects on the child.

Godly couples must sit down and discuss how this will be done. This will include discipline, spiritual training, academic training, athletic training, and areas of service, among other things. For spiritual training, many parents have given themselves to child catechisms, Bible memory, daily family devotions, as well as involvement in a Bible preaching church.

Sadly, what has happened in many Christian homes is that this call for the parents to train their children has been left to the church, the school, the grandparents, the babysitter, the athletic coach, etc. God never intended for these other mediums to raise the children exclusively; they should be supplements at best. Consequently, 75% of Christian youth fall away from God when they get to college because many parents have neglected their responsibility.

Engaged couples should consider their future children’s training before they are married, since raising godly seed is one of God’s primary desires for the marriage union (cf. Mal 1:15). Have you given consideration to how you will train your children?

Conclusion

The Fall corrupted God’s original design for the husband and the wife. Because of sin, the husband naturally has a tendency to try to dominate his wife or to become a doormat for his wife. The tendency for the wife is the same. However, God’s plan is for the husband to love and serve his wife and for the wife to submit to him. They both have a responsibility to raise the children in the admonition of the Lord. But, ultimately, the husband will be held accountable to God for his leadership or lack of leadership over his family.

Gender Roles Homework

Answer the questions, then discuss together.

1. What was new or stood out to you in this session? In what ways were you challenged or encouraged? Were there any points/thoughts that you did not agree with?

2. Often when beginning a marriage, spouses bring in different unspoken expectations. These frequently become points of discouragement and tension in the relationship. Discussing expectations beforehand will aid in making a smooth transition into marriage.

What were the gender roles in your home? What role did your father fulfill in family devotions, discipline of children, finances, yard work, cleaning the house, etc.? What role did your mother fulfill?

3. List twenty expectations for your spouse in marriage such as: Who will do the house chores? What is your expectation for your spouse as far as spiritual devotion? What is your expectation for your spouse in the clothing he or she wears? What will you do for holidays? What side of the family will you spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc., with? How do you expect money and major decisions to be handled? Who will discipline the children?

4. Write down ten expectations that you think your spouse will have for you.

5. Discuss these with your mate and come to an agreement on the expectations that you will each fulfill. List the expectations that you have agreed on. Write them with this form,

“I will commit to ________ in our marriage with the support of my wife/husband and by the grace of God.”

6. After completing this session, in what ways do you feel God is calling you to pray for your future marriage? Spend some time praying.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, help us to look to Your word for truth about marriage and gender roles. Let us not look to how man redefines it in our culture, no matter how many repeat it. It is You and You alone who define what is right and good in Your eyes. Help us to have courage and discernment in pursuing the proper role of husband and wife in marriage. Let us not be competing to fill the same role, but each playing our own role according to Your instructions. Please bless our marriages for our joy and to glorify Your name. Amen.  

  Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

—-

Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Foundation 1: God’s Plan For Marriage

As I was reading through genealogies in 1 Chronicles, I found myself searching for some of the meaning that I know is in there.

2 Timothy 3:16

 16All Scripture is [i]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [j]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man or woman of God may be [k]fully capable, equipped for every good work.

I was struck by how many had multiple wives and concubines. They could not possibly be living out God’s purpose for marriage as intended. I found a good study on it that I wanted to share. I will be highlighting a series of articles I found on marriage on Bible.org.

To be clear, the following material is from a series on that site, and is not my work. It is worth highlighting and reading. This is one that is probably a good idea to walk through with your spouse, or potentially future spouse if you know who that will be. It is also good for sharing with children or adults who are not married as it helps them understand God’s purpose before they approach that significant decision in their lives.

—Link to Bible.org: 1-foundation-one-god-s-plan-marriageBible.org

—Link to PDF: Foundation One_ God’s Plan For Marriage _ Bible.org

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground… The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18, 24

In this session, we will consider God’s plan for marriage as primarily seen in the Genesis narrative. Most married couples miss God’s best simply because they do not know what God desires for marriage. If you don’t know the purpose of something, it is destined for misuse. Therefore, over 50% of marriages end in divorce, and a large number of those who remain married continue to miss God’s purpose for their union.

Today, we will help move your marriage or future marriage in the direction God desires through studying his Word. In this session, we will consider five aspects of God’s plan for marriage.

God’s Plan for Marriage Is to Reflect His Image

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

The Bible teaches Adam and Eve, as husband and wife, were created in the image of God and, therefore, were meant to bear God’s image—to be in his likeness. Marriage was meant to model and display God’s glory to all of creation.

In what ways is the image of God reflected in the marriage union?

We see his image is in the plurality and unity of marriage. God said, “Let us make man in our image,” and then the text says, “male and female, he created them” (v. 26, 27). When God made man, he made a plurality. He made man and woman, and later in the narrative, he said they would become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; they are one and yet still individual persons. When a couple gets married, they are meant to demonstrate this. Marriage demonstrates two individual people becoming “one” for the rest of their lives while maintaining their individuality.

With that said, there are other Trinitarian implications to the marriage union. In the Trinity, Jesus the Son submits in all things to God the Father (cf. John 5:19, 1 Cor 15:27) and the Holy Spirit submits to both (cf. John 14:26, 15:26). There is perfect submission in the Godhead. In the same way, when God made man and woman in his image, there was meant to be order in the relationship. First Corinthians 11:3 says: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

Paul says in the same way that the head of Christ is God, so the head of the woman (better translated wife) is man. God made the husband and wife relationship to mirror the Godhead specifically in the area of authority. Therefore, Ephesians 5:24 calls for wives to submit to their husbands in everything.

Another Trinitarian implication is love in marriage. The wife submits to the husband and the husband loves his wife. Consider Ephesians 5:25-27:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

The submission of the wife happens in a perfect loving relationship with her husband. Similarly, throughout eternity, the Godhead has always dwelled in a perfect relationship of love and authority. The Father loves the Son and the Son submits to the Father. The Father does not oppress the Son and make him submit. He loves the Son, and within this perfect love, the Son submits to God. The Holy Spirit loves and submits to both. In fact, 1 John 4:8 simply says, “God is love.”

In the same way, wives are called to submit to their husbands, and husbands are called to love their wives. It is not that the wife does not love her husband or that the husband never submits to his wife (cf. Eph 5:21). It’s just that the defining characteristic of the woman’s service to her husband should be submission, and the defining characteristic of the husband’s service to his wife should be love. This is part of the way we see the image of God in the marriage relationship.

Ephesians 5:25 gives us a picture of what the husband’s love should look like. It should reflect Christ. The husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He died for her, and he also teaches her the Word of God. The husband must love his wife sacrificially and lead his wife spiritually.

When the world looks at a Christian marriage, they should see a husband who makes daily sacrifices for his wife and actively leads the home spiritually. He leads his family to a Bible preaching church. He leads family devotions. He serves his wife and edifies her with his words. He sacrifices to please her and build her up. The wife honors him as her head and submits to him in everything (Col 3:18). This is a redemptive picture of the gospel.

Marriage should demonstrate the perfect love and submission in the Godhead. It should also reflect the perfect sacrificial love of Christ for the church and the church’s submission to Christ. People should be encouraged and challenged by watching a godly marriage. They should see something of the glory and the greatness of God.

Therefore, when a marriage is not functioning correctly, it displays a marred image of God and distorts its intended message. With so many marriages ending in divorce or continuing in disarray, the glory of God has been greatly dimmed. It is no surprise that so many people doubt God’s existence or are falling away from him. The light in marriages has often become darkness, which in turn pushes people away from God. In marriage, it should be our desire to reflect God and bring glory to him since that was his original plan.

God Plan’s for Marriage Is to Raise Godly Children

God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Genesis 1:28

At one point, raising children was considered the pinnacle of marriage and revered by all. However, many now see children as a burden and the ultimate kill-joy for a married couple and sometimes even for society. One of the key differences between angels and mankind is the fact that God made man to procreate, to create new beings as he did. When a couple relinquishes the prospect of having children for job, hobbies, freedom, etc., they are missing out on one of the grandest and most awesome desires of God for marriage. This is further supported by what God said through the prophet Malachi:

Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
Malachi 2:15

This passage clarifies God’s command for people to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis 1:28. It is not just children he wants but godly children. He wants children who are holy and driven to see the kingdom of God advance. One of the parents’ highest purposes is to teach their children the Bible, to help them grow in character, and to help them find their spiritual gifts and calling in serving the Lord.

Now, it must be noted that obviously it is not God’s will for everybody to have children. Physical issues keep some from having children. For others, God simply never called for them to marry. However, in general, it has been God’s will from the beginning for man to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). Having children should be considered as a way of obeying God and building his kingdom. Therefore, we should pray about it and plan for it as we do with any ministry.

God’s Plan for Marriage Is to Establish and Build His Kingdom

God blessed them and said to them… fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
Genesis 1:28

After telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, God told them to subdue and rule over the earth. They were to be co-rulers over his creation and to be stewards of it. This is expanded in the New Testament as marriage is described as a spiritual gift given to build up the body of Christ and to advance his kingdom. Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:7:

Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me–a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. (The Message)

Here Paul taught that marriage is a spiritual gift, just as singleness is. And since all gifts are given to build up God’s body and his kingdom (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), a godly marriage is a powerful weapon for the kingdom of God. They build the kingdom through raising godly seed, corporate prayer, service to God’s church, and evangelism of the world.

Certainly, each couple will have unique gifts and a unique way God has called them to build his kingdom. One couple may excel in worship, another in teaching, another in hospitality, another in missions, etc. Each couple must discern the way God has uniquely called them to build his kingdom.

How is God calling you and your mate to uniquely build his kingdom?

God’s Plan for Marriage Is Companionship

The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’
Genesis 2:18

God has put an innate desire in mankind for intimate companionship. This is why so many single people, though they have family and friends, covet something more and often have bouts of loneliness. God made man to be married to a woman and woman to a man.

Certainly some in the world have the gift of singleness, a very special gift given to allow for a deeper devotion to God and his work (cf. 1 Cor 7:32). The gift of singleness is a gift that needs to be restored to the church, as singles have accomplished some of the greatest work for God’s kingdom (i.e. Jesus and Paul). But, with that said, this gift is not for everyone. God wants most people to have a mate: someone to fellowship with, to dream with, to serve with, and to be heirs of life together with. It is a beautiful experience and a great gift.

Solomon gave several reasons that companionship is good. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Though these apply to any companionship, they most definitely apply to marriage. He said that two are better than one because of the productivity of their work. Many couples have seen themselves more productive in finishing school, working in business, growing in the Lord, doing ministry, etc., because of the marriage union. God desires to increase one’s productivity through marriage.

Solomon also said that a companion is helpful when one falls down because a friend can help him up. Life has many ups, downs, discouragements, trials, and even mountain-top experiences. However, many times there are more downs than ups. When a marriage is working properly, it will help navigate the trials and discouragements of life. A good spouse will speak words of encouragement and faith to her mate, enabling him to get up when he has fallen down. She will make him strong when he is weak and vice versa.

Sadly, marriages that are not functioning properly will actually wear one another down instead of building one another up. Be careful to never speak words of discouragement over your spouse. Decide to always speak gracious words over their lives to edify them, even when you don’t feel like it or you feel like they don’t deserve it. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Do you practice speaking words of faith and encouragement over your mate to help build them up?

Marriage also has many other practical benefits such as keeping oneself warm and providing for daily needs, but one of the greatest benefits is protection. Solomon said two can defend themselves (Ecc 4:12). This is especially important in a Christian marriage because of the attacks of the enemy in spiritual warfare. Satan realizes the tremendous potential in every marriage, and consequently, he always attacks them. Expect warfare in marriage. Satan will do everything he can to keep a couple out of the Word of God, out of prayer, away from commitment to the church, and fighting with one another. He does this because he realizes that two people unified and on fire for the kingdom of God can do incrementally more than one.

Therefore, it is important for couples to use their spiritual weapons to protect one another. These weapons are praying over one another daily, consistent Bible reading, speaking the Word of God over one another, commitment in serving the body of Christ, and having accountability with other Christians.

Have you given thought to the increased warfare that will happen in the marriage union? Many find themselves overpowered in marriage for lack of understanding the nature of their new warfare.

God’s Plan for Marriage Is for a Couple to Make a New Family Unit

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24

After God made a woman for Adam, he said that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. This means that in marriage, a couple is starting a new family unit.

This does not mean that they are no longer their parents’ children, but it does mean that the priorities of a man and woman have changed. Their priority must now be their marriage. This is very important because one of the top reasons for divorce is in-laws. The wife battles between submitting to her parents’ expectations and that of her husband, and it’s the same for the husband. Every time the couple fights, the husband’s mom or the wife’s father has something to say.

Married couples must be very careful of this. They are always called to honor their parents and even care for them in old age (1 Tim 5:4, 8), but they must honor their spouse first.

The fact that a man is called to leave his father’s house also implies that he must be able to support himself and his new wife financially. It implies independence. Young couples who are still dependent upon their parents financially often invite unnecessary tension in their marriage. The parents’ financial support typically comes with a certain amount of control or expectations that can be detrimental to their marriage.

Couples who are ready to get married should consider whether they are financially prepared to get married. They should consider if they are ready to leave their families and cleave to their mate and also if they are ready to make their mate their primary focus after God.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it important to remember the reasons God created marriage, because if we forget them, the marriage relationship is destined for abuse. Instead of building God’s kingdom, raising godly children, or providing companionship, couples neglect these pursuits for other things which ultimately cripple their marriage. Let us always remember God’s plans for the marriage union so that we can honor them and fulfill God’s purposes.

    1. God’s plan for marriage is to reflect his image.
    2. God’s plan for marriage is to raise godly children.
    3. God’s plan for marriage is to establish and build his kingdom.
    4. God’s plan for marriage is companionship.
    5. God’s plan for marriage is for married couples to make a new family unit.

God’s Plan for Marriage Homework

Answer the questions, then discuss together.

1. What was new or stood out to you in this session? In what ways were you challenged or encouraged? Were there any points/thoughts that you did not agree with?

2. Why do you want to marry this person? Give five reasons other than love.

3. If marriage is a spiritual gift meant to advance the kingdom of God, evaluate yourself and your spiritual gifts. How has God uniquely gifted you to build up his church (teaching, encouraging, serving, helping, mercy, etc.)? If you are not sure, ask your mate or friends what they would consider your spiritual gifts to be.

4. What are your mate’s spiritual gifts? How do you see God using your mate to build the kingdom of God, serve the church, etc.? How can you help him/her in that pursuit?

5. Solomon discussed some of the benefits of companionship that we find in marriage such as: being productive in work, helping when the other stumbles, and protecting one another. What are your common pitfalls or circumstances where you find yourself prone to discouragement or sin? What are the triggers to those pitfalls (problems with career, family, depression, worry, spiritual life, etc.)? How do you navigate these trials and what role can your spouse play to help you out?

6. The weapons we use in spiritual warfare and the trials of life are primarily spiritual. Discuss your spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading the Word, accountability, fasting, church attendance, service, etc.) and how you implement them daily/weekly. How do you think your mate is in his/her spiritual disciplines and how can you encourage one another in them so you can more effectively overpower the enemy?

7. God’s desire for most marriages is to be fruitful and multiply, producing godly children. How many children do you want? How many does your mate want? Have you discussed family planning? Will you use contraception? If so, what types? It is important to research this before the wedding as some methods are abortive and therefore immoral.

8. What type of relationship do you have with your parents? Do you foresee your family having any problems with your marriage (i.e. not accepting your spouse, cultural problems, distance, etc.)?

9. What type of relationship do you have with your mate’s parents? In what ways do you think you could better minister to or get to know your mate’s parents in order to honor them (cf. Eph 6:2)?

10. Do you foresee any problems in your marriage with putting the union first over one’s parents? Explain.

11. Do your parents or your mate’s parents have any serious sicknesses? God’s call on couples is to care for their parents in old age (1 Tim 5:4, 8). Have you and your mate discussed the possibility of caring for parents in old age? How would you handle this? Share any thoughts or concerns.

12. After completing this session, in what ways do you feel God is calling you to pray for your future marriage? Spend some time praying.


For all those who read through the whole article, well done. I hope it serves you well by giving some additional insight into God’s purpose in marriage.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, please strengthen marriages among Your people who are called by Your name. Let our marriages bring glory and honor to You and lead others to You, even as they enrich our personal lives and relationships and bring us joy. Amen. 

Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Insight to Guide Me, Even in the Genealogies in Scripture

When reading through scripture, I try not to skip anything. I believe the LORD inspired the writers of the Bible and those who compiled it and pulled it together into one book. Thus, I challenge myself to not skip, but rather pause and reflect on each part of scripture… even the genealogies.

Much of the information in the genealogies that begin 1 Chronicles is repeated from prior books, like the book of Kings. It is, however, summarized and laid out differently which gives it different emphasis. The simple message I keep coming back to is that the family structure is really important to Yahweh. It is how He chose to organize His people. It is part of their identity.

What we also see from reading elsewhere in scripture, is that many of these men who had many wives and many concubines, and thus many children, were not good fathers. They could not possibly dedicate the right amount of time to personally be the father Yahweh intended to each of their children or the husband they are intended to be to their wife. It does us well to remember that Yahweh intended from the beginning that it should be one man and one woman in marriage. It was intended to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve and Suzy and Sharon and Lisa, etc.

1 Chronicles 3

Family of David

      1Now these were the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn was Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; the second was Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelitess; 2the third was Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth was Adonijah the son of Haggith; 3the fifth was Shephatiah, by Abital; the sixth was Ithream, by his wife Eglah. 4Six were born to him in Hebron, and there he reigned seven years and six months. And in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years. 5These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four, by Bath-shua the daughter of Ammiel; 6and Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, 7Nogah, Nepheg and Japhia, 8Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet, nine. 9All these were the sons of David, besides the sons of the concubines; and Tamar was their sister.

      10Now Solomon’s son was Rehoboam, Abijah was his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, 11Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, 12Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, 13Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, 14Amon his son, Josiah his son. 15The sons of Josiah were Johanan the firstborn, and the second was Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. 16The sons of Jehoiakim were Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son. 17The sons of Jeconiah, the prisoner, were Shealtiel his son, 18and Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah. 19The sons of Pedaiah were Zerubbabel and Shimei. And the sons of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; 20and Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah and Jushab-hesed, five. 21The sons of Hananiah were Pelatiah and Jeshaiah, the sons of Rephaiah, the sons of Arnan, the sons of Obadiah, the sons of Shecaniah. 22The descendants of Shecaniah were Shemaiah, and the sons of Shemaiah: Hattush, Igal, Bariah, Neariah and Shaphat, six. 23The sons of Neariah were Elioenai, Hizkiah and Azrikam, three. 24The sons of Elioenai were Hodaviah, Eliashib, Pelaiah, Akkub, Johanan, Delaiah and Anani, seven.

I encourage You to read the following article published on Bible.org about marriage and reflect on how God’s purpose for marriage is best reflected in a marriage between one man and one woman.

Foundation One_ God’s Plan For Marriage _ Bible.org

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground… The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18, 24

In this session, we will consider God’s plan for marriage as primarily seen in the Genesis narrative. Most married couples miss God’s best simply because they do not know what God desires for marriage. If you don’t know the purpose of something, it is destined for misuse. Therefore, over 50% of marriages end in divorce, and a large number of those who remain married continue to miss God’s purpose for their union.

 To continue reading… click Foundation One_ God’s Plan For Marriage _ Bible.org

Again, I encourage you to click through the link above and read the entire article.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, thank You for Your holy word in the Bible. Let it lead me and guide me. Help me to fully embrace all it contains for me. Let the Spirit guide me in understanding and gaining insight from all scripture, even parts I may be tempted to skip over. Please bless Christian marriages and help them to be a light to the world, glorifying You. Amen. 

  Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Are Genealogies Important?

I will admit that I am not naturally engaged by reading the genealogy sections in scripture. However, the fact that they are included and in quite a few places should signal to us that they are important. I can think of at least two simple conclusions I can reach. First, family is important. It is part of our heritage. It is the organizational structure that Yahweh chose for how His people would be organized. Second, it reminds me that many books of the Bible are historical accounts. We can take them in that perspective. The books of Kings and Chronicles are among the historical accounts. They are not just stories. They really happened.

I am personally convinced that deeper study of the genealogies can reveal much more to us as well, but let us at least recognize the surface significance and not overlook them. If Yahweh saw fit to include them in the Bible, we should read them and pray for insight about them.

1 Chronicles 1

Genealogy from Adam

      1Adam, Seth, Enosh, 2Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, 3Enoch, MethuSelah, Lamech, 4Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth.

      5The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras. 6The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Diphath, and Togarmah. 7The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim and Rodanim.

      8The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. 9The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raama and Sabteca; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. 10Cush became the father of Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth.

      11Mizraim became the father of the people of Lud, Anam, Lehab, Naphtuh, 12Pathrus, Casluh, from which the Philistines came, and Caphtor.

      13Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, Heth, 14and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 15the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 16the Arvadites, the Zemarites and the Hamathites.

      17The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech. 18Arpachshad became the father of Shelah and Shelah became the father of Eber. 19Two sons were born to Eber, the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. 20Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22Ebal, Abimael, Sheba, 23Ophir, Havilah and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.

      24Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah, 25Eber, Peleg, Reu, 26Serug, Nahor, Terah, 27Abram, that is Abraham.

Descendants of Abraham

      28The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael. 29These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael was Nebaioth, then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah; these were the sons of Ishmael. 32The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine, whom she bore, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan. 33The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah.

      34Abraham became the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel. 35The sons of Esau were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam and Korah. 36The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna and Amalek. 37The sons of Reuel were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. 38The sons of Seir were Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. 39The sons of Lotan were Hori and Homam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 40The sons of Shobal were Alian, Manahath, Ebal, Shephi and Onam. And the sons of Zibeon were Aiah and Anah. 41The son of Anah was Dishon. And the sons of Dishon were Hamran, Eshban, Ithran and Cheran. 42The sons of Ezer were Bilhan, Zaavan and Jaakan. The sons of Dishan were Uz and Aran.

      43Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king of the sons of Israel reigned. Bela was the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 44When Bela died, Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah became king in his place. 45When Jobab died, Husham of the land of the Temanites became king in his place. 46When Husham died, Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the field of Moab, became king in his place; and the name of his city was Avith. 47When Hadad died, Samlah of Masrekah became king in his place. 48When Samlah died, Shaul of Rehoboth by the River became king in his place. 49When Shaul died, Baal-hanan the son of Achbor became king in his place. 50When Baal-hanan died, Hadad became king in his place; and the name of his city was Pai, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab. 51Then Hadad died.
Now the chiefs of Edom were: chief Timna, chief Aliah, chief Jetheth, 52chief Oholibamah, chief Elah, chief Pinon, 53chief Kenaz, chief Teman, chief Mibzar, 54chief Magdiel, chief Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, please let Your Spirit lead and guide me in understanding all aspects of Your word. Help me to embrace the reality that the Bible is filled with historical accounts of what really happened. It is a non fiction work of literature. Let there be healing and transformation in our family structure today. There are so many broken families due to sin and separation from You. Please restore the importance and focus on biblical marriage and parenting and biblical focus on honoring parents even after we are adults ourselves. Amen. 

Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

What Is Love?

What is love? This is a very old question with many answers. Context is important. We may “love pizza”, but that is different than when we say we “love our spouse”. Today, the world even steals the word “love” as a replacement for “sex”, which is completely incorrect. These are certainly not the same meaning. Greek, the language in which the New Testament was largely written, had multiple different words for different types of love. In English, we have one word and we must therefore pay close attention to context.

Many put a lot of time and focus into the highly marketed cultural holiday of Valentines Day. Candy makers will tell you that you must buy chocolates to show you love your spouse. Greeting card makers insist you must “care to send the very best” and thus spend $5 or more on a card, and send one to everyone you know. Flowers are a must, right? But now they even sell gold dipped flowers. Wow. Of course, not to be outdone, Jewelers insist that you are a buffoon if you don’t buy diamonds for that special someone in your life. We do well to remember that this is marketing intended to sell things and get our money. This is not how God tells us to show love to one another.

God calls us to show love to one another daily, not once a year, or on a few annual special occasions!

1 Corinthians 13

The Excellence of Love

      1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

      4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

      8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

If you want to give a gift, and it is wisely within your budget to do so, go ahead. But don’t do so because you “have to” or are “expected to”.  These gifts mean little and will ultimately have a very limited impact if you do not show love the way God tells us to. Often times just giving gifts on designated marketing holidays comes to be expected and not appreciated as much. If you choose to give an expensive gift, don’t do it because it is Valentines Day. Consider intentionally giving it at some other time besides the widely marketed holidays for an even greater impact.

Warning… when you make changes in how you celebrate these marketing holidays, discuss it openly with your spouse ahead of time! Don’t surprise someone by not giving them something they already expect from years of habit.

When you are ready to truly grow in maturity, turn towards God’s definition of love and begin showing it today to those you love. No warning necessary. They will greatly appreciate how you treat them. However, you may consider sharing the scripture with your spouse and helping one another as you both make the effort to shift focus from the world’s definition of love to God’s.

You can also ask yourself, if I am celebrating love, would it not be right to celebrate loving God as well as loving one another? And to come in thanksgiving to Him for all the love He has shown, shows, and will show us? If we are to focus on love in the Biblical sense, Valentines Day just does not match up very well at all. If you explore the origins of this celebration you will find that once again the Catholic church embraced this festival, but it was based first on a pagan celebration. As followers of Christ, we are better off separating from these pagan festivals and loving one another His way instead of man’s way.

World Religion News: Pagan origin of Valentines day

One last parting thought… we can love YHWH and love others because He has first shown me love. Yeshua died for us to make a way for us to be forgiven our sins.

John 15:12-13

      12“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Learn more about God’s love for us and the path He made for us to receive salvation through The Message of the Cross.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, please help me to focus on showing love Your way, and not according to man made, highly marketed holidays. Lead people back to You across our nation and our world. Remove from us any heart of greed that judges someone’s love for us by what they give us and how they treat us on any one day. Help us focus on Your love for us and help us to love You they way You have called us to, by obeying Your commandments. Amen. 

Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Let God’s Word Guide My Understanding and Not My Understanding Limit God’s Word

There is no contradiction between the Torah and the writings of the prophet (Old Testament) and the gospels and letters (New Testament). Yeshua never fell into a trap He could not explain. He often emphasized the Old Testament in His teaching.

Sometimes we have to be willing to change our pre-conceived understanding or bias that we may have when we confront an apparent contradiction. We have to admit we don’t always already have the full understanding and allow ourselves to change or adapt how we think of something. If we do so, we will understand more and draw nearer to God.

Said another way, do we redefine God’s word based on our current understanding? or do we redefine our current understanding based on studying what the Bible actually says, even if it contradicts tradition and common church teaching? Naturally, testing what we understand from scripture is important. The best place to test it is against scripture itself. Remember, that is the source of truth.

In some ways it is a bit like a puzzle.  You take on faith when you open a new box that all the pieces are there and fit together. Knowing that, you work and search to fit them all together.  You do not simply give up the first time you can’t find the right piece and assume the puzzle is defective. You keep looking. In reading the Bible, we start with the understanding that the pieces fit together and then search out how to put them all in place.

Matthew 22:23-33

Jesus Answers the Sadducees

      23On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, 24asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDRENHIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.’ 25“Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27“Last of all, the woman died. 28“In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”

      29But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31“But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAMAND THE GOD OF ISAACAND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” 33When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

We should keep in mind that in answering the question, Yeshua reflects on the Scriptures. This would have been the Old Testament. The New Testament was not written yet. Yeshua constantly points to that as authoritative truth.

With regards to marriage, we see in the resurrection people do not marry. People react to this in a variety of different ways. Perhaps some are grateful because they have had very complex family relationships, somewhat like the one listed in scripture. Many may feel disappointed as they want to be with their spouse in the same way. This is all we know how to get our mind around. The point is that we do not let the constraints on our understanding define what the word says. Instead, take it in, even if you don’t fully understand it and accept it. Let the scripture change your understanding of what the resurrection will be like, even if it makes you uncomfortable or disappointed at first. Trust in the LORD. Has he not said, there will be no sadness in the resurrection?

Revelation 21:3-4

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Another point to clarify here is that the scripture says we will be like angels in that we do not marry in the resurrection. This is not to say that we will be angels. Angels and people are distinct creations. One does not transition between them. You are either an angel or a person and that never changes. Many mistake this to say that we become angels in heaven, but that is not what it says.

Don’t miss in reading this that Jesus also confirms resurrection is real and those who were in right relationship with God when they died have already been resurrected and are with Him in Heaven. While this may not yet be our physical bodies, which will be resurrected after Yeshua returns, we are none the less alive spiritually and in the presence of the LORD.

In conclusion, Yeshua is chastising the Sadducees for misreading the scriptures and adding their own assumptions to them, and then declaring that it did not make sense. Yeshua is, in a sense, saying they should have realized that if they got to a point that did not make sense to them, they should have checked their assumptions and gone back the the scriptures to see what they really say and what was added by the Sadducees, even if they did not do so intentionally. We should do likewise.

I invite you to pray with me:

Father, please help me to clearly understand Your word. Holy Spirit, please guide me and instruct me. Help me to have wisdom and courage to challenge what I believe as I study and learn new insights and truth. Let the Bible transform my beliefs instead of my beliefs dictating how I read or understand the Bible. Thank You! Amen. 

For some additional study, I have included a portion of the Barnes Commentary on BibleHub.com.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

Ye do err, not knowing … – They had taken a wrong view of the doctrine of the resurrection.

It was not taught that people would marry there. The “Scriptures,” here, mean the books of the Old Testament. By appealing to them, Jesus showed that the doctrine of the future state was there, and that the Sadducees should have believed it as it was, and not have added the absurd doctrine to it that people must live there as they do here. The way in which the enemies of the truth often attempt to make a doctrine of the Bible ridiculous is by adding to it, and then calling it absurd. The reason why the Saviour produced a passage from the books of Moses Matthew 22:32 was that they had also appealed to his writings, Matthew 22:24. Other places of the Old Testament, in fact, asserted the doctrine more clearly Daniel 12:2Isaiah 26:19, but he wished to meet them on their own ground. None of those scriptures asserted that people would live there as they do here, and therefore their reasoning was false.

Nor the power of God – They probably denied, as many have done since, that God could gather the scattered dust of the dead and remould it into a body. On this ground they affirmed that the doctrine could not be true – opposing reason to revelation, and supposing that infinite power could not reorganize a body that it had at first organized, and raise a body from its own dust which it had at first raised from nothing.

For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

Neither marry … – This was a full answer to the objections of the Sadducees.

But are as the angels of God – That is, in the manner of their conversation; in regard to marriage and the mode of their existence.

Luke adds that they shall be “equal with the angels.” That is, they shall be elevated above the circumstances of mortality, and live in a manner and in a kind of conversation similar to that of the angels. It does not imply that they shall be equal in intellect, but only “in the circumstances of their existence,” as that is distinguished from the way in which mortals live. He also adds, “Neither do they die any more, but are the children of God; being the children of the resurrection,” or being accounted worthy to be raised up to life, and therefore “sons of God raised up to him.”

But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,

As touching … – That is, in proof that the dead are raised.

The passage which he quotes is recorded in Exodus 3:6Exodus 3:15, This was at the burning bush (Mark and Luke). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for a long time when Moses spoke this – Abraham for 329 years, Isaac for 224 years, and Jacob for 198 years – yet God spake then as being still “their God.” They must, therefore, be still somewhere living, for God is not the God of the dead; that is, it is absurd to say that God rules over those who are “extinct or annihilated,” but he is the God only of those who have an existence. Luke adds, “all live unto him.” That is, all the righteous dead, all of whom he can be properly called their God, live unto his glory. This passage does not prove directly that the dead “body” would be raised, but only by consequence. It proves that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had an existence then, or that their souls were alive. This the Sadducees denied Acts 23:8, and this was the main point in dispute. If this was admitted – if there was a state of rewards and punishments – then it would easily follow that the bodies of the dead would be raised.

 Shalom

Devotion by John in service to Christ

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.