Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How do I love thee? Um...

The other day I caught a bit of Dr. Tony Evans on the radio discussing marriage when something he said gave me a bit more texture to the biblical idea of love.

What do you mean when you say "I love cotton candy!" You are saying that it brings you pleasure. The sticky goodness receives nothing from you but oh, the delight it gives you as it rides through your gullet.

"I love the Vikings!" (I can hear your jibes.) But what do I really mean? Will I lay down my life for a sub-mediocre football team? Certainly not. Will they benefit at all from me being a fan?  Nope. I have an affection for them. They please me (a whole lot more when they are winning).

Often when we say we love things, we love because they bring us pleasure. I like this (fill in the blank) because it (tastes good, feels good, looks good, fattens my wallet, relaxes me, etc). Now this might blow your mind, but none of that is wrong. God created the earth and its goodness to be pleasing to the pinnacle of his creation. The problem comes when we equate the pleasure obtained from something to the love demanded from God for something, most especially our wives.

Most men in our culture when saying "I love you" to their wife really mean that she makes them feel good. She's a great partner. She's a great friend. She cooks a mean hash. She warms the bed nicely. All of this focuses upon what she does for me.  I mentioned this in my last post (here), but the vows we took at the altar to love our wives had no proviso in them to love them only as long as they brought us pleasure. This behavior might have been acceptable for barbarian kings of the past, but this is not God's plan for husband and wife.

Love does not depend at all upon the other person. If it did, it would not be love but rather payment for services rendered.

I hope your wife pleases you (it's your choice, really, but that's another post), but next time "I love you" tumbles from your lips, consider your heart. Is it solely for the pleasure she brings to you?  If so, sprinkle in a little bit of the "I love you" that hearkens back to the vows that you made to that beautiful woman by your side.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This does not work

One of the gripes that cynics have about sitcoms of yesteryear, those like Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch, is that you can't tie up such familial problems with a neat bow in a mere thirty minutes. Life, especially family life, is gritty and messy and difficult. Can you name a sitcom or even a drama where the protagonist had to deal with heartache and anguish for longer than 23 or 46 minutes?


While I still love the Cleavers and enjoyed the Bradys as a kid, the cynics have a point. What makes for light entertainment cannot be mistaken for real life. Human interaction is a wee bit more complicated.


Recently a good friend e-mailed me after reading one of my "Husbands" posts and asked, "What do we do when choosing to love our wives does not work?" Ouch. It doesn't take a counselor of thirty years to read the agony between the words. There is perhaps no greater pain that to pour heart and soul into your relationship with your woman and to be met with ridicule, derision, and frigidity.


I can't imagine that anyone enters marriage hoping for conflict, isolation, or abuse. Did we not all hope beyond hope that when we said "I do," our relationship with our woman would begin to flourish and only grow richer and more delicious with each passing day? Most have great expectations of and for their bride, but few have expectations for what will be required of them to love their wife.


Here's the deal: in none of the passages about husbands and wives in the New Testament (cf. Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1-7) does God, through the apostles, promise a marriage of magical bliss and elation. Never does God say, "Love your wife, and she will love you." Never does he hint that she might become a beast in the bedroom if you buy her roses--not once but twice! No inkling that your grace during her hormonal fluctuations will be rewarded with the same during your ill-thought outbursts. We do see that a believing spouse can have an amazing affect on a non-believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-16, 1 Peter 3:1-2), but even then there is no promise for happily-ever-after.


Husband, love your wife. For how long? It's not a time-stamped command. That's why the til-death-do-us-part part gets tossed into the marriage vow. Or used to get tossed in. What should be the quality of the husband's love? It should be as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ignorance is no excuse here. When you walked her down the aisle, when you sealed the covenant with an "I do," you vowed to give not get. Think about it. You promised what you would do, and that vow was not contingent upon her vow (more on her vow in a bit). You committed your life to be God's primary agent of love and ministry in her life.


No time loophole.


No "but she" loophole.


No "what about me" loophole.


Do you feel doomed? Don't. Consider this. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Even rudeness, neglect and abuse? "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) We consider unpleasant things when we see the "all things" of Romans 8:28, but we have forgotten the unpleasantness of all things in the few verses it took to get to verse 32. God continues on the unpleasantness theme of "all things" in verses 35-37:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
No matter the difficulty, even within our own marriage, God will work good for his children. Notice, again, no time stamp. The blessing and reward may not come until heaven. Consider, though, the blessing and good that you are plowing into the life of your woman. Go back to Ephesians 5:26-28 and see why Jesus loved the church:
...that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.
Sanctify her. Cleanse her. That she might be holy and without blemish. Christ died for her, for her good, to ultimately see her redeemed before him in heaven.


When we love our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our wives as Christ loved the church, we may get nothing from her in return. In the world, you might consider this unfair. In God's economy, you are just like Christ (Romans 8:17)! Rejoice in him and with him, and press on.


I love Paul's admonition to the Corinthian church, "Act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). This does not mean that in a relationship where the believing wife has abdicated her marriage vows that the husband is to love her in silence. No, the strong husband will lead his wife into difficult communication but will do so with grace and love and respect. He will honor her as the weaker vessel and dwell with her with understanding (1 Peter 3:7) while at the same time pointing out that to cultivate a marriage of richness, a marriage that reflects to the world the love and relationship within the Godhead (1 Corinthians 11:3) and the love the church should have for Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24), the wife must biblically love her husband, too.


We may be spurned and rejected, even by a believing wife. This is a grievous and heavy burden, one which only those who have loved an unloving wife can understand. At the same time, it does not free us from our responsibility to lead and to love. We must not turn inward and shun communication. We must not turn outward and become brutal and hostile. We must not turn inward and find satisfaction within ourselves. We must not turn outward and vent our energies some place else (work, sport, play). Rather, day by day, moment by moment, we must love our wives as Christ loved the church and give ourselves up for her even if it means our life.


It might not work toward cultivating a Ward and June Cleaver or a Mike and Carol Brady marriage, but it will work for good. For you and for her.


Stay the course, brother. His promises will not fail. Love your wife.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The death and life of marriage

Political candidates derailed by infidelities. Hollywood marriages sunk by adulterous torpedoes. America on the verge of letting marriage be any kind of relationship for any length of time between any number of persons, places, or things, almost like standing at the counter at Burger King. Hmmm, what am I hungry for today?
The forecast for marriage in America is cold and dark.
So what do we do? Politics won't plug the titanic holes in the marriage boat. When our nation stepped off of its biblical foundation for more enlightened pastures, it lost its ability to appeal to anything outside of “majority rule” to shore up the bulwarks of civilization like family and rule of law. God ordained marriage when he first brought Eve to Adam. If I reject that, I can make marriage whatever I want it to be. Just ask the DOD (see here). Making a law that states marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman does nothing—ZIP!—to get people to believe that.  Just ask the Catholic Church.
Don't expect the media to help bail any water. They’re making money!  Every five disgruntled letters is countered by millions tuning in and millions in advertising dollars. You’re hard pressed to find a TV show or a movie that doesn’t cross the boundaries on how much skin it can show or on how varied and in your face its sexual relationships can be. Why?  M-m-m-money.
Even churches seem to have tossed in the towel.  I read a recent blurb on nationalreview.com (here) indicating that it’s easier to get folks in the pew to nod about pro-life issues than they will about marriage issues.  With the preponderance of parishioners having already used up one marriage, who has the courage to speak God’s mind on divorce?
So what’s a man to do when all about him the institution of marriage is collapsing?  Three words.  Same three words.  Love your wife.
Don’t get me wrong. It crushes my soul to see our nation cut itself from its biblical roots. It saddens me that there is little worth my family’s time in the theater or on the tube.  New laws and more petitions will not change hearts and minds. Will loving my woman change the tide of our nation? Maybe. Maybe not.
Here’s the deal. Regardless of the rot in our culture, regardless of what the government has to say about the definition of the family, God’s word remains. He created man and woman for man. He created it good. Marriage can still be very good. It was his idea to unite like-but-different human beings in the covenant of marriage. It was to man that he said, “Love your wife” (Ephesians 5:25, Colossians 3:19). It doesn't matter a lick how government defines marriage or how perversely Hollywood portrays relationships. When a man loves a woman as God intended, blessings abound, blessings in the here and now and blessings in the hereafter.

It is a real downer to see what has become of marriage in America, but this does not have to be marriage in your home. Pursue the Lord. Pursue your wife. As the farmer toils in the soil in hope of a bounteous crop and reaps the benefits thereof, so also must the husband labor and hope. And really, isn't loving your wife far more enjoyable than digging in the dirt?

Could this possibly alter the demise of marriage in America?  Will anyone be moved to follow the Lord because I love my wife?  I hope so.  But that doesn’t matter.  This is the very thing to which God has called me.  You, too.  Whether none follow or millions (my preference would be the latter), as for us and our families, we must, with his help, serve the Lord.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brewing a bitter cup

Everybody loves a loophole.

"But officer...
    ...I didn't see the sign."
    ...didn't know it was a school zone."
    ...can't you see I'm pregnant." (A tough one for a guy to use.)
    ...I'm late to meet with the President."
Despite the passion with which many insert loopholes into Scripture, God's word contains precious few.  Perhaps that's why so many find biblical Christianity unpalatable. No wiggle room. You are or you aren't.  You do or you don't. You will or you won't.

This is especially true for husbands. In fleshing out for the church at Colossae what it meant to live the Christian life (Colossians 3), Paul slaps down on the table a few loopholeless challenges, one aimed right between the eyes of husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (3:19)
No doubt you've heard the first part of that verse before (um, check out the masthead), but as I opened God's word this morning, my brow knotted on the second half of the verse.  "Do not be harsh with them?" It means to not embitter them, not to sour their stomach. What would prompt the apostle to toss in such an admonition? Could be a couple of things.  One, the Colossians could have been notorious wife-abusers. Having never heard such a thing, we can probably dismiss that notion out of hand.

Perhaps men have a propensity to be harsh toward their wives. Hmm. I think that one might reside a bit closer to the mark. Why is that? Let's toss a few generalities. First, men tend to be results oriented. Get 'er done. There's no crying in baseball! You can't get 'er done, we'll get someone else. You know the shtick. Works fine in commerce, politics, athletics, etc.  But that doesn't fare too well with one (the wife) who thrives on relational interchange.

Second, our relationships don't venture into emotional territory. We just don't go there. You're more likely to find a conservative at MSNBC. Just because we don't normally go there doesn't mean that we can't. If we don't consider the emotional difference and if we don't consider our tendencies when it comes to handling problems, don't be surprised when you want her to hear what you said and she just hears your tone. You could have stated that you were whisking her away to Monaco, but your manner left her feeling like your carburetor and not your bride.

Third, we tend to be harsh to our brides because we take them for granted. This is perhaps the easiest trap to fall into, and on the flip side, it's a trap we should never fall into because of the phenomenal gift that a bride is to each one of us. Outside the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, I can think of no greater treasure than to have a woman with which to share my days, a woman to love and cherish, a woman to enjoy.  A woman to call my best friend.

That I would embitter her? That I would knot her gut? Paul says "No-no."

You might think he doesn't give us a clue how to avoid embittering our brides, but it is found in the first part of the verse and then throughout the rest of Scripture. We are to love our wives. You want a fleshout of what that means, turn to Ephesians 5:25-32. Love her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. Love her as your own body. We are to nourish, care for, and cherish her. That means we treat her with the value that God has given her as HIS princess.

Peter explains that women are weaker vessels than men (1 Peter 3:7), not just physically but emotionally, too. Frankly, I don't care if you don't like that; God's word says it. He created us differently (and whether you want to admit it or not, we've all seen it play out in reality). Look at all Peter includes for men in a single verse.
  • Live with your wives. Dwell with them. Be with her--because you want to!
  • In an understanding way. You have no excuse for not knowing what makes your woman tick. You should know the minefields and not be purposefully setting them off. DON'T PUSH HER BUTTONS!
  • Honor her. The world's not going to do it if she's honoring God. You do it. You certainly don't want another man doing it!
  • As the weaker vessel. There it is. She's not going to respond to "Get 'er done!" The sheets will be mighty chilly if that's how you flirt with your woman.
  • Coheir with you. You're not better because you're the man. Your role is just different. Besides, you didn't do anything to be the man. You came equipped. That's NOT something to lord over your woman. You will be beside your wife in glory, not over her.
  • That our prayers not be hindered. Such bullheaded conduct puts a wedge in our relationship with God.  Bad ju-ju.
Gents, take your bride aside tonight or in the next day or two and ask her first if you're conduct or you're speech has embittered her lately. You may already know this. If you do, man up and apologize. Repent. You have sinned against God toward your woman, and repenting means you have a full-heart attitude to not go there again.

Second, ask her if it is a rare thing or a common thing. Please leave the boxing gloves in the closet. Man up and leave yourself wide open to hear, perhaps, some woeful tales of what you have done to the woman you hold dear. Let her speak. Do not defend. Do not excuse. Listen.

We must give our brides consideration, and that means we must be considerate. Paul tells us succinctly to love our wives and to not embitter them. It will require focused attention to be that man. And please, do not look for an out. There is no loophole.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stare away!

When's the last time you really stared at your wife? Not a passing glance, but a drink-in-the-vista beholding as though you were perched upon the rim of the Grand Canyon during a sunset that even HD would't do justice.

Look at her.


Do you remember the day you stood at the end of a long aisle and first beheld your bride, painstakingly bedecked that she might present herself to you in all her radiance? That image is etched into my memory like no other.  A close second would be the look on my sons' faces as their eyes first caught sight of their woman at the end of the aisle.

We have enough trouble with our eyes. Lots of women don't get it. Many are trying (thank you, ladies).  Many finally understand (thank you, ladies). Job wouldn't have been making covenants four milennia ago (Job 31:1) nor would our Savior have been suggesting hyperbolic eye-plucking two milennia ago (Matthew 5:27-30) if this weren't an issue for the ages.

Yes, God made women exquisitely beautiful, but women are not yours. There is but one woman who is wholly and solely yours. Solomon told his sons to drink water from their own well (Proverbs 5:15) and to be always intoxicated by the love of their wife (5:19). A great way to appreciate the treasure that God has given you in this woman is to stare at her. No, not like you would stare at the young man whose face got caught in a jean-studder. And no, not like a coroner performing an autopsy. Stare like a connisseur drinking in the Sistine Chapel. Like a child who sees all the presents under the tree.  Like a city-dweller who spies the Grand Tetons for the very first time.

Not only will such wonder kindle a deep appreciation to God for your bride in your heart, but it will affirm and build the woman you love. In an era where marriages are crumbling faster than the economy, little will build a bride's security more than knowing she has the eye of her man. One woman confessed,
I will admit that there have been times when my husband has commented on something about another woman that left me wondering if he ever noticed those things about me anymore or if he found that "thing" more attractive than the corresponding part on me.  Women compare themselves to others so frequently.  I think that comes from all that the world barrages us with and the normal self esteem issues that most women have, but when a man notices something about another woman, or his wife notices him watching another woman, it does raise questions in her mind about whether or not she is good enough.  Sad, but true.
Gents, we must guard our eyes.  There's one extraordinary person God has given us upon which we can train our eyes.  Read the Song of Solomon 4. That was a man who stared at his woman.

Next time you get a chance, brother, stare at your wife because you can!
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(Bonus points to any that can identify the eyes at the top of the post)

Monday, September 12, 2011

With open eyes

If you haven't been there in awhile, one of the greatest verses for husbands to memorize AND live out is 1 Peter 3:7.  In case you have no Bible handy (which is a stupid statement because you're online and a Bible is ALWAYS handy [http://www.biblegateway.com/]; you can even pick your version) here it is:
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with (your wife) according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
If you live this verse out, you will bless your woman and honor your God. At first glance, the verse looks as simple as a well-turned double-play, but when you start to examine the component parts, the intricacies and beauty therein are breath-taking and overwhelming. Unpacking the verse would require a book. Applying it to your life and your woman would require volumes. That's your job. And that takes a wonder-packed lifetime.

Let's hone in for a moment on "dwell with your wife according to knowledge" or "live with your wife in an understanding way." The word live does not mean exist. It means the intimate relationship that is exemplified by the husband-wife relationship. It means that you know your wife.

When's the last time you stepped back and took a look at the things going on in your woman's life? How many plates is she trying to keep spinning? What delights her soul? What has been burdening her heart of late? What does she think about the state of the family? How about the state of your relationship? Is she spiritually fit or spiritually spent? It's so easy to become lost in our work, lost in our ministry, and lost in our recreation that we become utterly lost in our relationship to our wife.

I hate to go "cartoon" on you two posts in a row, but what has taken me way too many words to say gets hit out of the ballpark in two panels by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott:


Keep your eyes open, brother, and dwell with your wife with understanding. In so doing, you will love your wife.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First things first

Hope you had a good Labor Day, brothers.

Sitcoms of yesteryear provided great family entertainment because the events with each episode were events lived by everyone.  They provided us an opportunity, really, to laugh at ourselves.  Not so in 2011.  While no comedy on television examines the humor of every day life, retreating into the commode or the jockstrap to find a laugh, the artists on the funny pages have picked up the baton.

Take Zits for example.  It's a strip about a high school sophomore and his two parents.  I don't know if it's funnier for me or for my sixteen year old son.  Why?  Because we can empathize with the characters.  Been there.  Done that.

Baby Blues is another one.  It's the story of a once-married couple (I know, a rarity) and their three kids Zoe (10), Hammie (7), and Wren (1). It makes no bones about the challenges involved in being married, working hard, and raising kids. It delights, sometimes side-splits, and sometimes skewers my soul.

My wife has a Baby Blues page-a-day calendar in our bathroom. This was yesterday's fare:


Gents, I had to think of you. Well, first, I had to think of me, then I had to think of you. Before I ramble any further, consider what these artists are saying about us loving our wives.

Getting any vibes?

There's going to come a day, brothers, if the Lord tarries and if you both live a long life when the kids will be gone and only you and your woman will be left in the house. May I ask you, based upon what you have today, what you will have then?

Too many relationships die when the last child leaves home because that couple's foundation for the marriage no longer exists. It sickens my heart when I see wives whose child or children have an obvious priority over their husband. This is an especially dangerous trap for a mother of youngsters. The baby, the toddler, even the elementary-aged child depends upon us and especially depends upon momma, but the momma who begins to cling to her child with greater tenacity than Linus clung to his blanket has begun to ship her man out of his rightful and God-ordained place in her life (not to mention the self-centered little monster being cultivated when balance isn't struck).

Lest you think momma's the only one susceptible to misplaced priorities, papa can cave to it at exactly the same time. When little ones are in the house, dad's in the earlier days of his career.  That means longer hours and quite possibly a second job.  Busting one's posterior to make ends meet can become habitual.  As the money gets better (if the money gets better) and the hours could possibly slacken, they don't. The woman begins to play second fiddle to his occupation. "We need to pay off the boat." "We won't be able to go back to Cancun this year." "Looks like we might have to start eating at home."  Yikes. Yes, many of us have to work long hours and some have to work two jobs to make ends meet but for many, their occupation has become their mistress.

Gents, you know this. God comes first. In a distant and rightly placed second is the filly you nestle up to every night. The order should be the same for her. When those priorities start to get askew, that's a great time to do what Darryl MacPherson did to his wife Wanda. Call her aside, take her in your arms, dip her to the floor, look into her eyes and plant a kiss on her that will reverberate 'til Thursday.

You lead the family. You lead your wife. God says so (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23). If things start getting goofy, the only person to blame is the one in the mirror.

So husband, go love your wife--and make things reverberate from time to time.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
NOTE:  In researching this post, I came to find out that the creator of  Zits is one of the co-creators of Baby Blues.  From Wikipedia.
In 1996, Jerry Scott was drawing Baby Blues, a comic strip about raising children he co-wrote with Rick Kirkman. He realized, however, that his profession as an independent cartoonist was limited to whatever joke he could conceive next. A friend suggested he begin a strip about a teenager. Scott heeded the proposition but was unsatisfied with his characters sketches, finding them similar to those of his existing strip. After Scott discussed the issue with his artist friend Jim Borgman, the two corresponded with one another over the next few months and eventually collaborated on the characters that would become the Duncans. King Features, already distributing Baby Blues and Borgman's editorial cartoons, began running the new comic strip in 1997 with Scott writing and Borgman drawing.
Considering the quality of the two, I'm not surprised.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cool water

"Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country."
Proverbs 25:25

You parched for some good news? Yeah, me, too. So why don't you bring it?

If you don't bring it, the bad will creep back in. Give it a month. Before the calendar flips to October, my guess is that 50% of you will have heard about some couple that you know who junked their vows. I hope I'm wrong, but I've heard about one every two months where one or both has pitched out of the union. Brothers, there's TONS of bad news out there.

But you know what? There's TONS of good news. Marriages are succeeding. Marriages are thriving.

If my addition is correct, my dad and mom cleared 44 years together before Dad went home to be with the Lord.

My last grandma, Rosina Runnoe, just died. She was 96. Her husband, Vincent, died eight years ago. He was 91. Her first and only husband.

My bride and I met Lou and Evelyne back in 1993. Dear friends. Ev just posted on Facebook with a delighted heart, "Happy Anniversary to my best friend and love - 18 years today. The Lord has truly blessed me with a wonderful man." When I read that, my heart soared!

Jeff and Mary Anne are on the fat side of 27 years!

Justin married Heather. They divorced amid the selfishness of their youth. Shortly after, God convicted them and rekindled what they had snuffed out. Their marriage continues to flourish in their love for one another and in their love for their Messiah.

It thrills my heart to know, to really know, that Brian loves Kim, Kevin loves Kathy, the other Keith loves Teresa, Lukus loves Liesl, Jeremy loves Tiffany, Drew loves Alicia, Rob loves Ginny, Terry loves Patti, Jeff loves Maureen, Thom loves Liz, Roy loves Bonnie, Milt loves Michelle, Ross loves Nancy, Adam loves Robyn, David loves Kristi, Dwayne loves Karen, Alan loves Carolyn, Albert loves Anna, Steve loves Beth, John loves Christi, Dave loves Dawn, Tommy loves Jennifer, Brady loves Karen, Jess loves Lisa, Neal loves Trish, Tim loves Sarah, and Houston loves Tami. No slights or omissions intended. Blessed to know so many of you who love your wife, not perfectly, but in a manner that honors God and well pleases him.

Do you love your wife? Has God truly blessed you with your woman? Brother, share your joy with a friend. There is no better news along the front than to hear about victories in other sectors. When carnage abounds and casualties litter the battlefield, it's like a cup of cool water to hear that a brother loves his woman.

A couple thoughts:
  • Facebook. Yeah, FB is kind of cheesy, but when you clear a milestone with your girl, tell the world! Don't be ashamed, neither be boastful, but rejoice in what God has done in, through, and for you.
  • Talk. Many women think that we are monosyllabic in our speech to one another. Some women don't think men speak to other men at all apart from bumps, grunts, or "dude." That's fine. Should you work your way beyond the Rangers comeback against the Angels, if God has nourished your relationship with your woman, share the good news of what God has done. You might even get into the how's and why's. It might really be a boon to a struggling brother.
  • Pray. You cannot pray enough for your bros in their relationship with their woman. When you have done such a thing and you cross paths with that bro, tell him you've been praying for him and Estelle (or "his woman" if you can't remember her name).
It's been a tough couple years on the marital front as we have seen Satan win victory after victory. It's time to start spreading the good news about what God's doing in marriages.

It's time for us to see the good thing that God is doing in our marriages that we might turn it back to thanksgiving to God. That is, after all, his will for our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pray with her

Show of hands.  When's the last time you knelt down with your woman and had focused prayer with her? Okay, maybe you didn't kneel.  Maybe you just sat beside her. Dispense with the format and focus on the heart of the question.

I stand convicted by my own query.

There was a time when my bride and I prayed together nightly. Did we purpose in our hearts to stop praying together? Certainly not. The dark side has a great way of distracting our minds and our purposes to neglect the things of highest importance. Really, can you think of anything greater that you can do for your family than to pray with your woman to Almighty God for them?

You will feel foolish. You will feel foolish because you know you should have been doing this long ago but haven't. You will feel foolish because you fear what she will think of you. You will feel foolish because you think your prayers sound stupid. It matters not what you think or feel. God commands you, brother, to be the head of your wife, and that means that you must lead her spiritually, you must lead her before the throne of God's good grace.

You want to see what the Bible has to say about prayer?  Go to Biblegateway, hit the tab on the side that says "Keyword Search," type in "pray," and start studying.

What things can you pray about with your woman?
  • Worshiping God
  • Praising him for his attributes
  • Thanking him for his blessings. Name them one by one. No general "thank you God for your blessings."
  • The salvation of your children
  • The wisdom to train them in the way they should go
  • That as your children seek their independence they might run headlong into another person who will continue to plow the word into their lives
  • Pray for their spouse even if your child is just conceived!
  • Pray for your wife
  • Pray that Christ would be foremost in her life
  • Pray that she would minister God's good grace to other women in the church and to the lost she might encounter day in and day out
  • That God would protect your marriage
  • That God would continue to knit you and your woman together with greater and greater bonds
  • That God would help you be a servant to your family
  • That God would help you to minister the word to your family
You get the idea? It's not an exhaustive list. How long could you be praying with your wife? Hours, really. And there may come a time for that in your family. Right now, just get started. Worship God together. Give him thanks for each other and your relationship and his work in your lives and marriage. Petition him for a child.  Tomorrow, lather, rinse, repeat.

Husband, love your wife! 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Treasure II

Few in our day value their wives too highly. Most treat them as common or worse. The family pet often gets more attention and affection. Few wives experience husbands who show them honor or who dwell with them in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7).  Few wives ever know the blessedness of being loved of their husband as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25) or being loved of their husband as he loves his own body (5:28).

As with most things, the opposite extreme poses perilous problems of a magnitude at least as great.  What do I mean? For some, their bride has become an idol.

Make no mistake, God commands husbands to have the highest concern, the highest love, the highest passion for their woman. But there is one thing higher still, the love he is to have for God.  Consider,
  • It is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-29) with the loving of one's neighbor running second (v. 30).
  • Jesus warned of the supreme danger in placing anything before our thirst for him to include our wife (Luke 14:25-27).
My love for my woman must flow from my love for God. If it flows independent of my love for God, that affection has taken a higher priority in my life than my affection for God. Because I passionately love and submit myself to Almighty God I am able to love my wife with the love God demands while not allowing it to become idolatrous.

How's that flesh out.  Here are some thoughts.

God will never call me to love her ahead of him. Because I love him and seek to honor him with my life, I must live Ephesians 5:25 and 1 Peter 3:7.  These are the glorious works that flow from my faith (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:17-18). If God has given me a particular task and my concern for my bride derails me from that appointed task, she has become an idol to me in the same fashion that money tripped up the rich young ruler when Jesus asked him to go and sell all he had (Matthew 19:21-22).

Perhaps God has called you to the mission field and for whatever reason, you have a passion for the bleak steppes of Mongolia. Your bride has been a city girl all her life and has made it plain that she could never become a missionary. In the past few days, you have learned of a man who would be willing to support fully a couple who would be willing to go and minister to the people of outer Mongolia. He'll even throw in a yurt. What do you do?

Perhaps God has burdened your heart to become a doctor and due to GI Bills and such, now seems like the perfect time to change careers.  Such a shift would require belt-tightening and cost-counting, something that has always made your bride squeamish. Everytime you've tried to get the family on a budget she's bucked and thrashed like a rodeo Brahma.  What do you do?

Perhaps you feel called to military service and have always felt that is where God would have you be. Near the end of your enlistment you get hand-picked for a two-year unaccompanied remote tour to Sobleakistan, an assignment on the cutting edge of your career field and right up your alley. Not only that, but the assignment upon your return is beyond your wildest dreams. The hitch? You feel like your wife depends upon you, that if you were to leave, she couldn't handle the house, the kids, the bills, etc.  What do you do?

Each of those scenarios has you at a crossroads between God's call and your affections for your wife.  Really, there should be a tension.  If you care nothing for your wife, the decision will not be a hard one. If you are deaf to the call of God in your life, you'll have no decision to make.

Gents, I'm not advocating dismissing your wife when it comes to family decisions or even your career decisions, but if appeasing your wife takes precedence over God's leading, there is a problem.

This, like all things, can be taken to an extreme. A man must never excuse workaholism and familial neglect under the guise of "doing God's work." A very real danger for steadfast laborers in the Church both pastorate and laity.

When it comes to idolatry, though, many husbands do not trust God to do his good work in their family through the absence or hardships that come with a purposed decision, and many wives do not trust God to bring blessing through that obedience despite anticipated challenges. You have probably heard, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." If we live trying to neutralize that threat, then God ain't happy, and truly, that's when nobody will be happy.

Husbands, love Almighty God. Trust him when he leads. When you do, you will be loving your wives.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Treasure

If you want a passage from the Bible that makes most women feel miserable, turn to Proverbs 31.  In verses ten to the end, Lemuel constructs a standard for a wife that is simply unreachable. It reminds me of the Facebook post that has bounced around cyberspace (typically posted by a woman):
A real woman always keeps her house clean and organized, the laundry basket is always empty. She's always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations and all circumstances. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips, and a kind word for everyone. Post this as your status if you, too, have just realized that you might be a man.
Might I suggest that Lemuel King did not write Proverbs 31 for women but for men?  Think about it.  He's chatting with his bros.  "An excellent wife, who can find?" he begins. He's chatting amongst his consorts about the wonders of an excellent wife. I believe he has such a woman and this is an ode from a man about his woman. This man knows his wife (1 Peter 3:7) and turns that knowledge into praise for her. It's not false praise. It's very specific, truthful wonderment about the phenomenal woman that he knows as his bride.

"She is far more precious than jewels." Let the flavor of that verse roll around on your palate. She is of highest value. What toys in your house do you really like? Wii? Jet skis? iPod, -Pad, -Touch? Golf clubs? Rifle? What investments are you hiding away? 401k's?  IRA's?  CD's? Pensions? Do you understand that tomorrow you might have none of them? With as tinder-dry as we are in north Texas, one wayward spark could incinerate millions of acres to include my home and toys, and with as tinder-dry as our economy is, one nightmarish spark could dissolve decades of savings. James spoke truly when he said that we have no promise of tomorrow (4:14). Were you to lose all those things but God saw fit to leave you your woman, would you consider yourself a wealthy man, one who has obtained God's favor (Proverbs 18:22).

I hadn't thought of this before, but if I ask you in a word to describe Job's wife, what would you say? Shrew? Harpy? Wench? The narrative states that despite his devastations, Job did not sin against God (1:22, 2:10b). Not sinning against God meant that he did not mistreat his wife despite her mistreatment of him. It sounded like he even gave her a rebuke in love though he suffered greatly (2:10a). Now get this. They went on to have ten more kids together (42:13)! Can any married man die as "an old man and full of days" (42:17) unless he considers his wife to be his most precious treasure?

Here's the rub. We'll call it Rub #1. We treasure what we choose to treasure. There's no inherent value in any of the junk I named earlier. Sure the manufacturer will put a price on it, but that is not the value of the thing. It depends upon the person. It depends upon me. When it comes to humanity, our price is not dependent. God has declared us to be of infinite worth by creating us in his image. For that reason alone, we ought consider our wives of infinite worth.

Still, many of us do not. The mundanity of dirty laundry, morning breath and flatulence hardens us toward seeing our bride as common instead of as the unsurpassing treasure that she is. The day in and day out grind leads us toward taking our wife for granted and is why we must choose to see our woman with the high and lofty eyes through which God sees her.

You do this already? Good. Let me move to Rub #2. How would your wife respond if she knew she could do so with complete anonymity to the question, "Do you feel treasured by your husband?" You see, we can say that we treasure our wife but if she isn't getting the message, if she doesn't see that played out day in and day out, what good are my words?

So today treasure your wife! How? Here are a few tips:
  • Use words. Lemuel did. Go back to Proverbs 31:10ff and learn how to commend your wife. Notice all the areas he picked to praise his paramour. Give it a try.
  • Use the spoken word. Give her a call in the middle of the day and tell her that she was on your mind. Tell her you appreciate her because ___________ and fill in the blank. When you get home, commend her for ________. You get the idea.
  • Use the written word. Text her. Touch her heart. You don't know how to touch her heart? Then you best get to work, Bubba. Go to the store and find a card that expresses you appreciation for the woman she is, and then write your own sentiment in it, too. Don't just sign it. Go buy a stamp, address it and put it in the mail. Nothing quite like it to a woman to get a card from the man she loves.
  • Use touch. Kiss her. Hold her. Do this in front of your kids. Let others see that you treasure your wife. Open doors for her. Hold her hand. Touch her face for no other reason than she is yours and you get to!
  • Use your ears. Let her talk. Listen to her. Ask her what's going well in your marriage. Ask her what she thinks you guys need to work on. Hold her opinion in high regard and actually put your shoulder to the plow and get to work on the areas she thinks your marriage needs work. Treasure her by making your marriage even better than it is.
Really, brothers, the sky's the limit when it comes to treasuring our women. We're limited by our imaginations.  It's time to stretch those imaginations.

One last point to ponder. As easily as our toys and our wealth may vanish, so, too, might our bride be taken from us. Live your life with her so that if God takes her home, you will have no regrets about how you treasured her in this life, treasured her above all save our God and Savior.

Husbands, love your wives!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gone in an instant

"You do not know what tomorrow will bring."
~ James

In 1974, "Gone in 60 Seconds" told the the tale of car thieves. You run into Stripes to grab a soda and come out to find an empty parking spot. You have a car one minute and faster than you can say Penn & Teller, you're a pedestrian.

The Japanese know this full well. A beautiful morning. The earth trembles and the coastline disappears beneath the heaving sea. Thousands did not understand that they would face their creator in a few brief hours.

One moment you have a job, then your boss calls you into his office and you become just another useless bit of weight tossed overboard trying to keep a boat afloat.

God has warned us about life in a fallen world. The sun rises and sets with hypnotic regularity.  Surely, I will see the sunset tonight. In this world, we have to come to terms with sudden crises. At the beginning of May, the folks in Joplin, Missouri, looked forward to another normal summer. Today, they're still picking up the pieces from the tornado that bulldozed their town on May 22nd.

Dealing with such devastation is bad enough. Inflicting it is much, much worse.

One fateful night three thousand years ago, David strolled the rooftop of his palace. Before that night, in 2 Samuel 7 we read of God's covenant with the man after his own heart, a covenant to establish his kingdom..  In 2 Samuel 8 and 10, we read of the security and strength God brought to Israel through the hand of David and his strong leadership among his people (8:15). 2 Samuel 8 reveals to us the tender heart to this mighty warrior.  Then comes 2 Samuel 11.

From the rooftop, David catches a glimpse of Bathsheba in all her glory. Understand, David had other wives (plural) within his palace. Had he simply gotten his libido into a dander, certainly one of his wives could have satisfied him. But he lingered and ensnared himself in a devastating endeavour. James 1:13-15 in story form.

His consolidated kingdom became a place of chaos as rebellion burbled to life even within his own palace. Did the sins of the father lead to the ultimate demise of Israel (1 Kings 11:3)?

Here's the deal.  Do you really think that on that singular evening, David intended to bring about the demise of his kingdom and God's people?  I doubt it, but that is what he did. The pain, the death, the sorrow, and the agony heaped upon his head and the head of so many others for the oh so brief pleasure of sin for a season?

While none of us is king to a nation, your life has enormous impact well beyond the reach of your arm. You are one flesh with your woman. You may have sons and daughters who look to you to lead them toward the Lord. Many in the church depend upon you and your service. You are, if you name the name of Christ, his ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) to a lost and dying world in your neighborhood, in your workplace, and in your community. If you let your guard down for an evening, you may find yourself mauled (1 Peter 5:8).

Take a few moments and read this article by John MacArthur on the fragility of our character and our reputation, but I ask you to consider it in light of your role as a husband. Many of us will have to deal with catastrophe from the world around us, but let it not be so that catastrophe comes upon us through our own hands.

Gents, always, love your wives!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whispers of Lucifer: The lips of a PhD, part II

I can say anything. Whether or not anyone harkens to what I say depends upon whether or not it jives with reality. I can say it, but can I support it.

About a month ago, I began to look at a train-wreck of an essay by Dr. Keith Ablow of Fox News (essay here and my two-cents here) where he announces that marriage in America is terminal. We've gotten to a point in our national discourse where, when we disagree with another man's position, we just roll our eyes and move on. I would love to do that here, but considering the tires on my car will last longer than most American marriages, we must assess the merits of his argument.

In this section of his essay, Dr. Ablow points to the erosion of pleasure in a long term relationship as a key reason that a marriage cannot last.:
Once human beings understood that they could express themselves emotionally, romantically and sexually without necessarily creating multiple families and perilously dividing their assets, the psychological pain of living without sexual passion (even by choice) was significantly intensified. And, make no mistake about it, marriage that includes cohabitation is a really tough environment in which to preserve such passion. The vast, vast majority of men and women, in fact, are no longer physically attracted to their spouses after five or ten years (that’s being kind), if they have seen one another most of that time. Human beings just are not built to desire one another once we have flossed in the same room a hundred times and shared a laundry basket for thousands of days.
In a nutshell, passion makes the marriage.

He goes on to describe how familiarity not only lets the air out of the ardor, but it also sets us at odds with one another:
Very few normal people who live together for long enough want to keep on doing it. Roommates tire of each other. Sons and daughters grow up and move out. Siblings end up at each other’s throats.
If you want to find a more shallow foundation upon which to anchor your marriage, look no further than passion or pleasure.  Solomon had all he could have and cried, "Meaningless!" (Ecclesiastes)  Louis Jourdan in his role as Gaston in "Gigi" had everything a man could ask for from dollars to dames.  His conclusion?  "It's a bore."

The high octane kinematics that makes up an early relationship soon fades. What will replace it? This is where love comes in, not Hollywood's version of "ooh, what a feeling" love, but commitment--heart, soul, and body--to the good of another person. Does God's love cease for us? NEVER! Neither should our seeking of the good cease for our spouse.

Here's another thing, an embarrassment, really, to us as Americans. We can never know all there is to know about our bride. She is a person as deep and dynamic as you. She has nooks and crannies in her heart and mind that you have never discovered. You may have made your bed with her for a quarter century, but you do not know--nor can you know--all there is to know about the sweet treasure beside you.  That's why Peter tells us to "dwell with our wives in an understanding way" (ESV) or "according to knowledge" (KJV) in 1 Peter 3:7. We are to know our wives better than a PhD knows his thesis, better than Phil Mickelson knows the greens at Augusta. Even then, we should be stoked because there is so much more about her that we do not know.

And that takes me to excitement.  Ablow is right; the passion does fade, but that does NOT mean that it has to end. When eros (nitro-glycerin, sexual love) fades, it fades because we let it fade. To have a lasting marriage, we must kindle romance. Some thoughts:

  • What lights your woman's fire? LIGHT IT!! You don't know? Dwell with her with understanding--i.e. find out.
  • Get away. One of the surest ways to lose that loving feeling is to not date your woman. You find the sitter. You pick the place (not a sports bar unless she REALLY likes the food there). Have a rose pre-positioned on her plate.
  • Get AWAY. Ask the grandparents or some close friends to watch the kids for an overnight, a weekend, or longer.  If you haven't gotten away alone with your woman on an overnight or more, sir, you are missing out on some of the best time to have with your best friend and lover.
  • Talk. Yep, talk. Turn off the tube. Push away from the computer and talk to the filly that stole your heart years ago.
Is marriage doomed because we're now aware of one another's bodily functions? For many in the church and in our nation, the answer is yes, because we're shallower than a kiddie pool. But if we understand that passion and pleasure are byproducts of a marriage that is functioning properly, most especially where the man is loving his woman as Christ loved the church, it can last until you go home to be with the Lord.

The choice is yours!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A quickie

Did that get your attention?

Been up to my armpits on one hand and enjoying twenty-six years with my woman on the other but wanted to let you know that I hope soon to get back to looking at "The Whispers of Lucifer" regarding marriage.

A kick of encouragement that I picked up from God's word this morning (if you're ever at a loss for where to read in God's word, pick a gospel or the Proverbs; I'm currently in the latter):
"Rejoice in the wife of your youth."  Proverbs 5:18b
That brought a couple things to mind.  First, and most obvious, you're still married!  Praise God.  Marriage is for life. You know, 'til death do us part, and what God has joined together let no man separate. For those of you still in your youth, you can look upon the wife of your youth. For those of us longer in the tooth, our woman remains the same woman with which we walked the aisle; she's just got a bit more seasoning. Despite the years, she still is the wife of our youth. This is one of the reasons I love to call Tracy "my bride." One small nickname immediately spans our twenty-six years together and all the goodness therein.

The other thing it brought to mind is equally simple. Rejoice in her. A thousand-ish years later Paul told the Philippians to rejoice in all things (all means all and that's all all means). By definition, your wife is one of those all things. Solomon drives home the specific to his sons and thereby to us, too. Rejoice in your wife. Rejoice!

If you can't rejoice, that's a sin-entangled lie. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God's word, you can (and must) rejoice in the wife of your youth. Confess your sin to God and give him thanks for the woman who remains by your side. Seek his strength and his word and rejoice in the wife of your youth!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You know

Gents, in the last twenty-four hours, my heart has been burdened by two things.

First, Satan hasn't changed. He remains a liar, a murderer, and a destroyer (John 8:44). Not my opinion. Jesus said that. He said it about the devil's nature, the very essence of who and what he is. There is no good in him. He is irredeemable. His end is certain.

At the same time, this one masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He looks great.  The bill of goods he sells looks great. Tantalizing and tasty going down, but in the end, it morphs into death. Peter warned us to be on our guard (1 Peter 5:8) for this villain is even now seeking whom he may devour.

Husband, be on your guard because he wants to destroy you and your marriage (1 Corinthians 7:5). What a coup for the evil one to take those who profess to be part of the body of Christ and to turn their marriage before God to ash. Tracy and I continue to witness the devastation of marriages of those who declare themselves to be part of the body of Christ, and the ruin in the wake is horrifying.

This brings me to the second thing, a thing I read this morning. John wrote,
"And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."  ~ 1 John 2:3-4
If I am his, not only will I keep his commandments, but I will keep on keeping his commandments. I will persevere. I will not quit because she has become cool. I will not quit because her tongue pierces like an adder's fang. I will not quit because she has rejected my leadership. I must keep on.

A bit later, he says, "I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it..." (2:21a). Gents, those of us who name the name of Christ are without excuse. We have the word so readily available. The soldier who blatantly disobeys his commander will be court martialed and if it's on the field of battle, he may face a firing squad. An ambassador who disgraces his nation will lose his position. We are created in his image. We have been bought with a price, the priceless life and blood of God the Son.

Brothers, Satan wants to wreck you and your woman, but you know what to do.  Do that thing.

Love your wife.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pray for me

I'll get back to "Whispers of Lucifer" here in a bit. Dr. Ablow's article still has some things we need to be able to handle, but this morning I was impressed by something different.

I need your prayer.

My heart has been burdened to pray for my brothers in the church, brothers I know whose marriages are amidst tough times and brothers whose marriages seem to be thriving. Paul petitioned his people to be in prayer for him and his ministry (Romans 15:30, Ephesians 6:18-19, Colossians 4:2-3), and quite frankly, one of the largest ministries we have as husbands is to love our wives.

I just noticed on FB that a couple of friends of mine just celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.  The wife posted, "Twenty-eight years ago today, I married my best friend. I love you, Dave! My how time flies!" That doesn't have to be an aberration. In our church this week, a wonderful couple who loves each other and loves the Lord just crested 44-years in one another's arms. When I see and hear stuff like that, my heart soars!

At the same time, we are warned that if we stand we should take heed lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). Paul himself was concerned with being disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27) and even spoke of men who had done just that (2 Timothy 3:8). Some will turn away from the truth and wander off to myths (2 Timothy 4:4). Let this not be us!

To know the wonder of 10 years, 20 years, 28 years or 44 years, we need to know the wonder of today. If today is hard, press on through today loving your wife as Christ loved the Church because you know gents that in due season you will reap a bountiful reward if you do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9).

So back to the beginning, pray for me. Life's great right now, but I bet it will get hard some day in the future. As soldiers on the same line, watch my back as I watch yours. Pray for me and my woman as I pray for you and yours.

How to do this? A couple ways:
  • AD HOC - As God brings a man to your mind, offer up a prayer to God on behalf of him and his wife. Pray what you know about God's word regarding husbands and marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33 and 1 Peter 3:7 for two, in case you'd forgotten).

  • INTENTIONAL - Pray purposefully each day for husbands you know, especially those in your close circle.  Consider those in your church especially your pastors and their wives. Pray for those at work. If your a Facebook fiend (no, I didn't forget the 'r'), pray for your married friends as you come across them on FB. You get the idea.
Build up your own marriage today--on your knees.  And help another brother while your down there by taking his name before the throne of grace.  He needs your prayer.  And so do I.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Whispers of Lucifer: The lips of a PhD, part I

Having lots of letters behind your name and being held in high esteem by your colleagues and peers does not exempt you from saying silly things. That's one reason I appreciated non-science guy, Kirk Cameron, calling Dr. Stephen Hawking on the carpet for his assertion that there is no heaven, and I added my two cents on my other blog, Ripples Across the Pond. So when a PhD joins Cameron Diaz in saying marriage is dead, rubes like me need to stick up a paw, clear our throats, and disagree.

Dr. Keith Ablow's resume garners immediate attention. He co-authored a best-seller with Glenn Beck. Yeah, that Glenn Beck. He's a member of Fox News' medical A-Team. Name a talk show and he's been on it. So when he talks, people listen. That's why when he speaks contrary to God's word, we need to have a response as to why he's off his rocker.

In his article sounding the death knell for marriage, he brings up some very good points and draws some very bad conclusions. How do we respond to these things because husbands will be attacked on each of these points? Let's dive in. He starts like this.
Well, I’m not certain marriage ever did suit most people who tried it. 
Yikes. Where to begin? Let's try, "Marriage isn't a suit to try on but a commitment to make." It's a vow unbroken before God and man, an institution created by God for the good of his creatures. He makes marriage sound like brussel sprouts. I tried 'em. I hate 'em. Period. In no uncertain terms. I guess I'm not suited for brussel sprouts. That's not marriage! Marriage is a day by day promise that I make to my bride regardless of her conduct toward me. I love her.

He continues,
From what I hear in my psychiatry office, and from what I hear from other psychiatrists and psychologists, and from what my friends and relatives tell me and show me through their behavior, and from the fact that most marriages end either in divorce or acrimony, marriage is (as it has been for decades now) a source of real suffering for the vast majority of married people.
In case he'd missed it, labor causes suffering, too, but in the end, it yields a baby. My son gets his wisdom teeth out this afternoon. Guess who's going to be suffering, but guess whose teeth will thank him in the decades to come? We have this deluded notion that suffering is bad. An athlete must suffer great physical duress if he is going to attain the pinnacle of his sport. Watch the NHL or the NBA playoffs going on right now and in a matter of moments you'll understand that everyone of these gents have busted their heinies to get to this point. Ah, but the rewards of success! Anyone who thinks the fruits of a good marriage are to be attained without toil is delusional and likely pretty bummed about his marriage.

What else?

As a healer, I can’t help looking askance at anything that depletes energy, optimism, mood and passion to the extent that marriage does. It is, without a doubt, one of the leading causes of major depression in the nation.
Depleted energy? Dude, that's life! Optimism? Mood? Passion? Get your head out of the Hollywood sand! Optimism is a choice. Glass half empty? Glass half full? Your choice. Is what has befallen you a blessing or a curse? Your choice! What's your mood? Are you grumpy? Your choice. Frisky? Your choice. If I merely reacted to stimuli in the world around me, I would be a machine or little better, a plant. But I am a volitional human being created in the image of God and therefore I have choice.

Your marriage in the passion pit? Bubba, it's your fault. Make your marriage passionate. Lead your bride. Rekindle the embers of your first love. As the pages slide off of the marital calendar, that initial passion, what the Bible calls eros ("erotic"-- get it?), wanes and must be worked at. Nobody feels the same kinetic energy when they hold the hand of their bride of fifty years than the day they first touched. If and when they do, it is because they have worked at it. You want passion in your marriage? Then be passionate.

Here's the big problem with Ablow's ideas. He believes marriage to be passive. It all should just happen. God calls us to love our wives. There is no greater action word than that.

Like everything in life and like everything worthwhile, marriage is hard!  There will be "real suffering." Certainly it will deplete your energy, sometimes in a good way. From time to time, it will bring discouragement and depression. But the good it will bring to you and your spouse, the blessings it will lavish upon your children, and the strength it will give to our communities and our nation are without measure (Galatians 6:9).

A great marriage comes about because man and woman will have persevered through the storms and trenches in obedience to God and his word because they trusted that he knew what he was doing. The years of commitment bring about a deeper friendship, fellowship, friskiness and fealty than can ever be after a few weeks of smooth seas.

Stay the course despite the mad ravings of a renowned PhD. It takes a while for fruit to grow, but grow it will and sweet will be its taste.

More dismantling to follow...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Predator? Terminator? How 'bout both.

Nothing like a great romance. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were married for a thousand years. Never heard anything from them other than they had a new salad dressing on the market. Jimmy Stewart got married in 1949 at the age of 41, and though he had a hard time completing a sentence, the Hollywood icon completed his race by remaining happily married until his death 45 years later.

That was old Hollywood. You have to dig long and hard to find a marriage that lasts in Hollywood today. One bright spot was Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. Married in 1986, they endured the enticements of celebrity and politics. It proved to be a lie.

Last week it came out that Maria was leaving. Today we learn why. The body builder turned actor turned governor took liberties with a household staffer (here). Not only did he betray his wife, but like David, a child was conceived from his sin.  Ten years ago.

Gents, Ah-nold is--um--old.  He'll be 64 this year, on the threshold of Social Security. That means in his middle 50's he went a'wandering. What's to stop you? David had a couple of wives and still his eye strayed. What's to stop you?

You. You will stop you. The only way to love your wife is to choose to love your wife. That's why Paul commands it. That's why Peter commands it. That's why God commands it. That's why Job made a covenant with his eyes. That's why Solomon warns against it. If you think you are immune, THOU ART A MORON!!

The best way to NOT stray is to love your wife. Be enraptured by your wife. Today. Tomorrow. Twenty years from now should the Lord tarry. Delight in her as the Proverbs and Song of Solomon encourage. Purpose in your heart to satisfy her as the apostle from Tarsus demands. Love her and minister to her as God commands.

These things cannot be done in our own strength, but as we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and seek to please him in all that we do, he empowers us with his Holy Spirit and guides us according to his word (which we have been studying, right?).

Seeing another one bite the dust breaks my heart no matter who they are. Commit yourself day-by-day and moment-by-moment to love your wife. She is a good thing given by God to you!

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[Aside: I have heard from some of you that you have been encouraged in your relationship with your bride by what you have found here. If that's the case, let me encourage you to encourage the men that you know in their relationship with their woman. One way you can do that is by pointing them to this site as a way to spur them on on a weekly basis, another kick in the fanny to keep on keeping on.  Just copy the link from the address bar and send them an e-mail with the link if a post particularly blesses you.  Tell them that you hope it will encourage them in their marriage as it has encouraged you. 

Let us encourage one another daily as long as it is called today.]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Whispers of Lucifer: The death of marriage

Marriage is a dying institution. No, really. I heard it from Cameron Diaz two weeks ago.

Most children would know her voice as that of Princess Fiona in Shrek, but most recently she stars as the eponymous Bad Teacher, an pot-smoking, foul-mouthed, sex-crazed middle school educator.  It seems that she is of the mind that marriage is doomed.

What makes Ms. Diaz a matrimonial authority? Good question since her limelight hookups far exceed her age, she's never been married, and when last we saw Ms. Diaz, she was popping popcorn into the mouth of her boy-toy, A-Rod, at the Super Bowl. Oops. Did they catch that on camera? Seemed only fitting in Jerry Jones' personal Babylon.

Here are a few of her marital musings that Fox excerpted from an interview with another magazine.
“I think we have to make our own rules."
Oooo-kay. She must have missed some civics classes because most folks would call that anarchy and most civilizations that have tried to institute it have lasted about as long as Ms. Diaz' relationships.  Next please!
“I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."
They're cute when they're young, aren't they? This is precisely why children are not allowed to vote. Where to begin with that one? Do you get the idea that she's advocating an orgy from Orlando to Oregon? Old tradition. Yeah, that's true considering God Almighty put that one in place on the same day he created them male and female.  And unless God has left the building, methinks his institutions are still in place.  Next!
"Guys need women who challenge them and don't let them get away with their (stuff)."
"Yeah. YEAH! I am woman hear me roar." Sounds like Helen Reddy on a retro tour. We can assert anything that crosses our mind but fools we are when our conviction runs into the buzz saw of Scripture.  Solomon suggested that,
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
Paul, another one of those "old traditions" guys, said
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
If I'm faced with suggestions about how to live my life between Paul or Cameron, I'd flex to the former.

The little spiel on Fox concludes with
As for her romance with A-Rod? Diaz tells (the magazine), "It's really awesome."
Ooh, awesome.  What's that mean really?  Great restaurants?  Lots of great parties with other celebs du jour? Wild sex with no commitment? Or will it be coming to the end of your life, looking back and determining that it was all "vanity, meaningless, a chasing after the wind?" 'Zat awesome?

The gent who penned the post on Fox sums the trainwreck up nicely when he tosses in,
Just don’t ask her where the ring is.
OUCH!  I so wish I'd written that! 

Anyway, why am I bothering you with a misguided Ms. who makes more money in a minute than I make in a month?  Because this is what our entertainment industry is putting out.  These are not just the musings of some lass who thinks Gibraltar is where people used to get married. Hollywood has nearly dismantled what it believes to be a family. I challenge you to find a functioning dad, mom, and brood of chil'ns on any of the major networks. They're not there.

But it's not just Hollywood. Schools at all levels teach this. Such infection has seeped into public schools to a degree but by the time you get to the hallowed halls of the American universities, such ideology has ravaged the body.

When the same lie gets told often enough and in a myriad of ways, even clear-thinking folk begin to be duped by it. Take homosexuality. When I was a child, it was still considered sexual deviancy. Today it is a life-style choice. Largely because of the homosexual push in our country and the era of sexual liberation spawned in the '60's, folks are buying into the death of marriage. As goes the culture, so goes the church.  Just look at Europe. The bastion of biblical reformation is now stone-cold dead. Really, the only society that remains even remotely Christian in its conduct is the United States, and when folks like Ms. Diaz don't get laughed into seclusion for suggesting such tripe, it only shows that it won't be long before Christian America will become, like Europe, a thing of history only without the amazing Church architecture.

Despite such deceptions, the truth does not change. We must combat such inane notions with the Truth of God's word, the unchanging word that brings life and guides us in the intentions of God.  Unfortunately, a doctor (PhD-type) picked up on Ms. Diaz' blathering and dog-piled. It too surfaced on Fox. I'll be addressing that article absurd point by absurd point in the days ahead.

In the mean time, when you or your kids hear such drivel, hold it up to the light of God's word, and let it drive the darkness away.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How do I love thee?

If you missed Mother's Day this year, chalk that one up as a "lesson learned." No, I'm not talking about your mom (missing that one would be bad enough). I'm talking about not honoring your wife on Mother's Day.

"But she's not my mom!" you retort.

Spoken like a real man. She is, however and obviously, the mother of your children, oh ye of granite skull. Why not take any and every opportunity to honor your bride?

"Guess I never thought of it," as you scratch the polished marble of your forehead.

That idea may be as foreign to you as spending a day off shopping, but it's not to her. Which takes us to this:  How she hears love may not be how you naturally want to tell her that you love her.

"Huh?"

Gary Chapman wrote an entire book on the topic. He referred to how people hear or receive love as "Love Languages," and he noted five of them (the following is taken from his web-site here):
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.


Quality Time
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.


Gifts
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.


Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.


Physical Touch
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
The thing of it is, if your woman loves flowers and cards but you're trying to tell her that you love her with hugs, neck rubs, and foot massages, she may not be hearing you. If your woman aches to hear "I love you" and "I appreciate all you do" but your the kind of guy who knows your wife loves you because she's still there when you get home, then you're probably not going to naturally express love to your wife through words.  She may be the kind of woman that wants to hear it.  A lot. Then, sir, you need to buy Rosetta Stone and learn to speak that language!

What's this all mean? Find out how your woman hears "I love you." It's part of what Peter's getting at when he tells us to "live with your wives in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7). Be a scholar of your woman. Know what makes her tick. Grease monkeys get real satisfaction out of hearing an engine hum that they have taken pain-staking care in rebuilding. Husbands should get real satisfaction over building up our brides by lavishing the love of God upon them.

Gents, we are God's vehicle for smearing love upon the woman he has given us. She is a gift. She is a treasure (Proverbs 31:10). Let's take great delight in loving our women. The rewards stagger the mind and last into eternity.

And let's try not to miss Mother's Day next year. Or the anniversary. Or her birthday.  Or...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Prime Directive

You can't refute Christ. When he says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, that's what he means. That's why "law" is unnecessary in the life of the believer; his life should be driven and compelled by an overarching love for and desire to please Almighty God.  It's the greatest commandment because living it out leads all others to be superfluous.

Commandment number two flows right off of that. Love your neighbor as yourself. Both of these sound tap-in easy on the surface, but when we get closer to the green, we see the putt is really a 150-footer with undulations that would make Augusta National's greenskeeper proud.

As you've heard countless times, love is not a feeling; it's an act of the will. Loving God gets hard when the inky blackness of my selfish heart gets in the way. Loving others gets hard when, coupled with the inky blackness of my heart, I have to deal with the inky blackness of your heart, too.

Paul gives us another commandment, but this one doesn't go out to the general masses.  It goes to husbands specifically, and in many ways seems more daunting than the general command to love your neighbors as yourself.  It is this,
"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..."

~ Ephesians 5:25
Yes, there's more to the quote and I'll get to it in time, but notice the comparator that Paul uses--as Christ loved the Church.  I might be able to shrug off not loving someone so well because I might not love myself so well (a cop-out, by the way), but it is most uncomfortable to suggest that how I should love my woman should be on par with the epitome of sacrifice, the love of Christ for the church.  So extraordinary and far-reaching is this command to husbands that it is easily dismissed and ignored, but because it is so difficult and yet so needful for a marriage to succeed, it is the eponym for this blog and should be one of the life verses for every man who is married.

Over the weeks, months, and years to come, I will come back to this verse for I must remind myself of these things over and over again.  You must be reminded, too.

Because the "as Christ loved the church" part is so overwhelming and mind-blowing, let's focus on the first four words and the title to this blog, "Husbands, love your wives." Notice, this is a command and not a suggestion. Being God's word to his creation, this comes to us from the throneroom of heaven. Paul is merely the courier. His order to husbands? Love your wives.

You are on the front line in combat and you get an order direct from the general. How do you respond? More and more men in America drop their weapon and quit. Were they in actual combat, they would fall on a grenade for their compadre. Why will men not do the same for their woman? The enemy is not our bride; it's Satan and his ilk who seek your destruction (1 Peter 5:8) and the destruction of your marriage (1 Corinthians 7:5).

From God to us, "Love your wife." It's not a feeling. It's a command that demands action on our part.

"But I don't feel like it," we snivel. I challenge you over your lifetime to find one passage in God's word that ties this kind of love to feeling.

Love your wife.

"But you don't know my wife," we charge. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). While we were still rebels.  While we stood opposed to him. While we flayed his back.  While we clubbed him with bats. While we drove spikes into his body. No, I don't know your wife and you don't know mine, but I do know the darkness of my own heart, a heart redeemed by God long before I longed for him.

Love your wife.

"But you don't know what I've had to endure," we litigate. When we bluster about the wrongs we've suffered and the abuse we've endured, let's turn to Hosea. He was a prophet, a holy man of Israel. God asks him to marry a whore, a woman who's been with men beyond count. Hosea takes her as his own, loves her, and begins to have children by her. Gomer returns to her whoring ways. Hosea, at God's command, goes and buys her back out of her harlotry. God uses Hosea as a picture of his love for Israel. It is the same love of Christ for the church. It is the same love commanded to us as husbands for our wives.

Love your wife.

No loopholes. No caveats. Just a simple, straight-forward command from the One who loves us more than any other that we love (action not feeling) the woman he has provided us to be our helpmate, our bride. This woman we vowed to love before God and man when we took our oaths at the altar at some time past. It's long past time for us to stop quibbling and get to the business of obeying our commander. Only then will we come to know the rich and miraculous blessings that come to the man who loves his wife.

Brothers, love your wives.