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marriage

November 20, 2010

A few days ago Randy Alcorn posted a quote from a book I’ve often recommended—William Farley’s Gospel-Powered Parenting. In this brief excerpt Farley says that your marriage preaches, that it exists to declare something. And here is what he says:

“This mystery [marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Here is Paul’s point. From before time began, God had marriage on his mind. He was preparing a bride for his Son, whom he would marry forever. It would take the crucifixion and resurrection of the Groom to bring this marriage to pass. Think of it. God created the most intimate human relationship, marriage, to speak of the intimacy of his relationship with his church.

God created the institution of human marriage to reflect, or mirror forth, this eternal union. In other words, human marriage exists to point men and angels to the eternal marriage of Christ and his church. The gospel made this divine marriage possible. Here is our point: human marriage exists to preach the gospel. It exists to illustrate the fruit that should follow the preaching of the gospel in the church.

To whom does our marriage preach? Of course, the first audience is God and his angels. They watch and rejoice, or if our marriage is a war zone, they grieve.

Who is the second audience? Most of us think first about our non-Christian neighbors. Maybe they will see our attempts to model Christian marriage and want the gospel? They might, and we hope they will, but actually they are the third audience.

The second audience, usually overlooked by most Christians, is our children. What is our marriage telling them about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.

The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, “I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it.” Or, “When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents’ marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds its joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father.”

March 22, 2010

You know the words of Genesis 2:18. There God, having completed his work of Creation, having declared the excellence of all that he has made, says “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” It is useful to consider the context of the creation of Adam’s helper. God declared that it was not good for the man to be alone and that he had need of a helper. And yet he did not, at that moment, create such a helper and neither, as far as we know, did he say anything about this to Adam. Instead, he commanded Adam to name the animals. And he was obviously not just to name them, but to consider and evaluate each one. And as he did so, he must have realized that none of them were like him—none bore the image of God. An ache of loneliness must have developed within as he studied and pondered and realized that he was so much different from each of them. And there, in that context, God caused Adam to fall asleep and from his own body created a woman. And when Adam opened his eyes it is no wonder that he burst into praise. He looked upon this woman and saw at last his companion, his helper, and he cried out

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.

It was after coming to an understanding of his loneliness, his incompleteness, that Adam was able to offer God heartfelt praise for such great provision. Having experienced loneliness even in perfection, he knew the greatness of his gift.

December 04, 2009

This is the fifth and final part of this series on leadership in the home. You can read the first part here, the second part here, the third part here and the fourth part here. Having looked at the husband’s responsibilities in leadership and protection, we turn today to provision.

December 03, 2009

This is the fourth article in a series dealing with leadership in the home. You can read the first part here, the second part here and the third part here. We’ve seen a brief defense of male headship and we’ve seen that God calls men to be leaders in the home. Today we look at the husband’s role in protection.

December 02, 2009

This is the third article in a series dealing with leadership in the home. You can read the first part here and the second part here. As we saw yesterday, a husband is called to lead his wife. Though this is an unpopular statement in this day and in this culture, it is one that Christians must affirm. Male headship is taught so clearly in Scripture that to deny it leaves us prone to fall into any number of other radically false teachings. If we can read the Bible and walk away denying male headship, we can walk away denying any doctrine that offends our sensibilities.

December 01, 2009

Yesterday I began a series dealing with leadership in the home (read part one). Today I want to continue the series by providing a brief (and undoubtedly inadequate) defense of male headship.

November 30, 2009

This is a series about leadership in the home. It is geared specifically to men and I hope it will be of some use to guys of any age though perhaps it will be most at home in the hands of young men—those who are newly married or those who are to be married in the near future. I hope it is also the kind of series that a wife can pass to her husband and say, “Honey! Read this and tell me what you think of it…” When the series is complete I will put it together into a PDF file to make it easier to share in that way.

August 17, 2009

Just about a week ago Aileen and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. The Lord has been kind to us and, though in many ways we feel like we’re just getting started, at the same time we can look back on an ever-lengthening legacy of God’s faithfulness to us. Last week I paused a few times to think about the last eleven years and began to wonder what I would say if I could go back and talk to that young twenty-one year-old man guy as he stood at the front of the church, awaiting the arrival of his bride. I thought about some of the lessons I’ve learned in eleven years of marriage—some of the things I wish I could have known earlier. And then I jotted them down. Here they are, the things I would offer as counsel to myself, eleven years ago:

Be a Leader!. Leadership is not an easy task and, while God calls a husband to lead his family, at the same time the man has to learn how to lead and to prove himself worthy of the position. While it is a position he is given by God, it is a position he also has to earn. When I married I was young and totally unsuited for any kind of leadership. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that God wanted me to lead my family as the husband and father and a few years more to realize that Aileen really wanted me to lead as well. I was greatly encouraged when, just a few weeks ago, she shared with me how she has seen me grow as a leader, and especially as a spiritual leader. Anything I’ve learned in this area has come with difficulty and has come by God’s grace.

If I could go back, I would counsel myself to be a better and more confident head of the household and to take this position earlier in our marriage. For too many years I led too little.


Invest Early, Invest Often!. This may apply to finances, but I am thinking of it here in terms of spiritual matters. As a poor leader, I invested far too little time, early in our marriage, to building a spiritual foundation. It has taken us years to feel truly comfortable with one another in sharing spiritual struggles and even in spending time reading the Bible and praying together (as just a couple—family devotions have come much more naturally). Like many men I’ve spoken to, it often seems that it’s easier to pray with a complete stranger than with my wife. If I look back in another eleven years, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are still learning here,

If I could do it all again, I would ensure that we learned very early on to spend time together before the Lord. I would be a better leader in investing early and investing often.


Prepare to Hurt and Be Hurt!. One of the greatest ironies and the greatest tragedies of marriage is that a husband and wife have more opportunities to sin against one another than against anyone else in all the world. Over the course of eleven years of marriage, I have hurt Aileen more than anyone else and have sinned against her more than I’ve sinned again anyone else. I suppose this means that marriage also offers unparalleled opportunities to extend forgiveness and to choose to overlook sin. While Aileen and I have had our share of struggles over the years, I truly believe that we carry no bitterness toward one another. Through God’s grace we have offered and received forgiveness time and time again. And through his grace we have overlooked many an offense. Yet there have been many occasions when we have hurt one another and when we have let this wounds fester for just a little too long.

If I could go back, I would prepare myself to be hurt and, even more, would seek to emphasize kindness and forbearance and grace so that I could hurt my wife far less often.


Be an Encourager! I can be such a jerk. As Dave Harvey said so well in When Sinners Say ‘I Do’, “the more you get to know me, the more you’ll admire my wife.” I find it so much easier to criticize than to encourage, to tear down rather than build up. For so many years of my marriage I spent far more time telling Aileen what she hadn’t done or who she hadn’t become instead of encouraging her for all the evidences of God’s grace I saw in her. Even today it remains a struggle as my mind always tends toward the negative (and because, somehow, all my nagging to this point has not produced the perfection I seem to expect). It has taken me a long time to become an encourager and even now I am prone to see evil sooner than I see good.

If I were to go back, I would counsel myself to seek to build encouragement as more of a foundation in our marriage. I would seek to learn more about encouragement and would seek to learn it much sooner.


Be Realistic! You knew that sex had to come into the discussion sooner or later. There is no doubt that sex is one of God’s greatest gifts within marriage and, probably for that very reason, it is also one of the greatest struggles. Having spoken to many others about this, I think it is safe to say that for a lot of couples, and perhaps even most couples, the majority of their fights or arguments or disagreements, especially during certain stages of life, will revolve around sex. The vulnerability of sex, the joy of sex, the uniqueness of sex, give endless opportunities for both joy and hurt. Anyone who approaches marriage thinking that sex will be all joy will be sorely disappointed.

If I could go back, I would counsel myself to be realistic and to learn this lesson sooner. And I would counsel myself to learn patience and kindness in this area.


Learn Her Language!. I’ve never read that book about “love languages,” but I do like the phrase it revolves around. Each of us have certain ways we tend to express love and certain ways we like to have love expressed to us. It took me far too long to learn that many of the ways I expressed love for Aileen were ways that she did not understand; often she did not even understand them to be expressions of my love. I loved her in ways I wanted to be loved rather than in ways she needed to be loved. In one sense this was my own naivete, but in another sense it was a kind of deliberate ignorance. I simply refused to find out how she needed me to express love to her.

Were I to go back, I would counsel myself to spend more time seeking to understand how I could express to her my love and affection; I would learn to speak her language sooner and I would learn to speak it better.

I guess there is a lot more I would say than all of this. I would reassure myself that in standing there, waiting to receive my bride, I was doing the right thing (not that I ever had any doubt) and that God truly was going to bless this union. Maybe I would whisper that all those things we had heard from the elderly couples in our church were actually true: that after a decade of marriage we would love one another more than even on our wedding day and that marriage truly is a great gift of God and that we truly would find great joy in it and that God would use this marriage to mold and shape us into his image.

And yet I know that even if I told myself all of these things, there would still be lessons I would have to learn a decade later. I suppose this is how God helps us grow; he teaches us a little bit at a time as we are prepared to receive and apply the lessons. And some lessons can only be learned by first-hand experience.

I’d love to know, what are some of the lessons you’d try to get through to yourself if you could go back and counsel yourself on the day of your wedding?

January 18, 2009

Yesterday I was reading Michael Haykin’s new book The Christian Lover (review coming soon) which is a compilation of Christian love letters. Well, all but one. This is a remarkable letter sent from Adoniram Judson to John Hasseltine, the father of Ann, the woman he wished to marry. In this letter he asks John for Ann’s hand, but, as he intends to head to Burma to serve as a missionary, he is forthright in his request. It is a remarkable letter. Here is an excerpt:

… I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to see her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

John consented even to this and Adoniram and Ann were soon married and lived out their days in Burma. Six years passed before they saw their first convert; by the time Adoniram died, there were 8,000 believers gathered in sixty-three churches.

January 07, 2009
On Our Watch
Ray Ortlund has six valuable suggestions on how to combat the shocking biblical illiteracy that exists in the church today.
God’s Problem
This is a thoroughly enjoyable review of Bart Ehrman’s book God’s Problem written by William Willimon.
Updates @ DR
Yesterday we added quite a few new reviews to Discerning Reader (as we do most Tuesdays). Why not check in to see if there is something there that interests you?
Atheists Play Their Hand: Probability
Dr. Mohler covers the bizarre and completely non-threatening advertising campaign by British atheists—placing billboards on buses saying “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Mohler: “I must admit that I find the British campaign nearly humorous. In any event, it is certainly not threatening to the Christian message. No one is really likely to be converted to atheism by seeing a sign on a bus — and almost certainly not by a sign that declared that “there’s probably no God.” Probably?”
The Best of Boundless Webzine
Boundless gives a roundup of their most popular articles in 2008. There are some good ones there if you care to take the time to look through them.
Deal of the Day: Sponsor a Child, Get a Gift Certificate
I almost feel bad linking to this as the deal somehow just seems wrong. But here it is. “If you sponsor a child online today and make your first month’s payment by credit or debit card, you’ll receive a $25 gift card for Christianbook.com.” So if you’ve been considering sponsoring a child through Compassion, this is as good a time as any to begin!

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