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marriage

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!
January 06, 2009
Why Are there Never Enough Parking Spaces at the Prostate Clinic?
Carl Trueman offers more than a great (and original) title in this article about the Christian obsession with culture. “Plenty of talk about Christian approaches to art, music, literature, sex, even international politics. All very interesting subjects, I’m sure, and the topics of many a chardonnay-fuelled discussion after a hearty dinner party. But what about subjects that aren’t quite so interesting? Take street sweepers, for example; or hotel lavatory attendants; or workers on an umbrella manufacturing line. Why no conference on the Christian philosophy underlying these vital callings and trades?”
Mohler on Carson
Some valuable advice from Dr. Mohler: “Here is a simple rule to keep in mind: When D. A. Carson writes a book, buy it.”
Calvin on Knowing the Truth
Kevin Boling’s “Knowing the Truth” radio program will be featuring many Calvin experts in the coming days. Check the site for a schedule.
Calvin Audio Links
Martin Downes is collecting calvin-related audio links for those interested in hearing instead of reading about him.
Blake Hicks
Blake Hicks has an album (available on Noisetrade) called Songs of a Pious Heart. It is a tribute to Augustine’s confessions. You can read a review of it here.
September 03, 2008

Talk!Admiral Lord Nelson once said, “Every sailor is a bachelor when beyond Gibraltar.” They are profound words and ones well worth thinking about, and especially so in our modern context. I’ve written in the past about issues related to accountability and anonymity. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a bit about these issues in a way strikes a little closer to home.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who was asking if I think husbands and wives should keep secrets from each other or if they should even have private realms to their lives. This is a broad topic, but to narrow it down, we discussed just the issue of email and asked, “Should husbands and wives have full access to each other’s email accounts?” Obviously this might not apply to pastors or counselors or spymasters who may have a special need for privacy. But for the rest of us, I think it is a question worth asking and I’d love to get your feedback.

Should husbands and wives offer each other free and open access to their email accounts? Or should there be an implicit level of trust that makes such a measure unnecessary or perhaps even just plain wrong? Let’s talk!

Incidentally, this is the first of what I hope will be many opportunities to discuss topics in a more interactive way.

August 09, 2008

Yesterday Aileen and I celebrated our tenth anniversary; today we have the privilege of enjoying the wedding of some good friends. We are thrilled for them and are looking forward to spending the day with them and with their friends and family.

I thought about weddings this morning and was reminded of my cousin’s wedding I went to last year. It was a beautiful, classy, simple wedding. While the service was great from beginning to end, I particularly enjoyed the brief sermon which drew a startling contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God; between the love of the world and the love of God.

The pastor began by discussing a marriage contract drawn up by Albert Einstein. With his marriage disintegrating and already participating in extra-marital affairs, Einstein made a last-ditch effort to keep his marriage somewhat intact, even if only for the sake of the children. This is the contract he sent to his wife:

A. You will make sure

  1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
  2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
  3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, you will forego

  1. my sitting at home with you;
  2. my going out of traveling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:

  1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
  2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
  3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.

His wife eventually agreed to them terms. When he received her response, “Einstein insisted on writing to her again ‘so that you are completely clear about the situation.’ He was prepared to live together again ‘because I don’t want to lose the children and I don’t want them to lose me.’ It was out of the question that he would have a ‘friendly’ relationship with her, but he would aim for a ‘businesslike’ one. ‘The personal aspects much be reduced to a tiny remnant,’ he said. ‘In return, I assure you of proper comportment on my part, such as I would exercise to any woman as a stranger.”

This comes from the pen (and from the heart!) of one of the brightest men the world has ever known. It’s a contract just shocking for its boldness and its polite disgust; its undertones of anger. Just imagine the state of the heart that would write such a thing.

What a contrast to the wisdom of the Bible. What a contrast to Colossians 3:5-17:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What a contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God!


Much of this was posted about a year ago. So if you recognize it, that would be why!

October 01, 2007

Last week I went to Ottawa to enjoy my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful, classy, simple wedding. While the service was great from beginning to end, I particularly enjoyed the brief sermon which drew a startling contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God; between the love of the world and the love of God.

The pastor began by discussing a marriage contract drawn up by Albert Einstein. With his marriage disintegrating and already participating in extra-marital affairs, Einstein made a last-ditch effort to keep his marriage somewhat intact, even if only for the sake of the children. This is the contract he sent to his wife:

A. You will make sure

  1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;

  2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;

  3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, you will forego

  1. my sitting at home with you;

  2. my going out of traveling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:

  1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;

  2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;

  3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.

His wife eventually agreed to them terms. When he received her response, “Einstein insisted on writing to her again ‘so that you are completely clear about the situation.’ He was prepared to live together again ‘because I don’t want to lose the children and I don’t want them to lose me.’ It was out of the question that he would have a ‘friendly’ relationship with her, but he would aim for a ‘businesslike’ one. ‘The personal aspects much be reduced to a tiny remnant,’ he said. ‘In return, I assure you of proper comportment on my part, such as I would exercise to any woman as a stranger.”

This comes from the pen (and from the heart!) of one of the brightest men the world has ever known. It’s a contract just shocking for its boldness and its polite disgust; its undertones of anger. Just imagine the state of the heart that would write such a thing.

What a contrast to the wisdom of the Bible. What a contrast to Colossians 3:5-17:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

What a contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God!


I’m on my way down to Mobile, Alabama where I am going to bring a few reports from the Expositors’ Conference featuring Dr. Steve Lawson and Dr. John MacArthur. I hope to check in a bit later today…