This is a fantastic way to memorize scripture — by yourself or with your family.
Don’t have a dry erase board? Write on a glass door or window, or on a mirror.
I’d love to hear from you!
Don’t have a dry erase board? Write on a glass door or window, or on a mirror.
I’d love to hear from you!
This has been quite a year for me. My oldest son got married January 6th and my oldest daughter got engaged November 8th. My in-laws celebrated their 50th anniversary this summer and my husband and I celebrated our 25th this Christmas.
This summer, my dad spent two weeks in the hospital during which we feared he would never recover and this fall my faithful prayer partner’s young adult son passed away unexpectedly. My children’s last surviving great grandparent passed away in his twilight years this spring, while their youth pastor began the hard journey of life on his own, after losing his bride of almost 30 years in a fire last Christmas.
It has certainly been a year full of intermingled joy and pain.
Earlier this week when my husband and I were out celebrating our twenty-fifth with a delicious fondue dinner, our young, blond, single waitress asked us the secret to staying married for 25 years.
My husband shared with her the advice that his recently-departed grandfather had shared at his last anniversary celebration, when he and Bill’s grandma had been married for 70 years. Are you ready for his sage advice?
“Don’t get divorced.”
Yep. That’s it. That’s the secret to a long marriage.
“Don’t get divorced.”
It reminds me of a song from my favorite movie of all time, The Fiddler on the Roof. The main character, Tevye, a dairy farmer, “Do you Love Me?”
Golde has a hard time answering, replying in song, “For twenty-five years, I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”
Thinking through it more, and with some added prodding from her needy husband, Golde concludes that she does, in fact, love him, singing,
“For twenty-five years, I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him.
For twenty-five years, my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”
So, I agree with my husband and his grandpa, that the secret to staying married is, “Don’t get divorced.”
But let’s look deeper into the scriptures, to glean more wisdom from its pages, and consider 25 tips for staying married for 25 years …
Romans 5:1-8, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
1 John 4:9-11 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
If the Almighty, Perfect, Sovereign, Creator-God of the universe, can take on flesh, coming to earth as a humble baby and die a criminal’s death on a cross in my place to save me from my sins, then by the power of His Holy Spirit at work in my heart, I can say no to sin and yes to Jesus, forgiving and loving my spouse, like God in Christ forgives and loves me. Apart from His saving grace and power, I can do nothing good. And apart from His saving grace and power, neither can my husband. We are both nothing more than two forgiven children walking hand-in-hand down this narrow road that leads to eternal life. That’s the true secret to a joy-filled marriage.
Want to join us?
God has called you.
God has purpose for you.
God is with you.
God has placed His Spirit in you.
God has given you wisdom and faith.
God has delivered you and redeemed you.
God has made you a new creation, the old is indeed gone and the new has indeed come.
God sees you and knows you. He sees your hidden thoughts and deeds, and still He loves you.
God loves you with an everlasting, unfailing, eternal love.
God has demonstrated His overwhelming, boundless, undeserved love for you, a sinner, in sending His very own Son from the glory of heaven to live a humble life and die a painful death in your place.
God will never leave you or forsake you.
God will never take His Spirit from you.
God wants always and only for your good and not for your harm.
God’s commands are always and only for your good, because God is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-good.
We can always, always trust Him because He always, always keeps His promises.
God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of need.
Come, praise His name with me.
Come, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God with me.
You are not alone.
Almighty God is with you in this good fight of faith and so am I.
How can I help you in this good fight of faith?
Keller begins this chapter with a quote from Stanley Hauerwas, “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is … learning to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” (pg 147)
This opening paragraph jumped out at me because I’ve often thought that Bill and I should’ve dated longer before entering the covenant of marriage. In many ways, I still think that, but frankly, people change. We certainly did. Marriage changed us. Becoming parents changed us. Trials changed us.
The person you marry after dating for ten years, won’t be the same person after ten years of marriage. Certainly, we ought to do our “due diligence” to get to know someone before getting married, but we also ought to be prepared for that person to grow and mature in unexpected ways.
Keller continues, “Marriage brings two human beings into closer contact than any other relationship can bring them. The parent-child relationship is of course very close – they live together and see one another’s character – but there is a major power differential there. The child and the parents are on such different planes that it is easy for either the parent to dismiss the child’s criticism or the child to dismiss the parent’s. Besides, it is expected that children grow up and leave.” (pg 151) “While your character flaws [fearfulness, pride, perfectionism, impatience, miserliness, lack of discipline, etc.] may have created mild problems for other people, they will create major problems for your spouse and your marriage.” (pg 153)
As a child, I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality was really hard for my parents.
Then, as a parent, I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality has been really hard for my kids.
But I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality has been the most difficult for my husband. My struggle to humble myself and submit my will to his, has been the hardest for him to handle. Indeed, as Keller puts it,
“Marriage brings out the worst in you. It doesn’t create your weaknesses … it reveals them.” (pg 153)
I’ve often been inclined to blame all of our marriage struggles on my husband or to think that I must have married the wrong person. In reality, my own sinful pride and selfishness have often been the true culprit.
As Keller writes, “Marriage by its very nature has the “power of truth” – the power to show you the truth about who you are. People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses. They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of you heart – it’s marriage itself. Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it.” (pg 154) Ouch.
So often we balk when our spouse tries to share ways in which we need to grow. Keller urges the reader to “give your spouse the right to talk to you about what is wrong with you.” (pg 155) Often the very person who rubs you wrong, is the exact person that the Lord is going to use to conform you into His likeness. If your spouse reveals how impatient, prideful and selfish you are, it isn’t your spouse’s fault. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially if we still think that marriage is all about our happiness, rather than a vehicle to bring God glory.
Keller goes on to explain, though, that marriage has not only this great power of exposing the true flaws of your heart, but also to heal your deepest wounds. The powerful, unconditional, faithful love of a spouse can bind up the wounds of the past like nothing else. “We must learn to send love in forms that the other person can comprehend.” (pg 169) We each hear, feel and receive love in different ways. Sometimes we particularly need to receive a certain communication of love because a significant person in our past was inept at it. Sometimes we need a certain form of love because of our current life circumstances. “We tend to give love through the channels in which we like to receive it.” (pg 172)
“In the incarnation, God came to us in a manner that we could grasp. So we, too, must clothe our love in the forms to which our spouse can relate.” (pg 171)
Loving your spouse should be seen as a conscious action, rather than an involuntary feeling. We must transition from “falling in love” to demonstrating love. Keller then shares his description of several ways to demonstrate love, including affection, friendship and service.
But, as is Keller’s way, the author once again returns to the importance of practicing gospel-love with your spouse. In marriage, we see the immense power of truth and love intertwined, because our spouse knows our sin all too well, not like a physician or counselor looking in from the outside. Rather, they know our sins intimately and personally because they have been the recipient of our selfish, careless, insensitive actions.
This pain can push us one of two ways. We can either lash out in anger, telling our spouse how foolish, messy and selfish they are, destroying them with our truth-telling. Or we can fall prey to the opposite error: avoidance. We can stuff and hide how we really feel, affirming them with charming lies.
“The gospel transforms us so our self-understanding is no longer based on our performance in life. We are so evil and sinful and flawed that Jesus had to die for us. We were so lost that nothing less than the death of the divine Son of God could save us. But we are so loved and valued that he was willing to die for us. The Lord of the universe loved us enough to do that! So the gospel humbles us into the dust and at the very same time exalts us to the heavens. We are sinners but completely loved and accepted in Christ at the same time.” (pg 185)
Friends, Jesus knows us to the bottom of our heart. He knows our secret deeds and thoughts. And yet He loved us enough to die for us. This is true love.
Jesus was perfectly full of truth and perfectly full of grace. Can we do that, too?
This is the beauty of marriage.
The final sentence of Chapter 5 has new meaning for me today as my oldest daughter begins looking forward to her wedding day next spring. Keller ends this chapter with, “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.'”
Let’s pray together for our children and their future spouses. Let’s pray together for the newlyweds in our midst who are thinking, “I must have married the wrong person.” And let’s pray for our own hearts and for our spouses as we walk this difficult road of marriage hand-in-hand.
Hello! I have successfully completed Tim and Kathy Keller’s fantastic book, “The Meaning of Marriage.” I hope that you own this book for yourself. If not, I hope these chapter thoughts and highlights will encourage you to get one for yourself! You can click these links to read my thoughts and highlights from chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 and chapter 7 in my blog. The Kellers just released a couples daily devotional book that I’m hoping to read next year. Anyone else interested?
Keller’s answer to the question, “What is the purpose of marriage?” begins with the foundational principle that marriage is a friendship. God Himself exists as a triune being and God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.
In order to fully understand the mission of marriage, one must study the nature of friendship. Keller initially points out two particular features of good friends (transparency and constancy — “Real friends always let you in, and they never let you down”), but goes on to point out a third quality which he calls “common passion” or “sympathy.” Good friends have common interests or common visions, even when they have very different temperaments. This means that “any two Christians, with nothing else but a common faith in Christ, can have a robust friendship, helping each other on their journey toward the new creation, as well as doing ministry together in the world.” (pg 124) Christ is a common bond that can cement two very different people together whether in marriage or in friendship.
Friends should encourage and affirm, as well as critique, one another. “If any two unrelated Christians are to provoke each other toward love and goodness (Hebrews 10:24), are to affirm each other’s gifts and hold each other accountable to grow out of their sins (Hebrews 3:13), how much more should a husband and wife do that?” (pg 130)
Mrs. Kathy Keller, “often says that most people, when they are looking for a spouse, are looking for a finished statue when they should be looking for a wonderful block of marble. Not so you can create the kind of person you want, but rather because you see what kind of person Jesus is making. When Michelangelo was asked how he carved his magnificent David, his reply is reputed to have been, “I looked inside the marble and just took away the bits that weren’t David.” When looking for a marriage partner, each must be able to look inside the other and see what God is doing and be excited about being part of the process of liberating the emerging “new you.”” (pg 133)
Rather than expecting to marry the “perfect person,” we must recognize that we all have flaws and imperfections. Instead, we ought to see marriage as a deep friendship between two people working together to be conformed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Your spouse has got to be your best friend, or be on the way to becoming your best friend, or you won’t have a strong, rich marriage that endures and that makes you both vastly better persons for having been in it.” (pg 136)
If you see your spouse as mainly a sexual partner or financial partner or homemaker, “you will find that you will need pursuits outside of marriage to really engage your whole soul. In that case, children, parents, career, political or social activism, hobbies, or a network of close friends – one or more of these things – will capture your imagination, provide joy and meaning and absorb emotional energy more than your marriage. And that will be deadly. Your marriage will slowly die if your spouse senses that he or she is not the first priority in your life.” (pg 139)
“When some good thing becomes more engrossing and important than your spouse, it can destroy the marriage.” (pg 140) When you become the bride of Christ, you are expected to give Christ the supreme place in your life. God is a jealous God and He rightfully will not share you with another. Likewise, “marriage won’t work unless you put your marriage and your spouse first, and you don’t turn good things, like parents, children, career, and hobbies, into pseudo-spouses.” (pg 143)
“Marriage has the power to set the course of your life as a whole. If your marriage is strong, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are filled with trouble and weakness, it won’t matter. You will be able to move out into the world in strength. However, if your marriage is weak, even if all the circumstances in your life around you are marked by success and strength, it won’t matter. You will move out into the world in weakness.” (pg 144)
“Every page in the Bible cries that the journey to this horizon cannot be accomplished alone. We must face it and share it with brothers and sisters, friends of our heart. And the very best human friendship possible for that adventure is with the lover-friend who is your spouse.” (pg 145)
In thinking through this chapter again, I realize how wrong my thinking was as a single person. I had believed so many of our culture’s lies about the purpose of marriage.
If you, like me, are feeling discouraged after reading this chapter, let’s remind ourselves of what we KNOW about God. We know that God is absolutely faithful and absolutely good, absolutely sovereign and powerful and wise. We know that God’s steadfast love never ends and that His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) We know that “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) We know that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)
You can’t change your spouse, but with God’s grace and strength, you can begin to change you.
How can you begin to make your husband your closest friend and top priority?
How can you build common interests, in faith and in your daily activities?
We’re in this together, for the glory of God. TWIG
Forgive me while I jump ahead a couple chapters to present a summary of chapter 7, “Singleness and Marriage” from Tim Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage.”
I wanted to post a picture of me as a single, so here ya go. HAHA!
Well, not quite. I was twelve when I had my first boyfriend, and then maintained a steady stream of boyfriends until getting married when I was 21. Welcome to our Western society’s modern dating practices.
Keller explains that, “Somewhere after the turn of the century, modern dating developed. The word first appeared in print in this context in 1914. … As dating spread throughout society, it not only individualized the whole process, removing the couple from family context, but it also changed the focus of romance from friendship and character assessment to spending money, being seen, and having fun.” (pg 234) Yep. Pretty much.
To fully understand the context of Christian marriage, you must likewise understand the value of Christian singlehood. Have you ever considered the fact that Jesus Christ himself was never married? Clearly, marriage is not a prerequisite for a fulfilling Christian life. As Keller writes, “We should be neither overly elated by getting married nor overly disappointed by not doing so – because Christ is the only spouse that can truly fulfill us and God’s family the only family that will truly embrace and satisfy us.” (pg 222)
Christianity is unique in its consistent affirmation of singlehood. “Single adult Christians were bearing testimony that God, not family, was their hope. God would guarantee their future, first by giving them their truest family – the church – so that they never lacked for brothers and sisters, father and mothers, in Christ. But ultimately, Christians’ inheritance is nothing less than the fullness of the kingdom of God in the new heavens and new earth. … The Christian church in the West, unfortunately, does not seem to have maintained its grasp on the goodness of singleness.” (pg 224)
Keller encourages singles to learn to rest and rejoice in their marriage to Christ, because “the same idolatry of marriage that is distorting their single lives will eventually distort their married live if they find a partner. … Demote marriage and family in your heart, put God first, and begin to enjoy the goodness of single life.” (pg 227)
One blessing of singleness that Keller points out is the opportunity to grow in wisdom about the opposite gender. As singles, you can learn more about the unique strengths, communication styles, decision-making skills, life priorities and leadership styles of both men and women. Make cross-gender friendships and grow in wisdom. This will help you whether you someday get married, or never get married. God has created both male and female on purpose. Don’t wait until you’re married to learn what you can about the opposite sex.
But Keller is in no way minimizing the value of marriage. He isn’t. Rather, he wants to encourage a proper Christian worldview of marriage, different than the “traditional view of marriage” that life doesn’t begin until you get married, or the “Western society’s” sex-and-romance view of marriage.
Keller warns that modern “adults in Western society are deeply shaped by individualism, a fear and even hatred of limiting options for the sake of others. Many people are living single lives today not in the conscious, lonely misery of wanting marriage too much, but rather in the largely unconscious, lonely misery of wanting marriage too little, out of fear of it. While traditional societies tend to make an idol out of marriage (because they make an idol out of the family and tribe), contemporary societies tend to make an idol of independence (because they make an idol out of individual choice and happiness).” (pg 231) PREACH IT.
As a single, I fell into both of these traps. I have both made an idol of marriage, and of independence. To be totally honest, I wanted to get married, so I could have a husband and children to love me. I didn’t think I could live a fulfilled life without being married. Ultimately, marriage was all about me. I made an idol of family. Having a husband and children was the key to my own happiness.
What have I learned after almost 25 years of marriage? Rather than bringing me happiness, this idol-making, in fact, made me unhappy.
A husband is a really poor imitation of Almighty God. So are kids. Every husband, no matter how good, will fall short. Every child, no matter how terrific, will fall short.
No one can fulfill me like Jesus. No one can love me like Jesus.
In the process of revealing my idol-making self, God has taught me so many good lessons. Patiently and lovingly, God is stripping me of my own self-sufficiency and selfishness.
As Keller writes, “How different seeking marriage would be if … we were to view marriage as a vehicle for spouses helping each other become their glorious future-selves through sacrificial service and spiritual friendship. What happens if we see the mission of marriage to teach us about our sins in unique and profound ways and to grow us out of them through providing someone who speaks the truth in love to us? … Ironically, this view of marriage eventually does provide unbelievable personal fulfillment, but not in the sacrifice-free and superficial way that contemporary people want it to come. Instead, it gives the unique, breathtaking fulfillment of visible character growth.” (pg 232)
Keller wraps us this chapter on Singleness with twelve pages of “practical counsel for marriage seekers.”
If you are single, or are counseling someone who is single, there is such great depth in each of these points which I can’t cover in this brief summary. Please get the book and spend the necessary time to consider each of them.
Friends, God is good if you’re married. God is good if you’re single. God is good all the time. All the time God is good. He is working for your best in your singleness and He is working for your best in your marriage. We can trust Him in every season and in every circumstance. God is totally good and totally sovereign and totally good. All the time.
I love Timothy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. Each chapter is so full of wisdom and truth. In Chapter 3, Keller looks at “The Essence of Marriage.” I encourage you to buy the complete book. You can read my highlights from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.
“When the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive, but by how much you are willing to give of yourself for someone. How much are you willing to lose for the sake of this person? How much of your freedom are you willing to forsake? How much of your precious time, emotion, and resources are you willing to invest in this person?” (pg 80)
“Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family’s interests. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual’s happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees God as the supreme good – not the individual or the family – and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feeling and duty, passion and promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.” (pg 83-84)
“In a covenant, the good of the relationship takes precedence over the immediate needs of the individual. … Sociologists argue that in contemporary Western society, the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage.” (pg 84)
“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love, but a mutually binding promise of future love.” (pg 91) Keller explains that entering into a binding covenant enhances and supercharges the love relationship, rather than stifling it. Because the husband and wife have been bound in a “til death do we part” covenant, they can have a true sense of security to open up and be vulnerable. Because of their covenant, a married couple no longer ha to “sell themselves” or keep up facades. “We can lay the last layer of our defenses down and be completely naked, both physically and in every other way.” (pg 89)
“When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. … What you think of as being head over heels in love is in large part a gust of ego gratification, but it’s nothing like the profound satisfaction of being known and loved.” (pg 99-100) “
This reminds me of my immense sense of amazement that God would love me, sinful little ol’ me, so much that He would die for me. God KNOWS the REAL me, and yet, He STILL loves, pursues and sacrifices Himself for ME! Truly, this is amazing love! This is how God designed marriage. A husband and wife are to fully know one another and yet keep on loving one another until death parts them. Like Adam and Eve, we are to be naked and unashamed.
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known, and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” (pg 101)
“Nearly everyone thinks that the Bible’s directive to “love your neighbor” is wise, right, and good. But notice that it is a command, and emotions cannot be commanded. The Bible does not call us to like our neighbor, to have affection and warm feelings toward him or her. No, the call is to love your neighbor, and that must primarily mean displaying a set of behaviors.” (pg 104)
“If your definition of “love” stresses affectionate feelings more than unselfish actions, you will cripple your ability to maintain and grow strong lover relationships. On the other hand, if you stress the action of love over the feeling, you enhance and establish the feeling.” (pg 106)
In a radio talk during World War II, C.S. Lewis explained, “When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him less. … Whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less. … The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he “likes” them: The Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.” (pg 107)
Keller wisely explains how important it is to continue to deliberately love your spouse, even though your feelings rise and fall with the passing seasons. “In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite the lack of feeling.” (pg 111)
So often, as a parent, you sacrifice again and again for your child, expecting little to nothing in return. Your baby cries and dirties diapers and refuses to sleep, yet you keep on taking care of him. Your teenager rebels and argues and complains, and still you love him. “After eighteen years of this, even if your child is an unattractive person to everyone else, you can’t help but love her dearly. Why? Because you’ve been forced to operate on the Biblical pattern. You have had to do the actions of love regardless of your feelings and therefore now you have deep feelings of love for your child, however loveable she is or not.” (pg 115-116)
Consider applying that model to how you treat your husband or wife. Rather than giving in order to get, rather than turning a cold shoulder in revenge when they don’t do what you want, continue to press in to your marriage, performing the actions of love while you wait for your feelings to return.
Keller concludes the chapter by remembering Jesus’s faithful love on the cross, despite being denied, abandoned and betrayed. Jesus stayed on the cross, the righteous for the unrighteous, demonstrating His great love for us, saying, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
I pray that my marriage can look like that. I pray that I can forgive and love my husband like Jesus forgives and loves me. I pray that others will know Jesus’s faithful love more, because of the faithful love they see in my marriage. I’m so thankful that, even though marriage is hard, it’s a precious gift to me and to a watching world.
What do I KNOW?
I know God is unchangeable.
I know God does not lie.
I know God will keep His promises.
I know He is my refuge and encouragement and hope.
I know He is a sure and steadfast anchor.
I know Jesus is the perfect, eternal, faithful high priest who pleads for me before the Father’s throne of grace.
These things I KNOW.
How about you? What do you know? Let’s start speaking truth into our souls.
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV
Why do seeds form inside of fruit? Seeds form inside of fruit for their protection, so they can be dispersed and grow safely at the right time and place.
This is pumpkin-carving season in the good ol’ USA. Bill and I have been carving pumpkins, cutting them open and pulling out that yucky, gooey, seedy muck with our children for 23 years now. But this year, my oldest little pumpkin won’t be home because God is sending her out.
And it’s hard. But it’s also good. This is #mommylife2.0
I’ve spent the last 23 years investing into my oldest daughter’s life. I’ve prepared the soil and diligently planted countless seeds. I’m sure plenty of those scattered seeds have fallen by the way, but I’ve kept on scattering the seeds. I’ve watered and tended the little seedlings as they’ve grown, and now I’m preparing to launch my daughter into a new adventure in adulthood.
Seeds aren’t designed to grow on top of each other. Small oaks can’t reach their full height in the shade of giant oak trees. If too many tomato seeds are planted in one little container, they’ll choke each other.
God commanded Adam and Eve, and Noah and his sons, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28, 9:1). Likewise, God wants us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
The people of Babel didn’t want to be dispersed, so the Lord confused their languages, causing them to disperse. (Genesis 11:1-9) I’ve learned over the years that God’s sovereign purpose will stand and it’s really better to be a joyful partner in the journey.
He wants us to bear both biological children and spiritual ones. He wants the gospel to spread out from my little town in Mississippi to the shores of Florida. He wants the gospel to go forth to the metropolises of Russia and Hungary and China and to the villages of Mexico and Kenya and India.
And that means that dispersing has to take place.
So my prayer today is that those seeds that I’ve planted and tended will grow deep roots in the fertile soil of God’s Word, and that they will bear more fruit full of more seeds that will be further dispersed – whenever and wherever they land.
And I pray that my sunshine-sunflower girl will keep her face ever pointed to the One Perfect Sun, so that people would look where she’s looking – toward Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of her faith and the Lord and Savior of her soul.
Mark 4:8 ESV — And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Matthew 5:16 ESV — In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
John 15:4 ESV — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
I am continuing to dig in to Timothy Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage.” It is excellent, chock full of wisdom and encouragement. Last week I shared highlights from the first chapter. You can read those here. And let me urge you again to get your own full copy of the 300+ page book.
One of the most important (if not THE most important) chapters on marriage in the Bible is found in Ephesians 5. When examining Ephesians 5, Keller writes, “Immediately after discussing the Spirit-filled life, Paul turns to the subject of marriage, showing the tight connection between marriage and the life in the Spirit. And this connection teaches us two things. First, the picture of marriage given here is not of two needy people, unsure of their own value and purpose, finding their significance and meaning in one another’s arms. If you add two vacuums to each other, you only get a bigger and stronger vacuum… If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.” (pg 49-50)
In Ephesians 5, Paul charges both the husband and the wife with self-sacrificing responsibilities to serve their partner in marriage. Each of their responsibilities have unique struggles. The wife gives of herself in her submission, while the husband gives of himself in his love. But, both are servants, putting the other’s needs before his or her own.
And in this we see the gospel again lived out in our marriages. In essence, the gospel message is this: “You are so lost and flawed, so sinful, that Jesus had to die for you, but you are also so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for you.” (pg 54)
Please read that sentence again and let it really sink in. Let this truth impact your marriage, recognizing your own brokenness and need for help, forgiveness, love and grace. Let this truth both humble you and lift you up.
Humans “were created to worship and live for God’s glory, not our own. We were made to serve God and others. That means paradoxically that if we try to put our own happiness ahead of obedience to God, we violate our own nature and become, ultimately, miserable.” (pg 57-58) How true! And how often I see this played out in my own life. How about you?
The problem is that marriage is a union of two self-centered people. What ends up happening is that both people think the other person has the bigger problem. It is only when both spouses say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” that a couple can fully enjoy a great marriage. (pg 64)
So, what should you do if your spouse doesn’t recognize that his or her self-centeredness is a problem? Then, you have to work on you. You have to recognize your own sinfulness and selfishness and begin working on your own heart issues. And, once again, this is only fully possible through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you and by having a proper reverence for Christ. (Look again at Ephesians 5:18-21)
As Keller writes, “Only God can fill a God-sized hole. Until God has the proper place in my life, I will always be complaining that my spouse is not loving me well enough, not respecting me enough, not supporting me enough.” (pg 73)
Or in my life: When God fills my God-sized hole, Bill doesn’t have to. Ultimately, the solution to my marriage struggles isn’t found in getting Bill to fill the hole in my heart, but in getting my heart so filled with God, that HE fills the hole in my heart.
As Keller concludes,
“It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give. The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner’s joy and freedom on the altar of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul.” (pg 77)
Let’s journey on this road together, seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, loving others because God first loved us.