The Blessing of Marriage

Stephane and I were married ten years ago tomorrow – July 26th, 2008. It has been an amazing journey and I am grateful to God for my wife. Here are just a few of the things I have learned from our decade-long marriage:

 

  1. The importance of praying together. Steph and I pray together every day. As the saying goes, “couples that pray together, stay together.” Praying together is a constant reminder of our need for the Lord. Only Christ can supply the grace and wisdom we need day by day.
  2. How much God loves us. Marriage is to be a reflection of the type of love and intimacy we can have with God. Just like the marital relationship, our Lord desires that we enjoy a deep knowledge of Him, not just a superficial knowledge. In this sense, it is amazing to me how instructive marriage can be when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.
  3. I am a sinner. Ok, ok, I guess I knew that before.  But marriage has a way of exposing all those warts and ugly character traits that we used to be able to hide. After ten years of marriage, I am much more aware of my own selfishness, pride, anger and sinfulness in general than ever before. As a side note, forgiveness in marriage is really powerful. You probably sin more against your spouse than you do anyone else, but the gospel reminds us that we can “forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  4. As head of our home, I have a lot more responsibilities.  It used to be that I only had to look out for myself and my own interests.  Now I have a family that I am responsible for. Obviously, this is a huge change from my pre-marriage days, but at the same time it is a good change. And even though I am the head of our home (1 Corinthians 11:3), there have been many times where the Lord has told me – LISTEN TO HER – SHE IS MY GOOD GIFT TO YOU! These are the moments where I must submit (Ephesians 5:21) and listen to my wife.  All honest husbands will affirm the need for this.
  5. The Lord takes care of us. Just like any couple, there have been many issues that we have had to work through and deal with in our relationship. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In anything and everything, the Lord has taken care of us and has brought us to a new level of faith we could have never imagined when we first got married. Glory be to God!
  6. Our love keeps growing over time. Before we got married, it was hard to imagine loving Stephane any more than I already did. But after ten years of marriage, I can honestly say our love for one another continues to grow. In the same way, our love for the Lord should also keep growing and multiplying. I like how Peter puts it at the end of his second letter: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. (2 Peter 3:18)

To summarize, marriage is an amazing gift from God and is truly fulfilling. That’s not to say there won’t be trials and difficulties along the way, but a Christ-centered couple can always know that God will supply an abundance of grace in your time of need.

Where is God when I need Him?

Something happened this past summer that I won’t soon forget. My son John was playing on our front porch with his two sisters. I was inside the house but only a few feet away, watching through the door window. My memory fails me as to what exactly happened, but John started crying and immediately crawled over to the door and started pounding on it. Normally, I would have opened the door as quick as I could and grabbed him and consoled him, but instead I just watched him because I knew he was really ok  (I’m sorry if this sounds cruel to you). I watched John with great intrigue as he looked through the door window, screaming, crying, and wondering where his Daddy was. Here’s the kicker – I was right there on the other side of the door and had been watching him the whole time. You see, the sun was shining on the window pane in such a way that he couldn’t see me. I was right there with him, he just didn’t know it. Now, before you get worried, I did eventually open the door, picked up my son, and consoled him with a big hug and a kiss. This whole sequence of events only took a few moments to unfold but it did teach me a powerful lesson I would like to share with you.

All to often when we are experiencing pain and trials in life, we wonder, where is God when I need Him? We wonder if God cares that we are suffering? What we don’t realize is that God is right there in the midst of our pain. Just like the experience of my son John, we might not be able to see Him (1 Peter 1:8), but we can take comfort in knowing that God is with us. If you are a Christian, that means you are a child of the King, and the Bible assures us that God takes care of His children.

Two thousand years ago, God entered into our world and became a man. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Why did Jesus do this? Hebrews 2:17-18 explains. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

No matter what you are going through, always remember that you have a merciful and faithful high priest, who is not immune to suffering (think of the cross). God is right there in the midst of whatever you are experiencing and if you trust Him, He will see you through and you will grow in the process (James 1:2-4).

Making Sense of Evil and Suffering

Whenever disaster strikes, such as the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, or evil happens, such as the recent Boston Bombing, the question inevitably arises – why does a good and loving God allow evil and suffering in the world? This is an important apologetic question and one we must wrestle with as Christians. If you are talking to an atheist, it will no doubt be hard to dialogue. Most people are not atheists, however, and they bring theistic assumptions to the table such as the existence of God and His involvement in the affairs of the world. This means you have some common ground to build upon, at least with most people. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you seek to think intelligently about this subject and then dialogue with those around you.

First off, we live in a fallen world. The sin of Adam and Eve and the fall of man (Genesis 3) had devastating consequences on all of their offspring, including us. There is not an hour that goes by where we don’t feel the effects of the fall and we are most clearly reminded of this in the midst of tragedy.

Second, as Christians we need to grieve with those who grieve and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Evil and suffering are sobering realities in this world and it does not do any good to pretend they don’t exist. Sooner or later they are going to touch us in some way or another. It is critically important for us to be there for one another and to minister to one another.

Third, God is sovereign and governs the affairs of the world according to his purposes. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10). How silly it would be to think we could understand all the ways and purposes of God (check out Isaiah 55:8-9). Finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite, but we can have absolute faith and confidence that God knows what he is doing in our own lives and around the globe.

Fourth, God is just and merciful. There are times where God acts in such a way to judge nations and peoples. In our Wednesday night Bible study, we have been working through the Old Testament book of Hosea, where the prophet was preaching to a people on the brink of judgment. Hosea was warning his people (the northern kingdom of Israel) that if they did not repent and turn back to God, they would be judged. History tells us that they were conquered by the Assyrians and sent into exile around the time of the prophet’s death. Bottom line, those who do evil will be judged by God, if not in the present life, then most certainly in the afterlife. But we must always remember that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8). Time and time again in the Scriptures we see this. After sinning by taking the census, David said, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (1 Chronicles 21:13). Following tragedy, we often hear that it was a miracle that more people did not die. But the Christian already knows why – the mercy of God.

Fifth, in the midst of pain and suffering, God ministers to those in need in remarkable ways. Only those who have gone through the fire truly know this. And often God ministers through His body, the church. Christian’s are always on the front lines of mercy and relief efforts around the world. As ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are to be reflectors of God’s mercy to the world.

Sixth, God often uses suffering to sanctify his people. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). We don’t always like this, but God knows we need it and that’s why we can rejoice in our suffering.

Seventh, in the midst of suffering and evil, we must remember to give glory to God. Job is a great example of this. “Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Can we really fault the One who is the giver of all good things (James 1:17)? One of my hero’s of the faith, Jonathan Edwards died from a smallpox vaccination at the age of 54. His wife Sarah responded to his death in a letter to one of her daughters. “My very dear child, what shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.” Even though her husband had died in this unfortunate way, Sarah still gave glory to God.  

Eighth, the reality of evil and suffering make us long all the more for heaven. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have past away” (Revelation 21:4). And so we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Ninth, God suffered Himself. This is the most important point because it shows us the way to the gospel. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ suffered and died! Therefore, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Through his suffering, Christ defeated sin, death, and Satan. In essence, He conquered the powers of evil. He did not leave us in our helpless estate, but rescued and delivered us from the domain of darkness. Praise God!

Loved By God

Every Christian knows that love is important. The Scriptures are full of love verses and perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, is an example of this. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” What I want to explore is the question – how does love become a reality in the life of a believer? We know that God is love (1 John 4:8), but how does that love begin to manifest itself in the life of the Christian? I would like to suggest that it is a process that follows a somewhat predictable pattern. What follows is not intended to be a rigid list, but is more of an outline. As God’s love fills our lives, we can expect this 4-step process to happen in our lives.

1. Experiencing the Love of God

What an amazing thing to think that the Creator of the universe knows me and loves me. Have you ever stopped to ponder that? Because I am “in Christ,” God actually likes me. God is fond of me. God calls me His friend. God will never leave me nor forsake me because I am His child. This blows me away.

Many people have a hard time believing that God could ever love them. They know their past and they know they are a sinner. They are also aware that God is holy and just and cannot simply “wink” at sin and pretend everything is ok. Of course, the solution to this dilemma is the person and work of Jesus Christ. Through the electing grace of God, every believer is clothed with the righteousness of Christ. How can God love us? Because the blood of Christ covers our sins and we become a child of God.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) You mean God is actually for me? You mean God is actually pleased with me? God loves me? Yes, yes, and yes!

When we start to understand the love of God, it tends to overwhelm us. We can never fully understand it, but as we begin to comprehend the redeeming love of God, we can’t help but be amazed. God was not required to rescue us…..but He did, by His grace. Praise God. Praise God. Praise God.

There are people who have faithfully attended church for decades who have never come to know or experience the love of the Savior. They are committed to doing what they can to please God and to “do things for God” but they have never come to understand or experience the love of God. Unfortunately, all their striving and toiling will count for nothing at the end of the day. The bible tells us, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) In other words, they are disgusting. Why we would ever think God would be pleased with us, apart from the perfect righteousness of Christ? So first, we must come to know and experience the love of God, in Christ.

2. Loving God 

The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) God’s love always precedes our love. Keep in mind that loving God is not simply a matter of doing our best to keep the moral law. Some people think that if they don’t perform up to par, God will not accept them. It’s always our default position to think that if we do our best to please God, He will love us in return, and grant us acceptance into His kingdom. However, this is not a biblical understanding.

Ephesians 2:4-5 explains this amazing reality. “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.” Here we see that God’s love always precedes our love. Cleary, that which is “dead” cannot love. But as the Spirit of God fills our lives, we begin to experience the love of our Heavenly Father. Over time this love begins to be reciprocated. We gradually fall in love with the One who saved us. We can actually say (and mean it) I love God.

Clearly, love is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Just as we continue to grow more and more in love with our spouse, so too do we grow in our love for God. It’s true that we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) But I don’t think anyone would say they have fully mastered this. It is a process that God performs in our lives over months and years and decades. God turns our self-centered, world-focused hearts towards Himself, so that our affections and desires are rightly directed. Gradually, we begin to love God in place of the world and ourselves. Let’s praise God for this amazing work of grace in our lives!

3. Loving our Fellow Christians

If we truly love God and are born of God, it will result in loving our fellow Christians. As 1 John 4:20-21 explains, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” In using “brother,” the apostle John simply means a fellow Christian. What this tells us is that there are certain outcomes we can expect to see when we truly love God, and this is one of them. We are deluded if we claim to love God, yet fail to love and serve our brother in Christ.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) This is a remarkable statement. Instead of trying to take advantage of one another, disciples of Jesus will strive to love and serve one another. The world can’t help but take notice of this.

The apostle Paul expands on this by listing several ways we can serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13) It’s safe to say, we have a high calling as Christians. We are responsible not only to God, but also to the saints in Christ. Our love for God will manifest itself in love for fellow Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean that love among the brethren is where the love stops? You already know the answer to that question. As Paul writes, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Simply put: do good to everyone, especially our brothers in Christ.

4. Loving the World Around Us

Part of “loving the world around us” is sharing the greatest news in the world with them. The apostle Paul is a good example of this. He writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:4-5) This is the gospel in a nutshell. Paul could have kept it to himself, but he didn’t. He chose to share what was so graciously delivered to him – the good news of Jesus Christ.

The people of God are spread out all over the world, which means we live among the heathen. Whether at work or home, there are non-Christians around you. This is not something to be fearful of, but something to embrace. God has placed you in a particular context for a reason and He will use you, if only you are willing. All too often, Christians cut themselves off from the outside world. They are not willing to do the hard (and sometimes messy) work of building relationships with those around them. This means they won’t have the opportunity to share the love of God, which is very unfortunate.

If you are a follower of Christ, that means someone in your life loved you enough to share the gospel with you. We can praise God for sending messengers into our lives – people who were willing to tell us the truth about God, man, sin, and salvation. My question for you is this – are you willing to be a messenger of truth? The bible teaches that it is not the messenger who does the saving – that’s God’s work. But if you are willing, God will use you as a bearer of good news. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15)

There are many ways we can love and serve our neighbors. I want to in every way encourage this. But perhaps the most loving thing you can do is to share Jesus Christ with the world around you. After all, it is only Christ who can save us from the power of death and it’s only Christ who gives us the hope of eternal life. You have a unique circle of friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors, which means you have a unique opportunity. It’s not an accident you are where you are today. Why not pass on the truth that was so graciously delivered to you?

And so we see, what starts with experiencing the love of God, manifests in us loving those around us. As God transforms our lives, we begin to love our neighbor as ourself. Why not spread the love?

The Gift of Marriage

Stephane and I were married four years ago today – July 26th, 2008. I am grateful to God for my wife and I would like to share some of the things I have learned from our marriage:

1. The importance of praying together.  Steph and I pray together every day. As the saying goes, “couples that pray together, stay together.” Praying together is a constant reminder that Christ must be at the center of our marriage. I love our wedding theme verse: “a triple-braided cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

2. How much God loves us.  Marriage is to be a reflection of the type of love and intimacy we can have with God. Just like the marital relationship, our Lord desires that we enjoy a deep knowledge of Him, not just a superficial knowledge. In this sense, it is amazing to me how instructive marriage can be when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.

3. I am a sinner.  Ok, ok, I guess I knew that before.  But marriage has a way of exposing all those warts and ugly character traits that we used to be able to hide. After a few years of marriage, I am much more aware of my own selfishness, pride, and sinfulness in general than ever before.

4. As head of our home, I have a lot more responsibilities.  It used to be that I only had to look out for myself and my own interests.  Now I have a family that I am responsible for.  Obviously, this is a huge change from my pre-marriage days, but at the same time it is a good change. And even though I am the head of our home (1 Corinthians 11:3), there have been many times where the Lord has told me – LISTEN TO HER – SHE IS MY GOOD GIFT TO YOU! These are the moments where I must submit (Ephesians 5:21) and listen to my wife.  All honest husbands will affirm the need for this.

5.  The Lord takes care of us.  There have been many issues that we have had to deal with in our relationship (just like any couple), but the Lord has taken care of us every step of the way.  God has brought us to a new level of faith we could have never anticipated four years ago. To God be the glory, great things he has done!

6.  Our love keeps growing over time.  Before we got married, it was hard to imagine loving Stephane any more than I already did. But after four years of marriage, I can honestly say our love for one another just keeps on growing. This is a reminder that our love for the Lord should also keep growing and multiplying.

To summarize, marriage is a gift from God and can be incredibly rewarding when you keep Christ at the center of it. I am not saying there won’t be trials and difficulties along the way, but a Christ-centered couple can always trust that God will see you through and give you grace in your time of need.