Covenant Vows

Today’s post is from Theology for Women, but this article is good for all husbands and wives to read.

Covenant Vows

By Wendy Alsup

A covenant is a binding agreement. Our world acknowledges a myriad of secular covenants, particularly in the financial realm. Financial covenants, like a mortgage or business partnership, aren’t to be entered lightly, and it is good that there are serious consequences to those who break such financially binding agreements. Economies can fail when parties default on such agreements, particularly en masse.

Secular covenants give us a tiny glimpse of the importance of spiritual covenants. The covenant vows of Christian marriage are a serious thing. We stand before God, friends and family as our witnesses, and repeat vows to another person. In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer. Til death do us part. The ordained minister of the gospel speaks a final word of blessing and warning, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

But in the 1970’s California became the first state to pass no fault divorce laws. What God had joined together became much easier for man to put asunder without Biblical cause or process. Soon, believers who benefit from God’s faithful covenant with themselves began taking advantage as much as unbelievers of the government’s easy path to undo such covenant vows.

Marriage vows are not the only covenants we make with another. My denomination takes the vow of church membership quite seriously. I covenant with pastors, elders, and other church members to pursue the purity and peace of my church. I covenant with them that they can count on me, and they in return covenant that I can count on them.

I’ve made covenant vows to my children as well. When I chose to bring them into this world and not give them up for adoption, I committed, at least in God’s and the government’s sight, to protect and provide for them. My commitment to my children feels a lot like God’s to Abraham in Genesis 12-17. God took both sides of the vow with Abraham. He would fulfill His covenant with Abraham because God was faithful, not because Abraham was. Similarly, I bear the heaviest weight of my covenant with my children. They may rebel, but I will remain their mother. They may run from me, but I will pursue them nonetheless. To do less would be to abdicate my responsibilities in their lives.

We tend to make covenant vows, particularly the marriage kind, in the filtered sunlight of a warm (but not hot) spring day. We make them as the sun shines and the flowers bloom. Loved ones smile warmly around us. And the ones with whom we are entering covenant welcome us toward them.

But the shining starts of our covenants aren’t the point of these covenants. They aren’t the reason for these covenants. The vows we make in front of God and family in our white dresses and tuxes, with filtered spring sunlight illuminating our pictures, aren’t for these days. The sweet days of filtered sunlight and happy smiles don’t require binding agreements to keep folks together. No one has to twist your arm to love your spouse, care for your child, or persevere with your church on such beautiful days glowing with the warmth of new hope and promise for the future. No, covenants aren’t for those days at all.

Read the rest here.

Don’t Leave Jesus Out of Your Marriage

Sharing today from Challies.com.

Don’t Leave Jesus
Out of Your Marriage

By Tim Challies

recently had the opportunity to speak and preach on marriage. This is always a tremendous challenge personally. There’s nothing like spending a couple of weeks deep in what the Bible says about marriage to expose my insufficiencies as a husband and to come face-to-face with all the ways I fail to be all God calls me to be and to be all my wife deserves.

More than anything else, I was challenged to continue to ensure Jesus is the center of our marriage. And that challenge came in what struck me as an unexpected way. I was studying the first bit of Paul’s great passage on marriage and examining the verses that pertain to wives. Paul means to bring order to the Christian household—“You’ve turned to Christ in repentance and faith, now here’s how to live as a distinctly Christian family saved and shaped by the gospel.” 

Read the rest here.

5 Things Not to Do in Your Marriage

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

5 Things Not to Do in Your Marriage

By Elisha Galotti

Romantic love never grows old. It’s a theme in classic literature, a thread through every Shakespearean play, and the storyline of countless Hollywood movies. But every writer, poet, and storyteller is only retelling a story already told. Romance originated with God. It is one of His amazing creations.

Even before the world broke with sin, the first man’s heart longed for the sweet romantic love of a bride. And God made him one.

The other day I said to my husband, “Imagine the kind of marriage Adam and Eve would have had before the Fall.” So we had fun imagining. They would have laughed so much. They would have enjoyed every moment together. They never would have fought. They never would have gotten irritated. They never would have been selfish. They never would have spoken an unkind word. Sex would have literally been amazing every time.

A perfect romance in a perfect marriage in a perfect world.

But then Eve was deceived, and Adam chose to believe a lie. In that instant, not only was there a fracture in their relationship with God but sin also infected the relationship between husband and wife. Romantic love—this gift created by God and given to His first people—was suddenly and forever changed.

Romance would never again be perfect.

The first couple began sinning against each other, and every wife and every husband since has known the same battle. Even in marriages that are loving, faithful, and happy, sin still plays a role.

Read the rest here.

The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

Sharing today from the Radical blog.

The Counsel I Often Give Young Married Couples

By Sean Gould

Have you guys had your orange juice moment yet?

This was a question my wife and I received over dinner with an older couple in our church. We had been married for a few months and were excited to spend the evening with an older and wiser couple in their home. This question, however, was a little bit of a shock to us. We had not received it before and certainly did not know what they meant. We stumbled a bit in our response and confessed we were a bit confused by the question.

They proceeded to tell us a story that explained the origin of this odd question. Many years ago when they were a newly married couple, they ventured out one Saturday morning together to the local grocery store. After walking through various aisles together and placing items into their cart they finally came to the orange juice section.

Read the rest here.

Marriage for Worse, for Poorer, and in Sickness

This is an excellent article from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Marriage for Worse, for Poorer,
and in Sickness

By Sarah Walton

I remember the moment I stood before my groom and recited my wedding vows. I certainly didn’t expect life to be perfect, but I assumed my marriage would be filled with more of “better” than “worse.”

With stars in my eyes, and blissfully unaware of what the future would hold, I confidently vowed, “I take you, Jeff, to be my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live.”

That was almost 13 years ago.

Trials Can Test Your Marriage Vows

Little did I know those thirteen years would hold chronic illness, financial loss, special needs, suffering children, marital strain, and overwhelming stress. I never imagined that I’d experience so much of the “worse, poorer, and in sickness” part of our vows.

I’m grateful as I reflect on the unexpected trials that have tested our marriage. In God’s goodness, the “worse” parts of our marriage have ushered in a deeper, Christ-centered experience of the “better.” This hasn’t come without the pain of loss and failure; yet Christ has used it to mature us in him, change our character, and increase our love for each other.

This, of course, is only possible with and through Christ. While God can certainly change the heart of a non-believing spouse and use the pain of unbelief to draw both spouses to himself, the following truths reflect a husband and wife who’ve put their faith in Christ and desire to follow him. If you’re married to an unbelieving spouse, I pray God will use the trials to draw them to a saving faith in Christ.

Read the rest here.

Enduring Love

February is traditionally the month of celebrating love. The following is the love story of a very close friend and a wonderful way to end this love month!

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Enduring Love

Boarding the Greyhound bus late, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space.  She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the dim overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald, and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the handsome stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first holiday weekend. She had just enough time to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter that may have materialized from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates; of enviable cultural and educational experiences.

Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The day he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with ebullient love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled; prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors any amount of trust and reliance, accepting minuscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20, NIV). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small amount of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith will gradually mature into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing amounts of submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16, NIV)
.

God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, designating us as His current disciples.

God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated nearly fifty years ago when He answered a dubious prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70 mph!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).

The Marriage Triangle: I’m Sorry #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle: I’m Sorry #LoveWins

by Anna Popescu

Back in the 1970’s, a novel came out, followed by a movie with the same name. Its catchphrase became very popular: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” 1 Remember that? 1

As I was deciding what love message to write this article about, that phrase immediately came to mind. So I have two questions:

1. How can husbands and wives live peacefully together if they don’t have to apologize for hurting each other?

2. If we do not have to ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, doesn’t that negate the death of Jesus on our behalf?

One of the realities of marriage is that husbands and wives will have stressful times of disagreement. We are human beings with an inherited sin nature, and as such we often have our own personal agendas. We want things our way because we each believe we’re right.

So, how should we react to something our spouse says that is upsetting to us? Bill and Pam Farrell discuss this in their book, Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti 2:

“When your spouse ignites the conversation, you have a choice. You can react and shorten the fuse, or you can diffuse the situation. At times, the best way to diffuse a conflict is to turn the focus of the conversation. When your spouse launches a verbal grenade, it usually has a compliment embedded in it.

One day Pam and I were talking about a project we were trying to get done at home and she said to me, “Bill, you are so picky.” To say that I enjoyed that comment would be a bold-faced lie, but instead of getting angry it occurred to me to say, “I wouldn’t have married you if I wasn’t so picky.”

When your spouse says, “You are impossible,” start humming the theme to Mission Impossible.

Lest you confuse this with sarcasm, remember that the Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

These attempts to cut the hot lead before the conversation explodes won’t work every time, but sometimes it is all the discussion needs to remind you that you are in love.

If diffusing the situation doesn’t work, what else can you do to resolve a dispute? Keep in mind that you and your spouse were brought up differently and therefore may react to certain situations in completely different ways.

Don’t Interrupt!

One of the hardest things to do in the heat of an argument is to truly listen to the other person without interruption. This is difficult because we immediately start thinking about what to say to support our own view, and often miss the true gist of what our spouse may be saying.

After 18 years of marriage, Rick and I are still learning how to do this. We are both firstborns, meaning we each are the oldest in our families. As such, we both have the inclination to assume we have the right answers to problems, and so we bump heads about certain issues.

Parents typically use their eldest child as an example when trying to settle arguments about or among their children:

“Why can’t you be as ____ (fill in the blank) as _____ (fill in oldest sibling’s name)?”

“We didn’t let _____ (fill in oldest sibling’s name) do that at your age, so why do you think we’ll let you?”

And as we and our parents get older, there is the tendency for our siblings ─ and even our parents at times ─ to turn to us to handle certain aspects of their elderly life/senior care issues. So it’s no wonder we firstborns think we are always right and that is the main reason we have a tendency to interrupt our spouse so that our opinion can be heard first, because of course we’re correct!

This does not just pertain to firstborns. If the first marriage between Adam and Eve had such problems, why do we think we should be exempt? The key is to find ways to diffuse problems before they become huge obstacles.

Humble Yourself

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
 

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others.

 Philippians 2:3-4

I wish I could remember more often to say to Rick, “We each have different ideas on how to get this done, but as my husband, I’ll defer to you to make the right decision because I trust that you want the best for us.” That simple statement truly gets his attention, which also causes him to put a lot of thought into his final decision.

If you use that trust statement, make sure you follow through. Go along with his decision without reservation. Don’t second guess his choice after you have already said you trust his judgment.

I need to remember how important this is because, as Rick’s wife, I am to be subject to him as the head of our marriage ─ just as I am to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (His bride).

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,
He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:22-24

Firstborns are not the only ones who have trouble with humility ─ we all do. We have an inherent, prideful tendency to consider only our own opinions so that it is difficult for us to see any other way. We need to pray for the humility to “esteem others better” (Philippians 2:3) than ourselves. That means we should listen to our spouse’s opinion/explanation carefully before thinking that our way is the best.

Forgive as Jesus Does

In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul writes this to the Corinthians:

8 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first,
for I know it was painful to you for a little while.

9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you,
but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways.
It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have,
so you were not harmed by us in any way.

10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience
leads us away from sin and results in salvation.
There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. 

But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

In verse 10 above, “…the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience…” shows us that we are to be sorrowful (sad) when we have sinned. And “…worldly sorrow which lacks repentance…” is clearly a warning not to conform to the world’s standard of whitewashing our guilt (or pretending we did nothing to be guilty about) rather than repenting of those sins.

When the Holy Spirit shows us that we have sinned against someone, we are to ask that person to forgive us as soon as we can. When someone asks us to forgive them, we must do so right away, whether we feel like doing so or not.

21 Then Peter came and said to Him,
“Lord,
how often shall my brother sin against me

and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you,
up to seven times, but up to
 seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22

Relationships need nurturing to grow closer and stronger. Marriage relationships require that even more. When husbands and wives are willing to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for the ways they have hurt each other, they are taking another step in loving each other the way Christ loves His Church.

Jesus loves us so much that He took the punishment for our sins on Himself. This leads me back to that catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” If we do not have to ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, it means that Jesus’ death counts for nothing, and we know that is not correct. If I were to rewrite that catchphrase, it would be “True love means forgiving each other as Jesus Christ forgives us.”

Forgiveness is one of the “key” words of the Christian faith.
If God had not included forgiveness in His plan for humanity,
none of us would enjoy life renewed with Him in heaven.
Without forgiveness there would be no hope at all. 3


1 Love Story, the movie; Love Story, the novel

2 Farrel, Bill; Farrel, Pam. Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences (p. 112). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

3 What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness? A Biblical Study