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.

The Marriage Triangle: The Power of Prayer #LoveWins

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

Devote yourselves to prayer 
with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 

Colossians 4:2, NLT

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit my children who live about two hours away. Before I drove off, Rick and I held hands while he prayed over me. This always makes me feel completely covered by God’s love and care, as well as Rick’s. To me, this is no small thing.

Rick and I also pray together before we leave on a trip, or when we go for a motorcycle ride, asking God to bless us during our travels.

Prayer is so important that Jesus made a point of teaching us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-15, NKJVLet’s talk about different ways we can pray as a married couple.

Let’s first take another look at the Marriage Triangle. If husbands and wives are keeping our eyes focused on Jesus, we will want to pray for His will in our lives. What happens because of that is the more time we each spend focusing on Jesus and His will and plan for both of us, the better and closer our relationship with Jesus will become. And the closer we walk with Jesus, the closer we get to each other. Prayer is an integral part of His plan for us.

Praying together for each other

 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.
Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 
James 5:13, NLT

I touched on this above. Spouses can pray for each other before they are about to be apart. This doesn’t just mean when one spouse will be traveling and the other one is staying home. How about praying before you each leave for work? Or if the wife works as a stay-at-home mom, her husband can pray for her day with the children as she prays for his day at work.

Is one of you struggling with something in your life? Share it with your spouse so you can pray about it together.

The same holds true when exciting things are happening. Praise God together in prayer. God loves it when we acknowledge the wonderful things He is doing in and through us!

Praying for each other separately

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other
so that you may be healed.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person

has great power and produces wonderful results.
Elijah was as human as we are,

and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall,
none fell for three and a half years!
Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain

and the earth began to yield its crops.
James 5:16-18, NLT

Husbands and wives should pray for each other on a daily basis. What great things do you see your husband doing as he seeks to live as the Lord wants him to? It is a nice gesture to let your spouse know how much you appreciate the way they are walking with the Lord, but how about also lifting her up to the Lord in prayer? Thank Him for the blessing of her in your life.

Let’s go back to the idea that your spouse is struggling with something that’s going on in his life. Even though you have both prayed about this together, continue to lift it up to the Lord in your private prayers for him.

He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no intercessor;
therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
Isaiah 59:16, NKJV

Intercessory prayer on behalf of another is an excellent way to seek God’s will for the other person.

“Quite simply, intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others. The role of mediator in prayer was prevalent in the Old Testament, in the cases of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the ultimate intercessor, and because of this, all Christian prayer becomes intercession since it is offered to God through and by Christ. Jesus closed the gap between us and God when He died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ mediation, we can now intercede in prayer on behalf of other Christians or for the lost, asking God to grant their requests according to His will.” 1

Praying even when it feels awkward

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.
Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers
for all believers everywhere.
Eph 6:18, NLT

I don’t think prayer comes easily to anyone but like most things, the more you pray the more comfortable you become with it. Before you know it, praying becomes second nature to you.

Think of prayer as a conversation between you and God. Talk to Him as if He is right next to you, because He actually is! We cannot see him with our eyes now but we can feel Him in our heart. In fact, the Lord knows what is in your heart but loves to hear you say it to Him. And isn’t that the way marriage is too? We know our spouse loves us but I don’t know anyone who does not like to hear that said out loud.

Pray for specific issues separately and together

When there are big decisions to be made, prayer should always be at the center of those considerations. Pray for what God wants you to do – together as a couple and also separately.

Years ago Rick and I started praying about moving out of California. We didn’t know the when or where of it, but we kept praying about it. During the waiting time, we considered and visited several different places, and northern Arizona seemed to be where God continued to direct us. 

A couple of years later, our prayers were answered as we each finally felt God telling us it was the right time to move. The moving process itself was not easy but we prayed about and followed God’s leading through every step. Almost 13 years later, here we are, still thanking God for planting us in this beautiful area.

If God doesn’t answer your prayers right away, don’t give up! Keep on praying for His direction and timing.

“I don’t know how to pray/I’m not comfortable praying out loud”

Have you ever said or thought this, especially when listening to someone pray a long, moving prayer? Verbal prayer doesn’t come easily to any of us, does it? I still stumble with words when praying aloud as I try to turn my thoughts into prayers.

My initial experience in hearing others pray aloud was at the first Bible study I ever attended. It was a women’s Bible study and there were at least 20 of us seated around a large table. At the end of the study we shared prayer requests. When no further prayer needs were shared, our teacher said she would start us off in prayer and then we could take turns as we felt led to do so.

I listened to one woman after another pray eloquently for some of the needs we had heard, marveling at how easily they expressed themselves. I chose not to pray aloud that day because I couldn’t imagine how to pray like they did. However, a little at a time I learned that each of us has our own way of praying out loud and that we shouldn’t ever feel inadequate about what we’re praying, or for how long ─ or short ─ our prayers are. God hears all of our prayers and appreciates every one of them!

Don’t worry about “proper” prayers!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything;
tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.
If you do this, you will experience God’s peace,

which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.
His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest

as you trust in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7, TLB

As you can see, we are not to be anxious about anything, and that includes how we pray. God hears all our prayers, so just pray from your heart and don’t worry about how they sound.

God puts much value in our prayers. If you don’t believe this to be true, check out these passages in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 5:8: And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

Revelation 8:3: Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne.

Revelation 8:4: The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.

Like almost everything else, our prayer life takes time to develop so don’t give up. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayers. Since God places so much importance on prayer, He will gladly direct you in what to pray about and how to say those prayers.


1 What is Intercessory Prayer?

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!

1john4-16-amp

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.).