Our marriage “problems” are only symptoms of the actual problem in our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.
A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with the Lord
This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:
“What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
“How is your prayer life?”
“Tell me about your involvement in the church?”
A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ.Continue reading Marriage problems are really only symptoms
Last post discussed the Holy Spirit helping us in our marriages, but let’s introduce some balance. “I will help you” is very different from “I will do everything.” The Holy Spirit helps us, but we still have responsibilities. The Holy Spirit is not going to supernaturally take control of a marriage when the individuals involved are not committed to putting forth the necessary effort. So help the Holy Spirit while he helps you!
The apostle Paul reveals the relationship in Ephesians 2:10: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God prepared good works for us, but we have to “walk in them.” We do not want to miss out on what God wants to do in our marriage because we are being lazy or selfish. Consider the responsibilities placed on our shoulders elsewhere in the New Testament:
Romans 13:13–14—Let us walk properly . . . Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Colossians 3:12–14—Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; [bear] with one another, and [forgive] one another . . . Put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Note the calling we are given to walk, put on, make no provision for, bear with, and forgive.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our marriages we often feel alone. God’s standard for husbands and wives is so high that we ask, “Who is going to help me obey these commands?” The answer is the Holy Spirit will help you! Two words that summarize what it is like thinking about being the husbands and wives God commands us to be are “intimidating” and “overwhelming.”
As a husband, it is intimidating to think of being to your wife what Christ is to the church. If you are not intimidated by it, you do not understand what is expected of you.
As a wife, it is overwhelming to think of submitting to your husband as you should to the Lord. If we had to obey God’s commands on our own, we should feel not only overwhelmed or intimidated but completely hopeless. Because of a promise Jesus made us, though, we can feel hopeful.
Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). If you have embraced the gospel, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. You are not alone! The Holy Spirit will help you do what God has commanded you to do. Continue reading Trust the Holy Spirit will help you in marriage!
A few years ago I learned the important lesson that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Katie and I faced the biggest crisis of our marriage. I started pastoring Woodland Christian Church when it was fairly small. Within three years the congregation had tripled in size. I admit that before I became a pastor, I was completely unaware of how much work is actually involved in shepherding a church of even a few hundred people. I had been an Army officer, a supervisor at a distribution center for Target, and an elementary school teacher. But none of those occupations approached the amount of mental and emotional energy and sheer hard work pastoring entails!
We had no secretary or associate pastor at the time. Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending e-mails, meeting with people, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues. When I was home, I should have been an engaged father and husband. Unfortunately, I did not have much left for my family emotionally, mentally, or physically.
Although I was failing as a husband and father, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing the Lord. I compartmentalized my life by saying, “I am a Christian first, a spouse second, a parent third, and an employee fourth.” Instead, I should have said, “I am a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian employee.” The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time: “If I can be a good pastor, I can please God even though I am not the best husband.” The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord.Continue reading Marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ
A common way husbands mistreat their wives is by responding insensitively when they’re hurting. Elkanah’s response to Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 is a good example showing three common mistakes husbands make.
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing this or read the transcript below…
Elkanah had two wives—Hannah and Peninnah. This was part of the problem! Polygamy in the Old Testament is descriptive, not prescriptive, portraying the reality of the era but it’s not allowed for Christians today. This is why God never condoned polygamy, and whenever it took place in the Old Testament, it always caused problems. No biblical examples of polygamy are characterized by peace and harmony. Instead polygamy is always filled with turmoil and strife. Peninnah and Hannah’s marriage is a perfect example.
Peninnah could have children, but Hannah could not. Making Hannah’s situation even worse was Peninnah’s cruelty toward her. First Samuel 1:6–7 records:
[Hannah’s] rival (Peninnah) provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that [Peninnah] provoked her; therefore [Hannah] wept and did not eat.
Consider Elkanah’s response in 1 Samuel 1:8:
Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’”
Husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves based on Ephesians 5:26–27:
That [Christ] might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
This is discussing what Christ does with His, Bride, the Church. Since the context is marriage, it’s also explaining what husbands should do with their wives. Christ “sanctifies and cleanses” His bride, so husbands should sanctify and cleanse their brides. This makes a husband at least partially responsible for his wife’s sanctification.
Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…
Just as Christ gets the church He prepares for Himself, so husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves
There is a tremendous truth contained in these words. Christ does what He does in verse 26—sanctifying and cleansing the church—so that He can obtain for Himself the glorious church, or bride, described in verse 27 that “has no spot or wrinkle but is holy and without blemish.” The simplest way to say it is: Christ gets the church He prepares for Himself.Continue reading Husbands get the wives they prepare for themselves
Katie wanted to discuss the art of apologizing well. She prepared six questions to ask me. Here’s the outline for the video and the transcript below it:
0–4:17—Have you always been good at apologizing?
4:17–6:54—What are wrong ways to apologize?
6:54–13:00—What are right ways to apologize?
13:00–19:35—What is your favorite story about apologizing?
19:35–24:04—Should we apologize to our kids?
24:04–27:39—How can apologizing or lack of apologizing affect marriages?
1. Have you always been good at apologizing? Elaborate on your “history” with apologizing and how you grew in it.
When I saw this question, my first thought was, “If I’ve learned too apologize well, it’s from making so many mistakes.”
As a pastor you’re going to learn to become comfortable apologizing, because it’s a necessity to have a healthy church body. I’d go so far as saying don’t become a pastor if you’re not comfortable apologizing. You’re going to have to apologize for your own actions and the actions of others. Nothing looks worse than shifting blame, even if the blame belongs elsewhere.
As far as when I learned to apologize, I’d have to give credit to LTC Richard Brewer, my commander in Army ROTC. He didn’t teach me to apologize. He forced me to apologize. I couldn’t make excuses or shift blame.
2. What are wrong ways to apologize?
When we should apologize our sinful nature wants to flare up, get angry, make excuses or blame others. Some people – whether intentionally or unintentionally – act like they’re apologizing, but their “apologies” are simply excuses disguised as apologies.
We are so much in love with your marriage teachings. In the near future this could turn into big workshops here as we keep sharing and working together on fully establishing our ministry in Kampala. The need for knowledge of Christian marriages is high. We can end up asking for a big number which may not be managed at the moment.
I shared this message with the elders at Woodland Christian Church. They decided to send two boxes (80 books total) to Hope Initiative Ministries. The books were given out as an outreach in HIM’s main centers at Bugiri and Kampala (in eastern Uganda).
I understand the question people will have, so let me answer it now. The books were given to Hope Initiative Ministries (HIM) for free. Woodland Christian mailed them, and I did not receive any money.
Hope Initiative Ministries plan for Marriage God’s Way
Scott’s question: “How should I respond when husband mocks my Christian beliefs?”
How should I respond when my husband mocks my Christian beliefs? My husband claims to be a Christian, but he randomly says the church is really his wife’s church and it’s ridiculous to believe in creation over evolution. Occasionally he does this in front of the kids too.
There’s a chance your husband might be saved, but it’s hard to reconcile your description with the behavior of a Christian. People can be saved and believe in evolution, but they wouldn’t Christianity. That sort of hostility toward the Gospel seems incompatible with regeneration.
16:07-19:27 Update on Marriage God’s Way Workbook and closing
Question for Scott: “Should we leave this church?”
I wanted to ask about leaving our church because of their misunderstanding of some doctrines. I don’t think I’ve handled the situation well. We’ve been checking out other churches, so instead of being a voice of reason the awkwardness has us not going there at all. My desire has been to continue going there, but my wife does not enjoy it. Though the people are sincere, the church is dead and there is a heavy spiritual attack going on. Another reason my wife doesn’t want to attend is my former fiancé from three years ago is there. The girl and I have no interest in each other, but it’s still hard for my wife to see her.
Every church we visit there is a lack of sobriety, or the they seem to be off base somewhere important. Perhaps they allow female teachers or there’s a “pop Christianity.” I’ve suffered way too much to attend a ho-hum church. I want seriousness, Scripture, and the life of Christ.
I met with the pastor a few times to reconcile our differences. He’s a very intellectual person and familiar with Scripture. But he’s come to a different interpretation of almost everything I believe God has taught me. I don’t see the pastor changing his mind, and I don’t know if I should bring up to the rest of the church the things I think are wrong.