Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first five posts herehereherehere, here, and here.]

Husbands – there will probably be some point in your marriage when your wife will tell you, or hint, that she really doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it is because things are financially tight.  Maybe it is because you just finished celebrating some other occasion.  Maybe she is just trying to help alleviate stress in your life.  And she will send you the, “Oh…you don’t have to get me anything for Valentine’s Day” message.  Now listen to this very carefully…

IT IS A LIE!!!

Of course she wants something on Valentine’s day!!!!  That is why she married you!  She didn’t marry you for you looks!  Have you seen yourself naked?!  You are hairy, disheveled, misshapen, and generally repulsive.  She married you for the perpetual security of having a “Valentine” on Valentine’s Day.  You HAVE to get her something.  And it doesn’t even have to be something big.  She wants to know that you invested thought and effort in HER.  Buy her a card, take her out to dinner, buy her flowers, get a stuffed teddy bear…something.  If you can’t afford to get something – make her a card, write her a poem, make her dinner (even if it is TV dinners transferred to the more fancy corning ware plates) by candlelight.  If you don’t…she will remember.  And it will not go well for you…IN ANY AREA!!

One other tip.  It is OK to purchase lingerie.  But you have to buy something else as well.  Because really…buying lingerie is like buying yourself a gift.

You’re welcome.

 

 

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first five posts hereherehere, here, and here.]

I’ve got a lot to say about this subject (surprising I know!…but…when you’re an expert…you’re an expert! 🙂 ) so this might take up a few posts.  Let me explain.

According to the most recent statistics, 80% of Christian couples are having sex before getting married.  EIGHTY PERCENT!!  I know that sounds high, but my pastoral cynicism (and experience) jumps in and I quickly think, “That’s it!?  I would have guessed higher.”  Statistically, there is almost NO DIFFERENCE between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to having pre-marital sex.  ouch.

This in spite of the fact that the Bible is VERY clear on this matter.  Really.  There are a lot of grey areas in the Bible.  This isn’t one of them.  I would recommend the following as starters on this topic:   1 Corinthians 5:16:1318;10:82 Corinthians 12:21Galatians 5:19Ephesians 5:3Colossians 3:51 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:28-30.

So, why are so many Christians abandoning the clear teachings of the Bible to have sex?  Well…there are a lot of reasons:

  • It’s fun.
  • It feels good.
  • should I go on?

I’ll talk more about the reasons in a future post, but for now, allow me to propose what I believe to be the main thesis of this blog post:  Sex before marriage is making you stupid.

I see it all the time (especially among women…but I’m totally into equal-opportunity thinking so I believe this is true of guys as well).

Before you get married, I believe you need to have the ability to discern and weigh out whether or not the person you are dating (or engaged to) would be a good spouse.  You have to have the ability to see “warning signs” and “red flags” of potential disaster ahead.  Like…for example…hypothetically…I’m just sayin’…maybe I’ve seen these situations… a) the fact that he is already lying to you about some very significant things.  Or…b) the fact that he doesn’t have a job and spends hours playing video games on your couch while you go to work.  Or…c) the fact that he has a bunch of biological children all over the country that he never sees and he isn’t caring for financially.  Or…d) the fact that he is addicted to drugs.  Or…e) the fact that NO ONE in your entire circle of friends and family (people who love you!) thinks he is good for you.  [I know these examples are extreme.  Just as valid are the smaller issues that are just as important and just as impacting on your future marriage. E.g., You love 2-ply toilet paper – your fiancé is too cheap to ever buy 2-ply toilet paper.]

Do you know why you can’t see those “warning signs” and “red flags?”  SEX!!!  Sex has blinded you!!!

Sex bonds you to another person.  That is why God created it (remember – it was HIS idea).  That is why it is very important within the covenant of marriage.  And it is why if there is no sex in marriage, the couple needs help from a counselor (and I’m serious…if you aren’t having sex within marriage…GO GET HELP!!).  This bonding effect is all by God’s design.  That is why the Bible says things like this:

Genesis 1:24 – For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 – Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a  prostitute?  Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?  For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

This is the language of bonding, uniting, and oneness that belongs to sex.

Even the body’s biological design is chemically wired in this way.  Even before sex (in just the attraction stage), you have certain hormones and chemicals that are coursing through your body.  Even before sex – you have testosterone, estrogen, adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin at work (this is why sexual temptation is very real and very powerful.  BUT…when you engage in sex – your body releases oxytocin and vasopressin (feel free to do a Wikipedia search on all of these hormones).  Oxytocin & vasopressin are known as the “bonding hormones” that creates long-term attachment.  And…these hormones make you stupid before marriage (they can also make you stupid after…but in a way that is to our advantage 🙂 ).

Premarital sex PREMATURELY bonds you to another person, that more often than not, works against you in regards to discernment, rationality, and wisdom.  It keeps you from asking the tough questions and more importantly, it keeps you from hearing the right answers (and truth).

I can’t tell you how many people I know who now hate each other and are divorced with great pain, suffering, sadness, and anger.  And when you ask, you find out that all of the causes for the break-up of the marriage were really present before the marriage, but they were so “in love” (read…stupid because of sex) that they couldn’t see it.

And to my Christian friends who aren’t married but are having sex.  I know guilt can be a strong driver to look over some very obvious things.  You may be thinking, “I have to marry them now, we started having sex.” (or some variation of that line of thinking)  Let me tell you right now…Jesus has a much better way of dealing with and resolving your guilt than forcing you into a bad marriage.  It is not too late to wake up from the sexual stupor and make a wise and good decision.

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first four posts herehere, here, and here]

When my wife and I got married we had to sign a four page contract with, what felt like, a zillion points as to what would be allowed or not allowed in our wedding ceremony and also the details of our past relationships.  We grew up in an Acappella Church of Christ so the church we were getting married in didn’t allow any music to be played that contained instruments (yes…I actually just said that…try walking down the aisle to a vocal rendition of the Wedding March).  The contract also wanted to make sure that we had no prior marriages that ended in a “unbiblical divorce” or that we weren’t living together prior to getting married, etc.  We had to initial each point of the contract to affirm we understood the expectations and that we were not in violation of any of the conditions.  Even now, as I look back on it, it was very legalistic in tone and feel (even as it was very thorough and clear).

In my ministry over the past 15 years I’ve had a number of angry couples who came to me wanting me to marry them because “their Pastor” (or church) wouldn’t allow them to get married because of [fill in the blank].  As they shared their stories, it wasn’t hard to feel a little sympathetic to the sting they felt of legalistic rules and expectations.

Legalism sucks no matter what the topic or situation.  And the tone of legalism I find repugnant.

And that is why this conversation of weddings and marriage feels in some way awkward to me.  I’ve come to appreciate that there really does need to be understanding, expectations, and clarity as to what Christian marriage is, and what it isn’t.  And I personally have fallen into some convictions in this area that before I have glossed over hoping that my inclusive spirit and “generosity” of low-expectations and hoops to jump through would ultimately win the day (or at least the hearts of those getting married).

And now…15 years later…that didn’t work.  In the devastation of divorce and failed marriages I feel I have done a disservice to couples to not give greater instructions, expectation, and clarity as to God’s heart and desire for marriage.

And yet…I don’t want to be legalistic.  I don’t want to have that tone.

So I struggle.  And in the end, I have concluded that this really is a case-by-case deal.  You just can’t have hard and fast rules as to what you declare you will or will not do.  And in the end, you have to discern directional movement.  What I mean by that is – are they moving towards Jesus, or away from Him?

I had a couple that I married several years ago (really…one of my favorite people) who came to me precisely because another church had rejected them.  They had been together for years (even living together) and had two beautiful little girls.  They got involved in our church and gave their lives to Jesus and eventually got married.  And it was very obvious that they were directionally heading TOWARDS Jesus, even if the beginning of their relationship didn’t line up with what Jesus would have desired.  Of course!  They hadn’t given their lives to Jesus yet.  I know many Pastors wouldn’t have married them because they were living together.  Or they would have married them only if one of the individuals moved out.  But for me…they had two daughters.  What could be more devastating for those little girls than for “daddy” to move out a few months prior to the wedding ceremony?  So, in the end, with great joy, I married them.  And the reason…their entire life was directionally heading towards Jesus.

On the other hand, I’ve had other couples who were already in Jesus.  They had confessed Jesus as Lord, they had been baptized in his name.  They had pledged to follow after the ways of Jesus.  And then…it seemed every decision they made relationally was away from Jesus.  Sex before marriage (which by the way the statistics tell us is at 80% for Christians who are engaged).  Living together.  On different pages when it came to spiritual values and commitments.  And making decisions that are NOT headed towards Jesus.

I live and exist because of God’s grace.  And I want to extend that to everyone.  Everyone stumbles.  Everyone sins.  Everyone screws up.  Everyone has that moment when their life, after taking two steps forward, takes a step back.  But the stakes involved in marriage are too high and too great (especially when kids are involved) for a flippant – “everyone makes mistakes so…whatever” in regards to the foundational decisions people make in regards to getting married.

And the only way I know to hold convictions and not be legalistic is to move case-by-case prayerfully discerning the overall direction a couple is heading.  If it is towards Jesus, I want to help, as much a I can, along the way.  If it is away from Jesus, my help has to take the form of instruction, warning, and the call to repentance.  To plead, with as much grace as I am capable of manifesting – to head back TOWARDS Jesus.  For it is the only sound directional move available for Christians who want to get married.

Yoked Together

Posted: January 24, 2012 in marriage, Ministry, Weddings

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first three posts here, here, and here]

Most of the people I minister to and hang out with aren’t farmers.  I have nothing against farmers, but my life is rooted in a city and I just don’t have a lot of farmers around me.  As a result, some of the agricultural metaphors and language that the Bible uses, is often missed.

One such metaphor is the language of a yoke.  It is the wooden beam-like object around the neck of the two oxen.  The purpose and need for a yoke was essential in farming.  Every ox was different.  Some were stronger, some were weaker, some were faster, some were slower, one wanted to go this direction, the other wanted to head in a different direction.  What kept them together – moving at the same speed, and the same pace, and sharing the burden of the load/work was the yoke.  Without it, the oxen would find themselves going in totally different directions, with different speeds, and different levels of strength.  They would ultimately (if they were trying to pull a cart or a plow) find themselves pulling in opposing directions.  And the result – tension, conflict, added burden, and wasted expenditures of energy.

Jesus uses this metaphor when he speaks of our life of discipleship.  He says in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

The apostle Paul uses this metaphor as a warning in regards to our most intimate and personal relationships, including marriage.  He says in 2 Corinthians 6:14:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

I know this is the most controversial of topics when it comes to marriage.  I can’t tell you how many Christians (especially women) have spoken to me years later with regret – who thought they were the biblical exception and married someone who wasn’t a Christian and didn’t share in their faith assumptions.  At the time they were so “in love” that they thought it wouldn’t really matter.  Or they thought they had some arrangement worked out (then the kids showed up).  Or they thought their husband-to-be would come around and join them in their faith (which we still hope and pray for).

In the end, I just can’t get around this passage in 2 Corinthians.  And there are times that I want to get around it for the sake of people who I love and who have found “someone.”  And every time I have gone ahead and officiated a wedding between someone who was a Christian and someone who wasn’t – more often than not, I have regretted it, and more importantly, the couple regretted it.  They regretted it because they found they were living a life with a spouse who was perpetually pulling in an opposite direction.  And it often ended in either divorce, or out of pure exhaustion, caused the Christian to give in.  Years later they find they practice almost no faith at all.

I want to be faithful to the Bible’s teaching.  Not because I like it all the time.  Not because I don’t want there to be exceptions.  Not because I have moments of “but they really do seem great together” kind of thoughts.  But simply because I’ve pledged, in life and vocation, to be faithful to its teachings EVEN when I might wish otherwise.

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first two posts here & here.]

James Carville & Mary Matalin

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.    – Jesus

One of the roles a minister of the gospel should play in regards to a marriage/wedding is to help the couple lay a firm foundation for the life and home they are about to construct with one another.  This should lead to some difficult questions and a period of examination.  Who (or what) is the foundation of your marriage, home, and life?  And the two must come into agreement.  They must agree on the “blueprint” for their future life together (it is amazing to me how many couples get married and NEVER ask this question).  If they have different foundations, their “house” will not be on secure footing, and the threat of collapse is sure to follow.

And the only foundation I’m interested in helping a couple build their home on is the foundation of Jesus Christ.  And that has to mean something.  It means that BOTH of them are committed to following Jesus in the entirety of their life, and also in their marriage.  I don’t mean they can just say they are followers of Jesus – but their actions, their thoughts, their behavior, their values, and their world-view reveal that reality.  Anyone can say they want Jesus to be the foundation, but I’ve seen countless grooms & brides for the sake of appeasement say they are a “Christian” so they can avoid conflict, tension, or pause in their quest to get married.

Agreeing on Jesus as a foundation isn’t like other thoughts or opinions.  In fact, I fully expect a couple not to agree on a wide variety of things:  whether you like country music or hip hop, whether Chinese food is better than Mexican, whether you vote Republican or Democrat, whether you are into romantic comedies or action movies, whether you correctly put the toilet paper under or incorrectly under, and whether or not you believe Neil Diamond is a musical genius!

But Jesus refuses to be just another opinion among the options.  His claims are too wide-sweeping.  To have Jesus as the foundation and to commit to his way of life affects everything – time, money, raising of the kids, behaviors, thoughts, perspectives on others, etc.  It becomes the central conviction by which all other values and decisions are measured.  That is why agreement is so critical in regards to the foundation of marriage.

Further, Jesus, as the foundation of the marriage, is actually what draws the husband and wife together.  Note the diagram below and what happens relationally between a husband and wife who are moving towards God.  What happens to the distance between the husband and wife as they move closer to God?  They grow closer together.  And that is the key to a life committed “until death do us part.”  Both husband and wife in a passionate pursuit of God, and in so doing, moving closer to one another in love and peace.

And that foundation, can stand in the midst of any “storm” that comes against it!

[This post is the second of a new series on weddings and marriages.  You can find the first post here.]

After witnessing all the pain, suffering, hurt, emotional toll, and FINANCIAL cost of divorce…I am now convinced that NO ONE should get  married without going through pre-marital counseling.  No one.  And the reason is because every engaged couple has major issues that they HAVE to work out.  And if you don’t think you have issues, you have bigger issues than you are even aware of.

It is amazing to me how much money a couple will spend on the actual wedding ceremony – flowers, photographer, reception, dress, tuxedo, programs, decoration, facility, dinners, wedding party gifts, etc.  When you add it up a father could be very tempted to say to his daughter – “I’ll give you $2000 if you would just elope!”

But when it comes to premarital counseling, all of a sudden money is an issue.  “Well…we really can’t afford that.”  Really?!!  You can afford thousands for a wedding, but you can’t invest a few hundred for your marriage!!!?

Others think there is no point in pre-marital counseling because they “already know each other so well.”  I don’t care if you have been together (or even living together) for five years (or longer), you still have issues.  You have not taken the time to systematically and intentionally worked through the possibilities of communication, conflict, sex, finances, children, chores, values, personality types, emotional needs, etc.

No one is exempt.  If you have never been married, you have no clue what you are in for and you are so “in love” you are blinded to the reality that is about to hit.  And if you have been married before, it means you might have some life lessons learned through experience, but it also proves you weren’t ready the first time around and statistically you now have a greater chance of seeing another divorce than your “never been married” counterparts.

Don’t let these thoughts or fears keep you from pre-marital counseling:

  • We can’t afford it.
  • What if the counselor doesn’t think we should get married?
  • I already know everything there is to know about them.
  • We don’t have enough time.
  • I’ll just read a good book on marriage.
  • I don’t know any counselors.

When planning for your marriage, plan to invest in that marriage!!  Make pre-marital counseling a must do on your check list.  And if your fiancé refuses to go to pre-marital counseling, let that be a HUGE red flag that he/she has some major pride issues that will manifest itself in your marriage.  And when it does, they will also most likely be unwilling to seek the help, support, and counsel of a professional when you (and the kids) will need it the most.

One other thing.  Go to someone who is trained and qualified to be a marriage counselor.  Just because someone is a “Pastor” doesn’t mean they know what is necessary to guide you through all of the thoughts, negotiations, and theories of marriage and family systems and dynamics.  Some Pastors are great.  Trust me on this…others are not.  Don’t go the “cheap route” by having a non-qualified Pastor do your pre-marital counseling.

I promise it will prove to be the best money you ever invested in your future.

[Today I want to begin a series of posts on weddings and marriage.  I figure I will get a jumpstart before May comes around and weddings start happening in full force.  This first post is a little lengthy, but I hope it will be helpful in understanding my struggles and thoughts as I’ve tried to resolve some real tension I’ve felt performing wedding ceremonies.  My intent is to post on this blog series once a week]

After over 15 years of officiating who knows how many weddings (really…it has been a lot) – I’m ready to declare that I have been wrong (mark your calendar…I don’t say that often) and am about to make a change.

Going into 2011 I made a decision to only marry those who are “All-in” at the Living Stones Church.  That decision was purely out of time management.  I simply had too many requests from too many “friends-of-a-friend” who don’t have a church or a pastor so “would you mind?”

And even after that decision, I performed more wedding ceremonies in 2011 than any other year!  All Living Stoners!!!

Prior to my Living Stoner exclusive rule – I’ve NEVER said “no” to any couple that wanted to get married.  Not one.  Not even when my spidey-pastoral senses were tingling and everything in me thought, “Are you guys crazy!!!!!?  This is a colossal mistake!!!”  And even now, when anyone connected to Living Stones has asked me to marry them I have always said “yes.”  Always.

And now, looking back, I was wrong.  I was confused (my own internal confusion) as to who I was and my role in this ceremony.  There were many weddings that I left full of celebration, joy, happiness, warm-fuzzies, etc.  And there were a few that left me questioning myself, my theology, my pastoral ministry, etc.  And in the end, I think I discovered that it came down to the role I was playing and whether or not I was comfortable or called to be in that role.

Let me explain.  There seem to be three primary roles (or identities) a Pastor can play in the wedding ceremony:

1.  Chaplain to the State.  At the end of each ceremony I say, “In accordance with the laws of the State of Indiana, and by the authority given to me by God, I now pronounce you man and wife.”  Because of my ordination, I am recognized in the State of Indiana as being qualified to make this pronouncement.  And in it, to legally and contractually (with a few of my signatures), declare someone to now be married.  How is that for power!!?  Impressive.  But I’m not the only one who has this power.  A Justice of the Peace can do the same thing.  Jesus, or any conversation of Jesus, really isn’t even necessary.  I could read a few clever poems, tell a funny story, wish the couple good luck and then make my pronouncement.  “In accordance with the laws of the State of Indiana…”  I’m discovering, some couples are really only looking for someone who has the legal authority to help them get from single to married.  And when it is reduced to that, I sense my real role in this wedding is as a Chaplain to the State.

2.  A Character in a Bride’s Fantasy Wedding.  Because I’m a guy, I don’t much understand it, but I’ve been told that little girls dream about their wedding day at a very early age.  Boys, never dream of their wedding day.  Never.  When they pass through puberty, they think about their wedding day, but it is typically the post-wedding activities.  There are many brides who have always envisioned themselves having a picturesque wedding in a church, with a beautiful white dress, flanked by bridesmaids, beautiful decor, and butterflies that are released upon the kiss (which by the way…half of the butterflies are always dead).  Oh…and along with that, you need a Pastor (it comes with the wedding fantasy).  In this identity, I’m simply a character in her wedding fantasy.

3.  A Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is where I am a spiritual guide to a couple who are about to enter into a covenant with one another that will reflect their covenant with God.  They take seriously that they are building their lives together on the foundation of Jesus himself and understand apart from Him, this whole “until death do us part” probably isn’t going to pan out.  My job is to pastorally guide them (which includes tough questions), challenge them, correct them, pray for them, and even rebuke them (lovingly) when their actions are jeopardizing their covenantal intentions.  When I pray over their vows, they don’t view it as some magic incantation that belongs in a religious ceremony, but done in the name of Jesus in whom they have both personally committed themselves to in regards to loyalty, fidelity, and obedience.

I’m only comfortable with one of these three roles.  I’m no longer interested in being a Chaplain of the State or a character in some bride’s fantasy wedding.  I’m called to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And in that calling to lead people in and through the sanctity of marriage.

“By the authority given to me by God as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ…I now pronounce you…”