Marriage is Sacred – Part 2

I received request to respond to a comment on my recent post, Marriage is Sacred. In case you haven’t looked at the comments, it reads:

“So…when a husband repeatedly rapes and beats his wife, that’s not a “bad marriage” and she should just soldier on with “effort and discipline”? It makes me rage inside knowing you may have given this advice to an abused woman who was looking for help.”

I am frustrated in feeling this reader stopped at what they found offensive. The last point I made was: “Get help.”

The pastors, spiritual directors, counselors, and therapists I know would respond to a situation in which there is physical abuse to immediately protect both individuals from each other. In the past, my wife and I have personally driven women to the local shelter.

However, separation, even for an extended period of time, does not need to result in divorce. God is a god of mercy (He withholds the punishment we deserve) and grace (He gives us what we do not deserve). God immerses us in forgiveness. He forgives murderers, rapists, shoplifters, gossips, and liars. Praise His Name! God restores, renews, revitalizes. No marriage is without hope! GET HELP!

The self-help so popular in our culture DOES NOT WORK. Couples serious about saving a marriage and experiencing the restoration that comes from God’s mercy and grace, must be embraced by the Koinonia (costly fellowship marked by selflessness and sacrifice) found in a genuine Household of Faith. Such restorations take a great deal of time, patience, and prayer and require a substantial amount of work on the part of both parties.

I have personally witnessed the miracle of marriages being restored. Two of those were so twisted and gruesome that if I were to describe them I would be accused of writing fiction. (Maybe those people are reading this and would choose to comment.) But God is faithful and just. He will not abandon us. He loves us. God himself, will restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast. (see 1 Peter 5:6-10)

There will be those who will refuse to participate in such a process. The sinful nature raises its ugly head and our pride, selfishness, and laziness get in the way of submitting to God. God allows for divorce, but only because of the hardness of hearts – not as an easy escape from difficulty.

One of the great weaknesses of blog posts is to keep them short and readable. I strongly encourage you to get the book, “Soulcraft: How God Shapes Us Through Relationships,” by Doug Webster. Doug’s clear application of Biblical truth in relationships is better than anything I offer.

Finally, this reminder: I am writing to those who “declare with their mouths, ‘Jesus is Lord,” and believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead.” (Romans 10:9) This does not guarantee marriages will be without any problems or even violence, but such a shared faith does provide a foundation for forgiveness, healing, and restoration.


Today I’ve responded to a couple of phone calls and several emails on issues regarding marriage.  Allow me to address a couple of items with boldness:

Words are important! This foolishness of referring to one’s spouse as “the husband” or “the wife” on Facebook and in conversations must cease. Using “my wife” or “my husband” communicates respect and a deep commitment to the other. The terms we use should differentiate us from those who cheapen marriage by their crass talk.

Ministry is NEVER more important than marriage. A holy vow of matrimony before God and witnesses always takes priority over a call to ministry. There is no grey area. It is straightforward and clear. Your marriage and family are far more important than your ministry. Yes, God expects you to walk away from ministry rather than violate a vow and bring hurt and harm to your spouse and family. (Failure to do so may indicate that ministry has become an idol.)

There is no such thing as a “bad marriage.” A marriage might be difficult but the covenant between a husband and wife and God cannot be bad. By its very nature it is sacred, a trust to be guarded, cultivated, and deeply cared for. That may require a great deal of effort and discipline.

Feelings cannot always be trusted. Lois and I were married for 34 years and 26 days. Did I always “feel” in love? No. But I learned that actions often come before feelings. Our media-saturated culture presents a totally false view of marriage. Base your loving actions toward your spouse on Scripture and models of Christ-centered marriages.

Sexual fulfillment comes from self-control, self-discipline, and self-sacrifice. Always. This is true before marriage, in marriage, and after a marriage ends – either in the death of a spouse or divorce. In other words, sexual fulfillment is not about you.

Get help. Challenges are a natural part of relationships; especially in marriage. When those challenges seem overwhelming, do not hesitate to ask for help. Seeking advice from a counselor and/or spiritual director is not a sign of weakness but of strength and maturity. (If you don’t know where to turn, contact me. I’ll help identify someone in your area within 48 hours.)

Please excuse the harsh tone of these words. It can be blamed on me being tired, frustrated, lonesome for Lois (we would’ve celebrated her 60th Birthday today), or just cranky – or all of the above! Mostly I am very concerned about the number of marriages under attack and families with unusual stress. Please be assured that I am praying for you!

The focus is God’s plans for me not my plans for God.

My expectations, my hopes, my choices seem so important to me. Even for the Christ-follower the temptation is to list objectives and set schedules that are all about the little trinity – me, myself, and I.

1. Looking back on the past year I recognize that many of my plans were blown away like sand but the ones that survived were formed through prayer, the Word, and trusted advisers. Psalm 33:11 says. “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

2. I am testing all goals, objectives and schedules with God’s Word based on Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” I need to make sure God is in the center – not me.

3. When working on those items which are personal, I keep coming back to Galatians 5:22-26, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” It seems ridiculously obvious that if this fruit is evident in my character, the result will be humility, faithfulness, and obedience. The focus is God’s plans for me not my plans for God.

How does this get fleshed out for ministry?

Preach the Word – the whole counsel of God from Genesis to Revelation. In most churches 99% of the people who come through the front door are already Believers but 99% of the messages are presentations of salvation. We must preach the Word to produce mature followers of Jesus.

Model and encourage New Testament fellowship; not just eating a meal together or having pie after the service. Koinonia takes place when we drop our masks, quit playing politics, and actually begin caring for one another.

Embrace the full experience of celebrating the Lord’s Table. Slow down. Contemplate. Plan at least one entire service centered on Communion.

Pray; not just for health concerns but for souls, and spiritual direction and discernment. Pray.

Talk about what God has done in the past month and is doing right in the local church. If those stories don’t move the soul and fill people with awe, some serious examination and tough work needs to be done.

Practice generosity. First, take care of the pastor and if there is anything left in the bank account give it away. The “rainy day” is here – people in the community are homeless and hungry.

Go where the people are. Don’t schedule non-worship services at the church building.

Small group gatherings are essential and while small groups don’t guarantee personal growth there are no documented cases of personal growth without small groups.

Let’s be careful and purposeful in making Christ the center. Practically, this means we look for how to join what God is already doing; participate in His plans and resist the temptation to ask God to bless our plans.

In order to live in this world where self rules and money is god, we must resist the temptation to mount an activist campaign but instead, be patient, endure injustice, and pray urgently that our King Jesus will come soon. This requires our full attention in loving others extravagantly, forgiving freely, and giving resources generously. Then we will be known for what we are FOR not what we are against and our love for each other will prove our love for God.


Christmas 2012

It’s the last day of December; time to write family and friends.

I continue to serve the pastors and leaders of Christian Union driving almost 60,000 miles this year and spending 141 nights “on the road.” It’s a challenging role and I look forward to God’s faithful direction as I strive to be obedient to Him.

The house I rented since August 2004 was sold on January 4 and I had to be out by the end of February. After spending almost three months living in the spare room at Kari and Jeremy’s house, I moved into a newly renovated two bedroom farm house. Years ago the place was named Doolittle Acres and I now call it home. It’s part of a farm that Tony & Joy purchased as an investment and they generously allowed me to have it remodeled and let me live here.  If you need my new mailing address let me know by email.

The house is quite a bit smaller so I had to get rid of a lot including many books and some furniture. There is still a lot of work to be done in the garage and on the outside of the house but the inside is “like new” and I’m enjoying it. I use to live five miles south of Kari & Jeremy and Joy & Tony and all six grandkids. Now I live five miles north! Yes, I moved exactly ten miles.

Kari is a full-time homemaker caring for Sarah (6) and Natalie (4) while Jeremy works for John Deere. His job requires extensive travel – much of it international. Kari helped with two Vacation Bible schools this summer as well as helping me organize Tri State Camp and does a lot for the whole extended family.

Joy and Tony are in business for themselves providing risk management for farms and in some ways are busier than ever but have more control over their schedules. The activities of their family keep them on the go! Brady (10), Broc (8), Brandt (6), and Bo (4) are energetic and full of fun.

Peter lives in West Des Moines and continues to serve as the IT Director at Lutheran Church of Hope; a mega church with an amazing ministry. He enjoys his work even though it stretches him to the limit at times.

My Mom, Clarice, is still at Manor House Care Center in Sigourney. Arthritis continues limit her mobility and yet she is still intent on being faithful to the end. She will turn 89 on January 16 and I would really appreciate it if you could send her a card. Her hands are so bent up with arthritis that she can’t write back but she certainly enjoys cards and notes. Please email me for her address.

Highlights for the year include three opportunities to interact with teenagers; I find they are hungry for meaningful relationships with adults who are genuine. In March I served as the Head Chaperone for the Pekin High School Music trip to Memphis and Nashville. It was an exhausting 5 day, six night trip on a motor coach which included two nights of travel (no sleep). I enjoyed it but did not change my opinion that country music is an oxymoron.

In July I served with the leaders of Tri State Camp for the 19th year; as the director for the 16th year. It is a privilege to work with a group of adults who are fully committed to creating opportunities for God to work in the lives of teenagers. What a delight to witness God’s transforming power!

This fall I was invited, once again, to help with the Pekin High School musical, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. It was fun and funny!

For my birthday I traveled to Rome, Georgia for the CareGivers Conference – a gathering of people in ministry to people in ministry. That is always a great time of renewing friendships and challenging one another as partners in the Gospel.

I close with the words of my mentor and friend, Doug Webster from a recent message: “The Gift we celebrate at Christmas was not wrapped, it was crucified.  It was not under the tree, it was nailed to the tree, and it was not opened on Christmas Day, it was opened on Easter morning.”