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

 

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your #Marriage

Shared from Faith in the News.

5 Bible Verses That Can
Change Your Marriage

Here are five Bible verses that can change your marriage.

First Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb–it is what you do! Look at the cross to see that. Jesus died for us while we were still wicked sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). So how can we not love our spouse in this way, being kind and patient, bearing up, hoping the best, and enduring it all? But here’s what love is not: envious, resentful, arrogant, or rude. This verse is frequently used during wedding ceremonies. Why not look at these verses again and study them together as a couple (if that’s possible). It could strengthen your marriage.

Ephesians 5:32-33 “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

I included verse 32 intentionally because God sees the marital relationship between a man and a woman as reflective of the relationship between Christ and His church, where He was not only willing to die for her, He did and did so voluntarily! That means we, too, must die to ourselves in loving our spouse voluntarily.

Read the rest here.

The Marriage Triangle: Marriage is Like a Garden #LoveWins

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

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The Marriage Triangle:
Marriage is Like a Garden

by Anna Popescu

The first marriage took place in Eden, a glorious and beautiful Garden, that was part of God’s creation. God created Adam and placed him in Eden to care for all the trees, plants and flowers. He saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so He created all the animals and birds to be his companions, and told Adam to choose a name for each one. But Adam still didn’t have a suitable helper for him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept;
and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.

22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman,
and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

25 And they were both naked,
the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:21-25

Initially life was wonderful for Adam and his helper. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). The Garden of Eden had everything they could ever need to live an abundant life together.

This is when things get out of hand as the cunning serpent enters the picture. He questions Adam and Eve about the garden, challenging God’s command that they can eat the fruit of every tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had told Adam that if he did eat the fruit from that tree, he would die.

Knowing this, the devious serpent engages Eve (not Adam) in a conversation:

Serpent: 1 “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

Eve: 2 “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” [Note that God did not tell Adam he could not touch the fruit of that tree!]

Serpent: 4 “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Well, you can imagine how excited Eve was as she heard the serpent’s sly words. Of course, God had not really meant that she and Adam could not eat such luscious fruit!

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
that it was pleasant to the eyes,
and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.
She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God
walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence
of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:1-8

And that was how sin entered the world. Eve was deceived by the serpent; Adam went along with Eve’s decision. Adam, as God’s first human creation, should have taken the lead to make sure that they obeyed God’s command. Eve was created to be Adam’s helper (ideal partner 1). She should have consulted Adam before making the big decision herself.

God then made three declarations (Genesis 3:15-17):

  • He told the serpent that he was forever cursed to be the lowliest of all creatures and would always have to crawl on his belly.
  • He told Eve that she would give birth with sorrow and great pain, and that she would always be under Adam’s authority.
  • As for Adam, God said that because he listened to Eve about the fruit of the forbidden tree and ate it with her, he would always labor with much difficulty to reap the harvest.

Through this series of events in the Garden of Eden, difficulties entered our lives and our marriages, and that brings me to this question:

How well do you look after your marriage garden?

Husbands and wives, we need to make sure we tend to our marriages as carefully as gardeners watch over their gardens so that weeds don’t have a chance to take over. What weeds am I talking about?

Our marriages will not always be perfect, but we should strive for peace and understanding. Sometimes it is the seemingly little things that begin to irritate us. If we give in to our frustrated emotions, the smaller weeds of discontent begin to take root. That’s when we need to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). That definitely includes negative thoughts. In other words, we need to pull those newly budding weeds of dissatisfaction before they grow deeper roots.

When we turn our attention and negative thoughts from ourselves
and focus instead on Jesus,
it is easier to see the positive aspects of our spouse.

There can be many weeds in our marriage garden if we allow ourselves to dwell on the negatives. All of us have irritating behaviors. How we choose to react to those annoyances in our spouses will make the difference between a marriage of two people merely existing in the same house to a married couple who share a home by living and serving each other in the love of Christ.

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Marriages, like a garden, take time to grow.
But the harvest is rich unto those
who patiently and tenderly care for the ground.
─Darlene Schacht


1  How was the woman a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18)?

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your Marriage

This article from The Isaiah 53:5 Project has some good advice about marriage and goes along well with my Marriage Triangle series of articles which I write for TRC (The Relevant Christian).

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your Marriage

Here are five Bible verses that can change your marriage.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

– First Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb–it is what you do! Look at the cross to see that. Jesus died for us while we were still wicked sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). So how can we not love our spouse in this way, being kind and patient, bearing up, hoping the best, and enduring it all? But here’s what love is not: envious, resentful, arrogant, or rude. This verse is frequently used during wedding ceremonies. Why not look at these verses again and study them together as a couple (if that’s possible). It could strengthen your marriage.

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Read the rest here.

Marriage: So much more than a partnership

This great article about marriage is reblogged from a wonderful site, Oceans Never Fill.

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MARRIAGE: SO MUCH MORE THAN A PARTNERSHIP

My husband recently matched into a residency program on the other side of the country, far from the area I have considered home the entirety of my short life. The Pacific Northwest, with its mountains kissing ocean, its gloomy rain and gloomier culture, has shaped my childhood and most of my adulthood. The enormity of this move isn’t something we took lightly when my husband applied for residency programs, but when you look at the whole of life: our purpose and what’s truly important, suddenly the comfort of home, familiarity, and even preference, fade in light of the hope of following  God wherever he leads. It’s a bit terrifying as we gaze at this great chasm of eternity that opens up with limitless, unknown possibilities for our future; but simultaneously peaceful as we rest in the knowledge that our eternal future is already secured, and all these moments in between are held in the hand of a good God.

Through the process of applying to residencies I had countless people ask me how I felt about the move; if I wanted to go wherever it was my husband’s career took him; or if I was okay with his specialty choice. It was a weird line of questioning to me. Of course I want to go wherever my husband’s career takes him.

Read the rest here.

The Marriage Triangle: Living for Jesus in Your Home #LoveWins

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

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The Marriage Triangle:
Living for Jesus in Your Home

by Anna Popescu

Marriage is a very strong yet fragile bond. It is both wonderful and difficult. That makes it somewhat of a paradox. We enter into marriage with the intent of staying true to our vows, but eventually real life breaks in and sometimes we end up treating our friends better than our spouses. Or we show our better side to our friends more often than to our spouses.

Why is that?

How do we get to the point where we’re on our best behavior for everyone but the person with whom we pledged to spend the rest of our life?

Living creatively for Christ in the home is the acid test for any Christian man or woman. It is far easier to live an excellent life among your friends, when you are putting your best foot forward and are conscious of public opinion, than it is to live for Christ in your home.1

Living under the same roof with anyone is difficult, whether that means spouses, children, extended family or friends. Dwelling in close quarters with others means we see can easily each other’s faults. Disagreements over the smallest things can easily escalate into huge arguments. We often forget to take into account individual preferences for food, TV shows, internet usage and noise levels. Often there are introverts who must figure out a way to get along with extroverts. One person may prefer neatness while another is a slob.

There is no easy way to live with other people unless you do your utmost to be respectful and polite to each other at all times. How realistic is that? It takes way too much work. So it’s no wonder that we eventually shut down or explode at home when nerves are frayed or someone rubs us the wrong way. It is so much easier is it to show your best self in public. After all, you’re not with them 24/7, so you can afford to be more laid-back. At home, you’re in one another’s face and bound to get overly caught up in the hyper emotion of the moment.

If you’re part of a married couple, it gets even more complicated. Satan is in the business of trying to demolish the bond that holds husbands and wives together, and he will do everything possible to see that happen.

In the six thousand years since the Garden of Eden, two of Satan’s most strategic assaults have been focused on destroying the sanctity of the marriage covenant and the unity of our homes. A detailed study of God’s Word will show us that the devil is focused on ripping our families apart. Satan will use any tactic he can; he will capitalize on every advantage imaginable to disrupt the harmony in our homes. 2

How do we combat this? By setting Jesus as the head of our home and marriage.

If you look closely at the Marriage Triangle image, you’ll read: The closer a husband and wife get to Jesus, the closer they get to each other! How is this done?

Pray-Together

  • It is imperative that we each make time everyday in the Word, learning more about Jesus and how He wants us to live. This will bring us closer to Him.
  • Pray daily for God to order your steps (Psalm 37:23-24), showing you how to love your spouse better. As you pray, mentally put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) and keep Him in your mind as you go about your day.
  • Pray for your spouse, that God will fill him/her with the desire to want to know more about Him.
  • Pray with your spouse for each other.
  • Pray for yourself, that God will show you exactly how to be the spouse He wants you to be. Ask God to open your eyes to ways you can serve your spouse with much love.
  • Finally, look for ways each day to uplift and treat your spouse the way you would want them to treat you. God has specific guidelines for this (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Throughout our marriage my husband has noticed a trend in my behavior. Maybe you can relate? I smile, laugh and engage with friends and family, only to jump into the car or leave with my husband and exhale how I really feel. My face scrunches up, my attitude turns cold, I sometimes snap at my husband with stern words or slump down with defeat.

My husband kindly expressed how he felt about me giving my best to others, mentioning that he wants me to be real and honest with him, but he would also love to be around the version of me that is kind, compassionate, joyful, and all the other ways I engage with others.(emphasis mine) 3

Do you remember your courtship days? Weren’t you on your finest behavior most of the time? Didn’t you want your date to think the best of you? Why should that change just because you’re married?

Beloved, let’s try to remember to show kindness and respect to the one who God has blessed us with as a mate—no matter how busy we are. Our marriages will reap untold benefits and blessings.

Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministry shared an excellent prayer for couples. This is the intro:

I would encourage you to take your spouse’s hand and either have someone read this prayer over you or read it together. Use it as a reminder and recommitment.

And if your marriage isn’t at a place where that’s possible, pray this in the quiet shrine of your heart. As our key verse, Psalm 34:15 tells us, God hears you. He knows. He loves you. He will show you the way.4

Please take the time to read the rest of this wonderful prayer here.Couples-Love-God-First

When couples love God first
they love each other better. 

–Brela Delahoussaye

Beloved, life is hard. There are too many ways our lives can get messed up and mixed up by what’s going on in the world today. Don’t dwell on the negatives. Instead, keep your eyes on Jesus and strive to put your spouse first, even though that idea goes against what we hear in the current society of “what’s in it for me?” attitudes. I have learned firsthand that not only does God bless a loving and giving attitude, but your marriage will thrive.


1 Live Creatively for Christ, by Billy Graham

2 The Reality of Spiritual Warfare in the Home

3 Do You Give Your Husband Your Best?

4 A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer