The Marriage Box

Reblogged from The Isaiah 53:5 Project.

Marriage Box

Most people get married believing a myth that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, intimacy, friendship, etc. The truth is that marriage at the start is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage. Love is in people. And people put love in marriage. There is no romance in marriage. You have to infuse it into your marriage. A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising, keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.

Please visit The Isaiah 53:5 Project to read more great blog posts.

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THE MARRIAGE TRIANGLE: Two Lives Become One #lovewins

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

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In the Old Testament, God created the covenant to be a binding promise between two parties. A person in a covenant becomes identified with another person, and there is a supernatural co-mingling of two lives.¹ In the marriage covenant, the two separate lives of the man and woman become one as they are pronounced husband and wife.

Marriage as instituted by God

In the Old Testament, we read in Genesis 2:23-24:

The man 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.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this covenant message in Matthew 19:4-6:

Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

God created marriage to be a covenant—a bond—as the way to fully unite man and woman as husband and wife. They are to stick together like Super Glue!1

Genesis 2:24 could be paraphrased as follows:

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall stick like glue to his wife (forcibly intimating that nothing but death should be allowed to separate them) and they shall (become one flesh as they) enter into a covenant relationship.²

What does this mean in practical terms?

When two people commit to spend the rest of their lives together in a covenant marriage, they are in effect promising to do more than their best to serve each other. Did you get that? More than their best.

Contrary to the belief that it is a 50/50 partnership, marriage needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all of the time. I read this the other day and really like it:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

Life is hard–much can happen on any given day, like work, family issues, sickness, and money problems. All of this “stuff” can easily take our focus off of the Lord and therefore off of each other. Marriage is not the easiest thing, but it is so satisfying when both the husband and wife are trying their best to give 100 percent of themselves.

Some days the wife may need to serve her husband more than on other days because his day isn’t going so well. Something happened at work that he feels is threatening his job. Or maybe the car needs some major repair work done and he is worried about finding money in the budget to get it fixed.

On other days, the husband may see how his wife is having a difficult time with something so he needs to give more of himself by trying to help her. Maybe one of the kids got in trouble at school. Perhaps she received the test results back from the doctor that confirms a serious health problem.

Any of these issues are difficult and can easily cause such distress that we either internalize our feelings or we can lash out at our spouses in frustration. Keeping the details to ourselves can be a huge problem because if we can’t say out loud what is bothering us, our spouse may think they have done something to bother the other. If we treat our spouse harshly because of something that is bothering us—and that “thing” is nothing your spouse has done—your spouse will start resenting you for that ill treatment.

This is where the 100/100 concept comes in.

When either husband or wife is feeling low about some situation, the other spouse can be supportive just by listening, even if it takes time away from another thing that was planned or needs to be done. Sometimes just talking about the issue out loud takes some of the pressure off. Other times some brainstorming between the couple helps focus on a point that wasn’t considered before because of the stress of the situation.

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Let’s not forget that there is one more party involved in our marriages: our Lord Jesus Christ.

How great would it be if the first thing husbands and wives did was pray together for wisdom and discernment to figure out the situation as God intends? This doesn’t mean that God will zap an answer to you right away, but the process of prayer can de-stress you so that you can think about things less passionately, more rationally.

Empathy and understanding can help alleviate stress about a situation. Humor can also be used at times. I read a great article at the Focus on the Family site titled, Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott. This is an excerpt from that article:

Let’s face it, no spouse is immune to stress. We all feel like we’re coming unglued at times. And wise experts agree that the best way for anyone to cope is with a good laugh. “Humor makes all things tolerable,” said preacher Henry Ward Beecher. “Laugh out loud,” says Chuck Swindoll. “It helps flush out the nervous system.” On another occasion Chuck said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Arnold Glasgow said, “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” The point is that even when you’ve had a tough day, or should we say especially when you’ve had a tough day, you need to laugh. It will help wash away the stress and keep the two of you together when you’re coming unglued. So help each other to find something funny even when it’s not easy.³

The orange theory

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used this illustration to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone.

Let’s take a look at this in practical terms, using one of the examples I wrote about above. A husband tells his wife that their car needs some major work and he is worried about finding money in the budget for the repair. These days the first thought is usually to just use a charge card to pay for it, however, this couple has agreed to use cash whenever possible.

After praying together about this, his wife suggests several ways they can save enough money. She will buy groceries only on sale for a time. Or maybe she has been stocking up on sale items so that now she can prepare meals with what is in the pantry and the freezer. He might suggest carrying his lunch from home for a few weeks rather than buy lunch out, and even eliminate their once per week dinners out. Perhaps they have been able to afford manicures or frequent hair appointments for her, but she offers to stop those for a time, thereby putting that money toward the car repair.

Did you see how well the jagged edges of their orange fit together? Because the husband’s thoughts were initially so centered on the situation, he couldn’t immediately see how to handle it. After praying together, husband and wife together came up with good and workable ideas to save more money.

How not to keep score in your marriage

It is natural for us humans to keep score. Most of us want to know that we’re not the only ones putting forth a lot of effort. Husbands and wives need to avoid keeping score as to which one is getting more and which is getting less. Some days the husband will need to give more in serving his wife, while on other days the wife will need to do more to serve her husband.

Alvin, married 63 years, said, “Don’t consider a marriage a 50/50 affair! Consider it a 100 percent affair. The only way you can make a marriage work is to have both parties give a hundred percent every time.

And Kay, married 54 years, said, “… anybody that goes into marriage saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be 50/50,’ it doesn’t happen. You can’t live in the same house with the same person all those years and always divide it down the half.4

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In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds them to:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4

I think all married couples would do well to keep this in mind as they learn to give of themselves, their time and their God-given talents to helping each other.

One plus one equals one may not be an accurate mathematical concept, but it is an accurate description of God’s intention for the marriage relationship. —Wayne Mack


1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage
2 CovenantMarriage.com: What is a Marriage Covenant
³FocusOnTheFamily.com: Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage
4 FamilyLife.com: The 50/50 Myth

 

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When you stop saying “Thank You”

This great post is from DanielDarling.com.

When you stop saying “Thank You”

By Daniel Darling

Many years ago, a writing mentor counseled me with words I’ll never forget: “Dan, no matter how far you get in your career, always say ‘Thank you’ every time someone offers you an opportunity to write.”

I’ve never forgotten that advice. Maybe its because my mother taught me–no she actually insisted (you know how mothers can insist with some power)–that I always say thank you. It became a habit of mine, whether through notes or verbal expression or, now, through texts or emails.

It’s a simple thing, really, to say “Thank you.” I’ve noticed, however, that ingratitude is often the first sign of a troubled heart. When I stop saying “thank you” I know that sin has overcome me.

Read the rest here.

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Giants Tower; Grasshoppers Cower

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“ ’The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them’ ” (Numbers 13:32-33)

Giants Tower; Grasshoppers Cower

By Patricia Knight

After four centuries living in servitude to the Egyptians, God chose Moses to lead the nation into the Promised Land, where they would be free to own and govern their own land rich in natural resources.

Egypt’s Pharaoh was vehemently opposed to the loss of an entire nation of slave labor. To convince Pharaoh, God targeted the Egyptians with ten ghastly plagues that dreadfully impacted their health and lifestyle. Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened until the ultimate plague, when God slaughtered all firstborn males, both men and beast. The Lord protected Israel from each plague, leading the entire nation out of Egypt during the night of Passover. In his anguish, Pharaoh finally let God’s people go. He could not compete with the power of God, who “was majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11).

About a million Israelites with droves of livestock marched across the desert until they reached an impasse at the Red Sea. There God divided the waters, driving two walls up each side, creating a path for the Israelites to walk through on the dry sea floor. Pharaoh, who had changed his mind about releasing his slave work force, followed close behind with his massive militia.

God threw the Egyptian army into confusion, causing the wheels to fall off their chariots to slow them during the chase. When the last Israelite crossed the sea, the Lord restored the two columns of water to the sea basin, swallowing the men, chariots, and horses, eliminating the entire Egyptian militia. “That day the Lord saved Israel from the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore” (Exodus 14:30).

The Lord commanded His people to occupy the Promised Land, His generous gift of 300,000 acres. God had already surveyed the land and pronounced it good. Then He promised, “I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you” (Exodus 23:31, KJV). God’s people refused to trust Him, and instead, requested a scouting party. For the team that would secretly research the Promised Land, one man was selected from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

When the twelve spies returned from investigating the Promised Land, there was unanimous agreement concerning the cities, people, and produce available, but there no was consensus as to whether they could seize the land, even though God promised to prepare the way and fight for them to conquer pockets of resistance.

Ten of the twelve spies were fixated on the giants found living in Canaan. “ ’The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them’ ” (Numbers 13:32-33). The ten spies instilled fear among the general populace by exaggerating reports about their exploration, convinced they couldn’t defeat the inhabitants of the Promised Land.

Such frightening words of the faithless spies led to mourning by the entire community, which ultimately incited rebellion against God.

They forgot the miracles God performed previously in Egypt, doubting His power. The Israelites preferred death, expressed in their lament: “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us die by the sword?” (Numbers 14:12)

The ten fearful spies seduced the crowd with their personal opinions, espousing the view that it would be impossible to conquer the enemy. Their defeatist attitude arose from depending on their human strength alone. The people displayed fear that suffocates trust. We must never dispute how God will accomplish what He promises; He is always faithful to His Word.

Two other spies, Caleb and Joshua, were convinced that victory was possible by relying on God’s promises. They attempted to encourage the Israelites with positive reports, minimizing any temporary obstacles in the future, and trusting God to lead them  to victory. “ ‘If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them’ ” (Numbers 14:8-9).

As the Israelites soon learned, there is no future in saying no to God. The current generation was assigned to wander in circles in the desert. There they would die as God’s punishment for disobedience and unbelief. No one involved in the rebellion would enter the Promised Land. The ten spies were immediately struck down with a plague and died. Only Caleb and Joshua survived.

How could the presence and power of God vanish from the memory of the Israelite people so quickly after they witnessed the miracles God performed to save them from the Egyptians? The ten spies sabotaged their own people’s hopes and dreams about claiming the Promised Land. They believed tall men and fortified cities were a greater threat than God’s mighty wrath. What shallow thinking, to underestimate the power of God!

Do you have giants that loom large in your vision, deceiving you to think that God’s promises aren’t sufficient? Perhaps illness, family problems, or emotional obstacles dominate your life. God assures you that He is omnipotent and able to subjugate any problem posing as a giant.

Are we far too willing to opt out of a challenge God places in our path? Is it easier to admit a job is impossible with our limited knowledge or ability, than to ask Almighty God for help? The Lord is still parting the waters of improbability to accomplish the miraculous in our lives.

We have the tendency to reduce our faith to the diminutive size of a grasshopper, annoying those around us with the relentless chirping of doubts and complaints. Faith is silenced by the constant cacophony of grasshoppers. Let us focus on the belief that even a small amount of faith creates the occasion for a giant work of God . “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

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What does the Bible say about worry?

Another good one from the GotQuestions? site.

Question: “What does the Bible say about worry?”

Answer: The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are not to worry. In Philippians 4:6, we are commanded, “Do not be anxious [do not worry] about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In this Scripture, we learn that we should bring all of our needs and concerns to God in prayer rather than worry about them. Jesus encourages us to avoid worrying about our physical needs like clothing and food. Jesus assures us that our heavenly Father will take care of all our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). Therefore, we have no need to worry about anything.

Read the rest here.

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God Never Makes Mistakes

God Never Makes Mistakes

By Billy Graham

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
—2 Corinthians 12:9

God is especially close to us when we are lying on a sickbed. God will make the bed soft and will freshen it with His presence and with His tender care. He makes the bed comfortable and wipes away our tears. He ministers to us with special tenderness at such a time and reveals His great love for us. Tell me why the gardener trims and prunes his rosebushes, sometimes cutting away productive branches, and I will tell you why God’s people are afflicted. God’s hand never slips. He never makes a mistake. His every move is for our own good and for our ultimate good. Oftentimes He must deform us and mutilate our own image. Deformity sometimes precedes conformity.

Prayer for the Day

When times of tribulation come, help me, dear Lord, to glory in them for Your sake.


From Day to Day with Billy Graham Devotional, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. For more information, please visit: www.billygraham.org.

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Quell Life’s Storms

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Quell Life’s Storms

By Patricia Knight

As a child, I secretly yearned for my name to be assigned to a hurricane. Recently the Weather Channel flashed devastating scenes on TV of Hurricane Patricia, a category V storm. My anticipated childhood glee was replaced by an adult reaction of horror that my name was associated with massive destruction, death, and human suffering on all levels.

Hurricane Patricia gained landfall in Mexico, ripped down mountainsides and pulled whole chunks of earth along with trees into an escalating mudslide that tore through sparsely populated, remote villages.

In Texas and adjoining states, phenomenal amounts of raging rain and wind buried vehicles in rising street floods. People, young and old, tenaciously clung to rooftops and tall trees, awaiting rescue. Vehement currents snagged possessions, swirling them downstream, caught in the fast-rushing, turbulent waters, to deposit them miles away.

Dependency, confidence, and hope all contribute toward building trust. Victims who perilously hover between life and death are more willing to compromise objects of trust. As an example, normally a person who wouldn’t consider parachuting a recreational sport, would decline participating when the opportunity is offered. During an emergency when the same person’s life is threatened by rising flood waters, he is eager to escape drowning suspended in a safety harness from a rescue helicopter.

Someone who has suffered a memorable bout of seasickness would likely refuse a ride in any watercraft. When the only option of surviving a flood is transport by boat to dry land, accepting the temporary seasickness of a boat ride over the permanence of death is instinctive. During such trials, doubt and fear evolve into hesitant trust. Stretched to the maximum and modified for self-preservation, trust is often redefined to accommodate catastrophes.

In a crisis, trust communicated by helping strangers is heartfelt. The most humbling lessons can be learned from an out-stretched hand thrust in our direction, as we dangle in a precarious position. The rescuer reveals a willingness to help by direct eye contact, eager body language, and clarity of directions. The victim’s trust is then reciprocated by explicitly complying to instructions. When trust is encouraged, prejudice and fear are diminished.

Long ago, when Jesus and His disciples were deluged with long days spent teaching and healing, they retreated by boat, affording solitude on the Sea of Galilee. As the boat sailed that night toward the far shore, a rapidly progressing storm didn’t awaken Jesus, asleep in the stern. The disciples were terrified by the violent waves sloshing over the gunnels, nearly capsizing the craft, flooding their fears with thoughts of perishing.

With the boat nearly swamped,

“The disciples woke him {Jesus} and said to him,
‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves,
‘Quiet! Be still!’
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm”
(Mark 4:38-39).

Jesus’ authority over the elements of nature was confirmed when the wind and waves immediately obeyed His commands, further affirming to the disciples that He was the Son of God. The disciples were  awe-struck by their Master’s authority, with power exceeding that of the raging sea. They were shocked that Jesus silenced the storm; that the storm obeyed with immediate tranquility.

In a world where self-reliance is embraced, are you relying solely on your own meager strength? When the next storm of life reveals its wrath—a destructive hurricane, a diagnosis of cancer, a phone call delivering devastating news—do you feel adequately prepared with the emotional stamina to respond to such a major crisis? The paltry strength we amass during times of stress is quickly exhausted. Weakness fills the void.

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Almighty God is the only adequate resource of power and strength. He is willing and waiting for you to call on Him. Jesus said,

“ ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’ ” (Matthew 7:7).

God is delighted to convert your weakness to His sovereign strength. However, God won’t crowd or coerce you. He has created each of us with self-will, and now eagerly awaits your decision to trust in His power to calm the storms that occur in your life.

Is your faith fully and firmly planted in Jesus? Do you own the conviction that, come what may, your trust will be indelibly anchored in Christ, steadfastly clinging to His power?

Don’t wait for the next emergency. Be prepared. Seek God in prayer. Develop a personal relationship with God that functions every day. Your heavenly Father has been waiting all of your life for you to call on Him; to ask Him to be your Lord and Guide. When you submit to God, there will be no limit to the power, love, forgiveness, and grace God showers upon you.

Don’t tarry in trusting God. Like the disciples of old, when the water crashed over the sides of their boat, it was difficult for them to think clearly; confusion prevailed.  Take Jesus on every excursion of life with you.  He is the only one in whom to solidly place your trust for all of the big and little problems that assail. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

To rely solely upon one’s own understanding of life generates pride and hinders trust. Humility and obedience activate God’s powerful promises. To know God is to love and obey Him.

I’ve re-evaluated my adolescent desire for name recognition, preferring to sink into obscurity from any future storm notoriety. As for impending dangers, my Lord is masterfully adept at quelling all of my storms.

You can read more of Pat’s writing here.

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