Once and for all

Sometimes it is said that we are going to sit down and deal with something “once and for all” in a relationship. Whatever the issue or problem is, we like to think that we can have a one-and-done discussion and we never have to revisit that issue again. The problem with that mentality is, life just doesn’t work that way.

Even if you think you work that way in your own life, you don’t. Let me ask you, does God have to revisit things with you?

Once and for all

Think about Gideon in the book of Judges. He constantly came back to God for reassurance, and God in His mercy continually gave it. You might think that the first time God promised Gideon, “the Lord is with you,” that Gideon would have had all the reassurance he needed. But Gideon kept asking for more signs and more proof that God was with him. God didn’t say to Gideon, “I dealt with that once and for all, you don’t need any more reassurance.”

A second example is Simon Peter. After denying Jesus and being corrected by Him, Peter should have “once and for all” been put on the right path. By our “once and for all” logic he never would need correction again. He never would stumble again. However, even as an apostle, Peter played the hypocrite and needed to be rebuked face to face by another apostle, Paul (see Galatians 2).

Husbands, in our relationships with our wives, we must consider the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that was given to us. God has to constantly revisit things with us that He shouldn’t have to revisit. So then, why would we be in turn be frustrated and impatient if we have to revisit things with our wives? What if our wives need reassurance on an issue, and we think, “We’ve already dealt with that!” Wrong. God didn’t deal that way with Gideon, did He?

Relationships take lots of time, growth, reassurance and longsuffering.

There is a “once for all” in the Bible, however, and it is tied directly to the cross of Jesus. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10). Let’s keep this in mind as we grow in our relationships.

But she did not tell her husband

She said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal (1 Samuel 25:19).

Then Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she did not tell him anything at all until the morning light (1 Samuel 25:36).

Read 1 Samuel 25 to become more familiar with the account of Nabal, Abigail and David. What I really want you to focus on today is the fact that Nabal was such a worthless scoundrel that no one could speak to him (1 Samuel 25:17). Nabal wouldn’t listen to David’s men. He would not listen to his workers. He obviously wouldn’t even listen to his own wife, Abigail.

But she did not tell her husband

Nabal, whose name means fool or folly, created such an environment around him that no one could approach him. He was so unreasonable and unapproachable that his wife was forced to work around him instead of appealing to him.

This is something for us to think about as men. Are we approachable? Are we reasonable? Have we created an environment with those around us, especially our wives, where they do not feel comfortable talking to us? Do they feel like they have to sneak, lie or be silent because of the way we lead the home?

Don’t be a Nabal. Be approachable. Be reasonable. Create a safe environment in your home where your wife and kids can readily come to you and appeal to you.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17-18).

There are two previous articles on this website that refer to the events in 1 Samuel 25.

 

Favor from the Lord

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD (Proverbs 18:22).

Take time to be thankful for the good relationships, especially if you are married to a godly and loving wife.

When we are thankful for each other, we see each other in a very different light. Even when we are fussing with each other, if we keep in mind how thankful we are for each other, it helps to deal with that disagreement and tension in a better way.

Let’s take a piece of paper and physically write down all the reasons why we are thankful for our wives. We do this for our kids sometimes when they are complaining and fussing, we make them write down good things about each other. Big people need to do the same sometimes.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD (Proverbs 19:14).

Do Not Be Unequally Yoked

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

What does it mean to be “unequally yoked”?

Picture if I took a rope and joined my 18 year old son’s arm together with my 6 year old son’s arm. I then ask them to walk in different directions. Who is going to determine which way they will travel? The 6 year old will either get dragged around or be forced to walk in the 18 year old’s direction. In the old days before John Deere tractors, you would take a wooden yoke and join together two oxen to pull your plow. Can you picture taking an ox and yoking it together with a goat? You are going to break the goat’s neck! The ox isn’t helped either because he is doing all the work pulling the plow instead of having a strong helper by his side sharing the load.

This is what happens when we join ourselves in binding relationships with people who are not walking closely with Jesus. We are walking in two very different directions, and serious damage is going to be done to the believer.

Look at the words Paul used to help explain being “yoked”:
  • Partnership – What partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness?
  • Fellowship – Does light have fellowship with darkness?
  • Accord – Does Christ have harmony with Belial (symbolic for Satan)?
  • Portion – What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
  • Agreement – Does the “temple of God” agree with idols?

Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4).

Does This Apply to Marriage?

Paul’s warnings apply to all relationships, and we can safely apply it to our choice of whom we will marry. Some will argue that Paul is not talking about marriage here, and that is right. He is talking about being in close, intimate, contractual, binding relationships with unbelievers.

Hmm…wouldn’t that apply to marriage?

Yes, it is clear that some Christians were married to non-Christians in the New Testament. The instructions given to them are to seek to convert their spouses and bring them to Jesus (1 Peter 3; 1 Corinthians 7).

However, why would you willingly go into the most binding, intimate covenant relationship with someone who is not walking in the same direction? Young men, that woman who is not walking closely with Jesus is going to be the mother of your children. Young women, that man who does not follow Jesus is going to be leading your children. Does it matter? It better!

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3)

God was very plain and strict in the Old Testament about marrying people from the pagan nations. Why? Was God racist? Not at all. He knew that if His people married those from the pagan nations that they would learn pagan ways (Psalm 106:35). Were there exceptions? Sure! Women like Rahab and Ruth were those who left behind their pagan and idolatrous backgrounds and devoted themselves to follow God.

Examples abound in the Old Testament of those who married spouses from pagan nations. Esau married Hittite wives and brought serious grief to his parents. Samson kept going after Philistine women and ended up bald, blind and bound. Solomon joined in marriage to women from heathen nations and they turned his heart from following God (1 Kings 11). Nehemiah called the people’s attention back to Solomon to remind them of what happened because of Solomon’s poor choices in mates.

“Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin” (Nehemiah 13:23-28).

The Lord goes further to explain why this marriage relationship is so important. He seeks “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). The children who were raised in confused and diverse religious homes were not blessed for this. They grew up confused and pagan (Nehemiah 13:24). This is not the kind of “diversity” God celebrated.

Do Not Be Unequally Yoked

Finally, single men and women, please take time to think deeply and seriously about this decision. Lots of prayer. Tons of time with your nose in the Bible. Hours sitting down with an abundance of godly wise counselors (Proverbs 11:14). It is worth the time to make sure you are making a wise decision!

Shop Around

We were listening to an oldies station online a few days ago, and the song “Shop Around” started playing. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles released this catchy tune in 1960. “My mama told me, you better shop around…Shop! Shop!”

The meaning I get from this song is be very careful before you say “I do” and get married. Make sure that this person is the one with whom you really want to spend the rest of your life. Great wisdom! There are other parts of this song someone might take issue with, namely that you should not marry the first girl you date / court. Some of best and strongest marriages have come from that “first love.” Regardless, the lesson in this song is powerful and relevant to our young men and women as they consider marriage. Be careful! Don’t be sold on looks, “pretty girls come a dime a dozen…”

Click here to watch the YouTube video of the song performed live.

Shop Around

When I became of age my mother called me to her side,
She said, “Son, you’re growing up now pretty soon you’ll take a bride”
And then she said, “Just because you’ve become a young man now,
There’s still some things that you don’t understand now,
Before you ask some girl for her hand now
Keep your freedom for as long as you can now.”
My mama told me, “You better shop around, (Shop, shop)
Oh yeah, you better shop around” (Shop, shop around)

Ah, there’s some things that I want you to know now
Just as sure as the winds gonna blow now
The women come and the women gonna go now
Before you tell ’em that you love ’em so now.
My mama told me, “You better shop around, (Shop, shop)
Oh yeah, you better shop around” (Shop, shop around)

A-try to get yourself a bargain son
Don’t be sold on the very first one
A-pretty girls come a dime a dozen,
A-try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’
Before you take a girl and say I do, now,
Make sure she’s in love with-a you now.
My mama told me, “You better shop around.”

Ooh yeah, a-try to get yourself a bargain son
Don’t be sold on the very first one
A-pretty girls come a dime a dozen,
A-try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’.
Before you take a girl and say I do, now,
Make sure she’s in love with-a you now.
Make sure that her love is true now.
I hate to see you feelin’ sad and blue now”
My mama told me, “You better shop around (Shop, shop)

Don’t let the first one get you
Oh no ’cause I don’t want to see her with you
Uh huh before you let her hold you tight, ah yeah make sure she’s alright
Uh huh before you let her take your hand my son
Understand my son, be a man my son I know you can my son I love you”

Songwriters: BERRY GORDY JR, WILLIAM ROBINSON JR.
Publishers: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics data from Lyricfind.com

A Grief of Mind

When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 26:34-35).

Hittites were really bad people usually. They were enemies of God, pagan and idolatrous. Esau decided to marry two of their women. I believe the text is implying that these two women were just like all the other Hittites. He brought them home to mom and dad. What was the result?

They were “a grief of mind” to his parents. The ESV puts it like this, “and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” Look at what Rebekah said about it later on:

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (Genesis 27:46, ESV).

A Grief of Mind

Rebekah hated her life because of these two women. If Jacob, her other son, were to follow in Esau’s footsteps, she would feel like her life was worthless. I’ve talked to many a parent who has experienced this. Their children went and married a spouse who was selfish and immoral and it brought great pain upon the whole family. The whole family!

It ruins harmony. Your son or daughter is torn between being in harmony with the parents or the spouse. Every interaction is painful. Visits are a headache (before, during and after). Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthday parties are almost unbearable. When that son or daughter has a spouse who is ungodly, then even something as “simple” as going to worship services and church activities can be an all-out war. If you’ve been through it, you can appreciate what Rebekah is saying…she hated her life because of it.

This is just a simple reminder from the Scripture that our choices, especially who we marry, can bring either great joy or incredible pain to our lives and to the lives of those we love. Choose wisely! Pray a ton. Seek God’s wisdom. Ask for the advice of Godly men and women who can guide you through these critical choices. It seems like Esau made decisions based upon lusts, emotions and the moment (Hebrews 12:16). Think past the moment and the emotions. Consider how this decision will affect scores of people who love you!

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother (Proverbs 10:1).

A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him (Proverbs 17:25).

My first wedding

If you are wondering…”My first wedding” means the first wedding I performed…just to be clear.

19 years ago today, I performed my first wedding. My wife’s sister, Karen, and her husband, Jason, were joined together in marriage by God on October 18, 1997.

I remember being so nervous that I forgot to have everyone be seated. After my father-in-law said, “Her mother and I do,” I was supposed to say, “Please be seated.” Well, I just went on and preached the wedding, not even realizing that everyone was still standing! After several unnoticed attempts my father-in-law finally got my attention, and I got the memo! “Oh yeah, please be seated!” What an embarrassing moment.

Another memory is that Anna was pregnant with Joseph then. She was the matron of honor. That was October and in the following February we would have our first child. Man…time flies.

We were so young. Good grief, I had only been married just over a year and at the reception I was sitting with three couples who had each been married for over 50 years! I remember saying, “There are over 150 years of marriage experience here!” Two of those couples were Anna’s grandparents. All four of Anna’s grandparents have passed away since then. Again, time flies.

Marriage and Time – Two great gifts from God.

There’s not much of a point here except that marriage is such a special gift given to us by God. So is time. Put both marriage and time into the hands of people who value both and you have one special relationship.

My parents will be celebrating their 50th in 2018. Anna’s parents will celebrate their 44th anniversary this year in November. Again, time flies. Tom, my father-in-law, will say this year that “the first 44 years are always the hardest.” Last year it was the first 43. He has said that every year that I can remember on their anniversary. Of course, he says it with tongue in cheek, but he is saying that marriage takes a ton of work and commitment. And a lot of love.

Happy Anniversary, Jason and Karen! You are such a blessing to have as family, as brethren in Christ, and as best friends to Anna and me.

In An Understanding Way

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

So, what does it mean to live in an understanding way? What is God asking me to do when He tells me to live with my wife according to knowledge?

Let’s look at how other versions translate this phrase:
  • “…in an understanding way…” (ESV).
  • “…according to knowledge…” (YLT).
  • “…dwell with them with understanding…” (NKJV).
  • •”…give thought to your way of life with your wives…” (BBE).

The BBE (Bible in Basic English) as you can see above translates this as we are to “give thought to your way of life with your wives.” As husbands, we need to “know” and “understand” who this woman really is. I need to “know” and “understand” the value of this woman to God. My treatment of her will either bring God’s blessing or punishment upon me, so I’d better “give thought” to this woman and this relationship!

I have come to understand that the rest of verse 7 explains what dwelling with her according to knowledge means.

In an understanding way:

Understand and know that she is a weaker vessel. Both males and females are “vessels,” meaning that our bodies are containers of our spirits (1 Thessalonians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:7). We are vessels to be used for God’s honor in His house (2 Timothy 2:20-21), whether male or female. She is weaker, “since she is a woman” Peter says. The wife is to be handled with care as something precious and valuable. You do not hear often of a woman beating up on a man or raping a man – it is the man who is doing these things. He is stronger typically, hence the term “manhandle.”

Understand and know that she is a fellow heir of the grace of life. She is not a sub-citizen of the kingdom of heaven. There is no second-class Christian. In business and the military folks rank and classify every person. Everybody in the world has a class and a level it seems, but not when it comes to salvation in Jesus Christ. A woman receives the same salvation and blessings of the kingdom as a man does.

A husband must know and understand these things in his heart. If a man does not value his wife, how can he honor her? Why would I seek to appreciate her thoughts, her dreams, and her input if I look at her as a second-class citizen? When a man looks at a woman as a slave, as subservient to him, as a piece of meat, as an object to be used, then it is abundantly clear that he does not value women. Simply put, if a man treats a woman this way, God will not hear his prayers.

Husbands, give thought to your way of life with your wives!

Unconsciously Competent

What if I am a knucklehead toward my wife but do not know it? Why not leave me blissfully ignorant? Well, if we want to improve our marriages, then being a blissfully-ignorant knucklehead will not cut it. The goal is to become unconsciously competent, and I’ll explain that in a moment.

The Conscious Competence Ladder

These four levels of growth and development have been used in various ways over the years in secular training. I believe they have a very Biblical basis to them, so I am sharing them with you for your consideration.

Unconsciously incompetent.

You lack abilities, training or skills and you are not aware of it. For example, you are saying and doing things (or not saying or doing things) that are hurting your wife. At this stage, you are just clueless and need to be made aware. She might make you “acutely” (not-so-cutely) aware after she has blown a gasket with you because she is at her wits’ end. I mean, you could blame her for having a conniption fit. Or, you can wake up to the things you are doing that are setting her off.

Consciously incompetent.

Now you are aware that you have been a knucklehead. The actions and words have not really changed. However, your conscience is now pinging you every time you make those mistakes. You realize your need for instruction and growth, and you reach out for help. “I don’t want to be like this anymore and I need counseling and training!”

Consciously competent.

With God’s help and a lot of advice, you begin to treat your wife with honor and respect. The right behavior and words are being demonstrated, but you really have to muscle your mind to do it. It is like hitting a baseball left-handed (if you’re right-handed). Watching someone learn how to drive a stick-shift can be painful, both to you and the car. But once he has it down it becomes second nature. This leads to the final point.

Unconsciously competent.

Finally, your new way of treating your spouse in some ways has become second nature. I am not saying that we never have to think about it again, because James 3 says we can never tame the tongue. What I do mean is that after years of behaving the right way toward your wife, there will be loving deeds that at one time you never would have thought of doing, but now you do them without really thinking about them.

Nobody today has to tell me how to ride a bike, and I don’t have do go through mental steps to get on a bike and ride it. It is second nature. That wasn’t true for me at 5 or 6 years old, though. Now, please understand that we always have to grow as Christians; we never “arrive” at perfection. In one area of my life I may be on step #4, and in another I may be on step #1.

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Problems with People Pleasing Part 4

Sometimes people pleasers feel for whatever reason that they have to get involved in every situation. Every time someone asks them to do something, they do it. Whenever they are asked to get involved, the people pleasers dive in thinking it is their duty to do so.

Even Jesus at times said, “No.”

Did Jesus jump into to solve every problem that people wanted him to address? No. Here is the first example:

Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).

What was the real problem in this relationship between the man and his brother, according to Jesus? Greed…plain and simple. Jesus had the wisdom to know that if He jumped in this family drama and tried to be the referee, the real problem would never be solved. I believe this is a great lesson for us, men. It is not that we go around and never get involved in other’s disputes, but we must develop the wisdom with lots of prayer to know when it would be best for us not to get involved.

Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears (Proverbs 26:17).

Here is a second example of Jesus having to say, “No.”

And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:36-38).

Jesus had the power to heal everyone’s sicknesses and diseases, and the crowds knew it. They were flocking to Him – everyone was looking for Him. Even Simon Peter was searching for Him to get the crowds to Him. That makes sense, doesn’t it? However, Jesus had to keep His main mission and purpose in mind. He came to preach the gospel and save people from their sins. Jesus did not come to end all human suffering while He was here on earth.

Here is the most compassionate and selfless Man in history, and He said, “No.” Jesus went on to the other cities to preach, which means that there were people left behind who did not get healed of their sicknesses and diseases. That might be difficult for some to grasp, but that is what Jesus had to do because His main mission was to preach and save souls.

We must remember this as well. There is a time that we must learn to say, “No” to some things so that we can say “Yes” to the purpose and mission to which God has called us. Even the apostles did this exact thing in Jerusalem when they did not get directly involved in caring for the widows, but delegated that task to the seven men appointed for it (Acts 6:1-7). They could not leave their mission and purpose to take care of something that another person should be doing, because in doing so, their own work would not get accomplished.

I encourage you to meditate upon this and pray for wisdom. Again, it is not that we seek to avoid getting involved…that is not the heart of Jesus. But even Jesus and the apostles at times had to set boundaries.