This Valentines Day

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Love is in the air; or is it really? Valentines Day is traditionally the time to get close to your sweetheart, and remind them of how much they mean to you. But what about those couples–particularly longevity couples–who look at it as just another work day? You know who I’m talking about. Maybe it’s Mr. and Mrs. Jones down the street, who have been married for 30 years. We always see him or her, but never him and her together. Perhaps we’re talking about Mr. and Mrs. Smith who have seen 20 years of marriage, and now only pass each other in the hallway on their separate ways to another one of their kids’ activities. Maybe we’re thinking of Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, over on Peach Street, who have been married for 11 years now. Everyone in the neighborhood admires their big house and flashy cars. But, everyone knows that while Mr. Bailey works crazy hours, Mike the mailman visits the Bailey home frequently. How much mail do they receive in a day?!

Marriage is work folks. Tonight, I’m not talking about the kind of work required to avoid confrontations. No, I’m talking about the kind of work needed to remind your spouse that he or she is still important to you. Deep down, we all want to be desired. In the beginning of our relationships, it’s easy to be desirable because everything is fresh and new. As time marches on, we have a tendency to become distracted by everyday life, and it’s unwavering demands. Moms, once hot little numbers dolled up specifically for our attention can wake up to find themselves the sweatpant-and -hoodie bus driver for the kids. Dads, once the sexy masculine-suited hero with eyes only for you (lady), overnight find themselves relegated to wearing that favorite yet horribly faded and frayed college T-Shirt, plaid shorts and flip flops to every place you two go.

Don’t get me started on intimacy. What’s that anymore?

(Okay, we’re all adults here, so I can go there…)

It used to be that special time you both looked forward to sharing, where your bodies were each other’s personal playgrounds, and there were little to no boundaries. Yet, as the years of marriage glide by, the intimacy for some couples morphs into a job for one partner, and a simple means of sustaining an otherwise boring existence for the other. And we wonder why infidelity is destroying marriages everywhere.

We have to fight for our marriages. Sometimes that fight takes place in the safety and security of our own homes. We have to fight the world around us, to save and secure our marriages.

  • Date Nights
  • Planned Dinners
  • Impromptu Getaways
  • Midday Lunches

We need to do these things with our spouses to keep the love strong, and to let them know thy are not only desired but needed. It’s important to date your wife, or to cater to your husband every one in awhile. Don’t give them any reason to look for attention outside of your arms.

And for Pete’s sake, have sex with your spouse! Be involved and remember the first time. Christian folks wanna get all uppity and prudish, when it comes to this subject. You better make love to your spouse, and quite regularly! And it better NOT be a one-sided deal, either. If you think I’m being crass, then you need to read your bible:

1 Corinthians 7:5 (NKJV)

Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

I know a brother in Christ–yeah a brother in Christ–who struggles with pornography, because he and his wife are not intimate. Satan will find a way to wreck our marriages, if we refuse to fight for them.

So this year for Valentines Day, I challenge you, dear readers, to take a good long look at your spouse. Remember that first look into their eyes and rekindle the flame. It may take effort for some of you, but it’s worth the work.

 

 

Man, That Fight Though (Marriage Exerpt 2)

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This morning, I walked into a gas station and stepped right in the middle of a spousal feud. It was pretty bad, I have to warn you. The husband was irate.

“You wanna know when I stopped lookin’ at you? When you started to get fat! You wanna know when you started gettin’ fat? When you got a smart phone! For four years, you ain’t got the time for me because you’re too busy *blank*in’ your phone and eatin’ snacks! That’s why I’m seein’ another woman! If my wife ain’t interested in givin’ me what I need anymore, someone else is glad to take care of me!”

Needless to say, I bought my Gatorade at another station…quickly. I got out of there, before I became witness to a murder. As bad as that scene was, it did give me a moment to think about why some marriages fail. As I said last night, sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. Any number of trials could trigger danger in a relationship, but the big one (in my opinion) is infidelity.

Last night, my son and I attended a men’s group at church. During the discussion, our brother Steve spoke on God’s intent for a man and his wife. Steve said in not so many words, “God intends for the husband and wife to have eyes for each other. What he wants for us is to not be able to keep our hands off of the one who is for us.” In this case, I should have eyes and a burning desire for my wife: her only.

When I thought back to that train-wreck I’d just witnessed in the gas station, I was reminded of just how far away from the biblical purpose of marriage that guy had fallen. He not only turned his eyes and desires to another woman; he loathed his wife. Her waistline and eating habits might have posed some difficulties in their marriage, but I got the feeling that he hadn’t really tried to work things out. Almost as if those qualities were his justified excuse for stepping out.

Marriage is work. Yep…I’m reiterating what was already said last night. Marriage is (sometimes) hard work. Chances are, 20 years after the wedding, we might look a little heavier or move a little slower. Maybe the fires of our youthful desire need a little stoking to rekindle. Whatever it takes, under God. Folks, we have to protect our marriages. Husbands need to adore their wives and wives need to cherish their husbands, because the enemy of biblical marriage is out there…winning. I saw it today. I almost experienced it personally, a few short years ago. Had it not been for God’s Devine intervention, this might be a totally different type of post.

I think sometimes we need to put our own wants aside and do for our spouse. If I know my wife desires something, but I purposely and frequently deny her, am I not setting our marriage up for failure? The reality is that temptation is real. If she’s not satisfied—whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually—I’m making temptation that much more appealing to her. I have to put my selfish desires to rest and give her whatever she needs. It shouldn’t have to be a “job” to do so, either. I should do it because I want to please her.

We have to fight for our marriages.

Marriage (Excerpt)

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Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, God intended for one man to join with one woman, and for the two to become something new and whole entirely. This is what biblical marriage looks like, as ordained by our Heavenly Father. The first family—Adam and Eve—were created to compliment one another unabashedly. In fact, verse 25 of Genesis chapter 2 states, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The first union should have been perfect, if not for human nature. Adam and Eve’s fall from grace ushered sin into the entire world, and erased perfection from marriage.

Today, television and movie screens paint marriage in many different facets, ranging from the perfect high school sweethearts who live out perfect lives in the west, to the perfectly prearranged middle-eastern marriages that survive lifetimes without trials. While such tales make for interesting entertainment, the truth of marriage is seldom a smooth-sailing route.

Marriage is work. Make no mistake about it, the happy-ending romantic dramas displayed for our entertainment usually oversimplify the complexity of the union between a man and woman. Real marriages often face insecurities, incompatibilities, compromises, deceitful choices and silent moments; all of which are firey darts shot for one very specific purpose. Sin constantly wants to destroy biblical marriage. If your marriage in under fire, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone. Anything worth having, must be fought for.

Always and Forever

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You remember being a kid, and words like always and forever didn’t carry much weight? Think back to when you were five years old. Maybe you had a favorite stuffed animal to sleep with every night. It was a sure bet that you would always love that plush teddy, and would probably keep it until the end of time. Maybe at seventeen, you had “the” crush. No matter what happened in the years to come, you were going to always love that boy, or hold a special place in your heart for that one girl forever. Steve and Lindsay know what I’m talking about (I love my brother and sister). Or, how about that 1960s muscle car you bought with your own saved money, dad. You babied that car for decades, and just know that you’ll always cherish it. Even now, well into your 60s, that car’s going to be with you forever.

Okay, those examples may have been a little superficial, but deep down at the heart of it all, that’s the kind of love that makes an awesome marriage. When a man and a woman come together under God, weather any and all storms that rage against them, raise a family as a united front and pass on into the after life knowing they’ve given their all to their blessed mate; that’s what always and  forever looks like.

It doesn’t just pertain to the marriage relationship, however. Lasting friendships can–and often do–exhibit always and forever, too. Did you know that King David and Saul’s son Johnathan loved each other with a deep love? I don’t mean any funny-business-love either. I’m talking pure, no judgment, deep, lasting love that only the best of friends share.

Do you know what it is to have less than a handful of deep root inner circle friends? I’m talking about pals you might not even speak with on a daily basis, but when you do get together, time stands still. Do you know what it is to instinctively know when your pal is hurting? That sixth-sense type of love that takes precedence over everything else going on in your life, for one moment? Some of you know what I’m talking about. That’s the always and forever bond of true friends.

Most parents instinctively know what always and forever love looks like. It’s that unspoken bond you have with your children that automatically makes you put yourself and your needs behind theirs. No matter what, you’re going to always love them, forever. That kind of love makes a 41-year old mother refer to her 24 year-old son as, “my baby”. It’s sappy, but it’s pure.

Do you have a spouse, a friend or a child in that always and forever spot locked in your heart? Make sure you tell them what they mean to you, sometime this week. Life is short. Our loved ones need to know we care, and that we’re in their lives for the long haul, no matter what.

 

*always*

What Can I Do For You, Dear?

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I have a married friend who struggles with pornography. His wife simply isn’t interested in sex anymore. Every time he advanced, he was met with violent opposition. So, he simply stopped asking and chose to turn to the false satisfactions of the internet.

Another friend of mine was addicted to promiscuity. Her husband was so bent on climbing the corporate ladder, that he never made time for her. Eventually, she began to date outside of her marriage and became a slave to the lifestyle. By the time their marriage began to heal, she couldn’t stop.

And then there is that one friend we all have, who doesn’t understand he’s married. He still frequents the after-hour spots, or “window shops” women or constantly bombards Facebook with skin-selfies. Maybe your friend’s a married woman. Either way, they’re completely dishonoring their marriage and just don’t understand or don’t seem to care.

Sometimes I think my wife and I could have avoided many of the marital pitfalls we traveled through, had we submitted to God before we were married. You see, we’re both forgiven adulterers. We both had to deal with selfish pride driving us away from one another. If we had a genuine love for the Lord before we made our vows, maybe we would have embraced the enormous responsibility and cherished the great honor that is marriage. It took us a while to get to the place of love and trust, but God’s grace and mercy saved our marriage. While listening to John MacArthur this morning, I was reminded that the fight for our marriage is never really over, as long as we breathe. Satan has a plan to not only destroy our marriage, but all Godly marriages as well.

In his radio message, “To Marry Or Not To Marry”, pastor John MacArthur preached on biblical marriage, straight from 1 Corinthians 7. But this wasn’t a boring sermon. Instead, pastor John hit his listening audience in the face with real talk. You should have seen me feverishly scribbling notes while I listened, because I didn’t want to miss a thing. With my iPod handy, I wrote down a few direct quotes from pastor John; quotes that I think every husband and wife need to remember.

  1. “You have an obligation in your marriage, to give to one another what you owe to one another.”

When I married Misty Nielsen, I spiritually tied myself to her. I promised to provide for her every need, without question, and she did the same. God expects me to honor that cheerfully. I owe her happiness, to the best of my ability. Don’t misunderstand me here: only God can provide her with joy unspeakable. But, as her husband, he entrusted me with her marital happiness. If I’ve been saving up for a 2015 Honda CBR 650f motorcycle and my wife has desired a family vacation for five years, I better use that $9,000 to fulfill her wishes, and I’d better do it cheerfully. That attitude carries over into marital intimacy, as well. Our culture teaches us the attitude, “I’ll do what I want to do, and nothing else.” But, if that attitude binds my wife’s happiness, because of my selfishness, it’s no good. This brings us to point number two.

  1. “When you withhold from your partner for any reason, you put that partner in a place where Satan will tempt them toward their lack of self-control.”

Let me put it to you this way: if you continue to deny your spouse what he or she asks for, you will literally drive them toward the very temptation that your marriage was designed to keep them away from.

“Babe, I was think that we could—”

“No. I don’t feel like it.”

Strike one.

“Honey, the kids are gone. Maybe we can—”

“Not tonight. I just want to get some sleep. Don’t forget you promised to take my sister to work in the morning.”

Strike two.

“Sweetness, let’s—

“Gosh, get away from me! Is that all you ever think             about? I’m really not in the mood!”

Strike three. You’ve just given Satan the green light to tempt your God-given husband. Remember the friend I told you about, who fell into the sin of promiscuity? Her husband chose his career over their marital happiness. Satan came calling, and she accepted. Pastor John goes so far as to reiterate the point in this manner: “Anytime you withhold from your partner that which is rightfully theirs, you become the agent of Satan.”

Whaaaaaattttttttt?! You mean to tell me, by denying my wife’s happiness, I’m doing the work of the enemy? Let’s visit point three.

  1. “Now you say you love your wife, men; women, you say you love your husband? Then don’t ever put your wife or husband in a situation where they are open to the temptation of Satan, simply because you’re selfish!”

My married friend, whose wife simply decided to stop having sex with her husband, comes to mind here. He is responsible for seeking out the internet trash, but she didn’t help him much by denying him. In 1 Corinthians 7:4, Paul says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”

Our culture is so backwards, that married men would rather spend hours in the gym perfecting the look of their bodies than to spend that same time in intimacy with the wife God blessed them with. It’s perfectly okay to workout. But, if you’re working out to maintain a certain look, and then plaster that look all over social media, who are you really trying to satisfy; yourself or your spouse? My body doesn’t belong to me, and it certainly doesn’t belong to Crystal, Michelle, Stacy, Evette, Julie, Kimberly—and every other woman I know—to enjoy through Facebook! That kind of activity will drive my wife, the one person who isn’t seeing me half naked, straight into the carnal mindset. This brings us to John’s last point.

  1. “If I say I love my wife; if you say you love your husband; if that’s really true, then you will never willfully, openly put that person in a place where Satan begins to tempt them to carnality.”

The carnal mind is set on the desires of our flesh; our lusts; our fantasies; conquests not of God, but of ego. If my selfish ego causes me to deny the desires of my wife—desires placed in her heart by God, for our marriage—then how can I actually expect her to remain totally faithful to me? It can’t be done! We’re human living in a fallen world. What’s her motivation for remaining true to a guy who seemingly doesn’t want her? Why would I expect her to be strong enough to deny her physical needs with others, when I’m too prideful to fulfill her desires?

Pride’s a monster. It tells us that our wants and desires are more important than anyone else’s. It’s the author of divorce. It’s the instigator of numerous marital spats. It’s anti-love. It has no place occupying space in a Godly marriage. What if your spouse asked you to do something totally uncharacteristic for them? It would bring them joy. Deep down, we all know what makes our spouse happy. For whatever reason, we choose to cater to our own desires instead of pleasing them.

I think this is a good place to pose a question for my married readers. Tonight, can you put your pride aside and submit to your spouse without them asking you to do so? Would you let pride, hinder that happiness?