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Friday, November 22, 2013

Marriage: the First and Most Basic of All Human Institutions

God created marriage. First, He made a man. Then He criticized creation stating, “It is not good that man should be alone.” So He made a woman and joined her to the man in marriage. God began human life with a family.

Is that significant? Well, does a cat meow? Is the Empire State Building tall? Of course it is significant. God established marriage as the first and most basic of all human institutions. Long before there were governments, churches, schools, or any other social structure, God started with a family. He started with a home based on the mutual respect of a husband and a wife.

All other human institutions grew out of the home. From the authority of the father developed the patriarchal and later tribal systems of government, then monarchies and democracies. From parental responsibility to raise and educate kids developed formal systems of education – schools, colleges, and universities. Nurturing responsibilities in the home led to hospitals and orphanages. The parent’s responsibility to teach their children about God led to Synagogues, churches, Sunday Schools, and Vacation Bible Schools. You can’t think of a social or cultural organization that did not grow out of the home and marriage.

But now there is a problem. Marriage is under attack! The attacks are coming from every quarter. It doesn’t matter where you look. The media and the entertainment industry makes fun of or ignores Biblical marriages. The educational establishment and even government is pushing an inclusive view of marriage. Even some churches are condoning same-sex marriage. Marriage as an institution is tottering – it is being destroyed from the bottom up. And who can doubt it?

The September cover story in “The Journal” of Summit Ministries states,

“The push for same-sex marriage has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations for one simple reason: Americans quit caring about marriage as an institution. Like Jacob throwing away his birthright for a pot of stew [they meant Esau but misspoke], Americans have become apathetic about the one institution without which civilization cannot survive. They’ve lost the plot and forgotten what marriage is for and why it is good.”
In the largest ever survey of morality and attitudes in the United States with the results printed in the book, “The Day America Told the Truth,” we read,
“The majority of men and women now believe in their hearts that it is a good idea to live together before marriage. Almost half of all Americans take that thought one step further: nearly half of us say that there is no reason to ever get married. And even when children are involved, only 32 percent of us believe that we should try to stick out a bad marriage for the sake of the kids. Divorce in fact is what will happen to most marriages. Forty-four percent of us agree that most marriages will end in divorce. And this fact may gladden the hearts of some lawyers: a thumping 59 percent of all Americans believe that it’s a smart idea to draw up a prenuptial agreement, just in case.”
That’s scary!

The number of unmarried-couple households has increased from 523,000 in 1970 to 4,236,000 in 1998. Professor Roger Rubin at the University of Maryland estimates “that by the year 2000 [this is an old prophecy but still true], half of all American adults will have had a cohabitating experience by the age of 30.” Unfortunately, the Houston Chronicle reports that couples who live together before marriage have an 80 percent greater chance of divorce than those who don’t cohabitate. Oh, yes, marriage is in trouble.

This is so scary because of the consequences. If marriage falls, than all the other institutions that grew out of marriage will inevitably fall too. That means churches, schools, businesses, hospitals, and governments. Are we not seeing that happen before our eyes?

But what gives us hope is this: God is on the side of marriage. It was God who said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” In other words, marriage as it should be is God’s intention. And praise God, he gave us His instruction manual if we will only follow it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What If You Have Blown It?

Last time we talked about the dangers of dating relationships and about “How far was too far?” We ended with a statement that God condemns premarital sex (Any sex outside of marriage, for that matter). IT is quite simple: Don’t do it! But that leads naturally to the next question: “What if I’ve already blown it?” “What if I didn’t wait till marriage?” What if I did mess up by not remaining pure in my relationships?”

The obvious answer is to seek God’s forgiveness. 1st John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God can forgive you. God can make you clean. He can clear your record. He only asks you to confess that sin to Him.

Can His forgiveness even include sexual sin? Oh, yes! Of course! 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 gives us an example:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

The church contains many who were once great sinners. There are many who blew it sexually. But when they came to Christ for forgiveness, they were made clean.

No sin is ever too great for the Lord to cleanse. If you’ve confessed it, you are clean before Him. He doesn’t take away the consequences. With an unplanned pregnancy, the baby is still there. You can never give away your virginity again. Any STD you may have contracted still needs medical care. And the scars on your soul may well last a lifetime. But before God, you are esteemed as if you had never sinned. Don’t let Satan burden you with any guilt. Jesus has removed your guilt. Jesus paid the penalty for it on the Cross. So believe that God loves you, and that you are clean, forgiven, washed, and sanctified.

But what if it wasn’t your sin? What if the one you love was the one who sinned? What if the one you’ve fallen in love with has a past? The answer is: You must forgive them. Perhaps you feel that you have been a victim – that someone else led you into sin, that they took advantage of your love. You must forgive them. You must forgive for both of your sakes.

Ephesians 4:31-32 states:

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

I have counseled a number of young men who were in love with a girl with a past. They wanted her so much they couldn’t bring themselves to break up, they hoped to marry her, yet they were tormented continually that she had slept with another man. They would continually bring up her past and argue with her. In general, they made her life miserable. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to marry a virgin. That should be every man’s dream. But they have fallen in love with a nice Christian girl who isn’t. My counsel has always been this: You must forgive immediately. If you can’t, you must break off the relationship for her best interest. But from this day forth, you must never bring it up again or ever hold it against her. 1st Peter 4:7 tells us that “love will cover a multitude of sins.” You cannot be God’s instrument of wrath against her for something that God has forgiven. If you love her, you will not add to her pain.

Why must you forgive? Because before God, she is clean. God has cleansed her and erased that sin from her record. He has buried that sin in the depths of the deepest sea. He has sent it as far away as the east is from the west. He has covered it over with a thick cloud and promised to remember it no more. If you truly love this woman, you will do the same.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cleaving Body, Soul, and Spirit – Which is Most Important? Or, What is Wrong With Dating?

We’ve been examining Genesis 2:24 which says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined [or cleave] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This bonding, or cleaving, we said, involves a cleaving of body to body, soul to soul, and spirit to spirit. But of these three levels of bonding, which is most important? Obviously, if we were to prioritize them, the bonding of spirit to spirit is most important, followed by the bonding of soul to soul, and last would be the bonding of body to body.

But honestly, which is the most common order? Yeah! Most unions are made because of sexual attraction – the desire to bond body to body. It’s that love at first sight thing: “Wow! What a babe!” The stir of the hormones is most powerful. Now, there is nothing wrong with that stir (God made us that way, after all.), but it must be controlled and channeled. Every effort must be made to develop the other two areas of cleaving first. Parents, you need to work with your teens so they can get this order right.

Modern dating, or should I say mating practices seem to get this reversed. They almost always begin with romance – the sexual attraction part. So kids start “going out” and “going steady” as early as middle school. And it is almost always because of sexual attraction. But if we most often get the bonding process backwards, is it any wonder so many marriages are in trouble?

What is wrong with modern dating as practiced by the world? It, for the most part, violates the mandate of 1st Corinthians 6:18, “Flee sexual immorality.” It pairs up two immature kids, both in the height of hormonal frenzy, who have picked each other out because of sexual attraction. Then it sets them in all kinds of romantic situations. They are found cuddling at a movie watching actors and actresses “doing it” on the giant screen. Or they are going to dances where they shake and gyrate seductively in front of each other, or slow dancing which is no more than hugging to the music. As one mother said, if they aren’t aroused after that, they are dead. Or they find themselves parking along some secluded lane. And we wonder why so many of them get in trouble. Mary Pride said it is safer to give then dynamite and send them out to blow up skyscrapers than to solo date.

How much better to control the environment our kids socialize in? Parents, you need to be actively involved in this. Many church youth groups across the country have taken a “No dating” pledge. That shouldn’t be considered that radical a proposal, but only good sense. It keeps them all friends. As long as they can stay just friends, they can be friends for life. But once they move into romance, they can’t go back to just being friends again.

How much better for our teens to do fun things together in a group without the romantic pairing off. That follows the admonition of 1st Timothy 5:2 for the young men to treat “younger women as sisters, with all purity.” You don’t have romantic interludes with your sisters – YUCK! But when the time for marriage comes, they will have built a base both spiritual and intellectual upon which a marriage can be built.

Another problem with dating that is perhaps even more severe is that dating weakens the marital bond. Remember? We have said that cleaving is like glue, or better, tape. Tape is meant to be used just once. If you peel tape off and try to reuse tape, it doesn’t stick as well. Peel it off and try to use a third or a fourth time, and there practically isn’t any stickiness left. It is the same with our romantic bonding. We said that the more times we cleave to a romantic love and break up, the harder it is to ever form a permanent attachment.

This is another reason why sexual cleaving should be reserved for marriage. The body produces oxytocin, a neuro transmitter hormone, called the love hormone. This hormone has been scientifically found to promote bonding between intimate couples – it is that glue that cements us together in our marriage relationships. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released in a woman during foreplay, and it is released in a man during climax. This hormone plays a huge role in developing that feeling of bonding between a husband and wife. But think how dangerous that bonding is in an illicit relationship, how dangerous that would be in our hook-up culture.

Just as an aside, Ladies, with this scientific fact before you, if you want your husband to feel close to you, don’t cut him off. That warm feeling of love that sweeps over him after making love is a huge part of bonding. But men, the release of oxytocin in your wife during foreplay should cause you to take all the time she needs getting her ready. The closeness she will experience toward you is priceless.

But in unmarried people, this is incredibly dangerous. Two hearts come together in a romantic/sexual bonding while dating, and the cleaving process begins. But they usually pull apart before that glue is set (most couples only date for a few months before they move on), but what happens? Glue tissue paper together with Elmer’s Glue, then try to pull it apart. The tissue is going to tear.

Tender hearts get torn to pieces over and over again in serial dating, and then over time the heart calluses over. But glue isn’t meant to be used over and over. Serial dating, going from one to another to another romantic interest, falling in and out of love repeatedly, ruins the stickiness of our heart. It sets in place the pattern that if you get tired of this one because you’ve had a spat, or you’ve found someone sexier, then you split up. You find someone new. You move on to a new conquest. Modern dating sets in place a mindset that leads more to divorce than lifelong marriage. That kind of dating doesn’t prepare anyone for marriage.

One last point about dating: The question always comes up, “How far can I go?” First, that is the wrong question. We shouldn’t wonder how close we can get to sin without crossing the line, we should be repelled by sin. The real question we must ask is, “How can I stay as far away from sin as possible?” Therefore, the real issue isn’t how far we can go, but how clean we can stay.

Jonathon Lindvall gave a great answer to the question. He was talking with his son who was leaving on a date that night, and he asked him, “Are you going to marry this girl?”

“No, I don’t think so,” responded his son. “Why? I never even thought about that. No!.”

“Then do you think she will probably marry someone else then?” Dad asked. “Someday she will be someone else’s wife?”

“Well, sure, I suppose so. She’s a nice girl. Yeah, I suppose she’ll get married.”

“So,” Dad asked. “You aren’t planning on marrying her, but you are planning on getting married someday? Right?”


“Hmmm, then I suppose that the girl you are going to marry someday could be out on a date tonight with someone else?”

“I guess so.”

Then dad stated the rule, “How far do you want her (your future wife) going with her date tonight?” And his son’s mouth dropped open in shock over the thought. “You should not go any further with this girl you are dating (who will marry someone else), than you want some other man to go with your future wife.”

Certainly no man would want some other man touching, and kissing, and fondling his wife.

Do you get the picture? God condemns pre-marital sex. Sin never unites, it only divides. You can’t build a marriage that will last on lust. It has to be built on God.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cleaving Soul to Soul and Spirit to Spirit

In Genesis 2:24, God states,
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Be joined together” is translated as “cleave” in the King James. The most obvious cleaving is body to body in sexual union. We’ve spent quite a bit of time covering that. But cleaving in marriage also must be soul to soul and spirit to spirit. These are even more important than body to body. Better than cleaving body to body is cleaving soul to soul, and better still is cleaving spirit to spirit.

Let’s look at cleaving soul to soul. For purposes of discussion, we will refer to the soul as the intellectual and emotional side of us. Cleaving soul to soul is sharing the same interests, enjoying each other’s company, finding conversation together fascinating – it’s the stuff of daily life that we share together. They need to help bond us together.

That takes work, and it takes time because our interests and our intellects keep changing and growing. I’ve been married for 39 years, but I’m not married to the same woman. Oh, she has the same name and the same fingerprints, but she is totally different from the young woman I married. She has changed over time. And I have had to learn to change with her.

Most young couples realize soon after they are married that they really didn’t know the one they said “I do” to. Our spouse isn’t who we first thought she was. We realize soon that our vision was clouded by our emotions. Infatuation has a way of shutting off the brain, you know. So it takes work. Keith Miller said that he envisioned his bride as a combination of St. Theresa, Elizabeth Taylor, and Betty Crocker. Boy was he off base – his words.

So, when reality hits us in the face we can do one of two things: We can try to make our spouse like our image, which is bound to create conflict and hurt feelings. Or, we can accept her for who she really is and work to develop our relationship.

But finally, a true union must also be a cleaving of spirit with spirit. A believer indwelt with the Spirit of God must only marry another believer. That was the point of God’s command in 2nd Corinthians 6:14 -

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
Think about it: What kind of relationship can there be when you can’t share the most important part of your life (your faith, your Lord) with your spouse? Besides, if you marry a child of the devil, you are guaranteed to have trouble with your father-in-law. GUARANTEED! So teens, don’t even think about dating an unsaved person. DON’T DO IT!