Your Marriage Can Be G-R-E-A-T!

wedding_bandsMarriage! Just say the word and a number of thoughts come to mind. Will I ever get married? If so, whom will I marry? Will I have children? If I do have children, how many? Where will I live? Will I have a good marriage? Better yet, will I have a great marriage? Wait a minute. Let’s consider that question again. Will I have, not just a good marriage, but a GREAT marriage?

Friends, great marriages do not come about by accident. Oh no friends, great marriages are the result of much planning and effort. Someone has said the success of a marriage is not determined by how much love you put into it as much as it is determined by how much work you put into it.

But have you ever stopped to think about what sets great marriages apart from all others? Have you ever wondered what makes great marriages great?

When we consider the letters in the word great, several things come to mind. First, the “G” reminds us that God must be in our marriages. It is no coincidence that this is first on the list, for no marriage can be truly great without God. I cannot emphasize this enough! Couples who strive to build homes with God as their center enjoy enormous advantages over those couples that do not make God the center of their home. Couples who strive to build homes with God as their center enjoy a common sense of morality, a common sense of values, a common standard of right and wrong, a common source of strength in time of need, and a common purpose in life. A couple that builds a home with God as its center is able to pray for one another and for their marriage. Friends, it is an undeniable fact that the closer a husband and wife get to God, the closer they get to one another.

Consider the words of Solomon, recorded in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Did you notice the emphasis that is placed on the advantages that two have over one?

And yet, we cannot help but notice the significance of the phrase “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” This “third cord” Solomon tells us of is undoubtedly a reference to God. When a couple includes God in their marriage, their marriage is not easily broken. Friends, a great marriage is a marriage where husband and wife are both Christians, striving to help each other grow spiritually and obtain an eternal home in heaven.

Second, the “R” reminds us that we must remember our vows. A vow is a solemn promise you made to your spouse. Husbands, did you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect your spouse, forsaking all others? Wives, did you promise to love, honor, cherish, and obey your spouse, forsaking all others?

When you made your vows, you not only made them before your spouse, but you made them before all others who were present. But far more important, you made them before God. That’s right! You made a promise to God! Man and woman are joined together as husband and wife, not merely by man, but by God.

Did your vows include the often spoken phrase, “Till death do us part?” Marriage is a lifelong commitment. The story books may picture a couple getting married, only to live happily ever after, seemingly free of problems. But we know that real life is not always like what we read about in the story books. Admittedly, there will be difficult times with any marriage. There will be times of hurt feelings, disappointments, and problems that, at least at the time, seem to be insurmountable. But times like these should cause a husband and wife to remember the promise they made to one another. Friends, when a husband and wife are committed to one another, they will never face any problem that cannot be resolved with God’s help.

When Jesus was asked about divorce for any cause, he responded: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(Matthew 19:4-9). Friends, God expects us to keep our vows! God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

Third, the “E” reminds us that a husband and wife are to enjoy life together. A husband and wife should take time simply to enjoy being with one another. It goes without saying that we all have daily obligations to meet and responsibilities to fulfill. I understand we all have busy schedules and appointments to keep. We all share in many of the stresses of daily life. Sure, life is filled with its peaks and its valleys, its ups and downs. But we should not allow the “downs” to prevent us from enjoying life. Couples should make it a priority to spend time together, to do things together, to have fun together, and to laugh together. A husband and wife ought to develop an interest in recreational activities they can both enjoy together. Someone has said, “The couple that plays together stays together.” Listen to the words of Solomon, recorded in Ecclesiastes 9:9: “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.” Also notice Proverbs 5:18: “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” Your spouse should be, not only your spouse, but also your best friend!

Fourth, the “A” reminds us that husbands and wives are to appreciate one another. When you stop to count your blessings, don’t forget to include your spouse. Don’t neglect to tell your spouse that you appreciate him (or her). To appreciate your spouse means to grasp or understand your spouse’s worth, or value. Few things can be more harmful to a marriage than for one (or both) of the spouses to feel unappreciated. A failure to appreciate your spouse will eventually manifest itself in selfishness and disrespect. “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22). Also notice Proverbs 19:14: “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

The fact that a wife is given to man by God can also be seen in Genesis 3:9-12: “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

Friends, precious gifts are not to be abused nor flaunted. They are to be treated graciously out of respect for the giver. For a husband or wife to neglect his or her spouse is to work against God’s plan.

Fifth, the “T” reminds us that a husband or wife is to treat his or her spouse as the most important person in the world. After all, who on earth is more important to you than your spouse? Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:24-28).

In I Peter 3:7, Peter wrote: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Also notice Paul’s words to Titus: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children” (Titus 2:3-4).

Did you notice something about Paul’s words? Love is not just an emotion! Not just something we feel! Love is an action! Love is a type of behavior! Yes, a husband should treat his wife as the most important person in the world, because to him, she is the most important person in the world!

How can a husband treat his wife as the most important person in the world? By refusing to ignore her. By valuing her opinion. By taking time to be with her. By refusing to make sarcastic remarks about, or to, her. By refusing to be rude to her, whether publicly or privately. By being aware of her needs. By defending her when others are criticizing her. Of course, these things would also apply when considering a wife’s treatment of her husband.

To sum it all up, in terms of your relationships with others, none should be more important to you than your relationship with your spouse.

Yes, your marriage does not have to be just good. Your marriage can be great! Your marriage can be great if God is in your marriage. If you remember your vows. If you enjoy life together. If you appreciate one another. And if you treat your spouse as the most important person in the world.

What Does Going to a Garden Party Have to Do With Living a Life That Is Pleasing to God?

tone armGood question!  How could an old song about going to a garden party make me think of the importance of living a life that is pleasing to God?  It’s really not as odd as you might think,  To find out, listen to the audio below!

Don’t Let the World Make Play-Doh Out of You!

ydR7CCNlMost of us remember playing with Play-Doh when we were kids.  (Yeah, I know, some of you are saying to yourself “A kid is a young goat.”  But I’m not so formal that I can’t refer to children as kids.  Please indulge me for a moment).  Play-Doh is a modeling compound that can be shaped into cars, flowers, dinosaurs – just about anything a kid (or even adult) can imagine.  Once only available in white, it now comes in fifty colors.  You may not have known it was originally sold as a wallpaper cleaner.

If we’re not careful, we will allow the world to make play-doh out of us!  The world is constantly trying to influence us.  Always trying to mold us into what it want us to be.  Satan would love nothing better than to shape you into what he wants you to be – your thoughts, your speech, your focus – you name it, everything about you!  Don’t let him do it!  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

Living Certain in an Uncertain World

Sleepless Young Man

Seems like I’ve been hearing the phrase “We are living in uncertain times” a lot lately.  Folks, ever since Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and Eve was formed from one of his ribs, people have always been living in uncertain times.  The word “certain” can be defined as “free from doubt, confident, sure.”  Synonyms that come to mind include “unquestionable” or “indisputable.”  When, in the history of man, could a man be certain he would live a long life?  At what point in the history of the world could a man be certain he would always enjoy good health?  Could a man ever be certain his standard of living would always match, or surpass, his previous standard of living?  Could a man ever be certain the value of his investments would always increase and be sufficient when he hoped to retire?  When could we be certain our country would be safe from enemy attack?

Friends, we have always lived in uncertain times!  But, before you start to wring your hands in despair, can I remind you of some things of which I am certain?  First, I am certain God created me and loves me. Some would have you believe you are here as a result of the process of evolution.  Such foolish nonsense! The epitome of ignorance! To borrow a phrase from the late Curtis Cates – “that’s hyper-stupid!”  David wrote, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalms 139:14) My physical body stands as a witness to the creative powers of God!  Because I am a product of God’s handiwork, I know He loves me and cares for me.  Peter wrote, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Second, I am certain there is a Savior who loved me enough to die for me!  I have sinned.  There is nothing I can ever do to remove sin from my life apart from the blood of Jesus Christ!  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Because of Christ’s sacrificial love, I am certain I can be forgiven and live this life (as uncertain as it may be) with the hope of an eternity in heaven.

Third, I am certain this world is not my home.  Paul described my earthly, physical body as a tabernacle (II Corinthians 5:1-4).  My physical body can be compared to a tent – temporary, a place where my spirit dwells for a short while until I am clothed with my immortal body (II Corinthians 5:2).  I am merely a pilgrim on this earth (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11).  One day, this sinful world in which I now live will come to an end (Hebrews 1:10-12).

Fourth, I am certain that life is good.  Sure, life on this earth has it troubles.  I would not be so foolish to deny that!  Jesus said “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) But I am certain that life is still good!  Life is good because I’m a Christian!  I enjoy greater blessings than money can ever buy – I experience the joy of my salvation.  I understand that the troubles of this world are temporary and pale in comparison to the glory of heaven (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Fifth, I am certain an eternal hell awaits the unrighteous (II Thessalonians 1:8) and an eternal heaven awaits those who keep the faith – those who fight the good fight and finish their course (II Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 22:1-5).

I’m aware of how the headlines read.  I know what the “talking heads” are saying on tv.  But I also know I can live certain in an uncertain world!

Does It Really Matter How We Worship?

cropped-bible-medium2.jpgGod is deserving of our worship.  Jesus taught that God desires that we worship Him. (John 4:23) Has God instructed us as to how we should worship Him?  Or are we free to worship God in any way we choose, as long as we are sincere in what we do?

In Matthew chapter fifteen, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their vain worship. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9) The word “vain” means folly, or of no purpose. We learn from this passage that worship consisting of manmade traditions while ignoring the commandments of God is useless.  Surely, God will not accept this kind of worship.

Another kind of worship mentioned in the scriptures is ignorant worship.  Ignorant worship is worship offered to God without a knowledge of God’s will concerning who He is and how He is to be worshipped. (Acts 17:22-23) Those people at Mars Hill in Athens were guilty of this type of worship. This type of worship is also unacceptable to God.

The apostle Paul spoke of those who were guilty of “will worship.” “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23) While the King James Version refers to “will worship,” the English Standard Version refers to it as “self-made religion.”

Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines will worship as “worship which one devises and prescribes for himself, contrary to the contents and nature of the faith which ought to be directed to Christ.”  Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines will worship as “voluntarily adopted worship, whether unbidden or forbidden.”  In simple terms, we can think of will worship as “doing what we like and what we think is good, but not taught by God in the scriptures.”  Examples of this type of worship can be seen in solos, choirs, and mechanical instruments of music in worship, such as pianos, organs, etc. These are things that men desire, but are not taught in the scriptures.

Jesus spoke of the need for us to worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) This is the only type of worship that God accepts.  To worship in spirit means that our worship is spiritual in nature, in contrast to worship that is physical in nature. Old Testament worship consisted of a physical structure (the tabernacle), special clothing for priests, lampstands in the tabernacle, burning of incense, instruments of music and animal sacrifices.  Worship under the New Testament is spiritual in nature.  Today, God’s temple is not physical, but is made up of Christians (I Peter 2:5), all Christians are priests offering spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5, 9), our prayers are described as sweet incense before God (Revelation 5:8) and our music consists of making melody IN THE HEART (Ephesians 5:19). Today, we worship in truth, meaning the real, or substance, of which those things in the Old Testament were merely a foreshadowing, or figure, of things to come.  (Hebrews 10:1) When we worship in spirit and in truth, we worship according to the teachings of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3:11).

It does make a difference how we worship!

Denominations Are a Product of Men, Not God

cropped-bible-medium2.jpgThis past week I read an article written by a minister of a well-known denomination.  The first statement of the article read as follows, “When the church age began during the Lord’s earthly ministry, there was only the church Jesus built.”  Questions for the minister who wrote the article, and all of us, to consider include, “Does the one church Jesus built exist today?  If Jesus only built one church, why are there so many churches today?  Who made the change?  If Jesus only built one church, who built these other churches? And does any of this really matter?”

A denomination can be defined as “a large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name, usually organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.” Friends, I must say with all kindness yet with all truthfulness to God’s word, denominationalism is completely incompatible with and foreign to the scriptures.  Notice the following from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) Men may accept, even applaud, the division that exists in the religious world today, but God never has and never will.

Denominations are of human origin.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Jesus said He would build His church, singular.  All denominations exist without New Testament authority, New Testament example or Christ’s approval.

Why does any of this really matter? The inspired apostle Paul taught that Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same.  (Ephesians 1:22-23) He went on to teach that there is only one body, therefore there must be only one church. (Ephesians 4:4) Later in his same letter to the church at Ephesus he taught that Christ is the savior of the body.  (Ephesians 5:23) What can we conclude from all this?  Christ is the savior of the one church that He built!

Peter told those present on the Day of Pentecost to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) When these people were saved by believing the gospel, repenting of their sins, confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized to receive the forgiveness of their sins, how did the Lord respond?  He added them to the one church that He built.  (Acts 2:47) He did not add them to a denomination, for there were no denominations in existence!

The church that Jesus built still exists today, just as it did in the first century.  It has no earthly head.  It has no legal hierarchy.  It follows no manmade creeds, practices, manuals or handbooks. It simply follows the New Testament pattern for the church.  Its congregations are autonomous and are overseen by elders who have authority only over their particular congregation. (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1-3) Its members meet on the first day of every week to worship, including partaking of the communion. (Acts 20:7) Its members worship God through acapella singing, just as the early church of the first century did.  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) Its members pray and study the Bible together. (Acts 2:42) Its members hear preaching together and give financially on the first day of the week. (I Corinthians 16:1-2)

Can a person be saved from his sins today and be a member of Christ’s one church without being a member of any denomination?  Yes!  He not only can, he must in order to please God.  How can a person do this?  He must believe the good news, or gospel, concerning Jesus Christ.  (John 3:16) He must repent of his sins (Acts 17:30-31) He must confess his faith in Jesus Christ.  (Acts 8:37) He must then be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins.  (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16) When he does this, the Lord will add him to the one church that he, Jesus Christ, purchased with his blood.  (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28)

Friends, it is not my intention to be unkind.  Rather, it is my desire to expose the clear teaching of the scriptures concerning Christ and His church. Search the scriptures and see whether these things are so! (Acts 17:11)

“The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16:16)

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

What do YOU see when you survey the wondrous cross?  Some would see no more than a rough, wooden cross.  Some look at Christ on the cross as a myth, a mere invention of men.  Some look at the cross with indifference, having no desire to appreciate its significance.  Some look at those who appreciate the cross as foolish – after all, how could anyone place their faith in someone who died in such a horrible manner?  Click to listen and I will tell you what I see when I survey the wondrous cross!