Weddings, God and Covenants

As we move into the season of summer we also move into the season of weddings.  For the past few years I have had a couple of weddings on my calendar each summer.  This past weekend my wife and I attended a wedding and in a couple of weeks I will be performing one. I know of the three other weddings in our immediate sphere of relationships that will take place this summer.  Summer seems to be synonymous with weddings.

As I think about weddings, especially as I officiate any of them, I think of the word covenant.  When a man and a woman stand together on their wedding day, they are entering into a covenant.  There is a difference between a contract and a covenant.

The world in which we live in operates by contract relationships:  I am going to give you certain things in exchange for something else.  If I give you those things, you are obligated to provide certain things to me.  If you break your end of the contract, then I’m able to simply walk away from our agreement.

If I live by a covenant, it’s different.  Even when you don’t keep up your end of the bargain, I continue to be faithful to the relationship.

I was reminded of the idea of covenant as I have been reading the book Do Your Children Believe? Author Terence Chatmon talks about the idea of covenant and how God shows us what it looks like to keep a covenant.  He writes this in one of the later chapters:

“. . . as you read the grand sweep of the Bible – God’s covenants with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with David – you keep seeing this theme emerge.  His people forget what He’s done for them. His people are contentious and inconsistent. His people sometimes even stumble into outright rebellion . . . yet He keeps reaching out and redeeming a remnant.  He never stops seeking His people.  He always remains faithful to His covenant.”

It’s a beautiful picture of our Heavenly Father and a great picture for a marriage relationship.  To never stop seeking.  To always remain faithful.  Even when the other blows it.

What a good reminder for those who are getting married.

For those who are already married.

For all those who are contentious, inconsistent, even outright rebellious.

Guess that’s all of us.

“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”
(2 Timothy 1:9)

 

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Cohabitation On The Rise

Wedding-Ring-FingerI was watching the TODAY show this morning and they had a piece on the rise in couples who choose to live together and have children together prior to getting married. Here’s one statistic they shared in the report: “Marriage rates are at their lowest point in half a century and the number of cohabitating couples is way up to 7.5 million in 2010. Statistics show unmarried couples that live together are staying together longer than in the past. After three years, 32% were still living together and still unmarried and in many cases, like the Jolie Pitt clan, having children.”

The reporter went on to say this, “It does not surprise me at all that couples are choosing to cohabitat instead of get married. It’s much less intimidating to sign a lease than marriage papers. Couples want what is permanent. A baby is permanent. a relationship, not so much.”

One of the guest hosts of the show that day lives with his girlfriend and they have children together. They brought on an expert in relationships who said she was not concerned with the rise in cohabitation. Her response was this: “I think people want to be committed to one another and they’ll do it. Just in time.”

I know divorce is a scary and painful thing and many people who are now old enough to marry grew up in a time when a high percentage of parents didn’t stay together. Cohabitation is not a new thing and I think it happens in part because couples don’t want to see their relationship end in divorce. Rather than go through that painful process, couples chose to simply live together.

What stood out to me was the general acceptance (at least of those on the show this morning) of those who choose to live together. It seems that the fear of divorce is enough to justify living together and having children apart from marriage. If you look at the statistic shared in the report, only 1/3 of cohabitating couples are still together have three years. It would be interesting to see what happens to that percentage as the years increase.

I think it also shows that people want what God has placed in our hearts – the desire to be loved and to be known. Way back in the book of Genesis, Adam had everything he needed except a “suitable helper.” So, God gave him Eve.

While I know there are various reasons people chose cohabitation over living together, I think this report shows the value of marriage and how important, fulfilling and sometimes difficult that relationship can be. People want relationships to stick. They want their partner to stay.

One of the hosts this morning said, “The end game is sticking together.” That was God’s original design, to stick together. Our culture is reflecting God’s intent – to stick together. As we commit to His way, with His help, we can stick and stay.

You can see the video of this report, as well as a link to the transcript, on the TODAY Show website.

10 Politically Incorrect Reasons to Stay Married

Wedding-Ring-FingerI subscribe to Tony Morgan Live and today received an email about his top blog posts from May 2013. One that caught my attention was the post entitled 10 Politically Incorrect Reasons Why We’re Still Married. I just posted about weddings yesterday and really liked what Tony Morgan had to say.

In the post he talks about being married to the same woman for 22 years, so right away he had my attention. I admire couples who have been married for two decades and beyond because you know that not all those years were smooth sailing.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve listened to other voices and read other blog posts is that I don’t have to agree with everything everyone says in order to gain value from what they share. There is much we can learn from other people and not feel like we have to agree with everything they say. There are some good principles in Tony Morgan’s post that can be of help to those who are already married and those who looking to marriage in the future.

Here are the 10 Reasons he shared in his post:

1. We put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own needs. From what we’ve learned, our basic needs are different from each other. The book His Needs, Her Needs is a great book to begin this conversation.

2. We’ve made our physical appearance a priority. Neither one of us would admit to being “10s” by any stretch of the imagination, but we want to look sexy for each other. We work at it. That includes eating right, exercise, clothes, hair, etc. For example, Emily and I have made a pact — she decides what my hair looks like, and I decide what her hair looks like. Again, we prioritize the needs of our spouse.

3. We’ve embraced traditional roles. I work outside the home, and Emily works inside the home. Does that mean we’re against couples who try to juggle two jobs outside the home? Absolutely not. For Emily, though, she gains significance through being a great wife, mother and home manager. That’s a full-time job. Since she owns that role, it relieves quite a bit of stress that we know other couples have to navigate.

4. We prioritize our marriage over our careers. To do this, we have a tight budget. We spend less than we make. We avoid debt. We do this so we can live on one income. We do this so we can invest in time away like our recent trip to Cancun. We say no to overcommitment in our careers, so we can enjoy regular time together.

5. We prioritize our marriage over our children. We have four beautiful kids, but they will eventually grow up and leave. My relationship and friendship with Emily is more important. Ironically, when we put our marriage relationship first, our kids feel loved and more secure. This is one of the reasons why we are strict about limiting the activities our kids engage outside of school.

6. We didn’t have sex before marriage. We didn’t live together. We dated for six years before we got married. I can assure you, we wanted to have sex before marriage. Again, God forgives. I know all couples can’t begin here, but we did. And, I’m convinced learning that discipline to restrain ourselves before marriage has freed us up to thoroughly enjoy ourselves after marriage.

7. We’ve had lots of sex after marriage. God created us to have sexual desire. Christian couples, in particular, need to get over their inhibitions, talk about sex and continue to discover. Again, the principle of putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your needs holds true here as well. If you want to help your spouse avoid temptations outside of marriage, your sex life needs to stay spicy.

8. We enjoy wine together. (My unchurched friends won’t understand why this is politically incorrect. Trust me. It is with church people.) In other words, we don’t let religious people define how we live our lives including our marriage. We let God’s Word direct our lives. Because of that, who we are publicly is who we are privately. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not. We can be ourselves with each other and with everyone we do life with. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

9. We never meet alone or publicly with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t have meals alone with another woman. I won’t travel alone (even in a car) with another woman. I won’t meet a woman alone in an office without windows or without an open door. (My consulting clients can verify this.) This protects both of us from the temptations we all face. These protections help us avoid mistakes that would reduce the freedoms we have in our marriage. We’re not willing to sacrifice that for a momentary inconvenience.

10. We’re committed to a covenant where divorce is not an option. For Emily and me, that means we need to work at loving each other. We don’t wait for love to happen — we work at it. We need to discipline our lives to avoid mistakes that could end our marriage. We prioritize our faith, because that creates order for the rest of our lives including our marriage. Since we both agreed to fulfill this covenant ‘til death do us part, we have confidence that, even when marriage is difficult, we will persevere.

I know. Some of this sounds really shallow. Some of this sounds impractical. Some of this sounds inappropriate. I hope it challenges your thinking and generates some healthy conversation with your spouse.

Let’s choose integrity. Let’s choose to stay married.

90 Day Challenge Begins Today!

GOYOTo start off 2013, we have offered a challenge to our IMPACT students and any adults who want to join in. It is called the G.O.Y.O (Growing On Your Own) 90 Day Challenge. Beginning today, January 7th, we are offering the opportunity to read through the New Testament in ninety days.

The main idea behind it is to help each of us develop the habit of spending time with God – on our own. Meeting with other believers in study, worship, small groups and other settings is important to our spiritual development. It is also vital that we set aside time during the week to spend time with God. The 90 Day Challenge is just one way to do that.

If you have accepted the challenge, please go to our Facebook page and let us know you are in! We can encourage each other as we move through the next three months.

If you have not accepted the challenge, you can jump in at any time. Over 60 books have gone out to people who want to be a part of it. We’d love to have you join us.  Click here is you need more information.