Hamburger Meat

wifeI don’t often post the material of other writers or bloggers but this particular lady nails a concept I’ve counseled many couples about through the years…I think this applies to both men and women… – Pastor Art

Woman Realizes That She’s Been Accidentally Abusing Her Husband This Whole Time… Wow.

My “Aha Moment” happened because of a package of hamburger meat. I asked my husband to stop by the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and when he got home, he plopped the bag on the counter. I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat – which means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.

I asked, “What’s this?”

“Hamburger meat,” he replied, slightly confused.

“You didn’t get the right kind,” I said.

“I didn’t?” He replied with his brow furrowed. ” Was there some other brand you wanted or something?”

“No. You’re missing the point, ” I said. “You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.”

He laughed. “Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.”

That’s how it started. I launched into him. I berated him for not being smarter. Why would he not get the more healthy option? Did he even read the labels? Why can’t I trust him? Do I need to spell out every little thing for him in minute detail so he gets it right? Also, and the thing I was probably most offended by, why wasn’t he more observant? How could he not have noticed over the years what I always get? Does he not pay attention to anything I do?

As he sat there, bearing the brunt of my righteous indignation and muttering responses like, “I never noticed,” “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” and “I’ll get it right next time,” I saw his face gradually take on an expression that I’d seen on him a lot in recent years. It was a combination of resignation and demoralization. He looked eerily like our son does when he gets chastised. That’s when it hit me. “Why am I doing this? I’m not his mom.”

I suddenly felt terrible. And embarrassed for myself. He was right. It really wasn’t anything to get bent out of shape over. And there I was doing just that. Over a silly package of hamburger meat that he dutifully picked up from the grocery store just like I asked. If I had specific requirements, I should have been clearer. I didn’t know how to gracefully extract myself from the conversation without coming across like I have some kind of split personality, so I just mumbled something like, “Yeah. I guess we’ll make do with this. I’m going to start dinner.”

He seemed relieved it was over and he left the kitchen.

And then I sat there and thought long and hard about what I’d just done. And what I’d been doing to him for years, probably. The “hamburger meat moment,” as I’ve come to call it, certainly wasn’t the first time I scolded him for not doing something the way I thought it should be done. He was always putting something away in the wrong place. Or leaving something out. Or neglecting to do something altogether. And I was always right there to point it out to him.

Why do I do that? How does it benefit me to constantly belittle my husband? The man that I’ve taken as my partner in life. The father of my children. The guy I want to have by my side as I grow old. Why do I do what women are so often accused of, and try to change the way he does every little thing? Do I feel like I’m accomplishing something? Clearly not if I feel I have to keep doing it. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect him to remember everything I want and do it just that way? The instances in which he does something differently, does it mean he’s wrong? When did “my way” become “the only way?” When did it become okay to constantly correct him and lecture him and point out every little thing I didn’t like as if he were making some kind of mistake?

And how does it benefit him? Does it make him think, “Wow! I’m sure glad she was there to set me straight?” I highly doubt it. He probably feels like I’m harping on him for no reason whatsoever. And it I’m pretty sure it makes him think his best approach in regards to me is to either stop doing things around the house, or avoid me altogether.

Two cases in point. #1. I recently found a shard of glass on the kitchen floor. I asked him what happened. He said he broke a glass the night before. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said, “I just cleaned it up and threw it away because I didn’t want you to have a conniption fit over it.” #2. I was taking out the trash and found a pair of blue tube socks in the bin outside. I asked him what happened and why he’d thrown them away. He said, “They accidentally got in the wash with my jeans. Every time I put in laundry, you feel the need to remind me not to mix colors and whites. I didn’t want you to see them and reinforce your obvious belief that I don’t know how to wash clothes after 35 years.”

So it got to the point where he felt it was a better idea — or just plain easier — to cover things up than admit he made a human error. What kind of environment have I created where he feels he’s not allowed to make mistakes?

And let’s look at these “offenses”: A broken glass. A pair of blue tube socks. Both common mistakes that anyone could have made. But he was right. Regarding the glass, I not only pointed out his clumsiness for breaking it, but also due to the shard I found, his sad attempt at cleaning it up. As for the socks, even though he’d clearly stated it was an accident, I gave him a verbal lesson about making sure he pays more attention when he’s sorting clothes. Whenever any issues like this arise, he’ll sit there and take it for a little bit, but always responds in the end with something like, “I guess it just doesn’t matter that much to me.”

I know now that what he means is, “this thing that has you so upset is a small detail, or a matter of opinion, or a preference, and I don’t see why you’re making it such a big deal.” But from my end I came to interpret it over time that he didn’t care about my happiness or trying to do things the way I think they should be done. I came to view it like “this guy just doesn’t get it.” I am clearly the brains of this operation.

I started thinking about what I’d observed with my friends’ relationships, and things my girlfriends would complain about regarding their husbands, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, too many women have fallen into the belief that Wife Always Knows Best. There’s even a phrase to reinforce it: “Happy wife, happy life.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for his opinions, does it?

It’s an easy stereotype to buy into. Look at the media. Movies, TV, advertisements – they’re all filled with images of hapless husbands and clever wives. He can’t cook. He can’t take care of the kids. If you send him out to get three things, he’ll come back with two — and they’ll both be wrong. We see it again and again.

What this constant nagging and harping does is send a message to our husbands that says “we don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re smart enough to do things right. We expect you to mess up. And when you do, you’ll be called out on it swiftly and without reservation.” Given this kind of negative reinforcement over time, he feels like nothing he can do is right (in your eyes). If he’s confident with himself and who he is, he’ll come to resent you. If he’s at all unsure about himself, he’ll start to believe you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neither one is a desirable, beneficial outcome to you, him or the marriage.

Did my husband do the same to me? Just as I’m sure there are untold numbers of women who don’t ever do this kind of thing to their husbands, I’m sure there are men who do it to their wives too. But I don’t think of it as a typical male characteristic. As I sat and thought about it, I realized my husband didn’t display the same behavior toward me. I even thought about some of the times I really did make mistakes. The time I backed into the gate and scratched the car? He never said a word about it. The time I was making dinner, got distracted by a call from my mom, and burned it to cinders? He just said, “We can just order a pizza.” The time I tried to put the new patio furniture together and left his good tools out in the rain? “Accidents happen,” was his only response.

I shuddered to think what I would have said had the shoe been on the other foot and he’d made those mistakes.

So is he just a better person than me? Why doesn’t he bite my head off when I don’t do things the way he likes? I’d be a fool to think it doesn’t happen. And yet I don’t remember him ever calling me out on it. It doesn’t seem he’s as intent as changing the way I do things. But why?

Maybe I should take what’s he always said at face value. The fact that these little things “really don’t matter that much to him” is not a sign that he’s lazy, or that he’s incapable of learning, or that he just doesn’t give a d#%! about what I want. Maybe to him, the small details are not that important in his mind — and justifiably so. They’re not the kinds of things to start fights over. They’re not the kinds of things he needs to change about me. It certainly doesn’t make him dumb or inept. He’s just not as concerned with some of the minutia as I am. And it’s why he doesn’t freak out when he’s on the other side of the fence.

The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child. I didn’t think he was stupid when I married him – otherwise I wouldn’t have. He doesn’t need to be reprimanded by me because I don’t like the way he does some things.

When I got to that point mentally, it then made me start thinking about all the good things about him. He’s intelligent. He’s a good person. He’s devoted. He’s awesome with the kids. And he does always help around the house. (Just not always to my liking!) Even more, not only does he refrain from giving me grief when I make mistakes or do things differently than him, he’s always been very agreeable to my way of doing things. And for the most part, if he notices I prefer to do something a certain way, he tries to remember it in the future. Instead of focusing on those wonderful things, I just harped on the negative. And again, I know I’m not alone in this.

If we keep attempting to make our husbands feel small, or foolish, or inept because they occasionally mess up (and I use that term to also mean “do things differently than us”), then eventually they’re going to stop trying to do things. Or worse yet, they’ll actually come to believe those labels are true.

In my case it’s my husband of 12+ years I’m talking about. The same man who thanklessly changed my car tire in the rain. The guy who taught our kids to ride bikes. The person who stayed with me at the hospital all night when my mom was sick. The man who has always worked hard to make a decent living and support his family.

He knows how to change the oil in the car. He can re-install my computer’s operating system. He lifts things for me that are too heavy and opens stuck jar lids. He shovels the sidewalk. He can put up a ceiling fan. He fixes the toilet when it won’t stop running. I can’t (or don’t) do any of those things. And yet I give him grief about a dish out of place. He’s a good man who does a lot for me, and doesn’t deserve to be harassed over little things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Since my revelation, I try to catch myself when I start to nag. I’m not always 100% consistent, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better. And I’ve seen that one little change make a big improvement in our relationship. Things seem more relaxed. We seem to be getting along better. It think we’re both starting to see each other more as trusted partners, not adversarial opponents at odds with each other in our day-to-day existence. I’ve even come to accept that sometimes his way of doing things may be better!

It takes two to make a partnership. No one is always right and no one is always wrong. And you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. It doesn’t make you smarter, or superior, or more right to point out every little thing he does that’s not to your liking. Ladies, remember, it’s just hamburger meat.

Father Knows Best

Samson 1The story of Samson has all the elements of a major Hollywood blockbuster.  First you have the handsome, supernaturally strong, and unbeatable Samson who, also, unfortunately, has a penchant for the ladies (and the ladies of the night).  Then there’s Delilah who steals Samson’s heart and will eventually cause his downfall and destruction.  During each encounter Delilah seeks to learn the secret to Samson’s strength and success so she can betray him to his enemies, the Philistines.  After toying with her repeatedly (we all know toying with sin never works out well), he finally discloses that his hair is the key to his power.  You know the rest of the story.  Delilah cuts off his locks, Samson loses his strength, he is apprehended by the Philistines, tortured, and then in one final act of supernatural power, pulls down the columns and roof of the meeting hall on himself and the unsuspecting Philistine detractors.

But the secret to the downfall of Samson began long before his betrayal.  Samson’s demise began when he chose to ignore his parent’s sage counsel to not get involved with Philistine women like Delilah, but rather seek out a woman among those of like precious faith and values.  Judges 14:3 says, “His father and mother replied, isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people?  Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”  Samson, pleading his love for the Philistine beauty (all reason is thrown to the wind once the soul tie is formed), rejected his parent’s admonition, eventually took the Philistine woman Delilah as his own, and in ignoring his father, Samson crafted his own destruction.  

In reading the story in the Bible you will notice that the voice of his parents became silent.  Believers following in Samson’s footsteps should not take the eventual silence of the father or mother on this matter as an endorsement of what they are doing.  The silence is motivated in a desire to not alienate the child over the relationship he has chosen to enter against his father’s wishes.  The silence, is actually an indictment of the lack of honor shown to the father on such a critical matter.  The true reason for Samson’s downfall was that he failed to honor his father in such an important life decision.  Think of how different the story would have read if Samson had listened to his parents.  Think of all the divine appointments he missed and the destiny he failed to fulfill all over one simple decision.  I encourage you to keep you heart open to the guidance of your natural and spiritual parents.  Their wise counsel in due season could save you from a world of hurt and disappointment later on in life.

The Onion Ball

My wife Kelli and I were reminiscing with a friend the other day about our first weeks as a married couple living in a small one bedroom apartment in Springfield, Missouri while I attended graduate school. Kelli decided to surprise me one evening with a special dinner featuring a homemade meatloaf. 

She found a good meatloaf recipe on the side of a Quaker Oats container and set out with her ground beef, egg, onions, peppers, etc. to prepare a feast fit for newlyweds grossing $3000 the first year of their marriage. Apparently, everything was going fine until at some point her eyes shifted from the meatloaf recipe. When she glanced back at the container, she began to follow the recipe for oatmeal cookies instead. 

At the time she thought it was strange that the meatloaf recipe would call for nearly a cup of sugar but then again it was their recipe. Realizing what she had done later, Kelli attempted to compensate for what would be the sweetest meatloaf in history by chopping up an entire onion and adding it to the recipe. She tossed the meatloaf in the oven and served the meal as soon as I arrived home.

I couldn’t help but to burst into laughter when I cut into my portion of the meatloaf and onions sprang out literally from everywhere. I thanked her for what I called the “onion ball.” She was not nearly as amused but had to laugh at the most unusual tasting meatloaf in history – a mixture of funnel cake, hamburger, and blooming onion from Outback Steakhouse.

Like just about everything else in life, I see a great lesson here spiritually. The Lord has left us all a recipe for the abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10). If we follow his ways and keep our eyes on Him and His word, things will go well with us (3 John 2). It is amazing in our daily lives how much damage can be done by inclining our ears in the wrong direction or fixing our eyes on the wrong things. Let me encourage you to habitually incline your ears to God’s word and keep that same word before your eyes constantly (Proverbs 4:20). As you do this faithfully you will be adding the right ingredients for a victorious, overcoming, and successful life (rather than turning your life into something resembling an onion ball).

God’s Thoughts on Sex – Part Two

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders…” (1 Corinthians 6:9, NIV). “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4, NIV).

Our culture has been on a downward slope of moral and sexual compromise for over forty years. The removal of the Bible and prayer from public schools together with the sexual revolution has resulted in a potent combination of influences that have forever changed the moral landscape of our nation. The over sexualization of our culture has led to the wholesale acceptance of several types of sexual compromise. From the former President of the United States, to U.S. Senators, Congressmen, businessmen, school teachers, and ministry leaders, the new sexual morality of anything goes has produced destruction in countless lives. Because of the rampant devastation I will be intentionally plain in my blogs about God’s Thoughts on Sex because Christians should be getting their moral training from the Word of God and the Church and not from the world. It seems Christians will gladly welcome every vile thing from the world but bristle when Christian leaders speak boldly and plainly about the topic.

There are many forms of sexual compromise and deviance (which suggests obviously that there is a standard defining what is deviant – and there is – the Word of God) but I want to briefly discuss four that have permeated our society. First, pornography, the sexual stimulation through media, print, and the imagination, has become a multi-billion dollar industry and is at the root of the destruction of lives and marriages (in and out of the Church) all over the nation. Job said he had made a covenant with his eye not to look at a girl in lust (Job 31:1). Jesus equated illicit sexual fantasy with the actual physical action of adultery. Pornography perverts healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors, victimizing those involved in its production, and enslaves and ultimately destroys those snared by its allure.

Second, promiscuity, sexual stimulation before marriage, has to be clearly defined because young people especially think that if there is no actual penetration than they have not been promiscuous. The reality is that any sexual stimulation before marriage is promiscuous behavior including intercourse, oral sex, humping, fondling, and petting (See 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; 10:8; Ephesians 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3). Exacerbating the problem is the fact that there is little to no shame associated with promiscuity and virtually no accountability. On the contrary, the virgin or morally pure man or woman is made to look like a freak in today’s media for holding to the “ridiculous and unrealistic” notion that abstinence can really work.

As most cultures throughout time and around the world, adultery, the sexual stimulation by or with someone in a marriage covenant, is still viewed by many as out of bounds even though the majority of men and women in America, it is said, either have or will commit adultery in their lifetime. We need to revisit the Scriptural admonition once again that warns us that to engage in this behavior is violent in its destruction to marriages and homes and results in a shame that will never be wiped away (Proverbs 5:1-5, 11-18; 6:27-33; 7:21-27). Because sex is a covenant act that confirms the sacred oath between two married heterosexuals, adultery is the highest and most egregious form of betrayal in a marriage relationship. A man once told me who had over twenty affairs on his wife that his problem was an inordinately high testosterone level. The issue with adultery is not blood testosterone levels but character level born out of a conviction that human sexuality is sacred and covenantal, not animalistic.

Finally, homosexuality, the sexual stimulation with someone of the same sex, is clearly denounced in Scripture and no amount of creative Bible interpretation can change that truth. From the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:4-9), to the clear list of unapproved sexual behaviors in Leviticus 18, to the warning in Romans 1:26-27, homosexuality is a perversion of God’s standard for human sexuality which is good, heterosexual, marital, purposeful, holistic, temporary, and covenantal. It is important to remember that Jesus never set aside the moral and sexual code in his teachings. In fact, he tightened the screws when he said that sexual sin starts in the mind and the heart rather than in the body.

The sexual libertarians and allies have produced a fairly sophisticated strategy and process (with evil spiritual inspiration for sure) for influencing the culture to accept sexual sin and perversion in response to the voice of biblical morality. The first step is rationalization – that is the ones practicing the sin begin to make excuses and demand tolerance for their life choices. The second step is desensitization where the culture plays down, jokes about, and portrays the sin in a favorable light in media, etc. The third step is indoctrination or the deliberate attempt to win the hearts and minds of the next generation through misinformation. This is being accomplished today through the courts, the schools, and through liberal theologians who are altering biblical interpretation to fit the cultural demand for indoctrination. The final step is vilification or the systematic attempt to marginalize the standard (the Bible) and those that proclaim the standard (Bible believers) calling good evil and evil good. It’s usually at this point that the world, the activists, and the liberal church begin to chime in with protests labeling the believer with traditional moral and sexual values as narrow minded, bigoted, out of touch with reality, ignorant of their creative Bible redaction, judgmental or homophobic. But the ire of the spirit of this world does not and cannot change the integrity and authority of the Word of God that makes plain the true and holy nature of human sexuality.

In my third installment of God’s Thoughts on Sex I will be outlining a simple strategy for building a firewall to protect yourself and your family from the sexual onslaught in this nation. For now, make up your mind that you will take a stand for traditional moral values and that no amount of vilification by this world will force you to back down. We need the body of Christ to raise its voice like never before. We should not allow the world to fill the vacuum of knowledge for our children and people, but we should be intentionally and bluntly speaking the truth in love and boldly teaching God’s thoughts on human sexuality.

God’s Thoughts on Sex – Part One

Isaiah 55 makes plain the tendency of people to adopt and maintain thoughts on every subject that are contradictory to God’s thoughts. Our job is to allow the Lord to identify those erroneous thoughts by His Spirit and the Word of God and then cast them down or reject them (2 Corinthians 10:5). The Scripture teaches us that we are what we think so if we think wrong thoughts we will live wrong lives. Ungodly thoughts or thoughts that contradict God’s thoughts in any key area of life will certainly limit us and hold us back, and in some cases, utterly destroy us.

One of those areas is clearly the area of human sexuality. The minds of believers, just like the world, have been polluted by the over sexualization of our culture. The thoughts of the enemy and the world have invaded the Church so that one can scarcely differentiate the attitudes of the world on sex from the attitudes of those that claim to be born again Christians. For example, 65% of Americans excuse sex outside of marriage, 33% believe premarital sex among teens is acceptable, and only 49% think homosexuality is wrong. In the Church, a whopping 28% think pornography is alright and 35%, that’s over 1 out every 3 Christians, think sex outside of marriage is acceptable. You have to wonder what kind of “born again” they got and what kind of Bible they are reading (if they are reading one at all).

Ephesians 5:1 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” The life of the believer must not contain even a smidgen of sexual compromise but be the bulwark against the encroaching tide of sexual lawlessness in the land. So much is riding on our ability to turn the tide around. Every major culture in the history of the world has lost its power and position due ultimately to sexual immorality. The prevalence, acceptance, and defense of sexual immorality is evidence of the decline and influence of that culture like our Western society today. Literally every aspect of our culture has become sexualized and if history is true, that does not bode well for the West. The Church must stand up and be wiling to take the heat for choosing to believe and espouse a traditional and biblical sexual morality.

The biblical morality on human sexuality is plain and forthright: First, human sexuality is good so make sure you have a healthy attitude about sex (Genesis 2:5). Second, human sexuality is heterosexual so understand that sex is exclusively between men and women (Ephesians 5:31). Third, human sexuality is marital so get married if you want to have sex (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible boldly stays that the marriage bed is undefiled but sexual immorality will be judged. Fourth, human sexuality is purposeful. Like everything else God created, sex was created with purpose as well so understand sex is for (1) companionship, (2) procreation, and (2) pleasure with no apology because God made it so (Malachi 2:15). Fifth, human sexuality is holistic so realize that sex binds and links human beings physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually (1 Corinthians 6:16-17). Sixth, human sexuality is temporary – that’s right, I didn’t stutter. Jesus taught that in heaven we are neither married nor given in marriage but we are like angels (but not angels), that is we are asexual in our glorified bodies so don’t throw away your eternal life for just sex (Matthew 22:29-30). And seventh, human sexuality is covenantal so know that sex is something that seals the covenant of marriage. Married sex is the only sex endorsed by God. Sex is a covenant act that reminds the married person of the covenant and strengthens the covenant (Malachi 2:14-17).

Obviously by taking a stand in support of traditional values regarding human sexuality we open ourselves up to the scorn, ridicule, and persecution of a world that chooses to ignore and marginalize God’s thoughts on sexuality. But choosing God’s agenda has never been popular with a world at odds with God’s standards down through history. Perhaps we have been caught napping expecting that our nation would return to the days of Ozzie and Harriet if we just closed our eyes and wished it to happen. Those days have passed and our job now is to stand up and speak up because if the enemy manages to silence the Church and the pulpit he has effectively shut down the last line of defense to this nation plunging into a sea of total moral degradation.

Follow along in future blogs as I discuss areas of sexual compromise in the United States, the process of how our culture was influenced to embrace and accept sexual sin, and how to build a firewall to protect yourself and your family from sexual compromise. It is time for the body of Christ to push back on this societal plague with the truth of God’s Word.

The Happiness Myth – Part 3

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32, NIV).

I’ve often been amazed just how fast a seemingly insignificant issue in a marriage can become extremely volatile, especially when the couple violates biblical principles like the wisdom found in Ephesians 4. One night of anger turns into two, then three, then 30, then 300 and with each click of the light switch the relationship is becoming more and more damaged and the tiny pin prick the Devil had been trying to access that marriage through is is now a gaping hole and this marriage has now become his playground.

Our Scripture reveals that it is possible to be upset and angry about an issue without yielding to or accelerating the situation to the level of sin (but most of us know what’s it like to be angry and sin and we’re rather good at it). What does make the issue sin is when the couple does not process the situation and fails to collaborate together for a godly, peaceful solution. Instead, they decide to let the anger seethe and simmer without resolution day after day and night after night. This destructive process I call “heart stacking” has the amazing power to turn something minor into something that can threaten the very fabric of the marriage. As time goes by, the issue becomes more and more difficult to resolve and often the marriage partners stop remembering what the original issue was in the first place. How sad to let an issue that we cannot even remember destroy the intimacy and quality of the marriage.

You might think that I am overstating the damage of unresolved issues and anger in marriage but that would be to forget the aggressive and deceptive activity of the enemy in the midst of ongoing strife in the marriage. Remember that the Devil’s most powerful weapon is the power of suggestion. When we fail to biblically address and put down issues in marriage we open our hearts and minds to unscriptural thinking and meditation. Once that seed is planted by the enemy all he needs is another night, another week, another month and he can make that seed grow into an intractable situation.The Word indicates that we literally give the enemy a foothold in our marriage when we do not heed the admonition to “not let the sun go down on our anger.” A “foothold” is a secure position or a firm basis for further progress, activity, advancement, or development. No married couple sees the ultimate damage that can be caused by giving the Devil the right to advance strife in our lives through unresolved anger but he is a legalist and if you open that door, he will take that license.

The correct response to anger and strife in marriage is found in Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:31-32. If anyone deserves to be given the grace of God it should be our covenant partner. I’ve been amazed and perplexed at times to watch men or women show great mercy to family members coworkers, even strangers, but have no mercy, grace, or patience for the person they married. Focus on doing a daily dump of all anger and feelings of resentment you might have toward your husband or wife. We are told to “get rid” of all manifestations of anger and choose to be kind and compassionate towards one another. Surely “one another” applies to our spouses. We are challenged to forgive as God forgave us in Christ. Let’s avoid the trap of treating our spouses with such familiarity that we deny them the basic kindness and compassion commanded by the Apostle.

The Happiness Myth – Part 2

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:3-8, NIV).

One of the marks of a “Pharisaic” culture in the Church is the prevalence and acceptance of life choices and moral decline that spring forth from a hard heart. When the heart of the believer becomes hard towards the Lord, towards the Word of God, and towards the things of God in general he or she is capable of taking paths that totally and completely contradict the principles of the Word of God. In my earlier post on The Happiness Myth I mentioned the fact that most divorces in the body of Christ are due to the individual pursuit of happiness by one or both partners  (God just wants me happy) rather than abuse, adultery, or abandonment. The amazing thing is that many of the same people will spin the situation by trying to convince themselves that they are closer to God and his peace than every before. This is a ruse because you are not getting closer to God when you are moving further away from the revelation of his Word.

It’s critical to remember that the dissolution of something God has established, ordained, and blessed is a very serious matter. The pastor or minister may do the premarital counseling and even perform the ceremony, but it is the Lord God himself that makes them one with the declaration of his own mouth. Think of that – unseen by the pastor, the family, the wedding party, and the couple, the Most High God is engaged with the wedding ceremony and lifts up his voice to declare that the two are now one. Just like the born again experience, something invisible but yet just as powerful and miraculous takes place at this time.  If the husband or wife chooses to dissolve that relationship (outside of biblical revelation of cause) God’s powerful Word becomes trumped by their word. Whenever you find yourself on the opposite end of the Word of God you are on the wrong end of things and you demonstrate the hardness of heart Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19.

In coming posts I will be sharing some powerful principles to weather the current storm and attack on marriages throughout the body of Christ. Yes, it’s true that the Devil is behind the attack (but he is not the one signing the papers). Let’s begin with the concept of covenant and then I’ll deal with the others in a future blog.

Covenant Standard

Despite a surge in revelation knowledge and understanding of the Word in the body of Christ, it seems that the elevator is not going all the way to top on this teaching about covenant. Marriage is a covenant and not a civil agreement or a contract (waiting to be pilfered through loopholes). In fact, covenant means “to cut so that blood flows” in the establishment of an accord between two parties. It is sacred, irrevocable and represents the union of the party’s assets, liabilities, friends, enemies, victories, and challenges. The time to decide if you will keep a covenant when times get hard is before you enter into the covenant. Once established, the covenant is not to be violated least the offending party be destroyed. Everyone I’ve ever counseled has been all smiles and nods when we came to this important part of the teaching. In the back of my mind I’m thinking, “yea, they nod and smile now but let’s see if they nod and smile when times are tough because covenant is for the times when you want to quit not when marriage is new, exciting, and wonderful.”

I’m reminded of a story in the Book of Joshua where the Gibeonite people, fearing destruction by Israel’s conquering army under the leadership of Joshua, conspired to deceive Joshua into forming a covenant treaty with them (despite the fact that the Lord had already made it plain that they were to forge no such treaty). The Bible says that the leaders, thinking that the Gibeonites had come from far away, sampled their goods but did not inquire of the Lord. After forging a covenant agreeing to allow them to live and serve Israel, Joshua and the other leaders discovered the truth. Soon the neighbors of the Gibeonites attacked the Gibeonites fearing their new alliance with Israel. Ironically but predictably, the Gibeonites called upon their new covenant partners for aid (you might recall that this is the occasion in the Bible when the sun is kept shining in the sky for a full day during Joshua’s battle in support of the Gibeonites – Joshua 10:13). What I want you to think about today is the length that God went to in this story to help Joshua honor a covenant that he shouldn’t have entered in the first place. That’s right, Joshua had to enter a military battle and God had to perform a miracle just so the people of Israel could keep a covenant they never should have entered. That’s how much the Lord values and honors covenant.

The application to marriage is simple. If you enter into the covenant of marriage you need to have the same commitment as Joshua (and the Lord) had towards the Gibeonites – if you enter into that covenant. You should also keep in mind that just as the Lord made supernatural power available so that the man of God could keep his covenant, God is willing to make that same power available so that you can honor your covenant as well. With the divorce rate in the Church rivaling (and according to some studies surpassing) the rate in society in general, one would expect that the believer, of all people, would be open to allowing the hand of the Lord into the broken marriage to bring healing. Only a hard heart could explain either lack of faith or the lack of desire for God to unleash his power into a troubled Christian marriage.

God Just Wants Me Happy (the happiness myth)

“Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith” (Malachi 2:15-16, NIV).

All over the world we are hearing reports of solid believers and Christian leaders filing for divorce or entering into illicit relationships outside of their marriage covenant. We expect this kind of life choice from individuals that have not been saved and who have not had the benefit of Christian training and revelation from the Word of God. It’s quite surprising and disappointing to realize that covenant means little more to believers these days than the to those that do not profess Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I think a person who abuses his or her spouse should be charged with a felony and go to jail (and not be defended by the Church).  I think that the Lord is able to restore a marriage wrecked by adultery (but I understand a dissolution when serial adultery is involved or when the offending party refuses to repent or does not desire restoration). I also know that some times spouses are literally abandoned by their partners and the Apostle Paul made it clear that a believer is not bound in this situation (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Like me, you have probably observed that most of these marriages are not being dissolved because of abuse, adultery, or abandonment, but because one or both partners is “not happy.” The pursuit of individual happiness has begun to eclipse their obedience to the Word of God after all, they muse, “God wants me to be happy.” No friend, God wants you to honor your word, honor his Word, and honor the nature of the marriage covenant. This “happiness myth” is just one (although a powerful one) of the many delusions sweeping through the Church in these last days. Perhaps we’ve forgotten to “take up our cross daily” or the testimony of Paul, “I died daily – I mean that.”

Happiness that is based on our emotions and that violates the Word is fleeting (it will leave as fast as it came even though “sin is pleasurable for a season”). The Bible offers a deep-seated joy that manifests in happiness but is rooted in our relationship with God and our commitment to his standards and Word. A brief study of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 reveals that “blessedness” or “happiness” stems from pursing things like meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace rather that seeking happiness for happiness’ sake.

It is a good time for the body of Christ to remember that God hates divorce and that he equates this “breaking of faith” with violence (Malachi 2:10-17). It is critical that we remember that according to Jesus, the root of divorce is a hard heart (Matthew 19:1-12). At least one of the marriage partners has hardened the heart and that is the core reason for the demise of the relationship. Every other conceivable reason (other than those mentioned above) stems from the hardening of the heart (in other words they have lost spiritual sensitivity).

If you have been through the demise of a marriage I want to remind you that divorce is not the unpardonable sin nor is it a perpetual sin. That said, the only way to succeed in the future is to repent, and reject the thinking, behavior, and choices that led you down that path to begin with. The Lord is well able and willing to redeem you and make something awesome and beautiful with your life if you will place the hurt, the pain, and the failure in his hands and make up your mind to live your life God’s way rather than the relativistic manner of this post-Christian society. There’s nothing you can do about the eggs that have already been scrambled, but there is plenty you can to stop any more eggs from being scrambled in your life.

I want to exhort you to reject the politically correct mindset that says that the supreme goal for any person including the believer is happiness. Remember that covenant trumps a hard heart and feelings of frustration or unhappiness. In a future blog I will be sharing some simple principles to empower you to stand for marriage in this time of great confusion and compromise and help you to have that Bible-based, healthy, and covenant-keeping marriage that you’ve always wanted.