Please send me information on how to build stronger marriages.
Abraham Daughters House of Refuge Inc.
P.O. Box 730725
By Pastor Mitch Horton | May 2008 | Posted in • Featured Content | (2) Comments
The family is in trouble in America. One-half of all marriages end in divorce. Children are being raised in environments of strife, uncertainty, anger, selfishness, and irresponsibility. Cultural chaos and national decline have historically followed the breakdown of family values in a nation. And it’s happening in front of our eyes.
Jesus told believers that we are the salt of the earth.1 We lose our effect on our culture when we become like it. And right now, family statistics in the church parallel what is found in our culture. Instead of influencing culture, the church has become like it!
In this newsletter, I want to give you some marriage basics. Let’s look at God’s plan for marriage, and then seek to pattern our marriages and families after His design.
Marriage is God’s idea
Originally, God created man in His image and likeness. We are spirit beings living in human bodies.2 It seems as though God originally placed the spirit and the soul of both the man and the woman in Adam’s body when God first created him. Notice Genesis 5:1-2: This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.3
As Adam was naming the animals God created, God mentioned that man being alone was not good.4 God gave Adam an anesthetic, took one of his ribs, and used it to build the body of the woman. God literally took the woman out of the man’s body!
I said this because God intended there to be a close, lifelong relationship between a husband and a wife. God created the relationship called marriage to give the man-woman relationship an intimacy not found in any other place in creation. Most animals breed with any of their kind that are of the opposite sex, but this behavior was not for man. Notice Genesis 2:24-25: Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
The word cleave here actually means to be glued together. It gives the idea of a permanent relationship and a close relationship. Nothing is to come between a husband and wife. If you glued two pieces of paper together, they would become stuck, and you’d never get the original pieces of paper back.
Unless you have a gift from God that brings you no desire for the opposite sex, you were created to be married! Again, God said that it’s not good for man to be alone. We’re made to function best in a loving marriage relationship. And the Father has planned that you get close to your spouse mentally, emotionally, and physically!
Let me say right here that if you’re single due to divorce or other reasons, your top priority should be relating to the Father and being used to bless others! We’ll talk more about this later.
Let me also mention that in scripture there is no such thing as an alternative lifestyle called homosexuality, or lesbianism, that can take the place of marriage. Homosexual activity is a violation of nature as God created it, and is strictly forbidden by God. It’s sad that our public institutions of learning in all levels have espoused this diabolical, culture-destroying belief and are advocating it as an acceptable alternative to marriage as sanctioned by God. No society in history has survived long after allowing this family-destroying lifestyle!
If you’re reading this and you have homosexual tendencies, let me encourage you to get some help and cry out to God for freedom from these twisted desires. The Father loves you and wants to free you from this perversion of what He created you to be!
Leave your parents!
As stated in Genesis 2, God planned that the marriage relationship be the longest-enduring, close relationship a person knows. He told us here that a man and a woman are to have a relationship closer than each had with their parents! Priorities must be reset after marriage, so that the allegiance each spouse had with their parents is given to each other. No person should be closer to me than my wife!
If you’re a parent and your child gets married, you must pull back. Your married son or daughter must be allowed to establish a relationship that is out of your control! Huge problems arise when parents and children try to keep the same confidences they had with each other before marriage. A new relationship means new priorities.
Susan and I moved 1,200 miles away from either of our families a few months after marriage, and I am sure this helped the process for us. Also, both sets of parents were good at leaving us alone to establish a relationship with each other that was closer than our relationships with them.
In this new relationship of marriage, every other relationship must be secondary. Parents are no longer the main confidants; your spouse becomes the person you now share your heart treasure with. Children must also take a secondary place to husband and wife. Some mothers become so engrossed in caring for their children that their marriage takes a back seat to the kids. If you let this happen, you’re asking for problems down the road!
Sex is for marriage only
Some animal species find one partner and cohabit for life. But for the most part, they relate sexually to any other same species animal of the opposite sex. Scientists study animal behavior to help understand how we are to interact, but they overlook a major point, that we’re made by God as spiritual beings in physical bodies. We are not animals.
Secularists of our day tell us that sex is to be enjoyed as best suits the individual. But sex is created by God to give an intimacy to marriage not known to any other relationship you have. God designed sex to be a sacred act between one man and one woman for life. Notice that in Genesis, the animals were created both male and female from dirt, but the woman was created from the man’s body. From the beginning, God had a one marriage partner for life idea for a man and a woman.
The sexual desire is a gift given by God to human personality. It manifests in men as largely a physical drive, and in women as an emotional response to their loving husbands. Proverbs 5 gives some interesting insight into the sex drives of both men and women: Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love.5
In these verses, the sex drive of the wife is a well, and the sex drive of the husband is a fountain. Married couples have an obligation before the Lord to satisfy one another sexually.6
Sex is a sacred trust between a husband and wife. Being such, its details are for no one else. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is strictly forbidden by God and is labeled as fornication.7 Life is sacred and special to Him, and the act of marriage that creates life is sacred and special to Him, too.
Any culture that does not value the sacredness of sex, that it should only be fulfilled within the marriage relationship, will have catastrophic personal and societal problems and will eventually come to ruin. Problems such as abortion, AIDS, STD’s, as well as increasing violence and rebellion among the young, are a direct result of the violation of the sacredness of sexuality.
If you are married, love your spouse mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually. If you’re having problems, humble yourself and get some help!
While sitting in a Bible school classroom in the 1970’s as an unmarried 19-year-old, the Lord spoke to me through Philippians 2:4: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. And I heard Him say to me, If you’ll practice this in your marriage with your wife, you’ll be fulfilled sexually. Seek to meet your spouse’s needs before you think about your own. Fulfillment will be the result.
Don’t consider divorce as a way to solve problems
If you go into marriage with the idea that divorce is a way out of problems that are sure to come, then you’ve set yourself up for failure! Two people coming from two different families and ways of viewing life are bound to disagree! It’s not a matter of if problems arise; they will arise! Susan and I made up our minds before we were married that we would never mention the “D” word. Divorce is a temporary fix that leads to deeper problems. And those who divorce as a way to solve a problem (with the exceptions of abuse or adultery) will find themselves with the same problems again later in life.
Problem-solving involves the willingness to be humble in my own opinions and open myself up to hear what the other person is saying. It’s a willingness to be wrong, to not have to have the last word, to value the other person and his or her opinion more highly than my own.
Many times we let pride get in the way of really listening to what another person is saying. Those who use the “D” word as a tool of anger, control, or manipulation will find themselves stuck in problems perhaps lifelong.
For the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment (his wife) with violence. Therefore keep a watch upon your spirit that it may be controlled by My Spirit, that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly with your marriage mate. (Malachi 2:16, Amplified)
God hates divorce because it hurts people. Often, the children suffer the most. Seek God. Pray for your spouse. Be willing to change. Be willing to admit your faults. And be willing to say I’m sorry. Love covers a multitude of sin.
Husbands are responsible to love
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. (Ephesians 5:25-29)
The number one need in a wife, according to God, is to be loved by her husband!
The Father’s command to the husband is for him to love his wife without conditions, and by putting his needs last, and hers first. In Ephesians 5, Jesus loved the church by giving Himself for the church. And husbands are to love their wives the way Jesus loves the church.8
The role of the husband in marriage is to be the head of the wife and family. But it is an authority in the home based on love and giving. It’s a responsibility to make sure that the wife feels loved and secure – spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, as well as physically. Some men think that they show their wives that they love them by being a good provider. That may be part of it, but nothing can replace the three words l love you from an honest heart and by actions that show care.
A husband is to nurture and cherish his wife.9 That simply means that he seeks to meet her outward needs for shelter, provision, and protection, and her inwards needs to be loved and cared about. The word cherish in the Greek actually means to soften by heat and is the picture of a mother hen taking her young under her wings to protect them from predators. The young chicks feel safe and secure because of mom’s cherishing love.
And a husband’s responsibility before God is to make his wife feel that she is secure and loved. This love that a husband should show to his wife is a love of action. It’s not based on feeling and emotion. It’s based on the love of God for us that is always the same and never changes. A wife needs the security that love from her husband should provide. A woman is created by God to receive love from her husband. That’s where she thrives! Husbands, ask yourself the question every day, Does my wife know by my words and actions that I love her? Ask your wife what you can do to show her that you love her. Be willing to change and adapt to her needs!
Some men read Ephesians 5 and have the idea that God gives them the liberty as head of the wife to order her and the rest of the family around. They have the erroneous idea that their family is to serve them as some kind of king. But notice that Jesus loved the church by giving Himself to the point of death. I know Jesus loves me because He sacrificed Himself for me. Husband, does your wife know that you love her by the personal sacrifices you make for her? Don’t just say “I love you,” but show “I love you” to your wife by helping clean the house, by taking out the trash, by helping her in the kitchen, by putting the kids to bed and letting her have some chill time, by giving her leisure time without the kids and away from the home.
The Father holds husbands responsible to love their wives and will treat the husband the way he treats his wife! Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
Wives are to respect
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24) Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
The number one need in a man’s life is to be valued. Nowhere in scripture is the woman commanded to love her husband. Once in Titus, the older women are commanded to teach the younger women to love their husbands. Even here the word for love is not agape, the unconditional love of God, but the Greek word phileo, which is a friendship quality of love.
Men normally have a drive that is placed in them by God to accomplish things and succeed in life. (Of course, women do, too!) And the role of a wife is to respect or validate her husband. It’s an innate need in a man. Every man loves to hear an “Atta boy!” from his wife on occasion.
Another thing I want to mention here is that these verses in Ephesians mention the wife submitting to her husband. That has to do with the roles of a husband and a wife in the home. But notice that the husband is supposed to have the attitude towards the wife that Jesus has toward the church.
Jesus is the savior of the body of Christ. Jesus served the body of Christ by giving His life blood for it. And there is no wife in the world that wouldn’t be willing to submit to a man who loves her enough to give his life for her and who shows it in word and action! Any husband who wonders why his wife isn’t taking her role in the home should simply ask himself the question, Am I loving my wife the way Jesus loves me? Am I giving of myself to my wife? Really the husband and wife relationship should be the subjection of love to the rule of love.
Communication is the key to a healthy marriage
Learning to listen and to honestly bear their hearts to one another is a lifelong journey for a husband and wife. Communication is not saying what you think the other person wants to hear, but clearly sharing your heart thoughts and values. This is something that must be learned.
Much of our communication habits come from the environments that we were raised in, and frequently we must retrain ourselves to be real and honest with our spouses. Creating a non-threatening environment of love and acceptance is necessary for any couple that wants to really get close to each other.
Everything you disagree on has the potential to form a wedge in the relationship! In a healthy relationship, each person is willing to compromise in certain areas of life and let the other person’s desires be granted. But this should never be a one-way street! I encourage each spouse to yield to the other spouse when they disagree, by allowing the person with the expertise in an area to make the decision. That way, there is a fair sense of balance in a controversial issue, and each spouse learns to give and take.
Each spouse should seek to create a “safe harbor” for the other spouse to freely share thoughts and opinions. Several years ago, Susan and I went on a cruise together, and I was amazed at how easily that large ocean liner docked in the docile waters of the harbor each time we came to our destination port. The ocean may have been rough, but because the harbor had three sides and one inlet, the rough waves of the ocean were kept out, and the ship was able to dock easily.
Think of creating a “safe harbor” where your spouse can share the deep thoughts of his or her heart without the fear of being attacked. That means you must be willing to humble yourself and listen, and you must be willing to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19) Don’t blame or accuse, but be willing to listen without judgment. That’s the place where heartfelt communication can take place.
Our communication habits will make or break any relationship at work or at home. When I think about being a good communicator, a formula I use is A+B=C. A is the issue at hand, whatever you’re dealing with. B is your own thoughts and biases about what is being discussed, based on your past experiences and on your own personal belief system. And C is your response.
When you’re speaking with someone, the response you get is almost always tempered by the B, that is, by a person’s past experiences and personal beliefs. That’s the reason ten people can view the same situation and come up with ten different ways to describe it! The issue filtered through each person’s thoughts and experiences produces differing ways of responding.
Emotional wounds that are not forgiven can become bitter roots that easily cloud our thinking and hinder good communication. We’re encouraged not to let the sun go down on our wrath or anger. That means that each day, we should clear our minds and hearts of any offense that occurred that day. We should forgive and forget, daily releasing every person from the liability of wrong done to us. That way, we start each day with a fresh perspective. But if you harbor offense, that offense will temper your responses to those close to you and will stifle good, heartfelt communication.
Your family has left deposits in your soul
Getting married is a one-day event. You become one spirit with your mate that day, one flesh with your mate on your wedding night, but it takes perhaps years to become one in the way you think about and respond to life!
I like to say it this way: Every person has a video playing in them of what they saw in the home when they were young. We all have preconceived ideas of what a normal family is like. We have our own ideas of how a husband should treat his wife and of how a wife should act towards her husband. Our communication habits are a direct result of our family upbringing.
If you had well-adjusted parents who valued you, gave you space to be yourself, who taught you to value others and their opinions, who modeled putting others first, who allowed you to freely express your own thoughts and opinions even when those thoughts and opinions did not agree with theirs, then you had some really emotionally and mentally healthy parents!
Most of us bring baggage from home when we leave. And we have judgments that we sometimes carry from mom or dad, including how they related to each other and to us. These judgments can become strongholds that color what we think about ourselves and how we deal with our spouses in marriage.
Hebrews 12:15 reads: Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.
An excellent exercise for any person is to write the names of family members and significant people in your life on a sheet of paper, with plenty of space in between each name. The list should include mother, father, brothers, sisters, relatives, teachers, friends, bosses, coaches, lovers, etc. When you say each name, what comes to mind? If there is emotional pain attached to that person, then you may need to deal with bitter root thoughts that have the potential to harm your relationship with your spouse and children. Often our current responses are the results of buried thoughts of anger and judgment that bring emotional pain.
Write a one-sentence statement under the name of each person on your list that describes what an association with that person did to you and how it made you feel. Once you complete the list, go before the Father and take each person before Him one at a time.
Go over each sentence that you listed and tell the Father about the experience and how it made you feel. Then, on purpose, choose to forgive the person of the offense, and in prayer before the Father, forgive them of what they did to harm you or to bring you emotional pain. Tell the Father that you forgive them and release them from the liability to make what they did right to you. Forgive them by faith!
Then, in the ensuing days, weeks, and months, when that person or what they did comes to mind, tell the Father that you have forgiven them by faith and no longer hold any ill will towards them at all. If you’ll keep this up day after day, eventually the sour emotions towards the person will fade and give way to the peace of God ruling your heart and mind.
Many personal relationship issues in marriage can be traced back to bitter root judgments and bitter root expectations that come from those judgments. If a father was unkind, aloof, and hurtful emotionally, a wife could easily unconsciously treat her husband in a distant way due to emotional pain stemming from a bitter root thought.
If you find yourself acting and reacting in a way that is far beyond the current situation, you may be dealing with a bitter root thought and a bitter root expectation that stems from that thought. These kinds of issues frequently hinder good communication in marriage. You may need the help of a trusted friend or someone on your pastoral staff to help deal with some of these issues. Get help if you need it. Your marriage is worth it!
A word to the single person
If you’re single because you’ve never been married, or because you’ve been divorced, the best thing you can do is to put God first and work on your spiritual life. Marriage may be in your future, but the Father wants you to be satisfied wherever you are in life. If you’re not satisfied with life as a single person, you won’t be satisfied as a married person, either.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 7:32-35: I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.10
Involve yourself in fellowship with other believers who are zealous for God! Iron sharpens iron! Get involved in small groups where you can really pour your heart out to others in a safe environment.
Everyone must deal forthrightly with their sexuality. Married couples should care for one another. And single persons must commit their bodies and passions to God! The sexual drive must be controlled, or it will control you! If you watch TV or movies with sexual content, your passions will be stirred, so refuse to compromise in this area. And control your thought life by meditating on the Word during the day when your mind is idle. Your body does what your mind allows.
Make a deposit every day
If you are married, let me encourage you to make a deposit into your marriage every day. Call your spouse and just chat for a moment. Plan times for lunch together. Plan a date night each week. Nurture your relationship with your words, thoughts, and actions. Your strong marriage can have a positive effect on others. Lighting a candle so others can see is so much better than cursing the darkness.
Resources & Endnotes
Please send me information on how to build stronger marriages.
Abraham Daughters House of Refuge Inc.
P.O. Box 730725
What a POWERFUL message on the covenant of marriage. I can now take the tools this provided to apply to my own. Awesome!
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