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A Wedding Sermon for an Arranged Marriage

On Saturday morning, 25 February 2017 I had the wonderful privilege to preaching at the wedding ceremony for a lovely Indian/New Zealand girl we’ve known or nearly 9 years and her husband, also from India. This was a glorious, Christian, arranged marriage.

Here is what I said…

“The Big Picture”: A Covenant 

It is a tremendous privilege to be here today and to participate in this beautiful wedding ceremony. We’ve been blessed to know XX and the YY family for about nine years, I think. Their friendship has been a blessing to us in many ways over these years, but nothing really compares to the honour of our being here today and being a part of this wedding.

I just met ZZ Tuesday! Yet, I’ve heard about him, obviously for several months. I am compelled to give thanks to the Lord for His marvellous grace in bringing these two young people together.

And who can’t stand in amazement at this scene. An Irishman and an American serving together to perform the wedding ceremony of a young Indian couple in New Zealand! Go figure. If the family of God isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is!

I now have the awesome privilege or speaking to all of us from God’s Word on this wonderful institution of marriage. Marriage, of course, was God’s idea. The Bible begins with a marriage (between Adam and Eve) and ends with a marriage (between Christ and His bride – the Church). So it would make sense for us to look into God’s Word to see His good purposes for this wonderful part of His creation. There are many places in God’s word where we find clear precepts on the role of a husband, the role of a wife and the purpose of marriage. The Song of Solomon is an entire book dedicated to the marriage relationship.

However I want to think together of the “big picture,” what it is that essentially makes a marriage a marriage.

This is vitally important for this generation. We now live in a world, at least in the West, where one of the most radical and countercultural actions a person can undertake is to stand publically and declare that marriage is between one man and one woman for one lifetime.

Perhaps for some, considering this together for the next few minutes will be particularly helpful because of the background to this particular marriage. As, I assume all of you here are aware, this is an arranged marriage. For most who come from a Western culture this is very unusual. Even for some from an Indian culture this is perhaps seen as a leftover from a more backward generation.

In India there is even another term, “Love Marriage” to describe kind of the opposite of an “Arranged Marriage”. I find that interesting and telling. The term “Love Marriage”, though Indian, accurately describes Western culture’s understanding of the basis of marriage – love. This has formed the basis over the last three generations in the West to argue for the acceptance of everything from easy divorce, to same-sex marriage, to cohabitation, and everything in between. Love is preached as the foundation on which marriage is built.

But is it? This is a Christian wedding. We are committed, this couple is committed, to understanding all of life through the lens of God’s Word. What does God say is the foundation of and basis for marriage. Let me suggest, once we understand that, everything changes! More than that, this particular marriage, in my opinion becomes seriously cool!

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The image God uses to describe and define a marriage is a covenant. This is so often overlooked and yet so very essential in understanding God’s purpose and design for marriage.

Tim Keller has written:

“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows.

When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

I find that quote quite amazing coming from man who pastors in the West – perhaps one could argue the most Western of Western cities, New York City.

It is actually quite refreshing to consider how an arranged marriage doesn’t have a lot of the cultural entrapments he is speaking about here that generally accompany Western practices of dating, engagement, etc.

Marriage, biblically, isn’t about love or based on love – certainly not love as it is generally understood by our Western culture.

At the same time, can I speak to you as a Westerner? Each culture has its own entrapments. Those aspects of the culture which, in the best of cases, are not necessarily bad but when not filtered through Scripture can blind us towards God’s good purposes for us.

Consider Paul’s amazing words in Ephesians 5:31-33:

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Notice marriage isn’t about pleasing your parents or church leaders or to conform to any other cultural norms or expectations anymore than marriage is about some weak cultural version of love.

Quite startling and shocking really, to any culture – marriage isn’t really primarily about us at all!

My marriage, understood biblically, isn’t primarily about me or my wife. This marriage today isn’t primarily about XX or ZZ, or their parents, or their church leaders, or anyone else’s expectations.

The truth is any of those things, though in and of themselves mostly good, are all too small of a thing for marriage to picture. You see that’s just it, marriage is a picture. A picture points to something greater than itself.

No one who has seen a picture of the Taj Mahal goes there in real life and expects to see something less amazing than the photo. No one who has seen a picture of New Zealand’s Southern Alps goes a tour of the South Island expecting to see something rather drab and boring.

Of course not, that would be nonsense. The picture though beautiful is nothing compared to the thing it represents and points to.

This is even more true for this beautiful thing called marriage. Created by God, according to Paul from Creation itself (in Ephesians 5:31 he quotes Genesis 2), to be a picture of something even more beautiful and amazing! And the thing more beautiful and amazing isn’t our love or a child pleasing their parents or a couple submitting to their church or any of those things which may be aspects of our individual cultures but not ultimately big enough for the glory that marriage is meant to display for the watching world.

Why is this the case? Why is marriage, according to God more about the covenant and less about each of you individually or your collected needs being met?

God has designed marriage to be about something else. To be about someone else. It is designed by God to picture the covenantal relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

Here are another author’s comments on this passage:

“Unbeknownst to the people of Moses’ day (it was a mystery), marriage was designed by God from the beginning to be a picture or parable of the relationship between Christ and the church. Back when God was planning what marriage would be like, He planned it for this great purpose: it would give a beautiful earthly picture of the relationship that would someday come about between Christ and His church. This was not known to people for many generations, and that is why Paul can call it a “mystery”. But now in the NT age Paul reveals this mystery, and it is amazing… This means that when Paul wanted to tell the Ephesians about marriage, he did not just hunt around for a helpful analogy and suddenly think that “Christ and the church” might be a good teaching illustration. No, it was much more fundamental than that: Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage, He already had Christ and the church in mind. This is one of God’s great purposes in marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever.” (George Knight, Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

This is why our marriages are founded on a covenant sealed with vows – a promise.

Christ’s covenant with his bride is not based on performance. He does not commit to loving us only as long as we meet His needs or perform up to His standard. He as covenanted Himself to us despite our sin, in spite of our failings. His love for us is rooted in His promise of faithfulness.

Similarly, God calls us to image this covenant in our covenant of marriage. Our marriage must be based on, founded on our covenant of promise. It cannot be based on emotional sentimentality, the other person’s performance, or our needs getting met.

Emotions, needs, performance, etc. will all change. They will come and go. What will sustain, maintain, and provided the soil for everything else to grow in our marriages is the covenant.

Hear John Piper’s words on this:

“Marriage was designed from the beginning to display the new covenant between Christ and the church… The very essence of this new covenant is that Christ passes over the sins of his bride. His bride is free from shame not because she is perfect, but because she has no fear that her lover will condemn her or shame her because of her sin. The foundation of covenant keeping love between a man and a woman is the unbroken covenant between them and God – God governing them for their good and they enjoying him in that security and relying on him.” (Piper, John. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2009, pgs. 33-35.)

Here’s the hope in this…

The same Gospel that unites us in covenant to Christ and makes us part of His bride; the same Gospel our marriages are to picture, is the same Gospel that enables us to keep our promise and find joy in our covenant.

Because your sins are forgiven in Christ, because you have confessed your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation you know what it is like to receive covenant love. Love and forgiveness offered freely.

Therefore, in Christ you can offer free covenant love and forgiveness towards each other.

Hear again the words of Tim Keller on this:

“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us…

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is. . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

You see, the gospel tells us and reminds us that the thing which is essential for a successful marriage is totally different than anything our, or any culture, will tell us – forgiveness.

ZZ and XX are here today to declare to all of us that they have both individually placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. They both came to a specific place in their lives when they understood they were sinners and destined to spend eternity in a real place called Hell forever.

The parallel is unavoidable. Just as it is impossible to avoid Hell and to spend eternity in heaven without God’s forgiveness of our sins that Christ’s death provides; it is impossible to navigate through the maze of marriage and a life together in marital unity without the giving of and the seeking of forgiveness from one another. The gospel makes it possible to live this out within the covenant of marriage.

Today we are celebrating the union of ZZ and XX in marriage. We are also rejoicing in the eternal forgiveness of their sins, and the hope of forgiveness within their marriage that this forgiveness in Christ provides.

I know that today the thing that would bring ZZ and XX the most joy would not be receiving some gift from you. Rather, if you are here and you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, if you have not asked for and received His forgiveness for your sins; they would receive the greatest joy in knowing that you have received the free gift that is available to all who will receive it.

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 
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Posted by on 25/02/2017 in Current Issues

 

New Zealand Health Select Committee on Euthanasia

This Friday, 28 October 2016, the Health Select Committee on Euthanasia will receive verbal submissions from the public in Christchurch.

This is the next step in a process which began last year with written submissions where individuals were able to tick a box indicating their willingness to also speak before the Health Select Committee.

Each person who speaks before the committee is given five minutes. In my five minutes I intend to say the following:

I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak in opposition to the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. 

I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak in opposition to the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. 

Post-Hippocratic World

People are to be valued vs. Utilitarianism

For over 2,000 years of human history medical professionals across the world, spanning diverse cultures pledged themselves to some version of the Hippocratic Oath. This ancient code reads, in part:

“I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

In purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.”[1]

With the advent of the field of bioethics, a very modern area of study, along with numerous other seismic shifts in Western culture we now live in a post- Hippocratic world. Utilitarianism rules the day.

Human beings are no longer universally valued as having inherent dignity and worth. They are seen has having value only in relation to their perceived, relative contribution to society.

This current debate on Euthanasia is not happening in a vacuum. We have arrived at this point due to the slow erosion of society’s conscience where people are only people if others conclude they offer something of value.

The façade of Governmental regulations

Promises and intentions vs. Reality

Our Government bodies are not immune to this utilitarian thinking. Decisions are made based on values determined by economics and social Darwinian ethics.

We are presented with a façade built of promises and intentions to guarantee close scrutiny and ensure no abuse will take place. The very idea that some can publicly discuss the idea of helping someone kill themselves and this is considered as potentially helpful to society is deeply troubling.

Yet, we are not left to our imaginations or even supposed “slippery slope” arguments to suggest this is something which no amount of government regulation can control. There isn’t a single example in human history where the door to Assisted Suicide has been opened upon a society and that same government which opened the door is capable of keeping it opened “only so far and no more.”

When the door was opened upon Germany and Austria it took a war to close it again!

We see today in Holland and Belgium where all the promises of government regulation lead. It is now legal to euthanise a child of any age in Belgium. The Groningen University Medical Centre in Holland has developed a three step protocol which has been published without criticism in the New England Journal of Medicine providing a simple process whereby a doctor can determine after a safe, live birth whether a child’s life should be terminated with impunity.[2]

Social Hypocrisy

Suicide prevention vs. Assisted Suicide

Finally, the social hypocrisy in New Zealand is palatable. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen, almost daily, articles and media releases regarding the staggering suicide statistics in New Zealand – Canterbury ranks at the top.

With this there is a great outcry and concern for those who are suffering and would consider the tragic step of ending their own life. I applaud this outcry. As a family who has been directly affected by suicide I long to see those who are at such a place receive the help and assistance they need.

At the same time the public debate of these two issues is equally staggering. What is the intended outcome?

If you are considering suicide are to call an 0800 helpline and in doing so will you hear something like, “If you are contemplating taking you own life, please press #1 for help. If you would like assistance in taking your life, please press #2 for the number of a local clinic which will prescribe an end of life treatment. Thank you for calling.”

The time is past for us as a culture and society to stop talking about people, image bearers of God as commodities. Objects that can be assigned value based on any criteria other than the fact they are fully human.

The time is past for us to stop insulting the countless palliative care doctors and nurses who tirelessly care for those precious members of our society, who are dying, to ensure their value and dignity is never compromised by labelling the sanctioned killing of others as “death with dignity”.

You who serve in public office have an obligation to represent and use your voice to defend the most vulnerable.

I pray you will.

[1] https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html

[2] https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/10/euthanizing-children

I highly recommend the following book:

Smith, Wesley J. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. San Francisco, Calif: Encounter Books, 2016.

 
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Posted by on 24/10/2016 in Current Issues

 

Imago Dei: How the “doctrine of man” is being undermined today and why it matters

Recently I presented a seminar on this topic at the 2016 SI Stand for the Gospel Conference. This Saturday I will present, essentially the same seminar, at a conference in Christchurch called “Confident Christianity“.

I’m providing a link here to a handout that I will use and others might find helpful.

Imago Dei: How the “doctrine of man” is being undermined today and why it matters

 
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Posted by on 04/05/2016 in Current Issues

 

2016 Reading Plan

Over the past several years I have selected a larger series or several larger volumes to read slowly through the year. Items that I probably wouldn’t just sit down and read otherwise.

For 2016 I plan to read the following volumes:

  1. The Church of Christ : A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline and Government of the Christian Church (I have about 600 pages still to read from 2015).
  2. The King in His Beauty : A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (700+ pages)
  3. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (800+ pages)

About 40 pages per day, five days a week, for 10 months (Feb-Nov) should get me through these volumes. 🙂

 
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Posted by on 01/02/2016 in Current Issues

 

2015/16 Summer Reading

As with previous Summers I have stayed away from social media (blogs, FB, Twitter, etc.) from Christmas through January. As in previous Summers I have thoroughly enjoyed the time and wonder why I would ever go back…

Technically January isn’t over yet and I am still staying away from social media with the exception of this blog post. 🙂

I have enjoyed a fruitful Summer of reading.

Like previous Summers I read a book requested of me by my wife. This year that book was, Amazing Grace : William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End SlaveryA superb read, encouraging, challenging, and convicting. I pray I will stand faithful in my generation against all odds trusting in Christ fully as Wilberforce.

In addition I read the following books. I will just list them here rather than make comments. They have all be helpful and are books I would recommend.

Baptist Foundations : Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age

The Baptist Story : From English Sect to Global Movement

God’s Glory Alone – The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life : What the Reformers Taught…and Why it Still Matters

Grace Works! : And Ways We Think It Doesn’t

The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

Onward : Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel

The Thunder : A Novel on John Knox

Fool’s Talk : Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (I am nearly finished with this book. It is easily the most significant book I have read this Summer. Truly profound, excellently written, deeply thoughtful, immensely helpful. Ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks they are interested in apologetics.)

Oh, yeah I forgot… I was given a pre-publication e-copy of Christopher Ash’s new book, Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice, which I also read with real benefit. (This book is based on a talk he gave at the 2014 Truth for Life Conference. You can listen here, or watch here.)

I managed to finish another book before my “Summer Reading” time concluded, Knowing Christ by Mark Jones. This book as been described something like, “the book J.I. Packer could have and perhaps should have written but wasn’t able to.” It is truly magnificent. Unlike any other book on the person of Christ I have ever read. Each chapter is very short. It would be an excellent book to read slowly, one chapter a day or something, over the course of a month or so.

On the last day of my “Summer Reading” I was able to finish a classic. One I’ve read before many years ago. John Marray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied has been recently republished with a forward by Carl Trueman. This is a significant and important book for understanding the fullness of a believer’s redemption in Christ and the benefits in daily life.

 
 

Our 16th Anniversary, but a First

It is particularly easy for me to remember how many years we’ve been married since we were married in the year 2000. Yep, it’s been 16 years.

On January 8th 2000 we stood before God, family, and many friends and made our vows. I remember being asked the morning of our wedding by a friend, “how do you know for sure Mandy is ‘the one’?” (Keep in mind we had only known each other four months before our wedding.) I remember saying something like, “I don’t. I’m pretty sure. We’ve sought godly counsel, we’ve desired to honour the Lord in our choice of a spouse, but anything could still happen to keep us from getting married later today. However, when we say ‘I do’ that’s it. She’s the one.”

Tim Keller says the following:

“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows. When I married my wife, I had hardly a smidgen of sense for what I was getting into with her. How could I know how much she would change over 25 years? How could I know how much I would change? My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed—and each of the five has been me. When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken. When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. Passion may lead you to make a wedding promise, but then that promise over the years makes the passion richer and deeper. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. This means we must say to ourselves something like this: “Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us—denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him—and in the greatest act of love in history, he stayed. He said, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely. That is why I am going to love my spouse.” Speak to your heart like that, and then fulfil the promises you made on your wedding day.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

I am so thankful for the amazing, sustaining grace of God in our lives. There is no way we would still be married today if not for His grace. Marriage is not easy. It is the most difficult, most confronting, most painful relationship I have ever been in. Not because of who I married, but because of who I have discovered myself to be in our marriage. So where is God’s grace?

  1. In the wonderful privilege we both had to receive solid, biblical teaching on marriage from our pastors and churches even before we knew each other.
  2. In His kind providence to lead us into each others lives and to propel us into marriage in a short period of time. We had godly people in our lives who guided us in understanding the purpose of the marriage covenant was far more sustaining than “ensuring we had found our ‘soul mate’.”
  3. In using our marriage to reveal my selfishness and sin more than anything else in my experience. Marriage has been and continues to be a most sanctifying thing in my life.
  4. In giving us the desire to and enabling us to keep our vows through periods of pain and joy.
  5. In showering us with undeserved kindness such that we can declare that as the years go by our marriage has truly become sweeter than we could have ever imagined.

For the past several years we’ve celebrated our anniversary while attending an annual camp/conference together as a family. Not exactly intimate but fun… This year though, is a first.

I woke up this morning on our wedding anniversary without my wife by my side. The children and I are at the camp/conference while Mandy has been enjoying a much deserved week at home for R&R. I am very thankful for the opportunity this week has provided for her. At the same time, I miss her terribly and feel the “wrongness” of not being together on such a morning.

Again, Keller has written:

“So, what do you need to make marriage work? You need to know the secret, the gospel, and how it gives you both the power and pattern for your marriage. On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper and deeper union with each other as the years go on. There, then, is the message of this book — that through marriage the mystery of the gospel is unveiled. Marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up. The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace. The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom — and speak of them — and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it. This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage.”

I am convinced more now than ever that I married the right girl. I look forward to the years ahead and the joy of spending the rest of my life with her.

Lord willing next year, since our anniversary will be on a Sunday, we will wake up in the morning together!

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Posted by on 08/01/2016 in Family, Fun, Marriage

 

Happy 40th Birthday Mandy!

15 August 1999 a date I will always remember…

It was a Sunday and I had only been two weeks living in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, where I had moved to attend seminary.

On my second Sunday at, what was to be my new church, I met Amanda Lynn Birtchet. It was her 24th birthday.

We exchanged greetings and general pleasantries. I left thinking, “I’m going to find a way to get to know her better”!

I did… We did… We married 4 ½ months later. She was 24. I was 27. We were young; life seemed like an open book ahead of us.

Today marks 16 years since the day we met. It’s Mandy’s birthday. Her 40th. Wow! How did that happen? I’m nearly 43, my bride is 40. We have a 14 (as of tomorrow), 12 & 10 year old.

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the LORD.

40 isn’t that old, neither is 42 for that matter. But 40’s aren’t 20’s. We really had no idea what we were getting into 16 years ago.

I’ll never forget (I hope) our first date (and the many that followed in rapid succession). We just talked and talked. It seemed like the future was wide open before us. We were going to follow Christ wherever and take on the world.

We had no idea that before our 5th wedding anniversary and before Mandy was even 30 we would see Mandy’s Mum pass away, have two miscarriages, and she would give birth to our three children.

In the same period of time, I would change jobs three times, be out of work for several months, and complete my courses towards two graduate degrees.

That was only the beginning…

Proverbs 5:18 …rejoice in the wife of your youth…

I am so thankful that phrase is in the Bible. We’ve been married another 10 years. On each of Mandy’s birthdays I have the opportunity to reflect on how much our lives have changed and how virtually nothing is as we imagined life would be 16 years ago on that day when we met.

We’re older now… We’ve gone through more moves, changes in ministry, family tragedies, normal and abnormal illnesses, periods of intensely demanding schedules… We get tireder quicker now…

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband…

I’m so thankful you were born on this day. I am so thankful we met on this day sixteen years ago.

I’m so very thankful you are the wife of my youth but even more thankful you are my wife today and will be until the Lord returns or death separates us.

Happy 40th my dear! I hope I’m here to say happy 80th as I continue to rise up and call you blessed…

Proverbs 31 – 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

 
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Posted by on 15/08/2015 in Family, Fun, Marriage

 
 
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