Thursday, April 30, 2015

May 1 - 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love,

but perfect love casts out fear;

for fear has to do with punishment, and

whoever fears has not reached

perfection in love.

1 John 4:18



The Call to Be Covenant Keepers – Part Three


For the last few days, we've been talking about cultural factors that are causing a delay in young people assuming the responsibilities of adulthood. Yesterday, we talked about two of the factors …


·         The first is economic.


Most young adults – in this stagnant economy – would like to be productive, own homes, and have good salaries, but there just aren't enough job and income to go around.


·         The second is priorities.


With fewer opportunities, too many young people self-medicate their boredom with video-games and TV, alcohol and drugs. Many employers are increasingly leery of hiring a generation who would "rather have fun than do the job."


As you might guess, these "delays in traditional adulthood" have a negative effect on marriage.


But let me list three more cultural trends that are driving up the age of marriage, and then discuss how all of these factors are effecting modern marriage as a whole.


·         Another reason for delays in marriage is fear of commitment.


America has a culture of divorce – period. And this means that our young people are generally children of divorce. As a result, many young adults resist "settling down," reasoning, "If my parents couldn't make things work, what makes me think I can?"


So their behavior – based on this logic – is to avoid the hurt by avoiding the commitment.


This translates, obviously, into the age of marriage creeping higher. (And if I may unfairly generalize, GYZ  are generally the more reluctant of the two genders to commit.)


·         Another trend is the hyper-sexualization of our culture.


People like sex. People have always liked sex. But our era is absolutely unique. It is sex obsessed. Our culture teaches that sex is a need – as basic as food, water, and air. Furthermore, our culture has rejected all kinds of moral taboos. Therefore, sex is normative for young people. It's simply "what you do."


This hyper-sexualization obviously has a profound effect on traditional marriage. Yes, young couples have always been tempted and promiscuous. But cultural morays once gave an incentive to be married -- in marriage "your itch could be scratched." Now, young people are without this traditional incentive for marriage. And not only does this delay and deincentivize marriage, but "a complicated past," littered with failed relationships, makes the unique one-flesh-union of marriage more complicated too.


·         A final factor affecting marriage and relationships is insecurity.


In our culture, there is epidemic of insecurity. In general, 95% of us – men and women – are naturally a little insecure. But women have extra reasons to be insecure.


Women are constantly subjected to unrealistic body images, causing too many to doubt their beauty and worth.


Women are also abused. The rates of sexual abuse are staggering … and horrifying. (Rampant sexual abuse – along with prostitution and human trafficking – do not make the promotional brochures for our modern free-love culture.) But because of this abuse, many women find it difficult to have a deep relationship because it's hard to simply trust.


All of us want to be loved. Love means security, but too many people aren't offering permanence and security. This lack of commitment leads to serial relationships and greater insecurity. (And because men tend to offer less commitment, women tend to have less security.)


Question: How have – and are – fear of commitment, hypersexualization, and insecurity affecting your marriage?


In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants to

make a trade …

I want to swap

fear and insecurity

with perfect love




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apr 30 - 1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child,

I spoke like a child,

I thought like a child,

I reasoned like a child;

when I became an adult,

I put an end to childish ways.

1 Corinthians 13:11



In college, I was in a freshman dorm. Trying to prompt collegiality, our tenth floor pretended to be a fraternity. We were known as Tau Sigma Nu. (Get it? TN.). 


My best friends from home – on the eighth floor and not to be outdone – commissioned themselves as the GYZ (pronounced, "guys"). 


They were all pretty good guys! But nowadays, not all guys are. 


Now, this is definitely not the beginning of a guy-bashing theme! Rather, our goal in the midst of these weeks is to understand the covenant of marriage. Indeed, our theme for today is …


The Call to Be Covenant Keepers – Part Two


Cultural commentators have been noticing a growing trend among young adults, especially among modern GYZ. It seems as if the onset of "adulthood" – of career and family responsibility – is being pushed to higher and higher ages. If the Harris twins rightly lamented the delay of mature responsibility from 14 to 19, what should we be saying about jobs, careers, and responsibility being increasingly delayed to the late-20s and early-30s?


Nowadays, age of first-marriage is being delayed to the late-20s and early-30s too. And if we're going to understand the marriage covenant, we need to understand the cultural factors that are shaping the people who are entering into this covenant.


So … why are the late-20s and early-30s becoming the functional age of adulthood and responsibility in our world today? There are four primary factors. Today I'll address two.


·         Part of the day, at least compared to previous generations, is economic.


It's hard to find jobs – especially careers – in the age I'm writing this!


Most young people would obviously like to work! Most would like to be productive, to have good salaries, to own their own homes. But out of economic necessity too many young adults are forced to continue living with their parents (or in college dorm-like settings) until they're thirty.


Part of the delay in the marital age is because of wisdom: "How can I support a family, when I can't even support myself?"


In one sense, that's a very wise question. In another sense, if we wait for the "right time" to get married or have kids or do whatever, we'll discover there's never a "right time." Part of being an adult is being bold. It is working hard. It is creating your own future.


·         A Second part of this is priorities.


Yesterday we heard the call to Do Hard Things, and we said that with "fewer formal responsibilities teens had more time for play and relaxation, and the purpose of teen-life began to be viewed by many as 'having fun.'"


Have you seen that with teens?


Well, nowadays, that's stretching well into people's twenties, especially among the GYZ


Follow this trail … Without viable careers, there's more boredom. With longer-term boredom, there's a longer-term tendency to self-medicate with video-games and TV … or worse, drugs and alcohol. All of these things are addictive, even TV and computers. Therefore, with ten to fifteen years of reinforcement of a bored life-style, a relaxation-ethic (rather than a work-ethic) is beginning to define a generation.


Obviously this is not true of all young adults! Nevertheless, many of the employers that I know are leery of hiring folks in their twenties. A generation is getting branded as lazy. "They'd rather have fun than do the job," is the complaint. "They don't know how to work."


I hope this isn't you. Forgive me for painting with broad brush. But even if it's not you, don't you have friends that seem hopelessly stalled? This is having a huge impact on marriage. It's not only pushing back the age of first weddings, it's robbing the potential of GYZ and GALZ who are "marriage material."


QUESTION: See below.


In Christ's Love

a guy who moved from

the tenth floor (TN)

and became an honorary

member of the GYZ

(and by the way most of us GYZ

exceeded all expectations!)


QUESTION: Before we learn to be "covenant keepers," we need to learn to be "covenant makers." We need to become good "marriage material." As Mufasa told Simba, "You are more than what you've become." Whoever you are and whatever you are, you can be a very good husband or wife. You can become a powerful covenant keeper. What, if anything, does today's devotion remind you that you need to do to be a strong person? a stronger husband or wife?


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Apr 29 - 1Samuel 17:40-42

Then [David] chose for himself

five smooth stones from the brook,

and put them in a shepherd’s bag …

The Philistine [Goliath] came,

and when the Philistine … saw David,

he disdained him; for he was only a youth

1 Samuel 17:40-42



Let me ask you … When were “teenagers” invented?


Wait. I know what you were going to say: “There’ve always been teenagers!”


Chronologically, yes. But what we mean by “teen” is a relatively new phenomenon.


Historically, our societies were agricultural. As soon as children could spur on an ox and drive a plow, they were pulled from school. Many were married and running farms and raising families before the pimples wore off. Responsibility came early to young men and women.


The Industrial Revolution changed all of that. Industry and prosperity – especially in America’s boom years after World War II – brought a push for more education. Suddenly teens were sitting in classrooms – “developing” – rather than working dawn to dusk in the fields.


More education is a good thing. But even good things have unintended consequences. By delaying work, profession, and responsibility, the age of the “teenager” was born. Fewer formal responsibilities meant more time for play and relaxation. The purpose of teen-life is viewed now and by many as “having fun.”


Yes, we all now teens who work hard and embrace responsibility. But don’t we also know too many who view free-time and play as an entitlement. Too many are bored. There’s a hole in their hearts that they can’t explain. They’re lacking meaningful responsibility. And as a result they self-medicate their boredom with video-games and TV … or worse, drugs and alcohol.


A few years ago, two teens – teens at the time, Alex and Brett Harris – tried to inspire their peers to walk boldly beyond the boredom. They wrote the book, Do Hard Things. This call to action was summarized perfectly by its subtitle: “A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.”


Working with youth as a pastor, it was one of the favorite studies that I ever did. Do Hard Things is an inspiring reminder that we are created for more. That we are created for much. That we are created for purpose and productivity. 


So how does this relate to marriage?


Well, let me ask you a question … How did you respond to this analysis of the teen years? Do you think teens are capable of more than what’s being expected of them?


Now take that a step further … Do you think you are capable of more than what is expected of you?!


One of my favorite lines in cinema is when Mufasa, the mighty father in The Lion King, is drawing his son, Simba, back from a life of boredom and play and no responsibility. He says, “You are more than what you’ve become.”


“Remember who you are,” is Mufasa’s call to action.


Our theme for today is …


The Call to Be Covenant Keepers – Part One


As we begin to study what that call is and what it will demand of you, you (and I) need to constantly be reminded you that “you are more than what you’ve become.” We need, indeed, a “rebellion against low expectations.” We need to be Davids (a teen himself) who is not afraid to conquer giants – whether giant people or giant responsibilities.


QUESTION: Are you ready to rebel?! Are you ready to defy low cultural expectations? Are you ready to buck cultural lies about what marriage is supposed to be and what the role of men and women really should be? Are you ready to defiantly craft a victorious marriage in a culture of divorce?


In Christ’s Love,

a rebel … here me yell


Monday, April 27, 2015

Apr 28 - Ezekiel 16:10-14

The Lord God says,

“I clothed you with

embroidered cloth and … fine linen …

I put … a beautiful crown upon your head.

You grew exceedingly beautiful,

fit to be a queen.

Your fame spread among the nations

on account of your beauty,

for it was perfect because of my splendor

that I had bestowed on you”

Ezekiel 16:10-14



God is the King.


We are his queen.


We are his beloved!


That is the consistent witness of Scripture – both Old and New Testaments. That is the image that God himself repeatedly uses.


It is an image of covenant … and therefore, commitment. It is an image of love and the joy in marriage.


It is an imagine, also, of fidelity. Faithfulness! God will never go back on his commitment. He can never go back on his commitment. It’s against his very nature.


And sometimes, that makes God’s covenant with us exceedingly difficult. Why? Because we are wanton. We are sinful. We fall short of God’s glorious standard. Like sheep, we all go astray.




Not just like sheep.


As gorgeous as today’s lines are – “exceedingly beautiful,” “fit to be a queen” – the next lines in Ezekiel 16 are shocking. Horrifying. Painfully true. “But you trusted in your beauty, and played the whore because of your fame, and lavished your whorings on any passer-by” (verse 15).


How many of us flirt with false doctrine? How many of us turn on the shrine in the center of our house – the TV – and import filth into our “family rooms.” Even when we’re not trying to, we break the first commandment all of the time; throughout the day, we place all kinds of alternate priorities before God. We are – swallow hard – whores. We are – “own it” – covenant breakers.


“‘You were insatiable … How sick is your heart?’ says the Lord God (v 28, 30). 


What do we deserve in our relationship with God? Divorce!


What does God give his people instead? Forgiveness. This painful chapter ends with this promise: “Yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth.”


Some will read this as a license to sin. (“If she’s a good Christian, she has to forgive me, no matter what!”) Shame on you. Obviously, the point of this is not to say, “Feel free to be like Israel.” The point of this is to say, “Be like God – gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”


If you read this whole chapter, God did not offer Israel cheap grace. The path back to life was going to be costly. The Israelites suffered powerful consequences for their sin. In fact, their relationship was permanently scarred. It was like a drunken husband who smashed his car into a tree with his family in the car. He would have to look at his wife’s scarred face as an everyday reminder of his own sin.


If we’re honest, that’s what we should see every time we look at the cross. Our sins are a car wreck. They sent Jesus to the cross. And the scars on Jesus’ hands and feet should be daily reminders of our sin … and yet they should also remind us that with patience and forgiveness. Every relationship has the possibility of becoming stronger than it ever was before.


God’s Model for Covenant Keeping


Yes, our sin scars our relationship with God. It threatens to separate us. Yet it is God who keeps taking the initiative. He keeps coming back to us in love. He sends his Son. He keeps his covenant. He will never give up.


Is that your view toward marriage?


I know you can’t possibly be as loving and forgiving as God. (You’re human, after all.) And you surely don’t have to put up with abuse. Nevertheless, you are called to follow God’s model of love, forgiveness, and covenant keeping!


In marriage, it’s usually not a few big things that break apart a marriage – though some big transgression is often the final death knell. It’s usually a million little things that gradually break apart a marriage. It’s everyday falterings and failings. It’s repeated unforgivenesses and daily callousness. Covenant keeping isn’t some big sweeping gesture; it’s everyday kindness and faithfulness and patience and forgiveness.


QUESTION: Are you more like God or Israel in your relationship? What will it take for you to keep covenant like God keeps covenant?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who needs daily grace

(and needs to give it too)


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Apr 27 - 2 Chronicles 29:10-11

Hezekiah said,

Now I intend to make

a covenant with the Lord

… Do not be negligent …

for the Lord has chosen you

to stand before him and serve him

2 Chronicles 29:10-11



Yesterday, I encouraged you to look at the ring on the finger of your beloved. When you put it there, you proclaimed, covenantally, “I’d rather be cut in half than to ever quit fighting for this marriage. I give myself totally to thee.”


“I’ll never quit on this marriage!” That’s what you said … and are saying.


“I give myself totally.”


Now, I usually urge people to never use words like “never” and “totally!” Absolutes are always hard to follow through on. In fact, we can’t fulfill these promises on our own power. But we can through the power of the one who gave himself totally for us.


The Power to Keep Covenant


When we are saying, “I give myself totally to thee,” we are seeking to fulfill the holy charge found in Ephesian 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”


Throughout Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – God describes his relationship with his people in terms of a marriage covenant … in terms, indeed, of passionate love and unwavering commitment.


Godly husbands and wives are supposed to love one another in the same way that God loves his people. We are supposed to love each other “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”


“Do not be negligent,” says our verse for today. Love one another totally! Love each other sacrificially! Remember your pledge in covenantal love. It says, “I’d rather be cut in half – or nailed to a cross – than to ever quit fighting for this marriage. I give myself totally to thee.”


“But ‘how’? I can’t do this alone!”


You’re right. You can’t. But the one who endured the cross can!


When you chose to stand in front of the altar, you were saying, “Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord.” In that moment, you chose God. And in that moment, God reached back – “the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him.”


That’s the blessing of covenantal marriage. No matter your imperfection on the way to the altar – that was what Hezekiah was dealing with, a wantonly rebellious Israel – God is ready to start anew. And when you stand at the altar and pledge, “I will be a covenant keeper,” you are entitled to all the power that comes from above! 


·                     God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – desires to give us “wisdom and understanding” (Isaiah 11:2 – Knowledge is, of course, a powerful tool for improving a marriage).


·                     “The Spirit … gives us power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 – Love and self-discipline are also powerful tools for improving a marriage).


·                     God gives “strength to the weary”; he helps us when we are tired of trying (Isaiah 40:28-31).


·                     God empowers us to forgive (The power to forgive comes from the fact that we are forgiven, see Luke 7:47).


·                     God helps us endure (2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”)


·                     God helps us battle the lies that say it’s not worth fighting for our marriage. (The armor of God – Ephesians 6 – promises a “belt of truth” to help us fight the lies of hell which sew division; indeed, as Jesus said, “I have given you authority … over all the power of the enemy,” Luke 10:19).


·                     Indeed, whatever the problem, God makes us “more than conquerers” (Romans 8:37).


QUESTION: see below


In Christ’s Love,

a guy with power equipment

(God’s power equips me)


QUESTION: Are you experiencing the power of heaven in your marriage? If not, perhaps it’s time to fully renew your covenantal relationship with God the Father. We are supposed to give ourselves totally and sacrificially to Him. And when we do that, we begin to experience the power to give ourselves totally and sacrificially to our marriage partner. What do you need to do to give yourself more totally and sacrificially to God? Indeed, where are “me-firsts” still in your life?


Saturday, April 25, 2015

FW: Apr 23 - Ephesians 5:31-32



From: Pastor Ed []
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 8:00 PM
Subject: Apr 23 - Ephesians 5:31-32


“For this reason a man will leave

his father and mother

and be joined to his wife, and

the two will become one flesh.”

This is a great mystery,

and I am applying it

to Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:31-32



What is the Marriage Covenant? – Part One


A covenant is a solemn compact (or agreement).


More than that, it is a binding relationship.


When God blesses the one flesh union of one man and one woman, he desires for this to be a reflection of God’s own union with his people.


That’s what our verse for today says.


The Apostle Paul points to the institution of marriage and says, “Look at the very best marriages. That’s the way in which Jesus loves the Church! He will provide for her. Sacrifice for her. Even die for her. His love will never run out.”


Now, it’s dangerous to compare Jesus’ perfect love, with any human picture. (Even the best marriages are inevitably imperfect.) But you get the point, right?! Christ loves the church like the very best of husbands love their brides.


That’s point one. But look at the brilliance of the Apostle Paul (and of God’s enduring Word)!


Even as Christ’s love is being compared to the best marriages, the Apostle is simultaneously turning around and pointing to marriages.


He’s saying to every husband and wife …


“Your marriage should look

like Jesus and the Church!

You’re called to love like Christ loves.

You should provide like Christ provides.

You should forgive like Christ forgives.

You sacrifice like Christ sacrificially gave all.

And you should be willing

to die for your beloved …

and for the sanctity of this union.”


In our culture, we’ve been gradually watering down the solemnity of the marriage … until there might as well be a waterfall hurtling well-intentioned couples over the ledge.


It’s like plummeting over Niagara Falls in a barrel. More barrel-plungers wind up crushed than survive. And more people who plunge into marriage – without understand God’s covenant – wind up crushed than survive.


Nowadays, marriage has devolved into just another mutually beneficial “contract.” If it’s good for me, I’ll stick with it.


That’s true among even many Christians. We treat marriage as a convenience that either party can exit it with just a little help from the court. “No fault divorce” is what it’s called in many states.


How far are we, then, from sawing a bull in half and saying covenantally, “I’d rather be cut in half than to ever quit fighting for this marriage.”


QUESTION: Do you truly love your spouse like Christ loved the church? Indeed, you’re your commitment on in this areas: Loving? Providing? Forgiving? Sacrificing? Giving all?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t want to go

over Niagara Falls in a barrel



FW: Apr 25-26 - Genesis 17:19



From: Pastor Ed []
Sent: Saturday, April 25, 2015 8:31 AM
Subject: Apr 25-26 - Genesis 17:19


God said …

“Your wife Sarah will bear you a son

and you will name him Isaac.

I will keep my covenant with him

and with his descendants forever.

It is an everlasting covenant.

Genesis 17:19



What is the Marriage Covenant? – Part Three


My wife graduated from Vet School in May. We got married in June. Her first day of Veterinary practice was July 1.


That’s a busy few weeks.


She started this journey as “Miss East” – her maiden name. In a blink of an eye, she was “Dr. Thomas.”


Her first day at the university hospital, she didn’t answer her pages! She’d never been called, “Doctor.” She’d hardly become a “Thomas.” “Dr. Thomas” was someone she’d never met. And yet, suddenly, sick puppies were counting on the woman who didn’t yet recognize her new name!


In Scripture, when God was doing something new, he would often change a person’s name. For example, when God was forging a covenant with Abram (and assuring this elderly man that he would eventually have offspring), God changed the patriarch’s name to “Abraham” (which means, “Father of Many Nations”).


In Genesis 32:22ff, God appeared to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. They literally wrestled all night long. Jacob would not let go, saying, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” God renamed this tenacious man, “Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” The new name that God gave him, “Israel,” literally means, “he who prevails with God.”


Yesterday, we focused on some of the major ways in which the marriage covenant mirrors the gracious covenants that God makes with us. Today, we’ll focus on a few which are less direct … but then we’ll close with perhaps the most important of all.


·         A True Covenant often involves a Change of Name.


This was our story for today. When God made a covenant with Abram, Abram’s name was changed to match his new covenantal identity – “Abraham.” This new name means “father of many nations.” That’s who Abraham was in God’s eyes. And because of God’s covenant, that’s who Abraham would become.


It’s not biblically mandated that a bride change her name. But isn’t it powerfully symbolic! The new name testifies to a new reality.


·         A True Covenant often has Signs which Stand as a Witness.


When God makes a covenant, he often gives a sign. For example, in Genesis 9 when God covenanted to never again flood the earth, he gave a rainbow as the “sign.” It was to be an eternal reminder.


In weddings, we have “signs” too of this union. Our wedding rings are a perfect and powerful example.


Wedding rings – like name changes – aren’t biblically mandated. You can certainly be married without a ring. Nevertheless, the ring is often used in the same covenantal sense that God used the rainbow. It’s a sign. It’s a testimony. All you have to do is look at a person – at their finger – and you know! This person is advertising that they’re covenanted and committed to another human being.


·         A True Covenant generally has Witnesses to Testify.


Throughout Scripture, the Hebrews often set up pillars of stone to witness and testify to the covenants -- see Genesis 31:44-54, for example. They would hold yearly festivals to celebrate significant encounters with God.


Weddings (like many binding contracts) are regularly required to have witnesses. Someone has to sign and testify that these pledges were indeed made.


(As a fun side note: Think about all our wedding pictures. These are witnesses too! They testify gloriously to the grandness of the occasion.)


·         The Purpose of a True Covenant is to Glorify God


Actually, this is the most important one. Read it carefully …


Biblically, the glorification of God was always the true purpose of the covenant. We don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve anything. Nevertheless, the creator of heaven and earth – in his grace – reaches down to us. Through his covenant, God is promising blessings and provisions to us. And our purpose in this covenant is to celebrate God’s love, grace, provision, and power. We glorify God when we honor our commitments.


Question: Is this how you view marriage?!


Most people look at marriage selfishly – “How does it benefit me.” Some look at marriage altruistically – “How can I bless the other person.” Both are incomplete. When we look at our marriage in terms of “How can I glorify God?” then three great things will happen. First, you will be blessed. Second, your beloved will be blessed. Third, the world will be given a witness to the true source of all love!


QUESTION: see below


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s name

1Edward 2Lee 3Thomas –

literally means

1guardian of the 3twin 2pastures

(and by the way, did you know

that “Pastor” means shepherd;

I guess I’m destined

to guard the pastures and

shepherd God’s sheep)


QUESTION: This is the same process as yesterday. Rate how you do at each of these covenantal tasks. Answering the following questions will perhaps give you clues as to how to enrich the covenant of your marriage.

__ A True Covenant often involves a Change of Name. Whether you officially “changed your name” or not with your wedding, can people look at you and see clearly the united goals and purposes?

__ A True Covenant often has a Sign which stands as a Witness. What are the signs – perhaps the things you like to do together – that mark you and your family as united?

__ A True Covenant generally has Witnesses to Testify. There were witnesses there on your wedding day. They celebrated your love. When people watch the two of you today, do they still joyfully testify to your faith, fidelity, friendship, and love?

__ The Purpose of a True Covenant is to Glorify God. On a day-to-day basis, what really is the purpose of your marriage?




FW: Apr 24 - Malachi 2:14-15



From: Pastor Ed []
Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2015 8:00 PM
Subject: Apr 24 - Malachi 2:14-15


the LORD was witness between

you and … your wife by covenant.

Malachi 2:14-15



When I do a wedding, there is a consistent pattern.


·         We all stand as the bride walks down the aisle. (She’s always beautiful.)


·         Dad gives his little girl away.


·         Bride and groom exchange vows and rings.


·         They kiss – often passionately – before processing out to joyful and triumphant music.


·         Then as the congregation heads to the reception, I start chasing.


Yes, as the wedding party is posing for pictures, I’m chasing down signatures. I’m an officer of the state. In the eyes of the government, the wedding isn’t official until there are six signatures – 1) bride, 2) groom, 3) witness 1, 4) witness 2, 5) the clerk of court, and 6) me.


That’s what the state requires to create a secular contract.


What does God require? Indeed, what is different between a governmental contract and a holy covenant? What, indeed, is the scriptural model for marriage as a covenant?


What is the Marriage Covenant? – Part Two


That’s what we’ll be discussing for the next two days. In fact, today, let me give you the first four …


·         A True Covenant is Two becoming One.


We see this model of two becoming one in treaties. Two countries, for example, adopt one common purpose – “If Russia invades, we’ll stand together as one.”


From the beginning, this was God’s design for marriage. (“the man [Adam] said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken … Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:22-24)


This union was reaffirmed by Jesus, the Messiah. (“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” – Matthew 19:6-7.)


This covenantal unity was further reinforced as the foundational teaching of the Church through the writings of apostles (see Ephesians 5:31 and 1 Corinthians 6:16).


·         A True Covenant usually includes Blessings, even Protections.


Many covenants ended with a promise to bless and protect each other. In fact, in the case of treaties, that’s the whole point of the covenant – “I’ll defend you, if you defend me.”


Marriage is like that too. Traditionally men are viewed as the provider and protector, but the bride is absolutely called to defend her husband too – his honor, for example.


·         A True Covenant is Instituted by God


Humans make treaties, contracts, and covenants between themselves all of time. God views some as eternally binding. God views others as non-binding. For example, if I “take out a contract” to have my neighbor assassinated, God does not honor that! Thus, the only true binding covenants are in accord with God’s will and God’s ordinances.


Marriage is in accord with God’s will and God’s ordinances! It is, in fact, instituted by God himself from the foundations and beginning of the world – see Genesis 2.


·         A True Covenant is Grounded on an Irrevocable Promise


In Moses farewell address to Israel, the prophet pointed to the One who would never say farewell: Be strong and of good courage, do not fear …; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” – Deuteronomy 31:6.


Moses was reminding the people that God’s covenant was – and is – irrevocable.


He would never leave nor forsake them.


And that’s what we promise in marriage too. “Till death do us part” means, “I’d rather be cut in half than to ever quit fighting for this marriage.”


QUESTION: see below


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who chases

brand-new brides


(… and grooms and

bridesmaids and best men)


QUESTION: Rate how you do at each of these covenantal tasks. Answering the following questions will perhaps give you clues as to how to enrich the covenant of your marriage.

__ A True Covenant is Two becoming One. Are you one – united in purposes, goals, and prayers – or are you still two who share a few a things?

__ A True Covenant usually has Blessings, even Protections. In what ways do you guard, protect, encourage, and bless your beloved?

__ A True Covenant is Instituted by God. If God is the foundation of marriage, is he the foundation of your day-to-day life?

__ A True Covenant is Grounded on an Irrevocable Promise. Do you treat your marriage as an optional convenience or as something you’d better work on because your covenantally “stuck-together forever”?!


FW: Apr 22 - Song of Solomon 8:6



From: Pastor Ed []
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 8:00 PM
Subject: Apr 22 - Song of Solomon 8:6


Keep me near you like

a seal you wear over your heart,

like a signet ring you wear on your hand.

Love is as strong as death.

Passion is as strong as the grave.

Its sparks become a flame,

and it grows to become a great fire!

Song of Solomon 8:6



Let me set the scene: A man walks into a bar.


I know. I know. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right?


Well, it is.


The bad joke that I’m about to tell occurs whenever some man (or woman) walks into a bar and slides off their wedding ring as they enter.


Cognitively, I understand why people do this. It’s false advertising. The billboard on their empty-left-ring-finger is clear. It says, “I’m available.”


Covenantally, however, I don’t understand this act at all.


Think about what happens when we exchange rings before the altar. With a slightly trembling hand, I once put a delicate ring on my bride’s finger, saying, “I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness.”


Wait. Read that again.


Where is the ring that’s the sign of my fidelity? It’s on her hand. She – not me – is wearing my sign. Therefore, taking off the ring on my finger, releases her … not me. Indeed, if I were to start advertising that I’m available, I’d have to try to pry the ring from her finger. (And that’s not happening!)


A Sign of your Covenant


This week, we’re talking about the covenantal nature of marriage. Yesterday, you heard that the old Hebrew understanding of cutting a covenant meant cutting a bull in half … and then walking ceremonially through the blood and entrails. The covenant-keeper was saying, “The day I quit fighting for this covenant – the day I quit fighting for my marriage – go ahead and cut me in half!”


With this in mind, think for a moment about what happens when people divorce.  Too often the one who asks for the divorce is ready to do what? – “Move on to a better life.” But at the altar, moving-on-if-I-ever-feel-like-it wasn’t the pledge. My pledge was, “I’d rather be cut in half than give up.”


And guess what … our wife (or husband) wears the sign of that covenant on their finger. Meaning that I can’t take it off … especially at my convenience.


Yes, I know, we live in a broken world. And because of that, the Bible – including the sayings of Jesus himself – makes allowances for divorce. Infidelity is the clearest. And how about abuse? Abuse – whether verbal, physical, or emotional – has already shattered the sanctity of that one-flesh union.


As a pastor, I frequently counsel people who’ve been abandoned. They don’t “believe in” divorce. They’re often willing to keep working at it, to keep fighting. But how do you keep covenant when the other person has totally “moved on”? “It’s like trying to clap,” I say, “with just one hand. All you’re doing is waving at the air.”


I say this because I want you to know that I know that life is hard. Divorce happens … even to very nice people. But let’s focus on the rule rather than the exception, the hope rather than the curse. Let’s focus on the marriage that you’re in (or perhaps are pointing to). Let’s focus indeed on the ring that’s on the finger of your beloved. They’re wearing the sign of your covenant.


That’s your covenant. You are giving yourself to them. That’s the message that they wear everyday on their finger. It is, indeed, your pledge. You are saying, “I’d rather be cut in half than to ever quit fighting for this marriage. I give myself totally to thee.”


Question: Start looking at the ring on the hand of your beloved – whether they’re holding your hand in love or waving it at you in anger. Recall that once you picked out that ring for them in hope and love. That ring that they wear is your promise. And to begin restoring that love and hope, perhaps you need to start praying, “God, help me be worthy of the promise that my beloved is wearing”?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s promise

sparkles in the sunlight

(it’s a pretty nice diamond

on my girl’s finger)