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Today, Friday, March 23rd, marks my wife’s and my anniversary. Having been married to her for almost three decades has been a privilege that I find hard to explain or even describe, yet it profoundly represents to me the grace (and hard work) of long-term commitment and the joy and blessing that can be found in it, not to mention the miracle of God’s presence when Jesus is made the center of the relationship.

The friendship that I have with her has been something that I have found warrants constant nurturing and is worth every effort and sacrifice that may present itself. I am particularly grateful to the long-suffering grace and patience that she has shown me over the years. I recall more occasions than I care to admit in which she has endured less-than-ideal challenges with me, yet she has hung in there and been for me a constant companion and partner through various trials, sorrows, as well as blessings I could not begin to count.

My heart goes out to families that do not have this experience and feel that God’s plan for marriage is so derailed by conflict and attempts to circumvent the demands of genuine commitment that few couples experience the joy of it. Many people will talk about “committed relationships”, but even this falls short of “covenant relationships”: the former can withstand many challenges, but the latter, by God’s working in them, can withstand anything.

My hope for families today is that the covenant of marriage, as God has intended it, recaptures the sense of holiness which God instilled in it whenever it is pursued under the auspice of His authority, approval and blessing. Marriage, when it is framed from the perspective that it was God’s idea (as being His creation and not merely a social construct, an invention by people to be whatever people want it to be), regains some of its sense of divine sacredness and is therefore revealed as a noble pursuit and not just a relational afterthought.

And marriage, when it is viewed as being His provision for shoring up the united effort to bring the home under His lordship (as being an institution He ordained and not just a social contract subject to the ebb-and-flow of popularly accepted mores), is upheld as the front line of social engagement as children grow up in a home that demonstrates the biblical ethic of loving God first, loving others second, and finding that how we treat others is as important as how we are treated. Notice that I said, “biblical ethic” as opposed to the “religion’s ethic” which, historically, has distorted and maligned God’s design for marriage.

When I look upon the landscape of broken homes today, I cannot help but consider the devastation that is wrought through the cumulative effect of more and more betrayals, more and more broken promises, and more and more division in homes that divide the hearts of our young and vulnerable because parents have become divided.

Marriage should be a place where both husbands and wives agree to pursue with one heart and one soul the glory of God, the gift of each other, and the good of the family. Abuse and neglect aside, divorce is not good and foils God’s purpose for family. It is not easy. On some occasions, it is costly and even painful. But the reward of perseverance isn’t just in a wonderful friendship or a fun and rewarding experience; it is in a union that physically illustrates the spiritual dimensions of God’s union with His children.   This is a huge mechanism in perpetuating the conviction that hope in God and faith in His Word are rightly placed for the one who trusts Jesus as his or her Savior.

I am thankful for my wife and for the help she is to me. I am thankful for our friendship and how God has continually taught me about love through her. I am thankful for the story of our years (so far) together and for the story yet to come. I hope that story encourages others in their marriages and, more importantly, strengthens their call and commitment to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

If you are married (or are thinking about becoming so), consider the joy of pledging together, under God, your lives as you seek to become one. Let God’s Word be your standard for your relationship and the standard for your home.   “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:31-33 ESV).

If you have been married, but it was lost to you through divorce, consider the great and cleansing healing of Jesus. Jesus gives you the salve of His presence to mend your broken heart. If you were not faithful to promises that you made, allow Him to lift burden of guilt and shame and flood your heart with forgiveness and hope. Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient for any and every sin we’ve fallen into or allowed to fall into us. It is good to get a new start and have a clean conscience. Let Him make you new and make you clean. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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With this year’s Valentine’s Day comes another round of… what is it? Shades of something? If audiences’ responses to the last two episodes are anything to go by, this one will also likely have a wildly enthusiastic reception and viewers will once again be exposed (no pun intended) to confused and distorted messages about sex, relationships, and love. It’s too bad that folks are so eager to accommodate an easy message of pleasure that they’re willing to overlook a genuine message of love… one that these movies essentially ignore or, perhaps, are incapable of even understanding.

Some might argue that the movies somehow, in the end, redeem themselves by trying to convince us that their characters eventually come to a place where they genuinely understand love itself, the movies themselves reportedly take (as the books on which they are based allegedly also do) such a circuitous path through hazy messages of sensuality and perverted sex, that viewers will be victimized by the notion that such interactions between two people are not only normal, but are desirable. 

But that argument is a stretch anyway. I cannot help but believe that the primary engine driving the production of the movie itself is greed which, in turn, exploits lust, the engine that is driving those who will eagerly attend the movie.

All the emphasis of these movies – all the sex, all the need to control others, and all the using of others to build ourselves up – are sad counterfeits of the greater pleasures of knowing God and experiencing His love and power in our lives. They threaten to ruin the God-given point of sex in the first place: the joyful consummation of the uniting of the lives of a husband and wife in a covenantal relationship.

It’s a sad thing when people, in whom the image of God resides, relinquish the high and beautiful purpose granted them by their Maker as they twist a gift He has given them… a gift that would ultimately deepen their love for Him and each other as it teaches them to love as He loves.

The love of the Bible is first-of-all a giving kind of love, not a taking. Just as God gives His love to those who place their faith in His Son, a husband and wife express their love for each other by giving themselves emotionally and spiritually to the other. The physical act loses all its meaning if it takes place outside the context of marriage and is a mockery of true love because sex without the commitment of the covenant of marriage is merely a taking from the other. As one uses the other for his self-centered urges, or allows herself to be used selfishly because she believes the lie that this is how one is loved, they miss the mutually edifying and sacred union that marriage represents when fleshed out as God intends it.

And aside from that, the very idea that physical pleasure is the greatest goal to pursue in this life misses the point entirely of what this life is about. God is not God to us when we capitulate to the lie that a mere physical pleasure is our greatest good. Nor can we accept the natural counterposition of this idea: that pain is our greatest evil. When we believe these lies (even subconsciously), we are unable to make sacrifices and put the needs of others before ourselves.

So watch out. Let your ideas about sex, love and marriage be shaped by the Bible, which is God’s Word. Don’t fall into the lie that God’s great aim in creating you is to deprive you of the joy of sex, but understand that He wants you, when the time is right, to enjoy it in the way it is intended to be enjoyed: in the confines of a God-centered marriage.

Jesus is the supreme example of what love is and what love does. He proves that love is not a mere emotion. It is the following through of the determined resolve to raise you up into His divine life. But just so you know, when you believe that truth and finally surrender your life to His holy sacrifice for you and His divine lordship, that love does bring forth a harvest of emotion: joy, peace, comfort, courage, affection, and hope. Indeed, when we finally surrender our passion to something as truly great as He is, we find an amazing grace sweeping us up into the wild abandonment of seeking Him, pursuing Him, discovering Him, and knowing Him. Only in Jesus are we truly freed to live and love and experience the myriad of experiences and fantastic encounters with Him awaiting us… and there are infinitely more than fifty shades!

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God…. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (Psalm 24:3-6, 1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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“But I’m almost done with college and God still hasn’t done anything,” protested the young woman across from me in the campus coffee shop where I often held “office hours” as a campus pastor (many years ago). Her voice was louder than she had intended and people at nearby tables cast a glance in our direction. Heedless of what others were thinking, she went on.

“You say that God has a plan for me, but I don’t see it. I want to be with someone so badly and it feels like God doesn’t care,” she said.

“But He does care,” I replied. “Just think of His promise in Romans 8:32, ‘He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”

“Well, I don’t know,” she responded. “I feel like I’ve got to do something.”

We talked a little more, then prayed and parted company with very little resolved, unless it was the resolve that she already had in pursuing a relationship that was not Christ-centered.

My heart hurt for that Christian woman, partly for the pain of her loneliness, but mostly for the pain I was sure that she would suffer in forging her own path outside of God’s plan for her: it seemed to me that her life was about to turn a tragic direction.

Sadly, it did go the way I was afraid it would for her as it has for some other men and women I have known in the last twenty-five years. The paths that they have chosen have been full of heartache and brokenness although, I am glad to say that in some cases, God has brought good out of tragedy.

Still, I pray for those who suffer from the snare of loneliness that besets men and women today (and not just college-age ones) and the strength it has in turning people’s hearts away from God.Dont throw away your confidence2

Trusting God with our relationships seems to be a tricky thing. I imagine that it is in part due to the fact that the world (the devil’s megaphone) likes to tell us that if we are single then something is wrong with us, either in looks or in personality. We are filled with impatience as it seems that everyone around us has “someone special” with whom he or she is living life. Impatience mutates into desperation which, in turn, becomes blinders upon our eyes, and leads us from the path of faith.

But singleness has the potential of being a very special place to experience the love of God. First, it allows us to celebrate the “centrality of Christ”. I simply mean the fact that there is no relationship that is even remotely as critical (and wonderful) as our relationship with God. Remember that the “Greatest Commandment” is to “love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, and mind” (see Matthew 22:38) and it is to a true relationship with God that you have been called.

The fact is that many people are looking to another man or woman to provide what only God can. Unconditional love and acceptance, however, cannot be truly found in any human relationship (no matter what movies or songs tell us), unless they are first grounded in the love of God Who HAS loved us unconditionally and accepts us with all our faults – as Jesus’ dying in our place proves.

But secondly, our singleness will be a place where we exercise the faith to which we have been called. Consider what is at stake. God has a plan especially crafted for a “special you” and your spiritual enemy (the devil) would like for nothing more (and wants nothing less) than for you to be derailed from that plan, partly to steal your joy and peace, but also to try to sabotage your fruitfulness for God.

Solomon’s wisdom was known far and wide, but he gave his heart away to women who did not share his love for God (it just made sense from a worldly perspective). In consequence, his heart turned away from the Lord and he forfeited, wise as he once was, the fullness of God’s blessing in his life and the lives of his children (see 1 Kings 11).

I am not saying that if you are single that God is necessarily going to bring the man or woman of your dreams into your life, but if you will not succumb to the unbelief that impatience and desperation will foster in you, then you are infinitely better positioned for God to bless you and increase your joy and peace.

Besides, if the Lord has in His plan for you that “special someone”, then that “special someone” shares your calling… a common vision and a common mission to know God and make Him known.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Couple in rain

Sex, within sacred parameters, is intended by God to be a joyful and pleasurable expression of the union of the lives of a husband and wife as well as a celebration of a loving Maker Who delights in His creation.

With the high-profile release of the movie version of the best-selling book Fifty Shades of Gray timed to ride in on the coat-tails of Valentine’s Day and with hordes of other such movies, books and ideas marching down upon us in the near future, it strikes me that confusion surrounding human sexuality is at an all-time high and likely to soar even higher.  Porn remains a multi-billion dollar “industry”, boundaries and morals are constantly being challenged and redefined, and controversy pervades attitudes towards sexual habits and identity.  Sadly, people even in the church either do not concern themselves with what the Bible actually does say about sexuality… or they do not care, no matter that our Creator created sex and intended it, within sacred parameters, to be a joyful and pleasurable expression of the union of the lives of a husband and wife as well as a celebration of a loving Maker Who delights in His creation.

The Bible paints sexuality with brilliant and wonderful colors, portraying it as a truly beautiful expression of love and intimacy when it is observed within the boundaries laid out for it by the Maker of our bodies, minds, and souls:  it is the sacred consummation of a unique and special covenant between one man and one woman who have joined their lives together, becoming one flesh (see Matthew 9:5-6, Mark 10:7-8, Genesis 2:22-25). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled…” (Hebrews 13:4a ESV).

It is interesting that the nature of sex makes it somewhat unique among human interactions and activities. It is not something in which one can involve only a single facet of him or herself no matter how hard one may try to do so: when one connects sexually with another, he or she involves the whole of him or herself – more so than in any other activity.

Giving us a “for instance,” the Bible asks the question, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1 Corinthians 6:15-16 ESV). Thus, sexual union with another isn’t just a matter of gratifying natural urges. It is more than that; it is an investment of a certain amount of one’s essence as a spiritual and emotional being.

Tragically (and I definitely mean “tragically), our culture simply fails to see the spiritual dimensions of human sexuality. And muddying the water even further for minds estranged from God is the fact that participation in sexual activity outside of a loving marriage places the person in a spiritual posture before God as either one of two things. One is either a “taker”, degrading his sexual partner (no matter how consensual the act) to no more than a means of temporarily satisfying one’s lust. Or else one is submitting himself to another in ways that are outside parameters that are acceptable to God, degrading him to a position below the esteemed being of worth that God has made of him.  Fifty Shades of Grey, therefore, can only offer a very warped version of what God intends sex to be.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV).  When we “take” another to be used for our pleasure (and this includes those who are victimized through pornography and sex-trafficking), we not only sin against God, we also sin against those we use, and even sin against (or defile) our bodies which God has entrusted to us for holy purposes.

Thus, the person (man or woman) who goes lightly into the realm of expressing himself sexually however he likes, makes of himself something less than what God intends, whether this person engages in adultery (thereby watering down the spiritual and holy union that he has with his spouse), partakes regularly of casual sex (thus rendering his partners as mere “things” and not sacred beings created with divine purpose and value), or cohabitates with his partner (wanting the “perks” of marriage without its responsibilities and obligations).

The Scriptures are quite clear on this point: the degree to which we define and interpret sexuality however we choose is the degree to which we declare to God our rejection of His will for our lives. If we therefore justify homosexuality, pornography, or any of the other sexual immoralities mentioned above, we yank from the hands of God our lives and our world. We are saying, “Here, God, is an area in which You have no say.” And when we as individuals run from under the protective and loving limits given us by God, we run headlong into self-destruction (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). Even our culture suffers the effects of disintegration as families become unsure of what they are, fathers and mothers become confused as to their roles and responsibilities, and children become caught up in the moral tempests that rage across the societal landscape.

And if the Church is afraid to engage these issues, afraid to say “right is right and wrong is wrong” and that there are many things that are just not acceptable to a holy God, we can expect the Church also to become riddled with the same confusion that keeps a stranglehold on the world and expect that families within the Church to become just as confused as those outside in the world.

Again, sexual sin is a “sin among many sins”, but it is still sin. To play it down as anything less is to do no service to the world and does nothing to remedy an area of human life that is deplorably ill and corrupted. Worse, the travesty that our post-modern world has made of sex leaves countless millions with millstones tied around their spiritual necks, never knowing what it is that hampers them in having a fruitful and joyful relationship with God.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV).

If one has found him or herself ensnared by sexual “improprieties”, he or she may take great comfort in knowing that God can bring healing and cleansing to his or her heart. Inasmuch as you are willing to admit to God that you have left God’s ideal for your life, and place your confidence in the power of His grace, which led Jesus to the cross of Calvary, you can experience a fresh start and a new beginning.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).

Copyright © 2015, Thom Mollohan

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A Letter to my Wife on Mother's Day

Diane, you are, as my wife, the best of friends and an enduring and lavish blessing to me. As a mother to my children, you are an amazing provision from God!

Dearest Diane,

Of all the blessings entrusted to me by God, after Jesus’ atoning work, the gift of His indwelling Spirit, and the Father’s eternal acceptance of me through Christ, you rank as chief.

It’s been said that “a good woman is hard to find,” and Proverbs 31:10a asks the question, “An excellent wife who can find?”  It is abundantly clear to me with the rising of every sun, that I have indeed found (rather, I have been given) a most excellent wife.

You remain to me a treasure far, far “more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:10b) and brighten each day a “the delight of eyes” (Ezekiel 24:16).

Your faith, as a precious well-spring of instruction to me and inspiration to those who really know you, flows like a bubbling mountain spring, refreshing those it touches.

Your character as a godly woman is a model of what true womanhood is really about.  Not only are you a truly beautiful woman on the outside, your beauty as it flows from your heart is of “the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very beautiful in God’s eyes” (1 Peter 3:4).

I have watched you time and time again overcome trials, hurts, disappointments, and loss with wisdom, dignity, and faith.  It amazes me how you’ve endured grief and persecution, as well as hardship and even betrayal, with a patient spirit, Christ-like forgiveness, and redemptive grace, thinking not of the harm you’ve received, but of the spiritual need of another.

Thank you for being you, for loving the Lord Jesus, and for honoring and supporting me in our life together (Ephesians 5:22).

I know that you’re not one to look for (or even feel comfortable with) the recognition I would lavish on you (if I could), but, as a truly “virtuous woman”, how can I not praise you “in the city gates” (Proverbs 31:31)?

You are, as my wife, the best of friends and an enduring and lavish blessing to me.  As a mother to my children, you are an amazing provision from God!

In love,

Your husband,

Thom

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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It is as urgent today for the light of faith in Jesus Christ to shine brightly as it has ever been. The people of this generation need His selfless love and holy character to impact their world through the lives and words of those who claim His name. But it seems that, culturally speaking, Christianity is losing more ground every year than it gains.

I recall reading in one national magazine of the rise of “cohabitation” for men and women as an acceptable lifestyle choice across America. “I love her too much to marry her,” said one man of his girlfriend with whom he lives and has multiple children by. Yeah, right. On May 2009, The New York Times printed a story citing the report released by the National Center for Health Statistics on the “Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States”. According to the report, the birthrate “among unmarried women in the 20s and 30s has soared – rising 34 percent since 2002” (its has likely exceeded that by now). Four out of every 10 babies born in the US were to unmarried mothers in 2007, many of which were teenagers (23%).  In the results of a study just released by the CDC (the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it was revealed that of 365,000 births to teens (ages 15-19) in 2010, 66,800 were repeat births (of which 57,200 were 2nd births, 8,400 were 3rd births, and 1,200 were 4 or more).

Of course, such events should be met with the grace and love of Christ and not the harsh stigmatization that leaves the mother and/or child forgotten and forsaken (“hating the sin, but loving the sinner” as some like to quip). But while there have always been births outside of marriage, what is tragic today is the “normalcy” that unwed motherhood has achieved and the overall “ho-hum” attitude given it.

But not only on this matter is there something that should not be normal considered “normal”. Violence escalates, drug abuse and trafficking are skyrocketing, divorce rates continue to climb, popular cultural continues its descent into the exploration of brutality and evil through popular entertainment (movies, television, gaming, etc.), and human trafficking is rampant across the US in every social class. Morality, it seems, has no Biblical basis but follows the whim of baser inclinations rationalized by post-modern rhetoric and advocated by misfits whose credentials for speaking on social ills are based on their celebrity status.

Christians are often shamed into silence, accused of “narrow-mindedness” when rejecting immorality in our sexual behavior or are considered “marginalized” in discussions on homosexuality as a “lifestyle”.  In fact, flaming remarks in social media makes it clear that a Christian will be widely regarded as a hate monger if he or she upholds the Biblical model of family as the ideal to which we should aspire (e.g., with a married father and mother).

But is it really unreasonable for Christians to claim Biblical standards for lifestyles, family structure, ethics and social responsibility (from the peaceful support of the rights of the unborn child to the responsible stewardship of God’s creation)?  No, not at all.

Unfortunately, as many Christians are wooed away from the conviction that the Bible is as relevant for life today as in any other age, the values that the Scriptures uphold fade into the background of their minds and hearts. As we lose a commonly shared sense of values that stand on absolute truth, and their resulting convictions, we lose our voice as well and can only lament what appears to be the irreversible spiraling of our culture down the long tube of anarchy, purposelessness, and despair.

The fact remains, however, that God knows what He’s talking about in laying out for us His strategy for living life. Not only that, He has the moral authority to expect us to respond obediently, not in legalistic finger-pointing of which the Church is often accused, but in the first fruits of our choices. In other words, as Christians we should live the way the God tells us to and know that what He has to say about how we are to live life is best for our society, best for our children, and best for us.

So how should Christians respond to the darkness and evil of our world? Should we buy some guns and make some bombs to wage a literal war in our society and take out doctors, politicians, or TV and music stars? No. This is not how Jesus would have us respond. The battlefield begins in the thoughts of Christians and is waged in the declaration of truth. After all, Ephesians 6 tells us to gird ourselves with spiritual weapons, not physical ones.

Stand firm

Our children and their children need to see that what we say we value with our mouths is what we truly value in our choices and attitudes.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:12-18 ESV).

The “day of evil” of verse 13 has come. So put on your armor and stand firm. Take up your spiritual weapons and fight the fight of faith, speaking the truth of God in love (Ephesians 4:15), and “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If we do not start standing firm in our everyday choices right now, then we have no hope to be able to stand firm when the cost of taking a stand becomes painful or frightening. Besides, our children and their children need to see that what we say we value with our mouths is what we truly value in our choices and attitudes.

And, as we cling with an eternal hope to the One Who called us out of our bondage to sin, living our lives as He has called us to, His power and love can flow freely through us. Such power and love can bring life and hope even into the flotsam and jetsam of ruination that our culture is inevitably creating for the countless victims of its lies with whom we live and work everyday.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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