Last Monday, I got to connect with Tom Rice of Great Marriages for Sheboygan County (Sue wasn’t feeling her best, but she chimed in a couple times ), sharing wisdom and experience from 53 years of finding joy in marriage!
TONIGHT, 7-9 PM Central, I’ll get to chat with our disciple-making friend Liz Kohli ~ greater Milwaukee area team leader for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement! How Is God at work around the world? How can we be a part?
The scenes from Esther’s life recorded in chapters 5-7 of her book illustrate the power of a praying woman and God’s ability to turn even the most dire circumstances around for His glory and the good of His people!
In recent years, I’ve been invited to share 5 Father’s Day messages with 5 different local churches in Wisconsin and New York!
I think God may be trying to tell me something…
This message, a conversation with Jim Corbett of the Family Rescue Campaign, is one of my favorites. There is nothing that can heal and transform our hearts like encountering the heart of our Heavenly Father!
I pray you’re inspired to seek God’s heart. As you do, may you discover who He is in a fresh and transformative way!
There is nothing that can heal and transform our hearts like encountering the heart of our Heavenly Father!
The marriage covenant is an eternal promise based on the truth of God’s Word, rooted in Christ’s love, and centered on His steadfast character.
*Marriage as a picture of the Gospel relationship:
The Bible teaches that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship Jesus has with those who love Him (Ephesians 5:29-33). Each of us has turned away from right relationship with the God who loves us. God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, clearly reveals our selfishness. By loving others more than the LORD, lying, hating, lusting, and refusing to forgive, we have pushed ourselves away from relationship with Him.
If we come to God trying to earn His love or to deserve a place in Heaven because of our good works, we will never know Him. Our sin has separated us from Jesus, and we deserve only God’s judgment in Hell. However, He wants us to experience His love and a close relationship with Jesus that marriage was designed to depict.
The good news is that Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead! As a Groom coming to claim His bride, Jesus will come again for all those who have turned from sin and put their trust in Him. Jesus gave His lifeblood because of His desire to become united with those He loves. He paid the bride price with His own life. Husbands likewise are called to serve their wives by dying to themselves and sacrificing for the good of their wives. Wives are called to respond in self-giving love by cooperating with their husbands – that together the couple might be ministry partners for the Master.
Jesus calls you today to join His Bride, the Church. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20). Jesus has promised to return to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever. Are you in right relationship with God? Have you fully trusted your heart and life to Jesus? In an act of bold love, He invites you to do so today.
*Bridal party walking down the center aisle in participation:
Walking down the center aisle is based on a tradition from the Bible. The LORD made a promise to bless Abraham, who was a forefather of Jesus Christ. In Genesis 15:9-21, the LORD instructed Abraham to sacrifice several animals, cutting them in half and laying them on the ground. Two parties making a covenant would confirm their agreement by walking between these two halves of an offering that had been split in two. In Genesis 15, only the LORD walked down the center aisle, because it was His sole responsibility to unconditionally uphold His promise to Abraham’s descendants. Abraham was asleep. We walk down the center aisle today as a symbol of involvement, either as participants or witnesses, in this marriage covenant.
*Vows as terms of our covenant:
In the Bible, the LORD made many promises to His people. God is always faithful, perfectly upholding His vows to love and provide. In Exodus 20, after the LORD delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God and His people exchanged vows. We call these vows the Ten Commandments. In verse 1, He begins by stating who He is and reminding His people that He set them free from their bondage. The ten commands that follow are the vows that His loved ones promised to uphold in the relationship that they would enjoy with their God. Today, the New Testament provides many examples of promises that the Lord Jesus made to His Bride, the Church. Our vows today are the terms of our life-long covenant relationship with each other.
*Rings as visual symbols of our lifetime commitment:
We have chosen to exchange circular wedding rings as a continual sign of our marriage, serving both to announce to others and to remind us of our vows. A circle is a shape without starting or ending point. It symbolizes the eternal nature of God, who is without beginning or end. The Trinity – the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – has always existed and always will (Genesis 1:26). This eternal God created marriage (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:4-6). He empowers us to remain faithful in our marriage, as He has first been faithful to us. 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
*Salt covenant as a sign of irreversible partnership:
In biblical times, when two people wanted to make a covenant promise of loyalty, each would take some salt from a pouch carried on the belt and sprinkle it into the other’s pouch. Both would then shake their pouches, intermingling forever the grains of salt. Just as the individual grains of salt could never be taken back, their covenant would never be broken. The LORD also included salt in covenants that He made with His people (Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5).
*Unity candle as a symbol of our new united family:
The Bible records that Eve first introduced sin’s darkness into the human heart (Genesis 3:6). However, God also brought Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, through a descendant of Eve, a woman named Mary (John 8:12; 9:5; Luke 1:30-35). As followers of Jesus, we have been called by Christ to be light in this world (Matthew 5:14-16). Because they brought us into the world, we have chosen to have our biological mothers light candles representing all of our family relationships. In a beautiful way, we leave and cleave to each other, forming a new family of our own, which includes our extended families. The unity candle in the center represents this union of two people and two lives joined by Jesus Christ to become one.
The Bible teaches that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship Jesus has with His Church. The Church is a living body made up of people — men, women, and children — in right relationship with their Heavenly Father, who have trusted in the Lord Jesus and surrendered their lives to His saving grace.
Each of us has broken God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, by lying, stealing, hating, and lusting. Our relationships with others so clearly reveal our need for forgiveness. Jesus taught that if you’ve been angry with your brother or called him a name, you’ll be held accountable for it when you stand before God on Judgment Day (Matthew 5:21-22). When you hate someone, you’ve murdered him in your heart (1 John 3:15). Human anger is often tainted by selfishness and ill motives. “…Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20).
Jesus knows every secret thought and attitude of our hearts. He views all lustful thoughts and actions as adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). If we come to God expecting to earn a place in Heaven because of our good works, we are in for a terrible surprise. We deserve only God’s judgment in Hell. However, He wants us to experience His love and a union with Jesus that marriage was designed to reflect. He offers it to you today.
The good news is that God came to earth as Jesus. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose to life again. Like a Groom coming to claim His bride, Jesus will return again for all those who have turned from sin and put their full trust in Him. Jesus gave His lifeblood because of His desire to become united with those He loves. He paid the bride price with His own life. Husbands likewise are called to serve their wives by dying to themselves and making personal sacrifices that their wives might draw closer to Jesus Christ. Wives are called to respond in self-giving love by serving their husbands — that together the couple might be a ministry team for the Master.
Jesus is calling you today to join His Bride, the Church. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20). Jesus has promised to return to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever. Have you trusted Jesus? Have you surrendered your heart and life to Him? He’s calling you today.
Together, Bridget and I desire to create a home and marriage that reveals to all who encounter us, the beautiful heart of Jesus for His Bride. Would you join His Bride, the Church, today by turning from sin and trusting fully in Jesus to save and heal you?
Saint Valentine upheld the sanctity of marriage and the holy beauty of Christ’s Gospel, even in the face of an emperor who made his work illegal.
According to Lutheran tradition, in around 270 A.D., Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage in Rome. The emperor needed soldiers to defend his empire. He believed the loyalties of married men rendered them less effective warriors. Claudius also outlawed Christianity, proclaiming himself the supreme god and Emperor of Rome.
Valentine served as the bishop of Interamna. He secretly performed marriage ceremonies for couples in his area. According to Roman Catholic tradition, Valentine also partnered with Saint Marius and his family to assist persecuted believers. Some accounts of Valentine’s story include him helping condemned Christians elude imprisonment and execution.
Claudius captured Valentine and demanded he renounce his faith and serve the empire and Roman gods. Valentine refused to deny his Lord Jesus. Awaiting his martyrdom, he continued to preach the Gospel and win converts to Christ. Some accounts record that while in prison, Valentine healed the jailer’s daughter, Asterius, of blindness. Other legends record Valentine and Asterius falling in love. He wrote her a final letter, signed “From your Valentine.”
Though Valentine was imprisoned, he was well liked by Emperor Claudius. He was not condemned to death until he shared the Gospel with Claudius, attempting to convert the emperor. Claudius ordered him beaten with clubs and stoned to death. When he survived this torture, the emperor had him beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate in Rome around February 14th, 270 A.D.
The Nuremberg Chronicle, an illustrated book printed in 1493, includes a woodcut of Valentine with an inscription, calling him, Valentinus, a Roman priest and martyr, during the reign of Claudius the Goth also called Claudius II. The caption explains Valentine illegally married couples and aided persecuted followers of Jesus.
Roman Catholic tradition records that Pope Julius I dedicated a church near Ponte Mole to Valentine’s memory. For many years a nearby gate, now called Porta del Popolo, also bore his name. It was formerly called Porta Valetini. In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared February 14th a commemoration of Valentine’s martyrdom. Valentine is recognized as the Patron Saint of engaged couples, beekeepers, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, plague, travelers, and young people. He is often pictured with birds and roses.
In the years following Valentine’s martyrdom, zealous priests opposed heathen romantic practices. They used Valentine’s story specifically in decrying one such pagan tradition. On February 15th, girls would write and sign love notes, placing them into an urn. Boys would draw notes and pursue the girls whose names they believed their goddess, Februata Juno, had caused them to choose.
Present-day Valentine customs more closely resemble this pagan practice than remembrances of a holy man’s ministry and sacrifice. Saint Valentine’s Day was instated for holy recollection and worship. Have our hearts and ears become so clogged with romantic notes and chocolate candies that we hear not the call of Saint Valentine echoing through the catacombs and into our day? “Come out! Be free. Live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Risk all. Defend the covenant of holy love. Uphold Christ’s Gospel at all costs!”
In honor of this saint, let’s proclaim with words and lifestyle the treasure of marriage and the unending worth of the Gospel, a message worthy of our complete surrender and even our very lives.
We wait for acceptance letters, job postings, and a baby’s first word. I’ve been waiting and trusting Jesus for a life partner. It was when I learned to rest that He brought me my Eve (Gn. 2:21-22).
As we prepare for marriage, she and I have established physical boundaries for our purity. We want to share five reasons that we’re committed to upholding these. No matter where you find yourself in this journey of life and love, we pray these underpinning principles will help you.
First, the marriage covenant is the divinely designed context for sexual intimacy. The Lord Jesus created sex to deeply unite husband and wife and to produce children (Jn. 1:3). Children are a reward from the LORD (Ps. 127:3). The lifelong commitment of marriage liberates a couple to be utterly intimate and to make babies. Wedding vows promise future offspring the protection of a father and mother. Jesus commands we wait. His way is the best way.
Second, we are here on this earth to minister the Gospel to unbelievers. The Lord Jesus left His followers with a clear commission to make Him known. His pure Gospel flows most freely from a clean vessel. We preach in the open air that Jesus considers lust adultery in the heart (Mt. 5:28). We share in witnessing conversations that we must repent and trust Christ. Hence, we must also live unadulterated lives of repentance.
Third, our lifestyle sets an example for believers (1 Tim. 4:12). Over the course of our life together, we will influence multitudes. Some look up to us. I’m the oldest sibling of four. My sisters and brother expect me to model Biblical dating for them. Others just notice in passing. We want our example of pure love to point onlookers to Jesus.
Fourth, we refuse to show disdain for God’s grace and mercy. When we least expected it, Jesus graciously bound our hearts together. He’s mercifully protected us thus far. He has poured boundless favor on us through our relationship. He’s revealed to me afresh the passion He has for His Bride—His sacrificial love for the Church. Refusing to wait for intimacy would spit in the face of what He is doing.
Fifth, we honor one another’s convictions. We prayed and fasted together. We drafted physical boundaries separately. When we met to share, whoever had the higher standard set the bar. Guarding each other’s hearts and consciences is an utmost priority. We must be unhindered as we run this race (Heb. 12:1).
Before you enlist to hold us accountable, allow me to issue a challenge. As you wait upon the LORD, consider your personal standards. Have you defined what you will and won’t do? Do you know what foundation your convictions rest upon? Remember it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5:1). If we’ve been freed from sin, we live in it no longer (Rom. 6). I pray our reasons will embolden you in your pursuit of purity. Holiness is His way. As we surrender to Jesus, His Spirit empowers us to walk as He did.
A wise friend told me of a time when he wrestled intensely with the leviathan of lust. He lived in beach country, where scantily clad people were in no short supply.
By God’s grace, he never acted upon his adulterous thoughts. But, as a married man, he marveled at how violently these “youthful lusts” churned in his mind (2 Tim. 2:22). He loved his faithful wife. She was his ministry partner and dearest friend. He was ashamed of the lustful thoughts stewing in his heart.
After a long period of confessing his sin to the LORD, he finally confessed to a close friend, who recommended they pray together for the Lord Jesus to reveal the root of his struggle. After prayer, searching Scripture, and intentional listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice, the root became clear.
He was discontent with the wife the LORD had given him. She experienced some health issues that made the sexual part of their relationship difficult. He confessed his discontentment as sin, agreed with Christ that his relationship with his wife was a wonderful gift, and repented. He experienced a renewal of contentment, and the serpent of his lust was slain.
For many, a root of lust may be discontentment with singleness. To follow Jesus as a single is to be single-heartedly devoted to Him. It is the opportunity to unreservedly pursue intimacy with Jesus. Christ-focused singleness enables a believer to mature into the man or woman the LORD desires and, in so doing, prepare for the possibility of marriage in the future.
The Bible calls believers the Bride of Christ (Rev. 19:6-9). His followers are not available to lust and adulterate ourselves to sin. We belong to Jesus. He is our First Love (Rev. 2:4-5).
Every sin can be traced back to roots that need to be weeded out—this tangled mess of weeds can include discontentment, pride, doubt, idolatry, and more.
My godfather, an Italian immigrant and master gardener, would say: “A weed is any plant you no longer want to grow.” As long as we nurture and feed poisonous plants, flourish they will…
Guard your contentment in Jesus by telling yourself the truth, praying the issue through, even declaring aloud: “I am content in Christ. I find my complete fulfillment and have my every need met in Him alone!” When we rest content in Jesus, we drive a cross-shaped stake through the heart of the dragon that is our doubt and discontent, spraying weedkiller all over our sin.
St. George and the Dragon, by Briton Riviere (public domain)