The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 4

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6, HCSB

I’m a sucker for movies.  I remember watching “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.  At one point in the movie, Hunt’s character (Carol) is at a restaurant with Nicholson (Melvin, who has OCD to the max).  Not having a filter between his brain and mouth, Melvin has completely enraged Carol.  She demands a compliment from him, and he tells her he has a good one.  However, he drones on about his medicine.  “I hate pills, very dangerous thing, pills.  I’m using the word ‘hate’ here, about pills.  Hate.  My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never…all right, well, you were there, you know what you said.  Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills.”  Of course, this makes no sense to Carol, who replied, “I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment for me.”  Melvin explained, “You make me want to be a better man.”

I have tucked that line away to use someday:  You make me want to be a better man.  This is obviously scripted, but the idea of one person doing whatever it takes because they love a person is amazing.  That being said, as Christians we are not to do anything that God has commanded us not to do for the sake of any person or people.  “We must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29, HCSB).  So in the case of spouses, if they were to want your to commit adultery, watch pornography with them, invite another person into the bedroom, etc., you must flat-out reject that.

But let’s get back to the text, because the text is not about husbands and wives, but about Christ and the believer: the true husband and the true bride (Ephesians 5:32).  Our love for Jesus, our devotion to him brings about a hunger and a thirst for change.  Remember the first two beatitudes (here and here), we acknowledge we are poor in spirit (spiritually bankrupt) and we mourn (have sorrow and repent) over our sins.  If our natural inclinations are to do that which is selfish or sinful then our natural inclinations are to not seek after the right things: righteousness (i.e. holiness).  When we are believers, the Spirit of holiness indwells us and brings a new desire and longing that combats the old.  The question is: will we listen to Him or will we quench/grieve Him?

Doing the right and holy thing is not easy.  It takes a driven person to deny himself or herself.  Paul wrote to the Romans, “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,” (12:1-2, HCSB).  Paul called on us to sacrifice ourselves to the task of being holy.  To sacrifice means by its very definition to lose something valuable, which is a difficult for most people.  To be holy means to be separated and pure from what the norm is.  This only happens by renewing the mind.  As long as we think like the world we will live like the rest of society. If we want to do the will of God, then we must think differently and must be about the task of doing so.  Only then can we discern what is the good (versus evil), pleasing (versus displeasing), and perfect (versus sinful and imperfect) will of God.

When we are believers, the Spirit of holiness indwells us and brings a new desire and longing that combats the old.  The question is: will we listen to Him or will we quench/grieve Him?

People say that they want to know God’s will, but rarely do they take on the task of seeking it out. People say they want to be holy, but they aren’t willing to sacrifice to make that happen.  Jesus made a promise: “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed.”  If you’ve ever been hungry–really hungry, not bored hungry–then you know that your one mission in life is to find food.  If you have just run a 10K and bypassed the cup tables and forgot to take your little bottle of water on your hip, when you get back you’re looking for a cooler filled with water.  While not in the right way, Esau upon returning from his hunting expedition was famished.  He willingly sold his birthright for a pot of stew.  That’s hunger!

When we are that hungry and that thirsty for righteousness (purity) then we will be happy.  Why?  Because we will be filled.  Our desire will be granted us.   Remember this is a sacrifice.  It will not always be fun.  It at times can be tedious.  If we are hungry for steak and potatoes we do not eat the food raw.  If you’re like me, you have to thaw the steak, then season it, then sear it, then cook it slowly.  You have to peel the potatoes, season them, boil them, strain them, butter them, and mash them.  Though you’re hungry, you must go through the task of preparing the food.  Only children can sit down and eat what has been prepared for them.  Adults must make the preparation.

If we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, then we must make the preparations: study of God’s Word, prayer, fasting, spiritual counsel,worship, finding ways to practice and serve in righteousness, and so forth.  The preparations will bring a feast along with it.

Do you see how hungering and thirsting after righteousness will greatly improve the marriage?  Surely God desires your marriage to be good.  He desires your marriage to be holy.  If this is also your desire and you are willing to sacrifice to ensure that you are growing to be righteous in your acts (becoming outwardly what the Spirit is making you inwardly), then the marriage cannot help but be improved.  Peter wrote: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives,” (1 Peter 3:1-2, HCSB).  That same thing could be said vice versa.  Husbands be pure and reverent  toward your wives that they will see righteousness being lived out and be won over.

Only children can sit down and eat what has been prepared for them.  Adults must make the preparation.

Obviously, Jesus was not speaking about marriage, but about a person’s whole life.  But marriage is a major part of that life and one ought to think deeply about applying such a beatitude to their marriage.

The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 3

The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5, HCSB

I remember being in our high school musical production of The Little Shop of Horrors.  I was Seymour.  I had such a good time!  If you aren’t familiar with this show/movie then let me quickly tell you about it.  This little nerd and geek of a guy named Seymore (I was perfect for the role) is in love with this young lady Audrey with whom he works.  She however always seems to be falling for the bad boys, including a dentist who slaps her around.  One day Seymore found a strange and interesting plant.  No one knows what species it is so he names it Audrey II.  It turns out that Audrey II is from outer space and craves human blood.  The shere size at which this thing grows is amazing and Seymore becomes very famous, and as attracted the eye of Audrey.  Against his better judgment Seymore feeds the dentist to the plant, and then Audrey gets eaten (though Seymore doesn’t feed her to it).  At any rate, toward the end of the play a song is sung by (what I like to call) the chiffon girls (the Ronnettes).  It goes like this:
“They say the meek shall inherit,
No, the book doesn’t lie;
It’s not a question of merit;
It’s not demand and supply.
They say the meek are gonna get it,
And you’re a meek little guy.
You know the meek are gonna get what comin’ to ’em
By and by.”

Seymour is seen as meek.  The chiffon girls and everyone else has seen Seymore as a pushover.  Everyone wants to take advantage of him, including the plant.  The girls simply are saying, his time will come.

The problem is that Seymour is not what Jesus meant when He used the word meek.  Yet so often that is the idea that we get.  Meek equal weak.  Meek means that the person is just a pushover.  In reality, Jesus meant something more.  That’s why I like the Holman Christian Standard Bible’s translation:  “The gentle are blessed.”  That is the true meaning of meek.  Meek equals gentle, not weak.

There is nothing that conveys weakness when meekness is mentioned.  In fact, just the opposite is true.  A truly meek person actually has the power to cause pain.  They have the power “to win.”  They restrain themselves.  They have self-control.  If you’ve ever play checkers with a child then you know that you could beat them hands down.  Do you?  Probably not.  You let them win a few times.  You put yourself in a position so that they can jump your piece.  You “accidentally” missed a move that could have given you three jumps.  You have the power, but you act meek.

It has been said that no one really knows a person until they live together for a while.  If you’ve been married for a while then you’ve probably gotten to know your spouse better than almost anyone else, with the exception perhaps of parents.  You know their fears, their quirks, their hurts.  At any time, you could bring up a fear of theirs and excoriate them with it.  In a sudden burst of anger, you could hit them right where it hurts.  You have the power in your hands (or in your head and heart), but what will you do with that power?

The argument goes, but if I don’t he will. . .  If I don’t, she’s going to. . .  Jesus took this beatitude out of Psalm 37: “But the humble will inherit the land and will enjoy abundant prosperity,” (v. 11, HCSB).  The humble, the gentle.  The prideful person would go forward to show their power and cause as much damage to another person as was caused to them–more so even!  The humble will refrain.  Notice the “but” at the beginning of that verse.  The Psalmist is comparing the humble to someone else.  Let’s quickly look at whom he is referring:
Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated–it can only bring harm.

For evildoers will be destroyed,
but those who put their hope in the LORD
will inherit that land.
A little while, and the wicked
  person will be no more;
though you look for him, he will
  not be there.
But the humble will inherit the land
and will enjoy abundant prosperity.
Psalm 37:8-11, HCSB

The Psalmist says to give up the anger and rage, to put hope in the LORD, and humble oneself.  He actually equates the hope in the LORD with being humble (or gentle as Jesus would say).  You have the power to hit where it hurts, but rather than seek revenge out of anger, you hope in the LORD, you trust Him to take care of matters for you.  His strength is perfect.  His justice is holy and right.

All too often, husbands and wives wound each other deeply because they have been wounded.  Jesus said that those who do not wound in return will inherit the earth.  There is an inheritance waiting for those who put their hope and trust in Jesus.  There is a better feeling and a better joy than what comes from hurting those who we are supposed to love.

The next time an argument breaks out between you and your spouse (or anyone else), don’t go there.  You could go there, but don’t.  Just because you are wounded doesn’t mean you must wound as well.  Entrust yourself to Jesus’ judgment.

The Beatitudes for Marriage: Part 2

Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4, HCSB

In the last blog I was showing how the first beatitude is important for marriage because it is the realization that we are all in the same boat: spiritually bankrupt.  That is the case with you and the case with your husband or with your wife.  We are made in the image of God and yet we are all marred.  We are all sinners and so we sin.  The absolute logical conclusion then is that our spouses will at some point in time sin against us, and we will sin against them.

This week we hit the second beatitude.  Jesus said that those who mourn are happy.  He didn’t say that they will be blessed later, but that they are blessed at this moment.  At best that’s paradoxical.  Yet here is the crux of the matter: our mourning is over our own sin.  Remember what the David wrote in Psalm 51?

Against You–You alone–I have sinned
and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You passed sentence;
you are blameless when You judge.
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
Psalm 51:4-5, HCSB

This is a man who is mourning over his own sin.  King David had lusted after a woman, committed adultery with her, had her husband killed after finding out she was pregnant, and then married her, hoping no one would figure it out.  When the prophet Nathan confronted him, David was faced with how awful his sin really was.  He immediately repented (turned away from his sins and turned toward God and holiness).

Mourning is not merely a psychological or emotional experience that makes people feel better.  It is a communion with the living, loving God who responds to the mourner with an objective reality–the reality of divine forgiveness.
~John MacArthur, Jr.

Perhaps you have not committed adultery or murdered anyone, but your sin against your spouse (whether losing your temper unjustly or watching porn or squirming your way out of doing the dishes on your night) has been against a holy God as well.  Just because you or I do not consider the sin to be that serious, does not mean that God doesn’t.  It is He who has legistated the law, and it is He who executes the law, and it is He who judges when the law has been broken.  Any breaking of the law is “a big deal” with God.  It may also be a bigger deal to your spouse than you realize.

It is time to take a deeper look at your actions and your motives.  Have you acted justly and purely?  Have you treated your spouse fairly and lovingly or with respect?  If not, (and I would say we all have to say no at some point), then you need to repent.  There needs to be a period of mourning.  Yes, mourning.  Imagine how you would feel if you accidentally hurt your spouse physically, so badly that it landed them in the hospital.  Would you feel horrified and guilty?  Would you tell them that you are sorry for their pain and their being laid up in the hospital for a few days?  There are sins against your spouse that you may have committed that have actually wounded them deeply, wounded them to the core.  Like a trouper they won’t let you know, but the pain is there.  It’s time to mourn and repent.

John MacArthur wrote:
There are. . .legitimate sorrows that are common to all mankind and for which reasonable mourning is appropriate.  To express these sorrows and to cry over them opens an escape valve that keeps our feelings from festering and poisoning our emotions and our whole life.  It provides the way for healing, just as washing out a wound helps prevent infection (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7; Moody Press, p. 155.).

Granted, Dr. MacArthur rightly pointed out that this type of mourning was not what Jesus was referring to, the same result will happen, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.  As he continued:
Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness.  Mourning is not merely a psychological or emotional experience that makes people feel better.  It is a communion with the living, loving God who responds to the mourner with an objective reality–the reality of divine forgiveness, (ibid, p. 158).

Just because you or I do not consider the sin to be that serious, does not mean that God doesn’t.

To live in a state of mourning actually brings blessings.  By being in a state of mourning, I simply mean that the moment you realize you are in sin let the pain of such a reality bring you repentance.  Repent to your spouse and repent to God.  Seek after your spouses forgiveness immediately.  Don’t think that it will pass by and nothing will come of it.  Sin always has a consequence.  Deal with it the moment you know you are in sin.

Recently, I snapped at my wife.  My mind was focused on something I considered important and she was asking me if I was going to take our son to his class.  I snapped that I was.  My tone was harsh.  As I was dropping off my son, my mind recounted the very short conversation.  I had to repent.  I had to apologize.  I immediately called her and did so.  This allows healing to happen sooner than later.  It begins healing the spouses heart, your own heart, and the relationship.  No wonder those who mourn are blessed.  They receive comfort of knowing they are forgiven!

Let us mourn our sins, but let us forgive the sins of our spouses.

Just a quick note about that forgiveness.  We are commanded to forgive.  That’s easier said than done.  That doesn’t mean that we can skip this part of marriage.  Remember what Paul wrote: “[Love] does not keep a record of wrongs,” (1 Corinthians 13:5d, HCSB).  If you love, you must forgive.  Reconciliation can come later.  The rebuilding of trust takes time, but forgiveness must come quickly.  I once heard some great advice, though I cannot recall who said it.  It is often said that the key to a good marriage is communication, but that’s not true.  The key to a good marriage is forgiveness.  Let us mourn our sins, but let us forgive the sins of our spouses.

Recommended Readings from 2016

Everyone else is doing it; why not me?  Here are the top 5 books I read in 2016.  You might want to check them out.  These are by no means above the average person’s head; they are not “scholarly” works as you will soon find out.

5. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Harper Press, 2010).  While I am not a huge fan of fiction, I really got into this book.  Most will know the theme of Dr. Jekyll (a Image result for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Collins Classicsnice guy) becoming Mr. Hyde (a bad guy) due to a potion that he developed.  I remember watching the Looney Toons version of this and naively thought that this would be similar to that, but it definitely is not.  There were twists and turns I did not see coming, especially at the end.  This is a short book and was a fun read for me.

Thoughts.jpg4. Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle (Banner of Truth Trust, 2015).  All I can say is that I wish (oh how I wish) I had read this book when I was a teenager.  I wonder if I would have appreciated it then as much as now though.
3. The Tale of Depereaux by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press, 2003).  Yes, this is a children’s book.  I often read to my children at dinner time, and this was by far our favorite story out of them all.  This story is told from four points of view.  A mouse named Image result for Tale of Despereaux book
Despereaux, a rat name Roscuro, a girl named Miggery Sow, and the last involves them all together. Despereaux is in love with a princess.  Roscuro hates the princess.  Miggery Sow envies the princess and wants to take her place.  It was such a fun story to read that when I read only one chapter, my kids would beg for me to read another.  After the second, they’d beg for a third.  My kids’ ages ranged from 8-13 and they all were enraptured with this tale.

Image result for A Neglected Grace2. A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos (Christian Focus Publications, 2014).  If you are one who desires to do family worship or have started and stopped and started and stopped in the past, I would absolutely recommend this book.  Jason Helopoulos sees family worship as a grace of God and being such he is gracious and encouraging as to how to approach it.  Rather than feeling beaten down, I felt encouraged as if I can lead family worship.  (I’ve heard Don Whitney’s book is also good, but I have read this one and know from experience that this one is top-notch).

1. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies (Cruciform Press, 2015).  I read this one with Challie’s 10 Day Challenge that Image result for Do More Betterbegan this year.  My life has run all the more smoother because of this book.  This is not a hard read at all.  It is definitely worth taking the 10 days to go over it with each chapter.  It is filled with practical advice and steps to be more productive.  I love his definition of what it means to be productive and that it is thoroughly Christian throughout, though a non-Christian would definitely be able to use it as well.

tr1I will say that The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (Random House, 2001) should be on this list.  However, as of writing this post, I am not quite finished with the book.  This massive book is all about TR’s life, from birth through his becoming president upon the assasination of President McKinley.  Morris is a master story-teller and this book is a Dee-light to read.  TR was a bigger-than-life gentleman.  His many accomplishments in life is simply unbelievable.