Pray for Europe! Wildfires in Europe’s forests and grasslands as of July 19, 2022!
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:9-10)
I have often wondered how our worship songs always reflect on the mercy, the glory or the forgiveness of Father for our sins, and neglect the “imprecatory psalms” that call for justice or destruction of those who refuse His grace. (To imprecate is “to invoke or call down curses, as upon a person”.) A recent article in Christianity Today sheds some light on this idea, and I seriously doubt we will see many songs like “I Will Sing Unto the Lord” coming along again, “the horse and rider thrown into the sea,” sometimes cheerfully sung by children.
No one seems to be writing Psalm 109 hymns for the worship team: 8May his days be few;may another take his office! 9 May his children be fatherlessand his wife a widow! 10 May his children wander about and beg,seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! 11 May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! 12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him,nor any to pity his fatherless children!
And perhaps this is okay, in that there are times we tend to excuse our own inclinations to vengeance, when it is God who is the Judge, not us. In these times of polarization where even families cannot gather because of differing views on everything from masks, vaccines, border control and anything political, it may be more vital than ever that we focus our worship times on God’s mercy for the undeserving… like me. Remember “Standing in the Need of Prayer?” 😉
In line with this, often our reluctance to condemn the guilty is lodged in our own guilt because we doknow we are not without sin. Like the accusers in John 8 who wanted to condemn a woman “caught in the act of adultery” (so where was the man who was also committing sin???), none of us wants to cast the first stone, knowing that we have been just as bad. But it leaves a sour taste in our mouths when someone does something so heinous that we would never do (or at least we think we would never do).
Then we feel justified in condemning the sinner, and therein lies the deceit of our enemy. OUR tendency is to condemn the person, more than the action. And that is the reason Father tells us to leave vengeance up to Him! “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19-21)
But what we do in reaction to a person’s sin can be quite apart from how we pray for a person caught in sin! Leaving the actual judgement up to Father does not mean to ignore the sin, and we may even be called to justify or condemn an action based on the Law, not on our personal guilt or absolution. Jury duty, anyone? If we absolve a criminal driving offense because we have been guilty of the same, we abuse the law intended to protect us and others from criminal effects.
However, this is very different from personally attacking the person who has violated the law. Rather, it is allowing the law to proceed as it was intended. And it should serve as a warning to us to not abuse that law… again.
And this is very different from participating in national or tribal action against one acting criminally as in warfare, but that is a subject for another blog someday.
Satan has a season when he loves to prick the saint’s conscience — their dying day! Alas, he comes with all those failing spots to which the saint has succumbed! (Psalm 90:7-8)
When he comes, we may as well say to him: It is true, Satan. I have failed often, more so, broken asunder to despair and despondency. But also, listen. Christ accepted me in my wicked state; died for me while a whore, a swearer, a guiler, an idolater, adulterer, a fornicator, and all the filthy exercises about which you think. I say Christ died for me in all this mud of sin (Romans 5:8). All that is good in me is but by His unmerited grace, undeserved mercy.
Death, to a Christian, is a doorway to glory. To live in Christ is to keep in step with Christ. So also, he that would die well must never put off the inevitability of death — he must live as a dying man. The Christian’s death is the ending of his troubling sins, an entrance to a land where sin and sorrow are no more. We must look at death as a thing we must meet, and look upon ourselves as a thing with which we must part.
It is never too soon to make friendship with death. We never get what we think we want because God always gives us what we need. One day our need will be death.
Death is gain; freedom from doubt and unbelief. In Heaven our faith will be turned into sight. Here the best are liable to doubt about their personal piety, and often experience many an anxious hour in reference to this point. In Heaven doubt will be known no more.
Death is the grave of all temptations. A Christian’s death delivers them from the second death. Put another way, a Christian dies natural to live eternal. In Heaven there are no graves, but eternal grace.
After our death, we will be met by our believing loved ones who went ahead of us to be with Christ. O beloved Christian, why fear death? It is natural to fear death, but we may meet it with faith in Christ.
When death knocks at your door, don’t murmur and grumble about it. Rejoice, you are going Home at last! Does the prisoner, long confined in a dungeon, dread the hour which is to open his prison, and permit him to return to his family and friends? Does the man in a foreign land, long an exile, dread the hour when he shall embark on the ocean [or the sky] to be conveyed to where he may embrace the friends of his youth? Does the sick man dread the hour which restores him to health; the afflicted, the hour of comfort? The wanderer at night, the cheering light of returning day?
And why, then, should the Christian dread the hour which will restore him to immortal vigor? Which shall remove all his sorrows? Which shall introduce him to everlasting day? Smile at death when your time draws nigh.
Death is an awful reality to men who have made this world their only home and the things of this world their only possessions. Do not waste any unnecessary time below here. Let us live as diligent laborers in a field full of harvest, harvesting men to Christ Jesus.
Live as men who appreciate the world, but let us live like men who are more in love with the world to come, the world of Christ Jesus. To die and be with Christ is the final pilgrimage of the wounded saint. The saint finally meets with Eternal Rest and Blessed Felicity.
The door of death is inscribed thus: “Prepare to meet your God!” Christ is best!
Death is sleep. “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52) The natural man is tempted to laugh. You’re wise and know how to apply. Death will very soon reveal the children of God and the devil.
We must have our heart and mind in Heaven if we are to look at death with courage in Christ. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). “So teach us to number our daysthat we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
Beware of head-knowledge in the face of death! It will not comfort you. How is your heart and way of life instructed by your accumulated knowledge on the things of God? Do you know God, or things about God? That’s the question! Be honest with yourself!
I’ve observed humble men die well. Improve life by dying daily to self and enrich the soul by being alive in Christ. I am homesick for Heaven.
You’re not too young to die. Make peace with God. This old fellow knows his time is nigh. Here today, gone tomorrow. Make no permanent nest in this world. Death is a golden carriage that lifts the soul to a golden city, a celestial city. Fellow mortal, ceaseplaying Immortal.
The whole world is a big cemetery of dead men walking. Those that resolve to repent tomorrow intend to be wicked today. A delay of repentance breastfeeds and strengthens our sin — and the wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:23)
The conversion of the thief at the cross is not a canon that all of us are guaranteed conversion to Christ at our death-bed.
We read in the Holy Scriptures of men who were called at their infancy such as Jeremiah, Samuel and John the Baptist. Some were chosen in their prime age of youth like the four Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel. Others were called in their advanced adulthood such as the disciples, John, James, Peter, and Andrew. Other were called while carrying out their business of the day as Matthew, the tax-collector and Luke, the physician. Others were called while in their sin-business as the forgiven harlot and the woman at Jacob’s well. Others while gazing at a fig tree or climbing a sycamore as Nathanael and Zacchaeus. Still others were called in their old age as Joseph of Arimathea and the Jewish scholar, Nicodemus. And last of all, at their death-bed — the thief at the cross!
There’s no such thing as purgatory and indulgences. When you die, you are dead! And all must die! If not now, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, the next day. If not the next day, then, the following day. If not the following day, … then the next!
Death laughs at bags of gold. Death is a level ground where the rich and poor; proud and humble; high and low; prince and peasant, all lay and become wholesome meal for the worm. (Job 21:23-26) A man’s life, however great it was, is always summarized by this little word — Death!
Jesus Christ not only died. He conquered death by death itself! Christ stung death to death! He is our resurrection!
With minor edits this is an excellent balancing article about accurately assessing law versus grace. by humble Theology | January 5, 2022
When reading the Bible most Christ-followers hear the word “law” and immediately have a negative connotation form in their mind as being conditioned on the premise that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). The argument goes something like this: Christians, being under grace, no longer need to obey God’s law. This is a false conclusion for a few reasons, but to get started, we need a bit deeper understanding of what the law even is, and how many ways it can be taken to mean.
First is the law as the moral character of God. When we talk about God being a God of love, we are also saying that He is therefore necessarily a God of law (Matthew 5:48). Love and law are predicated upon one another in any covenant relationship (John 14:15). We see this as the summary of the law is to love God and neighbor, and in the marriage/bride illustrations within Scripture. A bride both loves the groom, and as such willingly submits to laws that typify the exclusivities of marriage. For example, a bride does not seek other lovers any more than someone who loves God goes after idols. This perfection of character is both of the nature of God, and perfectly displayed in the person and life of Christ.
As we are to be a reflection of God’s glory to the world, and take Christ as our example, we are no less expected to love than to follow the laws that God expresses (John 6:38). Some may say that the Christian law is to love, and yet we see what that law looks and acts like in the Ten Commandments (as well as some of other laws of Exodus and Leviticus) (1 John 2:3, 1 John 5:2). There are three uses of this moral law. Within many Presbyterian, Calvinist, and/or Reformed circles the moral law is found to have three main uses.
The first is that the law shows us our sin, and thus the need for grace. Because the law is the perfect reflection of God’s righteousness, we see (as in a mirror) that we do not meet that standard.
The second use is that of a civic standard for law and order. The law cannot change the heart, but its threats can have a restraining effect upon all who are subject to it.
Third, the law is a guide for the Christian (as already mentioned) that shows us the perfect will of our Father. These laws, commands and such direct us as His kids, as to what pleases Him, and what we can do to glorify Him. We do not and cannot do so for any merit, but we submit to them in gratitude.
Second, the law is also seen as civil code. Throughout scripture there are laws by which civic order is established and wrongs can be righted. These are not salvific in nature, that is they do not earn salvation, but are meant to preserve the common peace of the community so far as sinners can submit to them. These are the rules of the land and can be as simple as the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). Christians, so far as they are a dual citizen of Heaven and their land, are to observe the national rules/laws, so far as they do not conflict with God’s laws (Acts 5:29).
Third, law in Scripture is understood as ceremonial practice. There were many ceremonial laws prescribed to Israel as a theocracy and under the rule of kings. These have passed with time, and yet the things they foreshadowed in practice are still shown with greater clarity in the New Testament practices (like Communion and Baptism). Although fewer in number, and salvation is by grace through faith, these practices extend and show salvation visually, as expressly confirmed by the Word. Ceremonies do not save, but they are the sign and seal of God upon His people to show that they have been called according to His Word and such ceremonies are the outward exhibits of faith (Colossians 2:11-12).
Law is not salvific, that is, effective for our salvation. The law does not and cannot save. Even under the covenant of works, the main premise was not law keeping, but for Adam to love God to such a degree that to obey would be a daily joyful act of gratitude, not a chore. Think of a marriage where the two do not reflect on their legal obligations to each other nor the prohibitions against seeking love in another. They simply love one another and seek each other’s happiness and welfare.
Scripture proposes that the law is opposed to grace when it is incorrectly taken from its moral sense and used or interpreted to suggest that following the law is effective for man’s salvation before a Holy God. In these instances, as in Romans 6:14, Paul can say, as should we, that we are not under the law as a system of salvation, but under the covenant of grace, as our rest for salvation. This does not free us to be disobedient children, as we still have our Father’s rules to follow, but we are not following them, as if some sense of merit accompanied them.
The law is always a good thing, when used lawfully (Romans 7:7-12). Paul, as well as Jesus, criticized many of the religious leaders of their time because they missed grace and had made the law into something it is not. So, we have to understand that condemnation of the wrongful use of the law, is not the same as condemning the Law as given by God. When Jesus says that He has come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), then it can hardly be said that there is anything wrong with it (as Jesus becomes its fulfillment). Yet if taken from that context and used as any type of merit system, even if combined with grace (penance), it is to be condemned as not a true and accurate use of the law.
Law was part of the Covenant of Works. Certainly, there are commands within the Covenant of Works, under which Adam was directly told to be fruitful and multiply, and was commanded not to eat of the tree in the center of the garden. The law was to be followed, not for the sake of earning something, but out of love, reverence, and awe of God, he was to keep the relationship going. Adam was already created good, and so enjoyed a harmonious relationship with God. Yet with the option to sin, Adam fell from this original estate by not only breaking the law, but also refuting his love for God. Those not “in Christ” by His grace, die and go to an eternal hell based upon the results of this covenant breach of Adam, imputed to all. It is this breach and all other actual sins of believers only, that are atoned for on the cross. Jesus took the penalty they must exact upon Himself.
Law remains in the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant). Since the fall, and now, man is only ever saved by grace, whereas our performance to keep the law is not a factor. But law keeping is a factor of our salvation (James 1:22). Jesus kept the law on our behalf in two senses. First in a passive sense, Jesus kept the law to prove He was the spotless lamb of God, able to bear the sins of sinners on the cross. Actively Jesus kept the law throughout His life so to have accomplished what Adam did not do, thus earning the righteousness which He gives freely to us. If Jesus just forgave sins, we would be back at square one like Adam, and we would have to maintain our relationship with God, by our love and works. But because Jesus imputes to us His righteousness, there are no other works that can be added to His own to earn any other higher standard of relationship with the Father.
So, the Law is not a merit system for getting into heaven; it cannot and does not function that way. Those that try to make it salvific (effective for salvation) are condemned in the Bible for their abuses of the law, and forsaking grace. Yet, the Christian (in grace) should always strive to keep the commands of God, in gratitude, as those actions we know please our Father and bring Him glory.
There is something sobering about getting a couple phone call messages, texts and emails from your favorite doctor concerned with your latest lab results, especially on December 30, so close to the year’s end. Sobering, but not frightening, as it may be for those who do not have hope in Jesus. I know where I am going and I know the One who knows the way. (John 14:1-4)
All six of my strokes since 1999 have been ischemic (clot) strokes, meaning my body likes to throw coagulated blood at my brain. But getting a lab result that suddenly and without warning shows one’s ‘blood-thinning’ medication makes you at significant risk of a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke is cause for concern. No changes in diet, no alterations in activities, no travels to strange lands (like Norway 😉), no deviations in sleep nor major stresses; so why the drastic change in medical results that two weeks ago were fine?
Suddenly my mortality faces me like an impressive off-season Halloween costume, trying to scare me by telling me I could have died this week if a significant blow had struck me, or I had fallen with just a simple trip on the sidewalk. But the Spectre does not alarm me; death has lost its victory; the grave has lost its sting because my life is hidden in Jesus, the Christ, and nothing will happen to me that my loving Lord does not allow for my good, even it the event is to take me Home. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
So as 2021 comes to its finale, I consider the New Year’s Resolution I made in 1969 at 18 years old and have faithfully kept every New Year: “Resolved, I will never make another New Year’s Resolution!”
This is not to suggest that we should not look back at the fading year and evaluate what we could or should have done differently. Nor does it mean that we should not plan some improvements and developments in the approaching New Year. However, as noted on, most resolutions do not make it to January 31! And none of us has any guarantee of tomorrow, much less the whole year ahead. Whether one runs like James Fixx or manages one’s food with self-control like Ang, there are no warranties we can claim any more than righteous Job.
Thus, I encourage you at this changing of the days to consider your life: its value, its impact on others, its final destination. And walk in fear of The God Who Is, one who loves you more than we can grasp in this life, and who has revealed Himself most clearly in the God-Man, Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Then you will not fear when the clock turns to midnight, just because one minute after midnight you could find yourself in His arms and in His kingdom in Heaven.
Happy New Year to all who are reading this, and with all my heart I hope to meet you someday around the Throne of God to praise Him together.
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling placein all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth,or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dustand say, “Return, O children of Adam!” 4 For a thousand years in your sightare but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you,our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy,or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble;they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger,and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O Lord! How long?Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants,and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
Today I will take a last look (for the present time) at love as it applies to marriage and then next week we will begin to look at some current issues in the news.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, there is one and only one distinctive that defines a marriage. Every service and provision except one that a husband and wife give to each other can be done by another. This is evident in how The 5 Love Languages and Love and Respect can easily be applied to other relationships. Even in His Needs, Her Needs, many of the emotional needs can be met by someone other than one’s spouse. In fact, that is what Dr. Harley warns against, simply because if someone other than one’s spouse meets some of those needs, this could result in the development of an affair. Thus his text is subtitled, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.
Yet, many spouses may be handicapped or have some disability that prevents them from supplying one or more of those basic emotional needs, and there are people who make their living supplementing what a spouse cannot; e.g., companions who take people to shop or provide recreational outlets, financial advisors who regulate purchases and manage a spouse’s money, housekeepers who supply domestic support, etc.. But there is one service that others cannot supply without significant consequences.
James notes that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” That is to say that all sin IS sin, and that the most important issue is WHO is sinned against. In his thinking, there is no difference between the various sins listed in the law as all of them are offenses against God’s holiness. However, the apostle Paul makes a distinction of one sin that is different from any others, He says in 1 Corinthians 6:18 that “Every sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Furthermore, Jesus even indicated there are differences in ‘levels of sin’ when He told Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)
So it is that the distinct aspect of sexual copulation is reserved for those in a committed relationship, a covenant of marriage. This is more than a contract. In a contract, Party 1 says, I will perform function A if Party 2 performs function B; Party 2 agrees to perform function B as long as Party 1 performs function A. Contracts are mutually accepted constraints and responsibilities that remain dependent on the performers. If Party 1 fails to provide function A, Party 2 is released from being required to provide function B, and vice versa.
But the Bible sets up marriage differently: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Notice, the first responsibility is on the husband; nothing is said in Genesis about a wife’s role in the marriage, other than the sexual union of becoming one flesh.
This is consistent with the rest of Scripture that puts the onus on a husband to love his wife as he loves his own body; to be faithful to the point that even the Lord’s disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10) There is a mutuality to this relationship as Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, but it starts with a man’s responsibility to provide conjugal relations and affection for his wife, and then moves on to instruct that neither the husband nor the wife has final say about their own bodies, but rather the other party is in charge.
So where does that leave us in the covenant? The current emphasis on “covenanting” in marriage is that even if one party does nothing to fulfill his or her part, the other party is still fully responsible for doing whatever they agreed to in the marriage ceremony: to love, honor, cherish, keep oneself only for one’s spouse, etc. One friend once explained, “Any marriage that is based on a 50-50 agreement is dangerously close to dissolution. Only a marriage based on 100-100 is safe.”
Drs. Harley and Eggerichs both point out in their books and websites that if someone attempts to do the exercise of providing for a spouse’s needs based on the idea, “I’ll try this for a couple of weeks and see if I get feedback that is acceptable,” he or she is likely to be sadly disappointed. The issue is not to get your way in the marriage, as if The 5 Love Languages, the Energizing Cycle or supplying emotional needs for a spouse were means to manipulate a spouse into doing what you want them to do!
The bottom line for the Christ-follower, whether man or woman, is to please our Master, Jesus. Suppose a husband said to his wife, “Let’s not talk any more. We have enough memories of all our conversations and I have no desire to converse. We can always text, email or even write letters, but let’s stop talking.” Or imagine a wife who says, “Let’s not have sex anymore. We have enough memories from our bedroom and I have no desire to do it anymore. We can always cuddle and hug, but let’s stop lovemaking.”
The responsibility to provide your spouse’s needs are not dependent on their willingness to provide for yours! Our responsibility is to the author of life, our Creator, and He will judge or reward us according to what we have done while in these bodies. NOTE: this is not about salvation, which is accomplished by the blood of Jesus and His resurrection, but He will reward us based on the work we have done as His followers. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.)
So whatever your relation to your spouse is like, it is up to you to fulfill your responsibility to speak your spouse’s Love Language, to show Love and Respect unconditionally, to provide for their basic emotional needs, and to enjoy The Gift of Sex that is exclusively reserved for those in a covenant of marriage. It is that which expresses most clearly our relationship to Christ as part of His church. It is the distinctive that defines a marriage and no one else is allowed by the Creator to supply.
The last three weeks (1, 2, 3) I covered book reviews of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love And Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley. Today’s book review, The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner, more than any of the others, is for married people, although singles can benefit by understanding some of their married friends’ issues. Remember, the best expert on ANY relationship is Jesus, who was an adult single and never experienced sex, even though He “invented” it.
“Men and women are different. Women desire sex and open up sexually when they feel loved by and connected with their husbands; men connect and feel loved through sex.” This preliminary explanation in the preface sets the tone and direction for the rest of the text. Men traditionally start this connection by asking a woman for a date and getting to know her. The Penners compare this process to Christ loving the Church and initiating the model by which a man is supposed to love his wife illustrated in Ephesians 5:22-33.
“The husband loves, adores, and connects with his wife; His adoration allows her to open up sexually; His affirmation ignites her passion; She invites him sexually; He feels validated, so they both end up happy; It’s a win, win!”
Two major contentions of the Penners are 1) that a man is never truly satisfied unless his wife is; 2) that a woman must believe she is worthy of pleasure and that she has a right to be sexual; her body is designed not just for reproduction, but also for sexual satisfaction and pleasure. They note that there are many individual permutations of the assumptions they lay out in the book, but there are general principles that can be applied to enhance sexual function in marriage to make the partnership most satisfying to both.
The first major section of the book is subtitled “A Biblical Perspective.” They point out that sex was not a result of the fall or a human idea. Maleness and femaleness was God’s design to enable humans to understand the relationship between Him and His creation. “It is part of the original perfect creation of mankind.” There is nothing dirty or sinful about sex as long as it is practiced in the guidelines the Designer set up: an exclusive monogamous husband and wife in a covenant commitment for as long as they both live. Throughout Scripture the husband-wife sexual relationship is used to symbolize the Divine-human one.
The Bible teaches sex is for unity, procreation and pleasure and assumes a healthy passion. “Our sexuality is not something to be diminished as we become more ‘spiritual.’ It is part of us as spiritual, godly persons and is good.” Its guiding foundation is that men and women are equal – not identical in either roles or behavior, but in terms of value, ability and position before God. We are expected to give ourselves to each other in marriage under the mutual command of 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband… Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time.”
Paul recognized, that while he would prefer people to be unmarried as he was (he was most likely a widower), human passions are very strong and for many, marriage is the best way to avoid falling into sins of adultery or fornication. “Let them marry (i.e., and enjoy sexual release) – it is no sin.” (7:36)
From this basis, Penners go on to describe as clinicians in “The Physical Dimension,” the body parts involved, with more details about the sex organs than many need to read. However, this also provides helpful material, especially if one is in any measure uninformed about sexual responsiveness of the opposite sex from a biological perspective.
Following this, Penners characterize “The Total Experience” with such chapter titles as “Getting Interested,” “Having Fun,”… “Meshing Your Worlds,” … “By Invitation Only,” “Letting Go,”… and “Cleaning Up.” With skills developed by teaching hundreds of Christian Perspectives in Sexual Enjoyment seminars, they adeptly address pragmatic details many texts on marriage relations omit, usually on the assumption that Christ-followers will discuss intimate details – an assumption that is often inaccurate. Frequent references back to the basics of 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5 ground their advice solidly in Scripture.
Although “The Total Experience” mentions a few obstacles that may come up, “When Sex Isn’t Working” goes into great detail to help couples find and explore the roots, evidences, and solutions to problems in a sexual relationship. The longest section in the book suggests that there are lots of dysfunctions that may occur within marriages. From “You Want To Do What?” to “Pornography and the Internet,” the Penners take us on a survey of some of the most common obstacles to sexual fulfillment in marriage.
Parts of this section hark back to The 5 Love Languages, Love and Respect, and His Needs, Her Needs. “The starting point for resolving any difficulty is always effective communication.” While the Bible strictly confines sexual activity to the marriage relationship, no guidelines are given about what is acceptable in lovemaking activity. Again, using Biblical ethics (e.g., Paul’s concern not to offend a brother by eating meat sacrificed to an idol; see Romans 14:13-16) they proficiently address differences in views husbands and wives may hold toward lovemaking actions and move a couple toward a satisfying acceptance of each other. The entire section is filled with very practical and explicit advice for how to meet and overcome apparent dilemmas in sexual satisfaction.
The final brief section, “Enhancing the Sexual Experience,” explores how to invite God into the bedroom. Remembering that sex was His idea, the Penners go on to address how to talk lovingly with each other about sexual issues, if outside help in the form of counseling is needed, and they close with some questions asked in various seminars.
Good reading for any couple considering marriage, for enhancing an already good one, and great helps for any in conflict over sexual issues. And it is helpful for the unmarried to sympathize with married friends. The underlying assumption, only addressed specifically in Love and Respect, is that the involved parties are people of good will toward each other. If this in not the case in your life, there are other issues that need resolution first, with books and resources available to help.
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.”Hebrews 13:4
Two weeks ago and last week I mentioned the four books (The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner) that most influence my thinking on love and marriage, but each has lessons that are applicable to other relationships in life. In fact, last week my elder sister, who never married, and I were discussing these blogs and her comment was that she grew a lot in her understanding by reading a couple of books on love and marriage. They helped her in her association with our Father in Heaven, in communication with others and in talking with married friends about their relationships.
Today’s review of His Needs, Her Needs is perhaps the most focused on marriage so far, in that his subtitle is “Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.” In fact, pages 21-34 and the entire chapter 13 (How to Survive an Affair) concerns the assumption that an affair has already occurred. We will focus our attention on issues he addresses to avoid this scenario, which in turn, can have applications to other relationships.
Dr. Harley has found in interviews with thousands of couples over twenty-five years that most “marital experts” fail terribly at helping couples save or enjoy their marriages. The common thread he discovered (and what Chapman and Eggerichs allude to) is that people get married because they find each other irresistible; the common problem is that somewhere in their life together, they “fall out of love,” i.e. they need to restore the feeling of love that drew them to each other in the first place. However well they may communicate and problem-solve, “unless this helps trigger the feeling of romantic love, spouses feel cheated in their marriage… If you’re in love, you are caring for each other the right way. If you’re not in love, you should learn the right way to show you care… to create and sustain romantic love.”
In answer to the question, “What could your spouse do for you that would make you happier?,” Harley classifies almost all the responses into “ten emotional needs”: (alphabetized) 1.Admiration, 2.Affection, 3.Conversation, 4.Domestic Support, 5.Family Commitment, 6.Financial Support, 7.Honesty/Openness, 8.Physical Attractiveness, 9.Recreational Companionship and 10.Sexual Fulfillment.
He provides a very helpful Emotional Needs Questionnaire in Appendix B to help the reader determine and evaluate their spouse’s effectiveness in meeting those needs. (The questionnaire is attached here, and permission is granted by the publisher to photocopy or print for use in your marriage.) At the conclusion of the questions, he challenges each to rank the five most important of the ten. This should not be just in terms of most desperate need. For example, a woman whose husband does not take care of himself, maybe smells bad and is generally a slob, may think that Physical Attractiveness that drew her to him in their dating life is her most important need, where it may be simply the most felt need. But as he begins to work on meeting her needs, this may slide into the background as she recognizes this simply interfered with their conversation or letting him show affection.
“Often the failure of [spouses] to meet each other’s emotional needs is simply due to ignorance or each other’s needs and not to selfish unwillingness to be considerate.” From his surveys and research, he has found that while no “one-size-fits-all,” there is some commonality to how most men and women answer the questionnaire and rank their most important emotional needs.
The First Thing She Can’t Do Without is most often Affection, the “cement of a relationship.” And he guides us guys on how any man can learn to be affectionate without sex; yet he affirms that within a marriage, “when it come to sex and affection, you can’t have one without the other.” He suggests asking one’s wife to write up a list of “Affectionate Habits to Create” and another of “Affectionate Habits to Avoid.” Knowing what your spouse needs never meets that need; we must learn new habits that change that knowledge into action! Just as James says, “Faith without works is dead,” so good information and intentions are worthless if we do not follow through. A woman’s need for Affection is one of the most common and deepest emotional needs.
The First Thing He Can’t Do Without is most often Sexual Fulfillment. “The typical wife does not understand her husband’s need for sex any more than the typical husband does not understand his wife’s deep need for affection.” And so begins an excellent examination of the differences men and women experience when approaching this intimacy that takes a marriage into the picture of Christ and the Church. He even notes counseling couples in their 70s who discover sexual incompatibility was simply a matter of not understanding each other’s needs.
He applies the Golden Rule as Jesus taught, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Affection and sexual expression must be mutual, demonstrated in a husband’s care and sensitivity to his wife’s needs and if one meets the other’s needs as they would want their needs met, they will usually find a spouse willing to meet theirs. If either spouse is unwilling to meet ‘your’ needs, the first place to look is at oneself: Am I meeting his/her needs?
The second most common needs found in women and men are Conversation and Recreational Companionship, respectively. Both of these areas take specific and determined effort on the part of the companion lacking that need to learn how to converse and how to enjoy recreatonal times together. But Harley does not leave us hanging with a guy wondering, what does she want to talk about and why 🤯; nor the gal thinking of the horror of every Monday night having to watch TV football! 😱
With perceptive questions at the end of each chapter, the readers are guided into discussing how to meet each other’s needs within a framework that will prove satisfying to both; Questions for Her; Questions for Him; To Consider Together.
Remember how we talked when we were dating; we could spend whole nights chatting and wonder where the time went? Remember the fun we had together as a couple learning what pleased each other? Each of the ten emotional needs is dealt with per chapter with practical proposals to work out in ways that will enliven each other’s spirits and take a couple “from incompatible to irresistable.”“Couples start out irresistable and only become incompatible as they leave each other’s basic needs unmet.” You’ll enjoy reading his description of The Irresistable Man and The Irresistable Woman. 😉
Love & Respect (The Love She Most Desires and The Respect He Desperately Needs) begins with The Crazy Cycle. This is Dr. Eggerichs’ description of the merry-go-round many couples run on day after day, week after week, even year after year. He presents a “simple secret to a better marriage” as a principle that is much simpler to state than to act out: “When a wife feels unloved, it is especially hard to respect her husband. When a man feels disrespected, it is especially hard to love his wife.” I.e., if a man unconditionally loves his wife, she will probably respect him; if a woman unconditionally respects her husband, he will probably show her love.
“A husband is to obey the command to love even if his wife does not obey the command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love.” This leaves no room for selfish thinking on the part of either spouse: “I will love my wife after she begins to respect me;” or “I will respect my husband after he begins to love me.” Without love a wife will tend to act without respect; without respect a husband will tend to act without love . . . and the Crazy Cycle takes us on a ride that never seems to end!
It is as though we keep flipping a light switch without lights coming on, and instead of checking a light bulb, breaker box or circuit, and trying to find the cause of the problem, we just stand at the switch like idiots and keep flipping it, wondering why the light does not come on. “Craziness happens when we keep doing the same things over and over with the same ill effects.”
One of the cultural conflicts he addresses is the idea that respect should be just as unconditional as love! He notes in Ephesians 5:33 that Paul instructs “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” In our society we tend to accept the idea that love should be offered even when it is not earned; in fact, if someone does something to ‘earn’ love, we tend to discount that action as self-serving. In the same way, we should view respect as something that does not require ‘earning,’ but should be offered because the Bible says so.
That unconditional respect is taught in the Bible is clear from 1 Peter 3:1-2: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” This refutes the deception of our enemy that respect must be earned.
Wives tend to be wired to show love, but without understanding how important respect is to a man, she will not show him love in a way he understands. God made men in such a way that respect does to the soul of a man what love does to the soul of a woman. In turn, men try to earn respect by demanding it from a wife who wants more than anything to show him that he is loved. And his attempts to demand respect nullify any attempts he may make to show her love.
Dr. Eggerichs believes this happens because men and women are wired differently, as though men have blue sunglasses and hearing aids and women have pink sunglasses and hearing aids. What is done and said by a husband with love for his wife does not communicate the love he feels because she sees and hears it through a different lens and hearing aid. In the same way, a wife may try to express respect for her husband, but because he has different “receptors,” he fails to see it correctly. And so the Crazy Cycle continues.
The challenges of the Crazy Cycle are tremendous, but hope is to be found in the Energizing Cycle. With a clever acronym (COUPLE), Dr. Eggerichs makes valuable suggestions to a man who wants to show his wife that she IS loved, with six chapters to guide a man with good intentions to his goal of loving his wife as Christ loves the Church.
He describes a wife’s basic needs as desiring for her husband to be Close, Open, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyal and to Esteem her (COUPLE). If a man faithfully applies the principles the good doctor explains in these chapters, he will go a long way on the Energizing Cycle by showing his wife that she IS loved. Each chapter coaches a guy even on how to say that he wants to get close, be open, etc.. We guys need directions in spite of our tendency to try to put together Christmas toys and read the instruction sheet later. 🙄
The next six chapters spelling CHAIRS as an acronym will help wives discover how to “spell respect to their husbands.” An interesting experiment Dr. Eggerichs tried with some women was a challenge for them to test the importance of respect to their husbands: “Spend some time thinking of things they respected about their husbands… then go home and, wait until the husband was not distracted and say, ‘I was thinking about you today and several things about you that I respect and I wanted you to know that I respect you.’… After saying this, they were not to wait for a response, but just to gently begin to leave and see what would happen. Then he goes on to help women who may have difficulty coming up with anything to respect about their husbands, which may take a woman back to why she married him in the first place, but emphasizes God’s design for marriage, that alone is worthy of respect.
CHAIRS stands for Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship, and Sexuality. Each of these is presented in a Biblically sound fashion that does not suggest “the man is in charge,” but rather reflects the way a godly man will see leadership. Conquest addresses a man’s desire to conquer the challenges of life with success at what he does. (If you ever ask a man, “Who are you?” most of us will respond with what we do.) Hierarchy presents a man’s desire to protect and provide for his wife and family; Authority uses Jesus’ model of it: “I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27); Insight deals with a man’s desire to analyze and counsel; Relationship addresses a man’s need for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship with his spouse; and Sexuality deals with a distinctly “blue sunglasses” phenomenon of desiring intimacy through sexual union.
Part Three of the text talks about the Rewarded Cycle in which his love is expressed regardless of her respect with is demonstrated regardless of his love which is expressed … And as a new cycle is begun, Dr. Eggerichs explains that the real reason for Love and Respect goes beyond whether or not a spouse responds appropriately. Unconditional love and unconditional respect will be rewarded! Matthew 5:46-48 says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet [respect] only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?… You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Ultimately, you are obeying your Father in Heaven and He is 100% reliable and will reward you according to His grace and love, even if we do not see the results here on earth.