Law vs. Grace – An Artificial Dichotomy? A Guest Blog by John Leonard

With minor edits this is an excellent balancing article about accurately assessing law versus grace.
by humble Theology | January 5, 2022

2022-02-05 Law vs GraceWhen 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

2022-02-05 Law And GraceLaw 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. 

Mountainside Ministry Training Center

The Mountainside Ministry Training Center, operated by International Messengers, is located in Libby, Montana and trains international workers who have hearts for the lost in other nations.  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

2022-01-19 Mountainside Ministry Training Center - Photo by Ben FancycameraPhoto by Ben “Fancycamera” 😉

Guest Blog: My Six-Month Experiment with Christianity Turned into 12 Months, Then 24 …

How the son of a Hindu priest gradually made his peace with the “unfairness” of the Cross.
by Dr. Chris Goswami

2022-01-08 Chris Goswami

Even at the distance of over 40 years, I still remember having my fingerprints documented for my criminal record. It was the first time in my life I had felt ashamed about anything.

The young police constable was pleasant enough as he gently guided me through the process of fingers, thumbs, and ink pads. He was sensitive to the sense of grief originating from a single sound in the room: the uncontrollable weeping of my distraught mother sitting a few feet away, as my father tried quietly calming her.

As recent immigrants to the UK from India, they were confused and shocked. They had wrenched themselves from established lives as schoolteachers. They had traveled to England by sea, working in a shoe factory and selling bus tickets so that my brother and I could go to school. For families immigrating from the Indian subcontinent, providing an education for their children was (and still is) the driving priority. So when my parents discovered that their teenage son had spent years secretly engaging in arson and shoplifting just “for fun,” they could barely comprehend it.

Sometimes it takes the tears of a loved one to stop us in our tracks and focus our minds on where we’ve gone wrong. But what exactly was I ashamed of? My mother’s grief had brought sudden clarity about the damage I had caused to my family — shameful, lasting damage. It dawned on me that there really is a moral law in the universe, and I had overstepped it. Actions had consequences, just as my family had taught me. The Hindu idea of karma, I had learned, is that you get what you deserve. Here was karma, spectacularly demonstrated.

Debating Christianity
I am the son of a Hindu priest who was himself the son of a Hindu priest. In the working-class English town where I grew up, life revolved around our close-knit Indian community. We regularly met in temples or public halls to celebrate religious festivals and holidays. I never once heard the gospel in my first 18 years. My understanding had always been that “Christian” meant you were white and British, and no one ever suggested otherwise.

But then I left home for university and — by some divinely orchestrated coincidence — got to know a bunch of Christians. To me, they were do-gooders: nice enough people who just did not have their heads screwed on straight when it came to being rational. They would take me along to meetings where someone would present a Christian message or testimony. Afterwards, we would debate what seemed (to me) like the many holes in their arguments. Despite my skepticism, these good Christian students adopted me as some kind of “project.” I did not share their faith, but their friendship and concern moved me.

You see, there was always one roadblock on my journey to understanding Christianity, one concept that, in my view, was immoral and unacceptable: the idea of grace. The notion of someone else suffering shame and pain for the wrongs I had chalked up was absurd and repugnant. To me, grace and karma were complete opposites. Karma is logical; it feels right. It is fair. Karma is what happened in the police station that day.

This attitude persisted for some time, until one of my friends, Alex, commented thoughtfully, “Chris, you can argue forever about the unfairness of the Cross. In many ways you’re absolutely right. Or, you can accept that this man Jesus died because he loves you. It’s up to you.”

Still carrying my doubts, I worked out a way to give this Christian thing a try: Make the commitment, say the prayer, and see what happens over the next six months. I reckoned I would know in that time if it was true or not. What was there to lose?

The six months became 12, and then 24 (mainly because I continued to enjoy the social life of church). I graduated in engineering and began studying toward a PhD. But I was a lazy Christian. I barely picked up a Bible, prayer was an annoying afterthought, and I only went to church if I felt like it, which was not often.

One day, my Anglican minister, David, made a suggestion. He said I should get baptized. I was appalled at the thought. Genuinely horrified. The exact words in my head were: “Baptism is something you Brits do to your babies — why are you talking to me about this?” I had seen infant baptisms on TV — was this fellow seriously suggesting wrapping me up in a white gown and dunking my head in a bowl?

Despite my recoiling, David persisted, and he showed me in Scripture where the baptism of adults took place. I was still unnerved by the whole thing. It sounded crazy. But David gently advised that I should make a decision: Accept the faith, all of it, or reject it. Eventually, I consented. And so, one quiet evening in March 1984, I found myself at the first baptism service I ever attended — my own. I still recall my bewilderment as I noticed the sprinkling of water falling from my head onto the pages of the service book in my hands and wondered, for a second, if I might get into trouble. I did not! And God honored that small act of obedience.

The Wilderness Year
Within days, even hours, of my baptism, I felt a restless urge to quit studying and “do something different.” (Only much later would I come to understand what it means to experience a baptism of the Holy Spirit.) After a few unsuccessful applications for jobs in Zambia and Kenya, I got a position lecturing at an engineering college in India.

I had grand ideas — mainly based on English college life — of what my sojourn in India would look like. However, it was nothing like that. The school, only partially built, was located in a remote part of the country. I was told to teach computing with no computers, and for several months I had a “laboratory” with nothing in it — just a bare room. Meanwhile, I lived in a small village outside the college town, in a humble dwelling with intermittent power, no running water, and scary wildlife — including “snakes and scorpions” (Luke 10:19) — wandering around outside.

Worst of all, I felt suddenly and terribly alone. Though eventually I made some truly great friends, those first few weeks were unbearably lonely. There was no church, and there were no other Christians. In short, I hated it. In the evenings, I could just see airplanes flying into the horizon toward distant lands. I dearly wished I was on board. There were frequent tears — I couldn’t understand what I was doing.

Later in my faith journey, I could see that this was a “wilderness” experience of the sort many other Christians have shared. It’s a model we receive from Jesus himself. Sometimes it is exactly what God needs to break through a hard heart.

After some weeks, I discovered a small fellowship that met in another town. Every Sunday morning, I would ride a jam-packed bus to get there, which involved struggling mightily just to climb aboard. This was hard but encouraging all at once. I remember distinctly hearing God say, “Chris, when your fellowship was a short walk down the road in England, you could not be bothered to go. Now you will fight to go.” I was broken, but I was also being remade.

Those surprised and wonderful Indian Christians welcomed me from the day they set eyes on me. Every Sunday became an entire day at their house, complete with meals, conversations, love, and support. During those months, with their help, I grew enormously in faith. I began devouring Scripture — sometimes for hours in a day — and I discovered a God who wanted me to depend on him, a God who knew me and spoke to me. A God who was not a six-month experiment.

That year included another unexpected blessing: a chance to travel north overnight and meet my previously unknown set of cousins, aunts, and uncles. They are Christian. (My mother had actually given up her nominal Christian faith when she married my Hindu father.) And they were able to introduce me to a much wider range of Indian church experiences.

At the end of that year, on my return to the UK, folks in that small Anglican church (who had also supported me through the year with letters and recordings) barely recognized me. “You’ve completely changed!” they would invariably say.

Incomprehensible Grace
Since then, I have married my lovely Christian wife, Alison (I think she also adopted me as a project!). We now have three wonderful daughters in their 20s. Around 10 years ago, while working in the telecommunications industry, I began training as a Baptist minister. Today, I help lead a small English church while keeping a part-time role in the tech world.

God has answered many prayers over the years, while leaving many others unanswered. We have endured our share of family crises, but in Christ I have an anchor in those storms. If you’re looking for an easy ticket through life, the Christian faith is not it. But if you want purpose, meaning, and direction, here is a narrative, a grand story, in which you have your own essential part to play. And most importantly, you get the incomparable privilege of intimately knowing the Author.

I should say that my mother’s driving ambition was also fulfilled. I ended up with a bunch of university degrees — I really hope it makes up for that day in the police station! But she got more than she bargained for, becoming a Christian during her own life crisis, after my father left us in my teens amid considerable family sadness. She passed away a few years ago as part of a loving, faithful congregation in that same small town where we grew up.

I don’t understand grace, even now. The Cross is appallingly unfair. I suspect I’ll never have it entirely figured out, at least in this lifetime. But I’m thankful that because of God’s grace, I can love Him and commit my life to Him even as He and his grace lie outside my capacity to fully understand.
____________________________________
Chris Goswami, PhD, is Associate Pastor at Lymm Baptist Church, Vice President of Communications at Enea Openwave. His writing appears on his website, 7minutes.net.

A Last Look at Love, Marriage and Sex in 2021

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.

2021-12-04 Wedding BandsAs 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 Gift of Sex – A Review

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.

Gift of Sex“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.

2021-11-27 Milky Way LoveThe 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.

2021-11-27 When Sex Is Not WorkingAlthough “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.

2021-11-27 Happy CoupleThe 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

His Needs, Her Needs – A Review

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.

2021-11-20 His Needs Her NeedsToday’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.”

2021-11-20 Ten Emotional NeedsIn 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. 😉

His helpful appendices include a detail on each of the ten emotional needs (Appendix A), the Emotional Needs Questionnaire (B), and a Recreational Enjoyment Inventory (attached here) to help couples explore how they can renew the pleasures of leisure activities they enjoyed while dating.  His hope for couples reading his books or visiting his website: “Learn to become an expert in making your marriage the best it can be.”

Love And Respect – A Review

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, as Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages for … illustrate.  The principles are easily adaptable to any interconnection that one values.

2021-11-13 Love & RespectLove & 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.

2021-11-13 The Crazy Cycle“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.

2021-11-13 Blue and Pink SunglassesDr. 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.

2021-11-13 The Energizing CycleThe 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.

2021-11-13 The Rewarded CyclePart 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.

The 5 Love Languages – A Review

2021-11-06 Two In LoveFour books come to mind when anyone talks about love, marriage or personal relationships: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner.  Each author approaches relationships from a Gospel perspective, i.e., men and women are created in the image of God, expected to build relationships with each other, and are different from birth . . . and ‘vive la différence!’

The best life, they claim, is to follow God’s pattern established in Adam and Eve and explained by Jesus and the Apostles.  It is not a restrictive, “Don’t do that” theology, but a liberating, expansive and freeing philosophy which looks for the best in every individual.  Remember, in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s and Eve’s sin was to eat from a forbidden tree.  BUT that was the ONLY tree forbidden!  Genesis 3:2-3 has Eve telling the Serpent that they could eat from ANY tree in the Garden except ONE.  That left a lot of trees open for consumption.

And for those who think the nakedness was somehow sinful and Adam and Eve were just too stupid to realize it, read again.  They were as God created them, and had nothing to hide until they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the forbidden tree.  When a child has done nothing wrong and a parent asks, “What are you doing?” he will simply answer, “I’m just . . .,” no big deal.  But if he has done something he knows the parent disapproves of, his response will be to cover up his tracks.  “Nothing!” . . . with eyes averted, hastily looking right and left, up and down for any excuse, hoping that his action will not be discovered.  That was the nakedness Adam and Eve were trying to hide.

That is the nakedness we now hide as well.  None of us is without sin, none has lived fully as God intended us to live, and the result is we need clothes to hide who we are.  All of us are afraid, at some level, of exposing ourselves fully, even to someone who loves us, just as Adam and Eve were afraid to expose themselves to their Father, who they knew loved them.  The nudist and the communist make the same mistake of trying to live free from guilt and selfishness before we are fully redeemed in the New Jerusalem (coming soon).

2021-11-06 - 5 Love LanguagesThe Five Love Languages presents the idea that each of us is wired to give and receive love in different ways, and that by recognizing the “language” in which you and your significant others express and accept love will help to identify the roots of conflicts, connect more deeply, and begin to grow closer together  The five languages Chapman describes in detail are Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch.

Everyone’s personality determines how we understand love.  We see love expressed in that language which is most natural to each of us and we usually attempt to show it in the same way.  However, if the person we love “speaks” a different love language, the communication breaks down and the loved one “feels” unloved; their “emotional love tank” becomes emptier without refilling and misunderstanding and conflicts emerge.

Chapman’s website has a Quiz that one can take to help identify your particular love language.   For a starter enticement to purchase one of his books, he provides a seven-day devotional, one for “him” and one for “her” that, even without purchasing a text, can go a long way into improving any relationship, especially a marriage (but not restricted to that).  There are several free downloads for anyone just wanting to learn if one of his books is worth buying.

In Dr. Chapman’s Gateway to the The Five Love Languages he summarizes each of the languages as this:

Words of Affirmation — Actions don’t always speak louder than words.  If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you.  Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important — hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward.  Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Quality Time — In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention.  Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there — with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby — makes your significant other feel truly special and loved.  Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts — Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.  If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you.  A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous — so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service — Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love?  Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an Acts of Service person will speak volumes.  The words he or she most wants to hear are, “Let me do that for you.”  Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them, tell those with this language their feelings don’t matter.

Physical Touch — This language isn’t all about the bedroom.  A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy.  Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face — they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.  Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.”

One of the best features of Dr. Chapman’s practice is that The 5 Love Languages is not just for married people.  The 5 Love Languages of Children is available for parents; a Singles Edition for the unmarried; a special edition For Men (probably for those of us who have a hard time getting it! 😏); a special one for Teenagers and another for Military Personnel.

Whether you are in a special relationship or just wanting to develop personal awareness of those around you; children, colleagues, friends; take a look at The 5 Love Languages and see if there may be insights that will help you communicate more clearly to those for whom you care.

On Trial For Being A Christian

“If you were on trial for being a Christian, would the evidence convict you?”

2021-10-30 The Trial
This was a question I read on an Intervarsity Press poster back in the 1970s. (Good stuff, usually, from IVP. 😉)

The question got me to thinking back then, and now again, about whether people recognize that being a Christ-follower is the most important item in my identity.  A man was speaking to a bunch of us working for the census in 2020 and began to explain how we were to perform our jobs, but without introducing himself.  One of the attendees wondered about his qualifications and asked, “Who are you?”

He presented his name, and then to all our surprise said, “I am first of all a follower of Jesus Christ; an American citizen by birth; a philosophical conservative; a census bureau supervisor by training . . .”  Interestingly, no one challenged his claim to follow Jesus nor commented on it.  However, you can bet, he was watched closely to see if he really followed Jesus!

2021-10-30 Jesus WearablesSuch should be our identification: “first of all, a follower of Jesus Christ.”  If you are one of “us,” how many people that you work with know this?  What evidence have you presented, both in words and actions that signifies your priorities?  This must be more than “tee shirt or jewelry evangelism.”  How many lewd songstresses have you seen with sparkling diamond crosses around their necks as they sing about illicit love affairs or angry lyrics about culture or death?  I remember honking at a car in the ’80s that had a “Honk If You Love Jesus” bumper sticker and the driver flipped “a bird” at me with his middle finger! 😒

Wearing jewelry or clothes that signifies one’s devotion to Jesus is fine, but if that is the total of our announcement of who we are, we are far short of what Jesus calls us to be.Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33) 

So how have you presented your faith in the Resurrected One to those with whom you associate daily or weekly?  Do people you have met for a short time know that you believe Jesus is the uniquely born Son of God?  Have you warned your friends and colleagues that an eternal destiny separated from Life awaits them if they do not receive Jesus as their savior?  Do you care about them enough to warn them as though you consider their houses are on fire?

One does not need to be a theologian or have all the answers.  “When someone thinks they have all the answers you have to wonder if they know all the questions.” (Rick Warren)  Like the man born blind in John 9, all you need is this truth,One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)  If Jesus has opened our eyes to the reality that this life is very short compared to the Life to come, we need to be telling our relatives, colleagues, neighbors, everyone we encounter for more than 30 minutes. 

This does not mean everyone will accept our testimony or receive Jesus.  To work together and fulfill our responsibilities on jobs or in relationships does not require anyone to agree with us.  But they should know that we love them; that Jesus loves them enough to die for them; that He went to the cross and arose from the dead FOR THEM!  If we love them as Jesus loves them, very few will put us on trial.  But if they do, there should be enough evidence for a conviction!

2021-10-30 Convicted