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Friday, February 14, 2014

1 Corinthians 13:3

"Vows That Endure"

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"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25).

I regularly visit with Dale in the course of our chaplain work. His first wife died 15 years ago from cancer. He remarried several years later and now his second wife has Alzheimer’s. She lives in a memory care unit while he still lives in their apartment. But he faithfully drives over to the memory care unit of the Maytown personal care facility to visit her practically every day where I often see him. He seems to look forward to our visits. I suppose in part due to the inability to converse with his wife. She watches us talk with a pleasant smile.

Dale shared his testimony with me this last Tuesday evening. He was raised in a God-fearing home but rebelled as a teenager and became addicted to alcohol. While in the service he was in training in Memphis and passed a rescue mission where he surrendered his life to Christ. While reflecting on the goodness of the Lord his eyes welled up in tears several times. For many years he was a public school teacher as well as a preacher. Dale demonstrates a rapidly diminishing quality, the keeping of marital vows.

Ephesians 5:25 Enduring love is a tested, proven, and unending commitment that should be at the heart of any marital vows. It starts out as a romantic relationship where appearance, talent, personality and intelligence are usually the qualifying factors in solidifying a long-term commitment. But enduring love comes over time and is strengthened by the way partners handle the expected and unexpected, account to one another, communicate effectively, and fulfill each other's needs. Much like gold is tested in a furnace capable of reaching 2000 degrees, enduring love is tested repeatedly in the blazing furnace of trials, failures, disappointments, losses and aging.

Elderly man kissing woman on forehead As a young Bible College student I made a call on an elderly couple named George and Elizabeth. After a brief visit I witnessed a tender, almost sacred moment when George gently planted a kiss on Elizabeth's forehead. They had been married over 50 years and Alzheimer's (called senility back then) was now taking its toll.

Though it seemed the worst of times for this couple, the love was still there; a love firmly rooted in commitment to God's design for marriage. George saw her every day even though, to most observers, there was no indication that she even recognized him. They demonstrated what following Christ and keeping promises is all about to a young college student preparing for ministry and for marriage. It left a lifelong impression on me.

Man placing ring on brideThis couple had made a commitment in their marriage vows many years earlier that in part stated, "for better or for worse." George and Elizabeth had experienced the "better" side for the majority of their adult years, but now he was being put to the test for the "worse" side - the side we can't envision when placing a wedding ring on our fiance's finger. In fact, the reason we marry our partner is to better our lives, so when we repeat the vow "for better..." it's a given. 

Repeating the vow, "or for worse" can be a little unsettling. But at the hype of our early romance it seems nothing could make our partnership "worse". The fact is we don't know which partner will make this vow a major challenge to keep. But it's a vow that calls for both husband and wife to lovingly endure the challenges the other brings into the marriage and that may include the children that result from the marriage union. As we endure the hardship that comes from the "worse" vow the character we develop makes us better people all around. In a loving, enduring relationship we can better ourselves during the good and bad times.

On Valentine's Day romantic love is celebrated and often results in marital bonds. There are many who chafe at the Biblical pattern of marriage so simply expressed in the creation mandate, "A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

The apostle Paul makes the simple statement in the daily text, "Husbands, love your wives."  Men, today and every day let us heed this straightforward command!

And, Ladies, let me assure you that we men treasure our wife's devotion and love!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we ask You to bless couples reading our message today. Help them to grow together through love and laughter, respect and forgiveness, through the good times and through the difficult times. Help us to remain committed all the days of our life to our marital vows that include "for better or for worse". May it not be just for the spring season of our marriage, but also for the winter season. In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

Our engagement photo
Forty years ago our romance began on the college campus of Central Bible College (Stephen is 19 years old & Brooksyne is 18 years old)

What is the Biblical view of marriage? (Notes from a sermon I preached several years ago.

In an age when family values are under severe attack and the Biblical foundation of the family is crumbling, we need strong teaching on the Biblical view of marriage and the family.

1) Marriage is God-ordained. "The Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’" (Matthew 19:4,5). God’s design for marriage goes back to mankind's beginning. The family, as God’s means of propagating His creation, grows out of this primary human relationship. Jesus reinforced this teaching: Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6).

2) The marriage relationship encompasses the deepest unity of man and woman in its spiritual, social and physical expressions. The first woman was declared to be a suitable helper for the man (Genesis 2:18), the perfect complement (Genesis 2:23). God intended them to share both blessings and responsibilities. Mutual esteem and self-giving love strengthen the marriage relationship. God intended this physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual union to be focused on one partner only.

3) Marriage is designed to be an exclusive relationship, a lifelong faithful union with one’s spouse. "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). The Old Testament recognized the existence of polygamy (marriage to multiple partners), but still declared that monogamy (marriage to one partner) was the ideal (Psalms 128:3, Proverbs 5:18; 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9). "Lifelong" means monogamy and sexual fidelity until the death of one partner thus the basis of the traditional vow, "till death do us part." Sexual expression with more than one partner violates the holiness of biblical marriage and thus is sin in God's sight. Thus the fundamental meaning of the 7th commandment.

4) Marriage is a covenant, a solemn binding agreement made before God and man. The religious ceremony of the wedding before church and community emphasizes that marriage is more than a legal agreement between two individuals. The church has a responsibility to support and nurture the marriage that has been affirmed by public vows.

5) Marriage, ideally, the relationship between husband and wife should parallel the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23-30). The husband should love his wife "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). The wife should submit to her husband as the Church should submit to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24). But it is a misreading of Scripture, however, to conclude that the husband can become dictatorial. The entire passage is introduced by the admonition, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). It is only after each spouse submits one to another from a heart of love that the head/submission relationship will work. The husband has special responsibility for the spiritual leadership and welfare of the wife and family (Psalms 78:5-8, Ephesians 5:23). While the woman has responsibility as a parent, God has called the husband to be the leader in the home. The woman is not inferior to the man. Both have full dignity and equal standing before God. In homes where the father is not a Christian or refuses to provide spiritual leadership, it is right for the mother to assume this responsibility. Strong spiritual training is essential for children to develop spiritually (Proverbs 22:6).

A happy and complete marriage is realized as husband and wife make Christ the center of their marriage relationship. With Christ as the head, the marriage has an excellent chance to succeed.

Weather report! For our readers not along the eastern seaboard of the US we have had lots of snow the last 36 hours. It looks like some blue in the sky now but we hear more snow is coming. Twice my neighbor farmer came over to plow us out.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"My love"  Video  River  A powerful song of enduring love right up to the end. This song ballad tells a story worth hearing!

He's up and ready to go by 8 a.m.
On his way to see his best friend
For two years, he hasn't missed a stride
To the nursing home to see his lovely bride

For sixty years, they've held each other close
And now the time has come to let go
He still recalls the promises they made
So long ago, on their wedding day

I will always love you
I will be faithful
I will be there through each and every storm
As sure as there's a heaven up above
I will always love you
My love

Some days she can't remember his name
But she holds onto his hand just the same
They've learned to speak with more than just words
And she knows just what he's saying as he wipes away her tears

He watched her as she slowly slipped away
And said "I'll see you again in heaven some day"
He got down on his knees and gave her to the Lord
He kissed her one last time as he whispered the words

I will always love you
I will be faithful
I will be there through each and every storm
As sure as there's a heaven up above
I will always love you
My love

"I Will Be here"  Video  Steven Curtis Chapman  Great song and this version is worth it for the photos!

"I Loved You Then"  Video  33 Miles

"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"
 Video  Gaither Vocal Band

"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go" is a song you'll want to play more than once. It's an outstanding accappella rendering of a beautiful hymn written by George Matheson. He went completely blind when he was 18 years old but went on to become a star student and a great preacher in the church of Scotland, assisted by his sister who learned Greek and Hebrew to help with his studies.

Matheson wrote this hymn at 40 years of age. He described the circumstances surrounding the writing this way: "I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister's marriage...Something happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering."

What suffering was he writing about? Some think he was remembering the time when his fiancee broke the engagement after learning he would soon become completely blind. But perhaps it was because his devoted sister was getting married and he would be all alone.

Regardless, Matheson had discovered a love that would not let him go. And so may we, even in the darkest times of our lives. (The Complete Book of Hymns by Petersen & Petersen)

Sun on the cross (photo by Steve Rebus http://steverebus.com/rebus-photography/
This photo was taken by Steve Rebus, a blind photographer who shares his photos on the web.
Steve Rebus, blind photographer

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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