Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

I was recently asked the question “Is having different theological convictions as Christians a deal breaker when it comes to pursuing a mate for marriage?”  This is not the first time this type of question has come up, and I am sure it won’t be the last.  This is an interesting question that actually has a two part answer.  Here are a few things to think about if you, or someone you love, find yourself in this predicament.

What the Bible Says:

When it comes to marriage, the biblical model is between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:3-6).  Not only is it supposed to be between one man and one woman but it is also supposed to be between two people who are not “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14).  There have been a variety of interpretations about this verse in years past.  But one clear implication is that marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is strictly forbidden.  Some have tried to make this verse mean that two people from different ethnicities should not get married based off this command from Paul.  Some have even tried to make it mean (by implication) that two people from different denominational backgrounds should not wed.  However, these interpretations are clearly not what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church 2000 years ago.  He vividly makes the distinction between those who know Jesus, and those who do not, and that is it.  He writes in Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”  It is pretty plain when he writes “Do not be unequally yoked” that he is making only one command; no interfaith relationships for Christians . . . and that is it here.  Black and White, Presbyterian and Baptist, if they are Christians they can be married.  However, is that the whole story?  As long as the two are Christians, then it is okay to marry?

There are other things to consider (like has a person been divorced before?) for sure, but scripturally speaking, the only requirement is for the two people to be equally yoked together.  If they are not, then the Lord forbids it.  But, before you go and marry the first Christian you come to, there are some areas of wisdom that you need to consider as well.

What Wisdom Says:

The Bible speaks highly of marriage and even encourages Christians to get married (Proverbs 18:22).  Nevertheless, it is important that you think through the process before making a binding marriage covenant.  The question that we are trying to answer is not “Should Christians get married?”, but rather, “Should people of different theological convictions get married?”  Here is where wisdom kicks in with biblical truth.  When two people get married, they bring with them their theology.  If one person wants kids, and the other does not, wisdom would say, you need to work through that before ever giving the other person a ring.  If the woman is a complete egalitarian (women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household) and the man a complementarian (men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage) then this could bring all sorts of problems when talking about spiritual leadership and authority in the home.  That could be a recipe for disaster.  If one is Arminian and one a Calvinist, how do they deal with the sin of a young child?  Holding these different views may well play a role in discipline of children of how you share the gospel even.  These are questions that need to be hammered out before any nuptials.  Wisdom would also say, how convicted am I of certain doctrines?  If one is completely convinced of infant baptism, and the other of believer’s baptism, it may be hard to work through this one . . . and it may be best to find someone else with similar convictions if a consensus is not found.  Theology matters and it will order how a home and family is run.

So, should people of different theological convictions get married?  Considering all of this, the main thing that binds a couple together is the Lord.  As long as the basics of the Christian faith are agreed upon (in the minds, hearts, and the lives) then the secondary stuff can be worked through, but do not make the mistake in thinking that they do not matter, because they do.  There may be some theological beliefs that simply do not compute with each other.  There are different denominations because of doctrinal differences.  This does not mean that all true Christians, no matter the church, are not still brothers in Christ.  However, wisdom says that to covenant together in church membership, everyone should hold closely to the same views so as to be able to hold each other accountable (Galatians 6:1-2).  The same is true in marriage; while it could be lawful for two to be married, will it be profitable for the sake of the kingdom?  Will your marriage be able to be a picture of the love between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32)?  If theological convictions run deep and they cannot be agreed up, then maybe it would be best to find another to yoke yourself with.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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One of the most rewarding things that I get to do as a pastor to families is to be a resource for them.  I have been blessed with the gift of time as a pastor.  During this time, I have been able to sort through a lot of books and studies dealing with family life.  With all of the thousands of books out there dealing with pre-marriage, young marriage, renewing and renovating one’s marriage, and child-rearing, I have gathered a list of several great books that I believe are helpful that I would like to share.  No matter where you are in your life, single or married, I believe these books may be an encouragement to you if you desire to do a little reading.  Each book is listed in order of importance in my opinion.

While Courting /Dating or Preparing:

  1. “Boy Meets Girl” By Joshua Harris
  2. “What He Must Be” – Voddie Baucham  
  3. “The Purity Principle” – By Randy Alcorn
  4. “50 Crucial Questions” – John Piper and Wayne Grudem
  5. “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” – John Piper and Wayne Grudem

While Engaged or Just Beginning Your Marriage:

  1. “When Sinners Say I Do” – By Dave Harvey
  2. “Intended for Pleasure” – By Ed Wheat
  3. “Total Money Makeover” – By Dave Ramsey
  4. “The Intimate Marriage”By R.C. Sproul
  5. “First 90 days of Marriage” – By Eric and Leslie Ludy
  6. “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” – By Bruce Ware
  7. “The Five Love Languages” – By Gary Chapman

To Read to Refresh Your Marriage:

  1. “Sacred Marriage” – By Gary Thomas
  2. “Love and Respect” – By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
  3. “His Needs Her Needs” – By Willard F. Hardy, Jr.

To Read If You Have Children:

  1. “Give Them Grace” – By Elyse M. Fitzpatrickand Jessica Thompson
  2. “Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home” – By Donald Whitney
  3. “Family Driven Faith” – Voddie Baucham

             There are many great books on these different subjects, but these are all books that have been helpful to me, and I pray will be to you as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

Of all the hot button topics today, it seems none is hotter than homosexual marriage.  You can find examples of politicians, football players, actors, musicians, and even former mega church pastors (i.e. Rob Bell) chiming in with support for the normalization of homosexual marriage.  In fact, entire denominations have changed their doctrinal position to support this lifestyle.  In former days, Christians could attempt to take a neutral position on gay marriage.  However, it is so polarizing an issue today, soon (I believe within the next 5 years) we will know where everyone in the Christian community stands on this question.  I do not support the lifestyle of homosexuality for many reasons, and I am against making laws to normalize marriage between two persons of the same sex (the same goes for other marriage alternatives like a person who wants to marry multiple people or to marry an animal, etc.).  I believe the overwhelming evidence of scripture, church history, and nature is on my side.  The question I would like to answer then is: Why Does Biblical Marriage Matter To God, If It Indeed Does?

Consider these things:

Marriage is a picture of His love for us:

According to the Westminster Confession, the primary purpose of all life is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  I submit that this is also then the primary purpose of marriage, so the question becomes: What does a God-glorifying marriage look like?  The Bible has a lot to say here.  Scripture repeatedly symbolically refers to the relationship between Christ and the church as a marriage.  That relationship is seen in the Bride (The church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus).  In the well-known verse Ephesians 5:25, Paul reminds us of what Jesus did for His bride: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”  When dealing with a marriage, it is ALWAYS seen between one man and one woman in the Bible.  There is no counter-example.  The Word constantly shows us this picture from Genesis to Revelation.  There is a feminine person and a masculine person in this relationship.  Marriage is a picture of his covenant love for His church and that marriage is between The Man and his bride.

Marriage is part of the process of growing the kingdom:

Part of the original dominion mandate given to Adam and Eve was to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28)  Furthermore, we see this same mandate after the flood of Noah. (Genesis 9:7)  We see it again when the nation of Israel is born. (Genesis 35:11)  No less than 7 times this phrase “be fruitful and multiply” appears in Scripture.  Additionally, children are said to be “a blessing” in Psalm 127.  Here’s the point: part of the way of growing the kingdom of God is through procreation.  It does not take a scientist to know that it takes a male and a female for this process to happen.  If everyone decided to live the homosexual lifestyle, then we would only be one generation away from complete extinction.  How are we going to grow a kingdom if there is no one here to grow it?  Being fruitful and multiplying is a gift and a command from God.  Nature itself testifies to this.  Homosexual marriage and the homosexual lifestyle are anti-natural, and they are anti-kingdom growth.

Marriage is something that the Creator has already defined:

Are we allowed to rename the Mona Lisa, or even the iPhone if we wanted to?  No!  Why?  Because we did not create them, the naming rights belong to Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs, respectively.  It makes sense that only the Creator has the right to define what something is and what something is not.  The Lord has said that the only true and biblical marriage that He recognizes is that of a marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24-25).  Since He is the Creator of this world, He has every right to define what He created.  If I, or anyone else, tries to step in and take the place of God by calling something good that He has called evil (1 Corinthians 6:9), may they be cursed.  That seems harsh but those are not my words or my view, but God’s Words and His view.  May it be a loud warning for those who would dare do so (Isaiah 5:20).  If God has declared something holy, just, or right who are we to say otherwise?  He is the Creator and as Creator has every right to set the rules and regulations.  Hear me out, what is more amazing than the rules themselves is that He forbids things like homosexuality for the good of mankind.  He has declared marriage to be holy, good and beneficial only when it is between one man and one woman.  Anything outside of these confines is sin and is detestable to God.

Does marriage really matter to God?  I believe it most certainly does.  Do homosexuals matter to God?  They most certainly do.  They, like every other person in the world, still bear His image.  We as Christians should still love homosexuals as our neighbors.  We should still treat them with dignity, as we should every human being.  However, part of loving your neighbor is telling the truth to your neighbor.  If we really want to love our neighbor then we must love them enough to tell them that God has something to say about the matter of homosexuality.  He has offered them grace and mercy.  He has offered them salvation, but to gain these things there must be recognition of their sin.  There must be repentance of that sin.  There must be forgiveness for sin.  This is what a loving neighbor would say.  This is what a loving God has said.  This is what the God of marriage has proclaimed.  Marriage matters to God and it should matter to us as well.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell.

When you think back to the day you got married, there should be two important words that come to mind.  Those two words said that you wanted to join in covenant with your spouse.  You said “I do” in promise to be true to your loved one, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love them and honor them all the days of your life.  You looked into the eyes of your spouse with great anticipation of the life to come.  To that life to come, you said . . . “I do!”  But, what you might not have realized with that “I do”, came “I’m done” as well.   While many have found this list to be untrue (as evidenced by a divorce rate hovering around 50%), the “I’m done” is the other side of the “I do” coin, if your promises were true that day.  Here are a list of a few “I’m done’s” if you forgot to flip over that “I do” coin on that ceremonious day.

“I’m Done Looking”

When you said “I do” that meant for life (until death do us part).  When you are married, you have decided that you have already caught the right one, which means you are done looking for another one.  Some people like to say it is okay to look as long as you don’t touch . . . the problem with that philosophy is when you look hard, you are already touching with your heart.  Looking at someone else as a possible mate is telling your current one that they are not good enough.  But that is not what you said the day you took your vows.  So, “I do” also means “I’m done looking”.

“I’m Done Holding Another”

Those words, “To have and to hold” mean different things to different people.  For my wife, that means she wants me to go to bed at the same time as her each night.  When you said “I do” you also said that you would hold on to each other exclusively.  Holding on to one another also means letting go of others.  When you said “I do,” that not only meant that you would no longer be with another person physically, but mentally as well.  It is not just your body that becomes one flesh, but your mind as well, which is why you also said I’m done holding onto anyone else.  I do give you my heart.  I do give you my body, and I am done holding on to anyone in my past that ever possibly had a part of me (an exception would be if your previous spouse had died).  This is to say, “I do to you, and I am done with all others of my past.”

“I’m Done Putting Myself First” 

You may have a similar story to mine… I got married in my late 20’s.  That meant I had already been an adult for close to 10 years.   I was set in my ways of doing things.  However, when I said those two words I ceased being myself, and became one flesh with another.  When you have that one flesh union you are supposed to put that person’s needs before your own (Phil. 2:3).  For example . . . “I want to go hunting this weekend.”  Have you talked to the other side of your flesh about that?  Or, “I want to go on a weekend shopping retreat with the girls.”  Have you spoken to your husband about that one?  So, when you and your spouse said “I do” in those marriage vows, you also said, “I’m done putting myself first.”

Marriage is wonderful.  It is sanctifying.  It shows the picture of Christ and the church.  When you were drawn unto the Lord and came to know Him in a personal way, you not only became a new person, but you also did away (through Christ while continuing to be sanctified) with the old person.  This is the same thing you did when you got married.  You said to your husband or wife, “I do choose to marry you . . . and only you for life, and I am done living with only myself in mind.  I do and I am done.”

Can you think of any other “I’m done’s” that I missed?  Feel free to add them to the list.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

It is scary thing to see what seems to be a good and godly marriage come to an end because of an unfaithful spouse.  Most of these affairs do not happen overnight.  Most who have an affair do not just end up in the bed with a total stranger and wake up the next morning and wonder how they got there.  It started out as “innocent” conversations, but then it progressed from there.  It is hard to imagine on your wedding day that an affair could ever take place; but if we are not careful, we can let an adulterous heart slip in (which is sin in itself), which can easily lead to adulterous actions.  With so many people seemingly falling into this sin, it seems like we need to prepare ourselves against such things.  If a person wants to have an affair, they will find a way to do so, but most people that I know of do not want to have an affair.  However, it seems like many people do little preventive work to keep it from happening.  I will be the first to say that I need to apply these principles as much as anyone.  “My heart is deceitfully wicked above all things” as well.  Yet, through the strengthening of the Lord we do not have to be overcome by sin.  Here are some ways we can be proactive toward helping affair-proof our marriages.  I sincerely hope that you will consider them.

Don’t forget about your covenant:

When you got married you made a covenant with not only your spouse but also with God that you would remain faithful to each other “until death do us part.”  When you decide to go down the pathway of an affair you not only break that covenantal promise to your spouse, but you sin against, lie to, and break your covenant with God as well.  To break a covenant with your spouse is shameful, but to break it with God is fearful.  If the thought of an affair ever enters you mind, don’t forget that you are not just telling your spouse that they no longer “do it for you”, but you are telling God that your desire for that other person is more important that you desire to please Him.

Don’t be alone with a person of the opposite sex:

Before I got into ministry, a very wise pastor once told me, “You need to make it a rule to try your best to never be alone with another woman in a room (or car) that is not your direct family.”  I have found this counsel to be very wise.  I believe this is a principle that we should all take, not just pastors.  Scripture tells us that we are to “flee from the appearance of evil,” in I Thessalonians 5:22.  If you are never alone with a person of the opposite sex, it will make it hard to allow an affair to take place.  If you must ride together in a vehicle, then if they ride in the front seat, you ride in the back or vice verse.  Your marriage is worth fighting for and keeping pure.  It may seem uncomfortable to tell the person who you are riding with why you are not sitting next to them, but I promise you . . . your spouse will love you for it.  This is just another way of preparing yourself beforehand to “flee from the APPEARANCE of evil.”

Don’t have “close” friends of the opposite sex:

What I mean by “close” friends is to say an exclusive friend who your spouse is not friends with also.  I certainly have friends who are women.  However, once I got married, I gave up the right to have them as a “best friend” or exclusive “close friend” due to my special relationship with my wife.  I love her too much to allow a close relationship with another woman to possibly hinder ours.   It is not wise to have friends of the opposite sex that you have lengthy phone, e-mail, text, or even face-to-face conversations with.  If you are finding time to just “run into each other” at the store each week, or you just happen to “get coffee at the same place” together each Saturday morning after your run, then it may be time to change up your routine.  If you don’t, you might wake up one morning and find yourself on the road to an affair.

Don’t have closed social media accounts:

            If you have social media accounts then your spouse should have your passwords and have open regular access to them.  If they do not, are you trying to hide something?  Most people are not trying to hide anything, but allowing your spouse this open access to your social accounts shows transparency to them and would also help keep you from trying to do things that your spouse might not approve of (remember, you are one flesh now).  It is also not wise to be “friends” with someone on your social network that you might have once had a dating relationship with.  Why be friends with someone who you once had feelings for?  If you and your spouse are going through a hard time, then it might be easy to try to find some comfort through an old flame.  Having old girlfriends or boyfriends on Facebook, Twitter, or even in your e-mail contacts is not wise.  Avoid old flames, and enjoy your current eternal one.  It is too easy to just “check out” your old friend and see what they are up to these days.  This has led many down a road that has ended in affairs and even divorce.  Just avoid the temptation and just say no to your Ex’s friend invite.

Do have someone you are accountable to:

If you want to help affair-proof your marriage, one helpful way of doing this is by having an accountability partner who will ask you tough questions.  Find a close friend, of the same sex, that does not mind asking you about your thought life and your dealings with people of the opposite sex.  I truly believe that for a majority of people who have had affairs, if they would have had godly people speaking into their lives asking them these hard questions then it could have helped stopped the affair before it ever stated.  It is a wise thing to heed the Proverb to let “Iron sharpen Iron.”  Having someone ask you if “you have been with a person of the opposite sex in an ungodly way or a way that would offend your spouse in the last few weeks” really makes you take an inventory of your life.  Having someone there who can help you pray though your struggles is a huge blessing.  If we are honest with friends about our dealings with others, this can be one major step in helping to keep our “marriage bed pure.”

There you have it.  Here are 5 ways that if subscribed to, will help prevent an extra-marital affair.  There are a variety of others.  Do you and your spouse have any established guidelines or practices to help affair-proof your marriage?  Have you found anything specifically helpful in keeping your marriage pure?  If so, please feel free to share . . .

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell