Marriage: Where does it begin? (pt. 2) Chapter 1 of The God-Wild Marriage

31 05 2012

Over the next couple of months, I will use The Inkling to introduce you to each chapter of my new book, The God-Wild Marriage.

Chapter 1: The Power to Be Out of Control

God-Wild Marriage

A journey is like a marriage. 

The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.

John Steinbeck

Only God can satisfy the hungry heart of man.

Hugh Black

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…

Ephesians 5:18

I like being in control. As an athlete, I captained most of the teams I played on. As a senior in high school, I was the student body president and enjoyed telling the principal how to run the high school. (You think I’m kidding? I’m not.) Then I got married.

Marriage changed everything.

Liz doesn’t like to be controlled. It took me about one day into our honeymoon to realize that I had signed up for a world that was frighteningly different than any other. We were in Hawaii and I wanted to get up early on the first day, hit the beach, go snorkeling, and then dive off some nearby cliffs. I thought it was all so ordinary. Wouldn’t anyone want to begin a honeymoon in such a way? Fat chance.

My wife wasn’t going to be controlled.

Liz was exhausted. The wedding ceremony less than 36 hours earlier and a torrential rain storm and flood just before we left Tokyo, coupled with an eight-hour flight to Hawaii, was enough to keep her in bed for at least one day. I couldn’t relate.

For me, it was a case of “You only come to Hawaii once, let’s get rolling.” It was time for fun on the beach, adventure and action! But for Liz, it was a time to recover and relax—her way. A heated argument inaugurated our first day of marriage. I lost, she won. So much for my ways; so much for my control.

All of us want to be in control of our lives. All of us want our way— because it’s the right way, right? All of us are enslaved to cultural bondage and a need for control that has infused and impacted our thinking, making it virtually impossible to understand God’s design for a wildly fruitful marriage. This was no less true in biblical times than it is today. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he referred to a cultural axiom stating that “every Roman man must have a concubine for pleasure, a mistress for adventure, and a wife for progeny.” Western culture is no different.

Marriages today are indeed out of control. The typical couple walking down the aisle is guaranteed a marriage that will last about seven years, a span of time that is less than the life of your washer, dryer, or refrigerator. As unbelievable as it may seem, the divorce rate in America has increased by over 200 percent in just the last 40 years.1 The Pew survey on marriage, the largest ever conducted, found that nearly 40 percent of us think marriage is obsolete.2 (It is interesting that of those who said marriage is headed for extinction, only 5 percent said they don’t want to be married.3 Hmmm.) If you’re the product of a broken home, your chances for a tumultuous, difficult marriage are even greater.4

As one who regularly counsels couples, I can tell you the family in general, and marriage in particular, is in real trouble. Couples are ditching their commitment to marriage at an alarming rate, even those who attend church—especially those who attend church. According to the Barna Group, those who call themselves “born-again” Christians have a higher rate of divorce than non-believers (27 percent compared to 23 percent). Those who label themselves “fundamentalist” Christians have the highest divorce rate of all, at 30 percent.

I once asked my mom if she had ever thought about divorcing my dad. “No, I’ve never considered divorce,” she replied, “but murder? Yes.” She was being humorous, but the struggle was real and is real. In just this past year, Liz and I have been continually shocked to watch many of our close friends filing for divorce. Many a morning this past year, we have sat across from each other at our breakfast nook and wept over and prayed about dear friends who are leaving their commitments to marriage. Discussing with these couples how and why they have decided to break up has been heart wrenching.

Every marriage is hard. Every marriage is a battleground. You may be feeling just this way right now. Your marriage has not turned out to be what you had hoped and dreamed. The “storybook” romance you thought you were signing up for has actually turned into some kind of Shakespearean tragedy. Your Prince Charming has turned into a frog. Your relationship with your spouse is an endless foray into either verbal arguments, quiet distance, or both. You probably have felt at times like you have a marriage lost in space—your husband is from Mars; your wife is from Venus.5

Read more in The God-Wild Marriage by Dr. Steve Holt





Marriage: Where does it begin? (part 1)

8 05 2012

God-Wild Marriage

Marriage, as God designed it, doesn’t begin with your spouse; it doesn’t even begin with you. It doesn’t begin with better communication, better sex or a budget. It begins with God!

When Liz and I first got married over 26 years ago, we had never heard any clear teaching nor were we aware of God’s main design and purpose for marriage. We winged it the best we could, stumbled through many a stupid decision, fought like Italians (apologize to all Italians reading this blog) and fumbled forward with much sin and grace. It has certainly been a dangerous adventure.

But throughout our journey we have tried hard to understand each other, follow Jesus and figure out the way to joy and power in our marriage. It’s not been easy. It’s probably been one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of our life. Liz is definitely the most complex and unpredictable person I’ve ever met…or lived with.

Yet through it all we have discovered that God has a design, plan and vision for every marriage. He has put you together with that weird person for a divine mission. He has made you His project of building oneness with your spouse. It hurts, it’s not easy; but it’s God’s way of molding you into His image.

God’s design for your marriage is that it might be His main vehicle for you and your spouse to experience His dangerous, extravagant love, forgiveness and power. For the initiated (married) and for those about to be initiated (engaged), God wants to meet you through your spouse. God has destined your marriage to be the place where His power and holiness are revealed at the deepest levels.

God has a design for marriage that may be surprising. If we will follow His design, we will experience the unpredictable, overcoming and joyful life He wants for us. God has provided us with His roadmap for the wild adventure of a marriage that begins and ends with Him.

The God-wild marriage is found in the Bible. In Ephesians 5:18-33, the Bible’s most dangerous passage on marriage, He reveals to us the blueprint for a happy, joyful, wild and crazy marriage relationship. Over the next few weeks, the Inkling will look at short snippets from my book, The God-Wild Marriage and attempt to tackle such thorny issues as:

  • Why marriage?
  • How a husband must really love his wife by entering her world?
  • What is God’s purpose of sex and why God wants us to really enjoy it?
  • Why a wife must learn to support and respect her husband?
  • How mission focuses a husband and wife’s purpose?
  • How to find God’s power and joy to create the atmosphere of your marriage?
  • How to overcome darkness by fighting the demons seeking the destruction of your marriage?

You are invited on this God-wild, dangerous journey—the journey of God’s design for marriage. Buckle up for the adventure of your life!

“In time The God-Wild Marriage will become a classic, but for now it is an anointed look at what God intended His Institution — marriage —to be.”

– HB London

Pastor to Pastor Emeritus, Focus on the Family

President of H.B. London Ministries

Order Steve’s book this weekend at Mountain Springs Church.





For Whom the Bell Tolls: Heretic or Hero? Part II

4 04 2011

What does hell mean to you these days? Can hell change with who writes about it? Is hell an endless nightmare for sinners and unsaved souls? Or do we create a hell on earth by our choices that lead to addictions, despair, depression and worry? Those ideas are receiving fresh scrutiny from some believers after a prominent evangelical pastor, Rob Bell, founder and senior pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, questioned the traditional idea of hell in his new book Love Wins.

It seems that this book is quickly becoming a kind of 21st century “Last Temptation of Christ.” If you don’t remember that movie, that’s understandable—it was one of those B movies that very few would have attended, but the depictions of Christ were sacrilegious enough to create quite a stir among evangelicals, who protested with signs and bull horns at every theater, thus boosting sales and giving it a cult following among atheists and anti-God types.

The difference in this case is that the biblical and theological truth about hell matters.  And the newest “temptation” is coming from a reputable evangelical.

Today, after church, I came home and read the book in about 3 hours. Observations from my reading:

1.    Rob Bell is an engaging and creative writer

2.    Rob Bell is sincere in his beliefs

3.    Rob Bell has some very interesting, creative and innovative arguments

4.    Rob Bell makes the salvation teachings of Jesus complicated, contradictory and inconsistent

5.    Rob Bell creates a straw man argument against some of the salvation, heaven and hell convictions of creedal Christianity

6.    Rob Bell is a master at using metaphor, images and creative thoughts to portray a new, unorthodox way of viewing Jesus, love and salvation

7.    Rob Bell takes massive leaps in scriptural logic to support a claim that in the end all will be saved

8.    Rob Bell believes that we will have many chances to come to God’s love after death—a close runner-up version to purgatory

9.    Rob Bell can’t support his main theme—that of universal salvation, i.e. “Love wins”—with a shred of scriptural evidence or historical precedent

10.   Rob Bell claims that his thoughts are mainstream and consistent with Christian thinking throughout history (by the way, he is correct—he is consistent with several heresies of the first four centuries, but I don’t think that’s what he meant)

11.   Rob Bell takes prophetic passages of the coming millennium for God’s people, and uses these passages to support his contention that everyone will eventually be saved

12.   Rob Bell seems to be ignorant (or is cloaking his disbelief) of the fundamental teachings of church fathers, synods, systematic theology, creeds and convictions of the Church (which makes Eugene Peterson’s quote on the fly leaf even more perplexing)

13.   Rob Bell makes broad claims that significant church fathers and reformers believed in eventual universal salvation, but doesn’t (and can’t) support it with any quotes, references or writings (convenient)

14.   Rob Bell is confused in his understanding of God’s glory, especially as it is revealed through judgment

15.   Rob Bell feels that classic western Christianity lacks creativity, is too narrow and is not open to new ways of viewing God’s love

16.   Rob Bell doesn’t believe in a literal hell, but rather believes that we create our own hell on earth by our choices

17.   Rob Bell refutes hell partially from the argument that hell is not a compelling enough story (huh?)

18.   Rob Bell doesn’t believe in the plenary substitutionary atonement of Christ as the only way to a relationship with God and the obtaining of eternal life

The most shocking quote and the theme of the book:

“At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.  The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most ‘depraved sinners’ will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God” (page 107).

So, there it is folks. I’ve never been a fan of Rob Bell and even less so after reading this book. I can’t recommend the book to anyone who isn’t mature in church history, systematic theology and their Bible. Discernment and wisdom are needed. If one is lacking in any of these areas, this book can be confusing and misleading. Proceed with caution.

Steve

My friend Brian Carlson has written a provocative blog on the controversy, including video footage of Pastor Bell in his much talked about conversation with Martin Bahir on MSNBC last week. Brian has been a pastor for the past sixteen years and is currently the Assistant to President Bill Armstrong at Colorado Christian University. His last pastoral staff position was at Woodmen Valley Chapel. Brian and I met up last week at California Pizza Kitchen and I thought it might be fun to hear his perspective on the theological debate. Here is Brian’s opinion for your enjoyment.