by Harold and Bette Gillogly
Has there been a celebration at your house since the last SEEDS FOR GROWTH? A celebration of your love for one another? We hope so. It is our prayer for every couple to make “rejoicing” the key characteristic of their marriage? We hope you have made a decision to put C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-N-G into practice with your mate. As you read about how to implement the first four actions we talked about last time, did you begin by Clearing Your Conscience with the Lord and with your partner? How have you been doing in the area of Encouraging Spiritual Growth? Are you reading God’s Word together? And how about your Defenses? Have you consciously started to Lower them? Have you decided to Enlist in His Service Together as the team God made you to be? If it’s your desire to enjoy celebration in your marriage, then you’re ready for the next four actions in our acrostic.
BUST UP BITTERNESS WITH FORGIVENESS
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15). If you want to rejoice in your relationship and celebrate your oneness, the next choice you must make is to bust up any bitterness growing in your heart. God says bitterness is like a root that takes hold and grows in our lives. When weeds are ignored, they take over the whole garden. That’s what bitterness does — it takes over our minds and hearts. It causes trouble and confusion, and eventually leads to moral defilement. The word “defile” here means to stain with a different color. The stain of bitterness can color our thinking so much that we become like different people. And as such, we can actually talk ourselves into believing wrong is right. It also makes us see things without true perspective, because we’re looking at the world through the dark stain of bitterness. This warped perspective can make us take everything our mates say with the wrong slant.
Ephesians 4:31-5:2 makes it clear we have several choices to make in the process of busting up bitterness. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…. We must choose to get rid of the bitterness and anger within us. We can’t stop there, though. We have to go on and allow kindness and compassion to rule in our hearts, as well as in our behavior. And we must choose to forgive others just like God forgives us.
Since God is the One we are to imitate in the way we forgive, we need to understand how He forgives. God does not withhold forgiveness. On the contrary, He forgives completely, with no remembrance of our sin. He says He hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). Corrie Ten Boom used to add in her thick Dutch accent, “And then, Beloved, He puts up a NO FISHING sign.” He never brings them back up to hold over our heads. How does He do that? He chooses to do that! He chooses to thoroughly forgive, and He expects us to do the same.
The secret to our being able to do this is found in verses one and two of chapter 5: we are His dearly loved children who keep on following our Father’s example. And we learn to live a life of love as we watch Jesus, Who gave himself up for us. As we study Him on the cross, we learn how to be kind and compassionate and we learn how to forgive.
When our children were youngsters, one of the hardest things to do was ask their forgiveness when we were wrong. Want an exercise in humility? Try asking a three-year old for forgiveness. But as God’s children, we knew we were called to be humble and confess when we had wronged someone and seek their forgiveness, even if that “someone” was our own child. So, as difficult as it was, we tried to practice it. Do you think that helped our children learn how to forgive? Our three children are all grown and married now. And as we observe them practice forgiveness in their marriages, we have come to the conclusion they must have learned a little bit of how to forgive from that simple act. You are your children’s role model. How you practice forgiveness in your marriage and family relationships has a profound impact on them. Since they will learn how to forgive from us, we’d better learn how to forgive from our heavenly Father. Without forgiveness, mutual rejoicing is not possible, for bitterness is the antithesis of joy.
Do you laugh together? How often? Life can get so intense! We’ve gotta earn a living. We’ve gotta take the kids to soccer. We’ve gotta paint the house. We’ve gotta mow the lawn. Life is so full of “we’ve gotta’s,” that we push having fun together to the very end of our “to do” lists, like it is just not as important as the serious stuff. Wrong! Sometimes it’s the most important thing you can do.
You need to spend time together as a couple. You need regular reminders that it is fun to be with that person you married. Being together can become a chore if all you ever do and all you ever talk about is the important, serious stuff.
Take time to stroll along a beach together at sunset, hike a trail, sneak off to McDonald’s for a milkshake, feed the ducks at the pond, or simply take a walk around the block. Of course, you can find more elaborate, expensive things to do: dinners out, plays, cruises. These are all wonderful, but don’t let finances stand in your way of having fun together. It doesn’t take money to enjoy spending time together.
Spending time enjoying one another’s company will increase intimacy in your relationship. It will allow you time to really get to know each other, to talk about deep things, to share stories and discover the mystery of one another. It will give you a long list of “secrets” that only the two of you can share. You’ve seen a wink or a knowing smile pass between a couple? They were remembering a secret they shared in a moment of time spent together. Celebrate your oneness by enjoying time with one another.
ADORE GOD WITH PRAISE AND WORSHIP
Throughout Scripture God draws His people together to worship Him. At first, families gathered to worship, then clans, then the whole nation of Israel. In the New Testament, the Church is called to worship the Lord together. And finally, when we reach heaven’s shore, we will be part of …a great multitude that no one [can] count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb… And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Time and time again we are entreated to praise and worship the Lord with others. Sing to the Lord, you saints of His…. (Psalm 30:4). Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous, it is fitting for the upright to praise Him (Psalm 33:1). Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:3). Why wait ‘til Sunday to worship God with others, when there are two of you who can worship and praise Him every day?
There are many ways you can respond in worship to the Lord as a couple. We hope you are worshipping Him together in your church. You can experience a real unity of spirit as you praise God together with His people. But you can also worship Him anywhere, anytime together as a couple. Sing hymns and praise songs together in the car, around the house, before a meal, working together in the yard, playing with your children. Make praise a part of your couple and family prayers. Read God’s praises in His Word together. Let praise and worship saturate your lives as a couple and as a family. Make it habitual. Make it one of the most normal, natural things you do.
If you do this, your lives will change! When you lift your eyes in praise to the Lord, you lift them off yourself. When your eyes are fixed on you and your own little world, you will naturally spend your days worrying and fretting. But when you fix your eyes on Jesus, you will start to see life from His perspective. And you will discover the world does not revolve around you, it revolves around Him. It’s the difference between being self-centered and being God-centered. That’s a pretty drastic switch. And one that will transform your marriage more than any other.
To talk with each other transparently means to communicate with complete emotional openness and truthfulness in your relationship. Transparency means being honest in sharing your hopes, fears, dreams, fulfillments, disappointments and joys. It is more than talking about a fleeting feeling, it is total personal involvement with one another. God made you for transparency…not with everybody…but with Himself and with one other person — your mate.
One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Genesis 2:20: So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. Every animal and bird had someone like them, but Adam had no one like him at all. He was truly alone. Over all the rest of creation, God declared, “It is good.” But when God saw the man He had made was lonely, He said, It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).
You know the rest of the story. God anesthetized Adam and created Eve from one of his ribs. Then He brought her to Adam and in verse 24, performed the first marriage ceremony. Now notice verse 25: The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. They were naked outside and inside. They had no inhibitions, nothing that hindered their oneness. They had no shame in their bodies, in their minds, nor in their emotions. This is how God intended marriage to be.
But remember the first thing Adam and Eve did after they had sinned against God? They covered themselves with fig leaves. And we’ve been covering up our true selves ever since. But Jesus is the Redeemer! He has bought back your right to experience the transparency that Adam and Eve knew in the garden. And what’s more, He can give you the power to live with your mate in that kind of transparency. He wants to take away your loneliness like He took away Adam’s. God has given you and your mate to one another to live—not in loneliness—but in transparency. Transparency is how God eliminates loneliness.
Again, we urge you to pray together. For as you pray honestly about your hopes and dreams and aspirations, as well as your failures and doubts and sin, you will become more and more open with the Lord and with each other. You will become less and less afraid to show the real you. You will come to experience the transparency God intended for you since the beginning of time.
Oops! We’re out of space again, so must save I (Intimately Relate), N (Negotiate Decisions as a Team), and G (Give Honor to Your Mate) ’til our next SEEDS FOR GROWTH. In the meantime, add these four new actions of love to your relationship, and we guarantee you and your mate will have even more reason to celebrate. Bust up any bitterness you’ve collected in your marriage, Recreate and have fun together, Adore God together with praise and worship, and Talk together transparently. If you decide to put these commands into action, your marriage really will be a celebration!
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