Sitting at lunch last Sunday with a bright and energetic couple on the brink of marriage, we engaged in a conversation that ranged from the hapless Rangers to surviving the honeymoon.
Excited, yet a touch anxious, they had concluded together in their pre-marital discussions that church needed to be an important part of their new life together.
“Good thinking,” I told them.
I complimented their arithmetical sense. Mathematically, a couple’s chance of maintaining a successful marriage is greatly enhanced if they do it God’s way and get involved with a community of faithful and obedient disciples.
(I want to note here that a survey several years ago concluded the divorce rate among evangelicals to be similar to those without Christian allegiance. There are several explanations for this surprising revelation. My take on the tragedy is that a lot of folks persist in being Christians in name only and do not practice Christian protocol as defined by the Fruit of The Spirit. Show me a couple loving one another by the terms of the Holy Spirit, and I’ll show you a happily married, one-flesh, one-spirit partnership!)
Fortunately for us and them, we no longer have security officers at the door checking ID’s and doctrinal purity, so they simply wandered in, found a seat, and inquired to where they might meet Jesus.
Someone had told them that if they really wanted to love one another, they needed to find out what the Bible said about love, marriage, and baby carriages.
“Good thinking!” I exclaimed again.
I knew it was way too easy.
“We have a problem,” they whispered across the table.
“Oh, no, here we go…” I thought to myself. “They probably have a cadre of ex-spouses, legal custody problems, insane relatives, bad credit and genital herpes.
Before I could respond, they leaned forward and in unison whispered the problem: “We can’t figure out how to read the Bible.”
I simply smiled and relaxed, thinking to myself that finally I had encountered a problem to which there was a solution.
“No problem,” I explained, “we can help you learn.”
“We’ve tried to read it, but we don’t know where to start, and we can’t figure out what was then and what is now.”
“You’ve taken the first step in the right direction,” I told them. “The simple fact that you want to learn and follow the authority of scripture often proves to be the most difficult part of Bible reading.”
They looked relieved.
“God is a rewarder of those who seek Him,” I explained, “and I suspect you’ve wandered in here by His providential care.”
They continued to look relieved.
I provided them some initial guidance, and we are scheduled to meet later in the week for some additional discussions that will hopefully lead to a formal and structured study.
I love it when folks want to study the Bible. Honestly, there remains a part of me bewildered why everyone doesn’t want to follow suit. Really, Bible study is a no-brainer; how can one go wrong reading the human instruction manual?
My experience is that couples who read the Bible together and practice what the Bible teaches together, almost always stay together.
Want to improve your odds of experiencing marriages at its best? Read the Bible with an open mind and tender heart everyday, without fail!
Last night I had the privilege of baptizing a young man into Jesus as a result of his faith response to the directives of scripture. He came to saving faith the old-fashioned way – through brokenness and crisis.
He got so desperate he read the Bible. As is often the case, we only turn to God when all human inventions falter. When we are self-willed, self-ruled, and self-sufficient, we generally disrespect the Word.
I’ve witnessed over the decades many powerful conversions resulting from personal failures. I always rejoice when my fellow human travelers figure out they are lost and can’t make it home on their own.
The best thing that can happen to weary and burdened pilgrims is to wander into the Church of Crisis.
“I wish my wife and I would have read the Bible sooner,” my new young Brother in the Lord told me. “Maybe we would still be together.”
“Not maybe,” I honestly replied, “but probably.”
If you are married, especially if you are married for the second, third or fourth time, or if you are thinking about getting married, please considered the only sure-fired formula for marital success: disciplined Bible study and a deep commitment to following its teachings (mixed with genuine prayer).
I counseled with a married couple this week whose relationship is in deep trouble. Their favorite indoor sport is fighting – with each other. After an hour of listening to both partners rendition of marriage’s crooked dealings, I asked a basic question: “When did you stop praying for one another?”
They looked at each other, looked down, and then looked at me. “About the time we started fighting again.”
I handed them a plaque off my wall, battered and bruised from a century of practicum that read: “The family that prays together stays together.” The argument was over. We prayed. They recommitted to daily intercessory prayer. Their odds of survival multiplied a hundred-fold.
“Good thinking,” I told them as they left my office. “God will not fail you.”
The longer I’m in ministry, the more I understand that God is never the problem and we are always the problem.
At a practical level, the good news never wavers. If we submit to Jesus, study His Word, pray in His name, and do life His way, we can be successful on every front. How can something so simple prove to be so hard?