February 7, 2019

Dear Friends,

First things first. Please pray tonight for Tom and Nancy Arnold.

Tom went to the hospital today with chest pains. The doctors have found significant blockage in his heart and have scheduled him for open heart surgery this week.

Please pray for Tom. And for Nancy. And whole family. Right now, they are requesting no visitors and asking that any communication be funneled through Zoe and Grant.

You pray. We’ll keep you posted.

I reached out to them today to let them know I wish I was in town to be with them. But I can pray from here just like I could pray from Little Rock.

Where’s here, you ask? At the moment, right here is Belize. I am on the FamilyLife marriage cruise this week where I’ll be speaking to couples Friday night about the three phases Mary Ann and I have gone through in our marriage. Three phases we drift into and out of all the time.

Phase 1 is the phase where most of us being a marriage. It’s the phase where we are motivated by how we expect to benefit from the relationship. The key question we’re asking in Phase 1 is “is this relationship pleasing me?”

Now let me be clear. I would hope your marriage relationship is a source of joy and happiness. By God’s design, our marriage union is to be a source of delight, not drudgery and duty.

But when the focus of a marriage is on my desires and my needs, our focus is in the wrong place.

That’s what I begin to realize that moved me into phase 2 in our marriage. I began to see in my Bible a lot of talk about being a living sacrifice, dying to self, and serving and honoring each other. I began to realize that God was interested in having me ask the question “is this relationship pleasing my wife?”

So I stepped up. I made it my goal to be a selfless husband. What I wanted wasn’t the issue. The issue was what did Mary Ann want? I needed to do my best to figure that out and then make it happen.

This phase of our marriage was guided by what scripture teaches. And there is a lot right with husbands and wives preferring one another and serving each other in marriage. There’s no such thing as a healthy marriage that doesn’t require some level of death to self.

But phase 2 is not where the journey ended. At some point – I can’t say exactly when – I began to realize there is a more important question for husbands and wives to answer. It’s okay to ask “is this relationship pleasing to me?” And it’s okay to ask “is this relationship pleasing to my spouse?”

But the bigger question – and you know where I’m going with this – is “is this relationship pleasing to God?”

Where I messed up during our phase 2 years was in thinking that if Mary Ann was happy, then God was pleased. I thought that my assignment from God was my wife’s happiness, and that as long as I was trying to make her happy, God was being glorified.

But there were times in our marriage when what Mary Ann wanted was not what God wanted for us (and let me quickly add that my own desires were not always in line with what God wanted for us). What I had somehow left out of the equation as I sought to “live with my wife in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7) was to regularly be asking God “Lord, what’s your desire for the two of us?”

On any given day, I can drift into a phase 1 or a phase 2 mindset in marriage. It’s an ongoing battle. The flesh is strong and is at war with God’s purposes. But I’m trying to regularly recalibrate my way of thinking about my marriage. I’m trying to ask myself the question more often “Lord, is this relationship pleasing to You?” And then ask the follow up – “How can we both make our marriage more pleasing to you?”

Pray for me as I share some of these thoughts with my fellow travelers this week. And if you’re married, or if you know people who are, ask God to help us all live lives where He is pleased by the choices we make and by how we love each other in our marriages.

Don’t forget, two weeks from this Sunday, on, March 3, we’ll be heading down to our new church home right after our worship service. We’ll take Sharpies with us so we can write prayers and scripture verses on the wooden studs before the sheetrock gets hung. And everyone can begin to get oriented to our new church home.

And then the following Sunday, March 10, we’ll be getting together as a church after our worship service for an all church meal, followed by our annual church business meeting and an update on our transition plans. Here’s the info:

Men. It’s mid-February. The annual men’s retreat is the end of next month. Not that far off. Time to start making plans.

If you’d like to check out Brian Lowe, the guy who’s going to be speaking at our event, feel free to check out some of his sermons from his recent series at Exodus Church in North Carolina on 1 Thessalonians

A bridal party. Ten bridesmaids. Ten lamps. But not enough oil. Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins is meant to be a sober, thought provoking story. We’ll talk about it this Sunday.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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