Divorce Rates in the Church

February 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

I’ve often read that the divorce rate in the church is just as high as it is in the broader culture.  I have certainly seen my share of broken families in the church, so I never questioned the supposed “fact.”  However, attending church together really does lower the divorce rate.  Here is the conclusion of a study at Harvard on that very issue:

People, of course, do not become religious just for health reasons or to avoid divorce, but for those who already consider themselves religious, service attendance can provide a critical support.  Religious practice, whether communally or between spouses, is powerful.  Indeed, other research suggests that shared family religious activities and praying together are likewise associated with greater relationship satisfaction and greater levels of trust.  Shared religious activities like praying together may help couples deal with stress, and allow them to focus on shared beliefs and hopes for the future, and deal constructively with problems in their relationship.  Thus, for those who already consider themselves religious, both religious service attendance and joint prayer may be vital resources for strengthening marriage and trust, and for promoting happier, healthier, and fuller lives.
— Tyler J. VanderWeele, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health

You can read the entire article here.

Finding God’s Best

September 1, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Posted in Marriage, Personal Testimony, Wisdom | Leave a comment

A number of things in recent days have reminded me of a sermon I preached a few years ago about Rebekah, and finding God’s best in marriage.  If you are single, if you have single children or grandchildren, you should learn these principles.  These principles also apply to many other areas of finding God’s will.

It is the most requested sermon I have ever preached.  When the church changed web site carriers, many of our on-line sermons were lost.  I’ve dug this one out of the archives to put it back on line.  It is the first message on this page.  (By the way, don’t let the 77 minute note scare you.  I don’t know how that appeared.  It is only 39 minutes — I’m a preacher, but I’m not that long-winded!)

Love and Respect in Marriage: Science Proves it Works!

May 22, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Posted in Marriage | 1 Comment

An article appeared in The Atlantic, June 2014 edition, that referred to studies done by Psychologist John Gottman and his wife Julie, who have researched thousands of couples over four decades “in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work.”  The Gottmans separated couples into two groups, the “masters,” those who are in happy, lasting relationships, and the “disasters,” those who are not. This insightful article says the difference between the two groups comes down to only two things.  The simple subtitle of the article explains it all, “Science says lasting relationships come down to — you guessed it — kindness and generosity.”

Though somewhat lengthy this is well worth the time to read.  It’s amazing to me that “science” is now discovering what the Bible has said for 2000 years.  What they call kindness and generosity is what the Bible, for centuries, has called love and respect.  Husbands, love your wives (Ephesians 5:25); Wives respect your husbands (5:33).  We might make this required reading for our premarital counseling couples.

Here is a quote from the article that summarizes one of the main ideas:

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this:  they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for.  They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.  Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman.  “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Not only is this a great article about marriage relationships, but, as my wife pointed out, it can teach us a lot about how we deal with others.  After nearly 30 years of full-time ministry, I’d say that most people can be put into the same categories: those who look for mistakes and criticize each other; those who look for what’s right and express appreciation to each other.

Love and respect; it works! Here’s a link to the article.

Is Premarital Sex Really that Bad?

June 28, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Marriage, Wisdom | 1 Comment

For years I’ve preached about its woes, and for years Cathy and I have told couples in counseling about its dangers.  So is premarital sex really that bad?

Two recent articles have shed some interesting light on this topic.  The first one is not new but has recently come to my attention.  It is written by Willard Harley, best selling author of His Needs, Her Needs.  I have said one reason to avoid premarital sex is that the biggest predicting factor in divorce is sex before marriage, and it’s just the opposite of what the media would report.  Couples that sleep together before marriage are way more likely to divorce than those who don’t.  Dr. Harley’s article confirms this and sites numerous studies that have demonstrated it.  Be sure to check the second part of the article, a link at the end called “Next letter” to see the studies.  Here’s the link to the first part:  http://www.marriagebuilders.com/graphic/mbi5025_qa.html

The second article was just in the news recently.  In it Dannah Gresh, author of What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex, talks about the chemical reaction sex has in our bodies and how that can cause problems in the casual “hook up” scene and with long-term relationships later on.  Among other things, she sites a study showing that young people who have sex before marriage are more likely to suffer depression and attempt suicide.  Here’s the link to her article:  http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/31/my-take-there%E2%80%99s-nothing-brief-about-a-hookup/?iref=obinsite

What I find interesting is that neither of these articles even mention another reason to abstain before marriage – the trust factor.  Couples who have sex before they are married will inevitably have a trust breakdown later in the relationship.  There is a reason for this, but I won’t take time to write about it now.  The breakdown of the trust factor can be overcome, but the marriage will take a lot more work than it should.  It’s easier just to wait.

Of course the biggest reason to abstain from sex outside of marriage is that God tell us to.  These studies just prove he knew thousands of years ago what’s best for us.  The fences of sexual morality that God places around us are not prison fences to keep us from fun, but zoo fences to keep us safe while we fully enjoy his creation.

The Higher Road

February 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Posted in God's Love, Marriage, Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

Yesterday the local news radio had an interview with Ted Haggard’s wife Gayle about her recent book Why I Stayed.  I appreciate her perspective, which I believe is consistent with God’s best for marriage.  I try to tell couples that staying together, even in situations where divorce is allowed biblically, is the best route to take.  The following is a letter I wrote once to a man who was pondering leaving his non-believing wife.  Maybe God can use it to minister to others.  Here is a link to the radio  interview.

             I appreciate the phone call the other day, as I was hoping to talk with you.  Though I haven’t experienced what you described, I now have a greater appreciation for what you’ve gone through in your marriage.  I know it hasn’t been easy, but I have confidence that you will do the best thing.

            I want to share perspective that you will probably not hear from anybody else, but please consider carefully what I say.  I believe the decision you make will impact your wife and kids in spiritual ways you’ve never considered.  I won’t make promises to that end, nor will I tell you I have all the right answers, but I want you to see a biblical perspective on marriage and what I believe is the highest road.  Notice I didn’t say the right road, because, in these complicated relational matters, there could be more than one choice that isn’t necessarily sinful.

            It has often been said that one’s understanding of God is determined in large part by how that person was treated by his/her father.  You admitted that your wife’s trouble trusting God now is probably related to that issue.  So her best chance to see a loving God could rest with you.  If she feels abandoned by you, that could further color her distrust of God and push her farther away than she is now.  If your kids, though already older, see your leaving as abandonment, and they will regardless of what they tell you about it, they could have a life-long misconception of God just like your wife.  However, God does not abandon his people.  He loves us regardless of how much we hurt him and turn against him.  I’m sure that is not easy, but that is God:  He loved us by sending his Son for us, even when we were his enemies.

            So here’s my proposal, and the reason I find divorce, even in cases where scripture allows it, a lesser option.  This, I believe, is the highest road.  If you were to go to your wife, explain that you’ve decided not to leave, simply because God doesn’t leave us – rather tell her that you’ve committed to love her to the end, no matter how she responds, because that’s how God treats us – then you will have given to her, and to your kids, the best picture of God that anyone could ever have:  God as unconditional love.  That’s the God I know, the God I worship, the God who loves us.

            I won’t tell you God will make that road easy.  It will be anything but easy; it may be even more difficult than what you’ve already been through.  But I will tell you that, if you determine to go that route, God will give you the grace to get through it.  And that when you do, your family will have seen God in ways they never will if you choose another path.  I know you’ve always wanted your family to know and worship God as you do.  So ponder this carefully.

            Finally, understand that my writing this does not mean I will turn against you if you choose a path other than the one I present here, even if you choose a path I think is wrong – that would be the ultimate hypocrisy!  God will love you regardless of what path you choose, and I will make that effort as well.

Trusting only in God’s grace, Pastor Glenn.  Gloria in excelsis Deo!

A Fun Film

December 31, 2009 at 9:34 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Marriage | Leave a comment

Totally entertaining.  It was, for us, the best movie of the year:  Amazing animation, very funny, deeply moving, an awesome adventure, good morals, pro-family, no bad language, and no sexual overtones.  My family just watched “Up,” and it is all of that which I’ve described.  Certainly the best all around entertainment on film we’ve seen in a long time.  We laughed, we cried, we cheered.  From Pixar Animations Studios, I’ve seen Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Wall-e, and Finding Nemo.  All of them have been fun entertainment, excellent movies in my estimation, but Up surpasses them all.

Some lessons that could be discussed from this movie include:  Faithfulness to keep promises; faithfulness in marriage; moving on after major life changes – especially to continue investing in significant things.  If you need some great New Year’s entertainment, try this fun film.

Three Views of God’s Will — revisited

June 16, 2009 at 9:27 am | Posted in Marriage, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Wisdom | 1 Comment

My wife and I help with our daughter’s swim team the first few weeks of each summer, so we’ve been in the water with the kids every day; that has shortened my available time considerably.  As a result, blogging has been slow.  However, I’ve had plenty of thoughts to write about, so hopefully I will get caught up on those over the next few weeks.  I want to start with an e-mail I received concerning the previous post called “Three Views of God’s Will.”  Here is a part of the e-mail:  “I found this blog interesting.  However, I kept thinking, or wishing you had continued using the same example through out the three beliefs of God’s will, i.e. the wrong marriage partner or perhaps the wrong profession.”

Maybe that would have helped to explain things.  So here’s a shot at it using the marriage theme:

Those who believe exclusively in the “Narrow Bridge” view must believe that there is one person, and only one person, for them to marry, and if they marry the wrong one, they will be out of God’s will, as long as they are married to that person.  Of course, to any who take the scriptures seriously, divorce is not in God’s will either, so they are stuck with two options, both of which show the absurdity of this view.  Either both spouses are outside of God’s will for years – until they are parted by death.  Or they can get back into God’s will by divorcing and marrying the right person.  Although I’ve heard that latter option as an excuse to divorce and remarry, a moment’s reflection reveals it is believing that two wrongs make a right. Both of these choices deny the sovereign grace of God, by which he is able to make any marriage beautiful, even if it began in sin.  Besides that, Satan can use this thought to keep many people from serving God, making them believe they’ve already missed His will so they need not bother with serving him any longer.  I’ve heard that excuse too many times also!

Those who take the “Wisdom within Boundaries” view have to believe the only wrong marriage is one with an unbeliever.  God frees you to marry anyone who is a follower of Jesus.  If you have married an unbeliever, the boundaries set by God’s word would require you to stay in that marriage and pursue godly wisdom, character and relationship within it.  However, if the unbelieving partner were to leave the marriage, that gives the believing partner grounds for divorce (1 Cor 7:12-16).  In other words, one can admit that he has wandered out side God’s boundaries, but determine to stay within them from this day forward.  In the case of marriage to an unbeliever, I find this view much closer to the truth.

Those who believe the “In Step” view, might believe that God has a specific partner for them, but were they to misstep and marry someone else, the relationship with God would not be hurt, and God would still graciously lead that marriage to where he wants it to be.  He has a marvelous way of creating beauty where sin exists!  We can walk with that confidence, even after we do wrong.

I had a friend whose wife left him for another man with whom she was having an affair.  All three claimed to be believers, as did the second man’s wife who was also left alone.  Both cheating partners used the excuse that they’d married the wrong person.  I wonder how long it took them to realize the second partner was the wrong person also!  Anyway, my friend had five children at the time and told them, “What Mom did was wrong, and I’ve been wrong in this matter as well, but that doesn’t mean life for us will be bad.  Life may be more difficult, but with God’s grace, it can be even better.”  She took the wrong view of God’s will and used it as an excuse to seek her own pleasure.  He took the right view of God’s will, recognizing his sovereign grace in our lives, determining to walk with him in spite of circumstances.

There is an interesting storyline in Acts, where Paul was “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem (20:22).  However, many who knew him repeatedly told him “through the Spirit” not to go there (21:4, 11-12).  When Paul could not be persuaded to stay away from Jerusalem those trying to persuade him gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done!”  I have always struggled to understand how to interpret this.  It seems there was no clear leading in this matter, so Paul was free to do as he determined.  However, everyone believed that God’s ultimate will would be done either way.  It becomes clear as the story progresses that God’s specific will was for Paul to stand before the authorities in Rome (See 23:21, 25:12, 26:32).  God used this side trip to Jerusalem to bring that about.  This story indicates that both the “Narrow Bridge” and the “Wisdom within Boundaries” views are not complete.

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