April 22, 2001
I want to ask you a quick question. How does a person, I mean a man or a woman, how do they get into good physical condition? It’s basic. It’s a simple question. Here is the answer. You do some aerobic exercise. You pump some iron. You eat healthy fruits, vegetables, lean meats and you will be in good physical shape. It’s not difficult. It’s simplistic. Yet, we have taken something as easy as getting into good shape and tricked it up and complicated it. All these diet pills, and formulas, and workout regimens. A lot of people want to get in shape and they walk into a local health club and they go, “I’m so confused. Where do I begin, on what machine, what diet, what program?” We have taken the simple and made it complex.
How does someone become a good conversationalist? How do you communicate well with others? Life is about communication. That’s easy, no brainer. You sit down, make eye contact, listen a little bit and talk a little bit and guess what? You will become an excellent communicator. Once again, we have taken something simple, communication, and we tricked it up and made it complex. We have gone techno-looney with email, voice mail, palm pilot, video conferencing, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We have built this cyber wall around us and so many of us are so dialed into machinery that we have forgotten how to dial into others. We have taken the simple and made it complex.
Here is another question for you to just ponder. How does a person become a Christ follower? Simple. You just come to a point in your life where you admit the obvious, that you are a sinner in need of a savior, you believe that God commissioned Christ to die on the cross for your sins and rise again, and you make a faith step, you make a grace reception. You step over the line and receive what Christ did for you 2,000 years ago on Calvary. That’s it. It’s a free gift, no strings attached, simple, basic decision, the best thing you will ever do in your entire life. That is the Gospel. We have taken something simple though, like the Gospel, and made it complex. You’ve got to be in that denomination. You have got to keep this list of do’s and don’ts. You have got to memorize this and say that, and get baptized, and pasteurized and homogenized and all these “izeds.” And then maybe, just maybe, you will be a white hat on God’s team, maybe. We have taken the simple and made it complex.
Here’s another question. How does a person have a great marriage? That’s our subject matter today. We have got to address it. How do you have an excellent connection with your spouse? Well, like physical growth, conversational growth, and spiritual growth, it’s pretty basic, it’s simple, yet we have taken the simple and made it complex. If you don’t believe me, just check out life. You don’t have to have a PH.D. in psychology to have a wonderful marriage. But we have so complicated it.
Go to Barnes and Noble after the service. Check out the section that just talks about marriage and relationships. The shelves literally sag under the weight of all of the junk written about it. Channel surf and listen to all of the armchair experts pontificate on the institution so many of them have failed at so miserably. Oprah Winfrey? A relational expert? She has been living with a guy for all these years. Barbara D’Angelos cranked out all these books on relationships. She has been married, what, four or five times? Anthony Robbins just got a divorce. They are the experts. You do what they say and you will have a great marriage, if you buy their products, of course, and their magazines.
We have made the simple complex. Anybody listen to talk radio? These hosts will give you in your face advice to callers who are gullible enough to phone in. We have all this information at our fingertips, on the Internet, bookstores, radio and television, and you would think that we have the marriage thing down cold. You would think that we have got it down. You would think that we have figured the deal out. Yet, if you look around, the stats are pretty sad. The whole marriage thing is in a tailspin.
We could point the finger and blame many different things, many different areas, but the bottom line is we have taken the simple and we have tricked it up and we have made it complex. Most people walk up and go, “Where do I begin? What do I do? Where do I go to have a great marriage?” Thankfully, we have a place that tells us what to do. We have a place to go. It’s God’s word. This might shock a lot of people. This might rattle some cages, but the Bible does not give us a colossal collection of complex concepts on marriage. It’s just not there. It’s simple, basic, meat and potatoes type stuff.
I am in the second installment of a brand new series we have been calling “Masterpieces.” We have been taking some of the greatest paintings in the world and seeing how they relate to our world. Today, we are looking at Picasso’s, The Lovers. See that? Basic painting. Simple lines, brush strokes, beautiful color. When you step away from it, I think you will agree with me that it captures the essence of a man and woman’s love together.
The Bible talks about marriage in much the same way, simple lines, beautiful colors, basic brush strokes. It’s God’s desire, it’s his agenda, for every marriage here to be a masterpiece. But why, you ask, why is mine so muddy? Why does mine look like a finger-painting instead of a masterpiece? I will tell you why. We have taken the simple and we have made it complex. So, here is what I am going to do. I am just going to kick back today and share with you some basic scripture verses about marriage, and I am going to comment on the scripture verses. If you get serious about the implication of these verses, you will have a masterpiece marriage.
A recent poll I have on my desk says that 51% of Americans are married. Those here who are not married, you have a great chance of being married. Let’s listen. The first one is Ephesians 5:31. Now if you are a believer, you have heard this verse many times before. If you are not, listen up. This is God’s goal for a masterpiece marriage. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother…” You could say a man or a woman will leave their parents. Leave. This word “leave” means to individuate. It means to separate geographically, emotionally, and financially as well. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.”
Here is the goal of marriage. Here is what it means to put the puck in the net. Are you ready? “And the two will become one flesh.” Oneness. That is the math of marriage. That is the masterpiece of marriage. That’s what it is all about, oneness.
So husbands, as you do life as a spouse, it’s oneness. Wife, as you do life as a spouse, it’s oneness. Singles, as you date and think about the person you are going to marry, oneness is the goal. Two becoming one. To achieve this, we have to, I’ll just say it, cut the cord. We have got to cut the cord. I talk to people all the time who say, “Yeah, we have cut the cord. We are our own autonomous unit. We have done the individuation work. We have separated.” Oh, really? Talk is cheap.
When Lisa and I first got married almost twenty years ago, we lived in Houston. My parents also lived in Houston. I thought I had separated geographically, emotionally and financially as well. But talk is cheap. On Saturday mornings, I would wake up, leave our apartment, leave Lisa alone there, and go over to my house and play basketball with my brothers. I messed up. I hadn’t really left. A while later, during a late night truth telling session, Lisa said, “Ed, I don’t believe you have really cut the cord yet.” When I made the decision to cut the cord that was a major decision.
We have taken the cord, even though we say we have cut it, and we have turned the cord into a rubber band. Speaking of a rubber band, I feel a ‘70’s moment coming on. (“Rubber Band Man” by Spinners plays) Talk about great music. If you have never heard the Spinners, you are missing one of the greatest bands ever. All this stuff today on the radio, I mean, I like some of the music but give me a break. Most of the people can’t even carry a tune. Those guys could do it.
I put myself in the group, why? Because I had a tough time cutting the cord. I replaced the cord with a rubber band. A lot of people do that. They say, “Oh, yeah, I have separated. I’m just in this marriage and we are an autonomous unit.” Oh, really? You get a little financial problem, a little bit of argument, little bit of difficulty, you boing back to Mama and Dada. “I’m back.” You have got to leave and be united. You have got to make the decision to cut the cord and the rubber band.
Let’s get practical. Here are some Practical Parental Pointers that we all need to understand in light of Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 31. First, do the parental pushback. Parents, keep your nose in your business so you can allow your married children to do their own business. That’s very important.
Here is another one. Only give advice when you are asked. Only give advice when you are asked. I know it’s tempting to say, “You are making a mistake. You are messing up. Let me tell you what we did when we were that…” Stop. Hold your tongue. Don’t do it.
Another parental pointer is keep your needs in check. Keep them in check. It’s so easy to allow you needs, Mom and Dad, to supersede their needs. To manipulate them, to coerce them, to get them to jump on the waa-ambulance with you. Don’t go there either. Some quick parental pointers.
All right, how about those of us who are married? How do we relate and connect to our parents. Rubber band busters is what I call them. Rubber band busters. The first one goes like this: Don’t boing back when you have a financial setback, a problem, or a difficulty. Don’t. Don’t boing and say, “Mama, Dada, I’m back.” Don’t do that.
Number two, establish your own traditions. Establish your own deal, especially when children come along. Lisa and I made a decision a long time ago that we were going to spend Christmas here. If we do, for example, travel during the Christmas holidays, we would travel either on Christmas day or the next day, or even earlier to see parents in South Carolina or in Houston. For the most part, we spend Thanksgiving here. Now and then, we might travel east or to Houston, but we travel with our entire family when we do so. Do not allow the parents to manipulate you into spending every holiday with them. I think you run into severe trouble when you do so.
Here is another one. I love this one. Beware of obligation vacations. You know where I am going here, don’t you? You don’t have to vacation with Mama and Dada. In essence, that is not a real vacation. That’s not a vacation. That’s a family outing, and it’s great. I love to be with my parents. I love to be with Lisa’s family. That is good. But don’t expect that every time you get away. I know a man in his middle forties. I have known him for like twenty years. Every time he and his wife and children take a trip, Mama and Dada are there with them. He and his wife never go away by themselves. If they do, their parents are with them. I asked him one time, “How about doing something alone?” I don’t really think he got it.
Parents, we need to be sensitive to this. Children who are married, we need to be sensitive to this. I’m not saying never do it, but I am saying beware of the obligation vacation. This is light easy simple stuff, isn’t it? Cut the rubber band. That’s the first thing we have to do.
Let’s move to another verse, Ephesians 5:25. This is going to be strong here. Husbands hold on to your theatre seats, okay? We talked about busting the rubber band, now we talk to husbands. “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The whole deal hinges on the man. We are the initiative takers. The Apostle Paul, write this one down, inspired by the Holy Spirit, devoted twice as many words to telling husbands to love their wives as he did for wives to love their husbands. I wonder why.
The word “husband” comes from two Latin words which mean house band. Literally, husbands, we are to be the band that holds the family together. We must, like Jesus did, love our wives as Christ loved the church. The Apostle Paul is taking marriage now to another level, another planet, another zone. It hinges on the man. What is the church? The church is made up of those people who have made a grace reception. We are a part of the universal church. The church is a colossal collection of moral foul-ups. That is what you are, and that is what I am.
Let’s just be honest here. Jesus loves us in a self-sacrificing, others-centered fashion. Husbands, check your wife out right now. You are to love her in the same way. That is your standard. That’s your example. Jesus loves me when I am hard to be loved. He loves me when I have a bad day. He loves me in a constant fashion. Husbands, we are to love our wives when she has a bad day. We are to love our wives when she is difficult to live with, in a self-sacrificing…self-gratifying?…no, no, no, … self-sacrificing, others-centered love.
Read the text. Jesus loved the church and he gave himself up for her. We are also to love our wives in a purifying way. This text continues, I don’t have time to read it, Ephesians 5, where it says Jesus sanctified the church. He cleansed the church. To cleanse something means to set it apart. Isn’t that great? We are a part of the universal church. We are the most important entity in the universe. We are set apart. We are literally, and I love this now, on a pedestal. We are to put our wives, if we love her like Christ loved the church, on a pedestal. She is our bride, an others-centered, self-sacrificing, purifying, set apart relationship. That’s what it is all about.
The Bible hammers on us men. I call that “alligator alley.” This past weekend I spoke six times. I was so tired that I was just kind of drooling and incoherent after the services. Whenever I feel like that, I usually go fishing. I have a little pond that I fish in Southeast Texas, so I loaded up my nine year old son, EJ, Craig Stovall, who works here on Fellowship staff, and we drove two hours to fish four hours and drove back two hours. It was relaxing, believe me. It really was. We were out there fishing using plastic worms as bait, having a good time just chilling out.
About fifty feet in front of the boat, I said, “Hey, guys, look there is an alligator.” Now I have been around a lot of alligators in my life. That is a whole other chapter, but I said, “See that?”
They go, “Yeah.”
I said, “Watch this alligator bite my plastic worm.” I threw it out in front of the alligator, reeling in and this five foot, 85-pound gator jumped on it. I set the hook and then he broke the line. They were like, “Wow.”
I said, “EJ, you want to do that?”
“Yeah.” He cast over the same alligator, reeled it and fought it for a while and then it spit the hook out. It’s hard to hook alligators. Then Craig Stovall wanted some of that. Threw it out, hit it again, it broke the line. We hooked this gator four times in a matter of a couple of minutes. He wanted more.
Then I said, “Guys, we are going to catch this alligator and bring him into the boat.” I can’t believe I said that, but I did. I had this rod and reel with me with this special line on it that is real strong. I cast it in front of this alligator, reeled it by him again, he snapped, and I set the hook. The fight was on. I fought him for a while. I let EJ fight him for a while. Craig Stovall fought him for a while. We got him right near the boat and he is hissing and making these sounds. So I handed my brand new Bass Pro rod to Craig Stovall. I said, “Craig, you just hold the rod for a second. I’m going to take a paddle and subdue him.” Now I knew the paddle wouldn’t hurt this alligator, but I took this paddle and whacked him as hard as I could, right between the eyes it hit him. It didn’t even phase the gator. He shook two times, bit through the hook and I heard my brand new Bass Pro rod snap in two. Then he lazily swam off.
That whole thing happened in a matter of five or ten minutes. He was hooked four or five times, whacked in the head with a paddle. When I watched him swim off, I said, “Guys, that gator has to be a man.” He has got to be a male because only a male would be that stupid and that hardheaded to do that. Let’s face it, guys, we are like gators. We are kind of like swimming along and “Whack.” That’s what the Bible does. The Apostle Paul just whacks us upside the head with a paddle. Husbands, he said, it’s about you. It hinges on you. You are the image and the mirror and the illustration of Christ’s love to the church. It begins with you. It begins with me.
The last part of the verse, “gave himself up for her.” What do you give up, husbands, for your wife. Would you give up the remote control to spend time in meaningful conversation with her? Would you do that? Would you give up another hour at the office to do whatever? Maybe to go antiquing or go see a chick flick, I don’t know. Would you do that? Basic things.
Let’s get real basic. Here are some things we need to do if we are going to obey Ephesians 5:25, if we are going to love our wives like Christ loved the church. The first one is, we have got to compliment her creatively. That’s this whole thing I talked about as far as setting her apart. When you are with your wife in a public setting, how do you look at her? I mean, when she is talking, are you doing this guys? Are you correcting her? “No, it wasn’t forty, it was four hundred.” You shouldn’t do that. Make eye contact with her. Support her. Compliment her in front of others publicly and do it privately. That’s what Jesus does to you and me. Are you lifting her up with your words. You see, words to guys/gators, don’t mean that much. You can say anything to a guy. To a woman, a word is so significant. A word is like a WORD. It’s major. We can’t forget that.
Here’s another pointer against the backdrop of Ephesians five, and before I even go into it, a lot of you are going to say, “Okay, here’s Ed again droning on about it.” Well, I’ve got to say it. Date intentionally. I will talk about having a date night until every single couple in this church has a date night. So, just hear it over and over again. One of the greatest things that Lisa and I ever did for our marriage was to establish a regular strategic date night. Why in the world, guys, when we get married do we think, “Well, that job’s done. I did that. Now I can get on with my career, or this or that.”
That’s when the romance, love and dating should start, when you get married. It should start after you walk the wedding runner. It shouldn’t end there. You don’t retire there. You don’t stop there. Now is the good stuff. I have said this before, “What you use to get her is what you use to keep her.” Yet a lot of men, we have this thing all messed up. Having a date with your spouse is not walking up to her in your boxer shorts with your pot belly hanging over and going, “Hey, why don’t you get a babysitter tomorrow night and we can do something, you know. Here’s the entertainment section. Just pick a movie or something out you want to see.” That’s not it. Have a standing babysitter once a week or at least every other week. It will revolutionize your marriage. You’ve got to have it. Lisa and I have to fight for our date night. We have it scheduled in. We rarely double date. We date each other. It’s our time to get together, to recalibrate, to refocus. Apply it.
Another one is this. Be attentive. Men, open car doors, front doors, order for her, send her flowers, listen to her, talk to her, nonsexually touch her. “Uh, what? There’s such a thing?”
Speaking about date night and being attentive, a couple of weeks ago, Lisa was out with some of her girlfriends and she saw this couple we know who attends our church. They were on a date. She said, “What are y’all going to do tonight?” The guy says, “Well, Winn Dixie is having it’s grand opening and we are going to go and check out Winn Dixie’s grand opening.” And Lisa says, “Preston, what are you thinking?” Don’t think I’m lying. You ask Preston.
Speaking of that, Preston, why don’t you and Dedo come up here for a second. I want to use you as an example. Now I hope you are tracking with me. I am talking about cutting the rubber band, rubber band busters, remember that. That’s the leave and cleave part. Now I am talking about another kind of band. A husband comes from the Latin phrase, as I said earlier, house band. So literally, Preston, it’s as if you have this band, this rubber band around you. It’s your initiative, your responsibility to keep Dedo within the band. Just hold that band right there.
I know it rarely happens, but let’s say for example that Dedo has done something against you. She is totally in the wrong. She has had an off day. The kids have been going crazy. She has had it. She lashes out at sweet, kind, Winn Dixie-loving, Preston Mitchell. Let’s say Dedo is over here. Yes, even pastors sometimes get into arguments, don’t they? Now what does Preston do? Does Preston say, “Well, I’ve got my rubber band here. I’m the house band. I’m just going to stay here, and when Dedo comes to her senses, I’ll wait for her to crawl back. Then I might reconcile. She messed up. I’m cool. I’m in the right. She is in the wrong. Can you believe Dedo?”
Let me stop here. Ephesians 5:25 says, “husbands love your wives” as what? “Christ loved the church.” Well, what if Christ had held grudges? What if Christ had said, “Well, I’m just going to wait until humanity gets it right. I’m just going to wait. I’m going to hold a grudge. When they come crawling back to me, then I’ll do…” Jesus didn’t do that. He took the initiative. Husbands, this is heavy here. Hold on to your theatre seats. Even if she is totally wrong, because you are to love her like Christ loved the church, you are to take the initiative and there you go, band the house, the marriage together. That’s our responsibility. It’s simplistic. But we have made the simplistic complex. Thank you Preston and Dedo.
Let’s do one more right quick. Aren’t we having fun? Bust the rubber band. Now we are house band husbands. Let’s talk about 1 Corinthians 7:5. The guys love this verse for some reason, probably because it talks about sex. It’s hilarious. I was telling somebody the other day, every time I have taught on this verse, it’s hilarious. I’ll be out in the atrium, and I might have just referred to it, and people come up to me and the guys will say, “Ed, that was the greatest message I have ever heard.” I’m thinking, “I wonder why they liked that?”
It’s 1 Corinthians, chapter 7. Let me read it, talking about sex. Don’t freak out because I am talking about sex. We should talk about it in the church. God wasn’t afraid to talk about it. He thought it up. So just chill. Here’s what it says to husbands and wives, “Do not deprive each other.” Husbands, wives, we will be held accountable one day before God determining how we served our spouse sexually. If you are sitting by your spouse, look at your spouse for a second. You are looking at your only sexual option. When you said, “I do,” you were saying, “You’re it.” I just wanted to clear that up. “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent.” That’s not just one person not feeling in the mood. No, by mutual consent.
Now, here is the only reasonable excuse “and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.” That’s the only reason you can say no. “I’ve got to pray.” But it’s not “I’ve got to pray,” it’s “We’ve got to pray.” So, it’s not “I have a headache,” it’s “Let’s pray.” “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” I understand though that sometimes we are going to say no. I understand that. We are going to talk about that in a second. But here’s the problem. Here is the difficulty. Often times we don’t understand our mate’s sexual wiring. We are not really dialed into their physical drive.
Dr. Willard Harley sights a phenomenal example of this that I have talked about in a message years ago concerning the sex drives. Check it out.
(Video clip of a prior message)
Suppose, husbands and wives, there was a stool, a glass of water on the stool, the husband was next to the stool, the wife was next to the husband who was next to the stool with the glass of water. The wife is immobilized. She can’t get the water. The husband is the one who can get the water. Here is what happens, Harley writes, “Let’s say the wife turns to her husband and goes, “Honey, would you please pour me a glass of water? I am getting thirsty.”
The husband turns and responds by saying, “I don’t really feel like it. I’m not in the mood. Maybe in a couple of hours.”
Hours roll by. One more time, the wife turns to her husband and says, “Honey, I’m getting thirsty. Would you please give me a glass of water?”
The husband looks at the wife and goes, “You know I am kind of tired. I’ve had a long day, okay?”
Then, the wife begins to get angry. I mean, she can feel the temperature rising. She wants a drink of water. So she begins to demand a drink of water. “I want a glass of water. You are the only one who can give me the glass of water.”
The husband looks at his wife, spins on his heels and goes, “You are not going to get any water with an attitude like that.”
Then the husband returns back on the scene about a day later. The wife now is livid. Finally, the husband says, “Okay. Here’s your water. Just drink it. Just drink it.”
Now when the wife is gulping down the water, do you think she is satisfied? Do you think her thirst is really quenched? Not really. Because she is thinking, “I’m going to be thirsty again, and I better watch what I say to him from now on because…”
So goes a man’s sex drive. Like water quenches our thirst physically, sex and marriage quenches his emotions in a physical and spiritual and emotional and psychological manner.
Well, now let’s pick on the men. Men are so compartmentalized. We are just so structured. This and this and that. Most of us are brainless considering the overall context of the relationship. We are kind of just one-dimensional people. I was boarding an airplane several days ago, and walked by a group of ladies, and one was reading a book called, ALL ABOUT MEN. So I looked at her and said, “All About Men.” She goes, “Yeah, it’s a short book too.” I started dying laughing. I took my seat about ten rows back and I said, “I’m going to write that in a message, baby.” The house could be dirty. You could have just been in a major argument five minutes earlier. If you are a man, though, you kind of pat your wife on the posterior and go, “Hey, hey, hey, how about now?” Wives, on the other hand, talking about their sex drives, they are multifaceted and multidimensional. The context is huge for them. They have got to know that everything is a-okay outside the master bedroom before everything gets a-okay between the sheets.
Well, what do you do about it? 1 Corinthians 7:5, what happens when one is not in the mood and one is in the mood, a couple of quick pointers. First of all, never use sex as a weapon or as a reward or leverage of any kind. Don’t. It’s a gift from God.
Here’s another one. “No” should be the exception, not the rule. Now, if you do say “no,” and sometimes you will deal with that, say “no” with an intimate appointment the next day. Don’t just say “no.” And if you are hearing a constant barrage of “no” I would encourage you to seek some biblical Christian counseling. I really would. Talking about our sex drive, a man’s sex drive is like Michael Johnson on a sprint. It’s quick. It’s like that. A woman’s sex drive is more like running a 5k. It doesn’t kick in as rapidly. We mess up when we approach our spouse the way we want to be approached. We should approach our spouse the way they want to be approached.
Let’s do another. Take the initiative. I am talking directly to women here. Women, I would challenge you to take the initiative sexually at least once a month. That’s a great goal.
Another one, do your homework. Read up on the subject. Know a lot about it so you can get in on this gift from God. Because here is what will happen. When we do sex the way God wants us to do it, it will be like we are in a marching band. We will be marching in sync with one another and we will make beautiful music together. God wants harmony. He doesn’t want dissonance. God wants us to march together through life and have a great sex life in marriage. He doesn’t want one marching here and one running in circles over there. It’s a great thing. It’s a present. It’s a gift.
Let’s bust the rubber band. Husbands, let’s be the house band. It hinges on that. And then, we will have a marching band.