I spoke at Life Church in Cookeville this weekend. It is a great church. 5000 people gather every weekend and impact Putnam County throughout the week. After the Saturday night service, several said, “You talk fast. Can you post this somewhere?” So, here it is. Blessings
If you’d rather watch than read, here’s a link. https://youtu.be/OQ1TD1Yo7Jo?feature=shared
I was asked to be the part-time youth pastor at a church in Gallatin, TN while I was still in college. In those days I was a pretty good trumpet player so the pastor asked me to play the trumpet on my first Sunday there. He said, “I want you to meet the church pianist on Saturday to practice. She’s your age, very pretty. You will like her.”
Now, in 1975 I was the proud owner of a lemon-yellow Ford Pinto. They called them a barbecue on wheels back then because they tended to burst into flames with any rear-end collision. It was a hot car. I was sitting behind the church in my hot, lemon-yellow Ford Pinto on Saturday morning, (I didn’t have a key to the church yet), waiting for the piano player. About 30 minutes late this REALLY hot, 1976 (it was still only 1975) black-on-black Olds Cutlass came flying around the corner, spewing gravel everywhere.
The door opened and out stepped this “not so hot” stuck-up, full-of-herself girl. She had on no make-up, a baggy Tennessee Vols sweatshirt that had seen better days, and her hair was rolled up in little orange juice cans. All over her head. If we could have hooked a TV to her we would have pulled in 15 channels.
She never said a word, no, “Sorry I’m late,” or “Kiss my grits.” Just looked at me like it was all my fault that she had to get up before noon on a Saturday, unlocked the church door, and walked inside. And just between you and me, I’ve been getting that same look for the last 49 years.
Doris’s folks were farmers in Sumner County. When we married, she was still living in the house she was born in. After we dated for about a year, she thought I should ask her dad for permission to marry her. We sat on the front porch one summer evening and rocked in the porch swings for a while and watched lightning bugs. I finally go up my nerve, cleared my throat, and said to her parents, “I have an important question to ask you all.” Doris’s Mom didn’t hesitate a second. She immediately said, “I don’t want to talk about this. I am against it. I just don’t want to hear it.” To which, I stuck my finger straight at her nose and hissed, “Let me tell you, there are a lot of mothers that would love to have me as a son-in-law.” I would have been hard-pressed to name one at the time, but it seemed like a good answer.
They finally came around and we married on November 19, 1977, 47 years ago last fall. We married in a little church in Ashland City. When we knelt to pray, my sister, who fancies herself as a comedian, had written on the bottom of my shoes, in white shoe polish, “HELP ME.” The joke was on her, she should have written that on Doris’s shoes. I was thinking back over our marriage a couple of months ago and something dawned on me. For reasons I will tell you about later, it dawned on me that 20 years ago we went through a shift. Our marriage became our ministry. Since that time, every aspect of ministry, and every aspect of life has been centered on allowing God to use our ministry for His glory.
And I want to make a pretty bold statement, HE WANTS THAT FOR YOU AS WELL!
And so, that’s what I want to talk to you about now, a relation-shift to use Pastor Bobby’s word. Shifting Your Marriage to Your Ministry.
(Not everyone here is married. You may be one day. Or you may need to know how to pray for those of us who are. You need to know that God has placed marriages around you to minister to you.)
Marriage has always been at the top of God’s priority list. It is no coincidence that
The first institution established by God was marriage. Remember the Creation story in Genesis. God made all of the necessary building blocks for life, light, water, and food. Then He creates man. Then He creates the first functioning organizational system, not the church, not the government, not Tennessee Tech. He creates marriage and He says in Genesis 2:24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
I read the other day a good accounting of the creation of woman. God came to Adam one day and said, “Adam, How are you doing? You look lonely? What I make for you?”
Adam said, “Could you make something that looks like me but is prettier? Someone that is soft, and smells good, and loves to listen to all of my stories? Someone who lets me go hunting whenever I want, throws her arms around me, and kisses me passionately every time I come home? Can’t wait to go to bed with me every night and get up and make me breakfast every morning?”
God said, “Sure, I can make that, but it’s going to be expensive.” “How much will it cost?” asks Adam. And God replies, “It will cost you an arm and a leg.” Adam thought for a minute and then he asked God, “What could I get for a rib?”
Not only is marriage the first institution created by God, but the first communion blessed by Jesus was marriage. John 2:1 begins the story, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there…” You remember that it was at a marriage that Jesus chose to begin His public ministry by doing His first miracle. And of all things to use, He used the very thing that at the end of His ministry would say, “From now on, this represents my blood.” Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding and I don’t think that was a coincidence.
God has always had His hand on marriage. Marriage began with God. Genesis 1:26
“Let us make man in Our image…” Marriage began with purpose. Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply.” And Marriage began as a gift. Genesis 2:22 “and He brought her to him.”
But that gift was not for you. Your marriage is not for you. God sees your marriage as a ministry. There are at least three reasons that God wants to use your marriage.
- First, He designed marriage to replicate His image in the world.
“The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in a permanent, plural, equal, complementary, ordered, and loving union. And since we’re created like God, we thrive in marriage relationships that mirror His trinitarian union.” Richard Coekin
Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives like Paul loved the church.” God designed marriage to remind people that His image is stamped on every one of us. So let me ask you, “Does your marriage make God look good?” When people see the way you treat your spouse, do they say, “I hope God treats me just that way?”
2. God designed marriage to demonstrate the Nature of God.
God is sacrificial John 10:11 The good shepherd lays…
God is faithful Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you…
God is love I John 4:7 God is love
Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13
3. God designed marriage to propagate the earth. His first instruction to the married couple was, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
“God wants to cover the earth with His character; love, faithfulness, and grace, as the waters cover the sea. His master plan for that is to allow His glory to be seen in His children, and His children’s children.”
The final instruction of Jesus to us in Matthew 28 was “Go into all of the world and make disciples.” I cannot think of a place for that to begin than in our own homes.
If you doubt God’s plan for marriage to be a ministry, remember this:
- He used a marriage, Adam and Eve, to complete Creation.
- He used a marriage, Abraham and Sarah, to give His covenant to His people.
- He used a marriage, Boaz and Ruth, to establish His lineage. (David-Jesus)
- He used a marriage, Joseph and Mary, to bring salvation to the world.
Listen, we are not speaking casually when we call marriage a SACRAMENT. Marriage, not just the wedding, is a holy occasion, a sacred space. God initiates, ordains, and inhabits the marriage. We are married, not for ourselves, but for Him. Our marriage is our ministry.
If that is true, God wants your marriage to be your ministry, and it is, where do we minister?
- Minister to your mate Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. How different would you act toward your spouse if you really began to see him, or her, as a gift that God has given you and asks you to take care of?
- Minister to your children. I love the quote by journalist, Clarence Kelland, “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived in front of me and let me watch.” Your children are not only learning about marriage by watching you, they are learning about God.
- Minister to the church. No church is stronger than its marriages.
Healthy marriages produce maturity.
Healthy marriages create stability.
Healthy marriages generate leadership.
Healthy marriages are attractive.
- Minister to the world.
Carle Zimmerman, Family and Civilization
“Studying Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, and Greek cultures and decline, the common characteristic of these extinct societies was the loss of the valuation of marriage and the de-familization of the common people.” Harvard, 1947
The world, at its worst, desperately needs to see Godly husbands and wives who love each other, who treat each other with kindness and respect, and who give themselves unselfishly, not only to each other but the people around them.
The reason our society is rampant with hatred and bitterness, the source of sexual identity dysphoria, and same sex attraction is so commonplace, is that we have not demonstrated the true, healthy, holy, and happy way that God wants us to do life. They don’t like the marriages they have seen so they are searching for something else. And my premise to you is that God has called you to a shift in the way you see your own marriage in order to change the world.
I ask you again, does your marriage make God look good?
SO, HOW DO WE DO THAT?
1.Be grounded in the Word of God
2.Stay committed to showing His love.
3.Get connected to like-minded couples.
4.Surrender yourselves to His will.
I told you I would finish my own marriage story. For the first 25 years of marriage, I didn’t do it well. It was okay most of the time, terrible some of the time, but we never recognized our marriage as a ministry. 20 years ago, Doris and I were on the brink of divorce. We were separated. My children wouldn’t speak to me. Financially, emotionally, and spiritually, our life was a shambles. We were done, d-done, done, done. And then God stepped in.
I went to a clinic in Arizona to find healing for my own issues. Doris and I committed to a new way of doing life and marriage, putting God back at the center, not just in name, but literally going to Him for every decision, every issue, every event in our lives. As simple as it sounds, we began holding hands and praying together EVERY SINGLE MORNING.
And God said, “This is your ministry.” We started offering marriage counseling to couples in trouble. I started meeting with men who would not or could not treat their spouses well. Today Branches has 4 offices in middle Tennessee. We have 25 therapists. We help with basic counseling, medical weight loss, and psychiatric medication management. Last year we saw 19,000 patients. We have become a leader across the country in trauma care. Last year when the Covenant School shooting took place in Nashville, Branches was called in to oversee the trauma training of the therapists on the ground there. This weekend we are in NYC training Jewish caregivers to deal with the trauma of their persecuted congregations.
I’m not being boastful. I am telling you that God has a plan for YOUR marriage He wants to use you for good, and for His glory.
Let me close with this, for ALL of you.
If you are not married…..stay committed to Him. He has a plan for you.
If you are poorly married….keep trusting Him. He can fix it.
If you have failed at marriage….remember His grace. It is never too late to start over.
And, if you are married….make it a ministry, today.
God started the thing with marriage and He will end it that way. He says that one day we will all be sitting at a huge wedding table. “Write this, Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb…These are the true Words of God.” Revelation 19:9
I plan to be there and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You did ministry well.”