Turning Marriage Around

Most husbands and wives are going in the wrong direction. They need to turn around – but they don’t know it.

The happy pair waving to their friends as they drive off on their honeymoon, need to turn around. However, they don’t know it and may never recognise the route to their greatest marital happiness.

The older couple who have nearly finished raising their children need to turn around. Much of the dullness in their marriage is because they have been facing in the wrong direction all their married life.

Most married couples need to “turn around” because each one is looking at their spouse the wrong way.

Self Interest

Unconsciously both bride and groom subscribe to the notion, “It’s all about my happiness.”
While husband and wife think of themselves as totally committed to “each other” that is likely not true at all. People inherently see life from their own perspective.

What do most people do when they look at a photo of a group they are in? People almost universally look to see how they have come out in the picture. That’s representative of how people filter life based on what has meaning to them.

While people are keenly interested in family, friends and loved ones, they still put their ultimate interest in their own ‘self’.

The Right Direction

Marriage is to be directed differently than toward our self. Marriage is not meant to be focused on what people want. It is not about creating the best deal for each individual. Instead, marriage is to be directed ‘toward the spouse’. Both husband and wife have to learn how to make their spouse the focus of their marriage.

That may be contrary to nature, but it is the key to a delightful and successful marriage. The right direction for marriage is “toward the spouse”, not toward self.

Selfishness Uncovered

Consider the scenario that may well take place on a wedding day….

A bride giggles with her friends. They are so happy for her. The groom is everything they want a husband to be. Their delighted talk celebrates how blessed the bride is to have won the heart of such a man. As they compliment the bride they are sure this man will love her wholeheartedly.

The groom is congratulated by all his friends. They celebrate her beauty and his luck in finding such a desirable bride. He accepts their observations, for he has thought the same things, himself. He is sure that she will make him blissfully happy.

And so the couple come together, each blessed to be blessed by the other.

Yet some time down the track it is likely they have both changed their minds. There may well be moments when she calls him “unfeeling”, “uncaring” and a “beast”. There may well be moments when he is stung by her selfish words and ways. At times they may fight. At times they may curse each other. Yet there will likely be times when they press through the turmoil to cling to each other and weep for their folly and pain.

What underlies such outcomes is selfishness. It is there on the wedding day, masked by hopes and happiness. In time it emerges more strident and destructive as bride and groom struggle for realisation of their selfish ambitions.

The Bible Gives Direction

A wrong direction in marriage should never occur, since the Bible clearly specified the right direction in marriage 2,000 years ago. However, each successive generation tends toward its own selfishness and needs to be reminded of the higher calling.

The right direction, as mentioned earlier, is “toward the spouse”. That’s not how the Bible says it, but that message comes through loud and clear for all who have “ears to hear”.

What is the Bible’s clearest instruction to husbands? The most repeated instruction for husbands is, “Husbands love your wife“. The Apostle Paul repeated this instruction multiple times, making it the most definite call on a husband.

So, what is the “direction” of that command? Does it support self-interest? Is it directed at the wishes of the husband? Is it about the husband’s happiness? Does it allow for the husband to be angry if his selfish expectations are not met?

The direction of that command is toward the wife. The husband is commanded to make his wife his focus and to love her. It does not matter if the wife is exactly what he wanted or hoped her to be. It doesn’t matter if the husband is delighted with or challenged by the marriage. The principal command is to have a direction completely opposite to ‘self’.

The Wife’s Direction

Just as the husband is commanded to love his wife, the wife is commanded to submit to her husband. This is by far the most repeated command to wives in the whole Bible. Here again we see that the wife’s direction is not toward herself, but toward her husband. Submission is not an act of selfishness, but of selflessness.

The wife is commanded to make her husband her focus. It does not matter whether the husband is exactly what she wanted or hoped him to be. It doesn’t matter if the wife is delighted with or challenged by her marriage. The principal command is to have a direction completely opposite to ‘self’.

Turn Around

If you have been struggling with issues in your marriage it may simply be that you have to “turn around”. The Bible word for turning around is “repent”. It is time to repent of selfishness and to turn attention to your spouse. This does not mean that you idolise them, but that the husband “love” his wife, and the wife “submit” to her husband.

No matter what you think or feel about your husband or wife, you are under God’s instruction to stay in the right direction. If you react to your spouse you will most likely do that in selfishness. As soon as you become selfish you have steered the marriage back toward yourself, not toward your spouse.

Remember that both husband and wife have to keep their personal direction focused on the spouse. As you steer yourself toward your spouse, not yourself, your marriage is going in the right direction.

The School Bully

Imagine settling into a new school and being accosted by a school bully who demands that you pay him money each week. You survive the meeting and then ask others what the story is with this bully.

You find out that everyone is paying money to the bully. You find that the teachers have no plan to stop the bully’s activities. You also find that the bully isn’t regarded as a bully, but just part of normal life at the school.

It turns out that the “bully”, as you call him, has had his place passed to him through generations of bullies. Payment of the bully levy is a tradition that goes back as far as anyone can remember. School teachers rely on the bully to help them maintain order in the school, even though they know he has self-interest as well. They see the arrangement as both normal and appropriate.

When you decide to stand up to the bully everyone looks at you in horror. You are urged to stop your bizarre behaviour and to just get used to the way things are. The whole social order is built on the status quo. Would-be bullies are competing with each other for the honour of displacing the incumbent. The more offended victims have their support groups. A code of penalties has been defined and each new student is briefed in the mechanisms of the school-yard order.

Most alarming in this whole situation is that anyone who stands up to the perverse system is confronted on all sides. You encounter apathy or antagonism from those who should support you; despisement and oppression from the bully system that seeks to rule you; and abandonment from the authority figures who should have stopped this situation long ago.

Now, that’s just a fanciful scenario. But it is an allegory for situations which occur around the world.

At Sydney University in the early 1970’s, for example, I confronted compulsory Student Union membership. The Student Union engaged in many activities which offended my personal values and which I would never engage in. I saw no reason why I should be forced to pay anything to what seemed like a group of self-indulgent people who used their position to peddle their own ideology and morality. However, that was the system. There was no changing it, so it seemed. Thankfully, in subsequent years compulsory student unionism was abandoned.

The same situation may be seen in workplaces where a strong union presence imposes compulsory union membership on anyone who wants to work there.

Yet again, in some cultures the police force is corrupt and imposes various unwarranted penalties on people. I was once pulled over by a traffic policeman who was not interested in giving me a genuine penalty, but sought some “coffee money” from me.

Totalitarian regimes impose this “school-yard bully” system at a national level. Various limitations are imposed on their constituents, which people are powerless to object to.

I am not saying in all this that forced subscriptions are necessarily evil, or that unions, police forces or governments are suspect. I simply use these examples to illustrate a point. I am drawing your attention to the fact that some situations are actually oppressive and out of order.

Now, the correct way to deal with such situations, if it is possible, is to take the matter to higher and higher authorities, until someone resolves what is out of order, putting it right. In many situations even the judiciary is compromised or intimidated and true justice is denied the citizenry. In those situations the only court in which effective appeal can be made is before the throne of God.

Reading the book of Ecclesiastes recently I noted Solomon’s awareness that God is the true Sovereign in all of life’s situations. While men will oppress others and ply their evil agendas, those who trust in God and are not overcome by the evil of others, have the best outcome.

Being consumed in rage at the system means you have been overcome by evil. Making it your life passion to right the wrong system may also be a sign that you have been overcome by evil. You were not created to be moved by your enraged sensibilities, but to fulfil God’s plan for your life. If He calls you to deal with the system in some way, then you will have to do it. But that won’t be for self-gratification or to get even for wrongs experienced, or any other personal agenda. You will be most effective when you can be dispassionate and focus your affections on Him and His glory, rather than being moved along by personal arousal.

School-yard bullies exist in many contexts. You may be called at some point to do something about it. But if you are, it will be God’s call, not yours. The methods and all that is part of the process will be at God’s behest, not your own direction. If you engage in the process with that kind of spirit you will be a worthy instrument in God’s hands to see His Kingdom come and His will done on earth as it is in Heaven.

The Greatest Scam

We are all aware of scams and there are many horror stories of people who have been ripped off in the most shocking ways. However there is a scam which has taken in more people than any other. The scam is based on a deceptive promise which has drawn in so many suckers that this truly is the greatest scam of all time. It is also the oldest scam. Every scam that has operated since has followed the basic model of this one.

Here’s how it works. A person is introduced to a possibility with enormous promise. The promise goes to the very heart of their deepest personal ambitions. There is no immediate guarantee, but the lure is dangled in front of the investor while they evaluate their options and weigh up the costs and risks. The cost is simply something of themself. It may be time, energy, commitment or some level of personal application. Usually, however, it involves a compromise of some kind. The investor will sense that they are crossing a line by buying in. But then there is the pay off.

The return for the investor is often non-specific. It isn’t usually in a fixed dollar amount, but a more general promise of high return. The return will usually be in terms of intangible personal benefits which are hard to put a firm dollar value on. Once the offer has been made it is usually just a matter of time before the sucker buys in. They do so out of greed, ambition, self-interest, lust for a better situation or a better life.

This scam usually bites very quickly. It bites with much the sting of a mafia entrapment. Once the investor buys in, committing him or herself to the deal they can know quite quickly that they have been caught. But, like an entrapment situation, the investors can’t quickly extricate themselves. They now have too much to lose, so they are held in the deal, even though it might be clear that they are being ripped off.

For some, the scam stays hidden a little longer. The payoff is deferred, but the sense of promise persists. The investor hangs in there, throws more of their resources into the deal, digging themself in deeper, hoping against hope that they will get a huge return, as they were promised.

When things go belly up, and they review the deal, they realise that very little was every actually guaranteed or promised. They were drawn in by smoke and mirrors, hints and suggestions, not solid empirical data. The sales pitch suddenly seems very empty, and the buyer realises that they just about talked themself into the whole deal – without anything of substance from the scammer.

Greed and ‘fear of loss’ created a whirlwind of lustful ambition and inner impulse. Hopes and fears danced as phantasms in the investor’s imagination, pushing them to the inexorable outcome. The person was duped as much by their own lust for better things than from any seduction by the scam itself.

Now, millions of people, throughout human history have been bitten and destroyed by this oldest and greatest of scams. The damage done by the Ponzi’s of this world is insignificant when compared with the scale and scope of the scam I am talking about here.

So, what is this age-old scam? Have you been taken in by this greatest of all scams? How do you know if you have been scammed?

Let me tell you what this greatest scam is. It’s what I call the “Flesh Scam”. It works like this. You were created by the Living God to live in perfect fellowship with Him, under His command, fulfilling His will and enjoying His blessings in your life. But you were built with a ‘flesh’ component. That’s your five senses, your appetites and your ability to enjoy life as a human being. Those senses are given to you so you can enjoy what God has created for you. However those very senses can become addicted to their own gratification and you can become enslaved to them.

That’s where the “Flesh Scam” comes in. Your humanity, your ‘flesh’, your natural senses, make a promise to you. The promise is a lie. It is fraudulent. It is a deceptive scam. The promise is that if you will serve your appetites, indulge your lusts and give in to your natural cravings you will delighted, happy, fulfilled, enriched and blessed. That’s the promise behind all lust – whether it’s for food, sex, pleasure, thrills, power, possessions, dominance, control, revenge, freedom of expression or anything else. Your body says, “Make an investment in me and you’ll receive a fantastic yield on your investment.” Your flesh scams you by promising to make you ever so happy, ever so blessed and ever so much better than you are.

But as soon as you choose to give in to your natural impulses they spring a trap. You become enslaved to the lusts you gave in to. You become an addict to sex, food, self-will, indulgence, anger, cursing, or whatever you gave over to. Instead of you being a better person, you are now a broken person. You are damaged goods. You are a slave.

The marketing campaign for this scam is very impressive and it pulls at the strings of everyone. Everyone has flesh and natural appetites which cry out to be indulged. So everyone is perfectly susceptible to this greatest of all scams.

The scamming comes from the fact that the flesh doesn’t pay any interest on the investment. Instead, it steals the very capital that’s invested. The very life of the person who gave over to their lusts is grabbed by that thing and made to serve the rest of its life under the demands of lust, shame, degradation, guilt, weakness, brokenness, resentment, failure and so on.

Six thousand years ago, Eve was the first to buy into the scam. The lie promised her a High Yield Return on her commitment. Instead of giving her anything of value at all, it took from her just about everything she had of value. She lost her innocence. She lost her paradise resort. She lost her close relationship with God. She lost her self-respect. She ended up with a tarnished reputation. She was powerless to undo her wrong. She was cursed for her actions. She lived out her days knowing she had blown it.

The Apostle Paul exposed this very scam with the following questions and observations… “What return did you get from that investment in your old life?” “What fruit did you have then in those things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death.” Romans 6:21

“You don’t owe the flesh a thing! The only return it delivers is Death! “Therefore, brothers, we owe no debt or obligation to the flesh, to live by the flesh’s demands. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die: but if you through the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12,13

Jesus Christ confirmed Paul’s observations when He said, “There is no profit in the flesh” “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I (Jesus) speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63

This Ancient Scam has been marketed in many ways. There’s the anger scam. The sex scam. The pride scam. The jealousy scam. The independence scam. And so on. Each one promises to pay a huge return but actually rips off the investor by taking their life and giving them death in return.

So the Greatest of all scams is the Flesh Scam, where the flesh promises to deliver great outcomes but only burns holes in a person’s soul. It offers itself as the sweetest wine, but it proves to be acid as it eats through the very life of the person who yields to it.

Have you been scammed? Are you one of those who has been duped by the flesh? Have you given over part of your life to the lie that you can be happier and better off if you pander to your lusts? Are you one of those who is now a slave to sin and shame?

There is hope for all those who have been scammed! A very wealthy person has paid out your iniquitous rip-off so you can be restored to your original starting point. An awesome philanthropist has given His most precious possession so He can buy you out of slavery to the scammer. He has been to the slave trader’s filthy command post and completely routed that dirty devil, so you can be set free.

There is a catch, however. In being bought back from slavery you need to return to your original destiny, of living for God. Until and unless you are willing to live that new life there is no use buying you out of your chains and rags. You will only go back to them as soon as you can.

I present to you the facts of your situation. I call you to repent from your stupid choices and the disgusting slavery that has resulted. I offer you the forgiveness and restoration that is yours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I call you to new life – not as a liberated sinner, but as a son of the Living God, fulfilling the purposes for which you were created, and living in the power of the God who created you and saved you.

I call you to be a liberator, who emancipates millions of slaves from the scam which has so readily seduced and destroyed them. I call you to build the Kingdom of God, and to fill it with liberated souls who have their dignity and freedom restored and who join us in living for God and enjoying Him forever.

Marriage – a GOOD Thing?

Two disparate comments about married life came to my attention recently. One was positive and the other tragically negative about marriage.

One young man said: “marriage is such an awesome gift from the Lord…. And it has been getting better day by day.”
Another young man said: “I keep telling anyone that if you want time to yourself don’t get married and don’t have kids.” A person who wants to get married “must either have a lot of spare time, or not want time to yourself?”
In view of these competing ideas you could question whether marriage is a “good thing” or not. To one young man marriage is “an awesome gift” while to the other marriage robs you of “time to yourself”.
Can you see something in these comments?

It seem that “selfishness” is not something a person should take into marriage.
But then, selfishness is not something a person should take into the rest of their life either.
Our two greatest challenges are to Love God and to Love Others – see Luke 10:27 “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”
Maybe what we see in the two quotes is that selfishness spoils a person’s abiltiy to enjoy marriage. And isn’t it true that selfishness spoils many other things in life too? When people have self-interest they become upset at anything which gets in their way, be it spouse, child, frlends, circumstances or anything else.
Let me assure you that MARRIAGE IS A GOOD THING.
However, don’t be surprised when marriage and family challenge your selfishness. When that happens don’t become negative about MARRIAGE, but recognise your own need to receive God’s help and to grow in grace.