Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

Readings:  Genesis 2:19-25; Colossians 3:12-19

Opening gag: Pete and Claire it’s my duty to tell you that you are now sat next to the person who is, statistically speaking, most likely to kill you.

Pause for nervous laughter

The bible is all about marriage.  It begins with marriage and it ends with marriage when all Christ’s people are united to Him at a cosmic wedding banquet.  In the middle the bible is always describing our relationship to Christ as a marriage relationship.

Our first reading described the first marriage.  Adam and Eve.  Did you hear how they came together?  The Groom was put down into a death-like sleep, his side was pierced, his bride was formed, he was raised up and they were brought together to become one.

And the ancient commentators would wax lyrical about the formation of Eve:

She was not taken from Adam’s head to be his ruler, nor from his feet to be his servant, but from his side, that she might be his equal, from under his arm, that he might protect her, and from close to his heart that he might love her.

Isn’t that beautiful?  But it’s a picture of Christ and His bride the church.  He went down to death, His side was pierced to form His bride, He was raised up again and when we come to Him in faith – we are united to Jesus, like a bride is united to her husband.

So friends if you’re here this afternoon and you’re not a Christian, let me tell you what Christianity is all about.  You’ve just seen it.  THIS is the heart of the Christian faith.  According to the bible, this shows us the heart of all reality!

Did you hear those vows:

All that I am I give to you
All that I have I share with you.

Of course when Emma and I said those vows to each other there were sniggers in the congregation because effectively we were saying “All my debts I give to you, And all my student loan repayments I share with you.”

But in our marriage to Jesus it’s different.  He doesn’t have any debts, He has only riches.  But we have debts.  We are in over our heads in cosmic debt towards God.  We are trillions in the red.  We have a wealth of badness and a terrible poverty of goodness.  And we all have a bad name.  We have inherited a shameful family name.  “Humphrey” is quite a good name.  In spite of all Jonathan’s trying to do to ruin that name, “Humphrey” is still a decent name.  But our name, inherited from our human family, sullied by all that we’ve done as a race – that name is stained.  We’re in debt and in shame.  But the minute we say “I will” to Jesus, what happens?  We say:

All that I am I give to you
All that I have I share with you.

We give to Jesus all our debts, all our sins, all our shame.  And Jesus takes it.  His name covers over ours – the way Deaves has now covered over Humphrey.  His name covers over ours, and His riches pay off our debts.  He absorbs  our debt, and pays it all off on the cross.

Then Jesus turns to us and says:

All that I am I give to you
All that I have I share with you.

What’s that?  His riches, His righteousness, His honour, His royal status.  He covers over our old name and gives us His name.  And He invites us into His royal family, to share in His royal power and royal inheritance.  And best of all we get HIM.  He gives HIMSELF to us, to enjoy forever.

History is headed towards a cosmic wedding banquet where we will enjoy our marriage union to Christ FOREVER.

That’s Christianity.  And anyone can come to Christ and say “I will” to Him.  And at that moment they come in on the ultimate royal marriage.  Maybe some here would like to do that, or find out more.  Come find me today and we can talk more.

But because of this marriage union to Jesus, our second reading for today is true:

It says that Christians are:

God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved

You might think, how can we be called chosen, holy and dearly loved.  We certainly don’t look it.  And we rarely act like it.  Well, remember the marriage analogy.  Remember our Groom, Jesus – He is choice in God’s eyes, He is holy in God’s sight, He is dearly loved.  And when we are united to Jesus we share in His choiceness, His holiness, His dearly loved-ness.  We’re adopted into the family, we enter the palace and we become the ultimate rags to riches story.

And so our passage goes on, and tells us, now that you’re in the palace, put away the rags and start wearing the royal clothing.  He says:

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

What wonderful clothes, every marriage could do with this couldn’t it:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience!  It’s the clothing of Christ, isn’t it?  He is compassionate, He is kind, He is humble, He is gentle, He is patient.

And maybe we think, if we just put on this kind of character, our marriages will go fine, right?

Well it couldn’t hurt.  But our passage goes on:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Our reading expects there to be grievances, it expects there to be things that feel unbearable, it expects there to be sins that need forgiving.

So, Pete and Claire: the strength of your marriage won’t actually be determined by your nice-ness to each other.  You need to hear that, because you’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  But marriage doesn’t run on nice-ness.  It runs on forgiveness.

A successful marriage is not about your goodness, it’s about how you respond to badness.  And this passage says, “forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

You know when we came to Christ we came in with a trillion pound debt.  And Jesus took it, absorbed it, paid it off, and it’s gone, forgotten, never to be brought up between us again.  Pete and Claire, you’re going to cost each other thousands of pounds worth of hurt.  And sometimes tens of thousands of pounds of hurt.  And maybe at points a million pounds of hurt.  And if you’re just looking at the hurt it’ll be unbearable and you’ll consider it unforgiveable.  But if you look to Jesus, it doesn’t compare with how He has forgiven us.  So may this be your motto, especially when you drive each other crazy: forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And then Paul tells us how Christ’s forgiveness and love will be brought to mind:

Verse 15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

Verse 16: Let the word of Christ dwell in your hearts.

Verse 17: Let the name of Christ infuse all your life.

Be Christ-filled people…

And then we come to the specific verses about husbands and wives.

Pete – verse 19 is yours: Love your wife and don’t be harsh with her.

Do you know why that verse is in the bible?  Because A) Jesus is NOT harsh with us.  And B) Husbands ARE harsh with their wives.  And that just can’t be.

Husbands are playing the part of Christ in this whole Christ-and-the-Church picture.  So love Claire the way Christ has loved us.  He is not harsh with us.  He leads in servant-hearted, forgiving, gentle love.  How can husbands be harsh, when Christ is so gentle?  “Love your wife and do not be harsh with her.”

Claire – verse 18 is your verse: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”  Pete is laying down his life for you, to lead you in sacrificial service.  Let him.

Pete – love.  Claire – receive that love.  The great heresy in the history of the church has always been a church that doesn’t receive the love of Christ but tries to earn and perform and do and work and get busy for God.  It’s heresy.

And if the great temptation for men is to be a false Christ and shrink back from responsibility, shrink back from service, to never get off our backsides and love – the great temptation for women is never to rest in love.

CS Lewis once said the best marriage prep would be to put a couple in a chaotic kitchen together.  The pot’s boiling over, the toast is burning, the cats are nibbling at the plates.  Here’s the challenge:  the woman has to sit down and do nothing.  And the man has to jump up and sort it out.  The man has to not be harsh.  And the woman has to submit.  How counter-cultural, how counter-intuitive!  But that’s Christian marriage.

Husbands – love.  Wives – submit to that love.

And then you’ll have a marriage that bucks all the stereotypes.  Our culture rightly despises the caricature of marriage where husbands are cruel or cowardly and women are clamouring or closed.  Not so with you.  The world will look on and ask – why is your marriage so different to the stereotype.  And you can answer – Let me tell you about our riches in Christ.  Let me tell you about the ultimate marriage.  Because of His love – that’s how we manage it.


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Emma’s posted up 22 reasons she nags.  Twenty two!  She must suppress her urges a lot because that’s not how I experience things.  But given that she might not be alone in harbouring such urges, and given that men are responsible for birthing and exacerbating many of those urges I thought I’d post 7 thoughts on how I relate to nagging.

You’ll think our marriage is locked into a thousand vicious cycles.  It’s not.  But we do know our flesh.  And hopefully spotlighting the darkness can chase a bit away.

So.  How I relate to nagging…

1. I create it

We really do need to think about scheduling our holidays, and booking the car in for a service and fixing the back gate, etc, etc.  But I naturally flee responsibility.  The needs build up.  Something needs saying.

2.  I invite it

On a very foolish level (one that I’ll later despise in myself), I’d like to be mothered.  “You’re so much better with that detail stuff” is code for “I’d like to be kept as a little boy.”

3. I provoke it

Given my fear of responsibility, I will affect an exaggerated air of ease.  I project an image of stoner-cool (occasionally backed by Scriptural “fear nots”) so that I can label every sense of urgency (legitimate or otherwise) as uncool and ungodly.  It will be seriously tempting for Emma to burst this bubble with a good sharp nag.

4. I fear it

It’s not just that I’m being asked to engage with the thorns and thistles.  It’s not just that I’d rather withdraw and serve myself.  It’s that, deep down, I fear I don’t have what it takes to forge ahead in this world.  When she says “Can you fix it?” I hear “Can you be a man?” She doesn’t realise it but, in the male imagination, her simple requests are loaded with the weight of a thousand gender insecurities.

5. I withdraw from it

I tune it out the way a teenager tunes out his mother (see 2).  Of course this only provokes more (see 3).

6.  I hate it.

It confirms my deep suspicion that I am a little boy.  Yes, I know I wanted to be a little boy earlier.  But that’s why it grates so much!

7. I silence it

Anger works best.  Sometimes it just takes an exasperated sigh or a withering look.  Anything that shifts the focus onto her and how she’s being unreasonable, uncool, ungodly.  Other women aren’t like this.  Have you read Proverbs recently?

Men have locked up women as hysterics for centuries.  It’s happened throughout history, but it also happens in marriage.  We’re good at despising women for their needs.  Then they’re doubly good at despising themselves for them.

So she’ll slink off and maybe read another Christian paperback with a pink cover that tells her to “button it” and call it “submission”.  Or she’ll just fume.  Or she’ll deaden her hopes for the marriage, deaden her hopes at being heard, deaden her hopes that her man could ever lead.  She might well do all of the above.  But it’s only further fuel for the nagging urges.

The way out of the nagging cycle?

Both Ephesians 5 (v18) and Colossians 3 (v1-4) preface their marriage discussions with being filled with the Spirit!  Having a spiritual buoyancy from Christ.  My identity, status, honour, beloved-ness is NOT being threatened by my spouse.  I’ve got it all.  Laugh!

Now husbands, LOVE your wives and don’t be harsh.

Wives, trust your husbands and receive that love – the heart and soul of submission.

Any other advice gladly received!


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…So the handsome prince married his beloved bride and they all lived happily ever after.  Do you believe in fairytales?  I say “fairytales” – it’s a bit deeper than that isn’t it?  It runs in our cultural bloodstream, it courses through our literature, our music, our films, our deepest values in life.  We have this belief that when the guy and the girl get together – that is it.  That’s the ultimate.  That’s our happily ever after.  Do you believe in fairytales?

Graham and Elizabeth don’t believe in fairytales.  They believe in something better.  They believe in a true story that is sweeter, richer and happier than any fairytale ever told.

They do believe in a happily ever after.  They do believe that, in the end, the handsome Prince does get His beloved bride and all things will be well.  But that happy ending is not today.  Today is a beginning.  And today is a foretaste.  Today we get a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven is like.

Our reading, which Graham and Elizabeth chose, is from a parable that Jesus told.  Jesus says (and He ought to know), “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”  God is the King, Jesus is His Son.  And heaven is a wedding feast.  It is a joyful celebration thrown by the Father for His Son.  Here is the meaning of life according to the bible:  The Father loves His Son Jesus and invites the world in to enjoy Jesus Christ with Him.

This is the life of heaven and we’re all invited.

There’s another much lesser wedding this year, I don’t know if you’ve got your invitation yet?  William and Kate have invited 40 kings and queens, 50 members of the royal family (Not Fergie), 60 governors general and Commonwealth prime-ministers, 200 members of the government, Parliament and diplomatic corps.  But also Kate Middleton’s grocer, butcher and postman.  Her pub landlord and 300 other friends of the couple.

My invitation’s obviously lost in the mail.  But everyone who has been invited says how thrilled they are to be invited to the royal wedding and how they’ve been madly hunting down the right clothes for the occasion.

Apparently gentlemen are required to wear uniform, morning coat or lounge suit.  Ladies are required to wear a hat for the wedding service.

Now I dare say if you received a gilded, royal invitation with the Queen’s own stamp you’d RSVP quick smart and you’d go and get the right clothes.

Well it was even simpler at royal weddings in the bible.  In bible times, servants would come and take your RSVP personally.  And if you wanted to go, the right clothes were provided on the day by the host.  And so there really was no excuse for not showing up and not being dressed for the occasion.

But the shock of our story is how people respond to the King’s invitation.

The first round of invitations meets with complete indifference.  The royal servants are shocked, they go again – “The feast has been prepared, the King and His Prince are personally inviting you, it’s the event of the millennium, the finest of foods, the best of wines, incredible company, joy and feasting, won’t you come?”  No they won’t come.  And they are so angry about it, they wound and kill the servants.

You have to be a pretty staunch anti-royalist to ignore an invitation like this.  You have to hate the King and His Son very much to kill the inviters don’t you?  It’s high treason.

But that is Jesus’ retelling of the Old Testament story.  Prophet after prophet invite the people: “Come into the Kingdom, it’s the ultimate royal wedding.”  But the invitation is torn up and those who invite are beaten up or killed.

And eventually the people are given over to what they want.  If they don’t want the King and His Son, that’s their decision.  If they don’t want the feast, they don’t get the feast, and judgement falls.

But that’s not going to spoil the wedding.  There is an irrepressible joy of this Father and this Son.  And so the story goes on to describe another round of invitations.

The Father says:

`The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Heaven is for everyone.  Absolutely everyone.  Good and bad.  Diplomats and Butchers, Princes and prostitutes, Celebrities and criminals.  The Father will celebrate His Son and will celebrate with everyone who wants to join in.  It will be an eternity of feasting and joy.  It will be the happily ever after we all long for.  It’s what Graham and Elizabeth’s wedding is pointing to.

But the story ends with one guest, not wearing the appropriate clothes.  He’s refused to put on what’s been provided.  He’s refused to acknowledge the occasion.  It is a snub to the Father and the Son and he is cast out of the feast.

Heaven is a party.  But it’s not any old party.  It’s God the Father’s celebration of His Son.  If we don’t want to acknowledge Jesus, then what place do we have at the party?

But then why wouldn’t we acknowledge Jesus?  Because here are the lengths He’s gone to, to invite us.  In the story he sends servants.  In reality, He came in Person – you can read about it in the bible.  He is God’s personal invitation to heaven.  And everything He does is beckoning us in.  He has come down into our situation and has stretched out His arms to every human being.  And here’s how much He wants us at the feast: on that cross Jesus voluntarily took our judgement for heavenly high treason.  The Heavenly Bridegroom got bound hand and foot and dragged outside the city.  The Royal Son of the Father was cast into outer darkness with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Jesus suffered hell to bring us heaven.  He was cast out so that we could be brought in.  He really wants you at the feast.  He wants everyone there, good and bad, just come.

Don’t you want to celebrate this Son… who would do this, for you??

It’s Graham and Elizabeth’s prayer that everyone at this wedding would celebrate with them.  Not just today. But to celebrate the ultimate Bridegroom, the ultimate happily ever after.

What’s life all about?

You know life does not fizzle out after a couple of good parties and then we rot.  There is a happy ending and you’re invited.  Look at Christ.  He is the Invite and He’s beckoning you in.

Graham and Elizabeth, Mr and Mrs Harter, you know what marriage is all about.  As our reading says “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE marriage.”  You know that marriage points to the ultimate union between Jesus and His people.

Heaven is LIKE marriage.  Marriage isn’t our heaven.  It’s a pointer to heaven.

Which means today is very very happy.  But it isn’t the happily ever after.  Today is the beginning of an adventure with many highs and many lows.  But thankfully you are saved from putting the expectations of heaven onto your marriage.

A man I know has counseled hundreds of couples going through difficult times.  Sometimes he’d describe the couple as a “tick on a dog” relationship.  One partner is sucking the life out of the other.  But mostly, he says, there’s two ticks and no dog.  When two people make their marriage their heaven they are heading for disaster.

Graham, Elizabeth will make a wonderful wife, but a terrible god.  Elizabeth, Graham will make a wonderful husband, but he’s a lousy god.  Seek your fullness and spiritual buoyancy from Jesus.  He is worth celebrating, He is the centre of heavenly celebrations, He is the ultimate Spouse.  Seek Him and you’ll have all the resources you need to love and serve the other.  Then your marriage will really sing, and the world will be pointed to Christ.

So enjoy today everyone.  And allow today to direct us to a deeper, even happier truth.

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This is the third of a three part article by Rich Owen,
minister at City Evangelical Church, Leeds.


In the first post, we saw how the creation was a magnificent preach. It’s pinnacle moment was in the creation of a uniquely vivid image and witness to the Divine Life, Man and Woman. A loving community of persons, ordered, relational, loving and *echad* in union.

Then we saw how Satan moved in to destroy that witness. His plan to seize power was to break this image. Corrupt the Doctrine of God and it all falls down into his greedy hands.

So today we will reflect on this:  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.

Jesus is the dazzling, glorious and eternal image of the Invisible God. He is the Lord, the Living Word, the eternal expression of the Father, the Anointed One. So how does he pulverise Satan’s head?

The Angel of the Lord who ascends and descends in heaven’s fire, the Living Rock upon whom and in whom all creation holds together, this time descends as baby.

He sums up the human race into himself, assuming, owning, taking responsibility for humanity’s sinful self-love. He came from the Father’s side and became incarnate of the virgin Mary, fully divine, fully human so that as an Adam, He could live a human life from beginning to end in total devotion to his Father and in totally ecstatic (that is, out from Himself) love, a love for the poisoned race of Adam.

Satan even presented him with his master plan. Do what Adam did. Take your lead from another, one who is not your head… me. Take my lead and serve yourself. Become like me, a needy monad. A power hungry, glory seeking parasite and give yourself what YOU want.

But He destroyed the Devils work. He continued to love, He continued to do his Father’s will. He continued to pour himself out even to death, delighting even in that moment in his Father and with joy in His great heart as He considered His eternal inheritance! A Bride. A new Eve!

He wasn’t going to betray who He is. After His resurrection, He carried on. At His Father’s command, He breathed out His Spirit onto the old Adam so that it could be joined to the new. The loving Two sent out the Third. And they gave out the Third. The Living God went forth and multiplied!

The Father gives us the Son. The Son gives us the Father. The Father and the Son give us the Spirit and the Spirit gives us to the Father, in the Son.

He set His love upon the unlovely, so that the unlovely could be made lovely in Him.

So lets draw some points for rumination:

  • The Trinity is the gospel. God’s triune life is good news for a monadic, image-of-Satan world.
  • The life of God is love – other centred, generously giving love
  • Satan wants you to believe God is not loving, and not Triune. That’s all.

So perhaps you might want to ruminate in the following direction. Knowing is not enough. Live it:

  • Are you Trinitarian?  I don’t mean in theory, but in practice. Do you read, preach and speak as a Trinitarian? Reading the OT as a Trinitarian will minister to your soul and give such freshness and light to your study as you never had before. Remember – God didn’t suddenly declare his Trinitarian nature 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. He declared it when He spoke in Genesis 1.
  • Do you give yourself in love to others? If you are married do you serve, love and cherish, *know* and delight in your spouse?  Whether married or not, do you give yourself to those who are not like you – in church and where you live and work? Do you go out of yourself, seeking to beatify and serve the really nasty people? The “chavs”, the office weirdo? Do you do the unglamorous jobs at church *because* there is no glory for *you* – putting the chairs out, washing the cups, cleaning the loos?

Know and live the Trinitarian life. Image Him – be who you ARE.

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This is the second of a three part article by Rich Owen,
minister at City Evangelical Church, Leeds.


Since their arrival, what has humanity only ever experienced from God? Love! Generous, outward focused, other centred, creative love

Their great commission – “from your oneness you must create, love, cherish send out more and look after it, look after all this garden. Do you best for it so that all of the life you give and the love you have is like mine for you. You are my image. Just don’t eat from that tree over there, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

And so Satan makes his move on Eve and Adam. Not Adam and Eve, Eve and Adam. This is part of Satan’s plan to corrupt the image, to pervert the world’s view of God away from how He really is.

Jesus says that He does His Father’s will. Not the other way round. The Father wills, the Son does.  The Father speaks out his Word. The Word is from the Father’s side. Not the other way round. In other words, the Father is the head of the Son.

And so Satan’s plan to corrupt the image begins. He is so crafty, so skilled at this. There are so many layers of evil to this terrible moment in history. Can he get the image of the Son to command the image of the Father? Can he trick Eve into being the head of Adam?

The insipid corruption of God’s image and witness is looming. Headship and order were being threatened. But it’s not happened yet. This isn’t the seat of corruption, just a fruit which comes later.

Here is the seat of corruption. Eve sees that this fruit is *desirable* for gaining wisdom. There is a *desire* which rises in her which is not for Adam and not for the Lord God. The desire was to gain wisdom for herself.

A new love, a new desire had entered. It was a perverted love… an inverted love. It went against the flow. It was not outward but inward. It was unnatural and ungodly. The corruption began. Satan was achieving what he set out to do. He sparked in Eve an new love, a wicked invader.

The image was now self loving, self obsessed and so she threw off her role, gave the fruit to Adam and he too acceded. An ungodly love lead to an ungodly action. The corruption was complete.

Eve, and her husband after her, set their desires and affections onto something which was entirely outside this created order and image. Sin had entered and ravaged the great image and witness to the loving, creating and ordered community of Three Divine Persons.

As soon as their love went in instead of out, they felt shame. They hid from the Word of Lord.

Just meditate on the shattering moment. They hid from the Word of the Lord.

The world now had a witness which was self loving, not other loving, a witness which has no concern for order and headship – in other words, an independent monadic witness. The world now had a witness which went solitary and which removed itself from The Divine Life. Satan introduced unitarianism to the world.

And the consequences flowed.

Adam *blamed* Eve. Prior to this Adam only ever *knew* Eve. He loved, nurtured, served, lead and rejoiced in Eve knowing her intimately through sexual union. But now he blamed her. He *accused* her.  He now bore the image of an accuser, not of the Living God.  Adam on his own looked like Satan now.

This is the great crime of the fall. A massive corruption of the Doctrine of God. A Satanic collapse.

So do we see what it is that Satan does?

He leads people to loves and desires which are inward in focus.  He wants to draw your affections away from the Triune God and to self satisfaction, self gratification. Self love. He wants you to think of yourself as an island – solitary and your own source of order.

Why? Because he hates God.

Satan wants to corrupt your view of God. That is all. Once he does that, he has you. You are now his child, you bear his image, you live his life.

More tomorrow…

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This is the first of a three part article by Rich Owen,
minister at
City Evangelical Church, Leeds.

Why is it that the Devil attacks Christian marriage? Well, it’s the same reason that he is the head of the Unitarian Church. The Devil wants the world to believe that God is not Triune. That is pretty much what his work boils down to. That is why he attacks marriage in the church, that is why he seeks to build a unitarian edifice within the Christian church.

Give them the wrong view of god, and they get me – that’s how Satan is seeking to win the world to himself.

Over the next three days, I’ll give a few thoughts on this. We’ll lay a foundation for truth starting with the genesis of love, then secondly, how Satan seeks to undermine this in the genesis of the lie and thirdly some reflections and pastoral musings.

So lets kick off with what happened back in the Garden in Genesis 1-3.

In chapters 1 and 2, we have the glorious description of the creation of mankind, male and female, the image of the Living God.  So first comes the man. He is placed by the Lord God in the garden that God had personally planted. A garden appealing to the eye and good for food. What a great place to be!

But it wasn’t good.

It is not good for man to be alone. He can’t image the Living God on his own. He can’t work in the garden on his own.  So the Lord God took woman from the man’s side just as the Son comes from the Fathers side so that the image would be true.

The man says “this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”.  Or to paraphrase, the woman is the same as me – she is just like me – of one being and substance because she comes from my side, in the likeness of my Father and his Son.

And how is this likeness expressed?  For this reason and man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.  Different and distinct persons, equally human – of the same stuff – and God says for this reason, one flesh.  And the oneness is expressed in the deepest emotional, relational and physical reality that you can have – sexual union.

The majestic union of flesh – a profound joining of the persons as one – echad just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are echad.

Adam and Eve are then immediately charged with their task. Procreate! Bring forth a third! Let this love and unity send out another, just as the Father and Son send the Spirit.

The love between man and woman isn’t a sugar-coated, “get a room” kind of love which is shut off to the outside world. No, their outward focused love keeps flowing out and onto a third. Out of their union comes the offspring, the third person.

Only AFTER the charge to procreate are they then tasked with subduing and ruling. The out-flowing, increasing love of man and woman and their offspring gives birth to dominion.  Dominion is a function of love and is a community activity.

But before they go off to work, the Lord God has one more thing left to do. Day seven, the holy day, the day which is set apart for rest.

Are we to imagine after all this that God intended to spend this rest day on His own? I don’t think so.

The Word of the Lord takes a brisk walk in the cool of the day, looking for his beloved image bearers. That seems to be natural to the out flowing, other centred life which the creation story has already spoken of.  Jesus says come to me and I will give you rest. Rest is relational.

The One who speaks out the Word, this Personal Word Himself and the Brooding Spirit want to spend time fellowshipping with the created image, man and woman and they deliberately set a day apart to do this.

I get lost in a haze of wonder at this thought. Imagine the joy! What did they talk about? What was it like? What fellowship! What love! And what a venue!

But this is the context for chapter 3. This is the world which was very good, the life which was very good. It is into this world and this life of fellowship that the serpent slithers in. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

More tomorrow…

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From Emma’s Blog:

Just before my hubby and I got married, we met up for dinner with a vicar friend of ours, what’s known in the trade as a ‘wise old chief’. He’s just finished saying grace when, mid-fork, he grabbed Glen and I by the wrist and eyeballed us in a steely glare.

‘Emma’, he barked. ‘Respect your husband. Praise him’

He turned to Glen and continued,
‘Glen – love your wife. Never, never, never put her down’.

And with that, his eyebrows relaxed and he dropped our now limp wrists. ‘Pass the salt’…

Read the whole thing here.

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It’s important to rightly relate these truths – ‘I am in Christ’ and ‘Christ is in me’ (see this older post and this one).

If I put “Christ in me” first then I fall for a Catholic doctrine of infusion.  God infuses His grace into me so that I begin to live the righteous life.  Eventually I might be declared righteous.  If a person gives priority to “Christ in me” they may have Personalised the grace which God gives (which is an improvement on the Catholic doctrine) but we’re still travelling along the same route.

The gospel is “I in Christ” – that is, through a gracious marriage union with Christ I immediately have His name.  Therefore righteousness is a status instantly imputed to me as a gift in Jesus. The rest of my life involves a communion with Jesus in which I gradually exhibit more and more of His nature.  But that is not my hope.  My hope is not me living Christ’s life (by His power within me).  My hope is Christ living my life (with me hidden in Him).

This morning I was reflecting on the nature of the sacraments and how they teach this fundamental truth.  I am baptised into Christ.  This is the beginning and foundation of my Christian life – I in Christ.  But regularly I am fed by Christ and take Him into myself – Christ in me.

To put it in Passover terms, I am saved once and for all by the Lamb’s blood applied externally – I’m hidden in the Lamb.  But I am nourished for the journey out of Egypt by the Lamb’s flesh – the Lamb in me.

And incidentally this is the basis of the Christian sexual ethic too.  The once-for-all one-flesh union first, the regular one-flesh communion afterwards – the two utterly united and the former given absolute priority.

Mix them up and you get into all sorts of trouble, in all areas of life!


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Happy Friday



But I think my favourite is still…


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Marriage is glorious…


…but you have to acknowledge differences between the genders
(warning: one swear word)


…differences in how we approach relationships


So men, don’t say any of these things to your wives…


In all the give and take, you’ll have to make priorities…


…and find glory in the ordinary.


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Here I spoke about trinitarian marriages.

Here I spoke about trinitarian families.

Here I spoke about trinitarian churches.

In each case it’s about differently aged/gendered/gifted people taking on different roles but united in love and common purpose.  I spoke about the heresies of arianism, modalism and tritheism which they could fall into.

But I’m just aware that these models of how community should be are Law.   Law is holy, righteous and good.  Law describes the good life – the life of the truly Righteous One.  But there is no power in Law to be able to effect what it describes.

We can day-dream about a truly Athanasian marriage/family/congregation.  And we can bemoan a Sabellian one.  But we can’t create one by simply defining the Original, despising the counterfeits and trying harder.

Which is why, when the Scriptures describe trinitarian community, they centre on something that I, in my descriptions, left out.  Christ’s cross.

So think of Romans 14 and 15 – a wonderful passage on crunchy community – unity with distinctions upheld by gracious deference to the other.  But at the heart of it all is the cross (14:9,15; 15:3,7) which creates such community.

Or think of 1 Corinthians 11-14.  We begin with Father-Son unity (11:3); we continue with the expression of this unity in marriage (11:3ff); we see it play out in the body (12 and 14) and in chapter 13 we see it all held together by love.  That’s fantastic.  But what have I missed out?  The Lord’s Supper – 11:20-34.  This community is not created by trying hard to imitate the trinity.  It is created by the cross as experienced in the sacrament.  The one loaf creates the one body – a body in which the weak and despised are received and knit together.

So anyway, just a thought that brings me back to some earlier posts:

Triune glory is cruciform glory

Participating in God means participating in the cross

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you can become a triune community by trying to be a triune community.  Or can you?

Right now I’m thinking that a community created by and centred on the cross will be a triune community.  Descriptions of true triune community can diagnose problems in our communities.   But they can’t solve them.

Which means maybe I should just put away my fancy diagrams and preach Christ and Him crucified.

What do you think?


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Here are handouts from a marriage course my wife and I ran recently:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

What kind of oneness – part 1

What kind of oneness – part 2


Sermon audio here.

On Saturday our church witnessed a tremendous picture of the book of Proverbs.  The vicar married his son to a wise and beautiful woman.  It was a very joyous occasion.  And it perfectly pictures the book of Proverbs.

Because Proverbs is all about a father – King Solomon – addressing his son, the young prince.  And he keeps saying, over twenty times, “my son, my son, my son.”  It’s a case of saying, “Now boy, here’s what you need in life.” You can almost imagine it as the vicar and his son having a father-son chat.

And as you read through Proverbs essentially Solomon’s advice to his son is this:  Watch out for the ladies!

In fact there are two ladies you need to look out for.

There’s a lady called Wisdom – get her, embrace her, marry her.  There’s a lady called Folly – avoid her, don’t listen to her, don’t be ensnared by her.

And the King keeps saying to his son, the young prince – embrace wisdom, shun folly.  All of life essentially boils down to one of two paths.  Will you go wisdom’s way, or will you go folly’s way?  The way of wisdom is the way of life and success.  The way of folly is the way of death and disaster.  Everything depends on shunning folly and embracing wisdom.

But what’s fascinating is that King Solomon does not present this choice as a matter of the intellect.  It’s not just about applying ourselves to learning and head knowledge.  And neither is this choice a matter of the will – as though we just need to be determined and resolved and just do it!.  No, wisdom and folly are matters of the heart.

Our lives are ultimately a success or a failure depending on what we love.  Or rather on Who we love.


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I’ve just been at a wedding and was reminded again of one of my favourite marriage verses: “He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Eph 5:28).

It occured to me that Paul could not have said this the other way around.  He who loves himself does not actually love his wife.  In the marriage covenant, other-love is self-love.  It’s the only self-love allowed.  But the reverse is not true: self-love is not other-love

Now think of God.  If you really wanted to, you might want to talk about “God loving Himself.”  But of course you’d only do so in the same way you’d talk about a husband loving himself.  How does a husband love himself?  He lays down his life for his wife.   How does God love Himself?  The Father commits all things into His Son’s hands.

Any talk of self-love in God must be explicitly talk about triune relations – the Father loving the Son in the Spirit.  You simply can’t talk about God loving Himself without emphatically underlining the multi-personal, other-centred nature of this God and this love.  Otherwise you make Him like the selfish husband.

In trinitarian theology there’s an old argument about how you should proceed.  Should you “begin with the One” and then show how there are actually three Persons in this One God.  Or  should you “begin with the Three” and show how those Three are the One God?

Well surely we must acknowledge from the outset the tri-personality of this God.  Or else all that you say under the category of “The One God” will start to sound like the selfish husband who, from the overflow of His self-centredness, manages to love another!  So wherever we ‘begin’ three-ness must be on the table.  (More on this here).

There is a way from Trinity to aseity.  But there is no way from aseity to Trinity.


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Been talking marriage stuff with other couples recently.  Some thoughts on spouse-speak:

  • Husbands are called particularly to love.  Wives called particularly to respect (Ephesians 5:33)
  • In sin, spouses will speak the opposite of what their spouses need.
  • Therefore in anger a husband’s words will kill and a wife’s will emasculate.
  • The damage of harsh words is like thrusting a sword (Prov 12:18) – fast, sharp, devastating, wound-making
  • The good of healing words is like planting a tree (Prov 15:4) – slow, deep, seemingly ineffectual but incredibly fruitful

When you add all this up you get husbands who fail to plant seeds in their wives because it looks so ineffectual.  Wives then feel untouched by their husbands and in turn cool from them.  Here you have a breeding ground for resentment that will build until the knives come out.

Instead we need to engage in the ongoing work of seed planting – “I love you.”  “I’m proud of you.”

For more on men, women, words and planting seeds – these thoughts are always bouncing around my head on the issue.

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Finally!  JW’s knocked on my door this morning.  First time ever.  An older guy and a younger Polish woman.

So I threw some Gen 19:24 shapes their way. “To which Jehovah are you witnessing, the LORD out of the heavens or the LORD on the earth?”

The woman seemed quite interested.  The man said “Trinity?  Rubbish.  Paul refutes the trinity in 1 Corinthians 11:3.”  So we went to 1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

“How does this refute the trinity?” I ask.

“Well,” he explains, “God is the head over Christ which means Christ is less than God.”

I say “So the Father is the head of Christ the way I’m the head of my wife?”

“That’s right”

“Let me ask you, Is my wife less of a human being than me?”

“Yes” said the man.  “N..” said the woman and then changed it to a faltering yes.

I check I’ve heard them right.  “So my wife is less of a human being than me?”

“Well,” reasons the man, “you make the decisions.  You’re in charge.”

“Mmmm and so I’m a greater being than my wife?”

“That’s right” said the man.  The woman frowns.

I turn to her and say “You realise you’re in a cult don’t you.”

The man grabs her by the arm and they start to make their escape.

“Keep reading the bible and keep thinking about marriage,” I call to her as they move down the street.  “You know women are equal to men… AND JESUS IS EQUAL TO GOD!”

Don’t think they’ll be back any time soon.

But it goes to show that Arians are misogynists whatever the PC gloss.  And of course misogynists are Arians, whatever the Christian gloss.


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Today I heard one more story of a keen young gospel soldier recently married.  From what I can tell the wife is feeling abandoned, isolated and increasingly desperate.  And the husband is pressing on in his ministry service for the Lord!

If I had a minute with the young gun I’d ask him to read about John Wesley’s disastrous marriage. Just after John married Molly he wrote to her from the road to inform her of his views on marriage and ministry: “I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.”  (Read more here).  It should be a cautionary tale for every young gospel soldier.

But the Wesley model is not dead.  I still remember the ringing endorsement our own marriage union gained from a leading UK evangelical while we were still engaged.  “You’re marrying well there Glen,” he said, “She’s a doubler.”  He was referring to a calculation that there are (apparently) ministry doublers and ministry halvers.  Thus the question to be asked about every prospective bride is, “Is she a doubler?”

Now that might be a question you ask a prospective PA or church worker.  But if that’s the first question you want to ask your bride-to-be then, seriously, that’s the proof right there.  It’s not meant to be.  And you’re the problem!  If the prospect of being fruitful and multiplying with this woman inspires a ten year business plan, call it off now.  The kind of multiplication God has in mind is multiplication in which you commit to each other for their sakes.  And, fellas, the more you want to use her for other ends, the less multiplication’s gonna happen!

And I’m not just trying to make a cheap gag here.  The Lord has designed marriage to be a multiplying union.  But in His economy it turns out to be fruitful as and when you are brought to commit to each other in deep oneness.  I mean this physically but I mean it in every other way.  The way to ministry multiplication can only be through marriage multiplication which can only happen in and through the union and communion of husband and wife. That’s got to be the beating heart of it all.

Single people should definitely seek the Lord’s wisdom about who to marry.  Wesley should definitely not have married Molly.  If two people have massively different expectations of what Christian service will entail then that’s a real warning sign.  But what first needs to be sorted out in our thinking is the very nature of marriage itself.  It is not a ministry multiplication venture.  It is a covenant union, joined by God, reflecting Christ to the world.  And out of this union comes a multiplication of spiritual and physical children.  Under God it cannot help but be fruitful and multiply.  But under God He will bring fruitfulness in very unexpected ways.  It will not be a multiplication one spouse’s prior ministry plans.  The old individual plans must die.  This will be a new union with a totally new kind of fruitfulness – much of which simply cannot be predicted.

But an understanding of marriage that is anything like a contractual business partnership will strike at the very heart of the covenant union.

I pray for this young couple, that there would be a death to the old individualist/contractual understanding.  And that out of that death would come new life in their union and communion.  And, yes, that out of that there may even come a wonderful fruitfulness.  But it will be His fruitfulness His way.


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Some friends preparing for marriage asked for advice on money and giving as a couple.  Looking at the Scriptures together – e.g. Exodus 35-36; 2 Cor 8-9; Ephesians 5 – we came up with three principles.  A couple’s giving should be generous, joyful and joint.

All giving should be generous and joyful (God loves a cheerful giver, He does not want your grudging sacrifice!).  But there’s an added dimension in marriage.  If she’s joyful and he’s grudging it’s not joint.  You need to be jointly generous and jointly joyful in it.

For the partner who wants to give more, this calls for a patient trust in the grace of Jesus.  Trust that He is your justification (not your level of sacrifice), and trust that only His grace can motivate the joyful generosity you long to see.  The more generous spouse will be tempted to lay down the law in this situation.  But on the contrary, this is a great opportunity to model the grace of Jesus and to see a real gospel motivation grow in their partner.

After discussing these three principles I wonder whether they can apply to many different areas of married life. Sex life, use of time, moving for gospel service…


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Ben Meyers has en eye-opening quiz on theologians, sex and marriage.  Answers are in the comments.

I got 5/13.  What did you get?


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