Turning Battles into Blessings

The fifth session at the Ironwood couples’ retreat this year dealt with spiritual battles we all face in marriage.  Our speakers were Dennis and Marilyn St. Lawrence.  Dennis is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Chariton, Iowa.  Ironwood provides access to the messages as well.  Go to ironwoodaudio.org  User name:  CRC2017 and the PW: Transformed.

1. Recognize the enemy:  Satan  (John 10.10).

John 10:10 (NKJV)

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

-Steal your joy, kill your relationship, destroy your home.

-As God’s children, we understand that this isn’t just between us.

1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

2. Cry out to God (Psalm 127.1; Ephesians 6.12).

Psalm 127:1 (NKJV)

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,

They labor in vain who build it;

Unless the Lord guards the city,

The watchman stays awake in vain.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Prayer is our most vital and most neglected tool that we have.

-With all prayer.

-The prayer of the upright is the LORD’s delight (Proverbs 15).

-I may not know what to ask, but the Holy Spirit will pray for me (Romans 8).

-If you can’t go to God together, go as an individual.

3. Give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5.18; Ephesians 5.20).

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

18 …in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV)

20 …giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

-Giving thanks is an act of the will and in spite of my emotions.

4. Realize the cause.

-Identify the problem.  Attack it and not the person.

5. Take personal responsibility.

-Be willing to bear more than you should.  We tend to overlook our part and magnify the part of our spouse.

-Move toward reconciliation.  Seek forgiveness.

-You cannot take the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit away from Him.

6. See this as a chance to die to self.

-An opportunity for humility.

-God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

7. Commit yourself to love (1 Corinthians 13).

1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NKJV)

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.

Romans 12:21 (NKJV)

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Peter 4:8 (NKJV)

8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

8. Guard your thoughts (Philippians 4.8).

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

-Mentally going through this list removes all your excuses.

-Arrest negative thoughts about your wife.

-Ignore the flaws; admire the strengths.

9. Speak words that build up.

-Hostile comments behave as cancerous cells which multiply and destroy the relationship.

10. Rest in the sovereignty of God.

Romans 8:28–29 (NKJV)

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

2 Corinthians 12:10 (NKJV)

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

10 Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

-Every burden is met with the grace of God.

-We must appropriate the grace of God.  Make sure it’s not given in vain.

-God gives you everything you need.  Believe it.

-Conquer your fear with faith by resting in the promises of God.

-You can be a marriage missionary.

-Don’t be weary in well-doing.  Fight the good fight of faith.  Have determination.

Four Rules of Communication

The fourth session at the Ironwood couples’ retreat this year dealt with communication in marriage.  Our speakers were Dennis and Marilyn St. Lawrence.  Dennis is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Chariton, Iowa.  Good stuff!  Ironwood provides access to the messages as well.  Go to ironwoodaudio.org  User name:  CRC2017 and the PW: Transformed.

1. Be honest (v. 25).

Ephesians 4:25 (NKJV)

25 Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.

-“Speak” – that is a command

-“Speak truth” – stop all lying, evading, and manipulating.

-“Speak truth” in love (cp. v. 15) – with the other person’s best interest in mind.

2. Keep current (vv. 26-27).

Ephesians 4:26–27 (NKJV)

26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.

-Settle today’s problems today.

-Failure to solve each day’s problems means we:


-Open the door for resentment and contempt

-Distort future problems.

-Endanger our physical relationship.

3.  Attack the problem, not the person (vv. 29-30).

Ephesians 4:29–30 (NKJV)

29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

-Corrupt communication:

-Bypasses the conflict

-Zeros in on a person’s character

-Tears down and rips apart

-Grieves the Holy Spirit

-Edifying communication:

-Zeros in on conflict

-Centers on personal responsibility

-Expresses solutions

-Ministers grace (words that edify)

4.  Act!  Don’t React (vv. 31-32)!

Ephesians 4:31–32 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

-We are naturally defensive, blame-shift and react.

-We must learn by God’s Spirit to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving.

-No matter how irresponsible the other person is we must act biblically.

Two golden expressions to preserve a marriage:

1. Will you forgive me?

2. I love you!

Good relations are built when two sinners submit to biblical principles.

Be honest.

Keep current.

Attack the problem and not the person.

Act!  Don’t react!

Make Her Glad She Married You!

The third session at the Ironwood couples’ retreat this year was a split session.  Our speakers were Dennis and Marilyn St. Lawrence.  Dennis is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Chariton, Iowa.  This message is for the men only (but you ladies feel free to keep us accountable).  I like this:  “Don’t depend on your wife to be your cheerleader.”  Ha!  Ironwood provides access to the messages as well.  Go to ironwoodaudio.org  User name:  CRC2017 and the PW: Transformed.

1. I need to be the spiritual leader in the home.

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)

7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

-It’s not so much where you are at, but where you are going.  Why are we resisting?  Why are you doing what you’re doing?  Don’t depend upon your wife to be your cheerleader.

-If I am not the spiritual leader, my wife will be insecure, lack confidence, and look for leadership elsewhere.

2. Make my wife first place in my life and show it.

-It fosters insecurity in my wife when she is not first place.

-If I want my wife to love me, I must love her first …and keep on loving her.  Leave her notes and text her.  Make time for her.  Date.  Helping with the house.  Practice good manners.

3.  Value my wife’s opinion.

-What do you think of this?  If you don’t, she won’t respect or admire you.

4.  Show self-control and personal inner discipline.

-Anger destroys the spirit of oneness.  There is a connection between anger and moral impurity.

-You are married to meet your wife’s needs.  She’s not a prostitute to meet your needs.

5.  Speak to her in a gentle spirit.

-Be a gentleman.  No harsh words or tones.  Be a kind, loving leaders.  Look at Jesus as your example.

-Demonstrate a servant’s heart and a learner’s spirit.  Your wife is God’s daughter.

6.  Praise her and recognize her attempts to please you.

-Wives must feel needed and appreciated.  Praise her in front of others.  Life isn’t the same without her.

-Develop a premature nostalgia.  Think of what you will miss when she is gone.

-If you don’t, her heart will look for praise from others.

7.  Build and protect her.

-Remove fear and anxiety from her life.  Address them with the word of God.  Pray.  Ask what Sue fears.  Tell her to circle two of these items for you to work on.

-Value honest even if it hurts.

-Be a one-woman man.

8.  Provide time for intimate and personal conversation.

-Women talk by bonding and connecting.  Give her your undivided attention.

-Be all there.  She must know you are listening.

9.  Spend quality and creative time with children.

-Give them quality time.  Wives love to see husbands loving their children in practical ways.

-Organized sports ruin families.  Spend time with your kids.

10.  Acknowledge failures and seek forgiveness.

-Admit when you are wrong.  Don’t ever think that you’re never wrong.

-When has she heard, “I was wrong.”  God resists the proud; so does your wife.  Embrace humility – an ongoing process.

Finding the Foundation of a Fulfilled Marriage

The following notes are from the second session at the Ironwood couples’ retreat this year.  Our speakers were Dennis and Marilyn St. Lawrence.  Dennis is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Chariton, Iowa.  I liked how this message was geared to responding to God and then people.  Ironwood provides access to the messages as well.  Go to ironwoodaudio.org  User name:  CRC2017 and the PW: Transformed.

Everything rises or falls on our relationship to God!

Psalm 11:3 (NKJV)

3 If the foundations are destroyed,

What can the righteous do?

1 Corinthians 3:11 (NKJV)

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Christ is not a means to an end (a better marriage); He is our life.  He is the goal.  The marriage is the means to an end:  Christ.

Marriage doesn’t create problems; it exposes them.

1 Timothy 1:19 (NKJV)

19 …having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.

Our foundation must be cleared of:

1. Sins of our youth.

-Response to God:

Psalm 25:7 (NKJV)

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;

According to Your mercy remember me,

For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

-Response to spouse:  God is allowing me to see how my failure in my youth has damaged my ability to make our marriage what God intended.

2. Premarital relations

-Response to God:

Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

-Response to spouse:  I realize I have focused on getting rather than giving in our relationship.  I ask your forgiveness for the hardship my sin has caused.

3. Marriage against parents’ wishes

-Response to God:

Proverbs 1:8 (NKJV)

8 My son, hear the instruction of your father,

And do not forsake the law of your mother

Proverbs 5:12–13 (NKJV)

12 And say:

“How I have hated instruction,

And my heart despised correction!

13 I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers,

Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!

-Response to disapproving parents:  I was wrong for marrying against your wishes.  Would you forgive me for the grief my disrespect has brought?

4. Inadequate preparation for marriage.

-Response to God:  O God, please forgive me for treating lightly what is sacred to You.

-Response to spouse:  I realize my lack of preparation has placed great pressure upon you.  As I now begin concentrating on my personal responsibilities, I ask for your forgiveness and prayers.

5. Wrong attitudes in marriage

Wrong attitudes are more deleterious to a marriage than wrong actions.

-Response to God:

Galatians 5:22–23 (NKJV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

-Response to spouse:  Would you forgive me for failing to demonstrate godly character and for not giving you the love I owe you?

Great marriages are not chemistry and capability; they flow from great character.  Great character is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

6. Words that damage and defile

-Response to God:

Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

Be acceptable in Your sight,

O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

-Response to spouse:  I realize the words I said to you were unkind and unloving, would you forgive me?

Why Marriage?

Had a great weekend with my wife at the Ironwood couples’ retreat this year.  Our speakers were Dennis and Marilyn St. Lawrence.  Dennis is the pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Chariton, Iowa.  I took notes because it’s how I listen best.  Ironwood provides access to the messages as well.  Go to ironwoodaudio.org  User name:  CRC2017 and the PW: Transformed.

What is the purpose of your marriage?

Having a God-centered home

1. Sets a standard:

-Will this glorify God?

Our marriage is to serve and glorify God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV)

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:23–24 (NKJV)

23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Romans 15:6 (NKJV)

6 …that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NKJV)

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.

2. Gives us a pattern.

-God designed marriage for:

-Companionship – “Leave and Cleave”

-Help – Not only she helping him; he is helping

-Protection – sacrificial love of a man

-Fruitfulness – children; righteous works

-Enjoyment – God designed as a source of joy

-Illustration – picture Christ’s love for the church

3. Brings oneness.  It conquers self.  God-centered.

4. Changes menial tasks into God-given missions.

5. Provides stability.  When can you quit doing what is right?  Keep doing what God wants you to do.  As to the Lord by His power.

6. Has God’s blessing.  God blesses marriages that serve and glorify Him.

7. Gives hope to future generations.  If your marriage turns out exactly like your parents, would you be happy with it.  Only happens when the marriage is built on Christ to honor Christ.

We are to be marriage missionaries.  As we do this, God gives grace to empower us.

The Secret Things

Many times, people quote only part of Deuteronomy 29.29 and throw up their hands in resignation over some tough Bible difficulty.  They say, “The secret things belong to God.”  For them, this means, “I’m done thinking about this.”  But that is not what this verse is about.  Although, there are certain things only God knows and will ever know.  That’s what makes Him God.

The key thought governing this verse is the fact that God is faithful.  He provided for Israel in the wilderness.  He protected the people from their enemies.  He led them to victory over the Pharaoh of Egypt (v. 2).  The people witnessed great miracles and wonders (e.g., the plagues), but they also experienced great trials (e.g., lack of food and water; v.3).

It is true that the people didn’t fully understand the blessings which came along with God’s deliverance (v. 4).  The reason for this is quite simple.  They failed to obey God.  Yet God continues to deliver and protect His people throughout their history and development as a nation.  He even made sure their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out for the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness (v. 5).  Even the food the people ate and the water they drank set them apart (v. 6).  They ate manna which appeared fresh for each day and water which flowed from the rock.  They conquered strong enemies in the wilderness (v. 7).  They took some of the land promised to Abraham as a result of those victories (v. 8).

God simply required that the people obey Him in order to prosper (v. 9).  He made a covenant with Israel through a man named Moses.  A covenant is simply an agreement between two or more parties.  Here, Moses had given God’s laws and the expression of His will to Israel as a people.  So, we call this the Mosaic Covenant.  The two parties entering this agreement are the LORD and Israel.

The LORD wants Israel to obey so that they will receive blessings and bring Him glory.  However, He knows they will disobey.  He knows they will forsake Him and His covenant.  They already had.  They served and worship other gods at the same times Moses was receiving the Law (stipulations for the covenant).  They even made the golden calf idol with Aaron.  This made the LORD angry for obvious reasons.  He knew how disobedience destroys people.

Israel would continue to disobey the LORD throughout her history.  The LORD would use strong and powerful countries to defeat His people for their disobedience.  He had Israel taken captive by these nations.  They were uprooted from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and the LORD cast them into another Land (v.28).

This brings us to verse 29:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

What are the secret things in this verse?  What are the revealed things?  How could God speak of Israel’s deportation and destruction to foreign land before they even crossed over into that land to possess it (v. 28)?

The LORD revealed to Israel what would happen in the future.  That revelation should have inspired Israel to do all the words of the Law to avoid such judgment.  Sadly, it did not.  The LORD knew this.  Israel did not.

The secret things are the things God knows but has not revealed.  Or He has revealed them, and people just cannot wrap their minds around them.  What did God know about Israel?  He knew how Israel would respond to the covenant He made through Moses.  God knew that they would disobey Him even as He established His covenant with them.

The revealed things are what God has shown people so that they may be blessed.  God showed Israel the Law for their good.  God showed Israel the warning of verse 28 for their good.  God shows us the person and work of Jesus Christ for our good.  Jesus is the end of the Law.  He fulfilled covenants as a Man which were broken by men.  Jesus did what Adam and every person after Adam could not do.  That’s no longer a secret.  It’s now revealed.  But not all perceive it.

God has revealed His will to you in the Bible.  There are many things about your future which He hasn’t revealed.  Only God knows all things.  What is important for us is that we respond with obedience to what God has made clear to us.  You can’t know the future, but you can learn from the past.  Today, you can do what you know is right.  Then, tomorrow, God will give you more light.

It is never good to pretend to know the future.  However, there is much we are able to know but don’t know because we don’t read the Bible.  Even people who study the Bible tend to miss the the great themes of God’s glory and man’s redemption.  They look at all the minutiae (trees) and miss the overall picture (forest).   Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5.39).  Jesus is the great redeemer.  He alone makes it possible to obey and glorify God.  He alone makes it possible to have and to demonstrate an eternal quality of life.

Today, we need to know our place and take our place.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways.  Yet His Word is before us.  He will use the Scriptures to accomplish what He pleases.  He will use the Scriptures to bring joy and prosperity to those who read, understand, and obey them.  This is what we should train our children to do.  This is what we should exemplify before them.

Are You Ashamed of the Bible?

I believe what God has revealed in the Scripture.  I believe all of it.  I certainly believe Jesus will physically return to the earth one day.  I believe God created everything in six literal days.  And I believe Noah built an ark to protect himself, his family, and two of every kind of animal species upon the earth.  They needed this protection because God caused water from above and water from underneath the earth’s surface to flood the entire surface of the earth.  Water levels rose about 20 feet above the highest mountains. If you are a Christian and you don’t believe that, you don’t believe the Scriptures.  It really is that simple.  While it is certain that there will be unbelieving people who scoff at us for such beliefs (just look at Ken Ham’s Twitter feed), such treatment shouldn’t come from brothers and sisters in Christ.

The flood of Noah’s day was a supernatural event.  I cannot understand it, but I believe it.  God could have slowed the metabolism of the animals, for instance.  Fresh water could have been gathered from the torrential downpour and stored.  The biggest attack leveled by skeptics and unbelievers is that the flood of Noah’s day was not universal but localized.  John Whitcomb wrote an online article titled Universality of the Genesis Flood.  Here are some salient points from that article:

  1. The Bible teaches that it took 31 weeks for the flood waters to recede to the point that Noah and his family could leave the ark.  It doesn’t take 31 weeks for a localized flood to recede.
  2. If the flood is not universal, why the need for an ark?  God could have led Noah to a place on earth where there would be no flood waters.  The need for an ark indicates that the flood is universal.
  3. 60 times the Bible’s accounting of the flood uses universal terms like all and every.  While these terms may be limited at times, one must study carefully the context.  Here the terms overwhelming apply contextually to a global flood.
  4. The rainbow indicates that God uniquely and supernaturally destroyed the earth with water at a point in time during Noah’s day, but that He will never do so again.  Local flooding happens all the time.  So, we conclude that God promised that a universal flood would never happen again.

Some believers are ashamed of accounts such as this in the Scripture.  They fear the very ridicule that Noah faced.  Yet Noah continued to persevere in his obedience before God.  There’s a lesson in that for us.  As overwhelming and as difficult as things can be, we must continue to press on.  God comforts us with His promises just as He comforted Noah with His promise.  A preoccupation with Christ and His love and gentleness is all that we need to endure the ridicule and unkindness of others.

The flood’s upheaval reminds us of the unchanging nature of God.  He is the only One we are able to depend upon.  He is the only One who will never fail when it comes to His promises and His judgments.  The focus of the Genesis account of the flood is upon those who remain at the end of God’s universal judgment.  There is much death, decay, and destruction in our world today.  If we remain focused upon the world, we won’t understand what we need to understand.  Our focus and preoccupation must be upon Jesus Christ.