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Marriage: Before and After
Steve and Cindy Wright

Do you enjoy seeing "before and after" make-over photos in a magazine showing what people look like before and then after their looks are altered in some way? Usually the change is good and can be fun to look at afterwards. But there are times when the change isn't an improvement at all. But what about "before and after" glimpses into marriage? What about a "before and after" glimpse into your marriage? Will those who observe see an improvement or not?

Do you remember the time of your marriage proposal when the question was asked, "Will you marry me?" Hopefully it was a romantically memorable time. But did the attitude you had for each other before the wedding continue past the proposal, past the wedding, and into the marriage?

This week we heard of a conversation our pastor had with a man he sat next to on an airplane. He said the man appeared to be really excited about something, so he asked him the reason for his obvious happiness. He said that he'd just asked a woman to marry him and she had said "yes". What was especially exciting and also interesting was the way in which he proposed.

He took her out to a romantic dinner and then took her to their church. He then asked her to go into the restroom to take off her nylon stockings. She questioned him about his request, thinking it was a bit strange. But he asked her just to trust him and he would explain his request later.

She did what he asked and afterwards was led into the church sanctuary. He then led her to the front where he had a spotlight shining over it. There he provided a chair for her to sit on, brought out a basin of water (that he had prepared ahead of time), and proceeded to wash her feet.

As he was washing her feet he told her of his deep love for her and asked her to consider being his wife. He said, "I want to serve you and wash your feet for the rest of our lives together." It didn't take her long to accept his proposal of marriage.

Isn't that a romantic story? What a beautiful beginning for a life together and what a wonderful attitude to have. The Bible talks about mutual submission being important in marriage so this is an inspiring start for their married lives together!

But what would be even more inspirational would be if this man would continue to have this servant's attitude for his wife years beyond the wedding after life begins to become so daily. THAT is true servant-hood, when you're still able to honor your spouse after getting to know them with all their faults exposed day after day. That is the servant-hood Jesus modeled for us.

Upon washing the feet of His disciples Jesus said something (as recorded in John 13) that we should always aspire to in how we treat each other. He said, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

The meaning of the word "blessed" in the context of this scripture in the original Greek language is "Markarious" which means "possessing the favor of God." What this means is that as we follow the example that Jesus showed us to do, by serving one another, we will "possess the favor of God." What an honorable goal to follow especially in our marriages!

But we can almost hear protests going out as some of you are reading this because of the thought of generously serving a spouse who has been rude, or crude, and seemingly "unlovable" at times, if not all the time. We can almost hear some of you saying, "But you don't know my spouse and how ungodly they've acted towards me. How could I treat them in such a loving way when they've treated me so horrible?"

It wouldn't be something we'd think of asking anyone to do in that type of situation. But the thought comes to mind of what would Jesus ask and what Jesus did. What example did He show us to do for those who are less than kind?

This is what A.W. Tozer said, "Jesus Christ left us an example for our daily conduct and from it there can be no appeal. He felt no bitter resentment and he held no grudge against anyone! Even those who crucified Him were forgiven while they were in the act. Not a word did He utter against them, not even against the ones who stirred them up to destroy Him. How evil they all were He knew better than any other man, but He maintained a charitable attitude toward them." As the Bible says in Luke 23:24, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

We pray that as you think about your spouse that you will look to serve them with the attitude that Christ would have you as He did with others. Keep in mind that you aren't responsible for the actions of your spouse, but you are responsible for your own actions. It's never too late to start doing what is right to do that which would please the heart of God.

So, what does the "before and after" glimpse look like of your marriage? Do you have the same heart to try to please, love, and serve your spouse as you did before you married? As others observe your marriage do they see the love of Christ exhibited in how you treat your spouse?

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does." (Ephesians 6:7)

Our prayers are with you as together we work to make our marriages the best they can be, reflections of the love of Christ!

How to Make Your Marriage Thrive for a Lifetime
Chip Ingram

It's a sad fact, but many of our kids today don't want to get married.

They want everything that a good marriage provides - companionship, security, love, and intimacy - but they're afraid to actually get married. Why? Because they've observed marriages around them and have decided that marriage just doesn't work anymore.

And to a degree, they're right. In California, where I was a pastor for 12 years, three out of five marriages end in divorce, and no one knows exactly how things are going in the other two. All around our kids today marriages are struggling and failing, and the result is a generation of kids who've become disillusioned about marriage.

But I am confident that the institution of marriage is not the problem. God created marriage; He ordained it, and it is still the best possible relationship for a man and woman to enter into. So what's the problem? Why do so many marriages fail? And what can you do to ensure that your marriage is the exception - the marriage that really works?

To explain, I'd like you to think for just a moment about automobiles. Imagine that you don't know much about cars, but you walk onto a car lot and purchase a brand-new vehicle and drive it home. At first you're thrilled with it, but after a few months it stops working.

Why? Because you failed to provide some of the basic things every car needs to operate properly. A car needs gas to keep it going and antifreeze to cool the engine. Moving parts need to be lubricated. It needs periodic tune-ups and general maintenance to keep it running smoothly, and there has to be a place to take it when it breaks down.

Fortunately, most new car owners understand those basic concepts before they even drive off the lot. But many new marriages don't begin with that same level of understanding about what's needed to make them work.

Good marriages don't just happen. Every marriage requires effort, and there are a few basic elements that every marriage - no matter how well it starts out - is going to need in order to keep going.

FIRST, every good marriage needs commitment. Commitment is a lifelong choice of unconditional love. It's a decision to love someone forever, no matter what.

That's the gas that gets a marriage going and keeps it going. Without it, you cannot develop the vulnerability, openness, and intimacy that are integral parts of a good marriage, for there is the constant fear that tomorrow your partner will be gone.

Don't let your marriage run out of gas! Don't allow divorce to even be considered as an option. Let your spouse know often that no matter what, you will be there. And in the security of that commitment, your marriage can grow.

SECOND, a good marriage needs communication. Communication is the lifelong challenge of learning to understand each other. And it's not just the words you use - it's also the way you look at a person, your body language, and your tone of voice.

Communication is the sum total of your entire being that gets transmitted to the other person with a message. And real communication only occurs when what's in your heart, mind, and soul reaches the heart, mind, and soul of the other person.

Communication is like a lubricant in your relationship. It helps keep your rough edges from grating on each other, and it helps cool you down when your emotions start heating up.

THIRD, a good marriage needs companionship. Companionship is the lifelong adventure of friendship. It's a continuation of what you did in courtship. It's dating, walking and talking together, and sharing common interests.

Companionship is what keeps your marriage running smoothly. The joy of companionship is what compels a working spouse to come home early rather than work late. It's a desire to be with your partner - to do things together.

And in being together and working together you learn about each other. You discover things you otherwise wouldn't have known, and that knowledge allows you to make adjustments - a tune-up of sorts - that deepens your love for each other.

FOURTH, a good marriage needs a commission. A commission is a God-given vision to accomplish something in your lives together that is bigger than you are. It's a project, a goal, or a mission that goes beyond you and your spouse. It's a dream of serving others in a way that neither of you could accomplish on your own.

And as you minister together, a loving bond will be forged between you. You will grow closer to each other, and you will discover that there is real joy in serving others as a couple.

FINALLY, a good marriage needs counsel. No matter how good your marriage is, there will be times when it breaks down. You'll say something you shouldn't have said, you'll have a misunderstanding, you'll get stuck in a rut, or you'll encounter a problem that overwhelms you.

When that happens, you need to be willing to get help. You can go to God, read His Word, seek the advice of a trusted brother or sister in Christ, or pursue professional Christian counseling.

And there is no need to be ashamed or embarrassed about seeking assistance. Just like in driving a car, everyone at some time gets stuck on the side of the road. You may just need a little help to fix a tire or charge a battery and then you can go on. Just ensure that you are seeking wise, godly counsel - lest your problem become worse rather than better.

I sincerely hope that these insights will encourage you, whether you're currently married or considering marriage someday. Marriages today can work, and they can be great.

And with a little well-directed effort on your part, your marriage can be the exception-the marriage that thrives for a lifetime!

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