Friday, November 30, 2007

A Sweeter Song Than Angels Sing

I'm preaching through Isaiah 6 this Sunday. What a sublime text of Scripture! For those of us caught up in the muck, mire, and mundane monotony of daily life on messy earth, we desperately need our hearts carried away from that which is fallen to that which is pristine. Isaiah does us this favor.

In this text we read the account of Isaiah's call as a prophet. Isaiah is given a vision of the heavenly throne-room. He describes a majestic being called a seraphim. Seraphim are angels that fly around the throne of God calling out, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory" (6:3).

As I pondered that text, thoughts of God's grandness flooded my mind. God is magnificent beyond imagination. I'm sure the seraphim are as well, but not compared with God. As they sang out this perpetual chorus, the entire place was shaking. Isaiah felt the weight of the situation and fell apart at the seems. He was immediately made aware of God's purity and his own wretchedness. Isaiah pronounced a woe upon himself. In plain English, "I am damned."

Fortunately for Isaiah and us, there is a song sweeter than the song of the seraphim. The seraphim will never personally know the joy to be found in lines like, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins," "He has washed us with his blood," "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me," "Here in the death of Christ, I stand," "Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow," "One with himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased by his blood," "He to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood," "He sought me, and bought me, with his redeeming blood," "His oath, his covenant, his blood, support me in the whelming flood," and "My Savior loves, my Savior lives, my Savior's always there for me."

The song of the Seraphim is a terrifying refrain. When I allow my mind to wander in the thought of it, I along with Isaiah feel the weight of glory crushing upon my frail frame. But I cannot stay there. I will not. The song of Redemption beckons me to sing along. I will look beyond the Saraphim, to the one on the throne, the one from which the Saraphim hide their eyes. And I will "weep to the praise of the mercy I've found" as I see my King, my Savior, the Lover of my soul seated in regal splendor. And I will rejoice with inexpressible joy at the salvation that is mine; the salvation that angels long to know firsthand. Life is not so bad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Challies' Mom on Divorce

Tim Challies' mom wrote her children an encouragement to stay married, and never allow any doubt to enter their minds.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Give Thanks

While you're sitting in your Lazy Boy watching football today, look out into the kitchen and thank God for the wife he gave you. While you're slaving over a hot stove all morning, glance into the living room where your husband is napping in the Lazy Boy, and thank God for him. Remember that it is a gift of grace that you are not suffering from the most profound sense of isolation and despair. God has blessed you with a companion. He may not be the one you'd create for yourself. She may not be the one you thought you were getting. But you are blessed nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Covenant First

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways" (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I recently read an excellent book entitled, The Death of the Grown Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization by Diana West. The basic premise of the book is that adolescents are expected to act adolescent. They're expected to test the ropes, buck the system, rebel against authority, and make foolish, compulsive decisions; while grown ups are expected to hold the ropes tightly, maintain the established, well-tested system, impose authority, and prevent (and if necessary clean up after) foolish, compulsive decisions. The problem the book addresses is that, while adolescents are acting as adolescent as ever, parents are acting as adolescent as ever, right along with their real adolescents. There is no grown up in the average American home. And children are left exposed to all the dangers flowing from the folly of the depraved human heart. Civilization cannot last long when the cultural, moral and civic standard is being set by fifteen year olds. West gives example after example to prove her case. Her points are articulate, well researched, and convicting.

It seems that since I've read the book, I'm hyper-sensitive to West's observations. While I would argue that there is a huge difference between being a Christian, and acting Christianly, I can't help but see, and be disgusted with, adult adolescent values and behavior everywhere they rear their ugly head. I expect such values and behaviors from adolescents. What has become obvious to me is the pervasiveness of adults thinking and desiring like children. Don't get me wrong, I'm a maturing adolescent myself. I hate it as much in myself as in others. And I've been consciously trying to grow up - to speak, think and reason as an adult.

One thing we expect from children is dishonesty. It seems deception, manipulation and pie-crust promises are a part of the adolescent mind. Another thing we expect from children is compulsive behavior that doesn't take into consideration the consequences of actions. Children rarely think of the long-term affects of their decisions.

What happens when adults act like adolescents in the realm of marriage? I would argue divorce happens. People come to an alter or a judge on a whim, make a pie-crust promise that is easily made and easily broken, and have a couple kids. Then they decide the whole thing was a mistake and try to start over with someone else. It seems America is raising generation after generation of adolescents who enter adulthood without the values and mindset it takes to honor obligations and consider others better than themselves. In other words, adolescents never move beyond adolescent thoughts, desires and priorities, even while their hair is graying and their skin is wrinkling and they're racking up spouses like credit card debt. When such people get married, we can expect chaos.

As a pastor, my goal is to help people move beyond such childish thinking. I want to help couples who have been raised to be perpetual adolescents think and want what flows from a mature worldview. Obviously, I don't believe people can be truly mature outside of a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. What concerns me is when people have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and continue to think and want like those adolescent-minded folks who do not.

Christians must be taught and retaught that marriage is first and foremost a covenant. It is a lifelong vow of exclusive devotion. Marriage is, of course, so much more than that. But it is never any less. So where are your thoughts and desires? Are you breezing through life and marriage as an adolescent with graying hair? Or can you say with Paul that you've given up childish ways? For the sake of your marriage, and possibly your eternal happiness, I pray you see marriage as a covenant first, and you stay faithful to it until you die.

Monday, November 19, 2007

One Righteous Life

Are you right with God? Do you know for sure? Do you feel it? Do you rejoice in the knowledge of it? Does it shape the way you wade through the waters of life? Or do you wonder if you're right with God? Do you struggle with doubts and fears about the state of your soul? Do you look at your way of life, and secretly wonder how God could not be nauseated by you, let alone love you?

I've been hearing a popular song on the radio lately. One of the lines asks God, "What do you see that's worth looking our way." As I pondered that line, I came to one answer. The answer filled my heart with joyful-hope. The reason the answer filled me with joyful-hope had nothing to do with my circumstances, obedience, faith or faithfulness. It had nothing to do with how long I prayed this morning. It had nothing to do with how well I'd treated my wife today. It had nothing to do with how I overcame the latest round of temptation. It had nothing to do with my health or wealth.

There's only one right answer to that song's question. If you get this answer right, you'll have joyful-hope - basking in the light of God's covenant love. If you get this answer wrong, you'll be prone to fearful-doubt - cringing at the thought of God's presence. The right answer to the question, "What do you see that's worth looking our way?" is "Christ."

I wonder how many people think of their own faithfulness when that question is asked. I wonder how many people have deluded themselves into thinking God is better off for having them around. I wonder how many have actually convinced themselves they're pretty valuable. I wonder if anyone actually believes that he is faithful to God.

Unfortunately, I suspect there are many people who believe just those things. But even in the midst of their feeling so good about themselves, I doubt they bask in the light of God's covenant-love. There's only way that anyone can feel God's love. They have to feel that God accepts them - that he wants them. The only means by which God can accept anyone is if they are holy as he is - perfect.

I was filled with joyful-hope today because one righteous life is all it took for me to bask in God's covenant love. I felt God's pleasure in me. In my heart, I could hear him singing over me with delight. I knew God is for me. He accepts me. He likes me. He loves me. He will always love me whether I pray today, or skip it. Whether I give today, or keep it. Whether I love today, or sleep. There has only been one righteous life lived on this earth. The righteous life that Jesus Christ lived - culminating in his sacrificial death on the cross, and his glorious resurrection - is the only hope for my sinful soul. On my best day, I am absolutely worthless. I'll get God's attention, all right. But it won't be because I'm beautiful. It will be because I'm spitting at him from a distance. But Christ loved God in my place. He lived the life I should have, but couldn't. And he took my spit on the cross. This Thanksgiving season, I'm supremely thankful for the one righteous life that covers so many worthless ones.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Love and Respect 3

I'll conclude my review of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I have previously expressed my opinion that Dr. Eggerichs mis-diagnoses the source of marital conflict. He takes a traditional pop-psych. therapeutic view of man's depravity. Man is basically good-willed, but perhaps ignorant (which is why we need an expert like Eggerichs to discover the "secret" and reveal it to us) or misunderstood. This view permeates the book, and influences the counsel the book gives.

As I worked through Part Three: The Rewarded Cycle, a question quickly came to me. Why didn't Dr. Eggerichs put this section in the beginning of his book? This is the only part of the book that really takes God seriously at all. The first two parts only seem to use God as a genie in a bottle to make my marriage more bearable for me. That tone is present in Part Three as well. But at least God is more pervasive. In fact, Eggerichs even mentions Heaven.

I was pleased to read sentences like these. "To the world it may make no sense for a wife to put on respect toward a husband who is harsh and unloving. It makes no sense for a husband to put on love toward a contemptuous, disrespectful woman. But it makes sense to God. These seemingly fruitless efforts matter to God because this is the kind of service He rewards." That may be the best paragraph in the book.

But such God-centered heavenly-mindedness doesn't last long. "There is still more to the Rewarded Cycle. There are rewards to help you cope right here, right now. Heaven will wait. God's timing is in control of that, but you can always use a little more help with understanding and living with your less-than-perfect spouse." Back to letters and behaviorism. Overall, Part Three is the only section worth reading in the whole book, and it just barely. One can tell from reading the book that Dr. Eggerichs begins the book with man. Therefore, God is not understood properly. God's purposes for marriage aren't even dealt with. This is ironic considering that God created and oversees marriage.

I'll give some general thoughts on the book overall.

1. The Gospel is mysteriously absent in the book. There is not really a call for repentance, or trust in Christ. There isn't really a proper dealing with the issues of forgiveness.

2. God seems to be a genie in this book. This book will make idolaters worse, more proficient idolaters. I see spouse worship plastered throughout the book, and never addressed. That's bad.

3. The book is based on behaviorism. The danger with this is that the heart isn't dealt with. One can read this book, follow what it says, and feel good about the result. Apart from God. With little thought of the Gospel. With no view to Heaven.

4. Because the book is so man-centered and behavioristic, with a bunch of do and don't advice, I can't see the methods serving any long-term purpose. Eventually, the couple will realize that, like any list of behaviors to perform, they will fall short. When that happens, they may become discouraged and feel like they were right all along. What's the use.

5. When that thought comes up for a couple, there's nothing in the book to free them from their quest to save themselves, and fix their marriage. There's no Gospel.

6. Concepts like love and respect aren't properly defined or even described. So I can't see how anyone would know if they're actually doing it or not. There's just a generic feel to the book, probably because so much of it is based on the experiences of the author, rather than the Bible.

I will judge the quality of a book on marriage by how thoroughly and accurately it expresses ultimate issues. God. The Gospel. Heaven. If marriage isn't put into such a framework, then the counsel is bound to fail. Love and Respect just doesn't properly deal with these issues. So in the end, I think it will heal the wounds of the readers lightly.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Love and Respect 2

I'll continue my review of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. In Part One: The Crazy Cycle, Eggerichs lays out his theory for why couples have problems. Men must give their wives "unconditional love," and wives must give their husbands "unconditional respect." He derives this from Ephesians 5:33. The interesting thing to me is that he implies all of Christianity has missed this connection until he wrote about it. For example, Eggerichs calls the connection between a husband's love and wife's respect a "secret." He also says that, "Many books on marriage stress the need for husbands to love wives, but the unique feature about this book is the concept of wives showing unconditional respect toward husbands." "I have concluded that those of us in the church, who believe we have the Truth, are not using the whole truth. A crucial part of God's Word has been completely ignored or perhaps simply gone unnoticed when it has been there all the time right under our noses!" I find such statements either ignorant of the vast work being done in the area of applied theology, or just plain arrogant. Spousal roles have been under our noses, yet missed all this time? Does he expect us to believe that?

Are we to believe no one in the church is preaching that wives should respect their husbands in all circumstances? The entire biblical counseling movement and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood are two examples of vocal proponents of biblical love and respect. Even the 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention has this statement in their confession of faith, "The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation" (Italics are mine). Is the love and respect "secret" really that secret? The largest protestant denomination in the country made it a part of their confession of faith years ago. When books are built on hype, rather than substance, I can't help lose a bit of respect for them.

As I come to the end of Part One: The Crazy Cycle, I question if Dr. Eggerichs takes seriously the depravity of man in this section. His chief rationale for the "Crazy Cycle" seems to be that "the woman looks at the world through pink sunglasses that color all she sees. The man, however, looks at the world through blue sunglasses that color all he sees. Men and women can look at precisely the same situation and see life much differently. Inevitably, their pink and blue lenses cause their interpretation of things to be at odds to some degree." Eggerichs sees that men and women each speak in code that must be broken by the other.

I think the Bible has a more developed sense of marriage problems than just bridging interpretive gaps with better communication techniques. James helps us see the true problem. "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3). James concludes this section by calling for humility before God. As Dr. Eggerichs surveys the marital landscape, I don't see this message at the forefront of his radar screen. That's why I think Part Two: The Energizing Cycle falls somewhat flat.

Part Two: The Energizing Cycle is Dr. Eggerichs's attempt to prescribe a remedy to the problem he mis-diagnosed in Part One. He counsels men to keep in mind the acronym "C-O-U-P-L-E." C=Closeness, O=Openness, U=Understanding, P=Peacemaking, L=Loyalty, and E=Esteem. Husbands should relate to their wives on the basis of these six things. Eggerichs promises us that "C-O-U-P-L-E is based on foundational biblical passages related to husbands in marriage. You cannot go wrong trusting and obeying God's revelation." His promise is refreshing. The problem is that as I worked through the chapters covering the husband's role, I saw very little Scripture. I saw a whole lot of conventional wisdom.

In his counsel to women, Eggerichs uses the acronym "C-H-A-I-R-S." C=Conquest, H=Heirarchy, A=Authority, I=Insight, R=Relationship, S=Sexuality. He does a better job of actually deriving these from the Bible. I do appreciate his stand against the encroachment of feminism on the family. He takes a strong stand for the biblical roles of husbands and wives without apology. That is refreshing. He doesn't water down the tough commands of Scripture in any of the texts he uses, which displays a respect for the Bible. My problem is that he just doesn't use enough. In addition, he doesn't lay out the biblical purpose for marriage (right away, at least), so it appears that God and the Bible are really just the best tools available to ensure couples have a more comfortable marriage.

Almost everything he advises is just old fashioned behavioral therapy. No gospel. No freedom. Just more lists of things to do and don't do. Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura or any other pop-psych doctor wouldn't disagree with what Dr. Eggerichs suggests. If you're looking for lots of anecdotes in the form of letters of appreciation, this book's for you. If you're looking for solid biblical teaching that you can base your marriage on, look elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. Dr Eggerichs does give lots of sound advice that probably could help a couple get along better. But that doesn't make it fully biblical. In other words, I can apply some of the things he taught because it's just common sense. But I can't shape an entire worldview of marriage on what is taught. There's just not enough biblical exposition. I'll finish my review tomorrow with what I believe is the strongest part of the book - Part Three: The Rewarded Cycle.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Love and Respect

Well, I wanted to begin my series of book reviews with a radically positive, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, God-glorifying book. And there are some out there. I happened to just be finishing a book about marriage, so I decided to begin with it while it was fresh on my mind. So I won't begin with a gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible saturated, God-glorifying book. Rather, I'll begin with one that claims to be some of those things, but I fear misses the mark.

It's not that I don't think husbands and wives can be helped by reading the book I'm about to introduce. The problem is I think any husband or wife, regardless of religion, culture, background, or goals could get help from this book on how to have a more comfortable marriage. I don't think the book begins with ultimate questions, therefore it ends with sub-ultimate counsel that ultimately won't achieve the right goals. In other words, if a self-absorbed husband and wife - trapped in the bondage of worshiping one another - sits down with this book, they could very well come out on the other side more proficient idolaters than when they began. If a self-absorbed husband and wife - burdened by the relentless nature of behavioral therapy - follows the counsel in this book, they could very well remain self-righteous legalists. That's where the danger lies. Even while the book is spot on in its diagnosis of relational issues from a human perspective, I wonder how well the offered prescription leads couples away from themselves and onto Jesus Christ.

The book I want to review is Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I've been bombarded by this book's advertising for quite some time, which caused me to buy it only reluctantly. I thought I knew what it would be like. Number one, it's a Focus on the Family book. That tells the psychological, behavioral bent it will have. Number two, the cover speaks of, "The Respect He Desperately Needs." When I see language like that describing anything other than Jesus Christ, a red flag goes up in my head. Number three, when a book is book of the year at Family Christian Stores, and number 303 in all of, and number 1 in Christian marriage at, and number 2 in general marriage at, I question how God-glorifying it can be and yet be so appealing to such a wide variety of readers. Number four, when the back cover promises, "A Revolutionary Message" I tend to squirm. Number five, when a book promises I'll, "Discover the Single Greatest Secret to a Successful Marriage" I almost have to laugh. But I eventually bought a copy out of guilt, because I knew some folks who've read it, and I wanted to know how to interact with its content.

For starters, I want to say I don't think the book is heretical. While I disagree with it to some extent, there are parts that are downright good. I think the author has a sincere desire to help couples who feel trapped in what Eggerichs calls "The Crazy Cycle." He wants to help couples go from "The Crazy Cycle" to "The Energizing Cycle" and "The Rewarded Cycle."

The book begins with Part One: The Crazy Cycle. In this section, Eggerichs describes marriages that are conflicted with husbands who won't love and wives who won't respect. While he accurately describes couples in conflict, I fear he doesn't take seriously just how depraved we all are. He doesn't allow Scripture to shape his view of man. Rather, he just assumes the best about man, contrary to reality. He writes more from a secular psychological view of man than from a biblically informed theological perspective. He assumes those reading his book are what he terms "good-willed people." By that he means "that both of these people love each other a great deal. They do not mean real harm; they do not intend real evil toward one another. They are hurt and angry, but they still care deeply for one another." I simply don't agree with this assessment of any married couple. Yes, couples love each other. But many of us have seen these same couples commit atrocious acts toward one another, especially when they decide they've had enough. There's a thin line between love and hate in marriage. In fact, spouses have killed their mate - out of love. The most loving married couples can go out of their way to destroy one another in divorce - in a matter of days. James 4 gives a much more realistic view of man than Dr. Eggerichs.

Furthermore, Eggerichs believes that the wife needs love and the husband needs respect like they need air. When husbands and wives don't give love and respect, they are in essence, "stepping on my air hose!" I find this a little too strongly stated. This assumption is dangerous. It's assuming a man can't live without a woman's respect, and a woman can't live without a man's love. That's just biblically inaccurate and actually contradicts Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 7. So the overall problem with Part One is that it begins its diagnosis of marriage problems with years of counseling experience rather than a biblically informed view of man's depravity and lovelessness. Therefore, I believe Eggerichs goes into Part Two: The Energizing Cycle with an incomplete diagnosis of the problem. For the sake of brevity, I'll continue this review tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Timmy Brister says, "I do."

Timmy Brister has a good little post on his blog about the heaviness of saying, "I do."

Marriage Counseling and Marketing

In my last post I finished with the following argument:

"Christ is the end of counseling. Christ is the end of marriage. So Christ is the end of marriage counseling. Unless counselors point a couple away from themselves, away from the goal of having a good marriage, away from their inherent selfishness, away from seeing their marriage as an end, then their counsel won't ultimately help the couple. Marriage is a means to the end of living for Christ. Marriage counseling is the means to the end of helping a couple stop living for themselves and start living for Christ."

As I survey the astounding number of books on bettering marriage, written from a Christian perspective, I wonder how many achieve the point of the above paragraph. Make no mistake, some do. Some books offer wonderful, Christ-centered, God-exalting counsel for couples. The problem is that they're not the ones on the end-caps of your local bookstore. In fact, if these books aren't recommended by someone, most will never hear of them. On the other hand, there are books that seem to me entirely unhelpful, and I'm bombarded by them at every turn. From a Christian publishing point of view, marriage counseling is about marketing. Posters of their cover are plastered all over the windows of the store. Banners hang over doorways. Full page ads promise great results in Christian magazines and on websites. The authors' voices are booming from radio interviews, telling me how they have the secret I've missed all this time. It is sad in our day that one can generally tell how Christ-exalting a book is by how little popular advertising it gets. The more Christ-centered the book, the less likely you'll even know it exists. Meanwhile, pseudo-Christian pop psychology is shoved down your throat from every direction in million dollar campaigns. The reason for this is simple.

Christian publishing, on the one hand, is about helping biblical messages proliferate to the masses. On the other hand, Christian publishing is about making money. If a publisher can't make a book sell, it doesn't matter how helpful it is. You'll never hear of it. One thing is certain, Christ-exalting messages do not usually sell well to self-absorbed Christians. And publishers know it. What's worse, they cater to it. Over the next several weeks, I'll review some books, both good and bad. Some I've mentioned before on this blog. Others I'm working through right now. My goal in doing this isn't to bash anyone. My goal is to recommend to you Christ-exalting resources that you may never see on a bookstore shelf, or hear about on the radio. My secondary goal is to warn against some dangers in books that are "household names" in Christian circles. You can't judge a book by its cover. And you can't judge it by its marketing blitz. In the end, a book can only be judged by the Sun around which all the planets of the solar system turn - Jesus Christ. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Means or End?

Do you want a happier, more intimate marriage? Do you wish you could communicate better with your spouse? Do you pray for things to be better? I would guess most couples could answer yes to those questions. Those issues are pretty common to all marriages. What if I asked you why? Why do you want a happier, more intimate marriage? Why do you wish you could communicate better with your spouse? Why do you pray for things to be better? I hope you have a better answer than, "Because that's the way it's supposed to be."

When couples seek marriage counseling, there's usually one thing on their minds. They aren't as happy or as comfortable in their marriage as they'd like to be and they think a counselor can help change that. Their marriage is like an irritating splinter in the tip of their forefinger and they can't seem to get relief. So they look for someone else to help pull out the irritant. In other words, most couples seek counseling as an end. Many counselors seek to help the couple pull out the splinter and think highly of their counseling skills when they are able to do it. That is sad. Here's why:

Couples generally come for counseling because both spouses are self-absorbed. The husband is self-absorbed. The wife is self-absorbed. As a couple, they are self-absorbed together. Each spouse sees himself as the sun around which the planets revolve. And the couple sees themselves as a couple as the sun around which the planets revolve. The reason they want help is to be more comfortable being self-absorbed. As a counselor, if I help this self-absorbed couple become more proficient at being self-absorbed, how have I helped them?

As a counselor, my biggest agenda is to point self-absorbed, unhappy couples away from seeking counsel as an end. If I don't, then I've just enabled and fueled their selfishness. Why would I want to make a couple comfortable being selfish? Instead, I have to ask the dreaded, "Why?" Why do you want counsel? Why do you want things to be better? Why do you want to communicate more effectively? Why do you want a better sex life? Why do you want help with your finances? Why do you want a happier marriage?

Only when I ask those questions am I able to move beyond the couple's natural self-absorbed nature to bigger issues. Marriage counseling is not an end. The reason for this is simple enough. The couple is not the end.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). This is the verse in the forefront of my mind as I seek to navigate the waters of my own marriage, and help others through the waters of their own marriages. Until I ask a couple why they want a better marriage, Christ can remain in the background. Or worse yet, as a genie in a bottle longing to grant the couple's every wish.

Christ is the end of counseling. Christ is the end of marriage. So Christ is the end of marriage counseling. Unless counselors point a couple away from themselves, away from the goal of having a good marriage, away from their inherent selfishness, away from seeing their marriage as an end, then their counsel won't ultimately help the couple. Marriage is a means to the end of living for Christ. Marriage counseling is the means to the end of helping a couple stop living for themselves and start living for Christ.