Category Archives: Defining Marriage

I’m Going to Offend Somebody

Offended Anyone?

Have you ever offended anyone? I bet you have. Sooner or later, all of us will. We may say something we don’t mean, act carelessly, or speak the truth without love. Offenses happen.

However, there are times when simple words and phrases will set people off. For example, if you want to rile people up into a tizzy, just get on Facebook or Twitter and post any of the following words (your opinion doesn’t matter):

  1. Image may contain: 8 people, outdoor

    Yes, that’s me in the center kneeling. My dad beside me. We raced Fords. (1987)

    Grits, okra, and turnip greens

  2. Roll Tide! / Go Vols!
  3. “Only two genders”
  4. “It’s only a translation.”
  5. Rapture
  6. First On Race Day (Ford)
  7. Second Amendment
  8. “My kids will never do that.”
  9. “only between a man and a woman”
  10. Donald Trump

Seriously, use any of those words and it won’t take 10 minutes before people are arguing and fighting, calling each other names, questioning each other’s religion, and saying things like, “DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Nevertheless, we should do our best to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). It should never be our intent to hurt feelings or make people angry. The apostle Paul instructed us to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).  So, as much as is possible, we should watch what we say, choose our words carefully, and do our best not to offend.

And, when necessary, we should apologize.

The Rock of Offense

On the other hand, there are times when we MUST offend. Sometimes speaking the truth is the only loving thing to do; anything less is an offense to God.

For example, the following words will not make many friends but are guaranteed to generate hate-filled comments from around the troll-dwelling universe. Yet, they must be said!

  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man can come unto the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

As a blogger, my words are read all over the world by people who hate the name of Jesus, and when I mention Him they go ballistic. I hate it for them, but how can I remain silent?

Jesus told the followers of John the Baptist,

“…Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. – Luke 7:22-23 

I don’t like offending people, but here’s the thing: if we let the fear of offending silence the Truth, how then can we “follow after the things which make for peace?” There can be no real peace without the Prince of Peace.

So, I guess I’m going to offend somebody.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Faith, General Observations, Life Lessons, salvation

Pre-Salvation Counseling?

Pre-Marital Counseling

Have you ever given pre-marital advice? Have you ever sat down with a young couple, stars in their eyes, and tried to break them up? No? Then maybe you don’t know what real marriage counseling is all about.

OK, no, I don’t go into a counselling session with the intent on making them run out of the room crying and screaming at each other. But what I do try to do is bring to the surface issues that might cause problems down the road which will ultimately lead to major problems, even divorce.

Believe me, a lot of people could have been spared a lot pain and heartache had they been asked some serious questions before they tied the knot.

Salvation Counseling 

But much like the syrupy-sweet lovers who want to jump into marriage without even considering what comes after the honeymoon, many are led into believing that becoming a Christian is the answer to all their problems.

Because of many one-stop Vegas-like “wedding chapels” we call “worship centers,” scores of people have been drawn into a relationship with Jesus – but without the “pre-marital” counseling.

Reality check: Following Jesus will not be easy. As a matter of fact, it might even result in a life of pain and suffering, of hunger and want. This relationship may even cost you your life.

And when [Jesus] had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Mark 8:34

Oh, make no mistake about it, entering into an eternity-long relationship with Jesus is totally worth it!

Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

 

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Life Lessons, Movie review, salvation, Witnessing

Jesus Hung Out With Sinners

The Argument

If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it six hundred and sixty-six times: “Don’t you know Jesus hung out with sinners?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I actually did know that.

However, those of us who oppose any number of formerly immoral, but now celebrated, cultural trends are regularly chastised for our supposed ignorance of the Savior’s party guests. When we refuse to affirm a particular lifestyle choice, almost without fail we are treated like biblical illiterates – because, of course, those who treat the Bible like toilet paper have a greater grasp of the text.

Me:  I love you, but I don’t think Jesus would approve of what you are doing.

Somebody:  You don’t love me, you bigot! You’re nothing but a ____phobic piece of $#!*! If you loved me, you’d accept me for who I am, not judge me.

Me:  I’m not judging you, all I’m saying is…

Somebody:  All you are saying is that you are a hater…a bigot…a racist…and all of your kind should be rounded up and shot! If you loved me like you say you do, you’d be more like Jesus and quit hating me.

Me:  I don’t hate you! I just can’t affirm your activities and choices.

Somebody:  See, you’re nothing but a m____-f____, self-righteous, hypocrite! If you read your Bible like you say you do, then you would have read where Jesus loved sinners and hung out with them. He didn’t go around hating people and trying to get them to change. You need to quit judging and go read your bronze-age book of myths again, then maybe you’ll actually learn something!

OK. You got me. I guess I should go dust off the cover of that old Book and re-read those long-forgotten and overlooked passages that prove Jesus would have affirmed and promoted every alternative lifestyle…because, you know, He was only about loving people, not wanting them to change. Right?

The “Hanging Out” Passages

Believe it or not, Jesus did eat with sinners! It’s a fact! But what is also a fact is that Jesus didn’t simply go eat with the prostitutes, the homosexuals, the drug addicts, the tax cheats, and the drunkards in order to tick off the religious elite. His intention for dining with these people was to reveal a better Way (Luke 19:10; John 14:6).

All three of the synoptic gospels tell of a particular event, one where Jesus went to eat at the house of Matthew (see Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:15-17; and Luke 5:29-32). When the scribes and the Pharisees saw Jesus with the “unclean” crowd, they were indignant! One can almost hear the seething, sneering comments hiss from their lips as they murmured, “How is it that he eats with these publicans and sinners?”

When Jesus heard what they said, he did not respond in the way the modern activists portray Him. Jesus, the embodiment of love and compassion, did not in any way accept and affirm the sinners’ lifestyles, but referred to them as “sick” and in need of a spiritual “physician.” Imagine referring to sinners as “sick” these days! However, that is the precise reason Jesus came to “hang out” with sinners: to heal them from their spiritual diseases.

Jesus said unto the scribes and Pharisees, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

He didn’t want to leave them where they were; He actually wanted them to repent! He didn’t hang out as a sign of affirmation, but so that they could be forgiven and “sin no more” (John 8:11).

The Point

So, you see, Jesus did care about and hang out with sinners, as do most of us. But just like Jesus, because we love them, we can’t automatically affirm and support every cause that parades naked down Main Street. Like Jesus, we don’t want them to stay “sick,” we want them to be “healed.”

“This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” – 1 Timothy 1:15

Because I have had the life-changing “balm of Gilead” applied to my own sin-sick soul, why wouldn’t I want to point others to the Great Physician? Leaving people to die in their sins, never telling them there is a cure for the sickness they may not even realize they have, may be a form of affirmation, but it sure as heck ain’t love.

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars, Defining Marriage, Do not judge

Things to Do In 2019: Strengthen My Marriage

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. – Proverbs 5:18

I’ve been doing a lot of weddings lately. As a matter of fact, I probably did 20 in the last two months.

One of the things I explain to the couples before they exchange rings and say their vows is how over time, if they will endure, their marriage will become more precious than the day they say “I do.”

This June my wife and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage, and believe me, we’ve experienced our share of fiery trials.

I ask the couples I marry to look at their rings and consider why the “precious metal” is precious. I ask them to consider what those rings went through in order to be shaped into the works of art they’re about to wear. Fire, forging, testing, shaping, more heat, and a lot of polishing: it was all part of what made the rings beautiful.

So why is it that so many men will throw away something as precious as a marriage tried by fire and forged in the furnaces of life for a temporary, plastic, fragile, and ultra-common shallow relationship?

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. … And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? – Proverbs 5:18, 20 

The fact is that we men (and women, too) tend to forget the value of what we actually have and get tempted by the shiny newness of what we don’t have.

Worse, we forget that the God before whose eyes we said our vows never took his gaze off of us. We have no excuses.

For a man’s ways are before the LORD’s eyes, and he considers all his paths. A wicked man’s iniquities will trap him; he will become tangled in the ropes of his own sin. – Proverbs 5:21-22 CSB

Satan hates families. Satan hates anything that mirrors the faithful love of the Lover of our souls, the Groom of the Bride – the Church. Therefore, he loves nothing better than destroying (and redefining) marriages.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. – Ephesians 5:31-33

This year, instead of taking my wife for granted, I want to spend time strengthening my marriage. I want to remind the wife of my youth that she’s more precious to me now than ever.

One reason is because my “ways are before the Lord’s eyes.”

Another reason is because the world is watching, especially my own children, and I want them to see in me a reflection of the faithful love of my Savior.

But there’s one more reason I want to strengthen my marriage… Valerie deserves it.

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Family, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

Your Example Didn’t Quit

Husbands, love your wives, even also as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25).

In other words, think twice before you say of your marriage:

“This is too tough.”

“I don’t feel it anymore.”

“I deserve better.”

“I deserve to be happy.”

“She doesn’t love me.”

“She doesn’t meet my needs.”

“She cheated on me.”

“I quit!”

Think of all Jesus could have said, but didn’t…as He carried the cross all the way.

“As Christ loved” is our example. If He didn’t quit, when should we?

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Love of God

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings!

Ringgold, Georgia

Did you know that Ringgold, GA is the “Wedding Capital of the South”? Well, it is, and that’s because hundreds and hundreds of couples get married there every year.

And where do many, if not most of them choose to tie the knot? The Ringgold Wedding Chapel. Go check out their website and read about its history, including some of the more famous names who’ve gotten married there (Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Bob Harvey from Jefferson Airplane, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve been conducting weddings at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel for a few weeks, now. It’s been interesting, to say the least. 🙂

A Ministry

Some of you may think me crazy, or even a heretic, for agreeing to marry people in a wedding chapel. Believe me, I get it. There used to be a day when I wouldn’t do a wedding for anyone unless they first agreed to extended pre-marital counseling. Now, I marry people the same hour I meet them.

But why do I do it? You see, the people that come into the chapel to get married don’t just walk in and say, “Marry me!” No, they have to book the chapel and pay a fee, plus have all their paperwork in order. However, those that want to get married could just as easily go to a courthouse, but they don’t; they choose to be married by a minister.

If these couples are going to get married somewhere, no matter what, I figured why not seize the opportunity to present the Gospel to them through a ceremony that highlighted a biblical model of marriage? It’s not a perfect situation, but it’s a chance to plant a seed, if nothing else.

So, I wanted to share with you guys my wedding script. It’s what I read for each and every wedding, making adjustments as needed, sometimes adding more when appropriate. When the service is over, I give the couple the script I used (with their names written in the blanks) for a keepsake, Scripture references and all.

Wedding Ceremony

The Greeting

   Greetings, everyone! My name is Rev. Anthony Baker, and on behalf of __________________ and ________________, I would like to welcome you to this wonderful occasion.

   We are gathered together here, today, in the sight of God and all you witnesses, to join this man and this woman together in holy matrimony. It is holy because marriage was not invented in a court room or a judge’s chamber, but in ages past by God Himself. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, but should be entered into reverently, advisedly, and in the fear of God.

   He is watching, and He will never forget the vows you two will be exchanging. And, not to leave anyone out, God also knows every one of you here as witnesses, and He will know whether or not you encourage and support this couple in the days and years to come.

   To Bride: ______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Answer: “I am.”

   To Groom: _______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Ans.: “I am.”

The Giving of the Bride (optional)

   Who gives this woman to be married to this man? Response: “I do,” “We do,” “Her mother and I do.”

Prayer

   Father in Heaven, Creator of all things, we thank you this day for your mercy and grace and for giving us the wonderful gift of marriage. Lord, please bless us with Your presence, bless the union of this bride and groom, and be glorified by all that is said and done today. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen!

Statement of Marriage

   As I mentioned before, marriage was not created by men, nor was it ordained in a courtroom; marriage was created by God Himself. We know this from reading the second chapter of Genesis. There, God created Adam, then Eve, and brought her to the man. Adam then said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:24 reads: “This is why a man shall leave his father and mother and bond with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

   Marriage is the institution in which God ordains a man and a woman to come together in love, with undying commitment, as a testimony to others of God’s love for us.

   When times get hard, you don’t run away, throw in the towel, and say, “I quit!” Why? Because Jesus, as our example, said to His disciples, “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). As a further example to us, even after all we did to Him, after all He went through, He still carried the cross – He gave His all.

   Marriage is more than a 50/50 relationship; it’s 100% both ways. But even when one of you doesn’t live up to the other’s expectations – it will happen  – true love carries the extra burden, forgives, shows mercy and grace. That is one reason why the apostle Paul tells us in the 5th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). The sacrificial love of Jesus was to be mirrored in the marriage relationship. To sum it up, Paul went on to say in verse 33: “…each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”

   _______________ and _______________, the greatest love of all, the truest love of all, is not a love that demands of each other, or expects of each other, but gives all that one has without any expectations. 1 John 4:10 (NLT) says, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” Therefore, the greatest advice I can give is if you want a long-lasting, wonderful marriage, love each other more than yourself, for loving each other IS loving yourself.

The Vows

   _______________  and ______________, now that you understand something of the reason for marriage, are you ready now to confirm your commitment to each other, before God and these witnesses, by the saying of your vows?  Response: “We are.”

   Then please turn to each other and join hands.

   _______________ (groom), in taking ______________ to be your wife, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Groom responds: “I do.”

   _______________ (bride), in taking ______________ to be your husband, do you so promise to honor, to love, and cherish him in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Bride responds: “I do.”

Do you have rings?

The Exchange of Rings

   You will now seal your vows “to honor, to love, and to cherish” by the giving and receiving of rings. I would like for you to look at your rings for just a moment. What you see is symbolic of two things. First, of course your rings are round. That symbolizes something that is never ending, a union that cannot be broken, and that is what your marriage should be.

   But secondly, I would like for you to think about the precious metal that these rings are made of. The metal is precious because it was hard to find and what it endured to become what you will wear. The metal in these rings went through a furnace, through testing, through times of purifying. Your marriage will also have times of trials and tribulation, times when you’ll be put through the fire. And when those times come, look at those rings you will be wearing and remember this: The longer you stay together, the more fires you endure, the more precious your marriage to each other will be.

  _______________ (groom), place the ring on ___________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Groom: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

   ________________(bride), place the ring on _____________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Bride: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

Prayer

   Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image so that we might know You and what true love is. Through your power and blessing we ask You to enable these two to keep their vows and be renewed daily in their love and commitment to each other. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony (Optional)

The Pronouncement

   _______________ and ______________, we have witnessed the pledging of your love and commitment to each other, and the sealing of your vows by the exchanging of rings. Thereby, under the authority of God’s Word, and in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife!

_____________ (groom), you may kiss your bride.

Introduction of Newlyweds:  I now present to you Mr. & Mrs. ______________________.

 

Officiated by: Rev. Anthony C. Baker, M.Min.

So, what do you think of my wedding script? Feel free to use it if you want.

What do you think of sharing the Gospel in this way?

Would you word anything differently?

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, ministry, places, Struggles and Trials

Girls, Take My Advice

What I’m Not

I know it may offend some of you, but I need to get this out in the open right from the start – I am not a woman, nor do I feel like one…and I don’t want to.

I am very happy to be a man – one born that way – with no desires to experience female-related problems. Those males who do desire to “feel like a woman” seem to want to avoid those problems, too. For example, I rarely hear it reported that a sex-change operation will promise one the glorious ability to experience menstruation, heat flashes, mood swings, or endometriosis; that doesn’t appear to be a selling point.

And now that I think about it, should I ever – which I won’t – decide to become a “female,” I tend to think multi-tasking and “women’s intuition” wouldn’t magically appear with the removal of my guy parts and the injection of estrogen. So, if I couldn’t have those two advantages, why become someone who has to worry about hair, makeup, heels, fabric combinations, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, and if you think what I just said was stereotypical and sexist, it might have been. And if it was, then why is it that men who say they want to become women can’t become women in the masculine context in which they were born? In other words, why is it that Bruce Jenner had to turn into the stereotypical vision of what a “woman” is “supposed” to look like? Why couldn’t he, and every other trans, stay the way they were instead of trying to fit into the box of the stereotype? There’s MUCH more that I could say on this issue, but I will digress.

What I Am

Like I said, I know I am not a woman, and I don’t want to be. And because I am not a woman, it might be hard for me to understand …scratch that… it’s nearly impossible for me to understand how women think. However, I do have some valuable insight based on years of experience with women; therefore, you might find it beneficial.

You see, even thought I am not an estrogen-producing sis-female (to be PC for once), I have lived a long time with a bunch of them. But what’s more important than what I don’t understand is what I DO understand, and that is the mind of a man.

I am a man… a red-blooded, stereotypical, gun-toting, testosterone-producing (no shots needed), stand-up-peeing kind of guy. I have a one-track mind, can compartmentalize like you wouldn’t believe, and love the smell of gunpowder in the morning.

What’s more, I am a faithful husband, a spiritual leader, and a father to three wonderful girls. That’s what I bring to the table today.

My Advice

My daughters (at least the two younger ones) are eventually going to find husbands, one probably sooner than the other. The advice I would like to leave with not only them, but all of you other girls out there, is what to look for in a man you will marry. Take it from me – a man – I know the difference between a good one and a not-right-now-put-him-back-on-the-shelf one.

10 Words of Advice to Girls Who Are Searching

  1. Know your own worth.
  2. Don’t settle.
  3. Find a man who loves God more than you. Matthew 6:33
  4. Life is like a trip through the Atlanta airport – even the smallest of baggage gets heavy after a while.
  5. Never, ever assume the man you meet will become the man you want. Ain’t gonna happen.
  6. Accept nothing less than a spiritual/moral leader you can respect; if he looks up to you more than you look up to him, ditch him.
  7. It’s better to be single than smothered, abused, and/or controlled.
  8. Know who you are, what you are, and Who’s you are, then find a man who accepts and compliments (yes, I used that word) all you desire to be.
  9. If he doesn’t honor and respect his or YOUR parents, then he will most likely never be the kind of parent worth respecting – and he might not live long (Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:2-3).
  10. Lastly, make sure you like his family, and he likes yours… and that your family likes him, too. Marriage is meant to grow family, not destroy it.

Look, you don’t have to agree with any of my advice, but it comes from years of experience and professional observation. You have a choice in the matters of love, so don’t let someone sweep you off your feet without first doing your homework.

When you let the wrong man sweep you off your feet, you’re likely to fall from arms that can’t hold you. 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Defining Marriage, General Observations, Life Lessons, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships and Family