Tag Archives: Marriage

Responding To An Article Attacking the Billy Graham Rule

I am not blessed with a lot of free time these days, especially because of the hectic details of moving while trying to finish out my last week of driving a school bus. As a matter of fact, below is a picture of where I am writing this very piece – on a school bus while waiting for elementary-aged crumb crunchers to finish swimming.

It’s 90+ degrees on this bus, I only have about 30 minutes to write, and I’m sweating like a glass full of ice on a hot day – except I’m not icy. Please allow me the opportunity to rant.


There used to be a time in American life when a man who actually tried to stay true to his moral convictions was considered the kind of man we respected. That kind of man, by all respects a hero of virtue, would be lauded, placed on a pedestal, and pointed to as a standard for young boys to emulate.

Joseph (the one in the Bible with the multi-colored coat) and Dr. Billy Graham are two such men who come to mind.

But nowadays, when a Republican running for governor of Mississippi wants to keep things above board and honorable, the first thing you hear from the media is that this guy is a sexist. In other words, when he tries to honor his wife and his marriage by avoiding the possibility of impropriety, the substance of which could not only harm his marriage and his livelihood, but also the reputation of one whom could be falsely accused, he’s labeled as a woman-hater and abuser of his wife’s integrity.

In other words, because the guy wanted to do things the honorable and godly way, he’s a scum bucket worthy of relegating to the trash heap of failed and forgotten politicians. If you think I’m exaggerating, take a moment to read the vitriolic and condescending article by Monica Hesse in The Washington Times (July 11) entitled:

“The ‘Billy Graham rule’ doesn’t honor your wife. It demeans her – and all women.”

Like I said earlier, I’m pressed for time and dripping sweat on my keyboard, but let me say that I think Monica Hesse and Larrison Campbell are out of their ever-loving minds.

What’s even more interesting is that, if true, The Washington Times was originally going to send a male reporter to shadow Robert Foster. According to one report I read, it was only at the last minute that the paper wanted to send Larrison Campbell to be alone with the gubernatorial candidate, forcing him to say no, not unless they could send a male along with her. If this is true, and if they already knew of Foster’s beliefs (which I’m sure they did), this could have been nothing more than a set up to smear him.

Oh, the irony. Oh, the deceit.

And they wonder why we distrust the media?

For the record, I think the “Billy Graham rule” is as wise as ever, and it is one which I abide by as much as possible. There are times when I am alone with a female doctor, for example, but not when I’m unclothed. Even when I am alone, it’s not the same thing as going out to dinner, sitting behind closed doors in my office, or counseling a woman alone in her home. For one thing, the doctor has more to lose than most if she were to act inappropriately and unprofessionally.

There’s so much more I could say about the individual points of Hesse’s article, but it’s not worth any more of my time, and I don’t have much to spare.

Regardless, Robert Foster’s convictions and rules are admirable, not demeaning. Any woman should be thrilled that her husband was taking proactive measures to protect the integrity of their marriage.

But marriage integrity and men of honor aren’t high on the shopping list for people who have no scruples of their own, I suppose. 

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Filed under America, Christianity, Culture Wars, current events, Defending Traditional Marriage, Marriage, politics

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

The following subject comes up periodically, requiring me to give a biblical explanation.  Therefore, for those who may not have done much study on it, let us consider the question of divorce and the pastorate.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA over 20 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor.  They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call.  Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?”  With an undeniable tone of frustration, I replied, “Yes, ME.”  

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung. You see, even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes, I chose to marry a woman who had been divorced – and there were consequences.

However, I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church.  So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst,  I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot.  Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer.  Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues.  

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says,  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...”  Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...”  The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is interpreted.  

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married.  Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives.  

In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.” 

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12.  The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons.  All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.”  How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced?    

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God.  Has he always been blameless?  Has he always been on his best behavior?  Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger?  Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.”  

Do you see it?  If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation) should apply to the other “must be’s.”  

  • Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced.  
  • Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai).  The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven.  What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life.  In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.”  

Paul said, “and such were some of you:  but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full authority as leaders in the church. 

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

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Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

It’s Been 25 Years!

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here, today, to celebrate on this world-famous blog the twenty-fifth anniversary of the union of Anthony Baker and Valerie Riddle. 

That’s right, it’s been 25 years today!

Unfortunately, nothing fantastic has been planned (couldn’t be afforded), but the simple fact that a couple staying together for twenty five years, especially these days, is fantastic beyond measure!

So, to my wife, Valerie, I look forward to many, many more years with you…years even more wonderful than before. I can’t imagine what the next 25 years would be like without you.

With Valerie and me in this picture are my late grandparents, Lee Roy and Lorene Cagle.

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Filed under Marriage, Relationships and Family

The Wedding Preacher

Hey everybody! You’ve got to check this out!

Down in a town call Ringgold, Georgia, is a little wedding chapel…the very one where Dolly Parton and a few other famous people were married over the years.

Since last year, I have been helping out at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel by performing weddings, mainly on Saturdays and some Sunday afternoons. When the owner of the wedding chapel decided to do a promotional video, she asked if I’d be willing to be interviewed.

Of course, I was willing. Duh.

So, click on the video below and let me know what you think. And, if you’re in the area and want to get hitched, well… 😉

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Filed under Family, Marriage, ministry

Because I Love Her

I created the following picture on my iPad Mini for my sweet wife, Valerie.

Because I love her 🙂

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Filed under Family, Marriage, Uncategorized

He Made My Day

“You Made My Day!”

Not long ago I performed a wedding service in which the whole wedding party and myself were brought to tears. Now, there were only 3 people in the room (the groom, the bride, and myself), but everyone of us were finding it difficult to keep water out of our eyes.

It was a very simple ceremony, one with no decoration, no cake, not even a tuxedo or wedding dress; just a wedding chapel, wedding rings, a man and a woman, and a pastor.

But what made this little ceremony so special was the reason behind it: the couple were getting re-married.

Long story short, they had gotten a divorce, but because of their love for their four children and the fear of how growing up in a split family might affect them, they determined to find a way to come back together. Whatever differences they had which led to their divorce were evidently able to be overcome, at least they were going to try – because they understood there were more important things than their own feelings.

As I stood there with them, I could sense the seriousness, the somber mood, and the need to go off script when it came to my normal wedding ceremony. In every wedding ceremony I conduct I always talk about how marriage is to be a reflection of God’s love for us, but I went full marriage-counselor mode/preacher this time.

As I referenced the selfless, unabashed love God displayed for us on the cross of Calvary, and how that true love, the unconditional kind, can forgive even as Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” the tears began to flow down the brides face…then mine.

With tears on everyone’s face, as I continued into the part where the vows were to be exchanged, the bride held the groom’s hands and said, “And if Jesus can forgive us for all we’ve done, we can forgive each other, too.” I literally about lost it! (I’m getting teary-eyed just typing this!)

Ryan and Catherine after getting re-married

When all was said and done, I extended my hand to thank them, saying, “I just want you to know, you made my day.”

The bride bypassed my hand and rushed me with a bear hug, then said, “No, YOU made OUR day!”

Then right before I was able to take a picture of the two as they stood on the stage, a newly re-married couple, the bride whispered to the groom, “God was here today.”

Amen to that!

He Made My Day

The fact of the matter is that even though we may make each other’s days, like I did for that couple and they did for me, God has LITERALLY made our day!

This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

God doesn’t just do things for us that make us happy, therefore giving us a reason to praise Him for making our day memorable; He literally makes the day – every day – in which we live.

Think about this for just a second… the Hebrew word used in this case is in the perfect tense, meaning that the act of making the day was done, finished, once and for all completed. In other words, in God’s eyes, though it may appear to us as being as in the process of being made, it’s a done deal – finished. This is the day that the Lord has made.

Therefore, instead of worrying about the outcomes, the challenges, the twists and turns, why not rejoice in the moment, in the day, as we watch with amazement how God unfolds the gift that He has prepared for us?

I enjoyed hearing someone say, “You made my day.” I would bet God is no different. And since He knows what’s best for me, what I need, and how I can bring Him glory through my thoughts and actions in the next few hours, it will surely be a day worth remembering if I just pay attention and hold His hand.

Lord, You made my day!

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Divorce, Relationships and Family, worship

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