Archive for October 2016

Authority (The real story on Biblical submission)

by Jktdohn Howell, Jr.

This is Lesson e in the study “Kids These Days: Biblical Help for Families.” This  13-week study is aimed at connecting powerful truths that the Bible gives us about the family with the pressing, painful needs within our families.

There is a short verse near the end of Paul’s first letter to believers at Corinth that provides important insight into the plan and workings of God. The verse: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Though this verse specifically refers to the operations of the local church, these instructions are consistent on how He runs His universe. This truth is revealed in the Old Testament in a variety of ways. “Decently and in order” is how God organized Israel’s march through the wilderness, and how He laid out His instructions for the tabernacle, and later the temple. The Bible student, as he studies further, learns that God always advances His plans “decently and in order.” This instruction should also guide us as we interact with the government and in the way we interact with our employer or our employees (1 Peter 2:11-18; Eph. 6:5-9).

For any entity to operate smoothly, there must be someone in charge, someone who is given the authority to lead. There should be no surprise that God has engineered the family to operate under this same principle. For the family to operate with decency and order, there must be singular leadership, with others in the family submitting to that leadership.

The Power Passages: Ephesians 5:22-25; Romans 13:1

Due to ignorance (or worse), the organized church and even Bible-influenced cultures have been through dark periods in which the idea of the wife submitting to the husband was misunderstood and often abused. The result was the women were pushed into second-class status, or seen as inferior to men. This philosophy still flourishes in some cultures, disintegrating even to abuse of women. Looking at cultures across the globe, and observing from history, a true understanding of what the Bible teaches about the role and significance of women can always be associated with a better life for females. Cultures that are opposed to biblical Christianity, especially cultures influenced by Islam, suppress the basic rights of women. It is sadly ironic that in the West, Christianity has been tagged as anti-feminine when in fact Christianity teaches that women and girls are to be cherished, honored and protected. Men and women are equal in worth and value before our heavenly Father. Men and women, do, however, have different tasks and functions to carry out.

This chapter features three takeaways that will help us in our homes as we relate to our spouses and children.

  1. A submissive attitude toward authority produces a healthy society

The year 2016 has been characterized by alarming breakdowns of authority in the U.S. I watched television coverage from Memphis (which is 50 miles north of where I live) recently in which protesters had taken control of a major interstate and in effect shut down interstate traffic across the Mississippi River. Due to controversy over the application of police authority, we have seen violence between protesters and police break out in many large cities. Given a spark, most if not all major cities in our country seem to be at risk of becoming dangerous and out of control. One of the main factors is that rather than submitting to authority, many in our country are resistant and hostile to authority. Another factor contributing to this dangerous trend is the occasional failure of those in authority to exert authority wisely for the welfare of citizens and the preservation of law and order.

So what about those abuses of authority? That is a fair question. There are times when we have seen evidence of authority being handled poorly and unfairly. There are even (rare) situations when authority figures behave in a rogue and dangerous manner. Are there times when citizens should stand up and push back? These are very timely and practical questions for the Christian.

The apostle Paul dealt with similar issues as he planted churches and nurtured pastors to tend to these churches. In fact, life in imperial Rome in Paul’s time was rougher than life in our nation (even at present), especially for believers in Jesus Christ.  We can complain about whomever may be the president and can experience frustration about those in authority over us, but the hand that had been dealt to those in Paul’s day (the emperor Nero was one of the most jaded and evil men to lead the mighty Roman empire) was far worse. So how did the apostle handle this? What were his instructions to these early Christians? Did he tell them to fight back? To organize a rebellion? To resist?

Not at all! Here are Paul’s clear instructions on the matter (specifically to believers living in the city of Rome):

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom. 13:1-2).

The remainder of the chapter fleshes out these instructions, explaining that the government is a “minister of God” (v. 4) and thus deserving of our payment of taxes and customs (v. 7). The Greek word translated “be subject” in Romans 13:1 is seen again in Titus 3:1, where Paul instructs Titus regarding his flock: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates…” Peter is on the exact same page with Paul, as evidenced by 1 Peter 2:13: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme.”

So, the Bible is clear on this matter. Believers are to submit to the rulers of this present evil age, even those leaders whom we might believe to be wackos (again, history tells the story that Nero was clearly a deranged leader). The only exception I have found in the Scriptures is when the earthly ruler issues forth an order or directive that is clearly opposed to the directives of our heavenly Father. For example, when the Jewish leaders ordered the disciples to refrain from teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ, “[t]hen Peter and the other disciples answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:28-29). There are other occasions as well, as when Daniel deliberately violated the Persian emperor’s ban on any worship other than worship directed to himself (the emperor’s pride and hubris had led to his desire to be worshipped as a god). Daniel disobeyed authority “and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). However, it should be noted that these exceptions are rare and occur when a ruler is blatantly blasphemous, putting the believer’s testimony on the line. If believers (or members of society at large) went around willy nilly choosing not to submit, anarchy would be the result.

Our society is sick right now, because this principle of submitting to authority has been neglected. This principle may not seem to directly connect to the operation of the home and our marriages, but, in fact, this broad Scriptural mandate to submit to authority also forms the foundation for a healthy home. Sadly, this principle is being neglected in the home as well.

  1. The most effective way to exert authority is through love

When I worked as a school headmaster, I enjoyed some parts of the job and struggled with other responsibilities of the job. Being responsible for discipline in a school isn’t a glorious job, but it does provide a great platform from which to touch lives. When a student is “in trouble,” he will give you his undivided attention when he is put on the “hot seat,” which creates a great teaching moment and the opportunity for the young person to really learn something. But when a student is in serious trouble, the lessons can get very serious. Perhaps the toughest moments came when students committed a major infraction as defined by the school handbook, bringing forth the possibility of expulsion. It was emotionally wrenching to everyone involved to have to remove a student from the school that I operated, but sometimes this had to be done to protect an atmosphere of authority and order and to protect the welfare of the remaining students. But it was very difficult.

Over the time I worked in a school, I learned how to relate to students better, and how to do a better job as a disciplinarian. I learned a powerful “secret” along the way. It is this: the best way to lead students, the best way to deal with discipline, the best way to get children to pull with you toward good objectives, is to love them! That’s right, the best, most powerful way to exert authority is through love. I learned that when children and teens know that they are truly loved, and that their welfare is truly important to the authority figure, the majority will get in line and follow a leader who loves them. This became my number one strategy in dealing with school discipline, and it created a very good environment in the schoolhouse. Full disclosure: it was my experience that about 90 percent of students responded to being loved by almost always behaving within the boundaries (with some even blossoming into leaders). What about the other 10 percent? Sadly, they had to be conquered by force, and be shown tough love. Again, sometimes they even had to be removed from the school. Typically, the students who behaved in this way had a completely unsettled home life and had experienced intense disruption in their families. But, even in those cases, later in life many of these individuals would filter back through my life and acknowledge that they had done wrong and would later appreciate the school’s past attempts to love them and reach them. Bottom line: love is a powerful force for leadership and the exertion of authority.

Because “agape” is of God, and so very powerful, we should not be surprised that this principle is exactly what the Word of God prescribes for the home. It is the very simple-but-powerful flow of love that holds a home together. This is the core of our Ephesians 5 study. God loves His Son. God loves man that He created with a love so powerful that our sin and rebellion could not thwart His purposes. God sent His beloved Son to die for our sins, and to pay our sin-debt of death. When I accepted that gift—the gift of His Son’s death for me—God gave me the righteousness of Jesus Christ…again, it’s a gift! As a man who now possesses a new nature in Christ, I am to respond to Christ’s love by walking with Him in faith and obedience. As a husband, I am to lead my wife and my family in the spirit of this love. Not as a tyrant. Not as a power-hungry, insecure man. But I am stand up in my home as a leader who walks in love by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. That is where it all begins. For families, this verse continues to emerge as the key: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph.5:25).

In this context, and only in this context, can we then understand and apply Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” This is to be done by the wife voluntarily (“submit yourselves”), not under duress or threat.  This has nothing to do with her interactions with other men, but is “unto your own husbands.” This rules out these male-dominated cultures in which men try to hang onto power and push all women into a subordinate status. And holding this entire teaching from Ephesians 5 and 6 together is that this concept and lifestyle is to be carried out “as unto the Lord,” such that the husband and wife both know their ultimate accountability is to the Lord Jesus Christ. We will see this same principle in Ephesians 6, where children are instructed to “obey your parents in the Lord” (v. 1), and fathers are to bring up their children in the “nurture…of the Lord” (v. 4). If the husband is not abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ for his source of love, the formula breaks down. If the wife is not abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ to supply her source of submission, the formula breaks down. Based on this, I would not counsel a woman to submit to a husband who is blatantly or rebelliously outside the Lord’s will and is not the lover-leader described here in Ephesians 5.

There are many voices out there telling us how to lead, how to parent, and how to do just about anything better. The Bible teaches that of all of these principles and philosophies, “the greatest of these is love [agape]” (1 Cor. 13:13). The catch is that this love is only available from the Lord!

In conclusion, submission to authority in the home produces a healthy home. Even better, submission to authority “in the Lord” produces a godly home.

  1. Submission and equality are different concepts

So it’s no secret that controlling men have pulled the phrase “wives submit” out of the context of entire message of Ephesians 5 and 6 and used this phrase to run roughshod over their wives. But, when looking at the Bible’s teaching on authority and submission, it is very important to see that submission to authority is driven by the various roles that play out in our lives. Never in the Word of God do you find the person who is instructed to submit being asked to submit because he or she is unequal or less of a person. In the matter of submission, equality is not the issue.

Consider a scenario in law enforcement, for example. If I am cruising down the state highway—and maybe cruising just a little faster than the law allows—and I look in my rear view mirror and see bright, flashing blue lights, what happens next. Do I stop my car, get out of my car, and say to the trooper: “Hey man, what’s the deal? Why are you stopping me? You are a man. I’m a man. You’re not any better than me. We are equals. So, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna get back in my car and drive off, and you’re gonna deal with it.” How would you expect that to work out for me? It would be a true statement for me to protest that, as equals, he shouldn’t have jurisdiction over me. Should he?

Here is probably what plays out next. After he handcuffs me and gets me into the back of his car, the trooper will likely explain the following: “Look pal. You are right. We are equals, and I’m not any better than you. But, on this road, I have a job to do, and the state gives me jurisdiction to run things. When you accepted your driver’s license, that’s the system that came with it. So now you are charged with resisting arrest in addition to speeding.” The state would side with the trooper, and I would be in double trouble. This is as it should be. This gives society a better shot at operating “decently and in order.” If this so-called rule of law breaks down (and it is certainly fraying in many cities), we are in big, big trouble as a nation.

The truth is that use of authority has nothing to do with equality. Authority is instead necessary for the roles that we play as we move through life (and I would argue that these principles will move with us into eternity based on the consistency of God’s character). In an orderly society—and in an orderly home—the party who submits does so voluntarily, for the sake of organization and function. The party who submits is not submitting because he or she is inferior. Those who teach or infer this are guilty of perverting the biblical truths about submission and authority.

Thus, when a wife submits to the husband as the lover-leader of the family unit, she does so voluntarily, in keeping with a role in the family to play, and not because she is less of a Christian or less of a person than the man to whom she submits. And if the man is smart, he will champion her thoughts, desires and opinions as he attempts to lead the home. My two sons have now reached ages 22 and 18. My daughter is 15. Already the boys are physically stronger than their dad, and in many areas they are mentally stronger than I. Therefore, they, too, submit to dad and mom based on principle, not inequality. In many ways, my wife and my children are superior to me, yet they, in a spirit of love, submit to me as the lover leader. There will be more to discover on this when we move into Ephesians 6.

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ was submissive to the will of the Father

If you feel a little uncomfortable with all of this talk about submission, it may be the case that you have fallen victim to the subtle lies of a prideful heart. Pride can be blatant; it can also be sneaky. Because of the sin nature that we inherited from Adam, our minds and in fact our entire beings struggle with the idea of submitting to another person or authority figure. That is pride, and we are reeking with it in the natural man. This pride infected mankind through Satan himself. When Eve yielded her mind and her will to Satan’s alternate plan, and when Adam shirked his responsibility to be the lover-leader and also joined the rebellion, the poison of pride entered the human race, with devastating results playing out in our lives and playing out on our planet at this very hour.  This pride can be cloaked in many disguises, so be alert.

And before any of us start pushing back or rebelling in the roles that require us to be submissive, we must consider that heartbeat of Jesus Christ’s earthly life was submission to the will of His Father. The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus voluntarily and lovingly emptied Himself of all rights and all honors that were rightfully his as the Creator, and in humility He submitted—day after day, situation after situation, to the Father. Jesus Christ reveals that the proper relation to the Father is to have no will, no rights, and no claims of our own and instead to let His will fill us for His purposes. Philippians 2 teaches this truth very clearly and powerfully. Also consider these statements from Jesus Christ:

“I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30, emphasis added).

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me…and this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day” (John 6:38, 40, emphasis added).

If we still have reservations about this business of putting the interests of others ahead of our own, or if we are chafing at the very idea of yielding to a spouse, supervisor, or police officer, then we are absolutely missing the divine program of God and are in bondage to pride. We are guilty of attempting to throw the biblical message of decency and order out of the window, and saying instead, “Let’s do this my way!” When we resist authority, we are rebelling against God Himself (again, the only exception is when the authority figure is attempting to force the believer to act in a way that contradicts the Word of God).

The freedom from this bondage of pride comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. His humility and submission is available by faith for the believer, supernaturally, at each point of need in our life and in our daily walk. The walk of humility is pleasing to our Lord. The walk of humility and submission opens the door to God’s power to flow into our lives and service. As we submit when and where we are required, God deems this to be submission to Him. As we obey those in authority over us, we are to obey not as “men pleasers” but at the heart level “as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23b-24).

In the next lesson, we will see how this truth is to flow specifically into the home and into the lives of our children. It is critical that our children see the truths taught in this week’s lesson, or they will have some painful battles ahead of them.

Battle stories from the front lines: “Junior” making important decisions while the authority figures shirk their duties; fathers crashing into crisis situations and attempting to use authority without first engaging in consistent love to his family; parental undermining of authority in the presence of their children



  1. “So it all begins with the husband…that’s what I figured. I’m gonna tell him loudly and clearly to get his act together and fix this family!!
  1. “My wife never tells me she loves me. Doesn’t she know I need to hear that too? What do I need to do to get this across to her!?”


Your turn

  1. The late pastor and evangelical leader Dr. Adrian Rogers challenged parents to be “firm, fair and fun.” How are you doing as a parent in each of these categories?
  1. Do you know your spouse’s “love language”? (And how to specifically touch his or her heart with the most impactful type of love?)


Dad loves Mom – Family Priority Number 1: The Marriage

ktdby John Howell, Jr.


This is Lesson 2 in the study “Kids These Days: Biblical Help for Families.” This  13-week study is aimed at connecting powerful truths that the Bible gives us about the family with the pressing, painful needs within our families.

While parenting is hugely important and even sacred in significance, the human relationship that is most critical is the marriage relationship. The marriage relationship is second in importance only to one’s walk with God through Jesus Christ, which is the relationship that trumps (and controls) all others. The marriage relationship is more important than the role of being a parent. It is more important than the role of being a (grown) child. It is more important than one’s role as employee, business owner, or supervisor. It is more important than any friendship. My role as a husband is more important than my role as a pastor serving in the local church.

The Power Passages: Ephesians 5:22-33 (especially verses 22-25); 1 Peter 3:7

When Daddy loves Mommy, and the home radiates the feeling of a stable sanctuary from the craziness of our planet, the children in the family receive joy and confidence. Conversely, we need to realize what goes on in a child’s heart and mind when parents fight and fuss, or worse. Our little ones are looking to us and to our/their homes for their foundational peace, even after they grow up. You may be thinking: “Uh oh! We’ve really messed that up for them!” If you feel that way (and we probably all do to some degree), know that everyone struggles as the result of our innate, sinful selfishness. Take solace in the reality of the redemptive power of God’s grace and in the fact that we can—through the power of Jesus Christ flowing through us—respond to this truth now and begin to impact our families with the peace and love of heaven.

Here are the three takeaways in this week’s lesson:

  1. Marriage is a picture of an important spiritual truth

I love asking married couples the “how-did-you-meet” question. I cherish my wife’s and my story. If you don’t believe in the possibility of love at first sight, I’m pretty sure I could put up a good debate with you on that. I was 15 years old, and summertime life pretty much revolved around the little league baseball park, which was a five minute walk from my boyhood home. I was a lefty who played first base, savored the post-game free snow cones, and enjoyed my buddies. Life was pretty simple. Then one day, that summer when I was 15, I saw her. Standing in front of the bleachers. What a smile! What a gorgeous girl! Incoming…Cupid’s arrow…direct hit!

I was smitten, but very shy. So I spent the next several months watching her from a safe distance. I knew when her brothers would be playing baseball (meaning she would likely be there). I knew her parents’ vehicles. I think the modern term for my strategy would be “stalking.” My friends faded in importance. My mind was in another place entirely. After a few months of observing my paralysis and pining, my cousin/best friend walked up to Jennifer at a ninth-grade dance and very much broke the ice. “My cousin wants to dance with you,” he told her, “but he is too shy to ask you. Will you dance with him?” In retrospect, I realize that this crossroads had two potential outcomes: freeze up or step up. I stepped up…thanks cuz!

Jennifer and I dated all through the rest of junior high school and high school, except for a couple of months when she transitioned from junior high to high school and announced to me those dreaded words: “let’s take a break.” (I’m almost over that painful period). We stayed together as we went to college at Ole Miss. When I was a junior, and she was a sophomore, we knew it was time, and we were married during spring break, 1991.

Full disclosure: right before we married, I did my best to talk her out of marrying me. Why? I loved her so much, that I wanted her to be sure that she wanted to throw in for life with a guy who wasn’t gearing his life around the American dream of big house/lucrative career/nice toys/travels, etc. Instead, she would be getting permanently mixed up with a guy who believes that this world is just a place where we learn to die to self and learn to live out by faith a life in which we focus on the things that have eternal significance. I loved her so much that, unless she also saw the big picture in this way, I did not want her to be with me and be frustrated that our goals were not in sync.

Thankfully, she didn’t blink! At this writing, our marriage has been a glorious 25 ½  years and has been blessed with three children. My relationship with Jennifer brings incalculable joy and meaning to my life journey. The way I can count on her and can count on us brings strength and peace to me that is my foundation for service and ministry, second in significance only to my eternal security in Christ.

You may be wondering…what does your love story have to do with God (or Ephesians, Chapter 5)? Here’s the spiritual connection: my feelings of love and devotion to my wife provide me with insight into how Jesus Christ feels about me. He loves me much like I love my wife—only His love transcends even my strong love for Jennifer because, well, He is God! He is love!

Thus, as a metaphor, marriage helps us to understand some important truths about God. It also gives us insight into His priorities and plan for creation. We know that God is beyond brilliant…He is majestically and gloriously wise. His depths of wisdom and majesty are unfathomable and beyond what our finite minds can grasp. To help us to least get a glimpse of the important, fundamental truths about Him, God has put into motion things that we can understand that He then connects to those important spiritual truths. In addition to the marriage metaphor, some additional examples of this from Scripture include:

  • The way we are told to look to Him and trust God as our “Father”
  • The fact that a fellow believer is our “brother” or “sister” in Christ
  • How children are told to obey and honor their earthly parents as the “training wheels” version of learning to obey their Creator.
  • The use of many other metaphors that help us to understand invisible, spiritual truths: “light” of the world, “bread” of life, Shepherd/sheep, branch/vine/fruit and countless others.

Marriage was put into motion by God in part to help us understand many truths about Him, especially about His great “agape” love for us. When the Word of God connects the marriage of a man and a woman to the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church, we can know that marriage is a big, big deal to God. Our “power passage” that teaches about this connection is Ephesians 5:22-33. In this passage, we read these amazing words: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). This is a standard for loving another that is more premium and more pure and more powerful than any love we can imagine. The husband is to love his bride even as Jesus Christ loves the church! Motivated by His love for us and by His obedience to His Father, Jesus Christ suffered immeasurably and loved the church all the way to the cross and charged into the gates of hell, emerging victorious from the grave! And husbands are to love our wives with this kind of love as our model!? Husbands, what should be hitting our minds is that this love for our wives is a sacrificial love, an intense and focused love, a protective love, a selfless love—a love that exceeds all other earthly relationships!

In this Ephesians 5 passage, we learn in verses 30-33 that God set the original marriage union into motion back in the garden of Eden in part to help us to understand the way that He feels about us. When I think about the way I love my wife, these deep emotions and feelings can help me to get at least a glimpse of my Savior’s love for me. This helps my feeble finite mind get a little traction in understanding the way the infinite Lord Jesus Christ feels about me.

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul reveals that this connection is by design. The relationship between man and wife united in marriage, united in such a special “one flesh” relationship, gives insight into the “great mystery…concerning Christ and the church” (v. 32).

Now, ladies, if your husband were to take this powerful message from Ephesians 5:25 and run with it, what would be your response? (Don’t say, “I would faint!”) According to the amazing God who created you as a woman, according to His Scriptures, you have been built by Him to respond to that love. We will study this beautiful aspect of God’s design for the woman in more detail later, but for now note that it is by the stunning design of our great Creator that:

  1. A man who loves His wife as Christ loves His church;
  2. teamed with a woman who is responding to that strong love being poured into her;
  3. puts into motion a force that is a great testimony to the love of God and the genius of God.

Somehow, mysteriously, in the marriage union, 1+1 equals something bigger, greater and stronger than 2. The one-flesh relationship of marriage is one of God’s most precious and supreme gifts to His creation.

  1. Success in the marriage role depends on our walk with our Savior

Now the hard part.

While the truths presented above are fascinating, glorious and hopeful, there is bad news to confront. The husband is sailing into some pretty strong headwinds. In fact, considering the realities of life on this fallen planet, he is sailing into a monster storm! There are enormous challenges from without the marriage, within the marriage, and within our very hearts and souls.

The external attacks on marriage are obvious. Our culture has abandoned the truths of Scripture, which place loving boundaries on sex and marriage. We are barraged with images and messages telling us to gratify our needs and impulses, regardless of purity or consequences. Our culture tells us that our (fleeting) happiness should be our main passion and goal. Our culture tells us that the Bible’s definition of marriage is lame and outdated (and evangelicals haven’t done a very good job of refuting this attack by living out biblical marriage). This is spiritual war. The enemy quickly attacked Adam and Eve’s “one-flesh” relationship through his temptations, as we see playing out in Genesis 3:

Eve, did God really try to limit your happiness?

Eve, take the forbidden fruit…doesn’t it look good?

Eve, be free from the shackles God has placed on you and Adam…

Adam, Eve, be free…be like a god yourself…be the captain of our own destiny…

The enemy is still using the same strategy, with the same devastating consequences.

The very definition of marriage, from a biblical perspective, has been replaced by both a warped definition of marriage (same-sex “marriage”) and by a “who-needs-marriage anyway” attitude. Believing parents can even fall into this trap of downplaying the significance of marriage, for example, when we emphasize our children’s education and careers over their sexual purity and God’s plan for marriage in their lives.

The external attacks are relentless. Then, within the home, there are other forces feeding into this storm:

  • Financial stress and the long-term toll on families caused by the setup of mom and dad both working outside the home.
  • Extended family members who haven’t figured out the “leave-and-cleave” instructions of Genesis 2:24.
  • Unbiblical priorities, as measured by how we invest our time.

These forces chip, chip, chip into the marriage, like termites. A marriage can get into trouble and be sinking before the couple even realizes the gravity of what’s going on!

But the biggest, toughest, and most pervasive threat to our marriage is what we see when we look into a mirror. It is our sin nature. Ephesians 5:25 instructs me to love my wife selflessly. My sin nature oozes selfishness and ego. Ephesians 5:25 instructs me to sacrifice for her. My sin nature says, “Wait a minute! She oughtta be focused on me!” Ephesians 5:29 tells me to nourish and cherish my wife. My sin nature tells me to make my needs be the primary focus. Wives fight the same internal, sin-fueled battle. Ephesians 5:22 says “submit,” which means “respond,” to your husband. Her sin nature says, “I’ve got a better plan than he does.” Her sin nature says, “I will call the shots because he’s incapable.” Her sin nature issues forth and radiates the desires to control, to lead, and to “fix” her man. However, the part of her made in God’s image is engineered to respond to the leadership of her husband, and a civil war erupts in her heart that drains the peace from her life (and her marriage).

What’s is the answer? How does the husband navigate this storm? How does the wife? Is there any hope, with divorce rates showing no signs of slowing down even with our nation (and the Christian community as well) moving into the 50 percent meltdown rate?

The standards that God puts forth for the husband, and for the wife, are impossible to measure up to in our own strength. For me in my own strength and through my own resources to love Jennifer “as Christ also loved the church” (v. 25)  just has not happened, is not happening, and will not be happening. For Jennifer in her own strength and resources to respond to me “as unto the Lord” is not going to happen, either. Our sin nature recoils at these principles of selflessness. The hope, our only hope, is to by faith access the grace and power of our position in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will His power and resources flow through our lives by means of the Holy Spirit. Looking at Ephesians 5 as a whole, and the letter to the Ephesians as a whole, the Bible student will learn that Paul is teaching that the life of spiritual fruitfulness is attainable for the believer only as he or she is by faith will daily:

  • “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16)
  • “put off…the old man [sin nature inherited from Adam, with its pride and selfishness], which is corrupt according to its sinful lusts (Eph. 4:22)
  • “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24)
  • “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

The Christian learns from a study of the New Testament that victorious living—in which we experience freedom from the bondage of self  (the worst of all our enemies) and thus freedom from the bondage of sin—is made possible by God’s grace as we place our trust in God’s promises pertaining to who we are in Christ. Though this (sadly) seldom-taught, game-changing truth is not the specific focus of the “Kids These Days” study, before you and I can become a godly spouse or godly parent, we must first know the source of our true power for godly living. Take a hard, hard look at Galatians 2:20, and study the ramifications of this verse, and you will be on your way to unlocking some amazing information about how by faith to tap into the supernatural power of God Almighty Himself as you move through this fraying world. Additionally, Romans Chapters 6-8 is perhaps the most comprehensive teaching in the entire Bible on the reality and implications of these truths. Men, we must go to the Scriptures, which bring us to the person and work of Jesus Christ—and connect us to His power—before we can love our wives even as Christ loved His church. Women, you must go in faith to these truths and connect by faith to His power, before you can respond to your husbands as if you are being led by the Lord Himself.

Go at it another way…and roll the dice on the 50/50 plan. Half of the marriages make it (though outside of Christ are still missing the true blessings of marriage)…and half of the marriages don’t.

  1. Marriage (in the Lord) is AWESOME!

Here is a prayer that every husband should pray: “God, thank you for marriage…thank you for my wife!” Men, when you think about it even just a little bit, you gotta admit that God put forward some of His “amazing grace” when he made woman. In fact, that is how Eve got her name. Adam saw her. His mouth dropped open, and the next words he said were, “Whoa! Man!” Hence the birth of the noun, “woman.”  This occurred after Adam discovered he was lonely because there was not yet before Eve, in all of God’s creation, a help or soulmate who was suitable for Adam (Gen. 20:19). Turns out, God was just adding some dramatic timing by making Adam wait for the best part of creation. God did something about Adam’s loneliness, and, as always, He did it right! He then put them together, and God Himself officiated the first wedding ceremony as Genesis, Chapter 2, comes to a close.

A pattern that emerges in the Bible is that God puts up fences and limitations for our own good, and then the arrangements and avenues that He blesses us with inside the fence are very, very good. For example, extra-marital sexual activity is outside of the fence; thus, it is accompanied by feelings of guilt, fear, and the knowledge that the strong chastening of our heavenly Father is guaranteed to follow. On the other hand, the intimacy of marriage is inimitable, unsurpassed, spectacular and a special “grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).  And God put it all into motion as a very special part of His perfect plan for mankind.

Can I get an “amen”?!

Battle stories from the front lines: Children acting out when a marriage is crumbling around them; what the home looks like when the child or children are running things.


  1. There is a simmering problem that I have got to address with my husband/wife (or I will absolutely explode!), and the kids are in the next room…what’s the next move??
  2. So I’m feeling affectionate, and it is so good to see my wife that I want to let him/her know with a real kiss. ‘Ooooh gross!’ says our daughter. Is it a bad idea to be affectionate to my spouse in front of our children?
  3. Hold on now, so I’m supposed to make sure my kids know they fall just below my spouse in the ‘pecking order’? Won’t that hurt their self esteem?”

Your turn

  1. Why are husbands told to love their wives in Ephesians 5:25, but the wives are not given similar instructions to love their husbands?
  2. Peter warns the husband’s failure to honor his wife will “hinder” his prayers. That sounds serious…what is going on in that verse? (1 Peter 3:7).





Stretching the Heart: The Blessings of Having a Child

by John Howell, Jr.

For the next few weeks we will be featuring a series of Bible studies written by Glimpses of Grace board member, John Howell, Jr. This study is aimed at connecting powerful truths that the Bible gives us about the family with the pressing, painful needs within our families. Families are struggling like never before, and the emotional “bombs” of divorce, substance abuse, unbiblical parenting, and other dysfunctions are sending damaging shrapnel into the souls of dads, moms, and children. 

Let’s go back in time to feelings that flow in the minds and hearts of parents upon the arrival of a child.

When my first child arrived, those first few hours became a very sacred time for me. New parts of my heart and emotions were awakened by this miracle of life. After a short period of overwhelming anxieties, God settled my heart by reminding me to whom my child truly belonged, and reminding me about who had the most invested in this new life—and thus the most at stake!

The Power Passages: Mark 10:13-16; Psalm 127:3-5

As the Bible student sees Jesus Christ moving through the pages of the gospels, he typically sees an amazing portrait of peace. Our Lord moves slowly, and He never appears hurried or stressed as He ministers. He exudes gentleness and love. His movements and activities leave in their wake the fragrances of heaven.

Except on a few, rare occasions when the Lord Jesus gets angry, reminding us that there are times when it is appropriate for righteous anger to flow.

One of those occasions occurs when His disciples try to block some parents who are attempting to bring their very young children into the presence of Jesus the Christ. It is intriguing that, of all the things to bring sparks from our Lord, it was this mistake by his disciples of overlooking the importance of children that triggered this passion. There is much to be learned from this scene in Mark.

  1. Our grown up stuff is not as important as we think it is.

Tellingly, this confrontation (and, yes, the text indicates it was a confrontation) occurs in a chapter that begins with the Pharisees trying to corner the Lord Jesus into a debate about divorce. Following that brief discussion between Jesus and those who were emerging as His enemies, His disciples have some follow-up questions. It is as if they wanted to be right on the matter, theologically speaking. But judging from what happens next, their hearts may not have been truly concerned about the impact of divorce on men and women, and families, as much as they were concerned about being “right.”

The reason I think the disciples had it all mixed up is seeing how they behaved when some families approached their Master, as described in Mark 10:13. These were likely moms and dads who were bringing very young children and desiring that their children be touched by Jesus. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it. I know I would have wanted Him to bless my children!

His disciples didn’t think it was so sweet.  They saw it as a nuisance, something getting in the way of their important, grown up work. The disciples even had the nerve to scold these well-meaning parents. That is when the sparks flew!  That is when Jesus let the disciples know that their agenda reflected very mistaken priorities.

2. God gives us kids not only for what we will teach them, but also for what they will teach us.

Our Lord became passionate when He saw the disciples mistreating these children and their parents. The Greek verb used here indicates indignation and perhaps even frustration, and Jesus likely raised His voice. Jesus let them know that these approaching children had something to teach them.

As Mark 10:14 plays out, we hear our Lord firmly correct His disciples: “You better allow those children to come to Me, and you better not try to block them.” Why? Because this kind of simple faith and trust flowing from the parents (and that can also flow from a child) better illustrates how a human being is to approach a holy God than any adult behavior on display in Jerusalem that day. These children were excited about being with Jesus. These adults were worried about their schedules, their ministry goals, and themselves. The Lord Jesus challenged them to understand this contrast. He challenged them to understand that there is a reason that the Bible calls God “the Father,” and the Bible calls the saved person God’s “child.” And that reason is to emphasis His power, and our need—and to stimulate us to trust!

This is why statistics tell us that if a young person is not saved by trusting in Jesus Christ as his or her Savior at a young age, the likelihood of the individual ever coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ drops dramatically as the individual advances in age. So, in this passage, the Lord Jesus reminds us that we must be like a trusting little child, and believe God’s promises regarding eternal life. Adults complicate the offer by over-analyzing it. Children understand what the word “gift” really means, and they know how to accept (and eagerly open and enjoy) a gift!

I think of my three children and the feeling I would have when they would put their little hand in mine when we, for example, cross a busy street. Holding my hand conveys trust and that they are putting the responsibility of getting them safely across the street on their daddy. But, we grow to an age when we no longer stick out our hand to grab dad’s hand. Spiritually, may we never get to the point where we fail to grab our Father’s hand.

There are so many lessons we can learn from the trusting souls of children.

3.  Children are a major priority in God’s economy

As this scene closes out, the emotions on display in the humanity of our Savior transition back to the gentleness that we normally see in the gospels. Mark 10:16 is one of the “sweetest” verses in the Bible: “And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” I’ve often tried to envision that scene, as the Creator and Savior of the world spent a few moments with each child, picking them up and hugging them! What did He say? What did their parents say? What did the children who were old enough to speak say to Jesus (hint from living with a career kindergarten teacher, my wife…it ain’t no telling what they said!)? Also, I wonder what became of those children whose stories found their way into the sacred pages of scripture. I would guess that the Lord’s blessing propelled them into spiritual life when they became old enough themselves to understand just Who it was that they met on this day.

When I had my first child in 1994, I experienced a very sacred time. It felt like my heart was stretching, with new emotional chambers opening within it. I wanted to cling to my newborn son. I didn’t want anything to happen to him…ever! God calmed me during those hours, reassuring me that, as much as I loved my child, His heavenly Father loved him even more, as evidenced by God the Father sending God the Son to die on the cross for our sins. With the births of my second and third children, these same emotions softened my heart for God’s further instruction as to the significance of my children. My mentor spoke into my life, telling me, “John, God is giving you children not just for what you will teach them, but also for what they will teach you.”  That is the lesson that Jesus is giving us here in Mark 10. No, our children won’t lecture us and provide knowledge that we need, but our children will demonstrate truths that God wants us to understand about our relationship with Him! And our children will help us to experience and deal with emotions that God wants us to understand and to experience, so that we can better understand how He feels about us. This setup is yet another demonstration of our God’s majestic wisdom.

Moms, dads, grandparents, adults…listen up! Our society still reflects a priority system that does not value children. How much time do we actually spend focusing on our children’s emotional and spiritual growth? How much do we pay the teachers who spend nearly 200 days per year with our children? Why do hourly workers in a daycare receive less compensation than a delivery driver? Why do we delegate important parts of our responsibilities as parents to ungodly forces? Let’s go ahead and list another American travesty as well…why is it legal in our country to kill the unborn? It is because we are like the disciples, caught up in our own stuff, our own importance, our own agendas.

Old Testament Bonus for Parents:

Psalm 127:3-5a: “Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…”

This passage sends a strong message from the Word of God about where children should rank in importance. My three children are my heritage of the LORD. They are a huge part of the “grace of life” bestowed upon couples (1 Peter 3:7). Their value is priceless, and, since they are in my family, I am wealthier than a multi-billionaire.

Since they are my heritage, and, metaphorically, arrows, they are designed to be shot out and will carry my name and my belief system on out into the future long after I have gone to be with the Lord.

Children are very, very important in God’s economy.

Battle stories from the front lines: Parents crippled by feelings of inadequacies for the task of parenting; parents who have experienced miscarriage or the death of a child; neglected children.


  1. “Given the volatility of our nation and our planet, is it even a good idea for my wife and me to bring a child into this world?” (What Bible principles come to mind when discussing this matter?)
  2. “My dad was abusive to my mom and often to us kids as well. Will I be able to cut it as a parent?” (How should a husband or wife whose memories of childhood are painful and/or problematic approach the task of becoming a parent?)

Your Turn

  1. What specific positive emotions do you remember about the first hours of the arrival of your child or children?
  2. What specific fears or anxieties do you remember experiencing in the first few hours after becoming a parent? What promises are given to us by our heavenly Father to meet those fears? (Or, for prospective parents, what fears do you have about taking on such a responsibility?)