It was a pleasure for me to interview Ron and Jody Zappia recently as they explained “the seven choices that keep couples together.”
As you watch this video (HERE), you will hear what those marriage-changing choices are, and you will also learn more about the Zappias’ own personal story of a marriage-in-crisis that God transformed as a marriage-in-Christ.
Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. I was happy to share with Kristen some of the things that I have learned during thirty years of marriage.
Last week, Kristen posted Part One of our marriage question-and-answer on her website; and today, she is posting Part Two. Here are today’s questions from the bride:
Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?
Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?
To read the article, please continue reading at Kristen’s website HERE.
Have you entered the book giveaway for The Marriage Knot? Learn about this new marriage book and enter your name for the giveaway HERE or HERE.
Ron and Jody Zappia were still newlyweds when their marriage began to unravel. Stunned by the crisis, they committed themselves to learning how to tie the knot of marriage so that it would hold them together for a lifetime. Almost thirty years of marriage later, Ron and Jody are sharing what they have learned in their new book by Moody Publishers, The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together.
The Zappias learned that the marriage knot is not simply tied at the wedding altar and then forgotten. The knot must be strengthened through “everyday choices,” practices which we can learn from the Scriptures (21). “Choices” is the optimal word here because marital success is based not on the whims of our emotions but rather on the decisions of our will. Love is not something that happens to us; it is something we choose to practice.
The Zappias list seven choices that we can make to strengthen our marriage bond:
The choice to grow spiritually
The choice to love unconditionally
The choice to serve sacrificially
The choice to please (physically) regularly
The choice to persevere persistently
The choice to communicate respectfully
The choice to bless abundantly
Ron discusses each choice in a separate chapter. At the end of each chapter, Jody shares a few comments from her perspective. Although Jody’s sections are very short, they are significant contributions to the book.
Whenever I blog about new marriage books, my goal is not so much to critique the writing or even to evaluate the book as it is to glean items that may be encouraging or helpful to you. There is much in this book to do just that, beginning with the title itself and the core premise of the book. It is important for husbands and wives to remember that marital unity must be strengthened every day. We either reinforce or weaken our marriage ties day by day and choice by choice.
Like a three-stranded braid, your marriage is woven together as you move toward God and toward your spouse. You move toward God by trusting Him and obeying Him, and you move toward your spouse by forgiving and connecting.
Here are some “gleanings” from The Marriage Knot:
Your “marriage is your greatest tool to be a witness for Christ in this world. It is your greatest testimony to bring other people to a knowledge of God, to introduce His power, grace, strength, and love.” (21)
Choose to Grow Spiritually
Regular “church attendance decreases your chances of divorce anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.” (34)
Choose to Love Unconditionally
We need to “learn to accept the other and live with glaring shortcomings. That’s called loving acceptance. Sometimes marriage is about learning to manage the tension rather than completely alleviating it.” (51)
“If you’re having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.” (58)
“Being unforgiving can be like a hot coal in the palm of your hand. The tighter you squeeze, the more it burns.” (58-59)
Even when you can’t trust your spouse, you can still focus on loving him or her. (63)
Choose to Serve Sacrificially
When Satan tempted the first couple in the Garden of Eden, “Adam took a step back when he should have stepped forward.” And Eve “took a step forward when she should’ve taken a step back.” (69)
Men, stop “guilt-tripping yourself for not being the spiritual giant you think you ought to be. Be done with that. Simply commit to do your part in the spiritual growth process and watch God work!” (73)
Choose to Please Regularly
“Satan likes a marriage without sex as much as sex without a marriage.” (96)
“Hopelessness is never from God, only from the enemy, and the withholding of sexual intimacy is what invites the enemy into your struggling marriage. It’s not a good plan.” (98)
Premarital sex tells your partner that it is “okay to have sex outside of marriage.” (106)
Choose to Persevere Persistently
Sometimes God “wants us to remain under life’s weight to produce something in us that we can’t produce in ourselves.” (115)
Choose to Communicate Respectfully
“When it comes to your marriage: your speck is always a log, and your spouse’s log is always the speck.” (136)
“’Be careful with your words: once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten’.” (137)
Choose to Bless Abundantly
“Prayer is the greenhouse of hope!” (153)
Praying with your spouse “creates an intimacy that precious few will ever experience.” (153)
Moody Publishers is graciously offering a complimentary copy of The Marriage Knot. If you would like to receive a paperback copy of The Marriage Knot, leave a comment below by March 28, 2019, to be entered into the drawing. (Be sure that I am able to contact you for your mailing address if you win.)
May God bless you as you make the choices each day which will strengthen your marriage knot. Tami
Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. She recognizes that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a wedding event, as exciting as that is! Having been on this journey myself for over thirty years, I am happy to share some of the things I have learned (and still am learning) along the way.
Here are the first three questions:
Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?
Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?
I am honored that Kristen is sharing her questions and my responses in two guest posts on her personal blog, where Kristen encourages her readers “to think truthfully and live daringly.” The first article appeared on her website today, and Part Two will be published next week.
To read our Q and A exchange, continue reading HERE.
Quite frankly, I wasn’t eager to read about “the storm-tossed family.”
But as I began to read Russell Moore’s latest book, I had to restrain myself from bombarding a friend with texted pictures of underlined passages from the book.
You may not be eager to read about the tossing of a storm, but you will definitely want to learn “how the cross reshapes the family,” which is the subtitle of The Storm-Tossed Family. Published by B&H Books, this new book on marriage and family is excellent.
Family as Problem, and Family as Solution
Moore’s opening premise is that just as storm clouds bring life-giving rain as well as devastating floods, so our families can bring to us our greatest joys as well as our deepest sorrows. The same waters that threaten to drown us can become the waters that float our boat.
“The family is not only part of the problem, … but part of the solution” (page 30). Eve’s first son murdered her second, but another Son rescues us all.
God uses His design of family to heal our families. Our marriages and families are torn apart with conflict and cruelty until we are born into God’s family, where we are loved with the lavish affection of the Father and the friendship of spiritual brothers and sisters. Through covenant vows, we receive a glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We look forward to celebrating at a Wedding Feast and living “happily ever after.”
Family as Spiritual Warfare
Moore recognizes that the family is the battleground for spiritual warfare. Our objective is not escape; it is victory. This is a battle worth fighting, and it is a war we can win.
How then shall we live in our families so that our joys are eternal instead of elusive? How can we navigate our lives so that our burdens are redemptive instead of destructive? The answer is found in the cross. Like the family sometimes, the cross is a place of pain and rejection, but it is also the door to joy and connection.
Living Crucified Lives
A cross-shaped home is an intriguing concept, but it is much more than that. Learning to incarnate the gospel in our own lives is the most important thing we can do. Many see the cross as a relic of the past, but if we are to experience transformation in the present, we must recognize that the cross is our constant pattern for daily living.
How does the cross shape us as children and siblings, as spouses and parents? I think we live cruciform lives in three ways.
1. We live cross-shaped lives as we continually die to our own self-will. Our own will is not necessarily sinful, but clinging to it always is.
2. The gospel transforms us so that we can love others sacrificially: we are willing to suffer for the benefit of another. We are willing to be wounded so that others may be healed. As we suffer willingly and forgive generously, we re-enact the gospel.
3. The gospel renews our thinking so that we can receive our burdens as blessings. God knows how to use the snarled threads in our marriages and families to untangle the knots in our own souls.
God-ordained suffering is always redemptive, which means that God uses it to reverse the curse in the world and in our lives personally. When our spirits are yielded to God, our hardships will always prosper us spiritually. In the Hands of God, our suffering will not deprive us, demean us, or deform us; instead, it will deliver us. It will heal us and enrich us.
The cross of suffering is not an obstacle to joy for those who crucify their self-centeredness there: instead, the cross is the very means to joy. The invitation to pick up our cross (“come and die”) is the invitation to intimacy with God Himself and the invitation to share His joy.
I am thrilled to see fantastic truths about marriage being shared in this book, and I pray that its much-needed message will reach a huge audience. I appreciate Moore’s understanding of the unique partnership within the covenant of marriage, and I am delighted to read his discussions of masculinity and femininity, which are favorite topics of mine. Although I don’t agree with Moore on everything, I recommend this book as one of the best on marriage.
This book does not list “five tips for resolving conflict” or “six things you should never say to your wife.” Those things may be helpful, but they are secondary issues. (For those who are familiar with Radiance, you will understand when I say that The Storm-Tossed Family deals with mattress issues, not sheets.)
The primary issue in marriage is to get our own hearts right and to understand the purpose of marriage. With a sound doctrine of marriage, Moore explains the underlying principles which provide a solid foundation for dealing with secondary issues.
Let me share some great statements from several chapters.
From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:
“Men are warned [in Scripture] … against passivity and refusal to take responsibility…. Women are warned … against signifying a lack of need for the male….” (page 86)
“Headship does not refer to power but to responsibility.” (88)
“Headship will not seem often to the outside world to be ‘being the head of one’s house’ at all. Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (89)
“We are created for cooperation and for complementarity. We do this not through the will-to-power but through the way of the cross.” (94)
“Marriage matters then for everyone because marriage is not just about marriage. Marriage is about the cross.” (95)
From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:
Moore tells engaged couples that “they can’t construct their own vows” because “apart from the rest of the community, they do not know what vows to make. … [T]he primary purpose of covenant vows is not in reference to one’s feelings in the moment but to one’s commitment in the face of the unpredictable and the unimaginable.” (104)
A wedding “is not a party for the couple, celebrating their individualized love. … Those gathered are not an audience but witnesses…. In a Christian marriage, the gathered witnesses are a sign that the church is here to hold the couple accountable to their vows before God. The marriage is not just about the couple but about the gospel. This means the marriage is the business of the whole church.” (105)
“Intimacy means that you love these realities [of your spouse’s strengths and vulnerabilities] … without either taking the other’s strengths for granted or resenting him or her for not having other strengths. Often, the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ in a marriage is not a real person with which a spouse is having an affair, but instead is an imagined, idealized husband or wife to which the spouse is constantly compared.” (117)
“Whether married or not, you bear a calling to support and uphold the marriages within the family of God….” (123)
We “will find joy and peace and wholeness in our marriages when we stop expecting marriage to meet all our needs, and start seeing marriage as a war to find contentment in the gospel.” (123)
From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:
“Affairs are usually not about a lack of happiness [in marriage] or a lack of sex. … The devil knows the way to take one down is not through a deficient spouse but through a deficient self” [that is, not finding one’s identity in Christ]. (143, 145)
“Ingeniously, the satanic powers have found a means to direct human erotic energy in a direction that ultimately saps one of erotic energy, and in due time, of the very possibility of human intimacy. The powers of the age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make this seem irresistible….” (150)
“In both artificial Eros and in artificial romance, there is the love of self, not the mystery of the other.” (151)
From “The Road To and From Divorce”:
“How can Christians … speak to issues of social justice and the common good without addressing what is no doubt the leading cause of ‘orphans and widows’ (James 1:27) in our midst? How can we speak … about ‘family values’ while speaking in muted tones on the issue of divorce and at full-volume on other matters?” (162)
“John the Baptist telling Herod he could not have another man’s wife is a quite rare profile in courage in almost any era.” (163)
“The shift in evangelical attitudes toward marital permanence does not seem to have come through any kind of theological reflection or conversation at all. Instead, our approach to divorce seems to have meandered just a bit behind the mainstream of American cultural patterns. … We have grown accustomed to a divorce culture….” (164)
Moore believes that marriage “is to be part of the discipline of the church” (174). He claims that every “marriage that the church solemnizes should be a marriage the church takes as its responsibility” (175). These statements may surprise some readers and will probably raise some eyebrows. I was surprised … and pleased, and this passage raised a cheer from me! It deserved another “thank you, Russell Moore!” text.
Cherish the Blessings
Moore also addresses the topics of children, parenting, family traumas, and aging. In each chapter, he shares clarifying perspective and profound biblical truth.
The book concludes with strong encouragement:
Your family, whatever it is, will bless you, maybe in ways you don’t even notice in the blur of busyness at the moment. Stop and notice these blessings. Listen to what God is telling you through them. … Do not be afraid. … Whatever storms you may face now, you can survive. If you listen carefully enough, even in the scariest, most howling moments, you can hear a Galilean voice saying, “Peace. Be still.” (297)
Thank you, Russell Moore, for writing The Storm-Tossed Family. May a multitude of homes be reshaped by the Cross.
How significant are individual marriages to the Body of Christ? How important is a Biblical understanding of gender?
Many Christians believe that marriage and sexuality are private issues which often distract us from the more important matter of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But could it be that when we bypass doctrines of sexuality, we throw out critical evangelistic tools? And could it be that when we embrace God’s gifts of gender and marriage, we create compelling revelations of God?
In the beginning, God sculpted the cosmos as a stunning revelation of Himself. And then, God designed men, women, and marriage to tell us even more about Himself.
God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NLT)
We know that God is neither male nor female. Yet there is something unique about our being male or female that is unlike that of the animals, for only people are created in the image of God. Imago dei is stamped into God’s design of men, shaping them to reveal the divine attributes of masculinity in glorious ways. And imago dei is stamped into God’s design of women, shaping them to reveal the divine attributes of femininity in glorious ways.
While being male or female is a component of physical biology, masculinity and femininity are components of personal relationship. They are profound reflections of the triune God, whose very nature is rich, full relationship.
Our gender is a divine commission to reveal the greatness, the beauty, and the strength of God in compelling ways. The DNA of our assignment is written into every cell of our body; it is printed across the fibers of our being several trillion times.
“… maleness and femaleness are objectively rooted in biology, and should be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered.”1
Although we often struggle to flesh out the glory of God in our daily lives, we can embrace this sacred calling to live fully and faithfully as imago dei. This high calling is one which extends to every part of our lives, including our sexuality. Ravi Zacharias points out that when we deny the sacredness of our sexuality, we deny the sacredness of human life itself.2 Although our bodies are physical and temporal, they have spiritual and eternal purpose. Our material bodies are knit with our nonmaterial spirits so that together they share in the dignity and worth of human life.³
Telling the Truth about God
It is the goal of evangelism to tell the truth about God. The psalmist marveled at the power of the natural universe to tell the truth about God:
The heavensdeclarethe glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voicegoes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 91:1-4, NIV)
Are the voices of God-created gender and God-designed marriage any less persuasive or wide-reaching? First, creation tells the truth about God’s existence and power, and then marriage tells the truth about God’s loving nature and faithful character. When we “preach” this good news through our relationships, we are laying the groundwork for sharing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Masculinity
God initiates the relationship with His beloved, the people of God. …
Forty-seven years of marriage can provide a wealth of knowledge and insight, especially when that marriage has been built on biblical principles. Drawing from that rich experience, Crawford and Karen Loritts have written a new book entitled, Your Marriage Today … And Tomorrow. The book emphasizes creating marriages that are so strong today that they give endurance to marriages tomorrow, in the next generation and beyond.
Seeing the Big Picture
Your Marriage Today focuses on the underlying principles of a successful marriage. Crawford acknowledges that he is the “big picture” person in his marriage while his wife is better at the details. Although the book is co-authored by both Crawford and Karen, it is written in Crawford’s conversational voice, and the material reflects his “big picture” perspective.
The instruction and insights which the Loritts share are excellent. Their advice is solidly biblical, full of wisdom, and honoring to both husbands and wives. I think readers will be encouraged to see how God has beautifully “knit together” a man and woman from very different backgrounds.
Creating Your Legacy
Crawford and Karen are aware that each marriage leaves a legacy, one that can be painfully destructive or wonderfully life-giving. The Loritts challenge us to think beyond our present moment of busyness. They caution us to be mindful of the long-term consequences of our marital behavior. Through the choices we make in our marriages, we create a profound impact in the lives of those around us and those who follow us.
How we need this counsel!
In our culture, marriages are sometimes trashed and replaced as if they were temporary jobs, subject to our personal whims, instead of high callings that God has placed on our lives. Marriage is God-ordained, designed to be God-reflecting and gospel-illustrating. Before we start working out the details of our marriages, we all need to consider the important legacy we are shaping.
Whether our marriages last or not, our legacies will.
When Your Spouse Isn’t Working with You
In this book, the Loritts address the husband and wife who are working together to strengthen their relationship. But what if your spouse is not working with you? What if your spouse is not helping to create a legacy of blessing?
Don’t be discouraged! You can still give your children (and a watching world) a fantastic legacy.
Even when your marriage isn’t healthy, you can be healthy as a spouse, leaning on God to meet your every need. You can give your children the legacy of a promise-keeping parent. When you honor your vows, you give others hope and even confidence that there is a promise-keeping, trustworthy God.
You give your family a wonderful legacy when you model trusting God despite difficult circumstances. What is more valuable than that? You can be living proof that God Himself is the Giver of life and joy.
You can teach your children how to handle disappointments by handing those hurts to God and allowing Him to turn ashes into beauty. What a rich legacy that is! Perhaps most importantly, you can demonstrate how to forgive. That priceless gift will bless your children and their children for the rest of their lives.
Feeding Your Marriage
The Loritts paint a broad picture of the forest, but they do not ignore the trees. They do include some practical advice for the day-by-day work of strengthening marriages. For example, they encourage us to “feed” our marriages by “making consistent, heart-nourishing deposits” in the lives of our spouses (58). They list six specific ways to do that:
Regularly read the Bible as a couple.
Pray together every day.
Lighten each other’s load.
Identify what refreshes your spouse.
Spend regular, uninterrupted time together. … Carve out some time each evening to touch base with each other. Schedule two or three weekends a year to get away as a couple to talk and connect on a deeper level. (59)
That is an excellent list! How many of these habits do you have?
I encourage you tochoose one and start practicing it this evening. It will bless you “today … and tomorrow.”
Moody Publishers is providing a complimentary copy of Your Marriage Today … And Tomorrow. If you would like to enter the drawing to receive this book, simply leave a comment HERE by July 23. I will notify the winner on July 24, and you will receive a paperback copy in the mail.