Unity Through Fellowship conference 2014

We are having our annual leadership conference here at Living Word this week.  This is a conference based on a principle initially put into practice in Dr. B.J. Pruitt’s church, Spirit and Life Bible Church in Elton, Maryland.  Dr. Pruitt is my pastor and the Apostolic covering for our church. 

God spoke to Dr. Pruitt and said, “Make a place for the ministry to come together.”  Both members of organizations and those who had no affiliation were welcome.  If there were particular doctrines that might be divisive, they would be left at the door.  This was not to be an organization but a place where relationships can develop.

For some 40 years this yearly gathering continued and Pastors, ministers and church leaders from around the world came every year forming life long relationships that have made a difference in the lives of hundreds.  In 1987 during a very difficult time in my life, my wife and I found our way to this conference and everything in our ministry changed.

3 and 1/2 years ago, some of us felt that this kind of conference was needed again.  We began in Newark Delaware in 2011.  We felt that there needed to be a church home for this meeting and, because I felt so strongly about the principle behind what Dr. Pruitt started, I offered our church as the host church.  Much to my joy, Dr. Pruitt agreed.  This is the first “Dr. B.J. Pruitt’s Unity Through Fellowship Conference” sponsored by Living Word Christian Center.

We welcome Dr. Pruitt, Sister Cathy Pruitt and Dr. Eldon Wilson to our church this Wednesday through Friday.  There are many who will be joining us for three days of powerful preaching, prophetic ministry and praise and worship.  We believe that God will manifest himself in a special way. 

Unity through fellowship as a principle is simple.  If people come together over the Word of God and the presence of Jesus and spend time in fellowship over things they can agree on, they will find that the people they may disagree with over certain points are really good people who love the Lord.  In my life, I met people I would never have met in my normal circle of relationship. They have become my dearest friend and covenant brothers and sisters.  By the time we found out we disagreed on some point, it was too late.  We had fallen in love with one anther.

If you are in the Southern Tier of New York state or the Northern tier of Pennsylvania, it is not too late to join us.  You can find directions on our web site, WWW.Livingwordgreene.com.  If you are not able to come this year, no matter where you live, we would like you to join us next February here in our small town. 

As you can imagine, I will be very busy and I don’t think I will get much blogging done this week.  You can get the messages for free on the website above.

God bless,
Pastor Bill Kiefer

Husbands Love Your Wives

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

This week in our study of biblical marriage, we have been focusing on the New Testament and Ephesians 5 in particular. The very last verse of this chapter tells us that the most important thing about marriage is love and respect. Both want love and both deserve to be respected. However, there is something about the makeup of each gender that causes them to want and need them differently. Men want love but need respect. Women want respect but they need to know they are loved.

Yesterday we looked at verses 22 – 24 in detail. They clearly state that wives are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. It does not say they must unconditionally obey. It does not say that women must submit to men. It says wives submit to their own husbands in the Lord. There are times when a woman simply will not submit in a marriage. However, it is my contention as a man that the problem is more often that the man is not “in the Lord” and is therefore not worthy to be submitted to.

There is no question that women can be just as much at fault for marriage problems. I am a man and I believe that if we are to be the leaders we bear the greater responsibility. My wife tends to focus on the wife’s responsibility more than I do. Perhaps I can get her to share some of her insights. The most important thing to remember is that we each bring something to the table in marriage. I cannot change my wife. I can change myself. If I focus on that, I must trust the Lord to deal with my wife. Of course, that goes both ways.

What does it mean when this verse says “in the Lord” concerning the husband? I believe this is talking about a Christian marriage. That is not to say that the principle of marital submission by the wife does not apply in a marriage where either one is not a Christian. I do think it applies differently. I do not have room to cover both in this space, so I will concentrate on the Christian husband.

If I am a man and a Christian and I want my wife to submit to me, I need to be functioning “in the Lord.” To me that means I need to be walking in my Christianity. I need to function according to Christian principles in my life. I need to be honest, walk in integrity and have good character. I need to walk in love and faith. I need to apply holiness and righteousness to my lifestyle. More important, I need to do all those things in my marriage relationship.

One of my counseling techniques with couples is to go to 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul defines the love of God. I ask them to put their name in each time the word love appears. I then ask them if they can say that is how they act towards their husband or wife. We often apply this scripture to our relationships in church or in the world but not in the home. If your spouse were a coworker would you treat him or her the way you do. Think about it.

This is true for both, but it is especially true for the husband. Three verses in this part of Ephesians 5 focus on the need for the wife to submit to her husband and one mentions respect. Seven verses speak of the husbands need to love his wife. Which is really emphasized in Paul’s teaching? I would suggest it is not the wife’s need to submit. It is the husband’s need to love as Christ loved the Church.

How am I to love my wife? 1 Corinthians 13 is a good general picture but Paul gives us a more specific picture here. First, he tells us to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. If I am going to love my wife, I must do for her what Jesus did for the church. When Paul says he gave himself for her he means Christ died for the church.

Men, you have every right to expect your wife to submit to you just as long as you die for her! I can hear some of my macho brothers saying, “I’d take a bullet for my wife!” Oh that it were that easy. The hard part is not dying physically for my wife. Jesus did that for the church but he also gave his whole destiny for it. He sacrificed his will for the church. (Mathew 26:36) The story of the garden of Gethsemane tells us that Jesus’ flesh did not want to go to the cross but he went anyway.

Paul often speaks of dying but not in a physical sense. In 1 Corinthians 15:31 he tells us he “dies daily.” That certainly does not mean physical death. He speaks of being crucified with Christ and of dying to the flesh. As a husband and a leader in my home that is the dying I am required to do. Not only that, but I am to die or give myself for my wife.

It is my responsibility to die to what I want and give myself for what my wife wants and needs. I must not just do what is good for me in work, career and recreation. I must do what is best for my wife. Even in the bedroom, I must die for my wife. I could give all kinds of examples but I think you get the idea.

As you read these verses, it is evident that Jesus took the responsibility for providing salvation for the church. Each person had to choose to accept it and walk in the power of it. It is up to us as husbands to die for our wives. We are to provide an atmosphere of love and protection. We are to place our needs behind her needs: Our desires behind her desires. In my experience, most women have little trouble submitting under those circumstances.

Let me look at one more verse.

Ephesians 5:29 (NKJV) 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

I like the word cherish. The Greek word implies the idea of brooding as in the way a bird hatches an egg. The mother protects the egg. The word also means to warm. When I cherish something, I protect it and I take especially good care of it. Paul says we should cherish our wives as we cherish our own flesh. Nothing is as important to us as our own flesh, but there are some other examples that may help to clarify what this means.

Maybe you had a possession you cherished. For many men in America that possession is a car. When I get a new car, I like to keep it clean. I wash it and polish it. I like to look out the window at it. If I let someone drive it at all, I make sure to tell them loudly and often to be careful. I cherish that car.

We might cherish a possession that has a special meaning to us. Maybe someone we love or loved gave it to us. Maybe it is valuable. We put it in a safe place. We make sure it is in good condition. We might display it in a special way. All of these things portray the idea of cherishing.

As the leader of my home, I am to cherish my wife. I am to care for her, protect her and display her proudly. I am to make sure she knows how much I cherish her. Men, many of us do not tend to show affection easily. Nevertheless, you are not just a man you are a husband. Learn! Tell her you love her. Show her you cherish her. Be the leader in your home. Not by bullying or declaring, “I’m the man of house woman, and you will submit!”

Lead by loving and cherishing. Make it your goal in life to cherish your wife. Most women will respond to that. They were designed to respond to that kind of treatment. You will be surprised. One brother said, “Marriage is the closest thing to either heaven or hell there is on earth.” Husbands, take the leadership role in making it heaven on earth.

Wives Submit to Your Own Husbands in the Lord

Ephesians 5:22-23 (NKJV) 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

Yesterday we started looking at Ephesians 5 and what the New Testament says about marriage. These verses are not all the New Testament has to say on the subject but they contain some of the clearest instructions on marriage in the bible. Yesterday we focused on verse 33. I believe this verse sums up how we can have a successful marriage. Let me quote it again.

Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV) 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I pointed out yesterday that if we can follow this simple statement it will go a long way towards making our marriages better. Men need respect. Women need love. That is not to say that men do not need love and women do not need respect. I believe everyone needs both but there is something about the makeup of each gender that causes the degree of need for each of these things to be different.

I have pastored for over 35 years. I have ministered to many marriages. It is always amazing when a woman who is being physically abused stays in the relationship. Of course, sometimes there is no choice but other times we hear this from the woman. “I know he is wrong but he really does love me.” We understand that any man who would do such a thing does not love his wife but if he somehow convinces her that he does, she will stay with him. Women need love above all else.

On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is convey disrespect to a man. You might beat him in a game or even get the job he wanted. If you show respect in victory, usually everything will be fine. If you show disrespect, there will often be a problem. Men cannot live without respect.

Every man and every woman is different. The degree of need for love or respect can vary. Some women may not really need love as much as others, some men are never respected, and it does not seem to bother them. However, the great majority will follow this pattern.

When a woman knows that her husband loves her she can put up with many things. There may not be enough money. The house may not be all she would like it to be. Her husband may have to work more hours than she would want him to or he may not have a good job. She will support him and pull together with him as long as she knows he loves her and no one else can take her place.

A man can put up with a less than clean house. He can accept a working wife. He can even work through sexual difficulties if he knows his wife respects him. There are many people in my world that do respect me, but there are some who do not. There is one thing of which I can always be sure. When I come through the door of my house, my wife loves honors and respects me. That makes the rest bearable.

I want to reiterate that I believe respect for a woman is very important. I respect my wife. She is an incredible person not just an incredible woman. Men need to know that they are loved. I am absolutely certain my wife loves me. However, I want love but I need respect. Respect is one of the ways that I know I am loved. She wants respect but needs love. Demonstrating my love for my wife is one of the ways that I show her I respect her.

In today’s verses, Paul starts by giving instructions as to how this works in practical application. He begins by telling wives that they must submit to their own husbands in the Lord. He does not say women should submit to men. He does not say wives should obey their husbands. He says that wives should submit to their own husbands “in the Lord.”

Many in today’ society consider this a very old fashioned and slightly dangerous point of view. I pointed out yesterday that this is not a statement of value. In any human relationship someone must lead. It is simply a matter of order. God says the husband is the leader in the home. We may not like that idea but it is what God says. As I shared yesterday, God is smarter than we are. If you believe in him and in his Word, you cannot argue with that.

What does this mean in practical application? To understand we must understand the nature of submission. Submission is a heart attitude. It is not unconditional obedience. There is only one person who warrants that and it is God himself. Submission says, “I desire to follow. I desire to obey when it is appropriate.” Submission does not require obedience that goes against the Word of God and does not require obedience that goes deeply against our own conscience. A submitted person is one who respects the person they are submitted to and willingly follows their lead. It is not one who never questions.

A submitted wife is one who respects her husband as the God appointed leader of the home. She is willing to follow him. She is neither willing to go against the Word of God nor against her own conscience. She does not manipulate to get her own way. She will talk to her husband, ask questions, and give her point of view. Once she does those things, submission requires that she follow his final decision.

I know that I may have lost some of you with that last sentence, but I cannot take it back. It is what the bible means when it tells wives to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. However, let me clarify that by telling you how this works in our marriage. I know I have the final say before God. My wife accepts that as well. We have been married over 41 years. In all that time, I have never used my final say. You might ask, “Why not?” My answer is, “I am not stupid.”

I know my decisions affect my whole family and beyond. Why would I make any decision without knowing how my wife feels about things? Why would I decide anything without the advantage of her wisdom? Why would I want to carry that burden alone? If it came to a point where we had no choice, we would go with my decision. It has never come to that.

One reason it as not is that I know she is truly submitted in her heart. I know she will follow me. She is not trying to push me to do what she wants. She does not have to because she knows I am sensitive to what she wants and I will do all I can to make sure I give her what she wants and what she needs. Therefore, we talk and we pray until we come into agreement.

Honestly, I do not buy a pair of pants without my wife’s agreement. I certainly would not show up with a car and say, “Look what I bought, Honey!” I would never make a decision of any importance without coming into agreement with my wife. Submission is a heart attitude. Subservience is being under another without a choice. Wives are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord not be subservient to them.

The last phrase of that statement speaks volumes. They are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. Many teachings about this section of scripture focus on the woman’s responsibility. However, if I read this correctly the husband is tasked with being the leader. I believe that leadership carries the greater responsibility. If my wife is going to submit to me, I must be “in the Lord.” If I am not functioning in the Lord, my wife is not required to submit to me. Therefore, it must be more important for me to know how to be “in the Lord” than for her to know how to submit. Men, come back tomorrow if you dare!

Marriage in the New Testament

Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV) 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Over the last two weeks, we have been studying the topic of biblical marriage. We looked at the beginnings of marriage in Genesis chapter 2. Today I want to look at the most familiar scripture about marriage in the New Testament, Ephesians chapter 5.

From the Old Testament we learned that God created marriage. We found that God literally took the woman out of the man. He separated humanity into two genders and then brought them back together in marriage. Today, our culture is trying to redefine marriage. Many cultures look at marriage differently than Americans do. However, we are looking at what the bible says about marriage not what any culture, including American culture, says. God created the woman for the man and the man is necessary to the woman. The creation of children tells us that. Marriage is between one man and one woman.

I know that our current culture does not always accept that idea. It is seen as intolerant. I would say once again that if you do not believe in God or in the Bible as the Word of God, my words would mean little to you. If you are a bible believing Christian, the culture of God’s Word must supersede any other cultural influence. We are talking about biblical marriage.

There were a number of other things we learned from the Old Testament, but let us turn to the New Testament. In Ephesians 5, we see some of the same things that we saw in the Old Testament but we also see more of how marriage is supposed to work. I chose to quote the last verse in this scripture first because I believe it is the point of the whole discussion in Ephesians 5.

We often focus on this idea of submission. This is another one of the things that our culture does not like. The idea that there is an order in marriage and that men are to have the lead role is anathema to many. The argument is that men and women are equal. Why should one be dominant over the other? I agree that they are equal. This has nothing to do with equality or who is better. It has to do with order.

In any relationship where people have to work together there has to be order. Is the boss better than the worker is? Some foolishly think that is the case. There may be a difference of education or social position, but the boss is not much good without the worker. The officer in the military is not much good without the soldier. The pastor has no purpose without the congregation. Leadership is necessary and in human society, we have allowed a “quality distinction” to develop in some cases. That is man’s influence not God’s.

To God it is simply a matter of different roles that must be filled to get the job done. The ultimate job for the church is to win the lost and make disciples. That is what he created the church to do. In the family, it is to be a viable unit of the church. The family is where child disciples are raised to become adult disciples. Marriage is where female and male disciples learn to work together to build the Kingdom of God. When it is working correctly, it is also a graphic example of the kingdom of God to the world.

Everyone in the church is important. There are now small pastors and great apostles. Leaders in the church are no more important than the people in God’s economy. I was in a teaching on leadership once and the man teaching said, “You have to remember, God calls the people sheep for a reason. Sheep are dumb creatures. That’s the way the people in the church are too.”

I knew he did not mean his words to sound the way they did. He went on to explain a valid point. I had a hard time getting past his description of God’s children as dumb sheep. I thought of how I would feel if someone said something like that about my children. There would be a problem! My friend from Puerto Rico likes to say, “I’ll give him the fivefold ministry!” That is five fingers folded into a fist, if you know what I mean. That would be my reaction if you talked that way about my children. I do not think God likes it any better.

What does this have to do with marriage? There is an order in marriage so that we can work together to build the Kingdom of God. God says that the order is husband, wife and children. It is obvious why the children are not called to lead. It is less obvious why the husband is called to lead. We will try to touch on that in this space if time allows, but the most important reason is because that is how God created it. Things work when we do them God’s way. Get ready! I am about to give you a major revelation!! God is smarter than we are!!!

There is a myth about Ephesians 5 that the bible says women are to obey men. It does not. It says women are to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. It never says all women are to obey all men. The bible says that women are not to usurp authority from men. That means they not supposed to take authority over men. It does not mean they cannot have authority over men. Ephesians 5 does establish an order. It also establishes much more than that.

That brings me to the last verse in this section of scripture. There are many things alluded to and spoken of in these few verses. I think if we apply them as God intended, we will have a great marriage. The point of all of it is what he says last. In verse 32, he points out that the mystery of marriage is the mystery of Christ and the church. The relationships are very similar. Then he sums up the whole marriage issue in one sentence.

Men need to love their wives as themselves and women need to respect their husbands. If we do that, marriage will work. Both partners need both things. Men and women both need love. Men and women both need respect. However, a woman can live without respect and a man can live without love. A woman cannot live without a sense of love and a man cannot live without respect. If we get these two things right, the rest will fall into place.

Ephesians 5 is God’s formula for getting those two things in balance. If we follow what it teaches, we will find that love and respect will be in the proper order and marriage will work. So what does Ephesians 5 teach us? Come back tomorrow.

Marriage in the Beginning 4

Genesis 2:21-25 (NKJV) 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Last week we were studying the topic of marriage. I wanted to finish up some thoughts on that subject this week. We are not looking at American marriage or any other cultural perspective on marriage. We want to see what the bible says about marriage. Today’s scripture is the first mention of marriage in the bible and it is when God created the concept. As a teacher I am compelled to review, so let me state again what we have learned.

1. God brought the animals before Adam, not just so he could name them but also so that he would understand that nothing in creation to that point could meet his need for a companion.

2. He made the woman out of man’s body. He gave her man’s DNA but with a difference. He did not make a clone or copy of Adam. He took something out of Adam. She is like man but designed to be different at the same time. They were, in fact, made for each other.

3. They are called to be one flesh. They are separate individuals but when they come together in marriage, they become one. Their lives, wealth and destiny are now the same.

4. In order for them to create, the male and female aspects must come together again. Physically this produces children. This creative flow affects all of life. When marriage is working correctly, it will affect creativity in ministry, business, family and any other endeavor of life. It will also spill out to the local church and to children within the family structure.

5. Adam and his wife were “naked and unashamed.” God created sexuality and within the confines of marriage, it is healthy and pleasing to God.

6. God created sex for three purposes. First, so that his children could become partners in creation. Second, as an expression and affirmation of the covenant relation God intends marriage to be. Third, as an expression of love, pleasure and intimacy between two covenant partners. The world makes pleasure the most important element and eliminates covenant altogether. This is wrong.

7. When marriage is working as it should, creativity is released in all areas of life and in the people around the marriage partners.

I want to point out one more things from this scripture. It is easy to make a connection between Adam and Eve’s nakedness and sexuality. However, I think there is something that is even more important that we can glean from this verse. Nakedness also implies transparency. When we are naked there is nothing hidden.

Have you ever had one of those dreams? You know the ones I am talking about. You are in some public situation and you are without clothes altogether or you are in your underwear. How do you feel in those dreams? You feel exposed! People can see things they should not be seeing!! You cannot hide anything!!! I know that when I have that kind of dream, the feeling involves more than just being physically naked.

Nakedness means there is no way to hide anything. I do believe Adam and Eve were physically naked. Some may feel differently about that. Nevertheless, I think we could all agree that whether or not they had any kind of covering over their physical body, they were completely exposed to each other in every way. God’s plan for marriage has always been that there be nothing hidden between spouses. There should be no secrets. There should be no hidden agendas. Marriage requires that we be “naked” before one another in every area of life.

My wife and I have no secrets. We are not afraid to share what we feel with one another. I want to know what my wife thinks. I believe she has wisdom in areas I do not. We talk about everything. There is nothing in my life that is off limits to her. There is nothing in her life that is off limits to me. Every decision we make we make together.

We alluded to this idea to some degree in discussing the fact that Adam and Eve were to become on flesh. The nakedness I am talking about is a part of that. In marriage, we bring back together the two aspects of God that he separated in the creation of woman. We become one flesh again. We are to be open, honest and transparent in a way that no other relationship can be.

God still sees us as individuals. My wife is a separate person with different gifts and strengths than those that I possess. However, in our marriage we do not have a different calling in life. All that I am and all that she is comes together to make up a new person. That person is stronger and more powerful than we can be separately. That dynamic cannot be released in a marriage where the partners are not transparent.

Sometimes the lack of transparency is due to today’s social ideas about marriage. Marriage is often viewed as a living arrangement between two separate individuals. She has her life he has his. She has her money and he has his money. He has a career and she has a career. If there is a clash in any one of these areas, the result is often divorce. When children are involved, there is no way to divide them and walk away. They always suffer.

I do not believe that is scriptural marriage. We are to be naked. We are to be one flesh. There should be nothing hidden and nothing separate. Our lives are mingled. We have one destiny and all that we are and all that we possess belong to us, not to him or to her. Friends have separate lives. Marriage partners are one flesh and naked before each other.

Some cannot achieve this transparency because one of the partners will not allow it. There may be abuse and fear involved. This can work both ways. We understand that women can be physically abused by men because men are stronger physically. There are times when abuse is not physical, but it may be emotional and verbal. Less obvious is the fact that women can put just as much pressure on men. We do not often label this abuse but it will hinder or exclude transparency in marriage.

We need to love one another. Both partners need to cultivate an environment where the other is accepted and loved. We need to encourage one another and not discourage or criticize. Both husbands and wives need to abolish intimidation and fear from their relationship. A marriage that is not “naked” in the sense we are portraying is in danger. If your spouse does not feel accepted, valued and open before you, he or she will find someone else who will make them feel that way.

This is not to say that husbands and wives do not remain individuals in their relationship to God. Just because a man is married to a Christian woman does not mean he automatically goes to heaven. The opposite is also true. We must each make our own commitment to the Lord. We are both individuals in God’s eyes.

I have six children, 4 or which are or have been married. I love my children. They will always be my children. When they marry, their spouses become just as much a part of my family as my children. I love them as individuals as well. I know that they are different people and I treat them as such. However, they have become one flesh. I do not just see my son or my daughter any longer. I see a new family. It is one entity. It is part of my family. Even though backgrounds and personalities mean I treat them as separate people, at the same time their marriage makes them one.

That is how God views us in this mystery of marriage.

Marriage in the Beginning 3

Genesis 2:21-25 (NKJV) 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

(We will be joining Pastor Steve and Dilonna Coran at their great church, Faith Fellowship Worship Center, in Jersey , PA. We will be teaching on the subject of marriage so I thought I would share some thoughts in my blog as well.)

This week we are looking at marriage from a biblical perspective. For those of us who believe that bible to be the Word of God, the only way to understand marriage is to understand it in the context of God’s creation. Marriage is God’s idea and no matter what culture we live in we must approach it that way. We started by looking at the first mention of marriage in the bible.

In Genesis 2, the Lord brings a helpmate to Adam. In that moment, he created marriage. We have learned a number of things from this section of scripture alone.

1. God brought the animals before Adam, not just so he could name them but also so that he would understand that nothing in creation to that point could meet his need for a companion.

2. He made the woman out of man’s body. He gave her man’s DNA but with a difference. She is like man but designed to be different at the same time. They were, in fact, made for each other.

3. They are called to be one flesh. They are separate individuals but when they come together in marriage, they become one. Their lives, wealth and destiny are now the same.

4. In order for them to create, the male and female aspects must come together again. Physically this produces children. This creative flow affects all of life. When marriage is working correctly, it will affect creativity in ministry, business, family and any other endeavor of life. It will also spill out to the local church and to children within the family structure.

I want to look at one more thing from this scripture. The last statement in Genesis 2 is this. “They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” I have heard teachings from people that I highly respect that say they were not really naked. Their contention is that they were clothed with the Glory of God and so they were actually covered. In the third chapter of Genesis when man falls from grace the bible says that they knew that they were naked and tried to cover themselves. For some this proves that Adam and Eve were not running around the garden nude.

Although I do think they were covered with the Glory of God and something certainly changed at the fall, I think that this scripture says exactly what it means. The man and his wife were naked and not ashamed. The thing that changed in the fall was the shame part. I believe there are some important things we need to understand about marriage from this verse.

First let me be clear. I am not advocating public nudity. There are very few of us that need to be seen without clothes! None of us need those images. Remember, there was no one else in the world at the time. The Garden was Adam and Eve’s bedroom so to speak. One thing we need to see in this verse is the fact that sexuality in marriage is nothing to be ashamed of. They were naked and not in any way ashamed. We have no record that Adam and Eve had sex before the fall. We have not record they did not. They did not have children until after they sinned. One thing is sure; sex was not the original sin. It was always God’s intention for man to share in the process of creation and there is only one way for them to do that. Sex was God’s idea.

I believe it is acceptable for a man and his wife to enjoy each other’s bodies. I believe sexuality in marriage is ordained of God. I believe it is pleasing to God when a man and his wife enjoy that most intimate of physical experiences. I believe that both nakedness and sex are reserved exclusively for marriage. Nudity outside of marriage creates sexual arousal that is inappropriate and can only lead to bad things. Sex outside of marriage creates unions in the spirit that are sinful. Children are born outside the family structure. People are joined together and torn apart at will. God’s way is always the best way. (1 Corinthians 6:15-16)

Today, there is this prevailing idea that sex is just natural fun. When two people like each other, sex is going to result. The thinking is that no one is hurt so what is the problem. The problem is that God created sex and he created for a purpose. The purpose is three fold. First, sex is for creation. God gave us sex so that we could create children in his image. Remember, they are his children as much as ours. What right do we have to create them outside of his plan?

Second, God gave sex to be an expression of the covenant of marriage. Any covenant has a sign in the flesh. Sexual intercourse is the ultimate act of covenant. In the bible, covenant partners become one. The marriage covenant takes two individuals and makes them one flesh. We think this is just a natural thing, but covenants are also spiritual. Jesus came because of a covenant between God and Abraham. When I have sexual intercourse with my wife, we are expressing and reaffirming the reality of our covenant. This is very important.

Third, sex was given to man as an expression of pleasure and joy between a man and his wife. Sexuality should be the ultimate way in which two people can minster to each other. Sex should never be about selfishness. It should always be about ministering to your spouse. When it is, the kind of physical pleasure that comes through our sexuality is deeper and more beautiful than any other. When it is not, it is just an animal response to urges that can become harmful and ugly.

The problem with sex in the world is that the first two reasons God created it are left out of the equation. In most movies, TV and other media, sex is just about pleasure. However, God puts creation and covenant as first and second in the order of importance. The world puts pleasure first, creation second and simply ignores the idea of covenant altogether. The result is human sexuality that is out of balance and out of control. Sexual addiction, pornography and perversion of every kind are at an all time high. The only explanation for abortion is that pleasure is higher on the scale of importance than creation.

Adam and Eve were given their sexuality as a gift and for specific purposes. When we keep that balance in place, we can enjoy what God has given. We will bring godly offspring into the world. We will reinforce our covenant relationship with one another and we will enjoy the pleasure God gave us while walking in the responsibility that comes with the pleasure.

There is one more thing in this verse but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Marriage in the Beginning (Continued)

Genesis 2:21-25 (NKJV) 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

(We will be joining Pastor Steve and Dilonna Coran at their great church, Faith Fellowship Worship Center, in Jersey Shore PA. We will be teaching on the subject of marriage so I thought I would share some thoughts in my blog as well.)

I want to continue to look at the topic of marriage from a biblical perspective. As I have traveled the world and had the privilege of addressing congregations on 5 of the 7 continents, I have stressed that we need to allow the bible to transcend our culture. Marriage is an intensely cultural institution even here in the United States. However, we must realize that the culture must be conformed to the Word of God not the other way around. This is true no matter where we live.

Yesterday in looking at these verses, we found two things about marriage as God created it. First, God caused all the cattle, birds of the air, and the beasts of the field and he named them. Why did God do such a thing? The next verse tells us that there was nothing in all of those creatures that could be a helpmate to Adam. God did what he did so Adam would understand that.

Second, we found that God took something out of Adam and from that created this perfect helpmate. This creation was genetically identical to man and yet different. What God took out of Adam was that aspect of him that is female. God represents himself to us as male but from where did “female” come? It did not come somewhere other than God.

Therefore, we see that nothing else will work as a partner for Adam and that God created the perfect helpmate for him: Someone exactly like him but very different at the same time. Despite culture or popular opinion, that is God’s ordained plan. He made Eve for Adam and Adam for Eve. Nothing else will work.

As we continue to study this passage. Adam makes a declaration when he sees Eve. One preacher said you could interpret his words this way. “Wow!!!! That’s exactly what I needed.” I could not agree more, but I think there is even more to it.

Adam says that the woman is, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Adam acknowledges that the woman was actually a part of him. In the New Testament Paul says that in marriage the two become one flesh. The biblical plan for marriage is that it be the most intimate relationship possible between two people. Woman was taken out of man and in marriage, there is to be a reunification of those two aspects of God. The two become one.

There is a physical truth that makes God’s purpose very clear. God created Adam from the dust of the earth and then created Eve from the substance of Adam’s body. He never created another person in the same way. Why not? It was God’s perfect plan that his children become partners in creation with him. However, there is only one way to release the creative power of God. The male and female aspects of the creator must reunite. The two must become one again to conceive a child!

The church I now pastor is the third church we started. All three still exist, but this one is by far the best. When we began the second church, we were still very young in ministry and in life. We did not have “fathers and mothers in the faith.” Because we did not have anyone to ask for advice, we made many mistakes. One of the mistakes I made was not brining my wife into the proper place in the ministry.

There was a physically older couple involved in our ministry. They were quite successful and we developed a very good relationship. Because of their life experience, we began to look to them for advice and help. The problem was that they were new to the things of the spirit. I allowed myself to depend on the wife in particular in a way that was not right. It was nothing sexual or anything like that, but it pushed my wife to the side.

This church was almost as big as our current church, but we never had enough musicians. There was not a real creative flow in the church. I did not understand why until I saw this principle in Genesis. In order for creation to flow, the male and female must come together. You cannot create a child by being friends. The only way to create a child is through the most intimate act that can occur between two people.

We try to make sex just another form of entertainment in our culture, but it is not. Every sexual encounter you have creates an intimacy like nothing else. That is why God reserves this wonderful act for marriage.

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 (NKJV) 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”

God designed us to release creativity through this intimacy. The creation of children is the first dimension of this truth. However, I believe that when male and female are properly joined in the marriage relationship it releases all kinds of creativity and elevates it to a higher level.

In this church, I brought my wife next to me from the very beginning. She is in perfect order because she is submitted to me as her husband. Nevertheless, I make a place for her gifts to function. I promote her and release her to be what God made her to be. In the same way, she promotes me. We are not intimidated by one another. We understand that we each bring something to the process and we rejoice in that.

The result in this church has been an outpouring of creativity. We have more musicians than we can use. We have artists and people who work in video and computers. We have people who can build and write. We have a dance team and some wonderful drama. I am not saying that single people cannot be creative. They certainly can. I do believe that my wife and I have set a tone in our church so that male and female both have a place to function within divine order and the result is a flow of creativity through the whole church.

If you are single, you should flow in the gifts God has given you and he will help you be creative in whatever way he made you to be. If you are married, you need to realize that you will never fulfill the full potential of your creativity until you both bring what God has given you to the process. This is one of the mysteries of marriage. The physical side is obvious. I believe the physical, emotional and spiritual sides are just as true.

If you are a married man, make sure you make a place for your wife to participate. 1 Peter 3:7 says we are heirs together of the grace of life. If you do not promote your wife’s creative nature, who will? You will find that a woman who knows her husband is acknowledging and promoting her gifts will be far more likely to submit to his leadership.

If you are a married woman, let your husband be whom God made him. Promote him and help him. In our society, men are under attack. However, women need to realize that the full potential of their creative life cannot be fulfilled unless it is joined to the creative potential of the male. Finding this balance will release creativity in business, ministry and every other area of life.