Military Marriage Seminar – Part 1
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2005|
|I want to talk somewhat of a high level about God’s design for marriage and what this concept is. And we want to look at some details about that. But I want to change your paradigm about your marriage, and we’ll talk a little bit about the uniqueness of being in the military.|
Military Marriage Seminar – Part 1
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
- Dr. Michael Easley: Thank you. It’s an honor to be here. Cindy and I lived in the northern Virginia, Washington DC, area for just shy of 12 years. When we moved there in 1993, we didn’t know anything about our country, about the military, about the administration. We were just sort of stupid. And we moved to Washington DC, and the men and women in that setting were patient with us and invited us to do things and we grew in love with the military. Without equal, our experience has been you are the finest people we have ever gotten to know. We were privileged to do things we never dreamt of doing, from going into missile silos to being on Marine One and Air Force One, to doing prayer breakfasts whether it was Andrews Air Force Base or Grand Forks. In fact, I had an invitation to go to Tokyo. It was one of the largest prayer breakfasts in the world and it was right about, a little event called 9/11 changed some of those things.
- But we were in DC when 9/11 occurred. And when the plane hit the Pentagon we had probably between 400-500 people from our church who were in the Pentagon that day. We lost one, one was severely burned. You might know the story of Brian and Mel Birdwell, Lieutenant Colonel Birdwell is a dear friend of ours. Mel and Brian, I’m the one man in the world that gets away with calling him Colonel “Burnwell.” Brian was burned over 65% of his body, spent 13 weeks in the Washington Burn Unit. He is now a Texas state senator, still a close brother and friend. We cajole each other often.
- But it’s humbling to be here. When The Cove invites you to things—Cindy and I have done a lot of speaking and conferences in our life of 31 years of marriage and we always consider it a privilege, and we’re always humbled to do it—but when Mark Summers said this is for military married couples, I said we’re in, we’re in.
- I want to say at the beginning, I love you guys. I love you guys. I thank you for what you do. It’s humbling to be in front of you. Your service to your country and to your King humbles us beyond expression. I don’t know how to say it. I’ll try to say it lots of ways these next couple of days, but I love what you do. I respect you like nobody. I thank you for what you do. And if you don’t hear it from anybody else this week, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your service to your country. And I wish I could ask you to applaud but that would seem sort of self-servicing, wouldn’t it? But I can’t overstate it. And we were so blessed by the experiences and relationships we continue to have from the DC area. Our heart is still with our country and our military in spite of our current situation, which I’m glad we have a sovereign God, not a sovereign administration. But I’ll leave that for another time.
- I want to ask my bride to come up here because she is the far, far better half. Cindy and I have been married 31 years. We met at Steven F. Foster State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Anybody know Nacogdoches, Texas? Yeah, about 12 people. You’re the only ones probably in this. You know that John Wayne once said the word “Nacogdoches” in a movie? That means a lot if you live there. I mean. Well, after 31 years of marriage we have four children. Is that correct? Four children.
- Cindy Easley: I think still, yes.
- M. Easley: You need to get right over here, yeah. And they go from 27, to 22 that just got married in June, to a 17 year old son, our only son, and our youngest daughter who is 16. Three of the four are adopted, and I often ask Cindy, why did we have four children? Please tell me this. But in our 31 years of marriage; I’m the youngest of three, raised in a Roman Catholic home. My parents went to mass every day of my life. I went to parochial schools. The nuns still make me terrorized. And I came to Christ in a way I’ll tell you later. Cindy was born and raised in Houston. She’s the youngest of five and so she is a natural Texan; I guess you’re a native Texan.
- C. Easley: Native.
- M. Easley: Native. I’m naturalized. You are very natural, honey. We’ll leave it at there. But we have learned in 31 years of marriage some strong convictions we have. For example, as a married couple we have discovered that, you know, if you’re going to go somewhere you should be at least a half an hour early.
- C. Easley: Uh-uh. No, really, whenever you go anywhere you need to be about five minutes late because that’s socially acceptable. And you don’t want to be there before the party starts, ever.
- M. Easley: We’ve learned that a home should be spic and span. How do I say that? Spic and span and squeaky clean.
- C. Easley: And I agree with that, and it is spic and span and squeaky clean if there are no major chunks on the floor. Close enough. I believe that everyone, everyone, should sleep until at least 7 a.m. Thank you.
- M. Easley: Mostly women clapping now. Godly people are up before 5:00 and you get the day started well.
- C. Easley: And the toilet seat should be left down, thank you.
- M. Easley: They would have never put hinges on it if they didn’t intend for it to stay up. Musicals, musicals are mindless, a waste of time and of no basis in reality.
- C. Easley: No, no. Musicals are fun and romantic and they’re a great escape from reality.
- M. Easley: When you’re driving your car and it gets to a quarter of a tank of gas you find the cheapest closest gas station and fill it up immediately.
- C. Easley: You know, they’d have never put that “E” on there if they didn’t expect you use it.
- M. Easley: And, by the way, she’s run out of gas like three times like in the church parking lot.
- C. Easley: Because somebody’ll always help there, it’s perfect. And a family should have at least one pet, and frankly more the merrier.
- M. Easley: Animals stink, they leave hair everywhere and I would be the one to have to scoop the poop. If you’re going to read a road map, of course, today with GPS, even with GPS, you have it where the marker is always north and you hold the map north and you go from your vantage you go east and west and south when you go on a map.
- C. Easley: No, you if you’re going to use an antiquated map you turn the map the direction you’re going so you can pretend you’re a little car on the street and know whether to turn right or left. And my GPS, my car points the way I’m going.
- M. Easley: It’s so confusing to get in her car.
- C. Easley: And should you choose to watch TV, you should watch one show at a time from start to finish.
- M. Easley: God would have never invented these had He intended you.
- C. Easley: And sometimes you just wish they would go.
- M. Easley: You’re going to have a workshop a little later, and I want to encourage you to go. I’m prejudicial, but she has put up with me for 31; it’s hard to believe when you say it that way, 31 years, but yeah. Yeah, well, we didn’t kill each other today.
How many of you had an argument on the way here? Just raise your hand. Just be honest. Come on, we’re among friends. Nice and high. Now, it’s good, one of you has your hand up and the other doesn’t. You’re going to argue later about that.
How many of you left kids somewhere? Oh, look at this, look at this, yeah. They’re really happy. Forget the content and the worship; let’s just go to your room and have sex. I mean, you know, let’s just get it over with. When, you know, once in a while for those of you who left kids you’ll just for no reason go, “No!” for no reason.
How many of you,… well, I don’t have to ask for hands on this, because those of you that have been married a year or less it’s real easy because you’re sitting in one chair. Those of you who have been married for five, eight, ten years typically are like this and that’s for two reasons. Part of it is, tell me something I don’t know, and the other part is you have something now to rest those arms on that you didn’t earlier.
This group is a great age span and some of you; how many of you have grandchildren? A few of you have grandchildren. You’re the happiest people on the planet. You’re insufferable. Do you have pictures? I don’t want to see them. In Jesus’ love I don’t want to see them. I’m half kidding, but I’m sure when I have a grandchild I’ll be just as insufferable. Here’s the I-Pad with 86 pictures of my grandchildren.
We just married our first of four children and that was, it was a kick in the pants. It was fun. We wrote a big fat check for it. I look at the pictures often to remind me of the value of the pictures. But we have one married and three to go if we live so long.
But one thing we, well, and we also have some here that are really hurting. We know that. We have been doing, Cindy and I, family and marriage ministry, teaching, helping, counseling for all these years, and I know in a group this size that some of you are really in trouble. And if you are deployed and you’re dealing with some of the post-traumatic issues and some of the deployment issues or re-entry issues, you’ve got some unique challenges. Some of you have moved an awful lot. When we lived in DC it was not uncommon to have a couple that had moved 17 years in 25 years, 17 times in 25 years of service, something like that. And the toll it takes on you is huge. And you have metal in you, but you’re still flesh and blood. So we know some of you are in great distress.
We want to encourage you this weekend. I typically pray for the setting where I’m going and this yahoo that’s going to talk to us and teach us the Bible and so forth. But I’ve prayed for you more than I’ve prayed for any conference in a long time. Not because I had to. I think God just said you need to pray for these couples. The Cove is an extraordinary place, and when they say they pray for you, they do pray for you. I sat down at dinner, and Mark, who’s here at The Cove, asked me questions about me that he remembers from October when we talked. And that’s who they are. That’s the kind of staff you have here. And so later on I’ll tell you—they won’t—about how this was made possible for you, and to write a thank you to some people that have done this for you. But there’s a love at The Cove and the Billy Graham Training Institute has for military couples from Franklin down. And as the outside looking in, I’m thrilled, thrilled and humbled to be a part of this weekend.
So anyway, Danny started a little bit of this, but a friend of mine, obviously in the Navy, sent this to me just two days ago, and this is the language of the Navy. Of course Marine Corps and Coast Guard and then the Army and then the Air Force. In the Navy it’s the head; in the Army it’s the latrine; in the Air Force it’s the powder room. In the Navy it’s the rack; in the Army it’s the bunk or the sack; in the Air Force it’s the single with the ruffle and a duvet. In the Navy/Marine Corp it’s mud or coffee; in the Army it’s cup of Joe; in the Air Force a vanilla skim latte.
I probably shouldn’t go much farther down this list. It goes on a long time. All the Navy, keep going, keep going, yeah. Yes, in the Navy and Marine Corp it’s you’re either acruise or afloat; in the Army you are deployed; and in the Air Force, huh? In the Navy and the Marine Corp you terminate or kill; in the Army you take out; and in the Air Force you’re back on base for happy hour. Truer than we want, not true, okay. Navy and Marine Corp, they’re boondockers; in the Army they are jump boots; and in the Air Force they’re Birkenstocks. Navy, salute; Army, salute; Air Force, wave. Okay last one, the Navy MRE; Army, MRE; Air Force, a happy meal to go.
I will tell you, on the experiences that we got to do the Air Force treated us the best, so I just have to say that. They did. They did. I mean, I have to say it. I have to be honest
Open your Bible to Genesis 1. A friend of mine, Dave Ramsey says, “The devil hates it when you take notes,” so you might want to take a note or two as we go through. What I want to do in the sessions we have together, I want to talk somewhat of a high level about God’s design for marriage and what this concept is. And we want to look at some details about that. But I want to change your paradigm about your marriage, and we’ll talk a little bit about the uniqueness of being in the military.
But you know, that’s your life and whether he signed on or she signed on or you’re both signed on, you’re both signed on, no matter what, right? But whether one of you is the one who’s in the service, and the other one is the support, husband or wife at home, this is your life. And you knew that at some level.
And yes, there’s some things that are unique, but you’re also a different metal of person. And the men and women, as I’ve said, we have known and continue to keep friendships with, you know their commitment, their loyalty, their service, their willingness to help; it just, it’s unequaled to the average guy. And that’s why so many of the career military have such a tough time when they become civilians, because civilians don’t show up on time, don’t get their work done, complain, whine, take sick days, don’t stay till the job’s done. This is incredulous!
And so you live in a unique world. And to say it another way, you’re a step ahead—and I mean that in the right way—of the average person. Not that you’re better, but you’re probably a little type A. You’re probably a tad anal. Forgive me for saying that at The Cove. You probably, you know, those of you who have a high and tight, that tells the whole story, right there; or shave your head, that tells the whole story. There’s no point in hair. It just takes time and it doesn’t benefit anything so get rid of it. I wore almost a high and tight when I was in DC and my wife hated it. I loved it. Now I’m a hippie in Nashville; forgive me.
If we think about marriage as the world’s view and America’s view of marriage has become so “me” oriented it’s hard to get a biblical perspective. Gary Thomas wrote a book years ago, What If God Meant Your Marriage to Make You Holy and Not Happy? It’s a very good book, by the way. I wish I had written it. What if God meant your marriage to be holy, to make you holy and not happy? We don’t look at it that way. We don’t choose a person say, “Oh, I know, I think Cindy’s the person I’d love to fight with the rest of my life.” “I’m going to marry a person I don’t like and fight with her until one of us dies.” We get married to live happily ever after.
Now in that sentence is a notion that there’s happiness in marriage. Happiness is ethereal. It’s fog on a mirror. It’s impossible to quantify what will make him happy, what will make her happy and vice versa. We know this up here. We don’t believe it here. We lead with our emotions in our marriage and family and parenting. And there’s no other way to say it than you have to reframe entirely the way you look at marriage and family. And I don’t mean this flattering. You guys ought to get this better than anybody because of who you are, because you signed a line to serve your country. You swore an oath. You took a commission, “I will do this.”
I meant to bring the Medal of Honor book with me. I started getting it a few years ago. It’s updated from time to time. I think actually some nuns update this thing. Have you ever seen the Medal of Honor book? Every one of you should have a copy. It’s like $50-$60. You ought to get it. And you read from as far back as they began giving the Medal of Honor as a citation. And, of course, as time goes on the citations are more detailed. But guys who will throw themselves on grenade in a second’s notice with no thought of it because they’re going to save the men around them. People that will incur and encourage fire to themselves to help a wounded serviceman get out of harm’s way. What kind of people do this? You. So when we talk about looking at marriage from God’s perspective, not the worlds, you ought to get this better than anybody.
So we begin at the beginning. In Genesis 1 it’s an extraordinarily complex, beautiful, wonderful Hebrew poem. Genesis 1; it’s simple and routine is the way we read it. God said this is day and night. God said, God said, God said, God made, God made, God made. God, Elohim, occurs 32 times in chapter 1 alone in 26 verses and six more times as a reference to “He,” so 38 times the subject is God. Don’t miss it, reader. “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.” Verse 2: “Then God said.” Verse 4: “God saw;… God separated.” Verse 5: “God called;… He called the night.” Verse 6: “God said.” Verse 7: “God made,” on and on. You can circle them for yourselves. The creative order begins with God as the primary eternally existent being who’s doing something. Everything He does in this, “Let there be, let there be,” it’s fiat; He speaks and it happens.
I happen to believe in a six day literal creation. You may not. I’ll pray for you. But the six day literal creation. If God can make something,… if He can turn water into wine, He’s broken the laws of chemistry and biology. If He can create a new set of eyes for a congenitally blind man, He’s broken the laws of science. If He can walk on water, He’s broken the laws of physics. If He can raise the dead, I think He can handle a 24-hour day. If He’s a miracle working God…. I’m off subject, but it’s a pet peeve of mine, sorry.
“Then God said, then God said, then God said,” He made these things. It all culminates to day six. Here’s the big idea, what I want you to think about. The sovereign Creator and sustainer, the sovereign Creator and sustainer culminates His plan as He designs an image bearer who’s going to worship Him. The sovereign Creator and sustainer; it doesn’t exist apart from Him. The sovereign, there’s only one, Creator and the one who sustains it; it takes both. You can create a baby, but you can’t sustain that baby if he or she has cancer, cystic fibrosis. You can’t fix those things.
The Creator is sovereign and He culminates His plan for His image bearer. We’re going to look at that in a moment. His plan is that that image bearer worship Him. To say it another way, the entire chapter of Genesis 1 and 2 is set up for God to put a man, His image bearer, in a place to worship Him and have fellowship with God. Do we think of marriage in those terms? No: My needs, his needs; he doesn’t, she doesn’t; I don’t like this; I don’t like him when he does that; he doesn’t respect me; he doesn’t validate me; he doesn’t appreciate me; she doesn’t understand when I’m gone. The sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe has put His image bearer in a context to worship Him, to have fellowship with Him.
Well, let’s look at day six. Look at chapter 1, verse 24: “Then God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind,” a phrase that occurs a number of times. “Cattle, creeping things, beasts of the earth, after their kind, and so it was. And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground, after its kind.” You seeing the pattern here? “And God saw it was good.” Now there’s two words in the Hebrew for earth in chapter 1. Erets is the word “earth” I just read. All these words are the word erets. Now it’s going to change here in verse 26: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ And God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
The sovereign Creator and sustainer culminates His plan day six to put a man in position. All that He’s created is to put this person in a place where He can have a relationship with Him. Are you with me so far? Simple enough? Profound enough? Complex enough? But we get it. All creation is not set up to look at creation and worship creation. It’s set up for man to exist, to have fellowship with this sovereign Creator and sustainer who brands him, who stamps him in His image.
Now in verses 26-31 God makes man in Our image. This phrase, “Our image, let Us make man in Our image,” is a real sticky situation for many people today. The rabbis have always wrestled with this. The rabbis have some very interesting hypothesis on how to explain this away. The Trinitarians, those who believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, get it. Others, I mean, you could say I guess He’s schizophrenic, “Let Us make man in Our image.” The most common view is what’s called the royal “We,” which is a throw away from a literature standpoint, but that’s the way. What are you going to do with this phrase in Hebrew, “Let Us make man in Our image?” So it’s the royal “We.” God’s so big that He can’t say, “I’m going to make man in My image,” “Let Us make man,” and of course all those arguments stand on their own. I believe in a Trinitarian God. Luther writes, “The outstanding difference between man and all other creatures is that he is made in God’s image.” And we see that more as the poem and the story unfolds.
Man, in your Bible, from here on, “Let Us make man,” is a Hebrew word adm. Every time you read the word man in your English Bible it’s the word adm. The first time he’s called Adam is in verse 10 of chapter 2, I believe. Look over there. Some of you can check me on this one. No, I’m wrong. I’ll find it in a second. And the reason it’s called Adam there is because the little reference to “he” is dropped off. We talk about a definite article, “the man” and so we have one time where it’s dropped off and our English Bibles will call him Adam.
Now when He creates this man in His image we have a word play going on. He’s dirt. The word adm means the ground. It can be used of the dust or the clay. Earth, erets, we think of a large span of land, but adm is the dirt. And as I will argue I believe Jesus Christ pre-incarnate, before He was born of Mary, appears on the scene. He makes the perfect dirt man, the perfect sand man in His image. “Let Us make man in Our image.” Well, we don’t have wings. We don’t fly. We don’t walk through walls. We’re not spiritual in nature. We’re not so overwhelmingly glorified and majestic that someone would see us and would be dissolved or die or destroyed. And as the story unfolds there’s some relationship. So every time you read “man” you’re reading a wordplay. “Let Us make dirt in Our image.”
The only thing that distinguishes man from the rest of the created order is this image, that he’s made in God’s image; “In Our image according to Our likeness.” We say life is sacred. The animals are not of the same bilk. The animals can’t worship God. They can’t think. They can’t create. Oh, they can learn a little bit, they can adapt to different environments, but beyond eating and drinking and mating, in the animal realm man is the only one who can dream, who can invent, who can plan, who can come up with the second and third greatest gifts given to man, air-conditioning and caffeine. The first, of course, being Christ.
The creation account transcends from all this infrastructure, if you will, so that the man can exist. If you’re going to put a guy under water in incredible depths you’d better have an infrastructure where he can survive. You’re going to put a guy in a stealth plane for a secret rocket and you’re going to launch him at 40,000-50,000 feet above the atmosphere you better have him in an environment he can survive. God’s made an environment for man to exist to be able to worship Him, made in His image for a reason. It’s a very rich word play and the reason we say life is sacred.
Now, I don’t know, maybe you’re a big PETA fan; God bless you if you are. People for the ethical treatment of animals. I think we should have a PETP, people for the ethical treatment of people, because man is made in God’s image, not animals. Maybe you’re a vegan, fine, great. I have no problem with that. But you don’t worship an animal. An animal is an animal, and we’re going to see that we have dominion over those animals as this unfolds.
The only one who has the image imparted to him is Adam. The flora, the fauna of the forest, the fish of the sea, the fruit that’s going to be on trees, the proteins I think that were growing on trees at that time. Everything that he needed to sustain himself in this Eden. We use Eden as an axiom. It really means a pleasant place. That’s what the word means, paradise, paradiseo, in the Latin, paradise. It means a wonderful context for man to exist. God’s created it. He set it up for you.
Now when the divine Potter makes the clay man what animates him is the breath of God. He breathed into dirt and it becomes a living being. So this image bearer is unique to all the created order, and in that capacity he can worship God, he can commune to God, he can relate to God unlike anything else that’s been created. And that’s the role that man has. He can apprehend truth. He can learn. He can be taught. He can grow and he has choices to make.
When we think about the imagery of man,… and part of the way we’re raised in Sunday School, if you’re in church both good and bad, we had these pictures of Jesus on, you know, flannelgraphs and walls and different ethnicities and so forth where we conjure up what Jesus looked like. I can tell you what Jesus looked like. He looked like a man. And he existed forever before, and He existed. Galatians 4:4, “At the proper time He was born of a virgin under the Law.” He, I like to say He interrupted time, allowed Himself to be born of a virgin. Did He exist before egg and sperm collided, a sperm and egg collided in the uterus of Mary? Yes, He eternally existed. Can’t figure that out. It’s what Scripture teaches. When He appears with Abram, when He wrestles with Jacob, when He looks like the Son of Man, it’s a word play. In the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; when He’s called the Angel of the Lord many times in the Old Testament. We call it a pre-incarnate, before He was incarnate the way we think of Mary’s Son, existence in the Old Testament.
So I would argue that Christ is on His hands and knees, just like you on your hands and knees, making the most beautiful dirt picture of a man, three-dimensional man, and He breathes the breath of life into him. Man becomes a vice-regent. He’s to commune with Him. Man, of course, will be able to have guilt and shame and remorse and repentance and all sorts of things that the animal realm were not.
Genesis 16:7, “The angel of the Lord finds Hagar and appears to her.” Genesis 18:2 and 22, “The angel of the Lord appeared in human form to Abraham,” and on and on we would go. The image of God means we have the spiritual capacity to relate to this Being that we can’t see or touch right now. He eternally existed in the past, somehow incarnate, but not, somehow in the flesh, but not.
And your picture of Jesus now at the right hand of the Father, whatever that means, is He’s sort of like a Steven Spielberg glowing person. He’s fully human because He’s always been fully human. And that’s how we are image bearers who relate to Him. We don’t have wings. We don’t glow. We’re not Avatars. We don’t do weird things like the movies tell us we can do. And the attributes are designed for us to worship Him.
The point of this is that we mirror God’s image. Somehow Cindy and I, as man and wife, mirror God’s image. Listen to Psalm 8:5, 6, 7 and 8. “Yet You have made Him a little lower than God,” David writes, “yet You crown Him with glory and majesty. You make Him to rule over the works of Your hand.” Does that sound like what we just read? “To rule over the works of Your hand. You have put all things under His feet.” In the Hebrew Old Testament to be walking around on something means you have dominion over it. Job’s conversation with Satan in the book Job, “Where have you been?” “Roaming around the earth.” I’m exercising dominion over what is mine, Satan says to God in hubris and pride. The psalmist says that man has dominion over all things under his feet, all sheep, oxen, all beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the sea. So the psalmist understood that man is made as an image bearer of God and put on this planet for a specific reason to rule over as the vice-regent.
Now, I think Adam and the woman are the two most brilliant people who ever walked the planet. I do not think they drug their knuckles. I don’t think they crawled out of the primordial soup. Because if they’re made as an image bearer of God they’re not going to evolve into what we are now, homo erectus, man upright, homo erectus. What arrogance! What arrogance! We are image bearers of God. We’ve been given a unique role on the planet that nothing else has, no other created thing has, and we’re to rule over. All through Scripture “to rule over” means to have dominion over, to have power over, to have control over something, to fill it, to subdue it. So, all this to say, God does all this, puts man in a context and He says it’s good. God’s verdict on what He’s created as His image bearer is good.
Well, before we go a little further I want to ask the question: so what? To change your paradigm for how we view marriage and family and sexual intimacy and communication and having our needs met, and being in the military and serving your country and so on and so on, you need to understand you are an image bearer of God. You’re more important than PETA views animals. Now, I get so unnerved—forgive me for ranting a bit here—with these commercials with the animal shelters and Sarah McLachlan singing “In the Arms of the Angels.” I just want to throw up on the television set. I mean, I love the song, and I’m semi-okay with animals. Actually, I would love animals. I just have four children and that takes more time than animals. And I don’t want to train another child, but that’s another story.
But, you know, and I’m not against, don’t hear me wrong; if you want to be a vegan and don’t eat meat, God bless you. I get my protein from meat and I’m happy about it, so leave me alone. I’m going to die anyway, so it’s going to be fine. You’re going to die too eating tofu, so God bless you. However you choose to live your life is your prerogative, but don’t put them above a man. Don’t put them above yourself. When you look in the mirror tonight, and we all can criticize ourselves for what we are and are not, what I want you to go home with tonight is you’re an image bearer of God. You’re the capacity, the ability, to relate to the sovereign Creator, sustainer of the universe.
And here’s where it gets exciting, it folds in your marriage in ways it does fold in other people’s lives. And that’s where it’s a bit theological tonight, a little bit heavy tonight. You’re tired. Stay with me, but I really want you to grab this, because why you believe what you believe about marriage has got to begin with who are you? What were you created to do and be? To live happily ever after and have X number of children and a house and your mortgage paid off and be debt-free and retire and take trips and have a certain amount of money and go wherever you want to go and finish your military career, with a star or two stars or a flag or a full colonel at least and have benefits the rest of your life? God bless you, amen, all hallelujah. I mean, whatever you want, you’re an image bearer of Jesus Christ, put on this planet to worship and serve Him. And you’re the only one with the capacity to do that, and it starts with your marriage.
And that’s where we want to go the rest of our time together. God did not mean you simply to be happy; He wants you to be holy. And this is why He has made you in His image. Cindy, my lovely wife of 31 years, loves the actor Tom Hanks. Any of you like Tom Hanks besides Cindy? Three of you. Raise your hand really high if you like Tom Hanks. Okay, look around honey, you have some friends. Now, I am completely unthreatened by that. If she loved Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, I might feel a little insecure. But I don’t care what you think about Tom Hanks, I think he’s kind of geeky, and I am not threatened in my frail male ego being compared to Tom Hanks.
So, should I worry? I don’t know. She shook her head no; she has to. She likes to watch his movies. So “Castaway” comes out. We wait for them to come out on DVD and watch them in the comfort of our home, which all godly people should do. And so we get the DVD’s and are watching it at home, and I’m sitting there going, either drown or get saved. I mean, this is an insufferable movie. I hate the movie. And she’s going on about what a great actor he is. I mean, he was on that island talking to Wilson and it was so convincing, and, I mean, she was like all sucked into it. I’m like, this is the dumbest movie I have ever seen in my life.
After the movie she went to bed, and I watched the making-of DVD. I’ve got something redemptive in this night in this rental. I watched the making of; they have three survivalists. They interviewed them independently, kind of ala Charlie Rose, and each of the survivalists, I mean, you can envision these guys. You’d think they’d have like, you know, SEAL Team 6, or Airborne Ranger, or, you know, somebody like that. They interviewed these guys that had like, you know, beads in their hair and, you know, pony tails, a little Sedona, Arizona. You’ve got the picture? Okay. And these guys were survivalists. And they brought them in and they said, okay, we want to do a method thing here. What’s it going to take to understand what it’d be like to be abandoned and castaway?
They took them, I think it was to Costa Rica for six weeks and they set up an encampment just like you would if you were abandoned. It was 116 degrees in the day, 80-90% humidity, about 90 at night. And there’s the whole film production crew there, Tom Hanks, everybody, was there for six weeks so they could feel and understand what’s it like to be castaway. Three of them, interviewed independently, consulted on the movie. Three of them interviewed in the movie all said the same thing. You need three things to survive, food, water and shelter. And all of you who have been through Ranger school or whatever, you know that. The order changes depending on the context. If you’re in the desert you need water before you need food. If you’re in the Antarctic you need shelter before you need food, so forth and so on. But at the end of the day you’ve got to have those three things if you’re going to survive.
And then they all went to this: there’s one other thing you need if you’re going to survive for any length of time, a companion, ergo Wilson. You’ve got to have a companion. In fact, some of the oldest stories of long-term, true stories of long-term situations where people have been out in the wilderness, they have invented this, you know, man Friday, whatever, they have concocted in Robinson Crusoe. They invent this person in the story line or the novel so he can survive, she can survive, alone. You can’t survive alone. What does it tell us? It tells us we need relationships.
Now I want you to jump over to Genesis 2 and we’re going to read verses 15 and following. Are you awake? Are you staying with me? Some of you are not too convincing. Chapter 2 is a review of some sense of chapter 1. At verse 15 we read, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may freely eat, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’ Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call a living creature. Whatever he called it that was its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle, to the birds of the sky, to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
Man needs a suitable helper. A couple of high level things. Number 1: man is the work of art. He’s the greatest work of art that’s ever lived, that’s ever been in existence. I had a young man from the northern Virginia area; he’s now a flight surgeon. He went to a prestigious university and he double majored. He had a perfect score on the ACT, 4.0 at a prestigious school in the country. He went into this medical school. He double majored in biological engineering and pre-med, 4.0. Makes a perfect score on the MCAT. I mean, this guy is just sick. He’s just, you know, he shouldn’t be allowed to live. I mean, some of you just take him out. The rest of us, look, the bell curve is blown. So anyway, but he loves the Lord. He’s a great young man. And he told me when he was this prestigious university double majoring, he says, “Michael,” he said, “all the pre-med biology profs believe in evolution.” But he said, “A striking number of the biological engineering professors believe in God or a Creator or some intelligent design.” Why? Because one looks at it from an engineering mind; this thing is complex. There’s marvel and beauty behind it. We can’t figure it out.
How is a physician trained? Comparative anatomy, a guinea pig, a frog, a cat, a dog, a pig, and finally cadavers that they work on. They’ve all got lungs. They’ve all got a circulatory system, a nervous system. Most of them have some type of appendages. They have eyes. They have auditory, olfactory senses. So as they compare anatomy they draw the conclusion, well, they came up together. Kind of makes sense. But an engineer looks at the design and goes, this is mind-boggling. The farther we look into the microscope, the electron, the superconducting super collider or the farther we look with the Hubble, we can’t find the end.
The superconducting super collider, how many are from Texas? You remember when they were trying to build that thing in Waco? Waxahachie, thank you. It was 50 some miles, and the tunnel’s now full of water. I remember reading about this and with some interest. And the superconducting super collider was to hurl an atom; we know the atom has three parts, but they thought, you know, there are subatomic particles we’ve not yet identified. So they want to hurl them at these unbelievable speeds and splatter them so they can see what breaks out. Okay, this is a scientist’s dream. But as you read further in literature they wanted to know the first cause. The old cliché, well, two atoms bumped together; where’d those two atoms come from? And any scientist with any integrity says there’s got to be something before those two atoms. So they even give them a name, quarks. They have never seen a quark. When they splatter them against these small conducting colliders they have what they call traces that they think are quarks, but it begs the next question: what if you found a quark, what are you going to break it into? A quarkette? A sub-quark? Where does it go?
Have you seen in the latest imagery from the Hubble? The Milky Way is one of innumerable galaxies.
Now, what does this tell me and why am I ranting about this? You’re the work of an artist, made in His image. The stars and galaxies and sub-atomic particles and a sunrise and a sunset and the wilderness around The Cove and the beauty of technology and art and music; nothing compared to you. You’re His greatest masterpiece; fallen, yes we are, but we’re made in His image. There’s a word play in Hebrew and it goes basically like this. It goes, He named Adam and it’s “Ha adam ma ha adama;” “From the dirt He made the dirt man.” And so we say from dust you have begun and to dust you will return.
Secondly, we have the garden context. Verse 8; look at it in your Bible, Genesis 2, actually I want to go over to verse 15. “He took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it.” A couple of quick things here. “Put” is the same word in Hebrew for “rest” and if we had another seminar we’d talk about what “rest” really means. It doesn’t mean sitting in front of the TV watching the Final Four. Sorry guys. “Rest” means to reflect upon and look back upon what God’s faithfulness has been for that week and look forward to the week before and to rest and contemplate and worship Him undistracted from the daily routines of life and to take a time out, take a TDY, get away from it and say, “Time! My life is not about email.” My life is not about texting. My life is not about the “to do” list at home and the kid’s soccer games or having X number of kids, or…. My life is not about that. Time! I’m an image bearer of God and I’m designed to worship Him.
He’s put in the garden. Notice also the words “cultivate” and “keep.” Now, for those of us that don’t like gardening, this doesn’t sound like a garden at all. I mean, if you’re not a green thumb person, this sounds like purgatory. This is like punishment. “Go weed the flower beds until I come back.” I still think someone should make a formula that’s “feed the weeds and kill the grass.” It’d be a whole lot simpler, have an indigenous yard, just leave it alone. You wouldn’t have to work so hard. We worship to make it green and uniform. That’s another sermon for another day.
To cultivate and keep. These words at stem mean to serve and worship. I can show you innumerable Old Testament passages. Take it by faith. He’s put there to serve God and to worship God. It should change, reframe, your perspective of God’s design for man. He put you there to worship Him and to serve Him. And as you worship Him and serve Him you’re going to have a relationship with Him when He comes in the cool of the day, which really sounds like it’s hot in the day. No, the word means a breeze in Hebrew, which is sort of a forecast of the Spirit. It’s this breeze comes through and they go, “Oh, Jesus is on the prowl. He’s in the garden.” And so man was to worship God and keep the garden, to worship and serve.
Now, the problem in verse 18. The Lord said, “It’s not good.” Now, you know your stories well enough. Up to this time everything’s very good, very good, very good, it was good, good, good, good, good, good. This is the first time something’s not good. The first time this story was told to the child in the oral tradition of telling a story, something’s not good. They’ve heard God 38 times in either the word Elohim or in reference to “He,” and now something’s not good. Did God make…, God’s made a mistake. No, that’s part of God’s perfect designed plan. As a sovereign Creator-Sustainer, this is part of His intent. This is why He did it this way. It’s not good for him to be alone. So the verdict in chapter 1:31 is very good. Now it’s not good for man to be alone.
Now, as any of you women who have been married more than about a week know, it’s probably not good to leave your husband alone. It’s not good to leave him alone if he has children. That’s why they invented babysitting, because husband’s don’t know how to do this very well. Got to read this to you. Men and women: Gloria, Suzanne, Debra and Michelle, if they go out to lunch they call each other Gloria, Suzanne, Debra and Michelle. But if Mike, Phil, Robert and Jack go out for Buffalo wing night, they affectionately call each other Fat Boy, Godzilla, Peanut Head and Useless. Isn’t that true guys? Eating out: when it comes to the check, Mike, Phil, Rob and Jack will all throw in a $20, even though it’s around $22.50. None of them worries about it. That’s all they care about, and they don’t really care if they get change back or not. The women pull out their calculators and balance the budget. A bathroom: a man has five items in his bathroom, toothbrush, shaving cream, razor, a bar of Dial soap and a towel from the Holiday Inn; the average number of items in a typical woman’s bathroom is estimated at 437. A man cannot identify most of these. I won’t even start with my wife’s cosmetics. Cats: women love cats; men say they love cats, but when women aren’t looking they kick them. Dressing up: a woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the garbage, answer the phone, read a book, get the mail; men dress up for weddings and funerals if they have to.
And here’s the point: offspring; a woman knows all about her children, the dentist appointments, the soccer games, the romances, the best friends, the favorite foods, the fears, the hopes and dreams; a man is vaguely aware of some short people that live in his home. Hoorah, right! There’s some sponges that live in my home, they eat, they sleep, they leave trash everywhere and they never even say thank you for the privilege of being my child. Not good for us to be alone.
Now 99.9% of the women in this room read this phrase, “He needed a helper,” and the little hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up and you start to furrow your eyes at me and you start to go, there’s got to be a way to explain this away. Let me give you a principle that I teach everywhere I go. Don’t let the world teach you theology. Don’t let the world teach you theology. Let me see if I can help you understand what this word “helper” means. “Helper” is the word ezer. In Hebrew ezr is sort of the tri-radicals. You know the song “Come, Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise.” Remember the lyric, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” old King James dead word. What have we changed it to? “Here I raise my stone of helping.” Now that’s a translation of it, but us old King James diehard like the word “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” Don’t know what it means, but I raise my Ebenezer. Sounds like some pole, “I raise my Ebenezer.”
Ezer, embedded in “Ebenezer,” is the word “helper.” And the context of that comes from 1 Samuel 7 where Samuel is fighting the Philistines and they’re confused and Israel is saved because God confuses the Philistines and he called the place “Ebenezer,” meaning God has been our helper thus far. We were outnumbered by the Philistines. God confused them and we are the victors, not because we were a superior force, or had a better battle plan, or were more fierce or made them run and turn tail. No, God was our stone who helped us. Here I raise my stone of helping, acknowledging in the stone imagery, of course, all through Scripture, something that’s immutable, that can’t be broken, that’s stronger than; it’s bigger than. That’s the imagery, sort of a simple metaphor. Robert Robertson wrote those lyrics of the word and that’s what he had in mind. Here I raise my stone of helping, thus far the Lord has helped us.
Now, listen to two verses, Psalm 33:20: “Our soul waits for the Lord, He is our help and our shield.” It’s the same word in Genesis where God makes a helper. Psalm 70:5: “I’m afflicted and needy. Hasten to me, O God, You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.” It’s the same word in Genesis. Ladies, don’t let the world teach you theology. Your husband needs help. You bring things to the equation he does not possess. You have a strength he does not have. You have an insight he does not have. You may have an intuition, whatever that means, he does not have. You might have an emotional quotient, of which he doesn’t even know what that means. You might be better in finances. You might be a better parent.
Cindy is a far better parent than me, no disputing in our family. She’s far wiser, especially with the girls, of what they need. Michael, what your daughters need right now is, you need to take Sarah out for breakfast. You need to go take Sarah to go see a chic flick. Oh, God, help me. Tie me up, make me write bad checks. Don’t make me take a daughter to see a chic flick. No, you need to take her to do things she wants to do because you’re her daddy. And I need her to help me because I’m not real smart when it comes to raising the three daughters that God has given us.
By the way, the word “help” it’s a military term. Many times in Scripture we need help, we need the military. We can’t do this with sticks and plywood shields. We need men and women trained, no contingencies, no capacities, to know strategies, to know how to deal with intelligence and information, to know whom to befriend, to know whom to watch, to know who to keep an eye on, to know who to take out, to know who’s not worth worrying about. We need help to protect our country because the civilian is asleep and is living under your protection. Do I think you are less important than me? God knows no. You do what I cannot do so I can have the freedom to stand up here and say I think this is God’s Word. And I get to teach it because the men and women before us believe in the thing. Thank you again. I need your help. We will always need your help. When we call on you, you will say yes sir, yes ma’am.
Ladies, reframe the word. You are not a second class citizen. You’re not subservient to him. And did you hear it when I read it? Them. Made in His image, male and female; He made them in His image. You too are an image bearer of His. Don’t let the world teach you theology. Azarel, God is my helper. Azarel, God help me. Azariah, the Lord has helped me. Ezra, the Lord helps. Ebenezer, thus far the Lord has helped me; I raise my stone. All those words are the same stem. Your husband needs your help.
Now we won’t talk about whether he understand that or not. Just take it by faith. Cindy and Sarah Horn and others will help you understand how to work with his thick skull as I have one as well. We all need help in many ways. When I was finishing my third and final degree —I’m now three degrees above zero and that’s as warm as I’m ever going to get—I had to do some empirical research. And I had done all my course work and there was that little paper at the end called the dissertation. And, you know, there’s 75% of students in America are ABD—All But Dissertation. See, course works easy. Anybody can endure boredom. Read books, take classes, write papers, go to the next one. Anybody can do that who has the mind to just be bored. But that little paper at the end is a whole different ballgame.
And so I went to the committee and so forth, you have to have a problem and a sub-problem and I won’t bore you with it all. But as I vetted my idea they said to me, “Well, you have to have a modality to measure that.” I said, “Run that by me again.” Okay, so, a nova curve, mu curves, pre-test, post-test, case study. You need some empirical measurements to prove your dissertation.” I’m going, “Excuse me?” I took one business statistics course in college and I dropped it after my first failed grade without a grade. And I had a Christian professor who tutored me in his office. And I would go three times a week to try and understand statistics. And he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Michael, some people,” he was a Texan, “Michael, some people don’t understand statistics. It’s all right.” Translated, “You really are stupid. This isn’t your field.”
Now I’ve got two degrees and working on a third one and the guy says you need to have an empirical…. I said, “Well, let’s just say for conversation sake I don’t know how to do that.” Quote: “Go to a junior college and take two-years of statistics.” After 24 years of school you want me to go back and take two years of purgatory? You’ve got to be kidding me. Then he said, “Or you can find somebody who will do it for you.” This is not a hard question. No trick here. You mean I can. Yes. He goes, “If you know someone, a grad student, someone who’s good with that, but you’ve got to bolt that part on to your paper to demonstrate it empirically.”
I go back to the church I was serving. One man was a captain on one of the first nuclear subs. He was a captain of a nuclear sub. He could doodle physics problems in the margins of his Bible. I’m not exaggerating. Another one taught statistics at the Air Force Academy for six years. He taught statistics. So I go to these two now retired officers, both 20 plus years, and I said, “You know, guys, you know I don’t know statistics, would you?” “We’d be delighted to help you.” I said, “You’re kidding me. You’re not going to call me stupid?” “We’d love to help you, Michael.” They got up early, they stayed up late. My dissertation was 161 pages submitted. I had over 500 pages of empirical data that they had worked on, and I put a sample in my paper because I couldn’t make the dissertation 660 pages, most of which stats nobody but statisticians would care to look at. It’s like looking at P & L’s for 500 plus pages.
Here’s the real laugher. I won an award for my dissertation, for, quote, the best research. He told me I could get somebody to help me. Those two gentlemen, Buddy, who’s now in glory, and Ron, who’s still serving Christ in many ways, you know what? They were happy to help me. They loved helping me. They enjoyed helping me. They didn’t call me stupid. They said, “Michael, you teach the Bible. We don’t know how to do that stuff. We know, this is our wheelhouse. We can do this for you.” And then, when they gave it to me, I go, “What do I do with this, guys?” And, you know, they helped me to answer that question.
Now, do you think;… they didn’t, I’m going to tell you; they didn’t think any less of me. How do I look at those guys? I can’t say thank you enough. I tell this story all over the country. I would not have finished my degree if it weren’t for those two men. That plain and simple.
Guys, you need her help. She has things, she possesses things, she sees things, she has a knowledge base you do not. And to be, we’re just all friends here, you’ve heard I love the military. Some military men can be very self-sufficient and very know-it-all and very successful, and you’ve got your degrees and you’re going to West Point, you’re going to War College, you’ve got, you know, all that stuff. I want to tell you, and the National Security Forum, NSF in one year, and I got to go the last week of all the classes and these men and women are some of the smartest in the class. They have, that’s the step to get the nod, right. Maybe then you’re going to get a star or flag, maybe, maybe, maybe, but you’ve got to go to War College after a year, and you better perform at War College baby. And some of those men and women are extraordinarily smart.
Here’s the danger; you do need your wife. You do need her. And if it’s the other way around, if your wife’s the one in the service, you need him. Because the problem with marriage, the world has taught us is this 50/50 arrangement, when in reality it’s 100/100. Cindy’s strengths tend to line up with the number of my liabilities and I hope the opposite is true, that some of my strengths line up with her liabilities. And until you understand that you are created in God’s image, the Creator and Sustainer, who put you into context to worship and serve Him. And oh, by the way, that’s two sinners that are glued together for life, you’ve got to be married long enough to figure that out. And after 31 years, you know, Cindy and I can smile at the future. It was not always so. Our first year was horrible. Our first six months was horrible. Our second year was a scosh better. Our fourth year we started to feel a little rhythm. Our tenth year I drug her to counseling. For a year we went through counseling.
We’ve worked harder at our marriage than most couples I know. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m saying that we needed help. We needed help. And we got somebody that had ears to hear and eyes to see things that we didn’t see, not to go back through emotional archeology and dig up all the rocks of the past, but to get a picture: where did you come from? Where did she come from? My mother washed the floors on her hands and knees with soapy water and clear water and hand paste waxed with Johnson wax and buffed it with a Kirby. Some of you don’t even know what that is, a Kirby buffer. And you could, it was like glass when you came home, and you took your shoes off when you came in the house, baby. And once a week she vacuumed and took sponges to the baseboards and windowsills and tops of the mirror and scrubbed the steps from the second floor down to the first floor. And all godly people should do the same. I married a woman that was youngest of five, and let’s just say, a little differently. A huge conflict in our marriage early on. I can name that and 100 others. We were not the same. She came from a wealthier family than me, with a lots of issues not unlike yours.
Two sinners that are glued together. When you go home tonight look in the mirror, and tomorrow. You’re made in the image of God. You’ve been given a capacity to worship and serve Him. And God intends for your marriage to make you holy, not just happy. At the end of the day, after 31 years, we’re pretty awfully happy. We still have conflicts. We still struggle. We still argue about things. We had a great ride the six and a half hour drive from Nash-Vegas over to here, and we didn’t argue but just a little bit of the time. And most the time we dreamt about the next phase and chapter of our life and we’re praying that we don’t kill our last two children before they’re out of our house. Twenty-seven years of parenting, I’m a little bit weary of it.
You were designed for each other because you need each other. An