In 1991, My Heart Was Breaking

Successful Marriage

For all those who live “Beyond the Honeymoon”

Some friends, some of them for 40 years and some of them for two, have been having difficulty in their marriages. I have been exercised in prayer for them and concerned for the health of their families. With a few, I have shared this short article that I wrote in 1991 when I was dissatisfied with my own marriage.

My wife never knew.

We had been married for six years. The previous year we had moved from California to Illinois to plant a new church in the Chicago Suburbs. It was going to be a “church-planting” church filled with a diverse group of Christ-followers that reflected the ethnic diversity of the community. Eventually, there would be people from 23 countries of birth represented in the congregation and it would help to plant seven other churches in its first nine years.

But in the summer of 1991, just before it had its first service, I was having a crisis. I was unhappy in my marriage. Fortunately, before the crisis reached a climax, God led me to His arms and to His word for guidance.

I ran to Him. I cried out to Him. And He, like He promised He would, guided me to His word. What I learned as I poured over His word in the wee hours of the morning eventually were worked out in the crucible of this thing called marriage and designed by the creator to shape us for His glory. Eventually, in the Fall of that year, I wrote this article.  

For a number of years, a friend of mine on the national speaking team of the “Weekends to Remember” has used it at the close of one of his messages. He has found it helpful in opening the eyes of couples to the joys of obedience to God. I hope it does the same for you. 

Difficult Truth

by Marty Schoenleber, Jr.

Two Years Before We Came to Illinois
Two Years Before We Moved to Illinois (My bride with Meredith and Marty III)

Loving our wives, particularly when it is most difficult, is the measure of our love for Christ. I hate writing those words. But the truth of them is irrefutable. Every man who has been married “beyond the honeymoon” has experienced the trauma and angst of his own inability to “love his wife as Christ loved the Church.” I have.

            I am married to a wonderful woman. She is wise, discerning, and sensitive. She is an excellent mother to our three children. She is a satisfying lover and a finely crafted helpmate for all of the gaps of my life. She sees the things that I don’t. She is attuned to the things that would drift by me unnoticed and unappreciated. She slows me down. She speeds me up. She is publicly proud of me (and there is no husband who does not value the beam cast by a proud wife’s smile). My wife is a unique and precious gift given to me, crafted and designed for me, by a Holy, wise and loving God who knew all of my needs and created her to help me become all that He wants me to be. She is the chief conduit of joy in my life.

            Some will read those words with envy.

            You are living with a woman who you deem is neither wise nor loving. The woman you are living with is seemingly bent on destroying every dream you ever had. You can’t remember the last time your love-making was satisfying. She seems more interested in Headline News and the Weather Channel than she is any kind of physical relationship with you and more and more frequently, you find yourself thinking that there must be a woman who will appreciate and respect and cherish you as an object of desire and pride. You’ve heard your priest or minister give sermons about “loving your wife” and how God wants to use your wife to complement and bring joy to your life. But, somehow, you missed out. You find yourself saddled with a woman who no longer communicates any passion or joy in your presence. Sometimes you cry. The pain and the loneliness of it all and the frustration over what to do, how to retrace the steps to an earlier time escape all your probings. She is the chief conduit of pain in your life.

            I know, — because I’m married to the same woman.

            That shocks some of you. The first paragraph and the second paragraph don’t fit. You wanted to meet the first woman; you’d do anything you can to avoid even one more interaction with the second. I assure you, I am not married to two different women. My beautiful and precious gift from God is sometimes (often?) a source of pain that borders on despair. There is no melodrama in those words. They are the sober, honest, unvarnished truth.

            I write them at close to one o’clock in the morning. I write them because I cannot sleep. I write them because I am frustrated at the growing gap between my wife and myself. I write them because of the frustration I feel at not knowing what to do. I write them in the hope that they will prove helpful to someone else in the future. I write them because I have learned that the wife of the first paragraph will return when I grow in the skill of loving my wife “as Christ loved the Church.”

            I write them because I am beginning to learn that active obedience on my part to the command to love my wife as Christ loved the Church creates in the woman I married, the ability to respond to me in the way that my heart longs to be responded to. I am learning that I am in the process, by the way that I love her, of creating the woman who brings either joy or frustration to my life. I am learning that if I don’t like the woman who my wife is becoming, I need not look any further than my own reflection in the mirror for the cause.

            My problem is not my wife. My problem is my disobedience. You see, I’m learning that loving my wife, particularly when it is most difficult, is the measure of my love for Christ. And it is the only hope we have for a fulfilling future in our families.

            It’s the measure of your love for Christ as well. A difficult truth indeed.

2016 P.S.
So glad for the whole of my life with this woman. I love her more today than the day I asked her to marry me. She is a treasure.

A Chapter Revision Excerpt

Marty at Outside Preaching EventAmong the many things I have been working on since leaving Trinity Church as its Senior Pastor is a revision of my 2012 book, Picking A President: Or Any Other Elected Official. Some might think it odd to revise a book that is only five years old. Let me tell you why I’m doing it.

  1. This election, more than perhaps any other, demonstrates a need for this book. We simply need better candidates to vote for. Period.
  2. The time to read and study a book like this is four years before the next election. That gives activists and political types time to find candidates with sound character and believable problem-solving abilities.
  3. Recognizing those candidates means a population that is tuned into asking the right questions long before candidates are placed on a ballot. That takes time, introspection, and hard work by each of us. If we want to recognize better candidates we need to be better and more informed people.

So here is part of the revised 21st chapter of a probably-differently titled book. (Front-runner for the new title? Mr. and Mrs. Candidate, You’re Fired!) All chapters in the book are based on a chapter in the book of Proverbs. As always, it is always best to read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the same chapter in the book.

Proverbs 21   God Overrules Rulers.

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
     he turns it wherever he will. (1)

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
     but terror to evildoers. (15)

No wisdom, no understanding,
     no counsel can avail against the Lord.
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
     but the victory belongs to the Lord. (30-31)

Proverbs 21:1, 15, 30-31

______________________________

Proverbs 21:15 echoes the things we learned in chapter 20. The role of the righteous leader is twofold:

1) to do justice and thereby bring joy to those who desire to do righteousness and

2) bring terror to those who delight in evil.

A good government is one that maintains a balance between personal freedom and the common good.

But if Proverbs 21:15 echoes chapter 20 (esp. Prov. 20:2, 8, 18, and 22), it also gives a powerful corrective to thinking that any human ruler’s power is ultimate. The point of the first verse is that the heart of the king is in God’s hand. This is both a mystery and a great comfort. Even if your candidate is not elected, even if according to your best judgment, the worst of two evils is elected, a believer need not despair. Listen to the wise words of another generation commenting on this passage:

God can change men’s minds, can, by a powerful insensible operation under their spirits, turn them from that which they seemed most intent upon, and incline them to that which they seemed most averse to, as the husbandman, by canals and gutters, turns the water through his grounds as he pleases, which does not alter the nature of the water, nor put any force upon it, any more than God’s providence does upon the native freedom of man’s will, but directs the course of it to serve his own purpose.

Even kings’ hearts are so, notwithstanding their powers and prerogatives, as much as the hearts of common persons. The hearts of kings are unsearchable to us, much more unmanageable by us; … but the great God has them not only under his eye, but in his hand. Kings [or Presidents and Congressman] are what he makes them. Those that are most absolute are [still] under God’s government; …49

A farmer (“the husbandman”) directs water by digging canals. So God directs the heart of rulers. And the Scriptures are filled with examples (Exod. 10:1-2; Ezra 7:21; Neh. 2:1-8; Isa. 10:5-7; Isa. 45:1-6). With absolute certainty, the writer reminds us of a great mystery. God is sovereign over all. The final two verses of the chapter come full circle.

30 No wisdom, no understanding,
      no counsel can avail against the Lord.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
      but the victory belongs to the Lord.

This is the perspective and the comfort we need in all our political involvement. Trust God. Even as you work to ensure that good people are elected, never forget that God is forever sovereign. There is no wisdom, no understanding that can stand against the Lord’s purposes. People can make their plans, but God can overrule all of them. Political operatives can wheel and deal, but in the end, God will “cause all things to work together for the good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” (Rom. 8:28). And that is comforting news in the midst of our sometimes frustrating (maddening!) political process.

Make sure that you are one who loves him, the sovereign God of the universe, above all things. We will not change the world through lots of political activity. We have responsibilities and duties in that sphere, but they are only one piece of a larger picture.

We will change the world by not “leaning on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledging him,” and watching him direct our steps (Prov. 3:5-6). In every election there is a candidate who is better for the country, county or city—always one that is better than the other. We have a responsibility before God to elect men and women who will lead wisely and well. But there is one Judge and Ruler who was never elected. He rules with might and power, with wisdom and righteousness, and his will is ultimately unassailable. Trust him. He, unlike every human governor, is always worthy of our complete trust.

Prayer:

Lord, Your word declares that You laugh at the folly of earthly rulers who raise up any plans against Your Anointed (Psalm 2:1-4). You warn the kings of the earth, all who govern, to show discernment and to bow down in worship of You as their sovereign Lord. And one day, Your word declares that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that You are indeed Lord of heaven and earth (Isa. 45:23; Phil. 2:10; Rom. 14:11).

Help me to trust You and Your word, not only for that future day, but for every day that I breathe between now and then. Help me to not be anxious over who wins or loses a particular election. But help me to do my part to ensure that worthy men and women have the opportunity to serve. Amen.

Questions:

  1. Are you anxious about the upcoming election? Have you taken your anxiety to God and asked him to calm your anxious spirit (cf. John 14:1-6 and 1 Pet. 5:7)? If not, do it now.
  2. Does the candidate feed your tendency to be anxious and “earth-bound” by the type of rhetoric he or she uses?
  3. Does the candidate’s platform give an indication that “the righteous will rejoice and evil-doers will fear” if their policies are implemented?
  4. Does the candidate have the support of knowledgeable men and women who you respect as being on the side of righteousness?

Thinking of Phyllis and Other Believing “Shut-ins”

hands claspedIf you have an elderly friend or parent, or if you are reading this and you happen to be older and slower and less spry than you once were, don’t miss John Stonestreet’s commentary today. 

Your friend or parent or anyone else who happens to be “shut-in” from as much outside contact with people as you or they once enjoyed are not “on the shelf” in God’s economy. You might be coming into your most significant ministry.

Click on the link right here and you’ll understand why. And Phyllis, thanks for your incredible impact on my and countless lives not only in the past but right now as well.

Update:  Moments after posting this my phone rang. It was Phyllis’s daughter calling to say that my dear sister in Christ had asked for me to visit. She couldn’t speak but somehow had made it clear that she would like to have me there. I just got back from an hour and a half visit and it seems clear that Jesus might be calling her home soon. What a woman. What a friend. What a prayer warrior for the saints of God. All I can think of is who will take her place? 

Ann’s Words

Ann VoskampFilled with a knowledge of Scripture, this one sentence from Ann Voskamp’s blog post today (“What to hold on to when it feels like the world is hurting”) is worth contemplating, as is the whole post she offers the world today.

There is faith that stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more fulfilling than anything forecasted by either the fortunetellers or the fearmongers.”

There are false prophets afoot in the land and some of them are our state and federal representatives. Some of them are political candidates. Some of them are media pundits on the left and the right. Some of them are journalists, and some of them are neighbors. Some of them are pastors and some of them are friends.

They want you to believe that they have the solution, the program, the perspective, the ideas that can change the country and make it 

  • great again, or
  • what it should be, or
  • what it once was, or 
  • what it might be.

They want you to buy into their vision of a different future than the hate and violence that we all see. They want you to believe that protection and security and fairness and decency and justice are just an election away.

It isn’t true. 

They are false prophets.

They want you to believe and they promise you illusions.

It is a false religion. 

There is and has always been only one hope.

Jesus.

Jesus is the only Prince of Peace. He is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6) and the only way to have peace and justice and righteousness, is to have Him on the throne of your heart, mind, and soul.

Don’t buy the false religion of the false prophets who try to sell a future that doesn’t have Jesus Christ at the center of life.  

Remember, “There is faith that stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more fulfilling than anything forecasted by either the fortunetellers or the fearmongers.”

It Was One of TV’s Longest Running Shows

ER

ER 2

15 Years (1994-2009)
331 episodes 
It introduced actors like George Cloney, Juliana Margulies, Anthony Edwards and so many others. 

It won 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, including the 1996 Outstanding Drama Series award, and received 124 Emmy nominations, which makes it the most nominated drama program in history.[1] ER won 116 awards in total, including the Peabody Award, while the cast earned four Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Drama Series.[2]  (paragraph and statistics pulled from the wikipedia article on ER)

It was ensemble drama at its highest and multi-textured best with complex plotting, believable human characters with flaws and idiocies on full display as well as heroism and selflessness. Most episodes could bring tears and laughter and angst in rapid fire sequences to the conscience of an audience as well as a generous, if sobered hope.

There were people to root for, root against, despise and love. There were situations that challenged the ethics of the viewing public as well as every prejudice and perspective you ever had.

Yes, the doctors were too pretty. Yes, the nurses too. And yes, some of the plotting was overly contrived. It was TV. But at its best, it strove for honesty.

So why am I sitting here writing about a show that ended 7 years ago? Because I am re-reading a book (Cultivating a Life for God, by Neil Cole) that I have recommended for years and the author quotes a powerful episode from ER. It is a story about the potential of the local church.  Here’s the quote:

Dr. Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards) is in a particularly cynical mood and challenges nurse Carol Hathaway (played by Juliana Margulies) to see if there are as many sane patients as kooks who come through the emergency room. Dr. Greene, believing that the number of kooks far out-distances the number of sane patients, wins the contest. I will do my best to portray this episode accurately from my memory.

In the midst of the episode, black Physician Assistant Jeanie Boulet (played by Gloria Reuben) uncovers an unconscious patient’s torso to reveal a Ku Klux Klan tattoo over his heart. She asks Dr. Greene to find someone else to care for this patient but he declines. Later, the patient regains consiousness and is actually a very gentle and polite man. When Boulet enters his room, cold and indifferent, to give him sutures, she ask him to lower his gown and at first he is reticent and asks for a different nurse. She insists and he lowers his gown revealing the tattoo. He then asks her a most profound question. He asks, “Do you believe in the power of God to change a life?” She retorts, “What does that tattoo have to do with God?” He said, Well, I was hoping you wouldn’t have to see that tattoo, that’s why I requested another nurse. It’s not something I’m proud of. But the Lord Jesus Christ has changed my life. … once there was nothing but hatred and fear in me [but] God has changed me and I have love and faith. … do you believe in the power of God to change a life?”

In a fashion uncharacteristic of Hollywood, ER set the testimony of a life changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only sane one in the midst of wackos and crazy people (including some of the doctors themselves).

A little later in the episode, Boulet is still contemplating the question she as been asked.   (p. 12)

What do you think?

  • Can God change lives?
    bbb
  • Can He remove hatred and replace it with love?
    rr
  • Can He remove fear and replace it with confidence?
    dd
  • Can He make truth-tellers out of liars?
    vvv
  • Can He make dead-beat fathers responsible and reliable men and husbands?
    mmm
  • Can the gospel of Jesus Christ take unforgiving, bitter, and angry men and women and turn them into sweet and gentle forgivers with generous hearts toward all?
    fff
  • Can God bring grace into a man’s life so that his life takes a completely different turn into a new direction that stuns everyone who ever knew him before?

Christian, what are you waiting for?

  1. Go tell the world.
  2. Go live a transformed life by the power of His Spirit.
  3. Start with number 2.

Praise God with Me

On a morning when we woke up to yet another tragedy in Dallas, …

On another morning when we were reminded that justice and peace are far from us, …

On yet another day when our hope and confidence in the direction of our country has been shaken to the core, …

Would you take two minutes to have your vision renewed? Watch this video and praise God for what He is doing around the world and then, begin to pray Habakkuk’s prayer from Habakkuk 3:2 for our own nation. Pray that what He is doing around the world He would once again do here.

 

“O Lord, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
 O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
 In the midst of the years make it known;
 In wrath remember mercy.” 

—Habakkuk 3:2