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Another way to befriend your husband is to offer him your appreciation and loyalty so freely that he doesn’t have to ask or wait for it. He needs to hear and feel your approval. Speak well of him to his family and his friends. Praise him in front of his children.

What does your family hear from you about your husband? Is he late for dinner again? You can have one of two responses: “Poor Daddy—he’s working so hard. Let’s stop and pray for him.” Or “Poor me—I can’t believe it’s happening again.”

As you offer him your appreciation, let others be the ones who try to improve him: his boss, his colleagues, his customers, his family. He may be all too aware of his own shortcomings. He needs a wife who accepts him and loves him for who he is, not only for what she’s hoping he’ll become

Let’s speak well of our husbands. Let’s offer them the loyalty and appreciation of a deep and lasting friendship.

~Jani Ortlund in Fearlessly Feminine

Photo: OBMonkey

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Real love calls us to keep short accounts with our husbands. “It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5). There is a certain earthiness to marriage that often relaxes the courtesies we naturally use with those outside our home. The daily routines and pressures of life tempt us to be uptight, rude, and withdrawn with each other.

Do you operate on a short fuse? God calls you to rise above your explosive feelings of indignation. Wipe clean the mental list of past hurts you keep harbored in your heart. The fearlessly feminine woman approaches her husband with a graciousness, courtesy, and respect that rises above her mood swings.

Ask God to help you avoid unnecessary quarrels that bring discord to your relationship. Keep short accounts with the man you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Offer up to God your frustration over those incurable character traits you had thought would change over time. Live your marriage by faith—faith in the God who called you to this commitment and who has not abandoned you in it. He will help you honor your marriage with grace and kindness.

~Jani Ortlund in Fearlessly Feminine

Photo: OBMonkey

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Are you married? And, if so, do you ever wonder about or struggle with what God means when He states, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22)? As a new Christian and a wife—I did! Then I remembered a visual aid God had given me while growing up. When I was a child I visited a museum that had the stuffed head of a goat—only it had two heads. It was freakish, abnormal, and ugly. And so is a marriage with two heads.

God, the perfect artist and creator, designed marriage to be beautiful, natural, and functional. And He did it by giving it a single head—the husband. And the wife’s assignment? Follow her husband’s leadership and submit “as to the Lord.” Be his teammate, his willing partner is God’s plan. And don’t forget to pour on the encouragement!

~Elizabeth George in “A Single Head

Photo: OBMonkey

Avoiding Matrimonial Misery

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32

A trip to Trader Joe’s last week produced an unusual conversation between a young man working the cash register and my friends and me. Out of the blue he asked my friends, “What’s the secret to a long marriage?”

I guess that’s one way to start a conversation!

When I offered my opinion on the answer—knowing Christ and forgiving your spouse—the cashier followed up with another surprisingly direct question, “Well, what if your husband committed adultery?”

*Gulp* Whatever happened to “Paper or plastic?”

I acknowledged how painful that trial would be, but told him that if my husband repented, I would hope I could… No…I knew that with God all things would be possible. Although my answers may have sounded far too simple for such complex questions, I do believe them to be true. Forgiveness, although difficult, holds the promise of untold freedom, while unforgiveness and bitterness will only produce ongoing misery within marriage. 

In his recent message on FamilyLife Today, Pastor Voddie Baucham addressed the vital role of forgiveness within marriage and explained how the power of the Gospel makes it possible. He included sober warnings for those who would ignore the Scripture’s clear command to forgive as we have been forgiven in Christ. Here’s an excerpt…

I’m going to say this as gently as I can—if you’re a person who’s not forgiving, then, you are actually a disobedient, arrogant hypocrite who does not appreciate the body of Christ…

Why disobedience?—because you are commanded to do it.  If you don’t forgive your spouse, you are in sin because you’ve been commanded to forgive.  By the way, it is difficult for us to understand that unless we know what forgiveness is; right?  

Forgiveness is a cancellation of debt.  That’s what it means.  Forgiveness means I give up my right to punish you for what you did.  If I come over to your house…I knock over a lamp, and I break the lamp.  You look at me and say, “No, brother, that’s okay.  I forgive you;” and then, you say, “but that will be $195,” you didn’t really forgive me because you’re making me pay.  Forgiveness is the cancellation of debt; okay? 

Why is this important? 

Remember—our experience of forgiveness is rooted in our understanding of the forgiveness that we’ve received in Christ.  If I am a person that doesn’t understand forgiveness as a cancellation of debt—and forgiveness just means I say, “I forgive you,” but I still make you pay—then, my understanding of salvation is going to be the same.  Then, my forgiveness from God is something that doesn’t cancel my debt.  I still have to work to earn that which I’ve already been given. 

It’s all rooted in the fact that I do not comprehend this concept of forgiveness because remember that first point.  These things are linked inexorably.   It’s a cancellation of debt.  That means that if I say to my wife, “I forgive you,”—but then, we have an argument, like a couple of days later, and I bring it back up—now, I’m punishing you when I said I would give up my right to do so—which means I lied.  If the debt is cancelled, it’s cancelled.  Again, first of all, if we’re not forgiving, we’re not obedient. 

Secondly, if we’re not forgiving, we’re arrogant.  Here’s why—because, basically, here is what I say if I’m not forgiving—and let’s just keep this in marriage; okay—here’s what I say if I’m not forgiving my wife—what I say if I’m not forgiving my wife is this, “All those things that I have done to offend God—those things are absolutely forgivable because that’s how good God is.  However, my standard is higher than God’s standard; so, though He can forgive you, I can’t.”  That’s the height of arrogance…

You can read or listen to Voddie Baucham’s entire message [broadcast date March 7, 2012] HERE.

Photo: kamil kantarcıoğlu

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We often laugh about the proverb’s assertion that it is better to live on the corner of a roof than with a nagging wife (Proverbs 21:9). This warning, however, ought to sober us. And it’s definitely not funny when you can imagine that that verse is speaking about you. And unfortunately, we probably have all thought that at times. Hopefully, with hard work and the aid of the Holy Spirit, those times become less severe…and less often.

When I have had a particularly bad day (and no, I don’t mean because particularly “bad” things have happened to me, but that I have handled whatever has happened particularly badly) it is a horrifying thought to think of hearing a tape recording of myself—or remembering that not only has my dear husband heard my dripping, but so has my heavenly Husband (only more so because He also knows my thoughts). It is humbling and reveals how much need I have for repentance and calling on the Lord for strength to do better.

In working toward peace in our homes, we need to daily remember what our husbands long for. More than fancy meals, fancy lingerie, fancy anything, they just want some peace. Has your husband ever had some happy news to come home and tell you about…and you totally burst his bubble with a sour attitude that you dumped on him as soon as he walked in the door? Would you want to be greeted by that when you came home? Avoid the shame and remorse you’ll surely feel later—just don’t do it!…

Let there be peace in our homes, and let it begin with us.

~Denise Sproul in Tending Your Garden

Photo: OBMonkey

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Our whole culture is so driven to not have pain, to not have to hurt. So, we have every conceivable kind of medication to numb or dull or fix the pain. So many Christian women are living these very medicated, very numb lives because they are trying to escape from the pain.

Now, I’m not saying that if you have a headache that it’s wrong to take an aspirin. But I think you need a theology that takes you beyond aspirin; that says, “I can have a headache physically, emotionally, spiritually, and life is still okay because God is still good, because not every headache is curable.”

God is going to let you walk through circumstances. God is going to, in some cases, create circumstances in your life that you will think of as a huge headache. It’s not going to go away. It’s not going to go away quickly, and it may not ever go away in this lifetime.

God says, “Don’t run from the cross.” This is all about the cross. That’s the crux of the matter: getting back to the cross. It’s the willingness to suffer righteously on behalf of those who are unrighteous so that God can be glorified, and so they can be healed. So God says: “Proactively look for ways to do good. Don’t run.”

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “When Marriages Hurt

Photo: OBMonkey

Becoming a Truly Beautiful Bride

“An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.”

Proverbs 31:10

Here in North Carolina, hints of spring are already in the air and weddings are soon to follow. Over the next several months, my husband and I have at least six weddings where either we or our gifts will be making an appearance. 

I’ve always loved weddings and all of the romance and deep significance attached to them. Planning a wedding is rarely easy, yet all of the effort necessary for pulling off a successful one-day event is nothing when compared to the years of prayer and hard work required for building a successful marriage. Although many women make beautiful brides, far fewer make godly wives.

In her article Loving Your Man,” Barbara Rainey shares wise advice for helping the former become the latter…

I often give three pieces of advice to young women before their wedding day. But because these remain just as important as we go through marriage and because they are fashioned by the Scriptures and proven by experience, I share them with you today—at whatever stage you find yourself in marriage:

Believe in your husband. This is the most valuable gift Dennis says I’ve given him. You know your husband better than anyone. To see his faults and weaknesses and yet to believe in your husband’s God-given potential as a man and his leadership of your home does more than you can imagine for his spiritual growth

Be willing to confront your husband in love. Too many wives mistakenly believe they are following the biblical pattern of submission by ignoring or denying deficits in their husband’s life. But being submissive does not mean being silent. It simply means being wise and loving in how you approach him, treating him with kindness and respect. Say to your husband, “Could I talk to you about something?” Asking permission to broach a difficult subject may make it easier to get your message across. He is far less threatened and insecure this way.

Pursue intimacy with him on every level. Most men consider physical intimacy the most important part of marriage. I’ve come to learn that it is central to my husband’s manhood. It’s the way God made him, and it is good. So rather than resenting it, learn to appreciate this aspect of your marriage as God’s design. And be willing to learn and grow, becoming God’s woman for your man. It’s not always easy, but with God, nothing is impossible.

This is basic, biblically-rooted counsel which can help any Christian wife to honor God more fully within the ministry of marriage.

What advice for new brides would you add to the list? 

Photo: Benjamin Earwicker

Live the Gospel, Love Your Husband, Reach Your Children

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Ephesians 5:1

If our children look to our marriages for proof that the Gospel is true, will they find the evidence they need?

In his book Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley provides a valuable perspective on the importance of Christlike testimonies within the home…

Jesus taught by example. “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Notice the sequence. First Jesus did, then he taught. Every effective parent does likewise. Children seldom internalize the teaching of hypocrites. But the teaching of those who live what they preach pierces deeply into our children’s hearts.

Jesus is the only person who did this perfectly. He told his disciples to take up their cross because he took up his cross (Matt. 16:24-25). Jesus told his disciples to humble themselves because he humbled himself (Phil. 2:5-8). Jesus told his followers to obey the Father because he obeyed his Father (John 8:29; Phil. 2:8). There was a perfect correlation between what Jesus taught and what he did. He was God’s only perfect leader.

“Whatever the leaders are, the people become,” notes John MacArthur. “Biblical history demonstrates that people will seldom rise above the spiritual level of their leadership.”

…Here is my point: Parenting is the most important leadership position in the church. And example is also the first principle of parenting. Parents lead the family, the smallest and most important cell in the local church. Archbishop Tillotson (1630-94) said, “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell.”

I have said all of this to bring us to this point: Our marriage is the most powerful example that we possess. To the degree that the gospel makes our marriage attractive, God will empower us to reach our children…

What is our marriage telling them about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.

The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, “I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it.” 

[Gospel-Powered Parenting, pp. 107-108, 110-111]

If you’re married to a man who is unwilling to love you like Christ loves the church, let me encourage you to remember that your children can still see the power of the Gospel in your testimony as a wife. Don’t underestimate what God can do through the example of a godly woman! 

Photo: Pal Csonka

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God must be first in marriage for it to be lived to His glory. However, putting God first in marriage is not easy. Husbands can easily place their leadership of the household as primary, wives can easily do the same with their care of the house, and each spouse can easily put each other before God. These are but a few examples of things that can become idols if God is not kept first in marriage. 

To put God first in our marriages, we must recognize its place. Marriage is secondary and temporary, and God is primary and infinite. Therefore our marriages should always point back to God. To do this, we must submit ourselves to God every day. While all of Scripture helps us to learn our duties and responsibilities, Scripture specifically gives us the magnificent example of Christ and His bride.

In Ephesians 5:22–24 husbands are instructed to lead their wives as Christ leads the church, and wives are instructed to support their husbands as the church supports Christ. What a weighty example to follow! Now reflect upon the fact that it was Christ who was perfect — blameless, with no need to apologize, and yet it was Christ who laid down His life out of love for His bride and obedience to His Father (5:25). 

May we be humbled by Christ’s example and make every effort to live it. May that be true of our marriages as well as our Christian life.

~John Cobb in “Marriage to Glorify God

Photo: OBMonkey

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It’s usually wise to avoid extremes. This is definitely true in marriage. The book of Ephesians says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:22-23).

Notice what you don’t see here—aggressiveness on the one hand and passivity on the other. The husband has the responsibility to provide loving, humble, leadership. On the one hand, he’s not to be harsh or domineering. At the other extreme, he’s not to be passive or lazy.

The wife is called to give active, intelligent, joyful submission to her husband’s leadership. Like her husband, she also needs to avoid aggression, domineering, or belittling. But she also avoids passivity. She’s not a robot who never speaks up, never participates in the decision-making process, and never challenges her husband if he’s wrong.

Do you tend to lean toward either aggressiveness or passivity? What can you do to move toward balance?

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “A Balanced Marriage

Photo: OBMonkey

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Families, meaningful marriages, which are so essential to society and its preservation…which are so essential to real fulfillment in life are only possible where you have unselfish attitudes, where personal desires are constantly sacrificed for others. And if that’s not happening, there cannot be meaningful relationships.

You cannot have the collision of two independently selfish individuals and build a relationship. It is a battle of people struggling to humble themselves. That’s essential. That’s the key to all relationships, to be Spirit filled, to be speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, to be saying thanks and to be submissive [Ephesians 5:18-21]. Just those four things, that’s the foundation.

That is where you have to start this whole thing. Where you have people who walk in the Spirit fulfilling the Word of God in obedience to the truth, where you have people with a song in their heart and a song on their lips, where you have people who say thanks for everything that comes into their life and where you have people who are eager, in fact they’re in a hurry to take every occasion to humble themselves and submit themselves to those around them, you have meaningful relationships. That’s how you build relationships.

~John MacArthur in “A Plan for Your Family: God’s vs. the World’s, Part 1

Photo: OBMonkey

A Marriage Healed through Forgiveness

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in October 2010. It dovetails perfectly with the last two articles on the sanctity of marriage.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32

In this video from True Woman, Lorna Wilkinson describes the vicious cycle of sin and unforgiveness that would have destroyed her marriage if God had not miraculously intervened. Although she believed for a time that divorce would provide the necessary remedy for her marital problems, God graciously revealed that He was the only answer Lorna and her husband needed.

This story is going to touch your heart; it certainly touched mine.

Ladies, forgive your husbands while there’s still time. You have no idea what God will do with your future when you leave the past in His hands.

Photo: Charlotte Na

Have You Come a Long Way, Baby?

This article first appeared on Precious Adornment in August 2010.

“…encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

Titus 2:4-5

For nearly two decades, Virginia Slims cigarettes were pitched as the liberated woman’s must-have accessory with the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Designed to highlight the improvements made by women’s lib, the ad campaign often placed images of bold and sassy-looking modern women before a backdrop of photos depicting their oppressed conditions prior to the feminist movement. In light of the monumental shifts experienced by our culture over the past fifty years, it would be hard to deny the message of the now familiar slogan. We women have indeed come a very long way. Whether or not we’ve traveled the right way, however, is an entirely different issue.

Over the course of several decades, the voices of feminism and greed have combined to convince women that they not only can, but should, have it all. In a quest to gain the life, liberty, and happiness they believe they’re entitled to, many women have found that no sacrifice is too great to offer on the altar of worldly success, including their marriages. Today in American society not only do women hold the majority of jobs and obtain the majority of college degrees, but they also file the vast majority of divorce petitions. Current statistics reveal that over 2/3 of all divorces in the U.S. are initiated by women. If this is what coming a long way looks like, I think we’d better make an immediate U-turn.

In my last article on this topic, I voiced my belief that many in the church were pushing to redefine marriage long before the homosexual community began forcefully advancing its own agenda. By adopting a lower view of the sanctity of marriage than is described in Scripture, professing Christians paved the way for others to more easily discard it altogether. With many churches now supporting and even condoning divorce and remarriage for any reason at all, should we wonder that what God designed as a sacred institution is now being made a sacrilege? We spend so much time pointing fingers at the world for not acting like the church, when it is the church’s imitation of the world that should command our fullest attention.

Considering both that professing Christians divorce at a rate basically identical to the world and that women are more likely to file for divorce than men, I’d say that we as Christian women bear a great responsibility to get busy reinforcing the tattered and threadbare institution of marriage in the church with grace-motivated obedience. Do you want a strong nation? Be a committed wife. Do you long for a thriving church? Honor your marriage vows. Would you like to see the lost believe the Gospel and follow Christ? Then love your husband faithfully, passionately, and unreservedly. If you desire to see marriage esteemed in our culture, then let it first be esteemed in your heart.

Strong marriages make strong families; strong families make strong churches, and strong churches change cultures through the power of Jesus Christ. We’ve got a long way to go, ladies, let’s get started today.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together,
let not man separate.’”

Matthew 19:4-6

Photo: Tobacco.org

Stop Snipping. Start Sewing.

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in August 2010.

“…What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”

Matthew 19:6

Unless you’ve recently emerged from a hole in the ground, discussions regarding the all-out assault on marriage in our society have likely grown familiar to you. For many years, the voices of those opposing traditional marriage remained basically drowned out by the overwhelming volume of those voicing their support. Yet over time, what was once a quiet and occasional murmur of resistance has morphed into an almost constant and deafening roar for revolution.

The opponents of traditional marriage have driven their messages into every nook and cranny of society–the movies, media, bookstores, schoolrooms, and even many churches have the now popular mantras playing on a loop. Traditional marriage is a relic of a bygone age, they assert, a new era requires new openness. Claiming that no one has the right to restrict the happiness of another, they aim to demolish the definition of marriage upon which every stable society stands in order to erect another in its place.

If these revolutionaries succeed, the traditional definition of marriage as a sacred institution between one man and one woman for one lifetime will soon vanish, and another will take its place:

Marriage—A social institution between one man and one woman for as long as it’s convenient

…Perhaps this isn’t quite the revision you were expecting. I understand your confusion. We hear so much about the war against traditional marriage that when the subject is raised our thoughts automatically turn to the push for homosexual marriage. Although the drive to normalize homosexuality is indeed a major concern, it is not the concern of the article you’re currently reading. No, today I want to focus on a far more subtle, far more palatable, yet perhaps more dangerous threat to traditional marriage—the widespread occurrence and increasing acceptance of divorce within the church.

You see, long before the homosexual community ever dreamed of taking the idea seriously, professing Christians were busy redefining marriage. I suppose you wouldn’t be too far off if you theorized that the homosexual community may have been emboldened to advance its own cause after observing how the churchgoing crowd slowly but surely loosened up the restrictive definition of traditional marriage to accomodate its own desire for comfort. Surely, if you can make the switch from one man-one woman for one lifetime to one man-one woman for as long as it’s convenient, then the elimination of the gender distinction can’t be lagging too many years behind. It’s hard to ditch some of the sanctity of marriage without eventually losing it all.

Thousands upon thousands in the church today are joining in the defense of the traditional definition of marriage (which of course, they should), describing it as the fabric which holds our society together. Yet what so many seem perfectly happy to ignore is that we in the church have been clipping the threads of that fabric for decades now, and we did it one divorce at a time. Now, as we attempt to take a stand against the swell of opponents facing us on this new battlefront, we do so with our shredded banner flying overhead, wondering all the while why our opponents mock us as though we entered the fight without giving a single thought to our battle plan.

Of course, there was a day many years ago, when the church did have a leg to stand on in this debate. It was way back when the church took its definition of marriage from the Bible instead of from the culture, when marriage was not only defined as sacred, but also treated as such, and when one man-one woman-one lifetime wasn’t riddled with loopholes. Although the Word of God hasn’t changed in regard to marriage, if you observe the haphazard treatment of marriage among the people of God in modern times, you could very easily be led to believe that the Author had published a new edition of His marriage manual. Yet the Word of God still stands as a clear testimony of God’s eternal hatred of divorce (Mal. 2:16). If God’s Word hasn’t changed on the issue of divorce, it begs the question, “Why have we?”

In the next post, I want to look more at the vital issue of the sanctity of marriage. In this area, as in all other aspects of the Christian life, we must follow the infallible guidance God has provided for us in His Word. Although the world strives relentlessly to mold us into its ever-changing image, we must cling to the countercultural call of Scripture, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Photo: Nat Arnett

Blessed with Wedded Bliss

This post first appeared on Precious Adornment in July 2010.

“…encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject
to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

Titus 2:4

Could you use a little encouragement in your marriage? So often, it seems the only marriage stories we hear are the ones involving tragedy and despair. In a culture that continually devalues the institution of marriage, it’s good to be reminded that God is still at work knitting together the hearts of husbands and wives so they can better reflect the beauty of His Gospel.

In this video from True Woman, Kim Wagner and her husband Leroy tell the story of how their marriage underwent a radical transformation once Kim committed herself to living out the simple truths of God’s Word. Through her story, we see a vivid illustration of how God pours out His blessings on those who not only hear His Word, but also obey.

Hear more of Leroy and Kim Wagner’s inspirational story as Nancy Leigh Demoss talks with them over the next several days at Revive Our Hearts.

Photo: Francis Valadj