Category Archives: Marriage

The Life of Worship: The Greatest Commandment

I love my wife, Cheryl. I love her a lot. We have been married for almost 30 years. We have known each other for almost 40 years. She is my best friend. There is no one I would rather spend time with. No, things are not always smooth and tranquil in our relationship, but we are committed to one another, for life. And I do not want it any other way.

Now, I could be committed to staying with Cheryl, honoring my marriage vows to remain true to only her. However, in our relationship, I could keep myself closed off and isolated from her. I could withhold my love and affection. I could go about my life and never do any acts of kindness for her. I could take care of my own needs and neglect hers. On the other hand, I could be unfaithful, and not remain true to the commitment I made to be faithful to her all the days of our lives together. At the same time, I could do all kinds of wonderful things for Cheryl, showering her with gifts, attention, and affection, while being unfaithful.

In both of the situations, there would be a disconnect. Whether one way or another, Cheryl would be getting part of me, but not all of me. My life would be a contradiction. The actions of my life would be in opposition to each other. I would not be fully devoted to her as my wife. Unfortunately, when it comes to our relationship with God, we frequently have the same disconnect. Well, maybe I should not speak for you. For me, there is.

“And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.’” Matthew 22:37-38

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” This is basically a restatement of what Jesus is saying in the passage above, which He is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, where the Jewish nation is given this command to love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Moses gave the command to the people, as God had given it to Him. Jesus confirmed and validated it as the greatest commandment. Therefore, as those created by this Almighty God, this is our highest call.

There are many commands and principles in the Bible. Sometimes, it is hard to keep them all straight. However, Jesus said this command, and the next greatest command, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves, encompass all of the Law and Prophets. In other words, every other commandment given by God falls under these two (Matthew 22:37-40). For me, this is freeing. I don’t have to remember a long list of dos and don’ts. I give myself to Him through a life of love and devotion and He will work in me to fulfill the whole of His law.

On the other hand, it is an enormous task. To love the Lord with my whole being is a great challenge. In fact, on my own, it is impossible (more on that next week). It involves a total and complete devotion to the Lord.

It involves loving the Lord with my mind. This means that I seek to know Who He is in a greater way on a daily basis. I must pour His truth into my mind, conforming my thinking to His thoughts. But growing in knowledge is not enough. As my knowledge of God and His character and ways increases, my devotion for Him should grow as well. My relationship with God should become deeper and richer. My love for God and my joy in Him should be expanding every day. Then, as my knowledge and devotion deepen, I should grow in my giving myself in service and living out my life in obedience to God, loving God with all of my soul and strength.

The conflict arises when we think we can have one of these aspects without the others. Even though we don’t think it, practically we live it out. Ultimately, we live a lopsided life, overemphasizing one aspect of our lives. We get a lot of head knowledge, but have little love for God or don’t live in obedience. Or maybe we love God, what we know of Him anyway. But we don’t grow in our knowledge of God and the faith, so our love is ignorant and uniformed and we often live lives based on our own wisdom or fantasies, rather the truth. Or maybe we are very busy serving God, but we don’t spend time renewing our minds with His Word or we have little devotion for Him. Our service has become obligation, not a life lived in joy and love for God.

All of these options are less than best. That is why I think God contained all of the aspects into one command, to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Without one, the others are incomplete. The result is a relationship that is lacking and not fruitful, just as marriage that is not fully devoted in all aspects.

God wants all of us, not just part of us. It is not that God is needy or greedy. He knows that there is no greater fulfillment and joy for us that can be found in any other person, place, or thing. Our highest joy is found in loving Him with all that we are. The pursuit of the life of worship begins with this call. Let us seek to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no higher calling.

Together for His glory…

Do I Love You More Than Before?

I do not love my wife the same as I did when we were married. We have both changed over the years. Our relationship has changed. Our roles have adjusted and shifted during our years together. We are several years older. It is just not the same as it used to be.

Cheryl and I met when we were in 7th grade. I was interested in her from the first time I saw her, but we attended different school districts, so I did not see her that often. In high school, she started attending our church. We knew each other on a surface level until we reached our junior year of high school, which is when we started dating. Our relationship was very serious from the beginning. By the spring of our junior year, we had already discussed marriage. By our senior year, we had started discussing timelines. My father, seeing where this was all going, said he wanted us to wait to get married until we had finished two years of college, which we agree to do. We set the wedding date for the weekend following finals of our sophomore year!

Our dating and engaged years had been filled with time spent together, going on dates, spending time with family, church and youth group events, and many phone conversations. The first two years of college were spent in different parts of the state, so there had been many letters, cards, and phone calls (and phone bills). About every four or five weeks, I would make the drive across the state. We would spend every second possible with each other. As the wedding drew near, I started coming back every other week. I could not stay away. Then, we were married, and things began to change.

Life happened. Our first son was born. I graduated college. I attended seminary. Our second son was born. I worked in ministry. I left seminary. Our third son was born. We returned home to St. Louis. We lived with parents. I worked various jobs. We moved out on our own. Then, we lived with parents again. We moved out again. After nine moves in thirteen years, we finally lived in the same home for fifteen years. I worked the same job for over 15 years, while working in ministry also. Cheryl homeschooled our children. Two of our sons went to college, graduated, and got jobs. Our first grandson was born. One of our sons was married. And so life continued.

As I said, things in our relationship were changing during these years. You may think I mean that they changed for the worse, but that is not the case. Oh, we had, and have, periods of struggle and distance in our life and relationship together. However, as the years have passed, our relationship has grown deeper – richer. There are times of backtracking, but we have eventually been guided and worked through those things and move forward. So, today, I can honestly say that I do not love my wife the same as I did when we were married. I love her far more.

We have weathered trials, uncertainty, failings, and sorrows together. We have celebrated victories, joys, and many special moments together. I have seen her giftedness, compassion, and giving spirit displayed on a level that I could only hope to duplicate. She has endured with me when I am at my best and when I am at my worst. She knows me better than any other human being on this planet, and she loves me anyway. I can be a royal pain to live with. I have a personality that can be annoying and flat out depressing. I have a tone (so I have been told) that can come across as very critical, especially with those I am the most comfortable with. Cheryl sees more of this than anyone. Yet, she still loves me and puts up with me. And Cheryl, my love, if I had it to do all over again, I would choose you, every time.

Our love for each other is great, but it is limited and imperfect. There is a love far greater – a perfect love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:14-19).  This past Sunday our pastor taught from Philippians 3:1-11. Here, the apostle Paul speaks of the exceeding greatness of knowing Christ and that there is nothing else in life that can even compare with it. Jesus Christ bore the punishment and shame that belonged to us. He took upon Himself the judgment of the Father for my sin and your sin – the sin of every human being that has lived, is living, and will ever live. He also bore the pain of our sorrows and suffering – every evil that is the result of sin (Isaiah 53:4-6). The weight of it all was placed on Him on the cross. Just the sorrow and weight of anticipation of the cross was almost enough to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:36). Any sin we have sinned and any pain or sorrow we have suffered – Christ bore them all. He endured it all for the glory of the Father and to provide our redemption. He died to save us and set us free.

So, the question I ask myself is how well do I know Jesus today? Do I love Him more than when I first started on my journey with Him? Have I taken advantage of the time I have been given to grow in knowledge of Who He is and what He has done in my life? Can I say, with the apostle Paul, that I consider everything else a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ? That is pretty tough stuff. That is a pretty high standard and regardless of how I answer this question right now, it also provides motivation for me to continue the journey. Because what Paul is saying is that I will find no greater joy and satisfaction in life than through knowing and following Christ. It is to my advantage, as a follower of Christ, to pursue Him. And the more I know of Christ, the more I will love Him and want to become more like Him. Christ, working and dwelling in me, will transform me.

I love my wife more now because of the journey we have traveled together and because she knows me even better than at the start, and yet still loves me. That makes her more precious to me. Jesus Christ knows everything about me and, in love, drew me to Himself so that I would reach out my hand to Him. He saved me and is renewing me daily into His image. He never grows in knowledge of me. He knew me completely before I was born, and loved me still. I, however, can grow in knowledge of Him through His Word and His work in my life. And as I grow in knowledge of God’s glory and holiness, I better understand how far from that I am. I become more aware of how amazing and unbelievable the love of Christ is. I understand more clearly how hopeless I would be without Him. I am grateful for His mercy to me, a sinner. I know that I have so much more to learn, but I want to know Him better because as each page of discovery opens before my eyes, it is better than the one before. If we open our eyes, God will never cease to amaze us – every day and for all eternity.

Do I love Him more than I once did? I would like to think so. Only God really knows. I long to know and love Him more because I know that is where true joy and satisfaction is found. Let us spur one another on to a greater knowledge and love of our great Savior.

Together for His glory…