Do you like surprises?

The surprises we like to imagine, are those in which an unexpected joy drops into our life.

However, there are other surprises, those which expose the fact that we are never as prepared for life as we had hoped.

Marriage is one of those areas filled with surprises.

Some of the surprises are the its-better-than-I-imagined kind of surprise. The distressing part is when marriage feels more like a minefield of surprises!

When a couple gets married, they are usually under the impression that they have deeply thought about and planned for their new life together. However, it doesn’t take too much time for every married couple to realize that we are never prepared enough!

Dave Harvey, is a pastor and author of the excellent book, “When Sinners Say I Do”. In an article on the Gospel Coalition website, he shared this thought on couples preparing for marriage:

“Many young couples head into marriage with blinders—believing their marriage will be the fairy tale they dreamed of as they planned a Pinterest ceremony and momentous honeymoon. But the truth is marriage reveals our sin, exposes our desires, challenges our relational network, and requires us to regularly practice costly forgiveness. Engaged folk need to know that marriage is a call to ministry where two sinners learn—till death parts them—how to apply the gospel of grace.”

Although, none of us are completely prepared for matrimony, we can all build more health into our marriage. The most important realization is that becoming Great Commandment people, will enable us to become better marriage partners.

Of course, it is helpful to recognize the specific areas where practical steps are most needed. Dave helps us by listing 6 Surprises that hit couples after they are married.

Even if you are a marriage veteran, it will be beneficial to look over this list of surprises and identify if there is an area where you need to seek God’s grace and wisdom to improve how you love and cherish your spouse.



Marriage & the Gift of Singleness


by Paul Long

1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 36-40


Paul has addressed some serious issues in the Corinthian church.  In chapter 5 he had to correct the issue of immorality.  In chapter 6 he had to address members of the church participating in temple feasts involving prostitutes. 

The culture of Corinth was far away from God’s original design and intent for sex and marriage.

As we look at chapter 7 we will see how some in the church were responding to these cultural issues of sexuality and immorality.

Paul is responding to a letter that he had received from the Corinthian church  vs 1

“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Here Paul is quoting something that they had written in their letter.  This not something Paul is saying, rather it is a position that some in the church had arrived at. 

Considering the immorality of the culture they lived in and the struggles some of the other church members had faced, the conclusion they came to was that abstinence in all contexts was good. 

This was a pendulum swing too far in the wrong direction.

Paul will address this by expounding on the gift of marriage and sexual relations within marriage, he will remind husbands and wives of the rights and responsibilities in marriage, and caution them of the dangers of abstinence in marriage.

If married couples were expected to abstain from sex there would be a danger for them to struggle with self-control and fall into temptation and sexual immorality  vs 2 & 5

Because of these dangers – “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”   Paul echoes back to God’s original intent in marriage. Genesis 2:18-24

Marriage is the only appropriate sexual outlet in God’s design and especially for the Christian seeking to please Him.

Within the context of marriage two have become one flesh and each has surrendered his/her own rights to the other  vs 3

The husband has an obligation to meet his wife’s needs, and the wife has an obligation to meet her husband’s needs. 

Love in marriage is giving oneself away for the good of the other.

Seeking to love and serve our spouse even when we don’t feel like it is hard work. 

Marriage exposes our pride and selfishness.

Our marriages must be filled with grace and forgiveness. 

Where there is not love, grace and forgiveness – marriages get into trouble.

In vs 5 Paul gives a strong command, “Do not deprive one another…” 

To deprive is to defraud another of a right that is owed to them.

One spouse may not selfishly disregard the other’s needs. Husbands and wives are not free to hold back love and intimacy from their spouse  vs 4

We need to work in our marriage to cultivate and maintain our emotional oneness.

1. Forgive and forget (Eph 4:26).

2. Foster good communication.

3. Nurture your relationship; pursue love and romance.

The one exception, where a husband and wife could withhold from marital intimacy would be for a limited time of intentional prayer  vs 5

This is always mutually agreed upon, for a limited time, and for the purpose of being devoted to prayer.

After clarifying the Corinthians’ poor conclusions on intimacy in marriage, Paul moves on in verse 6-9 to talk about the gift of singleness. 

Paul does not command singleness, but he does “wish” all were like him.

Paul didn’t have a low view of marriage, rather he knew singles could serve the church with a single-minded devotion.

How do you discern the gift of singleness?

vs 9 “…For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

If you have a strong desire to marry you probably don’t have the gift to be single.

Singleness isn’t a problem to solve nor a situation that needs attention; rather it is a gift of God’s grace.

God gives good gifts with the intention that we will use them for the good of others, to build up one another in the church.

If God has gifted you to be single, He intends for you to use that gift for the common good and to build up the church. 

Wherever God has you, he has specifically gifted you to serve and please him. 


This is an ‘pre-used’ blog that is worth reading again. Please share your practical ideas with the rest of us in the comments section.

On the day a couple gets married, they intellectually accept that there are still things they need to learn, but emotionally, they generally think they have the love part figured out.

Yes, they will have their share of disagreements, but it will be over little stuff like which end to squeeze on a tube of toothpaste. But even through struggles over what TV show to DVR, their abiding love will quickly pave the way to dewy-eyed “I’m sorry” kisses and life will be grand once again!

Somehow living in love becomes more complicated than that.

Why is it so hard to see our sin instead of our spouse’s sin?

Why is it easier to think we are sorry than to actually say the words?

Why is it so hard to stop acting in the same self-centered manner as we did the last time we acted in a self-centered manner?

It does not take long to realize that relationships are work; and the love that pops up most is love for self.

Since as foolish sinners, love will often be hard, it is good to consider practical steps to help us live with the consistency of love and affection that newlyweds imagine they will never lose.

1.  Be holy. Sin is junk. Sin is destructive. Holiness is good, and beautiful, and restorative. True holiness – which is built on loving God above all else – will keep your heart fresh and in turn your marriage as well.

2.  Thank God for your spouse each day. Thankfulness has a connection to love. The more we express heartfelt thankfulness for someone, the more our love for them will flourish. To be most effective, it is important to be specific about particulars

3.  Do stuff together that does not involve sitting in front of an electronic device. Get out and enjoy the world God made with each other.  Trees, flowers, rivers and beaches were created to be enjoyed; so enjoy them with the person God gave you. And while you’re at it, you might as well talk

4.  Forget little stuff that doesn’t matter. Yeah, yeah, you would do it this way and they did it that way – so what!  Many arguments are nothing more than our desire to be right and wanting to share that we are right with our spouse

5.  Save money. Indebtedness and financial pressures are one of the primary sources of ongoing tension in marriages

6.  Instead of having your expectations built upon what your spouse should be and do for you, build your expectations on what God wants you to be and do for them. Now that would be a change!

7.  Never end the day without expressing to your spouse that you love them. It amazes me how powerfully those words can cut through my bad attitudes and remind me again that I truly do love my wife

These are some of the practices I have found helpful in my marriage. There are many more, but this should give us all plenty to work on.

Please share with us in the comment section what has been helpful in growing love in your marriage


by Debbie Huber

Often during teaching on marriage from Ephesians 5:22-33, we hear something like this: “Women, you may think biblical submission is hard, but wait until we get to Ephesians 5:25 where the men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church.” 

Since biblical submission is not a favorite topic of some women, at this point it is easy to sit back and bask in hearing how God needs to change our husbands!

The reality is the wife’s responsibility to submit to her husband is not necessarily easier than the husband sacrificially loving his wife.  That is because we both have sinful natures and we would naturally choose to please ourselves, not serve our spouse. 

Wives often expect patience and grace from their husband as we grow in learning biblical submission because it is so counter to the thinking of our culture or our upbringing. 

But do we give the same grace to our husbands in the area of leadership in the home?  Or do we struggle with disappointment when they don’t live up to those standards?  Sacrificial, biblical leadership is not natural in today’s society either and many men did not have a role model for this. 

A recent blog post by Jessalyn Hutto  discusses where our focus should be.

Jessalyn emphasizes that wives must “first and foremost learn to view our husbands as brothers in the faith,” in that he is a sinner too that needs God’s grace every day to obey and honor Christ in all that he does.

 God so lavishly bestows His grace upon us and through Christ’s sacrifice our sins are fully forgiven. 

“We must labor to be able to speak to, think of, pray for, serve, and love our husbands as fellow blood-bought sinners who God has chosen to lavish his love and grace upon. We must seek to extend the same mercy to our husbands as we are called to show to every brother and sister in Christ”.

“Most importantly, wives must remember that our marriages are not primarily about us. The entire purpose of God creating marriage roles in the way he did was to display the glory of the gospel—not so that we can experience the joy of being perfectly shepherded by perfect husbands!

If our happiness and ability to dispense grace to other sinners is dependent upon having perfect marriages, then we have missed the point altogether.

Our joy and contentment within our marriages should be governed solely by the love we are continually being shown by our great Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is only in experiencing his perfect leadership in our lives that we will be able to pursue and enjoy gospel-glorifying marriages made up of imperfect sinners.”


Listening and Talking

We all know good relationships can’t happen unless we get these things right, but getting them right requires just the right blend of gospel-grace and practical down-to-earth instruction.

Tim Shorey will be leading us through a better understanding of these essentials to a strong marriage.

The retreat will take place Friday, September 26 – Saturday September 27 at the ocean front El Coronado Hotel in Wildwood Crest. Enjoy breathtaking ocean views from your balcony or relax by the pool, in the poolside hot tub or on the beachfront sundeck.

There is nothing like a walk along the beach to practice listening, talking or just being quiet together skills!

The early registration deadline is August 3rd, so don’t delay in signing up

Registration includes One night hotel accommodations, Breakfast, Coffee Breaks, Conference room rental, and all Conference Fees.

Couples can share 2 and 3 bedroom suites to significantly lower your cost. Each couple in a suite will have their own bedroom and a private bathroom.

A microwave, refrigerator & coffee maker are in every unit.

Follow this link to register and find out more information about the retreat schedule, speaker and hotel.



Twenty-five years ago, my favorite person in the world became my wife. I loved her a great deal on June, 3rd 1989, but not nearly as much as I do today.

Thank you Debbie for being so faithful to our Lord and to me!

Your adoring husband


I love my wife dearly. But there have been many moments when it would not have appeared that way to someone watching me with Debbie. Much less to Debbie herself.

Russ Ramsey shared a moving personal story in which many of us will find ourselves. This article titled “Scowling at the Angel” was posted in the Rabbit Room. It will hold your attention and more importantly, it will move your heart.


By Debbie Huber

Did you ever notice in the checkout line at the supermarket, that just about every magazine has a number in large print on the cover?  “365 Ways to Say I Love You”….”Change Your Husband in 24 Hours”…”9 Get Rich Quick Secrets”…”25 Cute Hair Styles”. 

That is because we like to have quick and easy steps to do or change things. If I do 1, 2, and 3, my marriage will be perfect!

We will often choose to read books or listen to speakers that promise easy change by following certain steps or completing a checklist. Not that there is no benefit in some of those things but as Christians we are missing the point if following rules or steps is our goal.

An article by Jen Smidt on this Resurgence blog, “Being a Wife Is All About Jesus” points us to truths of scripture to show us that “God calls us to be his daughters as the core identity of our womanhood. For some, he will call to become wife in addition, but never in competition, to that identity. Being a godly wife flows from being a committed daughter. “

Wives will often look at I Peter 3:1, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands”, then resign ourselves to make the effort to be obedient to God through submission. We forget to look at the Likewise in that verse!  The Likewise is referring to I Peter 2 where Jesus’ mission, life, and death are discussed to show us that He alone is our means, model, and motivation to be a godly wife.

Through Jesus’ example of willing obedience and suffering, and by the fact that our sin was exchanged for His righteousness, we can reflect His love and selflessness in our marriages.

This comes through God’s grace in our lives and by deeply trusting and striving to know our Savior through His Word.

Jen Smidt summarizes this with the following:  “We try to muster up submission, respect, and help for our men without humbly recognizing this thing called wife is made possible by Jesus alone. A marriage license and a sparkling ring do not automatically transform a woman into a wife who honors God. The grace offered and the righteousness bestowed at the cross is what makes you a godly wife who willingly subjects herself to her husband. Dying to yourself because the Savior died for you is the call for the biblical wife. Your marriage will thrive because of life found in Christ; recognizing your daily need for a Savior and dependent upon his righteousness alone.”


by Debbie Huber

I have never read the book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, nor am I recommending it. But there is some truth in that title!  Men and women often do communicate very differently, as if we are from different planets, and it can be a problem in a marriage.

The subtitle, “Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships” is the part that makes me steer clear of the book.  The goal of communication should not be “Getting what you want in your relationships”, but rather, honoring God in your communication to demonstrate the gospel in your relationships.

I recently read an eye-opening article by Thabiti Anyabwile on The Gospel Coalition blog that discusses the differences between how men and women work through decision making.  I recommend that you read it here:

He says that most women feel like “I gotta get everything done.”  And in contrast it seems most men feel like “I gotta get everything right”.  Related to this, many women make their decisions by talking through them; while many men make their decisions by brooding over them.  This can result in a vicious cycle of nagging by the wife because she needs to get things done and her husband is not responding quickly enough which leads to an unloving response by the husband because he feels disrespected.

He gives some good biblical advice to wives:  “Wives, please recognize this; In a world where your husband might feel like he’s always earning respect, defending himself and his family, and worried about messing everything up, the last place he wants to have a fight about respect is in his home with his wife.”

This is what he encourages wives to do:  “Ladies, respect your husbands.  Make your main ministry to him a ministry of affirmation and encouragement.  I don’t mean flattery.  And I don’t mean never share honest feelings and concerns.  But never share those things in a way that attacks his sense of confidence and self as a man.  If you don’t know what that looks like, ask him–after a period of communicating to him the simple message, “I respect you.”  You’ll be surprised at the amazing changes that happen in your man’s life when he hears you say in various ways without flattery, ‘I respect you.’ “

Sinful selfishness is a natural, worldly response to defend our position, but we have been changed by a supernatural God!  He will enable us to respond biblically to our spouse which is a wonderful example of the gospel to those around us!


Marriage is meant to be a wonderful blessing to life and an important out working of God’s character in and through us. The fact that we are sinners makes this very challenging for any couple. Ian and Larissa Murphy have an added and enormous challenge in their relationship, but that has also made their example all the more powerful. I hope you will watch their story