Covenant Keeping Love
About the Guest
When you married, you made a covenant, even if you didn't know it. But now that the going is tough and times are hard, are you going to keep it? Dennis Rainey explores the vital importance of the marriage covenant, as he exhorts couples to keep their covenant, and to humble themselves and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Dennis Rainey explores the vital importance of the marriage covenant, as he exhorts couples to keep their covenant, and to humble themselves and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
Covenant Keeping Love
Bob: Do your children feel secure/safe in your home? Dennis Rainey remembers a time when he didn’t feel so safe.
Dennis: I remember an argument my mom and dad had in 1954 when I was six years old! Divorce was not common, but I was scared they were going to get a divorce because of the heat of the moment. You just need to know, as you raise your children, they’re like little radar units. They’re locked on you, as a couple; and they’re wondering how you’re doing as a married couple.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Our kids may hear us quarreling as husband and wife. The question is: “Do they hear and see us confessing, repenting, and forgiving one another?” We’re going to talk today about the power of our example in marriage.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I think it’s only fitting that, here, on the last broadcast of the year and the last day of our 40th anniversary celebration—
Dennis: —and near the beginning of celebrating 25 years of broadcasting, here on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: Well, that’s true. We are—we are jumping from one anniversary to almost another anniversary; because 2017 will be 25 years since we started FamilyLife Today, back in 1992. I just think it’s appropriate, as we wrap up the year, that the message you’re going to hear today is a message that is kind of at the core of everything that we’ve talked about for 40 years.
Dennis: FamilyLife has always been a champion for the promise that makes a marriage and encouraging people to keep that promise for a lifetime—it’s called, “I Still Do.”
Dennis: I did. I will—and I still do!
Bob: Anybody who has been to our office—if you’ve gotten the tour—you know, on the second floor in the entrance area—there are four banners that hang there. Those four banners are the four core messages that FamilyLifeis all about. We’re about your walk with God, because everything in your family and your marriage flows out of that. We’re about the permanence of the marriage covenant and helping couple keep their promise for a lifetime.
Dennis: As God designed it, of course.
Bob: We’re about God’s design for the responsibilities husbands and wives are to play in marriage—and those are unique and different responsibilities for men than they are for women. We’re also about passing on a legacy of spiritual vitality to the next generation.
There are banners there that highlight those four messages.
But really, if you had to boil it down to the one, it has been God calling a husband and a wife out of isolation and toward oneness. That—we’ve said that a few times in the last 40 years at our events, on our website, on this radio program, through our resources. That’s been what God’s called us to; isn’t it?
Dennis: It is. Bob, I would say, if a listener really agrees with what we’re doing, here on FamilyLife Today, around those four core messages: our relationship with God—that’s our forgiveness through Jesus Christ; our marriage covenant; the husband and wife responsibilities; and fourth, raising the next generation to follow Christ—if you really believe that’s a message that needs to, not only continue today but stand strong today, then, as the host of FamilyLife Today, I just want to turn to you, as a listener, and say:
“If you believe that’s important, would you help us by giving a gift, here on the last program of the year, and say, ‘You know what? I want to make sure those four core messages continue on in my community; because you’re not only ministering to my marriage / my family, but you may be ministering to someone else’s family, who is raising the son or daughter who gets my son or daughter in marriage someday.’”
Bob: Our conviction is that these messages need to be heard by more and more people in the months ahead. That’s our hope—is that we will be able to broadcast this message to more and more people in 2017.
Dennis: Yes; Bob, here’s the practical bottom line here—when you have a birthday party for 25 years, you’ve got 25 candles that are burning.
Dennis: When you give, you keep the candle burning. We don’t want this message to go out,—
Dennis: —and that’s what happens when people don’t give.
Bob: We’ve had a couple of situations this fall, where we’ve had to go off the air in a few communities; because we’ve not heard from many listeners in those communities. When you don’t hear from many listeners, you have to make the tough decision. It’s always a hard decision to make, but we’ve got to be good stewards of the funds that are available. We’re hoping, in 2017, we don’t have to make that decision.
Dennis: What I just want our listeners to know is—Barbara and I are donors / Bob and Mary Ann are donors to FamilyLife Today. I personally don’t take a penny from the ministry—I raise my own support to work here. Barbara and I have donated all of our royalties from all of our books and videos back to FamilyLife. We’re stakeholders in this ministry, and we’re inviting you: “Why don’t you join us? Let’s make a difference in 2017 for the family.” We’ve got some exciting things coming up. When you stand with us, you’re going to enable us to go after those issues with strength, and with clarity, and with purpose.
Bob: You’ve been hearing us, all month, long talk about the matching-gift money for us here at FamilyLife. If you can make a donation today there are still funds available. Your donation will matched, if fact, it will be tripled. Every dollar you give will unlock $2 from the matching gift fund and that effectively triples your donation. So would you go to familylifetoday.com and make an online donation right now. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone; or mail your donation to us today. Our address is
FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223. We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you’re able to do. We’re looking forward to a great 2017 and more practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family.
The message we’re going to hear today is from Dennis Rainey, talking about the importance of the marriage covenant and what it is that separates couples whose marriages go the distance from those who stumble along the way. This is a message given at a recent FamilyLife I Still Do® event. It’s a fitting message to wrap up 2016. Here’s Dennis.
Dennis: I sure hope you’ve enjoyed I Still Do. Barbara and I have. I want to wrap up our time by giving you three marks of a couple that says, “I still do.” The first one is very simple—it’s forgiveness. It’s at the core of Christianity, and it’s at the core of great marriages. Paul wrote in Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 32:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness means we give up the right to punish the other person. I came into this knowledge through an interesting avenue in our first year of marriage. Barbara and I had been married about four months. I went to a friend, whose name was Carl. I leaned into him and I said, “Do you have a best, single piece of advice you’d give me, as a young man, starting out his marriage?”
He said, “Oh that’s easy, Denny.” He said, “Pray every day with Barbara.” He said Sarah Jo and I have been married 25 years. I don’t suppose there’s a day that we haven’t passed when we haven’t prayed with each other. Maybe we’ve missed a few days over the—the period of the quarter century, but not many.” They’ve now been married over 60 years, and they’re still praying together every day. [Applause]
Well, you know what? As a young man, starting out my marriage, I went home that night and I grabbed Barbara’s hand—I said, “Let’s pray together.” We did that for a couple of months until, one night, Barbara was facing that wall and I’m facing this wall. There was something between us. There was a tap on the shoulder—and it wasn’t Barbara—it was God speaking to me in my conscience. He was saying to me: “Hey Rainey, you made a promise to Barbara that you’d pray for her and with her every day. Are you going to pray with her tonight?” I told God at that point, “Uh-uh! I don’t like her tonight, God.” [Laughter] I said, “Besides, God, You know, in this situation, she is 90 percent wrong.”
I had kind of a wrestling match with—with God and finally rolled over and tapped Barbara on the shoulder and said, “Will you forgive me for being 10 percent wrong?” [Laughter]
No; I did not do that! [Laughter] I tried that one night, and that night lasted three days! [Laughter] Doesn’t work! No; I rolled over and I said, “Sweetheart, will you forgive me for…” and I named what I had done. I told her I was sorry, and I told her that I repented / that I changed my attitude about it—I wanted to treat her with dignity. She said, “Yes”; because forgiveness means you give up the right to punish the other person.
Now why is this so important?—because, as you bow in prayer, you have to deal with issues that come between you, as a couple. Conflict is common to all marriages. You just need to know, as you raise your children, they’re like little radar units. They’re locked on you, as a couple; and they’re wondering how you’re doing as a married couple.
I remember an argument my mom and dad had in 1954 when I was six years old! Divorce was not common, but I was scared they were going to get a divorce because of the heat of the moment. You’re training your children in how to love, how to be loved, how to forgive, and how to ask for forgiveness. What did Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 32 remind us, just a few moments ago? It said, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another”—how?—“as God in Christ forgave you.”
Jesus said, “Forgive seven times seventy.” We’ve got to make our marriages a trophy of forgiveness. Why? Because folks, you know it—anybody who’s been married more than a few days know it—we’re broken as human beings! We’re going to hurt each other on purpose / we’re going to hurt each other when we didn’t mean to.
We need to be able to settle up and be able to empty the closets of resentment and bitterness and put it away and forgive one another.
First mark of a person who says, “I still do,”—a couple who is committed to one another for a lifetime—is forgiveness.
Second mark is becoming a missional couple—it’s men and women, like you, becoming missional where you live out your life. God has a purpose for every person in this room. Dr. Mohler mentioned that at the beginning of the day. One of those purposes is the last word that Jesus Christ gave His disciples before He went to heaven—Matthew 28:19-20: “All authority”—Jesus said—“in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Are you fulfilling what God designed you to do, as a couple? You see, most couples never really get around to evaluating, “What did He put us here for?” I believe one of our assignments is to pierce the darkness with the truth of Jesus Christ and the gospel of redemption and take it to people who are hurting—they have no hope. America is becoming a nation of despair, because its families are broken. We’re raising children who are in despair. We’re in trouble!
“Why has God put you here?” My mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks, made this statement to me one day—he said, “My fear is not that you won’t succeed but that you will succeed in the wrong thing.”
What’s your mission? What’s your purpose? What do you pound the table about? Is it orphans?—domestic violence?—homeless kids?—homeless people?—abortion?—maybe it is broken marriages and families, and you want to make a difference.
We’re not going to do this with bigger organizations. There’s no way to build a big enough organization to address the needs of families. It is time to leave shade for the next generation instead of cutting down family trees. We’ve left fields of stumps. Enough! The church needs to say, “Enough already!” [Applause] And we need to step up with the love of Christ and not be ashamed of the truth of this Book: “Will you be a missional couple?”
Finally, keep your promises. Mark number three: “Keep your promises.” Keep the most important promise two human beings ever make to one another. Genesis, Chapter 2:24 says, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and holdfast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” That word, “holdfast,” is a covenant / it’s a commitment—it is the ultimate prenuptial agreement.
You know what a prenuptial agreement is? It is a statement out of which you will dissolve your relationship. The only one is “…until death do us part.”
I believe it’s time to say, “No,” to ever using the “D” word in your marriage ever again. If you’ve used it and your kids have heard you, you need to go home and ask your kids to forgive you.
Divorce is a bigger challenge to marriage than any of the culture issues we’re facing today—including cohabitation. The church has to begin with its own mess that it has made.
Never, ever, has the word, “divorce,” crossed my lips or Barbara’s. I didn’t say we hadn’t thought about it / I didn’t say we hadn’t been really angry at times—slammed doors / kicked buckets—but that’s never been a threat. Decide you’ll never use those words again. Holdfast—cleave to one another. Keep your promise.
In a moment, I’m going to give you an opportunity to restate that promise to each other; but first, this charge:
Believing that God, in His wisdom and providence, has established marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, a sacred and lifelong promise, reflecting our unconditional love for one another, believing that God intends for the marriage covenant to reflect His promise to never leave us nor forsake us, we, the undersigned, do hereby reaffirm our solemn pledge to fulfill our marriage vows. Furthermore, we pledge to exalt the sacred nature and permanence of the marriage covenant by calling others to honor and fulfill their marriage vows.
Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
Men, take your wife’s hands. Face her, look her in the eyes, and repeat after me.
In the presence of God and these witnesses, [men repeat] and by a holy covenant, [men repeat] I joyfully receive you as God’s perfect gift for me [men repeat] to have and to hold from this day forward, [men repeat] for better, for worse, [men repeat] for richer, for poorer, [men repeat] in sickness and in health [men repeat] to love you, [men repeat] to honor you, [men repeat] to cherish you [men repeat] and to protect you, [men repeat] forsaking all others as long as we both shall live [men repeat].
Barbara: Ladies, I’m going to read your vows; and you can repeat after me.
In the presence of God and these witnesses, [ladies repeat] and by a holy covenant, [ladies repeat] I joyfully receive you as God’s perfect gift for me [ladies repeat] to have and to hold from this day forward, [ladies repeat] for better, for worse, [ladies repeat] for richer, for poorer, [ladies repeat] in sickness and in health [ladies repeat] to love you, to honor you, [ladies repeat] to respect you and to submit to you, [ladies repeat] forsaking all others as long as we both shall live [ladies repeat].
Dennis: Don’t kiss the bride.
Dennis: “Father, thank You for these vows that have been reaffirmed this day. Grow a mighty work in these marriages, their families, and their legacies.
“For Your glory and Your purposes we pray, in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Bob: Well, a great reminder as we wrap up 2016—this is our last broadcast of the year—a great reminder of what really matters in marriage; and that is that we keep our covenant. That’s not just that we grit our teeth and gut it out—it’s that we love, and honor, and cherish one another “‘til death do us part”; right?
Dennis: And we forgive and we restate our promises—
Dennis: —to one another more than just at the altar when we started out. [Laughter]
I would say this, Bob, as we conclude this broadcast—when you and I started FamilyLife Today, almost 25 years ago, one of the things that I said I wasn’t going to do is—I said I was not going to come on the air and plead for money to keep the broadcast on the air. I don’t feel like I’ve been doing that this month.
I do think I have reached out to the listener and said: “The need is urgent. We need you to stand with us right now.”
I just want to challenge you: “If you’ve benefited from FamilyLife Today in your marriage, your family, your relationships—if you see others benefitting, which they have, I promise you, by the millions—would you help underwrite the cost of this broadcast to keep us on the air at what I believe is the most critical time in our nation’s history for marriages and families?” Marriage and family is the ministry of the hour. I believe FamilyLife Today has the content, the guests, and also the other ministries—like Weekend to Remember® / like other resources—Art of Marriage®, Stepping Up® , and soon-to-be new resource for parents—all to equip you in life’s most important relationships.
Bob: Yes; one of the reasons we have been addressing our financial need, here at the end of the year, is because, over the past few months, we’ve heard from fewer listeners than normal.
About 2000 fewer listeners have gotten in touch with us to make a donation. As we look at 2017, if that trend continues, we’ll have to make some adjustments. We’ve always been a ministry that has—
Bob: —operated without going into debt / that’s just the way we do it. If the trend continues, we’ll scale back as necessary. We’re hoping that’s not the case; because we’re seeing more people than ever go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, looking for resources, looking for help, looking for articles.
Bob: More people than ever who are sharing this broadcast with others—more countries than ever, where FamilyLife Today is having significant in-reach.
Dennis: More volunteers than ever, who are taking tools—like The Art of Marriage, Stepping Up, and other resources—to their communities to make a difference where they live.
Bob: So as more and more people are hearing practical biblical help and hope for their marriages and their families, now is not the time for us to scale back.
That’s why we’re asking you to—today or tomorrow—make a yearend contribution in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. It’s easy to do that—you can do it online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”—make your donation by phone. You can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and the zip code is 72223. As long as it’s postmarked by tomorrow, it’s available for a tax deduction in 2016.
With that, we’ve got to wrap things up. Hope you and your family have a great weekend. Hope you can worship together in your local church this weekend.
Dennis: And I hope you have a great New Year!
Bob: And I hope so as well! Hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to go back and listen to a program about New Year’s resolutions that was originally recorded in 1992. This—
Dennis: Oh I can’t wait for this! [Laughter]
Dennis: I see a sting coming. Keith, you and I may talk—we may surprise Bob with our own program on—on next Monday.
Bob: [Laughing] Monday—we’ll hear what your thoughts about New Year’s resolutions were 25 years ago—alright?—alright?
Dennis: Some things never change. I always need to lose weight!
Bob: [Laughing] I—I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a Happy New Year. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: Keith, meet me—meet me later on. [Laughter] We’ll sting Bob on Monday.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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