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For, Not With.

As a Pastor, I've done a lot of weddings over the years. I've taken part in ceremonies that were small and intimate, big and magnificent, and everything in between. I've seen large wedding parties, and even officiated one in the living room of a trailer as a man was near death. I've seen young couples who were barely old enough to sign their own marriage license to old(er) couples looking at a second (or third) trip down the aisle. I've even been married and remarried myself - watching my first wife go Home to Heaven and watching my second wife pledge her love to me. I've seen couples make a step into matrimony to get out of living together, and I've seen couples want to get married that I thought had no business taking that step.

This past Saturday, I witnessed a man marry a woman and start their life together in a way that seemed fitting to all who were there. I've known this "man" since he was a little boy, where I've watched him do some really dumb things over the years...but not this time. When he walked down the aisle and pledge his undying love to his beautiful bride, I knew he made a smart move - he had grown up and realized the incredible gift God had given he married her.

My biggest prayer for this couple now is that they will invite God to the marriage. They definitely invited Him to the wedding - their ceremony talked about their love for Jesus and for each other. And as they start their life in ministry and marriage together, this is where the real ministry work begins. It took me far too long to learn that marriage comes before ministry, and it is so easy to get those two reversed. When that happens, it is usually because one (or both) of the married people stopped looking at how involved God needs to be.

In Revelation 21, God reminds us of how things are supposed to be...the way He intended for them to be in the beginning. As he nears the end of the Good Book, we read these words:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away., and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:1-3)

There is a lot wrapped up in those verses that I would love to share with my young friend, who is now just days into marriage. I'd love to let him know that the best way for him to love his wife is to continue to love have Him dwell with them. I'd love to remind him to keep Him in the center of marriage - where these two people who are becoming one will look to Him to lead them in their decision-making.

They need to be together: they need to pray together, worship together, spend time with each other, sleep with each other (and only each other). They need to always remember Who created them and marvel at what a good job He did when He did. They need to appreciate each other, complement each other, and compliment each other. They need to forgive each other, just like He forgave them. And finally, they need to enjoy this new life with each other - even on the days when they can't stand each other. If I told him this today, he wouldn't believe it. They've only been married 3 days, so there's no way they've fought (yet). But when those days come, they'll need God to remind them to fight FOR each other (and not WITH each other).

As this young couple starts together in life, marriage, and ministry, they're going to need to remember the most important Person they will ever invite into their home: they're going to need God. They've decided to answer His call to help others meet Him and trust Him, but there will certainly be days ahead when they need Him to help them trust Him, too.

If this young couple will just remember that God is dwelling with them, they won't ever wonder if He has abandoned them. On the good days, they know that and tell others about His unfailing love. On the bad days, they'll need to hold onto that. I think we all need that. If this world we live in and are trying to reach would see us cling to Him like that (where we KNOW that He dwells with us), they'd see us never let go of our God...because we know that He will never let go of us. I'd like to remind my friend of that, and I hope you've been reminded of that, too.

As you pray this week, pray for my friends who are just starting their life together. Pray for people who are still looking for that person to start with. Pray for people who thought they found that person, and then that person stopped dwelling with God. And pray for people who see our marriage and who will try to have one like we do. And, last but not least, pray for all men (and women) everywhere to dwell with God - because He's waiting to be invited in to do just that.

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