About the Guest
Thinking about getting married? Author and pastor Tommy Nelson tells you how to build a marriage that will last.
Tom NelsonTom Nelson has been the pastor of Denton Bible Church, in Denton, Texas since 1977. Each year, Tom speaks to over 20,000 Song of Solomon Conference attendees and countless others via radio. In addition to the Song of Solomon materials, he is author of three books: The Book of Romance, The Big Picture: Understanding the Story of the Bible, and The Problem of Life with God. Tom has been married to Teresa Nelson for more than 30 years, and they have two grown sons, Ben and Joh...more
Thinking about getting married?
Bob: If you're single, and you've been thinking about getting married to a special someone, there are some non-negotiables you need to consider. Here is one of them from pastor and author, Tommy Nelson.
Tommy: You and your future husband—you and your future wife—have to be on the same page on who God is because He is your reference point for how you act, for how you perceive the universe, for how you perceive man, children, everything—is your perception of God. If you marry a non-believer, you do not even interpret the universe the same.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What are some of the other non-negotiables you ought to keep in mind if you’re thinking about getting married? Stay with us. We’re going to hear about them today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. If you are single, or you know someone who is, and you've ever thought, "I wonder if I'll get married. I wonder what it takes to make a marriage work." Well, I tell you what—today and tomorrow, we've got a guy who's got the answers for you to that question.
Dennis: A straight-shooter.
Bob: Oh, man!
Dennis: He's a great friend of this ministry. His name is Tommy Nelson. He's the senior pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.
Bob: Yes, and he shares the passion that we have for healthy marriages and families. In fact, if Tommy Nelson were here with us today, I can just about guarantee you that he would join with us in saying: “If you’re getting married, you ought to go to one of the Weekend to Remember®marriage getaways as a part of your premarital preparation. If you’re already married, you ought to go to do some preventive maintenance on your marriage. And if you’ve been, it wouldn’t hurt for you to go back through it again.”
Here, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to be kicking off our spring season for the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We’re going to be in dozens of cities all across the country, this spring, starting off with Dennis Rainey speaking at the Gaylord National Hotel in Washington, DC, the weekend before Valentine’s Day. Then, I’m going to be at the Hershey Conference Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the weekend after Valentine’s Day. And we’ve got events like this going on throughout the spring.
Our team got together and said, “Let’s offer an incentive for FamilyLife Today listeners this week to encourage them to sign up now for one of these upcoming events.” If you sign up, this week or next week, and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, when you pay the regular price for your registration, your spouse comes at no additional cost. It’s a buy one/get one free offer; but we have to hear from you either this week or next week, and you have to let us know that you listen to FamilyLife Today.
If you’re signing up online, when you come to the box that says, “Promotional Code”, type in my name—type in “BOB”. Or, when you call, just say, “I listen to FamilyLife Today.” You will qualify for the special buy one/get one free offer. You can attend any of the upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this spring and do a little preventive maintenance in your marriage.
I’ll tell you, at the Weekend to Remember, you’re going to hear couples who are honest and transparent, and who have walked through some of the same issues that all of us walk through in marriage, and have figured out what the Scriptures have to say about how to have a strong, and healthy, and God-honoring marriage.
Like the guy we’re going to hear from today, the speakers you’ll hear at the Weekend to Remember do not mince words. That’s true of Tommy. He’s just a good ol’ boy from Waco, Texas, who just kind of says it plain and then moves on.
Dennis: He does, and he's a man after my own heart. He had an opportunity to speak to a number of collegians, over 2,000. Bob, if I was given the same shot to speak at 2,000 collegians, I would pick the same topic: “How do you decide who you marry? Five guidelines for a successful marriage”.
In fact, here's what folks ought to do. If you know someone who doesn't go to church—a single young man—maybe it's a brother, a sister, a nephew, a niece, somebody at work—pick up your cell phone and call them right now. Say, "Hey, listen to FamilyLife Today. They've got a guy who is a straight-shooter who is going to be sharing ‘Five Guidelines for a Successful Marriage.’"
I'm going to tell you something—all singles are interested in this—even those who are outside the church and may not have a relationship with Christ. Well, this is one way we can kind of ease them toward God and His plan for their lives. Let's listen to Tommy Nelson.
Tommy: Marriage—being loved, romance, passion, affection. There's not a one of you here that hasn't thought of it, hasn't dreamed about it, planned about it—yes, schemed about it. [Audience Laughter] Many of us have been hurt in those relationships—dating, whatever—that lead up to it. It's the fireplace of life. You know, a home is a nice place to be. The fireplace is the place of warmth, the place of tenderness. The place of affection takes place around that fireplace.
In life, marriage, the romance, the passion of marriage—that's the spice. That's the beauty of living. God is trinity—He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has never been alone. He has eternally been communicable. He makes us in His image, and we long to love and we long to be loved. From the moment that we are born, we are reaching outward. We are not natural hermits. We long for someone to reach out and touch us. “It is not good for that man to be alone.” The most intimate of all relationships you can have are in the differences of a man and woman that mesh in all ways. It is marvelous that two become one flesh.
But it follows that anything that is that intimate is also something that can be the most deadly, painful, frightening relationship in your entire existence. As a matter of fact, you can implode a society by the implosion of a marriage and of a home. Immorality, breakups—aren't those a joy? To be going with somebody and then to be told, "You're not the person. I don't want it to continue." That is painful. Being done wrong, being defrauded, divorced, abuse, alienation within marriage—that is a heartbreaking thing, and it filters down to the kids.
Now, marriage is a deadly, horrific privilege that God gives us. It can be the charm of your life, or it can be the bane of your entire existence. Students, when your marriage is in trouble, you don’t cordon it off into a little area—which means it doesn’t matter if you have a high-grade point, if you have a great job, if you make great money, if you’ve got great talents, if you are marvelously successful in what you do. When you come into a home that is rent and is in pain—I mean, it is red dye. It floods your entire existence.
I want to ask you a question. I want you to be honest—not to look around. “How many of you desperately want to have a marriage that is better than your parents’? Would you raise your hand if you want a marriage better than your parents’?” That’s pretty good. “How many of you—if your marriage is no better than your parents’—it was good enough that if your marriage is no better than your parents’, you will be wonderfully satisfied if it’s only as good as your parents’?” Well, that’s pretty good.
I have watched marriages, I have counseled them, and I have taught “The Song of Solomon” for years. I've worked in the pastorate, now, for almost 30 years. I've seen them come, and I've seen them go. I have a marriage that is more good than bad; all right? I've got a wonderful union with a wonderful woman.
I'm going to give you five things. When these are resident in you, you are going to have a good marriage. I'm going to give you five things that have to take place between you and your future husband—you and your future wife. You have to be alerted to them right now; all right? I don't want to be dogmatic on this, but I'm the only one right— [Audience Laughter] —because I have counseled the heartache that arises from the lack thereof. I don't give these to you merely because of a priori reasoning from the Bible. I give them to you out of a posteriori observation of pain. If I was an atheist, I would still give you these same five things because I have watched them take place in couples.
Number 1: There has to be a theological unity. You and your future husband—you and your future wife—have to be on the same page on who God is because He is your reference point for how you act, for how you perceive the universe, for how you perceive man, children, everything—is your perception of God. They don't simply have to be a Christian, but they have to line up on the major particulars. If you are an evangelical, and you see it in a certain way, and you marry a charismatic, you're going to have some struggles. But, major league—if you marry a non-believer—you do not even interpret the universe the same—marriage or morality.
In Genesis 24—that's one of the longest chapters in the book of Genesis—and it's finding a mate for Isaac. When Abraham sends out Eliazar, his servant, he says, "You swear to me, by God, you will not take a Canaanite woman. You'll go back to the little pocket of monotheism. That woman has to believe in God and be willing to follow Him.”
Now, God provided a woman that was beautiful of form and face, which is usually the top of a man's prayer list; but she better be someone that is on the same page, theologically, as to who God is because that is the fountain—the matrix—out of which you interpret the universe—man—male, female—kids, marriage, and morality. Am I right? That's why in Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 7—it is part of the covenant of God of Israel—“You do not take an unbeliever.” That's why Ezra and Nehemiah, at the end of the Old Testament canon, had to do mass putting away of pagan wives—because Israel fell into it. As a matter of fact, the taking of a pagan mate is considered—Malachi, Chapter 2—“an act of”, and I quote, "treachery." So the Apostle Paul says, "Be married to whomever you wish, only in the Lord." They're on the same page.
Now, can a Christian student do this? Listen. Girls get nervous. I can’t tell you how many girls I have seen that hit into their mid-20s and feel their biological clock running, their emotional needs reaching out, and a guy isn’t there. Here comes a non-Christian; and a girl simply says, “I’ve got to take what I can get,” and will drop her standards. Christian men get antsy. Now, they can still reproduce into their 60s—they’re not worried about being fathers—but they’ve got this sex drive that’s beating within them. Here comes that girl, and she looks good. She feels good. Don’t think that a man can’t become like Ulysses, approaching the Siren’s Island over here, and not have to strap himself to the mast. We can do strange, injurious things. There’s not a one of you here—that under the heat of being young and longing for marriage—can set aside what you know to be true and marry a non-believer. I can give you names, events, and dates where I’ve seen it happen.
Being single and being alone is a struggle. I was married at 24. I knew what it was to be out of college, longing for a wife and not to have one. It's tough to be single—to be lonely. I'll tell you what's tougher—it's to be married and be lonely—to be lonely in a king-size bed with a person there that you cannot relate to on the major issues. When you are single, there is light at the end of your tunnel—that is the providence and the timing of God. "There is a time and procedure for every delight," Solomon said, "when a man's trouble is heavy upon him." Times will get better; you just keep trusting. But when you are in a king-size bed with a mate you can’t relate to, now you’re in with some major league troubles in beseeching God to change, at the very heart-level, this person.
Number 2: There has to be a moral unity—meaning that they can't merely both be Christians. They both must be under the auspices of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If you have a man that takes his dictums from his flesh, even though he can recite the Gospel and give the time of his testimony, we've got a problem. There has to be a moral unity—a North Star that doesn't move.
My wife has changed in her appearance. She has changed in a lot of things since we were married in 1974; but my wife has not changed—she has only grown in her relationship to God. Girls, my wife and I made a vow that we would never spend a day out of the Bible before we got married because we knew that what attracted us to us was character. That character was because of the person of God and His Word. If we got away from Him, we lost, essentially, what attracted us.
Women, men can never be husbands until they have been brides. Until they have been the bride of Christ, they can't be your husband or any woman's husband because the qualities that you want in a man are going to be qualities of love, kindness, tenderness, gentleness, honesty—those are qualities that are in God—visited upon men. So, if that man is superficial with God, you have no guarantee that that man is going to maintain those qualities. There are some men who can simply never, ever be married. They can have dogs and cats; but they can't have a human in that household because when a man isn't submitted to the Lordship of Christ, he will become irresponsible or abusive—and both of those will drive you crazy.
So, you check that man for his faithfulness in church, his faithfulness to his mother and his father, his commitment to moral purity. Look for those things in him because that's the North Star that gives you a reasonable assurance of his character. That's the fountain out of which will grow your affection—is the continuity of that character.
Men, watch that girl. If that girl has a problem with her authority of her parents, if she has a problem with her teachers—why do you think you will put one of these on [ring] and she will look to you and say, "My head and my sovereign." Do you really think that will happen? Don't you do it. There are some women who can never, ever be married because of that very thing.
Whenever you get a man—whenever you get a woman—that is resistant to Genesis, Chapter 1—who God is—you can't have Genesis, Chapter 2—marriage. First, Adam sees God. First, Eve sees God. Then, they see each other. Amen? Now, if they don't have this, they're still going to have the longing to be married. This is what a carnal, fleshly kind of person must do—they must create an illusion of spirituality or they must create a diversion. The illusion means that you know the songs, you attend the functions; but in the quiet of the home, you show who you are. Diversion means that you take the glance away from the heart to the car, the clothes, and all the paraphernalia. Can human beings be diverted by things like that? They can be.
Number 3: There has to be a ministerial unity. You have to be going approximately the same direction. If I've got this girl over here—and I've seen it happen—this committed Christian woman, who loves the Lord, loves His Word, loves to see people come to faith. She is attracted to this guy who simply wants to make a million before he is 30. They're pulling two different directions. She has heavenly values. He has temporal, physical values. We're going to have a division in that home.
Let me tell you where I met my wife. I share some of this in “The Song of Solomon” conference. It was at a Campus Crusade—that's where I was discipled in college. I remember seeing her as the girl that was the go-to girl of Campus Crusade. When anything needed to be done, they went to my wife-to-be. I remember sitting at conferences and watching her. I can still see her, sitting at the back, taking notes. My wife was always at the back. She was always serving. That's what made me fall in love with her. This woman wanted to serve God. I wanted to serve God. We just kind of came together, running the same direction. There was love, there was passion; but we have helped each other.
She has two ministries that she runs. She takes the wives of international students—North Texas University has 2,000 international students. Their wives, a lot of times, are the most lonely of people because they're out-of-step in this foreign culture. My wife says, "You come to me. I'll show you how to keep a checkbook, how to shop at Tom Thumb. I'll show you how to drive, without killing people," —if you know any international students. [Audience Laughter] She'll show them how to drive, she'll show them how to shop, and she will show them how to take care of their children. As she goes along, the basis by which she teaches them is guess what?—the Bible. So, every Thursday morning, my home was displaced because my wife had 30 international women there, doing ministry. Now, that's the kind of woman that I married—theological, moral, and ministerial unity.
Bob: Well, we've been listening to the pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, Tommy Nelson, talking about how to build a successful marriage. There are some married folks listening to this and going, "Yes, I wish I'd heard some of this before I got married because it would have helped to know—at least, just to know, on the frontend, that maybe we were out of sync in some of these areas."
If you find you're out of sync in some of these areas, it doesn't mean you quit and go find somebody else.
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: It just means that you may have some adjustments you've got to make that are a little harder than other people have to make.
Dennis: Bob, have you ever been to a vacation area where you've seen tandem bicycles?
Bob: Yes, yes, the bicycle built for two; sure.
Dennis: There you go. You have, usually the guy in the front, who is steering, and directing, and having to pull more on the pedals, and his wife behind him—
Bob: She's helping to keep the thing going, as well.
Dennis: That's right. She's providing balance. They're talking, and they're having fun as they're going in the same direction. It wasn't designed for two people to go in two different directions. One person wasn't meant to break off and take a right-hand fork—
Bob: Take the mountain route while the other one takes the low road; right?
Dennis: Yes. I mean, that's where you run into trouble. That's why this advice that Tommy Nelson is giving young people is so important. Spiritually speaking, it is so important that a couple, as they begin their marriage relationship, have theological agreement, moral agreement, and a spiritual direction in terms of their focus and their ministry direction, together, as a couple.
Bob: I don’t know how many of our listeners realize this; but our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways—that started back, in 1976—were originally designed for the audience that Tommy was talking to today. It was designed for singles—people who were thinking about getting married. Our objective was to get them ready for the challenges that they were going to face in marriage.
Over the years, the couples who went through it started asking if they could come back and go through the material again because they thought they might pay a little more careful attention now that they’d actually experienced a few of these bumps in the road. Now, we have more married couples who attend the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway than we have engaged couples. But the engaged couples who come—we still have a couple of breakout sessions on Saturday for those couples—to help them think through: “Am I making the right decision?” “How do I approach marriage in a way that’s going to honor God?” and, “How do I get ready for the realities of marriage, as a single person?”
We’re going to be hosting dozens of these Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, this spring, in cities all across the country. In fact, we start off the weekend before Valentine’s Day. Dennis is going to be at the Gaylord National Hotel in Washington, DC. The next weekend, I’m going to be at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania—just a couple of days after Valentine’s Day. Then, throughout the spring, in city after city, we’ll be hosting Weekend to Remember marriage getaways for married couples and for engaged couples.
This week and next week, we’re offering FamilyLife Today listeners a special opportunity to sign up for one of these Weekends to Remember. When you register for yourself at the regular rate, your spouse comes free—as long as you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener and sign up before January 27th. Take advantage of the special offer by going online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the icon for the “Weekend for Remember”.
When you register online, just type my name—type “BOB” in the promo code box. That way, we’ll know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’ll get you registered over the phone. Just say, “I listen to FamilyLife Today,” or, “Bob told me to call.” When you sign up for yourself at the regular rate, your spouse comes free; or your fiancé comes free, if you’re coming as an engaged couple. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to sign up; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and plan to be with us for one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.
Now, tomorrow, Tommy Nelson is going to be back with us. He’s going to talk about the importance of compatibility in a relationship. Just how important is it for the two of you to be compatible? Not as important as commitment, but it’s not insignificant either. We’ll hear Tommy Nelson’s thoughts on that tomorrow. Hope you can be back with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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