What’s covered in Pre-Marital Counseling?

 
And here are some verses and thoughts to consider.
 
Genesis 2:21-25 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast (cleave in King James Version) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
 
The “leave & cleave” principle is repeated & emphasized throughout the New Testament by Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7) and St. Paul (1 Corinthians 6:16, 7:10-11, Ephesians 5:31). This is what marriage is all about! You have become a new “family unit”. While you still “honor father and mother” according to the 5th commandment, you no longer honor them in precisely the same way. You now honor them by leaving their rule, cleaving to one another, and intentionally and deliberately submitting your marriage & household to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
 
Proverbs 5 & 31 – read them regularly – “Rejoice in the wife of your youth…” Proverbs 5:18 & Proverbs 31:10 & 29 “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels…Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
 
The world chases fame & fortune only to find how empty both are. God provides everyone with family. Enjoy one another. See each other as gifts which are far more valuable than any money or material possession. Insist on seeing each other this way, and, in time, you will extend the same sort of delight to your children.
 
Genesis 1:27-28 “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
 
Man and woman are equally made in God’s image. Man is not inferior to woman; woman is not inferior to man. Love this about Jesus & the Bible! Neither gender is 2nd class, despite what various cultures have said. When you read the gospels, look at how much time Jesus spends with women and how respectful He is of them. And remember, in His wisdom, God made man & woman to compliment one another. Man is no good alone! Those are God’s words, not mine. In Genesis 1, we read over and over how “good” everything is. Then God says, “no good”! Why? Because Adam didn’t yet have Eve. Man and woman are equally made in God’s image – and equally share in the responsibility to “multiply” and “subdue” the earth. That equality is put into action by complimenting one another with their differences and various roles & responsibilities. Delight in knowing and considering that God knew what He was doing when He made us male & female!
 
Ephesians 5:22-33 especially 5:24-25 “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
 
Everyone, male and female, must submit. All are under authority. Pray over & work to keep this simple order: 1) Love Jesus Christ Most (Have no other gods before God) 2) Then Love One Another 3) Then Love your Children 4) then everyone else. This preserves you from idolatry and ensures you’re both submitting to King Jesus all the time. And when a husband always seeks to love his wife as Christ’s loves the church, it becomes a delight for the wife to submit to him.  
 
1 Corinthians 7:2-4 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
 
One of Satan’s best tactics is to persuade us into thinking God is a prude. He’s not. He invented sex. He is thrilled with sexuality when it is pure and not perverted. All loving parents set parameters around what is good in order to ensure safety & joy. This is the reason for fences around backyards. God only says “no” to declare a far better “yes.” “Thou shalt not commit adultery” & every warning against lust is, simultaneously, a restriction against perversion and a divine endorsement of holy sexuality. Enjoy marriage; enjoy one another; Glorify & enjoy God through your intimacy with each other. 
 
Ephesians 4:15 Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
 
The three most important ingredients to a healthy marriage are 1)Communication, 2)Communication, and 3) (as you may have guest) Communication! Delight in one another by talking to one another. Remember: talking isn’t always discussing and hearing isn’t always listening. Discuss things with each other. Listen to one another. Feed on one anthers’ words. Be “in tune” with each other. That, too, is intimacy. Speaking truth is not enough. Do so in Love (God sent Jesus to earth – He didn’t just send truth from Heaven – but Grace & Truth in the Flesh – truth in love is essential. Never divorce truth from love). 
 
Finally, remember that the thing you ought to work at most is your marriage. Work at it all the time. It will be the most rewarding thing you ever work at. Here are my top 5 excellent books on marriage. Let me know if you come across any others!
Christian Living in the Home by Jay Adams (we read this during pre-marital counseling)
 
1. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
2. What Did you Expect? Paul Tripp
3. When Sinners Say I Do  by Dave Harvey
4. His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
5. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
 
Bonus: Strengthening Your Marriage by  Wayne Mack

Why?

I don’t know why. But I know the Lord knows why.

I also know the Lord works through our sufferings and that Jesus Christ Himself, the son of God, asked, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done,” Matthew 26:42. It seems that our whole lives are lessons learning how to say this. “Lord, we wish things were otherwise, please change things! Nevertheless, your will be done.”

Jesus also asked “why?”He asked it this way, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.

We are, as Christians, tempted to think – “well, that’s Jesus, not me. I shouldn’t cast my circumstances into the frame of Jesus’ sufferings.”

But that’s a mistake. God Himself says otherwise. Jesus says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master,” Matthew 10:24. And He says, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” Luke 14:27. And God says in Hebrews, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Hebrews 12:1-8
(Every time you read “sons” know that a better understanding would be “sons & daughters” – it’s just that language is never quite as all-embracing as God actually is.) This is so powerful, because as difficult as suffering is, as it turns out, when we suffer as Christians, that suffering is a confirmation of who we are as sons and daughters of God Almighty. Jesus the Son of God suffered. When we, sons and daughters of God, suffer too – we are confirmed in our son/daughter-ship of God and can rejoice as St. Paul did. He said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,” Colossians 1:24.
So, I can’t answer “why?”. Neither Joseph, Job, or Jesus got an answer to that…at least, not immediately.
But, I know this, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:28-32.
I don’t often feel that. But I know it. I always know it. I insist on returning to it over and over and over – and knowing it all over again – because life is full of disappointment, paradox, and grief – but, “Let God be true though every one were a liar…” Romans 3:4. He has spoken. I rest in what He has said and continues to say through His Word and Spirit.
All the Psalms of Asaph are always so helpful during difficult times. Asaph was like me and you. Often up, often down. Psalm 73 is a particular favorite of mine. Also, be liberated by the supernatural task James places on you in James 1:2 “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds…” You’re called to something you can’t do yourself. Joy in suffering! Cast yourself upon the Lord asking Him to sustain you. He promises He will. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
And, along with all the great Bible passages, read New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. Here is a tremendous example of it’s excellent content.

Abortion – What Should Christians Do About It?

The following is the monologue from a radio show I hosted on June 17, 2017.

Thank you for joining us today. I’m Pastor Jon Shishko.

Today we are discussing the uncomfortable topic of abortion. Google for a definition and you’ll get, “abortion – the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy…” Just the word “abortion” and that simple definition of it begin to evoke feelings. As you listen, notice how your emotions start to rise to the surface. Think of a child you love, one of your own or a beloved niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter. See that boy or girl and their vibrant beautiful personality, full of potential, a unique expression of the miracle of life, a person and a personality more valuable than any opportunity, any amount of money. A person and personality that began before even being born.

And take your thoughts to that point prior to birth. Modern science helps us imagine more of what it’s like. Warmth. Shelter. Sustenance. Safety. Mom isn’t just carrying future life; Mom is caring for life itself. By God’s design, mom is security for her child – a life-giving safe-haven for the first nine months of life. Life within life – safety for the most innocent, helpless, and needy.

Consider now that in the United States, 1 out every 5 little unborn personalities – who know nothing but their mother’s constant nurture & provision – are suddenly killed by abortion, a “deliberate termination.” Consider that the termination is often done by vacuuming the child out of their safe-haven or by the use of narrow forceps which break and pry the child out. As grizzly as these options are, even worse options are available. In Sweden, 80% of 2nd Trimester abortions are “labor induced” abortions in which labor is induced, and the baby is prematurely born – and terminated. The termination of the children is performed through  tactics reminiscent of the holocaust: a pre-abortion injection of potassium chloride into the unborn baby softens the baby’s bones – which enables “decompression” – a slightly nicer way to say the crushing of the child’s skull and other bones that get in the way of extraction.

Consider how frequently these abortions happen. Not occasionally. Hundreds of thousands a year in the United States. Millions world-wide. 60 Million reported abortions in the United States since its legalization in 1973. Innocent life, terminated. A decades-long holocaust of the most undeserving & the most innocent.

Finally, consider how plainly Scripture speaks of life before birth. Thousands of years ago, King David the Psalmist wrote, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works…My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven….Your eyes saw my unformed substance…” [Psalm 139:13-16]. These many years later, all our technology and science continues to reveal the mystery and miracle of life in the womb….and some of that same technology and science is used to destroy it.

And it’s right here that we need to stop to remember something absolutely critical. Most, if not all of us, hear these things and are filled with some combination of horror, grief, and rage. But, then we often take a wrong step. Our next step often reflects nothing but our rage. We denounce in the loudest terms abortion, because its murder. We march, we picket, we protest, – and too often – without even realizing it – us sinners who have been saved by grace have become graceless towards those who most need the grace by which we have been saved. We cease seeing ourselves as sinners and we do it by pointing at those we think have sinned in ways worse than we have. Churches become places where those most in need of forgiveness are ostracized and shamed.

I still haven’t mentioned the most stunning statistic about abortion. The most stunning statistic about abortion is that one quarter of them are had by people that go to church. You see, when churches shame and guilt instead of offering grace and forgiveness –though they denounce, picket, and protest, though they speak ever so loudly, they end up contributing to the atrocity right alongside the rest of the world.

We need to remember that the glory of Jesus Christ is that he was “full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].  Not truth & rage – but truth and grace. We read “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” [John 3:16-17].  We sinners are often quicker to condemn other sinners than the holy God is to do so! Jesus Christ demonstrates this throughout His life. He is the friend of thieves and prostitutes. He speaks with immoral woman and men. He offers eternal life and forgiveness to the worst of sinners. He never compromises the truth, He never alters the law of God – but He comes not in rage and truth but in grace and truth. He doesn’t waste his life otherizing and ostracizing. He denounces sin while loving the sinner. He is known to all as the friend of sinners. And that’s good news because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Listen to find out how you can help! Follow me on twitter at @jon_shishko. Message me there if you want the recording for this show.

Why blog in 2017?

Hi, I’m Jon Shishko and I pastor Reformation Presbyterian Church in Queens, NYC. Blogging isn’t anything I’ve ever wanted to do. But, something very valuable happens to me all the time, so valuable, I need a system to start tracking these occurrences. The valuable thing that happens all the time is….people ask me questions. Often, those questions are questions many of us are already asking – or should be asking. I’ll never mention names – and sometimes I’ll rephrase the question a bit – but this is a place where I’ll be asking your questions. I’ll pose your question and then I’ll offer answers from God’s Word. I’ll do that by stating your question as the post title, then referring to God’s Word, and finally by discussing how God’s Word answers or begins to answer the question you ask.  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find…” – Matthew 7:7.