Marie and I are doing a joint study through the tag-team dynamo of Exemplary Husband / Excellent Wife at Buck Run. Because of this, I perused my little section of marriage books again. I found that this little book was missing from the shelves. It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve bought Reforming Marriage about eight times in the life of my ministry. It just always seems to get given away. Mostly because I love strong marriages, but partly because $10 seems like such a small investment in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Simply put, it is one of the best marriage books I’ve ever read. I love it and highly recommend it to those looking for a strong, theologically sound, no-nonsense book on what the Lord says about marriage. If you have a spouse or may acquire one sometime in the future, you should eat this book. Absolute Gold!
Here are the first few paragraphs:
How would you describe the spiritual aroma of your home? When visitors arrive, before virtually anything is said or done, what is one of the first things they notice about your family? In many cases, it is the aroma. Do they feel as though a bad attitude crawled under your refrigerator and died? Or do they think someone has been baking spiritual bread in the kitchen all afternoon?
Perhaps the one living in the home is not in the best position to answer this question. Aromas are the sorts of things one gets used to. The residents usually do not notice those things that immediately strike a visitor. So if there is an offensive aroma in the home, it can sometimes be difficult problem to solve. No easy formula of resolution is available. Nevertheless, the Bible does teach on the subject. The text noted above (Eph. 5:2) says that when Christians walk in love they are imitating Christ, and the sacrifice of Christ is a pleasant aroma to God. Similarly, a Christ-like home atmosphere produces this sort of aroma before God and consequently before man.
In other words, keeping God’s law with a whole heart (which is really what love is) is not only seen in overt acts of obedience. The collateral effect of obedience is the aroma of love. This aroma is out of reach for those who have a hypocritical desire to be known by others as a keeper of God’s law. Many can fake an attempt at keeping God’s standards in some external way. What we cannot fake is the resulting, distinctive aroma of pleasure to God.
I am pleased to recommend a book to you. The Complete John Ploughman is a combined addition of Charles Spurgeon’s John Ploughman’s Talk and John Ploughman’s Pictures. In the book, Spurgeon demonstrates he’s not just a great orator, but a fabulous word smith in the vernacular. He kind of puts it on the bottom shelf for you while he gets all up in your grill, ya know?
In the preface, Spurgeon writes, “In John Ploughman’s Talk, I have tried to talk for ploughmen and common people. Hence refined taste and dainty words have been discarded for strong old proverbial expressions and homely phrases.” The topics are by subject and deal primarily with the vices of everyday living. I have found this book a helpful companion in personal holiness and childrearing as the word pictures are so vivid that simple minds are able to grasp weighty concepts with ease. There’s also a variety of whimsical pictures throughout. And for preaching it is a veritable treasure trove of sermon illustrations.
Here’s a snippet from the chapter “You may bend the sapling, but not the tree.”
Ladder, and pole, and cord will be of no use to straighten the bent tree; it should have been looked after much earlier. Train trees when they are saplings and young lads before the down comes on their chins. Begin early to teach, for children begin early to sin. Catch them young and you may hope to keep them. What is learned young is learned for life. What we hear at the first we remember to the last. The bent twig grows up a crooked tree.
When a boy is rebellious, conquer him, and do it well the first time, that there may be no need to do it again. A child’s first lesson should be obedience, and after that you may teach it what you please: yet the young mind must not be laced too tight, or you may hurt its growth and hinder its strength. They say a daft nurse makes a wise child, but I do not believe it: nobody needs so much common sense as a mother or a governess. It does not do to be always thwarting; and yet remember if you give a child his will and a whelp his fill, both will surely turn out ill. A child’s back must be made to bend, but it must not be broken. He must be ruled, but not with a rod of iron. His spirit must be conquered, but not crushed.
Hypocrisy is a disease of which most men seek the remedy at some time in their lives. It is very often so vague in us that only others can see it. Just like the woman who stands before the mirror as an anorexic, so the hypocrite can see nothing but a distorted image when everyone around him can see it plainly. The pretender can sometimes be so immersed in his act that he will actually believe himself a knight in shining armor. Yet he will be Don Quixote fighting windmills of unbelief.
There is not a man living or dead who at one time did not deal with a hypocritical heart. Each of us faces ourselves at times when we would rather not see what is really there. Then we are faced with a radical decision. We must decide whether we will deal with self or let self rule. Our inner selves at times may become much like a despotic king, tyrannically forcing it’s subjects (the mind, will, desire, etc.) to turn in rebellion against God. When we notice this king gaining a strategic position we must unseat him. Self must be brought into subjection. Continue Reading