Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Maxims for Husbands and Fathers: What Is Rule

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Maxims for Husbands and Fathers

What Is Rule

MP3 Audio (21.51 MB)


Maxims for Husbands and Fathers: What Is Rule

MP3 Audio (21.51 MB)

What does Biblical Rule mean when applied to marriage? Does it mean to be a dictator? What is a good father? What if we never had a good fatherly role model? There are three words that describe how a husband should treat his wife. What are they?


[Robert Dick] Good afternoon on Father's Day, 2017. Nice to see you here. This last Sabbath Mr. Sexton began a – I guess for a lack of a better term – a series – a direction – and he had talked to me and to Mr. Reeves months ago about the series, and all three of us will be participating. Mr. Reeves came to me concerned the last week to make sure that I wasn't going to step on certain scriptures, and I promised him that I would stay out of certain scriptures for today. I'm going to come as close as I can get without putting my foot over the line in one instance, but I smiled and I assured him I'll go a different direction than you're going, so we should be safe.

From the years that I've spent here in Portland – all of you are aware that my speaking style is rather linear in nature – but today, I'd like to come at a subject in a more random fashion than I usually do. If you need a title for today it's: Maxims for Husbands and Fathers. I told Mr. Sexton last week, I said, “We're focusing on husbands and wives, but,” I said, “with Father's Day coming tomorrow, if you'll allow, I'll expand it a little bit.”

You know, the thing that is obvious to all of us who are in the ministry – especially those of us who have had decades in the ministry – as the change in our society, and the change in the demographics of our society over the years that we have been teaching and preaching, when it comes to families – fathers, mothers, and children – united under one roof are becoming rarer and rarer. Or, if I would put it another way, we simply are probably statistically at the worst place in American history when it comes to unified families. As a result. with society going the route that it is, fewer and fewer young men and young women are provided the models that have been the backbone of family over all of the decades and, in fact the centuries, that we have been a nation.

I reflect upon this every so often. My meditation location is my front porch. I have a nice little sheltered front porch, and I've installed awnings on the two sides that face streets, so if I need privacy, I just drop the awnings, and I'm in my own private room. And yet I'm outside. But I get a chance to look out over the subdivision – and Diane and I are going on our 18th year in the home that we live in – and so we've watched almost two decades of occupants around us, and we've watched their lives. I'm in what would be classed a standard, middle class subdivision. Next door to me is a family that has been there for, probably, half the time that I have. I used to talk on a regular basis with the father next door. And then a couple of years ago, I saw less of him, and for the last two or three years, my wife and I – every so often, when we drive in the driveway – we'll say, “I wonder where he is?” It was quite a shock to see him a couple of weeks ago. I saw his station wagon out front. He mowed the lawn. I was out front. We exchanged a few pleasantries. But that's the only time I've seen him at the house in probably two to three years. There's a son, who I noticed the banner out in the front yard last week that said, “Congratulations Graduate,” so that means that the baby of the family had just graduated from high school. He has three older sisters – one at home, one has been gone for a few years, and the other pops back and forth. So she may be in college and then simply comes home for a little of the time. But for the last three years – at least the last three years – my next door neighbor's family has been absent a father.

Across the street, when I look out from my office, I look right straight into the three-car garage of the neighbor across the street. His wife left a couple of years ago. They had twin boys and a daughter. The daughter was just taking drivers ed at the time, so that gives you an idea of her age. And the twin boys were just slightly younger. And even sitting in my office, watching the comings and goings, you could sense that something was not going the way that it ought. She's been gone a couple of years now. The kids come and go, so that probably means joint custody.

Across the street on the other side is a gentleman – very delightful gentleman. I've enjoyed his company a great deal, but it's probably been going on about eight or nine years now, that his wife, his son and daughter became absent, and I haven't seen them since.

I have one neighbor who knows all the neighbors’ business. So he will catch me at the mail box and fill me in on what's going on in the subdivision. And I'm assuming that he has married again to a foreign wife, who is having difficulties getting citizenship and entry into the United States. But son and daughter I haven't seen in almost a decade.

Next to him is a family that is my sheer delight – stable, solid, well-grounded children – respectful – lovely husband and wife.

And on the other side of them is a house that sat vacant for about three years during the real estate bust of 2008. And the neighbor filled me in that the wife had left the husband and had taken the children. They had a…I don't know what particular mental issue one of the children had, but there was a mental disability, and there was quite a bit of stress on the family. But one day, there was the announcement that this marriage was over, and the family left. I imagine they were upside down on their mortgage by so much that they simply walked away from the house.

So that's the subdivision I live in. As I look out the door, I have one neighbor who has children – that has a family that you would walk over to and say, “Let me watch you and let me learn from you,” because there is a lovely dynamic here, two retirees that are delightful people, but no children, and I've described all the rest to you. And I'm in a very solid – probably desirable middle-class – subdivision to live in. And I think, “If that's the level at which modeling probably has most frequently taken place in the United States…. The middle-class has been that backbone – economically stable, having all the tools necessary to be role models. I think to myself at times, “If this is how my neighborhood has gone, probably most are faring as bad or poorer.”

What it leads to, even for those of us in the ministry, is that an increasing number of our young people are without a role model in their lives. And some have made it plain to us in the ministry over the years – and that's not recently…I mean this goes back 20, 30, 40 years as far as that goes – that made it plain to us, that even though they have a living parent, they would never rely on that parent for role modeling. So we add on top of the layer of absenteeism the fact there are also young people…. You know, it tugs at your heart when you sit down with a young person that says, “I can't envision a relationship with God, because I don't have a father that I can have any warm and close feeling with. A – either I don't have one at all and never did have one; B – he no longer lives in the home; C – he does live in the home, but I can't cue off of him how I should relate to God, because there's no similarity.”

Now if that applies to you – and I know it does apply to a relative number in every one of our congregations – whether you have a father or not, whether you grew up in a home without a father, you still have fathers. And I think that's one of the things – especially, that those who are orphans either by death, or orphans by having simply been left by a parent – I think that rather than dwelling in that particular area, we need to turn our sights, and realize that all of us, regardless of who we are and our situation, we all still have fathers. God is building a family and He is very, very conscious of the need for a father. He is always our Father, even when we have a fine role model. I have said before to you on Father's Days that I am profoundly grateful for the fact that I had a stellar example as a physical father. But that doesn't change the fact that God the Father is the Father father. You know, we can have physical fathers, and we can look to them with respect, and say they've done a good job, and we appreciate what they've left us, but there is always God the Father at the very top of the pinnacle. His fathering is perfect. While our physical fathers, even when they do the best, fall short.

You know, for those of you who are not yet fathers, but who will one day want to be fathers, let me guarantee you something. There will come a day, if you father children, and they grow to adulthood, and they reach that comfortable age in adulthood that they can share with you, they will share with you some of your shortcomings – that even the very best of fathers are physical. Even the very best of fathers are not 24/7 the best fathers. And so when you sit down with your children…. And I consider my children friends. I've told my older son, I said, “You know, at age 50, you'll always be my son, but I also consider you my friend, and I can sit with you and talk with you, and not just as father to son, but as father to peer.” I said, “You know, in some areas of life, you have far more understanding and knowledge than I do. And there are areas that I have to come to you, and say, ‘Philip, help me out.’” So I said, “It moves over the years.” But we can sit down, and I know that I've not always been the sterling example, but God always is.

 You know, Matthew, chapter 7, and verse 11, is that little nudge that I've just been talking about. Matthew, chapter 7, and verse 11, is a just a thought within a greater context. In verse 11, it says:

Matthew 7:11 Matthew 7:11If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
American King James Version×
If you then, being evil – and this is not a dark evil. It just simply means by nature you're not…you don't have the inherent goodness and good will of God. It says: If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him. So God makes the point. He says, “Look, if as human beings, with our shortcomings, we can have the best interests of our children at heart…. Verse 11 is not intended to be a dark verse regarding humanity. It's an acknowledgment that we are human, and we don't always perform at top level. So it says, “If you, at whatever level you work at, are able to care for you children, how much more can I?”

There is another very encouraging verse in the 68th Psalm that I'd like you to turn to, because there is a principle that God gives. This is one of the most pointed illustrations but there are many more to go with it. In the 68th Psalm, and verse 4, it says:

Psalms 68:4-6 Psalms 68:4-6 [4] Sing to God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rides on the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him. [5] A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. [6] God sets the solitary in families: he brings out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
American King James Version×
Sing to God, sing praises to His name. Extol Him who rides on the clouds by His name YAH and rejoice before Him – a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families. He brings out those who are bound into prosperity.

I am reminded of the question that Peter asked when he said, “We've given up everything to follow You. What's in it for us?” And He said to Peter the same thing that David was saying here. “You gave up brothers, sisters, maybe a husband or a wife, and I will give you myriad brothers, sisters, and mothers. I will give you family many times over, plus I will give you eternal life.” But God says here, “I am a father, even to the fatherless.” You know, no one can be a father to the fatherless unless the fatherless allow him to be a father. So there's reciprocity here. And as I said earlier, if you're bereft of a role model, God encourages you to look inwardly – not into yourself, but inwardly into this book – and realize that He is a father to those who don't have that role model. But it goes deeper than that. The Bible refers to those who have modeled good conduct in spiritual and in physical ways by the term – “the fathers.” If you pick up your – I prefer to do it electronically – it's easier and faster – but if you pick up an electronic Bible search, and you type in “the fathers,” there are many, many, many places in the Bible that refer to “the fathers.” And when it is dealing with the fathers who are honorable, it is with praise and respect. We have many fathers, if we allow the Bible to provide them for us.

Lastly to give you a specific – narrowing the focus down – if you go to the book of Proverbs – again, this is in an electronic search – you go to the book of Proverbs – if your search will allow you to be that narrow. Mine simply does the wisdom literature, so it will allow Job to Ecclesiastes to Song of Solomon, but if I type in “my son,” twenty-four times, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon speaks to “my son.” If you need a more narrowly focused father, why not go to Proverbs and read all the advice to “my son?”

You know, I listened to Mr. Sexton recently, and in some of his observations and admonishments, he was tracking right down the line that Solomon focuses on. If you look at the book of Proverbs in a broken down fashion, where you look at the sections, the first ten chapters of Proverbs are primarily focused on “my son.” And then, there is another section, and another section. But those first ten chapters of Proverbs are highly focused on “my son.” And you can think, “Okay, Solomon is talking to his son.” You know what? Sons have never changed. A lot of years have gone by since Solomon died, but sons have never changed. And when it comes to fathers giving good advice to sons, you know what? Good advice from a father today doesn't look a whole lot different than good advice to a son from a father looked like three thousand years ago. It really doesn't.

I've shared with you a little of a few folksy sayings from my background, and my father telling me at a relatively young age – he passed on different bits of wisdom in a way that you never forget – and I've shared with you that my dad said, “Bobby, if you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows.” I never – obviously, I'm not Bobby anymore, and Dad's not around to remind me anymore – but I haven't forgotten that “if you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows.” You know what? Solomon said to his son over and over and over again, “My son, if you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows.” He just said it differently.

If you want a more focused father, simply go to the author in the Bible who repeatedly talks about physical life, and he addresses it to “my son.” I'm going to share a few of those with you. I've pared them down. I haven't made them totally lean and mean, but I've pared them down to where at least it's not excessively lengthy. But I want you to see the advice that Solomon repeatedly gives. And let me give you the heads up first, because if you want to know what the wisest man who ever lived had to say to his son about what he really needed to do to have a good life, it came down to three things. It came down to: always seek God's wisdom as your source of guidance and direction in life; number two: pick your friends very, very carefully, because they impact your life profoundly; and number three: watch your sexual conduct. That's what he says over and over and over again. And I'll read you – from the first four chapters – I'll read you some “for instances”.

Proverbs 1 – as I said, I'm going to read you snippets from different locations. And I want to give those to you up front, because there will be some window dressing, but I want your ears to be tuned for the pieces that I just gave you. Proverbs 1, beginning in verse 8:

Proverbs 1:8-15 Proverbs 1:8-15 [8] My son, hear the instruction of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother: [9] For they shall be an ornament of grace to your head, and chains about your neck. [10] My son, if sinners entice you, consent you not. [11] If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privately for the innocent without cause: [12] Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: [13] We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: [14] Cast in your lot among us; let us all have one purse: [15] My son, walk not you in the way with them; refrain your foot from their path:
American King James Version×
My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother, for they will be a gracious ornaments on your head and chains about your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.  If they say, “Come with us. Let us lie in wait to shed blood. Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause. Let us swallow them alive like Sheol – and whole, like those who go down to the pit. We shall find all kinds of precious possessions. We shall fill our houses with spoil. Cast in your lot among us. Let us all have one purse.” My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your foot from their path.

Proverbs 2, beginning in verse 1:

Proverbs 2:1-12 Proverbs 2:1-12 [1] My son, if you will receive my words, and hide my commandments with you; [2] So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; [3] Yes, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; [4] If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; [5] Then shall you understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. [6] For the LORD gives wisdom: out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. [7] He lays up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. [8] He keeps the paths of judgment, and preserves the way of his saints. [9] Then shall you understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yes, every good path. [10] When wisdom enters into your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul; [11] Discretion shall preserve you, understanding shall keep you: [12] To deliver you from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaks fraudulent things;
American King James Version×
My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk uprightly. He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you. Understanding will keep you to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things.

Verses 12 and 13 – excuse me, let's go to verses 16-17 (mental glitch there). The first eleven verses set the stage – verses 10 and 11 saying: when wisdom enters your heart and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you and understanding will keep you. That's a promise. Now what are the effects? Well, the effects are verses 12 and 13 – to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things and from those who leave the path of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness. You plant the first eleven verses, it preserves you from verses 12 & 13. It will also preserve you from verses 16 through 18.

V-16-18 – To deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words, who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to earth and her paths to the death.

Chapter 4, verse 10:

Proverbs 4:10-15 Proverbs 4:10-15 [10] Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of your life shall be many. [11] I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. [12] When you go, your steps shall not be straitened; and when you run, you shall not stumble. [13] Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is your life. [14] Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. [15] Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
American King James Version×
Hear my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom. I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction do not let go. Keep her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it and do not travel on it. Turn away from it and pass on.

And lastly, chapter 5, verses 1 through 6:

Proverbs 5: 1-6 – My son, pay attention to my wisdom. Lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion and that your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death. Her steps lay hold of hell.

Now obviously, since Solomon is talking to “my son,” obviously the warning is against his male friends ad his female temptresses. You know, if Solomon had been writing to “my daughter,” all you'd have to do is change the genders, but the advice is the same. Young ladies, watch out for your wrong female friends, and watch out for the male counterpart of what he warned his son about. How you treat yourself morally, how you choose your friends, and how you respect God, these were the key areas of admonition by Solomon.

Read through the first ten chapters of Proverbs sometime. Do yourself a favor. The New King James does a reasonable job, but do yourself a favor and get a more modern translation, so your ears and eyes are hearing what is being said in somewhat the same type of words that you would use if you were conversationally talking to someone. I don't think you have a great deal of problem to worry about in a book like Proverbs regarding twisted doctrine because of a new translation. You do in Colossians or Ephesians or in those areas, but when it comes to simply describing life, being able to bring the vocabulary more in line with how people speak today, may actually make this mean even more to you.

Many young men in the congregation very naturally, normally and rightly aspire to become a husband. Now you get an opportunity to practice the advice and wisdom that the fathers have passed on. If you had a physical father who was a role model, congratulations. Close your eyes sometimes and see how he conducted himself, and then to use the Biblical term, go and do likewise. I don't think we even begin to understand how valuable resident role models are because what happens is that you do what you do without thinking. You don't have to ask yourself, “What is the right conduct?” when it's been modeled the entirety of your growing up. You have to think about what the other conduct is, because the other is the norm. It's the standard. It's the thing you work from. If you, as I said earlier, had the handicap of not having had those things, take encouragement by the fact that we not only have God the Father, we have the fathers within scripture, and we even have admonition from father to son in the book of Proverbs.

You know, as a single young man, when you aspire to become a husband, the advice to you – if you ask for advice – the advice is so absolutely simple to give. It's all the commentary. It's all the for instances. It's all the examples. It's all of the negative cases of “this is what happens when it's done wrong and these are the consequences.” But if somebody says, “I want one day to be a husband. What advice can you give me?” It takes me this many words: “Love your wife.” That's all it takes. Love your wife. It's tough if you haven't seen it, tough if all the media fouls it up, tough if society scrambles it to the place where up is down and down is up. But it doesn't change the simplicity of the advice. “Husbands, love your wives” – the simplest piece of advice the Bible gives a prospective husband – three words.

I can tell you one thing, you'll never understand the full value of this piece of advice until you've lived it and you look in the rear view mirror. The value of this is understood in the rear view mirror. It's like a teenager growing up reaching the place where he or she is a full grown adult, living independently, supporting themselves, and then many of the things that their mothers and fathers advised them now make sense in a way that they couldn't while they were children or teens under the family roof.

You know the quickest way to get respect – and this is in a decent family – you know the quickest way to get respect from your sons and daughters? Have them – at the right time and in the right circumstances – have them have children. It's amazing what it does for respect for Mom and Dad. When it's now “I've got the bundle and I've got to deal with it, and I've got to rear it, and I've got to think about it's future, and I've got to support it, I've got to...I've got to.” It's amazing the respect that comes to parents at that point in time.

You know, we're all built the same. We don't know what we don't know. There's no malice in it. It's just simply the fact that you don't know what you don't know. And until you're there, you can't put your feet in the shoes of somebody who is responsible for you. So when your feet end up in the shoes of your mother or father, figuratively speaking, then there's a more profound respect for your mother and father.

So I can simply say to those who are not yet husbands, I can you that you'll never understand the full value of the piece of advice to love your wife until you've been there. But take my word for it, and of course, all the older men here who are married and have been married for awhile, and their marriages have been happy marriages, that they just sit and nod their head and say, “Yeah, yep.” You know, men are very simple creatures in one regard, when it comes to love. Eros comes automatically, philia can be a challenge, and agape can be totally over their head. So as a young lady, when it comes to courtship, understand that when you look at the three levels of love, one of them is in the bag. It may so much be in the bag that the other two don't even exist. I don't envy young women in this regard, in today's society, because in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, there is a prophecy by Paul, as he gives a social analysis for the end time. And in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, when the apostle Paul gave his prediction of what the end times would look like, saying it in this way – verse 1:

2 Timothy 3:1 2 Timothy 3:1This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
American King James Version×
But know this, that in the last days times of stress will come. What is the very first stressor that Paul gives? Men will be lovers of themselves. That means, “I'm really high on eros. I don't have a lot of time for philia, and how do you spell agape?” Ladies, a piece of advice. If you can't see evidence of an understanding of all three, be very careful about the man that you're thinking about marrying. If you can't see that a man understands those three words – love your wife – beyond just eros – throw up a caution flag and proceed with care, because you go forward at your own jeopardy. When a man demonstrates love for his wife in all three categories he, she, and everyone else will reap the benefits that he probably can't even grasp before he arrives at that address.

You know, a man who truly loves his wife will teach his son without the word to be a gentle man. And some lucky young woman will get a husband who will treat her with respect. He won't have to get on his soap box. He won't have to get out his Bible and thump on it. He won't have to do any of those things. If he models, from the time that boy is born until the time that he vacates that house, love for his wife in all respects, some young lady is going to be blessed. At the same time, when he does that, he will probably give the greatest gift he can to a future son-in-law by producing daughters who understand femininity, and are comfortable – very comfortable – being female. They will have no difficulty giving love to a future husband.

Over the years, in counseling, if I were to name the greatest detriment to adult female relations with the opposite sex, and you run the trail back, it will come back to a father whose conduct was not the kind of conduct that taught her love in all of the ways that God expected it to be taught. When a father treats his wife with all the regard he should, it's literally absorbed through the pores by the kids. They don't even know it. You know, it's fun in a home when a husband and wife are enjoying one another's embrace – they're kissing and they're hugging – and they've got little kids. And little kids throw the protest. Now, I don't know what it is about kids that they can go, “Aw, don't be so mushy. Aw, aw…. You know what? Enjoy the protest. It's a great gift. That protest is a wonderful thing.

Those of you that went through – and there are a reasonable number here in the congregation that did, and in other congregations – went through the Growing Kids God's Way sessions…. Do you remember what the course said was the greatest gift, as a husband, that you could give your children – as a father that you could give your children? Love your wife. You know he pointed out that when you focus in child rearing problems – you focus on the children – he said, “You missed the focus.” The focus starts with loving your wife and your wife loving you. The children are not the first focus in a family. The first focus is the relationship between Mom and Dad, and the kids will benefit from that being finely tuned to the best level you're capable of tuning it.

Colossians, chapter 3 – I'd like you turn there, because it says something very, very positive, and it has a sour aftertaste on it. And I'll come back to this later, because I want you to focus on the positive front end of it. Mr. Reeves, this is about as close as I get to invading your territory. Colossians, chapter 3, verse 19:

Colossians 3:19 Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
American King James Version×
Husbands, love your wives – which is what I've been talking about for this entire point. Husbands, love your wives. You can put a period right there and you have all the instruction you need. But, he tags on here: and do not be bitter toward them. I'll come back to that later. It doesn't need to spoil the point that is on the table right now. He's just giving two pieces of advice: a positive admonition, and a negative admonition. “Do this, but don't do that.” And we'll talk about that a little bit more later.

The need to love your wife leads me to an example set by – if I put it in quotes – “the fathers” of our modern time. I have, on occasion, not very often – there's not a lot of need very often – but once in great while, my wife and I are in a conversation, and I will express a certain regret. In fact, I think I've probably expressed the same regret sometime while I've been at a council meeting, or at a dinner following a council meeting. The regret that I have is that our modern church heritage is such that very, very few – every year that goes by, it's fewer and fewer – very, very few of any of you have ever known Herbert and Loma Armstrong as a couple. And I've thought, many times, how sad it is that fewer, and fewer, and fewer ever knew the two of them. I've forgotten when Mrs. Armstrong died, but we're at the place now where it's twenty-four, twenty-four years – a quarter of a century – since he died? And she died another decade or two before that – probably another two decades before that. So basically, only a few knew the two of them as a couple. You're still in Colossians 3, which is where I want you to be. I found Mr. Armstrong to be an outstanding example of living Colossians 3:19 Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
American King James Version×
– both the positive and the avoidance of the negative. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, when comments on that phrase – “and be not bitter” – they say, what we're talking about is love your wife, and here are things that do not belong in the marriage: anger or irritability, absolute superiority, and the excessive use of authority.” Cambridge goes on to say, “The husbands primacy is not for dominion, but for guidance.” It says, “To be bitter is speaking of – in the sense of – anger.” In the – let me get my years right here – in the five years, six years? – in the six years that I would have been constantly geographically in the same place as the Armstrong's – which would have been Pasadena – I think I could speak for anyone who was at the college at that time – of never hearing Mr. Armstrong speaking a cross word to his wife – never speak a cross word about her behind her back.

He loved to tease. He'd have students over for dinner at his home, and he had a fabulous stereo system, and he liked Bach. Mrs. Armstrong would be in the kitchen preparing the meal, and he'd lower his voice a little bit, and he says, “Now I'm going to put on a piece of Bach. You watch, Mrs. Armstrong is going to come in from the kitchen, and she's going to say, ‘Herbert, those kids don't want to hear that.’” So he'd put on Bach. In the door would come Mrs. Armstrong, “Herbert, I don't think they really like Bach.” And he'd laugh, take Bach off, and we'd go on to something else. But he enjoyed the tease.

Mrs. Armstrong was the only person – it didn't matter what your rank was, didn't matter what your title was, didn't matter who you thought you were –  Mrs. Armstrong was the only person who had immediate access to Mr. Armstrong's office at all times, no matter who else was in the office, physically or by phone. If the phone rang, and it was Mrs. Armstrong, whoever was in there talking with him got a time out until they were finished talking. And if she came to the office, the door was never closed – meaning “You can't go in. He’s busy with somebody else.” The door was never closed.

She had her own office. She counseled young women and she counseled young men who came to her. My senior year, when I was in Bricket Wood, the Armstrong's made a visit. My wife worked as a secretary to the Armstrongs in their office above the library, so I knew that she knew Diane. And I asked for an appointment, and she gave me a time, and I went over, and I said “Mrs. Armstrong, I'd like you to tell me about Diane.” And to this day, I am profoundly impressed with her wisdom. She knew we had never met. She knew what my interests were. She also knew that things were not cut and dried, so she gave me advice in the wisest of ways about how things could or might go in our relationship, but at the same time not setting me up for injury or hurt. I thought, “A very, very wise lady.” She sat in with meetings when the evangelists were there, Mrs. Armstrong was there, and her thoughts were respected. She was not a person to intrude in conversation, but if she had something to say, she was not afraid to say it. And what she had to say was respected.

My wife has held over my head to this very day – reminding me at the table today – I say that teasingly – that following my interview with Mrs. Armstrong in Bricket Wood – and those of you that know, which are the majority of you, know our story – she and I corresponded. We didn't meet until after college. I'd already determined in my mind what I thought I wanted. Mrs. Armstrong knew that. They were picking – when she got back to Pasadena – they were picking the students for the next round of transfers to Bricket Wood. And Diane's name was on the transfer list. Now Mrs. Armstrong had been kind and gentle and cautionary to me. In other words, she didn't want to pour any cold water on where our relationship might go, but she didn't want me to be set up to be hurt if things didn't work out. That's with me. On the other end back in Pasadena, when Diane's name came up as a prospective student to head to Bricket Wood – which means she'd be going over there just as I was leaving and coming back, so that we'd pass again and not see other for another two years – she said, “Diane can't go to Bricket Wood. She's getting married this summer.” Diane has periodically reminded me that I cheated her out of a trip to Bricket Wood. Twelve years after we married, I took her to Ireland and England. She actually…. At that time, the college was on the cusp of being sold. And for what reason, I don't know, but they said, “Oh we'll put you up for the Sabbath. You can give the sermon.” And they put us up in the lodge, which was Mr. Armstrong's private residence. And it felt really odd to walk into the bedroom and there were his hats on the shelf, and his shoes on the floor, and it was almost like, “I don't belong here.”

Old pictures, if you happen to see them, show her sitting in the radio studio with Mr. Armstrong – not behind the glass, with him on one side and her on the other side – but both of them inside the studio. She was a lady in every respect – carried herself with total dignity. And he treated her that way also. And it’s very unfortunate that so few people really had the opportunity to watch and observe their day in and day out conduct.

At that time, Mr. Armstrong taught two classes. He taught Principles of Living and Family Relations. Principles of Living – sex education. Family Relations – family relations. And he was very candid, for those of you that knew him. He was so totally completely open and candid in conversation that it was unnerving. You'd say, “He's got a position up here, and I'm a student, but he'll sit here and ask your advice.” And it wasn't one of these, you know, “I'll ask it, but really my mind is somewhere else.” Very, very candid. And as he was talking about family relations and about marriage, and he was talking about his marriage to Mrs. Armstrong, he said “You know, I would never want to be married to a woman who couldn't wear the pants.” And he went on to talk about the qualities of leadership, the qualities of wisdom, the qualities of capabilities. He said, “I would only hope that I would be considered more capable.” And that was his assessment of the relationship in marriage. He said, “I never would want to marry a woman who was not capable of wearing the pants.” He said, “I hope simply that I would be more capable.”

They were a great inspiration and her death was a loss in a way that many, many people really couldn't understand, or wouldn't understand, without that as a background.

The final point that Mr. Armstrong made in Family Relations class leads to my next point – the one about “I would want a wife with these capabilities. I would simply want, in her view, to be seen as more capable.” In 1 Timothy, chapter 3, there is a badly, badly, badly outdated statement – so totally out of step with society that I can't even find a way to put it in step with society. It's within the part that determines whether or not a man is qualified to be ordained an elder. It's the job description – the profile for a man who is going to be an elder. He uses the term bishop, but in 1 Timothy 3, verse 2:

1 Timothy 3:2-5 1 Timothy 3:2-5 [2] A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; [3] Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; [4] One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; [5] (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
American King James Version×
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, nor greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous – one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?). Husbands are to rule their households.

I've been thinking in the context of where society is going, and now that I'm retired, I will have fewer and fewer – reasonably so – I would have fewer and fewer instances as where this would even come up. But, I still think about it as a lifetime minister. I've never been asked to remove the word submit from the marriage vows by those who have asked me to marry them. But I have watched people in the audience snicker as I read the marriage vows. And I said, “You know what, I'm watching where we are in society. The couple that are in front of me have not objected to these words being there – honor and cherish among the promises. Provide, honor and cherish – the promises of a young man. Submission along with honor – the promises of a young woman. But I expect, if time goes on long enough – if it hasn't already happened – that someone in the church of God is being asked to perform a marriage is going to be asked to remove certain words from our marriage ceremony. I don't have the slightest doubt that if it hasn't already happened, it's just a matter of time before somebody says, “I’m not comfortable with the word submit being in the ceremony.”

I'll spend the rest of the sermon here, because this is a pivotal point in marriage, and understanding it is really critical to a marriage that is solid, sound, lasting. Let me make a few direct statements. I don't mean any of these to be brusque, but I want them to be simple. To the women: if you don't want to submit to a man, don't marry. If that isn't part of your package, then why go there? If you are willing to abide by that part of the marriage ceremony, but you have serious misgivings about the man that you are moving toward that goal with, stop there and think that one over. You know, the emotion that brings two people together…we can talk together, we can like each other, we enjoy one another's company, we have fun together, all the things that younger people say – those are good things. They're wonderful things. But as you move along, if there is an irritant over here that says, “Would I want to be in that relationship with this man,” and the answer is, “I don't know,” you need to resolve that question. Men: if you wish to be a husband, it is incumbent upon you to learn what the Bible means by rule before you seriously look for a wife. And young men, I'll do you a favor, because by the time we're finished with the sermon, you'll have all the groundwork in place. And men – since we gave two to women, we'll give two to men – men: if you're interested in a woman who does not want to submit, then I would give the same advice that I gave – just simply change the genders. I don't know that you're going to be totally happy in that relationship.

At this point, it's good to go back to square one. You know, we live in a society that has gone way, way, way past the conversation we're having right now. In fact, the conversation we're having right now is archaic, considering where society is. But so what? What's important right now is to go back to square one. And square one is simple, God created a system. Whether it is in vogue or out of vogue is really immaterial. For those of you that love history and sociology, what you will know already – those of you that love history and love sociology – is mankind has spent his entire existence flopping from ditch to ditch, in regards to human conduct. He can't find the middle of the road. He's either laying in the ditch on one side upside down, or he's gotten back on the road, hits a patch of ice, and he's upside down in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. But mankind can't find God's balance. God created the system, whether it's in vogue or not in vogue, abused or done correctly, doesn't change the fact that it is God who created man and woman, and then wrote the guidebook. Nobody else can write the owner's manual like He can write the owner's manual. So, if you don't agree with the owners manual – and we men are notorious for not reading manuals. We are a “here's a project, tear into it,” and when we get electrocuted, we go back and we read the manual, and find out we should have turned the power off. When something falls on our head, we go back and read the manual, and realize we should have bolted it in first. It's a case of read the manual.

I was preparing this sermon, for a period of time obviously, and Thursday – I think Thursday at breakfast – Diane and I were sitting at breakfast, and she gave me the, “Oh hey, listen to this.” So she read something to me, and we talked about it for a while, and it stayed lodged in my head, and I asked her this morning to send me the link, so that I can print it, because it genuinely fits within the sermon. Every so often you run into a paradox. And I love paradoxes when they're good paradoxes. You all know what a paradox is. It's simply: this is the way it seems it ought to go, but it goes this way. You scratch your head and say, “How did that work?”

In my young adulthood, or in the young adulthood of those my age, one of the – I don't know what adjective to use – bombshells? babes? sex symbols? females with vim, vigor, vitality and a self will? You could take all of those and wrap them in together. One of them that would epitomize that would have been Ann-Margaret. A couple of movies she was in she had enough energy for three gals. She was good looking, and she had that look on her face where “I am woman. Get out of my way.” So I've always thought of Ann-Margaret as she's her own gal. Don't mess with her. Diane said, “Oh, I want to read you something from FOX News.” And it was an announcement of the death, at age 84, on June 4th, of Ann-Margaret's husband, Roger Smith. And they had been married for 50 years. When she was a beginning Hollywood start-up, I wouldn't have given you 50 weeks or months for a marriage to last. It says, “They were a totally devoted couple, and Ann had put her highly successful career on the back burner years ago in order to care for the man she loves,” the insider told Closer Weekly.

He had battled – I don't see exactly when it came, but it must have been many years ago – with myasthenia gravis. So he had a serious disability. You can Google the net worth of Hollywood stars and it'll tell you, “They're worth this many million bucks.” If Ann had focused on her career, at this time and point in her life, and she had invested wisely, it would be interesting to see what her “net worth” would be.

But she put her career aside to take care of her husband who was suffering from myasthenia gravis. “The couple married in 1967 and has celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary May 8th. ‘He really wanted to reach the 50 year mark,’ the source said. Smith retired from acting after being diagnosed in 1980.” So she she's been caring for him for 37 years. “After that, he managed Ann-Margaret's career and produced several of her TV specials. Ann-Margaret had no problem being completely devoted to her beau over the years. This is what she said. ‘Now in Roger….’” And as I read this to you, I want you to run the ticker tape through your head of what I said earlier when I made the comment that Mr. Armstrong said, “I'd never want to marry a woman who couldn't wear the pants. I would simply wish to be more qualified.”  Ann-Margaret said: “’Now in Roger I found all the men I need rolled into one – a father, a friend, a lover, a manager, a businessman.’ She told writer Rex Reed in 1972, ‘It's perfect for me. I couldn't exist without a strong man.’”

Now I believe she couldn't exist without a strong man, because she was a dynamo. But you know, this is an illustration in a totally carnal world – in a totally physical way – it’s an illustration, nonetheless, of the realities of the dynamics. You can be the most dynamic, successful, qualified woman on the face of the earth, and, in such cases, find a man that you can love, respect, admire, and want as husband, and father, and friend, and lover for all your life, and you've got a fabulous gift. You've got a wonderful place.

Let's talk about some of the details about rule. Cambridge earlier made the point that there's no room for anger, superiority, authoritarianism in loving a wife. These don't constitute love. Angry men don't make good husbands. Superiority has no place. You know, when you go back to Genesis – and we'll arrive there eventually – God didn't make this a case of superiority. When a man has the need to be superior, he does so only because he is inferior. Now that's sad. Men need to be superior when they feel inferior. When a man is confident in himself, he doesn't need to get on some soapbox. He doesn't need to be authoritarian.

If you looked in the original language at the scripture that we just read, in 1 Timothy, about an elder must be able to rule. In it's simplest terms it just means to stand before and to preside. Any of you who have ever held office from grade school, junior high, or high school – a student body office, a fraternal organization office, a public service office, like a Rotarian or Kiwanis or something – anyone who has ever held an office gets an opportunity to understand what it means to preside. Preside has nothing to do with dictate. They're not synonyms. Unfortunately when people hear rule, they connect rule with dictate. When the Bible connects rule with preside, they are not connecting one to the other. Being a husband puts you in a leadership role, but it's not the kind of leadership role that authoritarian dictatorial people think of.

I said to somebody about spirituality one time that Jesus Christ rules in our life by consent, and I got an emotional push back. I said, “Well stop and think about it. When free will exists, no one rules anyone except by consent. Christ has enough power to destroy you, but He can only rule you by consent.”

In our marriage vows, when those vows are finished, and the “I do's” are done, what has been established and consecrated there is the consent of a woman to be presided over by her husband. I have thought many times over the last twenty some years about this principle, because of personal experience. I've learned a great deal about what God means “to rule” by serving as the Chairman of the Council of Elders. Now the position of Chairman, which Dr. Don Ward currently holds, is referred to – that Chairmanship is referred to – as being first among equals. And everyone who holds it realizes that “I am in this position by the permission of the other eleven men who are in that room with me every time we meet.” And by their permission, I preside over them. I have functions that I fulfill that they don't – functions that I fulfill that they are not authorized to fulfill. But all of us are equals. I simply am first among those equals.

You can go back and look at all the variants on Genesis, chapter 2, verses 18 through 20, where God said, “Let Us make…We will make a fitting complement.” The old English word helpmeet is about as archaic as King James himself, if not older. A helpmeet? What in the world is a helpmeet? Not a part of my vocabulary, not a part of your vocabulary. I'd never say, “Diane is my helpmeet.” She'd look at me sort of cross-eyed. I'd look back at her cross-eyed. We'd both shrug and say, “Well, let's find another word.” But fitting complement is a word or a phrase that we have used more consistently. In the relationship of a fitting complement, if you look at the term rule as preside, then you begin to understand that presiding involves collaboration. I've never seen – and I have served under three other Chairmen in the time I've served on the Council – I've never seen a Chairman act dictatorially. Because it didn't matter whether it was Mr. Holladay, didn't matter whether it was Dr. Ward, didn't matter whether it was Clyde Kilough – didn't matter who it was – the understanding there was that presiding means “I seek collaboration from people who are my equals. I seek to find a way to move forward in a way that all of us can support among people who are my peers.”

My wife is not my inferior. She's my peer. We have different roles, and we both understand we have different roles. But those roles do not create superiority/inferiority. That simply does not exist – anymore than within the Council of Elders, when I used it as an example, that somebody in that body is inferior to somebody else in that body – simply is not the case and everyone understands it.

When you understand the dynamics that are involved in standing before and presiding, then you find that you have an even greater obligation to find ways, places, and circumstances that you and your spouse leave happy – of one mind, of one voice, of one direction. Your real goal does not become, “How do I convince her that she needs to do what I want done.” It is, “How do we find ways..and I have been commissioned in the guidebook to preside in the dialogue so we can both walk forward happy with where we are going.” This is what ruling, biblically, is all about.

I began this message saying, title wise, Maxims for Husbands and Fathers. Next week, we'll continue – different speaker – and I'm sure a flavor and a direction that Mr. Reeves will bring will be different than mine. Mr. Sexton will add to that. And under Mr. Sexton's direction, we'll continue along these particular themes as a way of instructing, helping, and hopefully edifying the Portland congregation of the Church of God.