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About The


Ethics & Religion
June 30, 2016
Column #1,818
How To Build a Great Marriage
By Mike McManus


Last weekend my wife and I took our granddaughter to the beach. While sitting on the sand, I began chatting with a woman in her 40s. She asked, "How many years have you been married?" I replied, "50 years," and they have been wonderful, blessed years.

"If you had to give one bit of advice about how to build a good marriage, what is it?"

My answer was that my wife, Harriet, and I spend time each morning reading some Scripture, a brief commentary on it, and then we pray for one another and any needs we or our family have. "This is how we put Christ at the center of our marriage."

"When we were younger (and had children), we would get up at 6:30 to read Scripture. Today, it is later. I particularly recommend using '`Encounter With God,' a quarterly publication of Scripture Union, which has 4.5 million readers around the world. Over five years, it leads us to read virtually the entire Bible.

I read the opening two sentence prayer, followed by the assigned Scripture and one page of commentary. The July 1 Scripture is Chapter 20 of Proverbs. Here are three of its nuggets from verses 1, 7 and 13:

  • "Wine is a mocker, and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise...

  • "Who can say, `I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?...

  • "Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare."

The "Encounter with God" commentary notes that if you let wine and beer "master you they will make a fool of you." This is important to God. He made you to bear his image; he is remaking you in Christ to bear that image again. It has cost him a lot. You matter, and the quality of your humanity matters to him. If he is your master, he will ennoble you; let alcohol master you and it will ruin you.

"The same goes for the self-indulgence of laziness (v. 13); you don't set out to be a sluggard. It creeps up on you. But you'll be ruined by it. God cares about this, so work hard and be industrious, while enjoying rest in its proper place."

Each reading poses practical questions to consider: "Are any of the issues raised in today's reading a struggle for you? If so, bring them to the Cross for forgiveness."

Finally, it closes with a relevant Prayer: "Lord, help me to be wise and obedient to Your instruction. There are so many clamoring voices demanding my attention."

Our church pays to send a quarterly copy of "Encounter with God" to every member, which begins with an opening page of comment from our senior pastor, followed by a fresh page written by Scripture Union.

It opens with sage wisdom: "Ours is a noisy and distracted world. Each day, from the moment we awaken, many voices shout for our attention - television, radio, video, advertising, the internet, family and friends and leaders. With such a cacophony of sounds, it is hard to decide to whom we should pay attention. This makes it essential that we hear the voice which ultimately counts, the voice of the living God. God communicates with us in a variety of ways, but the primary means by which he speaks to us is through the Bible."

You can subscribe to this daily commentary for free at Or you can subscribe to the quarterly publication for $25 a year. That is what I recommend, because you will develop a habit of turning to it each morning or evening. Emails are easy to skip.

However, the best strategy is for your church to invest in nurturing all of its members in Scripture reading and commentary. Of course, discounts are available for a multiple purchase.

What I recommend is that you write for a free copy of "Encounter with God," that you can consider subscribing to - or that you might give to your senior pastor, with the suggestion that the church order it for all its members. For a free copy write its editor:

We do live in a noisy, distracted world. If you take 5-10 minutes a day to read Scripture, a brief commentary, several probing questions about it, and close with prayer - your life will have a renewed, uplifting purpose.

And if you are married, you will have a new way to put Christ at the center of your marriage.

Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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