You and Me Forever, by Francis and Lisa Chan
I’m single. I’m not married. And here I’m reading a book about marriage. Why? Well, God created man and woman to be together. It is not good for man to be alone. God says there is value in marriage, and who am I to question the Creator. Is marriage something that I want to pursue? Well, dating a girl requires a commitment of resources – time, money, and energy. There are many other exciting opportunities that I could be pursuing with these resources instead. Yes, I’m reading a book about marriage, which implies that the topic is on my mind. I see the benefits of marriage. Not only would it make me a better person, it would also satisfy God’s design for man, and bring additional glory to him. And isn’t that the purpose of our existence? To glorify God, to worship Jesus, and to make disciples. Our purpose is not to pursue money, power, or fame – those things are all meaningless. So yes, I’m reading a book about marriage, while single, and I look forward to becoming a better man as a result!
Major theme of this book: Seek God! Seek God, not marriage. God should be your number one priority. To me, this seems obvious. But this book is a great reminder to check my priorities. It seems that many people place marriage as a priority above God, which is insanely wrong! Because of these skewed priorities, we see many divorces and failed marriages in our society, even among Christian families. This bothers me deeply. The fact that many Christian marriages end in divorce makes my heart ache. It hurts, and it genuinely saddens me. I know that is not what I want my marriage to be like. I want my marriage to be a reflection of God’s love. Therefore, it’s critical that the woman I choose to marry is the right one. Because I’m stuck with her, and she is stuck with me (I feel sorry for her). The question is, how do I ensure that I marry the right person? The answer is, God is her highest priority. She is pursuing a loving relationship first and foremost with Christ. And it also goes without saying that she should be seeking the same thing in a man – a man whose number one priority is God. To get the type of woman that I want, I need to be the type of man that she wants. God needs to be my number one priority. God needs to be her number one priority. Only when two people have a foundations relationship with Christ first, will they be right for each other. That’s the main theme of this book.
I always know it’s a good book when I want to stop at every sentence and think about it. This is one of those books where you can highlight, underline, or annotate nearly every line. The first thing that stood out to me was when Francis talked about facing God in eternity. When we die, every single person will face God, and see Him, in heaven. What a moment that will be! I can only imagine. “I Can Only Imagine” is one of my favorite worship songs, because this moment of seeing God face-to-face is precisely what the song is about. We should be living our lives with a focus on eternity, because we will all face God eventually. And at that moment, how great would it be to hear him say, “well done.”
“Father, help us love wisely.” This is a powerful statement. Love Jesus. Love your spouse. Love other people. But do it wisely. Wise love is not flippant love. It means guarding your heart when appropriate. What does it look like to “love wisely?” I think that it means to love Jesus with 100% of your heart and mind and soul, because he is unfailing. In dating, I think it means to guard your heart and avoid flippant summer romances. In loving the homeless, I think it means protecting your own well-being and safety first. “Father, help us love wisely” is a strong prayer. I look forward to reading the authors’ perspectives on loving wisely.
At the end of each chapter, Francis and Lisa give us some actions. I like how they tell us it is always better to do something rather than nothing. Take action. Doing nothing is always the wrong decision. Take some action, and accept that sometimes you will make the wrong choice. Taking action applies to all aspects of life, not just “Christian living.” I think that too often, we read, listen, and consume learning media, but then never practice it. And I understand why. It is hard to take action. It’s uncomfortable. But you need to get comfortable at being uncomfortable, or else you will never grow. I really like that they include actions at the end of each chapter. My responses to these action questions are too personal to publish here.
The more that you grow in your pursuit of being Christ-like, the more you will naturally live out your God-given role. This is true whether you are a husband, wife, student, or janitor. I really like this. If you are trying to emulate Christ, seeking to be like Jesus, then you will naturally want to sacrifice for you wife, naturally want to submit to your husband, naturally want to open the door of your house in hospitality, naturally want to avoid sexual immorality. Seeking Christ-likeness means that he is changing you from the inside. This is evidenced by changing desires. When he is working inside of you, then your desires change to align with Christ, and your outward actions will naturally follow.
What should a husband’s love look like? It should resemble Christ’s love for the church. Jesus died for us, and similarly a husband should love his wife so fully that he is willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for her. And his love should be so abundant that he finds joy in the sacrifice. In fact, he should be overflowing with joy all of the time. I like the part where Francis talks about a man’s wife as an extension of his own body. You care for your own body by exercising, eating properly, and pursuing Christ-likeness. In the same way, you should care for the health of your wife. Encourage her to maintain physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. As a man, I’m not only responsible for my own body and my own sanctification, but I am also responsible for the health and sanctification of my wife. That’s a lot of pressure and responsibility! I better have my own life in order, or else I will never be able to properly love a woman. Am I overflowing with joy? Am I actively and constantly pursuing Christ-likeness? These are the answers that I need to be able to answer “yes” to. And the “yes” should be evident in my life.
Another big theme in this book is humility. There is no room for pride or arrogance in the workplace. And there is no place for pride and arrogance in a marriage. You should not seek to win arguments, because if you win, it probably means that you were just the one with the biggest ego. What does it mean to be humble? Humble people are more interested in serving God than people. Humility in a marriage means serving God first. When God is the number one priority for two people united in marriage, then the marriage will be right. This goes back to the major theme of the book – seek God. Seek God, not marriage. Seek God first. There is no point to pursue marriage until you are secure with God first. I completely agree!
I love the passage in Ezekiel, where Ezekiel speaks to a valley of dead, dry, and brittle bones. After speaking, he watches as the bones come together to form a living army. This is exactly what it means to be saved by Christ. We are alive, not dead. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is extreme; it’s the difference between life and death! This makes me ache for non-believers, because they are dead. The difference between a Christian and an unbeliever should be outwardly obvious. It should be clearly evident that you are filled with Christ. People should notice it. It should give you “peace that transcends understanding.” When you are alive, you will also be compelled to live your life for him. This means that you will learn to hate hate. You will learn to hate lust, pride, pornography, immoral teachings, lying, and idols. The fruits of the spirit will overflow from an alive person. And, when two Christ-filled individuals combine forces in marriage, the overflowing joy and Christ-likeness of each person is multiplied. There is more joy and a greater reflection of God’s glory, than is possible with just a single person. This reminds me of when great minds combine in think tanks. When this happens they increase the brain power of each person by tenfold. When two intelligent brains work together, the resulting brain power is 10x as great. When two believers of Christ unite in marriage, their demonstration potential of God’s character is 10x greater than a single person. The purpose of marriage is to display the glory, love, and humility of Christ. The purpose of marriage is to display God to the world. When an individual is seeking Christ-likeness, it is evident outwardly. When two Christ-seeking individuals unite in marriage, the outward evidence of God is ten times as great! That’s a wonderful picture! Assuming that my life demonstrates God’s peace, joy, love, and humility, then how can I multiply this demonstration to make it even greater? Marriage! That’s good stuff.
How can I make a positive impact in this world? Make disciples! Show people life. I want to influence the world, and make it a better place. How can I do that? Make disciples. And that’s exactly what Jesus tells me to do. I like Francis’s picture of two children holding hands and picking flowers while they are supposed to be playing soccer. Too often, we are like children holding hands with one another. We spend our time eating meals with other Christians, we study the Bible with other Christians, and we spend our social time with other Christians. In the process of holding hands with our Christian buddies, we ignore the larger soccer game. We ignore God’s design, which is to make disciples. Our purpose is to make disciples. This means being in the world, interacting with unbelievers, and building relationships with unbelievers. The purpose of living in the world is to make disciples. Making disciples does not need to be in a third-world country. It can be right here at home, in Texas. There are plenty of spiritually dead people at home. My purpose is to use the skills, gifts, and interests that God has blessed me with to make disciples in an otherwise dead engineering and computer science world. Because who else will speak to these people? But I must be careful. We must all be careful. It is too easy to become distracted by the pursuits of money, marriage, family, houses, and athletics. It is easy to get distracted by thoughts of a new house, of a bigger TV, of a modern kitchen, of athletic potential, all while your neighbors are dying down the road. I repeat - our focus is to make disciples! It bothers me to see Christians who only interact within their tight Christian circles and do not venture out into the world. It bothers me to see Christians holding hands while ignoring the soccer game. Similarly, it bothers me to see Christians filling their time with news media and social media. I understand that relaxation and distraction are important. But we must be conscious of the content that enters our minds. Often, the news and social media are filled with negative comments, bleak perspectives, and unwholesome entertainment. They are not joyful. Garbage in equals garbage out.
Like Francis said at the beginning, this is not a book about marriage; it is a book about God. As I read, I realize the accuracy of this statement. The mission of every single believer is to make disciples. Get out of your Christian bubble and get to work. God is your boss, and you should be working to fulfill his mission. When you become an old person, you should be able to look back at your life with excitement. You should be excited that you accomplished God’s work. Is my life on the correct trajectory to be an excited old person? I think so. I hope so. At this point in my life, I can look back at a few key people that I’ve impacted. And this is exciting! The problem that Francis and Lisa see with many marriages, is that the couples unintentionally place a higher priority on family than on God. As a single person, your highest priority is God. As a married person, your highest priority is God. This does not change. Family does not supersede God. Family does not supersede God’s mission.
Our focus should be on eternity. I should be eternity-focused. When I get to heaven, I want to hear my Father say, “well done.” Because of our focus on heaven, we have hope. Because of our love for Jesus, we have joy. I like this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how excited are you about heaven today?” We should be more excited about heaven than our wedding day. We should be more excited about heaven than watching our kids grow up. When I think about getting excited for heaven, I think about Milton’s prose descriptions of woman, the Garden, and angels. The book of Revelation gives a description of heaven, which is great. But the poetic craftsmanship that Milton uses in “Paradise Lost” is incomparable in the English language. To me, “Paradise Lost” paints an ethereal picture that stirs my longing for heaven. “Paradise Lost” is an incredibly well written poem. Putting your trust in God’s promises, and seeking to fulfill God’s mission – these actions will keep you focused on eternity, and they will cultivate a deep yearning for heaven.
At first, I was skeptical to read a chapter about children. I’m not married, and I certainly do not have any children. But by the end, I was excited about the idea of raising children. It’s an intimate opportunity to mature and make disciples. It’s another opportunity to demonstrate God’s love through your life. When it comes to raising our children, we should give them responsibility and not cater to their every need. By satisfying all heir wants, we are not raining children that are able to contend in the world. We are not helping them. From my conversations with co-workers, I think that many of them spoil their children too much. They satisfy the child’s every want. Not correct. We should be raising children that understand the role of hard work and the importance of serving. How do we teach children to work hard and serve with humility? By living my life in this manner. By demonstrating these principles through my own actions. Again, it all starts with me seeking God. If my children seem me pursuing Christ-likeness and making sacrifices for God’s glory, then they will know that my faith is genuine. My kids will observe my lifestyle. To raise children that love God, we must first love God with our own lives. And we should love God more than your children! Seek God first. As a man, my children should clearly see through my actions that I am pursuing God first and making God my number one priority. I am responsible for leading and encouraging my wife, and I’m also responsible for being a Godly example to my children. Not only am I responsible for my wife’s sanctification, I am also responsible for making disciples of my children. It’s a lot of responsibility to be a man! I am also responsible for teaching my children about all the qualities of Christ, and making it clear that Christ is so much greater than me. I will fail, but God will never fail. I will die, but God is immortal. I can’t control life, but God can. The goal of parenting is to raise kids that are not dependent on their parents, but are wholly dependent on God. Ultimately, if God is your priority, then your children will see examples of Christ-like forgiveness, servitude, love, and humility. That’s what I want my children to see. It all begins with seeking God first. The ultimate goal of a parent is to make children into disciples, so that they can contend in the world and fulfill God’s mission themselves.
The last major point of this book focuses on the elderly. Francis argues that there are not enough elderly couples in the church who are passionately pursuing God. Too often, couples get distracted from their pursuit of Christ by family, marriage, children, and saving money for retirement. Too many young couples begin with a passionate pursuit of Christ-likeness but fizzle out towards the end. They get distracted by things like marriage. Hence, the shortage of elderly couples available to teach in the church. I do not want to be the person that gets distracted by marriage, children, houses, or retirement. I want my focus to be on God from now until old age and death. I want to be passionately seeking Christ-likeness for the entirety of my life. Just image how much more Christ-like, how much more humble, loving, and joyful I will be at 80, after a lifetime of pursuing God. Wow, I can only imagine!