Darryl Dash

Marriage is a Steel Trap

Couples who keep those vows, even when those vows feel like a trap, often find that something beautiful happens as they endure the hardship. Things get better. They learn to love each other. God grows beautiful things in what looks like a garden of clay if we stick with it long enough and keep our promises even when we don’t feel like it.

The date was 1990. I was a newly engaged seminary student. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d proposed to Char, and she’d accepted. We were planning our wedding which was going to take place just a few months later.
I sat in the seminary classroom near the back. The subject: marriage counselling. The professor: a Christian counsellor. Notebook open, pen in hand, I couldn’t wait to learn about the journey I was about to begin.
I wasn’t prepared for what he said.
“Marriage is a steel trap,” he said.
I looked up, not sure if I was hearing him correctly.
The professor continued to explain. He’d enjoyed a good first marriage that ended with his wife’s death. Since then, he’d remarried, and found that his second marriage was a lot harder. In the first year of his second marriage, he found himself thinking that he’d made a terrible mistake. He knew divorce was not an option, but he found himself thinking of ways to escape.
But he couldn’t. Marriage was a steel trap. You can get into it, but it doesn’t easily let you go.
They stayed together and struggled. As they did, he found that marriage got easier. He learned to love his new wife. He began to enjoy their marriage. It was still hard and still required work, but being trapped together taught them to love each other, and they began to grow their relationship.
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The Point of Thinking about Eschatology

We should try our best to understand what Ezekiel wrote, and to piece it together with other passages of Scripture that speak of what will happen in the future. Of course, we should always model humility as we try to understand Scripture, but we shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders and say we’ll figure things out one day in the distant future. Pan-millenials (“It will all pan out in the end”) are taking the easy way out. We can do better.

There was a time when people cared — really cared — about eschatology. They held conferences. They formed denominations. They created study Bibles. Thinking about eschatology — the doctrine of what happens in the end times — was a big deal.
No more. I hardly hear anyone talk about end times anymore. In some ways, that’s good. Sometimes we were a little too ready to fight over eschatology before. In other ways, it’s sad. I wonder if we really care as much as we should.
I’m struck by what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:8: “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
That verse challenges me. Do I love his appearing? Our future with Jesus is meant to be one of the controlling influences in our lives. Do we even think about it, never mind long for it and love it?
If we had a bigger view of what’s to come, I suspect our lives today would be radically different.
I got thinking about this recently as I studied Ezekiel 43. Ezekiel has a vision of our future: God will recreate heaven and earth, and God will dwell with his people once again. Ezekiel’s vision is detailed, and it goes on for many chapters.
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What Will New Creation Be Like? (Isaiah 65:17-25)

Are we looking forward to the new creation? Isaiah and Paul are telling us: we should be! Our hope for the new creation should be what sustains us here and now. It’s what we were made for. 

When I was studying to be a pastor, I was invited to speak to a primary school class at a Christian school. The topic was heaven. I had to stand in front of a bunch of kids and tell them what heaven is like.
It was awful. I knew heaven would be good, but I had no idea how to describe it. The thing about kids is that you can’t fake it in front of kids. They know if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
And so I bombed that day. I couldn’t paint an accurate picture of what heaven is like. I couldn’t answer any of their questions, at least accurately. I left from that experience devastated, because I knew that I should know better than what I did.
We need to understand what heaven is like. We are alive for only a short time here on earth. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are meant to think a lot about heaven. It’s supposed to get help get you through this life, which can be very hard.
But here’s the problem: It’s hard to hope for something we don’t know very much about. So what I want to do is to give you a picture of heaven today, one that I hope will be exciting enough to give you hope no matter what you’re going through today.
We’re in a series through the entire Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Right now we’re in the part of the story in which we hear from a prophet named Isaiah, written some 2,700 years ago. Today we’re in the latter part of Isaiah, which is significant. The first part of Isaiah—chapters 1 to 35—contain a lot of doom and gloom. The second part of Isaiah—chapters 40-66—give us a lot more hope. Isaiah has a lot to say to Judah. He accuses them of sin. He calls them to repentance. He talks about God’s judgment. But he also provides hope: hope that God isn’t done with them, and that he will bring the restoration that we need.
We’re in the hopeful part of the book of Isaiah today. In the passage we’re looking at today, God gives us a glimpse of what we’re waiting for. We need to hear this.
Two Descriptions
So what is our future like? You’re going to like this. Two things:
It will be a place of joy.
For behold, I create new heavensand a new earth,and the former things shall not be rememberedor come into mind.But be glad and rejoice foreverin that which I create;for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,and her people to be a gladness.I will rejoice in Jerusalemand be glad in my people;no more shall be heard in it the sound of weepingand the cry of distress.(Isaiah 65:17-19)
I want you to notice a couple of things. First, Isaiah says that God will create a new heavens and a new earth. The new creation will not mean the end of the earth. It will mean the recreation of the heavens and the earth. We need to get rid of the idea of a disembodied, floating existence somewhere out there. Think about the recreation of the world, except as it should be.
The Christian hope is not merely that someday we and our loved ones will die and go to be with Jesus. Instead, the Christian hope is that our departure from this world is just the first leg of a journey that is round-trip. We will not remain forever with God in heaven, for God will bring heaven down to us.(Michael Wittmer)
What is it like in this remade heaven and earth? Isaiah says that the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. “About five seconds into this new world, you and I will turn to one another and say, ‘Cancer, terrorism—what were they? Hmmm. Can’t seem to remember. No matter. Here we go!’” (Ray Ortlund). Now I can get behind that.
But that’s not even the best part. It will not just be a place where bad things are forgotten, it will be a place of joy. Verse 18 envisions this new heaven and new earth with a new Jerusalem at the center, and that it will be filled with joy. In this new earth, we get what we want and need most: God, and it will make us very, very happy. It will be what we’ve longed for all this time. The new creation will be a place of inexpressible joy.
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God usually answers when we ask him to allow us to serve others. In every relationship, we have the opportunity to put others ahead of ourselves. The real change must take place at the level of our attitudes. Pray that he gives us the mindset of servants, the mindset of Jesus himself (Philippians 2:5).

Who are we? Servants: servants of God, and servants of others. It’s important that we remember that, because we easily forget.
We’re Servants of God
Jesus told us a story that helps us understand our positions (Luke 17:7-10). We owe God everything. He owes us nothing. We’re his servants. Even when we give him everything, we only give him his due.
One of the keys to the Christian life is remembering who God is and who we are. We’re not peers. We don’t have an equal relationship. We don’t have the right to object to his decisions or protest his will. Our job is to submit to him. Whatever he asks is right. We can never give God too much because he owns everything. No matter how much we give to him, we’re simply giving him what we owe him anyway.
But that’s not all.
We’re Servants of Others.
Jesus modeled this with his own life (John 13:14-15) and called us to follow his example. When writing to a group of people who are concerned with their rights. Paul wrote, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
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Lessons from the Hardest Year

We’d just started the process of planting a church when we got a phone call that changed our lives. We didn’t know it then, but we’d just begun the hardest year of our lives.
I thought that I’d start a new church from a position of strength. I’d accumulated a couple of decades of ministry experience. I had big plans and strong convictions, as well as a strong network of support. I knew we needed God’s help, and that the task before us was bigger than I could accomplish on my own, but I was determined to begin with a strong start.
Instead, within 10 days of beginning to work on this new church, our lives collapsed. My wife and I would just sit together in the morning quietly, unable to speak. I clung to the truth of Romans 8:26-27: that the Spirit helps us in our weakness when we don’t know how to pray. I trusted that God heard our prayers even when we couldn’t voice them.
Our season lasted some time. One day, over a year after our crisis began, I attended a support group for people who were going through the same thing. I was amazed to enter a room and find so many others. How could the world go on when so many of us lived on the brink of disaster? I listened to the story of a man, expecting to find hope, but his story ended in heartbreak.
I went home and wrote these words the next day:

It’s not a secret that the past few years have been among the most difficult in our lives. Right now it seems that we’re entering another tough season, facing some health struggles that are very serious. It’s hard when there aren’t any easy answers, and when the suffering seems more than one can handle.

When You Hear of a Scandal

The scandals aren’t going away. Most of the time, we’re not in a position to affect the outcome. The real issue is how we respond within our own hearts. The challenge there is to examine our own hearts, and to guard against unhealthy and sinful ways of responding to the sins of others with an eye to honoring God in our lives and ministries in this dangerous world.

In the late 1980s, I came across Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. To this day, it’s one of the most impactful books I’ve read. I still remember entire sections of the book, including one of the best chapter titles I’ve encountered (“The Sadness of a Book Never Read”) and his description of what he calls the sinkhole syndrome: when our private worlds can no longer support the weight of events and stresses from the outside.
I began reading everything I could of MacDonald’s writings, and even remember going to hear him speak when he came to Toronto.
That’s why I was surprised to hear that, around the time that Ordering Your Private World was published, that MacDonald had engaged in an adulterous relationship.
It sounds naïve now, but I’d never encountered a pastor I respected who fell into adultery. I was especially surprised that someone could write so compelling about ordering his private world even as his inner world was inner world was in disarray.
A few years later, MacDonald released another book called Rebuilding Your Broken World. I felt cynical at first, but to this day it remains a book that informs my response to scandals. I haven’t read it in a while, but I think I’d still recommend it.
I’m no longer naïve. I’m not surprised when I hear of a Christian leader falling into sin. I have, however, learned three important lessons on how to guard my own heart when I hear of another leader who’s fallen.
Take Stock
Every scandal is an opportunity for me to evaluate the condition of my own heart and my own vulnerability to danger. I am not above falling into sin. The more I think that I’m immune, the greater that danger may be.
When we hear of scandals, Char and I often have an honest conversation with each other about the state of our own souls. Where are we tempted?

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