Asking the Hard Questions
About the Guest
Quote by James C. Petty about the doctrine of providence. It is from the book, 'Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians.'
Ernie BakerErnie has the privilege of serving as Pastor of Counseling at First Baptist of Jacksonville, FL where he helps oversee pastoral care and the Grace Center for Biblical Counseling. He received his M.Div. from Capital Bible Seminary, and his D.Min. in Pastoral Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Dr. Baker has been in ministry since 1980. Twenty-five of these years were spent in pastoral ministry which included training and equipping pastors and laymen in the skills of discipleship...more
Author Ernie Baker explains our job is not to focus on finding the “right” one, but to focus on wisdom. God’s plan is unfolding and our part is to trust Him when making decisions.
Asking the Hard Questions
Bob: So, if you’re single, and God intends for you to be married, does He have one right person picked out? Dr. Ernie Baker says: “That’s a tricky question to answer. But there are some biblical thoughts that can guide us.”
Ernie: A quote from Step by Step by James Petty—he says this: “The Bible teaches, number one, that God does have one specific plan for your life. Two, the events and choices of your life irresistibly and sovereignly work that plan; and it has all your mistakes, blindnesses, and sins accounted for in advance. These truths are included in what is known as the doctrine of providence. Without understanding providence, we will never be able to think clearly about God’s daily involvement with our lives.”
This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
So, if God, through the doctrine of providence, has one right person for us, how can we be sure if the person we’re engaged to is that person? We’ll talk more about it today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Bob: I think we owe it to our guest this week to ask him some of the harder questions that we get asked around here and just see how he handles them.
Dennis: I agree!
Bob: I think that this is his duty to have to undergo. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, he survived some easy softball—
Bob: That’s right
Dennis: —slow-pitch softball, just lobbing it over the plate.
Bob: We gave him the easy stuff. Now, it’s time to pour it on.
Dennis: So now, it’s time to get with the gritty stuff that some single people and some parents of adult children are asking—
—how they can help their adult children find the right spouse. Ernie Baker—not Ernie Banks—Ernie Baker joins us on FamilyLifeToday. Ernie, welcome back.
Ernie: I thought you guys were loving. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m a Cardinal fan; and Ernie said he really likes—actually, his wife since 1981, Rose, really likes the Cubbies.
Ernie: That’s right.
Bob: And that’s why we’re starting to throw the hard balls your way. You ready?
Dennis: Ernie has written a book called Marry Wisely, Marry Well. He has six adult children. They are empty-nesters now.
Let’s just start out with a real easy one; okay? “Is there a right one that we’re supposed to marry?”
Ernie: That’s actually not the easiest one to start with. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you don’t know what’s waiting on you, Ernie! [Laughter]
Ernie: I’m going to sound like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth on this one, but here’s what my theology tells me.
Because I have such a big view of the sovereignty of God, I believe that the Lord is directly involved in the affairs of our lives so that He is directing and He does have a plan that is unfolding for my life. But my job is not to focus on finding the only right one—my job is to focus on wisdom. So to answer that question: “I see that God has a role. He has this sovereign plan that is unfolding—it is beyond me / it is going to happen. Then my part is to trust Him, use wisdom in making decisions. All of that is working together for His purposes to be accomplished.”
Bob: The reason it’s a tricky question is because you can find a lot of people who are obsessing over, “Have I found THE one?”
Bob: It’s kind of like going to the grocery store and trying to get toothpaste. There are 250 different kinds. You look at it and go, “I’d have to try all 250 to know which is the right toothpaste for me to buy,”—that’s never going to work with a marriage partner. But you’re saying God is bigger than all of that. There is a right one—you just don’t have to obsess over going to Kilimanjaro to make sure you’ve examined every last person before you say, “I do.”
Ernie: Except for Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7, “Marry whoever you want, only in the Lord.”—
Ernie: —that’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7. So I would say: “Use wisdom—that’s my role, and that’s biblical wisdom. Then there is a sovereign God, who has purposes that are unfolding; and I trust Him.”
Dennis: There are those listening to the broadcast, right now, just like there are many who come to our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, who come up, at the end of the message, and they go, “I just don’t think I’m married to the right one.”
I understand after they unpack their story. They made a decision before they became a follower of Christ—they weren’t consulting the Bible / they weren‘t listening to God—they wouldn’t have anything to do with it. In fact, it may have been as a result of a number of bad choices that they ended up with the spouse they ended up with.
Here’s what I say to that person: “You know, if you’re married right now, you need to accept that person as the one that God has supplied for you. I am confident that God, in His sovereign ability, can take two people, who don’t know Him, and He can bring them together for a purpose so noble, so good, that He can take two broken human beings and use them—to not only glorify Himself—but produce something that is really good / that’s beautiful—that impacts other people and is a model of love and commitment. It may not be easy. In fact, it may be downright hard!
But it is the right thing to do—to set your marriage apart as one that God has given you today and get with the program.
Bob: The way we’ve said it at the Weekend to Remember is: “The person you are married to is God’s perfect provision for you / your unique gift. You need to receive that person as a gift rather than as a porcupine.”
Dennis: Even though your spouse is not perfect —in terms of they’re not going to be free of selfishness, of hurting you, of having bad habits—we’re not saying that. We’re saying God in heaven still brings imperfect people together for His purposes / to declare who He is to a broken world.
Ernie: This touches on the doctrine of providence—is what we call it. I have, in the book, a quote from my favorite book on knowing God’s will called Step by Step by James Petty. He says this:
“The Bible teaches, number one, that God does have one specific plan for your life. Two, the events and choices of your life irresistibly and sovereignly work that plan in every detail; and it has all your mistakes, blindnesses, and sins accounted for in advance. These truths are included in what is known as the doctrine of providence. Without understanding providence, we will never be able to think clearly about God’s daily involvement with our lives. Much of the confusion about God’s guidance in Christian circles is caused by a lack of understanding of this historic doctrine.”
Bob: We’ve got some people, who just said: “Wait. Say that slower, because I need that quote.” We’re going to put that on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com so folks can just read about what we mean when we talk about providence.
Bob: If you’re interested in what Ernie just read, go to FamiytLifeToday.com and the quote is there.
Dennis: Or here is my simplified version of this: “God either is or isn’t in control.”
Ernie: That’s right.
Dennis: “If He’s not in control, that means the universe is random,”—that makes me crazy.
Dennis: I can’t imagine how you make sense out of this without going back to a Divine Designer, who knows what He’s doing, and somehow—even in our selfishness, in our sinfulness, in our broken ways—he can take two of those people, put them together, and use them for His purposes.
Alright; what’s the next question?
Bob: The next question—Ernie, it’s the beginning of the 21st century. Technology has given us all kinds of advantages. I think I read a statistic that says either one in four or one in five couples who are getting married today met online. So how about it?—online dating good way to—let’s say you’re living in North Dakota. You’ve met every girl in town, and she does not meet the godly qualifications you’re looking for.
Should eHarmony® be an option for you?
Ernie: One of the messages throughout the book that I’m trying to send is—not to get hung up on methodology as much as wisdom in using whatever methodology, unless the methodology is an ungodly methodology. I think cohabitation is an ungodly methodology and that would be—it violates so many biblical principles. So whatever methodology is being used, you apply wisdom to it.
Now, the concern I have with online dating is it’s easy to not be your real self. You can put on fronts. What I tell young people is: “Just make sure you get to know the real person. So if you’re going to use that as a methodology, use wisdom.”
Bob: I think it’s a good way to maybe get introduced; but unless you’ve got some time—where you’re eye to eye, face to face, side by side—you’re not really going to get to know that other person, online, the way you can in a living relationship.
Dennis: So here’s a hot question for you, Ernie. Are you saying that, when you dated Rose, you really disclosed who you really were to her?—that that was a better methodology? [Laughter]
Ernie: She knows who I am now, and I am thankful for the grace of God. [Laughter]
Dennis: My point is this: “You know what? There is no way two people, outside of marriage, are going to know the other person, like two / three decades worth of marriage. That’s a part of the discovery—that’s a part of the risk here. But your warning, I believe, is fair. There certainly can be deception more easily achieved in online dating. So the point is: “Nothing takes the place of a face-to-face relationship. I think that needs to be understood by this generation.”
Bob: Okay; next question. Somebody wants to know: “I’ve read the story of Gideon trying to make decisions. He put out a fleece. I’m trying to decide, ‘Is this person the one I should ask?’ I’ve been asking God to give me a sign to confirm it in some way. Is that an appropriate way to pray?—for God to somehow confirm through His Word, through circumstances, through wet rags on the back patio. Is that an okay way to be praying as you seek a spouse?”
Ernie: Well, there are going to be people who disagree with me on my thoughts on this. I believe God is very gracious—He was very gracious to Gideon. But I would see it as a sign of—it was weakness, because he was doubting the Lord. The message that I see in Scripture, over and over, is: “Learn wisdom. Learn wisdom. Learn wisdom. Be people of the Word / be people of the promises. Live out the Word of God.”
Now, is God gracious when people do things like that? He certainly is in all of our weaknesses, our lack of faith, or our doubts. People use things like that, and our God is abundantly gracious.
Bob: So, if you go to bed one night, saying, “Lord, if she’s the one, make it cloudy tomorrow when I wake up”—right? You wake up in the morning—it’s partly cloudy—and you go, “Was that cloudy, or is that…?”
Dennis: Well, especially, if you check the weather forecast before you prayed. [Laughter]
Ernie: On the other hand, I have someone who was just praying, and praying, and praying for the Lord’s will / pleading with the Lord’s will: “Lord, please show me who the person is.” She walked out of the student center on the Virginia Tech campus and there was a guy sitting by the side, reading his Bible. She thought: Oh, God must have answered my prayer.” She went up an introduced herself and found out that they had radically different doctrinal beliefs, and it wasn’t God’s will.
Bob: So your point about wisdom is really the important point.
At the same time, this requires a step of faith on our part; because I remember thinking, “I think she’s the right one.” How do you know?—and the answer is: “You don’t know.”
Bob: You take a step of faith and say, “Lord, I believe You brought us to this point.” I remember praying during courtship and engagement with Mary Ann: “If this is not the right one, please throw up the roadblocks now. Please do something so it’s clear to me, but I’m going to move forward in faith that you brought the two of us together”.
Dennis: Okay; Ernie, next question. I want you to answer it—first of all, to the couple who are dating. That’s a young lady or a young man, who is in a relationship, where they’re about to marry someone who is not a follower of Christ / who is clearly not a believer. What would be your advice to that couple?
Ernie: “This is not in your best interests.”
I would be warning them about the incompatibility of different belief systems. Just as it would be very hard to picture a Jew, who is committed to Judaism, and a Muslim, committed to Islam, getting married—that just seems very far etched to us. That: “Okay; I’m a person who says my world view is Jesus Christ; and I believe the Bible to some extent; and I’m marrying a person, who says everything came from chance and maybe there’s a God / maybe there’s not a God.” You are on a path that is going to cause, at least, at a minimum, a tremendous amount of confusion.
Dennis: “But I can lead him to Christ,”—that’s what she would say or what he would say—“My life is going to be so compelling as I follow Christ that they’re going to want to become a believer.”
Ernie: I guess I would plead, based upon my three-plus decades of pastoral counseling experience of—I could tell you horror story after horror story of people who told themselves that lie. “Please don’t go down that path.”
Dennis: Okay; now I want you to talk to the parents / the believing parents of the young man and young lady, who are thinking about getting married, where they are not spiritually compatible. What would you say to the parents?
Ernie: Wow; this is a mine field because—
Dennis: We quit playing softball yesterday. [Laughter]
Ernie: —I have story after story flooding through my brain, right now, with this question; because they hear all of the pain in that. It is really tough to want to be discipling your children and not be controlling and know when to take the hands off and walk that tight rope of: “I am preparing my child to launch into life to be a healthy, productive citizen and follower of Christ,” versus “I am going to stay directly involved, and I’m going to resist the relationship.”
Boy!—is that a controversial subject. My default is to tell parents, at this point: “It’s too late. They’re already making decisions. If you start intervening at this late stage—unless there’s domestic violence or you know that there’s some incredible danger—you better take your hands off and learn to trust God, because you’re on the verge of possibly even losing the relationship with your child for the rest of their lives.”
Bob: You may remember this, Dennis. We had a Christian leader on, many years ago, whose son was about to marry an unbelieving spouse. I remember asking the Christian leader, “What did you do?” He said, “Well, first of all, my wife wore out the rug in the bedroom, on her knees, praying and begging God to intervene in this situation.”
He said, “I called my son and I just said, ‘I just want to say to you, “Remember who you are and remember whose you are, and think about that before you make this decision.” In this case, the son ultimately decided to break off the engagement and the mom and dad were grateful for God’s intervention in that situation.
Dennis: One last question on this subject. Increasingly, there are a number of adult children, who are bringing a future spouse home; and they are that of the same sex. Speak to the parents of what you say or don’t say and whether or not you go to the wedding.
Ernie: I bring this issue up with my marriage and family class. We talk about that, because that’s where my students are. They have friends that are getting married, and they are getting invited.
People are not going to agree with me on this, but I do not view same-sex marriage as marriage. My term for it would be “counterfeit marriage.” [Marriage]—it’s a covenant relationship, as a sacred ceremony, before the Lord.
I would not be able to be supportive and go to a friend’s abortion. I could not say, “Because I’m loving and I want to be supportive to my friend, I’m going to go to her abortion.” It’s similar, in my mind; because of the sacredness with which I view marriage that I could not do that. I could not go to that wedding, because of what the wedding represents.
Bob: The same issue if it was your kids, not just a friend getting married, but one of your kids.
Ernie: Yes. I would have to say that. I mean, I would be pleading with them with tears, you know: “I love you, and I realize that there are consequences to that.”
But I really have a hard time seeing myself compromising what I believe what the covenant is.
Bob: And you know, because you’ve talked to enough people. There are good and godly people who do disagree on what’s the right thing to do.
Bob: And so one, who makes one choice should not hold that choice over the head of somebody else. We have to be bound by our own conscience and how we walk this path; right?
Ernie: I agree totally.
Dennis: So back to softball. What do you think is the most important thing you did to prepare your three sons and three daughters for marriage?
Ernie: I hope modeling for them what it means to live as worshipers of the Lord together—so a mom and a dad who really believe that life is about being God-glorifiers—
—and: “Now, how does that work out?— not just on Sunday, but what does that mean, day by day by day that we’re going to live as worshipers together?” And that means things like: “We really believe the gospel. So what’s a Christian home?—it’s a gospel-saturated home so we actually forgive each other; we are gracious with each other; we are merciful with each other. We show love to one another, even when the other person doesn’t deserve love.” I think that’s what the answer would be.
Bob: I think he connected on that one.
Dennis: I think he did. I appreciate your kindness in answering all the questions and also the agony on your face as you contemplated the answer on others. [Laughter] Ernie— thanks for being on the broadcast. Thanks for your ministry there in the Jacksonville, Florida, area, and for many, many years of ministry to college students, who probably are listening to these broadcasts: “I’ve heard that answer before!”
Bob: “I remember Dr. Baker talking about that in class!”
Dennis: Thanks for being on our broadcast.
Ernie: Thank you very much. It’s been a privilege and an honor.
Dennis: And I would hope our listeners would be thinking, even now, about young people they might know—high school seniors, or those who are in college, maybe those who have just started a career and are still single—those who could benefit from reading the book, Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLifeToday Resource Center.
Again, this is not a book for an engaged couple—this is a book for singles, in advance, of engagement / in fact, in advance of establishing any kind of a romantic relationship. This is to help you think rightly about marriage and about your future as you start to date or as you start to think about a marriage partner. The book is called Marry Wisely, Marry Well. Order,online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and the number is 1--800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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It is interesting how many people are tuning in and listening in a wide variety of places and locations. For this person, he’s able to listen because he has access to our program through the FamilyLife app.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to look ahead to Mother’s Day, which is coming up Sunday. We want you to hear from a number of moms, who have been guests of ours over the last 25 years, sharing with us wisdom about motherhood. I think you’ll get some great insights as you tune in tomorrow. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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