Marriage in Light of Eternity
Your marriage is just a small part of a bigger picture. Pastor Francis Chan and his wife, Lisa, happily reflect on their courtship and eventual marriage. The Chans remind listeners how important it is to find a spouse who loves the Lord so that together they can serve God with all their hearts.
About the Guest
Pastor Francis Chan and his wife, Lisa, remind listeners how important it is to find a spouse who loves the Lord so that together they can serve God with all their hearts.
Marriage in Light of Eternity
Bob: You’ve heard the statistic that the divorce rate in the church is no different than the divorce rate outside of the church? Francis Chan says he’s not buying it.
Francis: Yes, I mean—I really believe there has never been a divorce between two Spirit-filled believers. They are using stats of everyone who goes to church—calls themselves a Christian—which, man, that’s what the Bible—that’s what Jesus says all the time: “I know you say that you are a believer. You call Me, ‘Lord’; but why do you call Me, ‘Lord,’ when you don’t do what I say?” The whole book of 1 John is—it doesn’t matter that you say you know Him—because you don’t obey His commands, you are a liar.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. To make a marriage work, Francis and Lisa Chan say it takes more than two—more than you and me. We’ll explore that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. We’re down to the last three days of our FamilyLife Oneness Prayer Challenge. All during the month of September, we have been, not just encouraging husbands and wives to pray together each day, but we have been sending out prompts every day. Today, we’re encouraging you to pray that, when you experience conflict in marriage, you would handle it with grace and with wisdom.
And I’ll just mention—if you’ve not been a part of the 30-day Oneness Prayer Challenge, you can start it in your marriage today. All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for information about the Oneness Prayer Challenge. Sign up; and we’ll send you, every day, a prayer prompt for the next 30 days because we think it’s pretty important for married couples.
Now, I’ve got to be honest with you, Dennis.
I have always wanted to meet one of our guests today because I’ve always wanted to meet the woman who could be married to Francis Chan; you know? [Laughter]
Dennis: You know—yes, I’ve wondered that as well. So, Lisa, welcome to the broadcast. [Laughter]
Lisa: Thank you very much.
Dennis: You’ve kind of wondered that, too, by now; haven’t you?
Lisa: Yes. What did I get myself into? No. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, he’s a good man. Francis—
Lisa: Yes, he is!
Dennis: —welcome back.
Francis: Thank you.
Dennis: We’ve had you on the broadcast, and we have battled for—
Dennis: —the soapbox in the middle of the table and the microphones as we’ve talked about the Holy Spirit a number of years ago.
Francis: That’s right.
Dennis: But you guys have written a fresh book called You and Me Forever. It’s subtitled: Marriage in Light of Eternity. Now, you may not know this; but our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway begins talking about the glory of God / the transcendent purpose of marriage as God intended it. Couples are learning that marriage is about more than just “you and me.”
Bob: And most people think it’s about them; don’t they?
Francis: Yes, marriage is just a small part of this bigger picture in Scripture.
Bob: But be honest—you didn’t have the bigger picture when you went to Lisa and proposed; did you?
Francis: No, no, no—not at all.
Dennis: You thought it was about you two; didn’t you?
Francis: Oh, yes—absolutely.
Bob: Tell us how you guys met and tell us how he popped the question, Lisa.
Lisa: Well, I knew the worship pastor at church that Francis was working at, at the time. He and I had kind of grown up at the same church—the worship pastor. So, he had me come over and sing. He, actually, is the one who started feeding both of us these lines of—for me, it was: “You’ve got to stop dating anyone else. Francis is the one for you.”
Dennis: Oh, so, it was an arranged marriage.
Lisa: It really was. [Laughter] He was so confident—Dan, we thank you still. So, I came over—started going to the church a lot to play lead in their Christmas musical. Francis kind of found a way to ask me out.
Francis: Yes, I asked if I could be a stage manager. I told—
—I was honest with the worship pastor: “I don’t really care about your play. I want to meet this girl.” [Laughter]
Dennis: So, you paid off the guy—Dan—and told him to arrange the marriage.
Francis: Oh, yes. He just gave me a little headset and said: “Go. Meet her.” [Laughter] Seriously, I had no responsibilities except to ask her out.
Bob: So, how did you—how long after you asked her out before you proposed?
Francis: Well, we had to wait like five or six months because it took a while to convince her parents, but I was okay with that.
Lisa: I was the youngest of five. So, it was a little bit of having a hard time letting go.
Francis: Yes. So, they said, “No,” a couple of times to me.
Francis: Oh, yes.
Dennis: So, you went to the dad—
Francis: Oh, yes—asked for the blessing.
Dennis: —and he said…?
Francis: “Nope.” [Laughter] I think my life—my mindset of just doing anything for the Lord / going anywhere can be a little scary to parents.
Bob: And do you think your mom and dad were just a little worried about what this man might lead you into?
Lisa: Yes, I think they were a little bit scared.
You know, they didn’t know him at all. So, it took a while to: “Let’s make sure we really know who he is because, maybe, he’s crazy for God; or maybe, he’s just crazy.” [Laughter]
Dennis: So, how did you pop the question? Take us to the experience. Knowing Francis Chan, this can’t be average.
Francis: No, we were going to go waterskiing—back then, people still waterskied—[Laughter] —with a bunch of friends. I had set up on this little island in the middle of the lake—you know, nice little flowers, and music, and video camera—everything else. So, she kind of knew, as we were walking up there; and it was playing our song, you know—popped the question there.
Bob: So, I want to go back to the first year of the Chan marriage. I want to go all the way back to the starting point because you both loved God / you both were sold out to Him, but you realized that marriage looks different from one side of the altar than it looks from the other side of the altar; right?
Francis: Yes. You really do; but I will say, we were warned about so many things like: “Be careful of this. First year is going to be tough. This is going to be crazy.” And I seriously felt little to none of that. It was like a dream come true—it really was—like honeymoon—on: “Wow! I can’t believe I get to be with my best friend. We never have to say goodbye.” It was a dream.
Dennis: You clicked.
Francis: Oh, yes.
Dennis: You clicked together.
Dennis: What about you, Lisa?
Lisa: Yes, I would totally agree—although, I am having a flashback of the time he made me so mad that I threw my shoe at the closet just to get a real loud bang out of it. There were moments of just total pride, and selfishness, and silliness that first year; but we kept waiting for the shoe to drop—“When is this going to feel so awful and terrible?”
Bob: And the shoe didn’t drop, but it did get thrown. [Laughter]
Lisa: It did get thrown.
Dennis: Did you throw it at him?
Lisa: It was not at him. It was specifically to make a very loud noise.
Bob: And what prompted the shoe throwing; do you remember?
Lisa: That’s what’s so funny—my daughter was asking me that the other day. I said: “Honey, I can’t even tell you. I cannot remember, even slightly, what it was about.”
Francis: It was probably something I said—I was very sarcastic back then. [Laughter]
Bob: As I’m listening to you guys describe your first year—Mary Ann and I would be very similar. We—our first year, we didn’t hit the hiccups. We kind of enjoyed being with one another—just like you described.
But I think it was probably—I don’t know—maybe, ten years into our marriage when I was getting ready to prepare for a small group meeting that was going to happen at our house. Couples were coming over, and we were going to start a new study about marriage. I was doing some prep work that afternoon—I was reading through these passages and reading some of the stuff. It dawned on me that: “Oh! Marriage is supposed to be about God.” We had said, as couple: “We want God to be at the center of our marriage. We want…” But there is a difference between having God at the center of your marriage and having marriage be about Him.
Do you know what I’m saying?
Francis: Yes; yes. Well, I mean, even in our marriage—because we’ve been married 21 years now—and we’ve, maybe, fought a dozen times in all of that time. Then, it’s only for a couple of hours, if that. Part of what prompted us to write this book was, “How come we don’t fight?” We realized it’s because we haven’t been focused on each other—I mean, from Day One.
We were three weeks into the marriage when I felt like the Lord asked me to start a church. This is nothing we’d ever talked about—and to look at my new wife and say: “I feel like God wants me to do this. I know we never talked about it.” So, we did what we were told not to do—which: “Hey, don’t get right into the ministry.” Well, we’re three weeks in—going, “God wants me to start a church.” For Lisa to go: “You know what? I believe God called me to just support you in whatever way you are going to lead our family. So, if that is what you think God wants us to do, let’s go.”
So, ever since the beginning, we’ve been thinking about others and: “How do we minister to people? How do we reach our neighborhood? How do we reach our city?” Because we’ve both been on this mission together, it’s taken us all around the world now. It hasn’t just been about: “Hey, you and me—you’re not making me feel good / I’m not making you feel good.” It’s about: “Hey, we’re here for a purpose.” As we’ve pursued that, it’s caused us to be so in love with each other.
Dennis: Lisa, what did you think when he came up with this vision and it wasn’t just a vision for him? It was also a transformational moment for you because he was going to need you to go do something you weren’t necessarily planning on.
Lisa: Yes, I think—you know, it’s so important for single women/young girls to watch and see that the man they are interested in or the man that they are dating is really walking with the Lord—because that gave me a lot of confidence to say: “You know what? I do trust God in you.
“I trust that He’s showing you a plan—put something on your heart. That’s my role, then—I’m going to jump in. I’m going to roll my sleeves up, and let’s get to work. We need Sunday school teachers. We need to do a mid-week kids’ program.”
I mean, we were doing so much stuff; but it was so fun. In a way, even though it was tiring, it was also just: “We love these people. Let’s serve them. Let’s do what God put on your heart.” I was so drawn to him because he loved God in a way that was very different than a lot of the people I had been surrounded by in my own church setting. That is not to bad-mouth them, necessarily; but—wow—it was like the way Francis would teach and preach—he had this fear of God and this reverence for the Word of God.
In fact, before we got married, the best gift I have ever been given was this Bible that he gave to me a couple weeks before we got married. It had my married name inscribed on it—it said, “Lisa Chan” before I was Lisa Chan. And he wrote this whole letter inside of it to me:
“This is what we are going to commit our lives to. I want to see you wear this Bible out.” You know—and just: “Wow! What a gift—to have a husband with that kind of mindset”; you know?
Dennis: Francis, you believe that we have dumbed down marriage into this horizontal relationship of two people trying to make each other happy. What you and Lisa have written about, here, is that there is a transcendent purpose to marriage that is God-created/God-imbedded. If we miss this, we miss life.
Francis: Absolutely. You know, we tend to focus on certain passages in Scripture and not others. When you look at what the Bible says about marriage—yes, Paul wrote Ephesians 5, but even that was really about Christ and the church—but Paul, who wrote that, also wrote 1 Corinthians 7 [verses 29-31]—which is: “This is what I mean, brothers, the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none; and those who mourn, as though they were not mourning; those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing; those who buy as though they had no goods;”—
—and he goes on—“for the present form of this world is passing away.”
He’s saying: “Those who have wives—just live like you do not because there is something bigger here—there is this mission. We’ve got this brief time here on earth, and this is what we’ve got to be about. The Bible does talk about a marriage, but the emphasis is this marriage of the Lamb and this eternal marriage that we’re going to be in.
I mean if we just sat and wrote down everything Jesus said—every time He—wrote down, “Husband,” or “wife,” or “family”—just write down all those verses—we’d be shocked! I mean, the way He speaks about family is: “I am so far beyond that. Yes, I created marriage. Yes, I created man and woman, and I want you to live this way. But the point of that is so that the world has a picture of this beautiful marriage that’s going to happen one day,”—
—and this picture of this beautiful Father that we have in heaven. We’re just that shadow / we’re just that glimpse—but too often, in the church—we make it all about us, and it’s killing our marriages.
Dennis: A marriage that’s operating under the authority of Scripture and attempting to live obediently under the Lordship of Christ / living under His authority—even though they are doing it imperfectly—should show God off to a lost world.
Dennis: And I think it’s going to be one of our most powerful witnessing tools in the Christian community, going forward. In fact, I think, in one of the chapters, Lisa, you wrote what would happen if marriages got it together and divorce was rare.
Lisa: Wouldn’t that be so amazing to have the statistics be: “Wow! Those who belong to Christ / those who are following Christ—their divorce rate is next to nothing.” That is what would make sense, given what we know / what we believe—that we have the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s like—you think of those times when the Apostles would say this: “Brothers, this ought not to be,”—like that’s what goes through our hearts: “People / believers out there—come on! This ought not to be. We’ve got to rise above and recognize who we are. We are God’s children, who have been given His Spirit. We can live out our lives in a very different way.”
Bob: Well, the interesting thing is—the statistics we’ve all heard—that marriage is the same in the church as it is outside the church. Well, that’s true if “in the church” means, “Ask a guy—‘Are you a Christian?’”
Bob: But if you ask a guy: “Do you go to church every week? Do you read your Bible? Do you pray together?”—now, all of a sudden, the marriage statistics are completely different because believers, who are walking with Christ, recognize, “It ought not to be,” and they are living for something different.
Francis: Yes, I mean—I really believe there has never been a divorce between two Spirit-filled believers. Never in history has there been two Spirit-filled people / people walking in the Spirit who have gotten divorced.
It’s impossible! There’s only one Spirit. So, one person has to be just not walking with Him in order to leave. I completely agree with you—they’re using stats of everyone who goes to church or calls themselves a Christian—which, man, that’s what the Bible—that’s what Jesus says all the time: “I know you say that you are a believer. You call Me, ‘Lord’; but why do you call Me, ‘Lord,’ when you don’t do what I say?” The whole book of 1 John is—it doesn’t matter that you say you know Him—because you don’t obey His commands, you are a liar.
Bob: Well, in fact, you say in the book that couples who say they have marriage problems need to recognize, “It’s not a marriage problem / it’s a God problem.”
Bob: Unpack what you mean by that.
Francis: Bottom line—Lisa and I, both, have made a commitment, individually, to God. I mean, she knows I’m not going to leave her—I can’t. Before the Lord, we are going to work everything out. In the same way, she has that same mindset.
We have this understanding, before the Lord, where He fills my every need—like
Psalm 23 says: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” I am not like desperately needing Lisa to fill all of these holes in my life because I’m such a needy person. The Lord is wonderful. I know the Creator of the universe! I’m going to be with Him forever! I’ve everything in my possession. So, He’s given me so much life—life to the full—that I just have life to give, and give, and give.
I don’t wake up in the morning going, “Gosh, I need so much from Lisa.” I’m filled in the Lord, and I have life to give to her. The same is true for her. When people understand that, then, they are not sucking the life out of one another and needing so much from one another—but they are getting their water from this fountain of life—which is God, Himself.
Lisa: Well, and that’s why it’s so important, too, for those who are in a marriage where only one of them is spiritually-minded, and they do not have a believing husband or wife, to say:
“You know what? It is still very possible for you to display the gospel alone.” There is some loneliness involved in that—and that’s not something we make light of—but it is still very, very possible for you to receive what you need from Christ and to love this other person and to display to the world—to your children / to the people around you—what it means to follow Christ and to display the gospel, even on your own.
Dennis: I’ve known a number of women and men, who have been in marriages like you are describing. I think they are among the most courageous in persevering.
Dennis: It is not easy—it is painful / it is lonely. They are not sharing the most important thing about their lives.
I want to go back to something you just said, Francis—that I just want to put a double underline under. There are two commitments that Barbara and I have made that completely altered our lives—certainly, our marriage covenant, where we decided, “We are not going to leave one another,”—
—but some months after we made our marriage covenant together, publicly and became married, we experienced our first Christmas together. We did something that Bill and Vonette Bright, who are the founders of Cru®, did when they started out their marriage. We signed a contract with God—a title deed.
We signed over the rights and authority of our lives to Almighty God. It wasn’t like it was a permanent contract, where we couldn’t renege because every day you’ve got to get up and re-up on your contract and agree—but we signed formal papers / two handwritten pieces of paper—where we gave everything we had and hoped to have to God, afresh, as Master and Lord of our lives.
At that point, Francis, it’s like—once you’ve settled the issue of ownership—
Dennis: —“Who is going to be your master? Who’s going to be your lord?”—because, if you are serving self—and you’ve got two people in the most intimate relationship of all of human history /
marriage—you’ve got two people who are serving self—you know where that’s headed. But if you’ve got two people, who are attempting to bow their necks / their wills before Almighty God and say: “God, would You show up? Would You do Your work in us and through us? Let us minister to each other, but also”—as you’ve said—“to the world.” That’s when a couple, I think, experiences the pleasure of God.
Francis: Amen. I mean, there’s something about getting your eyes off yourself and onto God and on His mission that just—I mean, it’s beautiful to me / it’s gorgeous to me when I see my wife serving other people. I just look at her like, “Gosh, look what she is doing!”
Being in Africa and watching her putting shoes on orphans, or feeding them, or counseling some lady in crisis, or walking around and knocking on doors and just asking, “Can I pray for you?” with a baby on her back—it was like:
“Gosh, she’s amazing!” or coming home and saying, “Honey, is it okay if this person comes and lives with us? I know he just got out of prison, but…” For her to say, “Yes; yes, we trust in the Lord,”—it just makes her more and more attractive to me because I see her love for Jesus, and her faith, and His reward.
Dennis: Francis, as you were bragging on Lisa, I just reflected on a meeting I was in yesterday, where I was bragging on Barbara. She has a heart for great theology passed on through women—wives/moms—into their families. She’s using her artistic ability to create biblically-anchored resources around the holidays that families celebrate to take families back to the Christian roots and allow women—wives, moms, grandmothers—to pass on the truth of the gospel to the next generation and beyond through those traditions.
I was just bragging on her, and frankly, got kind of emotional about it because, like you, when you were just smiling, as you were talking about Lisa visiting an orphanage—
—when you see your wife fulfilling what God’s design is for her, it can’t help but make you proud because you are a team. That’s what marriage is—it’s a couple who are about God’s purposes.
Bob: We’re talking about doing marriage with God’s agenda at the center of your marriage rather than your agenda at the center. When you start doing ministry together—whether it’s hosting an Art of Marriage® event, or visiting an orphanage, or whatever God lays on your heart—God’s going to use that in some powerful ways in your marriage and in your family.
Believe it or not, we’ve already been talking to some folks who are starting to plan ahead for 2016 and thinking about hosting an Art of Marriage event in their community or in their church. The cool thing is—2016 is our 40th anniversary, as a ministry. Our team said: “You know what we ought to do? We ought to put together an anniversary special.
“Anybody who would host one of these events and you would agree to take, at least, five couples through a Friday night / Saturday Art of Marriage event—we’ll send you the DVDs for free if you’ll agree to go ahead and purchase the workbooks for five couples and agree to take, at least, five couples through the material in 2016.”
Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Look for information about the book Francis and Lisa Chan have written on marriage that’s called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order the book from us, online; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this whole idea of having a God-centered marriage / having God’s purposes at the center of your marriage—
—this is really at the heart of what we’re all about, as a ministry, here at FamilyLife. Our goal is to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. We want to effectively develop godly families because we believe godly families can change the world, one home at a time.
And I just want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who have come alongside us this year and said, “This ministry is important, and we want to help make it happen.” We couldn’t do it without your support / without your help. If you can help with a donation today, we would love to send to you, as a thank-you gift, a calendar. It’s the FamilyLife 2016 Prayer Calendar, and the calendar starts in October of 2015. So, as soon as you get it, you can start using it. You can make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “I Care.” You’ll find that in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk more about what it looks like to live marriage with an outward-looking perspective, where your focus is on “How can we serve the Lord together?” rather than “How can we get our mate to please us or do what we want in our marriage?” We’ll have our guests, Francis and Lisa Chan, back with us. Hope you can be here as well.
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.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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