Gary Thomas

For Southeast’s “You & Me” sermon series, Gary Thomas will share a message titled “Cherish” Sunday, Feb. 14.

One of the greatest models of God’s image is found in the union of marriage.

In Southeast Christian Church’s upcoming “You & Me” sermon series, guest speakers Gary Thomas, Jonathan Pokluda and Ben Stuart will encourage healthy marriages and friendships.

The three-week sermon series begins Sunday, Feb. 14, with a sermon by Thomas titled “Cherish.”

Thomas wrote the book “Cherish” about three years ago, and he said putting that small but significant word into practice can cause a marriage to flourish.

“I believe 2020 revealed what’s been there all along, but in a busy life that often pulls us in different directions, we can hide from issues,” Thomas said. “It was really putting our relationships under a microscope and saying, ‘This is what’s really happening.’ For me, cherish is a goal and the way out if we’ve fallen back. Cherish isn’t just a feeling, but a commitment that can be learned.”

The word “cherishing” is used in Song of Songs. Thomas makes the distinction between loving and cherishing your spouse.

“Love focuses me on my obligations to serve, persevere and hang in there,” Thomas added. “Cherish focuses me on the excellence of my spouse. It turns my eyes from what I’m supposed to do to who my spouse is. Marriage needs both, but without cherishing, I’ve found it becomes more a discipline instead of a delight. Rather than focusing on, ‘I’m going to love you and stay with you because I promised to,’ it’s more affirming to my wife to delight in her.”

When Thomas said his marriage vows more than 35 years ago and promised to love and cherish his wife, Lisa, he didn’t think about the word “cherish.”

“It really was a word hiding in plain sight,” he said. “I remembered being reminded in prayer that I had made a promise to love and cherish my spouse. That was probably the last time I thought about that word. I wrote books and preached sermons on love. I’ve been overwhelmed by the impact of (my book) ‘Cherish.’ It has completely changed the way some couples looked at their spouse. A couple of those said they’re on their fourth or fifth reading.”

Thomas is excited to bring his wife and speak at Southeast on Valentine’s Day.

“My wife and I are thrilled to be there and see all God is doing. We’ve heard so much about Southeast historically and (it’s) a place where God continues to move so mightily,” Thomas said. “The irony is—especially when our kids were young—the best way to not be with your spouse on Valentine’s Day is to write a marriage book because that’s when churches want to do conferences and messages on it.”

The Feb. 21 sermon, “Love that Lasts,” with Jonathan Pokluda, will focus on the idea that many couples head into marriage with unrealistic expectations of what it will be like. Pokluda will share how spouses can create a love that lasts beyond the honeymoon phase.

“We Need Us,” with Ben Stuart on Feb. 28, will draw from the Book of Philippians and the need for community. Stuart will encourage the church to unify around a common purpose.