Pastor Norm and Dina founded  in 2003. Their “passion is God” and their “mission is people.” They believe that the Church should not be contained in the four walls of a building, but reach out beyond that into the community. They desire for East Coast Believers Church to impact and increase the Kingdom of God locally, as well as globally. The Dubois’ spent 11 years in full time ministry in the U.S. and abroad before starting East Coast Believers Church. Norm and Dina are graduates of Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Norm is a member of Rhema Ministerial Association through which he is ordained. He also holds credentials with World Outreach Church of Tulsa / Mark Brazee Ministries. These organizations provide spiritual accountability. Norm is a native Floridian and a University of Central Florida graduate. Norm and Dina reside in Oviedo, Florida along with their five children and find it an honor that God has given them the privilege to serve as the pastors of East Coast Believers Church.

Building Relationships that Last
Norm Dubois

Building Relationships that LastRecently, I read an article that stated between 1,700 and 1,800 pastors leave their assignments each month, most due to burnout or marital stress. Honestly, I read statistics like this and tend to think they will never affect me, my circle of friends or my sphere of influence. Recently, however, I had a big wake-up call. A friend showed me an old photograph of four couples that I had the privilege of teaching in bible school. As I inquired about each of them, I was saddened to hear that three of the four couples in the photo had divorced. Suddenly, the statistic I mentioned above was no longer just a number, but had affected me in a personal way.

It seems most relationships in our society are not working well. You have most likely heard and know the statistics. I believe one of the greatest issues for believers is that we have defined our relationships on a contractual, or earthly level, but God defines them quite differently. He defines relationships based on covenant. To have “God-kind of results,” we have to re-define our relationships on a “God-kind of level.”

In a contract, we protect our rights and limit our responsibilities. We want all the benefits of a covenant relationship, but expect to live a selfish lifestyle. Especially as Americans, we want to protect our rights. We have been trained to protect our rights. In covenant however, we give up our rights and pick up responsibilities. In a covenant, there should be sacrifice to the point of death to meet the needs of the other person.

Genesis 2:21-25 shows us God’s pattern for marriage. From this passage we can glean three truths that will help us succeed in our relationships. But we must be willing to re-define them to the standard that God set forth.

First, we see that God started the relationship by cutting Adam and taking out a rib from his side. God immediately took their relationship to a covenant level.

Genesis 2:21-25
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening.
22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”
24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

From this passage, we can learn three RIGHTS that we give up when we enter into the covenant relationship of marriage.

First, we give up the right of priority. We can longer be number one or put ourselves first; we have a new number one when we enter into a covenant. A commitment must be made to our spouse that they are now first, above all other people and endeavors. We see in verse 24, God sets forth that a man should even re-prioritize the dearest relationship he has known when he enters into this new covenant relationship. God says a man is to leave his father and mother. The bottom line is, for a covenant relationship to work, you have to give it the place of priority. The same is true with God. He wants to be number one in our lives. He put us first, so He wants us to put Him first (Matthew 6:33).

The problem is we say we believe this principle, but we don’t always demonstrate it. Oftentimes, we give our best to our job or hobby, yet at home we give our spouse what we have left over. Another danger can be child-centered homes. We have to be very careful to keep a proper balance of priorities in the home because of what it communicates to our children. For instance, I always to try to give my wife a significant gift for Christmas in front of our children. I want to demonstrate to our kids that Dina is number one.

Second, we give up the right of ownership. In a covenant relationship, we give our spouse the right to co-own everything in our lives. It is not my stuff that I am generous with; that is a contract. Everything I have (time, money, possessions), my wife also owns. Nothing is exclusive; my wife has equal and free access to all I have. There is no mine or yours — only ours. One thing is certain: selfish people do not do well in covenant relationships! I believe that when a married couple has separate checking accounts, it can be dangerous to the relationship. It can so easily turn into “his money” and “her money.” I recommend separate accounts for administrative purposes only and to be very careful it does not become “his account vs. her account.”

The third right we give up is the right of privacy. Our spouse should have unhindered access to every part of our lives. There can be no secrets in a successful covenant relationship. Genesis 2:25 says, “now the man and the wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” They were completely exposed; nothing was hidden from the other. In a secure relationship, our life is an open book. Practically, this means, our computers, email or social media accounts shouldn’t have private passwords we hide from our spouse. In the same way, spouses need to be able to openly share their lives, hearts and struggles without fear of retribution.

In a successful covenant relationship not only do we give up rights, but we also pick up responsibilities. The most explicit New Testament passage on marriage is found in Ephesians 5:22-33.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.
24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her
26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.
27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.
29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.
30 And we are members of his body.
31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

According to this passage, there are three responsibilities that we pick up if we want to have a successful covenant relationship.

First, we must love unconditionally. Let me go so far as to say that if it is conditional, it is not love. In fact, it is easy to love when things are lovely. In contrast, God’s standard for love in a covenant relationship is found in Christ’s love for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” At some point, we will be faced with this question — will I love when they don’t deserve it? I am so glad God never withholds His love from us, though so undeserving! Even when we are faithless, He is faithful! A contract is conditional, but covenant binds me regardless of the other person’s performance. This is one reason divorce is against the very nature of God — because on their worst day, when our spouse deserves love the least, they actually need it the most. This is a responsibility in covenant as God designed it.

Second, we should honor respectfully. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that lacks honor on every level. I believe God wants us to put honor back in our society and it can start with our marriages. Honor simply means to place value upon. In verse 26 of Genesis 2, it says, husbands are to make their wives holy. Holy does not mean perfect, it means set apart or special. Sadly, we have a generation of young men that do not know how to treat young ladies. I believe the equal rights movement started in this nation largely because women weren’t being treated properly with honor. Although I do not like the spirit of the movement, it is a response to the fact that we have not had the level of honor that God requires in our marriages.

Thirdly, we pick up a responsibility to submit mutually. True submission is not demanded, it is offered. This same principle of submission is what makes our relationship with God a success. He wants to be first place in our hearts and lives. A successful relationship with God is based on the fact that He is not just on our list but He’s at the very top of our list. We give ourselves freely and completely to Him. Not because He demands it, but we offer ourselves in response to His great and immeasurable love.