Tag Archives: Marriage

The Church, Suffering, Marriage and Politics

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Dear God, I have a lot of things seemingly converging on me this morning.

  1. There is an article in the new issue of Christianity Today called “Vanishing Vows: Can the Church Save What’s Left of Marriage?”
  2. I saw an interview with an Evangelical leader on the national stage talking about how the church is losing the next generation because they see us as more interested in politics and shaping the world instead of being who we are supposed to be as the church (and he was repenting and pointing the finger at himself as part of the problem).
  3. I have all of the anger and vitriol I am seeing in social media from some Christians about the government infringing on our freedoms, making us wear masks, etc.
  4. My encouragement of others to read the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, which has the thesis: “What if God intended marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
  5. I have my own personal struggles, but also remarkable blessings.

So I’ve grabbed myself some breakfast tacos (already eaten), come to our town square at 8:00 in the morning, brought my copy of Christianity Today, my Bible, and my keyboard; and I figure I will just kind of hash some of this out with the Holy Spirit this morning. This is likely gong to be a long one, but that’s good. It’s good to just kind of curl up with you and see if I can get a look into your heart and my own.

I guess I’ll start with this Christianity Today article on marriage.

“Vanishing Vows: Can the Church Save What’s Left of Marriage?”

I just want to take some notes on quotes from the article that strike me as I read it:

  • “Rachel” met a guy through a dating site, got married, and later became a Christian, but getting marriage and becoming a Christian “felt like a package deal.” Before she became a Christian, “sex was less meaningful, cohabitation was defensible, and marriage was a piece of paper issued by the state…After coming to faith and joining a Southern Baptist church, she now believes that Marriage is a covenant before God and a sacred relationship.”
  • In 2005, 50% of men between 25 and 34 were married. By 2018 the number was 35%.
  • “Ander,” a 25-year-old med student in Spain is engaged to another med student. They’ve dated for 6 years. What’s he afraid of regarding marriage? “Not to be free. Tied to someone. Compromised. Things you don’t know you don’t know. maybe we’re okay now, but not later. Differences arise in a couple. The other person is different that you thought they were.” When asked if six years of dating hadn’t enabled him to know her he replied, “I feel like I don’t know her that well.” He recognizes his fears about marriage have taken on a life of their own: “This fear is not pathological and is stopping us n some way from doing a good thing.”
  • In the United States, 72% of men who attend church weekly will marry by 35. That number is 50% for men who don’t attend church regularly.
  • In 2014, 56% of Evangelicals between 20 and 39 were married. By 2018 it was 51%.
  • Cohabitation for Christians went from 3,9% in 2014 to 6.7% in 2018. Support for cohabitation over that time went from 16% to 27%.
  • The idea of commitment should help relieve fears of uncertainty, but the author’s research showed the uncertainty of the future kept people from committing.
  • “What people expect from marriage has changed profoundly, even through that marriage offers has not.”
  • Russell Moore in The Storm-Tossed Family: Marriage is increasingly a “vehicle of self-actualization” rather than a setting for self-sacrifice.
  • New attitude as stated by “Chloe”: “You have your 20s to focus on you, and then [after that] you try to help others.” Author’s conjecture: Self-sacrifice is learned behavior, not a gift for your 30th birthday. [my own comment–the same is true for philanthropic giving and tithing]
  • 28-year-old Pentecostal woman from Lagos: “When I have everything I want. When I am able to achieve everything I want to achieve for myself. Then I will get married.”
  • “Farah” is a 25-year-old single Lebanese Christian woman. Lots of devout Lebanese women wait. When they do marry, they seem to work more, not less, since the cost of living in Beirut outpaces salaries. Spare time is swamped with domestic responsibilities: “When both spouses are working, they come home tired. Even before they have kids, the couple doesn’t have the time to sit together, so they delay their discussion time. They delay things to Saturday, usually, so Saturdays or weekends become overloaded, which becomes very tiring. This challenging condition is creating a new image of marriage.”
  • Author opinion: While most people marry with affection–as they should–marriage, when you observe it across time and place, still concerns the mutual provision and transfer of resources within a formalized sexual unction. That may sound unsexy and old-fashioned, but it’s not untrue. Matrimony has long depended on an exchange based on inequalities between the spouses: He needs shat she has, and vice versa. Many balk at this notion.
  • Author opinion: In an era of increasing options, technology, gender equality, cheap” sex, and secular inaction, fewer people–including fewer practicing Christians–actually want what marriage is. That’s the bottom line.
  • Since the secular inaction of the West feeds on and sustains the flight from marriage, the life of faith is key. But if the church becomes marriage’s primary defender n the West, how exactly do we protect and encourage it for those inside and outside our sanctuaries?
  • When talking to couples who had embraced marriage: “Meeting a mate seemed more likely to occur–or be on its way soon–when our interviewees focused on holiness before loneliness.”
  • Author opinion: Marriage is an earthly arrangement, on that our Lord noted will not be found in the post-resurrection kingdom of God (Matthew 22:30). It’s a tool for material flourishing and a vehicle for spiritual progress that provides daily (if not hourly) opportunities to exhibit sacrificial incarnational love.

Interview with Rob Schenck, President of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute

  • “There was a Faustian deal made with Donald Trump which went something like this: Donald Trump promised, “I will give you everything you’ve ever wanted on your laundry list of political deliverables if you will give me what I want and demand, and that is religious cover. I need you to say that I’m blessed of God and that everything I’ve done is good.”

Going back to the passage from Mark 8 above and combining it with the article on marriage and this video, are we weakened as individuals and as a church when we get the power and influence over culture that we want? Are we better off when we are persecuted and struggling? Isn’t that how the church in Acts grew? Isn’t that how the Israelite nation grew in Exodus? Have we made an idol of political influence? Have we made a idol of our comfort and our own personal agendas? What if you want to make us holy more than to make us happy?

  • The Southern Baptist Convention reports 13 straight years of decline with the last year being the largest (biggest single year decline in more than 100 years)–and Baptists aren’t alone. And the younger the age group the more alarming the drop. Would people be more attracted to the church if they saw it struggling and caring instead of its members yelling and demanding? “Young people especially are leaving Evangelical churches in droves. And why? Because they see the hypocrisy. They see an identification with establishment power. With political force and influence. They are tired of the combat. The social conflict…”


Father, while this is all good sermon material, what do you have here for me? Where do I compromise my call for my comfort? Do I overlook the needs of others because it’s too much work for me? Do I get too involved in seeking influence and compromise my convictions? Do I fail to take a stand for what I feel is right in deference to those who might financially support the nonprofit where I work? Holy Spirit, give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and words to say. Help me to be your influence on those around me through them seeing yours love and glory in me and not my judgment and self-righteousness.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


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Posted by on July 4, 2020 in Miscellaneous


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What I would say…

Dear God, I have some relatives graduating and one getting engaged this year. When I was thinking about graduation presents for them, I thought of two things.

For the graduates, I thought of a daily devotion book called My Utmost for His Highest. You know I know this one well. In fact, it was my source for scripture when I first started doing these prayer journals to you 20 years ago. But my history with that book actually goes back closer to 40 years. My dad used it as a daily devotion when I was young, and he gave me a copy of it when I graduated from high school. The inscription reads:



This book has really been meaningful to me as it constantly challenges me to turn loose of the distractions of life and to move into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus. I pray that you will likewise find it helpful in your personal walk with the Lord as you enter an exciting new phase in your life as a Baylor student.



I used it regularly my freshman year of college. The weakness in it for me is that its words were written pre World War I by a Brit, and the British language he used in the early 20th century was different than the language we use now. Thankfully, about 30 years ago, James Reimann re-edited it to update the language and it’s even clearer now.

The theology is this book is so solid, but I often found that just reading the daily verse, reading Mr. Chambers’s reflection on it, and then saying a prayer to you didn’t stick with me throughout the day. It wasn’t until I started to journal through the passages starting in April 2000 that your scripture and what you were saying to me through it began to seep into my soul.

So I found this version of the James Reimann edited edition that includes a column for at least writing down some personal reflections. IMG_3111

I ordered one for my niece and my nephew. I pray over these two books, that you will use them along with all of the other tools in your toolbox to draw their hearts into yours and lead them to lives submitted to you.

The second book I ordered was the one that changed the course of my marriage and who I eventually became as a husband to my wife. This one is for the niece who got engaged. It’s called Sacred Marriage and it was written by Gary Thomas. IMG_3112

The subtitle of the book is “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” That question alone gets your attention. Through reading this book and attending a workshop in person with my wife, you revealed to me how much I was depending upon my wife’s and children’s acceptance for my sense of worth instead of simply leaning into you. Ironically (or perhaps, providentially), I encountered this book right about the same time I started doing these prayer journals to you. I know we’ve talked about this a lot before, but I was a needy husband, and my neediness was oppressive to my wife. She could never fill up my “God hole” that I’d allowed to grow without you. I had made her an idol. I became codependent. It was all bad. But Gary helped me to see how you use my wife, my children, and everyone around me to shape me through the giving of myself, not the taking. That simple paradigm shift changed everything, and it helped me to become more disciplined in my pursuit of you as the source of my joy and peace.

So I have these young relatives who are starting new chapters in their lives. They have tremendous opportunities to radically affect the trajectory of their lives through the choices they make now. Who will they be in 10, 20, or 30 years? Well, as an uncle that they know just a little, I hope that what they know of me will give me the credibility to share these two critical tools you used on me and have them receive them as part of the tools you are using on them.

Father, I want to pray over my niece and my nephew right now. I pray for my niece, that she will experience the full measure of who you are. Help her to embrace you completely. Help her fiancé to completely embrace you as well. And as they work out their respective faiths with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), unite their hearts together completely. Give them mutual respect and help them to turn loose of their expectations of the other. Fill them with so much of your presence that they don’t need to look to the other for their worth. And for my nephew, he has had a rough and confusing few years, but now he’s about to start college. There is a lot of healing to do there. Guide him in into your heart. Hold him close. Raise up people around him whom you will use to strengthen and encourage him. Heal his broken relationships and bring glory to your name through his life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



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Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (Selected Study Guide Questions)

Dear God, as I finalize what I’m going to do with this home church tonight, I thought I would go through the Sacred Marriage study guide that’s available free online and answer some of the questions for not only myself, but also you.

What has your marriage revealed to you about your sinful attitudes, selfish behaviors, and other character flaws? Why do you think marriage brings so many character issues to the surface?

  • I’ve talked ad nauseum about my neediness that you helped to mostly (not completely) purge from me through marriage. This is what comes to mind first. The change in paradigm to look to you for my wholeness and not to my wife. Well, I don’t know that you used my wife to teach me that, but, thankfully, you taught me that before my neediness destroyed my marriage.
  • I’ve talked about losing some of my selfishness in the interest of serving her and serving my children (without expecting anything in return–that’s important).
  • One of the things my wife, in particular, has taught me is how to appreciate the arts more. Musical theater. Poetry. She is a deep thinker and a very intelligent woman. I used to be very dismissive of the arts, and it was foolish of me.
  • She has modeled forgiveness to me. Not only how she forgives me, but also how she forgives others.
  • She challenges me spiritually by her example of pursuing you. There have been times when I haven’t pursued you like I should, but she has always been an example of steady perseverance.
  • Her self-discipline is quite remarkable and an example to me.

I could go on an on, but I better get to the next question.

How can a discouraged spouse directly apply the admonition to seek God in the midst of disappointments rather than to obsess over where the spouse falls short?

This is obviously the crux of the entire book. The ideal situation is when each spouse pursues a selfless attitude towards their mate. In that situation, one would likely naturally find their needs being met. But when it’s a one-way street, what is someone to do?

The thing I love about this book is that if someone reads it and says, “Boy, my husband/wife needs to read this,” then they’ve missed the point. For millennia people have been in unequally yoked marriages. Outside of an emotionally/physically abusive relationship (which needs intervention and more drastic measures), the answer is that your selfless loving actions will ultimately bring Jesus into your home and to your spouse, and there is a good chance that it evolve a change in your spouse. They will see Jesus in you (and the love, joy, peace, patients, etc.) present in you and then be more likely to respond positively. As opposed to the nagging, preachy spouse that becomes an obstacle to change.

How much time do you spend thinking about how to make your spouse happy, compared to the amount of time you spend thinking about how well your spouse is pleasing you? Do you think your answer is about right, or do you need to do better in this area?

Well, now that I’ve lived with these concepts for nearly 20 years, I think I am fairly close to a good balance. For the most part, I spend more time thinking about blessing her without looking for my benefits. Again, it goes back to loving. And I guess I should put this here because it needs to be said somewhere. My wife does NOT nag me. I weighed over 300 lbs. at one point, and in over 30 years together she has never said one word to me about my weight. She has never suggested I am not attractive to her. It’s a blessing she has given to me that I hope I am getting better about returning to her.

How is any lack of respect or active contempt for your spouse negatively affecting your own life and the lives of your children?

Some questions just shouldn’t be answered out loud. This is one that shouldn’t be answered in a group, but needs to be contemplated. I know my wife and I have tried to show each other respect behind the other’s back, especially with our children. We do our best to not be critical of the other to our parents, our siblings, or our children. I’ve witnessed this kind of negativity. We both have, and it is toxic to everyone involved. This one is a really big deal. No, if we are going over these questions tonight, this is one that needs to just soak in and fester.

How do you want people to describe your marriage at your golden wedding anniversary?

Oh, boy! I’ve always said that I’d love for it to be said of me that I never had a negative things to say about anyone. It won’t be said of me, but I’d love for it to be said of me. For my marriage, I’d love for people to say that they always felt welcome around us. I would want them to reflect on us and see us a serving others and that we lived harmonious lives with each other, yielding to the other whenever possible.

Do you and your mate face the difficulties in your marriage differently? What can you learn from your spouse’s approach? What can your spouse learn from your approach?

YES! Oh, did I say that too loud? I’m not going to say what she can learn from my approach because I have learned so much from hers. Some difficulties we have faced include:

  • Extended unemployment
  • Parenting struggles
  • Relationships with extended family

My approach is usually to be straight ahead confrontational. Hers is to take a beat and see if there is a more loving, less confrontational way to handle it. What I’ve learned from her is to take my desire to confront and package it in a way that enables me to deliver it lovingly. Again, I’m not perfect at it, but I’m better than I was.

The unemployment was a little different. In that case, there was a lot of uncertainty and praying to you. There was also, seemingly, a lot of silence from you. Having her there kept me accountable for moving forward. I can see where I would easily have slipped into a depression if I wouldn’t have had the responsibility of her and my children to keep me going and persevering.

Is there a “file cabinet” in your marriage’s “confessional”? What do you have to do to forgive your spouse and get rid of the filing cabinet?

There is one thing that my wife did that still brings me pain when I think about it. I don’t think about it often, but it really hurts when I do. And she has told me how sorry she is for it. And it happened over seven years ago so you would think that it would be gone. Why have I held onto it? Maybe it’s ego. Hmm. Good question. What do I have to do to forgive her and get rid of that thing? I think it might come down to dying to the part of my ego and pride that were hurt by it. Father, help me to stop thinking that I was too “good” for that to happen to.

How can a husband and wife more consciously invite the presence of God into their marriage?

About the best thing that we do is pray together almost every morning. She also knows when I am having my private prayer time, and I know when she is either having hers or going to the chapel. I think that knowledge is a good affirmation for each of us. Of course, we worship together most Sundays. I think that is important. We are part of a couples group at our church which has been very positive as well. And we talk about what we might be learning at any given time through our personal faith walks. I think one of the big things is that we give each other the freedom to pursue you in our own way, and we approach you very differently.

Consider the effects that these stages of family life can have on ministry:

  • newly married, without children
  • married with toddlers
  • raising teenagers
  • empty nesters

What are the advantages and challenges of each phase of life as it relates to living out your ministry calling?

Maybe I should have started with this question because now that I’m at the “empty nester” stage, I can look back and see all kinds of lessons you taught me along the way. It’s too much to go into here, but each phase has helped to break me, melt me, and mold me. And hopefully with each lesson, I’ve been able to provide you with a vessel that you can fill.

Father, thank you for my marriage. Thank you that you have really changed me for the better through my wife. I pray (literally) that I’ve done the same for her. Help me to be exactly what you need me to be tonight. I’m probably walking into dangerous territory. Let your Holy Spirit be there and help us all to approach our marriages and you in a humble way.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



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My Father-In-Law

Dear God, a couple of days ago, I prayed to you about Gary Thomas’s book Sacred Marriage. This morning, while I was eating breakfast, I listed to a talk he gave seven or eight years ago (link above). I don’t mean for these prayer journals to become a sales pitch for Gary, but his stuff is really good.

The title of this prayer to you is NOT about my wife’s physical father who happens to live next door to me. No, it’s about you. At about the 29-minute mark of this talk, Thomas said something that really struck a chord with me. YOU are my Father-in-law because YOU are my wife’s father. Thomas said:

If there was a guy who came up to me and said, “Gary, I’m going to give you 10% of my income. I going to memorize your books. I’m going to tell others about you. I’m going to try to get everybody to by your book. But he’s abusing my daughter? He’s neglecting my daughter? I’m going to have one conversation with him and one thing only: ‘Hey, buddy, if you respect me, you take care of my little girl. I have nothing else to say to you.'”

Wow. Conviction. How am I doing? Unlike my earthly father-in-law, who is only next door, you see EVERYTHING I do. You see every inkling of disrespect I give her. You see every little thing I might want to hide from her such as something I want to purchase or even lust. You see any shortness of temper I have. You see how I talk about her to others when she is in the room and when she’s not.

How about my children. I suppose they are your children too. In a way, I am a step-father caring for them on your behalf. How am I doing with your children?

Expand it out. Everyone I meet today is your child. How am I treating your children? Some of them are young. Some are old. Some are wealthy. Some are poor. Some are struggling. All are your children. How will I treat your children today? Will I see them with your eyes and act accordingly?

Father, I am your child too. Thank you. I love you. And I’m really sorry for any failings I might have as a husband to your daughter, a parent to your children, a son to your children, a brother to your children, a friend to your children, and a fellow citizen to your children. Help me to be about loving you by loving all of them as you would have me to.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


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Posted by on January 18, 2020 in Miscellaneous


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Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy more that to Make us Happy? By Gary Thomas

Dear God, I am speaking to a home church this weekend and as I prayed to you and talked to you about what you would have me discuss, this book that I read nearly 20 years ago kept coming to mind. It is the best marriage book I’ve ever read, and its lessons have stuck with me through the years. However, as I’ve sat down a few times over the last few days to try to collect my thoughts and synthesize the message of this book into a lesson, I’ve struggled. There’s so much here. I could almost do a lesson on each chapter. Ultimately, I decided that the best thing to do was to sit down and just talk with you about what it was about this book that meant so much to me 20 years ago.

I think it starts with me being a very needy husband for the first 10-ish years of our marriage. I have two dogs right now, and one of them is very needy. She’s always looking for attention from anyone who will love her. She annoys the heck out of me. I think this is how I was when I got married. I came into marriage very insecure. I grew up witnessing a fairly tumultuous marriage, and I didn’t want to give my wife (and ultimately, my children after they were born) any excuse to not love me or like me. To add to that, I needed that love affirmed all of the time.

My best example is my wife’s first Mother’s Day after our son was born. I did everything for her that day. He was about 10 months old, and I took care of him all day. I made her breakfast in bed. I did everything around the house. I did it all! Later, she told me that all she could think about was how she could never live up to what I had done when Father’s Day came a month later. I wasn’t giving freely out of love for her, and she could tell. I was being needy and giving so that I could receive. That kind of love was very oppressive to her.

One of the first lessons I had to learn was to give her the freedom to feel about me any way that she wished. It was her right to like me or not. I order to do that, I had to find my peace in something else. Yeah, I guess peace is the best word. What is it that we are looking for when we are being needy? When our hearts are unsettled and in search of something? The answer: Peace. When I look for my peace in anything but you (money, sex, wife, fun, job, etc.) that object or activity becomes my idol. Thank you that I ultimately didn’t have to do with my marriage what you almost made Abraham do with his idol, Isaac.

So now that my wife had the freedom from me to like/love me at her own discretion, I needed a new paradigm for my marriage. Providentially, Thomas’s thoughts on marriage came to me just at the right time. If the book came out in 2000, then we probably went to the marriage conference he did in Waco in maybe 2000 or 2001. Just after I started doing the regular prayer journals to you in April 2000.

So what are some of the concepts in this book? Well, the subtitle alone is practically all you need: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? It starts by exposing the lie that undergirds the prosperity gospel message that I deserve to be happy. He’s careful to say that holiness and happiness are not mutually exclusive concepts, but if you pursue happiness through your marriage then you have the wrong frame of mind. “You wont find happiness at the end of a road named selfishness.” (Page 12) Here’s another quote: “Just as celibates use abstinence and religious hermits use isolation, so we can use marriage for the same purpose–to grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.” (Page 12)

These two quotes, taken to their logical conclusions, give you these chapter titles:

  1. The Greatest Challenge in the World: A Call to Holiness more than Happiness

  2. Romanticism’s Ruse: How Marriage Points us to True Fulfillment

  3. Finding God in Marriage: Marital Analogies Teach Us Truths about God

  4. Learning to Love: How Marriage Teaches Us to Love

  5. Holy Honor: Marriage Teaches Us to Respect Others

  6. The Soul’s Embrace: Good Marriage Can Foster Good Prayer

  7. The Cleansing of Marriage: How Marriage Exposes our Sin

  8. Sacred History: Building the Spiritual Discipline of Perseverance

  9. Sacred Struggle: Embracing Difficulty in Order to Build Character

  10. Falling Forward: Marriage Teaches Us to Forgive

  11. Make Me a Servant: Marriage Can Build in Us a Servant’s Heart

  12. Sexual Saints: Marital Sexuality Can Provide Spiritual Insights and Character Development

  13. Sacred Presence: How Marriage Can Make us more Aware of God’s Presence

  14. Sacred Mission: Marriage Can Develop our Spiritual Calling, Mission, and Purpose

  15. Epilogue: The Holy Couple

It’s ween a while since I read some of these chapters. Nearly 20 years. But each chapter title alone is enough to spark my thoughts. When I was in high school, I asked my dad one time what benefit any parent gets from parenting. Why would someone want to do it. His answer was interesting. Paraphrasing, “The adults I know with no children tend to be some of the most selfish, self-centered people I know because they never had to learn to put someone else’s needs above their own.” Thinking about that concept, I think marriage is supposed to be a building block towards selfLESSness too.

I’ve known my wife for over 30 years, and we are coming up on 28 years of marriage. It’s unbelievable when I look back on how you have used her and our relationship to shape me. You did the same with our children. And you’ve done the same with jobs, friends, church experiences, extended family, etc. But my ability to grow beyond serving my wife out of need and into serving her in love transformed me into being less needy in the other areas of my life too. I am a less needy employee. I am a less needy father. Now I’m not perfect, and there are still times when self-pity comes crashing in on me and I feel the pain of rejection. But I don’t think I would even be able to recognize those failures in myself if I didn’t start by turning loose of my neediness in marriage.

Thankfully, Thomas’ theory worked in my case. His theory is that if both spouses are committed to this selfLESS pursuit of God through marriage then each will find that you are meeting a lot of their needs through the other. Since my wife has embraced this same attitude in our marriage then a terrific balance is created. I honestly don’t know what it would be like to live in a marriage where only one spouse lived this way and the other didn’t. I suppose I could ask my wife because I think she was closer to it those first few years of marriage than I was. But, ultimately, the spouse that pursues you and holiness through their marriage will even be able to be at peace in an unbalanced marriage. To be clear, there are unhealthy situations such as physical or emotional abuse that should not be tolerated, but a simple shift of focus off of myself and onto serving my wife through my pursuit of you in an incredibly liberating thing.

One last thing–the idea of the pursuit of happiness (and I’m still learning to truly live what I’m about to say). I reject the idea that my life and your purpose for my life must be about my happiness. There are some happinesses in life that are denied to me. That’s okay. There were generations of Israelites that were born into slavery, lived in slavery and died in slavery. One result of that is that you built a nation through those years in Egypt. The widow Jesus saw put two coins in the offering went home and likely died as poor as she was when she woke up that morning, but she likely never knew that I would know about her and use her as an example 2,000 years later. Some people do everything right with their children and it still goes wrong. Some people are excellent employees/workers and still go broke. And some are in one-way marriages. The idea that any of these people are not living their best lives because they are experiencing pain is foolish. I don’t know why some of this stuff happens, but mine is not to know why. Mine is to love and worship you, and to do my best with those people and responsibilities you have given to me. The results of all of that are not mine, they are yours. Of course, now that I’ve said those thoughtful, deep things, Father, I pray that you help men to truly live it.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



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Solomon — 1 Kings 11:1-13

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord. In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done. On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods. The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.”
1 Kings 11:1-13

Dear God, where do I compromise for the love and approval of others?

As the director of a nonprofit in a small town, I try to keep myself politically neutral. I work in a sector where people from all different types of political ideology can appreciate our work to serve the community. The trick becomes that I sometimes allow my desire for neutrality to keep me from supporting or not supporting some cause or political position.

I was actually talking to you about this topic this morning when I was walking the dogs, but more in the way of evangelism and being a witness for you. I was wondering how much more I should be doing to represent you and the 1.) mercy and love you have for us, 2.) the mercy and love you want us to show others, and 3.) the work we need to do to worship and commune with you that will help us to better understand numbers 1 and 2.

Then I got home and opened Facebook. I saw a post from a recently divorced acquaintance from high school who posted a meme about what women want in a man:

Every woman deserves a man who calls her baby, kisses her like he means it, holds her like he never wants to let her go, doesn’t cheat or lie. Wipes her tears when she cries, doesn’t make her jealous of other women, instead makes other women jealous of her. He’s not scared to let his friends know how much he really cares about her, and he tells her he loves her every day.

This harkened back to the sermon by Andy Stanley I was listening to on that walk that happened to talk about relationships. My favorite line in the sermon was (paraphrasing), “We all lie in bed thinking about what we are looking for in Mr. Right or Mrs. Right, but none of us lie in bed and think about how we ourselves can become Mr. Right or Mrs. Right for someone else to find.”

Anyway, I saw this post on Facebook and decided that this might just be a divine appointment, so I commented, “Awkward to post a sermon here, but I listen to this guy out of Atlanta every week, and literally 5 minutes ago I finished listening to this. It’s on the very subject.” And then I posted a link to the podcast. This might not have been the bravest thing I’ve ever done, and maybe no one will listen to it, but it was at least an attempt at sharing your love with a group of people who likely don’t understand it very intimately.

Father, make me the man you need me to be in every way. Both for my wife and children, and for your world. Make it the same man. Let there be no duplicity in me, but just a life that worships you for the grace/mercy you give me and then turns around and gives that same grace/mercy to others. Do it all of your kingdom and your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in 1 Kings, Solomon


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What makes something precious?

“It was a different kind of impoverishment for men who had found fellowship in commiseration. Their ‘living thing’ with all its quirks, foibles and peculiarities had become a predictable commodity.”
Fred Smith — “A Living Thing


Dear God, I read Fred Smith’s weekly blog this week, and, as is not unusual, I found something in it that I want to chew on with you for a while. It revolves around this quote I pulled from it and pasted above.

It’s interesting to try and ascribe a rationale for what makes something precious to me. Why do I like what I like, love what I love, and do what I do?

I’ve often wondered what it is about the knowledge that there are two individuals out there who are my children, and that knowledge makes them mean something different to me than anyone else in the world. When they were little and performing on stage, my eye almost never left them. Not because they were that different than the other children (although, of course I thought they were the most talented) but because they were mine. I loved them and I wanted them to see what they had to show the world. I think when it comes down to it, there is something in my brain that triggers and says this person is special to me. They are my child. They are my responsibility. I’m sure you buried that down somewhere deep in me–in all of us. And like the Jaguar owners in Fred’s piece, we get to sit around the Sunday school classes, or workplaces, or dinners with friends and commiserate on how hard parenting is.

There are other things that are precious to me. My wife tops the list. In fact, she is in a special place that even my children don’t quite sit in. I chose her (as she chose me). While my children will always be my children, even if we are out of relationship, my wife and I continue to be married by choice. I’ve had the opportunity to watch her perform on stage as well, and I can say that my eye followed her the whole time too, even though she was pretty much used as a prop on the stage. But what makes her precious? I met her when she was 18 and I was 19. We fell in love (only you know why we had a special chemistry that caused that to happen), but we’ve both changed a lot since then. Staying in love and staying together means rooting for the other, even at our own expense. It means giving the other space to struggle and grow. It means dedication.

I don’t know. I don’t know that I’m really coming up with an answer to my question, “What makes something precious?” When I list the things that are precious to me, my first thoughts go to my wife and children, but then they go to my job and the work you’ve given me to do. They go really to my own life and trying to make sure that, as small and insignificant as it might be in the grand scheme of things, it is used to maximize your will being done and your kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven. And in the spirit of Fred’s piece about his dad and the Jaguar, I have to admit that the little car I bought a year and a half ago is my most precious material possession. I love that little thing. Not because I get to enjoy it with others. In fact, I enjoy it the most when I am by myself, top down, music loud, and the RPMs between 4,000 and 6,000. But I love that car.

Father, I have a lot of work to do today. Help me to identify what is important to do next. Sometimes it will be the thing that is precious. Sometimes it will be the thing that it hard and not enjoyable. And help me to not put any of those precious things before my love and devotion to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,




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The Wife of Your Youth — Proverbs 5:15-23

Image: “The White Shirt (Man and Wife)” by Edward Knippers from Revealed: A Biblestory Book for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard

Proverbs 5:15-23 [NLT]
15 Drink water from your own well—
share your love only with your wife.
16 Why spill the water of your springs in the streets,
having sex with just anyone?
17 You should reserve it for yourselves.
Never share it with strangers.
18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.
Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts satisfy you always.
May you always be captivated by her love.
20 Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman,
or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman?
21 For the Lord sees clearly what a man does,
examining every path he takes.
22 An evil man is held captive by his own sins;
they are ropes that catch and hold him.
23 He will die for lack of self-control;
he will be lost because of his great foolishness.


Dear God, can it be ironic to me that Solomon wrote this (I assume Solomon wrote it)? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, did he know what he was missing and wished it wasn’t too late for him? Did he wish for something simpler and more pure?

It feels like I could go in a lot of different directions with this passage and image this morning. There’s promiscuity before marriage. Of course, the obvious is adultery. But then there is prostitution and sex trafficking (including minors) and also pornography (the gateway drug for it all–not that all of this didn’t happen before pornography existed).

Verses 22 and 23 are a great crux of this whole passage for me: “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.”

Before I get too judgmental towards others, let me first, once again, apologize to you for the ways in which I have failed you sexually. You know that, since I was a teen, there have been times when I’ve failed in this area when it comes to pornography. Nearly 30 years ago, in one of my first deep conversations with my wife (then girlfriend), I told her that I had struggled with that. Satan’s power is in the secret and I didn’t want it to be a secret. I didn’t want to pretend to be some puritan that I’m not. Even now, the image that accompanies this passage that I put above could be considered pornographic in a way. But when reading the context it becomes not dirty and what sex is supposed to be.

I heard one time that almost no one hears about sex for the first time in a healthy way. Maybe not everyone, but almost everyone’s first exposure to sex is unbiblical. It might be bad information from another kid on the playground or from an older sibling. It might be porn. It might be a TV show that depicts a negative sex act or reference to sex.

When our children were small, I would screen movies for them not based on language or even violence, but I found myself being very sensitive to how it depicted sex. As a friend of mine once said, “We only get our innocence once.” I wanted them to keep their innocence as long as possible. My wife and I even went to the Christian bookstore when our oldest was about five years old and looked for a book that would be age-appropriate for us to talk about with our son. I don’t know if we did the right thing or not, but we were doing our best to make his FIRST exposure to sex to be what you intend sex to be.

So now, on to what I think the artist is trying to communicate to me in this picture.

  • First, he has “man and wife” in the title, so we are given a frame of reference. This is what you intended.
  • It looks like there is an air conditioning unit at the top of the wall. If that’s what it is, then it’s a fairly modern portrayal.
  • There are two people, with the woman on the bed and the man standing. What I notice about the woman is that she appears to be on her elbows. She isn’t just lying there waiting for it to happen. She seems to be anticipating it.
  • The husband is standing and taking off his shirt (apparently last). They aren’t in the throws of passion, lying in bed and ripping each other’s clothes off. This is a marriage. This is something they’ve done before. This is an experience for both of them.

In the little blurb on the bottom left side of the picture, Bustard quotes from Tim Keller’s piece, The Gospel and Sex.

The Bible is full of covenant renewal ceremonies….The ultimate covenant renewal ceremony is the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper renews the covenant made at baptism; through the breaking of bread and the pouring out of wine it reenacts the selfless sacrifice of Jesus to us….In the same way, marriage is a covenant, one that creates a place of security for vulnerability. But though covenant is necessary for sex, sex is also necessary for covenant. The covenant will grow stale unless we continually revisit and reenact it. Sex is a covenant renewal ceremony for marriage, the physical reenactment of the inseparable oneness in all other areas–economic, legal, personal, psychological–created by the marriage covenant. Sex renews and revitalizes the marriage covenant.

Father, help me to be pure today. Help me to be pure in my thoughts and in my words. Help me to be pure in what I do, and help me to fail to do nothing that you have called me to. Help me to hear your voice and clearly see your path ahead for me. Help me to love my wife the way to which you called me, and help us to live our lives as a couple in the way you need us to. Do it all for your glory and so that your kingdom will come and your will will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



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The Lord Feeds His People — Exodus 16:13-17, 31-35

This picture is from the book Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups by Ned Bustard. The piece of art is done by Steve Prince.

Exodus 16:13-17,31-35 NIV
[13] That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. [14] When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. [15] When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. [16] This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” [17] The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. [31] The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. [32] Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’ ” [33] So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.” [34] As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved. [35] The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.

Dear God, I’ve heard and read this story since I was a kid, but I’ve always just heard it through my own ears. The great thing about an artist’s interpretation is that I get to see that same story through someone else’s eyes. So as I look at this picture, it is interesting to see what the artist has chosen to show me.

Before I get into the image, here is what is written in the caption to the bottom left of the image.

Manna was a mysterious thing provided completely by God for the good of his people. The Israelites were not to hoard it, for it would come to them new each day. This print is from a series that looks at the Old Testament through the lens of a love story. Or as the artist writes, “true love is like an Old Testament made New each day.” Here a couple shares some Myrr tea, while locked together in their marriage vows. The premise of this piece is: If God supplied for the Israelites as they wandered about for forty years, then what will God do for a couple that commits to one another, bound through the convenient of marriage?” God proved faithful to the Israelites in their wilderness, providing for their needs and therefore He will supply this couple’s needs as they wander through relational deserts as well as through lands flowing with milk and honey.

See what I mean? I had never thought about tying the Israelites wandering in the wilderness to the journey of marriage.

Given that as our cypher to decrypt the artist’s message, let’s see what I can see he did for us:

  • The people look African or maybe even Aboriginal from Australia. If African, I suppose this makes sense since the Israelites had just come from Egypt, which was in Africa.
  • The woman’s leg and feet seem to dominate the picture. Both of their legs are drawn to kind of reveal the bone underneath, suggesting to me that they are thin and malnourished.
  • Of the four feet in the picture, only one has a sandal. The other three are bare.
  • They look tired.
  • There are three signs of tenderness being expressed from the man to the woman. 1.) His right foot is resting gently on her left foot. 2.) He is looking at her while she looks off. And 3.) his left hand is touching her face. I wonder how hard it was for the men at the time to feel like they weren’t capable of providing for their families. Was it humiliating to have to collect manna every day? Was it frustrating to see their wife’s fear and be limited in their ability to assuage it? I suppose there are certainly times in my marriage when I feel unable to give my wife what she needs.
  • She has on a dress and he is wearing a shirt with a collar and pants. These are not Israelites.
  • What I’m really curious about this that keyhole on the wall over her left shoulder. What is that about?

Interestingly, today is World Marriage Day for the Catholic Church. As part of that celebration and emphasis this morning, my wife and I were invited to get up and talk about a couples group we joined through our church over five years ago. Part of my sharing was that that group came along at a time when my wife and I were walking through the darkest, most confusing valley of our 26 years of marriage (back then it was 21 years). We couldn’t tell up from down at that point, and it was good for us to get into intentional community with six other couples, all of whom were at different stages in their lives. Some were younger than us and just starting to have children, some were our age or close to our age, and some were older and experiencing multiple grandchildren.

Father, as I look at this image and I think about my marriage and the manna you have provided to my wife and me over the years, my prayer is that I will know how to show her the tenderness that you need her to have from me, but also that you will meet those needs of hers that I simply cannot meet. It was almost 20 years ago that I finally started to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be everything she needs. If I was, and if she was that for me, why would we need you? No, you have put me here to nurture and love her with your love and affection. But I am also here to support the path she is walking in pursuing you. That’s one of the reasons I attend Catholic Church with her even though I am not Catholic. So guide me today. Give us this day our daily bread.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



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“Beautiful Trauma” – Pink

“Beautiful Trauma” by Pink (Alecia Beth Moore)

I have no idea if people read this daily blog of my prayers to God, but if you’re out there then what I’m about to say will probably make you lose a lot of respect for me. I’m a fan of the singer Pink. Since I’m a middle class white guy in his late-40s, I figure she would probably be disappointed to hear that I’m the kind of person who really likes her music. If she saw me sitting out in the audience at one of her concerts, she’d probably curse to herself and walk of the stage thinking her career is over. But on the other hand, she might also be surprised to know that I am a devout Christian who spends time in scripture every day, prays regularly, very happy in my marriage, and works in a Christian faith-based nonprofit. I guess I’m an enigma.

So I woke up this morning with the song “Beautiful Trauma” going in my head. I really like this song although the lyrics make me sad. The song is an interesting combination of happy music with troubling lyrics. The lyrics are about a dysfunctional, unhealthy relationship. I’m not going to post the whole song here because they include profanity, and I don’t want to offend anyone in this environment. I’ll let you Google them for yourself. But here’s a phrase that’s interesting:

You punched a hole in the wall and I framed it, I wish I could feel things like you. Everyone’s chasing that holy feeling, And if we don’t stay lit, we’ll blow out, blow out…

When I think about Pink’s music, a lot of it leaves me with the same impression. Alecia Beth Moore (her real name) is writing and selecting songs that express her internal feelings and Pink gets to perform them. I’m concerned for Alecia and a fan of Pink’s. But even in my concern, she’s someone I like because she’s willing to be honest and open about her struggles. I admire vulnerability.

As a Christian who has tried to discipline himself into discipleship for the last 31 years, I have learned a lot of lessons through my mistakes and God’s redemption. And while I don’t have life or faith figured out by a long shot, I am in a position to be able to tell when someone is grasping for the wrong things that they think will bring happiness. In the case of too many of our marriages, we look to the spouse to bring us that joy we are looking for instead of trying to tap into the overall macro-level life that God has for us.

Have you ever looked at that couple that hardly speaks to each other anymore and wondered when things changed? You know that there was a time when they couldn’t get enough of each other. They kissed uncontrollably. They talked on the phone a lot before they lived in the same home. They held hands. They had room for the other’s faults. But now the initial emotion is gone and they are disillusioned. I’m not going to play marriage counselor here because I have no expertise in this area. And I’m not going to say that if they were Christians then their marriage would be better because that’s not necessarily true either. There are plenty of discipling Christians with marital problems. I’m just saying that there is an empitness in Pink’s music that I can see in a lot of lives around me. From family members, to friends, to coworkers, to our clients at work, there is a lot of pain out there, and I think music like this helps me to tap into it and understand it a little instead of isolating myself in a protected bubble–and did I mention that I think the music itself is great?

Father, help me to be in the world but not of the world. Help me to find the balance between exposing myself to the lives and perspectives that others have and feeding my soul with things that are of you. Help me to carry your salt into a world that is looking for taste.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



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