Marriage

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Good Grace from God with Us: Gretchen Ronnevik on parenting, true and cheap grace: “I don’t need cheap, well-intentioned grace. I need the resurrection-power grace. I need the grace that never asks me to pretend I’m fine when I’m not. I need the grace that’s there when I have nothing left to give.”

2.      Top 10 Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2018: Gordon Govier reports on some fascinating discoveries including the possible signature of Isaiah the prophet and the seal ring of Pontius Pilate.

3.      Christianity Today's 2018 Books of the Year: Solid list. A number on here I want to read including Russell Moore's A Storm Tossed Family, Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes with a House Key, and, two from friends of mine: Amy Julia Becker, and Matthew Kaemingk.

4.      2018: A Christian Music Review: I appreciate Jeremy Howard’s year-end reviews. I actually disagree quite a bit with Howard, but he always introduces me to new music and has a high regard for strong theology in Christian music, which I appreciate.

5.      The Dark Before the DawnI love Andrew Peterson's music that is so rich lyrically. If you haven't listened to him before, this is a great place to start. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Why the Angels Were Speaking to You, Too: Jan Shrader reflects on the thrice-repeated words of the angels, “Do not be afraid,” at the first Christmas and reminds us that “There is a heavy price to be paid when you begin listening to fear.”

2.       Why the Tithing Challenge Isn't a Good IdeaYou may have heard of certain churches offering a "money back guarantee" with their challenge to tithe. Aaron Earls made a good case for why that isn't a wise practice, "A tithing refund distorts God’s design for giving by presenting people as owners with nothing to lose, rather than as stewards who sacrificially engage in spiritual investment."

3.       Why You Should Go to Church Even When You Don't Feel Like It: These words from David Sunday are so good, "That’s why we meditate on the teachings of God in Scripture day and night. That’s why we gather in the house of God with the people of God week by week. We don’t do it just for the immediate benefit. We take the long view. We cultivate these rhythms of grace, we practice these disciplines of worship, so that when the years of drought come, we will remember: we will recall when our souls pour dry the days of praise within God’s house. And the very remembrance will sustain us."

4.       6 Ways to Make Yourself Marry-ableI'm not a fan of the title, but if you re-frame this as helpful advice for young adults, then I like it quite a bit. Lisa Anderson concludes that in preparation, "You will no doubt realize you have some things that need to change. We all do. We’re all carrying baggage that was either placed on us by the generations before us or picked up of our own free will. Now’s the time to dump it. Now’s also the time to identify addictions, outrageous debt and spending pitfalls, past or present abuse, bad family patterns, and anything else that’s holding you back from spiritual, emotional, and relational health. Get counseling if you need it."

5.       5 Myths About DepressionMichael Lundy packs a ton of truth in this post. Please read it not only for your sake but for those who struggle with depression in your life, "Gandalf, one of my favorite quotable characters who exists only but no less vividly in the minds of readers, said “despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”6 It is a temptation to think that we do when we do not, and to see an evil end when God has something quite different in mind and in store. Yet, it is a temptation to which most—if not all—of us are vulnerable."

6.       The Thief and the FriendJason Upton might have my favorite voice in Christian music. If you haven't listened to Upton before, try this song.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        How the West Became Self-ObsessedAn intriguing interview with William Storr, a book on the history of Western Individualism: "This tendency to focus on the self, on the individual, runs deep in our cultural history, and it’s not something we can easily escape."

2.       Americans Believe in God, Psychics, and CrystalsIn Pew Research's recent study, they found, "Four in 10 Americans (42 percent) believe spiritual powers rest in physical objects like mountains, trees, and crystals... A similar number (41 percent) believe in psychics. A third (33 percent) believe in reincarnation, while 29 percent believe in astrology."

3.       6 No-No's for Relating to Your Husband: The whole of Robert Lewis's list is good, but I particularly appreciate #6: "Never fall more in love with your kids than with your husband. That’s easy to do as the years go by. I call it “the great swap.” You get caught up in all the things the kids are doing, often seeing more of them than you do your husband. What you don’t notice is the growing distance developing between you and the man you vowed years ago to give your life to."

4.       6 No-No's for Relating to Your Wife: Mary May Larmoyeaux's list is also good, especially #2: "Don't tell your wife how to feel: ...please don’t say, “You shouldn’t be afraid or worried about that.” The fact is, we are afraid or worried about that. Just acknowledge our feelings. Tell us that you will pray for us. Ask us what you can do to help us not be afraid/worried, etc."

5.       Dealing with Your Anger: Ed Welch is my favorite writer on the topic of anger. He reflects, "Some counselors notice that people get tied up in knots when they hide or stuff their anger. They will tell you to deal with your anger by getting in touch with how you feel and then expressing it. “Get it off your chest. Say exactly what you think. Give ‘em a piece of your mind.” Other counselors have noticed how destructive people become when they express anger. They will counsel you to control your anger. Psychotherapy, medication, exercise, and meditation are just some of the different ways they recommend for defusing your anger and calming yourself down. So which is it, venting or calming? Actually, God has a different way for you to deal with your anger."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       The Loneliness Epidemic: In a world more connected than ever, we have a significant loneliness problem, Bob Smietana shares, "More than half of Americans (56 percent) say they feel lonely, even when surrounded by other people. Forty-six percent say they feel no one knows them very well. Thirty-six percent believe there is no one they can turn to—at least some of the time. Nearly 1 in 5 say they don’t have people they can turn to (19 percent) or talk to (18 percent), according to a new survey of more than 20,000 Americans from Cigna, a global health service company."

2.       The Soul Mate Fantasy: David Beasley says that the idea of a soul-mate isn't just wrong, it's harmful: "Nowhere in the Bible does God say anything about soul mates. God gives us the simple details on how to have a great marriage: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Wives, respect your husbands."

3.       Moms Need Soul Care Over Self CareMaggie Combs with wisdom for men and women alike: "It's almost impossible to visit a motherhood website, blog, or play group without running into it. The concept of self-care is simple: If the plane is going down, you should put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. But if your motherhood plane is about to crash and burn, God is the only source for the oxygen you need to survive the fall. Self-care encourages coffee runs, nap times spent reading novels, pedicures, happy hour with girlfriends, new clothes, massages, exercising, decorating homes, and lavender bubble baths. There is nothing inherently bad in this list, but the problem lies in the elevation of these good things as necessities for surviving (or even thriving in) motherhood."

4.       Good News! Satan Wants to Destroy You! Derek Rishmawy reminds us that alongside the very real and active presence of our adversary, God is at work: "But Christ has robbed those accusations of their force by wiping away our guilt through his death on the cross (Col. 2:14). And he sends the Spirit of God not as our Accuser but as our Advocate, testifying to our hearts that we are God’s dearly loved children."

5.       Culture is the Hardest and the Last Thing Changed: Eric Geiger with a good word to leaders, "I frequently hear leaders talk about changing the culture as if it is their first order of business. An inexperienced and unwise leader declares, “I am going to change the culture.” Leader, if you change the culture, it will be the last thing you change. Not the first. You can’t simply speak a new culture into existence. You are not God. You may desire to influence the culture but you are woefully mistaken if you think you can show up and announce a new culture.

The Power of Grace

The Power of Grace

A note from John:

It is a gift to hand the reins over to my friend Valerie McMahon today. Valerie shared this poetic essay with my wife and me a few months back. I hope you are as moved as we were.

 

A note from Valerie:

Growing up in church, I remember always singing the song Amazing Grace, but I don’t think I fully grasped how amazing grace was until recently. After hurting my husband Shane greatly, he offered this amazing grace to me. I didn’t deserved it, but I was convicted to choose to believe and receive this powerful gift. It was then that I was convinced how much I need grace beyond salvation for my daily sanctification. What follows is a testimony and an anthem of gratitude.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Lie of "Happy Wife, Happy Life" Greg Morse picks apart this oft-told piece of advice, "In the end, a nearsighted “happy wife, happy life” mentality throws the toys in the closet to go outside and play. Happy wife, easier life does not lead to happiness, but to a closet full of regret, bitterness, and selfishness, which we all must open eventually."

2.      Yale and Stanford Psychologists say, "Find Your Passion" is Bad Advice: Quartz reports, "The answer to these questions, it turns out, hinges on our approach to interests. Based on the latest findings, people who have a fixed mindset—the almost mystical belief that passions are revealed to us magically—seem to be less curious and motivated than those with a growth mindset, who understand interests unfold as a process."

3.      Her Name is Monroe Christine: Brandon McGinley reflects on the disgusting saga around the birth of a beautiful girl to a surrogate mom while her reality television star dads watch, "Her name is Monroe Christine. She is a little girl who was paid for by two men. Her mother was picked out of a catalogue; the woman who gave birth to her was a contractually obligated guest star on a television show who was publicly humiliated by her father."

4.      God Wants You to Ask Him Again: Marshall Segal encourages us to pray the prayers we've stopped praying, "But in Christ our trials are not trivial in his eyes. Our burdens are not small or irrelevant to him. His global purposes do not draw him away from us. Our prayers are not peripheral in his priorities, because our trials and prayers are deeply and intimately connected to his greatest burden as a good Father: his own glory."

5.      Revisionist History: All three series of Malcolm Gladwell's podcast have been excellent, but I think his most recent third season is best. His episodes on Elvis, Brian Williams, and Sammy Davis are particularly interesting.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      5 Ways Your Personality Changes in the First Year of MarriageCari Romm reports on a recent study in Developmental Psychology, "Overall, it’s kind of a mixed bag — the very beginning stage of a marriage can change people for the worse, but also for the better. A better takeaway, then, might be the fact that they change at all."

2.      How to Make a MarriageGary Thomas with wise advice on the long process of making a healthy marriage, "In fact, one study suggests that it takes from nine to 14 years—at least a decade, and sometimes a decade and a half—for two individuals to stop thinking of themselves as individuals and to start thinking of themselves as a couple. That’s right—the journey from “me” to “we” takes years to achieve."

3.      What is Wrong? Americans' List is ShrinkingAaron Earls reports on a new Gallup poll that reports that across the board, Americans approve more of extramarital sex, divorce, cloning, suicide, gambling, same sex relationships, etc than they did ten to fifteen years ago.

4.      Simplicity for the Sake of the GospelI found Jen Oshman's article very convicting. She shares, "We feel glutted—overstuffed on overabundance. We are sick of our calendars and Amazon shopping carts being jammed full with far more than we need. Maybe less is more, we think. A decluttered entryway. Leisurely evenings. A reduced pace of life. We’re searching for the simple life. But to what end? What is it we’re after? What will fill the void created by our new, simple lives? When my husband and I sensed God calling us to plant a church in our new neighborhood, the man we consider our spiritual father had some wise words for us. 'Do not get busy,' he said. 'If you want to minister to your neighbors and your community, you need to be home. Don’t make a bunch of commitments. Just be there. They will come.' I didn’t believe him." 

5.      Safari Botswana: I dare you to not want to go on a safari after this up-close-and-personal video.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why Winning the Lottery is So DangerousJ. Warner Wallace reflects, "Most of us recognize the relationship between satisfaction and duration. The longer something lasts (and the longer we enjoy it), the more satisfying we typically find it to be. In seeking the next big lottery jackpot, most players hope to win enough money to last the rest of their lives. Why? Because they are seeking satisfaction that will last a lifetime. But if the Christian worldview is true, each of us are eternal beings, created in the image of God, and destined to live forever – well beyond the temporal lives in which we could spend our lottery winnings... That’s why winning the lottery can be so dangerous. It takes our eyes off the goal. Not the physicalemotional or behavior goal, but the spiritual goal: to seek and find the true source of eternal satisfaction."

2.      The Math Language of RevelationBarry York talks about how we ought to make sense of all the numbers in Revelation, "When it comes to the book of Revelation, you quickly find the presence of many numbers. These numbers add (no pun intended) to the mystery of the book. Yet, similar to the example above, remembering the Bible has a "math language" of its own can help in understanding the passages containing the use of numbers. Here are five of Revelation's math language rules to follow."

3.      The Crisis of PornTony Perkins sounds the alarm, "What our kids are stumbling on isn’t your grandfather’s pornography... These are raw, violent, and nauseating videos that they don’t have to sneak into a store for. Every child has a world full of porn at their fingertips... Porn is everywhere, and the research is grim... Americans on both sides of the aisle are realizing: this is an actual catastrophe...These sites, the same ones teaching kids a distorted and twisted version of sex, get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined." 

4.      4 Myths About Responding to Spousal Abuse: Three pastors team up to debunk some hurtful pastoral responses to abusive situations. They put their finger on the pastor's tension: "Pastors who wish to support, protect, and counsel survivors of abuse are often left wondering how best to minister to them. They know abuse is a multi-faceted evil. They want to provide the best counsel possible. But several misconceptions around the issue can cloud the thoughts and guide the actions of well-intentioned church leaders."

5.      11 Common Phrases You Didn't Know Were From the BibleThis is fun. Some phrases you might be surprised by: "by the skin of your teeth," "a drop in the bucket," "a leopard can't change his spots," and "bit the dust."

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

A Laughing Marriage

A Laughing Marriage

Angel and I laugh a lot. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. We laugh at life.

From time to time our family plays a game at our home where we each try to make up jokes on the spot. Angel’s nonsensical jokes are always the best. “What is faster than a cheetah and reads the Bible?” We prod for answers and then finally give up. “A nun.” The kids erupt in laughter although it doesn’t make any sense.

Outside of spiritual disciplines, I don’t think there is anything more important to the health of our marriage than laughter.  

And I’m not so sure that laughter isn’t spiritual. Here are five reasons I think laughter is a spiritual discipline:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Which Generation is the Loneliest? Surprisingly, Gen Z wins this distinction, but not for the reasons we might assume: "The study found no correlation between social media use and feelings of loneliness. Very heavy users of social media scored about the same on the loneliness scale as those who never use it."

2.      What is a Woman? Sandra Glahn answers this question deftly, She concludes, "In a world in which #MeToo and #ChurchToo remind us that brokenness has infiltrated every part of society including the church, the Bible’s truths are absolutely relevant. When God brought ishah (woman) to ish (man), he called their partnership “very good.” Let us show by our words and actions that we believe his words to be true."

3.      It's No Tragedy to Miss the Model: Til Challies reminds us that if marriage is a model, missing the model and gaining the real thing is okay: "Marriage is the miniature or the model while Christ and his church are full-scale, the real thing. This leads to an important application that pertains especially to those who are not married. When we understand the meaning of marriage, we realize that even if you never marry or are no longer married, you are not missing out on something that is essential to the human experience. If marriage had no meaning beyond itself, perhaps you would be missing out on something essential. But because marriage points to something else, you simply are not."

4.      Violence Against Women Begins in the Womb: This chilling report by Elaine Storkey is a must-read: "For the last two decades, reports have consistently illustrated the extent of the problem. After investigators uncovered 400 pieces of bone believed to be of female fetuses, reporters gave graphic details: “Last September,” wrote Raekha Prasad and Randeep Ramesh in The Guardian, 'remains of dozens of babies were exhumed from a pit outside an abortion clinic in Punjab. To dispose of the evidence, acid was used to melt the flesh and then the bones were hammered to smithereens.'"

5.      Tour of the Moon in 4K: Thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, I doubt you've ever seen the moon like this. Wow!