Marriage

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Let the Children Get Bored Again: Pamela Paul speaks wisdom to our age that runs from boredom, "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

2.      Survey Says That Evangelism is Far More Prayed For Than Practiced: Aaron Earls shares the results of a recent survey that ought to call us to boldly speak the gospel to our neighbor.

3.      Guard Your Heart From Adultery: Robert Wolgemuth reflects on how seriously we ought to take any hint of adultery in our marriages: "When you are hiding a secret from your wife, this qualifies as “for worse.” You feel this in your gut. It keeps you awake at night..What’s for certain, however, is that the situation you’re putting yourself in is going to have an impact on you. It’s inescapable. Keeping secrets is like standing chest-deep in water, trying to hold a beach ball down. It takes both hands and lots of energy. But eventually, physics will win out. You’ll run out of energy and the ball will explode through the surface. You will be found out.

4.      How Can We Know that the Bible Teaches that Jesus is God? Justin Taylor offers this tight argument: "Finally, it’s worth remember the helpful summary by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan: ...The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.” The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.” The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!” Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ."

5.      7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness: Great stuff, as always, by Sam Allberry: "Certain misconceptions never seem to go away: The Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), or shaving makes your hair grow back thicker (it doesn’t). A significant misconception that has been around for many years is that singleness is a bad thing. This is partly due to a confluence of our culture’s focus on romantic fulfillment as key to being whole with common Christian thinking that marriage itself is the goal of the Christian life."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Hormones, Surgery, Regret: I was a Transgender Woman for 8 Years--Time I Can't Get Back: Surprising story to read in USA Today by Walt Heyer: "I lived as “Laura” for eight years, but, as I now know, transitioning doesn’t fix the underlying ailments. Studies show that most people who want to live as the opposite sex have other psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety."

2.      13 Ways We Justify, Rationalize, or Ignore Negative Feedback: One of the best articles I've read this year. Peter Bregman of Harvard Business Review says, " It doesn’t feel good to be told you missed the mark. And, since feedback often uncovers our blind spots, it’s especially jarring because, in many cases, we thought we were doing a good job. So we don’t immediately or intuitively agree with the validity of it (we tend not to believe things we can’t see ourselves)."

3.      The Danger of Drama: When we stir up drama, Heidi St. John says, we are sinning: " If you need to address something that should be handled in private, then do it privately. If you’ve been hurt, don’t put it on the internet. Season your speech with grace."

4.      Don't Put Your Hope in Date Night: Interesting perspective by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, "In our modern, Western, first-world culture, our margin for romantic love is a blessing. Many of us have the freedom to select a spouse who matches our preferences and makes us feel weak in the knees—particularly in those first few months of dating. This is a joy and a privilege. As those ideas carry into marriage, we tend to continue emphasizing the importance of romantic feelings. But are cultivating these feelings through date nights essential in God-honoring marriages?"

5.      Beware of Broken Wolves: I resonate with Joe Carter's advice here about protecting oneself from a certain type of leader: "But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.” These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15)."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      8 Reasons Young Adults Leave Your Church (And 8 Reasons They Stay): Ben Trueblood reflects, "There simply isn’t an understanding of what the church is, how it functions in their life, and how they are meant to be function as part of it.”

2.      May She Be My Delight: Greg Morse reflects on Christ's love for the church and our call to love our wives with that same delight, "God does not tolerate his church. He does not ignore her. He does not wake up in the morning thinking he married the wrong girl. Familiarity does not dampen his passion."

3.      Behind Every Good Woman Stands a Good Man: Courtney Reissig concludes, " Our gifts both in the marketplace and in the church are not for ourselves, but for others. So when I free him to work and serve, I’m part of that work, too. And vice versa. Behind every good man, stands a good woman. And behind every good woman, a good man stands, too."

4.      Secularism is Boring: Nicholas T McDonald's long and dense post is well worth the read. He dissects the layers of problems of our secularist world, "'Irony tyrannizes us.'...Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: ‘How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.’”...Because we are a plotless people. We’re banging our heads on the nothing wall." 

5.      Belief in Hell and Psychological Health: David Briggs Arda compiles some interesting studies on belief in hell. He shares,"The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included: The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety. Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism."

For My Kids on the Occasion of My 40th Birthday

For My Kids on the Occasion of My 40th Birthday

Tomorrow I turn 40. Lord willing, I’m about halfway done with this marathon we call life.

God has been so gracious to me. I have a godly wife who makes me laugh every day and two teenage children who grow daily in faith and wisdom. 25 and 27 years from now Camille and Soren will celebrate their 40th birthdays. This post is for them: it’s the hard-earned wisdom that I’ve accumulated over my years that I hope they can learn from. I hope it blesses you as well.

Here are the top ten truths I’ve learned in my 40 years:

1)     Seek wisdom

There is no end to foolishness in this world. Wisdom is a rare commodity. Run hard after it. Look to those whose character you admire. Listen to what they say and read what they write. When I was a kid, I was a sponge for sports trivia. I got a jolt in being able to know something someone else didn’t. In college I caught the bug for philosophical and theological knowledge. It took me until my later twenties and thirties to develop a stronger thirst for wisdom than knowledge. Accumulated wisdom is like the water of a river, it will smooth and shape the stones in its bed over time.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     The Way We Prepare For Marriages is All WrongAaron Earls considers cultural trends that undermine marriage and the data that undoes those trends: "In recent decades, however, new advice began to take root. It argued you will be most ready for marriage if you delay marriage into the 30s or later, “sow wild oats” before you’re ready to settle down, find someone with whom you share “sexual chemistry,” and live together with potential spouses to determine if the relationship is ready for the marital commitment. At the Institute for Family Studies, professor and researcher Jason Carroll analyzed data that confronts each of these points of accepted cultural wisdom."

2.     6 Ways Watching Pornography Affects Your Mental Health: Among those issues, Brad Hambrick points out is, "Mindfulness – the ability to willfully focus one’s attention during adverse circumstances – is a significant contributor to mental health. Pornography is nearly the complete opposite of mindfulness. Pornography uses sound, site, and tactile sensation to pull an individual from their actual world into an artificial, fantasy world. Combining multiple senses with an enticing narrative makes it increasingly difficult for less stimulating activities (which is most of life) to hold an individual’s attention."

3.     The Sabbath as a Radical ActThis is as good an article as I've read in some time. William Black argues that, "There was a reason the fourth commandment came where it did, bridging the commandments on how humans should relate to God with the commandments on how humans should relate to one another. As the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann points out in his book Sabbath as Resistance (2014), a pharaonic economy driven by anxiety begets violence, dishonesty, jealousy, theft, the commodification of sex and familial alienation. None of these had a place in the Torahic economy, which was driven not by anxiety but by wholeness, enoughness."

4.     Watching Rain: Need a stress reliever? Click on this simple and relaxing website and play around a little.

5.     The Science Behind Why Walking on Legos Hurts More Than Walking on Fire or Glass: Parents everywhere will feel validated reading this article from Smithsonian. 

7 Ways to Fight Poorly

7 Ways to Fight Poorly

If you have breath, you are the proud owner of conflict.

It lurks around every corner of our days.

I wake up first in our home. I get dressed and start the coffee. I wake up Angel and our two teenage kids. The other day I kissed my daughter, “good morning, sweetie, it’s time to wake up.” “No, it isn’t!” she responded, pulling her covers over her head. My first whiff of conflict.

I go back downstairs and work on breakfast. At 6:50 everyone is supposed to be gathered around the table. Usually only one of the three is there. I would tell you who, but you know, conflict. It lurks again.

Eventually we are all around the table. We do our family devotions, but now they’re a little compressed and maybe one of the kids isn’t that engaged. Conflict sneaks its head in again.

We’re off to school, but there was a lunch forgotten at home, and so we’re circling back. Now we’re late. Frustration in my heart tells me conflict is all too near.

And now the two slowest drivers in Northwest Tucson have decided to drive side by side in front of me Parcheesi style, five miles below the speed limit. Conflict!

And now I’m pretty sure the lights are in on the conspiracy. One light turns red and there isn’t even anyone at the intersection. Seriously? In 2019, our traffic signals aren’t intelligent enough to catch that? Conflict, code red.

The kids are dropped off and now I’m headed to work. I pull in and head to the fridge to drop off my lunch. Seriously? Has anyone removed his lunch in the past month from this thing? More conflict?!

I look over to the office sink: is this just a holding bay for dirty dishes? Do we not use the cabinet anymore? Conflict!

I haven’t even reached my office door and conflict has reared its ugly head no less than eight times. And I’m not even mentioning the email I saw with the subject line that indicates my first email of the day is going to put my heart in knots.

Sound anything like your day?

How in the world can we navigate all of this conflict? The answer to that question is found in James 1:19, where James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Are you Raising a Narcissist? Steve Cornell offers a helpful inventory. Among the many gems is this one: "Don’t be the parents who overindulged a child’s sense of personal beauty or talent. This will lead to self-deception, narcissism and social dysfunction. It’s also a sure path to marital misery!"

2.      5 Things Every Newly Wed Needs to Hear: Daryl Crouch with wisdom for couples. In reflecting on what the role of those witnessing the wedding is, he shares, "The purpose of this kind of public declaration of loyal love is more than grandstanding. When you mailed your wedding invitations, you were also asking these loved ones to stay involved in your life and your marriage. A wedding includes people who know you, love you, and care about your future success. They’re not only witnesses who observe the moment you exchange rings, they’re people who will pray for you, counsel you, and invest in you. They’re the people who will help you keep the vows they’ve heard you make."

3.      What do Evangelicals Believe? This survey of evangelicals by the Ligonier Ministries is disconcerting to say the least. Perhaps the most concerning response came to this statement: " God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." 51% of evangelicals agreed with that statement."God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." A majority of evangelicals agree that God can be worshiped by those who haven't put their trust n Jesus Christ. 

4.      5 Myths About Calvinism: This helpful article by Greg Forster debunks including "God saves us against our will," and "God does not love the lost." On the former, Forster explains, "The role of the Spirit is to remove the power of sin and instill new powers of belief and trust, which do inevitably result in saving faith–but this is done without violating the will’s freedom. In fact, the work of the Spirit enlarges our freedom."

5.      Greenland-Land of Ice: What a gift to be able to see remote places of the world in all their beauty.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Thank you, God, for Failure: The author closes his brief reflection, " In my failure, I see an accurate picture of myself. No one fails at everything, but we hit the ground more often than the bullseye. Thank you for Jesus, who always hit the mark. Thank you for the gracious exchange of the gospel, in which he took my sin and gave me his righteousness. Thank you that every failure is a reminder of your patient mercy toward your children."

2.      Why 81% of Evangelicals Voted for Trump: Ed Stetzer and Andrew MacDonald dig into the research to draw nuanced conclusions around evangelical support of Trump. I found their discovery that the Supreme Court nominations and abortion weren't primary motivations surprising. It's too complicated a picture to summarize in one quick statement, but I thought this line of reasoning was illuminating: " Whether it is the Supreme Court or religious liberty, many evangelicals appeared willing to accept a presidential candidate who is able to secure policy initiatives they favor in the long term."

3.      How God Changes Our "Why Me" Questions in Suffering? Ed Welch speaks such loving truth to those who are struggling: "God’s story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away."

4.      Should Married Couples Separate? I rarely recommend separation, but I agree with Steve Cornell's advice, "When I began ministry (35 years ago), I never would have imagined advising a married couple to separate. I would have understood such a need in cases involving danger, but I never thought much beyond this scenario. Gradually, I encountered individuals dealing with mates who were persistently behaving in ways that were destroying their marriages. These people typically felt hopeless because they think they have done everything possible to save their marriages. In some cases, however, marital separation becomes a needed step for sending the ultimate wake-up call to a complacent and selfish mate."

5.      Virtual Reality Church: It's painfully funny because it's so close to reality.

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.