Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30-31 - Ecclesiastes 4:11

Woe to him who is alone

when he falls and has

not another to lift him up!

Again, if two lie together,

they keep warm, but

how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:10-11



My favorite rock band as a kid was Three Dog Night. They were most famous for the song, “Joy to the World” – no, not the beautiful Christmas carol; but the goofy song that began, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.” (I really don’t want to know what they were really singing about.)


My question, though, is this: Do you know what Three Dog Night means?


To keep warm while camping in the Australian outback, you’d bring one dog into your tent if it was a cold night. His body heat would keep you and your tent warmer. If it was really cold, you’d bring in two of your dogs. A three-dog-night, then, was an extraordinarily cold evening! You needed all that warmth to keep you alive!


That’s the kind of the analogy that Solomon makes in today’s verse. (And remember – if you’re not married, this is a friendship analogy. Analogy – not a prescription! Allow a buddy to warm your heart! Anyway …)


Friendship is keeping the other person’s heart warm!


That’s not a bad definition. Say it with me. Friendship is keeping the other person’s heart warm.


And just like it helps on a cold night to have another warm body to snuggle against, our spirit needs the warmth … wisdom … encouragement … assistance … and friendship to keep our lives warm and joyful.


Question: How warm are you keeping your spouse’s heart and best friend’s spirit?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to be

an electric blanket













Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 29 - Ecclesiastes 4:10

Woe to him who is alone

when he falls and has

not another to lift him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:10



For the next few days we are going to be studying the friendship component to marriage.


Now some of you are not married. That’s okay! This applies to you too. One of the greatest human desires – needs, really – is friendship, companionship, fellowship.


Have you ever done a “trust fall.” You face with your back to friend. Close your eyes. Fall backward. And trust the other person to catch you.


I don’t necessarily recommend that husbands and wives literally do this … especially if the husband is 6’4” – 240 lbs and the wife is 5’2” – 120 lbs!


Figuratively, however, I do recommend that you do this with your spouse and closest friends … that you do this FOR your spouse and closest friends.


When I was in college, I knew a couple of cheerleaders. College cheering is not pom-poms and cheery cheers. It’s acrobatics. They throw tiny women through the air and it’s the job of strong male team members to catch them. It’s harrowing and impressive.


Men, you’re the strong male team member. Women, in this analogy, so are you! We’re both called to catch our friends and spouses whenever they are falling.


And they will fall.


That’s life.


From time-to-time, we all eventually and inevitably fall.


And it’s your job to catch them. Period. Otherwise it’s not just the fall that hurts – the job loss, the depression, the death of a loved one – it’s the lack of trust that comes from you letting them down.


Yes, you probably have your own stuff to deal with when your partner is falling. If they’ve lost a job, you’re worried too about how to pay the bills. If their mom dies, you loved her too. Yes, you probably have your own stuff to deal with. But your first job – as a cheerleader – is to get your partner safely on the ground before you deal with your own stuff!


That’s what teammates and partners and friends are for.


It’s not about you!


Question: What do you need to do to become a better teammate and “catcher”? (Note: Sometimes, this is working on your own maturity, teamwork, and mental health before the crisis.)


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to have

emotional biceps as big

as a male cheerleaders

real biceps!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 28 - Genesis 29:20

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel,

and they seemed to him but a few days

because of the love he had for her.

Genesis 29:20


One of the great love stories in the Bible involves Jacob and Rachel.


Marital customs were different back then, though! To marry a woman, you didn’t ask the lady for her hand. No! You asked her dad!


I know. I know. That has been a tradition in many places over many centuries. But in Rachel’s case, her daddy really did hold the keys to your happiness!


Thus, when Jacob asked for Rachel’s hand in marriage, it came with seven strings attached. And the seven strings were seven long years of service on father-Laban’s ranch. That was Jacob’s price for daughter-Rachel’s hand.


Now comes the love-story part. Re-read our verse for today: “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” Wow!


That’s love.


That’s commitment.


In fact, it wound up being twice the commitment! If you remember the story, Laban tricked Jacob, and Jacob had to serve seven MORE years to gain Rachel’s hand.


Fourteen years!


In our world, we’re impulsive. Culturally, people are doing less and less well with patience and delayed gratification. Television has trumpeted the notion that the third date is “supposed to be” physical … and that’s “supposed to” define the relationship. No! I’m not suggesting fourteen years of courtship! But great love stories do involve a little godly patience.


Question: Does patience (a fruit of the Spirit) or impulsiveness define your life?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who likes permanence

rather than impulsiveness




Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 27 - Galatians 5:13

For you were

called to freedom, brothers.

Only do not use your freedom

as an opportunity for the flesh,

but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13


Nowadays, our world is filled with too many easy and tempting “opportunit[ies] for the flesh.”


The world actually promotes and endorses them.


Sadly, too many Christians promote and endorse them too.


The logic of too many goes like this … God loves me. (True.) God forgives me. (True.) Therefore, I can do whatever I want because I’ll be forgiven! (Ouch.)


Most “good Christians” aren’t brazen enough to say that out loud. Nevertheless, many think it. And they wink at others actions – excusing friends, before friends have ever thought to repent.


Yes, too many use God’s grace as a get out of jail-free-card. But that’s a perversion of God’s grace! When St. Paul was introducing the Church at Rome to the richness of the Theology of Grace, he stopped and said, “Wait!” He said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Absolutely not! (Indeed, God forbid!) Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2).


Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it like this: “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.”


I would personalize Bonhoeffer’s statement, saying, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of many lives and marriages.” In the name of freedom and fun, too many people are undermining the foundation of the joy and integrity.


Day-by-day, they may not notice. They may just be “having fun.” But trust me as a pastor, most of my counseling comes from the long-term repercussions of cracked foundations.


“Cheap grace, says Bonhoeffer, “is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance … grace without discipleship [… and holiness] without the cross. … We are fighting to-day for costly grace. … Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again … Such grace is costly because … it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it codemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son …and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”


Question: How many of us follow the ways of culture? How many of us follow our own desires? That may seem normal, but it has nothing to do with an authentic Christian life! When asking what we are to follow, Bonhoeffer outlines it like this: “Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him.”  


Question: You know the places in your life, desires, and behaviors where you are vulnerable. Name three of them: 1) ____________, 2) ___________, 3) ____________. For each of these, which leading do you tend to follow – culture’s morays, personal desires, or Christ’s call? Why? And what might you need to do to change?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who likes a good deal,

but does not like anything

that is cheap (including grace)


Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 25 - Hebrews 13:4

Let marriage be

held in honor among all, and let

the marriage bed be undefiled, for

God will judge the sexually

immoral and adulterous.

Hebrews 13:4


As I write this, America’s Supreme Court is deciding whether to redefine the meaning of marriage.


As I write this, American Culture has already redefined what is and isn’t “sexually immoral.”


Many of us shudder for our nation as these and plenty of other cultural sins are inviting God to “judge” us.


But let’s not dwell on the slivers in the eyes of the world, until we examine the logs in our own eyes.


In the context of marriage, you and I need to confess that we’ve been taught (and in many ways have probably in some ways endorsed) culture’s redefinitions of what is and isn’t “sexually immoral.” We’ve winked at and tolerated it in the lives of our friends. We help television producers make millions of dollar by voting for “sexual immorality” with our choices on what we watch. We thumb our nose directly at God by inviting sexual immorality into our own courtship and marriage.


God is clear. The context for sex is marriage. Period.


·         And yet … what percentage of dating Christians are “going too far”?

·         How many of us are (or did) live together before marriage?

·         How has pornography snuck into our lives and relationships?


In general, we’ve defiled the marriage bed before there was even a marriage.


Before we can lecture our culture, we need to discipline ourselves. And that’s really the problem with today’s church. Having been seduced by our culture, most of us have lost the personal integrity to address culture.


Hear this: Integrity can be restored. No matter our past! But it involves contrition. Repentance is turning away from our sin and turning toward God. It’s hard. But the alternative is worse. It is handing on more and more brokenness to our children and their generation.


If sexual sin has happened in your life, I hope you know that God still loves you. Absolutely!!! Nevertheless, isn’t it time to confess our sins … and amend our ways?


Every study shows that healthiest, happiest sexual humans are committed married partners … who don’t use pornography or other falsely called “helps”.


And yet, we don’t trust God in this! We’re all tempted to follow our own desires. (I know the compulsion. I’m a dumb guy!) But let’s quit justifying our behaviors (… and quit blaming anyone but ourselves when we’re part of a broken culture and marriages that are falling apart).


Fidelity brings satisfaction.


Question: Are you trusting God in this? Why or why not?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to hold

(and help others hold)

marriage in greater honor










Saturday, May 23, 2015

May 23-24 - Psalm 85:10

Steadfast love and

faithfulness meet;

righteousness and

peace kiss each other.

Psalm 85:10


We’ve been talking about marriage for a while. Hopefully it involves some occasional “kiss[ing] of each other”!


Biblically – at least according to today’s passage – what (besides husband and wife) is supposed each other? Righteousness and peace.


I don’t know about you and your beloved, but in my marriage, righteousness and peace don’t seem to be kissing cousins! Indeed, whenever I want to be “right” (rather than choosing intentionally to be loving or forgiving or patient), then there’s more likely a fuss rather than a peace.


But being right, of course, is not what’s meant by “righteousness”!


To be righteous (rather than right), we must intentionally choose love, forgiveness, and patience. We must be more concerned with building permanent relationships rather than proving temporary points.


Yes, TRUTH matters in righteousness. But it’s GOD’S TRUTH that we stand up for, not for trivia and the he-said-she-said kinds of “truths” that start petty arguments.


Let’s encourage righteousness of love, forgiveness, and patience to do a lot of smooching in our marriages … because then we’ll truly discover the peace.  


Question: Are you more concerned with being right or being righteous?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s wrong when

he’s obnoxiously right


Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 22 - Proverbs 21:9

It is better to live

in a corner of the housetop

than in a house shared

with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 21:9




Wives, you’ve been put on notice.


(Husbands, this wisdom, though, is true for you too.)


So here’s the question: Why do we quarrel?


In my experience, it’s insecurity. I feel the need to prove that I am right. And whenever disagreement arises, the logical antidote is to try and prove that my wife is wrong.


To prove I’m right, I often try to back her into a corner. I do it with logic, trying to rationalize my point and point out her flaws. Others do it with violence and fists. Both do damage to the other person. Both do damage to the marriage.


God does not expect you to abide with an abusive person. If you are being verbally or physically abused – or emotionally manipulated – seek help. If you’re the quarreler, falling occasionally into cycles of abuse, seek help. That’s perhaps the most important thing I can say today. If it’s big, seek tangible help that’s bigger than you!


But what if it’s the daily, nagging, irritating, persistent quarrelsome behavior that slowly deadens too many of our marriages. And as always, you or I can’t change the other person, so let’s work on you and me.


Why do we quarrel? We want to be right. And why do we want to be right? Because we’re afraid of being “less”? And why are we afraid of being insignificant? Because we view ourselves from our own insecure eyes or the world’s judgmental eyes rather than through God’s loving eyes. It’s a problem of perception. It’s a failure of faith.


I’m not saying that you don’t have a saving faith if you’re insecure! Heck, most of us are insecure in one way or another! I’m saying that your earthly focus is robbing you of the joy of the kingdom … and therefore, of much joy in your marriage. You keep trying to justify yourself (the root of much quarreling), because deep down you don’t believe God has truly justified you. You’re looking at fears, failures, and insecurities from a human point of view … and you’re taking it out on your spouse … and you’re robbing one another of joy.


Crawl out of the corner you’ve put yourself in … and have probably backed your partner into too (on the far other side of the room). No wonder there’s not enough joy in marriage. Insecurity breed quarrelsomeness. But faith breathes romance.


Question: What causes you to quarrel? Examine the roots. Does your testiness begin when you’ve been made to feel “less” than you really are? Take that insecurity to God. Ask him to give you his assurance of your value and worth. And as his truth builds you up, ask him to take from you the bad habit of quarreling and self-justification.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants us

to quit living on the roof

and return to the bedroom




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 21 - Matthew 19:2ff

Pharisees came up to him

and tested him by asking,

“Is it lawful to divorce

one's wife for any cause?”

He answered,

“Have you not read

that he who created them

from the beginning made them

male and female, and said,

‘Therefore a man shall leave

his father and his mother

and hold fast to his wife, and

the two shall become one flesh’?

So they are no longer two but one flesh.

What therefore God has joined together,

let not man separate.”

Matthew  19:2ff



I’m in the marrying business.


Sometimes couples stand in front of me and I think, “Ahh … this is good. This is a marriage that will last a lifetime.”


Other times I think, “Oh-no. This is bad. I hope they’ll make it through the year.”


Often I’m right. Good marriages get better, while bad pairings fall apart.


On the other hand, often I’m wrong. The “perfect couple” gets a quick divorce, while the “couple that’s a mess” pushes through to greater joy.


What’s the secret?


·         We’re all sinners.

·         If we push past imperfections, maybe we survive.

·         If we allow an active God to help in active ways – and if we obey his commands – we’ve got a source of help and hope.


I don’t like divorce. In general, I don’t like that our world teaches us to give up too easily. At its root, divorce usually contains some form of selfishness – by one … or both. At its end, divorce is usually an unwillingness to work hard or forgive – by one … or both.


And what I really, really don’t like is the consequences -- to individuals, to extended families, to whole communities, and especially to the children.


As today’s verses and other similar passages go on, Jesus “allows” divorce. The most common allowance is for infidelity. “Why do you and Moses allow such things?” Jesus is essentially asked. “Because of sin! You’re a mess,” is basically his response.


I know divorces that should have happened. I know divorces that shouldn’t have happened. I know people who gave up way too soon. I know usually it’s the weak one who leaves – they selfish at the beginning and aren’t willing to change in the end.


I know many who’ve been abandoned.


And I know many who’ve been redeemed.


And I know many who – in this forgiveness – have received the gift of a new marriage that has blessed them tremendously.


I’m a Pastor in Twenty-First Century America. I know in general that we’re a mess on our own. And I know that culture accelerates the messiness. So here’s one last thing that I know: If we want to find joy in life, we need to follow God’s path. Marriage is for a lifetime. It is a one flesh union, designed and ordained by God. And violence – to our souls, our families, our communities, and especially our kids – occurs when we forsake God’s plan.  


Please understand, I’m not knocking anyone who is divorced. Rather, here’s what I’d like to say instead: We need to do a better job BEFORE we get married. Yes, romance is nice, but we need to build our marriages on a higher standard involved from the beginning. God is that higher standard. It’s two people committed to His ways … instead of two dissimilar individuals committed to something else (usually, to one degree or another, themselves).


If God is not our highest priority at the beginning of marriage, then we’re guilty of courting trouble before we start. Indeed, when we don’t link ourselves to a shared vision – which is God and His ways first, others second, and ourselves last – then trouble will inevitably mount.


Question: So … is this your first goal in picking a spouse? And if you’re already married … how is making God your priority your current goal? And what are the ways you are able to do this together? (I know, it’s hard sometimes because you’re unevenly yoked … so, how can you grow in faith in an increasingly joyful way that make God, faith, and church a winsome invitation, rather than an additional barrier to your marriage?)


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who likes

God in marriages







Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 20 - Hebrews 10:24

let us consider

how we may spur one another on

toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24


Yes. Let’s consider that.


How can you spur your spouse to be a better person?


Wait? Did you just notice the key word there: “spur”? Kicking them with or without sharp objects – such as spurs – will not make them a better person! Criticism is NOT how to make them a better person.


Nagging? No, that doesn’t work either.


Lecturing? Save that for your kids … who won’t respond to it either.


I’ve often tried modeling. If I want someone to do something, I try modeling with my own life, hoping that they’ll catch the vision. So far, this is best suggestion. But if you’re trying to be subtle, subtlety (and subversiveness) often doesn’t work. We work harder and harder to model the behavior, and we feel offended by the other person’s obtuse inability to “get the point.”


Therefore, conversation always works better. Just say what you want … in love. Reveal why it matters to you. And sometimes they’ll take a step forward. And sometimes they won’t. But don’t go back and nag about it.


So … this is pretty discouraging advice, so far, isn’t it? Indeed, how can we successfully spur one another on toward love and good deeds?


How? By drawing closer to God. Good deeds are works. Love can be turned into a work too. And the only power we have, on our own, to do good deeds is our own power. Meaning … it’s limited. On my own, I’m only as strong as I am … and too often people like you and me are tired, distracted, and discouraged. Thus, spurring me to do more – more love, more good deeds – only further exhausts me.


So what’s the solution? By drawing closer to God, we get to borrow his power. And it’s more than that. We come to learn his priorities. Love and good deeds cease to be a to-do-list. They become a way of life as he becomes our life. Selfish motives wither as righteousness flourishes.


Question: Are you spurring one another on to deeper faith? And since you can’t change the other person, are you – foremost – taking personal responsibility for you own personal relationship with God?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’d retranslate this verse,

“spur one another on to … faith!”









May 19 - Proverbs 18:22

He who finds a wife

finds a good thing and

obtains __________.

Proverbs 18:22

Did I "find" my wife? (No. She literally showed up at my door one day!)

Sometimes we seek "Mr. or Mrs. Right." But generally I look at "finding" a husband or wife as a gift.

As grace.

It's not anything we earn. It's something God generally sets up.

No ... I'm not going to be very romantic for a moment. I could talk for a long time about how God worked overtime to keep crossing my path with Mary Louise's. But let's talk generally for a few seconds ...

God set up a system -- graciously -- in which and women have historically made themselves available for marriage at a certain age. And this plan was a "good thing" for many reasons: From sharing joys to sharing burdens, from cooperative support to raising a family, God set up a system that has generally blessed men, women, and children.

Our modern world has competing goals, though, from the historical norms.

Nowadays, the age of marriage (and child rearing) is often pushed back. With varying goals, schedules, and agendas, some of us wind up linked to the wrong person at the wrong time. Then, when the other person (who never had commitment as a goal) "moves on," too many seem to miss their "marrying age," ... and then the pool of available suitors can seem to get even more complicated.

But modern agenda and complications don't negate God's design. A good partnership is still a "good thing," proving God's design.

So here's your challenge: Fill in that blank. Look at our verse for today. If finding a spouse is a "good thing," what else does this verse promise that we will obtain?

      Wait! Let me first remind you that the Apostle Paul frequently celebrates the single estate. The monasteries through the centuries wound up celebrating this too. Tying their practice to model of Jesus in his life, they decided that by keeping ourselves pure from physical lusts, we could marry our souls more fully to God.

      I say this because I don't want to add discouragement to those who are single. God has a plan and a blessing for all of us! And when we align our lives to God's plan for us, the Lord will show us individually his favor in various forms of richness.

      Nevertheless, as we continue to talk about marriage, what is the second half of the blessing promised in today's verse?

Fill in the blank ...

The blessing is "favor from the Lord."

When we align ourselves with God's plan ... there's favor. There's blessing. There's cooperation. There's teamwork and a united purpose. There's often children ... and their blessings too!

There's general favor -- the general yet profound blessings that come from doing things God's way and living cooperatively. Generally, it blesses our community and our world.

But there's also specific favor. God will work in you individually to the glory of his name whenever you are yielded to him and his ways.

      Question: Are you fully yielding yourself to God's plan for your life and marriage? What ways is God generally blessing you? What ways is God specifically blessing you?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who was lost

but now is found

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May 18 - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a


We’ve been at this for a few days. Here’s the conclusion to my reflections on the most common scriptural passage used in weddings ...


I once heard a challenge. “Try fitting your name into this passage, and see if you are truly loving or not.” Let’s try it with my name as an example.


·         [Ed] is patient

·         [Ed] is kind; 

·         [Ed] does not envy

·         [Ed] does not boast; 

·         [Ed] is never arrogant

·         [Ed] is never rude. 

·         [Ed] does not insist on [his] own way; 

·         [Ed] is never irritable or resentful; 

·         [Ed] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, 

·         but [Ed] alway rejoices with the truth. 

·         [Ed] bears all things, 

·         [Ed] believes all things, 

·         [Ed] hopes all things, 

·         [Ed] endures all things.

·         [Ed’s] love never ends. 


Now ... go back and do it with your name!


·         ________ is patient

·         ________ is kind; 

·         ________ does not envy

·         ________ does not boast; 

·         ________ is never arrogant

·         ________ is never rude. 

·         ________ does not insist on [his] own way; 

·         ________ is never irritable or resentful; 

·         ________ does not rejoice at wrongdoing, 

·         but ________ always rejoices with the truth. 

·         ________ bears all things, 

·         ________ believes all things, 

·         ________ hopes all things, 

·         ________ endures all things.

·         ________’s love never ends. 


How’d you do?


Ouch, right?!


I have a friend who used to tell me that this was the most depressing thing I could ever ask him to do. He was a failure. He was weak. He failed at perfectly loving his wife, his kids, his neighbor, his Lord.


But then he discovered something. I think he said that he heard it on the radio. He was advised to insert a different phrase instead of just his own name. Try this ...


·         Christ in me is patient

·         Christ in me is kind; 

·         Christ in me does not envy

·         Christ in me does not boast; 

·         Christ in me is never arrogant

·         Christ in me is never rude. 

·         Christ in me does not insist on [his] own way; 

·         Christ in me is never irritable or resentful; 

·         Christ in me does not rejoice at wrongdoing, 

·         but Christ in me always rejoices with the truth. 

·         Christ in me bears all things, 

·         Christ in me believes all things, 

·         Christ in me hopes all things, 

·         Christ in me endures all things.

·         Christ love in me never ends. 


Do you hear the Philippians 4:13 confidence that is the Gospel promise -- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”


You are called to be loving -- and patient, kind, enduring. But on your own you are weak and sinful. So quit trying to do it alone!


Until you -- both of you -- give your lives to Christ, you’re settling for mediocrity, for much less than you could be. Jesus will help you love more kindly, forgive more gracefully, endure more patiently, and rejoice more fully.


Question: Are you giving yourself and your marriage to him?


Memorization: Now that you’ve (hopefully) memorized this passage. Try saying it from memory using “Christ in me is ...”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy with a creature

who lurks within him

(thankfully, this “creature”

is my Creator and Redeemer

and Christ in me is much

better than me by myself)