Tuesday, June 30, 2015

July 1 - Psalm 127:3

Behold, children are

a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3



8.   Will you be a great parent?


This is Paul Hudson’s next question. And it is, indeed, important to ask before you get married and have kids (… or not).


Indeed, that’s one of the most important questions that courting couples should ask. Before marriage, they should be asking …


·         Do you want kids?

·         How many?

·         When?

·         Furthermore, do you really, really want kids (or not want kids) as much as me? (Time to be really honest. Is family your long-term priority … or not?)

·         Do you, I, or we want mom (or dad) to stay home with the kids? (And are we willing to sacrifice financially from day one of the marriage to set up that opportunity?)

·         What happens if there are surprises?!


Courting couples should also talk about a parenting philosophies. This usually involves story-telling from our own childhoods. There are certain parenting “techniques” that each of us want to carry forward from our parents. There are also parenting “practices” that we may want to leave behind.


And know this … unless you’re intentional, you’re going to be your parents!


It’s reflex. It’s what you know. It’s how you’ll act by default. Therefore, whatever the weaknesses were in your parent’s methodology, what will you do to get coaching to change your default setting in these areas?


Question: If you’re getting married or are newlyweds, go back up to those questions, and ask about how many, when, desires, and parenting styles. (Indeed, if you still have kids at home, it’s always a good time to talk about parenting – Why do you do what you do?!)


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who was

surprised by parenting …

We didn’t originally plan on that soon.

We didn’t plan on mom staying home.

We had different target “numbers” along the way.

We considered adoption for “extras.”

But we always had the same goal …


What’s your goal?

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 30 - Philippians 2:1-2

if you have any encouragement

from being united with Christ,

if any comfort from his love,

if any common sharing in the Spirit,

if any tenderness and compassion,

then make my joy complete by being

like-minded, having the same love,

being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1-2



Paul Hudson’s seventh question …


7.   Can you promise to put us ahead of everything else?


“Life has a lot to offer. And if you’re anything like me,” says Mr. Hudson, “you have a very large appetite. We want everything life has to offer, and then some.”


The question is … Do you want accomplishments, respect, and attention? Do you want adventures? Do you want material things? Or do you want “us”?


You can’t break it down 20%-20%-20%-40% (or some such formula … even with marriage ranking highest.) It’s all or nothing. It’s all “us”; or it’s all about “you.” (And the secret to life is that it’s not about you.)


Paul Hudson says, “The beauty of marriage is that it can be used as a base to build the rest of your life on. Your partner should be just that: your partner. Your relationship is the most important thing in your life because it’s what makes the rest of your life possible.”


Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait!!! Paul Hudson was almost profound. Let me add two words: Your relationship [with God] is the most important thing in your life because it’s what makes the rest of your life possible.”


Now, why don’t you add seven more words: Your relationship [with God and shared with your partner, in Christ] is the most important thing in your life because it’s what makes the rest of your life possible.”


Question: Even though I said that you shouldn’t do life this way, if you’re honest, how is your heart filling in these percentages:


·         Do you want accomplishments, respect, and attention? __%

·         Do you want adventures? __%

·         Do you want material things? __%

·         Or do you want “us”? __%


How might “us” (you, your spouse, and God) be the solution to greater accomplishments, richer respect, grander adventure, and the enjoyment of whatever material things that you have?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who spells “best for me”

with a “U” and an “S”

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 29 - Galatians 2:20a

My old self has been

crucified with Christ.

It is no longer I who live,

but Christ lives in me.

Galatians 2:20a




It’s deadly.


And I’ve got some of it. In fact, I like to be right.


And in my marriage, “being right” often causes fights … or at least hurt feelings. I explain. I justify. I argue silly points, just to prove I’m right.


To be right – and have things done my way – I sometimes don’t listen (even though Mary Louise has some good opinions too).


Pride. It’s one of those seven deadly sins. Therefore, Paul Hudson – upon whose framework we’re basing this series reflections – asks …


6.   Are you willing to lose some battles in order to keep the peace?


I think he’s half-right in his question.


The half-right part: Most of my “battles” with my wife are over silly things. We – no, mostly, I – need to quit fighting about silly things. The peace, the unity, the fellowship, and the joy are infinitely more important than my momentary pride.


Therefore, he’s half-right: I must sacrifice to win a greater prize.


Where he’s half-wrong is that somebody has to “lose.” In other writings I’ve talked about working maturely toward a “win-win solution” rather than a “win-lose compromise.” Why? Because if you’re passive enough to keep losing, you’re probably going to eventually resent it.


But sacrifice, properly understood, is not “losing.” It’s a victory. I’m not stuffing down my opinions; I’m crucifying my pride.


Do you see the difference? This is critical. I can’t be stuffing down my resentments and merely call it a victory. Again, that will eventually boil over and explode. (That’s what I tried to do early in my marriage. I’d try to be nice. I’d try to give in. But I was just stuffing down my feelings. But like a soda bottle, when events would shake me enough, I’d explode. Uggh.)


No. Crucifying our desires is not stuffing down our feelings. We must learn to see stresses as a gift. Why? Because they reveal our true heart and character. They give us the opportunity to figure out why we’re prideful … and angry … and selfish … and greed, arrogant, and ungrateful … and ultimately insecure enough to continually need to be right.


Do you see the difference? Stuffing is losing. Crucifying is victory.


Questions: So that you can both win … and your marriage and relationships can win … what do you need to crucify?


In Christ’s Love,

a reformed prideful, angry guy


Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 27-28 - 1 Corinthians 11:11

in the Lord woman is not

independent of man,

nor is man independent of woman

1 Corinthians 11:11



Do you know the difference between dependence, independence, and interdependence? Let’s ask this in terms of growth …


Dependence means we’re too insecure to let the other person grow … because you’re afraid they might out-grow you. Therefore, change and growth are frequently sabotaged.


Independence may occasionally be labeled a “good trait” in the world, but in marriage it is dysfunctional. It’s often selfish – I’ll do what I want. It’s often disinterested – I don’t really care what you are doing. Ultimately it causes us to drift apart.


Interdependence, however, breeds strength. We may each have different callings and different interests. We may go forth and tackle different giants each day. But at the end of the day, we come back together to share our adventures.


We celebrate the other person’s growth (not constrain it like a dependent person). Why? Because her growth makes me stronger too. Rather than worrying about growing apart, I am called to take an interest in what she’s learning. I am called to celebrate her victories. I am called to adjust our shared responsibilities to allow her to undertake bigger adventures. And she’s called to do the same for me.


We’re on the journey together.


Her victories are my victories. And mine are hers. Why? Because we’re a team.


Paul Hudson – upon whose framework we’re basing this series reflections – says, “[growing] apart … is one main reason marriages end up being so horrible – people think that there is no greater peak to climb than the one their relationship is already resting on.”


Interdependence doesn’t rest! It notices when the other is restless … and encourages them to grow. Why? Because if they grow, the interdependent partner grows too. And that’s why Paul Hudson’s fourth question is …


11. Will you grow with me, not away from me?


To be more interdependent, try this pattern:


·         In the morning, interdependent people help dress their partners for battle. They dress them regally with blessings like encouragement.

·         Kissing them goodbye, interdependent people send their beloved into battle (whether they’re battling the sharks in the boardroom or while teaching a classroom of terrifying middle schoolers).

·         Interdependent people pray for them throughout the day … and maybe even check in to see how the battle is going.

·         Each evening, interdependent people come back together to share their war stories from the day (stories of horror and heroism), to tend to each other’s wounds, and to celebrate their growth and victories together (because for interdependent people, the victories of one are the victories of the other).


Question: Is your relationship more dependent, independent, or interdependent? Explain.


In Christ’s Love,

an interdependent conquerer

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 26 - Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work heartily,

as for the Lord and not for men

Colossians 3:23



“Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?”


As I write this, Mary Louise and I just celebrated our 28th Anniversary two days ago. We went out for a celebration … because we were “supposed to.” Got there. Found that the place was hectic that night. And went home. We lit a fire in the fire pit and sat quietly side-by-side.


We spell “romance” differently than we did as newlyweds. Back then it was more about “doing.” Now it’s about “being.”


Now, I know plenty of people who love “being” together by “doing” things – dinners, trips, parties. Awesome. You have your way. We have ours. But that’s not the point. The point is … “being together”!


2.   “Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?”


That’s the second question in Paul Hudson’s list of the “15 Honest Questions that the Person You Marry Should Be Able to Answer.” (For a few days, I’m combining my thoughts with his questions.)


After 28 years, the “rest of [our] life” has included a graying hair and a few extra pounds. It’s included job loss and moves, cancer and surgeries. It’s included depression and anger and whole lot of forgiveness. It’s included three kids and faith and friendships … including a deepening friendship with each other.


If you asked me 28 years ago (or even 10 years ago), my answer would have been more selfish. It would have dealt more with how pretty she was and what she did for me. (See yesterday’s discussion if you missed it.)


Today, it’s about partnership. I’m not perfect. Neither is Mary Louise. But we’re comfortable together. We’ve grown into the same priorities. We share the same story. We believe the same thing. It took a lot of work to get there, but we love our kids, we love our past, and we look forward to our future (even though it means in sickness and in health).


And so maybe that’s the answer to this question – “Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?” Why? Because I want to work.


That doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? But you can’t build anything of value without a lot of work. And while I pray that romance fills your moments, the greatest romance is building something enduring together. It’s infinitely more satisfying than the temporary sparks of youth. It’s the difference between momentary happiness and enduring joy.


It’s funny. Paul Hudson’s next question is:


3.   Will you do the best to keep the romance alive?


I think he’s serious about this. Question 10 is basically the same!


10. Can you promise to do all you can to keep that spark alive?


Paul Hudson says, “Keeping the romance alive … takes … regularly trying to please and impress you, which in itself becomes increasingly difficult with each new year.” And he’s right … if the goal is temporary sparks and selfish needs. But do you see the problem with the pressure to “impress you”?


I’ve seen 90-year-olds who still spark and sparkle. But it’s not a performance. It’s a steadfastness and a sincerity … and maybe a little surprise.


Jesus told a parable about a farmer, sowing seeds. While he was talking about our relationship with God … we can apply it to our relationship with our spouse. In his story …


Some seeds fell among weeds and were choked. Don’t let your marriage get choked by worldly concerns.


Some seeds fell in shallow soil and sprouted quickly. That can happen with the expectation to “impress.” But because of lack of depth, those seeds withered and did not produce a long-term harvest. So be deeper than the selfishness of “impression”-based romance.


Finally some seed fell among good soil … and when you yoke your marriage to God, he gives us the strength and perseverance to plow the fields of life together. He’ll help you plow past rocks and weather the bad weather. (In fact, that’s question number 5 …)


5.   Will you stick through the rough times?


But if you trust God to plow with you – through rough time and great weather – he will be the life-force that helps you reap an incredible harvest.


That’s what Mary Louise and I are discovering. What we have now is so much better than what we had as newlyweds. (Though we wouldn’t trade those days for anything either!)


Now … your way of “doing” things doesn’t have to be just like mine – in fact, you probably will enjoy “doing” a few more things! But the point is this: Don’t invest too much in the temporary! Work on “being” there … together … forever.


Question: Is your focus in marriage short-term or long-term? Are you willing to endure the temporary (the plowing and planting) so that you may enjoy the long-term (the harvest and the fruit)?


In Christ’s Love,

a long-term romantic

(and the harvest is plentiful)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 25 - Colossians 3:1

And above all these

put on love, which

binds everything together

in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3:1



Do you remember kids picking flowers, pulling off petals, and playing the game, “He loves me … He loves me not”?


Do you remember the poem that’s been so overused that its almost a cliché: “How do I love thee / Let me count the ways”?


Let me ask … If your beloved said to you, “Why do you love me?” what would you say?


I just came across an article by Paul Hudson (I think originally from Dating, the website or magazine). He poses fifteen key questions that your beloved ought to be able to answer before heading down the aisle. I found these intriguing enough that I pass them along – my commentary mixed with his. (It won’t take fifteen days to cover this! But the first one alone with worth a book!)


1.   Why do you love me?


He says, “People seem to feel this is a question that doesn’t especially need answering.” Indeed, how many of us have said, stumblingly, “Well, I just love you because I love you.” (As if that settles the matter.)


But it doesn’t. Why? Because love tends to be “a very selfish act, and [that’s] okay. You love the person … for what that person does for you and how he or she makes you feel.”


But that’s not a sufficient ground for marriage. In five or fifty years of marriage, your intended won’t always make you “feel good.” Sometimes they’ll be sick. Sometimes they’ll be depressed. Sometimes – and for different seasons — life will need to about them (and not about you … and if you love them for what they do for you and how they make you feel, you’re in for dissatisfaction).


Think about these scenarios: I’ve watched men become discouraged when a baby comes. Why? Because a baby needs 24/7 care and suddenly the bride’s attention does not revolve around her husband anymore (at least for this season).


Similarly, I’ve watched women become discouraged when the husband’s job demands more and more. Though he may be “working hard for the family,” suddenly there’s not as much time and attention for her.


Husbands and wives, if you love your beloved for what they do for you and how they make you feel, you’re in for inevitable dissatisfaction.


Is that why the divorce rate is so high? Because so much love is self-motivated?


You are responsible for the way you feel … not your beloved.


Read that again. You are responsible for your own happiness. And love is not about how the other person makes you feel!!!


Love is primarily an action … not a feeling. Think of Jesus’ example of love.


What if he based his love on a feeling? Betrayed. Mocked. Whipped. Beaten. Spat upon. Crucified. Love wasn’t about him and how he felt. It was about us and what he could do for us.


What if we defined our love and marriage that way?


(Note: We must first be clear that love-being-willing-to-put-up-with-mess is not permission for your bad behavior! “Well, you’re supposed to love me, no matter what … so … ” No, if you’re doing “no matter what,” then you are the problem because you’re selfish – not the person who is who is being asked to selflessly put up with you!)


But … what if we defined our love and shaped our marriage based on the model of Jesus? You would forgive (rather than hold grudges). You would be patient in times of depression and transition. You would serve when your beloved was sick. You would rejoice in a mother’s love, rather than be jealous over the attention given a newborn. You would shower your beloved with respect for the long hours that poured into their job. It’s not about you.


Therefore, you better find out – ideally before you’re married – why you love this person … because that is what will sustain you through the inevitable challenges.


·         Is it their faith that you love?

·         Is it their character?

·         Is it their generosity or compassion?

·         Is it their laughter? (Remember, there’ll be seasons in a long life when they might not laugh much. But if you’re patient, I promise you, the laugh will eventually return. Whereas, if you’re not patient, you’ll prolong the drought.)


What do you love about your beloved?


·         Is it their courage?

·         Is it their humble spirit and servant’s heart?

·         Is it their faith?! (Why do you think I’m asking this one again?!)

·         Is it their beauty? (Ahh! Remember: The outer package will change. But if you find their beauty within, they become more and more beautiful as the years progress.)


Remember, you’re in this for the long-haul. The journey of life will bring plenty of joys and challenges.


·         If you’re in this for selfish reasons (for what you do for me), then you’ll spend your life disappointed. That attitude creates a selfish atmosphere that permeates and poisons life and marriage.

·         But if you focus on “what I love about you plus what I can do for you,” then you are likely to create an atmosphere of generosity and giving, of forgiveness and peace, of cooperation and compassion. (And you’re likely to get back more than you put in!)


Question: Why do you love him/her? … and are you in it for you or for them?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is thankful

for his parents …

They modeled

“do it for others”

and I’m the recipient

of that model with

joy in my own family!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jun 24 (May 6) - 1 Corinthians 7:3ff

For some reason this devotion didn’t get sent out to most of my groups. Therefore, I’m sending it again!


The husband should give to

his wife her conjugal rights, and

likewise the wife to her husband.

For the wife does not have

authority over her own body,

but the husband does.

Likewise the husband does not

have authority over his own body,

but the wife does.

Do not deprive one another,

except perhaps by agreement

for a limited time, that you

may devote yourselves to prayer;

but then come together again,

so that Satan may not tempt you

because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:3ff


Did you know that that was in Scripture?


God cares about every aspect of our lives!


He knows we have powerful desires — desires (remember), not needs. Therefore, he created the ultimate context for them to be fulfilled — marriage. 


If you stop at the phrase, “the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does,” then Scripture could sound very misogynistic. But when you realize that God gives the same privilege to a wife over her husband’s body, then this mutual trust and sharing should be seen in the context of the beautiful, Genesis 2, one-flesh union.


And when you put this in the context of the Ephesians 5:25 command for “husbands [to] love your wives as Christ loves the Church,” then it’s clear that this “belonging” is not for selfish pleasure, but for selfless and self-giving care.


But here’s the wonderfully sneaky way in which God works and blesses us ... When we create an environment of selfless care, we create an environment of trust and commitment ... and that’s when we get to reap the most consistent benefit of mutual pleasure!


Question: Are you creating the environment of selfless care, trust, and commitment? What do you need to do more fully to create this?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t want to

withhold selfless care



Monday, June 22, 2015

Jun 23 (May 5) - 1 Corinthians 7:2

For some reason this devotion didn’t get sent out to most of my groups. Therefore, I’m sending it again!


because of the temptation

to sexual immorality,

each man should have his own wife

and each woman her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:2


“Sexual atheism.”


Have you heard of this new term?


I heard the term first from Kenny Luck at ChristianPost.com. He talks about his young colleagues’ frustration in dating young Christian women ... and their eagerness to shift so quickly from sharing a first date latte to sharing a bed. 


Christian Mingle, the premier online Christian dating site, reveals that 63% of their members are open to having sex before marriage. 


As a pastor, I hear all the time, “But I have needs” (and it’s usually in the context of defending the decisions they made that have made their life such a mess).


I want to ask people, “Who taught you to define sex as a ‘need’?”


Food is a need. Air is a need. You could even make a good case for shelter being a need. But sex is a desire — albeit a very, very powerful desire. 


God knows this. He created those desires. And he gave us a safe place for their expression — “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”



Though sin can certainly complicate any set of relationships, marriage is generally the safest context for life. Statistically there’s more happiness, security, trust, and peace. In marriage, there is also — statistically — less abuse, betrayal, unwanted children, depression, anxiety, insecurity, child sexual abuse, etc. 


God’s way is the best way. (And it’s the best revenge ... because statistically the most sexually satisfied people in America are married church ladies! In the context of trust and commitment, we can give ourselves fully to our beloved.)


God has a good plan to bless our lives with stability and satisfaction. And yet so many Christians, as Kenny Luck says, “at once believe in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, [and yet] also believe simultaneously [that God] should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually. ... There is disconnect between identity and activity. ... It is the ultimate oxymoron.” 


As Luck says, “It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, ‘Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?’ (Luke 6:46, NIV).


Question: Are you a sexual atheist? What do you need to do to allow God to take control of this (or any other guarded part) of your life?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who has needs …


... and it has nothing

to do with sexuality

... and everything to do

with needing God

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jun 22 (May 7) - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

For some reason this devotion didn’t get sent out to most of my groups. Therefore, I’m sending it again!


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


I sat in a new member class just the other day, describing the purpose of our AWANA ministry. “The heart of this ministry,” I said, “is Scripture memorization. We’re sowing the word of God deep in children’s hearts.”


“Oh, I need that!” said a young mother, as I was relating the testimony of one of our AWANA kids who majestically navigated a painful transition by the power of the verses she memorized. 


Jeremiah 29:11 was her hope and assurance: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ’plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”


What could have been a painful, God-blaming time for this young girl became a time of trust, faith, hope, and victory. 


“Oh, I need that!” said that mom. 


1 Corinthians 13:4-8a is full of simple promises and assurances. It’s simple wisdom. It’s also a powerful call to action!


Over the next few days, I’m going to unfold the simple, powerful logic to these verses ... AND ... while I’m analyzing different parts, I’m going to invite you to memorize the whole. 


I know. I know. I can already hear you saying, “But I can’t memorize things.” That’s a lie. From Satan. He doesn’t want you equipped and defended by “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”


Memorization: Right now, read this passage out loud five times. Then see how far you can get with the simple, powerful logic to these verses. (We’ll learn a little more tomorrow as you put this piece of armor over your heart and your marriage.)


Question: If our four year olds can learn a verse a week, why are you balking and complaining?!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is patient and kind

.:. patient and kind enough to

kindly obey this pastoral advice

and patient learn a short passage



June 20-21 (May 26) - Hebrews 13:1-5

For some reason this devotion didn’t get sent out to most of my groups. Therefore, I’m sending it again!


Let mutual love continue.

Do not neglect to show

hospitality to strangers, for by

doing that some have entertained

angels without knowing it.

Remember those who are in prison,

as though you were in prison with them;

those who are being tortured, as though

you yourselves were being tortured.

Let marriage be held in honor by all, and

let the marriage bed be kept undefiled ...

Keep your lives free from the love of money,

and be content with what you have

Hebrews 13:1-5



Today’s passage – except for a few words – is NOT about marriage. Rather, it’s about how to live an honorable Christian life.


·         Show love.

·         Be hospitable.

·         Visit the hurting and forgotten.

·         Honor marriages.

·         Don’t be materialistic.


Wait! Let’s turn that around … and make it be about marriage!


Let’s suggest that four of the ways to “honor marriage” in your house is to …


Show Love: The actual scripture verses say, “Let mutual love continue.” “Mutual love”?! Isn’t that exactly what marriage is? Isn’t that what family is? Isn’t that what being a good neighbor is? We should ideally practice love in our family and let it spill over into a lonely world.


Be Hospitable: Some people have the gift of hospitality. If you do, open your home! Very few of our friends will accept much of an invitation to church … but they’ll gladly accept an invitation to dinner at your home! Make your house a bit of a church. Welcome people. Pray. Be authentic – and when that means talking about Jesus, do that in an inviting way around the dinner table. And … if you don’t have the knack of opening your home … treat people to dinner at a restaurant.


Visit the Hurting and Forgotten: This is service. If you want to bless your marriage beyond navel-gazing-selfishness, serve! Now, there are plenty of ways to serve, visiting the hurting and forgotten is one of the most joyful and holy. The scripture talks about visiting prisoners and the persecuted. You can add the sick and elderly. Just serve!


Don’t Be Materialistic: This is powerful, powerful advice. Debt is a prison. Financial margin, on the other hand, is freedom. Being content with what you have brings peace, while chasing possessions causes slavery to the job, less time with family, and a host of mixed up priorities. Indeed, instead of bondage of materialism, try to cultivate instead the joy of generosity!


Question: Rank how well you do at each of these four life-blessing-attitudes and activities. What’s one tangible step you could take to enhance your life and family by heeding these calls?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s writing this on a Tuesday

and is going home in an hour to clean

so a Tuesday night Bible Study

can come into my home

(Hospitality blesses our home!)