Actions Speaker Louder: Unity and Diversity in the Church

Tomorrow (4/3/16) at Perimeter Pointe Church we’re going to begin a series talking about race, class and ethnicity, and some of the challenges and biblical strategies for building a healthy multiethnic church.

Let’s face it, despite the fact that virtually all of the NT churches in the Bible were multiethnic (Jewish and Gentile believers together) and that one day, “people from every nation, tribe and tongue” will be gathered together worshipping God around His throne,” most churches today are still largely segregated along class and racial lines.

This is behind the times, and causes our churches to become less inviting to the diverse communities right in our backyards that we say we are committed to reaching with the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Sharing my personal journey with race as a white male, and teaching from the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), it is my prayer that Perimeter Pointe and the Body of Christ as a whole would commit to growing churches that truly reflect the communities they are trying to reach with the gospel!

My hope after tomorrow’s message (which may end up being a series!) is that Perimeter Pointe will begin honoring Jesus’ last recorded prayer:

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” John 17:21

Come out and join us for coffee and conversation at 10:30am and service at 11:00am. Discussion on this challenging topic will continue in a Q and A format immediately following service.

You can log on to perimeterpointe.org for directions or inbox me if you need more info. See you there!

-Pastor Will

Immeasurably Grateful

Immeasurably Grateful

samANDwill(Sam Dula & Will Kratt)

  “If there is no risk in your life, you’re probably not living in faith.”-Barry Odom-

 A few weeks ago, Barry Odom, a ministry friend and co-laborer, shared this quote when he spoke at Perimeter Pointe. It resonated with me and so many others listening that day. My wife Tina described it as “truth suspended over this next season of ministry and life for our family and for Perimeter Pointe.” I couldn’t agree more!

In some ways, I see my life as a series of risks and rewards. Some risks calculated better than others. All taken in hopes of a life lived on mission and that pleases God. Tina and I moved to Atlanta 20 years ago with a group of enthusiastic, committed believers to plant a church. We have been a part of two other church plants since then, and countless ministry opportunities we were humbled to be involved with.

In Genesis 12:1, God challenges Abraham to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” It is a call to risk. A call to leave the familiar. A call to step into a void with which, if you have followed Christ even just a short time, you are familiar. It is a clear picture of risk and faith that has stayed with me through every life transition. This passage has become a “life-verse” for me every time I reach a fork in the road and must rely on God’s guidance.

Tina and I reached a fork a few months ago. When we planted Perimeter Pointe Church, we didn’t know what to expect, other than God’s faithfulness. He has shown Himself so strong in so many ways over the last couple of years. He has assembled a core group of people committed to His mission in the Perimeter area, and we were excited to help extend His Kingdom there.

Many of you know our son, Myles has autism, which has presented many challenges – emotional, financial, social while at the same time provided unique rewards for which we are grateful. We will most likely be responsible for our son the rest of his life, and the older he got, the more we adamantly sought God for the configuration that would set him up for the best life possible. Dhati Lewis, who pastors Blueprint Church and founded the Rebuild Network, which focuses on training and resourcing church planters in urban areas, approached me with an opportunity we believe, not only positions us to provide the best life for Myles, but also puts me dead-center of my gifts and life mission. This opportunity; this fork in the road was one I considered prayerfully before stepping forward because it is across the country in San Diego, CA.

justUS2015(The Dulas)

Tina asked me a few years ago what would be my ideal job. I told her training church planters and leaders. The opportunity Dhati presented literally sounded like everything I wrote in my journal years ago. It seemed to good to be true, and there was one hitch. We’d have to leave Atlanta! In 20 years, God has given us friends that feel like family. So many people stood with us, prayed for us, and loved on us during the most difficult times. We have relationships that have endured over time, and it’s hard to leave those people behind.

In addition to the relational ties, we knew God wanted to do something remarkable at Perimeter Pointe, and as much as we wanted to be part of it, our path was taking us across the country. We prayed that God would send the right leader for this church, for these people, and He has.

I met Will Kratt about a little over a year ago, and was struck by his shepherd’s heart. There’s a lot to be impressed about with Will. He has a PhD in higher education, a seminary master’s degree, and has served in church leadership and on staffs for years. But what impressed me most was his commitment to his family and his passion for discipleship. And one of the things I think qualifies him most, is his humility. He brings with him a core team of people excited about the Perimeter Pointe family and the mission we’ve been charged with. He, his wife Doris, and their three boys have already been a blessing to Perimeter Pointe, and we look forward to seeing all that God does through them in this next ministry assignment for their family. We will be officially installing him this Sunday, August 23, as the Lead Pastor of Perimeter Pointe Church.

TheKratts(The Kratts)

As for the Dulas, we are preparing for a move that holds so much promise. We’ll be leaving for San Diego late-September and are doing all the things required to set up our new life there – finding a home, investigating schools for Myles, identifying new therapist and doctors. In addition to the ministry opportunity, we have found so much benefit for him out there. Many of the autism services Tina has been raising money to pay for over the last decade, are free in California. The programs they are creating for adults with autism lay out a possible path for Myles’ adulthood that excites and encourages us.

This journey; this fork, like so many others, is without a doubt risky. But that is an inherent part of faith, and if the truth be told, God has never failed us! There are so many people we will miss in Atlanta, but we will stay in touch. Our hearts are connected by eternity. And for all God has done that is behind us, and what lies ahead, we are immeasurably grateful.

Sam

 

The best marriage advice ever.

This article originally appeared on September 24, 2014 at davewillis.org

When Ashley and I got married fourteen years ago, we were young and in love, but we were also pretty clueless (me especially)! Along the way, we’ve had so many people share wise advice and life experiences with us which has helped guide our family through good times and hard times. Through the years, I’ve been collecting some of the best wisdom others have shared with us (and some I had to learn through my own mistakes).

If you’ll apply these twenty-five principles below to your relationship, it could make a life-changing difference in your marriage! 

For additional marriage-building toolsconnect with me on twitterwatch our FREE video series on The 4 Pillars of a Strong Marriage and check out our brand new video series “Best Sex Life Now” by clicking here.

In no particular order:

1. Choose to love each other even in those moments when you struggle to like each other. Love is a commitment, not a feeling.

2. Always answer the phone when your husband/wife is calling and when possible, try to keep your phone off when you’re together with your spouse.

3. Make time together a priority. Budget for a consistent date night. Time is the “currency of relationships” so consistently invest time into your marriage.

4. Surround yourself with friends who will strengthen your marriage and remove yourself from people who may tempt you to compromise your character.

5. Make laughter the soundtrack of your marriage. Share moments of joy, and even in the hard times, find reasons to laugh.

6. In every argument, remember that there won’t be a “winner” and a “loser.” You are partners in everything so you’ll either win together or lose together. Work together to find a solution.

7. Remember that a strong marriage rarely has two strong people at the same time. It’s usually a husband and wife taking turns being strong for each other in the moments when the other feels weak. (This is one of the many wise nuggets from my amazing wife, Ashley!)

8. Prioritize what happens in the bedroom. It takes more than sex to build a strong marriage, but it’s nearly impossible to build a strong marriage without it!

9. Remember that marriage isn’t 50-50, divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It’s not splitting everything in half, but both partners giving everything they’ve got!

10. Give your best to each other, not your leftovers after you’ve given your best to everyone else.

11. Learn from other people, but don’t feel the need to compare your life or your marriage to anyone else’s. God’s plan for your life is masterfully unique!

12. Don’t put your marriage on hold while you’re raising your kids or else you’ll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage.

13. Never keep secrets from each other. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy.

14. Never lie to each other. Lies break trust and trust is the foundation of a strong marriage.

15. When you’ve made a mistake, admit it and humbly seek forgiveness. You should be quick to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” 

16. When your husband/wife breaks your trust, give them your forgiveness instantly which will promote healing and create the opportunity for trust to be rebuilt. You should be quick to say, “I love you. I forgive you. Let’s move forward.”

17. Be patient with each other. Your spouse is always more important that your schedule.

18. Model the kind of marriage that will make your sons want to grow up to be good husbands and your daughters want to grow up to be good wives.

19. Be your spouse’s biggest encourager, not his/her biggest critic. Be the one who wipes away their tears, not the one who causes them.

20. Never talk badly about your spouse to other people or vent about them online. Protect your spouse at all times and in all places.

21. Always wear your wedding ring. It will remind you that you’re always connected to your spouse and it will remind the rest of the world that you’re off limits!

22. Connect into a community of faith. A good church can make a world of difference in your marriage and family.

23. Pray together. Every marriage is stronger with God in the middle of it.

24. When you have to choose between saying nothing or saying something mean to your spouse, say nothing every time!

25. Never consider divorce as an option. Remember that a “perfect marriage” is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!

Dave-Willis-DaveWillis.org_-200x300

Dave Willis is the Founder of the Facebook Marriage Page (www.StrongerMarriages.org) and the Co-Founder of OneBigChurch.com which is a global, collaborative network of churches and ministry leaders. He is the author of five books including “iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage” and “Soul Caffeine: Stories and Life Lessons Designed to Encourage and Inspire.” Dave and his wife, Ashley have three young sons named Cooper, Connor and Chandler and they live near Augusta, GA where Dave serves on staff at Stevens Creek Church as a Teaching Pastor. To learn more, follow him on twitter @davewillis

 

 

5 Reasons to Be Silent

This article originally posted on May 14, 2015 at thegospelcoalition.org

Silence is not highly valued in modern culture. When it comes to communication, it seems that we value quantity above all. And in our digital world it only gets easier to add your own voice to the cacophony. I recently read about a new book that suggests the act of writing is outstripping the act of reading in the digital age.

Whether e-mailing or snapchatting or podcasting or hash-tagging, we live in an age distinguished by noise. Not silence.

Church as Faithful Proclaimer

Of course, speaking is at the center of the Christian vocation as well. There is a range of biblical reasons to speak instead of being silent (e.g. Ps. 32:335:2239:2Jer. 4:19Mt. 20:31Lk. 19:40Acts 18:9). Most importantly, we proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:19-20). Paul asks, “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom. 10:14c).

Yet I want to dwell here on the ways that Scripture counsels God’s people to be silent, and the blessings that come with it.

Five Biblical Reasons to be Silent

1. Obedience

Simply put, you can’t obey if you are not silent to listen. This is true on a physical level, but also a spiritual one. Scripture symbolically links our hearts with what comes out of our mouths (Mt. 12:34Lk. 6:45). To extend the metaphor, only when we silence our heart are we in a place to hear—to receive God’s instruction—and obey.

Moses highlights this idea in one of his final speeches as he underscores Israel’s call to obey all of the Lord’s commandments (Deut. 27:1-10). That requirement is rooted in their identity as God’s people: no longer slaves, but God’s own inheritance (32:9). Moses puts an exclamation point on his speech with the sharp exhortation: “Be silent and hear, O Israel!” (27:9).

So God’s commandments and our obedience are hinged together by spiritual silence before the King. Conversely, disobedience is the uproar of indwelling sin as our heart denies who we are in Christ. This principle holds in a general way not just for God’s people, but all of his creation, including demons (Mk. 1:25//Lk. 4:35).

2. Self-Control

The silence linked with obedience also manifests self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Obedience and self-control are inseparable, but distinct. On the one hand, lack of silence betrays a lack of self-control that otherwise governs faithfulness (Eccl. 5:2-3). Scripture warns that the wordy fool only gets into trouble and displays his or her ignorance (Eccl. 10:12-14Prov. 12:23). The pragmatic but biblical solution for someone acting like a fool is self-inflicted silence: “Put your hand on your mouth” (Prov. 30:32).

On the other hand, being silent demonstrates our willingness to wait upon and serve others in love (Gen. 24:21Job 29:21Eph. 4:29). Silence is also the catalyst for godly self-reflection amid anger (Ps. 4:4). It attests to our resolve to endure difficulties with hope fixed firmly in the Lord (Lam 3:26-29). Silence also governs our ability to evaluate spiritual instruction carefully (1 Cor. 14:29-30), and interact shrewdly with the world without succumbing to its temptations (Ps. 39:1Prov. 21:23).

3. Wonder

It is possible to worship God in complete silence. One of Scripture’s most beautiful paradoxes is that wordlessness can speak clearly about God’s glory. We honor God when were are in awe of him. We are made in his image and therefore bring him glory in our humble silence, while every other creature is simply mute. Scripture is full of instances of silent awe prompted by wonder before God.

This kind of silence works two ways, both of which can bless God’s people. On the one hand, when Christians come to terms with the depth of sinful grievances committed against a holy God, Paul says that their mouths should rightly “be stopped” (Rom. 3:19). Silence is the only possible response in the face of God’s holiness and the coming judgment (Zeph. 1:7Zech. 2:12Mic. 7:16). On the other hand, we ought to be struck silent in light of God’s incredible redemption, worked out in his promised deliverance for his people (Isa. 41:1; cf. Lk. 1:20) and the reconciling work of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:1815:12). Silence even in corporate worship, where the church gathers to meet with God, facilitates the reverence that he is rightly due (Hab. 2:20).

4. Rest

As a parallel to wonder in light of God’s salvation, silence is a blessed product of the rest that we have in him. Knowing that God is our God prompts us to “be still” (Ps. 46:10). Even in the face of uncertainty and suffering, the psalmist can say, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation . . . for my hope is from him” (Ps. 62:15). Even creation knows its Maker and comes to rest at his command, as when Jesus silences the storm (Mk. 4:39). When Israel faced the Red Sea on one side and Egypt’s army on the other, Moses inconceivably commands Israel to be silent. “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent!” (Ex. 14:13-14). So firm is our hope in God and his salvation that fear may be laid aside, and our silence can demonstrate and encourage rest in him.

5. Wisdom

Often when we think of wisdom we think of speaking, usually to give counsel. But many times wisdom should prompt just the opposite. Especially in the book of Job, we see the tension between the desire to give counsel and the need to be silent. The multiplication of words by Job’s friends does little to help (6:24; 13:13, 19; 33:31, 33). The high point of wisdom in their counsel comes in 2:13: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (cf. 13:5).

Silence as a form of wisdom is frequently encouraged in Proverbs too. It can help wisely avoid transgression (10:19) and manifest respect and understanding (11:12; 17:27). It is part of wise and even-handed interactions (29:11; cf. Amos 5:13). Silence is so powerful that it can even make the fool at least appear wise and intelligent (17:28).

Church as Silent Witness

Being silent is not only part of how we obey and glorify the King (Job 36:10-12). It is also how we bless others as we are lovingly quick to listen and slow to speak (Jam. 1:19). Silence is thus an unspoken virtue: part of the church’s vocation and the Christian’s delight.

Much more could be said on the topic. But now it’s time for practical application.

 

William Ross is a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge, where his research focuses on the book of Judges. He recently co-authored the Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Zondervan, 2014), and blogs regularly at williamaross.wordpress.com. You can follow him on @WilliamARoss27

When Satisfying Yourself in God Isn’t Satisfying

 This post originally appeared on April 17, 2015 at phyliciadelta.com

Earlier this week we talked about desire and what to do when desires are overwhelming us. Part of that battle requires shifting focus from what we want to the source of all our needs: Jesus Christ.

But in the midst of this battle to choose Christ over our human nature, the pat answer to “satisfy yourself in God” isn’t always welcome. How do we satisfy ourselves in God when – frankly – we’re still not satisfied?

I always say, “I’ve been there” – because I have. Every married person was single at one time, working through the same desires, struggles, and difficulties single women are still facing today. I get it. That’s why I have this blog.

Having made the transition from singleness to dating to married and now in the early stages of motherhood, I understand the battle for satisfaction.  Just like contentment, satisfaction is not limited to the stage of singleness.

(Read the post Contentment is Not a State of Being for more thoughts on this.)

Dissatisfaction is no respecter of persons. It settles in all of our hearts regardless of our stage of life. But dissatisfaction is not God’s intention for His children, who have access to abundant and eternal life:

“ I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:9-10, Amplified, emphases mine)

The Necessity of God Himself

My faithful readers will recall that when my husband (Mr. M) and I first met, we were not attracted to one another. I had no initial “desire” for Josh emotionally or physically. But as I spent time with him and came to understand his character and heart, my desire for his presence grew.

Our relationship developed from acquaintance to friendship, from friendship to confidence, from confidence to commitment, and from commitment to intimacy. But there was an essential factor that ultimately brought us the marriage we have today: I wasn’t looking to Josh for a relationship status, for arm candy, or for help with my math homework. The essential factor was Josh himself. 

Even long-term Christians can have a “relationship” with God founded on the wrong motives. We may seek Him for the status of relationship: “Of course I’m a Christian! I was raised a Christian, I serve in my church, I study the Word – I’m saved!”

We may seek Him for how He makes us look: “Being a Christian makes me a good person of integrity, and my employers, friends and colleagues respect me because of it.”

Or we might seek Him for what He can do for us: “As a Christian God will give me good things: a future, a husband, a great job, the American dream.”

You can be the best of Christians and still be dissatisfied in your relationship with God. If this is the case, I challenge you to look at what you’re worshipping. Is it your knowledge about God, or is it God Himself?  Our spiritual actions, good deeds, and holy character are not the point of our faith, but a by-product of it. The point of Christianity is a thriving relationship with the Living God. 

You see, God Himself can’t be unsatisfying. He is the Creator of Life, of you, of everything you have and do and breathe and live. Just as I found joy in my relationship with Josh as a person (not what he could do for me), if you are dissatisfied with God, my friend, your relationship with Him is most likely impersonal. 

God is a Person

Making the transition from knowing about God to knowing God Himself requires a paradigm shift. Due to God’s enormity and invisibility, our physical separation from Him can cause us to view Him as an impersonal figure. But God – the Creator of people – is a Person. Only by understanding Him in a personal way can the relationship be satisfying.

How do we make this shift?

  • Study the descriptions of God’s Person. Passages in Isaiah and Revelation reveal powerful descriptions of who God is and what He acts like. Psalms reveals the human response to God’s character. The gospels reveal God in human form, taking on human likeness, and working out His love in visible form.
  • Look for God’s expressions and emotions in Scripture. God feels love toward us (Mark 10:13); He is moved with compassion (Matthew 20:34); God even laughs (Psalm 2:4)!
  • Assess your prayer life. Do you pray as if you are talking into a void? God hears the prayers of the righteous (1 John 5:14-15). While you are yet speaking, He hears you (Isaiah 65:24). He rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). When we pray in accordance with God’s will, He will answer. Stop praying timidly: pray boldly, pray specifically, and expect an answer. Then keep your eyes open to watch for God’s work.

It is in knowing and communicating with God Himself – God the Person – that we come to understand the deep, satisfying relationship God desires for all His children. This kind of relationship isn’t just for Beth Moore and Tim Keller or Paul the Apostle – the “big guys” of the Christian faith. It is for the single woman. It is for the teenage girl. It is for the struggling wife. It is for the lonely mother. It is for all who call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). 

This understanding of God’s character is what leads to “delighting yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4).

One of my friends in college who perpetually struggled with her health once said something I would never forget: “It amazes me that God… the train of whose robe fills the Temple… is also the One who holds my hand.”

Her relationship with God was founded on a deep, thriving, growing knowledge of God Himself: a personal, loving, magnificent God who was real to her in the midst of her struggles. Because He was real, He satisfied.

You Hold the Keys

Our very existence is a reflection of God’s love.

Our lives were God’s decision to bring yet another human being into this world for the potential of having a relationship with Him. And yet the Sovereign God, Savior and King – in all His power He created you with a human will… and set you free. 

The One with power to dethrone kings and calm storms hands you the keys to a relationship with Him, stands at the door, and knocks (Rev. 3:20).

While the Holy Spirit calls and convicts us, we have the free will to choose or reject Jesus Christ. This doesn’t stop at a salvation decision. Each day we wake up we choose yet again how close we will walk with the Lord: how personally we will know Him, how often we will talk to Him, and how firmly we will believe Him. How we choose determines how satisfied we are.

God could demand our love and worship, but because love necessitates freedom of choice, He takes the risk of grief and calls us to Him. We decide whether or not we come; whether or not we believe He is as satisfying as that boyfriend, husband, family, job or whatever it is on earth we want. 

He gives us the choice of finding satisfaction in a consistent, perseverent relationship with Him. Not in doing things for Him. Not in just learning about Him.

In being with God Himself.

Can God Fill the Relationship Void?

All this may seem good and true but I still get the question: “How can God satisfy the desire for human companionship?” Certainly a physical person is capable of fulfilling certain things a spiritual God cannot – such as getting together for coffee or hugging or actually laughing together!

To be satisfied in God does not mean your desire for human companionship disappears; it is simply overwhelmed by your relationship with the Lord.  Human companionship is God’s design and God will bring it about for all of us in His timing and way; but human companionship is not our ultimate need. Marriage is not our ultimate destiny. Husbands and boyfriends are not capable of satisfying the companionship “need” for the long term.

See “Marriage Will Not Cure Your Lonely“. 

I’ve discovered that, in developing a deeply personal relationship with God, I have been satisfied by Him in the absence of human companionship. I went through a phase where I had few close girl friends. As I prayed for God to bring new ones into my life, I had to depend on Him as my sounding board. I told Him my daily stories. I confessed to Him my frustrations.

This is what a real, living relationship with God is supposed to look like: like a relationship with a Person.

Whose Mind is Stayed On You

If your craving human companionship has caused you to find little to no satisfaction in God, you must first assess where your mind is focused. While marriage is a good and holy desire, if it consumes your thoughts daily and hourly, it is no wonder you are dissatisfied with God. There is another god consuming your heart.

I have been right there, in these trenches before and I can tell you: dwelling on marriage, on singleness, on relationships, feeding your mind on romance novels and Meg Ryan movies and ridiculous TV shows – all it does is pull your mind further and further from the satisfaction you COULD have with God Himself. But your mind is too clogged up to have room. Your thoughts are constantly turned to what God has created instead of God the Creator. Not only does this fundamentally damage your relationship with God, it ill equips you for any kind of relationship – including marriage.

Your mind controls your response to desire, so your mind must be focused completely and wholly on the Lord in order for you to experience the peace He provides:

“You keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because she trusts in you.” (Is. 26:3)

Like I said in “What Do I Do With These Desires?”, this is going to be a moment-by-moment decision. No one said it would be easy! Our faith isn’t something we pick up in the morning and carry under our arm throughout the day: Jesus Christ, and what He has done, is the beginning, the ending, and the in between of every single moment and decision we have before us. This means the battle for our thoughts isn’t a surprise. It’s to be expected. We are first and foremost spiritual persons communing with a spiritual God, and when we can keep our priorities in that alignment, we will start to see what satisfaction means. 

As a single woman, I had to be drastic to keep my thoughts on the Lord. I think we Christians take this initiative a little too lightly. I cut out everything – fiction, movies, TV shows, music, attending the theater, hanging out with certain friends – that produced discontent and dissatisfaction in my heart. Even today, I have to take month-long breaks from Pinterest, and I am continually analyzing the media I’m consuming to see if it is helping me keep my mind on Christ or if it’s just another distraction. This is NOT extremism: this is what it takes for me to “walk holy”. Do what it takes for you to have a holy mind and therefore a holy life. 

Finding True Satisfaction

If we expect to feel happy all the time, or to be “satisfied” in the sense we have everything we have ever wanted – that’s not what satisfaction means. It means an inner peace and acceptance of where we are, knowing God is with us in our current situation. This is what Paul was talking about when He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”! If you read the context, he was saying that God gives him the strength to be satisfied no matter what his personal conditions.

We receive that same strength by pursuing a deeply personal relationship with God Himself. It doesn’t come from Bible knowledge, ladies’ Bible studies, counseling, serving in the church, mission trips, or anything else. Sometimes I have to back away from it all and remind myself that the summation of my life, my work, my faith – it all goes back to how well I knew God Himself. 

If you keep trying to do the Christian things – good things! – in order to eventually rid yourself of dissatisfaction, it won’t happen. You can read your Bible, study the verses, write down notes and still feel as if God is not satisfying until you stop seeking satisfaction and simply seek God.

I’m not saying this is a quick fix. It’s much like my friend Sarah explained when she cut sugar out of her diet: the first few weeks were hard, but as she persevered she began to feel better and better. After a few months, the sugary things she used to eat no longer satisfied her – they were sickly sweet, too sweet for her now-healthy taste!

In the same way, satisfying your heart in God is a discipline of your spirit. Pour out your heart to Him. Treat Him like a person. Act like He is your friend, your Father, and your Savior – all the things we know He is but forget to believe. And in knowing and believing, you will come to fully grasp the love He has for you – a love that truly satisfies.

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Questions can be emailed to Phylicia at phyliciadelta@hotmail.com.

Phylicia lives in Central Virginia where she works full time for Liberty University coordinating visits with youth leaders and homeschool families. Her favorite things are her french press, Julia Child biographies, farm markets, balcony gardening and her sunny KitchenAid 600. And last but never least: Mr. M. To learn more, follow her @phyliciadelta or visit phyliciadelta.com.

Disappointed

This article originally appeared on April 29, 2015 at paultripp.com.

Have you ever been disappointed with God?

It happens to all of us. Whether it was a childhood dream that never was realized or a job promotion that we were passed over for, we wish that God had written our story according to our plan, not his.

In today’s devotional, I want to look at a deeper level of disappointment. Just like we have been doing for the past several weeks, we’re going to use our dear friend Jonah as a case study.

After Jonah evangelized the city of Nineveh, all its inhabitants covered themselves in sackcloth, sat in ashes, and fasted in repentance. And just like the Psalms declare, the Lord was “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (103:8) – God “relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them.” (Jonah 3:10)

Then we come across this shocking statement in Jonah 4:1 – “But it [God’s mercy towards Nineveh] displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” Jonah was disappointed because God extended mercy to those whom he thought deserved condemnation.

Here’s the question for you today: who do you want to see judged rather than forgiven?I’m not only referring to hell, although this story certainly has eternal implications. When I use “judged” or “condemned”, I mean face the consequences for their sinful actions either in this life or the next.

  • If you’re a husband or wife and your spouse has caused you years, even decades, of pain, is there part of your heart that wants to see them dealt with harshly, even after they have realized their error?
  • If you’re a parent and your rebellious child has produced nothing but hard work for your life, is there part of your heart that wants to see them punished appropriately, even after they have realized their error?
  • If you’re a sibling, a neighbor, a co-worker, a boss, or an employee – is there someone in your life that you would rather see judged and condemned rather than blessed and forgiven, even after they have realized their error?

Here’s the irony of Jonah’s disappointment: the very same mercy that he wanted withheld from Nineveh is the same mercy that kept him alive.

Jonah deserved condemnation and punishment when he ran from God, but instead he received a second chance (Jonah 3:1). Jonah received life instead of death, but yet he wants others to receive death instead of life. Sadly, you and I operate in the very same way.

Just like Jonah forgot his own rebellion, we forget our own rebellion. Just like Jonah forgot the mercy God extended to him, we forget how merciful God has been to us. But when we remember our past (and present) condition, and when we remember the past (and present) nature of God’s mercy, it becomes impossible not to celebrate the salvation of Nineveh.

I say and write this all the time: the people who give grace best are the ones who know they need it most. This week, remember the condition of your sin and the nature of God’s mercy towards your sin. It will radically alter the way you relate to the people you say you love.

God bless

Paul David Tripp


REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. Reflect on a dream that was never realized. What was (or is) your dream, and what was (or is) your response when it didn’t come true?
  2. Reflect on a time when you didn’t get what you thought you deserved? Why did you feel entitled and how did you respond when you didn’t receive it?
  3. Do you freely celebrate the successes and joys of others? Or do find yourself discouraged when something good happens to another person?
  4. Who would you rather see judged than forgiven? Be specific, choosing someone with whom you have a personal relationship with (as opposed to a public figure, political tyrant, etc).
  5. In what ways do you think you have graduated from your sin and need for mercy? Why is this “arrival” mentality dangerous?maxresdefault

 

 

 

 

Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. Follow him @PaulTripp or read more at www.paultripp.com

5 Essentials to Paying Off Debt

This post originally appeared April 27,2015 on josephsangl.com

In this series, I want to equip you to become debt free!! Jenn and I became debt free in just 14 months by following this process. I can tell you this – there is NOTING like living life without the weight of debt!

STEP 1 – Understand the WHY before the HOW

STEP 2 – Calculate your Debt Freedom Date

STEP 3 – Accelerate your debt elimination
DEBT – This four letter word often consumes so much of our lives, thoughts and actions. But, it doesn’t have to!

When it comes to debt, I understand how stressful and frustrating it can be. I understand the weight and fiction it can bring to a family. However, I also know the freedom that comes when one become debt free and I want you to experience this freedom!

When you are ready to start attacking your debt, here are a few ways to accelerate debt elimination. (But before you begin, make sure you’re not making the #1 Debt Mistake – HERE.)

3 Ways to Accelerate Debt Elimination:

  1. Reduce Interest – Many people with substantial consumer debt do not realize that 50% – 75% of their payments are merely going to the lender as interest. This greatly reduces your ability to lower your debt. So, here are a few ways to lower your interest:
    1. Transfer to a 0% Interest Credit Card (Learn more HERE)
    2. Call & ask for a lower rate
    3. Pay on-time
    4. Establish automatic payments
  2. Increase Income – Since we’re all friends here, if we’re being completely honest, we all vote for this option, right? But a lot of people don’t realize that there are numerous ways to increase income that are within your hands. Here are a few:
    1. Pay Raise (see salary.com)
    2. Tax Refund
    3. Bonus
    4. Work Overtime
    5. Extra Job
    6. Sell Some Possessions
  3. Decrease Outgo – This is an option that is always available to us, but it’s probably not fun. If you can decrease the outgo to other things, you can increase the outgo to liberating your life from debt!
    1. Create and follow a budget!
    2. Sell some possessions

You can learn more about each of these steps in my book, I Was Broke. Now I’m Not.

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Joseph Sangl is a leading teacher of personal finances. It is his passion to help people accomplish far more than they ever thought possible with their personal finances. He believes when people are financially free, they are much more likely to go do exactly what they have been put on earth to do – regardless of the income potential.

He is the founder of I Was Broke. Now I’m Not., an organization that provides financial teaching through live events, print and web resources. He is also the President and CEO of INJOY Stewardship Solutions, a company that provides solutions that resource the vision of the local church. To learn more, visit josephsangl.com or follow him on twitter @joesangl

Are You Weak Enough For God To Use You?

This article originally posted at jdgreear.com on April 13, 2015.

There aren’t many societies that praise weakness. Ours is no different. Whether you’re a pastor or a police officer, an on-the-go salesman or a stay-at-home mother, weakness is seen as a liability. Nobody wants to be weak. Strong is the name of the game.

Sadly, our obsession with strength blinds us to a key biblical truth: God uses the weak. It’s so pervasive that you’d be hard-pressed to find a book of the Bible that can’t be summarized this way. And yet despite being hard-wired into the very DNA of Scripture, we don’t really believe it. We still clamor after strength. But God doesn’t need our strength to deliver us. In fact, our strength is actually more of a liability than an asset.

I’ll go a step further: God is so single-minded in his preference for weakness, that when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. Case in point: the Bible’s most courageous coward, Gideon.

Just before heading into battle with the mighty Midianite army, Gideon hears from God: “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). So God gives Gideon a couple of tests, designed to trim the ranks.

Test 1 is to send all the fearful people home. It turns out that’s a decent number, and 22,000 of Gideon’s 32,000 leave. (I wonder if Gideon tried to sneak off with them?) Now, that might not have been a foolish decision. Fear is contagious, so 10,000 brave soldiers are better than three times that many if 70% of them are wimps.

But if Test 1 was designed to create a braver army, Test 2 was only designed to create a smaller and weaker one. God tells Gideon to have his men drink from a stream, and all of the men who “lap like dogs” (who does that?) are the ones that should stay. It’s an arbitrary test, but an effective one: only 300 men remain.

God was teaching Gideon what he wants to teach us today: when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. That doesn’t mean God delights in bringing us pain, or that every instance of weakness in our lives is caused directly by God. But periodically, God will step into our lives and reduce the size of our army, because he wants us to trust him—and that’s often the only way we will.

So when we hear a tragic diagnosis from our doctor…or when we suddenly find ourselves out of a job…or when our marriage is on the rocks…we should see those as our “army” being reduced. Those are moments of decision: will we rage against God, or lean into him like never before? We are so obsessed with grasping at strength that pain becomes something to avoid, not an opportunity to learn from. But what if dependence is more important than strength? If dependence is the objective, than weakness is an advantage.

I hate learning that lesson. I’m sure you do, too. But weakness forces us to throw ourselves in desperation before God, and that is the only place—and the only posture—in which we can learn the four words that transform our lives: God is always faithful. You and I may never know that God is all we need until he is literally all we have.

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9). You see, if we brag on our strengths, people may look at us and think, “I wish I were more like that … but I can’t be.” But if we brag on our weaknesses, that makes people think, “Wow, I have access to the same power that guy does!” Christians aren’t people who boast about their superior morality; they are beggars telling a bunch of other beggars where to find bread.

Beware your strengths. They are far more dangerous to you than your weaknesses, because your strengths keep you from hoping in God’s mercy. And boast in your weaknesses. Boast when God lets you fail. Boast when God reduces the size of your army. God isn’t withholding good things from you. In fact, he’s offering you something priceless. As Hudson Taylor said, “God wants you to have something far better than riches and gold, and that is helpless dependence on him.

For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.

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J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011), Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013), and Jesus, Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You (2014). Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it’s also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God’s extravagant love found in Christ.

He and his wife Veronica live in Raleigh and are raising four ridiculously cute kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon.

 

 

Becoming A Spouse That Serves

 

I have to admit, I’m writing this post out of personal experience. It’s not that I’ve mastered the art of servanthood (in any form or any situation), and now I’m imparting my awesomeness on anyone reading this. Not even close to the truth! Over the course of my life I’ve failed way more than I’ve succeeded. At serving, at loving, at giving. That’s why I’m so grateful for grace.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my marriage, when it comes to grace. I’m blessed to have a wife who loves Jesus and is a living example of amazing grace. She’s taught me a lot about servanthood. Just recently, in fact, I was asked a big question by a couple I was marrying and I was able to share some of the wisdom my wife and I have discovered over the course of our 16 year marriage.

Their question was this- “How do we have a successful marriage?”

Frankly, that’s a fair question in this day and age, even if it’s simple and fairly obvious. But with the divorce rate exceeding the marriage rate, it’s in the hearts and minds of every couple that sets out on this journey together. Lets be honest- no one walks down the aisle on their wedding day and thinks to themselves, “I only want to be married for five or eight years and then get divorced.” Or, “We’re getting married now, but I don’t see this lasting forever.” That would be crazy!

So, I answered their question with an answer that I’ve come to understand (and am still learning) after many years of marriage. I said, “Submission!”

Ouch! That’s kind of a four-letter word these days! Submission. Kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you say it. The reason why is that we, as a culture, have used that word as ammunition to get what we want, or worse, some husbands have used this as justification to make their wives do want ever they want them to do. Truthfully, in the past, when I’ve talked about this, it never fails- I either have husbands nodding at me smugly or wives shaking their heads as if to say, “Oh no, here we go. I’m going to get a psychological beating!”

 

Fact is- both of those reactions mean one thing: there is a grave misunderstanding of what submission really means.

 

In Ephesians 5:22-24 the Apostle Paul says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

 

Again, this stings! Seems 1-sided and cold. For decades preachers and counselors have used this verse as a weapon, placing a target on woman, as if their lack of submission is the problem in the marriage. It’s unfair and inaccurate. Don’t get me wrong, this verse is truthful. But it’s not the only verse concerning submission that you find here.

 

If you read on in Verses 25-27 this is what you also find- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

 

Wives- submit. Yep! But husbands, die. Absolutely! That’s what Paul is getting at in this verse. Submission is a 2-way street. The other verse that is often overlooked is Verse 21- “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words, serve one another!

 

Now I realize that some reading this may not subscribe to the Bible as the ultimate authority over our lives, and that’s okay. Even if you took the “Jesus” or “church” part out of this passage you would find this- “Submit to one another. Wives submit to your husbands. Husbands, love your wives, and be willing to give yourself up for her.

 

Back to my life lessons for a moment. In 16 years of marriage, I’ve screwed this up royally at times. I’ve been selfish, arrogant, belligerent, un-loving and self-serving many times over the years. I admit it, I’m far from perfect. I will forever be a work in progress. We all are until we breathe our last breath. But there’s one thing I’ve discovered as a husband, in particular: when I choose to serve my wife and put her needs above mine, I experience an abundance of peace and fulfillment. When I don’t, we are at odds, and there’s unrest. Same applies to her. This goes both ways and applies to both marriage partners.

 

So my answer to this couple’s big question was simple- “Submit to one another. It’s not 1-sided. It’s a 2-way street. Put each other’s needs above your own. Choose to serve each other every single day and you will have marital success. It’s that simple!”  They took it to heart. In fact, they even asked that I include this verse and explanation in the ceremony. I’d say it resonated, wouldn’t you?

Be a spouse that serves.

MikeBerry5_SM

Mike Berry is an author, blogger, speaker, adoptive father, and former foster parent. He is the co-creator of the parenting blog, www.confessionsofaparent.com which is read by more than 100,000 people, in 15 different countries, monthly. In 2014 he authored the eBook, 7 Hills Every Parent Should Die On, and the empowerment PDF, Your Ridiculously Amazing Year: 15 Ways To Make 2015 Your Familys Best Year Ever! Both are available as free downloads on his blog. Mike has been married to Kristin for 16 years and they have 8 children, all of whom are adopted. They reside just outside of Indianapolis, IN. To learn more about him, follow him @itsmikeberry

 

 

How Miscarriage Led to My Crisis of Faith

This post originally appeared on April 8, 2015 on christianitytoday.com

After living in fear, I learned to trust God fully.

Most miscarriages have little to no symptoms, but mine was full of them. Early in pregnancy, things felt off, and I became easily winded and dizzy. A few days after a worried call to my nurse, the bleeding came. I was home, by myself, and in excruciating pain.

When we became pregnant for the first time, we assumed that a baby would come nine months later. Miscarriage never crossed our minds. So many of my friends were having babies, and it all looked so easy. It was a lonely loss.

People said all types of things to encourage me: You’ll get pregnant again.You’ll get to hold your baby in heaven. At least it was early on in the pregnancy. We had announced our pregnancy immediately, so I also had people ask about the baby months after the miscarriage. It felt like a never-ending reminder of our loss.

And then it happened again.

A few months later, thinking the chances of a second miscarriage were slim, we began trying for another. We were thrilled when I became pregnant again, seeing this baby as an answer to our prayers. During this pregnancy, I’d feel something and wonder about a potential miscarriage, but mostly I was just happy to be pregnant again. Then, we had a routine ultrasound, but there was no heartbeat. The miscarriage came with complications. My body didn’t respond well to the medicine, which left me with a chronic stomach condition.

After my second miscarriage, fear and confusion took reign in my mind and heart. How could I make sense of a sovereign and good God in the midst of this? Why could my friend who didn’t want children have them so easily but I couldn’t? I was bitter and finished. I asked my husband if we could take a break from any attempt at getting pregnant so that my heart, mind, and body could heal.

I read Spiritual Depression by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones. I reread Future Grace by John Piper. I ran to my Bible in search for answers and peace. What the Lord revealed to me was that my fear and despondency wasn’t an anomaly. Jesus was denied and abandoned by his friends. He pleaded in the garden for the Lord to take the cup away and then proceeded down the awful lonely road towards the cross alone. And how could we forget the cry of our Savior as he died on the cross: “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:46).

God provided comfort through the suffering of his Son. I wasn’t alone in my pain. He wasn’t leaving me to my own. He began to reveal to me that he understood and he loved me dearly. I didn’t have anywhere else to go but to him, and he answered my cry in the wilderness. It was comforting for me to realize that it was okay to be in a wilderness. Jesus didn’t go to the cross cheering and clapping his hands. He was sorrowful—sorrowful for this world and for the pain and separation from his Father he knew he’d have to endure. It was okay to weep. Through my tears I had great hope because I knew that I wasn’t praying to a dead Savior. He rose and was indeed interceding on my behalf.

Once my husband and I resumed trying, I was terrified to find out I was pregnant again. Every strange feeling in my abdomen set off a series of imaginary scenarios, each ending with me in the hospital then coming home without a child. We waited a little longer to tell friends, but we soon wanted everyone we knew to pray for us. We knew we couldn’t handle the pain and suffering of another miscarriage alone. Along with learning that the Lord endured great suffering, I realized that many other women had experienced miscarriages but never spoken of them. They began to comfort me with the comfort they had received from the Lord.

Miscarriages are heartbreaking and painful for mothers, especially those who understand that life begins at conception. In the midst of my fear and trembling at the unknown, God gently reminded me of his words in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God comforts me by reminding me of who he is. He is my God. He is my personal, intimate, fatherly God. He is with me. I am not alone in my fear. And because he is with me, I need not be dismayed. He will strengthen me, he will help me, and he upholds me. I can receive his care and believe because he is God.

I was fearful throughout that third pregnancy until the moment I held my baby boy. We gave birth to our first son in 2006. It was then that I understood slightly the wisdom of God. Would I ever want to go through the loss of two babies again? No. But would I trade this sweet boy that we held in our arms? Never. In God’s mysterious wisdom and grace, he gave us the gift of our son, and we were overjoyed.

My husband and I knew we wanted to have more than one child, so after a year we began to try again. This time we were having difficulty. We eventually got pregnant again, and within six weeks I had miscarried. We were told there was a chromosomal defect. We tried again and miscarried—my fourth miscarriage during six years of marriage. My response during those days was quite different from the first two. I was sobered. I knew I didn’t have control—I couldn’t make a baby be born—and I was surrendered to that fact.

I was also at peace. I had spent the last few years preparing for another trial, and God’s promise stood true:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4: 6-7).

Surrendering to the Lord, crying out for help, and thanking him for what I did have proved to bring me great peace. God also tells us that the mind set on him will be given peace, because that person trusts the Lord (Is. 26:3). The Lord was faithful to fulfill these promises. I was at peace because he had given me peace. I was at peace because Jesus was enough for me.

I also settled in my mind on only having one child. He was a joy and a gift, and it was okay if we didn’t have another. And then we had a girl.

She was a surprise. I don’t remember experiencing any fear while pregnant with her. When she was born in 2009, we believed our family to be complete; unless, of course, the Lord has another surprise for us. And if he does, I pray that I will be able to say with Job, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return, the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

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This essay is inspired by Trillia Newbell’s latest book, Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (Moody, April 2015). A writer on faith, family, and diversity, she is also the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Moody, 2014). You can find her work at trillianewbell.com. Follow her on Twitter at @trillianewbell

The Power of Self-Control

It should be simple to win with our money. We’ve all heard the axioms that we should “spend less than we make” and to “save money for a rainy day.” Financial principles are shared throughout Scripture. Proverbs 21:5 shares with us that “the plans of the diligent lead to profit.” In other words, we should have a budget – a financial plan. Proverbs 22:7 cautions us against debt when it shares that “the borrower is slave to the lender.” We’re instructed to have diversified investments in Ecclesiastes 11:2 when we’re challenged to “Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”

This great wisdom is available to us all, yet the vast majority of people struggle mightily to manage their money in a way that pleases and honors God. Why is it that we know we should save money for a rainy day, yet we do not do it? What causes us to spend more than we make even though we know better? I believe it is because we have not activated one of the greatest fruits of the spirit – self-control.

Satan is a real enemy. He knows if he can keep a person financially broken, he can keep them ineffective. He can keep them focused on themselves and in financial bondage. One of his greatest tools is pride. When faced with something we want to purchase (but haven’t saved for), he will whisper a sweet lie like, “Go ahead. You deserve it.” In that moment, we all have a choice. Will we activate that great fruit of the spirit called “self-control”? Or will we give in to pride and make the purchase knowing full well we are spending money we don’t have?

Choose instead to activate self-control in your life, allowing the spirit to help you! When activated, self-control will help you avoid so much pain and misery – in your finances and beyond. Self-control will lead you to prepare a budget each and every month. It will help you put God first in your finances through tithing the first 10-percent of your income. It will allow you to trust Him with the remaining 90-percent. This one key fruit of the spirit will compel you to save some money so you can accommodate financial challenges without pain. Investing your money will become a priority – for college education, retirement, and long-term dreams God has given you.

Ultimately, the great power that self-control provides you is the ability to form good habits. The habit of generosity. A habit of saving. A habit of planning. Why not form good habits? They are just as difficult to break as bad ones!

Have some areas in your life you feel are “out of control?” Pray right now for God to activate self-control in your life. Then move forward to live in the freedom it provides!

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Joseph Sangl is a leading teacher of personal finances. It is his passion to help people accomplish far more than they ever thought possible with their personal finances. He believes when people are financially free, they are much more likely to go do exactly what they have been put on earth to do – regardless of the income potential.

He is the founder of I Was Broke. Now I’m Not., an organization that provides financial teaching through live events, print and web resources. He is also the President and CEO of INJOY Stewardship Solutions, a company that provides solutions that resource the vision of the local church. To learn more, visit josephsangl.com or follow him on twitter @joesangl

7 ways a husband needs respect from his wife.

As I’ve interacted with couples from all over the world and researched the keys to happiness and fulfillment in marriage, one surprising discovery is that most husbands are absolutely desperate for the respect of their wives. For many men, the drive to be respected is even stronger than their drive for sex.

(Women also desire and deserve respect. Take a minute to read my post on 7 ways a wife needs respect from her husband)

This isn’t a new discovery. The Bible records a two thousand-year-old tidbit of marriage wisdom by stating, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33). There’s a great book by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs called “Love and Respect” which delves into the deeper meanings of love and respect in marriage.

I believe most women genuinely want to show respect to their husbands, but they don’t always know how to do it. What a wife may do to show respect and what a husband may need to feel respected are often two different things. To help bring more harmony to your marriage, I’ve outlined below the main ways a husband feels respected from his wife.

This is not a comprehensive list and all of these may not all apply to every marriage, but I’m strongly convinced these seven principles hold true for the vast majority of men. I’m so thankful to have a wife who shows me much more love and respect than I deserve! Thanks, Ashley.

(In no particular order):

A husband feels respected by his wife when…

1. She is content to live within the family’s financial means.

A husband has a deep desire to be a provider. In our modern society, the man is not usually the sole breadwinner, but he still wants to feel that his work is meeting the needs and desires of his wife. When a wife will live within the family’s financial means, she’s communicating respect to her husband by validating his hard work and his need to be a provider. She’s also removing financial stress from the marriage. (Husbands obviously need to live within the financial means of the family as well).

2. She prioritizes what happens in the bedroom.

When a man feels starved sexually, he will often feel both the physical frustration of unfilled desire and the emotional frustration of feeling undesirable to his wife. When the wife will initiate intimacy and also be receptive to his advances, he will feel more respected and fulfilled and he’ll also be more capable of fulfilling his wife’s needs.

For more on this, check out our new video series on sex and intimacy in marriage.

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3. She builds him up with her words (both in public and in private).

A wife’s words have the power to shape her husband. A wife shows respect to her husband both by how she speaks to him and by how she speaks about him. In both public and private, a wife’s words can build up or tear down her husband. She’s affirming, not sarcastic. She’s warm, not cold. She’s his biggest encourager, not his biggest critic.

For more on this, check out this post on “How do I respect my husband when he makes so many mistakes?”

4. She laughs with him (not at him).

When there isn’t much laughter in the marriage, that’s usually a warning sign of deeper issues. Find opportunities to laugh together. Your husband desperately wants you to be happy. Most husbands can’t be happy unless they believe they’re making their wives happy. Also, laugh at his jokes. This one might seem silly, but you’d be amazed how important it is for most men to know his wife believes he has a great sense of humor.

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5. She trusts his judgment.

I’m certainly not saying a wife should blindly agree to everything that husband wants. A marriage requires a lot of conversation, mutual submission, and sometimes even debate. What I am saying is that a man feels strongest when his wife affirms his strength. A man feels wisest when his wife affirms his wisdom. A man feels most respected when his wife respects his decisions.

6. She doesn’t mother him.

There’s a motherly instinct in most women and that instinct can sometimes be misdirected towards mothering a husband. When a wife attempts to change, discipline or correct a husband from the posture of a mother instead of a partner, the husband will feel emasculated and it will often cause a cycle of frustration for both the husband and the wife.

7. She has his back.

Above all, a husband needs to know his wife has his back. In all times, in all situations, let him know you love and respect him. Your love, your words, your actions and your respect have the power to bring out the best in him.

 

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Dave Willis is the Founder of the Facebook Marriage Page (www.StrongerMarriages.org) and the Co-Founder of OneBigChurch.com which is a global, collaborative network of churches and ministry leaders. He is the author of five books including “iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage” and “Soul Caffeine: Stories and Life Lessons Designed to Encourage and Inspire.” Dave and his wife, Ashley have three young sons named Cooper, Connor and Chandler and they live near Augusta, GA where Dave serves on staff at Stevens Creek Church as a Teaching Pastor. To learn more, follow him on twitter @davewillis

Helping You Delight in God’s Word

It is truly astounding that we can come to the Bible everyday and we are met, fed, and sustained by the Word of God and the God of the Word. This is a tremendous privilege. In fact, it is such a privilege that we ought to be carefully intentional as to how we use the time.

Once you have settled the fact that you are going to be committed to daily reading your Bible, you may encounter a common problem. A few hours into a busy day you may take a few minutes to gather yourself and think about what you have read. But, to your dismay you have a difficult time remembering anything specific or “sticky” from your earlier reading.

In the past I have written about the danger of “dental chair devotions” where we simply swish and spit after our time in the Word. The problem is we don’t remember or make personal application; we just swish the text around in our mouths then close the book and what we have read is gone.

In my morning reading of the Bible I have adopted a practice of writing down a particular verse or verses from my reading. It may be a verse that was convicting, for example, in this this morning’s reading I wrote down Luke 24: 38:

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Or it may be a verse that is a reminder of God’s promises for the future. Last week I wrote down 2 Cor. 5:1:

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I also like to summarize a central application for me to remember. Last week I wrote down Luke 19:7 which reminded me of the priority of the 2nd Psalm: Kiss the Son. I thought that day of the kingship of Jesus and the coming judgment.

I really enjoy this method because of how it addresses the dental chair epidemic mentioned above. But, I also appreciate it because it forces me to focus on a verse, summarize it, and place it like a lozenge in the mouth of my soul. Further, by writing it down it uniquely inscribes it differently to my mind then if I just read it. Finally, by writing it in a notebook I am compiling a booklet of verses that are adorned with life’s experiences that I may continually look back upon with fondness, joy, and gratitude.

Designing A Decade

I’m writing this blog post on the eve of my 40th birthday. So many thoughts are running through my mind as I prepare to enter into this new stage of life.

Now don’t get me wrong, turning 40 doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just has me in a very contemplative state.

I expected it to look different somehow. Perhaps I expected to feel old.

Like I said, I have many things to consider.

As I was cleaning my home this question came to me.

What would the YOU, ten years from now, wish you had changed today?

I realized right away that I could not come up with a quick answer for this question. At this moment I still do not have a complete answer.

I know exactly what I would tell the “younger me” if I had the chance.

So why not consider the “younger self” that I am today?

Exploring this question has made me realize that it does not matter what age you are, you can still create a beautiful future for yourself.

We easily give advice to our children, nieces, nephews or anyone that we want to see avoid the mistakes that we have made. We also understand that the decision is theirs whether or not they take that advice. But, we’ve given them a road map with clear instructions on the many things to avoid.

What if we took that same concept and applied it to advising ourselves? What if you created that road map for yourself?

The years seem to fly by at lightening speed when you are just living to survive.

Most of us are so busy going from month to month paying bills and such, that what we dreamed about has become a distant memory.

When was the last time you stopped to consider what you truly want out of life?

Answering this question requires you to pause and really take stock of how you’re spending your time, and with whom you’re spending it with.

So I say again:

What would the YOU, ten years from now, wish you had changed today?

It’s not rocket science. It’s about being honest with yourself.  It’s about finally getting on the road to fulfilling your true purpose.

Consider this question on your next ride to work, or wherever.

There is a call on your life and it’s up to you to answer.

Design your decade and make it beautiful!

SHP_ChinuaHawk_9524

Chinua Hawk is an Atlanta based singer/songwriter who, over a span of almost two decades, has produced five albums, including his latest 2013 offering,Waiting on Christmas. In addition to his offerings as an independent artist, Hawk has recorded with Talib Kweli and Kanye Westwritten songs with Wyclef Jean, and performed live with Celine Dion. Despite the success he has experienced, Hawk realizes that his platform is ultimately about helping others.

“My music is about real life, it’s about encouraging people. It’s about what my Creator placed in my heart from a small child to achieve.”-Chinua Hawk

 

Why I’m Glad My Church Hunting is Over

This article originally appeared on December 8, 2014 on 9marks.org

When the time came to finally say goodbye to the church where I and my family had been members, under my father’s pastorate, I suppose I romanticized the thought of finding a new church home. Being a pastor’s kid comes with certain realities, and for twenty years, one of those realities was that I would attend the church at which my Dad preached. Now that reality gave way to a new one: I was free to go to a church without my parent-pastor.

Perhaps the vision I entertained was like that opening scene from Forrest Gump, in which a feather flies aimlessly and beautifully through the air while sentimental piano music softly plays. I felt as free as that feather, and I would take my sweet time floating from steeple to steeple in search of a new church home.

church hunting daysNOT QUICK AND EASY

It turns out that church hunting isn’t as fun as I believed. In fact, after about seven months, I told my fiancé, “This is probably the worst experience I’ve ever had.” True, it felt adventurous and—at times—freeing to finally discover congregations outside of my family’s presence, and there was never a serious question as to whether leaving my old church was the right decision. But my ideas about what leaving my old church would be like turned out to be based more on fantasy than truth.

For one thing, I thought church hunting would be quick and easy, but choosing a church is not like choosing a new shirt or book. There is a grave spiritual significance to church membership that makes the process deeply covenantal. Thankfully, I had had ministers and teachers in my life that emphasized this. Church membership is more than finding a place that’s comfortable.

More significant than this, I went into the season of church-hunting naïve about what life without regular attendance and involvement at one church would be like. I confess I was a bit excited at the prospect of being “unattached” after decades of never missing more than 2 or 3 Sundays in a calendar year. Coming out from under my pastor-dad meant that I was no longer under the weight of expectation when it came to attendance. Finally, I thought, I could find a rhythm of church life that was my own.

On top of that, my older church was struggling to live as a real Christian community. Its programming emphasized childrens’ and seniors’ groups, and, other than my fiancée and sister, there was no other member within five years of me. So I didn’t dread going elsewhere.

Nevertheless, my season of church hunting was a spiritually and emotionally challenging time, one that became harder the longer it lasted. As weeks turned into months, I became more conscious of how frustrated and discouraged I was. I am incredibly thankful that God led me and my fiancée to the right place (Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, if you’re curious) when he did, but for the last few months I have been reflecting on why that season of church hunting was so hard.

A NECESSARY COMITTMENT, A SPIRITUAL REALITY

First, church membership is not merely an earthly reality, but a spiritual one. It’s not like membership in the country club or being a season ticket holder. To be the member of a church that preaches the true gospel is to be, consciously or not, in a cosmic covenant. While things were difficult at my old church, the true gospel was indeed preached and the biblical ordinances were observed. That means it was a true church. By extension, that means I was participating in a spiritual covenant that was real and sensible to my soul. When I left the church, I was voluntarily removing myself from that fellowship. While on paper such a removal seemed minimal, it was actually a significant moment in my life. My soul could sense the separation even if my reason could not.

While biblical church membership is certainly not less than horizontal relationships within the body, it is more than that. It’s a posture of submission, fellowship, and service to Jesus himself. When I removed myself from church membership, even though the reasons were perfectly valid, I could still sense that something was lacking in my own spiritual life. Being “anonymous” at church left me cold, empty, and discouraged, even if I was unable to articulate why.

NOT ABOUT ME

Secondly, my season of church hunting was individualistic and “me”-focused. Even though I wouldn’t say I was living in close community with the members of my old church, simply worshiping with those whom I knew and who knew me had a sensitizing effect on my heart. I was being pulled out from inside myself to let others in. By contrast, the church hunting experience was incredibly isolating. I was an ecclesiastical tourist, in the pew to passively receive rather than to give.

This was a particularly jarring realization since I had never before in my life “tried” a church. My church attendance had been a given my entire life, which brought an opportunity to practice Christian selflessness. Often I had been surrounded by people with whom I had little or nothing in common, and since I couldn’t change that circumstance, I learned to worship and to talk to and to love those very people. Church hunting, for me, frequently became an exercise in “a la carte” church assembly. I sought the congregation that was most suitable for my personality or my values or my temperament or my schedule.

RESTLESS AND WITHOUT SHELTER

Finally, church hunting was difficult because it was always in motion. It was a season of displacement, moving from one place to the next, when all I really wanted was rest. I wanted to put down the anchor of my heart and take shelter with God’s people, rather than constantly be looking for something and somewhere else. While I was a member at my family’s church, I sometimes wondered what it would be like to have the entire evangelical churchosphere open to me, and have unbridled freedom to go where I was maximally liked and maximally comfortable. That fantasy was rudely burst when it became reality.

Social comfort is like a cheap buffet: the thought of it is almost always superior to the reality. I thought about how much happier I would be if I could simply be around more people my age. What I discovered is that being surrounded with people like me was not nearly as precious as being surrounded by people who were like Jesus. Regardless of things like age, race, gender, marital status, or personality, the presence of fellow Jesus-worshippers, tied together through covenant, is a supremely comforting salve. I didn’t rightly value having the roots of your life planted deeply in such rich soil until they were uprooted.

I am glad my church-hunting days are for now, Lord willing, at a merciful end. God is soverignly kind, as he often is, to design a trying season to teach me about the true value of his church.

Samuel James lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he attends Third Avenue Baptist Church. He writes for Commonwealth Policy Center and blogs regularly on Patheos. You can find him on Twitter at @samueljamesblog

The New Greed

This article originally appeared on May 13, 2014 on gracecoversme.com

Kyle and I sat at dinner out, away from children, and I still couldn’t relax and enjoy myself. I was distracted, and had been consistently for weeks. Slumped at the table, I stared at him and tried to explain how I was feeling.

Me: I feel overrun with thoughts and emotions, many of them sad and discontented and that I can’t figure out. My brain feels like it’s being pulled in a million different directions. What is going on with me?

Kyle, after listening to my winding trail of thoughts for many minutes: You check email a lot. You’re on your phone a lot.

My purse sat on the booth seat beside me where inside my phone’s blinking green light beckoned even as he said those words. He’s right, I thought. I immediately recalled a conversation I’d had with a group of women about our children and technology. What was it one of them had said? When people are on their phones, they’re not present in their lives. They’re going someplace else. 

Well, that just sort of explained it all–the discontentedness, the obsessive comparison with other women, the uncertainty and its resulting pursuit of online evidence that I’m successful and/or loved, the desire for what I don’t have and wonder if I’ll ever have, the pride. I’d only been checking my phone in every down moment, but it seemed apparent such simple, seemingly inconsequential acts of swiping and scrolling were not simple and inconsequential after all. ugh.

The next morning, I opened my Bible, opened my issues to the Lord, and waited. I knew He was going to talk to me about it, and He did.

Me: God, help me. I’ve allowed technology to distract me beyond measure. I’m causing myself great pain.

God: Doesn’t this remind you of something you just read recently, something about piercing yourself through with many sorrows? What does it say?

This is what I’d just read in 1 Timothy 6:9-10: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows

God: What you’re doing is being greedy. Technology and social media is birthing a new greed, and you’ve fallen into the snare. Your desire for accolades, invitations, relationships with those I haven’t given you, followers, and whatever contentment you think this will give as you pursue it is covetousness and greed, and all you’re accomplishing is a piercing of yourself through with many sorrows.

Me: You’re absolutely right.

God: Read further.

1 Timothy 6:17-19: Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

God: Your greediness means you’re trusting in uncertain riches and not in Me. It also slices your mind in a million pieces, taking you out of your present life that I’ve given you richly to enjoy, and causing stress. This stress gives the illusion that you don’t have time to give to others, that you’re busy in ways that you’re not, that you don’t have enough when you have all you need, and that you must be stingy with yourself. Going somewhere else in your mind takes away time and energy that could be given to the good works right in front of you. You are rich–in love, in time, in energy, in gifts–but you act as if you’re not.

Me: You’re absolutely right.

God: Read further.

1 Timothy 6:11-12, 6: But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain.

God: This is what matters. This is true gain, not an uptick in Twitter followers or an important email coming through or seeing how you stack up against others. And all of what’s important in regards to contentment happens in the present. Pursue godliness and pursue contentment in Me. This is great gain.

Me: You’re absolutely right. I feel so silly that I step so willingly into the snare of greed.

God: What does it say? Fight the good fight of faith. This isn’t silly; it’s a fight.

The new greed. That phrase keeps ringing in my ear as I’m seeking God about how to fight the good fight of faith. The new greed. We are after so many things, and it’s playing out on our phones and iPads and computers as much as it ever has in our material possessions and our bank accounts. Why are we–why am I–checking my phone so often, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram? What exactly are we looking for? Why are we leaving our present reality that God has given us so richly to enjoy to go somewhere else in our mind, a place often called Comparison or Discontent? It’s something to think about, because it muddies the waters of what has real value, and because greed’s mantra is that we never have enough.

Me: I am currently in the present reality which God has given me richly to enjoy. I have enough and will not be ensnared by subtle greed and covetousness.

God: Amen, sister.

You: ?

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Hi! My name is Christine. I am the lone female in the house that I share with my husband Kyle, our three boys, and a fish named Fred. Kyle and I have been married since 2000. He is the church planting pastor of a church in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am a stay-at-home mom, writer, and ministry sidekick to Kyle. Prior to planting our church in 2008, Kyle served as the college pastor at a church in College Station, Texas. I am the author of The Church Planting Wife, which details our personal experience planting a church and offers help and hope to wives of church planters who are plowing fields all across the globe in Christ’s name. To learn more, follow her @christinehoover

 

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

This post originally appeared on February 16, 2015 on challies.com

Have you ever dreamed of being rich? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know that money poses no barrier between you and your dreams? I think we all have at one time or another, haven’t we? And most of us are convinced that we would use our wealth for good, to serve others rather than ourselves. We imagine handing over the keys to a new home, or donating the full-ride scholarship to that person who could never afford it. We dream of using extravagant wealth to do extravagant good.

We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things. But what if we are measuring it all wrong? John Stott says it so well as he comments on Galatians 6:2: “To love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing.”

Instead of handing over the keys to a brand new car, we hand over a slightly over-cooked casserole.

I think the reason we dream of helping others through extravagant wealth is that it feels like those extravagant deeds count for more. So many of our good deeds are so small. They seem paltry. Instead of handing over the keys to a brand new car, we hand over a slightly over-cooked casserole. Instead of funding an extreme makeover for that person’s home, we show up on Saturday morning to help apply a new coat of paint. Instead of giving them a check to pay off their mortgage, we give them a few hours of our time to listen and counsel. Instead of funding a wonderful vacation, we take their children for a couple of hours so they can escape for a date. It is hardly the stuff dreams are made of.But I love what John Piper says: “Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.” This is the extraordinary ministry for every ordinary Christian—bearing the burdens of others. What seems so mundane and so unspectacular, is actually bringing great glory and honor to God.

You know the passage in Matthew 25 that describes the sheep being separated from the goats at the final judgment (verses 31-46). You have read it a hundred times, but have you ever paused to considered the criteria? The believers are not separated from the unbelievers on the basis of extravagant and spectacular deeds that were seen and fêted by others. Far from it. At the final accounting, when we stand before the Lord, we will be shocked to realize that the most significant things are the smallest things—things so small we have forgotten all about them: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” But these small things stand as proof of our salvation, proof of our commitment to the good of others and the glory of God.

This is the ministry of burden-bearing. It is a vocation that will earn you very few accolades. It will gain you very few awards. The majority of what you do will be unnoticed by others and forgotten even by those who benefit most. You yourself will forget most of it. But every bit of it will matter. Every bit of it will do good to others and bring glory to God.

So look for those who are burdened. Develop the habit and the skill of spotting those burdens, and determine that you will meet them, one casserole or one hug or one visit or one prayer at a time.

I will give the final word to Stott: “To be a burden-bearer is a great ministry. It is something that every Christian should and can do. It is a natural consequence of walking by the Spirit. It fulfils the law of Christ. ‘Therefore’, wrote Martin Luther, ‘Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones’—sturdy enough, that is, to carry heavy burdens.”

tim-challies

Proper introductions begin with names, so let me tell you how to pronounce mine. It’s pronounced CHALL-eez and rhymes with “valleys” and “rallies.” It’s quite simple, really, but is almost always the first question most people ask me.

I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 7 to 13. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, where I primarily give attention to mentoring and discipleship. I am a book reviewer for WORLD magazine, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and I have written three books:

  • The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (Crossway, 2007)
  • Sexual Detox: A Guide For Guys Who Are Sick of Porn (Cruciform Press, 2010)
  • The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion (Zondervan, 2011)

To learn more, follow him @challies

50 Shades of Marriage

This post originally appeared on February 4, 2015 on davewillis.org

“50 Shades of Grey” has become a worldwide phenomenon which has stirred up a lot of conversation and debate about sexuality, fantasy and marriage. My wife Ashley wrote a hugely popular post on “The Truth about Women and Porn” which had some excellent insights about “50 Shades,” porn, fantasy and sex. You should check it out.

I’m not writing to critique the book or movie, but rather to help you have a red-hot, real-life marriage (instead of merely a fictional fantasy).

Below are 50 quick marriage tips which could potentially transform your sex life, communication, and overall health of your marriage. Give them a try!

In no particular order…

1. Don’t keep secrets from each other. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy.

2. Turn off your phones and TV at least 30 minutes every night for uninterrupted conversation.

3. Say “I love you,” but also say specific attributes you love and appreciate about each other.

4. Be each other’s biggest encouragers; not each other’s biggest critics.

5. Foreplay tip: Make out for at least 20 minutes before anyone takes off their clothes.

6. Cuddle more, argue less.

7. Find some “couple friends” who have a healthy marriage and hang out with them.

8. Make “Date Night” a priority (even if it’s just watching Netflix on the couch with microwave popcorn).

9. Ask each other these 21 questions.

10. Watch this new video series on sex and marriage.

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11. Don’t put your marriage on hold while you’re raising your kids or you’ll end up with an “empty nest” and an empty marriage!

12. Kiss each other in front of your kids. Here’s why.

13. When you’re in a disagreement, never interrupt each other.

14. Don’t have arguments via text message. Talk it out.

15. Try to learn something new about each other every single day.

16. Dream together. Set collective goals (not just individual goals).

17. Give each other foot rubs.

18. Serve each other around the house (voluntarily do “chores” your spouse normally does).

19. Watch our FREE video series on The 4 Pillars of a Strong Marriage.

20. Get matching “I love my hot husband/wife” tee shirts.

Ashley-and-Dave-Willis

21. Serve together (in your church, community, etc.)

22. Pray together.

23. Follow these 8 timeless marriage principles from the Bible.

24. Snuggle.

25. Adopt these Ten “House Rules” in your home.

26. Love your spouse even when they’re acting unlovable (that’s usually when people need love the most).

27. Be thoughtful.

28. Be courteous. Say “please” and “thank you” to each other.

29. When you’ve blown it, admit fault and humbly seek your spouse’s forgiveness.

30. When your spouse has blown it, offer grace and forgiveness.

31. Don’t talk negatively about each other in public or online (NEVER vent about each other on social media).

32. Don’t tolerate anybody else talking negatively to or about your spouse (even your own families and in-laws).

33. Don’t take marriage advice from anyone who doesn’t love marriage.

34. Connect with me on twitter for daily marriage-building tips and tools.

35. Read my wife Ashley’s blog. (She’s the smart one in the relationship!)

36. Don’t nag each other. It frustrates the nagger and the one being nagged.

37. Follow a financial plan. Money stress can wreck a marriage. Here are 4 simple ways to get started.

38. Don’t watch porn. Read this to see the reasons why porn hurts marriages.

39. Give your best to each other, not your leftovers after you’ve given your best to everyone else.

40. Never stop flirting with your spouse and never start flirting with anybody else!

42. Be patient with each other. Your spouse is always more important that your schedule.

43. Wear your wedding ring.

44. Connect into a community of faith. A good church can make a world of difference in your marriage and family.

45. When you have to choose between saying nothing or saying something mean to your spouse, say nothing every time!

46. Read “iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage” and you can also Download the ebook straight to your iPhone or iPad.

47. Celebrate each other’s victories.

48. Mourn each other’s losses.

49. Stand by each other faithfully through all the seasons of life.

50. Never give up on each other!

Dave-Willis-DaveWillis.org_-200x300

Dave Willis is the Founder of the facebook Marriage Page (www.StrongerMarriages.org) and the Co-Founder of OneBigChurch.com which is a global, collaborative network of churches and ministry leaders. He is the author of five books including “iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage” and “Soul Caffeine: Stories and Life Lessons Designed to Encourage and Inspire.” Dave and his wife, Ashley have three young sons named Cooper, Connor and Chandler and they live near Augusta, GA where Dave serves on staff at Stevens Creek Church as a Teaching Pastor. To learn more, follow him on Twitter @davewillis

 

 

 

 

 

Making Contentment My Estate

This post originally appeared on January 22, 2015 on thevillagechurch.net

Some of my favorite memories as a child were Saturday mornings with my dad. We’d hit flea markets, Half Price Books and garage sales scouting for treasures and talking. My wife would say that these memories are what make me stop at every HPB, just to have a look and browse around.

Twenty years later, my dad and I still hit a sale from time to time. But now there’s something new in my stomach that didn’t register as a child, a feeling that uncurls in me at these estate sales, looking through someone’s garage with a bunch of strangers and picking out trinkets to add to my collection from theirs.

Maybe it’s that I’m a dad now, and a new realm of fear and desire came with the birth of my first child. I want to provide the best I can for her—to bless her and show her my love through what I can give her. There’s a fear of not being able to provide the things she needs, let alone the extra that would be icing on the cake. Maybe it’s that as a child I worked angles to get things because I knew my parents loved me, so there is a fear of being taken for granted.

Maybe it’s the estate sale last spring where I looked down at a workbench, and amid the wrenches and reloading equipment lay a pair of glasses, coated in dust, sitting on a roll of tape. Right where the wearer had left them.

And here I was, in his garage, adding from his collection to mine.

The wrestle of wealth, of making enough and having enough, is a dark space in my soul—the struggle for contentment against a sliding scale in a world that rejects less as more and sees more as a means to happiness. It’s where I have to preach to myself the truth I know when the lie is in front of me.

I can’t remember much of the stuff that my dad bought me at garage sales, flea markets or bookstores growing up. I doubt much of it has made its way into my adulthood. But I can tell you what has: the memories of Saturdays. Time with my dad, listening to stories, asking questions.

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “…be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” But right before that he says, “keep your life free from the love of money.” I wouldn’t come right out and tell you I love money, but the desires I have for my family would tell you that I think money is the answer. And every garage sale reminds me that I am not alone.

Who you have will outlast what you can buy. Be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The better thing for my daughter than to get every trinket she wants? To have a daddy who gives his attention and helps train her to recognize good desires leading to false loves. To be someone who shows her the One who is better. I just wish my own heart would be fully resolved, as I try to lead hers.

But in my weakness there is contentment because He has not left me. That revelation is the call for my heart to trust Jesus with my daughter and all my desires—and to believe He is better.

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Mason King serves as the Spiritual Formation Pastor at The Village Church. (thevillagechurch.net) To learn more, follow him on Twitter @masonking