How is your marriage? Is it good? Is it great? Could it use some work or, at least, some fine tuning? Marriages, even good ones, need regular maintenance.
Genesis 2.24 says:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
This is much more than the obvious physical union between a man and a woman. This is a unity of hearts and goals that requires good communication and a laying down of our own selfish agendas to follow God’s agenda.
Amos 3.3 says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”
As Christians our goals should be in line with God’s goals for marriage, but that won’t happen unless we know and understand God’s blueprint.
Dr. Wayne Mack’s book, Strengthening Your Marriage, can be a great tool for helping any couple do just that. The book is made up of 8 Units to study together as a couple or as part of a small group:
God’s Purpose for Marriage
The Wife’s Responsibilities
The Husband’s Responsibilities
Each unit begins with a teaching section in the form of an amplified outline. Key points are noted and all points are accompanied by Scripture references. The teaching section is followed by study questions and practical exercises to work through as a couple. Dr. Mack says: Continue reading →
Have you ever found yourself praying, “Dear God, please change my husband!”
You’ve tried it all: nagging, encouraging, keeping quiet … praying. You know there’s a right way to impact you’re marriage, but you’re too frustrated to try.
Maybe the following sounds familiar?
You’re efficient, smart, organized, and make sure everything that needs to get done, gets done. You’re physically tired, yes, but mostly just tired of being the responsible one. Your husband is a decent guy who helps when asked—but you still have to ask, which means it’s still your responsibility. Sometimes you joke that having a husband is like having another child.
Then, there’s the marriage itself. Things look fine on the outside, but they’re not really. In public, your husband is charming and cheerful. At home, he’s distant or grouchy—apparently more interested in anything else than spending quality time together. Faith, instead of being something that defines your marriage, is a private, individual matter.
You’ve bought books on how to improve a marriage, but they all require at least some degree of cooperation from your husband. You can’t make him read something he’s not interested in; and learning how to be more romantic, helpful, and communicative isn’t exactly high on his list.
On good days, being married is like having a roommate; on bad days it’s like being in prison. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s a far cry from what you dreamt it would be like. With a few adjustments you could support yourself financially, and it’s tempting to think life might be easier alone. The question, “Who needs a husband, anyway?” has crossed your mind more than once.
He’s frustrated, too. Somewhere along the way, being married became more of a burden than a joy. The way you always “help” him drives him crazy and makes him feel inadequate. “I don’t need another mother,” he says to himself.
You have the “right” answer for everything—at least you think you do—and he’s tired of being corrected, criticized, and contradicted in what he says or does. It’s easier to bury himself in television, hobbies, or work than fit into your world—a world where he’s never quite good enough. He may not have said it out loud, but he’s probably thought it: “What does she need me for a husband, anyway?”
Or maybe you just want to understand your husband better, why he does what he does, and how you can help him grow in the area of leading his family and growing as a believer in Christ.
If you’re married, you have an imperfect marriage. You have a spouse who sometimes acts wrong and so does he or she.
Marriages are imperfect, because people are imperfect. If we have accepted Christ and begun that redemptive journey, hopefully, we are on the road to becoming more like Him, but none of us has arrived!
It may be that both you and your spouse are seeking to be the husband and wife God wants you to be, but even then we fail at times. It may be that your spouse is sinning in much larger and more damaging ways.
Sin is in all of us (). Attitudes and behaviors that come out of a self-centered, selfish, prideful, deceived, and/ or rebellious heart often express themselves in big, bad ways such as infidelity, lying, addictions, or abuse. The same sinful heart can also produce more benign but chronically irritating behaviors such as nagging and criticism, forgetting important occasions, failing to put dirty laundry in the hamper, not listening well, or staying glued to the television when our spouse is attempting to have a conversation with us. It can be just as difficult and discouraging to believe God and live by faith with a spouse who sins in subtle, less blatant ways as it can when a spouse commits the more grievous wrongs.
Most of us acknowledge that there are no perfect marriages or perfect spouses. We know that having a good marriage requires effort and hard work. At times, however, in the midst of that pain and struggle we can lose sight of what marriage is all about. We forget that we have made a covenant promise to love for better or worse. In the better times, love is usually easy. When worse comes, we often don’t know how to continue to love when we are angry, hurt, scared, or don’t feel very loving. We also aren’t exactly sure what that kind of love is supposed to look like. Do we just forbear? Forgive and forget? How and when do we apply the bolder forms of love?
Sadly, many just give up. The rate of divorce among believers isn’t much different than with couples outside the church, even though most of them know that God wants them to stay and work out their differences.
Others stay but become cold toward their spouses and toward God, believing He has commanded them to stay in an unhappy marriage. Others simply resign themselves and go about living two separate lives in one house. Continue reading →
If you spend hours in prayer each day and your prayer life is always amazing, this post probably isn’t for you. But if, like me, you sometimes feel like you’re going through the motions or you don’t always connect with God the way you would like, you might want to keep reading.
First, let me say that reading books about prayer cannot be a substitute for prayer itself, but I sometimes find it helpful to read a short portion in a good book on the subject at the start of my prayer time. It helps me get my focus off my upcoming appointments, the post that needs to be written, and the rest of my to-do list.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born in 1834 and died in 1892. He is still known today as “The Prince of Preachers.” He was called to his ministry in London at the age of 20 and started with a congregation of 232. By 1865 25,000 copies of his sermons were printed and sold each week and were translated into more than twenty languages. Spurgeon built the Metropolitan Tabernacle into a congregation of over 6,000 and added well over 14,000 members during his thirty-eight-year London ministry. It’s estimated that he preached to 10,000,000 people during his lifetime.
According to the editor:
He remains history’s most widely read preacher. There is more available material written by Spurgeon than by any other Christian author, living or dead. His sixty-three volumes of sermons stand as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity, comprising the equivalent to the twenty-seven volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Many of his sermons were on the subject of prayer and he was known to implore the people of his congregation to pray for him. The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life has been carefully edited from many of those sermons.
His great success has been attributed to many things:
Much is made of the combination of a beautiful speaking voice, a dramatic flair and style that was captivating, a powerful commitment to a biblical theology, and his ability to speak to the people of his day in a manner that addressed their deepest needs. Undoubtedly, all of these were of major importance. But they don’t explain the most important ingredient.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource.
This week’s selection is Preparing for Marriage by David Boehi, Brent Nelson, Jeff Schulte & Lloyd Shadrach, published by Family Life Ministries.
You know how it goes. We meet. Fall in love. Get married. And live happily ever after.
At least that’s what we all expect. No one marries expecting to be a divorce statistic, but sadly, the rate of divorce isn’t all that different among Christian couples than it is with unbelievers.
That shouldn’t be the case and it doesn’t have to be, but it takes preparation. Preparation that is often neglected in the midst of choosing caterers and venues. Many couples spend months, even longer, preparing for a wedding and little, if any, time preparing to be married!
My husband and I taught a preparing for marriage class for a number of years. After using various materials, we found this book and the couples who currently teach the class still use it.
The book is a combination book and workbook. The best way to use it, is for each person to complete a chapter or project on their own, then to spend some time discussing it together. It can be worked through by a couple on their own or with a mentor couple. It can also be used as a small group or classroom study.
Theology … we tend to think it’s for pastors and teachers or, maybe, students in seminary or Bible college, but not for moms and dads, office workers, storekeepers, and others of us who work in stores and offices and homes every day.
But as you’ll learn from Brad Hambrick’s book, we all have a theology, including our ideas about God’s attributes. How does our understanding of God’s character affect how we view the events of our lives, especially the hard ones and how do we arrive at our view of God, sometimes, without even realizing it?
One portrayal of how we do theology is provided by breathing: inhale, process, and exhale. We inhale information, experiences, relationships, hopes, dreams, opportunities, tragedies, successes, failures, and an incredible number of mundane moments. These pieces are then processed by personal evaluations as good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant, painful, pleasurable, significant, noticed, or unnoticed. Finally, we exhale beliefs, correlations of cause and effect, life principles, optimistic or pessimistic expectations, and ideas about God (i.e., whoever or whatever we believe to be “in charge” of it all).
Think about some of the formative events of your life, the good and the bad. These major memories have the greatest impact on our core beliefs, our theology.
As you reflect on these formative life events, the hard or negative ones will fit into one of two categories: sin or suffering. Sin encompasses those actions, beliefs, and emotions that are contrary to God’s Word or character. Suffering includes the tragic and deteriorative effects of living in a fallen world, as well as the consequences of other’s sin against you.
The guiding principle of this entire study is simply: Our battle from and against sin and suffering is first and foremost a battle toward and for God.
With this said, our concept of God, resulting from the theological breathing discussed above, greatly influences how we read the Bible. If we believe that God is a cosmic cop, we read the Bible fearfully wanting to know the things for which God will “pull us over” and for which he will “let us go”—the equivalent of the “how far over the speed limit can you drive and get away with it” debate. If we believe that God is a heavenly grandfather, then we read the Bible to find out what good ideas he has and how to stay on his good side to get the extra treats of his approval.
This devotional study can help us identify the connections between our sins and struggles and our understanding of God. It can help us identify those attributes we need to understand better. Doing so will help us trust, enjoy and emulate Him more and better. When we have a wrong view of God, Brad says: Continue reading →
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book (or in this case a booklet) that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is HELP! I want to Change by Jim Newheiser.
“Why can’t I change? Have you ever asked this? Maybe you want more discipline in your eating habits. Or perhaps you struggle to keep your spending under control or maintain daily Bible reading and prayer. Change is hard, and our attempts often result in failure.”
So begins the description of this powerful little booklet by Jim Newheiser. Pastor Newheiser has been a biblical counselor for over twenty years. He’s a fellow with ACBC (the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors), a pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, California and the director of IBCD (the Institute for Biblecal Counseling & Discipleship). He knows how hard change can be. Continue reading →
Divorce, separation, adulterous or unhealthy relationships and break-ups of every kind … who hasn’t experienced the hurt of losing someone or had the need to break off a relationship.
You may be the one who was deserted by someone who said they would never leave you. Sometimes the pain is worsened by the knowledge that your former spouse committed adultery, emotionally or physically.
Or you may be the one breaking off a relationship that you know needs to end, but the sadness seems unbearable. In some cases, you may be the one who went outside of your marriage, either committing full blown adultery or by getting involved in some other inappropriate relationship. While you know the relationship was wrong, how do you get rid of those “lovin’ feelings”?
Or maybe you haven’t personally experienced that kind of hurt or struggle, but you know someone who has. Lou’s book may be just the answer.
From the introduction:
“Will this ache in my heart ever go away?”
As a professional counselor, I’ve been asked that question a hundred times in dozens of ways. If you are reading this book, chances are that you (or someone you love) have been asking this question, too. When a romantic relationship ends, the confluence of potentially depressing emotions can wreak havoc in the lives of those involved. This is especially true for the person who didn’t want the relationship to end. But for the Christian, there is a very good answer to this oft-asked question.
Yes! Your pain will go away in time.
For a Christian who knows and is willing to do what the Bible says, the heartache will be healed. And the more of God’s Word a person implements, the sooner the anguish will stop. If you are the one who is hurting, there are specific things you can do to ease the pain and help yourself get back to the way you were before the breakup.
This book was originally titled, Losing that Lovin’ Feeling and contains thirty-one short chapters, each one based on a song title, to help you or someone else, “lose those lamentable ‘lovin’ feelings’ as quickly and righteously as possible.”
There are chapters like “How Can I Mend My Broken Heart?,” “How Do Fools Fall in Love?,” “Can’t I Stop Loving You?,” “Why Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “What Good Comes to the Brokenhearted?,” “Won’t Be Cruel,” and “Someday Your Prince Will Come.” Each one is designed to address some aspect of the strong and painful emotions involved when relationships are broken. Continue reading →
We’re all counselors. We’re counseling our friends when they seek our advice. We’re counseling our children when they come home crying because they weren’t invited to the party, they’re struggling in school, or suffering the consequences of a poor decision. We’re counseling others when we write our blogs, teach a Bible study, or lead a Sunday school class.
We’re all counselors. The question is … are we counseling well or not. Are we counseling from our experience? Are we counseling according to popular culture? Or are we counseling according to God’s Word?
While neither I, nor the author, want to reduce the Bible to a set of verses on any given subject, the Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Women can help you be a better, more biblical counselor, friend, mom, dad or teacher by leading you to pertinent passages of Scripture.
From the introduction:
The Bible is the grand story of God’s glory manifested in his rescue and restoration of his good but fallen and broken creation. This story is woven through every book in the Bible.
In Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Women, each of the topics and verses is a window into the grand mansion that is the Bible. As marvelous as the view is through the windows, it is only when we step inside the grand house— rest in its rooms, explore its many passages and balconies, enjoy its beauty and light— that we will be truly transformed.
When we encounter this grand home’s Master and Maker— Jesus Christ, whose name is written on every wall and reflected on every surface— we will know at last that we are truly home.
The Bible is not just a reference; it is so much more. Please do not get bogged down in the topics or the references. Take time to read, study, memorize, and meditate on the precious Word of God. Let it saturate your life. Keep exploring this mansion for the rest of your life!
They [God’s Words] are not just idle words for you— they are your life.Deuteronomy 32: 47 NIV
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by by John Foxe, editied by Harold J. Chadwick.
John Foxe was a 16th century English historian best known for writing Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. His book gives a detailed account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history.
His book is about courageous men, women and children who have been tortured and killed because of their confessions of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But, even more, it’s a book about God’s amazing grace that enabled them to endure persecutions and often horrible deaths.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs has been edited and updated many times since John Foxe wrote the first volume in English in 1563 under the title, Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes, but it became known almost immediately as the Book of Martyrs.
At the time it was written many of the events the author describes were still taking place and it was written more like a reporter would write today. Foxe probably witnessed many of the events or knew people who did. Other stories were sent to him by those who had suffered or knew people who had.
Editor, Harold Chadwick writes:
Without question the book began in Foxe’s mind when he was at Magdalen College at Oxford University, where he held a fellowship for seven years. He had first been sent by his parents to Brasenose College at the University when he was sixteen. During that time Reformation doctrines were strong throughout Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and Foxe was highly influenced by them. He began intensive study of the Scriptures and began to question the doctrines and practices of the Roman church. Before long he was an affirmed Protestant and nothing ever turned him from that path. This so changed his conduct that before long suspicions began to arise about his allegiance to the Church of Rome. Then it was reported that Foxe was taking solitary walks in the evening and could be heard sobbing and pouring out prayers to God. When questioned about this practice, he openly stated his new religious opinions, and was almost immediately expelled from the college as a confirmed heretic.
Sometime later he married Agnes Randell, a fellow believer, and stayed for a time with her parents.
By this means and others, Foxe kept himself concealed for some time from the papist inquisitors. This continued from the reign of King Henry VIII, through the open and peaceful days of Edward VI, and into the reign of Queen Mary I, who brought back into England all of the Roman Catholic doctrines and the pope’s power. Knowing then what was to happen, Foxe and his family left England and traveled first to Strasbourg, France, then to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to Basel, Switzerland. There he found a number of English refugees who had fled England to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors, and there began work on his now famous book.
Foxe’s history of the martyrs starts with the first century martyrs, including Jesus Himself and Stephen who was martyred about 8 years after the crucifixion. Continue reading →