Marriage: It Is Good For a Man Not to Marry

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I became a Christian at a very young age. In truth, I can scarcely remember a moment when God was not an active and conscious presence in my life. Because of this, I felt drawn to Jesus early on.

I was drawn to more than Jesus, however. I also remember being drawn to girls. I had a pretty big crush on a dark-haired girl in kindergarten! The first time I actually held hands with a girl was in fifth grade. Tina and I rolled around the skating rink, both of us blushing as the Carpenters’ melodious harmonies described us well: “I’m On Top of the World.” It sure felt like it!

As I grew older, both of these movements – toward Jesus and toward females – sometimes created an uneasy tension. The man I most admired, the one person on whom I wanted to model my life and to whom I wanted to express my commitment, was a single man.

As far back as I can remember, I was fully aware of the long-standing tradition of celibacy – monks and nuns who lived out their dedication to God by pledging to abstain from marriage and sex. Part of me wished I could embrace this; I wanted to be “sold out” for Christ, and in college I struggled with the apostle Paul’s words,

It is good for a man not to marry. – 1 Corinthians 7:1
In fact, there is much in Christian history that has unofficially (and at times blatantly) considered married believers to be “second class Christians” who compromised their integrity or who were too weak to contain their sexual urges. Augustine thought he was being charitable when he wrote, referring to the intent to procreate, “Marital intercourse makes something good out of the evil of lust.”

While Scripture is reliable and even infallible, Christian history isn’t, and unfounded prejudices do exist.

There’s no question that the “first pope,” Peter, was married. (Jesus couldn’t very well have healed Peter’s mother-in-law if Peter didn’t have a wife!) But there is also evidence in Scripture (1 Timothy 5:9-12) that during the first century young widows were already taking vows of celibacy. By A.D. 110, celibates could take vows that mirrored marital vows. This became a little more institutionalized so that by the third century, lifelong vows of celibacy were not uncommon. By the fourth century, such vows were commemorated by a full liturgical celebration.

Although Christianity was born out of Judaism, a religion in which marriage was considered a religious duty (one rabbi suggested that a man who does not marry is not fully a man), it wasn’t long until married believers were scarcely an afterthought during centuries of writing on “spiritual theology” (studying how Christian believers grow in their faith, learn to pray, and draw closer to God). Most of the Christian classics were written by monks and nuns for monks and nuns. The married could at best feebly try to simulate a single pursuit of God; the thought of pursuing God through marriage wasn’t really given serious consideration; instead, the emphasis was largely on pursuing God in spite of marriage.

I carried some of this baggage into my own relationship, but early on, my eyes were opened to a different reality. I remember my brother asking me a few questions about what marriage was like. I thought for a moment and said,

If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question – stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.
Jesus, of course, was celibate his entire life, so it’s somewhat ironic to suggest that marriage is the preferred route to becoming more like him. But Jesus did live in a family, and, as Betsy Ricucci points out, that’s all he had done at the time the Father proclaimed,

This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. – Matthew 3:17
“What had Jesus done to receive such praise? Nothing but live in His own home, honoring His parents and serving His father’s carpentry business. Apparently that was enough to please God.”

Family life is clearly not a cop-out; and after you’ve been married for a while, you realize that the emphasis on celibacy is slightly overblown. All other things considered, the sexual aspect takes up just a fraction of a married couple’s time. I was the first of my group of friends to get married, and I remember one of them asking me if it was still okay to just “drop in” unannounced.

“Oh, you better call first,” I said gravely, capturing his attention. “Married couples walk around naked all day long, you know.”
For a second, I almost had him!

The real transforming work of marriage is the twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment. This is the crucible that grinds and shapes us into the character of Jesus Christ. Instead of getting up at 3:00 A.M. to begin prayer in a monastery, the question becomes, “Who will wake up when the baby’s diaper needs changing?” Marriage calls us to an entirely new and selfless life.

This insight occurred to me some years ago when Lisa and the kids were traveling while I had to stay home and work. For the first time ever, it seemed, I had a free Saturday. For as long as I could remember, I had awakened each weekend and talked over with Lisa what the family would do; I almost didn’t know how to ask the question – what do I want to do? Yet that was the question I had asked myself as a single man virtually every Saturday before I was married.

Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value, and I slowly began to understand that the real purpose of marriage may not be happiness as much as it is holiness.
Not that God has anything against happiness, or that happiness and holiness are by nature mutually exclusive, but looking at marriage through the lens of holiness began to put it into an entirely new perspective for me.

“But Since There Is So Much Immorality…”
I find it fascinating that just after Paul said, “It is good for a man not to marry,” he follows it up with these words:

But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. – 1 Corinthians 7:2
I would do violence to the Greek biblical text to suggest that this passage is referring to anything other than sexual relations – the New International Version tidies it up a bit, but even a cursory exegesis reveals that, clearly, sex is intended. Even so, I suggest that we can elaborate the principle to reveal truth beyond sexual relations. Since there is so much immorality within us – not just lust, but selfishness, anger, control-mongering, and even hatred – we should enter into a close relationship with one other person so we can work on those issues in the light of what our marriage relationship will reveal to us about our behavior and our attitudes.

I found there was a tremendous amount of immaturity within me that my marriage directly confronted. The key was that I had to change my view of marriage.

If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me “happy,” then I’d have to get a “new” marriage every two or three years. But if I really wanted to see God transform me from the inside out, I’d need to concentrate on changing myself rather than on changing my spouse.
In fact, you might even say, the more difficult my spouse proved to be, the more opportunity I’d have to grow. Just as physical exercise needs to be somewhat strenuous, so “relational exercise” may need to be a bit vigorous to truly stress-test the heart.

I didn’t decide to focus on changing myself so that I could have a tension-free marriage or so that I’d be happier or even more content in my marriage. Instead, I adopted the attitude that marriage is one of many life situations that help me to draw my sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment from God. Lisa can’t make me happy, not in an ultimate sense. Certainly we have some great times together, and she has been a wonderful wife, exceeding my dreams – but these great times are sprinkled with (and sometimes seem to get buried in) the demands, challenges, and expectations of paying the bills on time, disciplining children, earning a living, and keeping a house clean.

I guess what I’m after is a quieter fulfillment, a deeper sense of meaning, a fuller understanding of the purpose behind this intense, one-on-one, lifelong relationship. As a man who believes his primary meaning comes from his relationship with God, I want to explore how marriage can draw me closer to God.

There’s another reason to stress this: Marriage, for all of us, is temporary in the light of eternity. The truth is, my and Lisa’s relationship with God will outlive our marriage. Most likely the time will come when either Lisa or I precede the other into eternity. The remaining spouse will be left alone, no longer married – perhaps even eventually remarried to someone else.

For the Christian, marriage is a penultimate rather than an ultimate reality. Because of this, both of us can find even more meaning by pursuing God together and by recognizing that He is the One who alone can fill the spiritual ache in our souls.
We can work at making our home life more pleasant and peaceable; we can explore ways to keep sex fresh and fun; we can make superficial changes that will preserve at least the appearance of respect and politeness. But what both of us crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us. If that relationship is right, we won’t make such severe demands on our marriage, asking each other, expecting each other, to compensate for spiritual emptiness.

Unfortunately, as a fallible human being I can’t possibly appreciate Lisa the way God appreciates her. I can’t even begin to understand her the way she longs to be understood. I’d get bored with myself if I was married to me, so it only makes sense that Lisa might occasionally be bored – or at least grow weary – of living with me.

But God delights in both of us. God appreciates our quirks and understands our hearts’ good intentions even when they might be masked by incredibly stupid behavior.

One thing is sure: Lisa can’t look to me to be God for her. And even when I try to love her like only God can love her, I fail every time and on every count. I give it my best, but I fall short every day.

#GoodNews: You can Celebrate the Touchdown tonight!

The Touchdown

In most sports, there is one feat that galvanizes the fans. In golf, it’s a hole-in-one. In basketball, it’s the slam-dunk. In baseball, it’s the home run. But in football, it’s the touchdown. It always brings fans to their feet.

The objective is simple. The team with the most points wins and usually that means the most touchdowns. But the greatest and most exciting touchdown has yet to occur, and when it does, the players on the winning team will go wild with joy. Those on the losing team will be devastated with defeat.

The Bible tells about it in the Old and New Testaments. The Messiah will touch down on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem when Jesus returns.

Do you believe it? Will you be ready for the ultimate feat?

How you respond in faith to Christ determines whether you are on the winning team or losing team–forever.

It is my hope that you’ll be able to celebrate the touchdown, when Jesus comes!

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#GoodNews: Meaningful relationships are essential to real living

Pseudo Grief

A modern day phenomenon in the age of TV is the irrational outpouring of pseudo grief. People grieve more intensely for an image they’ve never personally known, than they do for a neighbor or family member who dies.

We saw this most dramatically with the death of Lady Di and JFK, Jr. Both represented what society saw as the best of their nation’s royalty. Both were young, glamorous, attractive and wealthy. They were the ideal in the world’s eyes. Yet, most of us didn’t know them. We just knew the image presented on the screen.

Do you care more for images than the real people in your life?

Who do you grieve for the most when they’re gone? If it’s an image on TV, you’re living a ‘pseudo life,’… not a real life. For real living comes with real relationships and sometimes, with loss, that involves real grief. But when that loss comes, a real relationship with God will get you through that grief. Real relationships have real pain, but they also have real meaning. Meaningful relationships with God and your fellow man are essential to real living.

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#GoodNews: Self-Control essential to successful living

Self-Control

Do you ever say, “It was just too tempting,” or “I wish I hadn’t lost my cool?”

A key to successful living is self-control–controlling our emotions, desires, passions, or our tongue. Self-control is about self-discipline. The Bible compares it to sports. It says, “Run your race to win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” Self-control is essential to success in living, as well as in sports.

Let me suggest a few ways to learn it:

1. Clarify your purpose–what are you trying to accomplish? Is it to lose a few pounds? Then your decisions will be shaped by that purpose.

2. Be honest with yourself about where you lack self-control. Alcoholics who find victory over booze know the first step is admitting their inability to control the problem.

3. Ask God for self-discipline.

4. Take action on that discipline, one day at a time. Self-control is a real key to successful living.

Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].

#GoodNews: Three keys to victory for moms #RightFromTheHeart

Three Keys For Mom

It’s not easy being a mom these days. Whether you’re home full time or working outside the home, there are challenges. There’s a verse of scripture in Romans that contains three keys for moms and, really, anyone who wants to live a victorious life:

Be joyful in hope. Every mom has hope for her kids. When a mom trusts in the Lord and believes His promises in scripture, she can be joyful in hope for the future of her family.

Persevere in trials. There will be difficulties and trials for every mom (kids not doing well, times of feeling unappreciated, etc.). But when her hope is grounded in God, she can find strength to endure any trial.

Be devoted to prayer. Hey, moms, with so many trials and so much out of your control, be devoted to prayer. Turn your concerns, your fears, and your children over to the Lord. Prayer is the power source for being a great mom and a great person.

Hope, perseverance, and prayer–three keys to victory for moms and most everyone.

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#GoodNews: Black preacher forgives white community for bombing house #RightFromTheHeart

Forgiving Our Enemies

In 1962 in Montgomery, Alabama, a young, unknown Baptist preacher came home to find a large crowd gathered in front of his house that had just been bombed.

He ran inside to see if his wife and daughter had survived. He found they were unharmed. He comforted them before going outside to the large, angry crowd.

They had gathered with chains and weapons to retaliate against the white community for such a despicable deed. He told them there would be no retaliation saying, “Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to forgive those who persecute us. Now go home.” Thus began the legacy of an amazing man with a unique spirit, Martin Luther King, Jr.

What King did on that occasion isn’t natural–it’s supernatural. The ability to forgive our enemies who have wronged us is often beyond our natural ability, but it is the Spirit of Christ. It is true Christianity. It is a power available to us all and it can change the world.

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Biblical Sexual Morality

According to God’s plan, sexual intimacy is the exclusive prerogative of husband and wife within the context of marriage. Sexual morality, on the other hand, is everyone’s concern. It matters to single individuals, to families and to society. Most of all, it matters to God.

God intends sex to be a source of satisfaction, honor, and delight to those who enjoy it within the parameters of the moral standards He has established. Biblically speaking, human sexuality is both a gift and a responsibility.

At creation, the gift of sex was among those things God declared to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31). What’s more, the sexual relationship is invested with a profound significance in that it brings together a man and a woman within the context of the shared image of God (Gen. 1:27). Because sex is God’s idea, and because it touches the image of God in human life, it is very important that the holiness of sexual behavior be diligently preserved. In fact, sexual behavior is moral only when it is holy (Eph. 1:4; 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3-7; 1 Pet. 1:14-16).

Not only is sex good in itself; it is also given to serve good purposes. At creation God made it very clear that sex functions in two ways: it generates “fruit” (Gen. 1:28); and it enables relational “union” (Gen. 2:24). In other words, sexuality does not exist merely for its own sake. Rather, sex fosters human nurturing, both through the union of husband and wife and also through the enrichment of society through the building of families and communities. God also made sex to reflect the mysterious spiritual relationship He will one day enjoy with all redeemed humanity following the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9).

According to God’s plan, sexual intimacy is the exclusive prerogative of husband and wife within the context of marriage. Sexual morality, on the other hand, is everyone’s concern. It matters to single individuals, to families, and to society. Most of all, it matters to God.

Sex that honors God’s guidelines and standards is pleasurable. He designed sexual activity to be physically enjoyable, emotionally satisfying, psychologically fulfilling, and spiritually meaningful because He delights in the joys and pleasures of His creatures (Song of Sol. 4:1-16). Men and women who honor God’s standards for sexual behavior please Him as well as themselves (1 Cor. 6:20; also note analogy in Isa. 62:5).

But while sex is designed to be pleasing, not all sexual pleasure is ethical. Feelings are extremely unreliable as guides to the morality of sex. As a matter of fact, it is possible for sinful men and women to experience a form of physical enjoyment and degrees of emotional, psychological, and spiritual fulfillment even in sexual conduct that God considers abhorrent. For this reason, the Bible gives many solemn warnings against appealing to human passion or lust as the basis for our definition of moral sex (Rom. 1:24, 26; 13:13-14; 1 Thess. 4:5; 2 Tim. 2:22; 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 John 2:15-17; Jude 18). Our sex lives are moral only when conducted according to God’s standards. When engaged in according to these guidelines, sexual activity is enriching, fulfilling, and eminently blessed.

We want to warn against deceptions that hinder or forestall this blessing of God upon our enjoyment of the wonderful gift of sex. We also want to help men and women understand God’s good plan for sexual conduct, and thereby to realize all the joy, satisfaction and honor God offers to sexual creatures made in His image.

Based on our understanding of biblical teaching, we make the following declarations. We do not claim that these declarations cover everything the Bible says on sexual morality. But we do believe they highlight standards that are critical for our time.

1. Desire and experience cannot be trusted as guidelines to the morality of sex (Rom. 8:5-8; 13:14; 1 Cor. 2:14; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:22; James 1:14; 1 John 2:15-16; Jude 19). Instead, the morality of sex is defined by God’s holiness (Lev. 20:7-21, 26; 1 Cor. 6:18-19; Eph. 1:4; 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3-7; Heb. 13:4; 1 Pet. 1:15-16).

Thus we affirm that men and women are free to enjoy sex in any way that honors God’s holiness. We affirm that God made sex to be physically enjoyable, emotionally satisfying, psychologically fulfilling and spiritually meaningful, and that only sex that honors God’s holiness can fully realize the complexity of His design at every level. We affirm that concepts of sexual morality founded upon anything other than God’s holiness always pervert God’s standards of sexual moral purity.

2. God’s standard is moral purity in every thought about sex, as well as in every act of sex. Sexual purity can be violated even in thoughts that never proceed to outward acts (Job 31:1; Matt. 5:28; Phil. 4:8; James 1:14-15). Sex must never be used to oppress, wrong or take advantage of anyone (1 Thess. 4:6). Rape, incest, sexual abuse, pedophilia, voyeurism, prostitution and pornography always exploit and corrupt and must be condemned (Lev. 18:7-10; 19:29; 2 Sam. 13:1-22; Prov. 6:26; 23:27; Matt. 5:28; 1 Thess. 4:3-7; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:13-14).

Thus we affirm that God requires sexual moral purity in thought as well as in deed. We affirm that sexual desire must be disciplined to be moral. We affirm that thoughts of indulging sexual desire by outward acts of sexual sin are inward sins of lust. We deny that stimulating lust by images of sexual sin can be moral at any age or under any circumstances. We believe that no sexual act can be moral if driven by desires that run contrary to the best interests of another human being. We believe no sexual act can be moral that treats persons as impersonal objects of sexual lust. We reject the idea that thoughts about engaging in sexual sin are not immoral if not expressed in outward acts. We reject the idea that pedophilia, voyeurism, prostitution or pornography can ever be justified.

3. God’s standards for sexual moral purity are meant to protect human happiness (Prov. 5:18-19; 6:32-33; John 15:10-11), but sex is not an entitlement, nor is it needed for personal wholeness or emotional maturity.

Thus we affirm that unmarried singles who abstain from sex can be whole, mature persons, as pleasing to God as persons who are faithful in marriage. We affirm that sexual celibacy is a worthy state for mature men and women (Matt. 19:12; 1 Cor. 7:1, 8; Rev. 14:4), and that lifelong celibacy can be a gift from God (1 Cor. 7:7). We affirm that freedom for service without obligations to spouse and children is a worthy advantage of the unmarried life (1 Cor. 7:32-35). We reject the idea that persons are not “whole” without sexual intercourse. We affirm that all persons, even unmarried teenagers, can rely on God for strength to resist sexual temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). We deny that unmarried teenagers must have sex and cannot abstain from sex before marriage.

4. God calls some to a life of marriage, others to lifelong celibacy, but His calling to either state is a divine gift worthy of honor and respect (1 Cor. 7:36-38). No one is morally compromised by following God’s call to either state, and no one can justify opposing a divine call to either state by denying the moral goodness of that state.

Thus we affirm that God is pleased with those He calls to serve Him through the loving expression of sexual intimacy in marriage. We also affirm God is pleased with those He calls to special witness and service through a life of celibacy apart from marriage. We reject the idea that God’s Word ever represents the loving expression of sexual intimacy in marriage as morally compromised.

5. Sexual behavior is moral only within the institution of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. Marriage is secure only when established by an unconditional, covenantal commitment to lifelong fidelity (Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:14-15; Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:39; Rom. 7:2; Eph. 5:31), and we should not separate what God has joined (Mal 2:14-15; Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9). Christians continue to debate whether there are a limited number of situations in which divorce is justifiable (Deut. 24:1-4; Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15), but all agree that divorce is never God’s ideal; lifelong commitment should always be the Christian’s goal.

Thus we affirm that God established the moral definition of marriage, and that it should not be changed according to the dictates of culture, tradition, or personal preference. We deny that the morality of marriage is a matter of mere custom, or that it should be allowed to shift with the tide of cultural opinion or social practice. Furthermore, we affirm that God views marriage as an unconditional, covenantal relationship that joins sexual partners for life. We oppose the reduction of the moral obligations of marriage to a business contract. We do not believe that divorce for reasons of dissatisfaction, difficulty, or disappointment is morally justified.

6. Marriage protects the transcendent significance of personal sexual intimacy. Heterosexual union in marriage expresses the same sort of holy, exclusive, permanent, complex, selfless and complementary intimacy that will some day characterize the union of Christ with the redeemed and glorified Church (Eph. 5:28-33; 1 Cor. 6:12-20).

Thus we affirm that intimate sexual union in marriage is a reflection of the intimate moral and spiritual union Christ will some day enjoy with the redeemed and glorified Church. We do not agree that the meaning and purpose of human sexuality can be defined on the basis of personal preference or opinion. We oppose the idea that sexual morality is simply a matter of culture, tradition, or individual aspiration.

7. Sex in marriage should be an act of love and grace that transcends the petty sins of human selfishness, and should be set aside only when both partners agree to do so, and then only for a limited time of concentrated prayer (1 Cor. 7:3-5).

Thus we affirm that sex in marriage should be enjoyed without selfishness. We do not believe that sex should be withheld as a way of controlling, punishing, or manipulating the behavior of a spouse. We reject the morality of any sexual act, even in marriage, that does not express love seasoned by grace. We believe no sexual act can be moral if it is driven by selfishness or ambition for power.

8. Sex outside of marriage is never moral (Exod. 20:14; Lev. 18:7-17, 20; Deut. 5:18; Matt. 19:9,18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; -1 Cor. 6:13,18; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 13:4). This includes all forms of intimate sexual stimulation (such as foreplay and oral sex) that stir up sexual passion between unmarried partners (Matt. 5:27-28; 2 Tim. 2:22). Such behavior offends God (Rom. 1:24; 1 Thess. 4:8) and often causes physical and emotional pain and loss in this life (Prov. 5:3-14). Refusal to repent of sexual sin may indicate that a person has never entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:3-5; Jude 13; Rev. 22:15).

Thus we affirm that God’s blessing rests on sexual intimacy only when it occurs within the boundaries of marriage. We deny that sex outside of marriage is justified for any reason. We reject the idea that sexual intimacy outside of marriage can be moral if partners are honest, consenting, or sufficiently committed. We oppose the portrayal of sexual sin as a way of enhancing the popular appeal of entertainment. We reject the idea that sex between unmarried teenagers is acceptable if it is “safe.” And we do not believe that churches should welcome into fellowship any person who willfully refuses to turn away from the sin of living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage.

9. The Old and New Testaments uniformly condemn sexual contact between persons of the same sex (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10); and God has decreed that no one can ever excuse homosexual behavior by blaming his or her Creator (Gen. 2:24; Rom. 1:24-25).

Thus we affirm that moral sex is always heterosexual in nature. We affirm that God gives strength to His people when they ask Him for help in resisting immoral sexual desires, including desires for homosexual sex. We affirm that God has perfect knowledge concerning human sexual biology and made no mistake in prohibiting homosexual sex without qualification or exception. We deny the claim that science can justify the morality of homosexual behavior. We reject the idea that homosexual attraction is a gift from God (James 1:13). We deny the idea that homosexual relationships are as valid as heterosexual relationships. We do not agree with those who claim that it is sinful to make moral judgments that favor heterosexual behavior over homosexual behavior.

10. The moral corruption of sexual sin can be fully forgiven through repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning work (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 John 1:9), but physical and psychological scars caused by sexual sin cannot always be erased in this life.

Thus we affirm that God fully forgives all who repent of sexual sin. We believe that relationships broken by sexual sin can be restored through genuine repentance and faith. We deny that there is any sort of sexual sin God cannot forgive. We oppose the idea that victims of sexual infidelity or abuse should never forgive those who have sinned against them.

11. Christians must grieve with and help those who suffer hard-ship caused by sexual immorality, even when it is caused by their own acts of sin (Rom. 12:15; Luke 19:10). But we must give aid in ways that do not deny moral responsibility for sexual behavior (John 8:11).

Thus we affirm that God calls Christians to love all who suffer social isolation, poverty, illness, or the burdens of unplanned pregnancy and single parenting, whether or not it was caused by their own sexual sin. We believe Christ set an example of loving ministry to those who suffer from the results of their own acts of sin. We reject the idea that our obligation to alleviate human suffering is valid only if such help is “deserved.”

This statement was authored by the Council on Biblical Sexual Ethics.

#GoodNews: Solomon warns of dangers to marriage #Intimacy #DrawNear

CHASING STREETCARS

There is an old and foolish adage, “You don’t chase a streetcar after you have caught it.” Husbands sometimes use this cliché to excuse their two-day-old beard, obnoxious behavior, and laziness. Women use it to excuse their out-of-shape bodies and spirits.

God’s Word clearly tells us that slothfulness is a foe to our marriages. It takes work to make a marriage, and there are no holidays from that work. Solomon noted that our “house” will fall unless kept in good repair: Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks. The law of our earth is decay, not evolution. Everything wears away, even relationships, unless they are brightened with interest and deepened with devotion.

In any marriage, periods of boredom will come, but we need not succumb to them. Another principle from God’s Word applies here: He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer (Proverbs 18:9). We waste the beauty of relationships and the hours we could deepen our relationships when we do not give diligent attention to our marriage. Wise ones work on relationships to keep them fresh and meaningful. This is exactly why we have daily times with God. Neglect of relationships creates distance between us.

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#GoodNews: Marriage relationship mirrors Christ #DrawNear #Intimacy

THE ENEMY OF MARRIAGE

Marriage is the most meaningful and tender of all human relationships. Spouses open themselves up to each other as they do to no other person, even to their parents. As that relationship matures and trust deepens, their spiritual awareness also deepens. Thus, the enemy of God and man, Satan, designs to destroy these deepening relationships. If we believe the Bible, we have to believe there is a devil working to undo everything God has done.

Satan is the enemy of our marriage. He hates marriage and all that it represents because the tenderness of that relationship opens us up to God. In addition, the sacredness of marriage is related to Christ’s relationship with those who follow Him. Marriage is symbolic of the church. After admonishing the husband and wife to love each other, Paul says their relationship mirrors that of Christ and the church: This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

Satan knows that in partnership there is strength. Therefore, he seeks to divide and destroy. He desires to isolate us from our mate through misunderstanding and stubbornness until we become easy prey for him. But we can fight the devil and stay strong by staying together spiritually

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#GoodNews: Married couples prevent divorce with submission #DrawNear #Intimacy #Divorce

SELFISHNESS

The second major cause for divorce, psychologists say, is obnoxious behavior. For example, divorces can be precipitated by excessive drinking, drug addiction, uncontrollable temper, moodiness, and unreasonable demands. Such behavior creates a climate of crisis which makes marriage difficult. These are all signs of selfishness; and God’s Word calls them sins, not character weaknesses.

Not long ago, an intensive study was made of one thousand married couples. After all the interviews, studies, and evaluations, ten major problems stood out. Unhappy partners (1) didn’t think alike in many things, (2) had little insight into each other’s feelings, (3) said things that hurt each other, (4) felt unloved, (5) felt they were taken for granted, (6) needed someone to confide in, (7) felt they had to give more than the other, (8) rarely complimented one another, (9) desired more affection, and (10) couldn’t talk to one another.

In reviewing these problems, it becomes obvious the mates were selfish. That’s what sin really is: selfishness. All sin is selfishness, insisting on one’s own way rather than walking in God’s way. It is tragic but true that most enter marriage asking “What can I get out of it?” rather than “What can I give?” It is indeed difficult to live with a mate whose selfishness manifests itself in obnoxious behavior. Such a mate makes God’s commandments hard to live by.

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✪ Review ✪ KSON’s Debut Album “Light In Me”

KSON stands for King’s Son which is an appropriate name for this PK known to his friends as AJ. KSON has been writing and rhyming since he was living in Modesto, California. His Father’s Church was in the heart of the city and it was the first Church I’ve been to in such a shady neighborhood. But this was the heart and intent of KSON and his father all along. They were right in it. I strongly believe this impacted KSON into the man he has become and I know this has had a huge influence on his powerful lyrics.

In 2006 KSON moved to Oklahoma and jumped into the hip-hop scene in the greater Tulsa area. He was blessed with the opportunity to open for KJ-52 and Group 1 Crew. A few of his songs got play on his local radio station as well. All of this just helped him prepare and build up his skill and craft.

Since the beginning of this project, KSON has faced diverse adversity. “I’ll Be Here” reflects just one of his troubling experiences. In the past few years, KSON has been surrounded by darkness, not by choice. It seems as if everything has been against him. But that hasn’t stopped him or slowed him down. He remains a light in a dark place. And although he could have faced harsh depression, he said he will “keep the Light In Me” and shine on like a K Kid should.

This album has strong lyrics backed by hard hitting production. His words hit you quick like jabs from a hard-spitting-emcee like Braille. And like Braille, he isn’t afraid of speaking the truth and attacking all issues he sees. KSON doesn’t just provide trunk rattlers, he provides some soulful music and I’m sure tobyMac would be proud of him. This is just the beginning of the progression of a true artist.

The only thing I dislike about this project is that it is only 9 tracks. But that is okay. We know that with the success from this project, KSON will continue shining from within and sharing the light with us all.

My favorite songs are all the ones with features coincidentally, but if I had to narrow it down, I’ll take; I’ll Be Here, K KID, & Victory as my top three favorite songs from Light In Me.

- Christian Treborn -

RELATED POSTS: SoulAnchorMusic.com/LightInMe

#GoodNews: Healthy & happy homes built on God’s design #Intimacy #DrawNear #Marriage

MORE DIFFERENCES

When asked what they wanted of their husband, a large group of women replied: (1) that he be kind and understanding, (2) that he be romantically affectionate, (3) that he be a good father for the children, and (4) that he be a good provider.

When men were asked what they wanted in their wives they replied: (1) a reasonably good housekeeper, (2) a reasonably good cook, (3) an interesting and exciting sex partner, and (4) a good mother for the children.

In noting the differences between the sexes, we must understand there is not measurable difference between them in intelligence. Both sexes have sensitive egos, both appreciate respect, and both resent being used by the other. Moreover, the two sexes need sufficient freedom for self-fulfillment.

The mature wife helps her husband express himself, while the mature husband looks beyond his own interests to bring out the best in his wife. God has created male and female to be different, yet equal; complementary, not competitive; and separate, yet fulfilling each other. Only when we understand this is God’s design can healthy and happy homes be built. The sage noted: The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands (Proverbs 14:1).

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#GoodNews: Divorce lawyer finds real love is hot! #DrawNear #Intimacy

BITTERNESS

A divorce lawyer once said, “There is nothing as cold as cold love.” His statement is contradictory, for real love can never be cold. What he meant is nothing hardens the heart more than love which has turned to bitterness. God specifically commands that we not become bitter. Paul adds: Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice (Ephesians 4:31). Bitterness freezes our souls.

Marriage will make us either better or bitter. Which we become depends a great deal on our attitudes. The Bible says: Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them (Colossians 3:19). Because we come from different backgrounds and have different views of life, we may easily drift into bitterness by allowing misunderstandings to drive us apart. This must not happen.

Our homes are not to be centers of conflict but sanctuaries from the hassles of life. So sometimes the wisest thing to do is retreat. Both husband and wife must be willing to give in. The Bible says: Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (Hebrews 12:14-15). Whole families are often poisoned because they are disobedient to this commandment of our Lord.

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#GoodNews: Married Christian couple find endless relationship #Intimacy #DrawNear

UNTIL DEATH DO US PART

Although marriage is permanent on earth, it will not last forever. Jesus says it has been ordained for this world only: The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection (Luke 20:34-36).

It is important that we keep this temporal quality of marriage in mind. While in this life, our marriages must last “until death do us part,” yet each of us will stand alone before God. Therefore, our marriage must never come before our relationship with Him. Jesus declares in Luke 14:26 that He must come first in all our relationships. If we put Him first, then our love for Him will make all our other loves seem like hate in comparison. Jesus wants first place in our lives.

When Jesus has first place in our lives, we will act with responsibility. We will provide the climate of warmth and fellowship that will make our homes full of love and godliness. Christ has left principles and guidelines to govern every Christian home; and if we really love Him, we will keep His commandments.

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#GoodNews: Marriage falls flat without God at the apex #Intimacy #DrawNear

GOD’S IDEA

Marriage is not a slot machine. Some people seem to see it as such and invest only a little of their lives, hoping to hit the jackpot of happiness. Such people are often disappointed; and, as a result, they divorce–leaving a trail of tears and tragedy.

Like life, marriage is a long-term investment. Each partner must constantly invest effort and energy to work through problems and develop a meaningful relationship. The first few years of marriage usually have more pain than pleasure. But if the couple is willing to consistently invest understanding, forgiveness, and patience, each member will find the union most rewarding and will reap an excellent harvest of human happiness.

Marriage is indeed a triangle. Husband and wife are the two lower corners, and God the apex. As He draws man and woman to Himself, they naturally are brought closer to each other. One of the great aids in this is daily devotions, both together and alone. Through our times with God, we can resolve our frustrations and discover our potential as a couple.

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Origin of Marriage

Origin of Marriage

A hot topic in the news these days is marriage–or should we say a re-definition of marriage? In every culture, for thousands of years, marriage has been defined as a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman. The only exception has been polygamy.

Never, though, has marriage been defined as a same-sex union. Now, in the 21st century, some so-called enlightened men and women have decided that society and laws should be changed to re-define marriage.

The idea of marriage originated with God when He created man and woman. In its origin, marriage was intended to be between one man and one woman. God’s word gives two reasons for the ideal: companionship and procreation. You can read more about it in Genesis 1-2, the first book of the Bible. Thus began the family as God intended.

Has 21st century man become so arrogant and selfish that we can redefine what God has ordained? I hope not.

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† Devo † Lost and Found #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

In the parable of the lost son, the father restores the rebellious younger brother to his former position at a great cost to the elder brother. Why? His father had divided his property between them before the younger brother left. The younger brother spent his portion and the family estate now belonged to the elder brother. For his father to restore the younger brother meant taking something away from the elder brother and he was angry. His attitude reveals that he had served his father to earn a reward rather than out of love.

As parents, we often have the same attitude towards our Heavenly Father. We are resentful when we struggle with our kids while non-believing parents seem to be coasting along. We feel entitled to greater blessings and we remind God that we faithfully attended church, prayed, and read our Bibles. Ironically, obedience can be the biggest hurdle to experiencing grace because we tend to feel as if we’ve earned it.

There is a true elder brother, however. Unlike the elder brother in the parable, he seeks us and desires to have a relationship with us. He came down from heaven and willingly paid the cost to bring us home. Recognizing what Jesus was willing to do to “find” us makes all the difference.

Obey God in response to His blessings, not to earn them.

Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to revel andfeast andmake merry.

Luke 15:24

† Devo † Resisting Pressure #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

“You’re the only mother who isn’t letting me see the movie!” “Lauren’s parents are so much cooler that you guys.” “Dad, you’re a control freak.”

Hearing these kinds of statements can really sting. And sometimes, our hurt feelings can cause us to be overly harsh in our words and discipline.

But as Christian parents, we are called to carry out our responsibilities with humility and love rather than sarcasm and guilt. This is only possible when we are confident of our value in Christ and allow His love to hold us up and cover the pain of disrespectful statements.

Don’t let your hurt feelings result in ungodly parenting.

He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding has a cool spirit.

Proverbs 17:27

† Devo † Identity Theft #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

If you trusted Christ as your Savior, you have a new identity. You are like an adopted child. You have a new name, new family and new traditions. Your old customs have been replaced by new ones that set you apart from those of other families. Paul describes this as being “in Christ”.

Satan would love to steal your identity. He seeks to lure you back to the old identity by tempting you with his family’s customs and traditions — anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language (Col 3:8), but you can resist his identity theft by practicing the customs of your new family — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12).

Your children were born into your new family’s traditions, and they should be raised that way. Your practice of the new customs will expel the old ones from your life. Your new identity based on your adoption into the family of God, is a powerful incentive for them to want to be adopted as well.

Protect yourself and your children from spiritual identity theft.

And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:2-3

† Devo † Fervent Prayer #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

As we tackle the details of life, we may neglect the most important thing; praying for our kids. Do you find yourself too distracted or exhausted to pray? Perhaps your prayers have become a bit routine? Paul gives us an example of a great prayer warrior in Epaphras. What does it mean to “labor fervently” in prayer? The Greek word used here is agoonizomenos (the English word is agonize) and describes the struggle of an athlete as he competes. It implores us to throw ourselves into prayer with persistence, discipline, and zeal.

Imagine if we invested as much time and effort praying for our kids as we spend on their sports activities–buying uniforms and equipment, going to their practices, and cheering them on at games!

Follow the example of Epaphras in praying fervently for your kids.

Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. [He is] always striving for you earnestly in his prayers, [pleading] that you may [as persons of ripe character and clear conviction] stand firm and mature [in spiritual growth], convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God.

Colossians 4:12

† Devo † Power of Humility (Pt.II) #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Here we see how God accomplishes His will through a chain reaction of humble acts. First, Paul and Silas humbled themselves by refusing to run away after the earthquake opened the prison doors. Then the jailer humbled himself when he brought the very prisoners he was assigned to guard to his home where he washed their wounds and fed them! It must have been a powerful testimony because the jailer’s whole family believed in God and was baptized.

Where do you need to humble yourself today? Do you need to apologize to your kids for being sarcastic or harsh? Did you dismiss their feelings in order to defend your own point?

Let your example start a chain reaction of humble acts in your own home.

And he took them the same hour of the night and bathed [them because of their bloody] wounds, and he was baptized immediately and all [the members of] his [household]. Then he took them up into his house and set food before them; and he leaped much for joy and exulted with all his family that he believed in God [accepting and joyously welcoming what He had made known through Christ].

Acts 16:33-34

† Devo † Serving The One True God #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

This verse refers to the journey of the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. God alone led the Israelites through the desert. They faced difficulties and trials, many of their own making, but through it all, it was very obvious that God was the only one that could protect and prosper them.

When we guide our children, we should follow God’s example and let them know that no foreign god should be allowed to come between them and the one true God. Keep in mind that “foreign gods” take a variety of forms in today’s world, such as money, power, beauty, and fame. We must be diligent to watch for the influence of these gods in our lives and the lives of our children.

Let your children know that the Lord alone is sufficient to lead your family.

So the Lord alone led him; there was no foreign god with Him.

Deuteronomy 32:12

† Devo † Fighting In The Spirit #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

When Saul turned against David, David was forced to run for his life. At one point, he and his men hid in a cave at the desert oasis of En Gedi. As Saul searched the area for David, he unknowingly entered the very cave where David and his men were hiding. Although David could have easily ambushed and killed him, he refused because he knew Saul was God’s anointed king. He left judgment to God.

When someone has wronged us or our children, we are often tempted to seek revenge. We may gossip, give them the “silent treatment,” or exclude them. We have a choice, however, to live our lives in the spirit or in the flesh. David refused to fight in the flesh, and left Saul’s judgment to the Spirit of God.

Live in the Spirit and allow God to be the judge.

May the Lord be judge and judge between me and you, and see and plead my cause, and deliver me out of your hands.

1 Samuel 24:15

† Devo † Thankfulness #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

It is so easy to take credit for the good things we acquire. But, we must not forget (or let our children forget) that all of our material possessions are blessings that God, in His grace, allowed us to have. And, the best things we have accumulated here on earth are nothing compared to the riches we will inherit as heirs of the Kingdom of God!

Despite what our culture may tell us, we have not earned our material blessings. There are others in less fortunate parts of the world who are far more deserving, but God did not choose to bless them as abundantly. Others have worked harder for less, yet still humbly accept the blessings God gives them as more than they deserve.

Humble yourself and thank God for the blessings He gives you.

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities which you did not build, And houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, Then beware lest you forget the Lord, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

† Devo † Thinking Positively #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The Israelites loved and trusted God as He led them out of captivity in Egypt. They had witnessed great miracles! It didn’t take long, however, before they began to grumble and complain about having to walk across the desert to the Promised Land. In the midst of difficult circumstances, they doubted Him instead of focusing on His faithfulness in the past. Ultimately, this lack of trust cost their generation the privilege of seeing the Promised Land.

Do you really trust the Lord? Most of us find it much easier to trust when things are going well, but when things are difficult, our faith in Him can be tested. In these times, it is important to remember when God sustained you through difficulties. Remembering those faith stories will help you and your family maintain an attitude towards God that is positive and anticipatory.

Negative attitudes lead to the “wilderness.”

The Lord your God Who goes before you, He will fight for you just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes.

But as for you, turn and journey into the wilderness by way of the Red Sea.

Deuteronomy 1:30, 40

 

† Devo † A Parent’s Comfort #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

These verses were written by King David during an incredibly turbulent time in his life. One son had been killed, his daughter had been raped, and another son was seeking revenge against him! David had just fled Jerusalem in fear after hearing that his son, Absalom, wanted to overthrow him as king. In David’s position, I doubt very much that the words “I will sing for joy” would come to my mind!

But David saw God’s protection and love as a safe place where he could be comforted. He knew from experience that when he humbly submitted to his Father, he would be upheld by the Lord. This did not mean that God would spare David from the consequences of his actions, but that He would walk with David through the consequences, providing hope and comfort even in the most difficult of circumstances. What an example for us as parents!

We should not rescue our kids from the consequences of their actions, but we can always offer a place of hope and comfort.

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice. My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:7-8

† Devo † Be a Light To Others #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

In these verses, Paul confronts the believers in Philippi because their complaining and arguing was harming their testimony about Christ. Instead of being “lights in the world”, they were behaving like unbelievers.

We may profess a deep trust in Christ, but what we truly believe will emerge in our words and attitude. Take a moment to consider your conversations. What characteristics would stand out to your children? Do you have a tendency to gossip, argue with others, or complain?

If so, you may want to reevaluate the source of your contentment. As Christians, we have an eternal hope in Christ that allows us to face the challenges of life with calmness and peace. If you find yourself relying on favorable circumstances or the actions of others to bring you happiness, ask God to strengthen your faith in Him.

Let your words and actions reflect the love of Christ in your life and be a light to others.

Do all things without grumbling and fault finding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world

Philippians 2:14-15

† Devo † Severe Consequences #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Jewish law provided that punishment should fit the crime, but also that it not be too severe. A penalty that was too light minimized the crime, but a punishment that was too severe degraded and humiliated the person. Penalties were required to be “just”.

This is the law of our country also, according to the Eight Amendment. Should the principles be any less effective in our discipline of our kids? Sometimes we overdo our discipline. Maybe we had a bad day or the offense was one that just got under our skin.

Regardless, when we discipline our kids too harshly, we have violated this principle. The best response is to demonstrate what a person of integrity does when they have wronged anotherÑapologize specifically and ask forgiveness. That does not mean there is no consequence for the original offense. It only means we recognize we have also offended and that we are not above the rules.

Discipline justly.

Then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a certain number of stripes according to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him but not more, lest, if he should be beaten with many stripes, your brother should [be treated like a beast and] seem low and worthless to you.

Deuteronomy 25:2-3

Gender, Marriage, and Sexuality according to God’s Love #iAmLoved

Gender, Marriage, and Sexuality according to God’s Love

It’s a weird day. In the culture, there’s a huge conversation—debate. Almost every news story is, in some way, connected to it, about issues of sex, and gender, and marriage. I don’t know if you’ve seen this by chance; it’s kind of a thing right now. And meanwhile, in the church, we gather together as part of the greater culture with certain agreements and disagreements. And as we come together, we open the Word of God to see if God would have some timeless truth for our truthless times.

And in the providence of God, we at Mars Hill tend to go through books of the Bible. We’re in the book of Ephesians. As we’re in Ephesians, this is the fourteenth sermon of our sixteen-week study, asking the question: “Who do you think you are?”

READ MORE @ MARSHILL

 

Ephesians 5:22-33

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

† Devo † Being Seen and Known #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Although she did not call out to him, Jesus saw the widow who had lost her son. How wonderful to be seen by the Son of God! Not only did He see her, but this verse says His heart went out to her. He connected with her suffering.

What encouragement for us as parents. Jesus sees us, too, but not in a casual, indifferent way. He feels our pain and He knows our struggles. You can take comfort in knowing that as you walk the sometimes difficult and painful path of parenthood, His heart goes out to you as well. Remember that you are not alone. He is walking alongside you this very day.

You are known and loved by the Son of God.

[Just] as He drew near the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large gathering from the town was accompanying her.13And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep.

Luke 7:12-13

 

† Devo † Strength From Weakness #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

When raising kids, there are situations that make us feel inadequate because there is nothing we can do to “fix” the situation. Maybe our child’s feelings were hurt when they were excluded from a party. Perhaps a love interest “dumped” them or they were cut from a team.

One of our biggest obstacles in trusting God is our own sense of strength. The truth is we can never be too weak for God to use us, but we can be too strong. When we recognize the limits of our control, however, we are much more likely to embrace our need for God.

Let your weaknesses become an opportunity to point your kids towards the real source of strength; dependence on Christ.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for Mystrength andpower are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effectivein [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses andinfirmities, that the strength andpower of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased andtake pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities anddistresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

† Devo † Covering Shame #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The Garden of Eden was perfect until Adam and Eve brought sin and shame into the world. God covered their shame, but that covering came at a cost. To provide the skin needed to make garments, an innocent animal was slain.

What a foreshadowing of Christ’s work on the cross! Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His innocent blood for our sin so God could cover our shame as well. And, although the Bible does not specify, would anyone be surprised if the animal slain in the Garden of Eden turned out to be a lamb?

God demonstrated the response of a loving Perfect Parent; He covered the shame that caused Adam and Eve to hide. Then, He delivered consequences for rebellion in a way that Adam and Eve (and their descendants) were taught a powerful lesson about His provision of righteousness in the future.

Had God not first covered their shame, Adam and Eve may not have received the lesson. God’s act of covering them demonstrated He would never leave or forsake His children. Adam and Eve could receive the lesson because they loved and trusted the Teacher.

Covering shame makes teaching possible.

For Adam also and for his wife the Lord God made long coats (tunics) of skins and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21

† Devo † God’s Example of Empathy #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Eating from the tree did not have the result Adam and Eve hoped. While they became like God in their ability to recognize both good and evil, they soon realized it was their own evil that was revealed. The result? Shame entered the world for the first time.This single verse from the Bible has astounding ramifications! Despite Adam’s and Eve’s blatant disobedience, and the fact that incredibly significant consequences were going to be delivered, God responded with perfect empathy. After they committed the most significant sin of all time, God acknowledged their feelings and made garments of skin to cover their shame!What an amazing and loving Father we have! As parents, we must try to model that same empathy to our kids, even in the midst of their disobedience. How? By soliciting their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and insecurities even as we deliver necessary consequences and grieving with them over the tough, but necessary lessons of life.

As you experience God’s incredible love, let the overflow of a grateful heart motivate and guide your parenting.

 

† Devo † No More Hiding #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

After Adam and Eve ate from the tree, they realized they were naked. In response, they hid from God and sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. God’s response to Adam’s sin was a question: “Where are you?” Now, you can be certain that God had not misplaced Adam! He asked the question for Adam’s benefit, not His.

The legacy of Adam and Eve’s act is that we are still hiding today. Shopping, food, drug and alcohol abuse, and sometimes even exercise represent our “fig leaves.” Still, God continues to ask us, “Where are you?” He is calling for us to come out of hiding and into a relationship with Him.

What an example for parents! Call your kids out of hiding by asking open-ended questions and listen to their answers with understanding, rather than meeting them with judgment and shame. If you need to give consequences for their disobedience, choose to give those consequences with empathy.

Meeting your kids with empathy helps them come out of hiding and into relationship.

But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you? 10He said, I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.

Genesis 3:9-10

† Devo † God’s Design #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

As Christians, we should spend our lives discovering and using our spiritual gifts, and the same is true of our kids. This pursuit is essential if we are to accomplish God’s purpose for us, because we can’t do anything for Him without the gifts He gave us. With those gifts, however, we can accomplish a lot!

Isn’t it encouraging that God equips us specifically to do the things He has called us to do? That is the beauty of spiritual giftsÑthey enable us to minister as God intended. Of course, the reverse is also trueÑwhen we try to do anything other than what God has enabled us to do, we fall outside His design for us and we are destined to fall short.

Help your kids uncover their God-given gifts, cultivate them and help them put them to work, for the glory of the Lord.

Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith.

Romans 12:6

† Devo † Moms and Dads #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

These verses describe the qualities necessary to raise well-rounded children in a spiritual family. Some of these qualities are associated with moms, such as patience, gentleness and a devotion for her children that makes her want to spend time with them and nourish them, physically and spiritually. Other qualities are associated with dads, such as encouragement, comfort and urging their children to live lives worthy of the Lord.

Paul and the other missionaries supplied these qualities to the believers in Thessalonica so that they could grow spiritually. He filled the role of both mom and dad, and he also gave us a beautiful picture of the needs of kids and the roles of parents in meeting those needs. Whether you are in a one- or two-parent family, the kids’ needs are the same. But take heart, God will equip each of you to do the job He has called you to (Heb. 13:21).

Trust God for the strength and qualities necessary to raise your children.

For you know how, as a father [dealing with] his children, we used to exhort each of you personally, stimulating andencouraging and charging you12To live lives worthy of God, Who calls you into His own kingdom and the glorious blessedness [into which true believers will enter after Christ’s return].

1 Thessalonians 2:7,11-12

† Devo † Discernment #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

 

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians could easily be our prayer for our kids. Who doesn’t want their children to abound in knowledge and insight and be pure and blameless, making decisions that reflect God’s righteousness? How will you help them reach those lofty goals?

One way is to give your kids more choices and opportunities to learn from hands-on experience. Good decision making isn’t learned overnight. Your kids may have to make some poor choices along the way before they will know how to make good ones. Obviously, you won’t give them just any choice because they should only be given choices you are willing for them to make. But the opportunities to give significant choices are endless.

Practice with little choices for little kids and more expanded choices as kids mature. Walk beside them as they get their hands dirty. Enjoy the process!

Kids who are encouraged to make lots of appropriate choices gain knowledge, insight, and discernment.

And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more andextend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, andapprove andprize what is excellent andof real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted andpure and unerring andblameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling norcausing others to stumble]. May you abound in andbe filled with the fruits of righteousness (of right standing with God and right doing) which come through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One), to the honor and praise of God [that His glory may be both manifested and recognized].

Philippians 1:9-11

† Devo † Relief #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

We all make mistakes in parenting at times; we will yell at our kids, lecture or nag them, rescue them from their mistakes, punish them harshly, etc. This does not surprise God. He knows and He is willing to forgive it all. You can surrender your guilt and your shame to Him. He will take your selfishness and neglect, too, if you turn to Him and confess.

That’s a great relief! God is in charge, and He is willing to work alongside you to raise your kids. When you do something wrong, He will help you model humility as you confess your sin to them and ask for their forgiveness. Sometimes God even uses our mistakes as opportunities to connect with our children in a more personal way.

Rely on the Perfect Parent and He will purify all your mistakes.

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned andconfess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

1 John 1:9

† Devo † Proof #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

 

We do not always know how faithful we are until we are tested. Trials have a way of exposing those areas where we are trusting in ourselves instead of relying on God. Paul encouraged these believers by showing them the value of God’s sanctifying work in their lives.

 

The purpose in sanctification isn’t to reveal a person’s heart to God. He already knows! Rather, it is to reveal the heart to the person himself. This can be painful at times as we are confronted with the depths of our sin and challenged to mature spiritually

 

Pray for God to expose the “logs” in your eyes and the strength to embrace the sanctification process. Difficult times provide an opportunity to become more Christ-like and to be a humble example for our family.

 

Trials expose our weaknesses and challenge us to grow spiritually.

But we, brethren beloved by the Lord, ought andare obligated [as those who are in debt] to give thanks always to God for you, because God chose you from the beginning as His firstfruits (first converts)for salvation through the sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit and [your] belief in (adherence to, trust in, and reliance on) the Truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13

† Devo † Plugging Into The Power #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The apostle Paul knew that faith is the key to an obedient life. By faith, we are able to increase our love for one another and persevere in the midst of trials (2 Thes. 1:3-4). In this passage, he goes on to show us how faith is connected to power.

Faith allows us to receive God’s power to fulfill His purpose for our lives. It is like the battery charger on my laptop. If it is not plugged in, the battery will not recharge and my laptop will go dead in a short time. When I keep the power cord plugged in, the battery stays charged and I have the ability to work for long stretches.

When we rely on our own strength to do the right thing, we soon become frustrated as we reach the end of our human abilities, But when we glorify Jesus and yield to His will for our lives, we tap into a power that far exceeds our human will.

Stay plugged in to God’s power through prayer and faith.

With this in view we constantly pray for you, that our God may deem andcount you worthy of [your] calling and [His] every gracious purpose of goodness, and with power may complete in [your] every particular work of faith (faith which is that leaning of the whole human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness). 2 Thessalonians 1:11

† Devo † Accountable To God #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

God gave you children, and you are expected to raise them for His glory. You are a steward of God’s children and, as a steward, you must answer to your Master for your efforts. Fortunately, you don’t have to account to other masters, other stewards, or to those under your care. Ultimately, only God has the authority to judge your work.

That’s great news! You don’t have to answer to other parents or the culture you live in. The competition is over! You are not required to conform to the world’s view of success because the world is not your master. And, when your kids are upset with you for restricting or disciplining them, you can take comfort that their approval is not your goal.

That doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to treat your kids any way you want; your Master has provided instructions about your relationships with your kids (see Eph 6:4), but it does mean that you should be seeking to please Him first. Be a faithful and sensible steward of your kids.

And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful steward, the wise man whom his master will set over those in his household service to supply them their allowance of food at the appointed time? Luke 12:42

† Devo † Fingerprints of God #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Your family may hear about the terrible condition the world is in, and how it has never been more depraved or Godless. Some people anticipate a steady decline in morals and behavior until the Lord comes back and makes everything right again.

But sometimes we get so focused on the negative aspects of this world, we overlook the positive. There are echoes of His majesty all around us. You can see the fingerprints of God in mountains and oceans, in sunrises and sunsets, and even in the kind acts of strangers towards each other.

Busy schedules often rob us of simple pleasures. Take time to help your kids see God in His creation and appreciate the beauty of His craftsmanship. It might even be refreshing for you!

The earth is full of God’s work; let’s recognize it together.

The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercyandloving-kindness; teach me Your statutes. Psalm 119:64

† Devo † Parenting Through Prayer #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

In this passage, Luke reminds us of the importance of prayer. The results are tremendous! The believers who prayed were “shaken,” “filled with the Holy Spirit,” and “spoke the word of God boldly.” Notice also that these Christians did not fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, but they were supernaturally filled by God.

As we face the challenges of parenting, we are constantly reminded of our need for the Holy Spirit! Whether you are rejoicing, struggling to find direction, or crying out in sorrow, recognize the opportunity to turn to the Lord in prayer.

Remember the importance of prayer. Astounding results take place by simply taking the time to talk to the Lord.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom andboldness and courage. Acts 4:31

† Devo † Discipline From A Loving Parent #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The word “discipline” in this passage means to educate or train, rather than to condemn or punish. Most of us realize our discipline stems from our love and concern for our kids. Interestingly, it is this same parental love that causes God to discipline us throughout our lives as well.

How does God discipline us? Often, it is by delivering consequences when we make mistakes, and then walking with us as we deal with those consequences. When we have learned from the process, He gives us new opportunities to obey, and helps us grow and mature in ways we never thought possible.

It is important to remember that the purpose of His discipline isn’t to defeat us. Romans 8:1 says, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.” Instead, He wants us to learn from discipline, to look towards Him, and keep going! What a great example of a Perfect Parent!

Embrace the Lord’s discipline as an expression of His love. Use Him as your model for disciplining your children.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal andencouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly orscorn to submit to the correction anddiscipline of the Lord, nor lose courage andgive up andfaint when you are reproved orcorrected by Him; For the Lord corrects anddisciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts andwelcomes to His heart and cherishes. Hebrews 12:5-6

† Devo † Living Your Words #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The Jewish legal experts had many ways to get around the law and break oaths so that a person’s promises might mean nothing. Jesus, however, encouraged people to live their lives with such integrity that people would simply believe what they said.

Our actions should speak louder than our words. But too often, the opposite is true. When we say we will give consequences for disobedience and then fail to follow through, our kids may doubt the reliability of our words. As a result, we may use threats to convince our children that this time we really mean what we say: “This is the last time I’m waking you up” or, “Next time, I’m not bringing your homework to school.” Unfortunately, our threats are often perceived as just more meaningless words.

Provide your children with the sense of security that comes when your actions are consistent with your words.

Let your Yes be simply Yes, and your No be simply No; anything more than that comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

† Devo † Identity In Christ #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

The young man went away sad because Jesus asked him to trade his identity as a rich man for that of a Christ follower. Jesus knew the cost that comes with complete surrender to God. But He also knew it was the only way to find true freedom and eternal purpose on earth.

Like the rich man, sometimes we find ourselves chasing after the validation that comes from worldly identitiesÑthe competent businessman, the skilled athlete, the organized housewife, even the committed Christian. After we have kids, being the parent of successful children is often added to the list. But focusing on these goals will cause us to become dependent on the opinions of people and less dependent on God. Success or failure in the world’s eyes can turn on a dime. God wants us to surrender all of these for complete dependence on Him.

What is your identity?

And behold, there came a man up to Him, saying, Teacher, what excellent andperfectly andessentially good deed must I do to possess eternal life? Matthew 19:16

Jesus answered him, If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]. But when the young man heard this, he went away sad (grieved and in much distress), for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:21-22

† Devo † Power Through Humility #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Most of us get excited at the thought of raising powerful kids. We want them to be in control of their circumstances. We want them to be first in line, to take charge, and to be the one deciding who and what goes where and when. Unfortunately, the pursuit of power without humility can lead to disastrous results. Kids who seek power for its own sake can be arrogant, domineering, and disrespectful of authority.

Christians are told how to become truly powerfulÑby humbling themselves before the Lord. When we demonstrate the proper respect for God’s authority, He allows us to be eternally influential in the lives of others. Tim Kimmel says, “True greatness does not have power as its goal, but it often gains power by default.” The amount of influence your child can have as an adult will be proportionate to their ability to grasp this principle as a child.

Teach your children humility and watch their influence grow.

Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant]. James 4:10

† Devo † Gospel Pride #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

If you are reluctant to talk about the gospel with your kids, you are not alone. In this passage, Paul gives us three reasons why he was able to courageously proclaim the message of Christ to a skeptical audience. It is the gospel of Christ, it is the power of God, and the result is salvation to everyone who believes.

The fact that it came directly from Christ gives the gospel authority. It is a message from the King Himself! And, the gospel carries the power of God the very power that raised Christ from the dead. But the best reason to be courageous is that the effect of believing and trusting the gospel is salvation freedom from sin and an eternal inheritance in heaven.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ,for it is God’s power working unto salvation [for deliverance from eternal death] to everyone who believes witha personal trust anda confident surrender andfirm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16

 

† Devo † Glorious Suffering #AnchorFAM #ParentingByDesign

Because we know God’s plan will lead us home to heaven, we can endure suffering along the way. In fact, if today’s suffering is “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:17), we ought to be able to count suffering as a blessing instead of a curse. Nonbelievers do not have this perspective on suffering and must achieve their glory now, because their future is eternal suffering apart from God.

We don’t know what it will be like in heaven, but we know that today’s suffering is our training for an eternal future of ministry in the presence of the Father. Trials prepare us for that futureÑthey are God’s curriculum for eternity.

Treat your family’s trials as opportunities to glorify the Father and as training for your future.

[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials andsuffer temptations, 7So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested andpurified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed.

1 Peter 1:6-7