What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Part 3 – Happiness & Holiness

From the day of the wedding it is obvious. We’re different, husbands and wives that is. The picture above sums it up nicely without 1,000 words – we wear the white gowns and they the black tuxes. But that’s just the beginning of the differences. They build relationships by shared activity, we women more often by… you know the answer, … talking. They want just the facts, we have to share the whole story. They see the world through a totally different paradigm. That doesn’t make them wrong and us right, nor vice versa. It makes us, together, a great team with differing strengths, perspectives, and ideas, equipped by the Father to do the work He has prepared in advance for us to do.

However, it can be difficult to appreciate the differences when you are each coming at the same dilemma from two opposite points of view, and neither of you wants to give in. This is often the downfall of married couples. We begin to see decisions, trials, and everyday difficulties, home repairs and such, as battlegrounds where we fight to have our way. We can become more interested in gaining ground and having the power balance leaning in our favor, than in working toward a resolution, in compromising, and in being unified in living out Christ’s purpose for our marriage. We struggle to find that elusive happiness in marriage that all the Disney princess movies seemed to promise. That “happily ever after” that was supposed to be marriage.

Several years ago my husband and I heard Gary Thomas speak at a retreat on Sacred Marriage. The ideas he put forth that weekend greatly impacted our perspective on marriage. Specifically two really big take-away concepts. (The first one I’ll cover today.) When we can grasp them and keep them in our minds we treat each other differently. Respectfully. Valuing each other. Loving as Christ loved. But when we forget them, we get in that “crazy cycle” that Emerson Eggerichs talks about in His book Love and Respect (a topic for another day). You all know the crazy cycle I’m sure, whether you have read about it or not!

The two ideas we grasped help us to live out a marriage with a spirit of unity, living in one accord on a daily basis. The first idea is this:

  1. What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than to make us happy?

So let me ask you, what IF God put you in that difficult marriage to make you holy? Are you willing to live it walking hand-in-hand with the Father even if it doesn’t make you happy?

When I started contemplating this question it was like I came to a fork in the road. I suddenly had to make a choice, was I willing to be unhappy and not have things always be my way in order to conform to God’s will? This question has since permeated my life beyond my marriage, but we’ll stick to how it relates to our marriages today. Am I more interested in God purifying me and molding me and refining me than I am in my own comfort? Holiness versus comfortable happiness, which would I choose?

Somehow we have let personal happiness become an idol in our lives. We Americans are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” right? But in God’s kingdom holiness trumps happiness. Joy and peace are promised in Him, but happiness is not a promise to us.

Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment based on external happenings: success, wealth, having friends, pleasurable or satisfying experiences. Happiness is a temporary feeling that can quickly be supplanted by negative experiences.

But holiness is an expectation for us of our Creator. Holiness is an attribute of God alone. It is His purity and perfectness and rightouesness in all He is and does that is unattainable in humans unless His Spirit is living in us. It is that set-apartness of God. In us holiness is that other-ness obedient Christians embody.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16

This way of looking at our spouse (as part of God’s refining process for us) is probably very different than the average church-goers’ view. It is definitely different than the secular viewpoint. But when I choose, as a wife (or husband), to be more concerned about the personal holiness God is working in my heart than about my own temporary happiness, my marriage benefits greatly. My marriage becomes a reflection of Christ. It is a high calling. And it is not easy. What will we choose today?



Back to Basics: God’s Word 2

Hey! Good to see you again! Grab your Jasmine Tea or whatever your favorite beverage is. I’ve got my cup of Breakfast Blend.

So… have you just been doin’ it? Your personal Quiet Time alone with God each day, that is. Have you? This stuff builds upon itself you know. Walk in obedience to the truth you’ve already been shown.

Enough check up and lecture, on to business. A couple of months back Michele mentioned some of these ideas, but there is much to be gained from examining differing perspectives.

A huge part of our quiet time each day is reading and studying God’s word. I hope you chose a Bible reading plan and are well into it. If you’ve kept up with a monthly whole Bible reading plan, you’re probably about 20% Of the way through! On fifth! Way to go! If you haven’t started but would like to, jump in! There’s never a bad time to begin searching out the Father’s Word.

Here are some tips and ideas that may help you read & get the most from scripture study:

  • What version of the Bible should you use? King James version is lovely and poetic, but difficult for some to read because of its archaic English. NASB, ESV, NLT, and NIV are all quality translations, NIV being the easiest of the 4 to read. Modern day versions (The Living Bible, The Message) are acceptable for reading but more difficult to use for deep study. Choose what works best for you. You can try them out online at Bible Gateway.
  • Always pray for God to open your eyes and heart before you begin studying His word. Ask for a teachable spirit. John 14:26 tells us that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Ask the Holy Spirit to do that for you each time you study.
  • Journal. Write down questions, insights, and things you want to study more later, as well as prayer needs and answers.
  • Mark in your Bible. 
    1. Underline verses the Lord has “written there just for you” or so it seemspexels-photo-38048
    2. Put the date in the margin beside important lessons God has shown you, words of encouragement, or answers to prayers.
    3. Also jot in definitions of words or brief explanations of the test that you pick up from sermons or devotionals.
    4. Put a simple question mark in the margin beside things you don’t understand. As you read scripture day after day, week after week, and year after year, the Lord will instruct you and you will one day look back on that little question mark and think, “Wow, that is so clear now. I remember when I didn’t understand that spiritual concept.”
  • Bible Reading Plans. Consider using one of the many Bible Reading Plans available to keep you on track and consistent. Whether you want to read the New Testament in a year, read the whole Bible chronologically through in a year, read more leisurely savoring every verse, or completely read the Bible in 26 days (Yes! There is a plan for that!), a Bible reading plan you choose to fit your needs and desires will help hold you accountable. Here are a few websites that offer these plans: Bible PlanBible Reading Project, or even check out Pinterest for more.
  • Search for other scriptures on a topic. Use Bible Gateway to search for more scriptures. If you read a verse about “baptism” and think “I need to know more about Baptism”. Then go to Bible Gateway and type “baptism” into the search box at the top of the page. It will provide other verses you can read for more insight.
  • Read commentaries for explanation of a text. Commentaries can be purchased at a book store or accessed online. Precept Austin is a good site that offers in-depth information. There is a search engine for the site on the main page where you can look for more info on a scripture.
  • Do a word study of the original Greek or Hebrew term. What? You don’t read Greek & Hebrew? Neither do I. But Stong’s Exhaustive Concordance contains every word from scripture listed alphabetically. Use it to look up a specific word and find the original meaning. For instance, you read John 16:7 about Jesus going away and sending “another comforter.” You wonder what exactly the word “comforter” implies, so you look it up in Strong’s and find the Greek word paraklētos. You then study the definition and it broadens your understanding of the words of Christ. (More on how to do word studies in a later post.)
  • Memorize it! We are instructed to hide God’s word in our heart. What? You say you CAN’T?! You Can! Here are some ideas:
    1. Write a verse on your bathroom mirror with a marker and read it every day while you brush your teeth. (I’ve memorized whole chapters this way!)
    2. A variation of the above: On day 2 or 3 of reading the verse, erase 3-5 key words and see if you can say the verse. Every couple of days erase a few more words until you can finally say it with nothing on the mirror.
    3. Use the app Fighter Verses on your smart phone, iPad, or computer. It offers memory helps, games, etc.
    4. Set your screen saver or lock screen to display your memory verse until it is learned.
    5. Sing the verse!
  • Listen to it! Either on audio Bible or sermon podcasts. Listen when you commute to work or while you’re working out or cleaning house or rocking the baby. And of course, attend your local church and listen to your pastor teach on scripture, hear Sunday School lessons, and participate in women’s Bible studies available in your area.
  • Live it! “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” James 1:21-25

For more ideas check out this article from the Navigators on how to study your Bible.

Mmmm! My coffee was so good! But sharing Bible study tips was even better. What about you? Do you have specific Bible study tips you’d like to share with the rest of us? We’d love to hear from you!

 Hand image courtesy of Bible.org. https://bible.org/seriespage/22-hand-illustration-first-finger-hearing

Back to Basics: God’s Word

I’ve got my steamy cup of coffee with Peppermint Mocha creamer, so grab you a cuppa and let’s get going again…

So have you been meeting with God each day? Have you found your time and place that works for you? Are you getting into the routine, a routine as common as family dinner around the table at 6:00 or getting up for work at 5:30? I hope so! Have you found a Bible version you enjoy reading or studying in?

Last week Michele shared some great logistics and organization tips on Bible study with you. Check it out here if you missed it. Later we will have some more articles on Bible study from our other writers sharing how they handle Bible study. But for today, I want to talk more heart stuff, once again with a focus on Bible study.

I remember vividly my mom & dad sitting down every night during my childhood and doing their “Daily Bible Reading.” In those days Sunday morning lesson books had recommended scriptures to read for each day of the week. I honestly can’t remember a single night not seeing them sitting at the kitchen table, each reading their individual Bibles, as I kissed them goodnight and headed off to bed. What a great heritage I had and I didn’t even realize that as a child!

A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/4K2lIP0zc_kSo with a heritage like that and having a compliant personality I started to read my Bible daily as soon as I accepted Christ at age eight. Now I didn’t understand much of it. I usually just read one or two verses. But I was learning to feed myself spiritually. Just like a little messy baby reaching for the baby food spoon or trying to feed himself Cheerios the first time, I didn’t have great success, but I was on the path to grow and learn. I missed days. I took notes in my diary on what I read. I was able to check the box of Bible reading and was making those foundational moves to be what my child eyes saw a Christian to be.

In 3rd grade I had Mrs. Mamie Latham as my Sunday School teacher. She was a godly woman with a heart for scripture memory! She gave us treats every Sunday if we memorized a new verse. I got a treat nearly every Sunday (but we won’t talk about my struggle even today with treats!) God was working into me a foundation of scripture for my life. Many of these verses I remember today.

In my teens I started reading more scripture and understanding it more. I began to see how God’s Word could be applied in my everyday life. I was very self-focused. I searched out scripture verses to help me out when I was discouraged or fearful or in need in any other way. My Bible reading was mostly about what was in it for me. But as Isaiah 55:10-11 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtells us “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God was working a purpose in me even when I was reading His Word for self gain.

In college, older godly friends of mine began to disciple me through Navigator Bible studies. They challenged me to study the Bible deeply and memorize scripture. The “Design for Discipleship” series dug into foundational truths of scripture that built in me a knowledge of what His Word said about God and sin and man and life. During this time I was very rigid and legalistic. I either mentally berated myself for missing my quiet time or felt very sanctimonious that I was meeting with the Lord every day.

During my 20s, I began longing to really know God. I’d grown up with religion and I loved God, but during this time I began a real relationship with Him. My quiet time became something I desired to do, not just something I “should” do. I wanted to read all of His word, and to know Him like I saw more mature believers knowing HIm, and to become all He wanted me to be. I wanted Him to be my friend and to see Him move in my life.

As I grew up and married and had kids, I was invited by another young mom to a Precepts Bible study in the home of a more mature woman. I learned how to study His Word deeply, turning to research on the Greek and Hebrew words to bring scripture to life! I learned Bible history, word studies, and all sorts of “academic” means of learning about God. I got quite proud of my Biblical knowledge and though I couldn’t see myself this way at the time, I was judgmental, condescending, and a know-it-all. But God was patient with me. Trials came and the academics couldn’t get me through. I turned my heart back to having a relationship with Him.

pexels-photo-27633Over the next decade or so I grew steadily, reading His Word and journaling and praying fairly consistently, just as I had seen my parents. I went through trials and found Him faithful. And enough! I worked through insecurity and fears and character issues. His word was alive and active in me. I began to hear Him speak through His Word to specific situations. I learned to love myself “warts and all” because He does. It seemed certain verses jumped off the page or were in bold print at just the time I needed to read them. My daily Bible reading schedule astounded me that God could speak so specifically through verses that had “randomly” been scheduled months ago as the “verse of that day.”

And now I find myself an older woman.

Now I am sharing what I’ve learned. I’m still learning. Still being stretched. Still being rebuked. Still being comforted. Still discovering new things in His Word. It never ends! So take my word for this, at whatever stage you find yourself in reading God’s Word, it will not return void. It will achieve what He wants in your life, even if you are hit and miss in meeting with Him. Even if you are reading it for selfish or legalistic motives. God’s Word is alive and active in our lives. But as with many things, we may not notice the small day-to-day changes it has caused until we reflect back on who we were a year or two or ten ago!

So hang in there. READ HIS WORD! It is His love letter, instruction book, recipe book, secret message, and rare treasure in our lives. It is your bread for the problems of today and your seed that will bear much fruit in the future if you read it. It is truth. Cling to His promises for your day. I challenge you to not be like me, don’t be sporadic and undisciplined and miss out on the wealth of what God has to show you. There’s grace for that if you are, but it’s not the Best thing. Be like a Bible leader I look up to who has read the entire Bible every year since she was a teen, and she’s now in her 50’s! Oh the wisdom and joy and depth of relationship with the Father!


Holy Oatmeal

One of my favorite authors often refers to the pot of oatmeal cooking on her stovetop during the early morning hours as her family prepares for their busy day running a farm. The way she describes the scene, the sounds of the low bubbling and the nurturing way she stirs in preparation of serving her family, has always drawn me to think that oatmeal is simply wonderful. Without a doubt, oatmeal must be the breakfast of wonderful people. I want to be one of those wonderful people.

I’ve heard that oatmeal is healthy too. Exactly.

Pondering this beautiful scene, I set out to create my own wonderful-ness this morning. I cooked oatmeal on my stovetop. I could literally sense the anticipation in my mouth, and my heart. This was going to be life-changing.

holy-oatmealI carefully followed the directions on the side of the canister. The boiling and bubbling began. I decided to add a little butter. Then, I added a little brown sugar. After one little bite, I decided it needed a little – lot – more butter… and maybe a pinch – large pinch – or two – more of brown sugar. Oh it looked so pretty! I scooped some into my new big soup mug. Took a little bite… Then I thought maybe it needed a little vanilla… or perhaps some mini chocolate chips.

Are you following me here…?

After an exorbitant amount of butter, brown sugar, and more than several sprinkles of mini chocolate chips, I dove into a large spoonful.

Then, I decided that oatmeal is just NOT for me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I like the idea of oatmeal. I like the idea of the warm bubbly nutritious good-for-your-heart-health breakfast.

But I don’t really…actually want to eat it… I just want a picture of it posted to my Instagram account, with my Bible in the background.

In his letter, the apostle Peter wrote these words: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

I so sincerely want to conduct myself in a holy manner. Correction: I like the idea of conducting myself in a holy manner. Because when I’m NOT hungry and tired, I really want to BE holy. When it’s NOT too late for the kids to still be awake, I really want to BE holy, to conduct myself in obedience. Not to mention when someone does NOT pull out in front of me and does NOT begin driving so very slowly in order to purposely ruin my life, I’m really thinking about BEING holy in my conduct. However, when I’m rested and healthy and cared for and my car is shiny fresh out of the carwash, I am especially in tune with holy conduct…

Really… I mean really?Processed with VSCOcam with 5 preset

Let me first say that I have been made holy, been made righteous by the precious blood of the Lamb; but walking worthy and being “holy in my conduct” is something I would prefer with butter, brown sugar, and mini chocolate chips on top.

Peter says to be as “obedient children” and to be holy in my conduct. He never mentions sweet and easy living.

I was made new in Christ for many things like precious freedom and sweet fellowship, but also obedience and holy living. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I desire to look like My Father, to conduct myself in a way that causes others to see Jesus Christ; therefore I’m called to a standard of living that is beyond my former desires.

I’m just glad Peter didn’t require oatmeal.


As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16