Marriage

Four Reasons God Gave us Marriage

The present cultural narrative concerning marriage has been written, and in some ways, biblically committed Christians have been cast as the villain. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. To change the narrative, we need a compelling alternative to the current trajectory our culture is on regarding marriage.

Unfortunately, we have become typecast as only caring about one issue – albeit an extremely important one. In reality though, there is more than one issue to worry about. The average marrying age is getting older and older, divorce rates are far too high and many have chosen to simply not marry at all – just to name a few.

We lament that the narrative around marriage has been written, and along the way we got booted from the author’s desk. If we were given back the pen, what would we say? If we want to provide the redirection our culture needs, we must have a clear vision. An important place to start is by answering the question, “why did God give us marriage?” Here are four reasons.

Overflow of God’s love

God is love (1 John 4:8). He possesses full and complete love within Himself and that love overflows into his image bearers. We have been created as relational beings, after the image of God, because God is a relational being Himself. When God was in the process of creating in Genesis 1-2, the common refrain, "And God saw that it was good" is repeated multiple times. Until He created man, and He said, "it is not good..." The shift in this phrase should catch our attention, and lead us to ask, "what was not good?" The answer, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper fit for him (Gen 2:18)."

God exists in Trinitarian community, and He has created us to exist in community as well. The relationship God forms between Adam and Eve points to one of marriage's most basic purposes. He saw that it was not good for man to be alone, because God's first image bearer could not fully express the image alone. This is a good reminder that relational connection is important for our marriages. Do not neglect your spouse, because you were brought together to mutually express the divine love of God through intentionally investing in your loving union.

Filling the earth with God's image

The first command God gives to His new image bearers is to "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth… (Gen 1:28)." The mission of God (Missio Dei) is linked with the image of God (Imago Dei), because we are called to fill the earth with God's image and glory. Jesus gave the command to his disciples to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... (Mt. 28:19)." We are sent to make disciples, to turn people's gaze toward Christ.

We are called to make disciples of all nations, and we are also called to make disciples of the little image bearers in our home. We are called to bring the gospel to the far reaches of the world, and also make it shine before the eyes of our kids. The chief aim of missions is to see God's original intention fulfilled. This is also one of the primary purposes of marriage, the multiplication of God-worshipping image bearers. One of the reasons God has given us marriage is so He can multiply His image and fill the earth with His glory, and the way we disciple are children is integral to that vision.

Human flourishing

Christian marriage is not about me, but about us. It is an essential institution for human flourishing. A culture and society that gives up on God's design for marriage will inevitably see the ripple effect through the breakdown of other essential institutions.

We have made marriage more about individual fulfillment, which undermines one of God's initial reasons for giving it to us. In The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller writes, "Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me."

When we see that marriage is about more than simply our own fulfillment, it tells a compelling story about the way God designed marriage to work. When marriage is not about the individual, they are ready to serve and sacrifice for their spouse. When marriage is not only for the couple, but for the good of their church, their neighborhood, their school district, their children and for all of society, then one of God’s purposes for marriage is fulfilled.

Picture of Christ and the Church

One of the central Scripture passages about marriage is found in Ephesians. As Paul is working his way through the practical implications of the gospel, he comes to marriage. He explains, among other exhortations, that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. Paul calls men to "love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)." He goes on to say, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph 5:32)." Our marriages help us further understand the gospel message, because marriage paints a picture of Christ's love for the church.

Our marriages provide us with an opportunity to deepen our own understanding of the gospel, and further reveal the gospel to those around us. God gave us marriage to be a living picture of His relationship with His people, and His love for them in the gospel.

As we pick up the pen, I pray we give voice to God’s purpose in marriage - in word and deed, that our marriages would be fiercely committed to loving relationship, the discipleship of our children, the good of our cities and the message of the gospel.

Will you give some feedback on a new book for men?

A friend, Mark Benson, and I are in the early stages of writing a book for men. This has been on the horizon for each of us in different ways for quite some time. A few recent events have catalyzed some fresh movement and we are beginning to nail down some of the essential details. And we would love your thoughts and feedback!

How we got here

There have been a variety of factors that have led us to this point. Allow me to briefly share them with you.

Family Man series

In January, I had a Guest Post Series on the blog that was called "The Family Man that Follows Jesus." Mark was one of the four guests that posted on the blog. The response that I got for the series was extremely positive. It was a clear reminder of how important it is for men who follow Jesus to live in a way that is consistent with their faith in Christ.

C.S. Lewis Quote

Mark was reading through The Screwtape Letters and was struck by a particular passage in which Screwtape writes to Wormwood:

"And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal way a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off."

The idea that Satan is seeking to steal away the best years of a Christian man's life through meaningless distraction resonated with Mark. And when he shared this quote and general idea with me, it was illuminating.

Desire to communicate and apply gospel-centered truth

As you will see when we explain our general premise, we believe that the remedy is not simply a need to refocus on what matters and then work harder. The most basic problem is a loss of identity and a lack of seeing how the gospel of Jesus frees us from the various distractions in life.

We have a deep commitment to communicate the gospel and help people apply it to their lives. In this case, men are in need of a renewed understanding of the gospel, and how it can free them from the indifference caused by life's many distractions.

We saw a need

There are many books for men already in existence. But none that take the unique perspective that we will. And we see a great need to address the apathy and lethargy caused by input overload. We believe that this will be a timely book, and one that men need to read.

The premise of the book

Here is the working premise statement for the book:

One of the greatest problems facing men today is the enormous amount of distractions in life. A lack of intentionality in the ordering of our priorities leads to idols and failed responsibilities. If the demands of life are constantly pressuring you to work harder, be better, and run faster, this book is for you. God is calling men to trust in Christ and know the reality of their new identity in him. Rooting out idols and fighting to reorder our lives around a Biblical vision of manhood, so we can be fully alive in God.

Feedback survey

And now we need your help! Your feedback will be extremely helpful for us to consider various perspectives and elements that we may not have otherwise. We also have a list of seven potential titles we would like you to vote on. So, please take a couple minutes and fill out this survey.

Gender *
Select the title that you like the best *
What are the core problems you feel that men face today (choose up to four)? *

5 Ways to Be More Present at Home

During the month of January, four different men have contributed guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It has given me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family. The series has been very well received, and you can get links to all the posts at the series page.

I have enjoyed it so much that I wanted to write a post for the series as well. So, here is my contribution to The Family Man that Follows Jesus series.

Present and Engaged fathers

The number one predictor of at risk behavior in a teenager may not be what you think. It isn't race. It isn't gender. It isn't socio-economic standing. The number one factor for whether a teenager will engage in at-risk behavior is whether there is an involved father in their lives. Unfortunately, one out of every three children in America grow up in a biological father-absent home.

Sadly, even in homes where a father is physically present, they are often unengaged. As husbands and fathers who desire to follow Jesus and honor God, we cannot just be physically present, we must also be intentionally engaged. And not just with our children, but with our wives as well.

Admittedly, it can be difficult at times. After a long day, it is easy to detach from our family and enter the worlds of media, technology or sports. We might still be thinking about the work we left behind or just longing for bedtime. But, I believe that God calls us to more as husbands and fathers.

5 ways to be more present at home

The first step is to get home. Work or other factors may pull you away from your family, so fight the current and find ways to be physically present in your home. Once you are there, here are some ways to be more engaged.

1. Turn off the phone or device

While your children and wife are awake, get rid of the phones, tablets and laptops. I am bad at this. If I have my phone in my pocket, I am prone to pull it out and check my email, social media accounts, news, sports scores, blogs, etc. As a way of reducing the number of times I reach for my phone, I have designated two spots in my home that I try to keep my phone. When I get home, the phone comes out of my pocket and onto my kitchen counter or fireplace mantel.

When our wives and children want to engage with us, but see that we consistently prioritize our devices over them, a message is sent that we care more about technology and the outside world than we do about them. Do whatever it takes to limit your phone usage at home, and engage with your family instead. 

2. Ask good questions

When we ask good questions, we show that we care. Good questions require more than casually asking, "How was your day?" It means that we think about what we know about our wife and kids, and ask specific questions. "How was your time at the library today?" "Did you read any good books today?" Or to our wives, "Were you able to get some time to think today?" "Did you have any particularly meaningful times with the kids today?"

Simply asking, "How was your day?" is a bit lazy. Being intentional to ask good questions shows you care and also gets a far more transparent and revealing answer.

3. Involve them in your work

When I come home at the end of the day, I do not always have the margin to simply play with my kids or sit around and talk. I often have projects I need to do around the house, chores that need to be completed or other miscellaneous work to be done. Rather than getting home and just ignoring our family to complete the projects, find ways to involve them. I have tried to make it a habit to involve my three year old son (my oldest) in the work that I do. Whether it is building our dining room table, shoveling our driveway or doing the laundry, it is great when he can join me. It may not always be a reality, but be creative and find ways to involve your family in your work.

4. Get on their level

This goes in the opposite direction of the last one. When you are not pressed by a necessary project or chore, then engage them on their level. Get on the ground and wrestle with them. Build something epic with their Legos. Go outside and make a snowman. Have a tea party. Read a book with them. Don't expect them to come to you, join them in their interests. This goes for our wives as well. Watch the show they want to watch (even if it is totally lame...). If they want to play a game, read a book, have conversation, get a back rub... The list can go on and on. Know your wife and engage her in her areas of interest.

5. Read with them

The older I get the more I appreciate books, more specifically, the more I appreciate words. Words are absolutely crucial. God has chosen to communicate with us through words (The Bible), and language is foundational to nearly everything we want to do in the world. One of the most important things you can do for the development of your child is to read books with them. I hear about study after study regarding the importance of reading, and what a better way to reinforce the value of reading than having their father read them a book. I recently read Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. She does a masterful job of articulating the value of reading in the home.

I would also argue that reading with your wife can be a really special time. Whether it is a classic novel, a book about parenting, or a book about faith, it can be very meaningful to share that time with your wife. Reading is a great way to engage with your family when you are home.

It's your turn. In the comments below, share one way that you try to engage with your family at home.

Apathetic Tendencies in the Modern Family Man

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Mark Benson, Board Member of First Baptist Church in Minneapolis and Chief Technology Officer at Exocitehas written about how the tendency toward apathy that exists in the modern family man. He also provides a framework for how we can move forward as men. Mark has become a great friend and I am thankful for his investment at First Baptist Church and his leadership within his own family. A more complete bio of Mark is available at the end of the post.

Bystander Apathy in the Modern Family Man

On March 13th, 1964, Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Kew Gardens, a neighborhood in Queens, New York City. Reports of the attack described a scene of apathy from nearly 40 bystanders who failed to help or call the police. Why did this happen? Why did no one help? What would I have done in that same situation?

In social psychology, there is a phenomenon called bystander apathy (or sometimes, the bystander effect) where the probability that an individual will help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist hypothesized an interesting explanation to bystander apathy by saying that the bystanders′ callous behavior is caused by the strategies they previously adopted in daily life to cope with information overload.

As I was reading about the case of Kitty Genovese, I couldn’t help but think about how I myself as a husband and father at times am guilty of being a bystander to my own life and actions, and also how this so often is due to self-imposed information overload in my life which distracts me, saturates my senses, eliminates margin, and keeps me from acting with clarity and conviction. Examples:

  • When my marriage is drifting, the voice of apathy reminds me of how tired I am that night.
  • When my children need help sorting their place in the world, the voice of apathy reminds me of things I need to do for work that week.
  • When my alarm clock rings to wake me up to spend quiet time in prayer with the Lord, the voice of apathy tells me I had a late night, and deserve a few more minutes of rest.

A Clear Identity and Purpose for the Modern Family Man

As fathers and husbands, God wants us to act bravely in our daily lives and battle those apathetic tendencies head on. I suggest that the root cause of apathetic versus non-apathetic behaviors in men is rooted in their perceived identity of themselves. A clear identity and purpose in life is the engine that drives a disciplined thought life, principled behavior, and intentional relationships. A model of the relationship between these elements is shown in the following figure.

Figure 1: A Model for Engaging the Battle Against Apathetic Tendencies in the Modern Paterfamilias (Family Man)

Figure 1: A Model for Engaging the Battle Against Apathetic Tendencies in the Modern Paterfamilias (Family Man)

As fathers, the world tells us confusing messages about who we are. At work, we are lead to believe our worth comes from our title or how much money we make. The media tells us our worth comes from how we look or what our accomplishments are. The truth is very different from that, and it starts with a Christ-centered identity.

God wants us [husbands] to act bravely in our daily lives and battle those apathetic tendencies.

Christ-Centered Identity

If we are to confront apathy, we must first resolve our identity. Only after a clear Christ-centered identity is established (i.e. salvation) can we start seeing anti-apathetic results in other areas of our life. Our salvation in Christ is the core thing here that signals our understanding that we were created in God’s image made for His glory to take care of His creation. It is amazing the kind of relief it brings when we settle into the role and that God envisioned for us from the outset. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God […]” (1 John 3:1 ESV)

Disciplined Thought Life

If our true identities are in Christ, and we really believe it, we need to set our compass on God and do the same for our families. Our thought-life can be held captive to apathy just as much as our actions and relationships. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

Principled behavior 

No one is perfect. However, a man with an identity rooted as a child of God following in the footsteps of Jesus will tend to act with his behavior in alignment with the things he knows to be right. Most of the time, we know the right things to do. yet the voice of apathy often confuses the situation and causes us to rationalize our apathetic actions. The Bible reminds us of the truth: "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," (1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV)

Intentional relationships

An identity rooted in Christ, when paired with a disciplined thought life will cause us to create and maintain intentional relationships. Intentionality is what creates space for quality time with our children and spouse, and guides our decisions when it comes to picking friends and acquaintances chosen for the purposes of either growing closer to Christ or helping others do the same. There are many verses in the Bible about the relationships men have, but one of the key ones relates to our children: "In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge." (Proverbs 14:26 ESV)

A Call to Fight Against Apathy

Apathy is the absence of choice, which is itself a choice, and is enemy to the life God wants for us. I challenge you to think about how the noise in your life (multimedia, busyness, distraction, work, anger, lust) prevents you from battling apathy on a daily basis. How will you live? What will your legacy be? 

More about Mark

Mark Benson is passionate about seeing men follow Christ in boldness, creativity, discipline, and intentionality in their thought life, behavior, and relationships at work, home, and in their communities. Mark is on the board at First Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis. In addition, he works as Chief Technology Officer at Exosite. Mark holds a BS in Computer Science from Bethel University and an MS in Software Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Mark and his wife Mandy have three beautiful kids and enjoy running, cycling, swimming, photography, and reading.

Loving our Wives with the Cross in Mind

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Drew Bontrager, the Connections Pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, IN. Drew has written about how important it is for husbands to remember the example of Jesus on the cross. The humble servant-heart of Jesus is the template for how we should engage with our wives in marriage. Drew became a friend while being a classmate of mine at Bethel Seminary and is a great man who loves Jesus very much. I am excited to share his post with you all. A more complete bio of Drew is available at the end of the post.

Love Sick

Recently, my wife Courtney had been sick. It hasn’t been anything major, just a common cold and fever but it put her in bed for a couple of days. She experienced common symptoms: headaches, sore throat, her temperature went up and down, and she was just exhausted.

Now I know it’s a bit cheesy but my heart breaks to see her in pain even if it is just a common cold, and I felt kind of bad because she probably got it from me. I had gotten sick a few days prior to Court, with the same stuff and was absolutely of no use to humanity, but to make matters worse I started recovering and feeling great while she was still in the thick of it. She never said it but I imagined she was thinking, “You did this to me!”

But here’s the cool part of the story; her sickness afforded me the opportunity to serve her. While she was officially out of commission, I had to step up my game. So I was doing everything. 

I prepared food for her, which was a miracle. Granted, it was food she had already cooked and all I had to do was heat it up, but nonetheless I “cooked” and cleaned up afterwards. I picked up her used tissues and threw them away. I made a run to the drug store to pick up extra meds and remedies. I checked in on her throughout my day. I cleaned the home. I made sure she had everything she needed. I was forced to put her needs and interests before my own.

At first, Court was hesitant about making requests. She started out by saying, “Could you…if it’s not too much trouble…possibly get me some more water?” Of course I obliged and slowly she started realizing, she could pretty much ask for anything. She was eating it up and all of a sudden, her tone changed. What was once a shy and polite request, became a demand as she said, “Where’s my water?!” Which was one of those questions that’s not really a question.

The most fascinating thing about it all is that while I served her, I noticed that it genuinely brought me joy. Albeit, it was a challenge at times and I didn’t always have the best attitude. There were times I almost said, “Get your own water!” Thankfully, I never did but even in the struggle of my own humanity, I found love and fulfillment as I gave myself up for her.

Out of reverence for Christ

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 2:21, 25, 28)

Paul starts this passage in the letter to the Ephesians; in which my NIV Bible calls “Instructions for Christian Households,” with an imperative to both husbands and wives who follow Jesus, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). In other words, if we love Jesus then we should serve our spouse simply out of our love and devotion for Jesus.

He continues in 5:25 and he speaks more specifically to husbands and how they can love their wives, “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” This passage beautifully echoes another one of Paul’s writings in Philippians 2:1-5 when he encourages the Philippian believers to humble themselves, value others above self, and put the interest of others before their own because this is the mindset of Christ. The context of relationships Paul was writing about in Philippians was different than in Ephesians, but the imperative was the same; follow the example of Jesus who humbled Himself all the way to the cross.

The picture God wants in our eyes when husbands see their wives is the cross. The self-sacrificial love of the cross is how to cultivate a healthy marriage relationship. Paul reminds us that when we think about how to love our wives, how to serve our wives, or how to relate to our wives that we must think of the cross.

Dynamic Service

My wife and I have been married for 5 ½ years now but I quickly discovered after we got married that I am naturally a selfish person. Serving Courtney and putting her needs before my own does not come easy. Though, it seems that the more I serve her, the more I enjoy serving her.

Serving isn’t something that only transforms the person receiving the service. Serving is dynamic. Paul said that when we love our wives, we love ourselves. There is something profoundly deep, mysterious, and wonderful that happens in a marriage relationship when a man and a woman love one another the way Jesus loved us. It places us in a humble position to give without the assurance or proposal of receiving anything in return. This type of generosity and vulnerability is the heart of God for a husband. 

The self-sacrificial love of the cross is how to cultivate a healthy marriage.

This Is Hard

I have been challenged lately with this question, how can I serve my wife in my normal day-to-day life the way Christ loved the church? Because if I’m honest, this is hard! It’s one thing to serve my wife when she is sick and incapable of taking care of herself every once and a while, but it’s a whole different ball game when she is healthy, autonomous, and taking care of business! And if I’m brutally honest, most of the time, I just don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like listening to my wife or asking her questions after a long day of work. I don’t feel like going on a walk with her because I’d rather watch sports. Or I don’t feel like cuddling up on the couch because I would rather have my own space.

The reality however is that I’m most likely not alone in my feelings because this is very natural. It’s not natural to want to serve. It’s natural to think of self. It’s natural to want to do things that give me satisfaction. The cross reminds us that God doesn’t want us to live a natural life.

God has something so much deeper and rewarding for us. The Kingdom of God is always counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Jesus said that the first will be last and that if you want to live, then you must die to yourself. The cross shows us that if you want the kind of marriage God intends and to be the best husband you can be, then you have to live it like it’s not about you! 

More about Drew

Bontrager.jpg

Drew grew up in Indianapolis, IN where he met his wife Courtney. They are childhood sweethearts and have now been married for 5+ years. Drew traveled to Minneapolis to study and prepare for the call of God on his life to become a pastor. He studied Pastoral Studies at North Central University and Theological Studies at Bethel Seminary. He has served at two churches as an associate pastor for the past 5+ years and is currently back in Indianapolis serving as a staff pastor with his family at his home church, Lakeview Church. Drew's heart is to reach people for Christ and help them connect to the church family and use their gifts in ministry. 

Teach them Diligently to Your Children: Fatherhood and Reading Scripture

During the month of January, five different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Caleb Drahosh, a pastorat Buffalo City Church, a new church plant in Jamestown, North Dakota. Caleb has written about reading the Scriptures from the perspective of a Husband and Father. Caleb was the best man at my wedding, and someone whom I deeply respect. He is working as a bi-vocational pastor, planting a church in the growing city of Jamestown and his post this week is a great reminder that we do not read Scripture in isolation. A more complete bio of Caleb is available at the end of the post.

A dry season

Just a few short years ago I couldn’t picture myself driving a minivan. And just this last week I bought one. And I’m cool with it. What changed? My life situation.

We affirm that the truths contained within God’s Word never change. But we humans--in our gross mutability--are always standing in a different spot. It’s like beholding a breathtaking landscape and then moving twenty yards to the right and discovering a whole new facet of beauty.

I found recently that I was struggling to engage Scripture as I had previously, even just a few weeks earlier. I felt lost as I plowed through James, Romans, and Lamentations in my quiet times and I preached some pretty poor sermons. Being a rigidly formulaic and structured person, I dusted off my copy of Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read A Book, convinced that I needed to brush up on my understanding of genre and authorial intent.

Nothing.

A shift in perspective

Even though I’ve been married for over seven years and am a dad to two young boys, I quickly began to realize I had moved twenty yards to the right, but I was engaging Scripture as a guy still standing in a previous position. I was desperately straining to get the view of the landscape that relied upon a significantly different orientation.

If that doesn’t quite make sense, consider the admonition given in the Shema:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Do you see that imperative buried in there to “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house?” As a husband and a father to two kids it’s commanded to me, that I make my home a place that bathes in the commands of Scripture.

Solomon gets this. He’s responding directly to the imperatives in the Shema in the Proverbs:

My son, do not forget my teaching,
                        but let your heart keep my commandments,
            for length of days and years of life
                        and peace they will add to you. (Proverbs 3:1-2)

Solomon’s engagement with the law includes an understanding that he needs to be able to reproduce the truths contained therewithin to his son.

And this is where a shift in my own orientation to the text had changed. It is my duty as a husband and dad to consider the implications of Scripture for my family in every instance. I no longer read the Bible as a single dude with little to no responsibility; I read it as a husband and a father.

It is my duty to consider the implications of Scripture for my family.

Reading Scripture for more than ourselves

In a heavily individualistic society and a Christian culture that hasn’t always adequately resisted said individualism, we are trained to approach Scripture and read it with ourselves as the primary beneficiary. But we need to approach a text with a question that removes “me” from the place of prominence. We need to consider our families and be prepared to saturate our homes in gospel imperatives; imperatives that we are free to observe as those who are in Christ.

This is where mission begins. I am fully convinced that one reason Christians are bad at making disciples, is because we fail to note our own situation in life. When we read our Bible, we don’t properly consider our spouse, kids, coworkers, fellow students, the cashier at the grocery store, or the mailman. We don't properly consider our own situation as husband, father, coworker, neighbor or friend. When we begin to engage the text as one who lives in a dynamic world and not a vacuum, we will always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)”

It’s important that we ask questions about authorial intent and genre like “what were minivans intended for?” and “how does a minivan illuminate my understanding of motor vehicles as compared to mid-sized sedans?” But those questions don’t get you into the minivan. We only get there by being a parent. And--like Solomon--we behold the beauty of the landscape that is set before us when we grapple with where our feet are currently fixed; my feet are fixed in the place of fatherhood and my approach to Scripture is as one who seeks to diligently teach the truths of Scripture to my children.

More about Caleb

Caleb grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis before moving to Fargo to study at North Dakota State University. While at NDSU, he met his beautiful wife Rebekah and received his call to ministry. After graduation, Caleb and Bek moved to Louisville, KY to study at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Caleb received his Master of Divinity. They have two sons and are helping to plant Buffalo City Church, a new church in Jamestown, ND. Caleb is striving to see transformed lives engage in Spirit-empowered worship, Christlike service, and gospel-saturated community, resulting in multiplying congregations.

5 Questions Every Husband Should be Asking

During the month of January, four different men are contributing guest posts in our "The Family Man that Follows Jesus" series. It will give me a month off, so I can spend time with my growing family, and I am really excited to personally learn from the series myself.

This week, Andy O'Rourke, Lead Pastor at Antioch Community Church has written about 5 Questions Every Husband Should be Asking. Andy is a great man, working hard to pastor a vibrant faith community in Northeast Minneapolis. I really appreciate his exhortation to husbands in this post, and I pray you are encouraged by his words as well. A more complete bio of Andy is available at the end of the post.

Asking ourselves the right questions

This year my wife and I celebrated our 16-year anniversary. It’s been an incredible ride. The road has included five moves, two dogs, three academic degrees, four jobs, and two amazing children. When it comes to being a godly husband, I don't claim to be an expert, but my tires definitely have some wear. Over the years I’ve learned a lot, and still have much more to learn! Recently, I was reflecting on the apostle Peter’s instructions to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7, where he says,

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (ESV)."

Peter’s admonitions are brief, but powerful and convicting. As I think about growing as a husband in 2016, I’ve been wrestling with five questions I believe every husband should be asking himself. 

1) Am I dwelling with my wife?

Marriage is the beginning of a new life together between a husband and wife. It’s much more significant than simply gaining a permanent roommate. Sure, you share the same space with your spouse, but you can share space without sharing lives. Marriage is a call to share life together, to dwell together. You dwell together physically, emotionally and spiritually. You share hopes, dreams, joys, struggles, disappointments and everything else the journey of life brings. 

In order to dwell with your wife, you have to be present. This means being physically present. If your busyness or personal pursuits are preventing you from investing time in the most important human relationship you have, then something has to go. Dwelling with your wife also includes being mentally present when you’re together. Focus upon her. Listen to her. Turn your phone off, if that’s what it takes. Be available in both body and mind.

2) Am I a student of my wife?

I’ve always valued being a “lifelong learner.” I’m curious about all types of things and I love gaining new knowledge. I love envisioning what the future could look like, and then establishing goals and strategies to get there. But, do I study my wife? Do I really know her deeply? Do you know what your bride is struggling with? What does she need most from you right now? Could you recount to someone how she has grown over the past year? Do you have a vision and strategy for how you want her to flourish as a woman of God? It doesn’t really matter if you like school or not, every husband needs to embrace his calling as a lifelong student of his wife. 

3) Am I adoring my wife?

Peter tells husbands to “show honor” to the most important woman in their life. This involves granting your wife the respect she is rightly due. Honoring her is more than mere appreciation or honorable mention. Your wife doesn’t just want to be thanked. She hungers to be adored by you. Platform her. Lift her up. Take action and show her how much she is valued by you. Work at this with time, energy and creativity. As you create an environment of adoration you will allow your wife to flourish.

Your wife doesn’t just want to be thanked. She hungers to be adored by you.

4) Am I affirming my wife as a fellow heir in the gospel?

Leadership doesn’t mean the person you lead is of lesser worth. Good leaders seek to serve and elevate those around them. They want to do everything in their power to set others up for success. Leaders should never belittle those they lead. Husbands who are followers of Jesus need to lead like Jesus. Part of your sacrificial, servant leadership as a husband includes affirming your wife’s identity in Christ. Though you may have distinct roles as husband and wife, you are heirs together of the abundant riches found in the gospel. This world screams a thousand messages each day about what it means to be a woman. Remind your wife what it means to be a woman of God. Remind her who she is because of Jesus’ work on her behalf. Help her discern the truth from any lies she might believe about her identity. Affirm her in Jesus.

5) Am I praying for my wife?

The end of 1 Peter 3:7 includes a sober warning to husbands. The warning is to husbands who would neglect Peter's preceding instructions. They don’t strive to love their wives well, and maybe they don’t even care. Unrighteousness as a husband will actually cause your prayers before God to be hindered. That’s a terrifying thought. Neglecting my wife will create a barrier between God and I, built by my own hypocrisy. Notice, Peter’s warning assumes something basic. A godly husband is a praying husband. Let’s start there. Husbands need to come before God on behalf of their wives. One simple way I’ve learned to pray for my wife is to ask her, “What are a couple ways you’d like me to pray for you this week?” It’s a great encouragement to know someone is praying for you, especially your own husband.

Becoming the husband God intends

The purpose of the five questions above is not to make husbands feel more defeated or inadequate. They’re intended to help us be more intentional as we take our God-given responsibility seriously. Without the acceptance and security available in the gospel, these questions will crush you. But through the grace and strength of God’s Spirit, we can grow as godly husbands this year. I encourage you to ask yourself these five questions on a regular basis, knowing that in Jesus you’ve been given the ability to become the husband God intends you to be and the husband your wife longs for. 

More about Andy

O'Rourke_Andy.jpg

Andy grew up in rural Iowa and became a follower of Jesus at age 16 through a local, evangelical church. After sensing God’s call to vocational ministry, he pursued theological training at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and recently completed his Master of Divinity at the University of Northwestern St. Paul. Andy has always been passionate about raising up leaders and planting churches to reach the next generation. Antioch Community Church is the second church Andy has planted, and he is excited to continue to start churches locally and globally. Andy has been married to his high school sweetheart Sara since 1999 and they have two amazing children, Ava and Luke.


Response to Rock City (ft. Adam Levine)'s hit single "Locked Away"

A common yearning

You may have heard "Locked Away," the hit single by Rock City (ft. Adam Levine). It rose to the top of Ryan Seacrest's Top 40 multiple weeks and draws in listeners through a compelling melody and lyrics that connect with our deepest longings. It draws upon a common yearning of the human soul, a desire to know how our closest loved ones would respond to the core questions asked in the song.

Questions like, If you knew my flaws, would you still love me the same? Would you stick around if you knew the mess I really am? If you knew the ugly parts of me, would you stand by my side?

Every day, people are wrecked by the feelings of abandonment caused by those whom they care for most. An absent father who is present physically but not emotionally. Or a father who doesn't stick around at all. A husband or wife who gives up on their marriage entirely, or seeks fulfillment with a coworker or website. We see this all around us and wonder if our own loved ones will stay. If they knew our mess, would they stay?

[If you haven't heard the song, I have included the video and lyrics below. The chorus is very catchy, so be warned - it may be in your head the rest of the day.]

Marriage says yes

A covenant-keeping, biblically faithful marriage says yes in answer to those questions. The gift of marriage is that we can show our flaws, and trust that our spouse isn't going to run away. Our consumer driven, me-first mentality has undermined the beauty of that commitment. As a result, romantic relationships are often driven by what we can get, not what we can give. We enter them with a performance mentality, always feeling a need to only show the best version of ourselves. It ends up feeling like a job interview. We are always trying to show our best and hide our flaws, hoping we will make it to the next round, constantly wondering when we are going to be cut loose.

This consumer mentality has crept into our marriages. A fear of divorce and selfish motives continue to fuel a mentality that asks "what can I get?" before asking "what can I give?" We expect our spouse to be asking the same questions, so we hide our worst for fear of them leaving. And we wonder, "If I showed you my flaws, if I couldn't be strong, tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?"

The beauty of marriage is that it says yes! Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant. It is not at all like a job interview, it is like God's relationship with his people. Love in a marriage invites us to strip off the façade and share our true selves, with confidence our spouse isn't walking away. Love says, "I've seen the ugly and messy, and I love you the same."

Love says, ‘I’ve seen the ugly and messy, and I love you the same.’

Jesus says yes

Our hope in marriage is grounded first in the hope we have in Jesus. God has seen us at our worst and he still pursues us in love. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rm 5:8)." There is nothing you can hide from God. He has seen it all and knows the worst parts of you. There might be things about you that make you say, "If my spouse knew XYZ about me, they would leave me for sure." Whatever that thing is, God knows about it, and he has not left you. In fact, he did the exact opposite. He pursued you, even when you were living in the darkness of your sin. Jesus says yes to you. Even if you have had to endure the difficulty of a spouse saying no, Jesus still says yes.

Jesus also gives us an example of how we are called to respond to our own spouse. When we learn about their dark places, do we offer them the love and grace Jesus has given us? Or do we respond in condemnation? Even at our worst, Jesus has said yes to us, and I believe that he calls us to do the same for our spouse.

So in response to Rock City and Adam Levine - Jesus says yes! And so does a covenant-keeping, Christ-centered marriage.

[Note: I realize that there are certain actions our spouse could make that will require us to walk away, for safety, etc. And you might be in one of those situations. If so, you need the help and support of pastors, family, friends and loved ones to know how to proceed. This post is not intended to be comprehensive for every possible scenario, although it will be applicable for most.]

Music Video and Lyrics

Video

Lyrics

If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn't be strong
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?

[Verse 1: R. City]
Right about now
If a judge 'for life' me, would ya stay by my side?
Or is you gonna say goodbye?
Can you tell me right now?

If I couldn't buy you the fancy things in life
Shawty, would it be alright?
Come on show me that you are down

[Pre-Chorus: R. City]
Now tell me would you really ride for me?
Baby tell me would you die for me?
Would you spend your whole life with me?
Would you be there to always hold me down?
Tell me would you really cry for me?
Baby don't lie to me
If I didn't have anything
I wanna know, would you stick around?

[Chorus: Adam Levine]
If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn't be strong
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?

[Verse 2: R. City]
Skilidi dong dong dong dang
All I want is somebody real, who don't need much
A gyal I know that I can trust
To be here when money low
If I did not have nothing else to give but love
Would that even be enough?
Gyal me need fi know

[Pre-Chorus: R. City]
Now tell me would you really ride for me?
Baby tell me would you die for me?
Would you spend your whole life with me?
Would you be there to always hold me down?
Tell me would you really cry for me?
Baby don't lie to me
If I didn't have anything
I wanna know, would you stick around?

[Chorus: Adam Levine]
If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn't be strong
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?

[Bridge: R. City]
Tell me, tell me, would you want me?
Tell me, tell me, would you call me?
If you knew I wasn't balling
Cause I need a gyal who's always by my side
Tell me, tell me, do you need me?
Tell me, tell me, do you love me?
Or is you just tryna play me?
Cause I need a gyal to hold me down for life

[Chorus: Adam Levine]
If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn't be strong
Tell me honestly would you still love me the same?
If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn't be strong
Tell me honestly would you still love me the same?
 

You can find the video and lyrics at this link: http://genius.com/R-city-locked-away-lyrics

 

Marriage: A tribute to James and Lexy

Last night, I officiated a wedding between two people who mean a great deal to me and my family. James Sellen and Lexy Stark (now, James and Lexy Sellen) have been a part of my life for over four years now. I have been their supervisor, resident director, mentor and friend. They spent many hours watching my son during Liam's first year of life, and Megan and I were able to be part of their journey as they have gone from friends to dating to engaged to married. It has been a privilege and I am really excited to have been part of their wedding.

Marriage is a gift. God has given it to his people for many reasons, but I don't have space to discuss them all, so this is not going to be a theological treatise on marriage. I do want to say a few words about its beauty and its purpose though. Marriage began with Adam and Eve, the first marriage. Adam had been created and it was clear to God that "it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him." Adam and Eve were created in such a way that they complimented one another perfectly. They were "fit" for one another. Sin came and marred that first marriage, and every marriage since. But the gift God had given to humanity would continue through the generations.

Marriage is often referenced throughout the Bible as a picture of God's relationship to his people. Whether it be in the prophets or in Paul's letters, the Scriptures paint a picture of God's relationship to his people being like a marriage. We can learn about how to love our spouse when we consider how God has loved us. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16)." We know love because God loved us through Jesus. When we recognize that truth, it will lead us to love one another well, to lay down our lives for one another and consider our spouse's needs above our own.

We learn how to behave in our marriages when we remember God's love, but our marriages also paint a picture for the people around us of God's love. When we love sacrificially, it says something about the sacrificial love of Jesus. When we prioritize the needs of our spouse, it says something about how God has prioritized our need for salvation by sending Jesus. Our marriages have the ability to communicate the goodness of the gospel, what a scary and awesome privilege!

I enjoyed officiating James and Lexy's wedding last night, because I have observed this kind of love and character in their lives. Megan and I have spent many hours with them doing pre-martial counseling over the past six months. What we often planned to be one and a half hour sessions turned into three hours around our kitchen table or on our living room sofas. I have seen a deep desire in them to continue growing in their relationship and their love for Jesus.

They are not perfect. No person or marriage is perfect. But they have a deep and abiding hope in the good work that Jesus can do in their lives. There is nothing more important to a marriage than two people who recognize the flaws in one another, are committed to the covenant they make and maintain a constant hope in the gospel of Jesus.

I consider it a privilege and an honor to have been part of their wedding. Would you take a moment right now and pray for James and Lexy and their marriage? And if you know James and Lexy, please feel free to leave a comment below about your own appreciation for them.

Listening is more than just hearing

Communication is central to what it means to be human. God has created us as men and women who communicate. In reality, we are always communicating. Whether through our non-verbals, through what we say or do not say, we are in constant communication with one another. Communication is also one of the primary ways God has chosen to include us in community with Him. God communicates through His Spirit, through His Word and through His People. God has humbled himself, and uses our modes of communication in order to have relationship with us. As we seek to live our lives in a way that is consistent with our love for Jesus, we must learn how to communicate well.

Miscommunication doesn't help

Miscommunication can be very counterproductive and even hurtful to people at times. One common way we short-circuit our communication is when we hear what someone says, but we don't really listen. When we listen to someone, we process the information in such a way that we can respond appropriately. If my wife asks me to take out the garbage before I leave for work in the morning and I call out "yeah!" from the other room, and then when I walk out the door for work without touching the garbage, I have most likely "heard" her, but I have not listened to her. I have not heard her communication well enough to process it and respond appropriately. Megan (my wife) can be gracious to me for this oversight, but a consistent pattern of me not listening will eventually become hurtful to her and harm our relationship. This is a small example, but it can communicate a great deal about how much I value my wife and what she tells me.

Listening well is important

Here is a great quote about the difference between hearing and listening:

"The one communication skill that is paramount to good communication is listening. Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is an involuntary physical act of sound waves impinging upon the ear. It is passive; it requires only healthy ears. We can hear someone talking without listening to them. Listening requires cultivation. Conscious thought must be given to understand what is said."

The book this quote comes from - The Couple Checkup - is about marriage. Certainly good communication is supremely important to our most important human relationship, our marriage. It is also important to all our relationships. Good listening is important to our relationship with Jesus. It is important to our relationships with our children, our fellow small group members, our co-workers and every other relationship we have. Listening is an important way that we grow together and help one another feel valued - because when we feel heard, we feel valued.

Remove Distractions

In order to practice good listening, we must first eliminate distraction. This means we set aside our phones, our social media or our own thoughts when someone else is talking. This can be hard at times. If we are with someone and they have something to communicate, then they are important enough to proactively reduce distractions so we can truly listen. If you are at home with your spouse, turn your phone off or commit certain time periods to engage in conversation. When you are in your small group, listen to what others are saying and seek to truly understand what they mean. If there is something on your mind that is distracting you, write it down on a sheet of paper so you will remember to come back to it. Get it out of your mind and on paper, so you can listen to the person across the room from you. There are a number of ways to remove distractions, we just need to see the priority of actually doing it so we can listen well.

Paraphrase

I know that it feels unnatural at times, and it can seem a bit cheesy, but paraphrasing what someone else said can be really important for effective listening. If they make a statement, try to rephrase it back to them so that you can clarify whether you understood what they meant. They can either correct misunderstandings, maybe alter what they intended to say or simply affirm that you heard correctly.

Ask questions

Asking good questions helps us understand the other person and clarify statements. Asking questions is so important. This does not mean that you ask questions in order to lead the conversation in the direction you want it to go. Rather, it is an opportunity for you to try discovering something new about them, come to a greater understanding of who they are and learn how God has made them. Remember, the transition from hearing to listening comes when we actually engage what the person says and try to come to a better understanding of what they meant. Asking questions is important to listening, because it helps us to understand what they want to communicate.

Listening helps people feel valued

Feeling like the people around you have listened to you and understood you is extremely important to feeling valued. According to research, feeling understood in a marriage is a high predictor of marital satisfaction (The Couple Checkup). This is likely true for all our relationships. If you are in a small group, I challenge you to be very conscious of how well you listen to your fellow group members the next time you meet. Remove distractions, use paraphrasing techniques and ask good questions. People feel valued when they feel understood. And we cannot be an agent of change in people's lives when we are not actually listening to what they say.

What about our relationship with Jesus?

Many of these principles ring true in our relationship with Jesus as well. While it doesn't function the same way as it would with people sitting around a room, we still should ask ourselves if we are actually listening to the voice of our Savior. Or are we just hearing him? When we read our Bibles, are we asking questions, analyzing the information and processing the message, or are we just reading/hearing it and then moving on with life? Jesus wants to have a relationship with you, and that means listening to his voice.