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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons from my 2013 blogging life

As the year 2013 draws to a close, I have been thinking a lot about what lessons I've learned from blogging this year. 

It's actually hard for me to summarize this year at Journey to Surrender. It is one in which I seriously considered ending my blogging endeavors altogether, although I ultimately decided that my heart won't allow me to lay it down - at least not yet.

The Weight

The state of marriage in the US weighs heavy on my heart. The news is mostly not very good. Marriage rates continue to trend down significantly.  More children than ever are being born out of wedlock and cohabitation rates have soared. People just aren't as marriage-minded as they used to be. These are the unhappy, hard facts.

Marriage weighs on my heart because I know these hard facts also weigh on God's heart. I am compelled to continue plugging away at this marriage thing because it matters to Him. A lot. Marriage was his creation, and it pains Him to see it demeaned and diminished.

The struggle for me is that I want to do much more than I am able to do. I want to reach more people with the great news of God's design for marriage. I want to write more, teach more, and help more couples discover and attain all that God has for their marriage.

The Wait

I've got  nearly 100 notes in my "Post Ideas" folder. I have dozens of initiatives waiting in the wings. I don't lack ideas, I lack time.And more time isn't in the cards for the foreseeable future. When you have a demanding full-time job, blogging is just hard.

I can see countless opportunities and ways to do this thing "better." The difference between where I am in marriage ministry and where I want to be is great - sometimes discouragingly so. I could give you a long list.

For now I continue to just do the next thing, to write the next post, even when it's been longer between posts than it should have been (as with this one). I do what I can in other areas, with social media, with book and other writing projects, and with leading small groups in our church.

I want to be faithful, and I will continue to press into what God has called me to while I wait for "what is" to catch up to "what could be."

Of course, it's not easy to wait while bearing a weight.

The Hope

What weight have you been bearing? What weight has you in a season of waiting for fulfillment? What area of your life do you see some misalignment between "what is" and "what could be?"

Is it the weight of wanting more out of your marriage? More emotional, physical or spiritual intimacy? More passion? More communication? More trust?

Do you struggle with the weight of financial burdens? Or health issues? Do you bear the weight of issues with your children or extended family? Unemployment or underemployment?

There is good news for those of us who wait with a weight. His name is Jesus, and He is our hope and our confidence that our wait is not in vain.

Let me encourage you (and myself) with some truth from the Word:
  • "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;" (Phil 1:6)
  • "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:4-5)
  • "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30)
  • May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews: 13:20-21)

Take Heart

Whatever you find yourself longing for, whatever you find yourself wanting and waiting for, take heart. God is good and has only good intentions for you and me. Even when I am not, He is eternally faithful.

Here are a few things you can do to help turn your season of waiting into one of hopeful and joyful anticipation:
  • Do the next thing you know to do.
  • Be faithful in the little things.
  • Pray. Pray a lot.
  • Practice being thankful. Out loud.
  • Soak up the promises of Scripture. Think on them often.
  • Release control to the Lord. He is trustworthy.
  • When you take control back, release it to him again.
Maybe you can tell that I mostly wrote this post for me. If you find yourself in a similar season of waiting with a weight, I hope it offers some encouragement to you as well.

I leave you/us with this blessing from Romans. This is my sincere prayer:

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy 
and peace in believing, 
that you may abound in hope 
by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13

photo credit: alphaspirit /

Monday, December 16, 2013

What Headship is not: the Nice Guy, the Dictator and the Loser.

I've mentioned before that the top Google searches that land folks on my blog consistently fall into one of two arenas.  The first is something like "my husband refuses to lead." The second, following closely behind in number of hits, is "my husband acts like a dictator" or something similar.

These two errors on the part of husbands point directly the dual edge sword of headship that I discussed in my last post. That is that husbands should follow Christ's example of being both strong and good in their role as head in their marriage.

I'll re-post the chart I developed for my last post below:

I proposed last time that the biblical model for your headship as husband is found in being both a good leader and good lover. Growing in your capacity in both the strength and goodness dimensions of your marriage is key to growing in Christlike headship.

My understanding of the biblical model for marriage is that you, as husband, have the role of head, "as Christ is head of the church." Being head is not a role you must earn or work for, it's yours by the fact that you chose to marry. I don't know why, but this is how God has ordained it. You are head even if you don't accept it or your wife does not acknowledge it. (If "head" has too many unhappy connotations, you can also use the words leadership or authority to describe this role).

Looking at the chart above, there are three ways in which your headship can fall short in the strong/good arena. These are worth watching out for, because we all fall into them from time to time.

The Nice Guy

Feminist indoctrination not withstanding, there are many wives longing for their husbands to stand up and take their leadership role seriously. Like I said, more wives come here looking for how to help make that happen than for any other reason.

I'm not making excuses, but the widespread push back against biblical headship, even within the church, has many men reluctant to lead their marriages. Some are afraid of being labeled misogynists or worse. Some have bought into the lie that there should be no distinction in the roles of men and women in marriage. Some have wives who contend for authority, even wives who claim to want their husbands to step up and lead! These men who are hesitant to stand up and take their leadership role seriously are what I call "Nice Guys."

Society and the church have churned out Nice Guys by the millions. They are pleasers who tend to avoid conflict. These are the men who leave most or all the decisions to their wives, either because they are totally disengaged or because their wives argue and put them down for every idea and hold past decisions over them indefinitely. Nice Guys often just give up, rather than rocking the boat or risking trying to lead.

Whatever the reason for their refusal to lead, these men don't realize that their weakness makes them unattractive to their wives over time. And their resulting disengagement leaves their wives feeling unloved and alone. It's not a formula for a passionate and intimate marriage and certainly not a lasting one.

It's Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today, because their error is much more subtle and socially acceptable than the next group:

The Dictator

Selfish, controlling husbands give biblical headship a bad rap.

In days gone by, maybe 50 years ago, this was the number one problem with husbands in marriage. This kind of brutish, self-serving husband led to feminism and the desire for egalitarian marriage. Dictators are the reason the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, giving rise to so many Nice Guys.

Unloving husbands who use their authority to control or coerce their wives are bad news. These are the men who are abusive and flaunt scriptures about wives being submissive to their husbands, all the while ignoring the scriptural mandate for them to love and lay down their lives for their wives.

The Loser

The husband who is both weak and unloving is double trouble.

This kind of husband is self-centered, but lacks the guts to act on it, at least openly. He doesn't care about what his wife needs or wants from him. He is only concerned for himself.  He will manipulate and deceive in order to get his way, but refuses to confront things head on.

The loser refuses to take responsibility for his actions and shifts blame onto his wife. He is controlled by fear, and his buried frustrations may bubble up to the surface as angry outbursts.

The loser doesn't refuse to lead because he in incapable, he refuses to lead because he doesn't care.

 - - - - -

I hope and pray that Nice Guy, Dictator, and Loser do not describe the way in which you act out your headship role in your marriage. In order to make my case clear I have described these non-Christlike behaviors in husbands in pretty strong terms. There are, of course, many less severe ways to screw up headship.  I know because I've done them all from time to time.

There is good news for us who mess up in our quest for biblical headship. It's called grace!  God is for you and for your marriage. His desire it to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the strength and skill to lead well and for a revelation of who Jesus is. Pray for your understanding of the love of Jesus to grow deeper, so you can love your wife in the same way. These are the prayers Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians 1 and 3, leading up to the chapter on marriage. These are the keys!
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:17

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Ephesians 3:17-18

 Be diligent. Vigorously pursue the kind of headship Jesus displays to us, his bride. When you screw up and slip into actions or words that are weak or unloving, admit your blunder and ask your wife to forgive you. She will admire you for it.

My point in stating what headship is not is to get you to be watchful over your role as husband and to strive diligently to be both strong and good. Your wife deserves that from you, and God is calling you to it.

A note to wives ignoring the headline and reading this post anyway: it is not your job to browbeat, manipulate or judge your husband if he happens to fall into one of the non-Christlike quadrants, even occasionally. It is not your job to correct or coerce him. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Don't even think of forwarding this to your husband!

Your job is to concentrate on your role in your marriage. In a few weeks, in a Wives Only Wednesday post,  I'll be looking at two dimensions of the your role in your marriage. You'll definitely want to check back for those.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Strength and goodness are independent variables in the equation of a husband's biblical leadership.

Welcome to my revamped and renamed series for husbands. If you are a long-time reader, you'll note the name change from "Man Up Monday" to "Men only Monday."

There are two basic reasons for the change. First, the term "man-up," intended as a slightly tongue-in-cheek expression, was misinterpreted by some as an accusation or indictment against men in general. I don't want to come across as husband-bashing.

Second, I use "Wives only Wednesdays" for my occasional mid-week posts directed at wives. That title rightly indicates a broader focus than just the role of wives in a biblical marriage. The Men Only title will also clarify that the occasional series for men is similarly broad in scope.

One of my goals for 2014 is to more regularly address husbands and wives separately through Men Only Monday and Wife Only Wednesday posts.

Enough with that, on to today's post.

Real Headship

The degree of misunderstanding and consequent outrage over what it means for a husband to be the "head" of his wife is a continual source of frustration for me. It's also a source of motivation for me to work diligently to educate and inform about this contentious issue with clarity and biblical backing.

I'm not going to spend any time in this post revisiting the arguments over the Greek lexicon or whether kephale actually means head. I've read and researched extensively on both sides and can only interpret Ephesians 5 to mean the husband is intended by God to have a kind of authority in marriage. Call it authority, call it leadership, call it headship, call it whatever you will, but whatever term you use, just make Jesus your definition of it.

Charting Biblical Headship

So the question to me is not so much whether  or not you, as a husband, have a God-ordained headship role in your marriage, but rather what that should look like.

I came across something on another blog recently that got me thinking about the attributes of strength and goodness and how these are really independent variables from each other in framing a husband's authority.

Confusing or equating these two attributes of your leadership can lead to a lot of confusion and mistaken understanding. To lend some clarity to this concept, I've put together the chart below:

What the chart clearly depicts is that there is only one quadrant that fits the biblical description of  how you should walk out your authority: with significant degrees of both strength and goodness.

In my next Monday post I'll go a little deeper into what biblical headship is not, by digging into the other three quadrants. But today I want to focus on the "Christ-like" quadrant.

A Strong Husband

The strength axis is a measure of your degree of leadership in your marriage (and family). Rather than being measured by how many decisions you make or rules you set forth, it's measured by your degree of emotional and physical presence. Yes, decisiveness is necessary and often helpful, but it's not the primary measure of leadership.

Demonstrate your leadership strength through your engagement with and involvement in the day to day life of your family. Be vigilantly aware of what's going on and how what's going on affects your wife and family. Be a proactive leader by stepping in and taking action when things start to go off track before crisis sets in.

Christlike leadership also looks like reliable provision, consistent protection, clear direction and unwavering trustworthiness.

A Good Husband

Goodness in a husband, to me, relates most directly to how he loves and serves his wife.

The tricky part of goodness is that "goodness" looks different for different women. Do you know what words and actions best say "I love you" to your wife? Do you do them on a consistent (daily) basis?

For many wives, love needs to be expressed in the form of feeling emotionally connected and knowing that her needs are understood and important to you. These require a significant degree of communication through conversation with your wife, not something all men are skilled at or comfortable with. Then it requires that you act in a manner consistent with your understanding.

Goodness means expressing your leadership with the heart of a servant. Self-serving leadership is what gives biblical marriage a bad rap, and it will cause your wife to resist your leadership and withhold her submission. Selfless leadership is what Jesus models for us. Learn from His example.

What do you think of the way I've charted biblical headship? Did I miss anything significant in the chart above? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Next: What Headship is Not
Friday, December 6, 2013

In addition to buying gifts for your spouse, I suggest that you also consider giving a gift to your marriage.

In today's post I've suggested a number of excellent marriage books all geared toward fueling the sexual intimacy in your marriage. Many of the resources listed below are in the form of ebooks, which allow you to make an investment in your marriage inexpensively.

To purchase through the affiliate links below, simply click on the book image.  By doing so, you'll be helping to support this ministry.

Pursuit of Passion
Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage
by Jeffrey Murphy, Julie Sibert, Glynis Murphy and Randall Sibert

Mini Review:
  • This would be a great book to give each other, because it's written for both husbands and wives and explores both sides of the sexual equation.
  • I appreciate the way the book explores sexual intimacy from all sides, spiritual, emotional and physical aspects.
  • From the book's authors: "we offer you detailed suggestions on building your sexual connection and pleasure, as well as overcoming common struggles that rob couples of authentic sexual intimacy.
How to Give It:
  • Husbands or Wives can give this ebook. I suggest printing the cover page, putting it in an envelope and tagging it from you to "Our Marriage."
  • I suggest you read it separately, but discuss each chapter together by answering the "Going Deeper Together" questions at the end of each chapter.

 Sex Savvy
A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives
by J. Parker

Mini Review:
  • Written for wives by J. Parker, the creator of the Hot, Holy and Humorous blog.
  • Packed with practical how-to tips culled with a smattering of sexual theology, J has pulled this convenient compendium from the pages of her witty and informative blog.
  • From J "Do you want to be a hottie in the bedroom without sacrificing holiness? Would you like someone to share real-life tips on making the most of God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage? In Sex Savvy, author J. Parker of Hot, Holy & Humorous gives candid advice for wives on everything from kissing to oral sex to orgasm to sexual positions—all from a Christian perspective."
Giving Suggestions:
  • Men, DO NOT buy this for your wife! It will likely convey to her a message of inadequacy. I would suggest Pursuit of Passion instead.
  • Ladies, buy this ebook for yourself. Print a copy of the cover and put it in a card for your  husband with a little note (use your imagination).
  • Alternately, wives could put this on your Christmas list.  Put a ;-) by it.

31 Days of Great Sex
By Sheila Wray Gregoire

Mini Review:
  • Written as a series of 31 daily challenges, this ebook comes from the author of "To Love Honor and Vaccuum" blog.
  • The challenges walk through the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of your sexual relationship.
  • Each daily entry has a few pages of background on the topic, plus exercises to do individually and together as a couple.

Giving Suggestions:
  • Consider giving this gift to each other and doing the challenge during January to kick off the new year by focusing deliberately on building up your sex life.

Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex
by Sheila Wray Gregoire

Mini Review:
  • Available in both ebook and paperback form, this is another great resource from Sheila Gregoire to help wives fuel the sexual intimacy in their marriage.
  • I read this book when it came out last year and found it to be full of great advice.
  • From Amazon: "In the Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, author Sheila Wray Gregoire helps women see how sexual intimacy was designed to be physically stupendous but also incredibly intimate."
Giving Suggestions:
  • Men, DO NOT buy this for your wife! It will likely convey to her a message of inadequacy. I would suggest Pursuit of Passion instead.
  • Ladies, buy this ebook for yourself. Print a copy of the cover and put it in a card for your  husband with a little note (use your imagination).
  • Alternately, wives could put this on your Christmas list.  Put a ;-) by it.

If you've read any of these, feel free to leave your review in the comments!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

I thought this a perfect scripture for a day in which we typically gorge ourselves to the point of pain! But there's another reason for this particular verse. Two reasons in fact: peace and joy.

It's been a few years since I've done a Thanksgiving post, I suppose mostly because it seems like everyone does them. I admit to being a bit of a non-conformist in that regard.

My Year of Joy, Peace and Power

At the beginning of each year I spend time seeking the Lord and His heart for me concerning the year ahead. This year I felt the Lord wanted me to learn to walk in more joy, peace and power.  I suppose the Lord knew this would be a challenging year for me, full of things like tremendous job stress and significant financial pressure, among other challenges. He knew I would need to be have my mind set on the joy, peace and power that only He can provide in such circumstances.

Thanks and Peace

I've been learning something interesting about peace lately. I'm learning how often the Bible links peace with thanksgiving. I'm convinced there is a relationship between the two.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Col 3:15-17
Get that? We are CALLED to peace. How do  you find peace? Be thankful, have gratitude in your heart, give thanks in all things.  And this scripture passage seems to indicate that speaking your thanks out loud (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs) is one of the keys. Don't just think thanks, speak it (or even better, sing it).

There's more:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7
Do you have anxiety? Want peace instead? Pray with thanksgiving (not with fear or dread, but thanksgiving) in your heart. It's a guard for your heart and your mind. What does a prayer with thanks sound like?  "Lord, I thank you that your are good and that all your thoughts toward me are good. Let your goodness fill my life, and let your supernatural peace rule my heart."

Thanks and Joy

Just as thanks and peace are linked in the Bible, so too are thanks and joy.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thes 5:16-18
Want to know God's will for your life?  It's joy and thanks, flanking your prayers.

So hear is my Thanksgiving prayer for you and  yours this year:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Col1:9-12 (NKJ)
And I'll add this prayer to it:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

May this day be more than a day of feasting and family, may it be filled with an abundance of thankfulness that brings you deep and abiding joy and peace!

photo credit: yelo34 / 123rf

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When you truly understand this, your marriage will be transformed!

My last two posts were actually an intentional prelude to this one. You may not get the leap, so it's worth explaining.

In my post "Why God Should Not Be #1 On Your Priority List"  I challenged our traditional Christian teaching that has us set God as our first priority. There are two main problems with this priority paradigm. First, it causes us to separate our lives into spiritual and secular buckets - a clearly non-biblical principle. Second, it can cause us to see the things we do "for God" as holier than the other things in our lives, which comes with the additional baggage of being self-righteous and trying to earn bonus points with God through our own striving. Also non-biblical.

I then wrote a follow up post, "What Matters Most?" to clarify the first one. In that post I explained that our real highest goal, and what matters most to God in our walk with him, is intimacy with him at all times. True intimacy with him requires that we know him deeply. The "God stuff" we do, like quiet times, worship and reading scripture, can help us to know him more, but we can actually find him in everything we do. Being "good" and doing "God stuff" don't earn us favor, but they do help us know him. In the end, though, God cares about your relationship more than how well you follow the rules. This is far from the common understanding of what it means to be a "good Christian."

All this has direct bearing on your marriage. Still not making the marriage connection? Read on!

Most Important to Marriage

Bottom line? Intimacy is the most important thing in your marriage.

You see, God hardwired us to desire intimacy.

He put that desire in us first of all so that we would seek a relationship with Him. Then he designed marriage to be a direct reflection of his desire for intimacy with us.

I've had hundreds of responses to my One Minute New Reader Poll (you've taken it right? If not, go do it now!). One thing that has been consistent over the years, regardless of how you slice the demographics, intimacy is always the number one topic readers are interested in. Like I said. We're wired for it.

So if we're wired for it and we want it so badly, why do so many couples live without it and/or long for more of it?

My theory is that it's the same reason we don't have the intimacy with God that we want. We choose rules over relationship.

The Rules of Marriage

Now by saying we pick rules, I'm not talking about the same kind of rules we attribute to God (most of which we put on ourselves  anyway). No the rules of marriage are different, but the result is the same.

So what are these "rules" we often chose to focus on instead of relationship? We focus on all the ways our spouse isn't measuring up, and we hold these shortcoming against them (analogous to how we view our sins against God). Here are some examples.
  • A wife expects her husband to help out more around the house
  • A couple tries to divide everything 50-50, and both of them are thinking it's 70-30 in their spouse's favor
  • A husband expects his wife to want sex as much as he does.
  • A wife who is critical of her husband's lack of handyman skills, and compares him unfavorably to her father.
  • A husband who doesn't think his wife keeps things tidy enough for his liking
  • A wife thinks her husband should learn to be more romantic
  • A husband gets offended every time his wife criticizes his driving
I could go on, but you get the point. These and many more are the kinds of "sins" we hold against each other.

Here's a sure sign that rules are ruling your marriage: you catch yourself saying "If my husband/wife would just ______ , our marriage would be so much better."

Intimacy is Organic

The intimacy in your marriage is a living organism. As such it's either growing or dying. You are either growing closer together or you are growing apart. I describe these two options as The Path of Separation  and The Path of Intimacy. (Read more about these two paths in the kick-off post to my series on intimacy, Choosing The Path of Intimacy.)

You get on the Path of Separation when you start focusing on all the ways in which your needs are not getting met. It's the path of self. It leads to disappointment, resentment and disenchantment.

The Path of Intimacy is the path you want to be on, and you get there by focusing more in the needs of your spouse than on your own. Rather than looking at their shortcomings and missteps, focus on what they need from you. Believe that their love for you is genuine, even when it doesn't seem that way.

Serve each other.

Love unconditionally.

Seek intimacy over perfection.

Trust in your spouse's heart.

These are the ways God pursues intimacy with us. These are the ways we should pursue intimacy with each other.

If you think about it, it's really a matter of grace, isn't it? Grace is an invitation to intimacy!

Whenever  you are tempted to take offense, step back, take a breath and ask yourself this question:
What can I do to keep us connected right now?

What have been the "rules" in your marriage? Where do you need to start putting your relationship ahead of these rules? Where have you been able to let go of your expectations?

photo credit: iqoncept /

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You might be surprised what God cares about most!

I'll admit that my last post, "Why God Should NOT Be #1 on Your Priority List " was meant to provoke you.

Truthfully, I expected a little more push back than I got. Maybe Christians are just too nice to say what they really think?

The point of my post was to get you to rethink how you look at your priorities and how you approach your spiritual life. The truth is that your whole life is your spiritual life, not just the stuff we think of as spiritual, like quiet times and Bible studies. The main issue with trying to make God your highest priority, is that you can then tend to then separate your life into spiritual and secular, which is completely non-biblical.

Now by me saying that you should rethink your priorities in this way, I'm not saying you should take a lax attitude toward the things of God. Reading the Word, praying, worshiping are all good and all important parts of our walk with God. I'll get to why that is in a bit.

Neither am I suggesting that you try to hyper-spiritualize everything in your life. I'm not sure God is all that concerned over whether you buy the Wheat Chex or the Corn Chex.

The Real Number One Priority

What is it you think God cares about most in your walk with him?

During the "Grace to the Nations" conference I attended last week, Andrew Farley mentioned a Barna Research report that floored me. According to the report, 81% of Christians think Christianity is mostly about obeying rules. If that is a real number, then I think God's heart is breaking.

What God cares most about is relationship, not rules. He wants your heart, and he wants you to know his heart of love toward you. Yes, He mostly wants intimacy with you. Remember how I define intimacy in marriage: to be known deeply and loved completely. That's what God wants with us. After all, he's after a bride.

Remember this verse?
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV)
Did you know that Christ died in order to be one with you? It was all for the sake of intimacy! I bet many, if not most, would answer that He died in order to forgive our sins. While our forgiveness is real and necessary, the sin was just the thing that stood between us and intimacy with the Father. That's what God was ultimately after in the sacrifice of his Son - an eternal bride that could dwell with him in intimacy right now and forever.

The Bible makes it clear that we are already one with Christ. We don't need to earn it by our good deeds. But if that is so, then how do you gain intimacy with Jesus? You get to know him- deeply! That's the only reason that studying the Word, praying, worshiping and all the stuff we "do for God" matters. It's not to earn holiness points, it's to know him more deeply. And when we get to know him, when we come to understand his loving nature and gracious ways, we cannot help but love him.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)
Did you get that?  Fullness in God = Knowing the love of Jesus.

Here's another of Paul's prayers for the church:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:17 (NIV)
That should be our daily pursuit, "Lord let me know you more."

God wants us to find him in everything we do, not just the "religious" stuff. That's why I challenged you to rethink your priority scheme and allow God to infuse your entire life with His presence.

If your whole life is spiritual, why not let God into every minute of it? How will you pursue knowing God more deeply this week?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Be prepared to have your normal Christian priority paradigms shaken up!

You've heard it said, and I have said it myself, that as a Christian, your priorities should be:
Before I try to explain why this is a problem, let me explain that for the last few days I've had the privilege of sitting under the amazing teaching of Andrew Farley, author of such famous books as "The Naked Gospel," during the 2013 Grace to the Nations Conference being held at my church.

I got to spend four days soaking in the Gospel of grace. I'll be attempting to extrapolate some of what he shared about grace and applying it to the context of marriage. As you know if you've hung around here much, I have come to learn that there are literally hundreds of marriage lessons embedded in the Gospel. One of the most significant is the message of grace.

Grace is as central to marriage as it is to the Gospel.

A New Look At Priorities

So on to the discussion of priorities.

The main problem with the "make God your first priority" paradigm is that it fundamentally separates your life into two parts: spiritual and secular. The problem is that the Bible doesn't separate things that way. Everything is spiritual. Everything.

Now, the Bible does indicate a division of things along the lines of spirit and flesh, but that's not the same thing. Not at all. We are to have our entire being, and everything we do, ruled by the Spirit and not the flesh. (We have lots of wrong ideas of what "flesh" is too, but that is a whole other post.)

So when we have the mindset of putting God first on our list, it causes us to mentally separate everything we think of as non-spiritual from participation by the Spirit. Instead we should see that it's all spiritual.

It's all God's

So when I'm on a date with my wife, that is spiritual. When I'm sharing a meal with the family, that is spiritual too. When I'm mowing the lawn, balancing the budget or sitting in traffic, it's all spiritual. Yes, even when we have sex, it's spiritual. It's all God's domain, and in all of it, I am to be ruled by the Spirit of Christ that lives in me.

The danger in "God first" thinking is that it allows us to compartmentalize God; to keep him in a box, so to speak. The things we think of as "God stuff" (quiet times, church meetings, Bible study, etc.) is not holier than the "non-God stuff" because it's all God's stuff.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not downplaying the importance of any of these things. It's all good and helpful. The point is that it`'s not holier, it's not better, than all the other things in our lives.

You Can't Earn Holiness

The other danger of the "God first" notion is that it can put us on a quest to earn holiness. You see, doing "God stuff" doesn't make us holier or win us brownie points with God. His love and grace toward us are not a function of how much God stuff we do. How many times do you feel unworthy to approach God when you've neglected your quiet time, felt like you haven't spent enough time in the Word, or prayed like you know you should?

The problem is we can't be any more righteous or holy than we already are, because the Bible makes it clear that we are already the righteousness of Christ. Because of Jesus, by free gift, without our quiet time efforts, we are as righteous as Jesus. Right now. Nothing we do can earn us more righteousness or love or blessing or favor from God. Similarly, nothing we do can earn us less.

So let me give you an alternative priority picture.

It's a pretty radically new way to look at my priorities. But I think I really like it. What do you think? 

By the way, make a note of where this leaves your spouse on your priority list!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What does grace have to do with sex? Everything.

This is the fourth and final post in this series on helping your spouse to be secure in your love, based on part of the excellent new book by Dr. Tim Kimmel called Grace Filled Marriage. This is one of the best marriage books I've read in a long time.

To me, grace and love are the bookends of marriage. Both are essential for keeping your marriage aligned with God's plan for marriage, keeping you and your spouse close to each other, and keeping things in your marriage from toppling over. Grace Filled Marriage does a fantastic job of communicating the grace end of that message, and I highly recommend it for every married couple. You can buy it through my affiliate link by clicking on the book image at the bottom of this post, or by clicking here. Also see below for the details of how to win a free copy.

We are focusing on a part of the book that deals with one of our core human needs: the need to be secure in love. In the Introduction to this series, I explained how we all desire the security of knowing we are loved. (This is the first of Dr. Kimmel's three core human needs: security, significance and strength.) In Part Two I explained how your spouse feels more secure in your love when you accept them for who they are. Part Three emphasized our need to have affinity for our spouse's heart by caring about and engaging with the things that are important to them.

We are Designed to Need Physical Affection

Today I conclude with Dr. Kimmel's third key ingredient for making your spouse feel secure in your love: physical affection.

Of course affection can and should be shown in many non-physical ways, and these are important. But God designed our physical beings to crave the affection expressed through actual human contact. As Dr. Kimmel puts it:
Our hearts respond well to regular and generous helpings of affection. That’s because love grows much more secure when our spouse is lavish about giving and receiving meaningful touch.
Grace Filled Marriage p.72

The fact is, physical affection is a powerful agent for building secure love into our spouse. Holding hands, hugging, and kissing all add layer upon layer of security in the love within each other’s hearts. But these are all warm preliminaries compared to the ultimate display of affection in marriage—sex. (p. 73)

Grace Filled Sex

I've been reading and commenting on some posts on other blogs in response to a recent Relevant Magazine article, which exclaimed, in what I felt was a purposefully inflammatory title, that "Christians Are Not Called to Have Amazing Sex." You can probably guess that there are a lot of things in the article that I disagree with, but the bottom line for me is that I do believe it is God's intent and desire that every marriage be one in which physical intimacy thrives. Do look at it otherwise is to deny God's design for marriage.

I believe sex is an essential component of intimacy that should not be downplayed. It is wonderfully unique in that this is the one component of your marriage relationship that only you and your spouse can share. Of course sex should not be elevated to the point where it becomes an idol either, but if I had to guess, there are a whole lot more sex-starved marriage than sex-idol ones.

So what is the connection between sex and grace? You might be surprised how closely the two are linked:
What does grace have to do with sex? Everything. If anything, our sexual relationship is the litmus test on how serious we are about being an agent of God’s grace when it comes to our spouse. p. 74
Because of the intense vulnerability and raw emotions that sex brings about, it is probably one of the areas in marriage where grace is most called for.

Dr. Kimmel first explains what graceless sex looks like:
  • Sex used for manipulation or to get what we want
  • Sex as reward for "good behavior"
  • Withholding sex as a form of punishment
  • Viewing sex as an obligation rather than a privilege
  • Demanding sex
  • Defrauding sex by denying its rightful place
I don't need to expound much on these. I'm sure you've seen plenty of examples of graceless sex. If these are NOT how sex should fit into your marriage, what is the opposite?

Here's the bottom line of what grace-filled sex is, as explained by Darcey, Dr. Kimmel's wife:
Grace-filled intimacy is about giving with enthusiasm and receiving with joy. The more we align our hearts with God’s heart of grace, the more we can see the strategic role we play as an intimate partner with our spouse. God meant for our marriage bed to be a place of passion, joy, fun, adventure, and mutual satisfaction. And when the intimacy we enjoy  there is an extension of our gracious desire to meet each other’s needs, our love grows  secure. (p.82)
Perfectly said. Amen!

A Secure Love Challenge

Have you given some thought to my question from the Introduction to the series? What would your marriage be like if neither you nor your spouse ever had any doubts about the fact that you are truly, deeply loved by one another? Ponder it. I'm willing bet it's impact would be significant.

In wrapping up this short series on Grace Filled Marriage, I hope I've helped convince you of the important role of grace in marriage, and more specifically how important it is to help your husband or wife be secure in your love. (I also hope I've convinced you to go get this great book! Again, you can get it on through my Amazon affiliate program by clicking on the book image below.)

Let me issue a challenge to you. Consider the three ways I've described in this series to help your spouse feel secure in your love.
  1. Accepting and appreciating who your spouse is at the core of their being
  2. Embracing and participating in the things that are important to your spouse
  3. Showing consistent affection, primarily through sexual intimacy, but also in other ways

Identify the one you feel you have the most to improve on. Now, make a specific plan for what you are going to do differently in the next week to make your spouse more secure in your love.

As a bonus, give yourself a little accountability and extra motivation by leaving a comment below with your planned area for improvement. You don't have to share your specific plan, unless you want to.

image credit:  vgstudio /

Get your copy of "Grace Filled Marriage" on Amazon by clicking on the book image to the right. When you buy through my affiliate link, you help support this marriage ministry. Thanks!

I'm giving away a free copy of "Grace Filled Marriage." I'm selecting from among all those who newly "like" my Journey to Surrender Facebook page. If you already like my page, you can also enter by "sharing" or leaving a comment on any of my Grace Filled Marriage series wall posts (on my FB page).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Help your spouse find security in your love by caring about the things they care about.
In my last post I emphasized the importance of accepting your spouse for who they are. According to the great new marriage book, Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel, this is step one of helping your spouse be secure in your love. 

Today we're going one better. Not just accepting who they are, but actually embracing and celebrating it by caring about the things that matter to him or her. This is number two of Dr. Kimmel's keys to security in love. (We'll get to number three next time.)

When you begin to fully embrace the notion that you and your spouse are one, you learn how important it is to care about the things that matter to each other.

One But Not the Same

I, for one, am thankful NOT to be married to someone who is just like me! In marriage, you and your spouse are one, but of course oneness does not mean sameness.

Even though you and your spouse are likely very different, with different love languages, different personalities, different family histories and different key needs, it is important that you "get" each other. What I mean by that is, if you want your spouse to feel loved, you should learn the things that matter to him or her and do them.

Dr. Kimmel calls this "having a strong affiliation with their heart."

And I don't mean do these things out a sense of obligation or because you know it's the right thing to do. I mean do them because you want your spouse to feel loved and to feel secure and confident in your love. That means that you know who they are, that you love who they are, and out of that understanding, that you do the things that are important to him or her.

Caring and Doing

It's good when you say to your spouse, "I care about the things you care about." Caring is important, but it has to show up in what you do. Jesus explained it to his disciples this way:
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15:9-13 (NKJV)

If you read the broader context of John 15-17, and if you understand that the "commandments" Jesus was talking about are not a bunch of rules and religion, but a relationship (John 15 is all about abiding in Jesus), then you understand that what he was saying is, "If you love me, you'll care about things I care about, and it'll show up in what you do."

The corresponding marriage truth is that it's important for you and your spouse to live your lives fully integrated, as one, and not on separate, parallel tracks. It means caring about and fully engaging yourself in the things that are important to your spouse.

Shared Interests

By talking about showing an interest in the things that matter to your spouse, I'm not proposing that you and your spouse do everything together. That would actually be unhealthy. I believe you need to have some separate interests.

At the same time, however, you want to make an effort to show interest in the important stuff, the stuff that goes to the core of who your spouse is and what they enjoy. You need to step outside your own comfort zone and move toward your spouse in these things.

Still not clear? Let  me give you two examples from my own marriage to illustrate the point.

Mountains and Oceans

I've always been a mountains person. There's something about being in the mountains that feeds my soul. The beauty, the majesty, the quiet, all do wonders for me.

Jenni, my wife, has always been a beach person. Summer beach trips have been a part of her life every year since infancy. She takes on a whole different demeanor when she is near the ocean. A kind of happy calm settles over her, much like what happens to me in the mountains.

We could have handled this key difference one of several ways. We could have done separate vacations, so that we both got to do what we wanted. We could have reluctantly accommodated each others preferences, but still neglected to fully embrace this key difference in our desires. This would have probably have included each of us lobbying for our own way, occasionally giving in with a rolling of the eyes and deep sighs of disappointment. 

Instead, we learned to celebrate the difference by appreciating the way in which these different venues feed each others' souls. I have come to love the beach, though probably not as much as Jenni does, because I see how good it is for her, and I have been able to share in the value she gets from it. The same is true of Jenni and the mountains. We both love doing both, because we value each other's hearts.

Not So Black and White

Jenni is a huge movie fan. Specifically, she loves old movies - really old movies. In her book, a movie gets bonus points if it's in black and white (okay, slight exaggeration). She seems to know all the old stars and what movies they appeared in.

All of this is lost on me. Honestly, I don't get the attraction.

But once in a while, I'll join her for an old movie so we can spend some time together. It's always good for a few hours of snuggling together on the couch.

Jenni will ask after a movie, "Did you enjoy it?" I often say, in all honesty, "I enjoyed seeing you enjoy it." What I mean by that is that I appreciate it as a value to her, and that's enough for me. And she does the same for my interest in history shows and documentaries.

Shared Honor

There's one final component to this notion of having a strong affiliation of your spouse's heart. Dr. Kimmel puts it succinctly in the following passage from the book:
Before I leave this point, let me mention a word you’ll need if you want to build a secure love into your spouse. Honor. This word speaks of the high value you place on the other person. One of the ways you value your spouse is by being interested in the things that interest them. You notice. You care. Honor is also about empathy. When you honor your spouse, you value your spouse so much that you can’t contain the “woo-hoos!” on their behalf in victory and you likewise hurt deeply with them in defeat. (p. 71)

Of your spouse's many interests and attributes, which have you learned to embrace and celebrate even they may not be your "thing" by nature? Leave a comment!

photo credit: original photos S. Means

Get your copy of "Grace Filled Marriage" on Amazon by clicking on the book image to the right. When you buy through my affiliate link, you help support this marriage ministry. Thanks!

I'm giving away a free copy of "Grace Filled Marriage." I'm selecting from among all those who newly "like" my Journey to Surrender Facebook page. If you already like my page, you can also enter by "sharing" or leaving a comment on any of my Grace Filled Marriage series wall posts (on my FB page).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our love grows far more secure when we accept the things about our spouses that make them who they are.  (Grace Filled Marriage p. 66-67)

I'm digging into part of Tim Kimmel's great new book, Grace Filled Marriage. (Click the sidebar link to buy it on Amazon and at the same time help support this ministry!)

In this short series we are looking at one chapter of the book, a chapter that explores how the human heart longs for security. Specifically, we want the security of knowing we are loved and accepted. (Read the introductory post here)

Can you imagine what your marriage would be like if neither of you ever doubted each other's love?  It would no doubt fill your marriage with more intimacy, trust and passion.

But how do you help your spouse to become secure in your love? Dr. Kimmel proposes three key ingredients:

  1. Acceptance of who they are at the core of their being
  2. Caring about the things they care about - shared interest and shared honor
  3. Consistently show affection

All three of these have their roots in grace, and I'll be addressing each one in separate posts.

We'll start with how grace compels us to accept each other for who we really are.

Accept the "Me" in Me

Dr. Kimmel explains:
We feel insecure when our spouse refuses to accept the things about us that are simply us. I’m not talking about weaknesses that can stand improvement. Nor am I talking about bad habits or unacceptable behavior. I’m talking about the things about us that aren’t right or wrong but just are. They’re our personality quirks, mannerisms, physical abilities, and body types . . . to name a few. They’re the things that make each of us one of a kind. P. 66

God uniquely crafted each of us.  While we can agree with that in principle, most of us have things we wish were different about our spouses. The problem is that when these things are not just annoying little habits but part of who your spouse is, it creates and/or reinforces deep insecurity in your spouse. Worse, it causes them to be insecure in your love.

It requires grace to accept that your spouse was created as he or she is for a purpose! Even the dimensions of their being that we might perceive as weaknesses, God can use for his glory and for his Kingdom. He can even use those same things to bring blessing to your life. His grace not only covers us, but redeems our every shortcoming. (No, I'm not implying that you should just overlook sin or wrong behaviors!)

Help Me See the "Me" in Me

We have the opportunity (I would add the responsibility and the privilege) in  marriage to display the grace and love of God to the one we are pledged to for life. Part of the redemptive role of marriage is to help your spouse see themselves as God does, to be a God-mirror to them. It's part of helping him or her become all that God intends them to be.

But to be a good God-mirror for your spouse requires two things. First, you must understand and know for yourself the very nature of God's love and grace. Second , you need a revelation of how God views your spouse. These are lifelong pursuits and require a continual revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Appreciating the Value of Opposites

Chances are, at least from my observations, that you and your spouse are pretty different. Even setting aside the vast differences between men and women in general (and yes, these are real, regardless of what feminism may purport), it's true that opposites attract. I know it's true for my wife and I. Though we share many core values in common, our personalities and strengths are quite different from each other. And I love that.

I love how her outgoing nature and people skills help bring me out of my shell and enjoy people more. I love how her gracious optimism counterbalances my innate skepticism. I enjoy everything we do together more because of how she embraces life so enthusiastically. She just makes everything more fun.

I can choose to view our many differences as a hindrance or I can view them as a blessing. Therein lies an important choice for every husband and wife. By valuing who she is as a person, who God made her to be, instead of denigrating her over these things, I accrue the benefits of our union, our oneness. .

And it goes both ways. I am equally secure in her love, because I know that she makes the same choice to value me for the areas where I am quite different from her..

The truth is that the two of you together are much greater than either of you as individuals. Lean into that reality and communicate it to each other regularly. 

By the way, we get the same kind of benefit when we choose to embrace our gender differences in that same way.

So tell me, what are the differences between you and your spouse that you deeply value? When was that last time you communicated this to your spouse?

I'm giving away a free copy of "Grace Filled Marriage." I'm selecting from among all those who newly "like" my Journey to Surrender Facebook page. If you already like my page, you can also enter by "sharing" or leaving a comment on any of my Grace Filled Marriage series wall posts (on my FB page).

Monday, October 21, 2013

How would your marriage be different if your husband or wife never, ever doubted your love?

 During my recent travels I have been reading one of the best marriage books I have read in a long time. Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel. This guy really gets grace! You need to get this book. (If you click on the book image at right to get it through my affiliate link, you'll help support this ministry)

There are too many great things about this book to share in a single blog post, but what I can say is that Dr. Kimmel does a masterful job of linking the grace we receive in Christ to the grace we should live in marriage. It's a concept I wholeheartedly believe in but that I've struggled over the years to make clear. He does a great job explaining it in clear and simple terms.

Rather than giving you a broad overview of the book, I'm going to pick a single chapter and expound in some detail on this critical piece of understanding how grace works in marriage. The chapter is titled, "Grace Gives You a Secure Love."

Three Core Human Needs

Dr. Kimmel explains that every human being is wired for a three basic needs.
  • Security
  • Significance
  • Strength

It's probably not an exhaustive list, and I might have chosen different terms or a different set of core needs, but the author does a great job defending and explaining his choices. Chapter 4, which I'm going to dig into, deals with the first of these needs.

Are You and Your Spouse Secure in Love?

"The primary way our heart feels secure is when we know we are loved. No doubts, no misgivings, no shadowlands where second-guessing and fear play games with our confidence. Among other things, Christ died for us so we can know once and for all that we are completely, ultimately, and profoundly loved." (p. 63)

This is kind of security in love is a tough place to get to in marriage. It's a tough place to get to even with God! So many of us wonder about God's love and grace. Is it really as good and relentless and enduring as the Bible says? Does he really have these powerful positive emotions toward me? All the time? Of course, the answer is an unqualified, "Yes!" Yet, we still doubt.

So much more difficult is it to believe in the unrelenting love of our spouse. But just imagine for a minute what your marriage would be like if your husband or wife never, ever doubted that you deeply loved him or her! What if you never doubted that you too were loved just as deeply? How delightful would it be to do everything out of the celebration of the love you know you already share instead of out of  trying to earn it.

Dr. Kimmel gives three ways in which this need for security in love can be met by each other in marriage.

  1. Acceptance of who they are at the core of their being
  2. Caring about the things they care about - shared interest and shared honor
  3. Consistently show affection

I'm actually going to cover each of these three in separate posts, so be sure to come back and check in the next few days. Better yet, just sign up to get my posts by email.

Meanwhile, give some thought to this idea of how your marriage might be different if you were really, truly secure in the love of your spouse. And what if your spouse was absolutely secure in your love? Wouldn't it do wonders for your marriage?

In the comments, answer these two question: What percentage of the time do you think your husband or wife feels completely certain of your love? What percentage of the time do you feel completely certain of your spouses love?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to stay connected when you are separated by travel

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I just returned from a two-week trip to Europe for business. Before you proclaim your jealousy, let me say this trip involved 6 flights totaling 12,000 miles, 1200 miles by car, and another 400 miles by train. (I could throw a boat into the mix as well, if I included my Paris sightseeing river cruise!) I stayed in 10 different hotels and participated in a total of 18 meetings over the two weeks.  Still jealous?

It feels really good to be home!

During this trip, my wife, Jenni and I remarked how well we were able to stay connected, despite the distance and time-zone separation. It prompted me to write about how we stay connected when one of us has to travel. I would love to get your ideas and tips as well.

Why It Matters

You may think that being separated for a few weeks is no big deal. I suppose if you compare it to over 30 years of marriage, a few weeks is not a long time. But for us, it was too long!

Jenni and I have discovered that we both weather the separation much better when we manage to stay connected through it.

Here are a few reasons I think it matters:
  • It helps the spouse left at home cope with loneliness
  • It helps the traveling spouse stay anchored in the love of the spouse back home
  • It helps develop alternate communication skills and methods
  • It helps maintain intimacy and the emotional connection between you
  • It makes the homecoming sweeter, with less time spent getting back in sync

Connection Tips

There's really no magic to staying connected during times of physical separation. For the most part it just takes a little effort and attentiveness.

Here are a few things we do to maintain intimacy when one of us has to travel.
  • Send a quick text whenever you change venues: "Just got to the hotel in Düsseldorf." "Landed in Copenhagen."
  • Make sure your spouse has at least a short email to wake up to. This is especially helpful across time zones, and helps with those hours where on of you is "out of contact" due to the time change.
  • Ask how you can pray for each other, and do it.
  • Use a private messaging app (We use Couple, but I hear that Avocado is also good). It allows you to send more intimate notes and pictures in a secure and private manner.
  • Clue each other in on your plans each day and report significant happenings.
  • Use Skype, Google Chat, FaceTime or other video chat program for a little face--to-face time when time and your Internet connection will allow it.
During travel times it can be difficult to find the time stay in touch. We've found that frequent short communications is better than waiting until you have time to write a long email or extended video chat. Quick texts, photos and private message go a long way to keep you connected.

So now you know why I haven't posted in a few weeks. In case you are curious, you can click here to see a map of my European adventure.

Do you or your spouse have to travel frequently or for extended periods? We would love to hear how you keep in touch across the miles (or kilometers as the case may be!). Leave a comment!

photo credit: rrraven /
Thursday, September 26, 2013

What is the destination of a Journey to Surrender?

I've been writing here at "Journey to Surrender" for almost three years now. Yet just this past week I had a huge "aha" discovery regarding the word surrender. I have no idea how it took me so long to see this.

When you hear the word "surrender," what do you think of? Defeat? Loss? Giving up? Being taken captive? Waving the white flag? A lost cause?

But none of these are the kind of things I refer to when I talk about a "surrendered marriage." Oh no, not at all!!!

So what does surrender have to do with marriage?

The word surrender actually comes from two Anglo-Norman French words: Sur and render. Let's break it down

    1. Sur - a prefix meaning over and above. Think surcharge or surtax.  Something you pay over and above regular charges or normal taxes.
    2. Render - to give.  To hand over. To abandon oneself entirely to.

Put these two together and what do you have? You have the very heart of marital surrender.

To go over and above in giving to your spouse, including giving your self.

And Then Some

Surrender within marriage, in essence, means the surrender of self. Self-centeredness, self-protection, self-promotion and self-reliance have no place in a surrendered marriage. It means not looking so much to your rights as to your responsibilities and to the good of your relationship. It may involve laying aside your personal preferences, sacrificing your self for the sake of your spouse and the good of your marriage.

This is not giving out of compulsion or duty, but out of love and a desire to see your wife or husband thrive.

It is also not giving in order to earn love. No, in a surrendered marriage, you already believe in the love of your spouse. You give from the place of love not to get it. You also give out of the tremendous well of grace and love that you have been given in Christ.

It is not giving to get, either. It's not a mindset of "I'll scratch your back, but you better scratch mine at least as much if not a little more." That's self-serving and manipulative. We are after unconditional love.

Surrender means giving in order to bless and giving to foster intimacy. It means learning what love looks like to your spouse, and then doing that in the little things every day.

Surrender means giving your spouse what he or she needs from you - and then some. Try to out-give, out-bless, and out-love each other. That is the only kind of competition that belongs in a surrendered marriage.

Holding Nothing Back

A surrendered marriage means giving yourself to your spouse 100%, and holding nothing back, abandoning yourself.

Today everyone is talking about 50-50 marriages, where the goal is to make everything equal and fair. I'm suggesting you subscribe to a different paradigm. I suggest a 100-100 marriage is more in keeping with the biblical model of marriage, that is Christ and the church. That is living as one flesh.

Giving yourself means being willing to be totally naked before your spouse in every sense (emotionally, physically, spiritually). Are you bold enough to be naked without shame?

Now to be clear, giving  your self is not denying who you are, but bringing the fullness of who you are into your marriage in order to serve and bless your spouse and strengthen your relationship. Just like Jesus brought the fullness of himself, fully God and fully man, to the cross for our benefit, in order to live in intimacy with us forever:
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
Surrender is not a natural or easy thing for most of us. Something in us resists the notion. Certainly it isn't prevalent in society at large, where seemingly everything is about "me."

Yet surrender is the very thing we are called to in marriage as God designed it. I'm certain of that fact.

What do you think of my surrender surprise? Does my definition of surrender make sense to you? Where have you struggled with surrender as I have defined it? Let us know by leaving a comment.

photo credit: jajian /

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why how we pray matters.

I've had a great response to my last post, where I shared with you about how you can and should pray boldly and confidently for your marriage. (There were, of course, a few detractors who seemed to lump what I wrote into the "name-it, claim-it" or "positive confession" crowd, which is not at all what I was trying to convey.)

It's clear to me that  Bible instructs us  to pray from a place of faith and confidence in God's nature (His goodness, faithfulness and love, to name a few). Go back and read that post if you haven't yet. It's good stuff!

But that's not all! There's tons more instruction in the Word on how to approach prayer.

Pray Fearlessly

When we are really concerned about something, It's easy to pray from a place of fear and dread. "God, please don't let X happen." I've prayed plenty of those prayers.

But Philippians 4:6 tells us to pray differently.  "Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God." (AMP).

Verse 7 goes on to add "Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (NLT)

Want peace? Give thanks to God. Out loud. Often. It works!

I just discovered a recording artist named Tim Timmons. I just love the heart behind his songs. And as a songwriter I marvel at the way his songs are so well crafted. His song, "Cast Your Cares" is incredible and has some very powerful lyrics that speak directly to what I'm trying to convey. So I'll shut up and let him do it. 

Cast Your Cares by Tim Timmons (partial lyrics)

In the middle of the night I'll pray with confidence
In the middle of the fight you're greater still
In the middle of the fire your love is holding me
You are, you are my song
You're my hope when hope is gone.

and the chorus:

I will cast my cares on you the Almighty
I will cast my cares on you cuz you're good
I will cast my cares on you cuz you love me, you love me
Because you love me still

Please watch the full video of this song, where Tim relays the story of his battle with incurable cancer. It gives his song tremendous validity and veracity. So powerful!

Watch Tim Timmons  "Cast My Cares"  on Youtube

Pray Continually, Watchfully and Thankfully

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (Col 4:2 NIV) or in the Amplified, "Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving." (Col 4:2 AMP)

See the next section for more on being unwearied in prayer.

Being watchful in prayer means fixing your eyes on what the Father is doing. That's what Jesus did. He described himself as only doing what he saw the Father doing. It also means fixing your eyes on who God is, not on your circumstances.

Pray with thanksgiving, thankful in the knowledge that Jesus died to give you access to the Father and all that he has. Be thankful that God is good and gracious and faithful. Prayers of petition that are seasoned with thanksgiving are a sweet incense before the Lord. A thankful heart is a peaceful heart.

(See my other posts on being watchful and thankful in your marriage.)

Pray and Don't Give Up

In Luke 18 Jesus tell the parable of the persistent widow, who pesters the judge for justice until he finally grants it to her petition.  It's one of the few places the Bible explicitly states why Jesus told a story. It was told to the disciples "so that they would pray and not give up."

Then there is the parable of the persistent neighbor, which comes right after the Lord's prayer (Luke 11:1-13). After Jesus describes a man banging a door down to get what he wants, he says these famous words, "So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

I don't really get it totally, but persistence seems to matter to God. Don't give up if a prayer or two doesn't seem to give you the result you are after. Press in. Persist. God likes it.

Truthfully, I can't say I fully understand why how we pray matters. He knows our hearts, he knows our needs, yet the Bible is full of instruction on how we should pray. It's not that there's a magic formula or that God is trying to get us to jump through some tiny hoop before he answers.

No, I'm convinced that how we pray mostly matters for us. It for the shaping of our hearts and the molding of our faith.

What do you think? Why is the Bible so full of instruction on how we should pray? How has prayer affected your marriage? We'd all love to hear, so leave a comment.

I can't resist. Here's one more Tim Timmons song called "Christ in Me." It also goes right along with this post.

Christ in Me by Tim Timmons (partial lyrics)

The same great light that broke the dark
The same great peace that calmed the seas
The same great love that gives us breath
The same great power that conquered death
Hallelujah is flowing through me

What if I believed in your power and I really lived it?
What if I believed: Christ in me?
What if I believed it?

Watch Tim Timmons "Christ In Me" on Youtube

Need a boost in your prayer life? I highly recommend you download the sermon notes from our Pastor Gred Haswell's teaching on prayer.

photo credit: tmcphotos /

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