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Monday, March 25, 2013

Selfless giving. It may be the aspect of “True Love” that is one of the hardest of all for us to consistently attain in marriage. Yet without a doubt, it is one of the biggest keys to building a strong, lasting and delightful marriage.

With the “True Love” series we are examining the many dimension of love expressed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. There are countless verses that describe the selfless nature of Christ's love, but here is one of my favorites:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:4-5, 9
Even though we were hopelessly lost, totally messed up, and mired in our sin, God’s great love came to us as a free gift in the form of His Son Jesus, to save us.

He doesn’t wait until we get our act together or until we start behaving ourselves. No His love reaches out to us right where we are. He pursues us relentlessly (see my last post), even though we were dead in our sins, in order to redeem us unto Himself and have us for his very own.  Forever.

Give Gifts not Favors

There is a subtle difference between a gift and a favor. A gift is freely given, without the expectation of something in return. A favor, on the other hand, is given with strings attached. I’ll do for you if you do for me.

In marriage favors come with agendas and expectations. It might be the hope of getting something we want.  It might be the goal of changing our spouse to be how we want them to be. It might be to control or manipulate.

Marriage is the place for gifts, freely given, out of love, without precondition or the expectation of something in return. That’s Jesus’ example to us.

Yes, it’s true that when we serve and bless and meet the needs of our spouses, they will tend to respond in kind. But beware going in with a “give-to-get” mentality in your giving. Such a self-serving approach is not sustainable and it sets you and your spouse up for disappointment and failure.

Discover the Joy of Selfless Giving

There is great joy to be found when we learn to genuinely embrace giving simply out of love. The Bible tells us that “for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.” I believe that joy was found in the intimacy he would gain with us through his unconditional, sacrificial gift.

When we can empty ourselves of our agendas and expectations and show love in ways that we know will bless our husband or wife, we discover the pure, deep joy found in delighting each other – and we discover a wide path to intimacy.

Put Away the Scorecards

I know it’s really tempting to keep score on who is giving more. Of course we will always tend to score things in our favor, don’t we? But regardless, I’m not just asking you to score fairly or even in your spouse’s favor. I’m asking you to throw out the scorecard altogether!

Yeah, it’s radical. Yeah, it’s hard. But truthfully, that is the way we are called to live and love – without scorecards.

Are you ready to toss out the scorecards and to begin to live a life of lavish love – love without conditions? Can you think of one thing you can do this week for your husband or wife that you can give without expecting something in return?

Think of it.  Then take joy in doing it!  

photo credit: dirkercken /

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The longer you are married, the more important it is to keep pursuing each other.

I didn’t make much headway in February with my “True Love” series, so I’m starting afresh in March with another attribute of Christ’s love for us: His relentless pursuit.

What does Jesus’ relentless pursuit look like?

It looks like him leaving the perfection of heaven and coming to earth, humbling himself  to take on our human form. As if that weren’t pursuit enough, he went on to be cruelly killed on our behalf in order to make a way for us to dwell with him in intimacy forever.

Now that’s what I call pursuit!

And He did all this “while we were yet sinners,” even knowing that some would reject Him completely.

Pursuit that Never Ends

As if that still weren’t enough, we have this promise from Scripture:
For He, God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down (relax My hold on you)!
Hebrews 13:5b (AMP)
I love how emphatic the Amplified version is about God’s relentless pursuit, His absolute determination to stay connected with us and to be faithful to us – no matter what.

God is a lover – it’s who He is. His love is relentless, eternal, and unstoppable.

That’s how he wants love to be in marriage.

Relentless Pursuit in Marriage

I know it may sound a little odd to say that you have to still pursue your spouse regardless of how long you’ve been married. But the truth is, the longer you’ve been married, the more important it is to keep pursuing each other.

It’s so easy for us to slip into a kind of comfortable familiarity over time, and we begin to take the wonderful gift of our marriage for granted. That’s a death sentence for marriages!

Why is pursuit important in marriage? As I shared before, pursuit communicates four very important messages to your husband or wife:
  1. Desire - Pursuit says “I want you.”
  2. Commitment – Pursuit says “I would choose you all over again.”
  3. Passion – Pursuit says “I want you bad enough to keep coming after you until I get you.”
  4. Pleasure – pursuit says “I find delight in you.”
Funny, don’t these things sound like God's pursuit of us too?

If you want to read some specific suggestion on how you can continually pursue your spouse, read the post “Endless Pursuit” mentioned above.

Or you could always ask your partner, “What things can I do to make you feel pursued?” They may or may not know how to put it into words. Pursuit is not a concept most of us give a lot of thought to, but we know it when we see it.

What have you done in the past few weeks to make your partner feel pursued? What does your spouse do that makes you feel pursued?  Share your stories and experiences with a comment!

Photo credit:  william87 /

PS  In case you missed it, I started this series with “True Love Puts Relationship Ahead of Rules.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Peek Into the Life of a Marriage Blogger

It’s been close to a month since I posted here. Did you think I’d never post again? Well, for a while there it came really close to becoming reality.

I’m going to share the story of my journey with God over the past month. I share it in the hopes that it will speak to some of you who find yourself discouraged and overwhelmed by your circumstances. 

Here are the facts:  My day job has had me traveling more than I’ve been home for the last six weeks. And when I am home, I’ve been scrambling to meet some hugely challenging deadlines. In addition to work, all I had left has gone to giving my marriage and family the support and attention they deserve. To top it off, during February I had my three week stint leading worship at our church

Long story short: the stresses all added up and brought me to a breaking point. I decided I just couldn’t do it all. Something had to give and I decided it was my marriage ministry. I was ready to quit this blog and marriage ministry in total.

But God wouldn’t let me quit. Something with it just didn’t sit right in my spirit. Yes, I did feel some relief (okay a lot of relief) from not having to spend every waking minute trying to figure out how to squeeze in blogging, writing, emailing and social networking time.

But when I actually imagined walking away from it all, there was a crushing sadness in my soul that I knew it was not of God. That’s not how he works. So I decided to seek him, and I told him I would do whatever he wanted, but he had to make the way clear.

I prayed a lot as I traveled about the US and the globe. I got nothing for weeks on end. Then just this week the Lord started to lead me across a few simple yet  very important truths.

Truth #1: I Am Enough

I was really struggling with a sense of failure and inadequacy over not being able to do it all. Ever been there?

Then Lori Byerly (aka The Generous Wife ) shared a post that showed up in My Facebook feed. It was a post by Holley Gerth, whom I had never heard of and who I’m convinced God had write a post just for me called “You Can Embrace the Ordinary.
What if our life doesn’t matter? What if what we do doesn’t really count? What if no one recognized our efforts? We panic and strive and end up exhausted.

She (and God) had nailed me. I had promised myself when I began writing that I would not drink the “celebrity” Kool-Aid. I wouldn’t let my strong desire for impacting marriages drive me into platform-building mode.

But slowly, over three years of blogging, I got sucked in. I began paying too much attention to the many ways in which bloggers measure success (pageloads, followers, comments, likes, etc). The numbers started mattering too much. I slowly slipped into platform-building mode. I began to gauge my success by numbers.

The thing is, that’s not how the Kingdom of God measures success. As Holley’s article concludes, “But here’s the freedom: you don’t have to strive. You can embrace where you are right here, right now and know that it is enough. You are enough.”

Then, through my wife God also led me to a teaching by Eric Johnson called “The Box.”

The Box

Among the many striking things Eric had to say about how we view ministry, the one that hit me between the eyes was this:

Ministry is Not What You Do, It’s Who You Are

I couldn’t NOT be in marriage ministry, because it’s who I am. It is something the Lord put inside of me.

God did not call me to be a “successful blogger” or published author or to build a platform. He called me to minister his truth to marriages, to speak what I find is on his heart for Christian couples everywhere I come across them. It might be in a small group in our church; it might be across a table at Starbucks; it might be to someone in The Philippines looking for an answer on my blog.

The where and how are God’s to figure out. My part is just to do the next thing, resting in the assurance that I already have his approval and blessing and that I do not need to strive for it in my own strength.

Now, that isn’t exactly easy for someone as driven as I am, but I am convinced it is the right way – the only way - forward.

When Something Has to Give

The other thing that struck me from listening to “The Box” teaching, is that I need to be careful about my preconceived notions of what marriage ministry has to look like.

When we try to put a box around our ministry and define it too narrowly, we limit how we let God move. 

So when I came to the realization that I had to give up something in order to survive the current madness, I realized that what had to go were my assumptions and expectations.

So here is my grand plan for marriage ministry: let go, let God and stop striving.

I appreciate your patience in the near term while I try to figure out just how this new blogging paradigm will unfold. Stick around and enjoy the journey with me.

What about you? Have you ever felt at the breaking point and unable to do all you felt you were “supposed” to be doing? How did God break through to you? Share your story in the comments.

photo credit: jayfish /

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