Tuesday, November 26, 2013


It is time for the Thanksgiving post.  People  have been posting what they are thankful for on  Facebook for weeks but I just figured I would wait for this.  It looks as though many have a lot to be thankful for on Facebook and for that I am grateful.  I do as well.

Black Friday
I want to encourage people to be careful not to forget the things that they are grateful for as Black Friday approaches.  Some do not like Black Friday because it has crept earlier and earlier into Thanksgiving Thursday.  I must agree that the greed and commercialism is getting old.  It is stealing and corrupting the original purpose of both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then of course there is the nasty, high-stress, impatient attitudes of the shoppers themselves.  That part was always there on some level but it has been amplified several times over with the hysteria that can be Black Friday.

So, I just wanted to say that while I am thankful for the ridiculous deals you can get courtesy of Black Friday, part of me wishes it did not exist because of the negatives involved.   Never the less, my wife and I try to make a point of showing love and patient understanding to those around us while striving to get the deal we hope for as well.  Gratefully, we have not felt the need to compromise time with family in order to get the deals and I hope we never do.  As Christians we are responsible to live a life worthy of the gospel, even during holiday shopping.  So I would encourage you, whether you participate in Black Friday or not to pray before going out to shop at anytime during the holiday season.  Be ready "in season and out of season" so to speak.

Why should we be thankful?  What makes gratitude so important?
The world has their own answers for these questions, some of which stem from scripture even though they may not be aware of it.  I simply want to let scripture speak for itself.  There are many scriptures that could be used.  I am partial to Philippians 4:4-7.  It states, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to all, the Lord is at hand.  Do not be anxious for anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Much could be said of this passage but I simply want to point out the centrality of thanksgiving in this passage.  If you develop a habit of praying, thinking, and acting from an attitude of gratitude rather than griping and complaining then you will find yourself rejoicing in supernatural peace, no matter the circumstances.  This is a stature that will bring much glory to God.

Now, besides the benefits of Black Friday, what am I grateful for?

1) Faith
I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  That may seem obvious since this is a ministry blog but that is kind of the point.  He saved me from the wretched life of dead works, hateful actions, and selfish indulgences that I was living.  He made me alive and enables me every day, by His grace, to do righteous works that are motivated by a desire for His glory to be made evident in my life.  Thanks be to God.

2.) Family
 I am thankful for my family.  First and foremost for my wife and children.  They are a blessing to me daily.  They remind me how loved I am, even when I don't deserve it.  They also keep me humble as I continually recognize areas that I can improve as both a husband and father.  I am truly blessed beyond belief to have a beautiful wife who is talented, caring, and dedicated to being the best mother and wife that she can be.  I am blessed to have two handsome boys that are also very intelligent, talented, and have their mothers big heart.

I am thankful for my extended family.  On my side I was blessed to grow up as a preachers son.  This exposed me to the good and the bad of church life and helped me to develop the tough skin I have today that guards my heart from bitterness against the ugliness that can be found in the church.  As we were never well off, it also taught me how to appreciate having my needs met and yet be ok with not getting everything I wanted.  This is a principle many need to learn in this day.  Even more importantly, as we have all grown up, myself, my two brothers and my sister and their spouses, along with Mom and Dad, are able to challenge and encourage each other in the Lord and grow in our faith walk courtesy of these experiences.  No matter how much we may disagree on a subject, at the end of the day, we are able to let love rule.  That is a blessing.  They love my kids, are as generous as they can be, and always strive to be available if I need them.  As the family expands I get to return the favor as much as I can and enjoy nieces and nephews from my side of the family.  I am very blessed.

On my wife's side, much of the same is true.  There is much love and generosity to be experienced from all of my in-laws.  This last year our family had the amazing opportunity to go on a Disney cruise.  It was a dream come true and it was courtesy of all of my in-laws generous desires to see my wife and kids, especially my youngest, Alex, experience meeting Mickey live and in living color on the boat.  That is just one example of the ways in which they are loving and giving.  I will be forever grateful, to my mother and father-in-law for birthing and raising the wonderful woman that I get to call my best friend and wife.  I am also blessed to have a very loving and thoughtful brother and sister-in-law.  They have two wonderful children whom I have been blessed to call niece and nephew for many years now.

3.) Ministry
The list could go on but you guys don't want to hear all of that and I could not possibly do justice here, to everything that I am grateful for.  I will however, say how blessed and thankful I am to be a musician, choir director and worship leader.  It is my greatest joy to have the fellowship of a wonderful worship ministry with whom I get to lead the congregation into worship.

While I am blessed with a stable secular job that provides much to our family, church related ministry is my heart.  Everyday personal ministry is the responsibility of every christian however, there is nothing else that I would rather be doing than glorifying God through vocational ministry.  I have been blessed to do it for many years on a part time basis through music.  For the last year and a half or so I have been blessed to share the gospel in written word through this blog.  Prayerfully I will have many opportunities to preach God's word not only through written word but also through the spoken word.  This is the desire God has placed in my heart.  The desire to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through the redemptive history of the whole word of God.  I look forward to following God on this journey, whatever it may look like. and wherever it may take me.

I believe that the Lord will not always keep me at my current church.  God loves to push people out of their comfort zone in order for them to grow.  I know this day is coming for me.  Until it does I will faithfully strive to glorify God in the service of the church that has been so kind to allow me to grow up spiritually, emotionally, and musically there for the last nineteen years.  I am indebted to them for the grace-filled support and opportunities that I have had there.

4.) Grateful for Common Grace
Left to our own devices we would most certainly destroy ourselves and any potential for happiness that is available.  That is obvious in the individuals from which God withholds His common grace the most.  In those individuals we can watch the corruption and destruction of sin have it's full effect as their lives disintegrate into a mass of jail time, drug ridden bodies, horrible behaviors and wasted lives. Lives that will ultimately end in an eternity of pain, suffering, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  The hell they lived on earth will pale in comparison to the hell they will experience for eternity.

For those to whom God's common grace has allowed them a measure of happiness and self-satisfaction, there are still concerns.  Many of them will live lives that look successful and maybe even selfless in  many ways.  They may have wonderful families, fantastic careers, and great health.  I fear that for many, it will all be in vain.  Because, if they have never experienced the saving grace that only comes through the cross of Christ then everything they have done will be for nothing.  It will have been motivated by a self-exalting and self-satisfying drive.  A drive that seeks it's own glory rather than the glory of God.  Their lives will still end in eternal misery and never-ending destruction.  Everything that they earned and built in this life will whither away and burn up.  They will be no better off than the one who wasted the whole of this life.

Saving Grace and Future Glory
Why such a bleak picture of unredeemed lives at the end of a blog about Thanksgiving?  Because, at the end of the day I know that the many blessings for which I am so very grateful have nothing to do with my own worth, talent, or anything else that I have to offer.  It was the blood-bought, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, amazing grace of the Holy Trinity that regenerated me, changing my heart and enabling me to have the faith to believe unto salvation to begin with.  It is that same grace that enables my efforts toward sanctification as I become more and more like Jesus.  Because of the price paid at Calvary I get to experience the best that God has planned for me in this life.  Not only that, but I get to look forward to that great gettin up morning when I see Jesus face to face and I will sin no more.  That future glory in which no sin, pain, sorrow, or suffering will ever exist.

The many struggles that this life has to offer, that even the strongest of believers is allowed to experience by our Heavenly Father, will exist no more.  This future glory provides an eternal hope that carries us through the most difficult of times.  Those moments when we feel we can't go on we remember the whole of 2 Corinthians 4 that ends with verses 16-18 which says, "so we do not loose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

An eternal perspective brings an eternal gratitude! 

Thanks be to God and glory to His name for the many trials and blessings that He bestows on us for our eternal benefit!

Happy Thanksgiving!



Friday, November 15, 2013

Wanna Save Your Marriage (Part 9) A Summary

Alright.  There are so many other things that could be said but I think it is time to wrap this one up. This is officially the longest series that I have ever done.  It has been edifying to me.  I hope it has been edifying to you.  I would like to thank everyone who reads the blog, has followed this particular series of postings, and/or has provided feedback.  It means a lot and you are more than welcome to share and share alike if you feel it would be helpful.

I want to emphasize that while the material has been direct and revealing at times , I have made every effort to be biblical at every point.  Sometimes the bible can be offensive and difficult to swallow.  What we must always remember is that the bible is God's inspired, inerrant, holy word.  It must not be added to or be taken away from.  God does not require that His word conform to what people want it to say.  God requires that HIS people conform to HIS word(Romans 12:1-2).  With that said, let's review what the bible has taught us.

The biblical God is a fan of biblical marriage!
It was His idea!  He is a fan of man and woman joined together in an unbreakable, covenant union.  A covenant union that is designed to glorify God and help to populate the earth.  He created the idea, He blessed the idea and the subjects of the idea, and He said that it was good.
(Genesis 1:27-28, Matthew 19:3-9)

Biblical marriage is designed with a purpose!
What is that design?  First, it must be the union of a male and a female.  Second, the male and female should be believers.  Third, each member of the union must recognize their God-given role and the instructions for that role. Fourth, the Gospel is central. (Matthew 19:4-6, Ephesians 5:21-33)

The Gospel is central!
God's design for marriage is centered around the Gospel.  The sacrificial love of Christ for His church is the example of the kind of sacrificial love that we are expected to exhibit, one Christian to another and one spouse to the other. We must understand how we were designed as individuals and what the design of our roles in marriage are.  We must understand that just as we are dead in our sins and cannot come alive unless Christ makes us alive; none of what is expected of us in marriage can be done appropriately without the empowerment of God's grace through Christ's death and resurrection.(Ephesians 2:1-10, Philippians 2:12-13, 1 Corinthians 15:10)

Sacrificial, selfless, love is required by God.
Maybe you are struggling with a spouse who is not living up to the biblical definitions of their role. Perhaps you are struggling with an unbelieving spouse or a maybe your marriage is struggling sexually.  All of these struggles, along with all of the other above points, have been addressed in greater detail in the previous posts, scripture references and all.

What is certain is that when Jesus came to earth, He gave all while being despised and rejected by the majority.  Many say that God's love and often that Christ's love is unconditional.  This is simply not true.  The condition of God's offer of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, comes in the death and resurrection of Christ's perfect life alone, for the glory of God alone.  It is not free!  If you are a believer, you are not your own, you were bought with a price.  Christ's blood shed on the cross paid the price for the sins of the world so that eternal life would be made available.

That's right!  The love of God the Father and God the Son is not unconditional, but it is sacrificial.  God is not asking anything of you, no matter how bad it may seem, that Christ did not experience.  Jesus knew temptation.  Jesus knew betrayal, rejection, emotional hurt, and physical pain.  He understands it and He will see you through it.  As a believer, He does not expect you to do it by yourself.  As a believer, God's grace is always working in and through you to accomplish His good purposes. (Philippians 2:12-13)

I don't need Jesus, my marriage is doing fine by itself!
Perhaps, during this process, you have thought, "I have a perfectly happy marriage and I don't have to think about all this stuff.  My wife and I are good people who love each other and treat each other well and we don't even consider the application of any of this spiritual, Gospel-centered marriage hype."   Maybe.  But rest assured, whether you believe it or not, that the benevolent love of God's common grace to all people is the only thing that keeps mankind from totally annihilating themselves.  It is not because you carry all the power within yourself to do good.  God restrains any evil that does not run rampant, anywhere, including your marriage.

Happy wife, happy life is not enough!
Regardless of what you think, one other thing is true.  You can live a happy, good life with a happy, good marriage and still go to hell.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the live.  No man comes to the Father but by me!(John 14:6)

I don't want that for anyone.  This series has been a bit pragmatic in the "How to have a better marriage biblically" kind of way.  I admit that.  But, the Gospel has been present throughout.  All of it has been Christ-centered.  The reason for that is because no success in this world has any meaning eternally apart from Christ.  I have not helped you at all if you apply some of the principles found in this series and never have a relationship with a living Savior, the Eternal Bridegroom himself.  You will not be a part of the bride of Christ if you are not in a saving and surrendered relationship with the Groom that makes it all possible to begin with.

Please, go back and look at the post entitled, "Wanna Save Your Marriage?, What is the Gospel?"(Part 3).  Not for me, but for you.  Make sure you understand what the Gospel is.  2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to examine ourselves and make sure that we are in the faith.  It is ok to assess your life in relation to biblical truth and look for areas that either point to proof of saving faith or the lack there of.  Even if you come to the conclusion that you are in fact saved, there are always areas that are not yet perfected and we should always be looking to strive for repentance in new areas of our walk in order to ensure that we are living a life worthy of the gospel(Philippians 1:27).

Find joy in the Father!
Last but not least remember, in the words of John Piper, that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him".  As believers, the greatest way to be most at peace in trials and suffering is to keep God's glory as your ultimate goal.  The greatest way to ensure you are walking in unselfish, sacrificial love is to keep God's glory as your ultimate goal. The greatest way to ensure that you are walking obediently to God in your marriage is to keep God's glory as your ultimate goal.  The greatest way to ensure you are living a life worthy of the gospel is to keep God's glory as your ultimate goal.

The greatest way to walk with the best possible satisfaction at any given moment and to experience joy unspeakable and full of glory(1 Peter 1:8) is to remember what Christ did for you on the cross and through His resurrection.  Not only that, but to remember that, while He died for all who would believe, Jesus' ultimate goal was always the glory of His Father.(John 17:5)

Jesus always found His greatest satisfaction in the glory of God through loving obedience.  That was, and is, His ultimate goal!

If this series has helped one marriage to grow or be restored, or more importantly; if this series has helped one individual to discover a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then it has been worth it.

If you have not read the whole series yet and you would like a fleshing out of these points, parts 1-8 can be found under the October and November tabs on the this blog page.   I pray it has been and will be a blessing.  Thank you for your time.

In Jesus name,




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Wanna Save Your Marriage, (Part 8) Intimate Submission

SEX! (blush, blush) ;-/

A subject that is critical for your marriage and for the glory of God in your life.
1 Corinthians 7:1-9 is a passage of scripture written by the Apostle Paul specifically regarding married sex between man and woman.  He has just finished writing on sexual immorality and now he is speaking to moral sex as ordained by God.  I will not type the whole thing here but I encourage you to read it.  I was hesitant to speak to it but I am aware that, just as it was in Paul's day, there is a problem among many married couples of maintaining a healthy sex life.

Now I am not an expert i.e. a sex therapist etc. nor do I pretend to grasp every area of the bible that speaks to healthy love making between a married couple though I do know that there are some i.e. Song of Solomon..  I am well aware however, that in today's world of self-gratification and instant-gratification, there is a selfishness that can permeate even to the bedroom and that couples have experienced marital problems and even divorce because one or the other was not "taking care of the needs of their spouse".  This is a problem.

There is so much more to this topic than can be addressed here.  Please know that I am not under any delusions that this is a simple topic.  However, the overarching point is the same as the rest of these posts on marriage.  In marriage you must commit to selfless service of your spouse, always with the glory of God as the highest priority in every area of your life, while trusting Him to be all satisfying.  If God is all satisfying, then everything else will be icing on the proverbial cake verses some inalienable right that we should fight for, no matter the cost.

Authoritarian surrender of your body and loving submission to God
The gist of 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 is this:  If you can stay single, do it.  If your gifted with the ability to be celibate great.  You will be free do more for the kingdom in some ways if you do not have to worry over a spouse.  However, if you burn with passion and cannot exercise self-control, then you should marry.  Once married, you should not withhold conjugal rights (sex) from one another except for an agreed upon time, and that for prayer.

Now, this is where it get's dicey and some will be offended.  Paul states that the reasoning for not holding out on each other aside from the tendency of increased temptation is this; your body does not belong to you!  The husband has authority over the wife's body regarding this matter just as the wife has authority over the husbands body.  In other words, each spouse has the right to desire and expect that their sexual needs will be satisfied by the other and neither has the right to be unwilling to help in this matter.

Remember that this is not a power game.  This is yet another area that we are to love each other and submit those things in which we have been commanded to submit by the Lord, as unto the Lord.  Ultimately you are not giving in to your spouse.  Ultimately, it always comes down to a matter of loving obedience and submission to Christ who gave his life for you.  When you consider that He died so that you might live life to the full, isn't it silly to pridefully and selfishly fight the system that He ordained to help create this full life?

A Healthy Marriage Hangs in the Balance!
So why was this important enough to blog about?  Consider this.  If we are built to desire one another, and we are also spiritually ordained and responsible to satisfy each others desires; and one spouse refuses the other, it will not be taken as a simple no.  More often than not it will be taken as a resounding NO!  This cuts straight to the heart and self-esteem of a given spouse.  A heart and self-esteem that we as spouses are responsible for cherishing and guarding from harm.  So when we are harmed by the one who means more to us than anyone else in this world, it can create a huge wound.  This is important because if this issue does not serve as a reason for divorce, it will certainly feed other issues if not help to push the rejected spouse into the arms of another.

We are still responsible!
Let me be clear, as I hope I have been in the previous posts.  I am not advocating that this should be an issue to divorce over and I am certainly not condoning allowing yourself to succumb to adultery.  This challenge manifests itself in many forms.  Sometimes sex is used as a weapon to manipulate.  This corrupts everything about it and should never be done.  Sometimes there is emotional damage that affects someone's ability to be intimate. Often there are biological reasons that cause people's sex drives to change.  In any case, the bible makes it clear that, married or otherwise, we are responsible to God to be faithful representatives of Christ's sacrificial love, no matter what anyone else does. So if you are not being taken care of in this area, then alongside possible counseling and healthy discussion about the matter, much prayer, meditation on the word, and striving to find your satisfaction in God is a must. A lack of intimacy is not an excuse for ungodly, disobedient behavior.

If you are the one who is lacking desire, here are some thoughts.  I have no doubt that a part of you feels justified in not doing something that does not interest you.  There is probably a part of you that also recognizes the flaw in that lack of desire as a partner in a marriage covenant.  I do not want to beat you up for your lack of desire because I realize that you may not even understand it yourself.  The only exception that I can foresee there may be to what I am about to say would be if you have a verifiable medical condition that makes it difficult to perform as male or female in the marriage. I do recognize these challenges.

However, as with any other biblical command, as a believer, remember that you are still responsible to make every effort to hold up your end of the bargain regarding your spouses satisfaction, whether you feel like it or not. You must also pray, feed on the word and maintain a relationship with your redeemer that, if biblical, should correct some issues in time. Not only should it feel natural to want to satisfy your spouse, but that is part of what you committed to when you made your vow, in the marriage covenant.  A vow not only to your spouse but before God. So whether you feel like it or not, if you selfishly ignore that responsibility, you are not only harming your spouse but you are acting in direct disobedience to the word of God.

As always, I do not wish to simply come off strong, beat you up, or seem insensitive.  You may say, Josh you just don't understand.  To that I say, trust me.  Most marriages if they last long enough have moments that make this topic one with which many can identify.  That is true of myself as well.  Even if it wasn't, God's word is God's word.  We must not make excuses for disobeying it by trying to discredit the experience of the deliver of that word as it were.  If your greatest desire is God's glory then you will strive to learn to be satisfied in Him when everything else in life is letting you down.  You should learn to be satisfied in Him whether everything is hunky dory or not.

God loves you.  He knows what's best for each of us.  He created this sacred act of love so that we could  be fruitful and multiply and grow in intimacy together.  The latter cannot stop just because we are done with the former, as is often the case.  So love your spouse selflessly, just as Christ loves you and died for you selflessly.  In order for this thing to work we must press into our relationship with the one who created it and who best knows how to make it work for you.  So press into Jesus.  Rest in Jesus.  And, trust Him to work all things together for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to His purpose(Romans 8:28).

In Jesus name,


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wanna Save Your Marriage (Part 7), The Unbelieving Spouse

While I have already touched on this somewhat, I want to consider what scripture says about a marriage in which one spouse is a believer and the other is not.  In 1 Corinthians 7:10-17, The Apostle Paul dovetails his teaching on a healthy sex life between a married, believing husband and wife, with the relationship of a married believer and non-believer.

Let me preface this with 2 Corinthians 6:14 which states, "do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers". Now, while the context of this statement has no direct correlation to marriage, it can certainly apply.  It is often used in relation to marriage while it's larger context regards any and all relationships.  It isn't that we should not associate with unbelievers but that strong bonds or partnerships should not be made with them to include marriage.  As we will see, however, this does not permit a believing spouse to initiate divorce with an unbelieving spouse.

Divorce Between Two Believers
He begins with this statement in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, "To the married I give this charge(not I but the Lord):  the wife should not separate from her husband(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife."  This was contrary to Roman law which would allow "no cause" divorce.  Unfortunately America has lined up with the Romans of that day by giving us "no fault" divorce.  Between believers in a marriage, biblically speaking, divorce and remarriage with someone else is not really an option, short of the case of adultery.  And I believe that forgiveness and at least one second chance should be encouraged, even in that case.  God commands us, as believers, to honor our covenant commitment and fight for our marriages.   This is not popular however, this teaching came straight from Jesus (Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).

Divorce Between A Believer And Unbeliever
In 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, Paul goes on to flesh out the idea that if a husband is married to an unbeliever or a wife is married to an unbeliever that they should not divorce the unbelieving spouse.  He states that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified via the believing spouse, as are the children.

Here Paul is suggesting that the overall lifestyle of the family will likely be influenced in a more holy fashion by the presence of the believing spouse, NOT that the unbelieving spouse will be justified before God(i.e. get to go to heaven) by the believing spouse's faith.  However, if you are doing all you can and the unbelieving spouse decides to leave and divorce the believing spouse then the obligation is broken.  The believer may, but is not required to, pursue the marriage even further.  In the case that they have decided further pursuit will not be beneficial, they are released from their commitment that they may marry again to a believer.

I have spoken, I believe, at length regarding this matter as it has been tied into discussions in other posts.  I had not however, actually dealt exclusively with this text and this topic alone.  I felt it was important as I believe there are quite a few people out there that may be struggling with just such a scenario.

As always, I want to encourage you to fight the good fight of faith.  Pray hard, live out the love of Christ, know the word of God and lean on Jesus.  Learn to appreciate the grace of God in your own sinful life and then pray for that same grace to be poured out in the life of your unbelieving spouse.  God is the only one who can change their heart and He loves and responds to the prayers of the saints.  Albeit not always the way we think He should.  Continue to strive to understand satisfaction as found in Christ when it is not found anywhere else.  God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Miracles can and have happened in marriages such as the one's discussed.  As I have said before, God is a fan of marriage. He wants to see you succeed.

If He releases you by way of allowing the unbelieving spouse to leave, then so be it.  Until that time comes, again, fight the good fight of faith for your unbelieving spouse.  His answer may still be yes.  That is God's will according to the scriptures.