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What’s the relationship between 4 types of shame?​

Previously, we saw how Gregg Ten Elshoff in For Shame highlights shame as “sensitivity to social opinion.” This aspect of shame is foundational for every other kind of shame. Without sensitivity to social opinion, a person becomes shameless and immoral.
In this post, I explain the interrelationship between 4 types of shame––shame as sensitivity, social, psychological, and sacred.

Shame as sensitivity

Humans are wired for social connection. We are sensitive to the opinions of others, even if we disagree with those opinions. One is aware and displeased when rejected, isolated, or scorned.
Without this sensitivity, we have no capacity to become moral agents. Shamelessness is the path to immoral living. Accordingly, such sensitivity is the basic starting point for experiencing other types of shame.

Social Shame

Social shame is based on the measure that society uses to ascribe worth. It is the dishonor suffered by a person (or people) at the hand of some social group. Bullying, doxing, being “canceled,” and insults are ways that a community shames or dishonors others.

It’s important to note, however, that the individual experiencing social shame does not necessarily suffer psychological shame (explained below). Thus, when the Pharisees called in the apostles in Acts 5:40-41,
“they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”

Because the Pharisees behaved as outsiders to God’s kingdom, the apostles did not feel the psychological pain or distress that would come if they identified themselves more closely with the Pharisees.
Through socialization, a person learns what society deems shameful and honorable. No one is born with this knowledge. Regard for one’s community fosters great sensitivity to their opinion. The more a person internalizes the norms of the ingroup, the more likely they will experience psychological shame when they veer from them.

Psychological Shame

If someone says the word “shame,” your first thought will probably concern psychological shame. This is an internal experience; it is an intense feeling of unworthiness.
Although felt inward, the force of this shame stems from its social underbelly. How so? Someone experiencing psychological shame does so because they perceive a watching public, whether real or imagined, whether a crowd, God, or just themselves. Even seeing ourselves fall short of our own ideals can evoke some degree of shame.
Feelings of fear and isolation routinely accompany such shame. It is intensified when one feels greater distance from one’s own community or sense of sacredness (i.e., God).

Sacred Shame

Sacred shame derives from what God deems worthy of shame or honor. As I state elsewhere,
Like social shame, this is an objective shame. That is, a person or thing is determined to be shameful according to some outside measure; in this case, God’s character. Ultimately, God is the measure of true honor/glory (and conversely, whatever is dishonorable or shameful). Having shame before God may or may not be linked directly with psychological or social shame.

For example, Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Paul adds that the “enemies of the cross of Christ … glory in their shame, which minds set on earthly things” (Phil 3:18–19). Finally, Peter writes, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Pet 4:16; cf. Rom 1:16).
Whereas sensitivity is the starting point, having a sense of sacred shame is the goal of Christian character. However, one should not think that we can skip from one to the other. It is impossible both practically and theologically.
How so? Practically, no one has a sense of morality apart from community. Theologically, sacred shame is fostered within the church. This comes through living life with one another, being the body of Christ, as expounded throughout the New Testament.

On the one hand, high levels of psychological shame can prevent people from repenting (i.e., an expression of sacred shame). On the other hand, low levels of psychological shame can catalyze genuine life change. Furthermore, some degree of psychological shame is a fruit of repentance. Consider Ezekiel 16:53–54, where the Lord says,
I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them.

In these respects, the conscience uses psychological shame to shape our behavior and develop character. (On this point, Te-Li Lau further distinguishes “retrospective shame” and “prospective shame” when discussing how Paul discipled his churches.

Different Illustration. Same Explanation.

The picture above could be redrawn, as seen below. Each diagram has its own advantages. The following illustration places “sensitivity” in the middle, indicating its integral role in connecting other types of shame. Furthermore, it shows the natural progression from social to sacred and places the psychological in a distant position from the above shame types.

Are these diagrams and this explanation helpful? What else needs to go into my explanation?



5 Ways to Learn From the Past and Make Healthier Choices in a Partner​

Dear Terry,
I’m in a relationship with a man who doesn’t respect me and treats me poorly. I keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again and don’t know how to change this pattern. He won’t end it because I do a lot for him but it rarely seems like he thinks about me or considers my needs.

I desperately need your advice because I have two children, ages six and ten, and I don’t want them to suffer as I deal with so many of my relationships breaking up. My kids have two different dads and I want stability for them and myself. I would like to schedule a coaching session so I can tell you my entire story and get help.


Dear Claire,
Your problem is fairly common. When you get close to someone new, it can bring unresolved issues from your past to the surface. Over and over again, I’ve seen relationships sabotaged or crumble apart because one or both partners are unaware that they bring a backlog of hurts, fears, and ambivalence from their past into present interactions.
The first step in getting out from the shadow of your past is to gain awareness. Relationship experts Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. and Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D. write, “A close relationship is a powerful light force, and like any strong light it casts a large shadow. When you stand in the light of a close relationship, you must learn to deal with the shadow.”

Perhaps it’s because your intimate relationships bring the possibility of love and closeness, that you are confronted with wounds from your past. For instance, you have two children by two different partners even though you crave stability. You mention that you have difficulty changing this pattern. In spite of your on-again, off-again romances, you can’t seem to pull away from guys who are unavailable or toxic. Please read the following blog for suggestions on how to move on from your past and have healthy relationships based on your story.

5 Ways to Learn from Your Past and Make Healthier Choices in a Partner
Many of the women that I work with report that they are in toxic, self-defeating relationships and want to make healthier choices. For instance, when Claire and I spoke on the phone, she said, “It’s almost as if I’m drawn to difficult men. It’s like I’m so familiar with that adrenaline rush that I get from being in a bad relationship, I don’t feel comfortable with a guy who treats me right.”

I mentioned to Claire that some people are addicted to pain in a relationship. They might even end a relationship that is good for them. They might fear that when they open up themselves to others, they will get hurt and lose out on love. Fear of relationship failure is something Claire knows well. Many times, even in the most blissful of moments with a partner, there is a lingering thought in the back of her head that the relationship will not work; that it will come crashing down on her.
Claire explained: “I have fear, and that is all. Fear of relationship failure. I ask myself, how will I get out of it? I’m also scared to open myself up to someone, probably because of fear of being rejected and vulnerable.”

Claire knows in her head that she deserves a healthy relationship, but she continues to sabotage those that might lead to commitment. Currently, she’s dating Jason who hasn’t given her any reason to doubt his intentions — at least nothing Claire can pinpoint. However, in the past, she’s been drawn to men who are all wrong for her. She says, “I meet a nice guy like Jason who is fun to be around but when it comes to getting serious, I always bail out.”
What is it that keeps Claire in a cycle of pursuing self-destructive relationships and sabotaging healthy ones? For many people, pain is a familiar feeling. Conflict is what’s comfortable. Dealing with an unavailable man or woman is in our wheelhouse. A partner who wants nothing more than to be with us and make your own happiness or top priority is alien.

The following steps will help you move on from the past and make healthier choices in present relationships:
  • Gain awareness of past hurt and adopt a more realistic perspective of it. This might mean talking to your parents about their marriage or taking a closer look at your own relationships.
    • Acknowledge the damage that was done by your partners and shift to an impersonal perspective that’s focused on healing rather than blaming yourself.
    • Find ways to move on by writing a new narrative for your life — one that includes partners who are trustworthy and willing to work on building a committed relationship.
    • Examine your expectations about intimate partnerships. You might be more focused on your dream of how a relationship should be rather than the reality of how it is, ultimately leading to disappointment.
    • Focus on the things you can control. Accept that you can’t control the past but can exercise the power of choice today.

Like all challenges in life, greater awareness and willingness to work on an issue can spark change. The good news is that can you unlock your past and make conscious choices about what you want out of life and relationships.



Gotta Get Humble​

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . count others more significant
than yourselves—Philippians 2:3

Let’s first get straight on what “getting humble” is not. It’s not trying to think poorly of ourselves or denigrating ourselves or anything like that. It actually involves taking the focus off ourselves. Getting humble is checking our tendency to think ourselves better than others, or more important, valuable, worthy of time or mindshare or respect. Getting humble is shutting down our tendency to "size people up” and position them on some scale—based on money, title, education, geography, whatever. Getting humble is recognizing all people as the careful works of God, equally worthy of love and sacrifice.

Getting humble is counterintuitive, and it moves against prevailing culture. You see, we men want to feel successful, important—and have others consider us so. Culture trains us, therefore, to promote ourselves; to be strategic with our time and attention; to let positions determine our treatment of others. This training is foolish. It misses the sense and strength of humbleness.

Imagine someone humble. They’re often fearless, able to act on convictions, rather than trying to impress. Their decision-making is often sound, unclouded by insecurity or prejudice. They listen and welcome honest differences. They abide critics, crushed not by their criticism. They’re often magnetic, treating all people with respect. They engender loyalty, camaraderie. King Solomon wrote, “with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). We want to work with humble people. We want to work for them and have them work for us. We want them as spouses, friends. But, mostly, we should want to get humble ourselves.

Okay, so what do we do?​

Practice getting humble. Choose something this week: initiate a conversation and listen more than you talk; serve in a way that’s mundane or difficult (unpleasant, even); help someone anonymously; give someone the credit they deserve (even if you deserve some too).



More Important than Truth?​

I am a staunch believer in truth. I believe there is absolute truth. I believe all truth is God’s truth. And, of course, I believe the Bible is truth. While I am at it, I will declare again here that I believe Jesus is the truth. But I believe there might be something more important than truth. Hang with me. . .

Many (most?) who read this and hold to truth as I do, arduously hold fast to the rock-solid biblical truths of Scripture. As you should. However. . .

Holding on to truths merely for the sake of holding on to them is dangerous. Holding on to truth so a position can be argued is slippery. Holding to truth to prove yourself to be superior to one who holds to something different is arrogant. In short, holding fast to a truth in order to solely defend and/or teach it is missing the point.

In Peter’s second letter he takes direct aim at false teachers. They are dangerous. They are destructive. They have been known to dismantle many a congregation. In his rebuke, Peter writes this: “Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:2). Did you catch that? False teachers lead church people into a depraved conduct that brings the way of truth into disrepute. Truth has a way. Truth has a behavior. Truth has a posture. Truth has a demeanor. Truth wears a certain kind of clothing. Peter is letting his readers know that it is possible to misrepresent the way of truth. In other words, truth isn’t stale. It has a way. Truth isn’t cold. It has a particular look to it.

Earlier I said I believe Jesus is the truth. I get that from what He says about Himself in John 14:6. But Jesus doesn’t just say He is the truth. He also says He is the WAY. Truth has a way about it. Truth, in other words, isn’t just something to be argued. Truth is something to be lived. It is possible for you and I to believe the truth about something, yet lead people away from the truth by our ways. Peter warns, not against their teaching cultish demonology. He warns against secretly introducing heresies. These heresies slip in with hollow words of truth. I say hollow because the truths have not taken hold. There is nothing inside. The truths have not consumed the teacher. The truths have not become a way. They are only an academic exercise.

Peter mentions two truths they denied: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them. . .” (2 Peter 2:1). God’s sovereignty. God’s purchase of them. Oh, I am sure they claimed to believe these truths. I am confident they had outlines for their hearers explaining God’s rule over all things and how God purchased them in Christ. But these truths had not impacted their way. These realities had not taken over their daily living. These truths had not met them in conversations with their wives and children. These truths stayed in their handouts, tucked away in their Bible’s; not in the boardroom on a Tuesday night. Not in the stands on a Friday night. Not while watching the news on a Wednesday morning.

You know as well as I do how easy it is to hold to the sovereignty of God and believe that we have been purchased (bought) by God in Christ – YET deny these truths by our way. Think about it: if we really believed God was sovereign (ruled and controlled everything in the universe) and that we had been purchased by Him through the blood of His Son Jesus – we would NEVER panic. A God who loves us enough to give us His Son and who ruled over all things will surely ensure nothing will happen to us outside his loving care. Right? If God is sovereign (and He is) and if Christians have been bought by this God for Himself for eternity (and we have), then our way must be transformed.

Destructive heresies creep into the church (and our lives), not just when truth is denied verbally. They creep in when truths are taught but not lived. Peter’s concern was how the way of truth was being blasphemed.

Consider the truths you hold dear. How are they impacting your way? How does truth transform your posture? Your demeanor? Your mental and emotional state? How does your continuous interaction with life reveal your convictions about the truth?

Truth is critical. Super important. But never forget: truth has a way about it.



Ephesians 6:10-18, Spiritual Attacks, and the Good Fight of Faith​

In Ephesians, the community in Christ is to engage in a spiritual battle and put on the whole “armor of God” (Eph 6:10–18). For New Testament believers, the devil and his minions are real forces that can attack those who are in Christ. The metaphoric combative gear and weaponry that this letter promotes include truth, righteousness, faith, knowledge of the God’s word, empowerment by God’s Spirit, confidence in salvation, and being grounded in the gospel that restores peace to the cosmos. These virtues and spiritual endowments prepare the believers to fight against and resist spiritual forces (Eph 6:10–18; cf. Rom 13:12; 1 Thess 5:8). Although these forces are demonic in nature, they presumably use humans and institutes to accomplish their ends.[1]

Standing Firm on the “Evil Day”

Thus, it is necessary for believers, having made all proper virtue preparations, to stand firm and resist malicious spiritual onslaught on “the evil day” (Eph 6:13). This period of time is not purely futurist but already present (cf. Eph 5:16). The “evil day” may suggest a special occasion of demonic visitation that would seek to undermine believers through severe temptations (cf. Luke 4:1, 13).

During such visitations, believers must watch and persevere in prayer (Eph 6:18; cf. Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6–8, 17; 2 Tim 4:5), similar to Jesus’s example of watching and praying at the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ’s words to his disciples are relevant here: “Continue to watch and pray that you come not into temptation” (Mark 14:37–38; cf. Matt 26:40–41).

Standing against the Devil’s “Schemes”

The “schemes” of the devil (Eph. 6:11) are not specified, but ἡ μεθοδεία (hȇ methodia) is used also in Eph. 4:14 to denote deceptive scheming caused by humans. It is quite possible for demonic powers to influence false teachers and instigate church divisions (2 Cor 2:11; 11:3, 13–15; 2 Thess 2:9–12; 1 Tim 4:1; 5:15; 2 Tim 2:26; cf. 1 John 4:1–6).

It would not be difficult for us to imagine Satan exploiting the residents in Ephesus and neighboring cities to advance the non-Christian inhabitants’ views of magic, national pride, ethnic prejudice, and religious and political ideologies. Such exploitation takes place in an effort to confuse, discourage, divide, or destroy the faith of church members. This is no less true in our own age.

Yet Satan thwarts the Pauline mission in other ways also, including tempting and persecuting the believers (1 Thess 2:18; 3:5; 1 Cor 7:5; 2 Cor 12:7; Rom 16:20; 1 Tim 3:6–7; Eph 4:26–27). The spiritual battle the church must fight, then, includes an entourage of various schemes the Enemy might throw their way, and ours.
The believers are to “stand” against the devil (Eph 6:11, 13–14; cf. 1 Cor 16:13; 2 Cor 1:24; Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 3:8; 2 Thess 2:15). This means to take firm footage and not retreat, fall down, or otherwise be shaken by his attacks. In Paul’s letters the opposite of standing is falling, which is to commit apostasy (cf. Rom 14:4; 1 Cor 10:12; cf. Rom 11:20–22; 1 Cor 15:1–2; Gal 5:1–4).

Even though our author in Ephesians does not mention potentially negative outcomes, we could surmise that in virtually any war, there will be casualties and defectors. We can rightly assume that a prominent goal of the devil is to draw believers into spiritual bondage and make them subject to his kingdom of darkness, once again (cf. Eph 2:2).

Authorities, Powers, and Rulers

Ephesians 6 elaborates on fighting the devil by using imagery associated with a Roman foot soldier. Our struggle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers (archas), and the authorities (exousias), against the powers (kosmokratoras) of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil (pneumatika tês ponêrias) in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). There appear to be several kinds of wicked spiritual powers, although there may be some overlap between them (1 Cor 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 6:10–12; compare 2 Maccabees 3:24; 1 Enoch 61.10; 2 Enoch 20–22; Testament of Levi 3).[2]

The rulers, principalities (archai): Biblical literature sometimes views these “rulers” as something more than mere human rulers. Their high status is evident. Paul categorizes them as potential threats, but they cannot separate the saints (Christians) from the love of Christ (Rom 8:38; compare Col 2:10). These forces are heavenly beings who war against believers (Eph 3:10; 6:12; Col 2:15).

The powers (exousia): Closely related to the rulers/principalities are the “powers.” The term is used for worldly powers (Rom 13:1–3), and in some passages it takes on a spiritual dimension in opposition to Christ’s kingdom (1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:15; compare Testament of Levi 3.8; 2 Enoch 20.1).
The kosmokratoras refer to rulers of this world (similar to 2 Cor 4:4, though it is not clear that spiritual entities are meant by the term).

Other Spirits

Another closely related Greek term that sometimes refers to spiritual powers is dynameis (Rom 8:38; Eph 1:21; compare Dan 8:10 LXX; 1 Enoch 61.10).

We should also mention the “elemental spirits” (stoicheia), which appear elsewhere in Paul. In ancient literature these spirits are associated with the star gods and the signs of the zodiac. In Hebrews 5:12, however, they seem to be nothing more than basic principles of religious belief. In 2 Peter 3:10‑12 they seem to represent the basic material elements of the universe, such as fire, water, earth and air. Paul uses ta stoicheia in reference to religious rules that Christians no longer follow (Gal 4:3, 9; Col 2:8, 20).

The Galatians and Colossians may have believed that spirits influenced the teaching of these rules, or they controlled the stars. The Galatians had once served false gods (Gal 4:8‑11), and the Colossians were being tempted to religious legalism somehow involving “the worship of angels” (Col 2:18). Some people apparently believed the stoicheia controlled the fate of humans, and a person might placate these influences through ascetic practices (Col 2:16‑23). Since Paul claims that Christ defeated the “principalities and powers” on the cross, he assures the Colossians that they should no longer be enslaved to their old religious practices, including the fear of the elemental spirits (Col 2:13‑15). It is not clear, however, whether Paul himself believes that these are real demonic spirits.

Other possible demonic powers are found in the lists that are joined with the “principalities and powers” (Col 1:16; Eph 1:21). These particular manifestations of power include dominions (kyriotêtes) and thrones (thronoi). Their precise nature and activities are hard to identify, and they may be the names for impersonal forces or ideas, not necessarily demonic.

In the Old Testament, we read about the princes (sarîm). The Hebrew word sarîm refers to the “prince,” and here Paul uses it of the kingdom of Persia and the “prince” of Greece, who are spiritual rulers (Dan 10:13, 20‑21). They have great power because they seem to watch over entire nations. The prince of Persia fought Michael the archangel but lost. It is possible that the term “rulers of this age” (archontes) is Paul’s New Testament equivalent for these beings. If so, these “rulers” influenced human authorities to put Christ to death (1 Cor 2:6, 8). Paul says in the same passage that if these “rulers” had known the positive consequences resulting from Christ’s death, they never would have crucified him.

In 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 the Bible refers to a set of angels who are now bound by chains in darkness because of their sin. Although their sin is not specified, it is evident that these passages refer to the “sons of God” who cohabited with the women of the earth in Genesis 6. These angels are known as the “Watchers” in Jewish tradition (e.g., 1 Enoch).


And of course, there is the simple term, demon (daimonion). Scripture refers to demons, unclean or evil spirits, far more than many of the other classifications for wicked forces (for example, Matt 7:22; 8:31; 12:24; Mark 1:34; Luke 8:30; 1 Cor 10:20-22; James 2:19). These are the spirits that are portrayed as attacking or possessing humans.
The various demons that work against the kingdom of God are limited in power. The power of Christ far exceeds that of the forces of darkness (Eph 1:21; Col 2:9‑10). Christ is supreme over all the forces of darkness because he created all spiritual powers, including the ones that later went astray (Col 1:16). He defeated them through his death and resurrection (Col 2:15; Mt 28:18; Phil 2:10‑11), and he will completely subdue them at the Second Coming (1 Cor 15:24‑25).

The love of Christ is so powerful that “neither height nor depth” can separate believers from him (Rom 8:39). Daniel Reid notes that this passage in Romans 8:38-39 “may refer to the zenith and nadir of the heavenly bodies and thus encompass[es] the full sweep of celestial powers (compare 1 En. 18.3, 11).”[3]]
Believers must take our stand against the devil (cf. James 4:7). Discernment, wisdom, and common sense go a long way in this spiritual warfare; the devil seldom shows his true colors in any attack. As Andrew Lincoln claims, “The devil does not always attack through obvious head‑on assaults but employs cunning and wily stratagems designed to catch believers unawares.”[4] Our strength, however, does not rest in ourselves, but in God’s mighty power (Eph 6:10).


[1] On the demonic nature of the forces, see Clinton Arnold, Ephesians: Power and Magic. On social structures/institutes and the powers, see Walter Wink, Naming the Powers.
[2] For this section I am indebted to Daniel G. Reid, “Principalities and Powers” in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, 746‑52.
[3] Reid, “Principalities and Powers,” 748.
[4] Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 443.



The Bible Begins and Ends with a Marriage!​

Here’s another excerpt of my book: Love Me, Love My Wife: 10 Reasons Every Christian Should Join a Local Church (available on Amazon)
The Bible begins and ends with a wedding!
In the beginning (Genesis 1), the first wedding is that of God and man. But there’s also a human marriage at the beginning of the Bible: the marriage of Adam and Eve. When God created Adam, he said of Adam: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” And so, God created Eve for Adam.

Moses, the divinely inspired author of Genesis, says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

In other words, from the beginning, God created men and women to come together and become one flesh. Two people become one person, or relationship, in marriage. A husband and his wife are no longer to live for themselves but for the other: they do this through self-giving love.

Maleness and femaleness in general, and a husband and wife in particular, picture who God is for us. Who is God? He is three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – but one God.
For this reason, it is men and women together, and especially husbands and wives, who picture God for us. God has imprinted His very nature on our bodies!

St. Paul explains the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church in terms of a marriage. In Ephesians 5, Paul writes about how the husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Jesus is the head of the Church. Women are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to love their wives. Husbands and wives are to love each other as they love their own bodies.

But it turns out that Paul is talking about more than husbands and wives. He says He’s talking about Christ and the Church! In verses 31-32 he says, “’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

I told you that the Bible also ends with a marriage, which we find in Revelation 21:1-3, where St. John refers to the Church as the New Jerusalem. He says:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

This is where eternal life is going: to a marriage between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church.
John also refers to this as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9).



Where Does Your Identity Come From?​

Do you know that you are loved by God? That is where our identity comes from.
There are a lot of ways to lose sight of that. I could go on and on about the ways that our theology has distorted God as an angry judge who lacks compassion for people, but perhaps there is some low hanging fruit that we can address today that may help us even begin the process of seeing ourselves as we are: God’s beloved children.

What many of us need more than anything is some time and space. We need a quiet moment to stop for awareness of God and God’s love for us.

Yet, we can remain plugged in for just about every free moment, filling our eyes and ears with what we can see and hear on our screens, from computers to phones to radios. Before we can even think of the barriers that keep us from seeing our identity as God’s beloved children, we need to see what keeps us from thinking clearly in the first place.

Often my attention has been fragmented by my digital technology use, from my phone to my social media accounts. Even worse, social media can become a source of my identity as I hope that people like my ideas, enjoy what I post, and interact with me respectfully and kindly.
A bad day on social media used to mean a bad day for my identity.
Clearing away the haze of social media and the constant temptation of my phone has been a vitally important step in my own growth since I could finally think clearly about… well… what I think!



8 Skills to Promote Emotional Connection with Your Partner​

While all couples need some sense of autonomy and closeness, many couples are chronically disconnected and dissatisfied with their degree of intimacy. The most common reason why couples develop serious difficulties is because one or both partners withdraw and go into the “silent treatment” mode due to feelings of hurt, anger, and resentment. In a recent landmark study of 14,000 participants conducted by Schrodt, women are usually (but not always) the ones who demand or pursue and men tend to withdraw or distance.

Then what couples tend to do is blame the other person and a pursuer-distancer dance follows – which intensifies the pattern. According to psychologist Sue Johnson, this dynamic happens when one person becomes somewhat aggressive in their pursuit and the other partner becomes defensive and distant.
Dr. John Gottman’s research on thousands of couples in his Love Lab revealed that couples who get stuck in this pattern the first few years of marriage, have a 80 percent chance of divorcing in the first five years. Typically, couples literally report having the same fights over and over again. After a while, they are no longer addressing the issue at hand and it becomes a vicious cycle of negative feelings that never gets resolved.

A typical example is Stella and Patrick, both in their late forties and married for eleven years. “I’ve been unhappy for some time,” complains Stella. “I feel rejected by Patrick emotionally and sexually. I can’t remember when the last time was when we had sex or were close.” Patrick responds: “Stella is never happy and she complains non-stop, especially about me so it’s no wonder we don’t have sex anymore. She keeps talking about leaving, and honestly divorcing may be the best option.”
While it’s natural to want to throw in the towel when your partner becomes distant, reacting in kind furthers the divide between you. Instead, Dr. Harriet Learner recommends that you take responsibility for warming things up and increase positive reinforcement. This can be done by saying things like “You’re so thoughtful to cook a nice dinner” which highlights their positive qualities and things you appreciate about them.

8 Skills to Promote Emotional Connection with Your Partner:
  1. Don’t criticize your partner. Instead, let your partner know what you need in a positive way. For example, “I’d really like it if we could plan to go out to dinner,” is more effective than “You never make plans with me.” Dr. Gottman reminds us that criticism is damaging to a marriage. Talking about specific issues will reap better results than attacking your partner.
  2. Resolve conflicts skillfully. Don’t put aside resentments that can destroy your relationship. Experiencing conflict is inevitable and couples who strive to avoid it are at risk of developing stagnant relationships. Avoid defensiveness and showing contempt for your partner (rolling your eyes, ridicule, name-calling, sarcasm, etc.).
  3. Boost up physical affection. Don’t forget to cuddle on the couch and surprise your partner with a kiss. Even if you’re not a touchy-feely person, increasing physical affection (try doubling the time spend in physical contact) can help you to sustain a deep, meaningful bond.
  4. Cultivate shared interests with your partner. Try a variety of activities that bring you both pleasure. For example, some couples take up yoga or take a dance class together. Don’t forget to show interest in your partner’s hobbies even if you don’t share them.
  5. “Nurture fondness and admiration”: John Gottman’s principle works like a charm. Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities – even as you grapple with their flaws – and express your positive feelings out loud several times each day. Search for common ground rather than insisting on getting your way when you have a disagreement.
  6. Be vulnerable and communicate honestly about key issues in your relationship. Be sure to be forthcoming about your concerns and be assertive in your communication. Express thoughts, feelings, and needs in a respectful way and use “I” messages such as “I worry when you are late so please remember to check in,” rather than a “You” message such as “You are so selfish and never think of me.”
  7. Take responsibility for your hurtful actions or words. Acknowledge that you messed up by saying something like “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry that they hurt you.” One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship. ’s Julie and John Gottman write: “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.”
  8. Apologize and practice forgiveness. Saying you’re sorry even if you don’t hurt your partner’s feelings on purpose with help you move on after a dispute. Try to remember you are on the same team. Accept that people do the best they do and try to be more understanding. This doesn’t mean that you accept your partner’s hurtful actions. You simply come to a more realistic view and give them less power over you. After all, we all have flaws.

It’s understandable that you might feel hurt, frustrated, resentful, or rejected if you perceive that your partner doesn’t understand you. But don’t let wounds fester. Instead, the next time you have a disagreement with him or her, stop second-guessing their reactions and examine your own responses. Listen to your partner’s side of the story and don’t assume the worst. Your focus needs to be on working on ways to repair hurt feelings and to get back on track. Real love starts with you. The more you know and understand what makes you tick and take ownership of your actions, the better prepared you’ll be to invite your partner to create a successful relationship.



5 Steps to Make Your Marriage Explode (in a Good Way!)​

Back in the day, I was an analyst on Wall Street. In the world of finance, there are all sorts of sexy, exotic ways to earn and save extra money, but one of the most proven methods is also the most basic: a phenomenon known as compound interest. Dave Ramsey calls it a “mathematical explosion.” If you invest money, you receive the return back with the interest earned. If you then reinvest that return, you earn interest on the interest. Mathematical explosion…boom!

It turns out, we can do the same thing in marriage. Over the course of several research studies, we discovered a few specific ways to “invest” in marriage that deliver compound results—results that end up being far sexier than you might expect. (And yes, one of them involves sex!)
Whether you’re in a great place in your marriage or are really discouraged and barely hanging on, try these five steps and watch your marriage respond in an explosive way.

Step 1: Assume the best of your spouse’s intentions toward you

Straight up, assume that your spouse cares for you, and doesn’t mean to hurt you. In my research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, this one habit was clearly the most important for those who want a happy marriage.

Twitter_bird_logo-300x242 Tweet this: Assume that your spouse cares for you, and doesn’t mean to hurt you.

When your spouse hurts your feelings (since we will all hurt each other’s feelings from time to time!) don’t assume “he doesn’t care” or “I’ll never be able to please her.” Instead, assume the best of your spouse’s intentions toward you: in other words, that your spouse really does love you, respect you, and wants the best for you. In my research, more than 99% of people cared about their mates — and the number was almost the same even among the most struggling couples! (97 percent.) In fact, out of the 1,261 people officially surveyed, only nine people said they no longer cared. Not 9 percent but nine people! Even the best among us can be a jerk sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we’ve stopped caring.

So, the next time your husband is late for a big dinner (when he knows how important it is) or your wife forgets to take her car in to the shop (when she knows that that means you’ll have to miss the football game to do it yourself), remember this step. It is fine to acknowledge being disappointed. But absolutely stop yourself from thinking “he/she doesn’t care about me.” Instead, remember that because they do care they are not intentionally trying to disappoint you or selfishly exploit you.

By choosing to respond as if the most generous explanation is the true one, you will find that it is suddenly easier to respond well. The choice to believe in your spouse’s goodwill may start out being difficult, but you’ll also find that it quickly becomes natural.

Step 2: Learnt little things that most hurt or heal your spouse’s feelings — not yours.

I spoke at a women’s lunch yesterday and shared a few truths about men and relationships that women tend to not realize. And in the book signing line afterward I heard, yet again, from a sweet single mom, the saddest thing I routinely hear: “If I had known just a few of these things two years ago, I wouldn’t be divorced right now.”

There are so many marriages that are suffering from something as tragically stupid as a lack of a little information: especially about what most hurts or heals the feelings of the opposite sex. And gaining just a little new knowledge about those things that hurt or heal our mate’s feelings are often life-changing!

Twitter_bird_logo-300x242 Tweet this: Gaining just a little new knowledge about those things that hurt or heal our mate’s feelings is often life-changing!

For example, ladies, we don’t realize that men look all strong and confident – and can be absolutely crushed by what seem like minor words of criticism that we toss out without thinking. (“I can’t believe you forgot to give Parker his lunch box for school today!” “Did you even look at how wrinkled the clothes were getting when you crammed them in the drawers?”) Why? Because unlike us, men live with a deep-seated doubt about whether they measure up. Feeling inadequate is, statistically, the most painful feeling a man can feel. Those sorts of off-the-cuff statements wouldn’t bother us in quite the same way, so we simply don’t realize how much they hurt his feelings—or how often we say them.

On the other hand, men, you can crush your wife without realizing it, by (for example) working a gazillion hours to provide for your family and not realizing that, statistically, your wife would probably trade off the extra money and extra stuff if it just meant she could get more of you. Instead, you sacrifice going to Parker’s soccer games to provide more for the family—and don’t see how deeply your constant absences hurt her heart.

Once we learn what matters most – not to us but to our spouse – suddenly we will see every day how a few simple changes will make a big difference. (I don’t want to make this a commercial, but truly, the simple information in For Women Only and For Men Only is often enough all on its own.)

Step 3: Be the first one to change

Now that you are assuming the best in your spouse and willing to learn, stop waiting around! You be the change agent! Don’t say to yourself, “I’ll do my part once he does his,” or, “I’ll stop being distant once she apologizes.” Because if you wait, that means you’ll be actively withholding the words or actions of affection or appreciation that will end up making all the difference!

And doing those things actively changes how you see your marriage. In my most recent research project, on the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, I found that when you purposefully look for the good in your spouse and applaud it daily, the most important and immediate change you’ll see will be in you. You will see “applause-worthy” things you simply never noticed before—which makes you like your spouse more! Which then makes continuing the change easier and easier over time.

Twitter_bird_logo-300x242 Tweet this: Look for the good in your spouse and applaud it daily.

So today leave a note on the mirror letting your husband know you’re wishing him luck on that construction deal, and that you’re proud of him. Or tell your wife how nice she looks when she comes down the stairs ready for work. Your perception of your spouse will become more positive the more you act loving first — and keep it going, regardless of whether it is reciprocated.

Step 4: Prioritize sex

Here’s that topic I promised. Many different research studies — both my own and those of other researchers — have found that one of the most crucial little things a couple can do to strengthen their marriage is to connect in sexual intimacy on a regular basis.

Twitter_bird_logo-300x242 Tweet this: One of the most crucial little things a couple can do to strengthen their marriage is to connect in sexual intimacy.

It is very easy to let sex go, or even actively avoid it, when we are busy, stretched, or at odds with one another. And yet that creates a negative spiral. Because as I discuss elsewhere, our desire for sex (especially among women) actually decreases as we stop having it. Which leaves this absolutely crucial type of marital connection and intimacy something that can feel like a chore or even a selfish demand. And yet as we make sexual connection a priority (ideally once a week or more), science has found that we will want sex more, and it will become a positive spiral instead.

Step 5: Watch for and build on any dividends you see from your spouse

Now it’s time to reinvest those dividends! When you are assuming the best in your spouse and working on the things you can do, you are showing one-sided kindness toward your spouse. And in almost 15 years of research, I’ve found that kindness really is a superpower. It is supernatural and transformational. So statistically, at some point in your one-sided effort you will start to see improvement. Not only will you begin to change the way you see your spouse but your spouse will begin to change as well.

So, keep a sharp lookout for anything different. When you begin to see a tiny spark of something new and positive from your spouse, love and honor them even more. Respond positively to that spark! It means an explosion is on the horizon.

Twitter_bird_logo-300x242 Tweet this: When you begin to see a tiny spark of something new and positive from your spouse, love and honor them even more.

Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage)



The Difference Between Letting Go and Losing Control​

Like so many things in life, there is a fine balance between letting go of our need to control everything and losing our willingness to steward what we can control.

We are people of extremes, addicted to the dramatic. We want to control it all or give up entirely. Most of our dabbling in between is a subtle manipulation meant to draw us (and others) to one extreme or the other.
The difficulty is the two enterprises look a lot like one another. We can convince ourselves we are letting go in a healthy way when we are truly surrendering inappropriately. Or we can swear we are just trying to hold on to what is ours when we are really trying to take over and be responsible for what only others can steward.

The wisdom to discern the difference is essential for vibrant living and healthy relationships. When we let go of what is not ours to hold, we enter an arena of freedom otherwise closed off to us by the tyranny of our false perspective. When we take responsibility for ourselves (and ourselves alone), we establish clear boundaries that allow us to live less fractured lives and to engage in healthier relationships.

The Three Things that Belong to You

There are exactly three things you can control: 1) your choices concerning behavior; 2) your attitude/perspective; and 3) whom you trust. That is the end of the list. The only three things you are responsible for in this giant world filled with billions of other humans.
Life is full of all kinds of things that do not make this list. You cannot, for example, control your circumstances. There are events and seasons and things that happen that you cannot, nor are you meant to, control. Likewise, you cannot control the choices of others. You can try to influence them, positively or negatively, effectively or ineffectively. But they are responsible for their three things. And you are responsible for yours.

When our society talks about “letting go” in the context of stress management, we are talking about this. Don’t try to control what does not belong to you. It only ends in frustration.
On the other side of the coin, when we talk about “losing oneself” in society, we are talking about things like codependency, victim mentality, and addiction that are attempts to avoid our part to play in our own lives and the relationships to which we belong.

Discerning the difference between these two is essential. It allows us to live a life free of carrying what is not ours to bear. While, at the same time, allowing us to participate in the life of purpose and meaning we all so desperately long for.



9 Problems with Religious Legalism and Why It’s Like Quarantine Hell​

Mark 2:27 – The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

God is better to most people than they are to themselves. According to reports, people are working more hours and sleeping less hours than ever before. Many people rarely take a day off or really get a vacation break. The opening pages of the Bible say that God worked and then took a day off as an example for us to follow. In Heaven, we are told that we will have work to do and rest to enjoy. So, to be healthy we need to work hard and rest well. Most of us work hard and rest far too little. God created the Sabbath to give us a break from work before we break ourselves by working too much.

The problem with the concept of Sabbath rest is that it has been hijacked by religious legalists. Jesus says in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Jesus seemed to intentionally pick a fight with religious folks about the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1–14, John 9:1–17), teaching on the Sabbath (Mark 6:1–2), promoting evangelism on the Sabbath (John 7:21–24), and allowing disciples to pluck & eat grain on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-2). None of these violated God’s laws. Each of these violated legalistic man-made religious rules.

Here are the 9 problems with religious legalism:
  1. We turn a blessing into a burden.
  2. We turn a “get to” into a “have to”.
  3. We confuse principles and methods, judging everyone who does not do it our way as not doing it God’s way.
  4. We confuse house rules and God’s laws, attaching a Bible verse to things that have no correlation to borrow God’s authority abusively.
  5. We create an environment that repels unbelievers as no lost person is excited about spending forever with critical, judgmental, cheerless, punitive religious people.
  6. We create a judgmental environment of social shaming and nitpicking.
  7. We create an environment that encourages religion or rebellion as the good people judge the bad people and the bad people say to heck with all the rules and go wild.

  8. We turn God’s fence into our prison. God is a Father and His loving laws are like planks on a fence to give us a yard to play in safely. Religious people keep hammering up plank after plank of their rules until there is no yard left and we are stuck in a prison with no freedom or fun.
  9. We make Heaven’s Sabbath sound like a Quarantine Hell. Yes, our current quarantine is the secular version of religious legalism. Lots of rules, and rules about the rules, arguing about the rules, defending the rules, enforcing the rules, judging and shaming those who challenge the rules, and making sure that no one has any fun or freedom in the name of caring about people.
Which of these nine things are you most prone to say and do?



Words of Honor​

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Outdo one another in showing honor—Romans 12:10

To honor someone is to build them up, to give them a sense of their worth. Prevailing culture teaches us our worth is weighed by worldly measures. And so, “honoring” becomes hero worship—elevating those good at projecting worldly success and marginalizing those of us with flawed lives, with failures in our past, or who are simply unable or unwilling to devote enough effort to convincing the world of our success. This type of “honoring” is not what God intends. We lead each other astray when we engage in it, because the focus is so wrong.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

To honor someone as God intends is to build them up and give them a sense of their true worth. It’s trying to see them as God sees them. It’s pushing right through the confusion of worldly measures—successes, failures, talents, faults, wealth, poverty, titles, appearances—looking for evidence of what God has done in and through them, and what he’s doing currently. And, finally, most importantly, it’s telling them what we see. Our edifying, encouraging words to one another are gifts from God. He allows us to give them to one another . . . and we must.

Okay, so what do we do?​

Ask God to help you see those around you as he sees them. Look for how he’s working in and through them. And . . . then . . . tell . . . them. Tell them what you see. We men tend to struggle with the telling. We can be married for years, or in community with other men for years, and never simply tell those closest to us what we see in them. So, pick someone this week and tell them what you see. Honor them with a glimpse of his/her true worth.



Discovering The Gifts Of The Spirit​

How can you know which gift(s) of the Spirit you have? There is a way.

Gifts of the Spirit

The Apostle Paul has written a lot about spiritual gifts. To begin with, he says that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1st Cor 12:4-6), and “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1st Cor 12:7). The first point is God is the One Who determines which gift is given to each person, and it is not for their own good but for the church’s sake, or “the common good.” Never are gifts given for the believer’s benefit, although it may help them develop spiritually, but they are intended for the Body of Christ. There are a “variety of activities” and “varieties of service,” but we must remember that it is God “empowers them all in everyone.”

He deserves the glory for these gifts (Psalm 115:1), so both the gifts and the power are from God. We are, at best, an electrical cord…it is no good until it is plugged into something, and we must be connected to God by the Spirit, however, nothing will dampen a gift of the Spirit quicker than living in sin or being prideful. It is not we who are responsible for our gifts, but the Gift Giver. When we begin to elevate our gifts over the Giver of those gifts, then we’ve rendered our gifts useless to God. We might as well worship them! God resists the proud, but grace always flows downward to the humble (James 4:6).

One Spirit

There are other gifts of the Spirit, and it may be that some have more than one gift, but everyone who is born again has at least one gift. Paul says that “to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:8). For another it could be “faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:9), but notice that Paul repeats after each sentence that it is “by the one Spirit,” as if to remind us that it is all from God. I thing I’ve noticed is that when God dispenses His gifts, He has evenly distributed them throughout the Body of Christ.

For example, there are not 15 teachers and no one with the gift of mercy. As Paul concludes, again he reminds the readers (and us) that it is “by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor 12:11). Paul thought this was worth repeating a few times, indicating it’s importance, saying it is as God wills and not man, and it is by One Spirit that He distributes these gifts, not we who do it. There is not even a hint that we can choose these gifts or pray for these gifts, or make God change His mind. God has not given everyone the same gifts (1 Cor 12:3), and He hasn’t made a mistake giving you the gift you have. Some think 1 Corinthians 14:1 says we can pray for spiritual gifts, but that’s not what it says.

It only says, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” The word “earnestly” means sincerely, and the word “desire” simply means we should genuinely desire or have a passion for these spiritual gifts. It does not say we should earnestly pray for these gifts or some other gifts because we’re not happy with the gifts we have. Maybe God is telling us to genuinely desire the gifts you and I have for the Body of Christ…and not to covet other people’s gifts. God knows best which gifts go with each of us…better than we do. Remember, Scripture says that it is at God’s discretion, so He knows which gifts fit best with whom.

Other Gifts

First Corinthians 12 is not the only place where Paul mentions gifts of the spirit. There are other gifts like teaching, exhortation, giving, and mercy (Rom 12:6-8), but these may not be all the gifts there are. I know some people who do things that are not listed under any gift. That’s because God’s Spirit is not limited. He can move in many different ways through many different people by gifting, but it is God’s choice, and it is intended for the building up of the church. Remember that “just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit”
(1 Cor 12:12-13). Other gifts include the gifts of administration (1 Cor 12), Teaching, (Romans12; Ephesians 4), Helps and Service (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12), Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9-10), Leadership (Romans 12), and possibly more than these. Paul wants us to recognize the source of the gifts, but also that it is the Giver Who determines which gift(s) are given to which person. As the Scripture says, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor 12:18).

Discovering Gifts

Having been asked numerous times how someone can know what gift they have, I say just jump into something and you’ll know in your spirit whether it’s right or not. I like asking them, “If you didn’t have to work for a living, what one thing would you most desire to do if you had the time and the means?” This may point to their giftedness. What’s their passion about? What is the “one thing” they would like to change or help make a difference in?

That may be a clue as to what a person has a gift in. There are numerous ways to tell which gift of the Spirit you have, but I know not all teachers make good preachers, and not all preachers make good teachers. If they’re not gifted in that area, they will usually find that out in time…or from others. Time, chance, circumstances…all these things can work together into a “perfect storm,” and somehow, you’ll just know. Like Eric Liddell, the runner in Chariots of Fire, he felt God’s pleasure when he ran. By the way, he also said, “We are all missionaries. Wherever we go we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ.” [1] Amen!


I hope you find your gift, or if you’ve already discovered your gift of the Spirit, I hope you find a place to utilize that gift for the church’s benefit. Perhaps God will bless that church because of the gift you have. When many members come together with various gifts of the Spirit, the whole Body can function better, and that makes the Head’s job much easier…the Head of the Church, being Jesus Christ. Jesus as the Head desires the Body cooperate with Him, and if they would engage their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church, it would do no harm for the Body and it’s functioning as the hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouth, and heart of Christ.

We do this for others (Matt 25:35-36), but make no mistake about it, we are actually doing it unto Him (Matt 25:40). In those few short verses, we can see how the gifts of the Spirit can reach out to a hurting world and show the love of Christ. It is by our love for one another that all people will know who Jesus’ disciples are (John 13:34-35). Jesus disciples do what He says, not just hear His words.

Our precious Lord warns all who would listen (or read), “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). “Doing” is evidence of Lordship. The “many” who cry out, “Lord, Lord,” will be the same many that will forever be turned away. Make you calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10). Get this right. Be certain. Be certain before the day is out (2 Cor 6:2). Tomorrow may be too late (Heb 9:27; Rev 1:7, 20:12-15).



It's Dark Out There​

[ 1 min read ★ ]

The people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light—Matthew 4:16

Picture a world where everyone around you is kind, caring, encouraging, and willing to help when you need help. Everyone. Spouses, family members, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, bosses, political leaders, presidents. They are for you. Picture a world where everyone is quick to try to understand, quick to apologize, and quick to forgive.

Brother, we don’t live in that kind of world. We will. Rest assured, it’s coming. But our world today is quite a bit different.

There’s a darkness upon the earth. Think of the corruption. The atrocities. The hatred. The competition. The selfish cruelty. The callous brutality. All the killing. All the lying. All the godlessness. There is so much of it today that it’s impossible to even take its measure. Things have simply stopped making sense.

Our generation is struggling—mostly alone. And yet, most of us, especially us men, forget or forgo what’s available and intended to help us survive and even thrive in these evil days: authentic Christian community.

Scattered, men are assailable. United with brothers and God, though, we’re protected—ready for anything this world might threaten.

Okay, so what do we do?​

My new book—the third in the life-changing WiRE Series for Men—will absolutely give you everything you need to find new life through the relationships God has waiting for you. It's chock-full of practical wisdom for how to conceive, start, and run worthwhile men's groups.
Preorder your copy of Rescue at Amazon today! I pray you do!



This is a Common Enemy of Your Marriage​

Do you ever fight over silly things?
We had a huge argument was over a can of tuna once.
After a long day at work, I was exhausted. I just wanted to plop down in front of the TV and eat the last of the tuna salad.
But my husband beat me to it. When I walked in the door, he was finishing it off.
Ordinarily not a big deal. But I was tired, so it was a big deal. I didn’t know if I should scream or cry. I think I did a bit of both.
The problem was not the tuna (or lack thereof). The problem was exhaustion.
If you’re like most couples, you argue occasionally.
Our fights range in issue from big things like finances to insignificant things like who ate the last of the tuna.
What causes fights in marriage?

Most disagreements are either started or intensified because of fatigue​

Whether we’re arguing about something substantial or something silly, I’ve noticed a common theme in almost all of our disagreements: Fatigue.
Fatigue is an enemy to your marriage.
Fatigue changes your perspective and can change the way you see your husband in that moment.
You think he’s mad when he’s really tired. You think he’s cool and aloof when he’s really preoccupied with something that happened at work.
Your perspective changes the way you respond to him.
When you’re tired, you’re less likely to be patient and more likely to be annoyed.
You’re less likely to be caring and more likely to be controlling.
You’re less likely to be doting and more likely to be disrespectful.
When you’re tired, you’ll say and do stuff you wouldn’t normally say and do. And the one you love can seem like your enemy.
Most of our disagreements are either started or intensified because of fatigue.
Things that normally wouldn’t bother you become extremely irritating when you’re tired.
Extreme fatigue impairs your cognitive ability and can cause you to respond worse than someone who’s blood-alcohol level is over the legal limit.
Sleep deprivation is a huge factor in fatigue. It impairs your ability to accurately read human,( i.e. your husband) emotions.
A study published in SLEEP found that sleep deprivation makes it harder to read the facial expressions of others, specifically to determine whether they’re happy or sad.

Fatigue impairs your ability to interpret emotions​

Misinterpretation of emotions? A major fight starter.
When you’re tired, your inhibitions are lower but your temper is higher.
If you or your husband has had a long day, it’s probably not a good time to discuss important issues. It’s probably a good time to extend extra grace.
Unfortunately, tired is a way of life for most of us. In addition to clouding your mind and causing harm to your marriage, fatigue can also wreak havoc on your health.
When I’m tired, I’m not kind or excellent or patient or loving. And I’m more likely to be disagreeable and less loving and patient.
So if fatigue begins to plague your marriage, take a step back and get some rest. You may gain a whole new perspective after a nap.



4 Essential Ways to Love Your Spouse​


It is relatively easy to be attracted to someone. It is something else to love them. There are times when I look at my wife and the affection is so strong, I feel I might burst. There are also times I am so frustrated with her I’ve got to get into another room. But throughout it all, there is a deep and perplexing desire to love her, to make it clear what I really feel, think, and believe about her.

We’ve created holidays and big romantic moments as opportunities to express our love. And it works. But it isn’t really enough. Well-meaning and well-intentioned marriages often find themselves on the rocks because it is hard to express love in the day-today. It is hard to love. It takes effort.

Here are a few ways you can express love to your spouse any and every day.


Nothing means more to a person than truly listening to what they have to say. Everyone is in a hurry to be heard. We are in a rush to say what we want to say and don’t feel as though we have much time for anything else.

When we listen to someone, here is what we are saying: your thoughts, ideas, stories, etc. matter to me more than whatever I had planned to be doing right now. I value your thoughts so much, I will put down my own plans, my own thoughts, and learn from what you have to say.
This doesn’t mean you have to like everything they say or that you shouldn’t set up boundaries (I can’t talk about deep things right before my wife goes to bed, she just can’t listen well and asks me if we can talk in the morning).

I don’t have to tell you your spouse is incredible. They have a lot to say. They see the world unlike anyone else on the planet. They care uniquely. You can learn a lot from them. Don’t listen just to pretend to love them. You married them for a reason, you must see some value in them – stop cutting it off when it tries to express itself because you are too focused on your own agenda.


Anniversaries and birthdays and holidays are great. But the kinds of celebrations that really express love are the ones that connect with your spouse’s values and vision. Call out the greatness you see in them. A kind word. A brilliant idea. Their sense of humor.
Sometimes we think our spouse knows exactly how, when, and why they are so great. It is so clear to us! But a) they don’t always know and b) even if they do, they need to know you see it too.


One of the things they don’t tell you about marriage is that it is mostly full of the mundane. Sex takes up a very small percentage of time you spend together. So do vacations and holidays.

A surprise is a positive interruption in the day. It intercepts our preconceived notions and elevates them. Create moments of surprise for your spouse. Take them on a date, break out into dance moves or random song, or initiate a game while you’re walking down the street.

The essence of surprise is not to interrupt life to save you from the mundane. It is to elevate the value of the mundane so you can discover the truth – everyday life is the best thing about marriage.

Be You

This might sound like narcissism, but the truth is one of the best things you can do to love your spouse is to be yourself. The best version of yourself. Be honest. Be kind. Be courageous. Speak the truth. Share your emotions. You are in a partnership with your spouse and we often think of caring for our significant other as if they are a distant and alien other. They are your partner! You are a part of the puzzle.

The reason we do this is we either want to cast ourselves as the hero – always loving well – or the victim – always needing to be loved well. The truth is we are always both… and neither. Marriage is about unity and your partner has chosen you. Allowing them to love you – to hear you, surprise you, celebrate you, etc. – is the other half of your relationship. It is like one of those nuclear weapons in a superhero movie that takes two simultaneously turned keys to activate.
We put ‘be You’ last for a reason. This isn’t about you taking over the relationship and being the star. But be you with humility. It is exactly half of what matters in the relationship. One of the most inspiring things you can do is be the person they love. Address your own character. Loving one another is a partnership, not a shield to avoid addressing what is going on in our own hearts.



Anyone who has a chronic illness and Christian friends is likely to have heard the words “keep strong!” They are normally well meaning words. And in one sense there is nothing wrong with them. And yet they annoy me a bit each time they are said to me.

Sometimes other people will say something like “Oh you are strong, I admire you. I don’t know how you cope”. I often wish I could take them back to points in the still quite recent past when I was crying into my pillow at night. I wonder if they’d still think I was strong after seeing me there.

In the first example I shared your friend is encouraging you to stay strong. In the second they are praising you for being strong.
And yet most of us with a chronic illness don’t feel strong at all. We feel weak. Increasingly weak. In some cases finding it hard to get out of bed weak. Someone said you don’t know what fatigue is until you have had to take a rest after taking a shower.

This weakness takes many forms. We may feel physically weak in our muscles and stamina. This is a major part of fatigue that strange symptom so common to many with all kinds of chronic illness, yet so hard to explain to those who’ve never had it. It’s not just the same as being tired. Weakness is a major aspect to it.
It’s usually not just physical weekness, it’s mental weakness too. Our brains may find it hard to concentrate. Or in some cases too much stimulation quite literally does our heads in. For some people this results in dreadful headaches which are part of this weakness and fatigue. The brain can feel incredibly weak and vulnerable and as a result mental tasks become impossible to perform adequately.

Emotionally we can feel weak too. The effort of even a normal conversation can bring us close to tears. Dealing with the normal emotional ups and downs of a day may feel overwhelming to some of us as we just feel we need a break.
Spiritually we can even feel weak too. It can be hard to feel close to God when you may struggle to concentrate enough to read the Bible and pray. All kinds of questions about your faith may challenge your relationship with God.

And so if you are feeling so weak in so many ways being told to be strong can be just crushing. Indeed the words I quoted earlier could actually be seen as a bit insensitive to the loss and pain many with chronic illness may well be feeling

And yet.​

God’s word tells us that in Jesus we can be strong even when we are actually weak.​

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11, New International Version)
There is a way to tap into the Holy Spirit and find a genuine strength inside that can become like a rod of steel in your spiritual backbone.
I have several friends with chronic illnesses, and in some cases severe pain, who are like that. They inspire me greatly.
These friends are weak in many or all of the ways I mentioned. And yet they have an inner strength about them that is quite remarkable. They have a determination and resolve which gets them through their various chronic conditions which are incredibly difficult to cope with. They come across as remarkably strong even though their weakness is also undeniable.

Most of them have learnt to plan their activities around the times they feel stronger than others physically. They have built a life for themselves, which can be very hard if your old life of going out to work and routine has come tumbling down. My friends with chronic illnesses often learn really well the secret of how to be content in all circumstances; no matter how much they have lost compared to the lives they had before.

My friends with chronic illness would often describe themselves as weak. And yet on the inside most are much stronger than many healthy people I’ve met.​

If you ask my Christian friends with such conditions how they are able to be strong whilst still experiencing and acknowledging weakness, they will often simply say that their challenges have drawn them closer to Jesus, that his presence is precious to them, and that far from giving way to feeling sorry for themselves they are full of genuine gratitude to God for all his kindness. Of course the sense of loss does still grab each of them from time to time.

It is in knowing God more intimately that my friends have found that, by being close to him, when you are weak you can become strong in him.
If you are feeling weak today please don’t try and pretend you are strong. Acknowledge that weakness but turn to the one who promised to give us strength even in the middle of our weakness.

I’m going to close this article with an explanation from Spurgeon of the different ways that knowing God gives us strength. As we pray our physical health may not change. Our emotional and mental fragility might remain. We may well remain weak. And yet God strengthens us. Maybe this process is happening with you already. And perhaps if your friend says you seem so strong, it may be this process they are noticing.

Even if you do not have a chronic illness, and do not feel particularly weak, the words of this devotion are still relevant to you. By learning how to build ourselves up in God, snd find strength in him we learn to put deep roots down that give us strength when the storm comes.
Spurgeon was at his finest when he penned the words of this devotion:

Morning and Evening
Morning, August 4
The people that do know their God shall be strong. – Dan 11:32
Every believer understands, that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge; and this spiritual knowledge is a source of strength to the Christian.
Knowledge strengthens his FAITH. Believers are constantly spoken of in the Scriptures, as being people who are enlightened and taught of the Lord. They are said to “have an anointing from the Holy One,” and it is the Spirit’s peculiar office to lead them into all truth, and all this for the increase and the fostering of their faith.
Knowledge strengthens LOVE, as well as faith. Knowledge opens the door and then through that door we see our Savior! Or, to use another similitude, knowledge paints the portrait of Jesus, and when we see that portrait—then we love Him. We cannot love a Christ whom we do not know, at least, in some degree. If we know but little of the excellences of Jesus—what He has done for us, and what He is doing now—we cannot love Him much. The more we know Him—the more we shall love Him!
Knowledge also strengthens HOPE. How can we hope for a thing—if we do not know of its existence? Hope may be the telescope but until we receive instruction, our ignorance stands in the front of the glass, and we can see nothing whatever; knowledge removes the interposing object, and when we look through the telescope—we discern the glory to be revealed, and anticipate it with joyous confidence.
Knowledge supplies us reasons for PATIENCE. How shall we have patience—unless we know something of the sympathy of Christ, and understand the good which is to come out of the correction which our heavenly Father sends us?
There is not one single grace of the Christian which, under God, will not be fostered and brought to perfection by holy knowledge. How important, then, is it that we should grow not only in grace but in the “knowledge” of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!



8 Things Got Daniel Through His Crisis and Will Get You Through This Crisis​

Daniel 10:10-19 – And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved…Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words…” [Daniel replied] “…now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.” Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened…

A few months back, I began teaching verse-by-verse through the amazing Old Testament book of Daniel. In God’s perfect timing, the recent crisis that has the globe feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and uncertain is precisely what Daniel experienced. In his example we learn the following eight things that got Daniel through his crisis and will get you through this crisis:
  1. Ministry of presence from God. God sent an angel to be present with Daniel as he was alone and sends the Holy Spirit to do the same for you. Even when alone, Christians are not isolated because God’s presence is with us.
  2. Being reminded he was “greatly loved” and his suffering was not personal. When our lives are hit with pain and trial, we can think it is personal. As Daniel experienced, his personal pain was not a personal penalty from God.
  3. A humble heart that prays is heard and responded to by God.
  4. A reminder to fear not. The most common command in the Bible is, in some form or fashion “fear not”.
  5. A strengthening touch from God brings peace and courage. Daniel saw a vision of what was coming to the world that he could not change or control. This left him restless and anxious. God did not change his external circumstances but touched him, which changed his internal circumstances. The same is true for you.
  6. A reminder of the reality of spiritual warfare in the world. Behind all the bad news Daniel received and we’ve been receiving is ultimately a lengthy battle between God and Satan that shows up in human death and destruction on the earth.
  7. A focus on the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and battle to get home. The entire storyline of Daniel was the fight for God’s people to worship God in the house of God until they could go to their eternal Home. Every day, our fight is to do the same – worship God until we see God.
  8. A reminder that God knows and rules all of human history. The prophecies fulfilled throughout Daniel are staggering as the same God who knows history also rules history and has it all under control, even when things seem to us to be out of control.
Which of these eight is most helpful to you right now?



God’s “Yes” and Long Flights​

Some of my most revealing discussions happen on airplanes, during long flights. They usually begin when the person imprisoned in the seat beside me asks what I do for a living. When I reply that I work for a Christian worldview ministry, I can see the wheels turning. Occasionally, they’ll reply, “Awesome! I’m a Christian, too, and this is where I go to church.” But more often, I hear defensiveness, reservation, or an implied challenge.

“I believe in a higher power,” some will say. “But I’m not dogmatic about which church or religion is true.” I also hear the ever-present complaint that churches are full of hypocrites and legalists.
There’s one question, though, that seems to bob to the surface more regularly than any other: “So,” my fellow passengers will say, “you’re a Christian. Does that mean you are against…?” and the blank is usually filled with abortion, gay relationships, or some gender identity of recent vintage. On my most recent flight, I was asked why I oppose sex between consenting adults outside of marriage.

This leaves me in a difficult spot. I can launch into an argument for why I reject certain popular claims about bodily autonomy, the harm principle, or the conflation of subjective feelings with identity. I can start critiquing expressive individualism, and challenge my neighbor’s belief that what doesn’t hurt others is none of my business. And I have done these things. But I’ve noticed lately that all of these reactions begin by accepting my fellow passenger’s free association of Christianity with the word “no.”

In America in the 2020s, biblical and orthodox faith suffers from an image problem. Most of those outside the fold seem to view Christianity primarily as a negation of freedoms, rights, and self-expression. Quite naturally on finding that one of these dour, censorious Christian creatures has embarked in the seat beside them, they expect me to justify myself.
Of course, there is a proper place for the word “no.” As every parent understands, “no” can save a life. That’s why it’s short and easy to shout. The oncoming SUV isn’t going to wait for me to explain Newtonian physics to my six-year-old. And society rightly says “no” to the driver of that same vehicle when he decides to get behind the wheel drunk.

If love and authority mean anything, they must mean forbidding or at least discouraging actions that harm or endanger others. And as the drunk driver shows, that can even mean forbidding adults from doing whatever they want with their own bodies. Even the Ten Commandments, especially the second tablet, are largely proscriptive. There’s nothing wrong with “no.” It closes off roads that lead to deception, death, and damnation.
But in allowing Christianity to become a religion associated primarily or even solely with what it forbids, I fear we have made it far too easy for those outside the faith, and even those within, to forget the life-giving “yes” all those “nos” exist to protect.

Those who ask me at takeoff why I’m against abortion or gay love or unfettered passion aren’t asking for a moral or philosophical treatise. They’re asking why I don’t want some people to live their fullest and freest lives. They want to know why the sixteen-year-old with college ambitions should have to throw them away for the sake a blastocyst—why people who experience attractions different from mine should have to live their lives without love—why those who feel the warm prompting of instinct when they look into a stranger’s eyes should have to squash it for the sake of their grandmother’s morals.
They want to know where my God gets off forbidding us from enjoying humanity in all its earthy ecstasy and potential.

The suspicion is obvious (and not just among unbelievers) that something about the Christian faith is sick and repressive. This religion, after all, seems to demand that we renounce our own highest good and joy, that we give up on this creation and all the pleasures it seems to offer. Why? So we can sacrifice our hopes and happiness for some ghostly hereafter. The idea that Christians are really a people who hate our own and everyone else’s humanity is devilishly easy to catch. “You can have all this world, just give me Jesus” is a tough sell when Jesus seems like a story and this world lights up our every sense.

This is where Christianity’s “yes” has the power to rock a person’s worldview, and why we must preach the whole Christian story, not just its “no” to sin.
Thomas Aquinas said it best when he defined love as “willing the good of another.” But this presupposes that the good of another is a matter of objective reality, not merely what we choose or desire at any given moment. We could be mistaken about that good—even laughably mistaken. As Lewis comically proposes in “The Weight of Glory,” our idea of human flourishing may be, compared with the objective reality of human flourishing, as m&d pies in the slums to a holiday on the seashore.

But Aquinas’ dictum also presupposes a story that begins before the fall, before the world and human nature were ruined. It envisions a loving God intent on sharing inexhaustible delight with His creatures, who endowed them with near-divine capacities and placed them in a paradise so rich Moses struggled to describe it. And it teaches that even after our first parents chose to kiss the dust, God’s determination to give human beings true joy was so strong, it buried the death and misery we chose and planted a new garden on top of them.

During my discussion with Seraphim Hamilton this week on Upstream, he did a stunning job of articulating God’s plan to glorify creation in and through the perfecting of humanity. But it gets even better. Christianity’s “yes” isn’t just a yes to an objective but general human nature, but to each of our individual natures and personalities in their truest, best, and fullest form. Lily Cherney puts it this way in one of my favorite essays at The Calvinist International:

“…when we exercise self-control and make decisions every day about how to enact our lives, are we shaping ourselves arbitrarily, recreating ourselves according to low ambition or will—or are we rather attempting to become more truly and skillfully who we already are, to discover rather than capriciously invent what it means to be a human, a woman, this woman in particular? Again, the traditional answer is the latter. And this is very good news. What it means is that who we are—who we really are—is on God’s agenda. No part of you will go unfulfilled, unexpressed, and in the end, unglorified, if you give yourself to the pursuit of God’s kingdom. It is only and always the Enemy who wants to make each of us less than we are.”

Yes, Christianity tells us to take up our crosses and deny ourselves. It forbids us from pursuing certain pleasures and from setting up certain visions of selfhood as golden idols. It tells us “no” and teaches us to use the word quite frequently, ourselves. But that is only in the service of a greater “yes.” It is only because our desires, as Lewis says, are not too strong for God. They are too weak. And the story of our salvation is in part the story of learning not to settle for less than real and perfect human joy. We deny what we mistake for our humanity so that in the end, God can give us back our full humanity—our real selves—the people He intended and always knew we could be.

All of this takes a little longer to explain than most people who talk with me on long flights expect. Which is why I never start the conversation. But when they ask, I never say no.



Want More Persevere(ability)?​

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour—1 Peter 5:8

The ability to persevere—to remain strong and steadfast in the face of difficulties and delays and distractions—is a fundamental skill, necessary for any man choosing to devote himself to our King, Jesus Christ. He showed us how in the wilderness and against the temptations that followed (Matthew 4:1-11). Like him, we too must bear up against the pressures of the world, and not only for a while, but until the very end of our days. Though any one trial or temptation may be short lived, there’s always something out there capable of our destruction.

Preparedness is paramount. You see, when we’re unprepared and trouble comes (at work, in our relationships, our finances, our health) it takes us down: into anxiety, anger, bitterness, despondency, depression, isolation. When we’re unprepared and temptations come (material, carnal, moral) they too take us down: away from God and into sin. Compounding our lack of preparedness, the enemy is always quick with interference and misinformation.

“You won’t make it.”

“This’ll be long and difficult . . . too long, too difficult for you.”

“You’re alone, forgotten.”

“You won’t have strength enough to persevere.”

“You should just give-up/give-in now, and avoid the grief of waiting, just to give later.”

Okay, so what do we do?​

Perseverance isn’t innate; it’s learned. All of us can do it if we train. So, brother, manufacture some pressure and train yourself. Push your limits, physically, mentally, spiritually: climb a tough summit; tackle a hike of many miles; fast for a period of days; turn devices off and embrace quiet and solitude and prayer for an uncomfortable period. Remember, God designed you for perseverance. So, by training, you’ll simply learn what you’re made of (plus you’ll expose the lies of the enemy). It doesn’t take much to learn a whole lot about yourself.