Men, Godly Women (Rightly) Expect This From You

Part One Of Two

man hiking photo

Guys, when godly women think about godly men they might date, what do you think turns them off more than anything else?

That’s the question I (essentially) asked them in a recent survey I conducted.  I asked women to respond honestly – not how they think they ‘should’ respond, but how they probably would.  In addition, I personally emailed about ten women I respect for more input.  

Two responses received far more attention than any other.  Any guesses as to what topped the list?

(For a related post, check out ‘Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?‘)

Continue Reading »

5 Signs You’ve Lost Sight Of Jesus

cross photo

Photo by roland

It’s so easy to lose our focus on Jesus in the middle of a busy day.  (And the beginning and end, too.) Learning to recognize the warning signs can help us get back on track.  Here are 5 from Jesus’s interaction with Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42.

Continue Reading »

Don’t Waste Your Jury Duty

gavel photo

Photo by martinbowling

‘Juror #6, Emily Johnson.  Yes. Juror #5, Michael Smith…’  Phew.  After three hours in our local courthouse, I was just thirty seconds – and four jurors – from being home free.

In 26 years of eligibility, I had never actually been tapped to serve.  With just four jurors left, it looked like my good fortune was about to continue.

‘Juror #4, Bryan Stoudt…’  Shoot.  Seriously?!  Let’s just say I’m not going to base any devotionals off of my initial reaction.

Moments later, the other potential jurors scattered like birds, exiting the courtroom with ‘I just won the lottery’ looks on their faces.  Not me.  I was now simply ‘Juror #4’, and the judge informed us that our trial was going to consume the next three days of our lives.

Jury Duty – The ‘Privilege’ No One Wants

Ah, jury duty.  The privilege none of us want.  It threatens to take us away from our ‘normal lives’, replacing them with mind-numbing monotony that only a professional ceiling-tile counter could love.  But sooner or later, most of us are going to wind up serving whether we like it or not.

Most of you – like me – probably fall into that ‘not’ category.  But I know you guys well enough to know that, even though something like jury duty can be frustrating, you want to honor God in it.  You want to ‘do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’.  (Colossians 3:17)

Here are seven lessons I learned, shared in the hope that they may help you not waste your own jury duty the next time your name is called.

7 Ways To Not Waste Your Jury Duty

Evil is real, and a real waste of time, money and other resources.

Without question, our judicial system is absolutely necessary in our broken, fallen world.  God calls us to ‘give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ (Psalm 82:3-4)

Sadly, the case I heard was essentially a money grab on the part of the plaintiff.  Yet over 15 people spent countless hours listening to a case with little to no merit.  While we all know that evil is real in theory, it hits home with more force when it touches us a personal level.

The benefits of citizenship come with actual obligations – and power.

Since the time of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, we’ve said that our government is ‘by the people, for the people’.  Jury duty is one tangible way we play a real part in shaping our nation as we ‘open [our] mouth[s], judge righteously,’ and ‘defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ (Proverbs 31:9.)  It’s an amazing thing that a group of normal people can come together and decide the earthly fate of our fellow citizens.  The small sacrifice jury duty required exposed my entitlement mentality and absence of wonder for the privilege of serving.  If we reflect, I suspect that attitude is present in other areas of our lives, too.

We’re not in control of our lives.

We like to think we’re in charge, but jury duty reminds us that we’re really not.  The only choices are report for duty, or, be held in contempt of court.  Once our trial began, we continued facing reminders that we were not the ones in charge.  In reality, though, we’re never in charge, as James reminds us.  ‘You do not know what tomorrow will bring… Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” ‘ (James 4:14-15)

God is sovereignly in charge, even when we don’t like how things are going.

It’s easy to say, ‘God is in control’… until things don’t go the way we want them to.  Like having someone else tell you how you’re going to spend the next three days of your life.  Without warning.  This is when we figure out our functional theology – what we really believe.  Jury duty reminded me that I still often question God’s sovereignty in my daily life.  But God says that he ‘is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.’  (Psalm 115:3)  When God puts us in boring, undesirable situations, he’s giving us another opportunity to trust him.

The opportunity to shine for Christ.

Pretty early on in our tour of duty, God reminded me that he had placed me there on purpose.  To serve him, and to shine for him, however dimly (Matthew 5:14-16).  As we shared about our work, my ministry to healthcare students and professionals gave me a chance to identify with Christ.  Without being pushy, my prayer became, ‘God, please change people’s ideas about who Christians are through me, and help us make the right decision.’

As the trial wore on, we were all seriously tempted to complain.  I tried to be honest about my own struggles with the inconvenience, yet serve ‘without grumbling’ (Philippians 2:14) as a small picture of the difference Christ can make.

Renewed gratitude for our justice system and my everyday work.

I know that there is still a ton of injustice in our country. And that my status as a white male makes it easier to be thankful for our justice system, which at times is failing others deeply. That said, we’re faring much better than many other countries where corruption is much more prevalent.  It’s only because of God’s amazing, common grace that things work as well as they do. (Matthew 5:45)

And although I have days where I’m not (nearly) as grateful for my ‘normal life’ as I ought to be, jury duty made me realize just how thankful I should be.  Most days I love my work.  Although many of you may (understandably) wonder about your own labor at times, I’m going to guess it beats the tedium of jury duty.

True, complete justice will be done when Christ returns.

I’m not sure whether justice was served in our trial because I was excused a day early.  (We had a big ministry event to prepare for, and the judge had mercy on me!)  But when Christ returns, everything will finally be made right, without exception.  God ‘has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.’  (Acts 17:31)  We do our best while we serve on earthly juries, but we rest in knowing that One Day a far better Judge will conduct a far better trial.  Though we all deserve to be declared guilty, how amazing to be declared not only innocent – but righteous – on the basis of what Jesus did in our place.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jury Duty: A Hidden Opportunity

In conclusion, at some point most of us are going to serve on jury duty.  While it’s tempting to just slog through it, remembering that God has placed us there gives us great opportunities to serve, and fresh insights both on our present life and the greater Life to come.

Questions for reflection:

  1. Have you ever served on jury duty?  If yes, how did you do in terms of serving in a Christ-honoring way?
  2. As you think about the next (or first) time you serve, what truths would most help you love God and represent him well to others?


Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?

dating photo

It was the weirdest dating advice I had ever received.

One of my friends was telling me about a recently-married, mutual acquaintance who had just two criteria.  I figured simple = good, especially coming from this acquaintance, someone in ministry I respected.

‘He wanted a godly woman, obviously’ my friend said, ‘and she had to look good in a little black dress.’

As a single guy in my early twenties, I found his comment confusing.  On the one hand, putting so much emphasis on appearance seemed really worldly.  But our mutual acquaintance was a pastor I looked up to, and we’re supposed to be attracted to someone we’re dating… right?

Twenty years later, it’s easy to see that our acquaintance’s comment was seriously misguided.  But it illustrates the confusion Christian guys are facing in how to evaluate the relative value of physical appearance when dating.

While we cannot – for any reason – approve of objectifying women, the culture around us makes that challenging.  (For men and women.)  Movies, television, and the internet are giving us the message that image is everything.  Although most churches and Christian circles acknowledge that message is wrong, sometimes in practice they don’t give much guidance.

The Tension Between Character And Appearance

So if you’re a single, Christian guy, I can totally see why you’re wrestling with this tension.  You want to honor God and the women you date.  You don’t want to objectify them, and you understand that her character matters more than her dress size.

But you also want to have real desire toward the woman you may marry.  After all, God created beauty.

And yet, you sense that physical appearance can be too important to you at times.  Maybe you struggle with lust or pornography, and sense that your heart has the potential to lead you astray.  (Good call; it does.)

To make things even more complicated, you have some female friends who are seriously godly, but you’re not attracted to them.  And you have other female friends who are not so godly, yet – if you’re honest – are pretty physically attractive.  You feel kind of guilty on both counts.

So what do you do with all this?  To sharpen the point of the pencil, let’s ask two more specific questions:

  1. What roles do godly character and physical beauty play in pursuing a potential spouse?
  2. Should you date someone you’re not physically attracted to?

Let’s look at these briefly, in turn.

God’s Good Design

It’s hard to deny that men are visual creatures.  For example, research shows that for men, vision is the dominant perceptual sense, while in women the different senses are much more balanced.  When women lie in their online dating profiles, it’s most often by posting pictures of themselves when they were younger – and thinner.  In other words, women know what guys want.

But Scripture makes it plain that physical beauty is part of God’s good design.  For example, when we meet Rebekah, she’s described as a ‘young woman… very attractive in appearance’. (Genesis 24:16) And again and again, the Song of Solomon celebrates physical attraction, often in terms that make us blush.

When my wife and I do premarital counseling, we’ll often ask couples what first drew them to each other. The guy will always mention her godly character, but eventually admit that ‘she was cute’.  (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman mention that.)  Usually, guys feel sheepish when they say that, but they shouldn’t.  Guys, God made you that way.

Warning Label

At the same time, guys, we know that physical beauty should have a warning label.

The same bible that praises physical beauty also contains tragic stories of its misuse.  Samson and Delilah (Judges 16), David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), Solomon and his thousand-women-harem that ‘turned away his heart after other gods’ (1 Kings 11:3-4).

Proverbs states the danger with classic simplicity:

‘Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.’ (31:30)

Beauty is vain in the sense that it will fade.  As Pastor Matt Chandler puts it,

Gravity always wins. We are all wrinkling. Our nose and ears never quit growing. It is only a matter of time till that little component that we are basing so much on starts to vanish and must be replaced by attraction founded on character and covenant.

It’s also vain in that physical beauty has no value without a foundation of godly character.  In what has to be one of the best bible verses ever, Proverbs 11:22 tells us that:

A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.

Marrying a gorgeous woman without godly character doesn’t make any sense.

Younger guys ‘know’ this… in theory.  In practice, with our culture’s obsession with appearance and our own fallenness, keeping physical appearance in its place is easier said than done.

Let’s go back to Proverbs 31:30 – the whole verse this time – for the proper relationship between character and physical beauty when we’re evaluating a potential spouse.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

There’s no contest.  If beauty and character were to fight, character wins every time.  At least in the long run.

I Know, But Should I Date Someone I’m Not Attracted To?

Great question.  Lots of guys ask me if they should date a woman they’re not physically attracted to. They usually have someone specific in mind, a friend with godly character.  They have a real chemistry, but ‘I just don’t find her attractive, and don’t want to lead her on.  What should I do?’

My short answer is ‘no, you shouldn’t start dating her.’

No woman wants to feel like a consolation prize, someone you ‘should be’ attracted to, but aren’t.  If you pursue the relationship, she will get hurt and you will feel guilty.  Your hearts will get entangled, and disaster is likely to occur.

At the same time, I’m not just giving you an easy out.  Here are two suggestions for what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Pursue personal purity

If you’re not physically attracted to a godly woman, I don’t want you to feel guilty.  At least not automatically.  Different guys will be attracted to different women, and that can be from the Lord.

At the same time, we are broken and fallen, and we should be suspicious of ourselves.  Is it possible that you’re not attracted to her because you’re taking your cues from the culture’s standard of airbrushed beauty?

If you’re using pornography or giving into fantasy, now is the time to stop.  Repent when you fail, and receive the forgiveness and new power to obey that God loves to give (1 John 1:9).  Confess honestly to a friend, and ask him to help you in your fight (James 5:16).

If we resist pornography and an impure thought life, if we ‘flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’ (2 Timothy 2:22), we’ll be better able to keep physical beauty and character in their proper balance.  So that we’ll be attracted to the right kind of woman.

Pursue regular friendships with godly women, and hope for more

Again, if you’re not physically attracted to a woman, don’t lead her on.  Don’t spend (much) time with her alone, where she might get the idea you’re singling her out or have interest.

But that’s not necessarily the end of the story.  Chandler gives some more great advice:

Godliness is sexy to godly people. And so, if you get in proximity, and you see the godliness and character of a woman, you begin to take compatibility and godliness and gospel partnership more seriously than just physical attraction…

So, pursue [godly women you’re not physically attracted to] as friends and hope that it grows into more. Want it to grow into more. And I am confident that, over time, character and godliness will win the day.

I can’t promise you that you’ll develop physical attraction for a particular woman, but there’s a good chance you might.  And if you do, you’ll have confidence that it’s a relationship that’s grounded on what really matters and endures: godly character.

For reflection:

  1. What relative importance do you place upon godly character and physical attractiveness when you think about women?  Be honest with yourself.
  2. Are you spending significant alone time with women you’re not attracted to?  Do you need to step back, or change how you’re doing things?
  3. Who are some women you could get to know in group settings, prayerfully hoping God will take one of them in the direction of marriage?

For a great perspective from the woman’s side, check out ‘Should I Date A Guy I Don’t Find Attractive?‘ by Phylicia Masonheimer.

On Labor Day, Rest From Work, Rest In Christ

Restful beach scene, Labor Day weekend.

Quicker post today, on Labor Day.

Most of us are taking the day off from our jobs and enjoying time with family and friends.  (Thanks to those of you who are working, so we can rest.)

Labor Day isn’t exactly a major holiday, but it’s a good chance not only to relax, but to reflect on the deeper rest God invites us into through Christ.

On the most obvious level, Labor Day celebrates the contributions normal workers make to the wellbeing of our country.  And acknowledges that we all need a little rest and time off.  The country will go on just fine even when things shut down for a day.

God’s Invitation To Rest

The bible has a lot to say about our need for rest.  The Old Testament commanded regular rhythms of rest, including a weekly day off (Sabbath; see Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) and seven significant feasts (see Leviticus 23).  This was one way God helped his people avoid exhaustion and burnout.

But physical rest points to our need for a much deeper rest.  A rest from trying to find our meaning and value from constant achievement and accomplishment.  From the unrest that comes with trying to keep every little corner of our lives under order and control.  (Honestly, I’m trying not to make today about getting to all the stuff I feel like I have to, all the ‘shoulds’ in my head.)

Hebrews 4 shows us how we can find a rest that’s way more important than a day off from work.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  

It’s a complicated passage, but the writer is saying Christians have already entered ‘God’s rest’.  So, we don’t need to exhaust ourselves, trying to earn that on our own (‘has also rested from his works’). Instead, we can relax, ‘as God did’ on the seventh day.

Most importantly, all this is possible because of Jesus’ work for us.  The writer goes on to say that Jesus was ‘tempted as we are, yet without sin’, so we can ‘with confidence draw near to the throne of grace’, to God.  (Hebrew 4:15,16).  Even our worst sins and failures can’t keep us from God.  Because of what Jesus did, he loves being close to us now, and he’ll bring that to completion when Jesus returns.

Rest In Your Life, Even When Life Isn’t Restful

That can give us a deep peace and rest even when life remains crazy.  When our job is stressful.  When we’re feeling insecure.  When we’re raising young kids who constantly need our attention.  When our marriage is challenging.  And when our health isn’t what it used to be.

So, I hope you’re slowing down today to rest.  Taking a nap, hanging out with friends, whatever you like to do.  But even better, I hope you’ll take a few moments to pause on the deeper rest, calm and peace that Jesus has won for you through his life and death.  Because it doesn’t depend on you, that’s a rest you can’t mess up.

For reflection:

  1. Where are you experiencing a lack of peace and rest in your life right now?
  2. How would that begin to change as you reflect on Jesus’ work for you?

Netflix Is Calling: 7 Questions To Ask Before Your Next Binge

watch tv photo

Photo by KlipschFan

We’ve all done it.  ‘I’ll just take a break and watch an episode of [insert favorite show] and then get back to [whatever you should be doing]…’

Five episodes later, after another binge-watching marathon, you find yourself dazed, frustrated and wondering why the sun is up.

While TV can be a good thing, most Christians understand we need to keep Netflix (and other entertainment) in its proper place.  And yet, we find that really hard to do.

Continue Reading »

The Power Of Confessing Current Sin To Each Other

If We Want To Make More Progress, We Need To Get More Honest

group confessing sins in prayer

Photo Credit: Jordan Taylor Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

It was one of those ordinary, big moments.

Ordinary because we were just sharing prayer requests as our small group time came to an end.  But big because someone in our group let us in on what was really going on in his life.

Even though he knows what he ought to be doing, he admitted that, most of the time, he wasn’t succeeding.  After confessing his struggles, he asked us to keep him in prayer.

Lord, Forgive Me For How I Used To Sin

You may be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal?’  Of course Christians share their sins and struggles with each other.  And ask for prayer.

Do we really, though?

My wife and I were talking about this, and she pointed out that I’m good at sharing past failures, but not current ones.

‘Okay, maybe,’ I responded, proving her point.

She went on, ‘You know, you’re kind of uncomfortable with failure in general.  Especially if it’s ongoing.  I think you want to avoid it all costs.’

When the conversation finally ended, I did a happy dance.  Because I knew she was right.  I am open to sharing my failures, but mainly when they’re in the past.  And only after I’ve begun to conquer them.

When was the last time you shared a current, ongoing failure with someone around you?

Paul’s Powerful Example

The bible makes it clear that confessing our ongoing, real-time sins to each other is really important.

Listen to Paul’s brutally honest confession in Romans 7:  

I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… 24 Wretched man that I am! 

Even though he doesn’t get into the sordid details, did you notice how he’s sharing about his current, repeated failures with sin?

That’s what I – and perhaps you – am so uncomfortable with.

And yet, this is exactly what God calls us to, for our good.  James is even more clear: ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’ (James 5:16)

Why We Avoid Confessing Our Sins

So if God calls us to public confession for our good, why don’t we do it more often?

There are probably several layers of complexity, but let’s just say the primary answer doesn’t require a degree in forensics.

As broken, fallen sinners, we know we’re not who we’re supposed to be. We don’t want others to see that.  Sure, others might know I’m not perfect in theory, but I’d rather keep up the illusion as much as possible.

On some level, all Christians recognize that we fail, and that it would be ridiculous to claim that we didn’t.  So we’ll admit sin in general, but try to quarantine it to the past as something we’re at least gaining ground on.  But if Paul himself could say ‘the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing’, then chances are we’re not much better.  

In the final analysis, we don’t really believe that our value and identity are in Christ.  That God ‘saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)  Because we’re not confident that God has covered us, like Adam and Eve we make lesser coverings for ourselves.

4 Benefits To Confessing Our Sins To Each Other

But some amazing things happen when we trust Jesus and get honest with each other, like my friend did at small group did.

  • We don’t have to hide anymore.  We have to be wise about what we reveal to whom, but Christian community is a great place to start letting others in.  When we’re honest about our failures, the pressure to constantly curate ourselves evaporates.
  • We’re truly known.  There’s a reason there are (at least) 59 ‘one another’ passages in the New Testament.  Being understood by another person is one of the most precious gifts we can experience.
  • The power of sin is broken.  When we drag our sins into the light of day, they begin to lose their power.  ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:11) Paul is talking about the world around us, but the principle also applies to exposing our own darkness to each other so that its power is weakened.
  • We receive the healing power of prayer.  When we share our junk with others, they can start praying for us.  And as we saw in James 5:16, others’ prayers lead to healing and victory over sin.

2 Ways To Get Started

So let’s make this practical.  Here are two simple suggestions.

  • Rehearse the gospel every chance you get.  Earlier, we saw that our struggles with honesty lie in our tendency to trust in ourselves instead of Christ.  Meditating on gospel-focused passages in our devotions and quickly confessing a moment of pride, over time, will lead to tremendous freedom.
  • Make a point of sharing current, ongoing sins and struggles with people you trust.  This doesn’t have to be a big deal.  You might start with your spouse or significant other, your small group, or one close friend.  Over time, being honest will become more natural and others will likely follow your example.

In closing, I’m going to take my own medicine and practice with you.  Lately I’ve been noticing that I’m much too driven by my own agenda.  For example, when my kids want me to slow down and talk something through with them, I get anxious because it’s taking me away from my plan for the day.  If I’m honest, often I find my identity by cranking through my priorities, and am not all that open to God’s, which often involve interruptions from the people around me.  So, I’m asking you to pray for me ‘that I may be healed’.

What about you?  If you would like us to pray for you in something you’re struggling with, leave a comment below.  I promise that I will pray for each and every request that’s shared.

3 Steps To Overcoming Our Insecurity

Ever wonder what it would feel like to arrive?  To be famous.  Or, if that seems too far-fetched, the best at what you do, or an expert in your field.

I’ll be honest and admit that I have.  It’s easy to think that being successful would bring with it a sense of confidence and security that we don’t have now.

But apparently that’s not really true.

Jimi Hendrix would stand behind a screen in the recording studio because he was self-conscious about his voice.  Lady Gaga admitted her outrageous costumes were a way of masking her insecurities. And NBA star Dwayne Wade confessed that money and fame didn’t fix the way he felt about his body.  The list goes on and on.

I think we’re all a lot like this.  We have a lot to offer, but we’re not quite sure that others see it that way.  And so, we (secretly) wait for them to affirm us.

young man hiding in insecurity

Continue Reading »

Guys Need Bros (Guest Post, Desiring God)

Five Ways To Find Male Friendships

lonely guy photo

Photo by Daran Kandasamy

Hey men, let’s be honest.  After work, family, church and trying to keep our homes from imploding, it feels like there’s no time left for close friendships with other guys.  At least not ‘real life’, in-person ones.

That’s exactly how I felt as I turned 40.  I had Facebook friends and random hangouts with other guys, but nothing meaningful or consistent.  No one knew what was really going on in my life.

But when my wife, and a popular Christian author challenged me, I decided something had to change.  And – without a ton of effort – it did.

In this guest post for Desiring God, I explore how developing close guy friendships is critical for our health, marriages and walks with Christ.

You can read the post right here.

PS: I’ve done two other guest posts for Desiring God.



The Four Most Annoying Things About Christians

nails chalkboard photo

What do you find most annoying about Christians?

In an effort to get a little honest feedback, that was the simple question I asked my Facebook friends recently.  They’re all over the map spiritually, and the response went far beyond anything I expected.  Apparently, many people – including Christians – find followers of Jesus rather difficult.

As I sorted through the comments, four major themes emerged.  I’ve incorporated your (fantastic) responses throughout, so in many ways this is a group guest post. 🙂

Let’s take a look at the four ways Christians annoy others, why it matters, and, one big truth that will begin to help us change.

Four Big Ways Christians Annoy Their Neighbors

Let’s dive right in.

#1 Christians are judgmental

We can be overly critical, condemning and disapproving.  One commenter mentioned ‘church leaders and church organizations who… are instead intent on pointing an accusing finger at others’, while another said ‘the church is one of the best places to go to feel shame and judgment’.  Another person said that ‘Christians often treat us with disapproval or worse’.

Continue Reading »