9 Topics You Absolutely Need To Cover In Your Premarital Counseling

So, you’d like to get married.  You’ve heard that premarital counseling is a good idea. (Good call.)

But not all premarital counseling is created equally.  How do you make sure you cover the things that matter most?

happy young couple in field of yellow flowers

Photo by Micah Camara

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7 Signs Your Relationship Isn’t Marriage Material

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #2

As he described the pain and frustration in his marriage, it tore me apart.  Although his wife identified with Christ, her lack of spiritual interest had only grown worse over the years, leaving him lonely and unfulfilled.  At this point, all he could do is pray.

In my first post in this series, I wrote about whether Christians should date people outside of the faith.  That certainly happens, but most Christians find themselves in a much murkier situation: wondering whether the Christian they’re dating (or thinking about dating) is really marriage material.

As this short story from my friend shows, getting this decision right is absolutely critical.

So let’s take a look at 7 warning signs that your relationship may not be marriage material.

This post is the second in my monthly Ready For Marriage Series, designed to help you cover essential premarital topics so that you can a great marriage that honors God and brings life to others. You can sign up here to make sure you receive future posts.
deep water sign photo

Photo by ell brown

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Six Ways To Pursue Spiritual Intimacy In Marriage (Guest Post at Desiring God)

If you find it difficult to consistently connect spiritually with your spouse, you’re completely normal.

But there’s hope in Christ for marriages like yours.  And mine.

couple holding hands photo

Just a quick heads-up that I’ve written a guest post over at Desiring God about this: Six Ways To Pursue Spiritual Intimacy In Marriage.

I hope that it helps you pursue greater spiritual intimacy with your husband or wife.  (Or any couple on the road to marriage, really.)

Re-Thinking Spiritual Intimacy In Marriage (Part 2)

Spending time with God, together with our spouse, is one of the hardest things most Christian couples face.  Whether it’s full schedules, interruptions from kids, fear of being vulnerable or spiritual warfare, pursuing God together is very hard in most marriages, including mine.

husband wife smiling and hugging photo

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Re-Thinking Spiritual Intimacy In Our Marriages (Part 1)

As we laid in bed together, lights out, it had become later than I realized.  Even though we were both exhausted from a long day, I wanted to lead us in finishing the day with prayer.

But every time I wanted to say something, something held me back.  Frustrated with myself, we eventually just drifted off to sleep.  When I woke up the next morning, I felt a little smaller than the night before.

If you’re married, or in a serious relationship, I bet you understand.  You want to be spiritually intimate, but it’s hard.  Really hard.

Some of you may not experience much struggle here.  You have no problem praying or reading the bible with your spouse.  And yet, you may still not feel entirely connected, either.

What’s going on?

Some things – like sin in its various forms – are obvious, but I suspect it’s partly in the way we’ve defined ‘spiritual intimacy’, too.  When we think about it more deeply, we get a bigger picture that I think will both encourage and challenge you.

close-up of husband & wife hold hands (black & white photo)

Photo credit: mescon via Foter.com / CC BY

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Four Big Lessons For Your Thirties

30 was so strange for me. I really had to come to terms with the fact that I’m now a walking, talking adult.

— CS Lewis

If CS Lewis said it, it must be true, right?  Thirty – and the decade that follows – is a wonderful, ‘strange’ decade where we come of age.  Some time ago, I did a post on 7 lessons for our twenties, and here this occasional series continues with some lessons for our thirties.

30 Años eljoja via Compfight

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7 Ways To Defuse Your Next Stress Bomb

I had to take a moment.  An awkward, silent, ten-second one.

‘Sir, are you still there?  Mr Stoudt…?’

By this point in my call with tech support – two hours in – I was completely frazzled.  The tech’s instructions ran together like the teacher’s words from Charlie Brown.  I vowed to donate my brain to science immediately after hanging up the phone, then vaguely decided there wouldn’t be anything left.

I bet you can identify with stress like this.  In a broken, fallen world, it’s all around us.  Every day.  We panic, we get angry, we lose perspective.  Even if we’ve learned to hide it well beneath a veneer of ‘I’m good’ and smiles.

Deep down, we long to be more at peace, more at rest.  But how?

boom Esther Simpson via Compfight

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10 Articles On The Refugee Crisis & Executive Order

Let's Keep Learning Together

Historically, good dinner table etiquette has always steered away from the topics of religion and politics. With the recent executive order on refugees, we may need to add a third that involves both: how our government – and Christians – should handle the current refugee crisis.

As anyone not living under a rock now knows, the recent executive order by President Trump and the response has been deeply polarizing, even among Christians.  I’m witnessing heated exchanges on social media, while others are taking a break from it for that very reason.

While all this can be overwhelming, it’s my conviction that every follower of Christ needs to care about this issue.  Jesus, after all, was himself a refugee (Matthew 2:13-18).  Although not all of us will be called to the same level of involvement, we ought to be engaged as God leads.

In the next month or so, I hope to write my own post on this topic, but in the meantime here are some articles to continue the conversation.  As a disclaimer, I’m not saying I agree with everything they contain. Hopefully, though, they will help you deepen your own thinking and heart for those who can no longer live in the place they call home.

Philip Jones Griffiths - Hue 1968Creative Commons License manhhai via Compfight

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Should You Date Someone Outside The Faith?

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #1

‘Well, I’m in a relationship now.’

After over 15 years in ministry to college and (now) graduate students, my wife and I often hear this when we ask how they’re doing.  Our first response is to rejoice, remembering how thrilled we were on our first date.  Very few things in life are more exciting than a relationship that’s heading toward marriage!

At the same time, relationships are anything but easy, so we need to learn from those who have gone before us.  While my wife and I don’t have anything like a perfect marriage, we’ve had a little experience (since 1998) now.  Many older couples have poured into us.  And – somehow – a number of couples have told us our marriage and counsel about relationships has benefited them.  So, as promised, this is the first post in a new, monthly series about important topics to cover as you think about saying ‘I do’.

(To make sure you don’t miss a post, you can sign up right here.)

Before we dive into those key areas, though, we need to pause and ask a more foundational question:

Is this relationship one that you should even be in?

My stepdaughter's socks are channeling Flickr's logo colors Lee Bennett via Compfight

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Getting Ready For Marriage: A New, Monthly Series

What would you say if I told you there was an app to get you ready for marriage?  One that would remove all the guesswork and games.  One that could assess your spiritual compatibility with your boy/girlfriend and show you what to do next.  And one that could predict whether you would live happily ever after.

Maybe someone is working on that – probably in his parents’ basement – but until then, getting ready for marriage is likely to bring (more than) its share of challenges.  Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Ethics at Duke, highlights just how hard it is even after marriage begins:

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change.

Wow.  Pretty sure Eeyore gave a gloomy ‘aaaamen‘.  But at a time where our culture encourages singles to find their perfect ‘soul mate’, this quote is deeply sobering and necessary. And after 18 (great) years of marriage, I can testify that it’s true.   We barely understand the person we’re about to marry.

At the same time, the journey to finding a godly spouse, and preparing for marriage, isn’t a game of chance. While some people do an about turn after the wedding day (truly sorry if that’s happened to you), that’s more the exception than the norm.

With God’s help, we can make a good choice, and be prepared, before saying ‘I do’.

Rings Frank Tasche via Compfight

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