Check Out

Best Book Deals

Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals by Trevin Wax ($0.99)

Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God by Voddie Bocham, Jr. ($0.99)

Herein Is Love, Vol. 3: Leviticus: A Commentary for Children by Nancy E. Ganz ($3.99)

The Gospel In Ezekiel by Thomas Guthrie ($0.99)

Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan ($2.99)

God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children by R. C. Sproul ($1.99)

You Lift Me Up by Albert N. Martin ($9.99)

Diamonds in the Dust: 366 Sparkling Devotions by Joni Eareckson Tada ($2.99)

Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada  ($2.99)

Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada ($2.99)

Still Growing: An Autobiography by Kirk Cameron ($1.99)

Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Stephen Ambrose ($1.99)

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise ($2.99)

Best Blogs

7 Ways I Protect My Ministry and Marriage From an Affair – Ron Edmondson

Pain in Christian Marriage | The Christward Collective

Four Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don’t | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

When A Pastor Gets Depressed – J.A. Medders

Advice to Young Pastors from David Powlison, Danny Akin, Tim Keller | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Seven Things I’ve Learned from Joyous Pastors’ Wives

20 Ways to be Refreshing in the Local Church | TGC

Church Planting Basics: Make Sure You’re Not Too Welcoming! – 20schemes

Why Christians Should Listen to Mike Rowe on (Not) ‘Following Your Passion’ | Acton PowerBlog

What are 10 lessons I learned from the life and ministry of Andrew Fuller? | Practical Shepherding

Is Jesus on Every Page (in the Old Testament)? – Reformation21 Blog

Rethinking Jephthah’s Foolish Vow | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Reading the Psalms Devotionally | The Christward Collective

Christians Should be Forgiving People by R.C. Sproul | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Speaking to One Another in Song | Gentle Reformation

A Great Reward | Challies Dot Com

The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred | Desiring God

Sex and the Single Woman | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Silent Sanctification | Sayable

Brain Cancer Will Likely Kill Me, But There’s No Way I’ll Kill Myself

12 Pillars of Faith for Parents of Special Needs’ Kids | Counseling One Another

Counseling Sexually Abused Women and Children | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

10 Quick Tips to Improve Your Time Management | Time Management Ninja

Running saved my life – bipolar sufferer Simon Lamb

Tips for College From A New Student | lostinthiswhiteblankpage

Best Videos

Amena Brown: Be You Bravely Anthem at MOMcon 2014

This Man Handed out 520,000 Sandwiches on the Streets of Minneapolis Last Year

What is Literature For?

Hummingbird Bathing Playing with Water from Hummingbird Light

Drum Battle: III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) Band vs. Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Band

NORWAY – A Time-Lapse Adventure

Mental Health First Aid Training

The Michigan Department of Community Health are offering free Mental Health First Aid training days – one for adults and one for youth. The aim is to train Mental Health “First Responders” throughout Kent County. More details including sign up here.

I’d love to at least one person per church trained to be a mental health “first responder.” This looks like a great way to start.

Top Books on Marriage

As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. Previous posts include:

This week so far, we’ve looked at marriage and relationships from several different angles:

Today I wanted to share a bibliography on some of the best books on marriage based on (1) personal experience, (2) recommendations from various people over the years, and (3) some of the best-selling lists. I’ve put three and two stars beside some titles that are the most useful. If there are any other good books I’ve missed, please leave a comment with the title and I’ll add it to the list. Many thanks to Esther, our new Faculty Assistant, for all her help in compiling this.

*** Adams, J. E. (1972). Christian Living in the Home. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House. Recommended by Dr. Joel Beeke (and me).

Bancroft, L. (2003). Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. New York: Berkley Books.  This title is specifically on spousal abuse.

** Beeke, J. (2012). Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage. Cruciform Press. 

*** Burk, D. (2013). What Is the Meaning of Sex?. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Chapman, G. D. (1982). Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed. Chicago: Moody Press. Recommended by Dr. Joel Beeke.

** Chapman, G. D. (2010). The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago: Northfield Pub. Dr. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are often discussed in pre-marital counseling and the book has spun off companion books such as The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition

Chapman, G. D. (2010). Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. Chicago: Northfield Pub.

** Chediak, A., & Chediak, M. (2006). With One Voice: Singleness, Dating & Marriage to the Glory of God. Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus. Recommended by Dr. Beeke.

Dunn, A. (2009). Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage. North Bergen, NJ: Pillar and Ground Publications. This one is Dr. Beeke’s favorite to give as a wedding present.

Eggerichs, E. (2004). Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.  Eggerichs clearly lays out the differences between the needs of men and women.

Evans, J. (1994). Marriage on the Rock. New York: McCracken Press. The book outlines four foundational laws of marriage (priority, pursuit, possession, purity) and then describes how to build a solid marriage on top of that foundation.

Gouge, W. (2006). Of Domestical Duties. Edinburgh, IN: Puritan Reprints. Because what’s a bibliography without at least one Puritan? Also see Kindle edition here or Building a Godly Home, Volume 2: A Holy Vision for a Happy Marriage for a shorter, easier-to-read version.

Harley, W. F. (1986). His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Old Tappan, N.J: F.H. Revell Co. A best-seller on Amazon and a modern classic.  Dr. Harley comes from a Christian background, but his books and his organization Marriage Builders do not limit themselves to only serving a Christian audience.

*** Harvey, D. T. (2007). When Sinners Say “I Do”. Wapwallopen, Pa: Shepherd Press. Also, currently only $1.99 on Amazon (as of the date of this post’s publishing).

Hiestand, G., & Thomas, J. (2012). Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway.

*** Keller, T. J., & Keller, K. (2011). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton. Recommended all around.  An absolute must-read. I wrote an unofficial study guide to go along with the book for one couple I was counseling prior to their marriage.

Kendrick, S., Kendrick, A., & Kimbrough, L. (2008). The Love Dare. Nashville, Tenn: B & H Publishing Group. Lays out very practical ways to show love in marriage. This book was a companion to Fireproofreleased a few years back.

LaHaye, T. F., & LaHaye, B. (1976). The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House.

Mahaney, C. (2004). Feminine Appeal. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books.

Mahaney, C. J., & Mahaney, C. (2004). Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books.

Maken, D. (2006). Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Munroe, M. (2002). The Purpose and Power of Love & Marriage. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image. Recommended by Dr. Beeke.

Parrott, L., & Parrott, L. L. (2006). Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before—and After—You Marry. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondevan.

Peace, M. (1993). The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective. Peachtree City, GA: Bible Data Services. Recommended by Dr. Beeke. Companion volume for men: The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective by Stuart Scott.

** Piper, J., & Taylor, J. (2005). Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books. 

** Piper, J. (2012). This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Rhodes, R. (2012). The Marriage Bed. Dawsonville, GA: Books that Nourish. Includes a seven day plan for cultivating intimacy in your marriage.

Sande, K., & Raabe, T. (2002). Peacemaking for Families. Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers. Recommended by Dr. Beeke.  The book is in four sections.  One of the four is specific to marriage, the others to other parts of family life.

Schaumburg, H. (2009). Undefiled: Redemption From Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. 

*** Sproul, R. C. (2003). The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage. Phillipsburg, N.J: P & R Pub.

** Thomas D., & R. (2007). A Biblical Guide to Love, Sex, and Marriage. Darlington, UK: EP Books.

Thomas, G. (2000). Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House. This title discusses marriage as a spiritual discipline.

Tripp, P. D. (2010). What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books.  

Watters, C. (2007). Get Married: What Women Can do to Help it Happen. Wheaton, IL: Moody.

Winner, L. F. (2005). 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life: Defining Your Dating Style. Colorado Springs, CO: THINK Books.

See other Top Books posts for different subjects here.

Reader Suggestions

Marriage Matters by Winston Smith.

Mental Illness and the Church: An Analysis

Just over a year ago, a Christian family that has struggled with severe mental illness in their family circles for many years decided to donate a large sum of money to fund research into acute mental illness and the Christian faith. Their burden and passion was to help sufferers, but also to help families and churches minister more truthfully, graciously, and effectively to the mentally ill.

The first installment of that research was recently published by LifeWay and many media organizations have reported the results, much to the family’s joy. They are also looking forward to the next steps: an academic paper that will help seminaries and churches train pastors and a popular-level book that will help Christians everywhere understand mental illness better and serve those suffering with it more skillfully.

In this article I want to comment on a few of the more general findings from the research and in a second article, I’d like to zoom in on the core issue of the research, which concerned salvation and the mentally ill. But first, here are some of the research results that intrigued me.

“59% of pastors have counseled one or more people who were eventually diagnosed with an acute mental illness.”

Only 59%? Given the prevalence of mental illness in society (somewhere between 15-25% of the population will suffer an acute mental illness at one point in their lives), I was stunned that this figure was not 100%.

Does this imply that many people do not trust their pastors to offer reliable counsel when suffering in this way, and therefore turn to non-pastors for help instead? If so, perhaps some pastors need to ask themselves, “What can I do to equip myself better?” and also “How can I communicate understanding, sympathy, and compassion to such people so that they will come to me for counsel?”

“22% of pastors agree that they are reluctant to get involved with those dealing with acute mental illness because previous experiences strained time and resources.”

Read the rest of my analysis at Ed Stetzer’s blog.

Two Models for Husband-Wife Love

Because of sin, husbands have a tendency to neglect or abuse their headship. That’s why the Apostle Paul combines his teaching on the husband’s leadership in Ephesians 5v22-32 with three commands to love his wife and uses two models to help them.

1. Love as their own bodies (v. 28)

Jay Adams put this well: “Husbands know how to nourish and cherish their own bodies, don’t they? Something slips and John gashes his arm with a tool. Blood drips down and he dashes off to the medicine closet. He carefully washes it, cares for it, nourishes it, and cherishes it. He may spend the next six days nourishing and cherishing!”

Nourishing and cherishing translate two of the most tender words available in the Greek language. Nourishing is about feeding with a view to flourishing and growth in every area of her life: physical, intellectual, emotional, recreational, social, and spiritual. Cherishing is about keeping warm, as a bird puts her wing over its young to protect and treasure.

2. Love as Christ loved the church (v. 25)

This is an even higher standard than #1 and involves:

Prioritized love: Just as Christ put the Church first, the husband must put his relationship with his wife ahead of every other human relationship (and hobbies, sports, computers, etc).

Incomparable love: Just as Jesus has eyes only for His bride, so the husband must refuse to let his eyes and mind wander to and linger on any other women.

Practical love: Just as Jesus showed His love in actions, so the husband offers to help with household and family duties. His responsibility does not end with a paycheck on the countertop.

Appreciative love: Just as Jesus expresses His love for the Church with affectionate words, so the husband frequently tells his wife how much he loves her and what he specifically appreciates about her.

Gracious love: Just as Jesus loved the undeserving, so the husband is to love not just when his wife attracts him but even when she offends him.

Sanctifying love: As Paul explains, Jesus’s love was with a view to the church’s washing and purification. That doesn’t mean that the husband becomes a fanatical fault-finder or a perfectionist nit-picker. Rather, keep in view the vision Tim Keller paints in The Meaning of Marriage and you’ll stay along the right lines here:

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’”

Sacrificial love: Just as Jesus gave up His time, His energy, His talents, and even His love for His wife, so the husband looks for opportunities to serve his wife in this way.

Model love: What this all means is that if someone lived with a Christian couple for a time and observed their marriage, they should be able to look at how the husband loves his wife and say, “I get it now. I understand how Christ loves His church.”

Confessing love: No husband can do all this. Which brings us to our need for confession and our casting of ourselves upon the person and work of Christ, our perfect bridegroom, to love us in all these ways; and upon the Holy Spirit to empower us similarly.

Leadership Problems or Love Problems?

In troubled marriages, most leadership problems are love problems. A husband may say, “She’s not following my leadership.” In most cases we can reply, “It’s because she’s not sensing your love!”

Instead of trying to get the wife to perform her duties better, husbands should be asking, “How can I lead her better?” and especially, “How can I love her better?”

Previous Articles in this Series: Completing not Completing and Five Ways to Lead Your Wife.

“The American Family Is Making a Comeback”

How about this for some modern logic:

1. Families are a massive blessing to society and to individuals

2. Families are facing extraordinary pressures, obstacles, and burdens.

3. This is an ideal time to redefine what a family is.

The first two premises are taken from Michael Wear’s article in The Atlantic, The American Family Is Making A Comeback and, as Wear’s article demonstrates, almost everyone agrees with them. The fallacious conclusion is what we see going on all around us, especially in politics, the media, the judiciary, and education, but also in the business world too.

Using only Wear’s piece, let’s take a closer look at the facts and quotes supporting the first two premises in order to feel more deeply the fallacy of the conclusion.

1. Families are a massive blessing to society and to individuals

“Our current policies have failed to address this new landscape, and because of it we are inhibiting one of our nation’s greatest contributors to the public good, and Americans’ most personal aspirations: family.”

“It can be easy to miss the value of family to our nation because its contributions are so ingrained into our lives.”

“Its value can be partly calculated by estimating the cost of broken families because when Americans don’t have family to care for them, government must step in to provide those services.”

  • State and federal governments spend billions of dollars each year to care for children in foster care ($9 billion through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act alone.)
  •  There are longer-term costs for children who grow up outside of safe, permanent families as well, including the $5.1 billion the government spends incarcerating former foster-care youth each year.
  • Familial bonds help defray the costs of caring for the elderly.
  • In 2009, 61.6 million Americans gave uncompensated care to an adult “with limitations in daily activities” at some point during the year—an economic value of $450 billion in unpaid services.

“From cradle to grave, the social and personal benefits of a healthy family, and the costs of its absence, are evident.”

Every family in America is a little business … in fact, the word economy comes from the Greek word ‘oikos,’ which means home. Every home is a little economy. And when those little economies struggle and suffer … then America fails.”

“In 2009, the Brookings Institute released a study that, among other things, said if you graduate from high school, get a job, get married and then have children (in that order), your chance of being in poverty is just 2 percent.” 

2. Families are facing extraordinary pressures, obstacles, and burdens.

“Marriage is on the decline, birthrates are down, and divorce rates are high.”

“The strains on families and family formation are real, rational, and profound.”

“The old-fashioned family plan of stably married parents residing with their children remains a source of considerable power in America—but one that is increasingly seen as out of reach to all but the educated elite.”

“The average American family is poorer than it was 10 years ago.”

“Over the last 40 years changes in the workforce and growing socioeconomic inequality have conspired to stoke familial instability.”

Student loan debt is causing many to delay marriage.

“Today, it is harder and harder to be good parents and good workers for many working families. That’s a tradeoff that is neither good for our country or our families.”

“Our country—whether through tax policy or through the rhetoric of our current president—does very little to support the institution of marriage.”

“The popular conception of the American Dream is a spouse, two and a half kids, and your own house with a car in the garage and a picket fence around the yard. When we talk about the American Dream slipping away, we tend to focus on the possessions: the house, the car, the picket fence. At a time when the income of American families is declining, this makes some sense…. [But] it is a more fundamental hope that is challenged today. The people that make up the American Dream—the spouse, the children, our dearest relationships—seem out of reach for millions of Americans.”

3. This is an ideal time to redefine what a family is.

Given these two premises, we would expect some moves to support families better and some of these are highlighted in the article.

We should consider options—tax credits, interest-rate incentives, family-friendly zoning and city planning—that align America’s interest in marriage as a public good, and stability as an important factor in a child’s educational and social development, with our housing policies.

Wear commends some British moves and calls for something similar in the USA:

British Prime Minister David Cameron has recognized the new burdens families face. He recently announced that policies in the U.K. must pass a “family test,” which means “every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family.”

However, there’s a massive elephant stampeding round the room, and it’s the utter refusal to define family in the same way as its Inventor, and also to reject all counterfeit substitutes. As even Wear notes:

For all the “pro-family” policies that progressives are putting forward none of them explicitly value stable, two-parent families over other family types

Democrats continue to show no interest in meeting Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s call to “stigmatize illegitimacy indirectly” through tax benefits available only to married parents.

As the costs of family breakdown become even more apparent, Democrats’ no-judgment approach may seem insufficient in the face of a demographic and sociological tidal wave.

Glimmers of hope

Wear does highlight a few conservative republican efforts to support traditional families while also helping families that face different and less-than-ideal realities. But after summarizing the American dream with a focus on the people who make the dream a dream, he concludes:

Politics alone cannot restore this hope, but it will only further fuel Americans’ cynicism if Washington does nothing to address it.

Let’s not give up the fight for biblical marriage and the biblical family. We may have lost the argument based on Bible verses. But there are going to be plenty of shocking statistics to build arguments upon in the coming years. It’s just sad and cruel to think of the many millions who will be damaged as a result of the biggest and most dangerous social experiment ever conducted.