A Year After Dad’s Death – Peace in an Unanswered Prayer

Here I am snuggled up with dad in his favorite red chair. I miss him much.

Me snuggled up with dad in his favorite red chair. I miss him much.

This post is written by a guest author, my wife, Carrie Kell

“Dad, hey it’s me. I called to see if you know what you were doing 33 years ago today?”

“No, I don’t think I do. “

“You were looking at me for the first time.”

The silence was broken with a tearful voice, “You’d think I would remember that, huh? I guess it is August the 8th. Happy Birthday, Sis (he called me sis or sissy for as long as I can remember).

Dad actually never forgot my birthday. I wasn’t upset though, I knew he hadn’t been himself lately.

I had called him a few days earlier and he’d asked me (for the 3rd time) if I knew what “the baby growing in my belly was yet.” I reminded him it was a boy, and he was just as shocked and excited as he was the other two times I told him. I knew something wasn’t right.

What I didn’t know, however, is that the last time I would ever speak to my dad (perhaps for eternity) was on my 33rd birthday. I am forever thankful that I called and reminded him what day it was. His response was so sweet. He was emotional. I often wonder if he knew he was close to the end.

The Day

We were in Speculator, New York where Garrett was speaking at a family camp. We were there to relax and be reunited with some dear friends from Texas. I would need those friends that week more than I realized. The Lord’s timing always amazes me and encourages my faith.

Two days after we arrived, on August 10th, 2013 my sweet husband came to me in the dining area where I had just shared laughs with my friends. He led me by the hand into the hallway and said those words I’ll never forget, “Carrie, your dad died.”

My eyes widened in disbelief, but deep down I’d known something wasn’t right with him lately. But still, my dad? Mike Church? It just seemed so surreal.

You always know that your parents will die one day, but you can’t really grasp what that means before it happens. In fact, you can’t really grasp what it means after it happens. Losing those you love is very strange.

Mike and Me

My dad wasn’t like the dads my friends had growing up. Nor did he even come close to the kind of dad my children will have. But he was what God gave to me—and for that I am truly thankful.

In the early days of my life I remember curling up with him and falling asleep in his oversized red recliner he loved so much. He coached my sports teams, took us on vacations, and made sure to get us gifts we wanted at Christmas time. He tried to be a good dad, but he could only do that in his own strength for so long.

I was 11 when he left me, my mother, and my brother. He became a man of self-love and basically did as he pleased for the rest of his life. This kind of life with Mike Church wasn’t easy. There were years that he didn’t try to have a relationship with me, nor did he seem to care when I tried to have one with him. We were not his priority anymore. He was his own priority.

He thought this would make him happy. So he ran after it with all his heart, which is so sad, because it ended up being the very thing that made him so miserable and lonely. And it was my father’s misery that God used to soften my heart toward him.

The Changing of the Heart

When I was a freshman in college, the Lord convicted me about the way I felt toward my dad. Now you might think that I was angry at dad for what he had done to our family, but I wasn’t angry—I was apathetic. I seriously didn’t care. He had left us and I had no need to care about him.

The change began one evening after a conversation with a new friend. He wasn’t a Christian and was struggling to find happiness in his life. He’d been through hard things and was at a breaking point.

After my conversation with him, I went back to my dorm room with a heaviness like I had never experienced before. I began praying for him and pleading with God to save him. During that prayer I began to wonder how I could care so much about this person’s salvation, but not for my own father’s?

In many ways my new friend was much like my dad (he even shared his birthday). His self-centeredness didn’t make him easy to be friends with, but as he shared about his desire to find happiness, it softened me towards him. The Lord used that night to melt my heart and teach me not only what it meant to be broken over my friend’s salvation, but to begin to love my dad. Where my heart had once been so indifferent towards him, the Lord gave me a deep love for him. There is no explanation for this love except the grace of God.

A Father to the Fatherless

One of the first things God impressed on my heart was that if I was going to love my father, I was going to have to forgive all his sins against me. I had grown cold to the sting of those sins, but I knew they were there. In His mercy, God reminded me of how much He had forgiven me in Christ.

It was through this that God gave me grace to extend forgiveness to my father for all he had done to me. Jesus loved His enemies, and He called me to do the same (Luke 6:27-33). What I have found is that loving those who are difficult to love is only possible because the Lord does it for you as He works through you. My faith increased so much in those years, because I was certain the deep love I began to develop for my dad wasn’t my own love, it was the love Christ gave me.

The Lord also taught me that to love my father, my expectations would have to change. When I began to love him as a lost person and not a dad, it gave me freedom. I no longer expected Mike to be a real dad to me. He wouldn’t ever be that, unless God changed his heart. But this didn’t mean I would be without a father to care for me.

In Psalm 86:5 God promises that He would be a “Father to the fatherless.” Though my earthly father had abandoned me so many years ago, I have a heavenly Father who will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). God had promised to supply every need of mine according to the riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), and making me His daughter is the greatest of those riches.

The good news of the Gospel isn’t only that Jesus forgives my sin through faith in Him (which is amazing), but that He gave me grace to love my dad and gave me assurance that God would forever be my Father.

The Prayer Unanswered

Though God changed my heart toward dad in college, my prayers for his salvation had begun long before that. I knew he was a lost man and desperately needed Christ, just like I did. I wanted him to have freedom from the life he lived and the pain and loneliness I could see so clearly. I also became convinced that I was his daughter for this very purpose (Acts 17:24-30).

Because the Lord had so changed my heart toward my dad, I really believed that eventually he would see his need for a Savior. I believed he would look back over his life, see where he had failed, and find hope and forgiveness in the only place he could—Jesus!

I prayed for this almost daily. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I was certain it would. I struggled to trust the Lord in other areas, but I was sure that the Lord would hear the cry of my heart and let me see my dad come to know Him!

Because of this hope, I shared the gospel with my Father often. A month before he died, I sat in his house in tears as I shared the importance of loving God, knowing Christ, and knowing his need for Christ’s forgiveness. He wasn’t convinced. It broke my heart, but not my faith.

That proved to be the last face-to-face conversation I had with my dad. We only spoke on the phone a handful of times after that day, including the day I reminded him of my birthday.

When dad died I was certainly sad, but even more so, I was confused. Why did I not see God save my dad? Why did God change my heart toward my dad if it weren’t for the purpose of seeing him believe? What did this mean about God’s character if twenty years of prayers for my dad’s soul weren’t answered?

Peace in the Unanswered Prayer

Though I have many unanswered questions, the Lord has given me peace. Though my prayers were not answered in the way I had envisioned, my heavenly Father loves me more than I can imagine and I know that all He does is done in faithfulness (Psalm 33:4).

1. I have no regrets.

By the end, dad knew I loved him, and I knew he loved me as much as he was able. Dad also knew the Gospel. I don’t always do this well with others, but the Lord gave many opportunities for me to share the love of Jesus with him and I truly believe there was nothing left I could have said.

Sure, our conversations weren’t always easy and I often walked away discouraged, but by God’s grace I have no regrets today because I shared the Gospel with him. This has served as a great encouragement for me that I will never regret sharing the Gospel with someone—especially once they are gone.

2. I have hope in God’s mercy.

Because I had shared the Gospel, I can rest in the fact that dad knew where to go for mercy if he wanted it. I don’t know what the last few days of dad’s life were like. I wasn’t there when he died. But I do know that as long as someone has breath, they can cry out to God who delights in saving those who seek Him, even if it is with their final breath (Luke 23:42-43).

This peace did not come quickly for me. There were many days and nights of praying and questioning since his death, but God’s mercy gives me hope, no matter what happens.

3. I have trust in God’s greatness.

Though I don’t know that I will see my dad again, I know that I can trust in the great love and wisdom of my heavenly Father. Once I am in His presence in heaven, I know I will lack nothing. In this I rest and in this I hope. Until that day, I will take my anxious heart to His Word and find comfort in truths like this,

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 131

Losing my dad has been a sorrowful journey and one that will change my life forever. But my sorrow has been put to rest because the Lord has quieted my soul. He will hold me fast. He will hold me fast.


A Prayer on Behalf of Iraqi Christians


The past few days have been a living hell for Christians in Iraq. Stories of ISIS systematically killing our brothers and sisters along with other minority groups are heart-wrenching. Nightmarish tales of soldiers raping mothers, hanging fathers, taking the heads of decapitated children and posting them on poles emerge regularly. What can we do?

We can pray.

We must pray.

Hebrews 13:3 says “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”



We do not know how to pray for our brothers and sister, but You promise to help us in our weakness, so we come in faith knowing Your Spirit will guide our prayers (Romans 8:26).

Help them to believe that while they are cursed by men, that they are indeed blessed for their sufferings (Matthew 5:10-12).

Help them to believe that when they suffer on earth, that the Lord Jesus is angered and ready to intervene from Heaven (Acts 9:4-5).

Help them to believe that when they cry out for help, that You hear their voices and are near to their crushed spirit (Psalm 34:17-18).

Help them to believe that they can joyfully surrender their property because they know they have a better and lasting possession stored up in heaven with You (Hebrews 10:34; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

Help them to believe that while they may be snatched from their homes, they shall never be snatched from the hand of Your Son (John 10:28).

Help them to believe that when they feel as if no one cares, that You see (Exodus 3:7-8) and You hear (Psalm 18:6) and that their tears do not fall to the ground unnoticed by You (Psalm 42:3, 56:8).

Help them to remember that when they feel forsaken, that Jesus was forsaken for them so they must not fear being abandoned by You (Mark 14:34).

Help them to believe that when they flee, that they can flee to You because You are good and stand as a refuge for them in their day of trouble (Nahum 1:7).

Help them to remain faithful to You when they are called to deny Your Name. Help them to not fear death, but to find courage in the hope of the greater resurrection that awaits them (Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 11:35; Revelation 2:10-11).

Help them have courage to proclaim the Gospel to those who are doing them harm, and may You use their witness to turn terrorists into worshippers of the One true God (Acts 9).

Help them to believe that though their suffering is great, it is not worth comparing to the glory that is soon to be revealed to them (Romans 8:18).

Help them to know that though their persecutors appear to be victorious today, that You will bring a swift judgment upon all those who rebel against Your great Name (Psalm 68:21; 110:6; 143:12; Habakkuk 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

Help them to rest in the promise that one day soon You will take them to that glorious Land where tears and death and mourning and fear shall be no more (Revelation 21:1-5, 22:1-7).

Father, send Your Son soon. Rescue Your people (Psalm 28:9)!

Come Lord Jesus, come (Revelation 22:20).


What Does the New Testament Teach About the Trinity?


TrinityWhile I was in seminary, one of the classes that unexpectedly changed my life was Trinitarianism taught by Dr. Scott Horrell. To my shame, I’d long confessed the Trinity, but I’d never really given much thought to the eternally mysterious three-in-one.

During that semester, the Lord opened His Word to me in a way I’d never experienced before. Until then I’d missed the way the Father spoke of the Son and the delight the Son showed toward His Father. I’d glazed over the Spirit’s quiet adoration of the Son and the Father’s gracious giving of His Spirit.

God used the study of that doctrine to turn the Scriptures from black-and-white to color in just a few short months.

What follows are a few basic truths about the doctrine of the Trinity and then a run through the New Testament that highlights all (I think) the places the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are shown together. As  you read through these Scriptures, ask the Lord to warm your heart to delight in our eternally glorious God.

The Trinity 101

1. The word Trinity is not found in the Bible. In this sense, the doctrine isn’t explicitly taught, but it’s implicit instruction is nearly impossible to miss.

  • Tertullian (155-220 AD) was the first to describe the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit as “Trinity.”

2. The One true God eternally exists as three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

  • The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God. But, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, Spirit not Son. The picture at the top is of the the Shield of the Trinity (sputum fidei) which summarizes this portion of the Athanasian Creed.

3. Our God is the only one true God. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5, Isaiah 44:6–8, 45:5-7, 45:22; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; James 2:19)

  • Allah, Buddah, Krishna, Zeus, Hermes, and all other supposed gods are idols, imposters, and imitators.

4. Father, Son, and Spirit are presented together in about 117 places in the NT, in 23 of 27 NT books (not Philemon, James; 2 John, 3 John), and by 8 of 9 NT authors.

  • James did not present Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in his epistle, but he was present at “the Jerusalem council” in Acts 15:6-11 where each of the members of the Trinity were discussed. He didn’t oppose the idea of the Trinity at that time.


A Few Further Clarifications

1. The Father, Son, and Spirit are not three different gods who work for the same purpose. (as in the polytheism of Mormonism)

2. God is not one person, the Father, with Jesus as a created being and the Holy Spirit as a force. (as in the errant monotheism of Jehovah’s Witness)

3. The Father, Son, and Spirit are not one person who merely appear as three different persons. (as in the mask-wearing god of Modalism)


Father, Son, and Spirit – As Revealed In the New Testament

What follows are the places we see Father, Son, and Spirit revealed together. The underlined Scripture is accompanied by a brief explanation.

Matthew – 1:18-32; 3:16-17; 4:1-4; 12:15-18; 12:28-32; 22:41-45; 28:16-20

  • Believers are to baptized in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three distinct persons).

Mark1:9-12; 12:35-37

  • Jesus the Son was anointed by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the Father who affirmed Him.

Luke1:30-35; 1:41-45; 1:67-79; 2:25-32; 3:21-22; 4:1-12; 4:16-19; 10:21-22; 11:13; 12:8-12; 23:46

  • God the Father sent word to Mary that Jesus the Son, who would rule as the king of Israel, would be born to her through the power of the Holy Spirit.

John – 1:32-36; 3:5-6; 3:34-35; 4:21-26; 6:61-66; 14:8-31 (23-26); 15:26; 16:7-15; 20:21-22

  • As Jesus prepared to go to the cross and back to the Father, He promised His disciples He would send the Holy Spirit to give them understanding and peace.

Acts – 1:4-8; 2:14-24, 2:32-38; 4:8-10; 4:24-31; 5:29-32; 7:48-56; 8:14-21; 8:35-39; 9:17-20; 9:27-31; 10:38-48; 11:15-17; 15:7-12; 16:6-10; 20:21-28; 28:23-31

  • The Holy Spirit has appointed leaders to shepherd and protect God’s church which He purchased with the blood of Jesus.

Romans – 1:1-6; 5:1-8; 7:4-6; 8:1-11; 8:14-17; 8:26-30; 8:39-9:5; 14:17-18; 15:12-21; 15:30

  • We have peace with God the Father through Jesus His Son which we know because the Holy Spirit reassures us of His love.

1 Corinthians – 2:1-5; 2:8-16; 3:10-17; 6:10-11; 6:15-20; 12:1-7

  • God purchased His people by the blood of Jesus and united us into His body through the Holy Spirit. This should lead us to flee from sexual immorality because we belong to the Father who keeps us in His Son by the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians1:21–22 ; 3:3-5; 3:14-18; 5:1-10; 13:14

  • God gives us assurance and security in Christ by sealing our hearts with the guarantee of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians – 2:21-3:5; 3:10-14; 4:4-6; 5:21-24

  • God the Father fulfilled His plan of salvation by sending Jesus to redeem us and make us His sons which now leads us to cry out “Abba” to Him by the Holy Spirit He has given us.

Ephesians1:3-14; 1:17; 2:11-22; 3:2-5; 3:11-17; 4:3-6; 4:30-32; 5:18-20; 6:10-20

  • Our salvation is completely Trinitarian.  The Father chose us and predestined us in eternity past (v3-6), the Son redeemed us through His blood and grants us forgiveness of sins (v7-12), and the Holy Spirit seals us as a pledge that God will fulfill His promises (v13-14).  All is done for God’s glory (v6, 12, 14).

Philippians2:1-6, 3:3

  • Because of our fellowship in the Holy Spirit, we should imitate Jesus’ humility which He displayed in not clinging to His position of glory with the Father.

Colossians - 1:6-8

  • Epaphras, a minister of Jesus, had shared the Gospel of God the Father’s grace with the Colossians and testified of their love in the Holy Spirit.

1 Thessalonians – 1:1-6; 4:2-8; 5:18-23

  • Believers are called to obey God’s will in Christ Jesus by being thankful and not quenching the Holy Spirit.

2 Thessalonians – 2:13-14

  • God chose His elect to be saved by the truth of the Gospel and the power of the Spirit which results in sharing in the glory of Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy – 3:15-4:1

  • God’s church is called to uphold the truth about Jesus and heed the Spirit’s warnings about false prophets.

2 Timothy – 1:7-14

  • Timothy is encouraged not to be cowardly in his witness of Christ but rather to suffer faithfully in the power of God as he guards the Gospel by the power of the Spirit.

Titus – 3:4-6

  • God acts as our Savior by regenerating us through the Holy Spirit whom He gave us through Jesus Christ.

Hebrews – 2:3-4; 3:4-7; 6:4-6; 9:14; 10:1-18; 10:29-31

  • The Holy Spirit (v15) testifies that Jesus is the fulfillment of God the Father’s New Covenant promises.

1 Peter – 1:2; 3:18; 4:12-16

  • Christians can rejoice in the midst of suffering because God has given us His Spirit as a mark of His glory.

2 Peter – 1:16-21

  • Apostles made known the power of Jesus Christ (v16) through the Scriptures which were inspired by the Holy Spirit spoke from God the Father (v21).

1 John3:21-24; 4:2-3; 4:9-14; 5:5-10

  • We have confidence before God the Father (v21) because we believe in and obey His Son Jesus (v23) and continue to abide in Him by the Holy Spirit (v24).

Jude1:17-25 – Father (7); Son (7); Spirit (2)

  • Believers persevere in the love of God as they wait for Jesus to return by praying in the Holy Spirit.

Revelation – 1:4-8; 2-3; 14:12-13; 21:9-11; 22:16-21

  • We have the great hope of one day seeing the face of God the Father (v4), but until that day the Spirit and the Son call for unbelievers to come and drink of the water of life (v17).

My hope in setting these Scriptures before us is that we will be stirred to draw near to the God who has eternally dwelt in a perfect relationship of love, and now calls us to enter in as well. If a study of the Trinity seems too deep or overwhelming, remember that childlike faith is never turned away by our heavenly Father. Come and delight in God who mercifully calls us to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit to enjoy Him forever. 

Here’s a few helpful books to help your study of our great God.

Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Bruce Ware

Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective – Fred Sanders, Klaus Issler, Scott Horell

Making Sense of the Trinity – Millard Erickson


Picture courtesy of Sean Gerety who blogs at godshammer.wordpress.com. 


The Purpose and Privileges of Marriage


Steph and Scott Hands


1 Corinthians 10:31 “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”


The Purpose of Marriage

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do—including getting married and staying married, we are to do it all to glory of God. To glorify God means we do things in such a way that we put His greatness on display for all to see. In marriage, husbands and wives do this by speaking, serving, struggling, and persevering in a way that makes much of God.

That’s the purpose of your marriage, of my marriage, and of every marriage ever since the first marriage in the Garden of Eden.

In the opening chapters of Genesis we discover that God created our world, and called it “good.” It was a wonderful place in which God’s beauty, creativity, and glorious goodness was put on display. Into this world God placed a man (named Adam) and a woman (named Eve) whom He brought together as the first husband and wife (Genesis 2:24).

Their marriage was unique because it was perfect. Adam was the perfect husband and Eve was the perfect wife. They lived together in a perfect world. Sin had not stung in that land yet. Selfishness wasn’t even a possibility. Their hearts produced nothing but love for God and love for each other. There were no barriers between them. They “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).

In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve enjoyed the perfect marriage. Shame had not scarred them. Fears were nowhere to be found. Insecurities were non-existent. There were no regretful words. No conflicts. No bitterness. No baggage. They knew nothing but perfect love. Complete freedom. Total trust. They were two perfect people in a perfect world.

Obeying God came intuitively, and so did serving each other. Their most routine thought was, “I get to serve you and bring you happiness.” This selfless response fulfilled their purpose of giving God glory in their marriage. And as they loved and enjoyed God, He blessed their marriage with abounding privileges.


The Privileges of Marriage

In His goodness, God created life and marriage with countless ways to enjoy each other. These “privileges” of marriage came naturally in the Garden of Eden as they glorified God and served one another.

Conversations flowed effortlessly and encouragement abounded. They always felt understood and affirmed by their spouse. They experienced acceptance and security in their love for each other. They were lovers, best friends, and partners in worship.

They had no reason to distrust the other person. Transparency was instinctive and there were no secrets to hide. They never had snide remarks or hurtful words reverberating in their memories. Sexual intimacy was always fulfilling and was void of disappointment or shame. Adam led Eve in doing God’s will with bold tenderness while Eve submitted to Adam with contentment and joy.

All they knew was perfect, unhindered, untainted love. This is how marriage was supposed to be.


The Problem in Marriage

Adam and Eve’s innocent bliss did not last forever. They sinned against God and against one another (Genesis 3:1-12). In response, God sent Adam and Eve out from the Garden of Eden to live in a world marred by the curse of their own sin. And this is where we find ourselves today.

We’re no longer perfect people in a perfect world. We’re sinful people in a fallen world. And while we still enjoy many evidences of God’s love in this life and in marriage, there’s no escaping the effects of sin. Every bit of strife and struggle in marriage can be traced back to that scene where we traded God’s glory for sin’s empty promise of a better life.

While we feel this sin everywhere, we feel it uniquely in marriage. Marriage has been evicted from a sinless home enjoyed by two perfect people, and has settled in a house where two sinners are haunted by their sin. Marriage now bends and threatens to break under the pressures of work, family, ministry, and countless other things.

But the chief way we’re affected by sin is that purpose and privilege get twisted in our hearts. Outside of Eden our natural bent is now to seek the privileges of marriage as its purpose. We take the good things God has designed for us to enjoy and put them in His place. The focus of marriage becomes attaining privileges, rather than enjoying the privilege Giver.

Where did our romance go? Why doesn’t he listen to me any more? What do I have to do to get some honor and respect around here? Shouldn’t she want to spend time with me? Why do I feel so alone? Does sexual intimacy have to be so mechanical? Where’s the passion? Why don’t we have anything to talk about any more? Why are we so distant?

When privileges are wanting, we know it, even if we can’t put our emptiness into words.

And when our spouse doesn’t deliver the privileges as we’ve come to expect, our sinful heart gets hijacked with frustration. We get angry. We say and do things that hurt each other. We become bitter. We get distant. We grow cold.

It’s important to point out here that the swap of purpose and privilege also shows up in “good” marriages. Oftentimes couples that get along more easily can settle into the comfort of enjoying a life of privileges together. They enjoy each other’s companionship in such a way that they coast into a self-sustaining pattern that ultimately leaves them spiritually dry.

The scary thing about “good” marriages that delight supremely in privileges is that their unattended affections for God die a slow, unnoticeable death. This death will show itself in difficult times, or even more terrifyingly, won’t be exposed until the last day when we give account of ourselves before God Almighty.

The problem of purpose swapping is something we all face, in some form or fashion. We’re all tempted to make privileges supreme and exalt them as idols in our hearts.

And what happens to God in all this? He’s often still in the picture, but rather than being enthroned front and center, He becomes part of the supporting cast, a privilege, if you will. The One who can make your marriage better. The One who can fix things so you can enjoy your privileges again. He becomes a servant of our happiness rather than the source of it.

This is why marriages dissolve into divorce or into spiritual wastelands. No marriage fades because God receives too much glory in it. Marriages fade because glory is neglected and redirected to empty cisterns that hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).

While there is no escape from the presence of sin, there is a promise that gives hope to sinners…


The Promise for Marriage

Though we have sinned against God and stand under His condemnation, He still delights in extending mercy to unworthy rebels (Ezekiel 18:32; Micah 7:18). He has graciously provided His Son Jesus to rescue us from sin and to reconcile us to Himself—and to each other (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Jesus did this by living a perfect life of obedience to God (Hebrews 7:26) in which He gave the Father glory in everything He did (John 17:4). Jesus then willingly went to the cross to receive the judgment we deserved for all the times we traded God for idols (2 Corinthians 5:21). After three days, God raised Jesus from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) and He now intercedes for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) until the day He will return to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:30-31).

The good news of the Gospel is that all who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus will be forgiven and reconciled to God (Mark 1:15; 1 John 1:8-9).

And what is equally amazing is that God doesn’t stop giving grace once we start following Jesus. That’s good news because Christians never graduate from being weak, broken, sinners in need of His grace. The good news of the Gospel is that in marriage, there is help for us as we struggle to keep purpose and privilege in their proper place (Hebrews 4:14-16).

And it is in this struggle, outside of Eden, that imperfect husbands and imperfect wives fulfill their purpose of bringing God glory. We do this by looking to the heavens and saying “You are our strength” and “You are our hope” (Psalm 18:1-2, 28:7, 39:7, 71:5, 73:26). God is glorified when our weakness is led by the hand of faith to call upon Him to be our strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We learn to do this in days when privileges are sparse and when they abound because we believe that one day soon we will be together in that Land where we shall struggle no more. Until then, may God help us look  to Him and trust that He will supply all we need to have marriages that bring Him glory.



My wife and I host a monthly Honeymooners Group (young marrieds) in our home. This is a summary of the lesson our group discussed for July (you can read June’s here). A special thanks to Paul Polk, the friend and brother who taught us this all important lesson during our pre-marital counseling. Below are a few suggestions to help you consider how to make the most out of this lesson over the next month.  

  • Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • Discuss ways your marriage brings glory to God. Use this as a time to praise God and encourage each other for His grace in your life.
  • List out many of the privileges you’ve seen God give in your marriage. Thank Him for giving you these gifts to enjoy.
  • Take time to discuss what privileges you find yourself most tempted to make into idols. How have you seen this happen in your own hearts? What can you do to guard each other’s hearts from this temptation?
  • Take time to reflect on how God’s grace in the Gospel encourages you to fight sin and pursue giving Him glory.
  • Look up the Psalms listed above and use them as a guide to pray for God to be your strength and hope in marriage.

How Christians Can Pray for Muslim Friends During Ramadan


As Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, Christians should cry out to the true God of heaven on their behalf.

Many of us have Muslim friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers we hope to see trust in Jesus. We know they consider Jesus a prophet, but we long to see them believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. As Ramadan approaches, we are provided with a fresh opportunity to pray for them and hopefully engage with them in spiritual conversation.

What is Ramadan?

On the evening of Saturday, June 28, 2014, billions of Muslims around the world will begin observing Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered the holiest month of the year for Muslims.

The observance of Ramadan is one of the 5 Pillars of the Islamic faith, which requires all Muslims who are physically able to fast each day of the month, from sunrise to sunset.

This time of fasting from food, drink, and other physical needs is intended to purify the soul, practice self-restraint, and refocus one’s devotion to their god, Allah. This is also a time when many Muslims increase their alms giving to the poor, which is another of the 5 Pillars of their faith.

The evenings are spent enjoying time with family and community meals, engaging in prayer and spiritual reflection, and reading from the Quran. The observance of Ramadan concludes, according to the western calendar, on the evening of Monday, July 28th.

How Can We Pray During Ramadan?

Father, we pray that as they set their hearts to worship their god Allah, that You might make them to “know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Help them see that Jesus is Your eternal Son through whom they can have eternal life.

Father, we pray that as their bodies hunger and their tongues thirst, that You would show them Jesus who promised “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Help them see the insufficiency of their works and lead them to hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only Jesus can give.

Father, we pray that as they practice self-restraint that You would show them Jesus who, before He was crucified for sinners, denied Himself and “prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:39). Help them believe that He truly died on the cross and drank fully from the cup of Your wrath.

Father, we pray that as they give alms to the poor that You would show them Jesus who “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Help them see and treasure the eternal glory of Your Son Jesus.

Father, we pray that as they gather together to feast in the evening, that You would show them Jesus who invites sinners of all sorts to abandon their false gods and by faith join “those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 16:9). Show them the resurrected and ascended King of Glory who desires them to draw near to Him in faith.

Father, we pray that you would give Your church love for Muslims across the world. Make us like Jesus who “felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Guard us from self-righteousness that would lead us to having hard hearts toward those who do not know You.

Father, we pray that you would give Your church opportunity and courage to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims throughout the world. Lift our eyes to Jesus who promised to empower us when He said “I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let us not fear any consequence of faithfully taking the Gospel to those who desperately need Your grace.


May this season of Ramadan be marked by the faithful intercession of God’s people who long to see many Muslims come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, the Son of God.


A Response to Planned Parenthood’s “Pastoral Letter”


ultrasoundIn a “pastoral letterPlanned Parenthood claims that the Bible says nothing about abortion. Here’s the direct quote from the letter, “many people wrongly assume that all religious leaders disapprove of abortion. The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures — Jewish or Christian — and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.

Abortion is an issue that is near to my heart so I thought I’d take a moment to answer the question, “does the Bible teach abortion is wrong?” As you read these Scriptures and consider my questions, ask God to show you what He says is true—because in the end what He thinks is what matters most.

Though the Bible doesn’t mention the word “abortion,” I believe it clearly teaches that abortion is a terrible sin. These are not all the verses we could consider, but they are a few that best capture what the Bible says about this all important issue.

Exodus 21:22–25 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Does the Bible seem to clearly teach here that what comes out of a woman is a not just a fetus, but is a child? How serious does God say it is to kill an unborn child? If this is true of an accidental injury to a pregnant woman and her child, how much more serious is an intentional act of killing a child in the womb?

Ecclesiastes 11:5 “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”

If God sends a “spirit” to come into a woman to produce a child, does that not show that what is inside her is living? If God says, I want a child in that womb, do we have the right to tell God “no, You may not do that, I will take that living thing out of me?”

Job 10:10–12 “Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? 11You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. 12You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.”

What happens when sperm and egg unite in what we call conception? Is that not life? If you can detect a heartbeat (5-8 weeks after conception) does that not mean there is something living there? Where do skin, flesh, bone and sinews form? Are they not made in the womb? If we found all of this on another planet, would we not celebrate that we have found life there?

Psalm 139:13–16 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (cf. Job 31:15; Isaiah 44:2)

What do you think the Bible is implying when David says God “formed” his “inward parts” in his “mother’s womb?” What does it imply when it says he was “wonderfully made” and “intricately woven”? Does this not imply that God is at work in the womb, creating a human being? If God knows “all the days” of that being, even while its substance is “unformed”, does that not imply that God has a plan for that being in the womb? Do we have the right to tell God to stop this marvelous work because we have other plans? 

Isaiah 49:1 “Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.”

If God calls and names someone when they are in the womb, does that not make them a living person?

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (cf. Galatians 1:15)

If God has knowledge of someone as a person before they are even formed in the womb, does that not show that what is in the womb has great value and worth? Does not God forming someone in the womb show His intent to bring a life along to His designed end?

Amos 1:13 “I will not revoke the punishment, because they have ripped open pregnant women.”

Why does God see the ripping open of a pregnant woman’s womb as such a big deal? How is this different than His anger toward someone who would kill a woman who isn’t pregnant? Could it be that they would be killing two people? 

Luke 1:39–44 “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

What does the Bible say was in the womb of Elizabeth? Does it not call John a “baby?” And what does that baby do when it hears the voice of the pregnant Mary? Does it not say the baby leaped for joy? And what does she say about the “fruit” of Mary’s womb (see also Psalm 127:3)? Does this not imply that what is in her is of value and has great worth? From this don’t we have to conclude that what is in her womb is a baby?

After looking a just a few verses, it is overwhelmingly clear that God views what is in the womb of a woman at conception to be a life, a baby, a human being like you and me.

The Bible also teaches that taking the life of another person (murder) is a grievous sin. In Exodus 20:3 God says “you shall not murder” (cf. Genesis 9:5; Matthew 5:21; 19:18; Romans 13:9; 1 John 3:15).

To end a life is to kill it. We may want to phrase it differently, but an “abortion,” a “choice to not keep the baby,” to “terminate a pregnancy,” are all clearly ending a life. This is murder.  The Bible forbids this because it teaches that God alone has the right to give life and take it away (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 1:21).

God also says that when his people have murdered their children, that it is a great sin in His eyes (Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 12:31; 2 Kings 16:3, 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31, 32:35).

Whether or not one believes the Bible is another matter, but to suggest that the Bible allows abortion is deceptive. One of the earliest Christian documents The Didache (circa A.D. 100) says “You shall not murder a child by abortion.” Christians have always believed that God does not give us permission to take the life of our children. He gives, we may not take away.

If you choose to have an abortion, please don’t do it under the premise that God doesn’t care about what you are doing. God does care. He loves you and He loves the child in your womb. He is the One who made the life happen, look to Him for what He wants you to do with the child.

If you are considering an abortion and feel like you have no other options, please know there are people who can help you think about other options, including connecting you with loving families who would be willing to discuss adoption. If you have nowhere to turn, please reach out to a local church near you or email outreach@assistcpc.org who can connect you to someone in your area.

Please know that God meets us where we are in our journey, and He does this through His Son Jesus. If you find yourself weary, hear this word of promise from the Lord Himself, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Please turn to the Lord in this season of great decision and allow Him to give you the grace we all desperately need.



Reflections on the 2014 SBC Pastor’s Conference


SBCPC 2014Earlier this week, 7 friends from our church joined me for the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in Baltimore, MD. This two-day event precedes the Southern Baptist Convention and is intended to encourage and challenge pastors in ministry. While this was my fourth Pastor’s Conference, this was the first exposure to the SBC for most of those who came with me.

This year’s theme was “Show Us Your Glory” inspired by Moses’ plea found in Exodus 33:18-23. There were 9 pastors who preached messages including Ronnie Floyd (new SBC president), H.B. Charles, David Platt, Johnny Hunt, Clayton King, Eric Mason, J.D. Greer, Alex Himaya (pinch-hitting for Tony Evans), Rick Warren, James MacDonald, and Francis Chan.

We listened to each of the talks (except one) and then spent time discussing them as a group. During our review we each tried to graciously highlight parts we found encouraging and helpful and then circled back to go over parts we found confusing or unhelpful.

Here’s a few of our takeaways.


Areas of Encouragement

1. Big churches and famous pastors aren’t our hope.

One of the reoccurring themes of the messages was that God doesn’t need big churches and famous pastors to advance His church. Though all the speakers at the conference were well-known pastors of large churches, several of the brothers spoke against the idea that God’s glory is best seen in the celebrity church model.

This was refreshing to hear from a denomination that has, at least at times, appeared to endorse the 6 Flags Over Jesus model of ministry where “bigger is better.” In J.D. Greer’s message he directly addressed this by showing how God has used “no-name” Christians throughout history to expand the church and do works greater than Jesus Himself (John 14:12). Jesus loves to use the weak and humble to make His glory known, and that was good news for us.

2. We must be burdened to proclaim the Gospel.

As you might expect at an SBC event, the call to be evangelistic was front and center in many of the talks. God has given us the Gospel and as Johnny Hunt said, “regardless of how well we define the Gospel, it does no good if we don’t declare the Gospel.” While not every talk specifically encouraged us to take the Good News to those who don’t know Jesus, we couldn’t help but talk about ways we could do this better in our own church.

Ironically, we also noticed that most of the messages didn’t explicitly proclaim the Gospel—but more on that in a minute.

3. The pastors’ transparency was endearing and encouraging.

While there is a danger in repeatedly referencing yourself in messages, a few of the brothers (H.B., J.D. and Rick Warren in particular) showed us God’s glory through their weakness and suffering.

Christians are not the courageous lions of the kingdom, we are weak sheep who need the strength and guidance of the Chief Shepherd. Several of these men opened their lives and humbly shared how they had been empowered by the Almighty in times of pride and tragedy.

I was deeply encouraged by Rick Warren’s transparency about his son’s suicide and the lessons he shared about what God is doing in our suffering and how we should respond to Him. I’d commend the message to anyone who is in a season of darkness—or who desires to prepare for the one that is sure to come.

4. The ethnic diversity of the preachers was refreshing.

The SBC has long been known as a white man’s denomination. While some may not like to admit this, it’s tough to argue, especially after doing a quick scan of those in attendance. But as this year’s preaching line-up reflected, I believe the SBC is making strides to be a denomination with members whose ethnic diversity reflects the diversity in the kingdom of God (Revelation 5:9, 7:9-10).

This year four of the nine preachers were not Caucasian. And to be clear, the four other preachers were not token minority brothers invited to bring some color to the line up. The non-white brothers who fed us were well-abled men who knew the Word and used their gifts to edify and exhort us for God’s glory. We were all refreshed by the ethnic diversity among the preachers.


Areas of Improvement

1. Exposition Was Often Absent.

This was the first time many of us had the opportunity to hear these brothers preach. We don’t know what they do in their churches on Sunday morning, but we hope they preach expository sermons (where the point of the sermon is the point of the text). But that’s not what happened in most of the sermons during the conference.

We all agreed that the sermons in the pastor’s conference should both be both edifying and instructive for the preachers in attendance. While most of them were edifying, only a few were good models of how to preach an expository sermon. Several of the brothers missed this opportunity and used the text to support a point they wanted to make.

To be clear, we don’t think topical sermons are unhelpful, but none of these sermons were really topical either. Though he wasn’t the only one who did it, we all agreed that H.B. Charles’ sermon was a model of how to both edify and instruct through faithful exposition of God’s Word.

2. The Gospel Was Often Assumed.

While there was much talk about the Gospel, we felt it was usually assumed rather than explicitly explained and proclaimed. Jesus was referenced, the cross was referenced, belief and repentance were referenced, but we could only point to a few times in the whole pastor’s conference where the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were explicitly proclaimed (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This was concerning for three reasons.

1st, it served as a missed opportunity for the pastors in attendance to see how to proclaim the Gospel in their preaching. 2nd, there were thousands of people in that room and it is certain that not everyone was born again. Finally, the assumption of the Gospel by a denomination is the first step toward a denomination losing the Gospel. As D.A. Carson has said, a church is never more than three generations from losing the gospel: one generation to believe it and proclaim it, a second generation to assume it, and a third generation to lose it.

The Gospel is too precious to be lost and too necessary to be assumed. Let us be a denomination filled with pastors who make the Gospel clear in every sermon we proclaim.

3. Jesus’ Glory Was Largely Neglected.

The most striking thing to our group was that in the majority of the sermons Jesus was not shown as the fulfillment of the text being preached. This wasn’t the case in every sermon (for instance, David Platt clearly showed how Jesus fulfilled Psalm 68), but the majority of the sermons lacked a clear explanation of how Jesus fulfills the OT pleas for glory (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27).

If there was anything we should expect from Christian pastors, it would be to show those who are listening how Jesus fulfills the text being preached. And in a conference with the theme “show me your glory” we were certain that texts like John 1:14 would be front and center.

Now, I am certain that all the brothers who were preaching believed Christ to be the fulfillment of their text, but making this explicit is a must for those of us who serve as Christian ministers. As I say this, I say it as someone who has grown in this conviction over the past five years. A dear pastor friend of mine challenged me on my lack of Christ-centric preaching and it has forever changed my ministry. May we always proclaim Jesus as the hope and highpoint of every message.


If these critiques sound harsh, they are not intended to be. On the whole, I am grateful for our denomination and the things we stand for, but I do think we need to help each other grow in faithfulness. This is an attempt to assist to that end. Our group was thankful for the hard work Dr. Bruce Frank and these preachers put into the conference and trust the Lord will use it to bear much fruit for His glory. 


Marriage is From God and For God


Wedding Rings


While Colossians 1 doesn’t specifically speak to marriage, I trust you’ll find truths in this passage to be a source of help for husbands and wives who desire to have a healthy marriage.


Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

Marriage is from God.

“…all things were created by Him…”

As with all good gifts, marriage comes from God (James 1:17). He made it, which means He knows how it is supposed to work. While that may not be rocket science, it is certainly important. Why? Because we naturally assume we know how marriage works. I mean, we love each other, what more could we need to know?

A lot.

Husbands need God to continually teach them how to lead their wives through sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7). Wives need God to ceaselessly show them how to help their husbands through honoring and following their leadership (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Couples need God to teach them how to not be easily offended and how to lovingly work through conflict (Colossians 3:11-15). They need to be reminded of how Christ loved them so they will treat one another as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:1-11).

Heart-centered characteristics like humility, service, gentleness, patience and sacrifice don’t come natural to us. We need God the Father to show us Christ the Son through His Word so that by His Spirit we might be changed and love our spouses as He created us to love them.

This passage calls for us to assume the posture of students in our marriages. From the moment we say “I do” to the moment we must say our final “good bye”, husband and wife should be learning together about God’s design for marriage.

Do you and your spouse humbly approach marriage as learners? Do you study the Scriptures to be instructed, corrected, and encouraged about the way you live as a married couple?

Marriage is from God, so draw near and let Him teach you how to love each other.


Marriage is for God.

“…all things were created…for Him…”

One of our most basic assumptions about marriage is that it exists for us. But our text says something different. Marriage isn’t ultimately for us—it’s for Jesus.

What does that mean? Let’s say you wake up in the morning, and you walk into the kitchen—and there is a sink full of dirty dishes. Again. Let’s also assume you’re the neurotic one who hates dirty dishes in the sink.

If you think marriage is for you or about you, you’ll be tempted to respond with anger. Why? Because your rights, your desires, your preferences are not being honored. But if you can remember that marriage is for Jesus, you find in the sink an opportunity to serve your spouse as Christ served you.

Does that mean you shouldn’t talk to your spouse about the dishes? Not at all. Because marriage is for Jesus, there must be an atmosphere of honesty. But the way you talk about your struggles is informed by the desire of making Jesus supreme. Someone is always going to look big in your marriage, and there is only One who is worthy of that honor.

How would your marriage be different if you knew it wasn’t ultimately about you? Why is that so difficult to embrace? What if every conversation or conflict was colored by the desire to bring pleasure to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1)? How might focusing on pleasing Christ be freeing to your relationship?

Marriage is for Jesus, so humble yourselves and make much of Him.


Marriage is sustained by God.

“…in Him all things hold together.”

The enduring strength of your marriage comes not from yourself or your spouse’s resolve, but it comes from Jesus Himself. It is “in Him” that your marriage holds together. This is wonderful news for weak and frail sinners like us.

When you are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When you doubt, He gives hope (Romans 15:13).

When you are weary, He gives strength (Isaiah 40:29).

When all around you shakes, He holds you steady (Psalm 75:3).

The all-powerful One who created the universe is the same God who sustains everything in the universe. This includes your marriage. God is willing and able to help you keep your vows that you made to your spouse in His presence. In Him, you hold together.

In your dark days, don’t lose heart, for He is with you (Psalm 23:4).

In your days of ease, don’t grow cold to the One who gave the ease (Deuteronomy 6:11-12).

As Christians, we never graduate from the Gospel. We came to Christ as weak, broken, needy sinners. Marriage doesn’t change that. If anything, it only confirms it.

Do you believe that God is willing and able to hold your marriage together until the end of your life? What might be the greatest test of your faith in this promise? How are you looking to Him for your strength? How can you do this as a couple?

Marriage is held together by the hands of the Almighty God, so lean upon His everlasting arms.


My wife and I host a monthly Honeymooners Group (young marrieds) in our home. This is a summary of the lesson our group discussed for June. Below are a few suggestions we made to help us consider these truths throughout month. You may find them helpful as well.

  • Memorize Colossians 1:15-17
  • Consider posting a sign that says “Our marriage is from Jesus and for Jesus.” Ask God to help you keep this truth in the forefront of your heart.
  • Consider the questions in the above summary together.
  • Pray regularly that God would help you to make pleasing Jesus your primary pursuit.
  • Keep record of the things that tempt you to make marriage about you. Share these with your spouse. Don’t use this as an opportunity to attack each other, but pray for God to use it to help each other grow in Christ-likness.
  • Make sure you take time to pray for each other regularly.

Why Tell a Child the Same Thing Twenty Times?


PloughingA sister in our church shared this portion of a Spurgeon sermon with me today.  

“Why do you tell your child a thing twenty times?” asked some one of a mother. “Because,” said she, “I find nineteen times is not enough.” Now, when a soul is to be ploughed, it may so happen that hundreds of furrows will not do it. What then? Why, plough all day till the work is done. Whether you are ministers, missionaries, teachers, or private soul-winners, never grow weary, for your work is noble, and the reward of it is infinite. The grace of God is seen in our being permitted to engage in such holy service; it is greatly magnified in sustaining us in it, and it will be pre-eminently conspicuous in enabling us to hold out till we can say, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Lord, help us to sow, plow, speak, parent, pray, and minister with the certain hope that you’re using our feeble efforts for your faithful purposes. Give us grace to persevere knowing that you are working in and through us for Your glory. Amen.



12 Topics to Talk Over Before You Get Engaged


will you marry me


Thinking about getting engaged?

While ring shopping is certainly a key part of the big day, there is a much more important part to your preparation. What follows are 12 topics couples should consider before taking things to the next relational level.

As you read through these, I want to pass on a wise word someone shared with me before I was married: As now, so then. Meaning, as someone is now, so you can expect them to be in marriage.

Don’t marry someone on potential. These questions will help you evaluate, not if someone is perfect (only Jesus is), but if they are the kind of person who will make your life-long journey with Jesus both fruitful and enjoyable.


1. Fun

If you’re going to spend the rest of your life in a relationship, you need to enjoy spending time together. A person may be godly, but if you get bored or don’t enjoy spending time together, its not a good sign.

Do I enjoy being with this person? Do we laugh together?

If you don’t, then it may be time to pull the plug.


2. Friendship

If you get married, your spouse will be your best friend. That means your boyfriend or girlfriend needs to be a good friend long before he or she becomes your spouse.

Can you see yourself spending the rest of your time growing as friends? Will he or she be a good partner and teammate in life and ministry?

What do you enjoy about your friendship? In what ways does your friendship need to grow?


3. Faith

Few things are more important in a relationship than what you believe about God, life, and eternity.

Do you share the same fundamental beliefs? Do you share the same view on Scripture (authoritative and sufficient)?

Do you agree on your understanding of the Trinity, the gospel, salvation, sin, and Christ?

Look at the person’s life and start asking some questions about how he or she lives out his or her faith.

Does he or she deliberately live out a life of faith? Is there noticeable fruit and godliness?

Does he or she have a servant’s heart? What do other people say about his faith?

What does your pastor or pastor’s wife think about him or her?

If you don’t see clear evidence of faith, then you need to ask yourself (and the other person) some hard questions:

Do they have a steady devotional life? If not, why not?

Do they show a desire to obey Jesus in all things? If not, why not?

Are they faithfully serving in their local church? If not, why not?

Do you agree what type of church you should go to? If not, what are your theological differences?


4. Faithfulness

A person who is marked by faithfulness will be steady and reliable. They will follow through on what they say they will do, and they ask for forgiveness when they don’t. Few things make marriage more miserable than constantly having to guess if your spouse will do what they say.

Is your boyfriend or girlfriend emotionally and spiritually mature? Are they steady, stable and reliable?

Do they consistently honor their promises? Do you trust what they say?

Have you ever challenged his or her inconsistent words and if so, how have they responded?

Are you guarding each other’s sexual purity? (read this article about Satan’s schemes in pre-martial sexual sin)


5. Family

While you want to guard each other’s hearts as you wade into these waters, it is important to talk through how you think about marriage, roles of husband and wife, children, and the relationship with potential in-laws.

Does your boyfriend/girlfriend value marriage and hold it in high regard?

Is his or her understanding of marriage shaped by the world or God’s Word?

How would you both describe the biblical role of a husband and a wife?

How would you both describe the biblical role of fatherhood and motherhood?

If you got married sometime soon, what would you be giving up that would be hard to let go? (i.e., a good career? Educational goals? Your independence?)

What hopes and fears do you have about future in-laws? What challenges might you face with them?

Though there is no biblical responsibility for non-married couples to lead or submit, you should be trying to discern if you think they will faithfully serve in their role once they get married.

Would he be the kind of man you would want to submit to if you got married?

Is she the kind of woman who would willing follow if you got married?

Is he or she a servant or selfish?

Is he or she quick to respond to your needs or the needs of others?

Is he or she teachable and willing to be influenced by you?


6. Fidelity

In Genesis 2:24, Moses describes the husband as “holding fast” to his wife. It’s a description of the nature of the marital bond—permanent and meant to last, not temporary and flimsy. 

Is your boyfriend or girlfriend someone who is loyal and committed in his or her relationships?

When things get tough, does she exit quickly, or does she tend to endure through the difficulty?

If they are not characterized by faithfulness and commitment in relationships before marriage, what gives you confidence they will be in marriage?


7. Finances

Counselors often talk about the “Big 3” that cause marital conflict—parenting, sex, and money.

Does your boyfriend or girlfriend have a good job and make a decent income? Does the guy make enough to support a family?

Do either of you have a lot of debt? Do either of you have a budget and do you try to stick to it?

Do both of you tithe or give to other Christian causes? Are you both generous with what God has given you?


8. Future

An important part of marriage is being a team. It is important to make sure your hopes and dreams for the future line up. If you are headed down different paths then beware.

What do you both want to do with your lives?

What plans or dreams do you have for the future (e.g., career, family, home-life, ministry goals, church involvement, plans for where you want to live, etc.)?

If your future goals differ, how are you going to reconcile these things?


9. Fights

The difference between good and bad marriages is not that good marriages don’t struggle. The difference between good and bad marriages is that the good ones know how to handle conflict in a Christ-like, respectful, and humble way.

How do the two of you handle conflict? Do you tend to leave things lingering?

Are you likely to build up grudges and frustrations? If either of you struggles with anger, how do you head it off before it explodes?

Are you quick to forgive the other person and keep short accounts? Do you both initiate reconciliation or is it usually one person?


10. Foolishness

Whether you’ve struggled with difficult sins from the past, or you are still struggling with significant sins right now, it’s important to talk to your future spouse about these things. This is important because your spouse needs to know who they are marrying. Mold grows in the darkness, not in the light.

While having this conversation can be potentially terrifying, it is an important pattern to set in marriage. You need to be able to speak openly and honestly about your sins in marriage and learn how to forgive and encourage each other in the Gospel. If God has already forgiven us, we hope that with time (or hopefully immediately) your future spouse will forgive you for your sins.

What sins have been a significant part of your life before now? (sexual sin, poor financial stewardship, drug or alcohol addiction, eating disorders, etc.) How have you seen God help you fight against them?

Are there lingering sins that you need to be honest about? What are you doing to actively put sin to death? (if porn is an on-going problem, listen to this.)

We encourage you to seek counsel about how much you should share (be more general than specific, except with serious and scandalous sins) and at what point it is appropriate to share these things in your relationship (definitely not first date, definitely before engagement).


11. Fears

Marriage is a big deal. It’s a permanent commitment, and it lasts a life-time. It is perfectly normal to be nervous and scared about taking such a big step.

What fears do either of you have about getting married? Do you have fears about committing to this specific person?

In what ways do you not trust him or her? Are they reasonable or irrational fears?


12. Feedback (i.e., Accountability)

In our culture, independence is a virtue and dependence a weakness. God says the opposite is true (2 Cor. 12:9). We gain wisdom from knowing our need and asking God to supply the wisdom we lack (James 1:5). One quick way to grow in this wisdom is to consistently seek out counsel from the godly men and women in your life (Proverbs 15:22; 18:1; 24:6). The Bible says the person who resists wisdom from others is a fool (Proverbs 12:15).

Is your boyfriend or girlfriend teachable and accountable to others, especially those in his or her church?

Does they often make decisions on their own, or do they seek the counsel of others?

Do they pursue and seek out assistance or do they want to keep parts of your relationship secret?

Dating / courting as a Christian is to always be done in the context of your church community. The potential for self-deceit is too large, and the life-long commitment so significant, that you need to be humble enough to recognize that you need help. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Wise advice from godly friends can be a safety-net for your life.

From very early on in the relationship, you should actively pursue having married couples involved in the relationship. Guys, take the responsibility to initiate with another godly couple in the church and set up time for you and your girlfriend to hang out and open up. Ask them to walk with you through the relationship and allow them to give you godly wisdom.

Do you have married friends holding you accountable? Are they asking you tough enough questions?



Marriage is a wonderful gift from the Lord and is “to be held in high honor among all” (Hebrews 13:4). One of the ways we do this is by preparing well. May God give you much grace!


This is an edited excerpt from “So You Want to Get Engaged?” by Deepak Reju and Scott Croft.  The full-length article (highly recommended) contains tons of excellent information for couples heading toward marriage and those who are shepherding them along.