Biblical Counseling, Reading, Uncategorized

Love and Marriage

The chasm between the biblical vision and society’s view of love and marriage has never been broader. It rings true that previous generations’ view of marriage was never high enough but we have reached a low, casual attitude of both what constitutes marriage and warrants it disposable. What would seem ludicrous in generations past has become the norm. Marriage is fundamentally God’s own design, confirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:8.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:4–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 10:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Love doesn’t come easily and as a counselor, I see women who’ve become tired and frustrated in marriage. It takes intentional work and time to model God’s good design. Much like other relationships, love is best shared when applying biblical principles. It’s shameful that many couples are no longer willing to exercise patience, preferring to simply throw in the towel. David Powlison said it best, “It’s no accident “Love is patient” comes first in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience isn’t very dramatic, but it counts.” 

The book titles I refer to time and again are: God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger, Preparing for Marriage by by Boehi, Nelson, and Shadrach (edited by Dennis Rainey), What did you Expect? by Paul Tripp, and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.

Below are words penned by Timothy Keller in his book, The Meaning of Marriage. Whether you are long-time married or merely contemplating marriage, I suggest you read Keller’s book.

“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what 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!” 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” 

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” 

“You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.” 

“Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.” 

“What marriage is for: It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be.” 

If we are to be biblical Christians, God will be honored in our relationships. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

Reading, Reading List

Top Ten + Two

Throughout the year I’ve shared book titles for pleasure and purpose. I am grateful for published authors whose education far exceeds my own; many good men and women have spent the bulk of their lives learning, teaching, and sharing through writings as their life’s vocation. Aside from my own continued learning, I am an advocate for women to learn, enjoy, and share God’s Word. In this blog post I will share the top ten book titles aiding my Bible understanding, expanding my knowledge of theology and the church, and those offering wisdom that speaks to the Christian life.

10) Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson reminds us of how living our lives in the present should be shaped by what is certain at life’s end. Seeing life as God’s wondrous gift frees us to live wisely and faithfully, Gibson engages the reader with his retelling of Ecclesiastes. I found this book especially helpful with long-term planning and decision making.

9) Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith by Joel R. Beeke is a book that will bring comforting peace to the child of God who is trapped in doubting her assurance of faith. Tackling the hard topics of both easy believism and hard believism Beeke presents a thorough biblical case.

8) Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp is an honest yet compelling book of comfort. Tripp offers an empathetic ear without trivializing our own sufferings. Personally, I found this book timely and helpful. This is an important book in the life of the church as we come alongside one another.

7) Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson focuses on the important lesson the New Testament has to teach us about the process of Christian growth to spiritual maturity. Rooted in the reality of the Christian life, Ferguson seeks to show what maturity is and how it is to be obtained. For me, this book prompted reflection time and again.

6) Knowing Christianity by J.I. Packer turns our attention to the central doctrines of God, the Bible, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As the author explores the principal elements of the Christian life, his book offers help and hope from the unchanging truth of God. Packer offers much more than the latest self-help books, laying out a vast picture of the Christian faith.

5) Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church by Michael J. Kruger is a readable and well-researched book. With little writing for the lay person on this time period, I had great appreciation for the author’s work. Through Kruger’s summaries, the reader is presented with practical data of the transitions faced by Christians in the second century that would determine the future of the church. I gained better understanding of Christianity as well as the church we know today. My only regret is that I had not read it sooner.

4) The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre is written specifically for counselors and shepherds. A Professor of Biblical Counseling, Pierre provides biblical truth as he shows how to carefully make diagnoses. While sharpening the counselor’s skills in remedy by way of scripture, he takes us into sound doctrine while equipping us to help with wisdom and love. This book is a discovery of a dynamic relationship with God and how it changes the way people respond to every other aspect of life. Pierre’s work is endorsed by Ed Welch, Bruce Ware, Russell Moore, and Alistair Begg.

3) The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders is a readable book on the Trinitarian shape of evangelical faith and practice. Sanders writes, “Nothing we do as evangelicals makes sense if it is divorced from a strong experiential and doctrinal grasp of the coordinated work of Jesus and the Spirit, worked out against the horizon of the Father’s love.” With a personal study guide included, I believe this book would be ideal for life application and group discussion. This book was a staple when teaching the Doctrine of the Trinity.

2) Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper is a reminder that Christians often pit thinking and feeling against each other. This book’s focus helps us to consider how thinking and things of the heart glorify God together. This book is helpful to any woman whose desire is to learn and grow in the Christian faith. I highly recommend Think to those who attend the Sunday evening class, Let’s Do Theology. My personal copy is on loan to my granddaughter. It’s an important read!

1) None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett addresses how Christians have domesticated God, bringing him down to our level. Rightly lifting Him up as the Creator rather than the creature, Barrett presents the attributes of God as the most perfect, supreme being. This excellent book lays out clear, accessible terms in his glossary (helping the reader track the argument throughout the book). I found Barrett’s glossary superior to others in the comprehension of these particular theological terms. Without question, this was my best read of 2019. None Greater was an excellent resource in preparing to teach the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God.

+2) Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not list two recurring titles in my yearly reading. Knowing God by J.I. Packer and The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer are two classics. Whether reading Tozer’s focus on the attributes of God, or J.I. Packer’s significant book on the glory and joy of knowing God, each time I am left better equipped to deal with basic spiritual truths in a practical way.

I hope my list encourages reading the works of these skilled authors. May you grow in grace and knowledge in the upcoming year.

Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness – all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. – J.C. Ryle


Digging Deeper

Recent weeks brought me to a place of digging deeper for the purpose of affirming what I had known as truth. In addition to my personal Bible studies, I read several books whose titles I will share with you here. My quest was to explore complementarianism going beyond the 1988 Danvers Statement ( and search for the church’s position throughout history. You should know that questions from women in my local church and community prompted my quest. In addition to biblical text, accompanied by numerous systematic theologies and commentaries, I found these resources helpful:

Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood – writers explore key issues, including the interchangeability of male-female roles.

Andreas J. Kostenberger & Thomas R. Schreiner, Women in the Church – concluding the unfolding of biblical text in depth, they offer a roundtable discussion of women’s voices.

Michael J. Kruger, Christianity at the Crossroads – summarizes the best of contemporary research about second-century Christianity.

Diana Lynn Severance, Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – encouragement through the telling of faith of ordinary women humbly trusting the Word of God and living to serve. Deeply researched survey of the last 2,000 years.

Kathleen Nielson, Women & God – A conversational book about what God says about women. Unpacks some difficult passages many want to avoid.

Goal Setting & Decision Making, Reading

Finishing Well

I’m often asked, “What’s the end-game?” Viewing life in light of 2 Timothy 1, Colossians 1:28, Titus 2, Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8, my “end-game” is to finish well. It is for the glory of God I live this life, and all things I do in His name I commit to Him. To do all things well and to represent Him rightly is my desire. Redeeming this time for eternity will be the laurels I lay at the feet of my Savior. Albeit, my attempts are feeble and at the mercy of His completion. Wisdom calls me to consider the brevity of life in long-term goal setting and decision making.

It’s not how we start; it’s how we finish that is of most value. There is no greater example of finishing well than the life of Paul. Paul endured beatings, imprisonment, false accusation, and difficulties most of us can only imagine. Yet at life’s end, he passed the torch to Timothy and spurred him on. Finishing strong requires courage; Paul’s bravery was intentional and God-supplied. No matter life’s hardships and circumstances, we become our best selves when we are aligning direction with God, resting in his grace, delighting in his mercy, and keeping hope for life eternal. 

  • 2 Corinthians 11:16-33
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
  • 2 Timothy 4:6-8
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58

I will let you know that my phase of goal-setting and decision-making has proved profitable. Through prayer, Bible study, reading, and receiving counsel, I have gained better understanding of where and how many good things before me come together. David Gibson’s book, Living Life Backward, I have found to be helpful as an exposition of the book of Ecclesiastes. I can’t say it was my favorite book, but it was timely. I enjoyed the questions asked in the book for personal reflection. Here are a few quotes from the book. Stick with me because the last is best.

Death can radically enable us to enjoy life. By relativizing all that we do in our days under the sun, death can change us from people who want to control life for gain into people who find deep joy in receiving life as a gift…life in God’s world is gift, not gain.

If you haven’t ever wondered why it matters what you do, given that one day you will be a forgotten nobody, then you haven’t thought much about the reality of death.

The very limitation that death introduces into our life can instruct us about life. Think of it as death’s helping hand.

But the wise person sits at the funeral home and stares at the coffin and realizes that one day it will be his turn. The wise person asks himself, “When it is my turn, what will my life have been worth? What will they be saying about me?” He loved his bowling and his partying and his holidays. Is that it?

The sermons death preaches can tell us more about the way we love and the way we live than we ever realize is actually going on while we love and live.

To die well means I realize death is not simply something that happens to me; it happens to me because I am a sinner.

Preparing to die means thinking about how to live.

The path of wisdom along life’s road is to enjoy the gifts God has given you, the simple things that give you pleasure…God takes pleasure in your pleasure.

Ecclesiastes urges us to think about life under the sun from the perspective of life above the sun…Think about time from the standpoint of eternity. What you do, and how you do it, matters because God will bring everything and everyone to the day of judgment.

Your friendships aren’t there to bolster your confidence or your security or self-image so that you can now go and do something with your life. Don’t use people like that; your friendships are themselves the gift.

Putting one foot in the grave is the way to plant the other on the path of life.

Human destiny rests on a word of divine promise.

We can labor for Christ while we live, and we can live with Christ when we die. Your death and the judgment to follow – the great fixed points of your life – are the very things that can reach back from the future into today and transform the life God has given you to live.


Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! All you moms get to church this morning. Let’s worship and give praise to our God for the privilege of being who He made us to be. Count your blessings one by one and name by name. May we give thanks for all God has done.

As Paul Tripp so wisely penned, “Like everything else God calls people to, God doesn’t call people to be parents because they are able…God did not create human beings to be independently able; he designed us to be dependent. It is not a sign of personal weakness or failure of character to feel unable as a parent…Independent ability, like independent righteousness, is a delusion.” May we understand our inability and give credit to our God for any parenting successes. HE is able.

Today we celebrate moms but as a grandmother, I’ve entered the phase of spiritual mothering: women mentoring women. And what a joy it is! I’m sharing with you this morning two great parenting titles and one on mentoring:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp 
Parenting – 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp  
Spiritual Mothering – The Titus 2 Model For Women Mentoring Women by Sunsan Hunt


Read But Read Well

Books are among God’s good gifts to us. In my last post, I shared my own reading preferences. But what’s a girl to do if she enjoys reading and is drawn to the “Christian” best seller list more than old theologians? She can choose by reading carefully and cautiously. Simply put, read but read well. 

When choosing a title, consider its author above all. It is sad that reputable publishers often promote authors in the Christian genre whose work reads with a disconnect — Engaging personalities are marketable. Nevertheless, if we are being taught through the writer’s own words, they should be held to a biblical standard. The apostle Paul commended the Bereans for verifying his teaching. We should do no less.

Best known for her book Housewife Theologian, Aimee Byrd simplifies tools for honing and testing authors in four easy questions. I’ve pulled a copy of them from my desk drawer:

  • What does the author say about God’s Word? 

Is the Word authoritative or optional? Can we trust the Bible, or does the author instill doubts? Are verses taken within context and interpreted properly or misused?

  • What does the author say about who man is?

And related, what does the author say about sin? Do we need a Savior to save us from sin and the wrath of God or a life coach to help us reach our full potential? Is there a ladder we need to climb or a formula we need to follow to achieve the desired end apart from the gospel?

  • What does the author say about God?

It’s sad that this question even needs to be asked, but just because someone uses the word God or Jesus does not necessarily mean they are accurately teaching the Triune God of the Bible.

  • What does the author say about what God has done and is doing?

What is the author’s worldview and his/her stance on creation, fall, redemption, and restoration? Is he/she offering our best life now or our best life then?

Finally, Let us make use of the good books God has provided! For further help on discernment, I recommend No Little Women by Aimee Byrd.


She Reads

The weekend took me away from my desk to moments of solitude: a gentle breeze, a striking view, and the brilliance of springtime foliage. So, what does a lifelong learner do while on the front porch of a hilltop cabin tucked away in the mountains of Van Buren County? She reads. 

Unashamedly and unapologetically, I am Baptist. Yet, because of my studies, I’ve gained discernment to reach beyond denominational lines in my reading. Clear and accurate exposition of the Scriptures honors God and, I believe, of utmost importance in reading choices. Hence, application of that exposition is the purpose of the reading. My interests typically fall within the writings of theologians and seminary professors (who’ve spent the bulk of their lives studying and teaching the Bible). With God’s help, it is out of my own studying and reading, I am best able to live and to serve in the body of Christ. 

Maturity – Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life is authored by Sinclair Ferguson. Ferguson is Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at RTS, a teaching fellow of Ligonier Ministries, and has served congregations in his native Scotland, and the U.S.A. In this book he shares the concern of New Testament writers to see Christians grow to spiritual maturity. He believes (as do I) if that was the concern of the first believers, then it should also be our concern. Ferguson’s book is steeped in scripture showing what Christian maturity is, and how it is to be obtained. 

In his introduction, the author notes this to be a renewed and recalibrated book on an old subject. Originally published in the U.K. in 1980 as Add to Your Faith, it was published again in the U.S. in 1981 as Taking the Christian Life Seriously.This 2018 publishing has been revised. Personally, I found Maturity to be perfect follow up to a conversation I had early Friday morning. The author’s words came with impeccable timing and my highlighter worked overtime. Quotes from Maturity worth reflection:

Ability to focus our gaze, fill our minds, and devote our hearts to Jesus Christ is a basic element in real Christian growth. Inability to do so is a sign of immaturity.

Some Christians never appear to make much spiritual progress. Spiritual focus and concentration are beyond them. They seem to be dominated by their feelings, rather than by the gospel. 

Our lives are shaped in part by our ability to persevere in the important but unspectacular exercises that build Christian character – the ministry and study of the word, worship and fellowship, prayer, and serving the Lord day by day in all the ordinariness of life. This is what forms Christian character.

When we live on the basis of feelings that have never been trained and disciplined by God’s word, we grow spiritually weak. True, we may feel strong; but if our lifestyle choices depend on what we ‘feel’ we are in fact weak. We then begin to confuse our own feelings, desires, and aspirations with God’s will.

God employs the very powers that seek to destroy his purposes for us in order to further them in us. We need to learn to look through the divine lenses. Then we will discover what is hidden from the naked eye – the invisible hand of God directing all the details of history, including our personal history, to do us eternal good. When this dawns on us assurance is born and begins to grow. For this is the kind of God who in Christ has become our Father.

As Christians we need constantly to remind ourselves that God’s word teaches us to see through our ears, but what we hear in God’s word – not through our eyes and what we see.

So here is a very simple litmus test: when I ask questions about God’s will for my life, where do I look? At my mind, or at God’s mind – inwardly for some kind of revelation that comes immediately into my mind from God? Or outwardly, to the mind of God revealed in Scripture, praying that I will be given the Spirit of illumination and wisdom to be able to apply it?

The teaching of Scripture needs to be imbibed in the spirit of Scripture and with the balance of Scripture and within the context of a life of obedience to, and fellowship with, God.

The growing Christian therefore is not dominated by subjective impulses and needs. He or she views life through lenses crafted according to a biblical prescription. A hallmark therefore of growing in our ability to know and do the will of God is a healthy biblical objectivity.

A basic mark of spiritual maturity is a healthy objectivity – seeing the world through biblical lenses, conforming our lives to God’s revealed will, his wisdom and his glory, not being driven by inner needs or compulsions.

We need to learn that God’s word does God’s work in God’s people by the power of God’s Spirit. We must avoid the trap of thinking his word tells us what to do and then leaves us to our own devices to accomplish it. The spirit transforms (sanctifies) us by the power of the word itself.

The sheer power of the word expounded and applied leaves its holy imprint on us. It illumines our minds; it enflames our affections; it draws our will to bow to it. God wonderfully sends out shafts of light into our hearts; the sword of the Spirit exposes our sin and cuts us loose from its fetters.

Temptation also works by deception. Believers need to learn to see everything through their ears – that is to view things in terms of what God’s word says about them…The first deceptive work of Satan is to deceive us into imagining we will not be deceived.

The armour of God is no protection against the wiles of the devil if our faith is not real and active in our basic relationships and private life. For what good is armour if the enemy has already found his way behind it?

The ploughing of our souls makes them fruitful soil for ministry to others.

The same principle that guides a husband in his marriage, guides the Christian in relation to the bride of Christ. ‘The Jesus Principle’ is also the church’s principle: we are to be willing to lay down our life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15). This makes our service Jesus-like.

Gifts always need to be accompanied by graces…True service is always marked by a recognition that we live for and serve others, not ourselves…Self-forgetfulness and service go together in the employment of the gifts the Lord gives us…Gifts are given to be used by us as stewards, not as personal possessions to be employed according to our own whims. 

Faith under trial produces perseverance, while perseverance in turn produces maturity.

Our responsibility where sin is concerned is not to reduce its guild and shame to dimensions our consciences can handle, but to kill it.

We are called to yield to the will of God, even when – indeed especially when – life is difficult and things seem to go wrong…When the going gets tough we need to remember that he knows where we are and how we are doing. He knows what is coming next and prepares us for it. He has the power to get us to the finishing line.

If we concentrate our attention on the problems we face instead of on the Savior we have, we will lose perspective.

So when we realize we are being chastised we learn to look up to him to see that his face is turned towards us and he is watching us, but also to look forward to ‘later’ when there will be a harvest of blessing from his ploughing of our hearts. 

We grow as Christians as we are well fed on Scripture…A  milk diet is for infants, or for the sick or weak and elderly.

Contentment is a spiritual grace not merely a natural personality trait…Contentment with God’s ways is not dependent on outward circumstances…Contentment is tested by loss…When we suffer loss, pain is inevitable. But it is the way of God’s grace to use that sense of loss to bring us to a new contentment with his love, and a new stability and maturity in serving him.

If we have to take our eyes off him in order to see our own ambitions that is the moment we know our ambitions are misplaced…The eyes that are tempted to drift away from Christ must be brought back to focus upon him.

This, then, is the path to maturity: Lay aside your own ambitions. Lay aside your own wisdom. Lay aside your own self-assurance. Make the Lord your ambition. Make the Lord himself your hope and your only wisdom.