How to Survive the #1 Attack on Marriage

Galen Wilkes and Victoria Stringer are getting married April 24, 2015!

Galen Wilkes and Victoria Stringer are getting married April 24, 2015!

Your marriage is under attack. I bet you can feel it. The world, the flesh, and Satan are all working to keep your marriage from being a powerhouse for God's kingdom. I have always been committed to my marriage, to never giving up or getting a divorce. But when I recently studied Matt 19: 1-12, Jesus' teaching on divorce, I gained insight into how God designed marriage and how he sees it. It only deepened my understanding and commitment to God's awesome creation in marriage!

Here is a recording of my teaching on this passage, given last Sunday, April 19, at our church, Highland Christian Fellowship. This passage contains Jesus' teaching on divorce. While there is a brief discussion at the end of the teaching on the exception clause (which is what is often discussed), I focused on Jesus' main point in the teaching: God does not want his people to divorce.

When we study Jesus' reasoning for this, we get a rich understanding of the nature of marriage!

God's people are not to divorce
because God designed marriage to be the exclusive union
of a man and woman through sexual intimacy.

Family Home School Retreat: May 1-3!

Why you should be at the Family Home School Retreat at Cherokee Cove on May 1-3:

  • You can relax and be refreshed.
  • You can spend time with your family.
  • You can eat delicious food (ain't no "camp food" served around here!)
  • You can enjoy the beauty and peace of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • You can be encouraged by hanging out with other home school families.
  • You can learn by discussing curriculum, challenges, ideas, and solutions for home schooling.
  • You can hear and discuss biblical principles and practical tips for discipling and educating your children.

I will be teaching and leading discussion at this retreat. My family will be there and we look forward to being encouraged and equipped with you!

Are You Afraid to Think Big?

I have been afraid to think big. I see this as a common ailment of the mediocre. We fear sacrifice. We fear the cost. We fear discomfort. We fear failure.

I am reading The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. Chapter 9 claims that the idea that "big is bad" is a lie.

This book is not from a biblical perspective, but (as usual) anyone who hits on something true hits on God's truth. The main idea is that our mindset (the bigness of our thoughts) determines our actions, which determine our outcome.

Everyone has the same amount of time, and hard work is simply hard work. As a result, what you do in the time you work determines what you achieve. And since what you do is determined by what you think, how big you think becomes the launching pad for how high you achieve.
— Gary Keller, The One Thing, 88.

Our limits are the ones we place on ourselves. Aside from the reality of my physical and mental limitations, this principle works in the natural word. But it is even more potent in light of God's promises!

God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time,
you may abound in every good work.
— 2 Corinthians 9:8

The connector to this mindset is faith. Do I believe that I really have access to the abundant grace of God that empowers me in all things at all times to succeed in what he wants me to do? If we believe this, we will BOLDLY OBEY ALL that God has said. And then there will be AMAZING results.

Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest. . . . Don’t fear failure. . . . We fail our way to success. When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow.
— Gary Keller, The One Thing, 92-94

Do You Really Want Honest Friends?

One of the #1 character qualities people want in a friend is honesty. But to be honest, honesty is pretty hard. Honesty is hard because telling the truth to our friends is sometimes hard and we don't like hard. We would prefer the easy road.

The Bible confirms that a good friend is honest (and that it hurts).

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
Proverbs 27:5-6

Our culture has duped us into believing that the #1 quality of love is tolerance. Therefore, a good friend always puts up with everything you say and do. He will never tell you that you are wrong (which might hurt your feelings).

It is easy for us to believe this because it appeals to our selfishness. We would rather everyone always be happy with us and like us. We would rather avoid conflict. But according to God, that is not what a good friend does.

In the church (our relationships to brothers and sisters in Christ), we have an even greater responsibility to help each other out by being honest. Our responsibility is not just to those whom we would consider our closest friends.

Here are a few important principles about living in community with fellow believers:

1. Speak the truth in love.

(See Prov 27:5-6 above and Eph 4:15; Matt 18:15). When you have a concern about a brother or sister, love them enough to ask questions and learn more about it. Love them enough to share your concern. There is always the risk for nitpicking, judgmental people to abuse this (another subject for another day), but in my circles, the primary problem is an unwillingness to speak the truth.

2. Don't share your concerns about a friend with others.

"Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."
Prov 11:13

Gossip and slander is very destructive. Also be watchful for gossip disguised as a prayer request!

Here are a couple of exceptions to this principle:

  • When you are talking to one or two mature, trustworthy people for prayer and council about helping your friend who is in a serious situation.
  • When your friend won't listen to you and you need some back up (Matt 18:16).

The next two points are steps to take when someone is trying to talk to you negatively about another person.

3. Don't form opinions about a person being talked about without getting the full story.

"The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him."
Prov 18:17

4. Encourage others to speak the truth in love to their friends.

If someone talks negatively about someone to you, then encourage them to follow the first two principles.

And if you sense that the person sharing information is not truly concerned, or not willing to help his friend, then ask him to stop talking to you about others.

Think of a friend you love that needs your help today. Remember, only an enemy offers nothing but kisses!

Why Are There More Miracles in Africa Than America?

When I hear about God doing miracles in other places, I have often wondered why we do not experience that as much here in America. Here is an explanation worth considering from an African pastor and church planter.

I have often been asked why so many miracles occur in Africa while they seem to be so rare in America and Europe. I believe it is because the African people have a simple faith, and that pleases God. When they hear His Word, they believe it, and then God blesses them.

In the West many people think they are too smart and too sophisticated to simply believe and accept God’s Word. Instead, they question everything, including the Bible, and that displeases God. When simple people accept and believe what the Bible says without question, God blesses them. If we do not accept the Gospel the way a little child accepts what his parents tell him, then we miss much of God, because He reveals His mysteries to the simple-hearted. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:25-26, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have given these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”

When we accept His Word simply, without criticizing and doubting, God blesses us and we are able to see even more of His truths. I am not saying that we should stop going to school, learning or getting degrees. God created the universe and everything in it, and I believe that He is pleased when His people pursue knowledge and wisdom. But we must not get so caught up in that pursuit that we forget the simple truths of God.
— Surprise Sithole, Voice in the NIght, 63-64.

A Philosphy of Education from Louis L'Amour

The pioneers halted their westward wagon train to hold up against winter. Then they began thinking of staying right where they stopped. They began to think of building a community.

Of course, we must have a school, but the building is less important than the teacher. It is the teacher who makes the school, no matter how magnificent the building.

A school is wherever a man can learn. Mr. Shafter, do not forget that. A man can learn from these mountains and the trees, he can learn by listening, by seeing, and by hearing the talk of other men and thinking about what they say.
— Mrs. Macken in Louis L'Amour's Bendigo Shafter

It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of action.
— O. H. Mowrer

A Great Way to Understand the Bible Better

I am going through the book 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill (also known as my Dad) with a group from our church. Like many of you, most of them are not planning on becoming preachers. Although this book is written for those who desire to preach and teach God's Word, these skills are great for anyone who would like to understand and communicate the Bible more effectively. One of our students is a mom who takes her responsibility to disciple her children seriously.

The first skill is to complete a Structural Diagram of the passage you are studying. This part of the study helps you understand how the various words and idea in the text relate to one another. Here is an example of what it might look like.

I recorded a video of me explaining to my older children (who are going through the book with us) how to do a Structural Diagram of Phil 2:5-11.