Book Review: Excused Absence

Book Review: Excused Absence By Doug Wilson

My son and his family live in a conservative suburb of Milwaukee County. The public schools have a decent reputation for a good education and the buildings are top-of-line facilities. What could go wrong?

My son and daughter-in-law decided to try the local school for their oldest son. He spent two years in the local elementary school-kindergarten and 1st grade.

While he was in kindergarten one of the other elementary schools in the suburb caused a bit of a stir by announcing they wanted to have the kids who attend there to dress up as the opposite gender. In other words, cross dress for a day.

When challenged as to the agenda behind the idea, the administration replied that it was for the purpose of “school spirit.” What cross-dressing has to do with school spirit is beyond me, but it is an interesting choice of words to describe the event.

I think Doug Wilson, a man who can turn a phrase pretty well, might say something like this about “school spirit.”

There is indeed a school spirit that has authority in the government schools and it is the spirit that hates God or treats God as irrelevant: I drew this imaginary quote from what Wilson actually says in Chapter 8, With All Your Mind in Excused Absence:

“Christian Education is mandatory if we walk in obedience to the greatest commandment. “Jesus said unto to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37, KJV). We cannot dismiss the imperative  given to us in this text.

Wilson goes on to write; “Our children come into this world not knowing how to do anything with their minds, and God places on them the mandate of loving Him with all their minds. How and when are they going to learn this lesson?”

Wilson continues: “The world is a fallen and sinful place, so this task is daunting. How can our children learn to love God if men and women who do not love God teach them? Will our children learn to love God with their minds if the people responsible for training their minds have no idea what this passage means? And even if some teachers at the government schools happen to be Christians, how will our children learn to love God with all their minds when those teachers who do love God are prohibited from teaching them anything about Him when school is in session?”

The obvious answer to Wilson’s questions are our kids will not learn anything about loving God with all their minds if they are cooped up in a government school for six-seven hours a day, five days a week for months at a time.

What will inform their minds is the spirit of the age that we could call the  “school spirit” the administrator of the school spoke of.  By placing our children under that spirit’s authority for that amount of time we should not be surprised that when they get older they reject God or ignore Him. This is why Wilson makes it matter of obedience to pull children out of the government schools and move them to home schooling or a good Christian school.

My one and only quibble with Wilson is that you cannot find a direct command in Scripture that demands that Christian children not attend a government school-a fact that some, if not many might use to justify using the government schools. The argument would go something like this; that which is not prohibited, is permitted.

The argument is valid in the sense no direct command exists and Wilson has to use inferences from both Testaments to make his point. The fact that he does it very well has convinced me that my quibbling is just that-quibbling that misses the much larger and critical point.

All people are worshippers whether they understand that or not. We will either worship the true God in heaven or will worship something else entirely. Romans 1:18-32 is crystal clear on that truth.

By turning over our children to a government school that is openly or covertly hostile to the worship of the true God we open our children’s minds to the worship of multiple false gods that rule the spirit of this age.

I believe that this is Wilson’s main point as he supports his argument and reinforces the idea that it’s a bad plan to have younger children under the kind of influence that rejects the God of the Bible.

Some might read this brief review of the book and immediately jump to the exceptions such as, what is a single mom who works supposed to do with her young children? It’s not right to put her under an implied command that she cannot possibly fulfill.

Fair enough and Wilson does deal with questions like that toward the end of the book. Most the answers revolve around what it means to function within a covenant community. I suggest reading the book to explore those answers more.

I did not need convincing as to the validity of Wilson’s arguments and I’m happy to say that my three grand children will not be part of the government schools while they are young and extremely vulnerable to the “school spirit” that rules the roost in the government schools.

So, what does Wilson’s book have to do with biblical counseling?

Over the years as a counselor I’ve had to counsel a number of male teens while my female associate counseled young teen women.

The commonality in counseling both genders might be boiled down to Proverbs 1:7:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

By turning over our children to the government school system we place them under a system that does not fear the Lord and thus receive the wisdom the fear produces. Instead, we give our children every opportunity to be educated as fools who will despise wisdom (personification of God) and hate His instruction.

My counseling of teens has taught me that much parenting hangs on Proverbs 1:7. If the government schools are involved, it will be far more likely the teen will adopt a worldview that ignores God entirely or treats Him are irrelevant.

My counsel to parents is simple; why run that risk if you have a choice? Instead, carefully consider the arguments Wilson makes in Excused Absence.

The Solution to Loneliness

There was a recent article in the UK’s The Telegraph that stated church attendance (Church of England-Anglican) is at an all-time low. The article goes on to say that only 1.4% of the population of Great Britain goes to church on any given Sunday. The Archbishop of Canterbury (highest cleric in the Church of England) warns of the struggle in an anti-Christian culture.

The day before The Telegraph’s article appeared the New York Times reported that the UK has appointed a Minister of Loneliness.

What is the connection between low church attendance and the UK having the need to appoint a “Minister of Loneliness”?

The quote below by Theresa May, Prime Minister of Great Britain is revealing:

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” Mrs. May said in a statement.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.” (The Telegraph)

The most obvious connection between the two stories is that a Minister of the State is replacing the Minister of the Gospel (and the fellowship of the church) as the primary means of encouraging lonely people.

It is, as the Archbishop of Canterbury noted the struggle in living in an anti-Christian culture. I’m sure the US is not far behind.

I think it may equally obvious that the majority of the people in Great Britain no longer believe the gospel or that the true gospel is even taught since much of “the church” has been given over to post-modernism where truth is a relative concept.

What I mean by this is that the church in Great Britain has few conservative evangelical Christians but  the number is growing. (9Marks article)

It makes perfect sense that once the gospel is abandoned  along with the solid biblical teaching associated with the gospel that people would fall away from the church and look to the state to fill the perceived need.

Depending on how you count there are over 50 “one anothers” in the Scriptures. Below is small sampling:

One-Another-Bible-Verses

The above sampling illustrates how God’s people can minister to one another as a result of their faith in Christ and his finished work on the Cross.

When faithfully practiced, especially in the context of a small group ministry one  outcome is a cure for loneliness. God said it was not good for man to be alone so he created woman, but he also established the church (Matthew 16:18) and provided a broader application so that we can love another by practicing the one another’s.

The Gospel is the solution to loneliness but a person has to believe it and embrace it and of course attend the worship service of the church.

 

 

 

A Pastor’s Plea for Starting This Year Well

This coming Sunday I am preaching out of Revelation 17 and I aim to show us the vastness of the work of Satan in establishing a religion and worldview that seamlessly was and is woven into the entire fabric of this world.  As Christians we are surrounded by it and, yet, we are woefully shortsighted in how it worms itself into our thoughts, actions, desires and plans.

It is a new year and with it comes another opportunity by God for us to set a new course in our life.  For some it is weight or exercise.  Others will be a better job or develop a new skill.  But I want to recommend we all commit to one thing above all else:  That we seek to not raise pagans in our homes, church, and relationships.  The following sermon is by Dr. Mohler of Southern Seminary in Louisville.  It is a must listen to message for each of you.  Yes, even the one who is right now thinking you don’t need to hear it!  You know who you are.

How To: Our New Giving Platform

Exciting News: we’ve moved from eGive to Subsplash Giving! Giving will be easier than ever!

We are turning off eGive after the new year, January 31, 2018. If you have selected recurring giving in eGive, please cancel your account and sign up for Subsplash Giving.

What you need to do:

Turn off your recurring giving in eGive

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If you have problems accessing your eGive account, please send an email to Judy Love at mdfkenosha@gmail.com and she can assist you.

Please consider linking your checking account to your Subsplash Giving account. This will help the church save costs and is simple to complete.

We are so thankful for you and your continued participation and support of Missio Dei Fellowship. Please let us know if you have any questions!

Here is a step by step tutorial for creating a Subsplash account:
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After you link your bank account, Subsplash will want to verify it is truly your account. Subsplash will explain on the next screen (after the one you see above) that they will deposit two small amounts. You will need to check your bank account, and then come back to your newly created Subsplash account and enter the amounts to verify your account. It can take a couple of days for the deposits to show up in your account. We recommend setting a reminder on your phone to check your online banking account a couple of days later.

And, that’s it! You’re all set to use the easy Subsplash giving app or website! Please contact us if you have any questions. We’ll be glad to help.

 

The Evil Within

A number of years ago there was a column in the local newspaper written by a psychologist. The column was what one would expect as it dealt with the problems common to people, like depression, anxiety, relationships and so forth. Since the psychologist did not possess a biblical worldview, terms related to nature or nurture, mental illness and the various treatments were common until one day it all seemed to unravel for this particular psychologist.

The psychologist (not a religious person by his own admission) had a patient that he could not neatly fit into the DSM IV categories. The reason? The psychologist came to believe the man he was counseling was simply evil. The psychologist seemed to conclude that the man did not possess a moral barometer (something Christians would call a conscience). The psychologist was shaken by his conclusion and it led him to consider the spiritual nature of people-something that his training had not explored or considered as it applied to human behavior.

That is what came to my mind in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. What we heard by way of explanation was that the shooter was “crazy”, “sick”, “distraught”, “unhinged” and so forth.  All of that was followed by the usual blame the gun, blame politicians and pleas to “do something” while never suggesting anything specific that would have mattered.

Psychology does not consider evil like the Bible does and our culture is fully immersed in psychological (mostly materialistic\Darwinian) explanations and categories.

Psychology does not consider sin (although a religious psychologist might) and is thus reluctant to deal in moral categories and thus would not label a heinous act as evil\sin but rather as a type of disease, sickness or temporary insanity. That’s what bothered the psychologist I mentioned above. He dealt with mental illnesses, not moral categories and certainly not people given over to evil and the revelation shocked him.

The Bible, on the other hand, diagnoses our fundamental problem. Here is the apostle Paul quoting from, mostly, the Psalms in the Old Testament:

Romans 3:10-18

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
       no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
        no one does good,
        not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
        they use their tongues to deceive.”
   “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16      in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The passage turns on its head the notion that people are “basically good” and when they do bad, evil things like mass murder, they have some mental illness or disease. While not all people act out all the evil they are capable of (thank God), some do and we witness it on a daily basis. Yet, the majority of people remain blind to “the evil within.”

We really should not expect an unbelieving world to grasp all the ramifications of evil since the unbelieving world does not have a fear of God (vs 18). Without that fundamental fear of God the world will always look for solutions for people’s problems apart from considering “the evil within” and will continue to treat evil as a mental illness and\or blame game to gain political points.

Every time there is a terrorist attacks or a mass murder I go into a frustrated funk and grieve about our sin sick world. It takes me a day or two to once again comprehend what is truly going on.

A western person given over to evil can orchestrate a Las Vegas type massacre just as easily as a religiously minded Islamic terrorist.  There is little difference since both spring from a belief system that does not consider the God of the Bible nor mankind’s essential problem of the evil within us all.

What are we to do?

Our theology will control our reaction to these things or something else will. At the very least we can come to understand that God can use horrible evil situations to draw attention to the fact of evil (and the spiritual realm in general) and begin to open the minds of survivors to truth and thus provide the one and only remedy to the evil within us all:

Romans 3:21-24
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

IABC Conference, August 2017

Recently, I rejoined the I.A.B.C. (International Association of Biblical Counselors) and attended the conference in Denver, Colorado on August 3-5. I was blessed by the experience and impressed with the certification ministry that I was first certified with many years ago.

The name for the conference was Real Life, Real Answers-It’s Not a Game! The conference was hosted (hospitality excellent) by Life Fellowship Church in Westminster (suburb of Denver), under the leadership of Senior Pastor Ed Bulkley who is also President of the IABC.

The schedule included three partial days of general sessions and numerous workshops.

Over the years, my wife and I have attended many biblical counseling training conferences by both the IABC and ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) and listened to many speakers and instructors.  We’ve learned much and as a certified biblical counselor with both organizations I usually select the topics and speakers where I stand to gain the most insight and knowledge.

At the IABC Conference two sessions stand out. Both had two parts and we had to make a choice between them in one time slot.

Jim Berg led the first session we attended.   Jim’s name is familiar to anyone who has been blessed by Changed Into His Image. My wife and I have done Changed into His Image and have led others through it. Jim’s workshop was titled: Unmasking Addictions: Determining the Primary Cause of Enslaving Behaviors.

The workshop description is as follows:

The battle over underlying cause(s) of addiction continues to rage today. Are addictions determined by moral choices or by neurobiological, hereditary, and environmental influences? God’s sufficient Word roots the final cause in the fallen human heart and provides the proper interpretation for today’s scientific findings. Surprisingly, many secular researchers and practitioners have arrived at causes that reflect what God has already told us in His Word. Those same evidence-based voices counter current popular beliefs (i.e. “Once a drunk, always a drunk,” “You are always in recovery,” etc.)

What Jim seems to mean by this is that due to God’s common grace, secular and often non-spiritual researchers and therapists have discovered that genetic theories, metabolic theories, conditioning theories and adaptation theories, regardless of observations made, do not place the weight of responsibility upon the human heart but they recognize that something is amiss.

What this means to the believer, even an addicted one is that he or she can make choices that align with God’s expectations for His creatures..

Jim provided written evidence (quotes) from the secular sources to make his point. He added that although these researchers counter the prevailing myths their use of psychological terminology do not imply his personal endorsement. In other words many of the experts recognize the problem but fall way short of realizing the answers that are found only in Christ and His Word.

Jim has built on Changed Into His Image with a discipleship curriculum titled Freedom that Lasts. He reports success with it and when I asked him how it compares to the popular Celebrate Recovery he simply responded by saying that Celebrate Recovery is just another 12 step program (something that I’ve heard from other biblical addiction counselors.) and that Freedom That Lasts is not.

I intend to research Freedom that Lasts more. Jim’s website is http://www.freedomthatlasts.com/store

The other sessions my wife and attended that had the most impact were led by Dr. Daniel Berger II. His two-part session description reads as follows:

Most people today believe that psychoactive substances and psychotherapies are proven remedies for mental and behavioral problems categorized in the DSM-V as mental illnesses. Biological psychiatrists in particular and society in general are convinced not only that psychiatric disorders are biological diseases, but also that psychoactive drugs are agents that will fix genetics variances, supplying missing chemicals, and correct brain dysfunctions. In other words, mind-controlling drugs are believed to be medicines that require dependence in order to restore the mind\psyche\soul. But what does Scripture say about attempting to treat the soul with mind-controlling substances?  These sessions will look at what is actually taking place in psychopharmacology from both Biblical and psychiatric perspectives.

It’s beyond the purpose of a blog to chronicle the boatload of information that was downloaded in Dr. Berger’s two sessions. Sufficient to say, I can’t say I’ve seen so much research listed and footnoted like Dr. Berger has done in order to make his point. Impressive is the word.

His central point, in addition to the Bible has the answers, is that top-gun secular researchers and psychiatrists (often non-Christians) know that mind-controlling drugs and the current construct of mental illness is not a solution and that the system is broken. Berger is quick to note that at the clinical level its pretty much business as usual-an alarming contradiction!

Dr. Berger has written a five-volume set of books titled Mental Illness, short volumes that emphasis a different aspect of the issue(s). I am about midway through the first volume and am impressed with Dr. Berger’s research and how he uses the “top-gun experts” own words to illustrate their own lack of confidence in the current construct of mental illness.  Frankly, this makes me sad to realize that the experts know something of the truth because of God’s common grace.  At the “does it matter level” it doesn’t seem to matter because the clinicians and doctors continue to prescribe mind-altering drugs to fix spiritual heart issues. Dr. Berger pointed out this inconsistency in his lectures.

In addition to the five volume set, Dr. Berger has written Teaching a Child to Pay Attention and The Truth About ADHD. His website is drdanielberger.com

I wish to thank the IABC for an excellent conference and Life Fellowship for the wonderful hospitality. I’d like to encourage my readers to check out the IABC at iabc.net as well as Jim Berg’s website and Dr. Berger’s.

The Heart of Domestic Abuse {Book Review}

The Heart of Domestic Abuse by Chris Moles

I first heard Chris Moles speak on domestic abuse in Lafayette, IN at Faith Baptist Church during a training conference for the ACBC (Association of Christian Biblical Counselors) an organization, which I’m a certified member.

His opening remarks regarding the presence (or even prevalence) of domestic abuse among professing evangelicals took me back to a time early in my ministry when I suggested to my Sr. Pastor that something seemed amiss in a particular family. He replied that I would not want to know half of what went on in the church.

Chris’ comments about domestic abuse in the church line up with what that pastor said. Domestic abuse is not something most pastors want to deal with or even think they are qualified to deal with even if they wanted to.

Therefore, Chris’ book is a needed resource to the church so that awareness is raised about this devastating sin. Chris does more than raise awareness; he provides the biblical tools to deal with abuse.

The book’s content is as follows:

Chapter 1: The Heart of the Matter
Chapter 2: Behaving Badly
Chapter 3: Motives Matter
Chapter 4: Self-worship, Pride, and the Heart of Abuse
Chapter 5: Beliefs
Chapter 6: Power Plays

The first six chapters set the profile of the domestic abuser. The next five chapters serve as a blueprint on how to counsel an abuser. A case study is part of each chapter as Chris gives a real life example of both the profile of an abuser as well as the heart change that is necessary to stop the violence and convert a man to loving his wife as Christ loves the church.

Chapter 7: Good News for a Troubling Subject
Chapter 8: Hope for the Violent Man
Chapter 9: The Mind of Christ: An Alternative to a Violent Heart
Chapter 10: Wanting Something More
Chapter 11: A Call to Authenticity

Five helpful appendixes follow:

  1. Select Scripture References that Speak to Abuse
  2. Behavior Inventory
  3. Advocate Questionnaire
  4. Church Discipline and Abuse
  5. Teen Dating Violence

Chris’ methodology is familiar to any biblical counselor as he stresses the importance of heart change rather than behavioral modification. The book is rich in Scripture-based diagrams, explanations and the use of specific passages.

Chris is a pastor in West Virginia but also works as a certified batterer intervention group facilitator, contributor and instructor with state agencies and local criminal corrections.

I am sure that Chris’ book will be popular in any church that practices biblical counseling and where the pastor(s) are not afraid to counsel their own people.

Chris Moles Website    http://www.chrismoles.org

A Show Worth Watching

Last week, there was a special showing of Is Genesis History? in movie theaters.  I became aware of it rather late so my ability to encourage people to watch it was quite limited.  However, Kim and I did go and found it to be very well done in every way.  If I had one complaint it would be that they tried to cover too much in the two hours.  But, in reality, it also caused me to realize that there are several avenues of further study that I can now pursue.

All of this to say, the response was quite good for the movie and the producers are going to have two more presentations of it in early March.  I would like to strongly urge you to consider watching this movie.  It is rather vogue right now in the Church to dismiss the early chapters (1-11) as something less than historical or true and its effects is felt even in Missio Dei Fellowship.  Regardless of your position on these early chapters, it is worth your time and mind to go and watch it.  You can go to their site to find a theater near you.

One point to consider, they encourage only those twelve and older to watch the show.  I would say that unless your twelve year old is used to thinking and listening carefully on more technical issues that you raise that age to around fifteen or sixteen.  There is a lot of data given and a lot of points made so don’t think this is just entertainment.  It is a shot across the bow of the teachings that abound in our schools and, sadly, even in our churches.

Parenting the Old Fashioned Way

A few years ago I was taking my then 3-year-old grandson down to the lake to fish. A man approached me from our condo association and struck up a conversation that went on for about twenty minutes. My grandson patiently sat down on the grass and uttered not a word other than to say hello to the man and tell him his name. At the end of our conversation the man commented on my grandson’s patience. I replied that he was being trained to not interrupt and to wait patiently until the adults were finished talking. The man marveled that it was even possible to train a three-year-child patience and to not interrupt.

Sadly, the man’s comment reflected what many parent’s seem to believe today about parenting. Instead of devising a methodology of child discipline parents today seem to gravitate to psychology or screaming to get their children to obey.

All that and more came to mind as I discovered an ad in the July 27th, 1918 issue of The Literary Digest. The ad is titled, Mistakes Parents Make-How to Avoid Them.

The ad encourages parents to send a coupon  in order to receive a free 24 page book titled New Methods in Child Training by Professor Ray C. Beery.

From what I could Google, I discovered that Professor Beery was part of a group called the Parent’s Association. I also discovered via Amazon that some, if not all of Beery’s books on parenting are still available in reprint form. The twenty-four page free offer which appeared in many magazines and newspapers of the time was obviously designed to get parents to order and pay for the larger volumes which totaled four in number.

The intriguing part of the ad that was designed to “hook” the parent is titled, “Do you know how…”

  1. …to instruct children in the delicate matters of sex?
  2. …to always obtain cheerful obedience?
  3. …to correct mistakes of early training?
  4. …to keep child from crying?
  5. …to develop initiative in child?
  6. …to teach child instantly to comply with command, “Don’t touch”?
  7. …to suppress temper in children without punishment?
  8. …to succeed with child of any age without display of authority?
  9. …to discourage the “Why” habit in regard to commands?
  10. …to prevent quarrelling and fighting?
  11. …to cure impertinence? Discourtesy? Vulgarity?
  12. …to remove fear of darkness? Fear of thunder and lighting? Fear of harmless animals?
  13. …to encourage child to talk?
  14. …to teach punctuality? Perseverance? Carefulness?
  15. …to overcome obstinacy?
  16. …to cultivate mental cultivation?
  17. …to teach honesty and truthfulness?

Judging from the ad and the reprint book descriptions on Amazon it seems clear that Professor Beery and the Parent’s Association wished to help parents develop moral character in children.

It’s easy to see that the items on the above list are biblically derived.  Professor Beery believes a child can be trained out of a bad habit or behavior. In fact, Professor Beery blames the parents if they are not.

    “When a child is straightforward, obedient and willing—when it is courageous, generous, and fine in every way, it is that way because the parents made it so. And the reverse is equally true. When a child is untruthful, selfish and disobedient, it is not the fault of the child but of the parent.”

The ad has some limitations from a Christian perspective although it should be pointed out the author doesn’t claim to come from a Christian perspective. I think most people of the time would simply have assumed he was coming from a Christian perspective.

Nevertheless, the first limitation is the absence of the gospel as the motivation for the necessary inner change. God changes us from the inside out. Beery’s principles stress behavioral change that is certainly vital in parenting small children (who do not yet understand the gospel) but less effective in teens who may simply conform to stay out of trouble.

The second limitation that I’d comment on is that while I do believe parents are to blame for not training a child,  I’d hasten to add that children are responsible for their own sin and that of course is related to the gospel. Professor Beery simply believes that if parents are diligent and intentional in their parenting chances are good the children will turn out responsible. Perhaps he had Proverbs 22:6 in mind.

Recently our Senior Pastor taught extensively on parenting and biblically derived principles to be used in child training. The series harkens back to a time when most parents would have assumed a Christian approach to parenting.

The series can be found here under The Drama of Parenting…

Why Marriage Fails

I am writing this on the occasion of my wife’s and mine 42nd wedding anniversary.

By today’s standards we married quite young.  She was 19 and I was barely 21.

We have one son and daughter-in-law and three precious grandchildren.  God has blessed us beyond measure, yet at one point in our marriage we nearly divorced.

The circumstances that led up to the “almost divorce” are largely irrelevant because they amounted to the single most important reason marriages fail, that of self-centeredness.

Because we both were self-centered, there was plenty of sin where I sinned against her and she against me. Sin complicates everything and we learned that the hard way.

At the time, we would not have called it sin. We knew of God, but we did not know God simply because we had not been born again (John 3:3-8). I doubt either of us thought we’d ever fight, much less contemplate divorce, and the pre-marital counseling we had (in the church in which we married) simply wasn’t realistic nor did it prepare us for much of anything.

14095972_10208989877137463_3172001838895308492_nSo, why did we stay together?

I would say the first thing was recognizing we took vows, the traditional kind; you know, the good times, bad times, sickness and in health kind of vows.

Somehow, even though we did not know God, those vows mattered and we grasped, perhaps vaguely that divorce was somehow wrong. We see it now as God’s grace working in our lives even though we did not know him in a personal, applicable way.

The crisis of considering divorce was actually another sign of God’s intervening grace working in our lives because it led us to him.

There came a time through various means that we both realized we had been born again. We also began to realize being born again meant much more than salvation and it had a bearing on our marriage and parenting. We began to understand that the gospel is of first importance and (1 Cor. 15:3) that it has application beyond salvation.

For the first time it mattered what God’s Word said about sin, marriage, children, finances, conflict, sex, and most importantly, worship. We learned, not all at once, that you cannot worship yourself and worship God at the same time.

If you worship yourself, you are bound to be self-centered and be all about your needs, your wants, and your desires. If you worship the God of the Bible, you will be more concerned about what He wants and what He says in his Word about what your priorities should be. You will, if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, obey God even when you do not feel like it.

When God and his Word become central in a marriage the worship of self is weakened, though not fully destroyed this side of heaven. When the worship of self is weakened the worship of God is strengthened, as is the marriage relationship, because now what God says in His Word is more important than my needs, wants, and desires.  It’s not any more complicated than that and this leads to a marriage that can be relatively conflict free and even happy.

Christian marriages fail and marriage counseling fails because either one partner or both can never quite get over their self-centered worship disorder.

I’m happy to say, today, that I am grateful to God for the crisis He brought my wife and I, because it led us to him and a very happy marriage even after 42 years.