The Secret to Strong Friendships

What makes a friendship? Is it personalities? Or context? Or proximity? Yes. These areas where two people’s experiences overlap are usually good starting places for close friendship. But I’d argue that the strength of a friendship over the long haul depends not primarily on personality or context or proximity, but on prayer.

Personalities change because people do. Contexts change as people become interested in new hobbies and pursuits (and less interested in old ones). Proximity changes as people move, whether a town or state away, or across the ocean. But when all these factors change, we can still pray, trusting God to use the means he has given to strengthen our friendships with other Christians—and to change us.

The Privilege of Prayer

My longest friendship has lasted 11 years through overseas moves, marriages and funerals, joys and sorrows. Another close friendship began in a season of shared suffering and has continued through many others. Yet another started on a casual neighborhood stroll and has become a deep and intentional sharing of hearts.

What has bonded such unlikely people, kept us going through changing times, and made it such a joy to be friends? The friendship of Christ that we share––the privilege of being united to one another because we’re first united to him.

Continue reading

Pastor, Involve Your Wife in Your Job Search

Are you a pastor? Or are you married to one? Then you’ll benefit from a book I had the privilege of contributing to, Benjamin Vrbicek’s Don’t Just Send a Resume: How to Find the Right Job in a Local Church.

When my husband and I got married, he was pastoring middle- and high-school students at our church. He loved his job and was excellent at it––but we knew the end was near. He had agreed to work in this role for five years, at which point he wanted to become a preaching pastor.

We hoped and prayed this would happen at the same local church, but only God knew.

Through many unknowns, we started discussing the possibilities. Would God direct us to stay somehow? Would he have us elsewhere near our home? Or would he call us to pick up everything and move across state lines?

After about a year of waiting, we got the call: We were staying at the same church, in a different role. Hallelujah! But the waiting was intense, and it stretched and grew our marriage in a unique way.

Pastor, as you begin (or continue) your job search, know that your wife desires to be involved. She knows you better than anyone, will speak truthfully, and wants what’s best for you. The following are five ways my husband involved me during our season of searching and waiting––and I hope they’ll be helpful to you.

Through Commitment

As husbands and wives are joined in the covenant of marriage and united in Christ, one spouse’s calling means both spouses must be called. In other words, your wife should have peace and clarity about the jobs you’re looking at and pursuing, especially when it comes to decision time.

My husband always reminds me that “we’re in this together.” No, I may not be preaching on Sundays or pastoring the flock, but I’m one with him, so any job search needs to be a united effort and decision. Your devotion to your wife extends even to this.

Continue reading

Four Steps to Answering Hard Questions

Meet any 3-year-old, and you’ll quickly learn their favorite question—“Why?”

You’d think such a simple question would have an easy answer, but this isn’t always the case. How much more difficult are questions from adults about complex biblical truths and the mysterious ways of our great God?

Whether your primary ministry is small group leadership, discipling other women, meeting with unbelievers, or facilitating events within your church, rest assured, you will be asked some hard questions. How will you handle them? How can you keep God’s Word central and exercise wisdom as you do?

The hard questions our women ask challenge and encourage us to apply Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” Consider the following four steps, keeping this verse in mind:

1. Discern

Is this person genuinely curious, or do they want to stir conflict?

Your first step is to discern the motivation behind the question. While many hard questions will come from hearts of genuine curiosity, confusion, or conviction, some may cause conflict, whether the question-poser realizes it or not. As a leader, try to discern if the woman asking the question intends this, or if she’s unaware this could be the result.

Let’s say you lead a small group, and you’re discussing God’s plan for marriage according to Genesis 1 and Ephesians 4. One woman asks, “So do you think Christians who get legally married to a same-sex spouse go to hell?”

Before responding, exercise the “wisdom” of Colossians 3:16 and discern the heart behind her question:

  • Does she have a family member or friend in this situation whom she loves and wants to see safe in Christ?
  • Is she actually asking about the Bible’s authority on marriage?
  • Or does she simply want to stir conflict within the group through a controversial topic?

If it’s conflict she’s seeking, it’s best to acknowledge her question for later discussion and move on from it. If it’s genuine curiosity, then feel the freedom to proceed to the next step.

Continue reading

Before You Were Born, We Prayed for You

No parent is completely ready for their first child.

At least that’s what we’ve heard. Our first is due soon. It’s a girl, our precious daughter — we are thrilled beyond belief. She is a gift from God, a sweet treasure we don’t deserve, but one we’ve been entrusted with for as many days as her Creator has planned. Many moments, I’m stilled by the wonder of such a gift, and in the next breath I’m anxious, thinking, How on earth will we ever be ready for her?

We won’t. Not in the sense of having all the answers, or anticipating what’s coming. Perhaps we’ll be ready in the way of stuff: the baby registry, doctor appointments, showers, nursery, classes, the works (okay, maybe not the birth). These are good essentials that will help us navigate uncharted territory — but they aren’t the most valuable way we can prepare for our daughter in these expectant months.

The best thing we can do is pray.

Continue reading

The Power of Confession in Your Small Group

Our small group is unlike any other group I’ve known. It’s not because we all get along (though we do), nor because we’re like-minded (though we are). And it’s certainly not because we have it all together.

Actually, the fact that we don’t have it all together is the reason I love our small group. Confession marks our time together, and it has changed at least three things: the way we interact, the way we pray, and the way we pursue godliness.

1. Confession changes relationships.

In a small-group setting, walls come down when everyone walks in the light. But this doesn’t just happen. We must choose to set aside our pride and talk openly about sin. Initially this talk feels uncomfortable, but the sooner we confess to one another, the sooner grace-fueled relationships characterize the group.

Honest confession melts away the mirage that certain people are “better Christians.” It enables us to live on the level ground of the cross, rather than in the false worlds of comparison, guilt, pride, and condemnation. Confession—or a lack thereof—also flows from each person’s walk with Christ. If we walk in the light before him, we’ll feel more comfortable walking in the light before others.

Continue reading

Six Unique Ways Women Bring Life and Health to the Church

Do you recognize these women?

Sandy loves people. She’s gifted in making someone feel like they’re the only person in the room. Not only does she ask insightful questions and listen well, she remembers conversations and follows up later. Because of her warmth and kindness, women in the church to gravitate toward her.

Joan is a gifted leader. She also has a knack for teaching the Bible to women. Church staff come to her about recommendations for resources and seek her guidance about the direction of women’s ministries. She loves leading Bible studies and small groups, and takes great joy in seeing women grow in knowledge of and love for God’s Word.  

Cynthia’s wheelhouse is hospitality. She isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, yet she’s a spiritual mother to many. There’s rarely an evening during the week when someone from church isn’t spending time at her home. The women know Cynthia’s door is always open, so they take advantage of her standing invitation, gaining wisdom and life skills in the process.

God’s Beautiful Plan for the Church

Who are these women? They’re the women of your local church, designed and gifted by God for specific purposes. They’re the women who, alongside the men, are fulfilling God’s plan for his church:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-14, emphases mine)

Two important truths stand out here about the church:

The highest measure of a church’s life and health is Christlikeness. When we talk about the “life and health” of a church, we aren’t talking about its size, programs, or leadership, at least not in isolation. These may be indicators of a church’s life and health, but not its foundation. Rather, Paul says a healthy church body is unified in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ, both of which cause the church to reflect him in increasing measure – which is its highest goal.

Christlikeness is attained as men and women do the work of ministry. How does God bring about Christlikeness within his church? Partly through the gifts of its congregation. God intends to use sinful, flawed, undeserving people – men and women alike – for “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” All our varied gifts and efforts in serving the church aim toward God’s goal of Christlikeness.

Six Unique Ways Women Bring Life and Health to the Church

Knowing these truths, what are the unique and varied ways women contribute to the life and health of the church? What are some facets of their “work of ministry” that build up the church toward the goal of Christlikeness?

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

How to Be Sure You’re Marrying “The One”

If Christian marriages are to picture the gospel (Ephesians 5:22-33), then believers in dating relationships need to be able to answer the question, “Am I willing to serve, sacrifice for, and forgive the person I’m with until death do us part?”

If you are seriously dating someone right now, ask yourself that question. If your answer is “yes,” then it’s likely you’ve found “the one.”

See, finding “the one” is less about demanding from the perfect person and more about choosing to serve an imperfect person – flaws, sins, and all – the one whom God has intentionally placed in your path. 

Continue reading

Three Ways to Welcome Others as Christ Has Welcomed You


Another ministry year has begun. Our small group kicked off last week with good food and discussion around the purpose of our time together. In preparing for the women, and in adding some new women to the group, the idea of “welcoming warmly” has been on my mind.

This morning’s sermon drove these thoughts home, as the pastor asked us to consider how Christ has welcomed us. Christ’s welcome and our ability to welcome go hand in hand:

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

In what ways has Christ welcomed us, and how does this enable us to “welcome one another”? Whether you’re leading a small group, hosting friends and family, pastoring your flock, or getting to know your neighbors, consider a few ways to welcome, based on how Jesus has welcomed you:

Continue reading

How to Date with Holiness, Honor, and Humility

I was flabbergasted and a little shook up. About four years ago, as I progressed through the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I was flabbergasted that couples existed who waited to kiss until their wedding day and shook up because, if God commanded this, then I had already blown my chance over a high school romance.

Even still, something was not sitting right with me about this premise. So I went to my pastor.

We sat in his office and talked for a solid hour about the purpose of this book and the thoughts it advocated on dating. I still have the email he wrote to me, finishing up our conversation. He said:

I also think we need to be wise about our dating approach. To go out to dinner and a movie with a “date” is one thing. To go for a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods is putting oneself in a situation where one is more removed from helpful boundaries…

Helpful boundaries. Let’s talk about them.

Continue reading

Forgiveness: A Marriage Best-Practice

Marriage is a covenantal partnership that involves two people, a husband and wife, working towards a common goal: to represent Christ and his people to the world.

Founded on and motivated by the gospel, marriage is set apart from other partnerships, like businesses or organizations. But a marriage is similar to these entities in that it is founded on a mission, forms plans around its mission, makes decisions according to its mission, and tackles obstacles using its mission as a guide and motivator.

So what is the mission of marriage according to the Bible?

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33, emphasis mine)

Paul says that Christian marriage is a means of displaying the love of Jesus Christ for his church; marriages are on mission to be living, breathing illustrations of the beautiful gospel.

When Jesus came to earth as God-in-the-flesh, he gave up all of his divine rights, sacrificing his very life for the sake of his chosen people. He covered believers, once for all time, with his purity and holiness, bearing our sins and taking our deserved judgment in The Great Exchange of Calvary. He washed us clean and continually presents us to God as righteous and holy, as a husband and wife are to do for one another in the sanctifying ministry of marriage.

So if a marriage is motivated by a gospel-centered mission, just as a business is propelled by its mission statement, the pursuit of certain “best-practices” will propel a husband and wife towards this mission. One of these is forgiveness.

A “Best-Practice” Test

My husband and I came up against a test of marriage “best-practices” not long ago. Ready to enjoy a long vacation weekend at the lake, we arrived and spent our first couple of hours watching the sunset over the beach. The wind picked up as a storm rolled in and, as a result, a unwelcome fleck of sand flew across my left cornea, scratching it and leaving pain in its wake.

Not an ideal start, to say the least.

Instead of soaking up the beautiful evening as planned, we found ourselves waiting at the emergency room for two hours, surrounded by sick children, injured adults, and a medical staff who was in no hurry to help us. Needless to say, the tension, frustration, and disappointment tipped us both over the edge and, before we knew it, we had turned into two irritated people. After getting released from the emergency room, we went straight to bed, having agreed to work out the tension in the morning.

The next day, forgiveness was the name of the game, as we were both challenged to be faithful in the best-practices of our marriage, redirecting our gaze on our common mission and recognizing where we both had failed.

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is indeed best.

Three Reasons Why Forgiveness Is a “Best-Practice” for Marriage

Why is forgiveness a “best-practice” for Christian marriages?

Forgiveness is hard. The Bible often teaches that the hardest things in life are the most growth-producing, ordained by the hand of God for our good and his glory. So forgiveness offers broken human beings the opportunity to deny self and partake in a difficult act of love and mercy, one that runs against the grain of our fleshly desires.

In marriage, it can be tempting to swallow our frustrations and brush offenses under the proverbial rug because, well, ignoring the tension is easier than confronting it head-on in love, grace, and truth. However, in the long-run, the ignoring of tension and the belittling of sin only causes a bitter root to spring up and grow. This bitterness is destructive and unhelpful and only serves to cause division, which is exactly what the enemy of our marriages wants to see happen.

When forgiveness is hard (and it is hard), look to Jesus. The Son of God was so assured of his mission to save sinners that he was able to say at the hour of his murder, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

So look to Jesus, find strength in the gospel, and then pursue forgiveness, even when it is hard.

Forgiveness is humbling. Admitting “I was wrong” is not a sign of weakness and bondage; it is a sign of character and humility, both of which lead to freedom from selfish ambition when founded on the gospel. The world tells us to stand our ground and demand our rights, but the gospel frees us to set aside our own interests in order to seek the best interest of the other person (Philippians 2), in the example of Christ. The “offended party” has an equal opportunity to practice gospel-humility in how they respond to their spouse’s confession: in grace and forgiveness.

So look to Jesus, find strength in the gospel, and then pursue forgiveness, even when it humbles you both.

Forgiveness is healing. Finally, forgiveness is a “best-practice” for marriage because it produces healing where a bitter root would threaten to spring up and wreak havoc. Since God, in Christ, reconciled the world to himself through the gospel, and since marriage is to picture the gospel, then the pursuit of reconciliation in marriage is key to freedom from discord and mutual spousal growth in grace.

A marriage in pursuit of healing through reconciliation demonstrates to the world that establishing peace is more important than being “right,” that forgiveness is better than keeping a record of wrongs. When the world asks, “How could you forgive your spouse like that?” see the beautiful opportunity to share the extent of God’s love for sinners in Christ.*

So look to Jesus, find strength in the gospel, and then pursue forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.

In what area of your marriage do you need the “best-practice” of forgiveness today?

*If you are in a marriage where the offenses against you have been abusive in nature, seek out a pastor, elder, counselor, or trusted member of the body of Christ. Certain offenses are more serious than others and should be held to high accountability, especially if they are repeated offenses rooted in abuse.

[Post Credit: Unlocking the Bible]