Preaching Christ and Helping Marriages

Love and Respect
Love & Respect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marriage seminars and sermon series are all the rage. Churches seem to offer a regular smorgasbord of options intended to strengthen the family, but are we doing what we were intended to do? Is it the local church’s responsibility to provide marriage counseling? Is it the church’s duty to detail the nature of inter-personal communication and conflict resolution?*

I know these questions are provocative. They are questions I wrestle with regularly. And I do so even as I am specifically offering a marriage series on Sunday nights (the “Love and Respect” Small Group study**). I do believe the local church must offer helps to its congregants and to the local community, but is it perhaps overly easy to fall into attempts at psychological answers in place of Biblical answers? I firmly believe the church (my congregation included) MUST strengthen families through every means available, but the question remains…where do we say that the Church MUST be the place where God’s Word is proclaimed and lived out and not simply another tool. Where the Scriptures function as more than a crutch to our marriages, but functions as the transformative, life-giving message of God’s Spirit changing and conforming us into the image of God.

It is far too easy (as Eugene Peterson pointed out in “The Pastor: A Memoir”) to fall into offering helps that are not the direct purview of the Church or the pastor. It is easier in some sense to speak to the psychological and social issues involved and offer such models for resolving conflicts, or improving the well-being of our congregants, but (while these can be incredibly beneficial) do such things belong to the direct responsibility of the local church? Can we offer such helps (as in some sense para-church outreaches), even while retaining our primary responsibility of preaching Christ crucified, risen and coming again as the grounds for our daily lives? I am persuaded that the good news says much about our relationships, but do not want to put undo emphasis where it does not belong. I guess what I’m asking is, should the task of preaching be to offer marriage seminar-like messages…or does it need to be something more? Messages where Christ is central and marriage peripheral.

If so, how do we maintain the centrality of the story of God’s redemption of creation in Christ, while still offering helps which do not belong centrally to that message, but may still be vital to the overall health of our churches?


* Disclaimer: I offer pre-marital counseling, marriage counseling, family counseling, have preached (and will continue to) on issues of the family and marriage (as a matter of following the text of Scripture we are working through and not as a separate series), and offer specific events targeting families, marriages, singles, and parenting.

** I highly recommend this series for its helpfulness.


Originally published by myself at on Jan. 21, 2013.

Psalm 1: A Devotional for the Wise

by Tzvi HaLevi Berger (b.1924, Transylvania)

“That kind of person is like a tree that is planted near a stream of water.
It always bears its fruit at the right time.
Its leaves don’t dry up.” (Psalm 1:3 NIrV)

 The wise are the “happy” and “blessed” (Psalm 1:1). They find themselves consumed by the things which please the LORD. They hang on His every word. His stories fill their dreams. His commands are their delight.

These happy saints sing His songs. They pray His prayers. They are washed by the waters of His cleansing and they eat His bread and drink from His cup. And they live. And they give life.

They find themselves planted by a stream of water where their roots find continuous sustenance. Their very life is maintained by this happy home where that life never fails to flow in, through and from them.

These happy trees are not blown away by the winds. They are not dried up when the rains cease. They do not withhold their fruit, because their fruit never stops growing. They have found the very source of life itself in their being planted in the garden of the LORD. Their leaves bring healing to the nations of the world who echoes their ceaseless praises to the Lord and Giver of Life. And the fruit of their lives is the fruit of that never ceasing river.

Such trees never cease to produce all that is good and right and enduring. And these righteous ones are that tree of life promised to the overcomers who are faithful to the LORD in all things and their reward shall never be taken from them. And they will flourish in His garden forever.


To be published by myself in Grow Deeper: A Devotional by Trinity Bible College (2015).

Responding to Decline

Church growthHow should the church, and we as ministers, respond to decline?  It seems our normal way is to try to be ever more inclusive (just look at many of the mainline churches in the North American context).  Is there perhaps a correlation between excessive inclusiveness and decline?  But is this really the best response to decline of pastoral applicants and shrinking congregations? The following is a Facebook post by Chris Green that rather provocatively offers an answer to the question at hand:

I don’t think it’s possible to agree more with someone than I do with Fabricius on this point: “How should the church respond to congregational decline, financial deficits, and vocational shrinkage? The answer is obvious: make ministerial selection more stringent, theological education more demanding, and spiritual formation more exacting. And burn anyone who proposes a managerial or entrepreneurial solution.”

So what are your thoughts?  Should our churches develop better “business” models to try to grow the declining church…or should our churches become ever more rigorous in our requirements?  Or is there some other direction the Church should take?


Originally published by me at on December 12, 2012.

Read More

Read meFor the last several years I’ve provided my congregation with several potential Bible reading plans included in our Sunday bulletin the first of the year: M’Cheyne Reading Plan (with several variables) and For Shirkers and Slackers.

The former offers an intensive reading of the NT books as part of the program.  It is quite a decent reading program, but also quite intensive.  The latter offers a reader for certain days (Sundays: Poetry; Mondays: Pentateuch [Genesis through Deuteronomy]; Tuesdays: Old Testament history; Wednesdays: Old Testament history; Thursdays: Old Testament prophets; Fridays: Gospels and Acts; Saturdays: New Testament epistles [letters]). This one does not offer a day-by-day calendar through the year (like M’Cheyne and many others), but instead only certain days of the week with plenty of buffer built in for “slacking and shirking”.  One guess which one I use myself. ;-)

While it would be preferred to read better (e.g., using an inductive method, or even lectio divina) rather than simply to read more (and we all know the “guilt” one can feel at times as an Evangelical who doesn’t read “enough”…whatever that is supposed to mean), it is still a tremendous blessing to one’s life to willfully submit to the reading (“hearing”) of Scripture on a regular basis, and to allow the whole canon of Scripture to speak into our lives and conform us to the image of Christ.

We really don’t lack in resources to aid in reading the Scriptures, what we lack is simply the passion to do so. There are a plethora of resources available to aid the disciple desirous of reading more of Scripture…like HERE or HERE.  So let’s get reading!


Originally published by myself at on January 1, 2013.

New Classes and Why I Love My Job

I love my jobExcited about a few courses I’ve designed being added to the catalog (Lord willing):

BIBL 336 The Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings) – 3 credits
Students will analyze the accounts of Israel’s story as recorded in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, and an evaluation of various attempts to harmonize that story with other historical evidence.  Literary, textual and theological issues as well as an examination of archaeological evidence, social institutions, and ideology will provide the data for discussing the ideas contained in the Former Prophets and their role as scripture for the Church. Prerequisites: BIBL 151 and BIBL 253

BIBL 437 Apocalyptic Literature and the Revelation – 2 credits
Students will analyze apocalyptic texts of the second Temple period with particular emphasis given to the historical, literary and theological elements of the Revelation and its role as scripture for the Church. Prerequisites: BIBL 151 and BIBL 253

BIBL 337 Daniel and Ezekiel – 2 credits
Students will analyze the historical, literary and theological elements of the books of Daniel and Ezekiel and their role as scripture for the Church. Prerequisites: BIBL 151 and BIBL 253

LANG 437 Biblical Hebrew 2a – 3 credits
This course provides intermediate grammatical study, vocabulary building and discourse analysis of Biblical Hebrew narrative. Students build their vocabulary and translate selected portions of the Hebrew Old Testament with particular attention to the book of Ruth. Prerequisites: LANG 435, LANG 436

LANG 438 Biblical Hebrew 2b – 3 credits
The genre of Hebrew Poetry will be explored, focusing on selections from the Psalms, the prophets, and wisdom literature. Students will develop recognition of the characteristics of this genre, with the outcome of becoming better readers of Hebrew Poetry. Students will develop skills to exegete, preach, and teach the portions of the Old Testament which are poetic. Prerequisites: LANG 437

As if I didn’t love studying the Hebrew Bible enough, I must say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching Biblical Hebrew (1a & 1b) last year and being halfway through 2a this semester. I look forward to teaching Biblical Hebrew 2b (who doesn’t love Biblical Hebrew poetry???), Apocalyptic Literature and the Revelation (a topic I have taught numerous times as a pastor), as well as The Former Prophets (my actual specialization) next semester.

The beauty of teaching these courses lays in the fact that most students find this material fresh. Even those who previously thought they understood these books and topics, suddenly encounter the excitement of the new and enter the adventure of engaging Scriptures in ways they had not previously imagined. All I know is #ilovemyjob