Strengths-Based Marriage (reading plan review)

Normally on Tuesdays, I post book reviews here, but I’ve been reading a couple of YouVersion reading plans with my wife this summer that I felt I must share with you. Both of them are by Jimmy Evans—One: A Marriage Devotional and Strengths-Based Marriage. 

If you are unfamiliar with YouVersion Bible, there is both a web-based site and a mobile app that you really should check out. I spend a lot of quality time in the Scripture using the app on my iPhone each day. One of the cool features YouVersion has recently introduced is the ability to read devotional plans with friends. This offers:

  • accountability with your reading partners 
  • a set schedule of reading assignments
  • access to all the biblical texts that correspond with the day’s devotional reading
  • a place to share your thoughts just with your reading partners, and inaccessible to anyone else on YouVersion

Strengths-Based Marriage focuses on exactly what the title leads you to expect—the strengths in you and your spouse. Instead of trying to “fix” something in your spouse, Jimmy Evans turns your attention toward the God-implanted strengths in your spouse, and then gives you some practical counsel for calling out those strengths. 

For example, in one of the devotions he wrote, “Each of us is remarkably unique, and to minimize that irreplaceable uniqueness is to rob the world of a contribution that cannot come any other way.” And in another devotional he says, “You cannot separate your treasures from your passions. In other words, you will always be most passionate about the people, pursuits, and places where you are investing the best of your life. Your passions will always follow the investments of your time, energy, and strengths.”

One: A Marriage Devotional is a much more daily nuts-and-bolts approach to our marriages. In this devotional he shares relationships principles, and then gives us a “Talk It Out” and a “Walk It Out” assignment to put into practice. 

In one of these devotionals he writes, “God created marriage to operate as the most important human relationship in our lives, and it only succeeds on that level. … Priority must be proven daily in real terms and not just in words. Good intentions mean very little in marriage. The only thing that matters is what you do and continue to do consistently. For your marriage to work, you must establish it as the first priority and be willing to protect it against good or bad things that try to distract you.”

Whether your marriage is in need of urgent attention, it could use some minor improvements, or it’s already pretty great, both of these devotionals will give you practical tips, time with your spouse in God’s Word, great conversation-starting questions, and some highly practical tips you can use right now. 

The Blessing Of Quiet Humility

“When you’re full of yourself, God can’t fill you. But when you empty yourself, God has a useful vessel. Your Bible overflows with examples of those who did.

“In his gospel, Matthew mentions his own name only twice. Both times he calls himself a tax collector. In his list of apostles, he assigns himself the eighth spot.

John doesn’t even mention his name in his gospel. The twenty appearances of ‘John’ all refer to the Baptist. John the apostle simply calls himself ‘the other disciple’ or the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved.’

Luke wrote two of the most important books in the Bible but never once penned his own name.

Paul, the Bible’s most prolific author, referred to himself as ‘a fool’ (2 Corinthians 12:11).

King David wrote no psalm celebrating his victory over Goliath. But he wrote a public poem of penitence confessing his sin with Bathsheba (see Psalm 51).

“And then there is Joseph. The quiet father of Jesus. Rather than make a name for himself, he made a home for Christ. And because he did, a great reward came his way. ‘He called His name Jesus’ (Matthew 1:25).” —Max Lucado, in You!

Check out my book review of You! by clicking here, and you can read some other quotes from this book here.

9 More Quotes From “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”

Those in pastoral ministry are ministers; they are not professional, career-minded, corporate ladder-climbers. John Piper has written a book that I believe every pastor should read: Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. Here are a few more quotes from this excellent book. 

“Is not our most painful failure in the pastorate the inability to weep over the unbelievers in our neighborhoods and the carnal members of our churches? …  

“I must feel the truth of hell—that it exists and is terrible and horrible beyond imaginings forever and ever. ‘These will go away into eternal punishment’ (Matthew 25:46). Even if I try to make the ‘lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:15) or the ‘fiery furnace’ (Matthew 13:42) a symbol, I am confronted with the terrifying thought that symbols are not overstatements but understatements of reality. …

“I say to you, on the authority of Scripture, remember, remember, remember the horrid condition of being separated from Christ, without hope and without God, on the brink of hell. ‘Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12). … 

“When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the gospel passes from good news to simply news.” 

“Warning has value in stirring us up to take the glories of holiness and heaven seriously so that we come to see them for what they are and delight in them. But it is the delight in them that causes the true grief when we fall short.” 

“Pastors, you will know your people’s souls best by knowing your own. So try to be ruthlessly honest with yourself.” 

“If the heart is without passion, it will produce lifeless, jargon-laden spontaneity. And if the heart is aflame, no form will quench it.” 

“We ought to experience the deepest emotions about the deepest things. And we ought to speak often, and publicly, about what means most to us, in a way that shows its value.” 

“Eating, exercising, and sleeping are more spiritually relevant in the ministry than we may think. … The point is that we be intentional about how our eating affects the ability of our body to be a helpful partner in seeing the glory of God.” 

“When we say that what we do on Sunday morning is to ‘go hard after God,’ what we mean is that we are going hard after satisfaction in God, and going hard after God as our prize, and going hard after God as our treasure, our soul-food, our heart-delight, our spirit’s pleasure. Or to put Christ in His rightful place—it means that we are going hard after all that God is for us in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.” 

“It will transform your pastoral leadership in worship if you teach your people that the basic attitude of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with your hands full to give to God but with your hands empty to receive from God.” 

“Brothers, we are leaders, and the burden of change lies most heavily on us.” 

You can read my full book review of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by clicking here, and you can check out some other quotes from this book here. 

The Integrity Of A Godly Leader

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. (Psalm 32:8)

“God does not expect leaders to be perfect, but to be whole. To have integrity means to be whole, as in a whole number (an ‘integer’). Despite their human frailties, leaders can effectively guide those who follow.

“This Scripture reminds us that leaders must closely observe the flock for its needs and problems. God expects spiritual leaders to serve as guides. A guide takes a person or group safely to a planned destination. The Hebrew words for ‘guide’ gives us several clues as to what God expects from those He uses as leaders:

  • A guide is a spiritual head who unites and directs people in their walk with God.
  • A guide takes people on the straight path that leads to fellowship with God.
  • A guide gives accurate and godly counsel to those who need it.
  • A guide leads with gentleness and trustworthiness, making others feel safe.
  • A guide bases his or her direction on the Spirit and the Word of God.” —John Maxwell, in The Maxwell Leadership Bible

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 1

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 1 

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 1.]

     The servant of God is never self-elected, there is always this impelling call of God, and it is always the most unlikely man, the most unlikely woman, God calls. …  

     Jeremiah’s courage was superb. It was not the courage of foolhardiness But the courage of a hyper-sensitive man being held by God; he sees the terror of the evil and wrong and knows his own sensitiveness, and yet hears God saying, “Be not afraid.” There are people who are fearless and we say they are courageous, but there is no moral virtue in their courage, it is born either of physical or moral obtuseness. Spiritual courage is the high heart that sees the difficulty and faces it. That is the courage that is valuable to God. …  

     How am I to know what God has ordained me for? By His eternal Word. We have to stir up our minds and find out what God’s purpose is by obeying His Word and relying on His Spirit. … Will the Word of God come to me? Of course it will! Will the Spirit of God see that I fulfill that Word? Of course He will! If we will keep in the light with God, our destination is as sure and as established as God, as certain as His throne.

     When once you realize the divine purpose behind your life you will never again say, “I am so weak”; you will know you are, but you will be strong in His strength. The only strength we have is the strength of God, which comes to us from the vision of God and of His power. The time of stress in which there is no vision, no insight, no sensing of the purpose of God, is the time to stand firm in faith in God and God will do all the rest. Keep true to God and your development in God’s plan is certain. …  

     The reason men and women are exhausted in life is because they have not realized God’s purpose for them; when once they are awakened by the Spirit of God, regenerated by Him, and fitted on to His purpose for them, they will end where God wants them to end. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

God had a purpose for Jeremiah’s life. He has a purpose for your life too! 

Get into His Word. Listen to the voice of His Spirit nudging you forward, awakening compassion, prompting you to go or to speak or to serve. God is glorified when you do what He designed you to do, and the rest of us are blessed and benefitted when you do what God designed you to do!  

Notes On Isaiah (book review)

I’m always astounded by the depth of insight that God gave to Oswald Chambers on spiritual matters; especially on concepts that seem confusing to a great many people. His God-given insights are on full display in his Notes On Isaiah.

I’ll share one disappointment right up front: There is not nearly as much information in this book as I would have hoped for. Chambers’ books, with only a couple of minor exceptions, were not initially written as books. Instead, the books are a collection of sermons or lectures that his wife recorded shorthand as he spoke, and then they were transcribed and compiled later. Apparently during this series of lectures on Isaiah, Biddy Chambers had taken on more responsibility at the Bible Training Institute (even teaching a class of her own), and she gave birth to their only child. These things kept her from taking the extensive notes we readers have become accustomed to. 

Although limited, the content is still as insightful and mind-expanding as ever! David Lambert, a friend of the Chambers who helped get this book into print, marveled at how masterfully Oswald could make the words of Isaiah accessible to his students. Lambert noted, “The only mind for the author of the Bible is the Mind of God, and the only Interpreter is the Spirit of God.” Clearly, Oswald Chambers was deeply dependent on both the Mind and Spirit of God in all of his work! 

In introducing this class to his students, Chambers reminded them what was at stake. He said, “God will never have us follow Him blindly,” unlike satan. He pointed out, “The supernatural power of satan never reasons, it appeals to man’s superstition, not to his conscience.” If ever a book of Scripture appealed to our conscience to open our eyes and hearts to the ways of God, it is the book of Isaiah. And Oswald Chambers is a marvelous companion for our journey through this book! 

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 30

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Isaiah 30 

[These are the notes on Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 30.] 

     The test of true religion is the knowledge of the character of God. As long as you think of God in the quietness of a religious meeting you will never know God—what kind of God have you got when you are in touch with the wrong, bad, evil things? God’s Book reveals that it is right in the midst of the very opposite of God that His blessings occur. The very things which seem to be making for destruction become the revealers of God. It is an easy business to preach peace when you are in health and have everything you want, but the Bible preaches peace when things are in a howling tumult of passion and sin and iniquity; it is in the midst of anguish and terror that we realize Who God is and the marvel of what He can do. …  

     God makes His people sing where in the eyes of the world it seems ironical to sing—in a besieged city where things are going to ruin, in the suburbs of hell, in the valley of the shadow of death. When you see lives in the midst of turmoil and anguish full of amazing brightness and uncrushable elasticity of faith in God, if you do not know God you will say, “However can they go through it? how is it that they remain undiscouraged and undismayed?” The explanation is the presence of God made real in His promises.” 

From Notes On Isaiah 

When you go through a “howling tumult” there are some things to remember:

  1. God is with you
  2. God is in control 
  3. God will help you sing through the storm
  4. Others are watching you
  5. God can be glorified in your undismayed faith in His presence through the tumult 
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