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. 

Defy The Experts

Later war broke out with the Philistines at Gezer. That was the time Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai of the clan of giants. The Philistines had to eat crow. 

In another war with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite whose spear was like a ship’s boom. 

And then there was the war at Gath that featured a hulking giant who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six on each hand and foot—yet another from the clan of giants. When he mocked Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. 

These came from the clan of giants and were killed by David and his men. (1 Chronicles 20:4-8) 

All the experts said that it was humanly impossible for a human to run a mile in less than four minutes. They looked at all the data and concluded it just couldn’t be done. 

But in 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3:59.4. 

Since that time, over 1400 runners have been inspired by Bannister’s success and have also broken the “unbreakable” barrier of a 4-minute mile. 

Before David faced the giant Goliath, the experts were probably all in agreement: giants just can’t be killed by normal-sized humans. 

But David killed Goliath. And then, inspired by his success in doing the “impossible,” David’s fellow warriors began chopping down giants too!

What’s holding you back? What have you or other so-called experts declared “impossible” or “unbreakable” or “undoable”? 

If God is calling you to take on the giant, DO IT! 

Defy the so-called experts. Do the “impossible.” Don’t let what others say is un-doable hold you back from victory! 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 7

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 7

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 7.]

     To seek a place instead of a Person is the first peril in the spiritual life, and to sentimentalize over places where God has met you is the beginning of spiritual twist. Beware of relying on a principle saving you from moral wrong, for it never can. A personal relationship to a personal Savior is the only power that can shield the soul from moral peril. The golden rule is, my personal Savior in every place, not that in certain places I meet my Savior. …  

     Self-deception always arises by ignoring the personal relationship to God….

     Self-examination is the only exercise for a soul who would remain true to the light of God. … The hardest thing in a saint’s life is to maintain a simple belief in Jesus until he realizes the one relationship is—my Lord and I; then His joy will be fulfilled in us.

From Notes On Jeremiah 

We have to be very careful about making a special landmark out of a place, an experience, or even a passage of Scripture where God met us in a profound way. Those special encounters are intended for one specific purpose: to draw us more deeply into a relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ. 

We are on the road to self-deception if we keep seeking experiences. The road to spiritual health is paved with Spirit-inspired self-examination where we ask, “How did that experience lead me closer to Jesus?” When all the other stuff is stripped away, that’s where we will feel Christ’s joy fulfilled in us.

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 5

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 5

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 5.] 

     The Bible is not so much a revelation about God as a revelation of God who is adequate to deal with the worst. …  

     The tumbling and turmoil in human history is caused everywhere by the consuming fire of God rather than by the futile rage of the devil. In reading history the saint sees that the great presence and power is God, not the devil. …

     Hordes of barbarians and powers of worldly dominion are unconscious of God, but God uses them for His own purpose. Nothing happens by chance. When our Lord stood before Pilate He said, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11). The tyranny of the Roman Empire over God’s people was the providential order of God, and Jesus recognized that this was so, He did not start a revolution, or say, “We must fight against this” (John 18:36). Perils are clear to God’s mind alone, but they mean panic to everyone who does not know the mind of God. …  

     We learn the marvelous truth that we may become more than conquerors through our right relationship to God over everything that may come against us. …  

     In order to make proper changes in a nation’s life, you must change the people’s wants. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

All over the globe, it appears that evil is holding sway and that sin is running rampant. It could appear as if the devil is winning, and Christians are just desperately trying to hold on to the end. But is that what it means when the Bible says that we are more than conquerors? 

Let’s be clear about this—God is in control. 

God may use barbarians, dictators, and evil people to accomplish His purposes, but they are all under His control. These forces have bounds past which they may not go. Any power they have has been give to them from above. 

If we forget this, we can easily fall into a hand-wringing panic. But let’s remind ourselves again and again that God is in control! If our relationship with Him is right, then we truly soar over these temporal upheavals; we become more than conquerors through Him Who loves us!

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 4

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 4

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lectures on Jeremiah 4.]

     The great truth underlying calamity is that the truth and way of God is seen but abandoned because it is too difficult. Unless we understand this we shall misjudge God in His dealings with His people and imagine that He is too stern. … Abandon is not rebellion yet; abandon simply means—“That is a nice vision, but it is not for me.” … 

     The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will with God alone, never first in external circumstances. … When that is done we can go forth with the smiling certainty that our battle is won, nothing will ever again enthrall us on that line. The world, the flesh and the devil have not the slightest power over the man who can rule his own spirit, who has fought the battle out before God and won there. …

     When the secret places of our will before God are revealed you know exactly what you have to do. Let the Word of God bore a hole in your self-complacency about the particular thing He has hauled you up about and then put in another Word that He brings to you, and you will soon find His dynamite at work. … 

     We are choked by a little thing that has not its root in God, which God condemned and we pathetically wept over but left there. … Never put a thing off and say, “It does not matter, no one sees.” No, but they will see you go down like standing corn before the scythe in external circumstances, because you played the traitor to God in secret. If God has revealed anything to you for the tiniest glimmer of a second and you don’t obey Him and cultivate that territory for Him, you will go down when the crisis comes. … 

     The basis of life on earth apart from God is chaos. … No whining and no shirking will ever help us to escape the utter confusion that is at the basis of every bit of human life that has ignored God. … 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

Our battles are won or lost in secret long before they are ever fought externally. 

God’s Holy Spirit wants to dynamite the areas of our life that would cause us to falter in the day of battle. If we will allow Him to deal with these things in private, we will be more than conquerors when that day of external temptation finally comes. 

If we maintain the “It’s no big deal” attitude with God in private, we shall surely be defeated by the temptations when they do come. 

The choice is yours…

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