How Two Made One Stay One
Jan and I recently observed our first anniversary. We celebrated the many ways God has been good to us—not the least of which is the unity we enjoy as husband and wife.

How does a couple made one in marriage stay one over time? Consider these keys for maintaining marital harmony.

One, make oneness a priority (Eph. 4:3). Gospel-shaped people do their best to preserve unity in relationships.

Before Jan and I make any significant decision, we ask one another how it will impact our relationship’s oneness. We decide together.

Two, count oneness a gift (Psalm 133). Don’t take it for granted. Recognize it as a blessing from God. Thank him often for it!

Three, consider oneness a stewardship (1 Cor. 4:2). I use the term “stewardship” often. As a concept, it helps orient me to my various responsibilities. A steward protects and manages the affairs and possessions of another.

In marriage, that involves several things.

First, I pray for our oneness. Jesus modeled this in the way he interceded for his people (John 17:21).

Second, I work for our oneness. Nothing matters more here than watching out for Jan’s interests, not just my own. Philippians 2:3-4 constrains me:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let me tell a story on myself (with my wife’s permission of course).

Last Christmas Jan shared with me her desire to have two of her kids and their children over to decorate our tree. It happened to fall on a Saturday—down time for me.

Rather than welcoming the idea, I pushed back. Given the sometimes-exhausting demands of pastoral ministry, I described even extended family involvement as “debit time,” not “credit time.”

In the middle of the conversation, my dear wife suddenly burst into tears, her hand-clasped head collapsing into her lap.

Please understand—Jan gets my need to back off periodically from people-time to refuel. She is dialed in to my interests and needs.

But at that moment last December, God convicted me of a dismal lack of concern for her interests.

She cares deeply about stewarding effectively her relationships with extended family. God has used her to show me some of my deficiencies in this area.

I pledged to regard any further opportunities with both sides of the family as credit-time only. In fact, we plan on coloring eggs this Saturday with one of our grandsons.

How does change like this happen? How can an inherently selfish man like me pray and work for oneness in marriage?

I believe for our oneness.

Believe what? Knowing that only God can transform my patterns in marriage, I trust anew in his power working in me through the gospel of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11).

The gospel alone empowers two made one to remain one, anniversary after anniversary.

Question: What means do you employ to promote marital oneness?

Who Should Read “Crazy Busy?”

Deyoung Busyness

Now that I’ve read Kevin DeYoung’s new book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (Crossway, 2013, 124 pages), I’ve formed an opinion on this question. Probably most of us.

By the way. It delivers on the promise of brevity. I got through it in one sitting reclining on the couch while watching UCF lose to South Carolina. I thought I was perfecting my well-honed art of multitasking. Turns out I wasn’t even “switch-tasking.” See page 60 for more on that myth.

You have to love a guy – husband, father, pastor, author, conference speaker, among other things – who starts his latest book this way: “I am the worst possible person to write this book. And maybe the best (p. 11).” This kind of authorial polarization stems from the man’s aim in writing. He explains:

Some books are written because the author knows something people need to know. Others because the author has seen something people should see. I’m writing this book to figure out things I don’t know and to work on change I have not yet seen. More than any other book I’ve worked on, this one is for me.

That kind of humility draws me. I can take my cue from a guy like this. Crazy Busy is insanely good. I commend it to anyone who “feels frazzled and overwhelmed most of the time” (p. 16).

The book follows a simple and straightforward 3, 7, and 1 outline – three dangers to avoid, seven diagnoses to consider, and one thing you must do. It consists of ten chapters, 118 pages, not counting indexes.

  1. Hello, My Name is Busy
  2. Here, There, and Gone: Three Dangers to Avoid
  3. Crazy BusyThe Killer P’s—Diagnosis #1: You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride
  4. The Terror of Total Obligation—Diagnosis #2: You Are Trying to Do What God Does Not Expect You to Do
  5. Mission Creep—Diagnosis #3: You Can’t Serve Others without Setting Priorities
  6. A Cruel Kindergarchy—Diagnosis #4: You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids
  7. Deep Calls to Deep—Diagnosis #5: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul
  8. Rhythm and Blues—Diagnosis #6: You’d Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself
  9. Embracing the Burdens of Busyness—Diagnosis #7: You Suffer More because You Don’t Expect to Suffer at All
  10. The One Thing You Must Do

Buyer beware. If you desire a self-help resource with a checklist for increased efficiency and quantum productivity, leave this paperback off your Christmas list. DeYoung goes hard after the heart. Chapter three on pride threw me under the bus, where I belong, I might add. Were I still raising kids, chapter six would have leveled me. Though it’s not my issue (I have plenty of others, Lord knows), the chapter on social media and its dangers is worth the price of reading admission in its unpacking of the 21st century malaise of acedia. I confess. I never heard of that word until now. Read the book for yourself to learn about it, especially if you spend endless hours on the Internet. This self-confessed busyaholic (my term) takes no prisoners on the road to recovery. Prepare to have your categories challenged, your behaviors examined, and your motives unveiled – as well as your prescription for health detailed.

The book is biblical and practical. You would expect nothing less from a Gospel Coalition spokesman. Some chapters may suffer from the minimalist treatment, but he did promise to keep things brief. For those who desire more, DeYoung offers annotation with multiple resources and even cites them at the bottom of the page for the convenience of the reader. I love this guy! If I ever write a book, I promise, I won’t make readers (assuming anybody wants to read what I write, of course) turn to the back of the thing to check the references. I hate that. I am too busy for that inconvenience.

I found chapter nine particularly encouraging. It represents the best of the best in this little jewel in terms of its balance. DeYoung doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. He takes the path of the fellow traveler on the road of finding a middle ground between being crazy busy and redemptively busy. He doesn’t take us off the hook about busyness. Laziness isn’t the answer anymore than frantic over scheduling is. Even the Apostle Paul experienced the challenge of daily concern (anxiety) for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:28). I shepherd only one church. Its concerns I find more than overwhelming. I should not expect to be exempt from the good suffering that is being rightly busy. I just want to learn better how to steward these pressures along the way. Thank you, Kevin DeYoung, for contributing to my shalom as one who desires to be less crazy busy and more redemptively busy.

FYI, I am incredibly pleased to report that copies of this book arrived at OGC this week. They will be available tomorrow morning in the resource center for the crazy low price of $5 for those not too busy to secure a copy.

Another Financial Update

As with last week, we asked the deacons to tabulate the offering from Christmas Day so as to keep the body informed about our progress to close the 2011 budget year with a strong finish.

The total for our general fund giving  for 12/25 was $6083.

While that is about $1000 below our weekly budget needs, I consider it a strong offering for a holiday Sunday where attendance was significantly less than usual given the traveling of so many of our folks. Call me a glass half-full kind of pastor, if you like.

Also, not reflected in both this amount and the previous week’s accounting are any gifts that have come in through the mail. Teddie stopped the daily mail delivery during her two week vacation so we will not have an idea of where we actually finished until she returns to the office next week.

Please remember that you can still make a yearend gift if God so leads. As long as it is postmarked on or before December 31, it will still be credited to this fiscal year.

Thanks again on behalf of the elders and deacons for your faithful stewardship as covenant members at OGC!

Brief Financial Update

With Teddie out of the office for two weeks of vacation here at the end of the year, we won’t deposit offerings from last Sunday or this Sunday until the first week of January 2012. However we didn’t want to fail to report giving in light of our yearend ask letter that went out a few weeks ago.

The totals from December 18th’s offering were:

General Fund:  $9,031.75
Building Fund:  $6,245.00

Praise God for His faithfulness through the generous giving of His people! We continue to make progress by God’s grace in lowering our budget deficit numbers.

We will not collect an offering on Christmas Eve this Saturday night, but we will have the offering as usual during our Christmas Day service at 10:45 AM on Sunday.

Also, please remember that yearend gifts sent via mail must be postmarked by December 31, 2011 to count for this budget year.

Finally, please continue to pray for God’s provision as we believe Him for a strong finish financially in 2011.

Why Giving Makes Sense at Christmas & Always

Last night’s Christmas Eve message from 2 Cor. 8:1-9 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here is the quote from Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) with which I closed the sermon:

And shall we not pause and bestow a thought of admiration and gratitude upon Him, who was constrained to stand in our place of degradation and woe, that we might stand in His place of righteousness and glory? What wondrous love! what stupendous grace! That He should have been willing to have taken upon Him our sin, and curse, and woe! The exchange to Him how humiliating! He could only raise us by Himself stooping. He could only emancipate us by wearing our chain. He could only deliver us from death by Himself dying. He could only invest us with the spotless robe of His pure righteousness by wrapping around Himself the leprous mantle of our sin and curse. Oh, how precious ought He to be to every believing heart! What affection, what service, what sacrifice, what devotion, He deserves at our hands! Lord, incline my heart to yield itself supremely to You!

May the Lord do a deep work in all our hearts toward the end of our sacrificial giving in all aspects of our lives because we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What's a Church to Do with So Many Support Requests?

Most of us have had numerous “asks” in recent months with several folks from our church heading for the mission field in one direction or another. Truthfully, there are more to come. We’ve got “asks” from new candidates for the mission field as well as already deployed servants whose support has deteriorated with the economy. The demand has the potential to strain relationships in our midst in one way or another. 

Here’s what we all can do when an “ask” comes our way to keep the process redemptive as opposed to divisive: 

  1. Welcome the request as a possible opportunity to invest in the kingdom for eternal reward. Treat the occasion as a chance to revisit your stewardship of wealth and evaluate whether or not your priorities are in order.
  2. Take the matter to the Lord in prayer and see what He tells you to do.
  3. Whatever He says, as best you can determine, do the missionaries the courtesy of replying with your answer so they can know what you can or can’t do. Please don’t let the awkward nature of having to decline graciously, if that is the case, keep you from timely communication. They would rather know that you cannot participate than for things to remain unclear.
  4. Remain open to different responses to different requests depending upon changes in your circumstances and how the Lord might lead in unique circumstances. Evaluate each situation independently as God directs.

 We are a relatively small church. The requests have mounted on our limited resources. Everyone understands that, especially people within our flock trying to raise support. However, the only way they are going to know if God is raising them up for the mission field or keeping them there is if they exhaust all their available contacts. Their church family is the first line of support. I am encouraging all candidates to contact our membership in light of such thinking.

Thank you in advance for your willingness to press ahead with processing of support requests. Please pray with me that the Lord will unleash the resources of heaven for each and every servant He wants on the field for the cause of the gospel from OGC.