We expect what we are good at, what we have grace for, what God has worked in us. To place it on another person and especially our spouse, is unfair and lacks grace. It turns into a demand. It works with the merit system, not the mercy system. A true servant completes what another person lacks rather than placing unkind expectations upon him or her.

When you say that something is not fair, what you are asking for is justice. And justice operates in a legal system, not in an atmosphere of grace. You end up competing with one another rather than completing one another, the opposite of a Christ-centered marriage. We are called to lay down our lives, not to impose expectations in areas that we function well in.


We are telling our partner to be like us, to perform the way we do. Wait a minute. Don’t opposites attract? Don’t we want someone who is different, who comes to the marriage with strengths that we lack, so we can serve one another, so the other person’s weaknesses can be accommodated because we have the appropriate strengths? But to expect our partner to be like us, to perform as we do–hey, are you sure you want to be married? (Crazy–found myself doing it early in our marriage).

Wouldn’t you rather be the answer to your spouse’s dream than create a nightmare? What does your spouse long for? Does he or she have a dream yet to be fulfilled? What if your strengths were able to facilitate that dream coming true? You would be loved the rest of your life for your kindness. If, on the other hand, your expectation turns into a demand, you are killing the dream– and maybe the marriage. Good luck!


It’s all about you, not the team. You become a victim, not a victor. You can only talk about what you need, what you want, what you deserve (whoa! That is a word for people under the law).

A legal system will deteriorate quickly, because it removes service from the relationship and inserts the law–this is what you must do for me. This is what I need from you. This is how you can make me happy. Can you hear how self-centered that is? Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…” not enjoy himself, coddle himself, or serve himself. Demand is at the opposite end of discipleship. It does not belong in a marriage. That is why I say, “Write down all your expectations, then throw them away.”

Turn civil rights into civil responsibilities. And his or her responsibilities do NOT become your rights. We don’t meet at the table of negotiation and say, “I’ll do this if you will do that.” We simply agree to go the way of the cross. And if our partner is struggling at some point to go that way, we choose to serve even more, to take up our cross rather than demanding that he or she takes up his or hers. It is the Christlike way. And it makes the marriage a romance, like the Romance of the Ages! Grace instead of law, mercy instead of merit!


I googled it. We had them in our kitchen–lots of them! Put out little bottle-cap mixtures of powdered sugar and boric acid. They are attracted to the sugar and contaminated by the acid. They carry it back to their village under the house. If we only kill the thirty that scurried to the darkness when I lifted the cutting board, we haven’t dealt with the other five hundred who are reproducing more ants. What they don’t know is that they spread the poison that eliminates the tribe.

So I told Joe, whom I mentor, about the ants. In his closing prayer he said, “Father, keep us from being lured by sugar and getting poisoned by a plan of the enemy, and not only endangering ourselves but those we connect with.” Amen, Joe!

My friend’s perceptive prayer revealed three lessons:

1. Satan operates through deception. He doesn’t tell us what he is doing. He hopes to trick us as I was tricking the ants. What he doesn’t want us to realize is that “the wages of sin is death”–every time. There are not some sins that are safe; sin is dangerous. Period. The father who wonders why his Christian daughter ran away from home with a creep was deceived into thinking that he was needed more at work in the evenings than eating and having fun with his family. The sin of neglect planted seeds of destruction that  shredded his family. Satan won.

2. Sin is pleasurable–for a moment.  Moses wisely chose “abuse with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). This Scripture says two things about sin: a) It is pleasurable, and b) the pleasure does not last. It “fleets.” Moses could have had his choice of any princess at the palace. He was the adopted grandson of the richest king in the world. He didn’t fall for the trap. It would have eliminated him from being one of the most powerful and influential people to ever walk the planet. The ability to entice the ants leads to their demise. Way to resist, Moses!

3. Winning means warring. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” but we wrestle. We put up a fight, and though it is not physical, it can be an all-out war. The minefield is the mind. The stronger we say “yes” to the love of God with consistency, the more convincing will be our “no” against the onslaught of the enemy, which often looks like immediate pleasure. Moses was given the lure, but he was able to say a convincing “no.” What a winner!

The plan worked. The carpenter ants are mostly gone. Yay! Dear young adult, dear retired man: do not let the strong attraction of sin take you out–and maybe others with you. Fight the fight of faith. Short-term pain means long-term gain. It was true for Moses–and it is true for you! A young Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose!”


You choose the one you think is hardest to obey.

“Be holy in all your conduct” (I Peter 1:15). He expands it by saying, “since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (16, quoted from Leviticus 11:44). In other words, “Be like God.” Okay, I’ll give it my best shot.

“Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). Anything?  I get tripped up, and before I even realize it, I am worrying. I learned it early in life. So did you. We did it five thousand times by the time we were ten. How do I unlearn what is so much a part of my life? I know how to worry without even thinking.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:1). I could handle, “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes.” “Always” takes it to the unattainable. Not always sure I want to rejoice always. Don’t I need a little time once in a while to be grouchy? “Always” is totally unreasonable. (Maybe that’s why it’s in the Book).

“Be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). Right! I can imitate my father, who was a gentle man. I can imitate my mother who was always gracious to people. But to imitate the Creator, that’s a tough one. He is kind to people who curse in His face. He waters their garden and shines the sun on their backyard party.

Did I omit one of your favorite impossibilities? How about, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Really? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Yeah, right! The opposite of our natural inclination. Here’s a tough one: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Try that out for a day.  Or “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14). Waiting is easy–when we want to.

Here’s the point:  Every command is impossible. Would God command us to do something that we don’t need Him to accomplish? Then He would be teaching us independence rather than submission. James said powerfully, “Submit to God.” The only way we can keep His commands is by submitting ourselves to Him and relying on the strength of the Spirit within. They cannot happen apart from the powerful working of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Christian life is a supernatural life. It is simply not doable in the natural. No other religion incorporates grace. They are all “do it yourself” religions. Christianity demands the divine. Sad that sometimes people get the idea that we are supposed to pull this off by will power. How frustrating can you get! It’s laughable; go ahead–be like God. These commands run absolutely opposite our human inclination. But our good God reproduces Himself in us, enabling us to obey and do the impossible. Call it grace–from start to finish!


Karen and I thank God that our children love the Lord, love us, love each other, and love themselves. We see them raising children and doing a better job than we did. We also thank the community of faith that certainly helped raise our kids. Others got through to them when we couldn’t. Karen and I recently reflected on some of things we did to shape our children. Here goes:


We worked hard to make it fun and interesting. I often came with questions that we would discuss, like “What was your funnest vacation?” “What has been your most difficult life test?” Talking sometimes lasted longer than the meal.


Both of us learned from parents that bringing the family together for prayer and scripture was a non-negotiable. I don’t remember them resisting it, because we tried to make it interesting. Sometimes we succeeded. They learned to pray early and are now teaching their kids.


I learned that as a boy when I skipped church–once! Never again.


We knew that God’s correction didn’t feel good, but it communicated love. We tried to do the same. Hey, it worked–usually.


not rock-stars. Servants work hard. They concentrate on their responsibilities, not their rights. I told them to do the dishes at their friend’s house. I modeled it for them when we stayed at someone’s home. They knew we would be cleaning the garage or working in the yard. When they said that they worked harder than the kids down the street, I asked them if they knew why. They answered, “No.” I responded, “Because you don’t live down the street.”


Still do. You might hear us on the deck some evening when they are here. We love being together. They would rather be with their now extended family than with anyone else (I think). At least it looks that way to Karen and me. Some of us will be together on the North Shore in October for several days of fun, maybe three-wheeling (or snowmobiling?). They even travel together–to Greece, Ireland, California.


Didn’t happen at first. I was a recovering Pharisee and had not discovered the joy of weakness. By the time I did, our kids were learning it as well. Andrew wrote his siblings in 2013, asking forgiveness for not being the elder brother he wanted to be. Two weeks later Gabriel wrote and asked forgiveness for goofing off too much and for giving more advice than affirmation. Vulnerability releases grace. Gabriel caught it. Wouldn’t have happened had not Andrew led the way. Then one night the kids got up from dinner to play a game. Somehow I convinced them to “talk” instead. We gathered in the family room. Here’s what I heard coming out of my mouth: “I’d like you to share with me where I have failed you as a father.” You’d think they would have waited for a few seconds. They started right in. Difficult for dad, but it turned into a two-week healing time with another meeting as a follow-up. I wish every dad could have two meetings like what we had.


My recent blog, “7 Ways to Make Her Glad She Married You,” connected. Lots of affirmation. One of the readers asked,  “How about if Karen writes to the women?” I responded: “Great idea.” I quickly wrote her side, gave it to her, and said she could use what she wanted and scrap the rest, hoping she would leave it intact. She took most of the headers but dropped the majority of the content. She wrote in her comments with arrows, circled words, marginal notes, and hieroglyphics. I tried hard to make sense out of each point, which had all been reassigned a new number.

Karen decided to come to my study after 9 PM and talk it through. Big mistake. Halfway into the “discussion,” I determined this was a really bad idea. I had done this kind of editing before. We’re never done. I would call it double-mindedness; she would call it improving. We sat together with her explaining the many new corrections and me getting more frustrated by the minute. I finally pretty much shut down. I was operating in submissive compliance, figuring this project was bombing. With each new addition I inwardly moaned, unable to give verbal hope to what she was less and less excited about, because her husband was a zombie. But she continued to work.

The irony was the name of the blog: “7 Ways to Make Him Glad He Married You.” I had seven current reasons why I wasn’t glad at that moment. Karen was doing what I had seen her doing with me many times before–changing another word, replacing one phrase with a better one, coming up with a fresh Bible verse. I finally announced that I was going to bed. We could finish in the morning.

When it arrived, I felt like I had rebooted my mind. I was thinking fresh and had new hope. I read through what was accomplished through much stress and resistance the night before and decided it wasn’t that bad. I gave her the newest copy and said I thought it could be a go. She said something on how the evening time was about as miserable as it could have been. I told her that I thought it was a bad idea–but not anymore. She again commented on my shutdown-ness. I agreed.

She let the article pass with no more corrections. Major surprise. I thought we might be in for another grueling session. Off it went to the public for their assessment. Three minutes in came the first response. Then others right behind. By afternoon I was wondering if her article would become the biggest hitter in three years of blogging. By evening she had received thirteen verbal responses, mainly from women, but several men chimed in with, “Bravo, Karen.” Many women were grateful to hear wisdom from “the other side.”

Karen and I laughed on our way to Erikka’s house that night about the irony of the subject. It could have been, “7 Reasons Why I Can’t Stand My Husband.” We decided that this thing called marriage takes a lot of work, even more patience, plus the grace of God! Do I hear an “AMEN?!”


I had my chance. Now it’s Karen’s turn to talk about married life. Go ahead, Karen!


Paul is encouraged that I have my own time with the Lord. I don’t rely on him to keep me close to God. I spend time in His Word. I always have loved the Psalms and every Scripture for the day is fresh manna. It is my anchor in life. The Scriptures speak to me, and I often share what I get. I caught on from parents who read the Scriptures daily. Their good example and my husband’s have helped to keep me going.


That was a quote from Alma Hagen, my mom’s best friend. They sure have been a wonderful example to me of joy and cheerfulness. Sometimes couples get way too serious. When laughter goes, so does a healthy marriage. We laugh at ourselves and we laugh together. I love seeing and hearing Paul laugh. It is not only good medicine–it is catchy.


not the worst. My mother used to say, “Put the best construction on all that people say or do.” “In humility count others as better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). I’d rather believe the best and trust him. His heart is for me. Being positive is so much better than being negative. Thinking negative is insulting to a mate and to the Lord.


Love does not keep account of wrong. When a negative past comes up, don’t use the words, “You always” or “you never…” Remember that the Lord forgives and doesn’t hold things against us. We need to forgive as He forgives. We practice that often. Got to.


even when you don’t feel like it. “It is better to give than to receive.” It’s an honor to be married to Paul and work as a team. I love serving him because he is willing to serve me. When I need him because many people are coming to the house, he steps up. Why wouldn’t I do the same? It is good for us to ask each other, “How can I help?”


God’s perfect love casts out fear. Period! That can work if you don’t allow your own heart to reject that love. You need to receive it and trust Him for the rest.


Expect much from the Lord! Expectations from others easily turn into demands. Lighten up and together look to the Lord! Expectations put upon God are NEVER disappointed!



Many men quit. Creates lonely wives. Glad someone told me to date Karen. Even when we were having kids, lots of them, we managed to get away for a walk. One rule: no talking business. Now it’s a bigger deal. I am careful about spending money. Dates are an exception. Out of 52 weeks we manage 46 dates on the average. Helps to keep the fire burning. One guy described his marriage as a hot bath–just keeps cooling off. Hey Pardner, ever heard of romance?


Champion her cause, even if it’s not yours. She needs your vote. Let her know you are for her. She wants affirmation more than advice. The more you support her the more she will support you. Marriage is not two people doing their own thing. If she doesn’t feel your support, she will quit talking. Not a good thing. Everyone has a cause. Fight for hers. You’re on the same team.


I learned the hard way. I told engaged couples, “Don’t get hitched at the altar if you have the itch to alter.” Then I got married. I didn’t heed my own counsel. It doesn’t feel good for a wife to feel like his agenda is to change her. When I finally realized what I was doing, I acknowledged it, said I wouldn’t do it anymore–and I don’t. I married her to love her, not to change her. What an insult! God forgave me and so did she. Now I change me and love her.


It is not the same as changing, but it feels similar. A lot of controlling people in marriages. I hope you’re not one of them. Even God doesn’t control me. He influences me through love. He is the most powerful person in the universe–and the least controlling. Satan wants to control us. Does that give you a clue?


I finally learned this. It was the best advice I ever received. It came from Jesus to would-be disciples: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” I take it seriously. I die to myself for my wife. Karen is grateful, because I have learned to serve her rather than expecting her to serve me. I have made it one of my highest goals–to lay down my life for my wife. I got a late start, but I’m getting there.


Hard to do but worth learning. I needed to adjust and quit being defensive. It was getting me into difficulty way too often. In my old age I have come to the place where it is hard for Karen to offend me. Not a bad way to live. Can’t say that about the early years. Better than being touchy about everything and reacting rather than responding. To do it well, you need a good forgiver.

Time says, “I love you.” Time says, “You’re worth every minute.” If you are rushing, she knows you are just waiting to get to your own special hobby, and she comes in second. Treat her as an equal and she’ll treat you with respect.  “The heart of her husband trust in her” (Prov. 31:11). So go home and be fun to live with.



If you ask people, “Are you pro or anti?” you want to know if they are for or against. If someone is anti-Christ, he is against Christ.

Jesus did not come to earth to have a good trip. He came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  He tried to tell his disciples, and they didn’t understand–and didn’t want to. They preferred life over death, good times over bad. Can’t blame them. I probably would have voted the same way.

Jesus worked mighty miracles. After feeding five thousand, he could see something was wrong. “Perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Someone looking for popularity would have given in. He was seeking the favor of One.

Not only did he die unpopular, but he died a criminal. He was a misfit, “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces…” (Isaiah 53:3). And “he was numbered with the transgressors” (12), guilt by association. He didn’t hang around popular people. The leaders said, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). He had a short season of popularity, but it didn’t last.

Take your pick–a lamb or a beast. Just before the return of Christ, a man will arise, inspired not by God but by Satan (antigod). He will be endowed with supernatural powers from the underworld to deceive those not belonging to Christ. He will become a world leader when a fatal wound is miraculously cured: “The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon [Satan] because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast [antichrist] and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’” (Revelation 13:4). He will bring substantial and temporary peace in the world, fueled by Satan and demons. It will mean hard times for Christians, but the worst will only last three and a half years.

Paul warns, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come [the day of the Lord] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing”(2 Thess. 2:3,4,9,10). Want to know more about this man? Daniel 7 and Revelation 13.

The world, blinded by sin, will think that this demon-possessed man is the answer to the world’s racial and social problems. When he proclaims himself god, humanity will believe his miracles and worship him with songs of praise. I won’t if I am around, and I hope you don’t. We live in an age of tolerance–except for those who disagree!. Be prepared to face ridicule, and maybe more.  Christians will give their lives as the world applauds. Then the triumphant King returns and that’s it for a race in rebellion. Enter eternity of bliss for followers of the Lamb! Make sure whose side you’re on!


It’s not the first book I recommend to a new Christian. Maybe it would be the best. It’s the favorite of my special-ed daughter, Naomi. It’s a picture book. It starts with Jesus addressing seven real churches in what is now Turkey. He commends, corrects, and comforts according to the vitality of each church. Some are doing well; others are barely surviving.

We remember many of those messages. He told Smyrna, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). He affirmed the church of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and promised to keep them “from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole world” (3:10). He warned lukewarm Laodicea that they were about to be spit out of his mouth (3:16).

Then comes a long section–visions of judgment upon a world in rebellion (chapter 4-18), most of the book. The suffering church is called to endure, a key word. The victorious ones are those who “loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).

Chapter 19 gives us a glorious picture of the triumphant king whose “judgments are true and just” (2). This king rides a white horse and triumphs over the powers of darkness, holds the Great White Throne judgment, and gives the verdict that sends some into everlasting bliss and others (most) into the lake of fire. Among the first to go are the devil and death. He then ushers in the new heaven and new earth for the redeemed to enjoy for eternity, closing with a message given three times, “Behold, I am coming soon!”

John the author, writing in exile, doesn’t paint a picture of the church taking over the world. He says, “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patience endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). He tells his readers, including us, about “the things that must soon take place” (1:1). He promises that Jesus “is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (1:7). His return is our consuming hope (I Peter 1:13).

The following truths come through:

  1. The end-time church is not winning a popularity contest. Most of the world has chosen its hero, the antichrist. The church is promised a place with the glorious king if it holds out faithful to the end.
  2. Some make it, most don’t. The lie of universalism (that all eventually will) is exposed in this awe-inspiring book. The church does not present to the Bridegroom a largely converted world. As Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).
  3. The answer to the woes in the world is not a victorious church but a triumphant King with fire in his eyes. When the suffering increases, we are told to lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28)! He is the ultimate answer. He deals with the race in rebellion, not the church.

Some teach a more “positive” end-time picture. Is this one pessimistic? No, because it is truth. Read the Book! It focuses on the exalted Christ who overcomes, who says what He will do–and does it. Our trust is centered in the Lamb–alone! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!


God guided Israel with a cloud and pillar of fire in the wilderness. God uses the internal GPS of the Spirit under the new covenant, far more personal, more accurate. Jesus said that the Spirit speaks (John 16). You can hear!

Sometimes the “voice”is a picture, an impression, a conviction. That, too, can be the God within directing us. The Holy Spirit speaks spiritual truth, but He also speak practical truth, as with my two car examples in the last blog.

FOUR TRUTHS to develop a listening ear:


Guidance is more about God’s ability to lead than your ability to follow. Worry that you haven’t heard accurately puts the ball in your court. Never belongs there.

Bob told me on Friday he was going to pull his three boys out of our Christian school. I said, “I’d encourage you to put the ball in God’s court. Tell him what you are going to do and if He had anything to say about it, He could tell you.” On Monday the boys were at school. Bob said, “God gave me a dream telling me they belonged in the school.” Way to listen, Bob! Joseph was about to divorce the woman carrying Jesus. Disastrous! God took it upon Himself to let Joseph know, because hearing God’s voice is mainly about God’s ability to speak.

Yogi Berra said, “When you come to the fork in the road–take it.” A girl at Bible school came up after a class on “Hearing the Voice of God.” She said, “I need to choose from three churches where I will do my internship.” She choked up as she said she didn’t want to decide wrong. Worry is a terrible menace in hearing. I asked, “Do you have a preference?” She answered, “All sound good, but maybe St. John’s.” “Okay, tell God you are choosing St. John’s on Friday, and if He had anything to say, He could contact you.” We prayed, and I urged her to cast her burden on the Lord. She did–and peace came.


At point A ask B questions. An E question for a girl anticipating her first date is, “Should I marry him? A good B question: “Should I spend time with him?” A sophomore in college could ask, “Is this a good major for me?” rather than, “What should I do with my life?” Asking ultimate rather than immediate questions brings confusion.  God’s plans usually unfold–one step at a time.

I have come to realize that we can ask God questions, especially yes or no questions. God promises to guide us: “The steps of a man are from the Lord” (Psalm 37:23). He more often answers immediate rather than ultimate questions.


Include listening in prayer times. You can learn. Samuel’s life was characterized by hearing from God. Yours can be too!


Those who heed will hear. Tell God, “I love hearing from you.” I write down what I hear God saying to me. Would the Holy Spirit be interested in making you an expert at hearing His voice? This is not for the pros; It is for you. “His sheep hear his voice.” Baaahh!