I’ve been saying these things for years. Either they are brilliant, or I am stupid. Judging from a marriage that keeps getting better after 42 years, I may not be missing by much. They have helped some couples to navigate the narrows of a struggling marriage.

Husbands, don’t use the “s” word.

When I have known of men telling their wives to submit, it came from guys who were not leading  lovingly. They were requiring something of their wives while renegging on their responsibility. I told Israel and Johanna when they got married that his responsibility was not her right, and vice versa, meaning that he could not call her out on her lack of submission and she could not correct him on his lack of love. They could only increase the strength of their own responsibility and ask God to change their spouse. What does Jesus do for His struggling Bride? He lays down His life (Ephesians 5).

Don’t change your spouse.

Love changes people–criticism doesn’t. In other words, don’t get hitched at the altar with the itch to alter. I disregarded this after saying, “I do.” Didn’t work. Doesn’t feel good to have a spouse trying to control you. Your issue is your issue–not your spouse’s, whether it is 10% or 80% of the marriage problem.  Do your part without telling your spouse to do his or hers. Instead of trying to change each other, we pray regularly together–and God changes us!

Gentleness works.

It sometimes wears off after a few years, and couples deal with each other harshly. ”Don’t wear that ugly jacket” might not work as well as, “You look great in everything you wear, but this one might fit even better.” Words matter. Gentleness is the way of God, even with people who  don’t believe that He exists.

Love lasts–if you keep loving.

Dates work great for us. I keep pursuing Karen, like I did when we were dating. You schedule what is important to you. Meetings push out our dates about one time a year. It is high priority. We try not to address issues during the day of a date that could be controversial. It has worked wonderfully for us. Our kids agree and are now doing it with their mates, though it poses a major challenge with four little people in the house.

Be accountable.

I have a friend with whom I walk in the light. Karen and I hold each other accountable in a general sort of way, but Gary holds me accountable in a guy sort of way. We call each other regularly for prayer and counsel. I need that to stay sharp and focused. If I were an expert at marriage, I could do it on my own. Few can, and that probably doesn’t include you.

Laugh a lot,

especially at yourself. You’re weird, and your spouse likely is too. Karen and I laugh at the things we do. If you are not laughing, you are in trouble. It is both a symptom and a cause. Lighten up. If you can’t, get counseling. If you’re not having fun, something has died.  Relight the flame!



It came in the words of Jesus, not to married people but to disciples: “If any come come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” A great and profound word.



It is not about me, my enjoyment, my rights, my issues. If I am criticized, I am not going to take up an offense. I don’t deny myself things, I deny myself.  Jesus said in effect, “Go ahead; lose your life. Then you will find it.”


To deny yourself is to deny the part of you that has never been your friend and never brought you lasting hope. It is to deny the part of you with an appetite for self-indulgence and self-protection.


  1. I choose to respond rather than react. I deny myself the right to be right.
  2. I choose to deny myself instead of thinking that I owe it to myself. I am not a victim, and others do not owe me anything, but I owe God everything.
  3. I choose to take the low road of humility rather than the high road of pride. I deny myself the right to be the center of attention, and I will be quick to forgive.
  4. I choose delayed gratification rather than instant pleasure. The Holy Spirit will produce joy in my life if I do not set joy as a personal right.



When Jesus talks about crosses, they are not jewelry; they are instruments of death. There is no greater freedom than the freedom of death. Dying is how maturing Christians live.


  1. I take up my cross by choosing to accept pain now, knowing it will bring pleasure later.
  2. I take up my cross by not interpreting pain as the absence of God. I will often sense His presence more strongly when I suffer. I will not be surprised when I go through trials.
  3. I take up my cross by learning to die daily to selfish emotions that want to be understood more than understanding, that want to be heard more than hearing.



To follow Jesus is literal. It is not to ask, “What would Jesus do?” but “What is Jesus doing?” To follow Jesus means to focus on Him, to obey Him, and to be led by Him. To follow Jesus is to turn from following empty dreams and illusionary passions.


  1. I follow Jesus by choosing to love righteousness and hate wickedness rather than to be fascinated by sin.
  2. I follow Jesus by living for others. I choose to ask others how they are rather than expecting them to ask me.
  3. I follow Jesus by overcoming evil with good rather than returning evil with evil.
  4. I follow Jesus by choosing to love when it is not returned and by forgiving when people are not ready to confess.
  5. I follow Jesus by finding my identity in the Father’s love as He did. I do not need the affirmation of others to establish my identity.
  6. I follow Jesus by acknowledging that the kingdom of God is not in full operation until Jesus returns as King of the earth. I am not surprised by tension, by unrealized expectations. I pray for healing, expecting it to break through, but I will not become disillusioned as I wait for it to happen. I trust God, even when it looks like He is not answering.
  7. I follow Jesus by maintaining an attitude of thankfulness in the midst of difficulty. I will not allow myself the right to complain as if I deserve better.


Peter was blessed. He had heard God right: “You are the Christ!”  Happiest moment of his life. The next encounter he wished he could forget. Jesus rebuked him severely. Jesus spoke of suffering and death, and Peter had an allergic reaction to the thought of pain. We mock Peter. Would you have said, “Sounds great, Jesus?” You might have asked, “Do you have a plan B?”

I’ve slowly come to see the value of suffering. Jesus has not tricked us. He didn’t say it was going to be easy. He is cautious with would-be followers, while I would have been offering perks.

When Peter rebuked Jesus, he was thinking about himself. He wanted the pain-free style of discipleship that offered

Self-preservation. Peter’s response is understandable: “I don’t want to die.”

Entitlement. I have a right to be happy, even if that means divorce or selfish pleasure.

Pain-free living. One brand of Christianity chooses pleasure over hardship every time.

The things of God related to suffering:

Death is a way of life. Paul said, “I die daily.”

Delayed gratification.  Satan loves the word, “Now.” Jesus,“for the joy set before him, endured the cross, disregarding the shame” (Heb. 12:2). He postponed his joy in favor of obedience.

Suffering is a gift. Paul writes that “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29). I had thought suffering was an intrusion on a pain-free life.

The best advice I ever received came from Jesus. It followed on the heels of his rebuke:  “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).


It is not about me, my enjoyment, my rights. If I am criticized, I am not going to take up an offense (I hope). I don’t deny myself things, I deny myself.  You might think, “This isn’t even fun.” Wrong. No greater joy than to take the big “I” off center stage. People who find it necessary to coddle self, improve self, or pay attention to self, are anxious and self-preoccupied.

To deny yourself is to deny the part of you that has never been your friend and never brought you lasting hope, the part with an appetite for self-indulgence and self-protection. Would I say this to a single woman with four kids and floundering to make it? I would, and I did—with good results. This advice is universally true and applicable.


When Jesus talks about crosses, they are instruments of death, not jewelry. There is no greater freedom than the freedom of death. This is a daily activity, not an event that we do once and are done with. Self cannot be christianized, only crucified. Dying is how maturing Christians live.


To follow Jesus is literal. It is not to ask, “What would Jesus do?” but “What is Jesus doing?” To follow Jesus means to focus on Him and obey Him. I turn from following empty dreams and illusionary passions. Jesus is King and is worthy of being followed. (Next blog: specific commitments related to these three points. As you see, this is not marriage counsel–it is life counsel).



If vulnerability means openness to the point of being wounded, then…

When is vulnerability wrong?

Hezekiah was naively open before envoys from Babylon. They had sent him a gift after his recovery from illness and were curious concerning his sign from heaven.  God used it as a test to see how he would respond (2 Chron.32:31), and he didn’t fare well.  He may have grown proud of his miraculous cure. Isaiah prophesied that all his treasure would one day be carried off to Babylon.  Hezekiah is an example of a leader who was foolishly vulnerable.


Vulnerability does not mean…

.Letting others run over me (but it may)

.Always talking about my weaknesses (which puts too much focus on me)

.Inappropriate sharing of personal failure, such as sexual sins in a mixed crowd

.Self-deprecation (as if to say, “Look at how bad I’ve been,” which some might even find       inappropriate joy in doing)

.Being vulnerable with the wrong people, wrong time, wrong reason, like Hezekiah was.


Nor are we to test the Lord in a demonstration of foolish vulnerability, as if to say, “He will protect me.”  Satan tempted Jesus to jump from the temple, quoting Scripture that “He will command his angels concerning you….” God promises to help the humble, not the foolish.


And further, we are to be both “wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  To be only innocent leaves us open to attack. Jesus was sending out His disciples “like sheep among wolves.”  He urged them:  “Be on your guard against men.”  There’s a difference between being innocent and  naïve. We must rely on the Spirit to know how to relate wisely and humbly with others. We can’t follow a principle, only the Spirit of truth.  


Vulnerability, like humility, looks different in different settings. To be without guile is good, but to be foolishly simple and lacking in appropriate worldly wisdom leaves us open to attack. Sheep don’t stand a chance against wolves, but snakes do.  As sheep, they were to give of themselves freely in spite of opposition (Matt.10:17-31).  When Peter and John were brought before the authorities, they were both submissive and courageous.  They said, in effect, “You do what you have to do, because we’re going to do what we have to do.”   They were bold, but not brash.


Am I willing to be weak, to be wrong, to be second, to go the low road, or do I need to look strong, be right, be first, take the high road—and miss out on grace? Must I defend myself or can I go low? Must I argue or can I give in even if it looks like I lost the argument?


Vulnerability releases grace. Why?

It says that I am not alone in my struggles.

It says that God uses our failures.

It says that we are on the way, not there. The process is important, not just the goal.

It says that I can share my weaknesses when appropriate and don’t have to pretend.

It makes us open to the grace of God, because His power works with our weakness.


Would you rather win an argument or build a marriage?

Would you rather win a fight or strengthen a friendship?

Would you rather look good or walk humbly?

Would you rather impress people or honor God?

May God give you wisdom to know when and how to walk in vulnerability.



Something inside of me wants to pretend that it is better than it looks. When I struggle with fear, I may choose to appear strong rather than acknowledging my weakness. But I have seen vulnerability up close from leaders I respect. Their honesty about a broken marriage or an addiction to painkillers gives me courage to walk with transparency. Vulnerability releases grace.


Paul gives us freedom to be weak by modeling vulnerability in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. They had broken his heart, comparing him to more superlative apostles, even though he had laid down his life for them. His letter invites us to join the 6F Club and talk about

our feelings (2 Cor.2:4; 6:11,12)   our frustrations (2:12; 5:3,4)

our failures (4:7-9)                        our fears (7:5)

our fights (7:5)                              our frailty (1:8; 12:7-10)


Vulnerability means the willingness to be weak.

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom.8:26).

“God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (I Cor.1:27).

“I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling” (I Cor.2:3).

“It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (I Cor.15:43).

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor.11:29,30).

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.12:9,10).


Truths about weakness:

God can turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength if we don’t run from it.

Weakness brings me God’s grace; it also encourages relationship and fellowship (I John 1:7).

Weakness overcomes the devil, who would rather see me glorying in my strength.

Christ’s time of greatest weakness demonstrated God’s greatest power.

God uses weakness to shame proud people.

Weakness encourages dependence upon God and interdependence with others.

Weakness facilitates healing (Js.5:16) and brings the Spirit’s help.


The tax collector cried out for mercy and received it, while the Pharisee bragged about his good record—and heaven was not impressed. Sometimes being positive just doesn’t do it (Luke 18:9-14). The prodigal son chose vulnerability and confessed his sins to his dad. The elder brother claimed obedience and didn’t know how hard his heart was. To pretend righteousness, as the Pharisees did, blocks our access to it.  Righteousness is alien to us and not our possession unless God grants it to us. He offers it graciously to those weak enough to recognize their absolute poverty.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  All that heaven gives becomes theirs.


I became more vulnerable as I learned to deal with my pharisaism.  Self-righteousness chokes out vulnerability because self-righteous people are in hiding, as I was.  When I started coming out, I discovered that transparency was safer than running.  It is one mark of health.  “We have Abraham as our father,” is a sign of self-defense, not of weakness.  As I tasted the fruit of vulnerability (trust from people, closer relationships, more impact in the pulpit, humor), I didn’t want to return to the old way.  With brokenness comes openness.



“He’s also a Christian. This is the first time he told me. He was maybe afraid that I might reject him as some really weird person. I appreciate him now even more for being vulnerable. He must have trusted me. What counsel can you give me as we walk forward together?”


Great question.


Describe him (if you must) as someone who struggles with same-sex attraction. Referring to him this way is kinder than pinning a label on him, even if you think it may fit. Labels can come with baggage, and that one for some Christians is cause for rejection. He’s already had too much of that. And you need not tell anyone. He can do that with whom and when he wants.



He lives with a lot of fear, especially if he hasn’t bought into the culture that says same-sex marriage is a gift from God. Good of you to accept him and show him that you can be trusted. Some have maybe violated that trust and treat him as an outcast. He already feels it inside. Go out of your way to love him. You might even ask, “How can I love you?” He may be transparent enough to tell you what he needs.


His vulnerability says something about you. Be worthy of his trust. Ask for his permission before you say anything to anyone. Some people don’t know how to handle what you received in a Christ-like way. Jesus loves broken people, and those with same-sex attractions are broken. They need rewiring, and that can take a while. Your genuine love and acceptance is already enhancing the healing process.


Christians with same-sex attractions often live with hopelessness. They have told me. They don’t know how they got in, and now they aren’t sure about the way out. Many are fighting what their body and emotions are screaming at them to do. They are in a fearful place, and it is taking longer than they had hoped. Some people already hate them without knowing them. Some care but are afraid at the same time. Your quiet confidence speaks hope to him.



Don’t make assumptions, and help others not to. It is often more complex than you realize. Easy answers are bad answers. Don’t pretend like you understand. Tell him you don’t and ask questions as long as he is open to share. You will learn a lot, and it will deepen your love for broken people. You are reflecting the love of the Father “who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).



Surprise! Whether he has experienced the gay lifestyle or not, he needs to experience more of the straight. Don’t resist hugging him for fear of wrongly arousing him. He needs proper affection, and if you are a hugger, go for it. It will minister grace. He is being treated as the human being that he is rather than a dangerous leper that he isn’t. We’re all broken; some of us just realize it more than others. Loving wounded people brings the Father’s affirmation. Way to go!



–than John 3:16. Sound like heresy?  It’s heresy if their babies are dying from drinking crap water and all we give them is John 3:16. That can get them to heaven, but they will get there sooner than they want. One in five babies in Uganda won’t make it past five years old. If that happened in your family, they would call it infant abuse. They need more than John 3:16; they need 1 John 3:16. Throw in 17 and 18, verses that come against those who only love in word and speech but not in deed and truth.


The gospel to the poor lets “the oppressed go free.” It will “break every yoke” including the shackles of utter poverty (Isaiah 58:6). It calls followers of Jesus to “bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him” (7). It answers Cain’s sarcastic question: “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.”


The Good Samaritan was called good not because of what he said but what he did: showing mercy to a man in misery. Religious people passed by, maybe on their way to church. That did not impress Jesus. The man religious folks would have called a bad samaritan had compassion on the victim, changed his own schedule to meet the need, and paid for it from his pocket. Jesus closed the gripping story by saying, “Go and do likewise,” with the emphasis on the DO. We not only preach the gospel; we do it!


Jesus echoed His Father’s love when He said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:20,21). He urged his disciples when giving a party to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).


The Bible throughout illustrates God’s special love for the least, the lowest, the last, and is full of commands to care for the poor: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8,9). “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life” (Proverbs 22:22, 23). “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31). Throughout the Psalms the disadvantaged are given the edge by the Lord: “God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish” (Psalm 9:17,18).


Paul was exhorted by the apostles in Jerusalem not to forget the needs of the poor, and he wrote, “Which very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10). He directed Gentile Christians to take up a special offering for the poor in Jerusalem, for people who only a few years before had hated them.
Where we have neglected the needs of the poor, we ask God to have mercy on us. I say to my own shame that I missed it for years. Now that I get it, I want to help others get it!



Ephesians 1 gives us three strong statements of identity. We are not only chosen by God and given preprogrammed plans–



“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us” (7,8). No sin need bring shame or separation from the love and purposes of God, because Jesus took care of sin at the cross. And what we believe, we receive.


If we let Satan convince us we are unacceptable because of the way we have blown it, our identity is skewed and our destiny compromised. Far better to receive truth and let it bring us liberty. Finish this sentence: The one who will keep me most from my identity is _________.


Mufasa fathered Simba well, playing with him, correcting him, giving him a sense of worth. He also reminded him of his destiny–he would be the Lion King. However, through Uncle Skar’s treachery, Mufasa was killed in a stampede, and Scar made Simba believe he was responsible. The shame of guilt made him run from his destiny into the jungle. He abandoned responsibility and chose to chill out with a Hakuna matata lifestyle of eating grub. Lions don’t eat grub, but Simba did.


Until Rafika encountered a confused lion and brought him to hear his father’s voice. Mufasa spoke the same message I had heard a hundred times: “Remember who you are.” He had to face his failure–and his uncle, a scary but necessary thing to return to his true calling. He disavowed the lies of Skar and became the Lion King for which he was destined.


An injured eaglet in the woods was taken by a farmer to his home and placed in a chicken coup. He learned to flap his wings and squawk. A zoologist who visited the farm was offended at seeing the young eagle act like a chicken and attempted to throw it in the air to help it take off. It flapped and squawked.


Two weeks later the zoologist returned and took the eagle to a high mountain cliff. He threw the eagle out in the air, and it squawked and flapped, descending rapidly toward the rocks below. Then something changed. He spread out his wings in desperation, and he discovered that he could  soar like the eagle he was created to be.


Some remain in the chicken coup, convinced by the hardships of life that they belong there. They need to renounce the lies, face their fears, spread their wings, and soar.


I taught on identity at a summer camp with a group of twenty young adults, using Simba as the backdrop as an example of how believing a lie negatively impacts our destiny. I asked them to share any lies they have believed. A young lady began boldly: “I don’t think I’m pretty enough to get married.” Ouch! She was a beautiful girl who convinced herself she wasn’t, and it brought sadness and fear.


I pointed to a young man and said, “You’re next.” He said, “I don’t think I have what it takes.” Life had knocked the wind out of him and made him feel like a wimp. I then had everyone break up in groups, share lies believed, and pray for the truth that sets free. My hope was that they could get out of the chicken coup and soar again. You too!!




That is what my dad told me or my sisters when we left the house for the evening. He never said, “Be back at eleven” or “be careful with the car.” This statement was so ingrained in us, that after he and Mom went on, we had a family reunion. All wore tee shirts proclaiming, “Remember Who You Are,” with a picture of the Lion King.


We discussed what he might have meant and decided he was saying, “Remember you are an Anderson; live up to that name. And remember you are a child of God.”


Dad understood three truths:

  1. Those who know their identity can walk into their destiny.
  2. Parents who focus on identity are encouraging the behavior they seek more than those who only focus on behavior. We behave our beliefs.
  3. Two pictures impact destiny–our picture of ourselves and our picture of God.


Identity is shaped by the truths we believe and the love we receive. Ephesians has three chapters that focus on identity and three on destiny–how we are called to live because of who we are in Christ. Paul starts his letter with three statements of identity: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly places. For he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3,4).



That is a statement of identity rather than of behavior. Choice implies worth. That the Creator chose us gives us great value, and not to simply take up space on the planet but to walk in a high and holy calling.


Gary, a friend in Junior High, was a science whiz, but he wasn’t a whiz with the bat, and he was always chosen last at recess, and it did not make him feel valued. Some dads focus on golf scores rather than homework scores, and their children don’t feel special. The more love poured in, the more they will know who they are and be able to walk successfully into their future. Identity drives behavior. Who we believe we are impacts where we go.


Secondly, if we view God as an angry Man with a stick, we may have trouble knowing who we are. Lies we believe will keep us from our identity. Satan, the father of lies, deceives us to keep us from walking into our destiny. Truth sets free; lies imprison.


Paul goes on to say:


“He predestined us in love to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (5).  Love made Him draw up an individually styled destiny for each child adopted into His family, a plan that fits who we are. To know that God has a divinely crafted future should give us peace as we walk step by step. If we choose to believe that we are here by chance or that we ride the bench rather than the first team, we will not walk into our destiny. And sadly, Oliver Wendell wrote, “Most people die with the music still inside of them.” (Part 2 in three days).




Are you courageous? Would you like to be? Is there someone you admire for his or her courage? I pick Joseph.



That is what my youngest daughter said when I asked my family at dinner for a definition: “Doing what you have to do.”  Firemen commended for their bravery often say, “I did what I had to do.”


When Joseph of Arimathea somehow discovered that there were no plans for the burial of Jesus, he went into action. In doing so, this prominent leader on the Sanhedrin decided that he must go public with his following of Christ. He risked his life in caring for the body of Jesus, but he did what he had to do. His commitment drove his courage. So will yours.



Was Joseph afraid? I suspect so. He had five pints of fear but eight pints of courage, so courage won. Was David afraid when he confronted Goliath? Probably. But Goliath had defied the God of Israel, and that could not go unchallenged. If you have more than your share of fear, that does not mean that you are not courageous. Just don’t let fear lead the parade.



Joseph stood alone against the entire Sanhedrin. He “had not consented to their decision and action” (Luke 23:51). That meant he just became the enemy in caring for Jesus. Three things about his death: 1) Jesus died on a public street just outside the city walls. That’s the way the Romans discouraged traitors. 2) Jesus always drew a crowd. 3) It was rush hour, just before the biggest sabbath of the year, an impossible time to remove the body without attention.


Esther stood alone: “If I perish, I perish.” Smells like courage. Daniel prayed after hearing about the king’s edict knowing that it might be his last. Didn’t matter. Rahab hid spies at great personal risk. It saved her family, and she came into the line of Christ.



We thought Nicodemus was timid because he came to Jesus by night. Maybe not. Joseph brought out the courage in his partner. They were two leaders in Israel, now going public in their dual commitment to Jesus. Courageous people en-courage others. Cowardly people dis-courage the ranks. Ten spies took courage out of a whole country. What a gift Joseph and Nicodemus were to each other. One can take on 1000. Two can go after 10,000. Do the math!



No one else was thinking about the burial, because they were not thinking about the death. We don’t know when Joseph started thinking about it. Maybe he asked John at the cross what the plans were. When he found out there were none, he offered his tomb and went to Pilate. The boldness was related to new commitment. Obedience informs courage. The risk is secondary. To obey or not obey is the issue of a disciple.



Joseph may not have lived past the weekend. The reward makes the price worth it. John the Baptist spoke out against Herod, and that was the last time he saw daylight. Ask him in heaven if he had any regrets.


A friend of mine said, “I’ve come to the place where if I know the will of God, I will do it regardless.” That is a good place to be–and a courageous one!