Loving the Stranger to Whom You Find Yourself Married


Lucy Blair was a part of Midtown in college and has recently moved back with her husband Jake, a church planting candidate. Lucy and Jake are grateful to be a part of Midtown’s church family. 

“The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough, we will find that just right person. This overlooks a crucial fact, and that fact is this: that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom it is we marry; we just think we do. And even if we do marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being the enormous thing it is, means we will not be able to stay the same person after entering into it that we were before. [The great challenge then is] learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”
-Steve Hauerwas

I was a college freshman when I came to know the Lord, and within a year I began regularly attending Midtown gatherings, became a missionary member, and joined a Lifegroup. I largely credit Midtown’s teaching on relationships with the healthy perspective I had going into marriage. Because of the biblical view I’d gained over the years, I entered my marriage viewing it as a partnership with someone who would complement me, sharpen me, encourage me in my strengths and help me see my blind spots. I also knew that I was a sinner, and whoever I married was also going to be a sinner, so there would be a lot of brokenness between us, but we were choosing to love each other for the rest of our lives. 

That’s not the cultural message of marriage. Culture says, when you find “the one”, you’ll just know. “The one” will complete you, infinitely improve your life, meet your needs before you even realize you have them, and satisfy all your desires. “The one” will keep you happy. And if they don’t… well, get out of that marriage because you deserve to be happy. You must not have married “the one”. Keep your options open so you can find the real “one” next time. 

I, however, do not have to spend my time analyzing if I married “the one”. Because Jake is who I married, he is my one. And that changes everything. No need to keep my options open; no fantasizing about other prospects. It’s simple, but it’s not always easy. My husband definitely does not always make me happy (nor I him). If we were looking for red exit signs directing the way out whenever marriage rubbed us the wrong way, we could probably find them. One messed up broken person bound to another messed up broken person can be (spoiler alert) messy and broken. But if I believe what God says about Himself- that He sovereignly rules over all- then He wasn’t sleeping on the job when we exchanged our vows. God was paying attention, in power, on the throne on my wedding day. 

Here are some of the practical ways that committing to view my spouse as my one plays out in marriage. Sometimes, loving my spouse means...

  1. Laying down my preferences. Jake loves comic book movies. I would rather watch paint dry than sit through two hours of explosions and CGI fight scenes. But, I try to go to to the theater with him for the ones he’s really excited about because I know it means a lot to him. Wayne’s World was one of his favorite flicks as a kid. I noticed that the Nickelodeon on Main St. was doing a one-night showing of Wayne’s World so I surprised him with tickets. He was so delighted. It was adorable. Now, if I were choosing my perfect itinerary of a date night, we might have gone to a swanky dinner at a new restaurant or lingered at the wine bar down the street. But choosing something I knew he’d love, even if it wasn’t my favorite, ended up bringing me lots of joy. 
  2. Appreciating our differences. If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs types, Jake is an ENTJ and I’m an ISFJ. This means that we have some significant differences in how we process information and relate to the world around us. One way that manifests itself is that Jake is completely energized by being around people and would choose to be surrounded by a large group at all times if he could get away with it. I, on the other hand, prefer smaller groups of 2 or 3 and find mass quantities of human interaction pretty draining. In our first year of marriage (first month even!) that was something we definitely had to grow in. Jake quickly discovered that my capacity and energy level for social events was drastically different than his. He learned that my need for alone time had nothing to do with my feelings towards him. He lays down his desire to constantly gather people in our home because he knows it can be exhausting for me. On the flipside, I have learned that, even though having people over can be tiring, it is so good for Jake. That even after a long, hard day that’s worn us out, I can sacrifice a quiet night because I know having friends over is energizing and life-giving for my husband. 
  3. Believing the best. My natural tendency when my feelings are hurt is to recoil inward and isolate. I can get too much in my own head and make up the backstory about why my husband said that hurtful thing, what he must be thinking, and how little he cares. The fact is usually that he just misspoke and I have completely overreacted to a run-of-the-mill misunderstanding. When I take the time to stop and acknowledge that I am the worst of sinners, I can then believe the best about my spouse. I remind myself, preach to myself, will myself to believe in moments when it’s hard, that my husband is on my team. He is for me, not against me. So much devastation can be avoided if we would first believe this about our spouse before the defenses go up. 

The beauty of trusting God’s sovereignty in marriage and choosing daily to view your spouse as your one is that you are freed up to truly and fully love your spouse. You don’t need to manipulate the other person into making you happy, try to change who he is, or serve out of fear that she’ll leave. You can just get after the beautiful, hard work of learning how to love and care for the person you married. 

If you’d like to check out a few additional resources that were really helpful to me, I’d highly recommend the book, When Sinners Say I Do. This is a book that Midtown frequently uses in their premarital counseling. There was also a really helpful sermon series five years ago called “A Marriage You’d Actually Want”, and you can find all those podcasts here

Sermon Recap | "One day you will find 'the one.'” 

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. - 1 Corinthians 7:6-9

1. Singleness and marriage are both good gifts, each with their own unique benefits. 

Your goal, whether single or married, is to leverage your life to give glory and honor to Jesus.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • In what ways am I selfishly focused on myself and my own happiness?
  • Where am I believing culture’s views about romance instead of trusting Jesus?

2. When romance becomes God, disappointment will follow.

Check out Genesis 29 for a case study.

3. We need to find contentment in God’s love that will never disappoint.

Missional Marriage

This blog post was written by teaching team and women's ministry resident Morgan Duke.

My name is Morgan. I am a part-time resident here at Midtown, a part-time nurse, and a full-time fiancee, engaged to one incredibly handsome, hunk-of-a man. In light of the passage on exile husbands and wives we studied a few weeks ago, 1 Peter 3:1-6, I was asked to write about what it means to be a part of God’s mission through marriage from the perspective of someone who is engaged. So I started thinking about it and quickly realized:

There are so many things vying for my attention in engagement...

The actual wedding planning is always there. Did I mention that’s my third part-time job at this point? We’re talking decor, vendors, food, venue, music, guest lists, invitations etc. etc. etc. So many decisions about things I’ve never in my life had strong preferences about. 

Then there’s the family drama that comes with wedding planning.

And there’s premarital counseling. You know, that fun little endeavor where you go in thinking these nice counselors are going to help you fix your very sinful fiance... only to casually realize that you’re the worst of all sinners. 

And we’re supposed to have date nights where we don’t talk about wedding stuff and just enjoy each other. Which takes coordination and time when you’re working with weird schedules and two different lifegroups.

And we’re supposed to be having conversations about big things and small things, like parenting and chores and expectations and budgeting. Andrew and I hadn’t explicitly had any of those conversations prior to engagement, so for my type A planning self, I want to have all of them at once. He (wisely) slows me down, but I’m left with all of the thoughts y’all. My mental list of “things we need to talk about stat!” is overwhelming. Nevermind all the time and energy it takes to actually have the conversations.

And--for our own personal health--we’re individually trying to fight for time with Jesus. No snarky comments on this one. Time with Jesus is massively important. Necessary, even. Dare I say “the good portion; the one necessary thing”? (Luke 10:38-42). And still, it requires time, mental energy and emotional investment.

And the list could go on and on. It’s like as soon as that knee is dropped, a hundred different thoughts and demands start piling up. And then a well-meaning friend asks, 

“….Oh yeah, and how are you guys going to be missional in marriage?”

To be quite blunt, if being on mission is one more thing to add to the schedule and learn how to do, I have absolutely no idea. We probably won’t. There just isn’t any time and there isn’t any energy and there isn’t space. 


We’re already being missional right now. Where we are. If God’s mission can be can be planted and blossom right in the everyday rhythms of life; right where I am, then there’s a chance.

Building with people and speaking the gospel into their lives is not my primary posture toward life. I value efficiency, so investing in relationships requires hard work and energy. It just doesn’t happen apart from that Holy Spirit prompting me to care about the things Jesus cares about. 

And He is slowly but surely reminding me of how greatly he cares for people.
He is slowly but surely opening my eyes to see opportunities to join Him. 
Even in the midst of this crazy engagement season.

He isn’t letting me fall for the lie that my engagement is all about me.

And by His guidance He is continually reminding me that:

Being on mission is an active part of my walk with Jesus; woven into the everyday rhythms of my life; not some added extra thing to throw on top

Or here’s another way to put it:

Marriage isn’t the catalyst for mission, Jesus is. 

When seen through this lens, mission isn’t some additional thing married couples have to learn or only married people can do. We all get to join God’s mission here. 

But I’m only half of the equation in a marriage. My counterpart probably isn’t going to be prompted into loving Jesus and people because of a ring on his finger. Part of the reason I’m so incredibly attracted to Andrew is that he loves people. He loves them well. He naturally opens his life to invite others in, he seeks relationships and being around people. 

One of the reasons I want to marry him is that he is already on mission. He is already loving and seeking to share the good news of Jesus with those around him. I trust that. It’s something I get to join in on, that we’ve been doing separately and now get to do together. 

When it comes to the person you’re intending to marry: do they love Jesus apart from your prompting or do they act like they love Jesus just to appease you? One of those is going to make loving Jesus and loving people so much easier and more beautiful as you join your lives. The other will create all kinds of tension and strain. Do their eyes glaze over when you talk about Jesus like He’s alive and you love Him? Do they know Christian words but show no evidence of intending to live out those words in humble obedience? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, why are you marrying this person? Why are you ignoring what your soul level discernment knows clearly? If you’re engaged, I’m begging you to reevaluate the lifelong decision you’re about to make. 

Talk to Jesus, talk to community you trust. And do what you know you need to do.


Marriage as a Gospel picture

Marriage does, however, create a unique opportunity for putting the gospel on display. Lets look at Ephesians:

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
                                                                                               Ephesians 5:22-30

Ladies: I know we hate the word “submission”. And some of us for good reason--it has frequently been distorted, abused and used in terribly inappropriate contexts. So wives, to get to see how this is actually a beautiful picture of Jesus, check out Luke 22 specifically verse 42. Jesus lived his life in humble submission to the Father. “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus invites us to look more like him by relinquishing our control. By voicing our thoughts, but in the rare times unanimous accord can’t be reached; letting our husbands lead out and make the call. Jesus invites us to trust Him to love us, care for us, and ultimately to secure our souls, so that we can let our husbands lead--and give them grace to not always lead perfectly. 

Gents: Y’all have the task of loving your wives like Christ loved the church. Jesus loves his bride perfectly, yes, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying one is that good. The call is to point your wife towards Jesus; towards her source of redemption, sanctification, life. To respect and love her, treating her with the care and compassion Christ shows the church. To lead in a way that sacrifices your preferences for her needs; not to save her but to point her consistently to her Savior. I can’t imagine the weight of that role, guys. For those of you who are faithfully stepping into that, thank you, genuinely. For those of you who aren’t, I’m begging you. I’ve spent enough time with women’s ministry now to see the damage you cause to your lady when you don’t sacrificially love her and point her towards Jesus. For all of you men, if you will step into this, you will find good news for this weighty role: Jesus is gladly waiting to face you and walk with you in this fight. He’s already covered all of our failures and He ultimately is our (and our family’s) security, identity, worth, love. Lead your family deeper into that love and understanding and you’ve nailed it. 

Have y’all ever seen a couple that loves like that? The wife trusts her husband; not because he’s perfect, but because she’s so confident in the Lord. And a husband who loves his wife; not because he needs to be fulfilled or satisfied, but out of the overflow of love of Jesus. No couples are perfect, but when I see glimpses of that gospel motivated love, I learn more about the character of God. I want it; I want Him. I am more motivated to love and seek him. 

Andrew and I have had conversations about opening up our home and our lives. I’m assuming marriage is going to take a lot of learning and will probably look super messy the first few years. But our prayer is that as we open our--most likely literally and figuratively-- messy home to others, they see more of Jesus as he grows in us. As he chooses to show Himself through us. Not because we’re perfect, but because we’re seeking him.

Dear Single Ladies

Toni Lawrimore, the author of this post is a recent graduate school alum and a single woman in our church family.

Dear Single Ladies:

When I was younger, I had a plan. I was going to go to college, meet my husband, get engaged my senior year, and get married as soon as I graduated. My plan was pretty typical of many women: grow up, get married, and have a family. However, as the years passed, I met each milestone with one exception: I stayed single.

Over the past several years I’ve wrestled with seasons of fear, loneliness, and doubt.  Through it all I’ve come to not only love my singleness, but come to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is because of how He’s walked through this struggle with me.  But I know that sometimes, the struggle is so real and I want to remind you of some important truths:

On Loneliness:

I hear it all too often in culture, from friends, from family, and in my own inner monologue that to be single is to be alone. That is not true. The Huffington post recently wrote: “researchers discovered that fulfillment was overwhelmingly found in one thing: relationships–but not necessarily romantic relationships.”

They are correct. Fulfillment in the life of a believer is found in relationship with Christ. We are wholly loved and accepted in the fact that the almighty God sent His Son to save us from a lifetime of loneliness and an eternity without Him.  And because of that, we are never alone (Matthew 28:20).

Furthermore, Jesus has invited us into and given us church family, in which we can belong. Romans 12 puts it simply:  “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Because we are adopted into God’s family, we belong to each other:  in that, we are never left behind to be alone.

A significant other can not fully fulfill us, nor are they needed to do so.

On Missing Out:

Whether my longing for a romantic relationship is motivated out of sinful insecurity or a desire for a lifelong ministry partner, both of these are fulfilled in relationship with Christ. Jesus answers our insecurity with his mercy and our loneliness with His presence. Right now, in this moment, you are exactly where the Creator God would have you. He is sovereign and cares for you.

So no, single sisters, we are not missing out. We have spiritual children available to us through discipleship relationships and a ministry partner in the Lord. We lack nothing in Christ.

On that Out-of-Reach Dream Wedding:

I’ve been in over seven weddings at this point in my life and it never fails. Every single time I am a part of a friend’s wedding, I cry. In general, the tears have little to do with the actual union of the couple. Of course I am happy for my friends, but I get overwhelmed at the beauty of what the ceremony symbolizes.

It is the ultimate, tangible picture of what awaits the Church when she is united to Jesus as depicted in Revelation 21. Jesus, the bridegroom, stands joyful and overcome as His Bride, the Church, approaches clad in purity despite her past–despite all the history she has left behind.

Both marriage and singleness on this earth are temporary, lasting only as long as we live. The fact of the matter is whether I am married or single on this earth, there is a greater joy waiting for all of us when we see our Savior face to face. Any loneliness or insecurity we experience now will fade away when we finally experience the presence of our God.

Ultimately, our lives are about marriage – but not a temporary marriage here on earth; an eternal one that it is to come. We get to serve and live in relationship with a loving God here on earth and for all eternity.

Making Use of the Meantime

So, the question is: what do I do in the mean time? What do I do when the desire for an earthly family or marriage is overwhelming?

  1. Draw near to Jesus. In prayer, in study, in serving, we come before the throne of grace because Jesus is enough. Even if our stubborn hearts do not always believe it, it is true: He is enough.
  2. Draw near to community. Church family does not exist for our fulfillment, but they are a tool Jesus uses for mutual support and encouragement. They are also a safe place for vulnerability and confession. We can admit when we are believing a boyfriend would satisfy us more than Jesus. We can confess our discontentment and our fears. We do not have to go through life alone. We are not alone.
  3. Remember your purpose. One day when we lay eyes on people from every nation, tribe, and tongue praising Jesus for eternity, none of this will matter. Our struggles on this earth will be considered light, momentary, and fleeting as we see Jesus in all of His glory. The more we focus on our identity in Christ and our purpose of making disciples, the more content we will with or without a husband and/or children.

When I was younger, I had a plan: get married and have a family before twenty-five. Though God’s plan was different than mine, I am thankful for that mercy. Singleness is a gift. Jesus has used it to help me love God’s plan for my life, to love my church family and to love my purpose even more. Whether your singleness is a short season or a longer one, either way Jesus is faithful to use it for our good and His glory.

Sermon Recap | Sermon Lovers

For those of you who missed the sermon on Sunday, or couldn't get enough of the sermon on Sunday, here's a recap of the sermon, "Servant Lovers." This sermon is part of our series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want. Intro Video


"The bible is probably more comfortable talking about sex than most of us are."

"Almost everybody knows God's rules about sex, but almost nobody knows the glorious reasons that he has them."

"Sex is a physical picture of the marriage covenant that communicates 'all of me belongs to all of you, forever."

"Since sex is a picture of oneness, sex outside of marriage is not just wrong, it's a lie."

"Sex is the physical expression of the covenant of marriage."

"Sex is a picture that points to the union between Christ and his Church in heaven."

"Sin is always the problem in sex. You don't primarily need better technique. You need Jesus."

"Until Jesus is in view and we see our need for him, we can't even see the goodness that sex was meant to be."

Listen to the Sermon

Want to listen to the sermon? Check the links below:

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What does the Bible Say about Divorce?

If you have a church background, you’ve probably heard that God hates divorce. Indeed, in Malachi 2:16, God says just that: “’I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel…” (NIV). The reason that God hates divorce is because marriage is designed by God to reflect the covenant relationship of God with man, and when divorce happens it not only hurts the people involved—it also reflects poorly on God’s never-ending covenant relationship with His people, specifically portrayed in the cross of Jesus.  We see a concrete picture of the faithfulness of God in committed, life-long marriages and divorce undermines that illustration (1 Corinthians 7:10Matthew 19:6). Scripture does allow for divorce in certain situations, however. All divorce is certainly caused by sin, but all divorce is not sinful. There are two specific biblical circumstances when divorce is permitted (though not commanded):

  1. Marital unfaithfulnessMatthew 5:32 and 19:9 specifically state that divorce can be permitted when there is sexual immorality—when one spouse is unfaithful to the other.
  2. Abandonment from an unbelieving spouse1 Corinthians 7:15 states another biblical reason for divorce—if an unbelieving spouse does not wish to be married anymore.

It’s important to note that divorce is allowed, but not required. Even marital unfaithfulness can be overcome by the grace of Jesus—He has forgiven us for so much that we can forgive great debts (Ephesians 4:32). Marriages can be reconciled and thrive even after horrific sins. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 encourages Christians married to non-believers to do everything possible to stay with their spouse, even if it is difficult. The exception only comes if the unbelieving partner leaves of their own accord.

Divorce is never the goal because God is a God of reconciliation. The gospel tells us that there is hope for the most broken marriages and we encourage marital reconciliation in every possible situation. However, although it is not the goal, in some circumstances it is a biblical option and some are left without another option when unrepentant spouses cheat, leave, or refuse to be reconciled.

What About Remarriage?

The above passages state that those divorced out of marital unfaithfulness or abandonment are free to remarry without further sin. However, for those divorced for other reasons, remarriage would be further sin, as Jesus explicitly calls it adultery in Matthew 19:9 (because the original marriage should still be in tact). In that situation, we encourage the spouse to do everything in their power to reconcile with their former spouse.

What About Other Extreme Issues?

What about when a spouse is alcoholic, abusive, financially irresponsible, etc.? These things are certainly sin issues and need to be confronted just like any other sin in the church. We encourage spouses to involve their LifeGroup (or community) in the confrontation of these issues and the protection of the family. If in physical danger, the spouse and children should immediately do everything possible to get out of danger, and the church community will do whatever is necessary to step in and ensure their safety. Of course, the details of these issues are varied and complex, and each situation has to be handled individually.

Hope For All Involved

The most important thing we can say about divorce is that just like any other sin issue or wound we encounter, the gospel of Jesus speaks hope to all who are involved or affected. Marital sin and divorce always cause pain for those affected by it, but the grace of Jesus covers all of our sin and brings redemption even to the wounds from other’s sin against us. Jesus is our righteousness, our healer, and our great High Priest. No matter where we’ve been or what we’ve been through, we can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Let's Talk about Sex | The Next 3 Weeks

In the next three weeks of our series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want, we'll be talking about the subject of sex in various capacities. This Sunday will be on the topic of Servant Lovers, where we'll discuss how selflessness factors in to a healthy sex life in marriage. Next Sunday, we'll be talking about how to deal with sexual sin and sexual assault. And the third week, we'll discuss the realities of pornography and what to do about it. For more information about each week, check our series page. We wanted to prepare people for these weeks, since sex is not something that is discussed with a great deal of honesty in the church at large. We also wanted to take some time and answer some questions you might have about those weeks:

Why take three weeks to talk about sex?

First of all, because the bible has lots to say on the topic. Second of all, because sex is an important part of marriage. So to do a marriage series that didn't talk about sex would be a little silly. And thirdly, because our culture has a lot to say about sex. Things are being communicated about sex through movies, music, and in daily conversations, so it's important that we bring a biblical perspective to see what Jesus and the Bible have to say on the subject.

Will the content be unsafe for children to hear?

We will be talking candidly about sex during all three weeks. We won't be crude, but we will be honest and direct. What you allow your kids to hear is ultimately your choice as a parent. We offer Kidtown for kids 5th grade and under during our 9:00am, 11:15am, and 5:00pm Gatherings. If you're uncomfortable with your kid attending one of these weeks, you can take them to Kidtown. If your child is in middle school and you're uncomfortable with them hearing about sex, we would suggest that they probably already have heard about it. So having them hear a biblical perspective on things may actually be extremely helpful.

What if I'm single?

A lot of single people dread hearing sermons about sex, because generally speaking, there's less to apply. We would encourage single people to attend all three weeks. The last two weeks on sexual sin/assault and porn will be just as applicable to single people as they are to married people. This coming week on sex within marriage is simply important because everyone has a perspective on sex and it's purpose, so seeing what the Bible says about it is a good idea for single people and married people alike.

Want an idea of what we'll be talking about? Listen to "Sex," a sermon from our series, God, Sex & Romance, from a couple years ago.

Sermon Recap | The Only Reason a Marriage Fails

For those of you who missed the sermon on Sunday, or couldn't get enough of the sermon on Sunday, here's a recap of the sermon, "The Only Reason a Marriage Fails." This sermon is part of our series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want. Intro Video


"Sin is the only reason a marriage fails. Sin enters the relationship, and people don't know what to do with it."

"Adam blame-shifted his sin in the garden, and spouses have been blame-shifting their sin ever since."

"Apart from Jesus, you will either take revenge on other people's sin or sweep it under the rug. Neither one helps."

"The cross of Jesus allows us to take sin seriously, while still extending forgiveness and grace."

"A sinful response to sin is still sin."

"Your spouse doesn't make you sin; they only expose the sin that was already there."

"When you own your sin and treat it as the primary problem in your marriage, conflict starts melting away."

"You do damage to your marriage and confuse your spouse if you only confess sin and never repent of it."

Listen to the Sermon

Want to listen to the sermon? Check the links below:

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What Repentance Is & Isn't

In light of the sermon last Sunday on sin, confession, and repentance yesterday, we wanted to make sure everyone was clear on what repentance is. We figured a good place to start was by discussing what repentance is not. So here's some things repentance isn't:

  1. Repentance is not getting caught. It is coming clean. What does your spouse not know about you?
  2. Repentance is not denying our sin. What sin is in your life and marriage that you simply have not accepted as sin that has to be dealt with honestly?
  3. Repentance is not diminishing our sin. What have you partially confessed without telling the whole truth? What have you downplayed as a minor sin that if not put to death will only grow to damage your marriage greatly?
  4. Repentance is not managing our sin. What sin are you trying to keep under control or not letting your spouse or other people you respect see?
  5. Repentance is not blame-shifting our sin. What ways have you blamed others for your sin rather than accepting responsibility for it? Who or what do you, like Adam and Eve in the garden, blame? Do you blame God? Your spouse? Your parents? The culture? Your personality? Stress?
  6. Repentance is not excusing our sin. What excuses do you most commonly use to justify and excuse your sin?
  7. Repentance is not about someone else’s sin. When conversing with your spouse, which sins of theirs are you most apt to bring up, rather than speaking about your own sins?
  8. Repentance is not about manipulating God or people for blessing. In the past, how have your faked true repentance in an effort not to put your sin to death out of true sorrow, but rather in an effort to manipulate God or people to bless you for being a good person?
  9. Repentance is not worldly sorrow. Non-Christians can and do feel bad about their sin but do not see it as an offense against God and do not hate it out of love for Him and others. Have you simply shed a few tears, looked sad, said you were sorry, but not really repented?
  10. Repentance is not solely grieving the consequences of your sin but it is hating the evil of the sin itself. How have you lamented the consequences of your sin and what it has cost you but not truly come to hate it, fight it, war against it, and put it to death?
  11. Repentance is not mere confession. How many times have you said you were sorry with no real, deep, heartfelt commitment to change, and what confusion has this caused your spouse?

What repentance is, luckily, is much simpler than what it isn't. At the same time, it's much harder to do and can only be driven by the gospel. True repentance is a combination of three things:

  1. Repentance includes confession.  In confession, you agree with God that you have sinned. Confession includes both your mind and mouth.
  2. Repentance includes conviction. In conviction, you feel what God feels about your sin. Conviction includes both your emotions and expressions. Your heart is affected, not just your words.
  3. Repentance includes change. In change, you stop worshipping sin and start worshipping Jesus. Change includes your will and works.


Sermon Recap | Love the One You're With

For those of you who missed the sermon on Sunday, or couldn't get enough of the sermon on Sunday, here's a recap of tweetables from the sermon, "Love the One You're With." This sermon is part of our series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want. Intro Video


"Stop focusing so much on finding the right person, and start focusing on being the right person."

"Warning: you are not ANYONE'S fantasy spouse. So quit looking for your fantasy spouse."

"God doesn't give Adam options to choose from. He gives Adam a spouse."

"Your spouse is your standard. Love the one you're with."

"There has to be room in your marriage for your spouse to have weakness."

"Jesus loves you right now. Not future, when-you-get-it-together you. But right now, despite-all-your-weaknesses you."

"To love the one you're with, you have to grasp--not just know--the love Christ has for you."

Listen to the Sermon

Want to listen to the sermon? Check the links below:

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Yes, and It's Awesome | A Poem

This past Sunday in our Gatherings, we featured another poem about marriage before the sermon. Here's the lyrics: It all started with, “Hey, my name is Ant. Nice to meet you.” Later it was, “Here’s my number. Feel free to use it, ya know, if you ever need to.” And when we were on the phone, I was thinkin, “Dang, I would really like to see you.” And one day it hit me like, “Man, I think she might really like me too.”

Spent some time learning about her character Cus I only wanted to date if there was a chance I would marry her. So after ‘bout a year of dating, I did it. I asked her. Down on one knee, in front of friends, with thoughts of decades together after.

And amid our friends screaming, crying, and laughter… “Yes” … The answer was, yes!  That’s awesome!

Many questions arise like: Which dress is the right dress? Do you think I should wear a vest? Aren’t outside weddings the best? Wait, so now we can talk about sex? Yes…the answer was, yes!  That’s awesome!

Budget. Can we afford this? Arguments. You wanna spend that much on adornment? Compromise. Our future would have much more of this.

And then, “I do.” until death do us part. Ring on my finger, love in my heart.

An imperfect man, trying to imitate the perfect love of Christ. Difficult. Two sinners trying to share life, But rewarding, sharing ups and downs, valleys and heights, Privileged to know that I see Jesus in the actions of my wife. And He’s transforming me with loving rebukes when I wrongly think that I’m right.

She’s, gracious to me even when I’m arrogant and slow to say I’m wrong. And even when it feels like our marriage isn’t going the way I want … she looks me in the eye and tells me that she loves me. After we’ve just argued and I’m still upset, she hugs me.

Haven't been married for 2 years now, not claiming to be a guru. And if you’re married, we probably have some of the same struggles and sins as you do. Here’s hoping you apply the gospel to those struggles. Do you?

For thousands of sins you've committed, Jesus forgives you! If you keep that in mind, it enables you to forgive too. So, how do you respond when the one you love offends you? Do you forget about your own sin, when your spouse sins against you? What if your spouse brings up a sin you need to admit to Does your proud heart get angry, and try to defend you? Or do you rest in the acceptance of He who is your Savior and friend too?

See, applying the gospel digs to the root of the problems that are seen on the surface And one thing I have learned is that the gospel really does give this union purpose. Marriage is to display to us what the union of Christ and His church is. And its great because even when our attempts to display Him aren’t perfect, We’re reminded by the gospel that we’re trying to display that God’s acceptance of us isn’t based on our works. Its Based on the righteousness of Christ, and we could never earn it.

So with all the difficulties of marriage, does the opportunity to display the glory of Christ make it all worth it?

Yes…the answer is yes. It’s awesome!

This poem is part of our series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want.

Questions to Ask Before You Date

In the last post, we helped identify intimacy issues. In this post, we want to help those of you who are single know what to look for in a person you hope to date. In our life as a church, we have seen more people derail their relationship with Jesus because of dating relationships than almost anything else, so we want to be proactive in helping you think through dating and relationships before they go bad, or even before they start. So here's 6 questions you should ask before entering into a dating relationship with someone:

  1. Are they a Christian? And by this we don't just mean "do they go to church?" Tons of people in the south go to church--that doesn't make them a Christian. Take a glance into their lives: is there any evidence of a love for Jesus in their life? Do they love other people? Do they understand and believe the gospel? If the answer is no, do not move on to any other questions on this list.
  2. Do they have any good friends? If they don't, that's usually a sign that they don't work well with people, which is going to be pretty bad news for their ability to work well in a relationship. Not to mention, if they don't have any close friends, you're going to end up being their only friend really fast, which is very unhealthy for a dating relationship (and a little boring).
  3. Are any of their friends solid Christians? If their closest friends are solid Christians, chances are they're solid as well. If they're closest friends aren't Christians, there's a few options. Either they recognize this and are trying to help them grow, they don't realize their friends aren't solid, or they realize they're not solid and don't care. If they don't have Christian friends, that may also be a hint that they're not a Christian either.
  4. What is their dating history? If they have a reputation of going from relationship to relationship, chances are you're about to be the next victim in their careless dating repertoire. They may say "but I've changed." Awesome. Give it time to see if they really have changed before jumping straight into a relationship with them.
  5. Are they a part of a church family? This goes back to #1. Don't just ask if they go to church. Ask if they're involved with a church.  There are very few excuses for a "no" on this one.
  6. Will you be more effective for Jesus together than separate? If you consider yourself a Christian, that means all of life should be leveraged for the gospel. So if you both become less effective for Jesus because you're dating, that's a fail.

Are you in college and want to learn more about dating and relationships?

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Sermon Recap | What Your Annoying Aunt Doesn't Realize

For those of you who missed the sermon on Sunday, or couldn't get enough of the sermon on Sunday, here's a recap of tweetables from the sermon, "What Your Annoying Aunt Doesn't Realize." This sermon is part of our series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want. Intro Video


"We are all designed to put the gospel on display. Whether you're married or single, you have an opportunity to do that." #marriage

"Don't just ask if you should be married or single. Ask WHY you want to be married or single." #marriage

"People look to marriage to answer the question 'does anyone want me?' In the cross, that question has already been answered."#marriage

"Our identity is not in our earthly family. Our identity is in being a part of God's family. So marriage is optional." #marriage

"Whether you're single or married, a spouse doesn't complete you. Jesus does." #marriage

Listen to the Sermon Want to listen to the sermon? Check the links below:

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Do You Have Intimacy Issues?

In last Sunday's sermon, we mentioned that there are lots of places we search for intimacy in other than Jesus. Here's a few ways to help identify if you have intimacy issues. So here's 7 ways to recognize intimacy issues:

  1. Do you always need someone on the hook? Is there always someone you're trying to reel in? Someone you need to show an interest in you? This might not be someone you're dating or interested in dating, but just someone you want to be interested in you.
  2. When bored or lonely, do you start texting? On the more uneventful nights, do you shoot out some texts to different people of the opposite sex to see who responds first? Do you use texting as an escape from your loneliness?
  3. Do you look at porn? Porn usually goes deeper than sexual sin. It reveals a heart that desires intimacy without commitment.
  4. Are you a serial dater? Do you jump from relationship to relationship constantly? Do you always need to have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
  5. Are you a serial flirter? Are people constantly thinking you're interested in them when you're not, because you flirt constantly? Serial flirting usually reveals a heart that is looking for intimacy from anyone.
  6. Are you needy for attention? Building off of #5, do your actions and words indicate that you need everyone paying attention to you? Do your Facebook, Twitter, & blog posts cry out for someone to pay attention to you?
  7. Are you a totally different person around the opposite sex? Are your mood and mannerisms so different around the opposite sex, that your friends hardly recognize you? This is one more way to grope for attention.

Hope for Intimacy Issues The reality is we were all made to be loved, to be pursued, to be chased after. The problem is that looking for that solely in the opposite sex or in dating relationships almost always goes really bad. What we truly need is to have our intimacy issues dealt with by the cross of Jesus. Jesus gives us, in the gospel, what we're really looking for in the numbers 1-7 above. Jesus tells us that in Him we are fully known, and still fully loved, in such a way that relationships or flirting could never provide.

So if you're looking for intimacy somewhere else without first finding it in Jesus, then stop, repent, be overwhelmed with his love for you in the cross, and then look to show that love to someone else. If you reverse that order, it goes really bad.

Are you in college and want to learn more about dating and relationships?

[button label="Sign up for College Fall Retreat" link="" shape="default"]

Text in Your Marriage Questions

We want our our new sermon series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want, to be as helpful as possible. In an effort to do just that, we wanted to make it possible for anyone and everyone to text in their questions about all things marriage (that includes singleness, sex, sexual abuse, porn, parenting, and anything else that relates to marriage). During three specific weeks of the series, we'll pick some of the questions you text in and answer them live from stage.

You might be asking, "how do I participate in such a wonderful thing?"

Here's your answer:

Text the word MARRIAGE followed by your question, to the number 411-247.

And don't worry: this isn't a ploy to get your mobile number and annoy the snot out of you. At the most you'll receive one follow up text, just to let you know we received your question, and then you'll never hear from us again. The texting is just one-way.

Feel free to send in as many questions as you like. Even if your question doesn't get answered in this series, it may help us to know how and what to teach in future sermon series.

Happy txting!

5 Ways a Marriage Series is Helpful for Single People

In our city and in our church family, the probability that you are not married is as good if not better than the probability that you are married.  Those who are single in college, single out of college, single living at home, lifelong singles, divorced, widows, and those dealing with same sex attraction make up a majority of our urban community. We want to make a few things extremely clear:  Our decision to do a series on marriage is in no way an attempt to make you feel unloved, ostracized, excluded, or out of place in our church family.  Your marital status does not dictate your identity or your value.  A wedding is not graduation into a more valid status of life.  Marriage is not heaven.  It’s not our hope for the good life.  Jesus is.

At the same time, marriage is a gift (Proverbs 18:28) and throughout the Scriptures, God uses marriage as an incredible picture of the gospel. So, for a number of reasons we are excited to see God use this series to sanctify our entire church family, including those who are married and those who are not (a.k.a. you).

“How?!  In what ways can I possibly grow from a ten-week series on marriage when I’m not married?  It doesn’t apply to me!  You guys must hate me and don’t care about me!”  That is simply not the case.  Here are five ways this series applies to you:

  1. Understanding marriage helps you understand the gospel. The marriage relationship is used over and over throughout the Bible to describe Christ’s relationship to the church.  What that means is that whether you are married or not, properly understanding God’s design and intentions for marriage helps you understand how Jesus loves, leads, forgives and walks in relationship with His bride, the church.
  2. Understanding marriage helps you understand other relationships. Marriage is the first human relationship that God ever invented.  As such, it serves a specific role in informing all of our relationships.  Marriage is a microcosm stage where the friendship, tensions, conflicts and reconciliations we experience in all of our relationship gets played out on a daily basis and in extraordinary ways.
  3. Understanding marriage helps you interact with married people. Whether you are married or not, you are likely to either already have or to have in the future close friendships with people who are married.  Understanding, studying and praying about what God and His Scripture have to say about marriage allows you to interact with married people (neighbors, parents, coworkers) in an informed and helpful way.  It’s interesting here to note that much of the teaching about marriage that we’ll be looking at comes from Paul and Jesus, neither of whom was married.
  4. Understanding marriage helps you live on mission. Marriage is one of the most prevalent and clear pictures of how we live in a good world gone bad.  Broken marriages are in the news.  It’s in the tabloids.  It’s in our family histories.  It’s in our personal histories.  And no one believes that the brokenness of marriage in our society is how it was designed to work.  Everyone knows that marriage has been skewed since sin entered the world, whether or not they would use those words to explain it. So, the more you understand how Jesus loves to repair broken marriages, the more equipped you are to offer a uniquely Jesus-centered and hopeful position to the people in our city.
  5. Understanding marriage equips you in the event that you get married.  We intentionally left the most obvious reason for last.  Statistics show that some 87% of all people will be married at some point in their lives.  That’s almost nine out of every ten people. Some have accused the church of rounding this number up and treating it like one hundred percent.  We don’t want to do that.  But we also don’t want to fail to prepare and equip the 87% of people who will statistically get married.  So if you turn out to be one of the 87% of people who get married at some point in the future, we hope this series goes a long way to equip you now in terms of preparation.  If you are single and turn out to be part of the 13% who don’t get married, refer back to reasons 1 through 4.

(This post was adapted from the Campaign Resource Guide)

Campaign Resource Guide

(Update 9/7/12: The PDF has been updated to include editable fields in place of blanks.) As we gear up for our new sermon series, A Marriage You'd Actually Want, our desire is for the series to be as helpful as possible, especially to the LifeGroups of our church.

As a resource to our LifeGroup leaders and members, we've published a Campaign Resource Guide to help learn and apply the teaching from the series. The guide walks through additional content for each week and includes discussion questions for you to discuss with your group, whether you're single or married.

Want to begin preparing you and your LifeGroup for the series?

[button label="Download the Campaign Resource Guide" link="" shape="default"]

A Marriage You'd Actually Want (a Poem)  

Marriage.  Holy Matrimony.  Your fairy-tale romance is set to begin because you’ve found that one and only. So, now the two of you are off to live happily ever after With days filled with smiles, hugs, kisses, and laughter. 

But the state of marriage today is really pretty saddening Half of all marriages end in divorce; and half of the rest don’t seem happy The news is reporting that only 50% of adults today are married, That’s down from about three-forths in 1960. Hey why is this happening?

It seems our culture is looking at marriage like, “No thanks, I think I‘ll pass.” It’s not worth the risk. Besides, marriages really don’t last. So, I’ll just spare myself the pain from the old ball and chain Just to have my marriage eventually crash… 

And burn. And, because of divorce, there are some who, as children, were burned. Things got heated, people got mistreated, and you just heeded the lesson learned. The lesson: Don’t touch a hot stove because when you do, it leaves scars that last. Especially if you still have the scars of a divorce that happened in the past

Or maybe you’re in a marriage and its not what you hoped. There’s dysfunction and bitterness, and you don’t know how to cope. You’re trying to hang on, but you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. But what if you could have a marriage you’d actually want?

What if the husband loves his wife the way he loves himself, And she responds to his love with much love and respect? And what if the two were so struck by the love shown on the cross That they gave their lives to serve each other, no matter the cost? And what if the primary purpose of marriage is to display the Gospel of Christ, Showing each other genuine love and grace demonstrating his sacrifice?

What if you truly treasured your marriage, and your best friend was your spouse And the two of you could not wait for the next time you could have a night out.

So many have given up on marriage.  Here’s hoping that you don’t. What if, through in Jesus, you could have a marriage you’d actually want.