Barriers to Worship

Today’s Reading: I Corinthians 11

From the beginnings of religion and the church, there have been barriers to our worship.  This is not a happenstance, but a deliberate intention and assault on us from the enemy.  When we read in the beginning of the Bible, the foundation of Eden and the Jewish faith and tradition established through Moses, the foundation of worship has been shaken continuously.  When we have come together to uplift God, the enemy is constantly there to minimize the full effect of the worship.  The reason that the enemy cannot tolerate the worship is because it gives us strength to fight him.  Worship creates the relationship between us and God.  This relationship then allows God to work in us and helps us turn away from our human nature.  This allows the Spirit to overcome the flesh which is our human nature.   

Human nature is the fundamental pieces of our being that we have that drive us as biological beings: food, procreation, security, play,and social status.  The drive for these fundamentals can be beneficial or detrimental depending on the individuals. The drive for competition can be beneficial when we are trying to engage ourselves to be better and strive for excellence, but it can also be detrimental when we hurt others in the process.  Human nature can be divisive.  It will begin to create differences in the same group.  It tries to make one better than the other. It will create rifts in families and communities.  This is another weapon that the enemy uses.  It will take the good things of God and try to create confusion between each other.  When we start to find differences instead of focusing on the similarities, we are not able to worship together.  This is what Paul is speaking about in this chapter of Corinthians. 

I Corinthians 11: 8-12 (The Message) 

This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship, while men take their hats off. By these symbolic acts, men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.

10-12 Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

Throughout my life and studies, I believed this passage in Corinthians was a passage only showing us about Christ and the church as their example of the unity of marriage. I had always seen this chapter as a way of showing the relationship between a husband and a wife. As I have meditated on this chapter, the Spirit has revealed a new paradigm shift.  In Corinth, there was different practices between the Greeks and the Jews. In Greek culture, the women would not cover their heads in worship. In Jewish culture, the mandate from the old law was that women had to cover their heads.  This is not a passage to show authority over one or another. But this is a passage to show how our human nature tries to divide us from worshiping one together.  

There was division in the new church and foundation in Corinth, specifically on the clothing and covering the worshipers.  The people were not really focused on the MAIN THING: Worshiping God.  They were distracted from the purpose of the church and more on what each other was wearing.  Does this sound familiar?   They were allowing their human nature to outshine their worship.  This is a major perspective shift for me because now I see this chapter in a different light.  I hope that this challenge allows you to see this passage in a different light as well. This is not a declaration on submission to each other in marriage, but this is an observation in which we can worship God in spite of our differences in cultures, and song, and praise. This is what Paul is trying to convey is that we can worship without the restraints that each other puts on the other.

I Corinthians 11: 20-22

20-22 And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing.

The paradigm shift continues as how do we worship with the Lord supper. As a young boy, I always thought that the Lord supper was really short and questioned where the remainder of the food? This is the mindset of kids, when you say “Supper” you’re thinking of a big supper per se Thanksgiving dinner. But the Lord’s supper is to remember the union that we have formed in Christ after the meal of the Passover.  The use of the word “Supper” is actually more in accordance with Merriam-Webster’s definition:  Supper is used especially when the meal is an informal one eaten at home, while dinner tends to be the term chosen when the meal is more formal. In some dialects and especially in British English, supper can also refer to a light meal or snack that is eaten late in the evening.  The Lord’s Supper is taking the meal to the next level. When we partake in the Lord’s Supper we are participating in an act of worship.  

We have already been fed our main meal, but Jesus is the fulfillment of our needs. This is to be done to remember his sacrifice. Paul writes in this section that the Corinthians where have lavish parties for the Lord supper. They were forgetting the essence of the Eucharist meal.  The instant that they were not acknowledging the full scale of the sacrifice,  they were committing the death of Christ again with the same brutality of the death of Christ over and over. This makes us take a moment to see how we worship. Are we continuing to give God the glory for the sacrifice?  Or are we continuing to kill Jesus again on the cross? Is this for his resurrection? Or is this for our gain? 

What are our barriers to worship?  I have battled for my worship over the last several years.  I continue to press forward in my worship through song, dance, meditation, blogging, and reading.  I still get bombarded by the enemy, but my praise and worship continues.  God will give me some resolve each day. How are you doing in your worship? What barriers are being placed in your life that are trying to prevent your worship?  God knows all these things, but you have to ask him to help you push through these barriers.  


Be Blessed

You only get married twice, once.

Last weekend I had the honor to officiate a wedding “do over” for a couple who first married each other in 1997, but divorced several years ago. I’ve known this couple (Jamie and Jalynn Schnur) since the moment they met in 1993. 

This week’s post is an edited version of my message from the wedding…

Father God, thank you for bringing us here today. Please bless the words that will be spoken in this ceremony, may they glorify you, may they be used to strengthen marriages, and to get a better glimpse into your character. We ask for a blessing on this marriage and this family. In Jesus name. Amen.

The reconciliation, the restoration, the second chance that has occurred here is fascinating. We are part of something very special and rare. Many people will say that divorce is like a death. In some ways it is because marriage is an entity, and divorce brings an end, a death, to that entity. While weddings symbolize the beginning of something, this wedding also symbolizes the end of something. The end of separation, the end of the divorce. This wedding is unique.

Like Jamie and Jalynn say “you only get married twice, once”.

Jalynn shared with me that while it would have been easier (and less expensive) for them to jet off for a private ceremony, they wanted to share this time, this event, this gesture with friends and family because they wanted all of us to be a part of it. To learn from it.

She wants to do this to “put a bow on it”. They’ve come a long, long way together and they wanted to cross this finish line in the presence of friends and family.

Several years ago I was hanging out with Jamie and Jalynn, and the thought popped into my head to ask them, “how is your marriage?” – but I chickened out. I made excuses.

  • didn’t want to intrude
  • didn’t want to offend
  • I’m sure it is fine
  • none of my business

Except as a friend who had known them as a couple longer than anyone, it was absolutely my business. I knew in my heart there was something wrong but I didn’t do anything intentional to address it. A missed opportunity at best, and I bet I’m not the only one here today who could have been a better friend.

The beautiful thing is that it is all ok. These two have learned how to forgive; there has been a lot of hurt along the way. The hurt piles up, but only in true forgiveness can there be true reconciliation and healing. Jalynn shared with me that toward the end of her father J.C.’s life, he grew more and more into a man who was all about forgiveness; both in words and action. That same theme, forgiveness, is part of the Schnur reconciliation both with each other, and with those who may have been part of their pain in the past.

Who in your life right now needs you to step up, lean in, and offer love, a listening ear, words of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, prayer, wisdom, financial support or forgiveness? Whether it be a marriage on the rocks, a troubled teenager, a lost soul, or someone you know is hurting. Who will step up to intervene?

If something stirs in us to even ponder saying something, then we’ve been called. We were not put on this earth merely to satisfy our own pleasures and desires. We as humans, made in the image of God were put here to live out our lives for His glory, and how we respond to those in need is a reflection of our inward hearts. Jamie and Jalynn were blown away by the response to their wedding and see that as a symbol of how we feel about them. Most of us have no idea how important we are to other people. Let’s all start sharing more with others how important they are to us.

Consider Jesus of Nazareth. His miracles were well documented with his first being the turning of water into wine at a wedding feast. He performed miracles not to glorify himself but to glorify his father in Heaven; he raised people from the dead, walked on water, healed the sick, helped the blind to see, and in the end he offered the ultimate sacrifice as a substitute for the penalty we deserve for our sin; he offered his very life.

Matthew chapter 22 documents Jesus’ response to the question “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

We have the same call with what we’ve been given as far as intellect, strength, and our resources such as time and money. We are called to offer this love to our friends, family, and people we may never even know personally. Don’t miss the opportunity as it will not last. We know people are counting on us. How will we respond today?

A few years ago while talking to Jamie about “joy”, sadly at that time he said “there’s no joy Jon, none”. That broke my heart; there were lots of broken hearts during those times.

But there is hope… JOY HAS RETURNED! 

There is gratitude and gratefulness for the second chance. Few people get this opportunity. Jamie and Jalynn have a new perspective and are doing this for the right reasons. They are both ready; their family is ready. They’ve rebuilt something together that now stands on more solid ground than ever before. They don’t seek to be perfect on their own; they seek to learn from mistakes, let the past be the past, and move on. Life is precious and too short to take any other approach.

Today there’s love, restoration, respect, trust, laughter, forgiveness, passion, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness. There is communication. There are tears of joy.

And that’s what we are here today to celebrate; this is a reunion of friends and family, so let’s get on with it and make it official, let’s put a bow on it.

Today’s reading links: Hebrews 7 & Psalm 15

1 Corinthians Introduction – Nothing New Under The Sun

The city of Corinth is on an isthmus which is a narrow stretch connecting the mainland of Greece to the Peloponnese peninsula halfway between Athens and Sparta. Scientists have found artifacts which they believe date back to 6,500 B.C., but the city was destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. Under Roman rule, Julius Caesar built the city back up in 44 B.C. It became the capital of the Roman province Achaia. A few weeks back we were visiting family in Auburn which is near Springfield, and we attended West Side Christian church there. Pastor Eddie Lowen gave a great sermon on God’s plan for sex and marriage and the damages of sexual sin with the focus being on 1 Corinthians. He called Corinth “the original anything goes city like Vegas. In fact, it would make Vegas look good.” I have a note written in my Bible which says, “Vegas with the power of D.C.” It was known for its commerce, rampant immorality, and multiple religions.

Paul established the church and lived there for approximately 18 months with Priscilla and Aquila as we learned in Acts 18:1-18. In these verses, Jesus told Paul in a vision to stay there and to speak up because he would protect him.  Despite the immorality there, he also told Paul there were many there who were his people. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church he established there a few years later while in Ephesus between 53-57 A.D.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul not only addresses sex, marriage, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Resurrection, but also unity in the church. He was concerned with division and wanted the church to have one thought and one purpose which was to glorify God. A few years ago, I came across my Grandfather’s Bible, and I found his many notes written in the margins and a Sunday school lesson he had likely written 40-50 years ago. As a side note, I love the Bible app and the ability to get  into the Word anytime when I don’t have my Bible. However, I want to thank Pete Wiedman who challenged me a few years ago to go back to using a physical Bible and to write my thoughts and notes in it so that my kids and grandkids could read it someday. Not I only have I found it helpful to reference back to past notes myself, but it is one of the main spiritual legacies, outside of words, teaching and actions, I want to leave to my kids and grandkids that can go on and hopefully impact them long after I leave this Earth. As far as we can figure out, my Grandfather was a chain breaker in his family as a believer and the legacy he left by raising my Mom in that way which now (with the help of our Father too) has carried on with my brother and me and down to our kids and I pray for their kids someday is truly awesome. I can’t describe how neat it was to go back and read his notes in his Bible. I would encourage you to give some thought to going back to physical Bible if you don’t use one. Anyway, I digress. My grandfather referenced in his Sunday school teaching notes many of the issues and problems at that time such as absent fathers leaving and creating single parent homes and the damage of some of the same sins Paul references in 1 Corinthians. Doesn’t sound much different than today in 2017 does it? One of my former mentors, John Wright, would often reference Ecclesiastes 1:9 which says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

As we read 1 Corinthians, I would encourage you to look for Paul’s themes mentioned above and how the Gospel is the answer to many questions. Imagine how different the world would be today if we followed the instructions given to us by God through Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth…one unified church, following one source of instruction on how to live which is the Bible, with one common goal of glorifying God in all we do.


A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome - ancient Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus quote printed on grunge vintage cardboard

1 Kings 16; Colossians 3; Ezekiel 46; Psalm 102

Much of our behavior is not intentional, it is the result of habits. Habits are patterns of behavior that we have acquired over time. Consider, for example, my routine when I get home from work. First I drop my bag into kitchen table chair. Second, I remove my shoes underneath the chair and yes, I lay my coat over it as well. I don’t think it through, it is my habit. Is it good or bad? In order to determine that, I look to my wife, Jennifer.  She starts with a gentle reminder, saying, “hey, your shoes are in here.” As time passes, her irritation escalates to anger.  I’m sure you can figure out the rest of the story. The bottom line is that our habits affect other people and they have a significant impact our relationships.

Once I recognize that a particular habit is straining our relationship, there is a choice to make. Do I continue on, knowing that they anger my wife, or do I change? I know what you are thinking, “Hey, idiot, pick up your shoes!” Right? Yes, that is the obvious answer. Yet, each of us makes similar choices, every day. Consider, now your habits relative to God. Today in Colossians 3, Paul reminds us that because we have chosen to be in a relationship with God, we must alter our behavior. Just like our spouses, our routines and habits affect our relationship with God.

How are we to do change our habits? The recipe is simple. It starts with our focus. Paul encourages us in Colossians 3:2 to “think about the things of heaven not of earth.” Now, I don’t think he’s telling us to think about streets paved in gold. Instead, he wants us to be reminded of the pure and perfect love in heaven because of God’s presence. The result magnifies God in a way that stirs our desire to please him. Our attempts to please Him will reveal conflicts with our natural behavior. In fact, just as in my marriage, it is impossible to attain a healthy relationship without removing old behaviors and replacing them with new behaviors that are pleasing and uplifting.  Paul says to put them to “death.”

If you are like me, thinking of all the habits I need to change is paralyzing.  For now, I’m going to focus on one small thing. What is ONE action that you can take today that will allow God’s love to flow more freely in  your life?  Don’t over think it.  It might be as simple as moving your shoes.

Marriage and Family Advice

Ephesians 5 is rich with advice on relationships. At the center of all relationships are the marriage and the family. God established them in the beginning for good reason and in good and perfect design. I have heard them referred to as ‘just another place to walk your Christian faith’ and in the same breath ‘thee most important and challenging place to do so,’ which gives them the familiar simple but challenging label. Praise God for His Word that reveals the truth and guides us! Here is the simple recipe for a blessed family:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. – Ephesians 5:18-21

So that is it, a simple four point checklist. There is a lot out there written on how to have a successful marriage and family. Let us quite all the noise for a moment and remember God’s recipe. Here’s a four point checklist that we use in our family. It is labeled the real issues to remind us that God’s word is the authority in our lives and our relationships. These are instructions on what each family member has in Christ.

The real issues of blessed family:

  1. Spirit filled; under the obedience of God’s Word
  2. Singing hearts of joy; speaking in psalms/spiritual songs to one another
  3. Saying thanks; ever thankful, ever grateful
  4. Submitting our will to the others’; going last, putting others first  

The image I used for this post is a heart that Jamie made to remind us of these real issues of a blessed family. It is placed on our fridge right next to handle, a little in the way but never out of place.

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 8; Ephesians 5; Ezekiel 38; Psalm 89

Extra Credit: free ~11 hour study resource marriage, parenting, and family: The Fulfilled Family

I (still) Do

Today is a special day in the Harris family as we are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary!

Back in the 1900s, I typically only prayed last minute or for shallow stuff that would benefit only me. For the airplane in turbulence to not crash, for a passing grade on a test that I didn’t study for, for money, to win at sports (or to not come in last), etc.

However, there was one prayer that I feel that over time was more spiritual than the rest. I prayed for a wife; that God would send her to me and that I would know that she was the right one. Even though my spiritual life was weak in those days, there were times that I actually got on my knees and prayed. Sometimes it was out of feeling lost with the thought that another person would fill the void. Sometimes it was loneliness or with a broken heart after a breakup. Deep down though even with a lacking relationship with my creator, I truly believed he was listening to me, and he would answer this prayer. And did he ever.

If you know Amy at all, you know she is fun, super cute, beautiful, energetic, a good listener, and a thoughtful, sweet, kind friend. These attributes are what drew me to her and reasons why I vowed to spend the rest of my life with her, to have and to hold, forsaking all others… until death. Wedding vows seem to be the only common place where people say “until death”, so this should remind us how significant the commitment should be. The thing about vows (solemn promises or guarantees) is that they are only as good as what backs them up. A vow made today could easily be broken tomorrow, so how do we address this? We’re humans and unfortunately destined to fail on our own. We can all cite various marriage statistics and share stories about sad endings to marriages, but today I want to share some of the ways that our vows have remained intact and some reasons why there is joy in our marriage.

      1. 916ceremonyThe vow. We made promises that we both intended to keep. We had careful
        consideration and discussed marriage well before getting engaged. I knew Amy’s stance long before we were married; cheat and it is over. We don’t wonder what we’ll do if this doesn’t work out, we focus our commitment in doing what it takes to ensure that it does work out.
      2. Continuously recall why you chose the person in the first place. I love to make Amy laugh and sometimes I forget how powerful it is to make her laugh, it is like all the cares in the world melt away. I love to travel with her, I love dates with her, I love to pause and look into her lovely green eyes. This doesn’t all just happen; neither of us are close to perfect, so we need a lot of intentional practice. I believe many people grow apart because they forget this crucial aspect. It breaks my heart to hear a husband or wife refer to their partner negatively. YOU CHOSE the person, figure it out. Get help. Ask a friend. Pray fervently. You dated the person before you were married. Why did you stop dating? Excuses aren’t accepted; it is your life, your marriage that you chose. Have a dinner date at home when the kids go to bed (and don’t let the inmates run the prison, you are the parent, you control their bedtime). Have a one hour date on the porch, it is free. We’ve found that intentionally and frequently seeking distraction-free time together helps us communicate and refocus on each other.
      3. Putting Christ at the center of the marriage. This is where imperfection meets its match. Meaning, the more we recognize that we’re not perfect and that a perfect, loving God has given us so much grace, the more we realize how important it is to give grace to each other. I’m not the best listener, but Amy gives me grace. I think she does things too fast and she thinks I do things too slow, but we give each other grace. In Christ, our priorities are realigned from “me, myself, and I, then others get the leftovers” to “Jesus, others, myself”. As we grow spiritually, the more visibly we become the “new creation” that 2 Corinthians 5:17 refers to: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
      4. Treating the marriage as an entity or an investment. Is it healthy? Does it need exercise? Is it being built up? Does it need input from others? Do the core principles need to be shared so that other marriages can be strengthened, and perhaps ours strengthened as well? Are books to help my career more important than books that strengthen my marriage and spiritual life?

2 Samuel 12; 2 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 19; Psalms 64–65

Father God, thank you for the gift of marriage. Today I ask a special blessing on not only our marriage but all marriages. For the readers of this blog. For those who are hurting, lost, or lonely and feel there is no way out. Would you supernaturally pour out your love and show them your way? Would you speak to us and reveal your will? That we may point others to you as the source of all goodness, and to your son Jesus as our redeemer and king. Amen.

Build Up!

What are the some of the ways to maintain a healthy relationship? To name a few:

  • Communication
  • Unselfishness/focus on the needs of others
  • Quality time together; enjoying each other’s company
  • Investment; acknowledging the relationship is an entity, and actively investing in the entity
  • Honesty

A friend recently made an observation regarding my relationship with my wife and he asked me what I believe are the contributing factors to the success our relationship. First, how great is it when someone we know asks such a question! I was instantly grateful for this friend to care enough to observe and ask. The question itself reminded me that people are always paying attention; analyzing the behaviors of others, and curious about relationships for many reasons.

My response to the question was similar to the list above, but when I shared this story with my wife, she immediately added “we compliment each other”. She was referring to giving compliments of encouraging words (as Merriam-Webster defines compliments):

  • a remark that says something good about someone or something
  • an action that expresses admiration or approval

Amy’s response was a reminder to me as to her own appreciation for compliments and certainly caused me to wonder the last time I complimented her on something. Compliments when given with pure intentions (or if you’re a Five Love Languages fan, “words of encouragement”) are outward acts reflecting our inward heart. They symbolize the focus on others and typically measure the depth of the relationship (for example, complimenting someone’s smile as opposed to identifying one of their personal strengths and sharing how you see them using that strength in an effective way).

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul focuses on the theme of using spiritual gifts for building up others instead of ourselves. What a gift this chapter was for me to read today having just had the conversation last night with Amy regarding building each other up. God moves in mysterious ways, we just need to pay attention!

2 Samuel 3; 1 Corinthians 14; Ezekiel 12; Psalm 51

On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:3, 5, 26)

Father God, thank you for placing people in my life who have encouraged me in love and faith. Specifically in the last 36 hours, I’m completely humbled, honored, and in awe to reflect on so many names of people who have built me up! Amy, Robbie, Rick, Jared, Preston, Peyton, Pamela. May I continue to see these acts of love as gifts from you God. Show me where I am selfish in relationships and where my focus needs to turn toward others, that I love unconditionally so that you may be glorified. I cannot thank you enough for the love you have for us which is reflected in the death, burial, and resurrection of your son Jesus to save us from our sins. May this day glorify you. Amen.

Wedding Invitation

Today’s post is taken from a wedding message that I gave in July of 2009. I laughed and cried a little when I read it, and I hope you do too.

Good evening everyone.  Welcome to the marriage ceremony of Alison Andaloro and Adam Parla.

ap-ap-jh (2)My name is Jon Harris, and for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Alison’s brother in law. For those of you who do know me, yes, I really got ordained online and yes, I’m really going to go through with marrying my sister in law.

When Alison and Adam first approached me to do this my initial reaction was a resounding “Yes!”… what fun to be a part of such an important day in Alison and Adam’s lives. After reality set in and I realized that I had agreed to take on a major responsibility. After all, this is a one-time deal for Alison and Adam, and me as well.

What value can I add here as someone who has known Alison for over ten years? I actually have some vested interest in this marriage.

Alison and Amy (the beautiful bridesmaid who happens to be my wife) are sisters and best friends. To my children, Alison and Adam are celebrities. Alison is like a sister to me and now I welcome Adam as a brother. What else?  I’m a father of two amazing little boys. These boys mean the world to me, and should the worst happen to Amy and me, Alison and Adam would be on point to raise these boys to be respectful, mature, responsible, and loving adults. So do I care who Alison marries, and do I care about the success of this marriage? You bet I do.

When I watch Adam and Alison as a couple I love the way they interact and respond to each others’ needs. They’re loving, gentle, kind, thoughtful. What warms my heart even more is the way they treat our children. When I watch Alison and Adam interact with Peyton and Preston, I see a glimpse as to how they will be as parents and lifetime mates to each other. Selfless.

Look at these two individuals up here. So full of life and passion for each other. Alison’s “Andaloro smile” beaming. Adam, I loved watching you as Alison walked down the aisle.

Take today slowly. Enjoy each moment. Take a step back and observe. Family and friends, support this marriage in any way you can.

Take my words to heart. Many tears of joy went into what I’m saying to you today.

For those of you who are or ever were married, can I ask you to close your eyes think about when you stood before a crowd and professed your commitment. Think about the nervousness. Think about how little you knew (and maybe how much you thought you knew). Now smile knowing it isn’t you up here, but it is these two wonderful people we know and love.

As today is the beginning of Adam and Alison Parla, this is a good segue to the beginning… Genesis, the first book of the Bible… you know, the one that starts with “In the beginning…”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

  1. Adam, man, first man, found his helper. The Bible uses the word “helper”…. And we all know she was more than his helper, right?
  2. Genesis 2:24 says that man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife. Adam and Alison, you loyalty is to each other. Parents of the bride and groom, this verse is also for you. You’ve raised your children well, they’ve been out of your homes for a long time, but now you are encouraged to let these lovebirds fly. Let them make mistakes, let them learn, let them grow in their love for each other. Smile inside when they think they know it all.
  3. Verse 24 continues…They were united and became one flesh. The first of many references to “oneness” of marriage…

Speaking of one flesh… yeah, I’m gonna go there…

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

So take a break from physical intimacy only so you can pray then get back to it. I’m not making this up.

I pose the question to all: What do we as a culture know about marriage? If we looked at statistics, a good answer might be “not much”.

A few things we do know:

  • Anything worthwhile takes work. Let’s not sugar coat it. Marriage is hard. Being a husband or wife is one of the most difficult but also one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have.
  • We know weddings are expensive.
  • We know divorce is even more expensive; so let’s all save some money today and think back to the direction you heard and also the benefits of the Bible verses we went through (yes, I’m referring to the intimacy parts).

What is the number one challenge in marriage? Most people say money but we need to dig deeper. What causes the problems related to money or the other big and small problems in marriage, or even in life? It is selfishness. Marriage was designed to be a partnership and when the intent is distorted, that’s when bad things happen.

Adam and Alison, I ask you to be partners in marriage, and yield to each other. Especially in the first year of marriage. Practice yielding. Die to your own needs and give to the other.  Find the joy that comes with giving to your partner; the best gifts are those that are the hardest to give. I’m not instructing you to be something you are not, and I’m not asking you to be a pushover.

A letter to each:

Adam, lead this marriage as a man and husband. Love this beautiful woman and remember each day why you married her. Find new reasons to love her. Love her for her misgivings. Love her for who she is, who she wants to be, and who she will become. Love her because today you are making a promise to love her. You’re promising in front of all these people. Use your creativity and laid back attitude to the advantage of the marriage. Come up with new ways to have fun, to tell her you love her. Kiss her before you leave for work each day. She’ll remember if you don’t and she’ll always have something to brag about to her friends.

Alison, follow Adam as your husband and leader of your home.  Love your best friends because they’re your girlfriends but love Adam because he’s your husband and the only person who is going to be with you through it all. The guy who got down on one knee to beg you to marry him. Well maybe he didn’t have to beg, but you know his heart belongs to you, you’re the woman of his dreams. Look at him right now, his smile is all for you. You’ve known for a long long time that Adam is your man. The man you want to be with for life, to grow old with, to share in your old favorites like Coast Guard, and in the new experiences you will have as Mr. and Mrs. Parla… treat today as the beginning. You have a lot of history together but start over today. Today and for the next year you’re newlyweds, embrace it.

1 Samuel 26; 1 Corinthians 7; Ezekiel 5; Psalms 42–43

Father God, I pray for your blessing on our marriages today. May we see our partners as gifts from you. Forgive us for our selfishness. Show us the way. Show us your will. Thank you for the joy that marriage brings. Let our marriages become a light that shines and points to you as the author of love, the author of marriage. I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wedding Feast Invitation

Today’s Reading: Joshua 16–17; Psalm 148; Jeremiah 8; Matthew 22


This past weekend I attended a wedding that made me reflect on the Parable of the Wedding Feast in today’s reading of Matthew 22:1-14. There is so much JOY at weddings. Love, laughter, dancing, singing, prayer, food, music and beautiful wardrobes being worn for the party. What a wonderful reminder of the invitation Our Father has given us to attend the wedding banquet of eternity. Have you accepted the invitation?
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,…everything is ready,… come.” I personally haven’t attended any royal weddings but can recall the most recent royal wedding that attracted much media and a desire by many to attend this event. The pictures shared all over the media portrayed and amazing event. Yet, behind all the glamour the most meaningful part is marriage itself.  This is the time when two hearts are joined together. God desires our heart. The invitation by God to an eternal wedding feast is way more important than a royal wedding and yet the invite is rejected multiple times.

What are our reasons for not paying attention and rejecting the invitation? I know at times this lack of importance to RSVP can be because of our own selfish desires, work, play, schedules, convenience. This could also include who we are putting first in our lives? It should always be God but as humans we can insert ourselves, spouses, children. God doesn’t give up on us. He desires for us to be at the wedding with Him.

The Parable Jesus tells about the Wedding Feast in Matthew eventually has a room filled with guests and many people are here physically together.  But will we be called out for our attire?  Are we dressed for the occasion of this event God has invited us to? Similar to our “Sunday’s best” do we wear the fine linen desires in Revelation 19:6-8.
Christ has provided a garment for everyone. The garment of righteousness has a perfect fit when you have accepted God as believers. But, we must choose to put it on in order to enter the King’s banquet (eternal life). What support do you need? Are you dressed and ready? Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.


I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

If you are reading today and want to be part the Wedding Feast that will have an eternal impact. Take a couple minutes to read the invite and pray to our Lord.

Invitation to the Feast

Who: Insert Your Name Here

When: Today


Reception to Follow (eternal kingdom)

How: Praying this prayer. ..Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations! You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever! Please let us know by contacting us at so we can rejoice with you.

Love Songs

Picture Date: 12/23/2015

Today’s Reading: Numbers 10; Psalms 46–47; Song of Solomon 8; Hebrews 8 

May 3, 2016

What is true love?  As we finish up the Songs of Solomon I reflect on my own love, wedding, and marriage. God has an expectation for our love and marriages. I’d like to also share a story of a wonderful marriage between a couple, and a husband who was committed through it all. The other story is of the commitment and promise made by Christ to love us.

For at least a year my Uncle Fred would literally carry my Aunt Betty. Tireless arms that carried my aunt everywhere she wanted or needed to go. This physically took off about 50 lbs of his already small frame, but it did’t matter. Nothing else does. When she wasn’t able to walk from the couch to the bed, or if she needed to go to the bathroom, or when she needed a shower, it was all done together and by him.  My Aunt Betty Baker went to be with the Lord December 25, 2015. We love you and miss you and look forward to seeing you again in paradise.  My Aunt was one of the most fun, loving people you would meet. She has two sons (Shawn & Chris), her husband (Fred), and siblings (Donna & Carl) who would do anything for her if asked. They learned this from my aunt, who modeled this and gave everything to others. She put everyone before herself. My Aunt Betty & Uncle Fred’s stories remind me of Jesus when he told us to put others first. Philippians 2:3. Ultimately Jesus gave his life for ours.

The lifetime of my Aunt’s diabetes was bad and about a year before her passing she was given the option to go through dialysis daily.  She decided not to do this and had faith that God was in control of her life. Psalm 46 allowed my Aunt Betty to let Him be her strength. In our moments where hope could be lost she would “Be still” and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  Faith is not the assurance that everything will be OK; it’s the assurance that He is in control.  We can often forget this.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 says: (6) Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. (7) Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

Love is stronger than death; it doesn’t fold in time, or collapse by disaster, and it cannot be bought for any price. Love is priceless and will never die.  It is a gift from God.

The book of the Song of Solomon reminds me of this gift of Love to us and his guidelines he has established for us to live by in our marriages.  He is part of our marriages and in the love between my Aunt Betty & Uncle Fred in their marriage. Song of Solomon reminds me of the love God has for his people. My Uncle Fred would model characteristics of Ephesians 5:25-33 .  (Walking in love and putting others before yourself. JOY = Jesus Others Yourself) My Uncle Fred retired early to meet all her needs.  Jesus does the same for us.  All we have to do is call Him. Psalm 55:16

1 Corinthians 13 shares with us The Way of Love message It’s one of my favorites because it defines real love and how it is available to all people.

My Aunt Betty and I had many conversations in that last year about her faith and her comfort of what was ahead. I cried each time, but also had tears of joy knowing her eternal life and faith. Though physically fragile, she would overwhelm anyone with her huge heart and love for others. Song of Solomon tells of love, commitment, problems, and beauty. Through all things God loves us and has a place waiting for everyone who believes.  A husband and wife can honor God when they love and enjoy each other. I saw this in them and in my own marriage. I pray all our marriages exemplify what God’s love means. His love endures all things and will never end. God will take all our choices, mistakes, and failures and turn them into something good.

As you reflect on your marriage or others, think of your relationship with Christ. God’s love is freely there for us to take hold of. He is ready to start a new relationship with you that will be eternal. This year our marriage has been created new because of our relationship with Christ in our marriage. Those who walk daily with Him have heavenly resources available all the time.  As we grow closer to Him, we’ll grow closer to each other. When you walk in the light, you’ll grow in fellowship with each other.

Dear Father,

I pray for the strength, love, and guidance for all that have lost loved ones.  That we keep our faith in God and help us find joy in all we do. If you haven’t had faith in God I pray You’re love touches our heart and you understand He loves us and cares. Jeremiah 31:3 tells us about His everlasting love he has for us.  Thanks for the priceless gift of love and grace you share with us.  Lord we need you to continue to pour out your love to us.  Thank you for giving us ways to show this love.