Alex Crain

Editor, Christianity.com

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“Sarcasm can wound the person you love, tear down good communication
between the two of you, and can inflict long-term damage to your relationship.”
– Doug Fields, Sarcasm Could Be Ruining Your Relationship

If you and your fiancé or spouse are both Christians who realize that sin and selfishness are the root causes of relational difficulty, then Doug Fields practical article on managing sarcasm may help you. Otherwise, it treats the wound of relational hardship lightly.

Here are Fields’ 3 ways to dial back the damage your smart mouthing can render:

1)      Don’t Say Everything You Think

2)      Keep Your Body Language in Check

3)      Schedule a Weekly Summit

I’ve been married for 19 years, which may deepen my perspective, but 19 years of marriage doesn’t make me the authority. I happen to know that there are lots of Christians in bad relationships—many of them in my own church. They are reading articles like Doug Fields’ that are filled with self-help tips but such articles never lead them to real life change since a self-help perspective pretty much eviscerates Scripture and the Holy Spirit from the discussion. (Both are noticeably absent from the "Relevant" article.)

Compare Fields’ self-help article with the ever-relevant, biblical counsel from a counselor like Paul Tripp:

I don't think we have taken the Bible seriously in understanding what it means when a sinner marries a sinner.  Second Corinthians 5:15 says that Jesus came so that those who live would no longer live for themselves. 

Here is what this means:  The DNA of sin is selfishness.  That means that sin in its fundamental form is antisocial because I care more about me than I do anyone else.  I shrink my world down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings.  That means that I will reduce the people in my life to vehicles or obstacles.  If you help me get what I want, I love you cards and flowers.  If you stand in the way of what I want, I am spontaneously irritated and angry.

Now, think about it.  Who has that conversation with couples going into marriage?  We talk a little bit about sex, a little bit about finances, a little bit about roles, a little bit about communication, but those aren't the cause of our problems.  Those are the locations of the problems.  The cause is this selfishness.

I believe this one tiny dose of biblical sanity could rescue struggling marriages everywhere. I don’t have to imagine it, actually. It was the dawning light that began the long process of saving and strengthening my own marriage 15 years ago. That was when I finally came to learn that self-help is no help. Only biblical truth applied in the power of the Holy Spirit can change a life from the inside out.

Your turn: Join the discussion in the comments below.

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

"Help, I Married the Wrong Person!"

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“The belief that we have married the wrong person is far more sinister
than we are led to believe. A long-term view of marriage (and life for that matter), saves us from the propensity to bolt when it gets hard or is less than we expected.”

— Courtney Reissig, Help, I Married the Wrong Person

According to Scripture, Christians should never marry non-Christians. First Corinthians 7:39 is clear that we are “…free to be married to whom [we] wish, only in the Lord.”

But even in Christian marriages, there are times when one might be tempted to think that he or she has married the wrong person. Courtney Reissig speaks wisdom into this topic in her recent article at The Gospel Coalition: Help, I Married the Wrong Person.

The temptation to buy into the popular notion promoted widely by online dating services is very real. The dream of a perfectly compatible “soul mate” can lead some to doubt the vows they have made to their (now that the honeymoon is over) very incompatible spouses. But Reissig points to a sober, biblical view…

“People are only people. They cannot meet the deepest needs of our souls, even if their words, actions, and Facebook profiles tell us otherwise.”

“…the purpose of marriage is to make you holy, not happy. Of course, a side benefit of marriage is companionship, shared experiences, and—many times—true happiness. But that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to make us like Jesus. We don’t get to the final day on our own. Marriage is one of God’s good means to sanctify us and bring us safely home.”

Some time ago, I interviewed biblical counselor, David Powlison, about this topic. In this brief video (What if I Feel Like I Married the Wrong Person?), he offers a number of wise points to consider, especially regarding cases where there has been criminal abuse or adulteryvery serious issues not covered by Reissig’s short post. Watch it and share your thoughts in the comments below.
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

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“You cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time.” —Ed Stetzer
Loving Muslims Enough to Reach Out, Globally and Locally

Are you as eager to build bridges with your Muslim neighbor as you are to build walls to protect yourself from them? Christian author, Ed Stetzer, posed this challenging question in a recent post at Christianity Today. With so much news coverage in the West about radical Islam around the globe, Western Christians often project radicalized stereotypes onto their non-radicalized Muslim neighbors. “With all of this noise in the background,” writes Stetzer, “How can we, as Christians, reach out to Muslims in our communities?”

Stetzer suggests five steps to seize opportunities for Muslim evangelism:

1)      Understand your Muslim neighbors. They are Westernized, but still probably do not eat pork (or marshmallows), they observe Ramadan, and dress modestly.

2)      Be friends. Not just for a project, but for a relationship. Muslims will already have much in common with devout Christians.

3)      Have spiritual conversations. Talk about what you believe. Ask about what they believe. Answer questions and common objections (such as the one they will have about the Christian belief that God is Triune---the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

4)      Bring them to church. Let them see what a Bible-teaching church is like. You might also choose to visit their mosque and talk about it together.

5)      Share resources as appropriate. (Such as these available through the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton.)


Here are a few other resources to help you reach out to your Muslim neighbors:

What Ramadan Means to Me Now that I'm a Christian, by Nabeel Qureshi

This brief, very personal article by a very devout former Muslim highlights the opportunity that Ramadan offers Christians. Here is an excerpt:

For Muslims, Ramadan is the month of relationships. For Christians, the Gospel is a message of relationships. His words leave little room for confusion: “As I have loved you, so love one another.” (Jn 13:34)

Now that I see the world through the lens of the Gospel, what Ramadan means to me is an opportunity to love Muslims as Jesus loved us. Just as He was willing to enter into our context so that God might be glorified, so also we can commune with Muslims during Ramadan so that Jesus might be glorified. (Read the whole article here.)


What you need to know before talking with Muslims by James R. White

This short video clip summarizes some important points in his book: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Quran.)

Quote: "The problem we face is most Christians are drawing their information from the news. As a result, most Christians are afraid of Muslims."

Your turn: Do you love your Muslim neighbor enough to reach out to him with the gospel? What have your conversations with Muslims been like? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

Are Churches in Denial about Mental Illness?

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Christians have been slower than the population at large to recognize what mental illness is, let alone what they should do,” observes Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. Focus on the Family recently commissioned LifeWay Research to conduct a study on how churches address mental illness. Stetzer shared the findings with Christianity Today in an article by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra.

LifeWay Research found that 59 percent of church goers with a mental illness want their church to talk more openly about it, as do 65 percent of their relatives. But research also discovered that the majority of pastors (66 percent) still rarely or never talk about mental illness in sermons or before large groups. About one-fourth of pastors bring up mental illness several times a year, and 7 percent say they address it once a month or more.

What’s behind the silence about mental illness at church?
What’s behind the silence about mental illness at church? LifeWay Research has discovered various factors, but it seems to come down to lack of training and resources, not a lack of compassion. Still, concludes Stetzer, “We have to break the stigma that causes people to say that people with mental illness are just of no value.”

In light of several recent high-profile suicides among professing Christians like Robin Williams and ministry families like Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, the issue is certainly on the minds of more and more church goers. For church leaders who are interested in learning more about how to help broken and hurting families in their churches and communities, Focus on the Family is currently offering a free e-book entitled Serving Those with Mental Illness.

Your turn: Are churches in denial about mental illness? What does the Bible have to say about it?
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

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