Birthday Cards – a Child Training Opportunity


Not long ago, at church, two little boys (ages 7 and 5?) from a family not related to us walked up to my husband, handed him an envelope, looked him in the eye and politely said, “This is a birthday card for you, Mr. Mike.” Inside was a very simple card made of two pieces of colored paper, with a Scripture verse written (by mom) on white paper glued inside. Inserted were pictures colored by the boys. This kind act cheered my husband’s heart greatly and put a smile on his lips.

I think of Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (LSB)

While the intent of a card should be to bless the recipient, there are so many profitable exercises in this particular act that I’d like to offer the birthday card practice of this family as an idea for you parents (and grandparents) of young children. What is profitable about it?

For the children:

  • practicing love for others
  • practicing awareness and attentiveness to events in the lives of others (a mere birthday, in this case)
  • the pleasure and skill of making something
  • organizing and cleaning up supplies for a project
  • practicing good thoughts of others (My husband would have been on their minds at least part of the time they did the coloring and whole process.)
  • the pleasure of giving, which encourages more giving
  • following Mom’s instructions (on the craft and the presentation)
  • learning the self-control of going on an errand, walking and not running in the church, faithfully fulfilling a mission
  • practicing respectful treatment of others rather than playing shy
  • practicing respectful address of an adult
  • building confidence of the children in their ability to communicate and relate well to others
  • building confidence of the children in their ability to do something good
  • building familiarity of the child with other people, reducing the strangeness, opening the door to future conversations good for both adult and children
  • (I bet there is something I haven’t thought of.)

For the church:

  • building unity in the body of Christ
  • building respect and warm feelings of the recipient toward the whole family of eight
  • providing an act that can be commended (by the recipient) to others, building the reputation of others
  • encouraging others to love and good works
  • (an example for me to share on this blog to bring you a smile and perhaps some inspiration)

The kind act that two little boys (and their parents) did in a sincere desire to please God and encourage just one man in an unostentatious way is, on this blog, going to be read in other countries. You never know how many people one “little” act of kindness might influence.

As intended, the birthday card from this family encouraged my husband, AND it accomplished so much more.

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A Wife’s Submission in the Landscape of Ephesians

Submission for anyone is difficult and risky. Yet, Ephesians 5:22-23 says “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” and “as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” Submit to him? Her eyes narrow, brows furrow, body stiffens, “Why should I?!”

Minus the attitude, that is a good question. While the fact that God has commanded it is sufficient reason there is much more. The resistant woman has zoomed focus narrower until she in her situation fills the screen of her mind. Off screen is the rest of an immense landscape. So I want to use a maps app to zoom out and in so as to see that command in context.

(Important note: By “submission” I do not mean doormat theology or silence when oppression should be exposed. Biblical submission means “to rank oneself under,” to willingly and not under coercion place yourself under leadership.)

Zoom Out

When you zoom out on the book of Ephesians the two verses of 5:22-23 shrink to their place within a big picture. Overall, Ephesians answers the question, how does the church work in God’s kingdom plan? It tells us what the church is and how it works in history, like why apostles and prophets came before pastor-teachers. It explains how to enter the church through salvation and that believers in the church comprise one new humanity in Christ. Then it explains how the church witnesses to the world by applying those truths in practical living. Where do authority and submission fit on this theological map, and then for wives in particular?

Godly submission is wrapped in the context of supernatural blessings. (1:1-14) Ephesians begins with a stunning catalog of spiritual blessings. Along with all other believers, a woman in Christ is loved, chosen to be saved, made holy, and adopted as God’s child. In Christ she is redeemed, lavished with grace, and forgiven. In Christ she was sealed with the Holy Spirit, confirming the promise that she will inherit eternal life with Jesus. Does she have reason to be grateful or what! Whatever submission means, it is obviously wrapped with love.

Godly submission acts out of a privileged identity in Christ. (1:1-14) All of the blessings are given to those who are “in Christ Jesus,” “in Christ,” “in Him,” “in the Beloved.” The believer is placed in Christ, who submitted to the will of His Father even unto death. Imagine–united to the very Son of God! This is the identity of the believer. Whatever submission means, it is characteristic of a believer because it is grounded in a heavenly identity in Christ.

Godly submission acts toward an exalted purpose. (1:1-14) Why all of these blessings? They are “to Himself,” “to the praise of His glory,” “to the praise of His glory,” “to the praise of His glory” (1:5, 6, 12, 14). Her identity in Christ is for the purpose of imaging the identity of Christ, so He will be exalted. Therefore, while she rightly enjoys His gifts, they are not primarily for her indulgence, not for building her self-worth, but for her to value the worth of Christ. His blessings to her display His glory. Whatever submission means, it is for a purpose far beyond herself–to the praise of His glory.

Godly submission is fueled by supernatural resources. (1:1-2:10) In Christ, a wife is given powerful resources–the wisdom of the Word, hope, knowledge of the riches of His glory and the surpassing greatness of His power. Raised and seated with Christ, she has access to the Father, and has works to do that He has already planned for her. Whatever submission means, she has all that is necessary to do it.

Godly submission is lived in the context of building the church, local and universal. (2:11-3:22) A Christian wife is a fellow-heir, equal before the Lord with all other believers in His eternal kingdom. United with them in God’s family, she is an integral part of God’s great building project–the church. This church is composed of believers in her local church and spanning the globe, every ethnic group, and two millennia. A wife is one stone being fitted into the immense dwelling, get this–of God Himself! To what purpose? “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.” Whatever submission means, it is an essential part of a magnificent and monumental building project which extends immeasurably beyond her self, her home, and even her lifespan.

Godly submission is an essential labor for growing the church. (4:1-5:17, 33) The church is the body of Christ. Its growth is His work. Yet, He also commands that we work. Walking in love, in light, and in wisdom, a wife can be used by God to help unite and fortify His beloved church. God weaves her into His work of adorning the beauty of her local church and the church universal which God will present to His Son. Whatever submission means, by it a wife gets to participate with God in the growing of the body of Christ.

Godly submission is powered by the Holy Spirit. (5:18, 21; 6:10-24) The command in 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit” is carried out in “speaking,” “singing,” “giving thanks,” and “being subject…wives to your own husbands…” Submission so goes against our natural inclination that it requires divine strength. In addition to the Spirit, God has provided His armor to overcome our sin nature. Whatever submission means, it requires the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and, when practiced, displays the Holy Spirit’s work–to the praise of His glory.

Zoom In

Looking at this broad satellite map of Ephesians laid on the table before you, zoom in on 5:22-6:9.

Godly submission is practiced in specific relationships, not generalities. (5:22-6:9) Chapter 5:22-6:9 narrows the focus to relational practicalities, listing the administrative responsibilities of husbands, wives, children, slaves, and masters in the nitty-gritty of down-home relationships. Each exercises authority or submission according to his God-given role. Whatever submission means, it requires living in accord with God’s ordained authority-submission structure.

Now zoom closer to a a section particular to wives. Verses 5:22-27 say,

“Wives, to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her; that He might sanctify her…that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory…holy and blameless.”

Godly submission by a wife images the body of Christ loving Christ. Submission is not for oppression; it is for imaging. How does the church work in God’s kingdom plan? By submission to her husband in the power of the Spirit, a wife shows the beauty, joy, and blessings of being ruled by Christ. How does the church work in God’s redemptive plan? By submission to her husband in the power of the Spirit, a wife shows the radical difference salvation makes in one’s life. The godly submission of each wife (and each person in his/her particular role per 5:22-6:9) in the local church promotes peace in that congregation and magnifies the radical difference the Holy Spirit makes in the body of Christ in which they participate. Whatever submission means, it places a wife into the exalted purpose of imaging the body of Christ for a witness to the world and the joy of God.

Zoom Out

Here’s my point. What I do with submission to my husband is vital for the very reason that it is not just about me and my rights in our little house on the prairie, a speck on the globe and a tiny blip on the line of history. And the same for you. And the same for children to parents, employees to employers, and citizens to government. The issues of submission and rebellion can be traced all the way back to the Garden (and before). Submission glorified God; rebellion dishonored Him. Submission preserved perfection; rebellion wrecked the world. Rebellion pits wife against husband, child against parent, employee against employer, citizen against ruler, man against God, and earns hell. In contrast, by submission to the Father even to death, Christ bought forgiveness and eternal life for those who submit to Christ.

Because it goes against our nature, submission to any authority, including a godly authority, can be difficult. When we wives struggle with submission to husbands, it helps if we stop filling our mental screen with self and zoom out to see the greater landscape, that how a wife applies God’s command to submit…
…will express trust or distrust in God who can change the hearts of authorities,
…will hamper or help her husband in his obedience,
…will model for her children how to rebel or how to honor authority,
…will hinder or edify others in her local church,
…will tear down or build the body of Christ,
…will besmirch or enhance the image of Christ,
…will resist or contribute to God’s plan for His rule,
…will adorn or hinder the gospel of redemption.

What a wife does with God’s command to submit will withhold or increase glory to God.

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Sink Your Roots Deep–Study and Practice God’s Word

Life sometimes sends turbulent storms our way. Some we bring upon ourselves and some happen through no cause of our own. Sickness or injuries hamper or even cripple our bodies. Stresses flood our thoughts as well as our calendars. Conflicts poke our pride and ignite the fires of anger. Perhaps destructive habits chain us in bonds, putting us through the same destructive behaviors day after day. Or perhaps we travel for a time through a desert of loss. Remorse for past transgressions bears down on our shoulders and life loses its sparkle.

When difficult days come, some of us want to curl up and hide until good days return. Others prefer to come out fighting, punching anyone who gets in the way. If we succumb to either temptation, we exacerbate the situation.

For those who want to glorify God, how will we know specifically what to do in times of drought or deluge? Second Peter 1:3 says,

“seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Here, the word “knowledge” is in a form that implies a thorough and intimate knowledge. The “true knowledge” of God is found in Scripture. The person knows the God who saves by knowing Scripture well and deeply, living by it, and relating to God according to it.

In this verse, God’s Word says that it is able to give the knowledge needed for salvation, life, and godliness. That would include how to deal with particular problems so that you walk God’s way with God through those problems.

We say, “But I read the Bible and pray every single day. I go to church. I try to be a good person. Why am I still having problems dealing with?”

Although these regular activities are important disciplines of grace that build our faith and intimacy with God, they may not be directly addressing the problem. Even if we read the Bible every day, if that is all we do with it, we’re just looking at the top of the engine and not getting our elbows into the parts and nuts and bolts. How can we deal with a problem if we don’t know what exactly to do? And how can we know what to do if we don’t study the Bible to find out?

For example, what shall I do with the concerns that weigh me down? First Peter 5:7 says, “casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The word, “casting,” means to throw something onto something else. Trusting that God is all-powerful (v. 6) and cares for me (v. 7), I must in prayer and thought life throw my cares off myself and onto God, and don’t try to grab them back. Keep my mind off of them. How? Philippians 4:6-9 explains.

Or, why do I sin when I plan on not sinning? James 1:14-15 says it is because I am “enticed” (literally, “caught with bait”) by my own “lusts” (strong desires of the heart). True change will require change of desires.

Or, what do I do with this depression or anger or panic attacks? The Bible tells us. What about addictions? Perhaps you already know that the Bible doesn’t speak of being a “recovering __”; it speaks of “such were some of you,” meaning that the person is no longer characterized by the habit that once controlled him (1 Cor. 6:9-11)! We can be free of addictions!

There is no problem in living that the Bible does not sufficiently address.

Sink your roots deep into Scripture. Study it. Meditate on it. Send roots down into the gospels and learn about Jesus. Send them backward all the way to Genesis six thousand years ago. Learn about our purpose, about the origin of sin, about the consequences of sin. Absorb the attributes of God as seen through His-tory.

Imbibe the truths about God’s promise of redemption and how New Testament godly people dealt with problems just like ours. Spread feeder roots into the epistles, to absorb doctrines packed with nutritional punch. There are nutrients like explanations of why we do what we do, how to change, how to love God, how to love others, how to communicate in a way that edifies, how to handle conflicts, and how to handle tragedy and suffering. God’s Word has solutions to anxiety, anger, depression, fear, guilt, regrets, panic attacks, mania, decision-making, etc. God’s Word feeds with rich truth for abundant fruit-bearing.
Although the Bible holds sufficient solutions for problems in living, it is not just a manual for living. In fact, if you use it simply as that you will continue to complicate your problems. It is an expression of God Himself, His very words. Learn about God–who He is, what He does, what He is like. Relate to God personally.

If your roots go deep in God’s Word rightly handled, you will more than “cope,” as they say, more than be forever “recovering.” When drought comes or winds blow, the deep roots will send up life-giving water and supply the truths you need to remain steadfast in joyful praise to God and loving good works to people.

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The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981

I gave up nothing; I received everything, I count it the highest honour that God can confer on any man, to call him to be a herald of the Gospel.

This is the response of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to someone’s commendation of his sacrifice giving up a medical career to do ministry. It is cited in the biography, The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981, by Iain H. Murray, who ministered for a few years with Lloyd-Jones.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a Welshman who trained to be a doctor. Early in a practice that was gaining him recognition, he also began to be troubled about his sinfulness before God. He saw that any goodness of his own was outward only. Then God changed his heart. As he wrote,

I am a Christian solely and entirely because of the grace of God and not because of anything that I have thought or said or done. He brought me to know that I was dead, ‘dead in trespasses and sins’, a slave to the world, and the flesh, and the devil, that in me ‘dwelleth no good thing’, and that I was under the wrath of God and heading for eternal punishment.

He brought me to see that the real cause of all my troubles and ills, and that of all man, was an evil and fallen nature which hated God and love sin. My trouble was not only that I did things that were wrong, but that I myself was wrong at the very centre of my being. (49)

Eventually, although well on his way to a distinguished medical career, he resigned and took a pastorate in a small town in Wales. According to his biographer, Lloyd-Jones’ decision could be likened to something he wrote about Paul from 2 Corinthians 5:14:

Paul is like a man in a vice, and the vice is being screwed up and tightened so that he is pressed. What is pressing him? The love of Christ! ‘For the love of Christ and constraineth us’. This amazing thing–this gospel of reconciliation! This love of God that sends his only Son and even makes him to be sin to be sin for us. He has seen it, and he wants everybody to see it, to participate in it, to rejoice and glory in it! (67)

For ten years, he ministered in Wales. As people heard of him, he was invited to speak all over Wales and beyond. Campbell Morgan took note and asked Lloyd-Jones to succeed him at at Westminster Chapel in London. There he ministered until retirement, becoming more well-known in Great Britain and the United States.

Lloyd-Jones had a passion for God and His Word. He devoted himself to study, preaching, and the defense of the truth. He believed in expository preaching, which means exposing the meaning and intent of a Bible passage by explaining it verse by verse. Many times it required several weeks to harvest the many truths from just one chapter.

Lloyd-Jones had a passion for evangelism. He devoted Sunday evening sermons to proclamation of the gospel.

He was passionate about prayer. Bethan, his wife, wrote of him,

No one will ever understand my husband until they realise that he is first of all a man of prayer and then an evangelist. (back cover)

He was an avid reader and a proponent of Puritan books. Because he believed that good books would promote biblical understanding, he supported the establishment of The Evangelical Library. There, many young people were introduced to the Puritans. This library was part of the influence leading to a revival of Calvinist beliefs in Great Britain in the 1950s.

Passionate about defending the truth, Lloyd-Jones stood firmly but graciously in controversies that arose. In the late 1940s in Great Britain, some leaders began to incline toward ecumenism. This inclination grew to a massive wave in the 1960s. Promoting the clarity of the gospel, Lloyd-Jones stood apart from ecumenical events, including the Billy Graham crusades where ecumenism was advocated. He interacted with leaders on the issues. Even though he was uncompromising on doctrine, because of his humility, grace, and friendliness those who opposed him also respected him.

Lloyd-Jones was passionate about the church. His church ministry always took priority over any speaking engagements or involvement in the controversies of the day.

Before reading this book, I’d heard of Lloyd-Jones but knew almost nothing about him. This book provided a good introduction and a desire to read more. It gave me some historical references to famous names like Billy Graham and J.I. Packer. It also reminded me of the passion I ought to have for God, His Word, prayer, His body (the local church), and sharing the gospel with the lost.

~~~~~~~~

The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981, by Iain H. Murray, 2013. The Banner of Truth Trust, P.O. Box 621, Carlisle, PA 17013.

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Top Ten Posts for 2021

Thank you for reading this year. I hope you have been encouraged in some way. Below are the posts most read this year.

  1. An Unloved Woman. This is the fourth year in a row that this post made #1. What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?

  2. Visit the Sick – Using Scripture. In suffering it is easy to forget to trust God. You know that Scripture can re-focus a sick person’s attention back to the character of God and His love for the sufferer, but you’re just not sure which passages to use. Here are some specific verses that speak to anxiety, discouragement, or a person approaching surgery, and other situations.

  3. When You Send Your Child to Residential Treatment. Handing the care and nurture of your child over to a residential facility may pose challenges for the family. Here are what parents might experience personally, what siblings might experience, and some big-picture ideas on what parents can do to grow spiritually, help the siblings adjust, and prepare for successful reentry of the troubled child into the home.

  4. The Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship. (Updated December 30, 2021) God provides marriage for our happiness and enrichment, yet He also holds higher aims than just our happiness. Adopting God’s view will change our behaviors, which results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. I also recommend: A Heavenly Purpose of Marriage: Image-bearing.

  5. They Say He Has No Conscience. The idea that some people lack a conscience is commonly accepted. “Normal” people feel remorse for doing wrong. Since perpetrators of extreme evil do not they must be mentally ill or not even have a conscience. But is this what the Bible teaches? This post is best read with its partner post, How can they be so remorseless?

  6. No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

  7. Common excuses for prodigals and criminals, and a solution-based view addresses mothers of wayward souls and looks at what the problem is not (like, low self-esteems, bullying, mental illness), what the problem is, and what help provides the most hope. It is not intended to be comprehensive of all factors, but to pierce to the underlying essence of the problem and urge parents to stop giving excuses to wayward children.

  8. In the Shadow of His Wings (Pt 2): What are the Benefits? How might the beautiful imagery of the shadow of God’s wings comfort and encourage a believer in the midst of hardships, grief, oppression, or other trials?

  9. Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls. What do we do with loved ones who reject and walk away from us? The pain of loss is agonizing. How do we love the wayward child or rejecting loved one without enabling their harmful behavior? This is a book review.

  10. God’s Master Plan in Twelve Verses. God has a plan for all the world for all of history. He explains it repeatedly in the His own words, in the Word of God. One of the most concise summaries is in Psalm 2. This world is not out of God’s control. God is working His plan. Place your trust in Him.

I wish you a 2022 full of God’s grace and peace!

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When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain

Note: This post does NOT contain sensuality or sexually graphic information.

God created sex and declared it good. How do we know?

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Ge 1:26-31)

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Ge 2:24-25)

God intends for married couples to enjoy sex. However, when Adam sinned, disease and death entered humanity. Bodies were no longer perfect. They malfunction. This includes malfunctions in sex.

Those malfunctions are prolific. American women suffer from many syndromes associated with genital and sexual pain, called dyspareunia, about six million from just one of the pain-causing syndromes alone. At least 40 percent of women with dyspareunia do not seek help from a doctor. Although the body can look normal to the doctor, there are many possible reasons for the pain and the knowledge of how to diagnose and treat those causes is only recently being discovered and developed. Since few doctors know how to diagnose the problem, many women see five, ten, even twenty doctors before they find one who diagnoses accurately and offers effective solutions.

When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain is written to address dyspareunia. Written by two medical doctors and a psychologist, the book comes in three sections. The first introduces the problem and explains female anatomy. The second explains many of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options. The third discusses how to progress after the pain is lessened or gone.

A woman in pain will be comforted by learning she is not alone and the pain is not just in her head. While the authors provide some self-diagnostic and self-help measures, they strongly and wisely encourage women to apply to trained doctors and therapists for the most effective help. Some sections practically helpful include:

  • How to find and work with a doctor
  • Websites for organizations specializing in the study and relief of pain in sex
  • Exercises for the woman to do
  • Discussions of myths about sex and about pain

I appreciate that the authors say there is far more to relationship than sex and that couples may have close, intimate, mutually satisfying relationships even if sexual intercourse is not an option.

I recommend this book with qualifications. First, I do not have the medical expertise to critique the medical information. Second, I did not read other books on this topic so as to compare. Most importantly, the reader needs to be aware that the book is written without God in mind at all. The authors are not misleading anyone. Rather, a Christian reader needs to read discerningly. Some negative results of by-passing God include:

  • There is no use of the Word of God for shaping perspective of, and finding solutions to, pain, sex, and relational conflicts. Without the Word of God to regulate behavior, people can arrive at ungodly ideas and methods, such as the suggestion of masturbation as one option in the overall recovery plan (pp 192-193).
  • The view of sex is totally man-centered. There is no understanding of God’s origination of sex, His ownership, or His higher purpose for it in expressing marital union as image-bearers.
  • For solutions, there is emphasis on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which, while it contains some methods which can be helpful, such as changing what you think, it also contains several substantial deficiencies.
    • CBT holds a totally man-centered goal. Focus is on self-improvement, not the glory of God.
    • CBT works to change the thoughts but not the spiritual-moral heart underlying the thoughts.
    • Because it ignores the Word of God, replacement thoughts are developed under the influence of cultural winds and personal preference. As a result, some suggested thoughts will not be true. None will be theologically rich, so they lack spiritual edification.
    • Relying on man’s strength of mind and will rather than on the Spirit of God and the Word, CBT promotes trust in self rather than trust in God.

If you suffer pain with sexual intercourse or even just pain “down there,” don’t just quietly endure it. Tell your spouse and go find medical help! Be persistent until you find a doctor who accurately diagnoses and treats you. And read this book. As you find help for the physical pain, be sure to search the Word of God and heed what it says about pain, sex, conflicts, and how to change. The Bible explains and empowers change far superior to CBT.

Male or female, if you teach on sex or counsel women or married couples, consider reading this book. At least familiarize yourself with the fact of dyspareunia and possible resources to recommend. Some women do not know pain with sex is not normal. Many remain silent about it because the husband forbids telling or if they told a doctor or counselor the husband would become very angry for talking about their sex life. Many suffer needlessly for years. Counselors need to be aware and, when checking on the role of sex in the relationship, not presume a woman’s silence means pain is not a factor. A theologically sound counselor can gain much helpful understanding from this book while bringing a biblical view to bear upon his/her counselee.

~~~~~

When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain, by Andrew Goldstein, Caroline Pukali, and Irwin Goldstein. Da Capo Lifelong Books, January 11, 2011. ISBN: ‎ 978-0738213989

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