Godly Marriage Brings Spiritual Transformation

By Ray Hollenbach -April 22, 2021


Wouldn’t it be a shame to stay married to the same spouse for a lifetime and not be changed by the process of sharing life together?  Or raise children for twenty years and fail to grow in patience, grace, and kindness? Our most important and personal relationships touch us deeply. We experience transformation. The rough edges rounded, the abrasive surfaces rubbed smooth: changed into our true selves.

And then there’s Jesus. Wouldn’t it be a shame to take the identity of “Christian” for most of our adult lives and somehow remain unchanged?

A marriage which does bring transformation is no marriage at all. Godly marriage always brings transformation. Or another example: raising children without experiencing vulnerability and risk is to fail at parenting. Friendship without open give and take is only a shadow of real relationship. Yet year after year we find ourselves in the same spiritual shape. While promoting a recent blog post I used Facebook to encourage others to visit this site. The “teaser” in my status update was this sentence: “Wouldn’t it be terrible to be forever forgiven, but always unable to change?” One of my Facebook friends responded with the comment, “That pretty well sums up my life.” How many of us could have posted the same comment?

Any godly relationship brings transformation at the deepest level. Do we have a relationship with Jesus, or an arrangement? For many believers he’s the one who paid the price for our sin, paved the way to eternal life–and the one who left the planet a long time ago. The average believer in North America knows how to appropriate the legal exercise of God’s forgiveness, but has no real expectation of becoming “conformed to the image of Christ.” (Romans 8: 29) Scriptural promises of transformation are pushed into the future, as if they will magically happen at the second coming.

I’d like to suggest three earth-bound agents of change God can also use in our spiritual lives. In marriage, family, and friendships we experience transformation through love, commitment, and constancy. These three pillars of human relationship can also become the means by which the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

3 Pillars of Transformation


The reason I am less of a jerk after thirty-six years of marriage is simple: I love my wife and don’t want to cause her pain. When I act selfishly toward my wife, she pays the price. I witness first-hand the grief I cause and because I love her I determine to think of her before I think of me. I’m still a selfish man, but am I less selfish after thirty-six years of trial and error? The same can be true of my relationship with Christ. If Jesus is simply the Divine Defense Attorney who rescues me from hell, he has no claim on my life. If, however, Jesus is the passionate love of my life, I will joyfully conform my actions to those things which give him joy. This isn’t about following the Law, it’s about pleasing my beloved. Of course, the first question is–do I love him, or do I merely want to use his sacrifice?


Insanity is hereditary–you get it from your kids! How many times in one day can a two year-old push you buttons? Why don’t we just walk that toddler to the front door and say, “That’s it, pal. I’ve had enough. You’re on your own!” Raising children comes with a twenty-year commitment to the unknown. We stick with our children when they drive us crazy. We continue to pour our lives into them even when they are ungrateful and egocentric. We remain true to them even when we don’t understand them, simply because we are committed to them. Commitment stands firm even when love wants to run and cry. If we learn commitment from raising our children, how much more will commitment serve us as a means of grace with God? Even when we feel He may be against us, commitment can hold us firm. Of course, the Almighty is no petulant child, but there are certainly times when we do not understand his actions. His commandments can run counter to our desires, but commitment can steady us until we come to our senses again and his wisdom. That commitment can also strengthen our resolve to order our lives around his priorities.


Life is so daily. We do the laundry this week, knowing we will do it again next week. Repetitive tasks threaten to overwhelm our desire for whimsy and adventure. Yet those who neglect the everyday matters are regarded as immature and irresponsible. The constant parade of days and weeks, months and years builds faithfulness into our souls. Could we become like Tolkien’s hobbits: those quiet little folk demonstrated unseen reserves of strength. What if the everyday-ness of life reveals something of God’s grandeur?

Spiritual transformation begins with relationship, and marriage is a great example. The real question whether our relationship with Jesus rises to the level of our most cherished human ones. No one should settle for marriage, family, or friendship without transformation. Why should we settle for less with God?

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  Prayer Will Supercharge Your Marriage (Including Your Sex Life!)

AUDIO The Untold Story Of The Prodigal Son

By Rev Bill Woods

Luke 15:11-32 
11  To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12  The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13  “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17  “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20  “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
22  “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.
23  And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24  for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
25  “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,
26  and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
27  ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28  “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,
29  but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.
30  Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31  “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.
32  We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Tell the original story of the Prodigal Son.

    – He was in rebellion against his father’s authority and his father’s religion.

He felt he was missing out on whatever the Far Country had to offer.

    – He was tired of being stuck on the farm!

It must’ve hurt Dad for him to reject how he’d been raised.

This father had provided food, shelter, love and training for this son and wanted him be a successful adult.

    – Dad’s heart must’ve ached to have his son want to leave.

I can relate — we have 2 grandchildren who are sewing wild oats right now.

    – We’re praying that soon they’ll come to themselves and say, ”What am I doing here?”

Finally, when his money and friends were gone and he’d hit bottom for a Jewish boy, he began to realize what he had given up and where his foolish choices had taken him to.

Luke 16:17-19:   “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

Describe how Dad was praying for him and watching for him every day!

    – Finally, he arrived and Dad rejoiced and celebrated…………..

The older brother was really upset!……………….

He was forgiven by the father, but what about “THE REST OF THE STORY?”

What probably happened after the Prodigal’s dad died?

    – The son was now a servant of the older brother until he learned the lessons of obedience.

He’d lost his inheritance because of the sinful decisions he had made.

    – He’d lived with harlots!  He indulged in every sin his heart desired, but it hadn’t satisfied him, in fact it destroyed what should’ve been good in his life.

Listen to what the older brother said, — Luke 15:30Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

Everything belonged to the big brother now — Luke 15:31His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.”

Somehow we’ve gotten the mistaken idea we can sin and ask forgiveness and there’ll be no consequences for our actions…………   



It’s like throwing a rock into a pond and praying there’ll be no ripples!

    – Sin always has consequences!  That’s the part of the untold story of the Prodigal son  

      That people forget to acknowledge and tell.

    – A person might find forgiveness for a promiscuous sex life, but still be a candidate for sexual transmitted diseases.

This sexually orientated society wants to sin and avoid the results.  IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN!

    – Take drugs with no after affects – AGAIN, IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN!

How much better it would be to avoid sin in the first place!

    – Sin always bring limitations………….

    – People talk of the character value of limitations…………almost proud of sin.

Imagine what God can do for a person who gets saved while still young and avoids the sinful snares of Satan…………..your kids and grandkids……………..

Even if you’re and old geezer or geezerette, you should get saved as quickly as possible and let God help you clean up your life.

Some will say, “I’m just too old and now it’s too late!”

    – Colonel Harland Sanders was 77 years old when he asked Christ into his heart in 1979.

  • He had lived a rough life with many failures until Jesus saved him.
  • He had a filthy mouth, that God helped him clean up.

He said, for most of his life, he knew he needed to devote his life to Jesus Christ and finally at the age of 77 years old he was fortunate to accept Jesus Christ. And he calls it “the greatest experience I’ve had in my 89 years of life”

He acknowledged and shared the fact that, no amount of good works would get him in to Heaven. Only having God in his heart, would assure him of salvation.

He urged all who would listen, especially the older ones, to accept Christ before it was too late.

God prospered him and he used his wealth to bless others.  He gave most of it away, “You can’t take it with you, No use being the richest man in the cemetery. Because you can’t do any business in there”!

Well, the Prodigal Son had wasted his inheritance and sin had stripped it all away.  Now he had to be the servant under the discipline of his older brother after Dad died.

He had confessed to Dad:  Luke 15:19and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

The older boy had been faithful and Dad told him, Luke 15:31 — “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.”

His older brother was now willing to accept him as a servant!

    – This situation gave him the opportunity to become bitter or better…………….

      – We’ll all eventually face the choice of getting “bitter or better”  (it’s not always the result of sin.)

      – To become bitter is sin…………….

      – To become better is spiritual growth.

We have the ability to learn greatness through serving.

Matthew 23:11-12
11  The greatest among you must be a servant.
12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will  be exalted.

We live in a society that’s success and goal orientated.

    – If you haven’t got wealth, fame, etc. you’re a failure.

When I arrived in Cheyenne, the largest Church on the District, I thought I’d made it!……

    – When I arrived in Stevenson — I felt I was failure.

    – I was embarrassed and complained to an Old lady running the Christian bookstore in Hood River:  She said, “What an opportunity!”

Here I was, “College degree, seminary, having pastored larger churches and now having to pastor one of the smallest churches on the district and hauling laundry to make ends meet!…..” – That really sounded successful to me!

        – I had a choice, I COULD BECOME “BITTER OR BETTER.”

Success isn’t always measured in wealth, things, popularity, etc.

  • I found success is being where God puts you doing what God wants you to do!

By today’s standards, Jesus would be a failure.

   – Look how Jesus measured up to these standards:

    – Was He popular?

     – No!  He wasn’t well liked by the high society.

     – In fact, after one of His sermons all His followers deserted Him, except for the 12.

John 6:66-67
66  At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.
67  Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”     

Did He have political power?

    – No!  He was a political failure — all levels of government rejected Him……………..  

      – They conspired to kill Him!

Did He have lots of friends?

    – No!  His friends often hurt Him—eventually abandoned Him, and one of them betrayed Him.

Did He have money and possessions?

    – No!  No house, no wheels, no world headquarters, no Christian amusement park.

Was He respected by His peers?

  – No!  His professional peers (Pharisees and Saducees) rejected His message and His work.

Despite His apparent failure by these standards, Jesus Christ has changed the lives of millions of men, women, and children across the centuries.

 – How could that be in light of His failures?

How do you let set-backs affect you?………

    – Are you able to pick life back up and keep going knowing God keeps perfect records?

– I’ve heard Christians say about seemingly successful people, “It’s not fair!  They don’t even serve God and look how successful they are!…………”

  • May I remind you the games not over yet!

Not all set-backs are the result of sin but, many people today suffer limitations in their Christian lives because of past rebellion like the Prodigal.

    – David and Bathsheba (he lost privilege to build Temple)

No matter how you say it — SIN IS STUPID!…………

  – You’ll always pay for sin even though forgiveness is given.

  – Don’t sin and hope to avoid the consequences.

 Galatians 6:7 — Don’t be misled — you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.

Remember, Satan’s out to destroy you!

1 Peter 5:8-9
8  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
9  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.  

Learn to avoid his temptations James  4:7-8 
7  So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

1 Corinthians 10:13The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

We get too comfortable with things that’ll destroy us.

Few college football coaches have made a point against drugs as effectively as Erk Russell of Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol’ country boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the squad. “Everyone screamed and scattered,” Russell recalls. “I told them, ‘When cocaine comes into a room, you’re not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they’ll both kill you!”

The best way to assure victory in your Christian Life is to leave sin alone!

 – There’s no way to reclaim lost years of service for God………….

I’m sure the Prodigal regretted his years away in “the far country.”

He couldn’t reclaim them, but he couldn’t afford to let them keep destroying him either.

Today, find God’s Will for your life.

 – Walk in harmony with Him…………….

If you find limitations in your life because of past rebellion, don’t rebel any longer!

Turn those limitations into a life message.

Arnold Daniels smoked for years and developed emphysema — he tried to teach others by his mistakes.

If you find limitations in your life from past sin, conquer them by letting Jesus have control.

If you find limitations in your life—not because of sin and rebellion—instead, something that will give you opportunity to grow—use it for God’s Glory.





10 Things being a mother has taught me about life and people.

These are my beliefs, developed through personal experiences and studies of my own. They do not represent anyone other than myself. Many of these lessons work together to form an overall idea (such as #1 and #2). The scriptures used can be reflected on both the parents and the children as we are all learning to walk with Christ.

1. Our children are not empty sponges, looking to soak up whatever we throw at them. They are intelligent both emotionally and intellectually. They show us this in their ability to read our emotions, question us when something doesn’t feel right, and every time they show growth personally* in areas we have yet to focus on as their parents and life-coaches.
*Proverbs 20:11 “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure or whether it be right.” -KJV

2. A healthy environment is crucial to development. This one seems obvious, but for years I believed that because I had lived in toxic homes and had not been swayed by these particular tendencies, I was immune to them, as if they had no affect on me. This is not only inaccurate, its a dangerous mentality. A child may not take up the same addictions, habits or ideologies that they have been exposed to, but as they are building their personality’s foundation, *they will be affected by these subjects in a lasting manner. It is critical that we do our best as parents to equip our child with a strong sense of discernment for the inevitable ugliness this world will throw at them.
*Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” -KJV

3. Social anxiety is not shyness. A shy child will warm up to their surroundings, while a child filled with anxiety caused by social activities will crumble into a fragile state, sometimes even leading to panic attacks. It is important to know the difference, so that you can learn how to guide your child in proper *healing depending on which one they suffer from.
*Hebrews 10:24-25 ” And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” -NKJV
(I recommend this article by Andriana of A Love Worth Living For)

4. Children are born with likes and dislikes. Eventually they learn to either feed these personal diversities or curb them so that they can fit in with their environment. As parents, understanding this is a big part of learning how to talk, care and bond with your child. You need to take the time to *earn their trust and respect by showing that you can be firm in what is right and wrong, while allowing them to develop their interests.
*1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” -ESV

5. Spiritual growth must be met with dedication. Regardless of your personal beliefs one thing stands true; you have to *study to understand with clear intent what your beliefs are so that it may **manifest itself in your daily life. There is no spiritual growthfor someone who stands still in their beliefs, just as a man won’t find growth in a company or relationship he refuses to commit to.
*Mathew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” -ESV
2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” -ESV
**Psalms 1:1-3 “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” -KJV

6. Different people love differently. Just as your child is developing their likes and dislikes as part of their personal foundation, and inevitably the beginning to who they will become as individuals, they are learning to love, express love and build love in their own way. *They look to us for acknowledgment of these traits, for example: “Mommy, can I help you?” says the child who shows love by seeking opportunities to assist us. We have to keep our eyes open to these quirks and/or traits so that we may notice them and react appropriately as we help our children develop their own love language. In learning how to speak lovingly to our children according to their personalities, we can engage in more meaningful conversation with them, though we must remember that our main priority is to be their guide in life and sometimes that means stepping away from the idea that we are their ‘friend.’
*Psalms 127:3-5 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” –ESV Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” -NIV
Proverbs 1:8-9 “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” -KJV

7. Life is about balance, but we as people must be consumed with positivity. This is not to say that we should walk naively through the world, absolutely not. However, we cannot let ourselves and our children fall into the negative aspects of life. We have to lean on the positives, building them, focusing on these much more often than we do any negative. A ‘realest‘ would tell you that they sway neither which way, but the truth is there is no fence to sit on. Your mind will notice either the positives, or the negatives first, from there you begin to form a decision. A neutral state does not exist on its own, because of this, a mind that *focuses on the positives will ultimately form a stronger relationship with happiness. A realest is merely an optimist without hope, or a pessimist without belief. (Please note the sarcastic relief, as neither is possible.) 😉
*Isaiah 12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” -ESV

8. House rules are not only for children. By this I simply mean that we, the parents, have rules set in place not just for the children’s wellbeing, but for our own sanity as well. Even things like, ‘don’t yell in the house,’ ‘organize your clothes, toys, books, etc.,’ and ‘clean up after yourself.’ Sure there are benefits to the child in each of these, but the pros weigh heavily in favor of the parents needs as well. If only so that we can focus our attention on more pressing matters, to say the least, because *we can not be with our children all the time but must be able to trust that they have been given proper direction.
*Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” –ESV

9. Less really is more. More clothes, more toys, more time, more money… whatever it is, chances are *the less you have of it, the better it is taken care of, appreciated and divided between your priorities. The same can be said about our interruptive tendencies as parents. Sometimes our children need us to step back and let them learn on their own.
*Psalm 37:16 “A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.” -NKJV

10. It is never too late to correct an error. Children and adults alike can both appreciate an honest apology. Follow that with sincere determination to correct your actions and you’ll set an example for others that is as genuine in character, as it is meaningful. We are all human and humans make mistakes, it is however *much more damaging to ignore these mistakes, repeat them and show no remorse for such actions.
*Mathew 12:25 “Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” -ESV

I would love to hear what other parents have learned about life and people. If you have something you would like to add please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments bellow. ❤

Thank you for reading and God Bless!

What Has Parenting Taught You About Life and People?