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The Spiritual Battle for Your Marriage

The Spiritual Battle for Your Marriage

Based on his book Defending Your Marriage, Dr. Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff share about the reality of spiritual warfare against marriages, and how to combat the enemy’s lies with the truth of God.
Original Air Date: July 9, 2021

John Fuller: Today on this best of 2021 Focus on the Family episode, we’ll be exploring an often-misunderstood source of problems in marriage, and that is spiritual warfare.

Preview:

Noreen Muehlhoff: The scriptures begin with a marriage. It’s Adam and Eve. Um, it’s an important institution. It, it reflects the image of God himself, and so wouldn’t it make sense if Satan wants to attack God that he would attack the thing that reflects his image?

End of Preview

John: That’s Noreen Muehlhoff explaining why you and your spouse may be experiencing some unexpected and perhaps even troubling conflict in your relationship. Noreen and her husband, Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, are our guests today. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us, I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, this best-of conversation with Tim and Noreen really resonated with our listeners when we aired it earlier this year, and we received some great comments in response. One woman said, “This is confirmation of what we have experienced. We ask the saints to join us in praying for myself and my husband. Thank you, Focus on the Family.” Another comment was, “My eyes will be open now more than ever. This has confirmed many thoughts I’ve had about the attacks of the enemy. We can’t allow the devil to have an inch. I’m looking for chains to be broken in Jesus’s name.”

John: Well, those are wonderful comments-

Jim: Yeah (laughs).

John: … and, uh, the Muehlhoff’s really did a great job of reminding us that spiritual warfare is real. It’s a very serious matter, and the Bible has a lot to say about this topic, more than we realize.

Jim: That’s right. In Ephesians 6, we’re told we wrestle against cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. That’s pretty straightforward, and in 1 Peter 5, Satan is compared to a roaring lion that’s seeking, uh, to devour us. So, if you haven’t considered how spiritual warfare may be impacting your life, and especially your marriage, uh, you’ll want to lean into the great content that Tim and Noreen will share with us today.

John: And Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is professor of communications at Biola University, also the director of resources for the Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships. He’s an author and podcast host, and his wife, Noreen, is the assistant director of chapel programs at Biola. Together, they routinely speak at marriage conferences, and Tim has written a book that we’ll focus on today call Defending Your Marriage: The Reality of Spiritual Battle. We can tell you more about that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Jim, here is how you began the conversation with the Muehlhoff’s on this best-of edition of Focus on the Family.

Jim: Explain why we Christians can be kind of clueless about spiritual warfare today. What’s happening in our ability to discern? That’s really what it is, a lack of discernment.

Dr.  Tim Muehlhoff: I think it has to do with what comes to mind when I say the demonic. I think most people are like, “Wow, the demonic,” and, uh, immediately thinking to the top movies on Netflix, right, The Conjuring, Paranormal Experience, where people are getting dragged across a room. A person is levitating, speaking in guttural Latin voices. And so, you look at that, and you go, “Ah. I don’t wanna have any part of that. That is not something I wanna dabble in. I think that’s, uh, Hollywood at its worst. Uh, I d-… I… so I don’t deal with it.” Right. If that’s my idea of the demonic, then I’m staying a mile away from it.

Noreen: Right, and that it’s something that happens elsewhere. Like, maybe you hear about in Africa or in Asia, but it doesn’t happen in the U.S., or it doesn’t happen in the West, and so we can dismiss it as something that happened in the past or in another location, but it doesn’t happen locally and within our own families.

Jim: Well, you’ve raised that. That is a question that I will hear occasionally. What’s the answer to that question? Do we see it in a different form, or what is the answer to that question?

Dr. Muehlhoff: Well, I think in… So, I did relief work in Africa in the Mathare Valley, one of the, uh, poorest regions of, uh, Africa, and when we would go out, Simon Zeramakenga would gather us all together, and he would pray warfare prayers, and I had never heard of one before. Uh, warfare prayer was simply, “Um, we know we are sending out these dear workers out into a spiritual battlefield, and God protect them, and Satan listen to me when I say this. You are not to touch them. They are God’s children. We send them out in God’s power. You are not to touch them, and we pray this in the power of Jesus’s name. Now, go.” And w-… first ti-… I was the team leader, so I’m driving out going, “(laughs) Oh, my God. What was that?” Like, “W-… I gonna be spiritually attacked?” not even knowing what that would look like, like, not having a concept of what that would look like, and so I’m gonna say it’s more in the West that we struggle with this. Other parts of the world in different locations, they take it very seriously, and so when I started to research the book, I started to reread the Gospels and then started to read what other, um, notable Christian authors would say about this. Here’s the number one fact that blew me away, and I thought, “Boy, I might need to write on this.” So, according to some New Testament scholars, 25% of everything Jesus had to say had to do with the demonic.

John: Hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, I say to my students at Biola University, “Imagine taking 25% of everything Jesus said and just setting it aside, not paying attention to it. I’m gonna pay attention to the 75%,” and my students were like, “Well, what’s the 25%?” (laughs) I said, “It has to do with demons, and the demonic, and spiritual battle,” a- and then I asked them, “Do you believe in the devil?” Every one of them says yes. And then, I say to ’em, “Does it make any difference in how you, you treat your roommates? Does it make any difference in how you treat your parents, or a dating relationship, or evangelism?” and virtually every one of these dear students pretty much says, “No, doesn’t make a difference in how I go about doing my life.”

John: Hmm.

Jim: Yeah, and of course, you’ve written this book Defending Your Marriage, so you’re taking this in the context of marriage, and I appreciate that. I think, uh, you know, what I’ve observed is our inability to recognize it. I think that’s what happens in the West. They-… like you said, they’re far more attuned to spiritual battles in other parts of the world. I’ve had the privilege to travel as well, so I’ve seen it, and it’s almost, like, uh, I think Satan’s pleased with the fact that he keeps us just, um, I guess disengaged with it.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Oh, very much.

John: Hmm.

Jim: You know, we just modernize everything. We don’t see it. But in that context of, of marriage in particular, uh, why do you think it’s a target for Satan, and why is he trying to accomplish the breaking of marriage?

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: This is a big question.

Noreen: Yeah, I mean, uh, the value of marriage is the first thing that comes to mind for me. I mean, we have… the scriptures begin with a marriage. It’s Adam and Eve. Um, it’s an important institution. It, it reflects the image of God himself, and so wouldn’t it make sense if Satan wants to attack God that he would attack the thing that reflects his image? And so, i-… to me, it makes sense that this would be an object of attack.

Jim: Yeah. Hey, let me, let me, uh, deepen this a little bit because I think the two of you had an experience. You were going to a marriage seminar-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and this is how it typically happens. I mean, Jean and I-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: … will feel this at times, especially if I’m going to speak on marriage. All of a sudden, things are just not right at home.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, uh, I irritate her. She irritates me. It’s kind of odd. It, like, comes out of left field, and sometimes we might overplay that. I don’t know, but I want your input. At other times, I’m going, “Oh, my goodness. This is a spiritual battle.”

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, “He’s attacking us right now,” and stop, and pray, and do the things that we need to do to remedy that, but what is that, uh, f-… (laughs) balance, if we could take our Western goggles off to recognize it’s a satanic attack in our marriage versus it’s our triggers.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, going back to the, the first marriage, right-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: … which you p- pointed out in Genesis. Well, if you take a look at how the serpent attacks Adam and Eve, what’s great about teaching at a Christian university is you’ve got some really smart professors.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, you get to walk over to ’em, and you get say, “Okay, so when it’s said that the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field, like, in Hebrew, what does crafty mean?” It means subtle.

Jim: Hmm.

John: Hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, when th-… when the serpent g-… like, imagine the serpent walking right up to Eve and saying, “Eve, on three, rebel against God. Okay?”

Jim: That wouldn’t have happened.

Dr. Muehlhoff: No, wouldn’t have happened. Eve woulda turned and looked at him and said, “No. Of not. W-… there is no reason to rebel.” But then, he comes as a serpent, and we know in ear-… Near Eastern times, serpents were these glowing things, these shiny things. I mean, don’t equate ’em how we view snakes. We view snakes now after the Fall as things to be worried about. Uh, Eve would’ve had no reason to be suspicious of the snake.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And now the snake talks. “Well, oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t know snakes talked,” but she’s under no threat whatsoever, and then he starts to work in very subtle ways, so now shift to this what happened when we were leaving for our Family Life marriage conference. Noreen has noticed for a couple days that there’s a leak happening beneath our faucet, and then she makes a tactical mistake of saying, “Honey, can you look at it?”

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And I’m like, “Sure.” So, now, now you know what like leaving for LAX. I- it is… we’re gonna leave. We ha-… we’re leaving five days before the (laughs) flight to LAX. It’s, like, craziness, and Noreen opens it, and we’re literally leaving in five minutes, and the leak is happening.

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Muehlhoff: Now, no kids. That leak could potentially go all weekend, but we have no time. We gotta get to LAX. We can’t be late to the marriage conference. So, now we get into the car, and there’s just tension. There’s silence between us.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And you’re kinda thinking what? You’re thinking…

Noreen: I’m thinking why-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Keep it clean. Keep it clean (laughs).

Noreen: … did (laughs)… why did you take care of the, the leak? Um, what we realized was it was a pattern-

Jim: Yeah.

Noreen: … of exactly what you were talking about, that irritability, the crankiness, the… Why does it seem like every time we go away, kids get sick, things in the house break, we end up, you know-

Jim: Right.

Noreen: … s-… bickering with-

Jim: Right.

Noreen: … one another? Um, and then we stepped back and said, “Perhaps there is something else”-

Jim: Yeah.

Noreen: … at the… and I think, you know, the way you worded the question even to say, is it our… you know, pushing our triggers-

Jim: Triggers, yeah.

Noreen: … or is it spiritual battle? And what I would like to say is it doesn’t have to be one or the other-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Noreen: … and that it can be both.

Jim: Well, and oftentimes-

Jim: Yeah.

Jim: … in the Christian vernacular, we talk about our flesh and then Satan.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And they tend to work in tandem.

Jim: So, to your point-

Noreen: Yeah.

Jim: … our flesh usually moves in a direction that’s, uh, Satanic I would say-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: … that is against God.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: Uh, and, and we don’t need to differentiate, really. It’s just-

Noreen: No, and he takes advantage.

Jim: Right.

Noreen: He takes advantage of our weaknesses. He takes advantage of our sin. So, when we open ourselves to those kind of things, it gives him then the opportunity to get the foothold-

Jim: Right.

Noreen: … and, um, exasperate-

Jim: Mm.

Noreen: … accelerate-

Jim: And-

Noreen: … throw fuel on the fire.

Jim: You know, o- one observation I have, uh, we have something called That the World May Know. Ray VanderLaan has done the series with us for years.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And one of the statements he makes in there is that, going back to your point of the serpent and Eve, is when sin entered the world, chaos entered the world-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mm.

Jim: … and that w- w-… you know, God and Jesus coming into this chaos, he’s bringing God’s shalom, his-

John: Mm.

Jim: … peace into the chaos.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: And that’s what we’re so… that’s our big mission as Christians-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: … is to bring his shalom into this chaotic, sinful world.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and today, we’re talking to, uh, Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff. They have, uh, studied, as Jim said earlier, uh, this matter of spiritual f-… uh, warfare and spiritual battle, and Tim has written a book, Defending Your Marriage. Contact us for your copy. It’s 800-A-FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Noreen, I wanna come back your direction ’cause you mentioned-

Noreen: Okay.

Jim: … something that we didn’t explore, and that is this idea of a, a foothold for Satan.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, I think it’s really important because I think, especially in marriage, we don’t stop and really understand how often we’re doing that, and it’s in our bickering, our-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … uh, verbal spats, our battles. Describe what a, a foothold is for Satan to get in between you and your spouse and what damage can be done because of it.

Noreen: Sure. Well, you know, a foothold is anything that gives somebody a position of power and influence. So, when we talk about Satan having a foothold, and this is, you know, coming from Ephesians 4, um, it allows him to enter in. He has access and from there can, like I said, throw fuel on the fire, and exaggerate, and make… exasperate, make things worse even. So, when we talk about a foothold, it can be… even using that… the, the verse, you know, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger to not give Satan the foothold.” So, when we… and th-… for us, that doesn’t mean, like, we have to resolve conflict before the sun goes down. Like, it’s not a literal, but it means we’re not gonna let it fester.

Jim: Mm. Right.

Noreen: We’re not gonna let it take hold because we know that anger in and of itself is not sin but how we handle that anger and how we respond. So, if there’s anger between us, if there’s frustration, or if, like we were talking about, the very strengths that Tim has, if they… if I find them starting to become annoying, that’s a cue to me, like, “I need t-… What’s going on?”

Jim: Mm.

Noreen: “Why is this thing that used to be so attractive so frustrating right now?”

Jim: (laughs)

Noreen: And what I wanna do is I wanna justify it and say it’s because of him-

Jim: Mm.

Noreen: … rather than saying, “What… why has my perspective changed? What’s at work? And have I allowed Satan some access”-

Jim: Mm.

Noreen: … “to dwell on things? Am I holding things? Am I letting bitterness cement and letting those thoughts… not holding those thoughts captive to Christ but allowing them to develop in ways that are going to continue to”-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Noreen: … “drive a larger wedge in our relationship rather than bringing us back together?”

Jim: Tim, you also write in your book about C.S. Lewis and The Screwtape Letters-

Noreen: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: … which is one of our favorites here-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Ah.

Jim: … at Focus. We did a radio theater-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Oh.

Jim: … and that’s brilliant. Uh, we have some great BBC voice actors in that.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Ah.

Jim: It’s, it’s one of the best, I think, that we did, but-

Dr. Muehlhoff: That’s great.

Jim: … uh, we love The Screwtape Letters.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: How did that connect for you?

Dr. Muehlhoff: Well, we love The Screwtape Letters as well.

Noreen: Absolutely.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Uh, we got a chance to see it performed-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: … as well. It was awesome. Um, it showed me the subtlety of it.

Noreen: Right.

Dr. Muehlhoff: I-… Lewis is in the fine moments. It’s a demon working on a person for years, getting an attitude.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Uh, I remember, I remember the old lady who her tea just had to be just right, and she would say, “Oh, I’m not a picky person. Oh, no. I’m not a picky person”-

Jim: (laughs)

Dr. Muehlhoff: … “but could I have my tea just a l-… just a little bit,” a- and Lewis goes on forever because she is now not willing to accommodate anything other than what she wants, and she would never admit to that. She would say, “I just like a good cup of tea. Can’t a woman just have a good cup of tea?” and the demon is causing her to be inflexible, and that then will be used somewhere else, with children-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: … a church person, but inflexibility is a great [inaudible], so when I started to read Lewis, I realized maybe the demons that are working on me, it is such small things that I don’t even notice this is spiritual attack, and he is setting a trap for me.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Noreen: Which goes back to the craftiness.

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Noreen: That’s what I think. You know, the, the whole Screwtape Letters is such a great example. It’s a creative envisioning of just how-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Noreen: … crafty… it’s subtle. It’s little steps that we allow to happen, and then you end up where you’re too fussy about your tea, but it… and then that leads into everything, you know, being fussy-

Jim: Right.

Noreen: … about everything.

John: Right, and the mastery of Screwtape Letters, it’s from the perspective of Satan and his demons and how-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … they’re gonna manipulate these people.

Noreen: Right, right.

Jim: And, and that’s what makes it so brilliant, actually. When was look at those weapons, we’ve talked a lot about the other guy’s weapons. Well, we got some weapons, too.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And one of the things that you talk about in the marriage relationship is the weapon of community.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mm.

Jim: And I’m speaking-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mm.

Jim: … weapon as a positive thing.

Noreen: Right.

Jim: You know, our weapons don’t line up with the other guy’s weapons. Ours is love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, mercy. Community could be-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: … perceived in there, you know, relationship. We’re made for relationship. The other guy’s envy, strife, jealousy, all the ugly side of humanity, so speak to the issue of community, and why is that important for married couples particularly?

Noreen: Well, I think one of the, um, strategies of the enemy can be isolation.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mmm.

Noreen: And so-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mmm.

Noreen: … when you’re in community, that’s the antidote to isolation, and even if you’re just isolated together as a couple, and you don’t have anybody encouraging you, you don’t have outside eyes on you saying, like, “Hey, you look like you’re struggling. Can we help?” or, you don’t have other couples who are saying, “We struggle with that, too,” you can begin to look at your marriage and go, “We’re losers. Something’s wrong with us. This isn’t working. He’s the wrong person. I’m the wrong person.” You come up with all these-

Jim: Yeah.

Noreen: … again, lies that, if you’re not in community, those lies can take root, and you begin to believe them, and you make decisions based on those lies. And I think community can be that speed bump to letting those lies become embedded and then taking action on those.

Jim: Yeah. You, you mention community, but I think we’re so illiterate nowadays-

Noreen: (laughs)

Jim: … if I could say it that way-

John: Mm.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That I’m not sure that we actually know what to do in community.

Noreen: No.

Jim: What you’re talking about but in community and being believers in community-

Noreen: Mm.

Jim: … particularly is understanding the weapons of our warfare, and you even, I think, relate that to Ephesians 6-

Noreen: Right.

Jim: … which is the, the, the spiritual weapons that we possess-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Right. Right.

Jim: … and the defensive, uh, armor that we have.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Absolutely.

Jim: Talk about th- that component and how we need to apply those things.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, here’s the, here’s the cool thing when you’re… we’re at a university with people who study a book their entire life. I mean, think about that. So, we have a, a, a gentleman at Biola, Dr. Clint Arnold, who has studied Ephesians his entire life.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, I bought him many-

Jim: It’s amazing.

Dr. Muehlhoff: … copies, many copies-

Noreen: Yeah.

Dr. Muehlhoff: … with a legal pad just writing like a mad person. He said two things I will never forget. He said, “You have to remind people it was a letter. We added the verses, uh, and chapter breaks just for easy reference, but it, it was a letter,” so if you read the letter, his point is as clear as a bell. He’s talking about Ephesians 5 about marriage, and it bleeds seamlessly into armor, the spiritual, uh, breastplate of righteousness, right, shodding our feet with the gospel of peace and things like that, but in the letter, it is one continuous thought- … meaning, if you’re going to do this thing called Christian marriage, you better get dressed ’cause the battle’s at your feet, spiritual battle. But then, he made a point, but what made the Roman army so effective? Two things made the Roman army so effective. One was their shoes. They actually… they were the first to put spikes in their shoes.

Jim: Mm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: So, they could run up mountains, but when they stuck their foot in the ground, you’re not pushing ’em off that ground, but they also locked arms with each other and knocked knees. The Persians could not move ’em off a spot. So, the point that we make in the book is, i- if you were to say to Paul, uh, “Is spiritual battle just one Roman soldier? Is that the metaphor I’m trying to use?” he would go, “Oh, no, no. No, not the soldier, the cohort.”

John: Mm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: It’s the group of Roman soldiers that were so powerful, so I think Paul is even there suddenly saying, “Listen, families, marriages, one Roman soldier going against Persians would get obliterated, but a Roman cohort coming together is not going to be moved off that mark,” and so first thing we did when we got to Biola University, we pulled together a marriage group.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And we’ve had this group for, now, 16 years.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And i- it’s just life giving because you were talking isolation, Noreen.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: You can just feel like you’re the loser family that has a wayward teenager. You’re the loser family that is having a really hard time, uh, resolving this issue, and, and that gets rid of all of it. When a- another couple that you respect goes, “Are you kidding me? Our teenagers, we were gonna ship ’em off. We didn’t know what (laughs) to do with these kids,” I think Satan loses a great piece of ammunition there because it’s like you’re not alone.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: This is normal.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Muehlhoff: And then Satan can’t use it anymore because you normalized it, so you gotta have that cohort with you, a- and I get that it’s frustrating. People don’t know how to do it, and so I say grab one or two couples and say, “Uh, let’s read a marriage book. Let’s read a Muehlhoff book.”

Noreen: (laughs)

Dr. Muehlhoff: I’m thinking out loud.

Jim: (laughs) You’re thinking in the right direction.

Dr. Muehlhoff: I’m thinking-

Jim: Let me, let me end here because we… our time is done, but, um, it’s something I often say, that our marriages are a testimony to non-believers-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … who are watching us-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … particularly. And I think when you’re in ministry, uh, like I am, like you are, uh, it’s even magnified more so, and I think, in that way, sometimes we’ll get maybe even more spiritual battle-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … because, if he can take us down-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: … he wins a big-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: … you know, big-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Right.

Jim: … feather.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: Um, how, in that context, do we, uh, get up every morning as a married couple remembering that our marriages are seen by our family members, by those in church, by the people we work with, et cetera?

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: Is that important to even keep in mind?

Noreen: I think it is important to keep in mind, but for me, the most important thing is that what people see in our marriage is a reflection of what’s really there and what’s in my heart individually, what’s in Tim’s heart individually, what’s in our heart as a couple because what I wouldn’t wanna do, and I think the danger can be especially for couples in ministry or couples that are, you know, in the public is that you begin to put on an external… what you think it should look like-

Jim: That’s so true. Yeah.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah, yeah.

Noreen: … even though… and then the internal begins to crumble.

Jim: Yeah.

Noreen: So, as we get up every morning, we, we are aware of that, of you know, that people may be watching. People are making decisions based on what they, they see, but the important thing is not what they see. It’s what’s in our hearts-

Jim: What’s authentic.

Noreen: … that’s creating what they see.

Jim: That’s one reason I’m actually really excited about the next generation because I think-

Dr. Muehlhoff: Mm, mm.

Jim: … they comprehend authenticity better than the previous generation if I could say it that way, and it… you know, of course, that’s a blanket statement. I get that, but we tended to project perfection and not live up-

Noreen: Right.

Jim: … to it rather than project brokenness-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and live that-

John: Mm-hmm.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … so that other people could come into relationship with Christ, and I think that’s what the Lord clearly says. “When you’re low, I am lifted up,” and when, when you’re broken, he’s lifted up-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and that’s the story, that’s the power of the gospel, not that I’m so good I’m doing it well.

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: This isn’t like a math test we’re taking-

Noreen: Yeah (laughs).

Jim: Yeah.

Jim: … and I’m an A student didn’t miss any answers.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah.

Jim: No, this is about our need for him in every aspect of our life, and I, I hope that’s where not only Christian leadership goes but the entire church-

Noreen: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … goes because I think that’s the secret to moving forward in a better direction. That’s the ingredients of revival.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Yeah, I to- totally agree, and it’s gonna be the groups again. The group keeps us round… uh, grounded.

Noreen: Community.

Dr. Muehlhoff: Our, our marriage group keeps us grounded because, if you start to, um, be high and mighty, you can’t do that with other PhDs.

Jim: (laughing)

Dr. Muehlhoff: They’re like, “Stop it. Stop it.” Th- that’s re-… that really helps us stay grounded.

Jim: Yeah.

Noreen: Well, yeah, ’cause they see you’re living out… when they see us living out our daily life, we can’t be blowing smoke.

John: Well, having a supportive community for your marriage is great advice, especially when you and your spouse might be dealing with spiritual warfare, and, uh, that’s how we concluded this best-of episode of Focus on the Family featuring Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and his wife, Noreen. We really do recommend you follow up on this very important topic by getting a copy of the book by Dr. Muehlhoff called Defending Your Marriage: The Reality of Spiritual Battle.

Jim: John, as we said at the beginning, spiritual warfare is something we cannot afford to minimize or overlook, especially today in a culture that doesn’t see marriage as valuable or even necessary. As Christians, we have a responsibility to be a living witness of what God intended marriage to be, and we need to be more intentional about loving our spouse well and getting good tools to strengthen that relationship. That’s why, uh, I recommend every couple get a copy of Tim’s book, Defending Your Marriage. This is a must-have resource, and if you send a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today, we’ll put a copy into your hands. That’s how much we believe in the great content, and it’s our way of saying thank you.

John: Yeah, and let me mention as well our free online marriage assessment, which gives you and your spouse a good overview of what’s working well in your relationship and maybe some suggestions for improvement as well. Uh, contact us to learn more about the assessment and to donate and get Tim’s book. Our number, 800-232-6459, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: And don’t forget about our matching gift opportunity here at the end of the year. Some generous friends of Focus are willing to match your giving dollar for dollar. Your financial support is so critical right now as we anticipate hearing from literally hundreds of thousands of couples in 2022 who are trying to build a stronger and more satisfying relationship. Or they’ll be navigating a crisis in their marriage. Working together, we can give these couples hope in the coming year, so please be generous with your giving to Focus on the Family.

John: And again, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word family, or donate online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, coming up tomorrow, an inspiring message from Liz Curtis Higgs about the birth of Jesus.

Preview:

Liz Curtis Higgs: These stories had to have the miraculous because we had to look at them and say, “Only God. Nothing is impossible for God.” The NCV is, “God can do anything.”

End of Preview

John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Front cover of "Defending Your Marriage"

Defending Your Marriage: The Reality of Spiritual Battle

Get the book Defending Your Marriage with your donation of any amount! And when you give today, your support will be DOUBLED to Give Families Hope!

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Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

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Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Randy Schroeder

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Cover image of Dr. Randall Schroeder's book "Simple Habits for Effective Parenting"

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Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff Cropped

Dr. Tim and Mrs. Noreen Muehlhoff

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Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

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Reigniting Your Passion for Jesus - Part 2

For those of faith whose passion has waned over time, Kim Meeder will reinspire you in your relationship with Jesus Christ as she tells powerful, true stories about God that will spark renewed joy in your heart and encourage you to share the Gospel with others.

Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

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Revival Rising

With enthusiasm that will set ablaze your passion to reach the hurting, Kim Meeder encourages you to let the holy fire of God’s presence fill your heart, soul, mind and strength. As your fear and pride melt away, those around you who are losing their battle for hope will be transformed by encountering His redeeming love in you. This–this is revival rising.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 2

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Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

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Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

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Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

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Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

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Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

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As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

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As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

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