Category Archives: marriage

Tell Me Something Good

Have you ever thought about what situations you find yourself in when you encounter a police officer? I’m not talking about if you’re a police officer or if you’re married to one; I’m talking about the average person encountering a police officer.

On most occasions, when I encounter a police officer, in uniform, and have meaningful dialogue on a regular day, it is because I messed up. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, its pretty humiliating and humbling. We visit with the police officer because we were going to fast or not wearing a seat belt or were texting and driving (don’t do that) or because we committed some other crime. We’ve done something wrong, and now we need to be visited by the enforcer of the code.

We don’t get pulled over because we were driving exceptionally well. Police officers don’t usually stop us to give out coupons to Denny’s. We don’t hear from them unless we’ve been bad, and that’s the way we like it. We want them to focus on their job of keeping people safe, and if we’re being safe, they don’t have to focus on us. We do right, and in so doing, we avoid police officers.

We perceive doctors in a similar light. We only see them when things are going wrong, and we want their help to fix whatever problem we are experiencing. The purpose of our encounter with doctors is to remedy some negative situation. This is different than in some Asian countries where doctors are paid to keep people well. They encounter the doctor regularly and pay them throughout the year, unless they’re sick. Then they don’t get paid until the patient is well again. This is a different, more positive perspective on medicine. It’s not like many of us who avoid going to the doctor unless we’re severely ill.

How do you communicate with those around you?

Are you the kind of person who automatically reacts to correct others? Do you see it as a need to police those around you (spouse, children, co-workers, etc…)? Do you need to fix others to better society?

What if, in our marriages, the only time we spoke to our spouses was when we were correcting something in them. We didn’t tell them hello or goodbye. We didn’t wish them well or encourage and congratulate them in their actions and endeavors. We didn’t dote upon the good qualities in them. We simply focused on the negative – kind of like the marriage police.

I will leave you alone when you adhere to the obviously reasonable demands I place on you.

Where’s the love in this? How long will this marriage last? Some of you may be thinking, “15 years and counting…” But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In a culture where everything is scrutinized, it is easy to constantly criticize – to focus on all the things you don’t like about another person. The problem is, this will change your perspective to where you can ONLY see what you dislike in another person.

If your relationship with another person (spouse, child, co-worker, peer, etc…) is constantly negative, you have a choice in what you see in and say to that other person. You can choose to criticize, or you can choose to bless. You can choose to tear down, or you can choose to build up.

“But I’m criticizing to help them be a better person. Isn’t that a blessing?”

Not to them. People know they need to change. Everyone does. It’s in front of them every day. They WANT friendship and acceptance. They want to know they can mess up in front of you, and you won’t take them to the mat because of it. They want to know you see the best in them in spite of their flaws, but if all they hear is the negative about them they’re already aware of, they will soon resist relationship with you.

Remember your flaws? Does Jesus hang that in front of your face constantly, or does He give you grace and call you better things than you feel about yourself, like “child of the King,”, “beloved”, “brother and sister”, “masterpiece”, etc?

We seek to avoid encountering a police officer, because they are there to enforce law and convict us of our crimes. If a relationship is defined by this kind of legalistic expectation, eventually at least one person in the relationship will begin to avoid the other like we avoid police encounters, and for many of the same reasons.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:2)

“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Focus on the positive in others…and let your focus translate into your words and actions. This one thing may change every relationship you have.

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Practicing Perspective

What’s the difference between a happy person and a miserable one?

Have you ever noticed some people are always happy? They seem to find the best possible outcome of every situation. When you speak to them, you leave feeling better about yourself and the world around you.

Then there are also people who are always down. Talking with them sucks the life out of you. Nothing seems to go right for them. The world is out to get them.

What’s the difference?

Perspective.

There are people all over the world who scrape by to make ends meet. They aren’t sure where their next meal is going to come from, yet they share with others. They laugh heartily. They sing and smile. They have joy. For many people, to be in such dire circumstances would be more than they could bear, yet for these people, what they do not have is insignificant to what they do.

They have a different perspective on life.

Tragedy seems to come in threes. It may present with more or fewer troubling circumstances, but three seems to be the common, magic number. When problems begin to stack on one another, it is harder to breathe. It’s like stones are being stacked on our chest, and all we can think about are those stones crushing and suffocating the life out of us. We are absolutely sure the stones will kill us. But they don’t. They haven’t yet. And they don’t have to in the future.

Nothing is permanent in this life. Things are temporal. Pleasure is temporal. Life is temporal. Even your personality can be changed (and likely has already). Change is the only constant in this life.

That should bring hope to everyone. The storm you’re in is temporary.

What we tend to do, however, is focus on our storms.

When you’re dealing with tragedy in your life, all you can concentrate on is the tragedy. You eat, sleep, and breathe this tragedy, and when you do, it crushes you. Those who have that contagious joy don’t have fewer tragedies; they simply see through the tragedy to hope.

When you’re in a relationship that is struggling, it is easy to see all the negative in the relationship, and especially in the other person. So how do people find joy in relationships? Are they somehow blessed with fewer struggles? NO! They choose to see the good in the relationship and the other person in spite of the current struggle. When that happens, they resolve conflict more quickly and feel happier in the relationship.

So how do we gain this new perspective that breathes life?

1. We remember that this life is fleeting, and we have been given hope of resurrection, forgiveness, and inheritance through Jesus Christ. If you’ve been saved in Jesus, you have this hope. It needs to drive your life. This life and its troubles is not all there is. And Jesus promised to be with us, so we are never alone in our troubles.

2. We look for the good going on around us and in other people even in the storm. This will take practice. We, in our consumeristic, selfish culture, are used to seeing the problems more than the solutions in ourselves, others, and the situations we find ourselves in. It is discipleship to hope for good through love (1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 2:14).

3. Once we find the good (in self, others, situations, etc.), we focus on that. Satan will try to tempt us back into focusing on the negative and being consumed by darkness, but we don’t have to give in. When we focus on the good in our spouses, we fight less. When we focus on the good in even the worst situation, we find hope faster. When we focus on the good in us, we fight depression.

These steps aren’t easy, but they’re necessary. They take practice, especially if you’re used to seeing the negative. May we all find perspective that breathes joy in this world in spite of this world.


Priorities Askew

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When I was a boy I had a hard time saving money for things. I would get a few dollars for some work I did, and it was like there was some strange, unseen force that compelled me to “need” everything I saw that cost less than the amount I had earned. Forget the magnificent toy I would need to save up for, my sights were on the quick, easy, immediate gratification prizes.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but that lack of ability to save for the future was a symptom of a greater cultural problem of my day that persists today as well.

What was the greater cultural problem? Skewed priorities.

I was putting my selfish need for immediate gratification above the needed experience of saving or even of giving to others. I was the most important person on the planet.

In many marriages today we see struggles and often divorce because of this skewed hierarchy of priorities. In many marriages today it seems that the kids come first, and everything else come somewhere behind the children. In many relationships, the husband/wife relationship is put somewhere far down on the list if there’s room.

No wonder there are so many struggling families today!

This doesn’t have to be the way of every marriage, however. You can have a happy, healthy marriage if you will, as a couple, decide to rearrange your priorities.

First priority needs to be your relationship with God. You claimed Jesus as “Lord” when you gave your life to Christ. Jesus said you need to seek his Kingdom first. When you focus on growing in your relationship with God and helping your spouse do the same many great things will happen. First, you will begin to change into the person God created you to be. Second, you will grow closer to your spouse as you pursue the Kingdom of God together. Third, you will lead our children by example in a way that will hopefully create a lasting legacy of faith in them.

The second priority in your marriage needs to be…wait for it…your marriage. No! The kids don’t come first!! As a husband or wife, your devotion is first to God and then to your spouse. When you focus on the kids before your mate you neglect the covenant you vowed to uphold at your wedding. You must find time for each other to rekindle the relationship that started your family. Do things you both love to do together. Show the children how to honor one another above yourself, and you will model for them the kind of relationship you hope they will have.

The third priority in your marriage is kids and everyone else. Yes, I lumped them all together. Your kids need to be raised by you, but they don’t need to be the sole focus of your life. They need to see you model interactions with others as you serve and communicate with other people. They need to see your devotion to God and your spouse. A society that focuses primarily on the children is a relatively new concept that really took flight once television was invented. When commercials started targeting children, the culture followed in its focus. You don’t have to make your children the center of your universe for them to be healthy, and doing so keeps you from being healthy in your relationship with God and your spouse.

When marriages rearrange their priorities in this way they see growth and change for the good. They become a stronger family. Thoughts of divorce fade away.

How are your priorities? Do you need to re-evaluate?


Just for Men…ok, Women too


For nearly two thousand years, the church has struggled with the hierarchy of leadership. Bishops, priests, deacons, elders, pastors, preachers, cardinals (birds?), etc. We have worship leaders and prayer leaders and ministry leaders and youth leaders. Now there are arguments as to whether women can be leaders in these and other roles. I think we argue about  leadership roles because we have forgotten what true leadership looks like. 

Husbands, you are the head of your household, physically and spiritually. The scriptures say so. So you get to have your way, right? 

If your marriage is struggling, may I suggest it is because you have held a more worldly view of your headship in the home than a biblical view. 

The world says the head is in charge. That’s where the brains are. That’s where the mouthpiece is, and the rest of the body sustains the head. In families, men act like kings and unintentionally trample those they claim to love by their exercise of authority. 

Jesus is the head of the church. How does he lead? He sacrificed himself and daily intercedes for us.  

When you read of a husband’s leadership in Ephesians 5, you read terms like these:

  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ
  • Gave himself up for her
  • Sanctify her
  • Love her as your own body
  • Nourish and cherish her
  • Love her

Where’s the authoritarian attitude in this passage? It is non-existent. A godly husband is a voluntary servant for his family – loving them by sacrificing himself for them daily. 

Does this look like your experience as husband? What woman wouldn’t want a husband like this? 

In the church we encourage the men to take leadership roles, but those don’t look much different. A leader is a servant. He is not someone who is exercising his authority to get his way. He is sacrificing time and effort and even finances for the good of the church, the bride of Christ. 

Oh, and he’s not doing it for the praise of others. If that were the case, he would receive no reward from the Father. 

If the church functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be so many arguments about who can do what. We wouldn’t consider someone of higher prestige because of their particular title. We would encourage all to serve and be grateful for their service. 

If husbands functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be divorce. If you were serving, cherishing, loving, praying for, and nourishing your wife, she would be with you forever. If wives functioned with the servant-mind of Christ, there wouldn’t be so much resentment against husbands. 

Face it. No one deserves to be served by you. No one deserves your love and gifts of time and effort. But you don’t deserve that from Christ either, and he gladly, willingly, gave everything for you. So do likewise. 

“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” -Jesus (John 13:12-15)

Lead by serving like Jesus, and watch the people around you blossom. 


A Silent Epidemic

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Can you remember what the popular television shows were back in the 50s? How about the 60s? Think more recently into the 80s and 90s. The popular shows back in the day were shows centered on the family where mom and dad were a solid couple, and dad was the obvious leader of the home.

Over time the shows have changed to where the families represented became increasingly dysfunctional to the point that the most popular shows any more aren’t about the family at all (Duck Dynasty has been an anomaly to this trend and has hopefully shown Hollywood what the people want to see more of). Most of the popular shows are about murders, or zombies, or even a drug-dealing teacher. Better yet are the reality shows where people tune in to see their favorites perform some feat in a competition or survive on an island somewhere while being totally sleep-deprived.

In the process of this media shift one character morphed then disappeared. In the 50s and 60s dad was the champion. In the 80s and 90s dad was the buffoon. He was the one who created the comedic thread of the show. Mom was the rock and the obvious leader. Nowadays, a show without a dad is so common it is hard to notice.

Our culture has shifted along with our viewing habits. For thousands of years the dad has been the center of the family, and whether good or bad he was considered the leader. This created a stability in the home that allowed for proper growth of children in spite of what was going on in the world around them.

As our culture shifted so did the dads – right out of the picture.

We live in a culture where stable homes in which mom and dad have been married and faithful to one another are in a minority. Healthy marriages are an endangered species in this culture where there are commercials on tv with men proudly stating that they are married but looking for someone other than their wife to mess around with. Dads are hard to come by as men are more promiscuous without desire for responsibility, so children grow up in a home where dad is absent. In some homes, dad is physically present but still mentally absent.

We live in a culture today with an epidemic of abandon. We live in a culture that is home to what I call the daddy deficit.

The bible is clear about our roles as dad. We are to be the head of our homes – not as dictators, but as representatives of Christ. We are to be the ones guiding our children to love Jesus. We are to be the ones who are living as examples in our homes and in the community – examples of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus. We are to be the providers for our families in finances, spiritual growth, physical protection, and selfless sacrifice.

What can we do to overcome this deficit? How can we battle this epidemic? First it starts with us men taking an oath, making a pledge before God, that we are no longer going to allow the culture that surrounds us to raise our children. We are going to pledge to remain faithful to our wives. We are going to dedicate ourselves to influencing our children (and their friends) with the ways of our Savior, Jesus.

Then it will take the stamina and dedication to live out those promises so that our families and the world around us see that this is no mere talk. It is easy to allow our wives to be the spiritual leader of our families. It is even easier to quit on family before we even start. But it takes a real man to be the head of the household the way God ordained him to be.

After we start with our own families, then we reach out to other kids who don’t have this kind of example. They need to grow up seeing what it means to be a real man of Christ. You have a chance to help a young person stop this epidemic of following after the daddy deficit. You have a chance to change the world, and it all begins with you.

I challenge you. If you haven’t been the man you need to be in your home it is time for some serious repentance before the Father. If you have been leading your family in Christ, then talk with your kids and see which of their friends need an example like your family in their life. You cannot be a Christian and sit idly by while the world consumes your family.

Join with me in stopping the silent epidemic. Help me eradicate the daddy deficit.


An Immovable Object Meets an Unstoppable Force

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Change is inevitable. If you look around you’ll see change everywhere. People change as their bodies grow and they age. Nature changes from day to day due to weather and usage. Minds change as they see a new way that makes more sense. Churches change as they encounter their culture in a new and relevant way. The Word of God doesn’t change, but people constantly change.

Except when they don’t.

Sometimes people look like they are changing, but on the inside they are just putting on a false show. They are doing what is necessary to manipulate the reactions of others around them. They say they want to change, but in reality change is too difficult or scary for them to actually do what is necessary to change. Perhaps they want to put on a show so that others won’t see the selfishness that looms just behind their facade. This is not change. This is putting on a mask in order to stay entrenched in that which makes you comfortable.

Maybe you’re there. Maybe you say you want to change – maybe you really do want to change – but the experience of doing so seems impossible. Maybe you only want to change because you want to see different results in someone else. Maybe you only want to change because you want to get something extra that you see others get. These motivations won’t grant you the success you secretly desire. They will be seen by those you seek to impress as manipulation and covetousness and hypocrisy.

So how do we actually change? We have to want with a different motivation.

I cannot create true change within myself as long as the desires within me are selfish. That word, selfish, defines a certain way of thinking that will only provide temporary strength needed to make change. To truly change, a person must look for strength beyond the superficiality of selfishness. To truly change a person must love.

Love is not self seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5).

When you begin to love then what you desire truly begins to melt away. When you love God, you strive for what He desires in you. You change not because of the benefit to you but out of love for Him.

When you love others you stop doing things to manipulate and coerce your own way. You begin to see and seek the way of others so that you can help them and serve them in whatever capacity needed. This is not for accolades. This is because you love them and have died to self.

When you love God and love others you will begin to do your best in all things. Laziness melts away for there is always something to be done for someone. You find yourself finally doing all the things you’ve been putting off for procrastination is selfishness. You become a model worker, spouse, parent, child.

When you learn the way of love you finally begin the journey of the life you were meant for. You begin to find satisfaction within yourself that cannot be taken away. Even when others chastise you, they are not able to tear you down for you are on a journey not guided by selfishness but by love…even for them.

This way of love mends all relationships: marriages, workplaces, families, churches.

When we find the way of love we will change. For some it will happen almost overnight. For others it may take a while. But in every case the people around will begin to notice that we’ve changed. We no longer look like our old self (that was supposed to be crucified when we came to Jesus). Now we begin to look more and more like Jesus to the world around us.

May you find change, and may the change be motivated by love as you grow into the image of Jesus.


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


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