What is God’s Standard for Marriage

 

Happy Couple

There are so many Bible verses directed at husbands and wives, it is easy to get overwhelmed and throw your hands up in defeat – “How can I do all of this”, “Why does it have to be so hard?”

Yes, there are dozens of verses and several entire passages directed at marriage and relationships in general – but there is one verse that supersedes  them all. This verse trumps all other verses and actually lays the foundation upon which all the other verses are built.

We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God in Exodus Chapter 20, but we may not be as familiar with the 11th commandment given by Jesus in John 13:34…

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Yes, you may have heard that one before – but I want to draw your attention to five words that make all the difference…. “as I have loved you”. Jesus commands us to love one another (especially our most significant “one another”) in the same way he loved/loves us.

How does he love us? This answer you should know also….. unconditionally, unselfishly, completely. There is nothing we can do to make him love us any more than he already does, and nothing we can do make him love us less. He loves us….period.  We don’t deserve it; we didn’t earn it; we didn’t love him first; and he will never, ever stop.

We are called, even commanded, to love our spouse in the same way Jesus loved/loves us. If we decide to ignore or simply disobey Christ’s command – we cannot expect him to bless our marriage.

If we choose to obey his command, the next question we must ask is…how?

How exactly do we love our spouse in the same way He loves us? Let’s tackle that one next blog…..

Rob

How to Destroy Your Marriage

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If you want to know what the Bible says about marriage there are many places to look for answers. None, however, sums up the advice I seem to always fall back on when counseling married couples in need better than this one section of Proverbs 24:

If you will allow me to paraphrase for our purposes….

One day I walked by the relationship of a very passive, lazy husband,
    and then noticed the home of his very busy, distracted wife;
They were overgrown with problems,
    thick with dissension, all the protective fences broken down.
I took a long look and pondered what I saw;
    their marriage preached me a sermon and I listened:
“It’s not that bad, I’ll work on it later, let’s not rock the boat,
    sit back, take it easy, maybe it will go away” we convince ourselves —do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to an unfulfilling, unhappy marriage,
    with disappointment as your permanent houseguest!”

An unattended lawn will grow thick with weeds, vines and thorns. An unmaintained car will end up on the side of the highway. A neglected, unmaintained marriage will eventually end up in ruin: unfulfilling, unhappy and broken.

A healthy relationship requires work. Like a lawn or a vehicle, it needs regular attention to keep “running” properly. Don’t ever assume you can coast your way to a great marriage. Work at it regularly – before troubles overtake you – and see how God will bless you for it.

Those who work their land will have abundant food – Prov. 28:18

 

Start today,

 

Rob

3 Things to Never Do When You Disagree

 

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We all disagree. When a disagreement happens, the last thing you really want to do…is have it escalate into an argument. So…don’t do any of these……

Start an argument – all married couples disagree on things. This is normal. What is not normal and not Biblical, is to allow these disagreements to escalate into arguments. Arguing involves raising voices, threatening body language, anger, and harsh words – but above all, arguing involves selfishness. We argue typically because we think we’re right, or won’t bend on our demands or expectations (see James 4). So, if you find yourself in a disagreement, or should I say “when” you find yourself in a disagreement, take the time to pray together before things have a chance to escalate. Simply grab each other’s hand and ask God for direction and wisdom as you discuss the issue at hand. You will be surprised how many issues never escalate into arguments again, and also how much closer you will feel as a couple.

Assume you are right – we all have a tendency to assume we are right. Whether we’re driving, or playing or embroiled in a conversation – our way is the “best” way by default. We are born selfish and it really shows when someone challenges us or disagrees with us. As was mentioned in point #1, because of this natural bent, we dig in our heels and fight for what is “right”. It takes a real man/woman of character and maturity to have the courage to set their way aside and honestly listen and consider another person’s feelings, insights and desires. Remember – God put the two of you together to be “one” and to work together as a team to glorify Him in your relationship. Sometimes you will actually be right. Sometimes your spouse will have a way that will work better than yours. We have to be mature enough to work together and embrace each other’s opinions and feelings in order to make progress on our journey.

Walk away – when confronted with a differing opinion or challenging point of view, some of us have a tendency to simply walk away. We tell ourselves that our retreat is going to help matters by diffusing the situation and that somehow by avoiding the issue it might magically go away. Problem is – it never does. If your spouse is having a problem, or wants to talk through a troubling issue, he or she will only be exasperated by you avoiding it. This is never the answer. Even if you are a peacemaker or a harmonizer personality, you have to have the courage to hear out your spouse, accept their viewpoint as what they really think and feel – and then, in love, respond. Again, the goal is not to be right. The goal is oneness, harmony and the glory of God.

Arguing doesn’t ever solve anything. Arguing inflames. Arguing separates. Arguing damages. And arguing does not glorify God.

The only way to avoid arguing is to walk in the Spirit. A sure sign of not walking in the Spirit – is finding yourself arguing. When that happens – take the opportunity to reconnect with God before re-engaging with your spouse. What is at stake is not the problem at hand, but your personal walk with Him. Always look vertically before your look horizontally at your spouse. He/she is not the problem.

Keep these scriptures in mind when you are tempted to fight for your rights during your next disagreement….

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Starting a quarrel (argument) is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Proverbs 17:14

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  I Peter 5:5

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

 

Rob

Does Your Husband Know What You Want?

Have I Made Myself Clear?

A great post from my friend Lori at The Generous Wife. (http:///www.the-generous-wife.com)

Last year I spent the entire year speaking clearly about what I wanted and needed. No hints. No manipulating. No hoping my husband would read my mind.

Just clear talking.

It was an interesting year (possibly the understatement of the year).

I knew I had communication issues, but, honestly, I didn’t realize how much I let go by without saying something. Or I hinted. Or looked surprised or miffed. You get the idea.

I didn’t communicate my needs and wants clearly. Now, a part of that comes from my messy past, but most of it came from not learning to speak clearly and reasonably with others. Most of this stuff is learned behavior which meant I could learn something different.

So, I practiced. And then I practiced some more. I missed opportunities and I messed up, but over the year I got better.

Now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I encourage y’all to practice clear speaking. It’s refreshing, honest, and respectful (to you and your husband).

A half truth is a whole lie.  Yiddish proverb

Lies Couples Believe

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We have all heard lies, half-truths and inaccuracies our entire lives. They started when we were kids (“don’t cross your eyes or they will stick that way”) and continue today as adults (“there is no difference between men and women”).

Married couples bring these into their relationships and seem to add more to the pile along the way. Here are five that are particularly dangerous to fall for:

  1. My spouse will make me happy. Some interpret this to also mean my spouse will fulfill all my expectations, needs and desires. Trouble is – they don’t. The truth is – they can’t. God didn’t create your spouse to do these things. Yes, they will hake you happy often and many times meet and exceed your expectations. But only God can make you truly happy (‘blessed, fulfilled’). Until we put Him first in our daily lives, we will never find true meaning and happiness in life.
  2. Marriage shouldn’t be hard. This is actually code for : I didn’t think I was going to have to work at this. Truth is – life is hard, and therefore marriage is too. Marriage takes work and in order to enjoy it as it was created and intended – each spouse has to diligently work at it. If they don’t, they will drift slowly apart until they barely recognize each other. God didn’t design marriage to be hard (Genesis 1-2), but because of the fall of Adam/Eve, it became obvious that two selfish people living together for a lifetime was going to be extremely difficult. Also see 1 Corinthians 7:28.
  3. Christian couples shouldn’t disagree and argue. I agree that Christian couples shouldn’t argue, but it is nearly impossible to agree on everything for a lifetime. How we handle this disagreement is the key. We must allow the Spirit to direct our words, responses, reactions, tone, body language, etc. or we will find that our flesh (selfishness) will easily take charge and make small matter into large ones.
  4. The relationship is over if you “fall out of love”. My wife and I hear this over and over as we mentor couples of all ages. “I just don’t love him/her any more”. God would remind you that marriage isn’t about love – it’s about Him and His glory. Feelings of love will rise and fall over the lifetime of your marriage, but those feelings are not the gauge by which you measure your marriage. Once again, if each spouse is putting their relationship with Christ as their #1 priority, this will not become an issue. Seek Him first and he will provide everything we need in our marriage. (Matt.6:33)
  5. Satan doesn’t exist and therefore isn’t a viable threat. What a huge lie from the “father of lies”. Believers are told often and specifically about the spiritual war that rages around us, the authority and weapons we have at our disposal, and the armor we are to wear every day in order to remain victorious. Denying this truth or simply hiding our head in the sand and hoping it doesn’t affect us – will be disastrous. There are many books, dvds and other resources available that will teach you more about this warfare and how to fight it. If we don’t believe we have an enemy who hates us and is out to destroy us and our marriages – we will remain in a powerless struggle to find fulfillment in our marriage.

We are told several times in the Bible to “be alert”, to “be on guard”, or to be deliberate in how we live. We are not on a Christian cruise ship, sailing through life hearing great music and messages until we pull into port in heaven. Jesus called us to battle. Our personal, daily relationship with Christ is our primary battlefront, but our marriage is #2. Satan hates marriage and always has. He will continue to destroy it any way he can. Don’t fall for the lies, and stay in God’s Word every day so you know what the truth is and how to live in it.

Blessings,
Rob

 

What Do You Really Want in 2016?

Bartimeus

From Luke 18……

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

As we look ahead to a brand new year, our Lord asks us the same question –

“What do you want me to do for you?”

This simple question provokes many other questions in heart. Would God really do that for ME? What do I ask him for? Is my motive right? Am I selfish?

The blind man knew exactly what he wanted, and he didn’t hesitate when asked. It was the most burning desire of his heart. Was it selfish? Absolutely. Did God receive glory from it? Absolutely.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

Don’t be hesitant or afraid to ask God for the desire of your heart…He knows it anyway.

May His work in you bring you much joy and Him much glory in 2016…….

Rob

3 Things Killing Christian Marriages

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In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus explains to his disciples the parables he had just finished speaking to a crowd of thousands. Part of one of those parables explains why after hearing God’s word many people fall away from the faith and their lives have little fruit or impact on the world around them.

22 And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit.

It strikes me that these same three “spiritual fruit killers” also to our marriage relationships. There are many marriages between Christian spouses that fail to accomplish their primary mission – to bring God glory – and co-exist in a state of longterm selfishness, unfulfillment and mediocrity.

  1. The worries of the world – think about it. What are the things couples worry about most? Money (paying the bills, getting a better paying job, owning more and better things, vacations, saving for retirement, decreasing their piles of debt….etc.)
  2. The distractions of the world – these should be easy to name. Entertainment, ie: television, internet, movies, sports, hobbies, travel, etc. Think of all the things that draw your attention away from God and quality time with your spouse. Technology alone captures more and more of our attention every year – cellphones (sending/receiving texts; calls; messages; images; internet); the internet (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube and on and on). Think of the hours the average couple spend focused on these things and away from God and each other……
  3. The deceitfulness of riches – While very few of us will ever be categorized as having “riches”, compared to the rest of the people of the world – we are indeed rich. In spite of this, we seem to spend the majority of our lives wanting and pursuing more. Higher paying jobs, bigger homes, newer vehicles, nicer vacations, early retirement – our years are consumed with a pursuit that ultimately will be divided among our kids and sold in an estate sale.

Jesus goes on to say that these things “choke the word” (his word) and make our lives fruitless (we produce nothing of lasting or eternal value). They also choke our relationships and make our marriages lifeless and mediocre.

I would encourage you to read this Chapter again and see what Jesus said will bring life and fulfillment to our lives and our relationships. Don’t be deceived into following the deceitful path the enemy has laid down that seems so attractive and fulfilling. It is a mirage. Your life and your marriage will only thrive as you set aside the distractions of our world and seek Him and His kingdom.

Remember – we are not of this world – and our lives and marriages are designed to bring Him glory.

Rob

One Blog Post Away From a Better Marriage

 

Young couple has breakfast at italian café

Would you like to have a better marriage? Are you willing to do one simple exercise in order to get there?

Jesus gave us the 11th commandment in John 13:34:

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another”.

We are commanded to love each other “like” Jesus loves us. How does he love us? The bottom-line answer is – completely, unselfishly, unconditionally. He laid his life down for us…he gave, he served, he died….for us.

Knowing that this kind of love is impossible for us to give each other (apart from the daily choice to let him fill us with his Spirit and give us the power/grace to love like this)…let me give you an exercise to do together that will help improve your marriage immediately:

Sit down together and ask each other to answer the following question. No matter what he/she says, write it down and keep it with you (wallet/purse, etc.) so you can reference it often.

“Would you tell me 3 ways I can better show you how much I love and appreciate you?”

1.

2.

3.

Don’t question or downplay what he/she says, because their answer will give you insight into their heart and what they truly need/desire from you. Their answer is their answer (not yours) and you need to embrace it. Then you need to make sure you DO what they tell you. If you aren’t willing to do that – then don’t go through the motions. That will just make your relationship worse.

Loving “like Jesus” means loving enough to give your life away for your spouse. This will get you started on the right track.

Be courageous. Be deliberate. Let Jesus love your spouse through you.

Tell me how it goes……

Rob

The 1 Thing Your Marriage Needs More Of…

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One thing is constant in this world; one thing doesn’t discriminate; one thing is distributed equally among us all………time.

We all have time; but how we use it can make a huge difference in our lives and our marriages.

Are you average? Here is what the “average” American spends their time on:

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Yes, most of us have to work, and our bodies demand that we sleep. Granted some sleep longer and some fewer hours – but these statistics are for the average American. Most of our day is taken up by sleeping and then working. If you are an over-achiever you may sleep less and work more. Then, there is taking care of kids, parents, dozens of household activities, and a few minutes to woof down a couple of meals.

So – where does maintaining a vibrant, healthy, even thriving marriage fit in?

We could eat together, or do household chores together – or even come together for some leisure activities and sports, right?

 

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Well, there ya go. Darn television, Facebook, email, Pinterest, etc., etc. By the time most of us get off work, wrestle a few kids, eat a quick dinner, bath a few kids, read bedtime stories (you still do that too I hope), and tuck everyone in bed (at least 2-3 times)….we flop mind-numbed in front of the TV until started by the bad news that dominates the evening news. Then, we drearily head to bed.

Something has to give – and here is my heartfelt advice:

#1 Priority is Time with God. Sleep a minimum of 30 minutes less (you can make it) and wake up 30 minutes earlier. Grab your java and get alone with Him. If not possible in your world – turn off the TV earlier, shut down the tech – and end your day with at least 30 minutes with your Father.

#2 Priority is Time together. What ever you have to do – DO THIS. Get involved in leisure activities together (walking, gym, tennis, golf, biking, hiking, etc.). Go on picnics, make date night a top priority (really), get away at least one weekend a quarter if at all possible. Your marriage is more important than your kids. Turn off the TV and talk together, plan together, dream together – again. Play a game. Get involved in a ministry or community service project together. Do it.

#3 Priority is Time alone.  Our tech-drunk world compels us to stay connected, answer all texts and emails asap, find out what everyone else is doing on FB, until we look up and our day is gone and we have spent zero time thinking – planning – dreaming. When is the last time you simply went to a park, or on a walk, or grabbed coffee – all alone. No phone. No TV. Just being quiet – really quiet. God urges us to “be still” so that we can get to “know Him” personally, intimately. Why we don’t run toward an opportunity like that is sad to me and I know breaks His heart as well.

When you get older you begin to “feel time”. You can actually feel it slipping away; moving faster and faster every year. The end is approaching and the “good ole’ days” are fading quickly. It is here that we begin to question what we have done with our time, with our days, our months, our years. What did my life count for? What did I do that really mattered?

Today is the day. Live it. Don’t just let it slip away unnoticed.

Glorify God.

Enjoy your spouse.

Stay connected to the Father who created you and wants your life to matter.

Rob

 

3 Ways to Stop Arguing

And why you should....

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Why do couples argue anyway?

She wants it her way and he wants it his. She says they should but he insists they shouldn’t.

Two people sharing life 24/7/365 are going to disagree from time to time The secret to keeping your relationship from flying off the tracks is keeping the disagreements from escalating to arguments or fights.

  • The basis of all arguments is selfishness. We want what we want; we want things done our way, or in our time frame. Like small children we fold our arms and stomp our feet and demand (inwardly and outwardly) that our spouse do things our way. God calls this selfishness. Here’s what else He says:
    • Love is not rude, nor self-seeking. It is not easily angered. 1 Cor. 13:4-5
    • Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10b
    • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others (spouse) better than yourselves. Phil.2:3
  • The fuel for all arguments is our words (& tone). We cannot help the selfish, sarcastic, hurtful thoughts that may come into our minds when we are upset, but we can help what we do with them. We choose whether to raise our voice, use a sarcastic, hurtful tone, give our spouse the death stare or slam doors, etc.
    • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs… Eph.4:29
    • Be kind and compassionate with one another, forgiving one another just as Christ forgave you. Eph.4:3
    • Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col.3:12
  • The root cause of all arguments is our choice not to walk in the Spirit. The bottom line is actually quite simple. If we walked daily – filled with, controlled and led by the Spirit of God – we would not argue at all. Disagree, yes – argue, no; conflict, yes – fight, no.
    • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Gal.5:22-23
    • Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col.3;12

Bottom line ?

We choose every day whether we will surrender our lives to the Spirit of God and walk as He leads, or ignore God and live life on our own terms. The Bible calls that “walking in the flesh”, and the fruit of doing so includes: hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division  (Gal.5:20).

Enjoying a marriage without arguing and fighting must involve three things:

  1. Daily surrender to Spirit of God (walking in the Spirit), and inviting Him into every aspect of your life.
  2. Deliberately choosing to obey Christ’s 11th commandment – to love one another “as I have loved you” – which means unconditionally; putting his/her needs ahead of your own; and serving rather than demanding to be served.
  3. Asking God to “guard your heart (mind)” above all things, for out of our heart our mouth speaks. Ask Him to speak to your spouse as you would speak to Him…showing honor, respect and love. He/she is God’s hand-crafted provision for your life and marriage and we should treat each other accordingly.

Your marriage will only be as fulfilling as your walk with Christ. Your relationship with him will dictate your relationship with your spouse.

Seek him,

Rob