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

How to Have an “Okay” Marriage

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My wife and I have counseled and mentored many couples over the years and one thing they all have in common is…. a desire to have a better (more fulfilling) marriage. We have also discovered the bottom line for why most couples fail to experience what they say they want……I think Solomon agreed with us.

Here is my paraphrase of the last 5 verses of Proverbs 24:

 I went past the home of a lazy spouse,
    past the marriage of someone who has no sense;
 problems had come up everywhere,
    the relationship was covered with issues,
    and their spiritual walls of protection were in ruins.

 I applied my heart to what I observed
    and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
and unhappiness will come on you like a thief
    and unfulfillment like an armed man.

Everyone who gets married sincerely wants a fulfilling, happy married life. Christian couples pledge to make Christ the center of their relationship and to love, honor and cherish each other in good times and bad…until they are parted by death.

The great majority, however, (myself included) don’t have any idea what it takes to actually fulfill those vows.

Truth is – we work hard to achieve/enjoy many things in life:

  • a healthy body
  • a good income
  • a nice lawn
  • a respectable golf score
  • God-honoring, well-adjusted children

And do any of these just happen? Obviously not. They take effort, hard work and deliberateness on our part. Somehow we find the time and the physical/emotional energy to work hard for things like these that we truly desire.

So, why is it that we hardly lift a finger to enjoy a deeply satisfying, God-glorifying, amazing marriage? See Proverbs 24 above. The answer is really simple (and sad)….

We simply don’t want it badly enough. We settle for an “okay” marriage. We settle for “pretty good compared to….” – because we simply don’t want to work at it.

Our marriage counseling/mentoring is simple – if you’re not willing to put in the work, then you’re wasting our time. God’s word is true and if you “sow sparingly, you WILL reap sparingly”.

We don’t need more knowledge – we need more action.

If you really want a great marriage – you will do whatever it takes to have it – and if you don’t know how, you will ask someone who does to show you.

It’s really that simple.

 

 

 

The #1 Enemy of Your Marriage

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Anyone who has been married longer than a few days will tell you…marriage is hard. Living 24/7/365 with someone of the opposite sex, for decades is extremely hard. I will go out on a limb and even say – “it’s impossible”.

Why? Because there are forces that war against our being happy, complete, fulfilled in our committed relationship. Here are my top 3: (these are actually mentioned often in the New Testament).

1. The World – the world we live in is fallen, without God and marinated in sin. The religion of the world is “to do what you want”, “do what feels good”, and no one should have the right to tell you otherwise. The world tells us there is no God, there are no absolutes (rules, morals) and that this life is all we get. Whatever years you have on this planet should be spent enjoying and fulfilling yourself, because there is nothing after this life.

This philosophy has given birth to seeking a life of pleasure. Everyone loves pleasure and if there are no morals and no God and no afterlife – then why not experience as much of it as possible. The internet and advancements in telecommunications and media have made such seeking so convenient and “private” that you can pursue pleasure from the smartphone in your pocket.

Pornography is rampant among Christian men, and is abducting them at an increasingly younger age (again, thanks to technology). Television and music are saturated with sexual images, innuendo, explicit language and provocation. It is seriously difficult to insulate yourself and your family from the forces of this world that shout to us daily.

2. The Devil – Jesus calls this fallen angel the “prince of the power of the air” and the “god of this world”. If you wonder what (or who) is behind the forces in the world we just mentioned – look no further. Satan’s goal is destruction and his weapons of choice are deception, lies and temptation. His primary and most powerful lie – is that he is not real and that there is not a spiritual war going on in our lives, our marriages and homes and in the world around us every day. If we fall for that lie (and most of the world has), then we will remain dumbfounded at the chaos around us and try our best to deal with the seemingly constant barrage of “bad luck” or “circumstances” that seem to plague us.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is full of history and truth regarding our spiritual foe. More on this – From the Garden of Eden until he is cast into the lake of fire by Jesus, Satan will be hell-bent on destroying our lives, our marriages, our children and families, our reputation and our heritage. While a formidable threat, Jesus clearly tells us that we have been given “authority over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19), and have superior armor and weapons with which to win the battles we face. See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and       Ephesians 6.

1. You. – Did you think I was going to say “your spouse”? Nope. He/she is not the problem, and never truly the #1 problem. The #1 enemy of your marriage is none other than yours truly. Selfishness is the primary killer of marriages and families in our culture. We are born selfish and even as a Christian, we wake every morning with our mind focused on ourselves and our agendas. You see, we get to choose (just like Adam and Eve) whether we will accept God and His Word as the controlling influence of our life, or turn our back on Him and live life on our own terms, our own way. Will we follow our Creator God, or seek to be the god of our own destiny?

Many a Christian has professed faith in Jesus Christ, has attended church on a regular basis, has read the Bible and taught Sunday School – only to fall for the temptations of the world and the devil…because they chose to. The devil doesn’t make anyone “do” it…we decide to sin. We decide to watch, to listen, to flirt with sin and we are no match for the dark side when we do. We think we can “have our cake and eat it too” – but that too – is a lie.

Read the gospels and the Book of John and see for yourself how desperately Jesus lived. He modeled for us what a life surrendered to the Father looked like. He didn’t have supernatural powers that we don’t have. That would have been unfair for us to try to emulate. He lived in a state of daily desperation. Desperate to hear His Father’s voice, to seek His wisdom and direction, and to obey what He said.

That is what He asks of us. We will never have the life we desire or the marriage we are created to enjoy, until we learn to walk the same way. Jesus said “without Him we can do….nothing”. Don’t fall for the lies anymore….. seek Him tomorrow, listen to Him and do what He tells you.

Then, do it again the next day.

 

Don’t Be “This” Spouse….

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Proverbs 21 mentions twice that it is better for a husband to “live in a corner of the housetop” or “live in a desert land” than to live in a home with a contentious woman. Proverbs 25 mentions again the “live in a corner of the housetop” idea.

A contentious woman is like a “continual dripping on a rainy day” says Proverbs 27:15.

It is plain to see God recognizes that a man would rather live alone, in the corner of his attic or in a desert wasteland, than have to endure a wife who continually complains and quarrels. Interestingly, the Bible even says “it is better” for him to live that way.

Proverbs 26:21 talks about a contentious man who continues to sow strife by stirring up coals that are trying to cool off and burn out. He is like someone “who keeps adding wood to a fire” instead of letting it die.

I don’t think any spouse desires to live with someone who enjoys quarreling and continually nags, complains and whines; or won’t let an issue die but keeps adding wood to the fire and stirring up strife at home. The picture that sticks in my mind is of that spouse who can never make his/her spouse happy; who never gets it right; who just can’t win. How exasperating!

So, the obvious question is – are you like this? The dictionary defines “quarrelsome” as – someone likely to cause disagreement or argument or someone with a wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes. Do you have a tendency to pick a fight (argument)? Do you lose your temper easily or have a tendency to argue or nag?

What about completing your spouse’s sentences, or interrupting them in order to say what you want to say – or always correcting your spouse when they tell part of a story inaccurately?

Here is an idea that will help you decide if you qualify and should therefore get serious about changing your attitude and behavior…. sit down with your spouse and ask him/her a simple question – Am I a contentious spouse? If they look confused, add further clarity – do you think I am argumentative? Am I quarrelsome?

You obviously have to be man/woman enough to NOT ARGUE with your spouse if they say you are this person. That won’t help a bit. You should be willing to 1. humble yourself, 2. sincerely apologize for such behavior, and 3. ask for forgiveness.

According to our Bible, the only way to stop being this person and start being the opposite is – to “walk in the Spirit”. That is a deliberate lifestyle, a daily choice you and I have to make. But if we do, we will find our marriage improves significantly and our life as well.

Why not start today?

Rob

3 Ways to Stop Arguing with Each Other

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Amos 3:3 asks the question,  “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” The implied response is, “no”. It is very difficult, and not very fun, to walk with someone you are continually disagreeing with.

What most couples end up doing if they disagree over money, the kids, hobbies, etc. – is argue. They get frustrated; that leads to getting angry; and so they fight, say things they shouldn’t say, hurt each other’s feelings, retreat, sulk, and walk on egg shells for days (or longer). Others get angry and simply stuff it. They avoid the difficult conversations; they don’t like confrontation; so they swallow it and hope it will go away…..but we all know it doesn’t. So, eventually those feelings of hurt and resentment resurface and things are even worse.

So, how do we keep from getting to this awful place?

1. Decide that arguing/fighting is not Biblical and you will not go there anymore. God says we argue because we’re selfish and we’re not obeying His word. Galatians reminds us that if we are walking in the Spirit we will produce fruit in our lives….and arguing/fighting is not on the list. Jesus also commands us to love each other “as he loves us”, and that means sacrificially and unconditionally. So, stop being a spoiled kid, stomping your foot and pouting when you don’t get your way.

2. Allow your spouse to complain without losing your temper, getting your feelings hurt or retaliating. Jesus loves us when we mess up, don’t do things right, or treat him unkindly. He requires the same from us. We must allow our spouse the grace and freedom to come to us and share their heart. If they have a complaint or hurt, we need to be man enough (or woman enough) to listen with grace and respond appropriately (i.e.: say we are sorry, ask for forgiveness, pray together, etc.). Your relationship is far more important than proving your innocence or that you are right all the time.

3. Make it a priority to go on an annual marriage retreat. Instead of disagreeing or battling all year long, schedule a weekend retreat together to discuss the “state of your union”. Enjoy yourselves during most of that time; have fun; relax – but schedule some time to pray, then sit together and decide you will come to agreement on the key issues you have agued about in the past – kids, money, sex, hobbies, etc. Write all this down so you can refer back to it during the year and remember that you agreed together, and what you agreed to. Pray over every decision and commit it to God and ask for His help to live accordingly.

Finally – remember neither of you will be perfect at this (or anything for that matter), so don’t expect perfection. Be deliberate about keeping your end of the bargain and choose daily to walk with Christ and agree with him when he said “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Selfishness is marriage’s #1 enemy. It is our nature to look out for ourselves and defend ourselves. If you choose to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5) – you will find you will stop arguing and clinging to your rights, and learn to love each other “as He loves us”.

Don’t argue…walk with Him…and love each other.

Rob

Stop Arguing and Start Obeying God

 

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Did you know that arguing and fighting are not Biblical marriage concepts? There is no such thing as “fighting fair” in the Bible. In fact, God says He doesn’t want husbands and wives to fight at all. No offense to those fine authors who write about such things, but my Bible left out those verses.

What the Bible does say is that people, even Christian folks, will disagree and should find a way to come to agreement on things. It leaves room for difficult conversations and for allowing each other room (and grace) to express our feelings and even to complain. But fighting and quarreling are not be allowed in our marriage.

Proverbs 17:19 says, “He who loves a quarrel (fight, argument), loves sin”.

Proverbs 18:1 tells us that a person who starts quarrels is “unfriendly, selfish and lacking sound judgement”

Proverbs 15:18 reminds us that quarrels and conflicts are stirred up by “hot-tempered” people, and that a “patient” person (a fruit of the Spirit by the way) calms a quarrel.

Then there are Proverbs 19,21 and 25 that spotlight a “quarrelsome wife” and how awful it is to live with such a person. I am sure it holds true for a quarrelsome husband as well.

So, stop it!. If God says that arguing, fighting, quarreling/nagging are “sin”, then the short answer is – stop sinning. Don’t look for a way to candy coat it, or justify it, or do it “fairly”.  We don’t do that with other sins.

God is very clear that it is not a sin to “be angry”, but in our anger we are to refrain from sinning, i.e.: not fight, quarrel or argue about it. See Ephesians 4:26. And, by the way, we are supposed to settle such disagreements before we go to bed or else we open our home and relationship open to invasion by the enemy.

James 4 tells us that “fighting and quarreling” come from a battle that wages within us. The battle of selfishness; of not having our expectations met or our deserve-its catered to; a battle we have waged internally since birth – not getting what we want. A four year old responds by stomping his feet, crying or throwing an all-out hissy fit on the floor. As grown-ups we have learned to take the frustration inward. We steam, we stew, we cuss, we fuss, we try to suppress until one day it can’t be held back any longer and the dam breaks. The result is a grown up hissy fit. We nag, we nip, we diss, we jab with sarcasm. Our words and our tone destroy the oneness/intimacy we so desperately long for.

We lash out, we yell, we accuse, insinuate, blame, berate. We have not learned to harness our anger – so, we sin. We hurt, deeply and saying “I’m sorry” hours later simply doesn’t make up for the hurtful, hateful, sinful behavior we have unleashed.

Answer? If you profess to be a believer in Christ, the answer is…… stop it. Turn to Him for help. Walk with Him. Be filled (continually) with His Spirit (Galatians 5). If you are an addict – get help, now. Find a mentor. Do whatever it takes to change. Like other sins, we cannot change ourselves. Only God can do that for us, but we have to want to, we have to choose to. Then, we have to choose to live differently and walk daily with His help.

Fighting, quarreling, nagging, yelling and arguing have no place in a Christian marriage, or home. Christ came to bring”peace on earth and good will to men”. Let’s embrace His gift and start enjoying it this Holiday season.

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife – Proverbs 20:3

Rob

 

 

I Love Christmas…..but

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For most of us, Christmas is a favorite time of year. We go to great lengths (and expense) to buy special gifts, cook special foods, plan family gatherings and become much more benevolent. We seem to see life and those around us through different lenses. Things seem happier, there’s a spirit in the air, a childlike joy, an anticipation – an adventure.

It seems people ban together to help the poor, the orphan, the elderly. People volunteer more, give more and generally seem to get along better….except on Black Friday.

We just love Christmas at our house. Our bank account shrinks and our waistlines expand, but we plan for it now. We decorate, knowing we will only take it all down in a few weeks. We shop, sometimes when we aren’t even looking for anything specific. Like salmon in a stream, we just get caught up in it all…… but we still love it.

But why Christmas? More specifically – why only Christmas? Why do we seem to be able to do these things and be these kind of people only around the Holidays? Sure, we get to focus on the real reason for Christmas, and that it what it’s all about – but I bet Christ would encourage us to act more like this on the other 364 days of the year.

What would it be like if we kept that same benevolent attitude toward the poor, the orphan and the elderly. What if we volunteered every month, or gave more money to worthy causes, or had family and friends over for a feast more often?

Somehow, after Christmas comes and goes, and we watch football, then put the decorations back in the attic – life speeds up and hits us in the face again on January 2nd. We shift back to “I’m too busy” mode and that volunteerism, generosity and upbeat attitude all get pushed to the back burner….to a season several months from now when we drag it out for a few weeks.

Maybe we could remember to remind each other this year, after the Holidays, to keep Christmas alive. If only in our hearts, maybe we could remind each other to view our busy lives through the lens of Christmas. I think it would please Christ very much. I think He would agree that His coming meant a while lot more than for an excuse to be upbeat and generous for a few weeks.

So, here’s the challenge. Let’s see who can post, tweet or Facebook some Christmas reminders throughout the year…say in March, or July – to remind us to lift our eyes up from our routines long enough to remember those less fortunate, or to volunteer a day, or to invite someone over for dinner. Maybe it wouldn’t feel like Christmas is so far away. Maybe it will feel like Christmas, and Christ’s coming can be experienced more often.

I love Christmas, but I need to be reminded to live like Christmastime – all the time.

Immanuel – “God with us”.

Rob

The Real Agenda Behind Same Sex Marriage

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“I should have the right to marry whomever I want. I should be able to marry several people if I want, or my sister or my cousin. The growing movement to grant certain animals “personhood” will spawn the “right” to marry my pet chimpanzee or great dane. After all, it’s my life and I should have the right to do whatever I darn well want with it.”

Truthfully, same sex marriage is not about the human rights of lgbt people. It is about man shaking his/her fist at God and telling Him we don’t want to follow any rules and want to do things our own way. This independent human spirit first showed itself in Eden. Even though God had laid out specific rules regarding the tree Adam and Eve were not to eat from (and the associated consequences) – they decided they wanted to do what they wanted and not what God wanted. They chose to shake their fist at their Creator and seek their own path in life.

Mankind has been selfish and fiercely independent ever since. We want our way and we will stop at nothing to get it. With a willing media and court system in the U.S., if one keeps shouting long enough and loud enough, he/she will most likely find someone who believes in their cause and declares they have a “right” to do what they are seeking.

Gone are the days of absolutes. Right and wrong are now relative; are not taught at school or in most homes; and our individual rights now trump the rights of others. And, those other people (who disagree with the same sex agenda) are expected to not only accept their wishes, but to support and embrace the promotion of them. If not, they are labeled “phobes”, “intolerant”, “haters” and their beliefs, wishes and values are vilified and condemned.

Marrying someone of the same sex today is a “right” that judges and the media have decided is perfectly normal and should be embraced by everyone on the planet. The agenda behind the movement is actually an “anti-God” agenda. For people who believe in God, and that in the Bible He told us what was truly right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable – they believe differently. They believe what God says about the matter and feel they have an equal “right” to believe that way, and to live their lives and teach their children accordingly.

In order for the same sex movement to prosper, they have to be successful in convincing their constituents that God doesn’t exist, or if He does, His Word doesn’t really mean what it says (again, an argument made by Satan in the Garden of Eden). The agenda is to get us back to the place where we once again shake our fists at our Creator, ignore His love and plan for us, and selfishly choose to determine our own destiny in life….to do things our way.

It is obvious to this writer that the real battleground is not gay vs. straight – but a spiritual battle as old as mankind. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our battle is a spiritual one and will not be decided by rallies, marches, judges or the talking-head media.

This conflict is NOT against people who believe differently. This battle (and it is a battle) is part of the cosmic, spiritual battle for the souls of men; a battle raging since before man was created; a battle we are called to participate in.

Hoping it goes away is not an option. The consequences (like those in Eden) will be devastating…..

Jesus told us to pray – “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Rob

The Trail

 

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My wife and I love to take walks together. Most of the time we walk along well-defined or even asphalt walking paths in many of our great parks, but occasionally we venture off into the trails that abound in our “natural State”. Some trails are better maintained than others and are well-defined. Others are barely visible, overgrown with brush, grass and whatever else grows there. These trails are much more difficult mentally and physically because we have to focus on where we’re going, and then on the terrain and dangers ahead.

The last time we were walking a trail like this, I was reminded how our marriage has been a similar adventure. What I supposed would be a four-lane highway, or at least a well-marked concrete hiking trail – turned out to be a much more difficult journey. Marriage has given me a much greater appreciation for the early American pioneers. Having no idea what was ahead of them, they bravely set out in a general direction to find the life they had dreamed of. They had no highways, railroads, asphalt trails, or even foot paths to follow. They were the trailblazers themselves. Did they have a clue what lie ahead of them? If they had, would they have gone?

Most young couples have no clue either. Statistically, most have not grown up in a biological father and mother home. They grow up with a single parent and/or a step parent. They, like me, never actually witness what a stable, Biblical, fulfilling marriage looks like. They get glimpses of what marriage might be by visiting friends or relatives homes and by watching TV and movies (which portray marriage is a deliberately miserable light).

I had no clue that the marriage trail would be so unmarked and difficult. I assumed that because we knew each other well, and loved each other deeply, that this would be all we needed. Man, was I wrong. Marriage is hard work, and the way is not well-marked as you look around you. I am so glad we both have a Map that has shown us how to navigate the trail and warns us of dangers along the way. Without it, we would have certainly wandered off and perished in the wilderness.

If you’ve been married longer than a week or two, you are already aware that you have your own pioneer journey ahead of you. The great news is – God brought you two together to walk it together. After nearly 40 years on the trail I can tell you the dangers are many, but the adventure is far more rewarding. There are times when you feel you can’t go any father and other times when the views make the trek so worth it. Best of all – God is there. Every step, every hill, every valley – He is there. That is what is so exciting. Walking with Him, listen as He tells us which fork in the road to take, what dangers lie ahead and how to avoid them.

We meet God in the woods. We need Him there much more than when we walk on the asphalt. Don’t fret that your marriage isn’t smooth sailing. Don’t fear the woods. Read 1 Corinthians 7:28 and rest in the fact that God promises married folks “will have many trials/troubles in this life”. Marriage is God’s ultimate plan for making us depend on Him. Marriage was never intended to be lived apart from God.

Draw near to Him, listen, and keep walking where He tells you to go. The journey is worth it.

Still on the trail,
Rob