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

7 Marriage Secrets from Colossians 3

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The Bible is God’s handbook for marriage. Many verses and passages offer instruction and even commands for husbands and wives. Colossians 3 is such a passage. Prayerfully consider God’s instruction provided through Paul.

Seek God first in your life (not your wife or your marriage) and deliberately set (focus/direct) your mind/thoughts on heavenly things (from His Word).1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death (kill) all forms of sensuality and inappropriate passion.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

Your tongue, and the words you speak, are powerful. You must also put away (kill) the use of your tongue for hurtful, selfish purposes. Stop arguing, putting others down, cursing and lying.
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

In place of #2 and #3 above – put on a heart like Christ’s heart. Only then can you love and forgive someone “as” He does. He will give you the patience, kindness and humility to consider your spouse as “better than yourself” and serve them as Jesus served his bride. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Above everything else you should do – put on (deliberately clothe yourself with) love. Not selfish, conditional love but unselfish, unconditional love like Christ’s. Give yourself away in service to your spouse. Follow Jesus’ example.
14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Let God’s peace, which lives in you through the Person of the Holy Spirit, rule and reign in your heart – and live every day with a thankful, appreciative heart.
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Devour God’s Word and allow Him to speak into your life daily. When you do, you will grasp how blessed you are to be His child and to have His power and love living in you. He will give you everything you need to enjoy a beautifully fulfilling marriage – one that will bring Him much glory.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The Top 3 Ways to Love Your Wife

 

An attractive young couple read the Bible in bed

The Bible says much about loving our spouse. Yes, this goes both ways, but God has some specific commandments for husbands. These are not “holy suggestions” as we will be accountable to Him for how well we did them.

1. Love your wife “as Christ loved the church (his bride) and gave himself up for her”. Most of us are very familiar with this passage from Ephesians 5:25, but the question is….do we actually understand what this means and do we do it?

Simply put – how did Christ love His bride? Answer? He loved her to death…he died. He gave everything up for her: his daily agenda, his comforts, his desires, – his very life. He volunteered for this assignment. He initiated. He subjected himself to a frail human body, was tempted, ministered long hours to people who never really understood him. At a young age he was unjustly accused, sentenced and suffered an agonizing death – why? Because he loved his bride (us) too much to let her suffer God’s wrath and live eternally separated from Him. We are called to love our wife – to death.

2. “Sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”.  (Eph. 5:26-27)

We are called to sanctify or “set her apart” and protect her from being stained, spotted and wrinkled by the evil, fallen world we live in together. It is our great responsibility to pray for her, read God’s Word with her and encourage her to thrive in the gifting she has been given by God. We are to fight the enemy on her behalf. We are to keep her eyes and ears from seeing/hearing/experiencing evil , harmful things that would “stain” her. She is God’s precious daughter and we are to treat her as such.

God places us as the “head” of the home not to be the king or the bully, but to be the servant leader. We are to follow His example by humbling ourselves, putting her needs ahead of our own – and laying our life down for her. We are to protect and defend her, love and pray for her – like He does us.

3. Love your wife “as your own body” (Eph. 5:28). This verse reminds us that we are to “nourish and cherish” her in the same way we nourish and cherish our own bodies. Think about it – we treat ourselves pretty well. We eat when we’re hungry. We indulge our appetites for food, entertainment, adventure and pleasure. It comes very naturally that we think about and pamper ourselves above everyone else. We don’t have to be taught to be selfish (self-focused). When our body is tired – we rest. When we are hungry – we eat. We don’t like to deny ourselves.

What then does Jesus mean when he tells us to love our wife like this? Basically, he is calling us to a very high standard. He is calling us to put her needs, desires, agenda ahead of our own. He is telling us that her life and her needs should come first – in the same way we currently put our own first.

The commandments to husbands are not meant to frustrate or exasperate us. It is easy to see that they are impossible to obey without help – His help. That is why we are first called in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit” because it is impossible to love our wife “as Christ loved the church” without His life living and loving in and through us.

Marriage was never intended to be lived apart from God. It is only as we walk with Him (every day) that we will ever experience marriage as it was created and intended by Him.

 

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.

 

The One Thing – You Can Do to Improve Your Marriage

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On September 25th,  1942, Jewish physician Victor Frankl, his wife, and parents were deported to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto. Two years later Frankl and his wife Tilly were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed. He was moved to Kaufering, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau concentration camp, where he arrived on 25 October 1944. There he was to spend five months working as a slave laborer. In March 1945, he was offered a move to the so-called rest-camp, Türkheim, also affiliated with Dachau. He decided to go to Türkheim, where he worked as a physician until 27 April 1945, when Frankl was liberated by the Americans.

Meanwhile, his wife Tilly was transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Frankl’s mother Elsa was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and his brother Walter died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz.

How does anyone survive such an ordeal? When asked this same question years after his imprisonment, Frankl replied –

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

How do any of us survive hard times? What about hard times in our marriage? For many of us, including myself, we just stuff our feelings deep inside our soul and hope for the best. For others, they can’t/won’t tolerate hard times, so they leave. They try to avoid them by running away.

What if we practiced the secret that Frankl, and countless others, have relied upon to get them through – adjusting our attitude. Do you want to know what God says is the secret to not only surviving hard times, but enjoying a marriage relationship like it was intended to be enjoyed? Sure you do…..

“Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.” Phil.2:5-8

Jesus chose to humble himself and become a servant. Even when we didn’t deserve it (and still don’t) or appreciate it. He volunteered; he initiated; he scarified himself on behalf of his bride.

What about you? What about me? Is that our attitude when it comes to loving (verb) our bride? Are we ready to lay our lives down, to humble ourselves, to sacrifice anything – all for our bride – for our marriage. And all without ever demanding anything in return or any performance from our wife?

Well, that is what the Bible clearly says is the key….having the same attitude as Jesus. Remember Victor Frankl – no one else is responsible for your attitude; no one else can take it away. We (you and me) are responsible for ours. Is it like Christ’s?

Willing to die…..

Rob