Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marriage Tips for the First Decade: Take off the Mask (Mask #2)

Mask #2: Couples rarely fight or argue in healthy marriages.

Scripture to consider:However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33, NIV)

The General Reality: There is such a variance in how we deal with conflict as individuals.  Put two of us together and often, you get the same results that you get when you mix really, hot, humid air with a bunch of cold, dry air – one very destructive storm.  Far too often I encounter married couples that believe that fighting and arguing is the absolute end-game for marriage.  For some, it’s about disturbing their peace and they just can’t handle the storm.  For others, there is deep hurt in their past that makes them believe that an argument is just plain unhealthy.  For me, my past has made me believe that arguing is necessary in relationships.  The truth is, none of this is really true and most of our opinions are simply based on past experiences.  While I have come through all types of storms, I’ve learned that it’s not the frequency of the storms that matter or even the intensity; it’s what you learn from them and how quickly you grow from them that will make or break your relationships.  Never give up folks, even when it seems hopeless, and you will reap the rewards of a vibrant, loving, joyful marriage.  Instead of comparing your marriage to others’ marriages, choose instead to compare yours with the standards of our God.

Conversation Starters

·         How do you and your spouse currently deal with conflict?

·         Does the conflict between you and your spouse make you uncomfortable around others?

·         Do you feel you have learned anything about your spouse as a result of conflict?

Things to Try

·         Sit down with your spouse sometime today and discuss some of the challenging aspects of your current relationship.

·         Pick one specific issue that your spouse complains about and ask your spouse how it makes them feel when you do whatever it is that frustrates them.  Although it is OK to have some open dialog, listen intently and try your absolute best not to defend yourself.

Marriage Tips for the First Decade: Take off the Mask (Mask #1)

Mask #1: Marriage is a two-way street.  It’s give and take and there should be an equal distribution of love and respect for both parties in the marriage.  If not, then your marriage has problems.

Scripture to consider: Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22,25, NASB)

The General Reality: I can think of two reasons why this fallacy is just plain speculation and nothing more.  First, if you have ever come home and just thought to yourself, I am so tired I just want to lay down and actually acted on it, it’s already an unfair evening.  Someone is going to have to cook dinner.  Someone is going to have to keep the kids in line (if you have kids).  Someone is going to have things on their agenda that they thought you should be part of but instead, you are now resting.  Hey, I’m not knocking a little R&R but I am saying that there is no such thing as playing fair in marriage.  There will be days where each of you gets the shaft.  Secondly, when did marriage become about equality?  I take you for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as we always play fair?  Wait a minute!  Something seems a little off there.  I thought we signed up to love each other no matter what.  What part of that had specific conditions that meant fairness?  We all know that famous quote (let me rephrase it a bit): Ask not what your spouse can do for you but rather, what you can do for your spouse!  It’s a shame that most of us just don’t look at it that way because our God does!

Conversation Starters

·         What expectations do you currently have of your spouse?

Things to Try

·         When you get home from work today or before your spouse gets home from work, make an effort to do something for them that you know they love but you do not care for too much.

·         Ask your spouse to write down three things about you that they feel could improve, but do not defend yourself.

Marriage Tips for the First Decade: Take off the Mask (Intro)

Scripture to consider:Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NASB)

Our culture is absolutely spectacular when it comes to setting the pattern for how we are to live, look, and act.  This issue exists as much in religious culture as it does in secular culture.  It is no surprise that this mental construct bleeds into our marriages as well.  We come face to face with it daily behind the closed doors of our homes as well as in the public eye.  At one point or another, we all feel the pressure of the gap between how our marriage “should look” and what the true reality of it is.  Some of us tend to internalize the pressure while others express it externally.  Regardless of the form of expression, this type of pressure is bound to affect our marriages.

I have been in a relationship with my wife for almost 13 years and married to her for almost 9 of those years.  During those years, I have learned several things that I would like to share with all of you.  I may include some Scripture but my main point with this series is to teach others about the reality of marriage instead of the Mask that so many self-help books, magazine articles, online articles, friends, and even family members just love to paint for all of us to see.  My intent is to teach those within the first decade of their marriages or even those who are thinking about getting married in the future.  Perhaps some of my experiences may help young married couples and young relationships see past the Mask and grasp onto hope that they never thought they had.

Marriage and wedding rings
So with this week’s topic, Take off the Mask, I would like to start with (13) cliché ideologies about how marriage should look vs. what is more likely the true reality of things.

Please click on the links below to read the commentary for each item:

8.     Marriage issues should always stay private.
9.     Your marriage problems are unique and no one will understand them.
10. For wives: If your kid’s outfit’s match, your husband’s outfit coordinates with yours, and you volunteered for every opportunity that you’ve come across, then no one will see the frustration behind the perfection.
11. For husbands: If you have all the money your family needs, you have a great job, and all of your family’s basic needs are accounted for, then your job is done.
12. If you’ve taken care of all your known responsibilities, you are entitled to some freedom of your choice.
13. Some transgressions in your marriage are beyond repair. If there is no hope in the relationship, throw in the towel.

Conversation Starters

·       How might your marriage or premarital relationship be affected by masks such as these? 

·       Can you identify any other masks not mentioned here that are challenging for you and your spouse?  Please share them.

Things to Try

·       Try doing one act of kindness for your spouse today without actually saying anything to them or attempting to research the idea from an outside source.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What is Poor?

In today's economy we see that there is a multitude of people that could be classified as poor.  After the recent census it is shown that about 50% of Americans receive some sort of Government assistance that is meant for those who cannot fend for themselves.  Just in case that has not sunk in yet that means that every other person that you see is receiving a benefit package.

water from red sea
Getting water from Red Sea

The Bible as you know has tons of versus that tell us, that as good stewards and Christians we need to be helpful to the poor.  In fact the Bible says that if you are kind and helpful to the poor you will inherit many wonderful things as well.  But the question is.. Is poor only a financial thing?  Truth be told there are different kinds of poor that we need to be mindful of.  To break this down further I want to show 4 languages for being poor.

Four Languages of Being Poor

  1. Financial
  2. Spiritual
  3. Social
  4. Ethics
Ok financially poor.  This one is the easiest to see however might not always be the case.  Financially poor means that you are not able to provide for yourself and family.  At different points in our lives we may find it hard to afford different things.  If you have a job making minimum wage and the rest of your family cannot work, you will be financially poor.  This may also be someone who is disabled and cannot find a job.  

Spiritually poor is a very common type of poor in America today.  It is the lack of Christ in each persons life that makes them spiritually poor.  Someone who is rich spiritually is the one who makes the time each day to have a personal relationship with Christ and prays.  

The first thing that comes to mind here to me was that show Hoarders.  Someone who is socially poor doesn't make quality friends and in facts generally pushes everyone away.  They are not interested in communicating with the rest of the world.  The majority of the time it is because of bad social experiences.  They may have been abused, bullied, or may just not like their appearance.  

Ethics, Ethics, Ethics..  This can be a wide array of poor from something as simple as good manners that hopefully the parents had taught all the way to breaking the law.   Someone who is poor in ethics can be very difficult to work with.  The trick is to identify someone who is rich here.  A person rich in ethics is one who for most everything they do they do it for the glory of the Lord.  

Conversation Starters
  • Can you think of other ways a person could be poor?
Things To Try
  • Use the four languages above, can you identify someone that fits one and help them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why should I vote?

Its almost election time once again.  I am an American, and by being a citizen of this country I have the right to vote.  By that I also have the right to be lazy and ignore politics all together.  As far as an being an American there really is nothing that says you have to vote but you do have the ability to make your preference known.  The big question now is what is the biblical reasons to vote or not vote?

The first biblical example that comes to mind is in the house of Pilate.  Do you remember that story?  During the passover Jesus was being brought by the Sanhedrin to Pilate for trial. After careful deliberation Pilate found Jesus not guilty for the acts that the Sanhedrin were bringing against him.  The people in the crowd were very upset with this, and asked Pilate to reconsider crucifixion.  Pilate didn't want the blood on his hands so as customary with the passover he was going to offer up a choice to the people who should be free and forgiven for their crimes.  Pilate then had the crowd vote, or rather scream out which should be crucified, Jesus or Barabbas.  Because of this vote Jesus was put to the cross.

As believers we also have a certain group of moral laws that we must abide by.  The most notable of these being the 10 commandments but the first 5 books of the Bible setup quite a few more.  Have you ever thought that one reason to vote is a way to witness to others and stand up for these laws?  Our nation was founded on the principle of "One Nation Under God".  This means that we were meant to be a moral, and free country.  Could you imagine how bad the country would change if only non-believers vote?

Conversation Starters

  • Why do you vote or not?
  • Are their any political things that you are passionate about?

Things to Try

  • Read about the candidates and find which is closer to your belief.
  • Try voting for once and see how it works.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What is a Spiritual Battle?

Have you ever wondered why good and bad things happen?  Maybe you constantly feel the tug and pull of your heart.  There are many spiritual battles that happen in life.  Yet some choose look at them as specific problems that have nothing to do with Christ.

A Spiritual Battle is that tug and pull at your mind and heart for the choices that you make.   Depending on the choices that you make your spiritual battle may be growing and creating more scars and wounds in your life.  Though these are not necessarily physical they can still be perceived by others.  So you may ask; How can I determine if what I am going through is a Spiritual Battle?  To do this lets set some more criteria.

  1. Does the situation break the law?
    • Romans 13 tells us that we are to submit to the law, and by doing what is right for the law we will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
  2. Does the issue effect others?
  3. Is the situation or issue something that you will remember?
    • Is there something here that you will remember as a life lesson whether big or small.
    • Sometimes you may overlook this experience these can be hard to realize.
  4. Does the issue effect yourself emotionally, physically or mentally?
    • Doing harm to yourself is like doing harm to Christ.  For we are all 1 in the body of Christ and he lives within us.  Our body is our temple for Christ.
If what you are going through meets any of this criteria, you are going through a spiritual battle.  You may fine that even the smallest of activities can be a battle and you may even be doing the wrong thing out of habit rather than realizing what you are doing.  Spiritual battles are in every ones life, the question now is what will you do about it.

Conversation Starters

  • Can you think of scenarios that you may take for granted that are spiritual battles?
  • Do you often discredit yourself for things going on in life?
Things to try.
  • Pray for the wisdom and the vision to see yourself as a Temple and how you present yourself to others.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

National Day of Prayer - A little history

The National Day of Prayer started back in 1952 under the leadership of the US Congress and signed into law by Harry S. Truman.   It was founded on the idea the we are a free country and we reserve the right to believe in our God and build a better country.  Today National Day of Prayer is to always be the first Thursday in May.

What you might not know is that it has not been an uncommon event to happen in our country.  Before 1952 there had been different times where Presidents had declared days of prayer during some of the more pressing times in our countries history. In 1775 at the dawn for the birth of our nation our founding fathers called for a day of prayer and humility that was almost done in a similar way to the country of Ninevah back in the book of Jonah. The people of American fasted and prayed for a free country, and the proof of success is America becoming a nation in 1776.

 Then again in 1863 President Lincoln declared another day of prayer and fasting. In his speech he said "And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."

Conversation Starter
  • Can you see a pattern between the success of the Jews in the Old Testament to how successful America has been by just faith and prayer alone?
Things To Try
  • Take few minutes and pray about something that is needed in our country today to make it stronger.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Living a Fulfilling Life

How many of you have heard this statement before?  “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.”  Understanding this statement and its validity can either ruin your perspective about what it means to live a fulfilling life or it can be a precursor to truly understanding how a person can actually achieve a fulfilling life.  This statement has flooded the minds of many Christians and non-Christians alike.  Some rely on this as a comforting truth that gives them peace throughout their days.  But, can we rely on this?  Is it true?  Is this part of God’s plan for living a fulfilling life or is it part of the enemy’s plan to deceive us?  Let’s take a look.

Before diving in, let’s take a look at the verse in Scripture which this statement is derived from.  1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB) states, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  What is this verse really saying?  Note how many times the word temptation is used.  The apostle Paul is referring strictly to temptation.  When we are tempted, God always provides a way out, so that we can never say that the urge to sin was too great for us to endure.  So we know that God will help us resist temptation, but what about the actual circumstances we encounter during the course of our lives?  Does this verse in Scripture speak to that?
Let’s take it one step further.  John 16:33 (NIV) states, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  These are the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Jesus makes a promise here that in this world, we will have trouble.  He doesn’t say maybe you will; He says you will!  But notice what He says next, “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” It is important to look at what He says in context.  Why should we take heart?  Because HE has overcome the world.  Was it by accident that He DID NOT say because YOU can overcome the world?  No!  He is making a point here! 
Simply put, we have hope because Christ has overcome the world for us!  God didn’t send His Son to save us for nothing!  He sent His only Son because we can’t save ourselves.  We need a Savior, Someone to overcome and conquer what we CANNOT handle on our own!  Praise be to God and our Lord, Jesus Christ for being that Savior!
One of Satan’s greatest weapons is to deceive us into believing that WE can conquer anything in life.  Satan doesn’t care what we believe in.  All Satan wants is for us NOT to believe in Christ and to put our faith in ANYTHING but Christ!  John 10:10 (NIV) states, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Satan wants to steal your salvation, your joy, your hope, your soul; he wants to kill your spirit; he wants to destroy your life and your relationship with Jesus.  We cannot let that happen!  No!  We must stand firm in Christ, even in the face of adversity, so that we may be saved (Matthew 10:22)!
Friends, brothers, and sisters, I want you to understand something.  There is much in this life that we cannot handle.  We experience pain, trials, challenges, and obstacles that could knock anyone off their feet.  As for anyone who believes otherwise, please feel free to comment about your perfect lives and in the midst of describing it, your very lack of humility shows that you cannot even humbly accept the amazing grace that God freely gives you.  It is God’s GRACE that gets us through those things, grace that we take for granted because we often don’t even know it’s there!  James 1:17 (NASB) states, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  Yes, that’s right!  EVERYTHING GOOD comes from God, the Father in heaven.  Don’t think for one second that YOU have the strength to handle everything that you encounter in this life.  Even those who do not believe receive God’s grace anyway (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)!  Scripture is filled with examples about how God’s grace saved people from circumstances that they could not handle. 

The Moral of the Story

To truly live a fulfilling life, we must learn to put our faith and trust in Jesus!  When life becomes too much to bear, simply know that Christ is there for you and although He may not reveal His plan for you in that very moment in time, He WILL reveal His plan for you in His time!  He WILL bring you through if only you will wait on Him!  He WILL give you peace! He WILL wipe away all your tears and eliminate death, mourning, crying, and all your pain (Revelation 21:4)!  He WILL use your pain to make you into something greater than you can imagine!  Praise God for loving us THIS much!
Take heart!  Know that God does not give you anything that He can’t handle for you!  All you have to do is LET Him!  Let Him make you into a new creation!  He promises that He will (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1-4, NASB)

Conversation Starters

·         Have you ever made a decision that you regretted making?  How has your life changed since you made that decision?
·         Can you think of an event or person that helped you through a bad time?

·         Talk about a time when you made a decision to let God handle your problem.

Things to try.

·         Take the time to read Hebrews 11 to learn about those who were given things that they could not handle on their own without putting their full faith and trust in God.

·         The next time you encounter a trial in life (big or small), remind yourself that God is with you.  Try to find peace in knowing that His grace is sufficient and that He will raise you up.

·         Take some time to jot down some of the things that currently exist in your life that give you great joy.  These are the best examples of God’s grace and can be used as great reminders when you experience great pain.  Carry the list with you in your wallet or purse wherever you go.