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Showing posts with label Marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marriage. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2017

Proverbs Day 31

Read Proverbs 31
If you choose to get married, the person you choose will be the greatest influencing factor in your life.  Marriage is far deeper than romantic feelings and passion. It is a partnership for life.  It is two people becoming one flesh.  It is a symbol of Christ's love for His church.  Choose wisely or choose not to marry.

Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs 31:10-12
10-12 A really good wife is a truly rare treasure. She’s worth more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her with his whole heart and she blesses his life. She helps and never hurts him all the days of her life.

Everyone puts a lot of pressure on you to get married and they have all these oversimplified sentiments about marriage that have very little to do with the reality of married life.  Don't fall for the world's folly.  A wise person knows marriage is not required (Jesus never married).  It is perfectly normal and acceptable and often best to remain single and celibate.  If you choose to marry, choose a godly spouse who shares your core values and compliments you well.  Love your spouse like Jesus loves you.  They are the single most important thing in your life--more important than your kids, your job, your friends, your family, your hobbies, your possessions, or anything else.  A really good wife (or husband) is a truly rare treasure.

"Loving God, you know everything about me and my spouse.  Help us to love each other the way You love us so we can help each other become all that You want us to be.  Amen."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ask Pastor Chris (a short, quick answer to a question about being single or married)

Here's a quick answer to a question I received Sunday.  The question: "Does God ask us to get married and raise a family?"

My answer:  Not necessarily.  American society puts a lot of pressure on people to find their "true love" and get married and raise a family.  Unfortunately, churches usually follows society's lead on this without really thinking what God wants.  God has a better plan.  Both remaining single and getting married are equally acceptable to God.  Marriage and children are the more usual path people follow and can be a beautiful expression of God's love.  Furthermore, a healthy marriage can help with spiritual growth, is God's plan for enjoying the gift of sex, and provides the best means for conceiving and raising children.  On the other hand, remaining single is also a valid and helpful expression of the human experience.  Jesus remained single and said, "...some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 19:12).  The Apostle Paul reasoned that a married person has to divide their attention between their spouse and serving God; however, a single person can focus all their attention on the Lord's work (see 1 Corinthians 7:32-35).  Whether or not to have children can follow a similar line of reasoning.  A couple can be married and not have children. This could be by choice or because they are unable.  Raising children can be a wonderful blessing.  It is a great honor to love your children unconditionally and it is perhaps the greatest way to evangelize the world, as we teach our children to have faith in Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, raising kids is difficult and requires a lot of time, energy, and resources.  A couple without children can devote more to each other and to God's work.  Christians must understand life with more clarity than the unbelieving world around us.  We should take the lead in accepting, valuing, and supporting people in the variety of ways life is lived--single, married, with and without children.  Each is a beautiful gift from God to be embraced (not merely endured until we become like everybody else says we should be). 

For more information about what the Bible says on the subjects of singleness, marriage, and raising children, see:  Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:1-12, Hebrews 13:4, Mark 10:1-12, and 1 Corinthians 7.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

10 Things Important for Marriage (and Life)

10 Things Important for Marriage (and Life)
Adapted from Advice Given by Ron and Marianne Snyder
1.    Put God First – There are only 2 ways to live your life, with God and without God.  Living life without God will not work.  You are not God and you do not have all the answers.  You have limited strength and resources and at some point they will run out.  You need someone bigger, smarter, and stronger; and the only one who can do that is God.

2.    Embrace your real identity and the fact that you have a perfect heavenly father – Your earthly father is likely to have failed you at some point—even if they were a good father,  That’s because our earthly father is not designed to be everything for us.  No one is—not your parents, friends, or your spouse.  You may have an earthly father that you see as less than perfect, but remember you have a perfect heavenly father who loves you and is always there to provide for you.  Remember who God says you are as His child, a Prince of the King of kings.  Everything He has is yours.  Seek to know Him better and those riches will be your blessings.

3.    Love one another – From Ephesians 5, we learn:  Man is the head of the marriage as Christ is the head of the church.  Man is to love his wife, the way Christ loves you unconditionally—putting her first in all things.  Loving your wife unconditionally, it is the greatest gift and lesson you could ever give your children. 

Marriage is a covenant, in Hebrew that covenant is called a berit.  It means fused together like superglue.  When you get married, you and your wife become one—together forever.  You are the same in that you have 3 basic, God-given needs:  love, acceptance, and worth.  But keep this in mind:  even though you together, you are still different and have different needs.  A man’s #1 need is respect.  A woman’s #1 need is security.  Men tend to see things in black and white.  Women see everything in the middle.  Those are just a couple of differences that are important to recognize.

One more thing:  You don’t need to solve everything.  Sometimes, just be a good listener.  But if you do need to say something—as Ephesians 4:15 says—speak the truth in love.

4.    Never go to bed mad – Ephesians 4:26, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  Women (and men) can be difficult when they’re upset.  They can say things they don’t really mean.  Words are weapons, especially for someone who feels helpless.    There will be many times you’ll have to take the high road and overlook the emotions that are going on and not play into them. Being the one that stays calm and reassures that everything is ok can go a long way in keeping the peace.

5.    Put away the past – Make sure your baggage stays as empty as possible.  Learn to forgive.  You know they say “harboring forgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person t die.”  Address any issues you may have and heal them before you start out together.  You have heard it said, “Time heals all wounds…”  Not so.  Time only heals clean wounds.

6.    Divorce is not an option – Pledge that to each other from the beginning.  It’s important.  God’s desire is for husband and wife to stay married for life.  And accept for extreme circumstances—such as adultery and abuse—a couple should do everything possible to keep the marriage together.  There will be times that are tough, but the grass is never greener and someday you’ll look back and see that it was the storms you conquered in uor marriage that made it stronger. 

7.    Live within your means – This is big!  Money problems are the biggest reason for divorce.  If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it.

8.    Guard your heart – Satan will always be after you and your marriage.  He will work hard to tear you apart.  One fo the ways he does it is by getting you to compare yourself to others.  Your marriage will be unique to you.  Don’t compare yourself or your marriage to anyone else.  Guys, guarding your heart also means don’t look at other women or pornography.

9.    Compliment and show each other love – There are 5 main love languages.  They are:  words of affirmation, spending time together, acts of service, physical touch, and gifts.  Know what yours are and those of the people you care about (including your kids).  That way you’ll know how to speak love to them.  If you concentrate on giving gifts but your spouse’s language is acts of service, you will miscommunicate and they might not hear you telling them how much you love them.  Make sure you know and are speaking their love language.

10. Have fun – Your spouse should also be your best friend.  Spend time together going to concerts, hiking and traveling, the movies, bowling, cooking together, whatever… 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Biblical Advice for A Better Marriage

Genesis 2:18-25

We were made for deep relationships.  A deep relationship is a profound, caring connection of mutual support, cooperation, and trust.  Deep relationships can be with family, friends, someone we date, a spouse, or a co-worker.  However we find them, our souls yearn for deep relationships.  Today, I want to offer some biblical advice to help strengthen the deep relationship between a husband and wife.
In the beginning, God created a man named Adam as a living, breathing being to have a deep relationship with God.  God also made a woman named Eve because God wanted people to have relationships with each other.  Let’s read the story from Genesis of how God made the first woman.

Genesis 2:18-25
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,
    and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
    because she was taken from ‘man.’”
24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

Women and Men
God made Adam and Eve because deep human relationships are as important as a relationship with God.  Adam and Eve were so much alike.  The story says Eve was made from Adam’s own rib.  Yet Eve was also different from Adam.  She was a woman, not a man.  Even young children splashing around in a bathtub together perceive there is a very basic physical difference between boys and girls.  Then as they grow up, they perceive the differences are more than just physical appearance.  For instance, men tend to be logical and rational and women tend to just be completely crazy...  :)
Of course, I jest, but jokes like these are funny because of the deep differences we perceive in the way men and women tend to think, communicate, and view life.  It almost seems as if we are from two different planets and speak different languages and have different customs.  Yet, these mysterious differences between the sexes makes for one of the most complicated and rewarding deep relationships known to humanity.
It’s important to remember that the differences between the sexes was designed by God.  So when you get frustrated that your spouse thinks or acts so differently from you, take a moment to relax and remember God made them that way for a reason.  Ultimately, you need them to be different and their differences enrich your life.  Yet it also means you have to be patient and be diligent to build a deep relationship with your spouse. 

Biblical Advice about Marriage
            The best very place to get marital advice is from the God who designed the human heart and created the institution of marriage.  Here are four passages from the Bible about marriage I think will help improve your marriage. 

Matthew 19:6 – "Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” 
These words, spoken by Jesus, remind us that God unites husband and wife as one in marriage.  It is a deep and mysterious union meant to last a lifetime.  Therefore, when it comes to your spouse, keep a lifelong perspective about everything.  As you are choosing a spouse, understand that you will be with this person for the rest of your life.  As you argue with your spouse, remember you will be with them for the rest of your life.  As you make decisions about your friends, your career, your children, your church, remember you will be with your spouse for the rest of your life.  Always have an attitude of life-long commitment in your marriage.  Avoid people, situations, or attitudes that threaten to split apart what God has joined together.  Work hard to invest in a happy marriage, knowing you are investing in your own happy life. 

Ephesians 5:21 – "And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
The love between a husband and wife is meant to be an illustration of the way Christ loves the Church.  Remember, Christ laid down his life in sacrifice for the Church.  That was true, sacrificial love.  And that is the kind of love we aim for in our marriage. 
Sacrifice for your spouse as service to Christ.  You won’t always feel like it, and your spouse won’t always deserve it.  Do it anyway, out of reverence for Christ.  Make your own desires secondary and put your spouse ahead of yourself.

Hebrews 13:4 – Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.
Honor your spouse.  Speak well of them—to others and to them.  Point out the very best in them and look for ways to show them how much you appreciate their best qualities.
And be faithful to your spouse.  It almost goes without saying that you shouldn’t cheat on your spouse.  Few would argue with that.  But faithfulness is deeper than just sexual faithfulness.  Guard your eyes that you don’t seek enjoyment from other people in ways you should only find in your spouse.  Guard your emotions; don’t seek emotional and relational fulfillment from other people in ways you should only receive from your spouse.  Be faithful to protect, honor, and respect your spouse.  Be faithful to the life-long partnership you are building together.  Ultimately, don’t put anyone or anything above you marriage—not kids, not parents, not friends, not hobbies, not anything.  Only God has primacy over you marriage.  And the truth is, God is not really above your marriage, but an equal part in it. 

Proverbs 5:18-19 – "Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.  Rejoice in the wife of your youth.  She is a loving deer, a graceful doe.  Let her breasts satisfy you always.  May you always be captivated by her love."
That verse is a little risque for church! But it’s from the Bible so...   Find reasons and ways to keep falling in love with your spouse.  Meditate on the ways you are attracted to them.  Remember often the qualities that initially attracted you to them. 
I once had a husband and wife come to me for marriage counseling.  The husband wanted a divorce because he said he no longer loved his wife.  He admitted he had already kissed another woman.  His wife was devastated, but she still loved her husband and they came to their pastor as a last resort.
I asked the husband what initially attracted him to his wife and what he had loved about her before he "fell out of love".  He talked about the way she had made him feel special, the way she had made him feel like her hero, and many other qualities that he had been so important to him.  Through our discussion, I helped the husband to see that his wife was the same person she had always been and he just had to remember not to take those important qualities for granted.  The couple agreed to give the marriage another try.  They both spent time intentionally loving each other and focusing on what they loved about each other and it brought real healing to their marriage.  It has been several years and I still get emails from the couple sharing how happy their marriage is now.
Remember why you fell in love and find ways to let your spouse know how deeply attracted you are to them. 

            You will struggle to have a good relationship with God if you do not have deep relationships with other people.  If you are married, work diligently to have a strong, healthy relationship with your spouse.  If you are not married, work diligently to have strong, healthy relationships with other people—friends and family.  God designed you for deep relationships with other people and you will not find satisfaction in life without them—even if you have a relationship with God.
You will also struggle to have deep relationships with your spouse or with other people if you neglect your relationship with God.  He is your creator and you will not find true satisfaction in life without a deep, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Yet when you submit and let Jesus be your Lord and Savior, all your other relationships will begin to fall into place.
So I encourage you today, get your heart right with Jesus and then delve deeper in your relationships with other people.

Click Here for more advice about marriage shared by other people - 62 Words of Advice About Marriage

62 Words of Advice About Marriage

The following excerpts are advice about marriage that was shared via email, Facebook, and handwritten notes.  Some statements were shared by people from Pleasant Grove UMC; others came from people outside of our congregation.  The advice is not in any particular order and I make no claims about the accuracy of these statements.  I simply share them for your consideration.  I would welcome the opportunity to counsel with you privately about how to have a happier marriage. For Biblical advice about marriage, click here.

How do you have a life-long, happy marriage? What marriage advice would you give to a young couple? What advice helped you most in your marriage?

1.     Open communication, honesty, teamwork, forgiveness, and common interest/hobby.

2.     Do not be jealous or do anything to cause your spouse to be jealous.  Think “we” not “me.”  Support your spouse.

3.     Marriage is NOT a 50/50 relationship.  Both have to commit 100% to the marriage and keep God at the center of everything.

4.     When things get tough go straight to his (God’s) word and read and pray together.  Talk about everything even if it is uncomfortable.

5.     Do you want to be "right" all the time or do you want to be happy?

6.     I can tell you what my Dad told me 47 years ago, "Never go to bed mad at each other. Even if you have to sit on the side of the bed for hours to work it out." We have done just that a few times.

7.     Marriage is not just a covenant between you and your spouse but between you, your spouse and God.

8.     And, marriage is not 50/50. It's 100/100. You give 100%. That's your end of it. You, however, are not the judge of whether or not your spouse is giving their "fair share".

9.     Marriage and love is about taking as much heart ache the other person can throw at you and still love them at the end of the day.

10.  Take a good long look at the baggage you bring into your marriage. Don't punish your partner for something someone else did to you. Work hard to make sure you both mean the same thing. Words can mean different things to different people. You are building a brand new world; make sure it's one you both love.

11.  Just because you are talking to each other doesn't mean you are communicating. So many times [my wife] and I have had a conversation come back later wondering what happened. After further discussion it turns out the words and phrases we used meant different things to each of us. Keep talking and clarifying with each other.

12.  Talk about your family of origin and how they did things and said things. It matters more than you think.

13.  Don't always be right, and make a scene to prove you’re right, learn to say I am sorry, I was wrong!

14.  Our question we add to pretty much every stress event going on in our life is: what can we do about it right now? And more times than naught, it's absolutely nothing. Example: It's Monday and I don't get paid until Wednesday and I get a cancel notice in the mail, is there anything we can do about it right now? No. But we can sit down and work out a plan of action for tomorrow. My point is, there's no since in arguing about something you cannot solve right now. It serves no purpose.

15.  Never go to bed mad at each other or without praying together.

16.  That Christ's (and the Bible's) command to love our neighbor with self-sacrificial love applies to the neighbor with whom we share a life, a family, and a bed.

17.  Be the first to forgive...  everyone makes mistakes even yourself...  so don't forget to forgive yourself.

18.  Learn the concept of sacrifice! Love is about sacrificing the "mine" for the "ours". Right & wrong doesn't matter. What matters is what you can do for the other part of the marriage. Learn to swallow pride.

19.  Go to church regular & move away from family for a while so you can stand on your own 2 feet & figure it out for yourself.

20.  GOD: put him smack dab in the center. Think of your marriage relationship the same way you think of how your relationship with God should be!

21.  Pride: move it aside. No room for pride in a marriage.

22.  Selfishness: no room for that either! Be willing to move yourself out of the way and really think about your spouse.

23.  Percentages: marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. And there will be times one spouse is 170 and the other is 30. You lovingly help carry their load!

24.  Respect: seriously important!! No explanation necessary!! If you want it, give it-even when it isn't deserved!!

25.  LAUGH! LAUGH!!LAUGH!! It makes everything better!! Be willing to laugh at yourself!! And about the craziest little thing!!

26.  Humble: be humble!! Humility is a powerful thing! You are no better than your spouse and all sin is the same.

27.  Speech: if you got nothing good to say then shut your pie hole. It is perfectly ok to walk away from an argument and not have the last word. What if your last word was truly your last word that you ever said to your spouse? Could you live with the guilt? It is ok to walk away, leave the house, do whatever is necessary but ALWAYS come back!! Leaving forever isn't an option (except in abusive situations of any sort)!! And yes, sometimes going to bed angry will happen but tell your spouse you guys need to shelve the discussion until you can both pray and then speak out of love and not anger. This is coming from a couple who has been married for 21 years not including time off for bad behavior. We divorced for a year and a half and have been married longer this time than the last. The Lord has had His work cut out for Him but oh what a blessing this second chance has been. He really did a work on both of us and changed our hearts!

28.  If you argue, argue naked. It won't last long. J

29.  If the person you married got cancer right after your first anniversary and EVERYTHING changed, could you stay and cope with a totally different, difficult life? If not... Don't get married!

30.  Couples fall in & out of love. The key is to be patient to fall back in love stronger each time.

31.  Always say I love and I sorry and mean it!

32.  Do not marry someone you don't know. If you haven't had a fight, a real fight, you do not know one another yet.

33.  a. With life comes growth, and growth isn't always at the same time. Your spouse won't always be the same person you married, and neither will you. You have to wake up every day and remember to fall in love with that new and different person every single day! Change is inevitable, learn to love the changes or ignore them one (just kidding on that last part!).
      b. Sometimes you just have to pick up the slack... And remember your partner will have to too.
      c. The most intimate thing you can ever do with your spouse is pray together. It improves ALL areas of your marriage. 
      d. marry someone who doesn't chase after your heart, but chases after the Lord’s.
      e. Most importantly, remember your spouse cannot "complete" you or your life, only God can. You can improve each other's lives, but you can't complete each other.

34.  When you’re mad at your spouse, pray for them. It's hard to be mad at someone once you start praying for them.

35.  Define love: tangible, sacrificial, committed, and compassionate. God has displayed His love for the world by giving us Jesus Christ. (God's love is tangible). Jesus gave His life as a ransom. (God's love is sacrificial.) Jesus loved us all the way to the cross. (God's love is committed.) God offers us forgiveness before we even ask. (God's love is other directed - compassionate). Those same four attributes should be displayed in marriage - you can't just say "I love you" and not tangibly display it. You must be willing to lay aside your desires for your spouses - be sacrificial. You must be committed thick and thin, good and bad, like or dislike, feeling "in love" or not. You must realize the other person will not always live up your dreams or be perfect. Thus be compassionate.

36.  Obviously God first. After that, life will bring its own struggles; there is no need to fabricate them. Don't assume that your spouse is acting maliciously; if they upset you, they might not be aware of it. Discuss the issue rationally in lieu of emotionally. Treat your relationship as a team effort working towards the same goal. Forget about my car and your car, or my keys and your keys, it's all ours. If he scratches the car you both have to pay for it. If she loses her keys you both have to replace them. In the end it's just a car, they are just keys. We took a class at our church a few years ago and were surprised at the insignificant things couples argue about. Life will bring significant struggles; there is no need to spend much time on the insignificant. If you respect each other and collectively work towards established goals there is little you cannot achieve.

37.  NEVER go to bed angry with, or at, each other, and always kiss each other goodnight! It has worked for us for 24 1/2 years!

38.  Be patient and understanding.

39.  It's not always about love sometimes it has to be about commitment because you don't always love the other person.

40.  I have always remembered the advice of Tom Lanford, the pastor that married us; don't run to your parents tattling every argument because they will remember it long after you've both forgotten it!

41.  Live within your means. Financial worries put extra stress on a marriage. Work as a team and set goals together. Pray about your decisions.

42.  Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. It takes both partners giving 100 percent all of the time. Listen to your partner and stop thinking of the next thing you want to say in a disagreement. Stop and think how you would feel if your partner never came home again.

43.  Budget together. When both of you try to actively stay on the same page with the household finances, it leaves much less room for an argument to start over money.

44.  Remember that your roll is to be their spouse, their sidekick, NOT their parent! The concept of being a team has worked for us for close to 35 years.

45.  Don't be a quitter...things are not gonna work out like you think they should in your head...reality TV is not real...50% divorce rate is real...communication is good even if it gets loud hard to guard your heart....Pray for your spouse...give grace...never give up!

46.  Two things I have learned:  First, seek ye first the kingdom of God and all other things will be added unto you!!  Second, when one spouse is having a tough time the other spouse has to be strong and vice-versa.  Never fall out of love with each other on the same day!!!!

47.  Date night matters more after kids. You have to remember to be a couple.

48.  Putting God first and tithing together with money and service. I watch money and the pursuit of material goods become the most important thing in a relationships and it destroys marriages.  Find out what really makes each other feel loved and do those things each day.  Love language is really important especially to us girls!  There is even a book "The Five Love Languages".

49.  In all things be evenly yoked.

50.  Of course never go to bed angry! Always be able to apologize without a "But" afterwards!

51.  "Do you want a personal victory or a closer relationship?" I ask myself that question often. Serve your spouse. Don't keep a ledger and keep on serving.  "A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers" Ruth Graham SO TRUE. Forgiveness.

52.  If you get stuck in "something" in your marriage, get help right away, don't wait until a little thing becomes a BIG thing and it is too late. As a pastor, I could have saved a lot of marriages if they would have just come to me sooner.

53.  Never say or do something that you wouldn't say or do in front of your wife/husband!

54.  Marry your best friend. You can love someone but if you don't like them very much it isn't worth it...and pray to continue to love each other till death do you part.

55.  Be a good listener for each other. Communication is key to a healthy relationship.

56.  Never stop courting.

57.  When you marry someone, you become one with them.  To have a good and happy life, don't down grade each other, build each other up.  Love is never mean.

58.  It's never 50/50. Some days 80/20. Others 20/80. From my Daddy. 52 yrs. marriage to my dear mama.

59.  In fairy tales the stories always end and they lived happily ever after.  Know in life once you say I do that is when the real work begins.  Remember each day to give your partner the best of you.  Times will be hard; don't let divorce be an option.

60.  When your spouse walks through the door, give them a warm greeting! Plant a big kiss on them or give a great big hug. Remind them why they come home every night and that they are appreciated. Also, make sure you kiss them EVERY day. Not a grandma kiss either... give them a 3-6 second "Knock Your Socks Off" kiss and occasionally do it in front of your kids, because it's important that they see that their parents are in love! Lastly, learn what makes your spouse feel loved and appreciated!  Is it bringing them a gift, spending time together, doing something sweet for them, whatever it is...DO it and do it often! 

61.  I believe a couple has to take a long term view of the marriage. Will today's "crisis" really matter a year or two down the road? If not, then it has to be viewed in the proper perspective. Very few things are really as bad, or as good, as they first appear.  I also believe that it very important for wife and husband to stay tuned in to each other during the child rearing years. It's very easy to let our children take over our lives. But then they grow up and leave to start their own lives and wife and husband are left looking at each other and asking, "Who are you?"
62. My marriage advice, love is a choice.  Honoring your commitment is a choice.  Honoring each other is a choice.  There will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys.  At the end of the day, you just have to decide that come hell or high water, you are going to hold yourself accountable to the choices you made.  God first, marriage second, kids third, then everything else.  Oh... And you can save yourselves decades of heartache and hardship, by taking this to heart before you make a permanent choice.  2 Corinthians 6:14 NASB  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
The best very place to get marital advice is from the God who designed the human heart and created the institution of marriage. Click Here to read about four passages from the Bible about marriage that will help improve your marriage - Biblical Advice for A Better Marriage.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Saying “I Love You” to the Pizza Guy

2 Corinthians 6:14-16

You were created with a purpose and that purpose is:  deep relationships.  You can go ahead and write that down, stick it on your refrigerator, make it the wallpaper on the screen of your smart phone.  Send it out on twitter or update your Facebook status.  You were made for deep relationships.
All the way back in Genesis, God created Adam as a living, breathing being to have a deep relationship with God.  God gave Adam free will so he could choose whether or not to love God.  That freedom to choose is the essential hallmark of a deep relationship.  Deep relationships are only possible when we can choose.
God didn’t stop with just a deep relationship between God and man.  That wasn’t good enough.  So God made Eve because deep relationships with other human beings is essential too.  Eve was so much like Adam (she was made from his own rib) yet Eve was also essentially different from Adam (she was a woman, not a man).  This mysterious difference between the sexes makes for one of the deepest relationships known to humanity.
We were made for deep relationships.  What is a deep relationship? A deep relationship is a profound, caring connection of mutual support, cooperation, and trust.  Our soul yearns for deep relationships.  The first deep relationship we encounter is with our mother.  It starts before we are even born, while we are still in the womb.  Then we are born and meet our father.  Fathers share equally in caring for the needs of the child.  The father and the mother both love the child, but they often express their love in different ways.  A mother’s love tends to be more passive and nurturing while a father’s love is often more assertive.  Both the father/child and mother/child relationships are deep relationships and a child does best with access to both kinds.  
We enjoy other deep relationship throughout life.  We have deep relationships with our family—brothers, sister, grandparents, and cousins.  We make friends.  We have girlfriends or boyfriends.  We may marry and form a deep relationship with a spouse.  We can also have deep relationships with colleagues and coworkers or with people in the Church.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at ways to improve the different types of deep relationships we share in life.  Today, I want to share some important advice from the Word of God that is especially applicable for people who are dating.  However, it also applies in other deep relationships.   

2 Corinthians 6:14-16
14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.  

In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Atticus Finch said, “You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family…”  There’s a lot of wisdom in that.  In the context of deep relationships, it tells us we have little choice about some of our deep relationships—like our family.  However, there are many relationships we can choose.  One of the most important deep relationships we choose is who we date.
I will never forget the first time I told Kelly I loved her.  We’d only been dating a little while.  After an evening together, I brought Kelly home and walked her to the door.  She gave me a kiss goodnight and I said “I love you.”
Oh no!  What was I thinking?!?  In all honesty when I said “I love you” that night, it really wasn’t a conscious choice.  I didn’t think to myself ‘I think I’ll tell Kelly I love her tonight.’  It just sort of came out.  
You see, in my family growing up, we always said “I love you.”  We said it when we went to bed, when we parted company, when we said goodbye on the phone.  It was such a habit, I even accidentally said “I love you” to the pizza guy once.  Yeah, I was ordering a pizza over the phone and I was like, “I would like a large pepperoni pizza delivered to 4309 Vinson Ave.  How much is that?  Ok.  Yes, I would like extra cheese. Thank you.  So it’ll be here in 30 minutes or less.  Great!  I love you. Bye!  [Click.]”  How awkward is that?
Well that night after our date when I said “I love you”, Kelly did not reply with “I love you too” (like my Mom always did).  And I knew I had made a big mistake by the awkward silence that followed.  Kelly called later that night.  We had a long talk as she explained why she didn’t say, “I love you.”  She said she felt those were some very important words and she didn’t take them lightly.  She said that when she finally did say them, I would know she really meant it.
Funny thing is, I’m not sure if I really loved Kelly when I said those words to her the first time.  But after our telephone conversation that night, I think I really did start to love Kelly.  I thought, ‘Wow.  This is a really special woman.  Such honesty.  Such wisdom.  Such authenticity.  I could marry someone like her.’
It’s important to think carefully about the person you’re dating and decide is this is the kind of person with whom you should be in a deep relationship?  Do they have the kind of values you believe are most important?  Are they the kind of person who will help you grow as a person.  Are they the kind of person you could spend the rest of your life with?   If you surround yourself with amazing people, they will inspire you to be amazing.  However, 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.””
Kelly and I learned a lot about each other as we talked on the phone about the words “I love you” that night 24 years ago.  We were sorting out what be believed about love.  We were also learning how we communicated.  We found out how the other person was brought up and how we would like to bring up our own family.  (Incidentally, Kelly eventually decided that she really liked my family’s tradition of saying “I love you” often.  And to this day in our family, we tell each other and our children “I love you” every chance we get.)
Hopefully, one of the chief values you will expect in a person you date is that they are Christian.  Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is very important here.  He said, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.”  
A Christian’s faith is the very core of who we are.  A Christian is a person who has decided to give Jesus their complete allegiance.  A Christian seeks the Kingdom of God above all else.  A Christian has committed to follow Christ wherever he leads.  Why, then, would a Christian choose someone who is not a Christian as their most important teammate?  You need someone who shares your most basic, core faith.  You need someone who will help you be the best Christ-follower you can be and someone whom you can help in the same way.  
I would advise you--if you are a Christian--to be clear upfront with any person you date that you are a Christian and your faith is very important to you and you are looking for someone who shares your beliefs and values.  And don’t settle for someone who says they are a Christian.  Look to see if their actions align with their words.  Do they live as a Christian?  Are they active in church?  Do they serve others as Christ calls us to?  Do they have a real relationship with Jesus?  Now you’re never going to find the perfect person—perfect people don’t exist, but it’s reasonable and wise to expect the person you might spend the rest of your life with to have values you think are important.  
            Even if you are not dating, these principles still apply to other deep relationships you choose.  Consider the other types of deep relationships with which you might get involved.  I advise you to take these words to heart. 

Don’t Move too Fast
The second thing I would advise you when you are dating--don’t move too fast.  Who you marry is a very important decision; it will have a huge impact on the next 40, 50, or even 60 years of your life.  Take your time.   Kelly and I dated for two and a half years before we married.  At the time, it seemed like a very long period, but now that we’ve been married for almost 22 years, it doesn’t seem that long at all.
It takes time to really get to know someone and you want to know them pretty well before you make such a deep commitment as marriage.  There’s a lot going on in the early stages of dating.  Both people are trying to make the very best impression.  And because of the way our bodies and brains work, we initially look for all the things we like about someone we date while at the same time overlooking as many of their faults as we can.  That’s why the early stages of dating can be so exhilarating; your girlfriend or boyfriend just seems so wonderful and perfectly suited for you.  Of course they do, because you are drunk on hormones and they’re trying real hard to show you their very best.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good match, but it does mean it would be wise to give the relationship plenty of time to reveal a less biased picture.  Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”  The same holds true for men.   Give the relationship time to move past the initial charm and physical attraction so you can see if they are still someone you want to spend your life with. 

It’s Just Dating
Now, some people would say, “We’re just dating.  It’s not that serious.  It’s not like I’m gonna marry them.”  I understand that sometimes you just want to go on a casual date.  But you have to understand the way the human body functions.  God designed us for deep relationships.  Therefore, the very biology of our bodies—the chemicals, the hormones, our emotions and psychology—is geared to drive us to into a deep relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  People who think they can just casually date anyone—regardless of their values—without it ever becoming serious misunderstand the powerful lure for people to bond.  We are designed for deep relationships and our casual relationships naturally grow deeper and deeper.  Before we know it, we are in too deep.  
The deeper the dating relationship the harder it is to turn back.   Perhaps, that is why so many people marry the wrong person.  Even if they see the red flags in the relationship early on, they can’t turn back because they’re already in over their heads.  I often counsel with people with marital problems because they don’t like something about their spouse.  I ask, “Didn’t you know this person had this bad quality when you were dating?”  They usually say, “Yes.  But I was in love” or they say “I guess I thought they would change.”  
Be careful.  You might think you’re just going on causal dates, but don’t underestimate the potential relationship you or the person you’re dating might be drawn into.  Make every effort to date people you believe share your values.  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” 

What if You're Already Married?
            "But what if I’m already married?"  That’s a great question.  The Apostle Paul gave some advice for Christians who are already married to non-Christians. In 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 Paul basically advised Christians who are married to non-believers to remain married and work for their spouse’s conversion.  If this describes your marriage, I would encourage you to pray for your spouse to come to know Christ.  Don’t nag them about their faith or badger them to death to go to church.  Certainly, you can look for good opportunities to encourage them or invite them, but don’t be overbearing.  Remember, it is the Lord’s job to convict and convert your spouse.  You are only to love them and support them and to be a tool in God’s hand.  Who knows what God might do?  Make it a matter of daily prayer and live your Christian life in such a way that your spouse cannot help but admire your faith and be attracted by it.
            If you are struggling with other marital problems besides differing religious views, I would advise you to be proactive and work as hard as you can to overcome you problems.  Talk to your spouse about your concerns.  Talk to your pastor or seek marital counseling for a qualified marital counselor.  Marriage is sometimes difficult (that's why it's so important to make careful choices in the beginning while we are still dating if we can!).  Click here for more on marriage and dating.
Other Relationships
Paul warned the Corinthians not to team up (in deep relationships) with unbelievers.  This isn’t limited only to dating relationships.  Consider the other types of deep relationships you have in life (especially the deep relationships you choose)--the people with whom you do business, the company for which you work, your close friendships, partnerships, etc.  How does Paul’s advice apply in these relationships?
It would be nearly impossible for Christians to go through life without having any dealings with non-Christians nor should we.  I believe the love of Christ and His great commission compels us to reach out to non-believers.  (How else are we supposed to introduce them to Christ?)  However, we need to be especially careful about the kinds of relationships we develop with non-Christians and the depth to which we take those relationships.  We can choose some of the relationships we commit to, others we can choose how deeply we commit.  In every relationship, you should be careful and “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23) 

The most important deep relationship we can have is one with Jesus Christ.  It is the one relationship that puts everything else on the right path.  Until we get our hearts right with Jesus, we will have problems with everything else.  You will struggle with your family life, your dating relationships, your marriage, your work-life, your friendships, your children.
It’s time to break down and surrender.  That means you’ve got to submit everything to Jesus.  You’ve got to give up trying to be in charge of your life.  Let Jesus be in charge.  He knows what you need more than you know yourself.  He loves you so much, he died on a cross to pay the price for your past mistakes.  Through Jesus, you can make a fresh start and follow his way of living--where you will develop deeply refreshing, meaningful, and uplifting relationships that will help you live life to the fullest.
Wouldn’t you like to give Jesus a try?  Then what’s stopping you?  Pray to him right now.  Ask him to come and take charge of your life.  Ask him to forgive your past mistakes and lead you from now on.  Promise to trust Jesus and follow him wherever he leads you and you will be truly blessed.  And ultimately, you will spend eternity with God in His glorious Kingdom.  Don’t delay.  Ask Jesus into your heart today.