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Showing posts with label deep relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deep relationships. Show all posts

Monday, March 14, 2016

Deep Relationships at Work

Romans 12:15-18

We are designed to have deep relationships.  Human beings are inherently social creatures.  Even shy people who prefer to be alone most of the time need the companionship of other people from time to time.  That’s the way God made us.  We were made to have deep relationships with God and with other people.
We find those relationships through our family, our friends, in romantic relationships, and with other people.  Today, I would like to talk about an important type of relationship—deep relationships at work.
Do you realize you may spend more time with your co-workers than most other people in your life?  Depending on your job, it can even rival the amount time you spend with your spouse and children.  Consider, if you work full time, you might spend about eight hours a work day with your co-workers while you might only spend five to seven hours awake with your family.  That’s a sobering reality that should remind you to make the most of your family time.  It also shows how influential your work relationships are to your life.  Make sure the relationships you have at work—where your spend so much of your time—are a positive influence on your life.
Not only do you spend a lot of time with your co-workers, how you relate to them also affects your success at work.  You cannot reach your full potential at work unless you cultivate deep relationships with your co-workers.  Your technical expertise is one aspect of your work success, but your success depends on your relationships more than you may know.
Healthy work relationships are built upon trust, mutual respect, integrity, open communication, and common goals.  When you trust the people you work with, you can better communicate, collaborate, and work as a team.  How effective can you really be if you feel you always have to “watch your back” at work?  How can you work as a team with people you don’t respect or feel don’t respect you?  How can you do your job well if you can’t communicate openly with your coworkers?  How can your organization succeed if its workers don’t share common goals?  Deep relationships at work are vital.
            The Bible is not a business manual, but biblical principles about relationships apply at work as well as they do at home.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:15-18 as you think about how these principles might apply with your co-workers. 

Romans 12:15-18
15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 

Building Better Relationships at Work
The Apostle Paul’s advice applies in many areas of life.  It is especially appropriate for work relationships.  Isn’t it amazing how the Christian faith enhances all your relationships—even your work relationships?  When we genuinely seek to follow Christ’s example at work, we build loyalty, respect, communication, and cooperation.  Everyone wins.
            Since strong, healthy relationships are so important for success at work, I want to give you some ideas to build better relationship with your co-workers.  There is a very helpful website called that offers free, practical, straightforward skills to help people excel in their career.  Much of what they say rings true with my own experience working in both the secular and church world.  Here are six practical ways I gleaned that you can use to build better relationships with your co-workers.[i]
Make Time to Build Relationships at Work – Romans 12:15 says, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  In other words, care about the people with whom you work.  You will always get more from people who know you care.  Make a point to devote part of every day to relationship building.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of time.  Even 20 minutes a day, broken up into five-minute segments can make a big difference.  Stop by someone's office during lunch, write a thank you note or comment on a coworker’s Facebook page, ask a co-worker out for a quick cup of coffee.  These little interactions build the foundation good relationships at work.  A classic book that can teach you how to build relationships is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Appreciate Others – Everyone needs to feel appreciated.  Show your appreciation whenever you can—whether it is your boss or the person who cleans your office.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Look for ways to genuinely compliment people at work.  Spend more time thanking and praising and your coworkers will be more open to the times you need to ask for help, give constructive criticism, or face a difficult problem.  Sincere appreciation leads to loyalty, trust, and great work relationships.
Be Positive – Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”  Focus on being positive as much as you can.  Positivity is attractive and contagious and will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who's negative all the time.  Laugh.  Have fun.  Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too serious.  Be the kind of person people enjoy working with.
Maintain Healthy Boundaries – Robert Frost wrote in his poem Mending Wall, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  Good boundaries at work make good coworkers.  It’s good to help your coworkers and have them help you, but everyone should be responsible for their own work.  And remember, the primary reason you are at work is to work.  Your friendships with co-workers should support your ability to work, not hinder it.  Healthy boundaries keep your work friends from negatively impacting your performance.   Friendships at work have dynamics that are more delicate than friendships outside of work.  Remember, your coworkers may have different personal values, ethics, and religious views than you.  Be careful.  Be mindful.  Keep it professional and don’t let your personal life damage your professional career.
Avoid Gossip – Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.”  Proverbs 25:23 says, “…a gossiping tongue causes anger!”  And Proverbs 26:20 says, “…quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”  Many of the conflicts that injure relationships, hinder productivity, and damage careers could be avoided if only gossip was banished from the workplace.  If you have a conflict with someone at work, talk directly to the person.  This will build trust, loyalty, and cooperation.  Talking behind their back will only make the problem worse and rarely solves the core issue.  So don’t gossip!
Communication – James 1:9 says, “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  That’s a beautiful description of effective communication.  Stay calm and listen twice as much as you speak.  Communication is important in all relationships.  It is essential in work relationships.  Communication keeps you in touch with your coworkers’ lives, but it is also fundamental to cooperation at work.  You need to communicate often and well to ensure everyone understands the common tasks you must accomplish together.  Bad communication causes frustration, mistrust, and poor work performance. 

Difficult Relationships
            Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  There is one thing about work relationships: sometimes you have to work with people you don’t really like or can’t relate to.  But for the sake of work, you have to have a relationship.  How do you do it?
Maintain a professional relationship with them.  You don’t have to be their best buddy, but you do have to work with them.  You might be able to limit your interactions with them, but be careful.  Don’t avoid them all together.  When you avoid talking with people you dislike at work, it can handicap you—especially if you need that person’s help.  Why set up obstacles for yourself where you work?  You need all the help you can get.  Don’t limit yourself with bad communication.
Instead of avoiding the problem, try to be proactive.  Take the sacrificial attitude of Christ as much as you can.  Reach out to them and have conversations.  Perhaps you could even go to lunch together.  As you talk, try to focus on the things you have in common instead of your disagreements.  Ask them about their background, their interests, their greatest successes.  You don’t have to become best friends, but you do need to be able to work together.
On the other hand, what if you just can’t have a good relationship with your co-workers?  What if they are just not the kind of people you can trust and respect?  What if communication with them is always going to be a very difficult chore?  What if your coworkers have no integrity?  What if you just don’t have many common goals?  If after serious thought you feel your work relationships at a particular organization are always going to be strained, it might be time to look for another job.  Remember, you are likely to devote a significant amount of your life to your work—possibly as much or more than you give to your family and personal friends.  Why would you want to work at a place where too many of the relationships are bad?  It might be time to take a leap of faith and plan a change. 
In this case, I would not recommend quitting in an angry rage.  However, you can pray for God’s direction and help, start looking for other opportunities, and go somewhere else where you can have better work relationships where everyone will benefit. 

            God wants us to have deep relationships in every area of our lives—at home, at work, at church, with our friends.  Deep relationships are part of our DNA.  However, our relationships will be limited if we do not have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  There is a longing in our soul that only God can fulfill.  No other relationship can take its place.  Friendships, families, marriages, & careers are damaged when people look to them for the fulfillment only God can provide. 
If you want better friendships, if you want to fix your marriage, if you want a healthier family, if you want a better career, I implore you:  come to Jesus and let him heal your soul.  As Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” 

[i] For more information from a great article about building relationships at work by, see

Monday, March 7, 2016

5 Traits of Deep Friendships

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

God designed us to have deep relationships.  God created us to have a deep relationship with Him--to know Him, to talk to God, to love and admire Him.  However, God created us for more than just a human/God relationship.  God created Adam and Eve so we could have deep relationships with other people too.
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.  The goal of this blog is to share five traits about strong, faithful, meaningful friendships. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Types of Friends
As part of our discussion today, I want to share 5 traits of true friends.  But before we get to those traits, it will be important to discuss the different types of friends we find.  As I see it, there are three different kinds of friends and it is vital to understand the differences.  Friends will fall along a spectrum with these general categories.
            First off, some of your friends will be companions.  People who are companions keep company with each other.  Another word for this might be “acquaintance.”  Now, a companion is a sort of friend, but not at a deep level.  You probably aren’t deeply bonded with a companion; your friendship with a companion is often unplanned.  For instance, you may associate with your companions because of a mutual interest—maybe you work or go to school together, you might share a hobby, or maybe you have a mutual friend with whom you both hang out.  Thus, you may spend time with a companion—you may even enjoy each other’s company—but you didn’t deliberately choose your companion, it just sort of happened.  Companions are usually friendly to each other, but they aren’t necessarily deeply committed to each other.  Companions may grow to become your best friend, but at this stage it is only a very casual relationship.  And that’s vital to remember, because trusting a companion like a close friend can get you into real trouble. 
            Another type of friendship is a mentor/mentee relationship.  A mentor is someone who teaches or gives advice to someone less experienced.  A mentee is someone who is being mentored.  Mentors usually have their mentees best interest in mind and give freely to encourage or improve their mentee.  Charlie Green was my pastor when I took my first job as a minister.  Charlie saw potential in me and took me under his wing to teach me how to be a good pastor.  Now, I didn't have a lot to offer Charlie, but he sacrificially helped me become a better minister.  He was a mentor to me and I have always appreciated him for it.  Now, over the years, our friendship has grown deeper than just that of a mentor and mentee.  It is more of a mutual relationship now.
            It’s important to note that mentor/mentee relationships aren’t an equal or mutual friendship.  Knowledge, expertise, or advice is being exchanged.  It’s somewhat like a business or consumer relationship.  It’s important for the mentee to remember this and give their mentor some space and/or be grateful and respectful.            
            Another type of friend is what I call a true friend.  A true friend is a much deeper relationship than what you have with a companion.  And unlike a mentor/mentee relationship, a true friendship is mutual—with both people contributing equally to the friendship.  A true friend is a real blessing.  They are someone you can trust in thick and thin because they have been with you in thick and thin.
            Listen to what the Bible says about friends. Proverbs 17:17 – "A friend loves at all times…"  Proverbs 18:24 – "...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  John 15:13 – "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
Let me give you five traits of a true friend.  These five traits will help you recognize a true friend and also teach you how to be a true friend to others.  I hope you will also notice that Jesus demonstrated all five of these traits.  So ultimately, if you want to see what a true friend is—look at Jesus Christ.  If you want to be a true friend, seek to treat people like Jesus treats you. 

Five Traits of True Friends
Number one – sacrifice.  True friends sacrifice for each other.  Jesus was the ultimate example of a true friend—he laid down his life for us.  Not all friends will sacrifice to that extent (though some might), but a true friend will sacrifice.  A true friend will give up his time for you, will sacrifice his comfort for you, will go to great lengths for you.  And the deeper the friendship, the farther friends will go to sacrifice for each other. 
My best friend is Eddie Bradford.  We have been friends for 21 years.  Eddie is the kind of friend I can call at 3:00 AM if I have a real problem (and yes, I have called him at 3:00 AM before).  The same goes for Eddie.  He has called me at times when there was no one else he could talk to.  Eddie and I would do almost anything for each other.  That’s a true friend. 
Number two – unconditional love.  Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  He didn’t die for us because we deserved it.  He did it because we didn’t deserve it, but needed it.  That’s true friendship.  A true friend loves us unconditionally.  They are our friend—not because we deserve it—but purely as a gift of love.  This is a deep level of friendship.  That is why a true friend will often stick with you when times are terrible—when you are at your lowest point and have nothing useful to offer.  That kind of friendship can make all the difference in the world.  Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of friend?  Maybe you should seek to be that kind of friend to someone else.
Number three – trust.  A true friend is someone you can trust.  They won’t go around town telling everyone what you said when you told them something confidentially.  You know a true friend always has your best interest in mind.  You can count on them.  They will be there for you when you need it.
People often get into trouble with their “friends” when they misunderstand how trust and friendship work.  Proverbs 18:24 says, A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Remember, companions are not true friends.  They are just casual acquaintances.  But when you trust an acquaintance like a true friend, you can get in real trouble.  Trust must be earned.  Have your friends earned your trust or are they more like companions?  Furthermore, what kind of friend have you been?  Are you trust worthy or are you acting more like a mere companion?
Number four – healthy boundaries.  True friends develop healthy personal boundaries.  In her blog about Christian Friendship, Mary Fairchild writes:  If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. Likewise, if you feel used or abused, something is amiss. Recognizing what's best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship.”  Do your friendships have healthy personal boundaries? 
Number five – truth.  True friends tell the truth.  Do you want to know how my best friend and became friends?  Eddie was the new youth pastor at East Cobb UMC in Marietta.  I was a volunteer working with the youth group when he started.  After a few months on the job, Eddie called all the volunteers and asked our opinion about how he was doing.  I told Eddie what I really liked about his teaching style (he really was doing a good job).  However, I also told Eddie a few things he wasn’t doing well.  Now, some people would have gotten upset, but Eddie recognized I wasn’t trying to complain or be mean.  I genuinely wanted to help him do his very best.  Eddie told me a few years later—after we’d become good friends—how much he appreciated my honesty that day on the phone.  Not only had it helped him be a better youth minister, it revealed to him that I would be honest with him—and that’s the kind of friend he wanted.
Proverbs 27:6 shares God’s great wisdom about this when it says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”  A true friend will be honest with you.  Are you being honest with your friends?  Now, to be sure, you have to have some tact.  You don’t always want to be complaining to your friends about their every flaw.  Think about it.  If you have a booger hanging from your nose, would you rather your friend tell you or just let you walk around all day like that?  What if it was something more important than a booger?  You'd want your friend to be honest with you even if it was hard or embarrassing or upsetting.

The Truest Friend
The truest friend you will ever have is Jesus Christ.  John 15:13 – “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  And John 15:15 says, "Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me."
It’s amazing that Jesus calls us his friends.  He has already done everything to earn your trust.  He always has your best interest in mind.  He loves you unconditionally.  He tells you the truth even when it’s hard.  But he won’t force you to be his friend.  You have to decide.
Until you let Jesus be your friend, all your other friendships and relationships will struggle.  But when you get your heart right with Jesus, everything else will start to fall into place—your family, your friends, your romantic life... everything.  Why don’t you turn to Jesus today—let him be your True Friend, your Lord, and your Savior?

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.