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Embrace marriage struggles!

why you should embrace marriage struggles

Have you ever considered that tension in your relationship can be a good thing? Often God is introducing areas that need to be improved. He wants you to embrace these marriage struggles. The best way to do this is by asking each other tough questions:

  • A husband might say, “Outside of the Lord Himself, do you feel like you are taking second place to anything in my life?”
  • A wife might ask, “Do you feel like I respect you?”

Then there are right and wrong ways to respond to these questions:

  • Imagine a wife answers that she does not feel that she is the supreme relationship in her husband’s life. He should not try to talk her out of the way she feels or persuade her to see things differently. This will make her feel even more misunderstood.
  • Imagine a husband answers that his wife makes him feel disrespected. She should not argue with him and try to convince him he is wrong. This will make him feel even more disrespected.

Instead, each spouse should listen to the other, apologize the right way, and try to make the appropriate changes. When couples ask each other these difficult questions, they should expect some painful discussions. That’s great.

A helpful way to view marriage struggles…

Continue reading Embrace marriage struggles!

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Handle frustrations in marriage with these three encouragements

Handle frustrations in marriage with these encouragements

If we’re going to have healthy, joyful relationships, we have to learn to handle frustrations in marriage that inevitably arise. These frustrations can actually increase as we become  more familiar with the Bible!  Since the standard set by God’s Word is so high:

  • A husband could easily become frustrated that his wife is not more respectful or submissive as God’s Word commands.
  • A wife could as easily become frustrated that her husband does not cherish her or provide the spiritual leadership God’s Word commands.

This is illustrated by a situation that took place years ago when I was teaching on marriage. While talking about husbands loving their wives, a woman stood up in front of everyone and criticized her husband for the way he mistreated her. I could have interrupted and said, “Can we pray for you two?” or “Why don’t we talk about this after the study?” Instead, I was caught so off guard that I did the worst thing possible—nothing! I simply stood there with my jaw dropped while the angry wife finished berating her husband. After that I decided it was important to give people encouragement for handling frustrations in marriage…

First, handle frustrations in marriage by remembering your own weaknesses.

Instead of keeping a mental account of all that your spouse does wrong, remind yourself of your own struggles. Instead of focusing on your spouse’s failures, focus on your own. We all have plenty of weaknesses to work on without obsessing over the weaknesses of our spouses. When we start to feel frustrated toward our spouse, we should think back about the ways we’ve failed. This will humble us and diffuse the frustration we’re feeling. Continue reading Handle frustrations in marriage with these three encouragements

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Marriage problems are really only symptoms

marriage problems are only symptoms

Our marriage “problems” are only symptoms of the actual problem in our relationships with Christ. In my own marriage, for instance, the “problem” looked like I did not have enough time for my wife and children, but that was only a symptom. The problem was that I would not obey the Holy Spirit’s conviction to put my family ahead of the church, make my wife a priority, spend more time with my children, etc. Plus, I was being consumed with anxiety, versus trusting Christ like I should have. In other words, the marriage problems I was experiencing were directly connected to my relationship with Christ.

A couple’s marriage problems can only be fixed by focusing on their relationships with the Lord

This is why any biblical marriage counseling must address the husband and wife’s relationship with Christ. Couples I counsel are often confused when they share marriage problems they are experiencing and I respond by asking:

  • “What does your time in God’s Word look like?”
  • “How is your prayer life?”
  • “Tell me about your involvement in the church?”

A wife will say, “I just told you my husband yells at me. Why are you talking about his time in the Word?” Because the hope is that as a husband reads God’s Word he will become convicted of his sin and repent. He will become a more patient and loving leader. I do not have the power to change a husband’s heart (and apparently neither does a wife or there would be no need for counseling). A husband can only become a new man through a relationship with Christ. Continue reading Marriage problems are really only symptoms

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3 blessings when choosing God over family

choosing God over family

There aren’t many situations for Christians more difficult than those involving choosing God over family. Consider the following:

  • A loved one claims to be a believer but wants to marry an unbeliever. So you’re unable to support the relationship.
  • Family members invite your child to stay with them, but you know they’ll be a negative influence on them. So you have to decline.
  • A relative is living in habitual sin and you have to confront the person.

There are examples in the Old Testament of individuals having to choose God over family members:

  • Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives. Exodus 32:27 says, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”
  • King Asa was one of the greatest reformers in the Old Testament. When he purged the idolatry from the land, he had to punish even his own grandmother. 1 Kings 15:13 records, “[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah”

Jesus is the premier teacher and example on this subject…

Continue reading 3 blessings when choosing God over family

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“What if my husband won’t lead?” 5 recommendations for a wife in this situation!

What if my husband won't lead?

“My husband won’t lead!”

The command for wives to submit to their husbands is criticized by many non-Christians and even some liberal or egalitarian churches. As a result, you’d think as a pastor I’d regularly hear women saying, “My husband wants me to submit and I hate it.” Instead, the most common complaint I hear from wives is, “My husband won’t lead.”

Here’s part of a message I received recently:

I’m really struggling trying to get my husband to lead. I have tried to encourage him to do so, but I’m at a loss! Taking the initiative is what I want him to do, but he won’t. I have your workbook, but he won’t go over the questions with me. Short of reminding him again and again and feeling like I’m nagging him – which I hate doing and have tried really hard not to do – how do I get him to step up?

Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…

Unfortunately, there’s no answer that guarantees a husband will grow in this area. Although I provide the following recommendations, I can’t assure a wife that her husband will be different in the future. For any single ladies, this is one thing to keep in mind before saying, “I do.”

Here are the recommendations I’d give a wife whose husband won’t lead…

1. If your husband won’t lead, keep reminding him.

I’ll be the first to say that as husbands we can be oblivious and forgetful at times. God has called you to be your husband’s helper, and this is one of the best ways for you to fulfill that role. The obvious danger is that your reminders turn in to nagging. The woman who sent me the above question said she makes an effort to prevent that from happening. That’s wonderful!

2. If your husband won’t lead, keep inviting him.

Continue reading “What if my husband won’t lead?” 5 recommendations for a wife in this situation!

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3 reasons Christianity is the opposite of other religions

3 reasons Christianity is the opposite of other religions

Christianity is the opposite of other religions, and the main difference is contained in a few profound words Abraham spoke to his son, Isaac. Genesis 22:7 and 8:

Isaac said, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

1. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God provided the Sacrifice

For a moment, consider the absurdity of Abraham’s words: “God will provide His own lamb for sacrifice. He will provide what’s necessary to worship Him.”

This doesn’t make sense. Religion is about what man does. At the heart of every religion is an individual providing a sacrifice. That’s what makes it worship. A sacrifice that doesn’t involve any sacrifice isn’t really be a sacrifice. Yet God can be worshiped even though He provided the sacrifice.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Abraham prophetically said God would provide the Lamb for Himself. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

2. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the work

In other works-based religions, even those that claim to be Christian, people do the work. But in Christianity God has done the work. This doesn’t just make Christianity different than other religions. This is why Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The Tower of Babel was the first organized rebellion against God. It also serves as a good picture of all false, works-based religions. The people said, “Come, let us build a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:3).

  • Other religions are about man reaching up to God. The people say, “Let us…”
  • Christianity is about God reaching down to man. God says, “I will…”

God did this so dramatically He actually became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explained it like this in Philippians 2:6-8:

Though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

3. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the propitiating

Propitiation is a gift, offering, or sacrifice meant to turn away the wrath of an offended individual. The closest English words are appeasing, expiating, placating, pacifying, or satisfying. In other religions, the responsibility for propitiating is on man. Although, whenever propitiation is discussed in Scripture, it always discusses what God did for man:

  • Romans 3:25 [Jesus] whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.
  • Hebrews 2:17 In all things He had to be made like His brethren…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • 1 John 2:2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
  • 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other religions man puts forth the effort, brings the sacrifice, provides the offering, etc. But in Christianity, like Abraham prophesied, “God provides for Himself the Lamb.” The Lord did what was necessary to turn away His own wrath, by pouring it out on His Son, Jesus Christ.

God provided the only sacrifice that could ever satisfy Him

To go a step further, not only did God provide the sacrifice, He actually became the sacrifice. To tie it back to the typology between Isaac and Jesus, like Isaac was willing to become the sacrifice, Jesus was willing to become the sacrifice. This is why Jesus is called the Lamb OF God. He is the Lamb God provided.

If we made propitiation for our sins:

  • It would be about us showing our love for God.
  • It would allow us to be prideful and take credit for our salvation.

But the way God did it reveals His love for us and leaves Him with all the credit and glory. This is why Christianity is the opposite of other religions. This is why only in biblical Christianity does God receive all the glory and praise. It is not about what what we have done for God. It is about God, and what He has done for us.

Discuss: 

  • Do you often think about what you need to do for God, or do you think about what God has done for you?
  • When you think about what God has done for you, in what ways should that affect your life?

I discussed all of this in greater detail in this sermon: Genesis 22:5-8: A Father’s Love.

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Help the Holy Spirit while He helps you in your marriage

Help the Holy Spirit while he helps you in your marriage

Last post discussed the Holy Spirit helping us in our marriages, but let’s introduce some balance. “I will help you” is very different from “I will do everything.” The Holy Spirit helps us, but we still have responsibilities. The Holy Spirit is not going to supernaturally take control of a marriage when the individuals involved are not committed to putting forth the necessary effort. So help the Holy Spirit while he helps you!

The apostle Paul reveals the relationship in Ephesians 2:10: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God prepared good works for us, but we have to “walk in them.” We do not want to miss out on what God wants to do in our marriage because we are being lazy or selfish. Consider the responsibilities placed on our shoulders elsewhere in the New Testament:

  • Romans 13:13–14—Let us walk properly . . . Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
  • Colossians 3:12–14—Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; [bear] with one another, and [forgive] one another . . . Put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Note the calling we are given to walk, put on, make no provision for, bear with, and forgive.

How do we help the Holy Spirit while He helps us?

Continue reading Help the Holy Spirit while He helps you in your marriage

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Trust the Holy Spirit will help you in marriage!

Trust the Holy Spirit will help you in marriage

Unfortunately, when it comes to our marriages we often feel alone. God’s standard for husbands and wives is so high that we ask, “Who is going to help me obey these commands?” The answer is the Holy Spirit will help you! Two words that summarize what it is like thinking about being the husbands and wives God commands us to be are “intimidating” and “overwhelming.”

  • As a husband, it is intimidating to think of being to your wife what Christ is to the church. If you are not intimidated by it, you do not understand what is expected of you.
  • As a wife, it is overwhelming to think of submitting to your husband as you should to the Lord. If we had to obey God’s commands on our own, we should feel not only overwhelmed or intimidated but completely hopeless. Because of a promise Jesus made us, though, we can feel hopeful.

Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). If you have embraced the gospel, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. You are not alone! The Holy Spirit will help you do what God has commanded you to do. Continue reading Trust the Holy Spirit will help you in marriage!

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Marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ

Marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ

A few years ago I learned  the important lesson that marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. Katie and I faced the biggest crisis of our marriage. I started pastoring Woodland Christian Church when it was fairly small. Within three years the congregation had tripled in size. I admit that before I became a pastor, I was completely unaware of how much work is actually involved in shepherding a church of even a few hundred people. I had been an Army officer, a supervisor at a distribution center for Target, and an elementary school teacher. But none of those occupations approached the amount of mental and emotional energy and sheer hard work pastoring entails!

We had no secretary or associate pastor at the time. Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending e-mails, meeting with people, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues. When I was home, I should have been an engaged father and husband. Unfortunately, I did not have much left for my family emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Although I was failing as a husband and father, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing the Lord. I compartmentalized my life by saying, “I am a Christian first, a spouse second, a parent third, and an employee fourth.” Instead, I should have said, “I am a Christian spouse, a Christian parent, a Christian employee.” The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time: “If I can be a good pastor, I can please God even though I am not the best husband.” The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord. Continue reading Marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Christ

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The 3 reasons I wrote Marriage God’s Way

reasons i wrote marriage gods way

There are thousands of marriage books, so why another one? Here are the three reasons I wrote Marriage God’s Way!

Marriage God’s Way isn’t about people trusting me

I recognize this isn’t a “reason” I wrote Marriage God’s Way, but it does answer an important question—why should you trust me to write a marriage book? I would never encourage people to trust what I have to say about marriage. Marriage God’s Way isn’t a collection of my thoughts about God’s first institution. Rather, I’m trying to get readers to trust what God says about marriage. He’s the author of it. He designed the roles and responsibilities for husbands and wives. He knows what a couple needs to have “a healthy, joyful, Christ-centered relationship.” And He provided a recipe for that in His Word. My desire was to present that recipe clearly and biblically.

First, I wrote Marriage God’s Way, because I’m passionate about marriage

I’m passionate about this area of Scripture and life. God designed the family as the primary unit for every other segment in society, including the church. And marriage is the heart of the family. As marriages disintegrate, families disintegrates. When families disintegrate, churches disintegrate. As churches disintegrate, society disintegrates.

When marriages are strong, however, families are strong. When families are strong, churches can be strong because strong churches are made up of strong families. As a pastor, I have seen many struggling marriages, but I have also seen couples find the solutions to their problems in Scripture. The truth of God’s Word has the power to heal and strengthen any marriage. Continue reading The 3 reasons I wrote Marriage God’s Way