Archives For marriage

five red button Happy Easter! Here are five links to keep you thinking throughout the weekend.

The “15 Second Kiss” Experiment – Married with kids? This article is for you!!!!

Do We Really Need More Churches in America? – Great perspective!

3 Big Questions Kids Ask on Good Friday – great perspective for those with curious kids.

Heaven is For Real – Good review if you’re considering watching the movie.

Saved From Hate – An interview with the son of deceased pastor of Westboro Baptist Church.

6.3.13I’m speaking as a husband, married for eleven years. I’m speaking as a pastor who’s seen and counseled scores of marriages; some that made it, some that didn’t. The only complaint I get about the percentage is that it’s too low.

Here’s the simple (but not easy) way to eliminate 85% of marriage fights: take care of your money issues. That’s it. If you’re married, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The number one thing that couples fight about is money, plain and simple. There’s not enough money. There’s too much debt. You’re upside down on a mortgage. One of you is the spender and won’t stop spending. You’ve adopted a lifestyle that you can’t afford. That leads to fights, fights and more fights.

If you trace the arguments, the pain, the hateful words, it will overwhelmingly come back to purchases you couldn’t afford, trips you can’t take because there’s no money, or overall stress caused by bills that you can’t pay. Is it any wonder that the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10)?

The solution is simple, but it’s not easy. Get out of debt. Stop spending. Stick to a budget. Adopt a lifestyle you can afford. Create financial margin. Painful, I know. But the benefit to your marriage will more than make up for it.

QUESTION: What do you think? Is 85% too high or too low?

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11.22.13Here’s something I hear all the time: “My kids are the most important thing in my life.” I hear people say it. I read it online. People write that statement when they’re answering 8 random things about themselves on Facebook (or whatever that is). On the surface, it seems like the right thing to say, “My kids are the most important thing in my life.”

I mean, it’s a lot better than saying “Money is the most important thing” or “My job is the most important thing” or “Football is the most important thing.” Kids seem like a much more noble endeavor.

Some people actually mean it. Some people actually live like it. That’s where they get into trouble. I’ve seen some people put their kids ahead of their marriage. They quit pursuing their spouse romantically and emotionally, pouring all their love and affirmation into their kids. They’ll sacrifice their marriage for their kids, which ends up being a detriment to their kids. The greatest gift you can give your kids is a strong and healthy marriage. Marriage needs to be a higher priority than your kids.

On top of it all needs to be your relationship with God. God is the one who will give you the strength you need to be the best spouse and parent you can be. Without his help, you’ll struggle under your own power. Do you want to be the parent you want to be? Prioritize your relationship with God over your kids, and let your kids benefit from the overflow of what God is doing in your life.

So, here’s the order I would advocate: God first, your spouse second, your kids third. (Your job, hobbies, Facebook and all that nonsense comes much farther down the line).

Do you want the best for your children? Don’t make them your first priority.

11.6.13I heard about it a lot growing up. There was a ‘soulmate’ out there for me, someone uniquely created for me that was going to fulfill my every longing and desire. While in high school, that prospect excited me and comforted me.

Once I was in my 20s and started actively searching, the idea of a ‘soulmate’ terrified me. What if I couldn’t find her? What if I made a mistake? What if I chose the wrong one? Or worse, what if I let my soulmate go by because I wasn’t convinced, and I would be forced to live the rest of my life on the outside of God’s will for my life? The thought was paralyzing at times.

Our society has created the myth of the ‘soulmate’ because it sells well. It makes for a great movie, a great ideal, a great dream. In reality, this myth has devastating consequences for young adults. We’re never given any criteria for how to find our soulmate, so we just ‘feel it.’ You know when you find your soulmate when they send tingles up and down your spine, when your heart goes a flutter just by being in their presence. Obviously, they’re the one. They’re the soulmate.

But then what happens when the magic wears off and you get into the grind of making a marriage work? Some people make the tragic mistake of thinking that they made the wrong choice. In their mind, a soulmate would never grumble or be selfish or be anything less than perfect. Some believe they made the wrong choice about marriage simply because they have to work at it.

Think about it from God’s perspective. Does it sound very loving for God to give you only one compatible spouse out of the six billion people walking on the planet? Does it sound loving that God would base your entire life’s happiness on your ability in your early twenties to find the one person out of the entire planet that’s right for you? That doesn’t sound very loving to me.

If you’re looking for a spouse, take some of the pressure off of yourself. Marriage is a choice. Love is a choice. Choose well, work hard, and don’t give up. You’ll have a beautiful marriage that will stand the test of time.

8.12.13A few days ago I had the privilege of marrying Stephen and Mandi here in Mississippi. I thought I’d share the wedding sermon I shared with them. I hope it reminds you of the beauty and purpose of marriage.

Stephen and Mandi, I’m going to give you now a charge about the challenges and joys of marriage. You’re not going to remember it. You’re not going to remember anything about this day. Someone will have to remind you. This charge may be more for the rest of us who are already married. You just keep looking lovingly into each others eyes and say “I do” in about five minutes.

Marriage is one of the most powerful covenants in the world today. It has the power to bring untold joy, happiness, peace, contentment, companionship, intimacy and love to us. No other human relationship can go as deeply as the marriage relationship. At the same time, marriage can also bring more pain, more heartache, more isolation, more frustration, more grief and more sorrow than any other human relationship.

As some in this crowd would tell you, sometimes marriage doesn’t end up the way that we want. But that’s not a reason to avoid marriage. That’s just a reason to make sure we have the proper expectations of marriage.

Too often we fall victim to a cultural expectation of marriage that far exceeds anything God ever created it to be. We look to marriage to be the end all of happiness and purpose in life. We expect our spouse to be ‘the One,’ to be completely perfect, put together, to completely submit their needs and wants to ours, to assist us in the achievement of our goals, all the while filling us with the love, purpose, and fulfillment we have yet to be able to find. We expect our spouses to give us what only Christ can give us.

Mandi, Stephen’s good looking, but he’s not Jesus. He’s going to let you down. He’s going to make mistakes. If you’re looking for him to complete you, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Only Jesus can give you the happiness and purpose that you’re looking for. Stephen, Mandi is an incredible person, but she’s not Jesus. She’s going to make mistakes. She’s going to show her imperfections. Only Christ can give you the hope and purpose that you ultimately crave. Folks, when we set our spouses or potential spouses up with expectations that only Jesus can fulfill, then we set them up for failure.

If marriage isn’t about finding the one person who will make you complete and take all your problems and loneliness away, then what’s the purpose of marriage? Marriage is about happiness, about companionship, about oneness and procreation, but ultimately, it’s about God. God created marriage to give us a living picture of Christ’s love for the church. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” and “wives submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ.” Marriage, ultimately, is a spiritual endeavor. Without Christ’s help every step of the way, we will fail.

When you pursue marriage solely as a means to be happy, you’ll ultimately be disappointed. But if you approach marriage with the idea that it’s more about making you holy than making you happy, you’ll discover the true meaning of marriage. One thing marriage is great for is showing your faults, your selfish tendencies, the little parts of you that you can hide from everyone else except your spouse. As you struggle as two sinful human beings trying to make a marriage work, you’ll continually realize your dependence on God for success.

As you continually invite God into your marriage to change you (not your spouse), to change you into the husband or wife you need to be, you’ll experience his presence in ways you never thought possible. You’ll begin to be a better husband or wife, you’ll begin to look more like Jesus, and in the process, you’ll discover that deeper joy and purpose that you’ve been looking for all along.

Done God’s way, marriage is the most beautiful experience in the world. Stephen and Mandi, I rejoice with you as you begin this journey together.

8.7.13My small group at church is going through Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. In it he makes a startling statement: Marriage isn’t about making you happy; it’s about making you holy. He makes the case that happiness, although a great side benefit, is a poor lynchpin for marriage. With today’s uber-romantic views of marriage, culture screams at us that marriage is about finding ‘the one,’ the special someone who will fulfill us and bring us the joy and happiness that we haven’t been able to find on our own.

That euphoria of courtship and the ‘honeymoon’ phase of marriage, where there’s a twinkle in the eye and a shiver up the spine every time we see our mate, that’s the stuff of legends. That’s what we aim for, what we celebrate in our books, our movies, and in our society. Interestingly, scientists say that this romantic euphoria can only be sustained for about two to three years. Eventually, the honeymoon will be over. The twinkle and shiver may come and go, but it cannot be sustained indefinitely.

Yet for many of us, when that euphoria naturally wears off, we feel like we’ve fallen out of love. Instead of a twinkle, we see a disheveled spouse rolling out of bed at 6 am that looks nothing like those first dates (and the primping involved). We find out a disturbing fact about marriage: it’s hard work. When the euphoria wears off and the hard work sets in, that’s when many call it quits.

But what if God didn’t design marriage primarily to make us happy, but to make us holy? What if he designed marriage as a way to learn to love unconditionally, to reform our own selfish habits, and to get a better picture of the sacrificial love Christ has for the church? What if we made our marriages less about our own selfish wants and more about the glory of God?

QUESTION: Do you agree with the statement? Is marriage more about making us holy than it is about making us happy?

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6.7.13A few days ago my local newspaper listed the names of those getting married and those getting divorced. Want to guess the score? 18 marriages, 38 divorces. Too many marriages are ending in divorce. The past two posts I talked about why marriages fail and how to improve your marriage. Today I’m giving you eleven reasons why marriage is worth fighting for.

1. A deeper love than you’ll experience anywhere else. There is an intimacy and transparency that I’ve only been able to find in a marriage. It’s one of the truly deep experiences that all humans should have.

2. You’re truly ‘known’ by someone committed to you. Marriage involves a vulnerability, as you open up your deepest self to someone else. But in this act of knowing and being known, there’s an innate longing fulfilled.

3. Lifelong companionship. If you do marriage right, your spouse will become your best friend. You can’t spend that much quality time together and not become best friends. God created us to live in community. Our spouse is ground zero for that.

4. You have a ‘help’ mate. It’s amazing how opposites seem to attract. My wife and I are perfect examples of that. She helps me where I’m weak, and I help her where she’s weak. She helps me achieve so much more than I could have on my own, and I help her do the same.

5. Spontaneous moments of pure joy. There are moments when I’m overwhelmed with love and joy. Most of the time, it’s in connection with reflecting on the blessings of God through my family. None of that would be possible without my spouse. She’s brought me more joy than anyone else on the planet.

6. Transforms your character. I tell people that my wife has been married three different times to three different people. They’ve just all happened to be me. Marriage is such a catalytic event that it will naturally change you. If done right, marriage will change you for the better.

7. Spiritual growth. Marriage has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a deeper dependence on God. It’s only with his help that I can be the husband and father that I need to be. The daily challenges of marriage have been one of the primary opportunities for me to grow spiritually.

8. Legitimate sexual fulfillment. Think of the gratification of sex without the guilt, without the shame, without the unintended consequences. When expressed in marriage, sexual fulfillment can reach its fullest potential.

9. Gives you a better picture of Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul inextricably links the union of marriage with the union of Christ and the church. To know one is to know the other. As you progress in marriage, you get a better understanding of the sacrificial love that Christ has for the church.

10. Best evangelism tool. Connected to the previous reason, since marriage and Christ are so connected, when you have a strong marriage, it’s an incredibly vivid picture of Christ to the world. A vibrant marriage will always be one of your best evangelism tools to the world.

11. Leaving a healthy legacy for your kids. Studies have consistently shown that kids do better in life when they grow up in an environment with a strong marriage. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a healthy marriage. Give them a better chance at success in life.

QUESTION: What other reasons would you add? What’s the best part about your marriage?

image courtesy of my wife’s Facebook account

6.5.13On Monday I started a series of posts on marriage in honor of my eleven year marriage anniversary. Today is part two, on 11 Ways to Make Your Marriage Awesome. In no way do I claim that this list is exhaustive or comprehensive. These are simply eleven things you can do to improve your marriage. Hope it helps!

1. Pray together every day. This simple spiritual act will cover over a multitude of hurts and bring you together in ways you never thought possible. Try it for two weeks and see what happens!

2. Get the kids out of the bed. If you’ve got young kids, you know what I’m talking about. They’re going to want to sleep with you. Don’t let them. Wives can use it as an excuse to avoid intimacy. You need that time together, alone. Even if you’re just sleeping. Kick them out.

3. Talk to each other for five minutes everyday. It doesn’t even have to be incredibly deep talk. Talk about your day. Talk about what happened in the last 24 hours. Amazingly, even a little communication on a regular basis can go a long way.

4. Turn off the TV. Television can be an incredible detriment to your marriage if you let it. It will suck up all of your available time, steal your attention and energy, and dry up your conversation. If nothing else, get the tv out of the bedroom. Don’t allow your free time to be consumed by tv.

5. Get on a budget and stick with it. This is for the “spenders” in the family. Money problems are the number one cause of fights between couples. You want a happier marriage? Get out of debt and stick to a budget. It’s amazing how many issues this will clear up.

6. Get rid of the porn. Husbands, your casual addiction to pornography destroys the intimacy you could be having with your wife. Your wife will never measure up to the make-believe standards that pornography creates. Pornography isn’t harmless. Get rid of it.

7. More sex. Wives, I know that the way God created males and females are different, and I know that your sex drive will typically be dwarfed by your husband’s. That’s no excuse to be passive in your pursuit of romance. Initiate. Pursue. A healthy and regular sexual life is integral to a happy marriage.

8. Date each other. Have a date night twice a month, minimum. Once a week if you’re able. You two need to pursue each other romantically, outside of the bedroom. What did you do when you were dating? Don’t lose that.

9. Surround yourself with other strong couples. You need mentors. You need strong friends with healthy marriages. If the only people you interact with are couples with dysfunctional or broken marriages, that dysfunction will rub off on you. Hang around with people with the type of marriage you want to have.

10. Forgive, a lot. Your spouse will hurt you more than any other human being on the planet. That’s what you get for marrying a sinner. The only way to release the toxin of bitterness is to forgive, often. There are slights and hurts that your spouse may never apologize for. Forgive them anyway. That’s what Jesus did for you on the cross (Jesus juke!).

11. Toughen up. Throw out the idea of marriage you see in romantic comedies. That’s a myth. Marriage is tough, tough work. It’s not for the faint of heart. Marriage will challenge you more than almost anything else you’ll experience in life. Toughen up. Roll up your sleeves. Get in there and fight for your marriage.

Friday we’ll finish with 11 Reasons Why Marriage is Worth It.

QUESTION: What suggestions would you add to this list?

6.3.13It’s marriage week here at MTVPastor. A few days ago my gorgeous wife Robin and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary. In honor of that, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on marriage in three different posts. Today I’ll share 11 reasons why marriages fail. Wednesday I’ll write on 11 ways to strengthen your marriage. Friday I’ll finish up with 11 reasons why marriage is worth it.

We see marriages around us fail for a multitude of reasons. Underlying the causes of divorce are some common themes. Here are eleven of them:

1. Lack of communication. Constant and meaningful conversation is the lifeblood of a marriage. You would think that all marriages have meaningful conversation, but they don’t. Couples don’t carve out time. They’re too tired. The husbands don’t want to talk. Television replaces conversation, and separation begins.

2. Busyness. We can be too busy for our own good. A career is good, but not if it comes at the expense of your marriage. Hobbies are good, but not if it comes at the expense of your marriage. Friends are good, but not if they come at the expense of your marriage. Even kids can drain away precious energy from your marriage. The couples that can’t cut back see their marriages float away in a sea of busyness.

3. Selfishness. At the core, marriage is about serving your spouse, about submitting yourself and your needs to the needs of your spouse. If the couples can’t grasp this, submit their ego and embrace the concept of mutual submission, then fault line cracks will appear at the base of your marriage.

4. Can’t overcome your family of origin. Many spouses were raised in broken, abusive, or dysfunctional homes. They walk into marriage knowing only destructive marriage habits from the example of their parents. If they can’t overcome and move past their family of origin, their parents’ destructive marriage will become their own destructive marriage.

5. Unwilling to grow in your marriage. Marriage is all about change. You change. Your spouse changes. If you’re unwilling to grow and change with your spouse, you don’t have much of a shot. The trick of marriage isn’t finding a perfect spouse who will never change, but to find a way to continuously fall in love with your ever-changing spouse.

6. Lack of investment in your marriage. Husbands, your marriage isn’t complete when you say “I do.” Without constant and intentional investment, your marriage will struggle. Just like a farmer’s work isn’t done when he plants the seed, neither is your work done when you walk the aisle. Marriage takes hard work, lots of it.

7. Addictions overwhelm a spouse. Sometimes a latent addiction can rear up and consume a spouse. An eating disorder, a pornography addiction, alcoholism, if left unchecked, will wreck a marriage. It takes two people to make a marriage work, but only one person to wreck it.

8. Bitterness and unforgiveness overwhelm you. Your spouse will hurt you more than any other person on the planet. They will continually remind you that they are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. Because you’re the person closest to them, you will deal with the brunt of their imperfections. If you choose to hold on to past hurts and slights, bitterness will poison your soul and consume you.

9. You give up too easily. Make no illusions: marriage is tough. It’s not for the faint of heart. Every couple will come to points where divorce seems like the easy option. The marriage that works is the marriage that chooses to fight when things get tough, not quit.

10. Sin entices and destroys the marriage. Sin is always looking for a way to destroy the beauty of your marriage. It may use the approach of greed, selfishness, an affair, or any other number of enticements. If you’re not constantly on your guard, sin will destroy your marriage.

11. The love grows cold. Love is like a campfire that must be constantly tended to and stoked. If left alone, the fire will eventually burn itself out and grow cold. When the love grows cold, there doesn’t seem to be much left to save. Don’t let your fire grow cold.

QUESTION: What other reasons cause marriage to fail?

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3.27.13Earlier this week I ran into this lie again, one that too many women have fallen for. I had a conversation with a young lady who had gone through a difficult marriage and a terrible divorce. As she was recounting her actions and discussing where she went wrong, I heard the lie come out.

Here’s the biggest lie that women tell themselves when it comes to relationships: “I’ll fix him.” She said she knew that he wasn’t that good of a guy when she married him, but she figured she could fix him once they got married. My response (in a gentle yet mocking manner) was, “So, how’d that work out for you?” She laughed as she saw the fallacy of the lie that propelled her into a doomed marriage.

Marriage does change you, and spouses can and should have a strong influence on their mates, but this idea that a mature woman can quickly and single handedly ‘fix’ a immature man is ludicrous. Like it or not, men are who they are. Some are so stubborn, so set in their ways, that only God can change their hearts.

Ladies, a word of warning: If you’re dating someone that you’re thinking about marrying, and if he’s got more flaws than not, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’ll be able to ‘fix him’ once he walks down the aisle. You’re stuck with what you’ve got. Better to know that on the front end.

Be careful who you marry. If they still act like they’re in high school, throw them back and let them grow up a little bit. God-fearing, wife-honoring men are hard to come by, but they’re worth the wait.

QUESTION: Is there a bigger lie that women tell themselves when it comes to relationships?

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