The One Thing – You Can Do to Improve Your Marriage

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On September 25th,  1942, Jewish physician Victor Frankl, his wife, and parents were deported to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto. Two years later Frankl and his wife Tilly were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed. He was moved to Kaufering, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau concentration camp, where he arrived on 25 October 1944. There he was to spend five months working as a slave laborer. In March 1945, he was offered a move to the so-called rest-camp, Türkheim, also affiliated with Dachau. He decided to go to Türkheim, where he worked as a physician until 27 April 1945, when Frankl was liberated by the Americans.

Meanwhile, his wife Tilly was transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Frankl’s mother Elsa was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and his brother Walter died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz.

How does anyone survive such an ordeal? When asked this same question years after his imprisonment, Frankl replied –

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

How do any of us survive hard times? What about hard times in our marriage? For many of us, including myself, we just stuff our feelings deep inside our soul and hope for the best. For others, they can’t/won’t tolerate hard times, so they leave. They try to avoid them by running away.

What if we practiced the secret that Frankl, and countless others, have relied upon to get them through – adjusting our attitude. Do you want to know what God says is the secret to not only surviving hard times, but enjoying a marriage relationship like it was intended to be enjoyed? Sure you do…..

“Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.” Phil.2:5-8

Jesus chose to humble himself and become a servant. Even when we didn’t deserve it (and still don’t) or appreciate it. He volunteered; he initiated; he scarified himself on behalf of his bride.

What about you? What about me? Is that our attitude when it comes to loving (verb) our bride? Are we ready to lay our lives down, to humble ourselves, to sacrifice anything – all for our bride – for our marriage. And all without ever demanding anything in return or any performance from our wife?

Well, that is what the Bible clearly says is the key….having the same attitude as Jesus. Remember Victor Frankl – no one else is responsible for your attitude; no one else can take it away. We (you and me) are responsible for ours. Is it like Christ’s?

Willing to die…..

Rob

Don’t Be “This” Spouse….

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Proverbs 21 mentions twice that it is better for a husband to “live in a corner of the housetop” or “live in a desert land” than to live in a home with a contentious woman. Proverbs 25 mentions again the “live in a corner of the housetop” idea.

A contentious woman is like a “continual dripping on a rainy day” says Proverbs 27:15.

It is plain to see God recognizes that a man would rather live alone, in the corner of his attic or in a desert wasteland, than have to endure a wife who continually complains and quarrels. Interestingly, the Bible even says “it is better” for him to live that way.

Proverbs 26:21 talks about a contentious man who continues to sow strife by stirring up coals that are trying to cool off and burn out. He is like someone “who keeps adding wood to a fire” instead of letting it die.

I don’t think any spouse desires to live with someone who enjoys quarreling and continually nags, complains and whines; or won’t let an issue die but keeps adding wood to the fire and stirring up strife at home. The picture that sticks in my mind is of that spouse who can never make his/her spouse happy; who never gets it right; who just can’t win. How exasperating!

So, the obvious question is – are you like this? The dictionary defines “quarrelsome” as – someone likely to cause disagreement or argument or someone with a wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes. Do you have a tendency to pick a fight (argument)? Do you lose your temper easily or have a tendency to argue or nag?

What about completing your spouse’s sentences, or interrupting them in order to say what you want to say – or always correcting your spouse when they tell part of a story inaccurately?

Here is an idea that will help you decide if you qualify and should therefore get serious about changing your attitude and behavior…. sit down with your spouse and ask him/her a simple question – Am I a contentious spouse? If they look confused, add further clarity – do you think I am argumentative? Am I quarrelsome?

You obviously have to be man/woman enough to NOT ARGUE with your spouse if they say you are this person. That won’t help a bit. You should be willing to 1. humble yourself, 2. sincerely apologize for such behavior, and 3. ask for forgiveness.

According to our Bible, the only way to stop being this person and start being the opposite is – to “walk in the Spirit”. That is a deliberate lifestyle, a daily choice you and I have to make. But if we do, we will find our marriage improves significantly and our life as well.

Why not start today?

Rob

How to Make Love to Your Wife – Part 1

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Making love. What a familiar phrase in our society. For some, it means simply hooking up, having sex. For others, it means much more.

I contend that it means much more to your wife. Have you ever asked her to define what “making love” means to her? If you never do, how will you know you are actually doing it….or is it simply enough for you to have sex?

Your wife (as well as yourself) is created by God as a three-part being. She has a spirit, a soul and a body. Most men (because we are wired differently – by design) tend to naturally focus on the physical when the topic of “making love” comes up. Men’s magazines are filled with articles on techniques, tips and positions all intended to make the experience much more pleasurable physically.

In this 3-part series, I will attempt to explain how a husband might go about making love to his wife in all three arenas of her being – beginning with her spirit.

The spirit or essence of your wife is truly who she is at her core. She is so much more than a body. Her body is simply God’s designed shell for containing (for a short lifetime) her physical body – but if you have ever seen a dead person you quickly come to realize that he/she is not there – that their body is simply a shell, a covering for their true self.

So, in order to make love to your wife spiritually, we much approach her on a spiritual level. This is why if you are not a believer, or a believer who isn’t walking in the Spirit (see Gal:5), it is impossible to make love at this level. Approaching her spiritually means reaching out to set her needs on that level.

Ephesians 5 says that we (husbands) are to wash our wives with “the water by the Word”. We are to speak the Word of God over her, pray the Word of God over her and read that same Word with her. God’s Word is power, and that power will unite your spirits as you spend time together in it. It is not enough to attend church (even though very important), or even a small group meeting together. You must deliberately set aside time together to read and discuss God’s Word.

Probably the most powerful thing a husband can do to make love spiritually with his wife is pray. Pray for her, as Christ continues to do for his bride (us), but also pray “with” her. The thing that most husbands find the hardest to do is the most powerful tool God will use to unite your hearts like nothing else. Our enemy knows that as well, and that is why he is hell-bent on keeping husbands and wives from it.

Making love means making time. Making time to talk about your walk with God, read His Word and especially to pray will promote an atmosphere of oneness in your marriage that will be profound. It will also keep the two of you relating on a spiritual level when the trials/troubles of life follow you home.

Remember – Galatians 5:16 says if we “walk in the Spirit, we will not gratify the lusts of the flesh”, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension and division.

Most marriage issues are caused by one or both spouses simply not walking with God. Without His help, without His Spirit living in and through us, we are doomed to live in our flesh and continue to struggle in our marriage.

Guys – become a spiritual man. Walk with God every single day. Surrender to His will, devour His Word and ask Him for divine help and power to put your wife’s needs ahead of your own. Remember, we are commanded to love her “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”. Are you living like that?Are you loving her like that?

If not, we need to repent. Ask God and our wife to forgive us and determine to live deliberately and sacrificially for His glory. Horizontal issues are solved by living vertically.

Start today.

Rob

The Delights of Your Heart

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What do you delight in….really? Think about the word “delight”. The question is not, what do you like, or even what do you love – but what do you “delight in”.

The dictionary defines “delight” as “something that makes you very happy and/or gives you great pleasure or satisfaction“.

Now, think about the question again. You love your spouse, but does he/she “bring you great joy, happiness or pleasure”? Your kids? Your work? Your ministry? What in your life brings you the most pure joy or pleasure?

It’s easy for me to name a couple: my wife of nearly 40 years continues to bring me much delight, and my three sons have filled my heart with delight since they were born. Nothing could haven delighted me more than being the husband of my great wife and the father of three amazing boys. I have been truly blessed.

I am humbled and convicted though when I read the words of David and how many times he says how he delights in God’s commandments, and in His Word. Psalms is full of David’s professions. Do I delight in God’s Word like that? Does it “bring me great joy, happiness and pleasure“?

What about delighting in God Himself? Do I even do that, or am I just going through the motions and trying to be a good boy so God won’t punish me somehow? Am I being religious, or truly enjoying a relationship with my heavenly Father?

Psalm 37:4 says if I will delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. So, why wouldn’t I want to do that?

But do I even know what delighting in God looks like? How do I do that?

The best I can come up with is to compare it to something or someone I have delighted in in the my past. When I was seriously dating my wife, we would talk often during the day. I would think about her constantly. I would count the minutes until we could be together again. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her when we were in the same room. I was captivated by her.

So, do I love Christ that much? Do I run to meet Him in the morning, or eagerly engage Him in conversation throughout the day? Am I hungry to hear His voice and simply be in His presence?

The honest answer for me was …no. For some reason I had bought into the lie that He was upset with me over my past sins and that I needed to work harder to get on his “good list”.

Thankfully, God has shown me over these last few years that I do NOT have to perform or tap-dance  to win His approval or love. He loves me – period, and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more, or any less. What freedom this has brought to my relationship with Him. I pray the same for you.

You are loved; completely, unconditionally and irregardless of your performance. You will never deserve it, and can never earn it. You just have to accept it, appreciate it, and walk in it. Your life will never be the same.

You know what God delights in?

but the prayer of the upright is his delight. Prov. 15:8

He delights in talking with you, in hearing your voice, in sharing your heart. You and I are His delight, and we desperately need to embrace this truth….and learn to make Him our delight as well.

Rob

3 Ways to Stop Arguing with Each Other

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Amos 3:3 asks the question,  “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” The implied response is, “no”. It is very difficult, and not very fun, to walk with someone you are continually disagreeing with.

What most couples end up doing if they disagree over money, the kids, hobbies, etc. – is argue. They get frustrated; that leads to getting angry; and so they fight, say things they shouldn’t say, hurt each other’s feelings, retreat, sulk, and walk on egg shells for days (or longer). Others get angry and simply stuff it. They avoid the difficult conversations; they don’t like confrontation; so they swallow it and hope it will go away…..but we all know it doesn’t. So, eventually those feelings of hurt and resentment resurface and things are even worse.

So, how do we keep from getting to this awful place?

1. Decide that arguing/fighting is not Biblical and you will not go there anymore. God says we argue because we’re selfish and we’re not obeying His word. Galatians reminds us that if we are walking in the Spirit we will produce fruit in our lives….and arguing/fighting is not on the list. Jesus also commands us to love each other “as he loves us”, and that means sacrificially and unconditionally. So, stop being a spoiled kid, stomping your foot and pouting when you don’t get your way.

2. Allow your spouse to complain without losing your temper, getting your feelings hurt or retaliating. Jesus loves us when we mess up, don’t do things right, or treat him unkindly. He requires the same from us. We must allow our spouse the grace and freedom to come to us and share their heart. If they have a complaint or hurt, we need to be man enough (or woman enough) to listen with grace and respond appropriately (i.e.: say we are sorry, ask for forgiveness, pray together, etc.). Your relationship is far more important than proving your innocence or that you are right all the time.

3. Make it a priority to go on an annual marriage retreat. Instead of disagreeing or battling all year long, schedule a weekend retreat together to discuss the “state of your union”. Enjoy yourselves during most of that time; have fun; relax – but schedule some time to pray, then sit together and decide you will come to agreement on the key issues you have agued about in the past – kids, money, sex, hobbies, etc. Write all this down so you can refer back to it during the year and remember that you agreed together, and what you agreed to. Pray over every decision and commit it to God and ask for His help to live accordingly.

Finally – remember neither of you will be perfect at this (or anything for that matter), so don’t expect perfection. Worry about keeping your end of the bargain and choose daily to walk with Christ and agree with him when he said “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Live each day desperate for His presence and power or you will try to do everything yourself,,,and you will end up right back at square one…..selfishly fighting for your rights and the things you feel like you deserve….and that’s not pretty.

Don’t argue…walk with Him.

Rob

The Best Marriage Advice Ever.

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As I read again the story of Jesus’ first miracle, I was struck by the profound life truths and marriage advice found there. You remember the story in John, Chapter 2 –

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus *said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus *said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother *said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus *said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He *said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. 

Advice for life and for marriage:

1. Jesus was invited to the wedding – we must invite Jesus to our daily lives if we want Him to enjoy it as it was intended.

2. When there was a need, Mary went to Jesus for help – 1 Cor. 7:28 promises all married couples will face many trials in this life. When these trials come (and they will), we need to take them to Jesus, not try to figure things out on our own.

3. Mary gave the very best marriage advice ever given – she turned to the servants and said “whatever he tells you to do – do it”. Other translations say, “listen to him and do what he says”. If more husbands and wives would simply do this, they would experience life and marriage to the fullest. Marriage was never intended to be lived apart from God.

4. Jesus turned ordinary water into fine wine; not cheap, watered-down wine, but expensive, delicious wine. And not just a pitcher or two, but six 20-30 gallon water pots full. If we will invite Him into our daily lives, ask for His help with life’s issues, listen to him and do what he says – he will bless our socks off. He will provide for our needs above and beyond all we can ask or imagine.

So, Mary’s last recorded words are the best marriage advice we will ever receive. We get to choose whether or not to “do” it. Every single day we choose whether to listen to ourselves and do what we say – or listen to Him.

Our marriage will thrive if we invite Him in, give him our needs, listen to him and do what he tells us to do……

Let’s start now, and see what a difference it makes in our relationship.

Rob

 

 

Keeping Your Marriage Like New

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My wife and I bought new car last at the end of last year. We would normally choose a late-model used car, but the deal we got was truly a good one, so I went for it. There’s just something about a brand new vehicle with 10 miles on the odometer.

It smells so good, and rides so well. We don’t have to worry about the transmission going out, the tires going flat or the pumps/belts failing. If we could only keep it this way…..

In many ways, it reminds me of a new marriage. Everything about it is wonderful. The sights and sounds; the feeling of adventure; the feeling of confidence that all is well. In the beginning, everything is pretty much on auto-pilot. Like the new car, there’s not much to fix or maintain for a while.

The manufacturer of every car includes a maintenance guide in the vehicle. In it, there is a recommended schedule of actions that the owner(s) should take in order to keep the car running at peak levels and be able to enjoy the vehicle for many years to come. These actions typically include: regular oil changes, regular tire rotation and an annual checkup by a professional to see that all systems are working as designed.

You see, cars can’t take care of themselves. As we add mileage the oil gets thicker, the tires get thinner and the parts begin to simply wear down. The key to enjoying a great vehicle for many  years is to do what the maintenance guide says to do. Change to oil, rotate and replace the tires, and monitor all the vital engine parts to make sure they function well for the life of the car.

Marriages too can’t take care of themselves. As months and years go by, our heads get thicker, our skin gets thinner and the our hearts begin to wear down. All of these happen sooner as we tow addition along with us – multiple children, illness, stressful jobs and simply a hectic lifestyle. All of these add additional pressure to the vital components of our marriage while taking away time for critical maintenance.

A lack of regular care and maintenance will make our new car age faster and make us lose our sense of confidence and joy. The same will happen to a marriage. In the same way you can’t expect your vehicle to hold your excitement and confidence if you neglect to care for it – your marriage will begin to run poorly and even break down without regular care as well.

Do we take better care of our things than we do our most valuable relationship? Do we regularly and deliberately maintain our marriage? Do we read the maintenance Manual regularly and do what the Manufacturer says?

This year, let’s pay closer attention to how our marriage is running, and ask God to show us regularly how we can keep it running in tip-top condition. If we don’t, we don’t have anyone else to blame but ourselves when something goes wrong.

Stay deliberate,

Rob

 

Stop Arguing and Start Obeying God

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Did you know that arguing and fighting are not Biblical marriage concepts? There is no such thing as “fighting fair” in the Bible. In fact, God says He doesn’t want husbands and wives to fight at all. No offense to those fine authors who write about such things, but my Bible left out those verses.

What the Bible does say is that people, even Christian folks, will disagree and should find a way to come to agreement on things. It leaves room for difficult conversations and for allowing each other room (and grace) to express our feelings and even to complain. But fighting and quarreling are not be allowed in our marriage.

Proverbs 17:19 says, “He who loves a quarrel (fight, argument), loves sin”.

Proverbs 18:1 tells us that a person who starts quarrels is “unfriendly, selfish and lacking sound judgement”

Proverbs 15:18 reminds us that quarrels and conflicts are stirred up by “hot-tempered” people, and that a “patient” person (a fruit of the Spirit by the way) calms a quarrel.

Then there are Proverbs 19,21 and 25 that spotlight a “quarrelsome wife” and how awful it is to live with such a person. I am sure it holds true for a quarrelsome husband as well.

So, stop it!. If God says that arguing, fighting, quarreling/nagging are “sin”, then the short answer is – stop sinning. Don’t look for a way to candy coat it, or justify it, or do it “fairly”.  We don’t do that with other sins.

God is very clear that it is not a sin to “be angry”, but in our anger we are to refrain from sinning, i.e.: not fight, quarrel or argue about it. See Ephesians 4:26. And, by the way, we are supposed to settle such disagreements before we go to bed or else we open our home and relationship open to invasion by the enemy.

James 4 tells us that “fighting and quarreling” come from a battle that wages within us. The battle of selfishness; of not having our expectations met or our deserve-its catered to; a battle we have waged internally since birth – not getting what we want. A four year old responds by stomping his feet, crying or throwing an all-out hissy fit on the floor. As grown-ups we have learned to take the frustration inward. We steam, we stew, we cuss, we fuss, we try to suppress until one day it can’t be held back any longer and the dam breaks. The result is a grown up hissy fit. We nag, we nip, we diss, we jab with sarcasm. Our words and our tone destroy the oneness/intimacy we so desperately long for.

We lash out, we yell, we accuse, insinuate, blame, berate. We have not learned to harness our anger – so, we sin. We hurt, deeply and saying “I’m sorry” hours later simply doesn’t make up for the hurtful, hateful, sinful behavior we have unleashed.

Answer? If you profess to be a believer in Christ, the answer is…… stop it. Turn to Him for help. Walk with Him. Be filled (continually) with His Spirit (Galatians 5). If you are an addict – get help, now. Find a mentor. Do whatever it takes to change. Like other sins, we cannot change ourselves. Only God can do that for us, but we have to want to, we have to choose to. Then, we have to choose to live differently and walk daily with His help.

Fighting, quarreling, nagging, yelling and arguing have no place in a Christian marriage, or home. Christ came to bring”peace on earth and good will to men”. Let’s embrace His gift and start enjoying it this Holiday season.

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife – Proverbs 20:3

Rob