Having now completed ten years of the pastorate I have counseled countless couples going through various degrees of marriage difficulties. Having studied, read and prepared over these years has lead me to compile the following list of questions which I always use. This is a fluid list – I may add to it at any time. Perhaps these questions will bring value to any relationship well before one needs to meet with a counselor.
1) If my marriage was good tomorrow, how would I know?
2) What effort am I putting into my marriage to make it stronger?
3) In what ways do I complement my spouse?
4) Is your spouse aware of the needs you have and how to meet them?
5) Everyone knows what they would like to change in their spouse – but what would your spouse like for you to change?
6)What is the most recent positive thing you have done for your spouse?
7) What is the dream you had for your marriage and how does it relate to today? Was is realistic to begin with?
8) Do you understand God’s view of marriage? Genesis 2:18-25, Ephesians 5:23-33, Ephesians 5:22-33
A good review of these questions from time to time will help keep your marriage on track. Taking time to evaluate your marriage and your personal dedication to your spouse will go a long way towards spiritual success in your marriage.
Beginning with this post I will focus on issues that families and couples deal with. I will focus on some of the counseling advice and, more importantly, some of the Biblical advice we have as we face these issues.
As an introduction, here are 3 important facts to consider:
1) Satan is real and Satan wants to destroy your family. The Bible tells us that Satan is “a roaring lion seeking about whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). While there are plenty of issues that we deal with in the flesh that may hinder our marriage and our relationship with our children, we dare not forget that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). There is a spiritual and invisible ware going on for your home and for your marriage.
2) God wants your marriage and your home to be strong and healthy and He gives us the tools to make it work. As much as Satan wants to destroy your marriage -God wants your marriage to succeed. God uses marriage as a picture of His relationship to Israel in the Old Testament and His relationship to the church in the New Testament. God tells us that He is our Father and that we are His children. God uses the home as a clear picture of His relationship with us. It is no wonder that Satan wants to destroy the home and God wants to strengthen it. God gives us tools through His Holy Word and through His Holy Spirit (more on this in a later post).
3) Marriage is not a competition and training our children is not optional. We are not in a competition with our spouse. Too many couples are trying to ‘one-up’ each other. They need to get the last word in. They need the situations where they can say ‘I told you so’. The Bible tells us that we are one. The Word of God also commands us to ‘train up a child in the way he should go’ (Proverbs 22:6). Parents today are content to relinquish child rearing to church, school and community.
Our goal in the following posts is to follow God’s plan to having a strong home and a healthy marriage.
The struggle for churches in the beginning of the twenty-first century is how to reach the younger generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we move into a Post-modern world we are faced with new challenges. How do we reach our culture without being influenced by our culture?
The Millennials are defined as those born between 1981 and 1997. They are the younger generation and they are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. They think different than Generation X, Baby Boomers or Builders. They have a post-modern philosophy (more about that in the next post). After much research and many surveys it appears that Millennials value: Sense of Community, Value of Opinion, Need to Participate and Finding something Genuine. In the case of religion we find that they like for church to feel like church. They are not turned off by stained glass, older hymns or sacred traditions.
So how can we relate to these Millennials today?
1) They value community and participation over a sense of individualism. We need to make them part of the group. We need to get them involved in our small groups, Bible studies or classes where they form relationships. We need to have specific outings or activities just for them. We need to give them a cause. They want to be part of a group with a name and job to do.
2) They want their opinion to be heard and to matter. We need to get Millennials onto committees or boards where they can influence the church with the knowledge they possess. Audio and Visual committees, Outreach committees, Marketing programs, Building committees, etc. We understand the value of wisdom on Deacon boards – but there are many other ways for MIllennials to participate.
3) They are attracted to something genuine and quickly see through something fabricated. We must stick to the Gospel and the importance of a changed life. We must teach and value the attributes of God. We must value the Word of God. If the Millennials are going to be part of a church, that church MUST stand for something or else they will find something else worth putting their time and support behind.
* I am convinced that the ‘feel good’ methods of church growth over the last thirty years will have no impact upon Millennials, in fact, it may just turn them off.
For over 2000 years Christians have been expecting Jesus Christ to come back in the clouds and call His Church home to Heaven. We call this sudden removal from planet earth – the Rapture. It is not a Bible word but rather a word we have used to describe this sudden and immediate removal of Believers from earth and to Heaven.
There is, unfortunately, a large movement afoot today in which the Rapture is being redefined or outright denied. We will look at this problem in our next post.
I believe He is coming again and coming very, very soon because:
1. He told us He was coming again. We are to be expecting Him and looking for Him. In fact, we were often warned in scripture that many would be caught unawares at His sudden return. We are to be expecting Him.
2. There is nothing in prophecy holding the Rapture back. There has never been a time in our history in which things seem more “ready” than ever for His return. It may very well get worse yet before Jesus comes back, but we are already at a point where the stage is set for the end of the church age and the ushering in of the Anti-Christ.
3. There is massive revival and evangelism taking place in so many closed door countries. Today we find great multitudes of people accepting Christ as Savior in countries such as China, Mongolia, Vietnam, and others. Some of the most difficult places in which to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ are now on fire with the Gospel.
4. Globally we see cultures embracing immorality and calling it good. We also see global cultures worshiping the creature over the Creator. These Biblical prophecies have reached epidemics in our society and around the globe.
5. We see a global economic weakness that is susceptible to collapse and fraud like never before. This is paving the way for the globalization of currency in the end times (ie. the Mark of the Beast).
** Jesus is coming again and He is coming very soon!
I believe our culture is beginning to feel the effects of a society that is having their children later in life. A hundred years ago (and practically all of recorded history before that) people married young and had children young. It was unusual for a woman to begin having children after the age of 30. Today, many couples are deciding to finish their college degrees, perhaps complete their post-graduate work, begin their career and possibly pay off their college debt before considering beginning a family.
The unintended consequence of this is that young people are having much less time to spend with their Grandparents. If we take a couple that wait to have their first child at 35 years of age, and if their children wait to have their first child at 35 years of age – that would make the grandparents 70 when their first grandchild is born.
A couple very important points:
1. Not everyone consciously waits. Some may not find their spouse until later; some may not be able to have children until later in life. However, this has always been the case.
2. I have never personally met anyone that did not have fond memories of time spent with their Grandparents. Even if their relationship with their parents was strained, they undoubtedly had a close relationship with at least one of their grandparents. Those years spent learning from Grandma and Grandpa are precious.
3. The Bible speaks often of teaching one’s “children and children’s children”. Grandparents have more experience their parents. This wealth of information is getting lost in our current cultural trends.
4. My wife and I own a farmhouse that is about a hundred and twenty years old. It has an addition on the back that was a separate residence at various times in the homes history. It was built on the back of this house in order to provide a “home” to the original owners child, spouse, and grandchildren. This was often the case. Not only did grandchildren know their grandparents for a longer length of time but they also usually lived in close proximity.
5. Grandparents understand better that their time on earth is limited and their desire is usually greater to instill something to their future relations. Grandparents have more time to spend with their grandchildren due to retirement years. Grandparents can often fill in the gaps that parents have due to their busy schedules.
Time lost with Grandparents cannot be replaced with anything else. This has to be having a negative effect on our young people today.
A failure to communicate is at the core of every relational problem. Marriage problems, family difficulties, work stress and more is generally centered around or the outcome of a communication problem. We must begin fixing our relationship problems by fixing our communication woes. Here’s some initial steps:
1. Don’t assume. Many, many, many of the relationship problems that I have counseled with are the result of misunderstanding. One individual assumes what the other one really meant by something. One made a comment and the other misunderstood what they meant or what their real intention was. We focus on supposed intentions. We jump to conclusions. We are judgmental even if we don’t think we are.
2. Lead the conversation. Leading the conversation does not mean dominating the conversation. It does not mean doing all the talking. Leading the conversation is done by asking the key questions or redirecting the conversation back to the topic you wish to cover. This can be done subtly and with few words. It is often best done with a question.
3. Listen, Listen, Listen. A good communicator listens to what others are saying. So often I have been in a conversation where you can tell that the person I have been attempting to talk to is distracted and focused on getting out their next sentence whenever I am talking. Listening involves turning off cell phones, putting away laptops, muting televisions and powering off radios. Focus on what others are actually saying. Work at listening.
4. Compliment. Give compliments to those you are talking with. Compliment their help, their time they have given, their understanding and their interests.
5. Keep emotions in check. Don’t argue. Don’t get mad. Don’t lash out. Don’t call names. Bite your tongue. Don’t let your emotions control your comments and your responses. Stop and think before your speak. Don’t just blurt out what is on your mind. Slow down.
I have heard so many parents tell me lately “I just want my kids to be happy”. Unfortunately, this has now crossed thresholds in our Christian homes that places a value on happiness over all else – even sin. There have been a number of instances where an adult, married child has decided to leave their spouse and they end up committing adultery and beginning a new relationship with someone new. Too often, Christian parents respond today by proclaiming: “I just want my child to be happy”.
I want and pray for more than just happiness for my Children. My boys are both young adults now and I desire that they have a close relationship with Christ. I pray that they are always in the midst of God’s Will. I expect them to always place integrity and character at a high level. I pray that they put others needs and comforts above themselves.
When Jesus had finished washing the Disciples feet He proclaimed to His hearers that if they would follow His example “happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). So, ironically, in God’s system – when you don’t seek happiness but serve others – you end up with happiness. Searching after our own happiness shows our selfishness and pride of life.
So I am not looking for my boys to “just be happy”. I am looking for them to be the men that God wants them to be – and in doing that they will indeed find happiness.
When hiking the Appalachian Trail the hiker is burning calories at a tremendous rate. When coupled with the fact that the hiker can only carry a small amount of food with him, the hiker is always looking for the next town, restaurant, hostel or anywhere else he can buy a meal. Hikers love to find buffet’s where they can eat as much as they want. The hiker is often surprised at how much more they can eat now at a single meal than they ever would have eaten before. They refer to this appetite as ‘hiker hunger’.
In the Christian life we are supposed to be “hungering and thirsting after righteousness”. Too often it seems the Christian is nibbling at the Word of God or sampling at the truth. The Christian should have ‘hiker hunger’ – a strong, unabated desire for the truth of God’s Word. There should be a deep seated hunger to learn more, hear more and study more about God. Christians don’t have a hiker hunger for God because they have become couch potatoes for God. We are content to nibble and snack here or there. It’s time we get hungry for truth and righteousness!
The Appalachian Trail is famous for being a well marked trail. The ‘White blazes’ which mark the trail are 2″ by 6″ and there are tens of thousands of these markings that show the way for both north and south bound hikers. It may take a bit of diligence in some areas to find the blaze, but for the most part the entire 2185 miles is well marked and easy to follow.
Jesus Christ told us “If you love me; keep my commandments”. The way of the Savior might be “straight and narrow” but it is easily marked. We don’t have to wander around looking for the right way because the way is clearly marked. The Lord gave us some clear markings for our walk:
1) He gave us his written Word – the precious Word of God that tells us exactly what God expects of us and how exactly He has reached out to us.
2) He walked Himself as an example for us. Christ came to this earth and was ‘tempted in all ways as we are’. He endured this life and lived a perfect example.
3) They Holy Spirit. God has given us the Holy Spirit of God to reside within us as the temple of the living God to direct us, remind us, correct us and comfort us.
4) Those that have gone on before. God has given us Godly examples, both the examples within the Word of God and those who are more contemporary in order to give us a guide and an example of how to live for Him.
We may not have ‘White blazes’ to follow – in fact – we have so much more. We are therefore – Without Excuse!