Resolving Couple Conflict

Conflict is a part of life – and can be healthy when it drives us to improve our situation. However, it can also drive us apart if not handled properly! So, here are a few tips on resolving conflict within the marriage relationship. First of all, some wisdom from a few ancient proverbs…

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Abiding by this principle will go a long way to solving most conflicts within a relationship! We tend to lash out, get defensive, speak first and think later…you get the picture. How many times have you said something and then regretted it for days or longer? Slow down…take your time…breath deeply. Many times, just taking the time to listen and gather thoughts before responding will prevent a ton of conflict.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you do respond to someone else, make sure you do it with kindness. Be nice! Treat your spouse with respect just like you would anyone else (hopefully, you treat others nicely!). We tend to treat those we love the most with the least amount of respect. Turn that around and treat them the best!

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Always try and have in view the idea of healing and repair as you talk and respond. The goal is to solve the issue, not tear each other down or win the argument. It is not a dual!

When you do have an issue to solve, here are some tips on how to have a healthy discussion.

1. Set a time and place. May times, we try to discuss issues on the fly when we are angry or in a hurry or tired. Not a good idea! Make a plan to talk when there are no distractions and you have plenty of time.

2. Try and come to a mutual agreement on what the issue is – agree on the problem so you can work towards a solution together.

3. How do each of you contribute to the problem. This is not a fault finding session but an exploration of how the problem evolved.

4. Brainstorm potential solutions without being judgmental or critical, then sift through the ideas and evaluate for solutions.

5. Agree on a solution and then discuss how each will contribute to the solution.

6. Set up a future time to get back together and evaluate progress. (Along the way, look for ways to praise each other for positive contributions.)

While the above process may seem a bit formulaic, it can really help if you are struggling with being able to handle issues in a calm, diplomatic way. As you engage each other in this way, it will become more intuitive and automatic over time. Sometimes we have to train ourselves to behave a certain way, especially if we are conditioned to handle things in an unhealthy manner.

Give it a try! Bottom line – treat each other with kindness and respect, respond appropriately, and be intentional about how to discuss and solve issues. Go for it!

One more ancient proverb – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” – Beautiful!

 

Are you Shrewdly Innocent?

Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way…

We must be intentional (wise) about how we live our lives – God’s wisdom is the way to go! It works best every time. We live in the world but must be careful to avoid becoming the world.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Jesus)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (The Apostle Paul)

Jesus described living the Christian life as that of being sheep among wolves. That is a dangerous scenario for sheep! We must combine the wisdom and the peace of God to navigate through this treacherous journey called life. The principles of Godly living are transforming for our lives. Things tend to go better when we live by Godly wisdom.

The church must remember that we have what the world needs! Don’t give up! Don’t give in! Jesus sent the sheep out among the wolves for a reason – to show the way! Let us be wise in how we live so that we might enjoy the fruit of living out God’s wisdom for our own lives and for the power it will have in the world around us. We influence them – not the other way around!

Things in the church that are not ok…

Over the years I have accumulated a list of things I have seen in the church that are not ok. It is basically a list for Pastors and church leaders, but everyone should see it because you should not put up with these things! Unfortunately, I think at least some of these things are seen among church leaders as efficient ways to get things done and accomplish goals. But…they are not ok.

1. It is not ok to ask an already overloaded volunteer to do one more thing because you want it done and you know they will say yes. Not ok!

2. It is not ok to tell a person or group or congregation one reason for wanting to do something when there is really another reason and you have a secret agenda. Not ok!

3. It is not ok to be a poor steward of God’s money just because you have a big budget and a big congregation. Not ok!

4. It is not ok to ask someone to volunteer for an “easy” job when it is actually going to be hard and you know it. Not ok!

5. It is not ok to tell different people different things so that they all go along with your project or agenda. Not ok!

6. It is not ok to move numbers around to make statistics look better – ever. Not ok!

7. It is not ok to teach on personal financial stewardship when your motive is really just to get more money in the plate. Not ok!

8. It is not ok to give preferential treatment to someone in the church because they give more money in the plate or because they have more pull. Not ok!

9. It is not ok to tell your congregation to go without so they can give more if you are not willing to do the same. Not ok!

10. It is not ok to call for a prayer meeting when your actual agenda is to do something to boost morale or buy in. Prayer is actually supposed to be for prayer! Not ok!

11. It is not ok to teach something is a sin just because you don’t want people doing it and it is not ok to teach something is ok just because you want it to be ok. Not ok!

12. It is not ok to preface your statement with “God led me…” when He really didn’t. Not ok!

Ok – I will stop there for now. Maybe I can post part 2 down the road a piece as I give this some more thought. There are plenty of scriptures to back all this up – honesty, integrity, etc. I don’t think people would argue that these things are ok – they just do them anyway. Not ok!

Let me know if you have anything to add to the list!

Hallowed or Hollowed? The Christmas Difference

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'” (Luke 2:13-14)

We love Christmas for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason for celebrating Christmas can get lost underneath the silver and gold of the holiday season. The birth of Christ brought peace! It is “good news of great joy” for everyone – that includes me! That includes you! Christmas is a birthday: the birth of Christ. That lowly birth was an amazing display of love and grace in that the creator of this world entered into our lives to demonstrate love beyond all human understanding. We cannot fathom such a great love! He loves me in spite of myself and sent His son to die for me. That is why Christ was born. He was born to die. His death and resurrection paved the way for me to have peace.

Look around. Do you see a lot of peace? I don’t. I see a lot of strife and lot of people looking for peace but never finding it. People turn from the only true place of peace and try to find it in other ways. Ironically, substituting God’s peace with other options, not only falls short, but actually drives one further away from what is sought. People turn to inappropriate relationships. People turn to Drugs and/or alcohol. People turn to thrill seeking. People turn to career advancement. People turn to materialism. But all they find is emptiness. A hollow feeling inside. Do you feel it? An emptiness that craves/desires to be filled. But people can’t fill it because you can’t have the peace of God until you have peace with God. People fight against it when all along it is actually what they really want – humans long for reconciliation with their maker.

Those that have found the hallowed ground of Christ in their lives know true peace. Peace with God brings the peace of God. That painful void is filled with peace, with God’s presence, with a calm that others cannot understand. Even though the storm rages, there is a calm inside. Even though there is striving on the outside, there is rest on the inside. No need to seek fulfillment in the empty promises of fleshly desire because there is contentment. There is peace.

This Christmas, take some time to consider the peace of God. It really is the whole reason for the season. Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

The greatest gift ever!

Are you seeking peace where it cannot be found? Are you aching to fill a void in your life that won’t go away? Are you afraid? From shepherds to Magi, there was only one to seek; one to find; one to rely on; one to turn to; one to find peace in – His name is Jesus. A savior is born.

Merry Christmas.

Heaven on earth

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” (N.T. Wright – Surprised by Hope)

As Christians look forward to heaven, let us not give up on earth! We have our kids to think about, and their kids, and their kids…

Wright also says, “The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…”

Let us engage our culture – not turn our backs on it. Let’s be a light on a hill – not hidden.

Who you gonna call?

“The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes- a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.”
― Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives

A timely challenge for all Christians. The world and the world system can only be fixed by the wisdom of God. Who is going to spread the healing light of Christ into the world if not Christians?

Are you a reservoir?

“If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. A canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus without loss to itself it shares its superabundant water.” (Bernard of Clairvaux)

Are you taking care of your self? Is your tank full? Physically, mentally, spiritually?

In a passenger airplane, if oxygen masks are needed, you are instructed to put your mask on first. You can‘t help those around you if you are weak. Make sure you are strong. Then you can help others.

CEO, Mom, Pastor, Friend, Dad, Husband, Wife, Deacon, Soldier – the best way to serve others is to make sure you take care of yourself. From this wellspring will abundant waters flow issuing forth sustained nourishment.

Imprisoned Spirit?

“So, it becomes the devil’s business to keep the Christian’s spirit imprisoned. He knows that the believing and justified Christian has been raised up out of the grave of his sins and trespasses. From that point on, Satan works that much harder to keep us bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in our own grave clothes. He knows that if we continue in this kind of bondage…we are not much better off than when we were spiritually dead.” (A.W. Tozer)

The Dating Game

Ok, let me offend tons of people with this post. Not that I want to, I just know this topic will.

Dating – what is it for? You have to ask the why question before you can make good decisions on the how and when.

Our Middle School Ministry leaders asked Kristin (my lovely bride) and I to come in and teach on how to think about dating to 5th and 6th graders. Yes, that’s right – 5th and 6th graders. Dating seems to increasingly be more and more of a social issue among our teens and preteens at younger and younger ages. It is a huge problem, more so than most adults realize. It is even contributing to suicide and attempted suicide among our young ones. At that age, kids should not have to deal with the stress of boy/girl relationships! But they are…because they think having a boyfriend or girlfriend is the cool thing to do and they are being condition by society (TV, books, movies, friends, sometimes even parents) to see it as normal and even good. Well, it’s not. It’s not good at all. What 6th grader is mature enough to understand relationships and consequences and emotions and love?…and I could go on and on.

Ok, so back to the why question. Assuming that you agree with the biblical teaching of intimacy only within the marriage relationship (I know, many people including Christians, do not abide by that teaching), then the purpose of dating would logically only be for finding your future mate. I could go into more details about supporting that principle, but I think most Christians actually know it is a biblical teaching, they just choose to ignore it, right? So, someone might say, “holding hands and kissing are ok…” Well, is it really? If you are human, you know that doing such things as holding hands and kissing put teens in a position of great temptation where they are constantly battling or resisting the next step – if they resist at all!

As part of our teaching lesson with the middle school group, the leader showed a video of a scenario where they put kids in a room at a table and placed a marshmallow on a plate in front of them and then left the room. Then they were told not to eat the marshmallow until the adult came back. It was hilarious watching the kids struggle with the temptation to eat that marshmallow! That’s what we do with our kids and relationships. “Ok, kids, it’s fine to date and hold hands and kiss, but don’t do anything else…” Yea, right!

If dating is for the purpose of finding the person whom you might one day marry, then it would only take place when you get to the level of maturity in your life when you know what to look for and are actually in the market for a spouse! Now, we could debate when that might be, but I am sure all of us can agree that a young teen does not meet that criteria! I want to encourage everyone, including parents, to get on board with being more outspoken on this topic. Our kids are hurting over this issue and we need to address it. Tell them they don’t need to date or do the boyfriend/girlfriend thing and teach them why! Even the school system promotes all this boyfriend/girlfriend stuff in several ways, such as sponsoring dances and dates, etc. No one is stopping to think about the consequences and ramifications!

One more thing – all this also applies to grown adults. Say, what? Really? Yes, really. Adults may have the maturity to date (some not so much), but you still have to ask the why question. Why are you dating? I can’t think of any Biblical reasons why someone might date other than to find a mate. If you have other goals in mind, then you are straying outside of a biblical lifestyle. And, all the same temptations apply. Remember, that person is not your mate until you say, “I do”. So, all that holding hands, kissing, hugging, etc. create a lot of tension that will only lead to more and more – you know what I mean.

I know this is not the popular viewpoint, but I believe it is the only biblical viewpoint and to the extent everyone ignores it we as a society suffer. Be willing to be different – as a teen, as an adult, and as a teacher/parent. This world needs people to take a stand. I mean, look around. Status quo is not working.

 

That’s Heresy!!!

What is Heresy and why does it matter?

We live in a pluralistic society that is tending toward influencing Christianity to be diluted in various ways. We are seeing a watered down doctrine that seems eager to please and not eager to offend. Within Christianity we see diverging views on issues of doctrine and morality. Issues like this have been around since the beginning of the Church, but there seems to be a surge in accommodation to the world and the Church needs to examine itself lest it continue to fall deeper and deeper (into a burning ring of fire – joke!) into heresy until it no longer can claim itself to be Christian! It’s not that we are supposed to be offensive as Christians, but the gospel itself can be offensive to those who do not like it.

The Apostle Paul talks in his letter to the Galatians about those who are teaching a different gospel. Then he clarifies that a different gospel is actually no gospel at all but rather a distortion of the gospel (see Galatians 1:6-10). Within Christianity we can and do disagree on a lot of things (Eschatology, Ecclesiology, current use of sign gifts, doctrine of heaven and hell, what election means, etc.). Heresy, however, is really concerned with the core doctrine of salvation (redemption) through Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ. There is no room for plurality or in-house debate on this topic. To disagree with this is to move outside the pale of Christianity. This is the heart of the orthodoxy vs. heresy contrast.

For someone to be Christian, they must have an understanding of God, Christ, and humanity that affirms the principle of redemption through Christ! The early church affirms this by declaring there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved (Acts 4)! Now, here is the interesting part. Disbelieving in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not heresy. That is simply unbelief. Heresy is believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior but then perverting into something less or different that is inconsistent and/or inadequate. If you take away any of the tenants of the gospel to accommodate some kind of tolerance or universalism, you rob the gospel of essential ingredients. For example, Christ had to be human to be a mediator and sacrifice for us yet he could not have been merely human to qualify for the perfect sacrifice. There is no one else that will fit the bill! Only Christ! Any line of argument that allows for multiple pathways to God fails to understand the necessity of salvation in Christ and Christ alone. Without going into too much detail, it is very important (vital) for us to understand that our belief in Christ as God and man, and our need as sinners to have a redeemer (Christ and Christ alone) is fundamental to our faith and cannot be compromised.

All that to conclude with this. I intentionally refrained from using a lot of scripture for this blog post. I want you to see the logic of my point. The point is not whether or not Christianity is true. The point is that one cannot profess the truth of Christianity and then at the same time go along with or allow for any other kind of gospel. If there is any other way to heaven except through Christ then we no longer have the gospel. You cannot declare something to be the only way and then at the same time affirm other ways! You cannot change the gospel just because so many people want to walk a different path. Remember, Christ informed us that there would be many who take a different path and only a few who take the path of Christ. To allow for any type of pluralism is not helping the many at all – it is sending them on their merry way down the broad path…that leads to destruction. Let us love others enough to stand firm in our message of the gospel that they might hear it and receive it. Can I get an Amen?