Making Big Decisions Together

This week, I want to talk about making major life decisions as a couple. Couples often struggle with making decisions, especially decisions that have a major impact on life like career changes or home purchases.
My wife and I have certainly had our share of struggles as we have had to make hard decisions. Also, as a pastor, I have spent a lot of time speaking with couples who had to make difficult decisions. Maybe you are agonizing over some huge decision. I hope to give you some thoughts that will help you through this tough process.
First of all, I want to assure you that God has a plan for your life. He sees you and is watching over you as a shepherd watches over sheep. Psalm 23 tells us that God is our shepherd. In John 10:14, Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. A shepherd leads his sheep to pastures that contain good food and adequate water. A shepherd protects his flock from predators. A shepherd leads his flock into what is good and best for them. Most of us believe that, but when we are struggling over whether to take the right or left fork in the road, we are afraid that we will miss His leading and get it wrong. John 10:4 assures us that if we are born again, we are equipped to hear His voice. So, when you have a big decision to make, remember that God has a plan to lead you in the right direction and He is speaking and He will enable you to see where He is leading.

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Fan the Flame of Friendship in your Marriage

This week, I want to encourage you to fan the flame of friendship in your marriage. I have discovered that people get married for lots of reasons, but the thing that keeps couples happily married ’til death do us part is a deliberate effort to build and grow a meaningful friendship. Some couples get married without really knowing each other very well. Others simply allow life to snuff out their friendship. It takes effort. It is easy to allow work, bills, housework, children, and a hundred other things to keep you from growing your friendship. Add to that the effects of hurts and disappointments and the changes associated with growing older and you can see that staying connected is like swimming against a strong current. I am going to share a few ideas with you this week to help you keep moving forward to a deeper connection with your mate! After all, God created marriage to meet this deep basic human need for companionship.
The first suggestion I want to offer is to remember the story of your relationship. When I was just 16 years old, I met my wife.

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Making Decisions Together

This week, I want to talk about making major life decisions as a couple. Couples often struggle with making decisions, especially decisions that have a major impact on life like career changes or home purchases.
My wife and I have certainly had our share of struggles as we have had to make hard decisions. Also, as a pastor, I have spent a lot of time speaking with couples who had to make difficult decisions. Maybe you are agonizing over some huge decision. I hope to give you some thoughts that will help you through this tough process.
First of all, I want to assure you that God has a plan for your life. He sees you and is watching over you as a shepherd watches over sheep. Psalm 23 tells us that God is our shepherd. In John 10:14, Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. A shepherd leads his sheep to pastures that contain good food and adequate water. A shepherd protects his flock from predators. A shepherd leads his flock into what is good and best for them. Most of us believe that, but when we are struggling over whether to take the right or left fork in the road, we are afraid that we will miss His leading and get it wrong. John 10:4 assures us that if we are born again, we are equipped to hear His voice. So, when you have a big decision to make, remember that God has a plan to lead you in the right direction and He is speaking and He will enable you to see where He is leading.
God has many ways to speak to us.

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But, I deserve to be happy

This week, I want to talk about the popular idea summed up in the phrase, “You deserve to be happy”. Is this a part of your thought process with yourself? When your husband/ wife hurts you, do you tell yourself that “I don’t deserve this, I deserve to be happy.”? Is that the advice you give others? Are you surrounded by family and friends who give you that advice? What exactly does that mean? Is that a godly pursuit. Is our happiness really God’s highest priority for us? This line of thinking is destroying many marriages. So, let’s think about it.
What does it really mean to say, “ I deserve to be happy.”? The foundation of this thought is that I’m not happy. Something or someone is not serving my needs to my satisfaction. That’s the first error. When we seek to find pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction in a person or material things, we will always be disappointed. Your husband/ wife cannot be the source of your joy and contentment. Another interesting observation about this statement is that it implies that I am superior to others. This is implied by using the word “deserve”. Well, if I deserve to have a trouble free life, then what about the people who are struggling with sickness, people who live under repressive regimes, or those who have lost everything due to natural disasters or war? Do they deserve less? You see, when we set ourselves up to believe that we deserve something we don’t have, we are setting ourselves up to compromise our values in order to get it.

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Deepen the bond with your Mate!

This week, I want to encourage you to fan the flame of friendship in your marriage. I have discovered that people get married for lots of reasons, but the thing that keeps couples happily married ’til death do us part is a deliberate effort to build and grow a meaningful friendship. Some couples get married without really knowing each other very well. Others simply allow life to snuff out their friendship. It takes effort. It is easy to allow work, bills, housework, children, and a hundred other things to keep you from growing your friendship. Add to that the effects of hurts and disappointments and the changes associated with growing older and you can see that staying connected is like swimming against a strong current. I am going to share a few ideas with you this week to help you keep moving forward to a deeper connection with your mate! After all, God created marriage to meet this deep basic human need for companionship.
The first suggestion I want to offer is to remember the story of your relationship. When I was just 16 years old, I met my wife.

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Careful! Words have Power!

This week, I want to encourage you to be careful, intentional, and deliberate with the words you speak to your mate and children. Proverbs 13:3 says, “He who guards his lips, guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin”. The truth is that we are prone to simply blurting out whatever comes to mind. So, when we are stressed out, angry, or depressed we have a tendency to blurt out things that are hurtful to those closest to us. Too often, these hurtful words are released and left to pile up and bring ruin to our family.
Before we go much further, we need to address the myths that surround this practice.
Myth #1 – “ They are just words. It doesn’t matter. They know I really didn’t mean it. I was just upset, it doesn’t matter. The truth is found in Proverbs 18:21 -“ The tongue has the power of life and death. Those who love it will eat its fruit”. Words do matter. Think about words for a minute. Words can inspire athletes to dig deeper and perform better. It’s with words that we teach. Words can create unity or division. Words can make us laugh or make us sad. Words can create security or insecurity. Words can lead a nation into war. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point, words are important and have a clear impact on others.
Myth #2 – I’ m not responsible for my words. I was angry, sad, stressed out, etc. so I could not control my words. In Matthew 12:36, Jesus tells us that someday we will have to give account for every reckless word that we spoke. When we disregard the importance of our words, we open ourselves up to the second myth which is that we can’t help what we say because emotions and external circumstances are in control of our words. we tell ourselves that we can’t help it, but God says we can help it.
Myth #3 – “I had to speak my mind”. This myth tells us that our hurtful words were justified because we felt a need to speak our mind. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth to each other in love. This myth leads us to justify our hurtful words because we had a duty to self to express our thoughts. However, the Bible makes it clear that we should use restraint and discretion when we speak to others. Our words should be helpful and loving not harsh and cutting. We are capable of expressing our thoughts, ideas, and disagreements without being harsh and hurtful.

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Stand Guard over your Children

Well, it’s back to school time again and I thought it would be helpful to remind you to remember to stand guard over your children. There is an all out effort being made to undermine the faith of our children and lead them away from Christ. This assault comes from every direction, but since our children are at school for so many hours everyday, it has become a prime place for this to happen. It is more important now than ever for parents to stay tuned in to what their children are being exposed to and lead them away from danger.
Before I go any further, let me assure you that this is not an assault on the school system. My Mom is a retired schoolteacher. The school system is filled with great men and women who do a great job educating our children. However, as parents, we need to be vigilant in overseeing the welfare of our children. We can’t simply turn our children over to the school system and trust them to shape and form our children…that’s the job of parents. My goal here is to remind parents to be on involved and engaged.
Our children are affected powerfully in the school environment in several ways. First of all, we need to be aware that there is a great conflict raging in some areas over the content of textbooks. Some textbooks present information that is incorrect, politically biased, and very anti – Christian. I would encourage parents to take some time to carefully review the textbooks their children are studying. If you see something that raises red flags, be sure to spend time with your children to explain the counter balance or rest of the story with them. Pray for God’s wisdom as you seek to speak to school officials about it.
Secondly, our children are affected most of all by the other children they come into contact with at school daily. As a conscientious parent, you might shield them from things that are harmful, but at school, they will be surrounded by kids who are not shielded. This is where they might be exposed to things that threaten to lead them down the wrong road. This week, I will share some stories that make this point and hopefully offer some ideas to help you protect your children from harmful influences.
Sometimes as parents, we want to take our children and hide them away from the world to protect them from all the danger, pain, and confusion, but eventually they will have to go out into the world. It is our responsibility to train them to navigate through the dangerous situations of life.
When our youngest son was in kindergarten, I was on the way home from picking him up from school and as we drove along, I noticed that he was singing a song. I couldn’t make out the words and was not familiar with the tune so I asked him to sing it for me. The song included the words, “ I’m going to shoot you in the head and laugh as the blood runs down your face”. He said that his classmates sing this song on the playground, so he was simply joining in. That’s when I realized that I had a serious job to keep him safe from the influence of the other children. I was careful not to make a big reaction. i calmly and carefully engaged him in conversation about the meaning of those words and then explained to him that life is a precious gift from God. I explained that as followers of Jesus, we don’t sing about or even daydream about such terrible things. I began to plant the seed that as followers of Jesus, we dream of lifting others up, not hurting them.

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Create a Culture of Prayer in your Family

This week, I want to remind you that it is very important to establish a culture of prayer in our homes. Some parents feel overwhelmed at the idea of this, so this week I want to try to provide you with some simple, practical ideas to help you include prayer in the fabric of your family.
The starting point is to realize that prayer is a natural conversation that flows out of our relationship with God. So, forget about being formal and using words that sound impressive or churchy. The format of prayer is that of a child speaking to his/her Father or speaking to a friend. The necessary roots for prayer are that we first of all have a relationship with the Father and that we believe that He hears us and responds to our communication with Him.
I want to encourage you to spend some time meditating on Hebrews 11:6 which says, “ And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
When we gather our family together and join together to pray about situations we are facing, it demonstrates that we have faith that God exists and that He will hear us and reward us by acting on our behalf. When we face life’s trials and troubles by simply trying to work it out on our own, we are not expressing faith in God, we are demonstrating faith in ourselves to work these things out. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible nowhere states that “ God helps those who help themselves”. In fact, the Bible states over and over again that God is near to the broken and devastated and helps those who acknowledge their need for Him. He helps those who put their faith in Him and have no faith in their own strength.
Another important aspect of weaving faith and prayer into the fabric of our family is to pay attention to how God works in response to our prayers. It is very easy to pray about a need and then move on to the next need without really recognizing what God has done. It is crucial to pray about our needs until we see God work in that situation and then gather the family to acknowledge that God has worked in response to our prayers and then join together to give Him thanks.
This practice will not only set the stage for God to reveal His involvement in our lives, but will build a legacy of faith and prayer in our children. Children who have been raised in this environment will never doubt the reality and power of God. It’s true, they may stray in their life’s journey, but the seeds of faith planted by this simple practice will never leave them. These seeds will always be working to bring them back to a right relationship with God.
Hebrews 11:6 also gives us an important condition for answered prayer in the words, “who earnestly seek Him”. There is a close relationship between prayer and obedience to God. In fact, in John 14 & 15, Jesus makes it clear that those who really love Him are those who are growing in obedience to His commands. So, let’s prioritize growth in obedience to His commands as we build a legacy of prayer in our families.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us how to pray. Many people think that this is a ritualistic prayer to be simply recited to God in some religious ritual, but that’s not what Jesus was doing here. He was giving us an outline for prayer. This outline provides a framework for the kinds of things we should speak to the Father about, but it is up to us to fill in the outline with the unique specifics we face.
The starting point or opening for prayer is to acknowledge God as our perfect Father in Heaven who is worthy of our respect, reverence, awe, and adoration and devotion.

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WHOA! God cares how I treat my Wife?!

This week, I want us to think about the commands given to husbands in 1Peter 3. This passage not only lays out how a wife should live with her husband, but also explains how a husband should relate to his wife. The wife is told that God has given her such powerful tools that when she releases them into the marriage, it might lead an unbelieving husband to faith in Christ without a single word being spoken. These tools are ever growing Godly character, the development of inner beauty, a submissive attitude,a gentle spirit, and a quiet spirit. The release of these into the marriage requires great faith in God and will require the overcoming of fear over and over again. But, when released by the wife, these qualities have great power. You can read more about this on our blog at nolareallife,org. The article is entitled: Help! My husband is not a believer!
This passage also provides instructions for husbands. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “ Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
First, let’s dispel a lie that has been wrongly attached to Christianity for many years. The lie is that Christianity and the Bible promote the oppression of women. The world has hurled this accusation so loudly and for so long that some in the church have even begun to believe it. The world has tried to convince women that God should not be trusted by them because He is withholding the best things from them. Things like a career outside the home, freedom to experience sexual adventures, independence from a man, and rulership over men to name a few. In the 1960’s, the feminist movement sought to wage war against traditional standards and seek to have these wonderful things they had been denied. The results are in. This has created a massive amount of single mom homes. Two income families have lots of stuff, but many children have been left alone to raise themselves or be raised by schools and daycares. The divorce rate has skyrocketed. Men have been displaced and many feel lost so they create more trouble. Surveys show that most women still do not feel fulfilled even though they have obtained what the world told them that God was withholding from them.
The truth is that while some men have mistreated women in the name of Christianity, God has a plan to bless women and lift them up. His plan is found in his order of things. When a husband and a wife find and follow God’s order for life together, the wife is fulfilled and blessed and so is the husband. This results in children who are trained in the ways of God and have a solid foundation for life implanted in them!
The first thing is the phrase “in the same way” or the King James version uses the word “likewise”. This leads to the question in the same way or likewise as what?

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HELP! My Husband is not a Believer!

This week, I want to think about how to live with a mate who is not a believer. This is a situation that causes a huge amount of stress in some marriages. Most of the time, it is a wife who is desperate to see her husband commit his life to Christ. However, I have seen husbands who are longing to see their wife come to faith in Christ. Either way, this is a source of great stress in the marriage and leads to many sleepless nights filled with worry and frustration. Sadly, it often also leads to many arguments.
Through the years, I have spoken to many who struggle with this problem in marriage. If you are facing this struggle, I hope you will join me this week as we look for effective strategies to win your mate and strengthen your marriage relationship.
It seems that the first thing that most people think of is to start trying to convince their mate to turn to Christ through human efforts. You know, things like: constantly engaging him/her in conversation about becoming a Christian, leaving books and tracts lying all around, always painting a picture of a trouble free life if only someone would surrender to Christ, inviting the pastor over to fix the problem, inviting church friends over to influence him/her, constantly nagging about going to church, insisting on watching Christian TV so their mate has to see or hear at least some of it, and the last resort … becoming uncooperative and withholding affection in protest of their unwillingness to come to Christ.
The truth is that all of these tactics have a reverse effect. Most people resist anything that they feel they are being pushed into. Also, many feel upset that their Christian mate is now giving all their attention to church and has nothing left for him/her. Many of them feel that church activities are interfering with their marriage relationship. Many feel that their mate’s faith is making him/her bossy, demanding, manipulative, and critical. So, they don’t see faith in Christ as a positive thing, rather they see it as something that has had a negative impact on their marriage and life. In order to lead them to faith in Christ, a completely different approach is needed.
1 Peter 3:1-7 addresses this problem with God’s approach. “ Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands that, if any of them do not believe the Word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”
This passage is filled with commands that will lead a husband to faith in Christ. I hope you will take some time this week to prayerfully consider this passage and join me as we look at it more closely!
This week, we are thinking about how to handle the difficult situation of being married to a husband who is not a believer. This is a source of great stress for many marriages. An important part of developing intimacy involves discussing spiritual issues and encouraging spiritual growth in each other. When your mate is not a believer, this is impossible and becomes a source of disappointment. Sadly, out of desperation, many wives turn to fleshly methods to try to coerce their husband to come to faith in Christ. In some extreme cases, some wives become deceived into thinking this is grounds for divorce and seek to find and marry a more spiritual man. This, of course is not God’s plan.
1 Peter 3 gives us the answer about how to handle this situation.

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