10 Practical Things that will Improve Your Marriage

This week, I want to encourage you to develop the habit of speaking words that will lift up your mate. I have observed that many couples have developed hurtful patterns of speaking to each other. In the name of fun, some have begun to insult and cut each other down. Some refer to each other by derogatory terms like “my ole lady”. Some have developed the habit of airing their arguments with family, friends, and the social media world. No matter why the pattern was started, it eventually begins to cast a shadow over the relationship. When we continually say negative things about someone, we begin to see them in the light of those words. Soon afterward, the way we treat that person begins to line up with what we say about him/her. So, this process begins to cause us to think less of our mate. This leads to a downward spiral.
Proverbs 10:11 says, “ The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked”. We often convince ourselves that words don’t matter so we let our ever-changing emotional state rule over our words. But our words do matter. Our words can bring blessing or crushing. Our words can lift up those around us or they can hurt and devastate those around us. I have known couples who were constantly engaged in name-calling, insult swapping, and harsh speech with each other. After years of this, they had built up a lot of contempt for each other and went to great lengths to avoid being together. So, instead of allowing their mouths to be a fountain of blessing to each other, they had been reckless with their words and had opened the door for their relationship to be filled with pain, rejection, insecurity, and uneasiness. They dreaded being around each other.
In each case, it was a matter of choice. We have control of what we say to our mate. We can either keep our emotions under control and speak from restraint, respect, love, and truth or we can open the faucet and let anything and everything spew out all over our mate.
Our words are a lot like toothpaste, once it is out of the tube, you can’t put it back. We can apologize and be forgiven and that will make things better, but it still leaves a painful residue in the heart of our mate. You see, our relationship with our marriage partner is the most significant relationship in our lives. We care more about what our mate thinks of us than anyone else. If our mate yells hurtful names and ascribes hurtful, often untrue, attributes to us every time he/she gets angry it begins to cause us to feel unloved and rejected. This leads to emotional withdrawal, giving up on the relationship, and a tendency to fight back in a similar way.
I hope you will join me this week as we think about strategies to safeguard ourselves against this downward cycle.
I would like to encourage you to visit nolareallife.org and order your copy of I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey. This 14 week Bible study is filled with scripture, thought provoking questions, and space for journalling to help you grow as a marriage partner. Order your copy today!

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Training our Children to be Respectful

Last week, we thought about the importance of setting boundaries for our children to live by. Along with that, I suggested that it is a good idea to write these boundaries down and assign the punishment for breaking the boundary ahead of time to provide consistency. This also fosters unity with the parents and takes the emotion and anger out of the discipline process. You can read the transcript on our blog at nolareallife.org.
This week, I want to think about the importance of training our children to be respectful of others, especially authority figures. Over the past couple of years, it has bothered me that so many young people are so willing to harm others and property in the name of protesting. We have seen these so called protestors inflict terror on communities all over our nation from Ferguson, Illinois to New York, Baltimore, California,Florida, and many other places. I know that this is possibly a small minority of professional protestors, but as I look around locally I see signs of a general deterioration of respect for others. For example, it is unbelievable how many police officers have been killed in the past 12 months right here in New Orleans. Yesterday, I stopped at a convenience store to get some gas and some kids were fighting right in the doorway of the store and the profanity and violence from these 12-14 year olds was shocking. I could go on all week with examples to support my plea for us to train our children to have a respectful heart, but I guess I better move on.
Respect is a position of the heart that holds others in high esteem. A respectful heart will be courteous to others. A respectful heart will be considerate of others. A respectful heart will treat others with dignity. A respectful heart will acknowledge that all people have intrinsic value and potential regardless of how that person is currently conducting themselves. A respectful heart will be kind and harmless to others. A respectful heart will be helpful to others. a respectful heart will honor and obey the laws of the land. A respectful heart will be cooperative with those in authority like parents, teachers, pastors, policemen, and governmental leaders. A respectful heart will honor the property of others. A respectful heart will be careful how we speak to others, especially those in authority.
This week, I want us to think about cultivating a respectful heart in ourselves and instilling that in our children.
All week, we will think about Romans 12:10 which says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” That pretty well sums up the attitude of a respectful heart. let’s be devoted to one another in love, not just when others are doing things we like. Let’s honor and esteem others above ourselves.
I want to encourage you to order a copy of our 14 week daily Bible study titled, I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey. This study is designed to help you grow as a marriage partner.This study covers 14 topics and each section leads you through scripture and has questions and room for journalling to help you grow.

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The Importance of Training our Children

I want to encourage you this week to renew your focus on training your children. This is a huge topic and covers multitudes of specific issues, however it all really boils down to a simple concept – addressing their heart condition.
Like me, I am sure you have taken note of the news reports that indicate a spike in shameful, devastating acts committed by more and more people… mainly young people under 25. In the past 10 years, we have seen an increase in riots, looting, murder, rape, robberies, human trafficking, violence against police, and other violent crimes. In addition, we have seen an increase in other shameful actions that are not crimes against human laws like abortion, sexual perversions of all kinds, vulgar, disrespectful speech, and a general de-valuing of all that is good and right. It is sad and scary to watch these things develop, but it is terrifying to think that our children might be drawn into these practices. So, this week, I want to think about strategies that will safeguard our children.
Human words and actions start with the content of our hearts. In other words, we act out of our belief system. There is a war going on today for the belief system of our children. The world is trying to indoctrinate our children. The message of the world is the same as the message that the serpent hissed to Eve in the garden thousands of years ago, “God’s ways are withholding the best things from you, go ahead reject what God calls right and do what feels good to you”. We need to realize that the kingdom of darkness is actively working to drag our children into destruction. We need to realize that all humans of all ages are born with a heart condition that is inclined to gravitate toward what is evil. It is the job of parents to prepare our children to face and overcome the tempting call of the world.
Proverbs 22:15 says “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it from him”.
Proverbs 22:6 assures us that if we “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
Proverbs 19:18 warns us “ Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death”.
Training our children is serious business that requires consistency, dedication, right priorities, and vigilance. If we are going to train our children, we will have to be engaged with our children everyday. It is a huge responsibility. Too many today are neglecting this responsibility. They are too busy with less important things. They don’t know how. They are afraid of doing it wrong, so they do nothing. They are too tired or lazy to do it. They are afraid of being the bad guy to their children. It is time for us to rise up and train our children in the way they should live so we never have to suffer watching them reap the consequences of foolish decisions.
The starting point is to realize

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Put Strife Out of Your Home

This week, I want to encourage you to put strife out of your home! Wait… No, I don’t mean throwing out your mate or your children!
Strife is a destructive force that seeks to enter and poison all human relationships. Strife is the seedbed of conflict and it can destroy relationships. Strife includes competition where one is always trying to prove that they are better than another. This proving involves put downs, criticisms, complaining, and a hesitation to forgive. Strife originates from pride and insecurity. A person who works in strife is often referred to as being contentious. This simply means that this person is difficult to get along with and is constantly stirring up fights and arguments. This word also carries the idea of debating and arguing one’s case as a lawyer would do in a court of law. So, a person who is contentious is one who is prone to arguing and debating for long spans of time in order to win their argument, prove their superiority, or simply gain a place of power over someone else. The contentious person is always in an argument with someone.
Strife is a powerful force for evil in the world. Strife can destroy marriages, break apart families, destroy communities, ruin churches, or even tear apart nations. Worst of all, strife can open the door for every kind of wickedness and confusion and prevent us from experiencing God’s blessing in our lives.
Disagreements and even arguments are an inevitable part of family life, but we need to be very careful how we handle these. If we are not careful, strife can set up residence in our homes and create destructive patterns. We need to be careful how we handle our thoughts and emotions or we will allow strife to transform us into contentious people who are on a very bad path.
The Bible is filled with warnings about strife, commands to avoid becoming contentious, and guidance on how to overcome this enemy of all that is good. This week, we will take a quick overview of this important subject.
Growing up, I had some relatives who were contentious. Everyone avoided contact with them as much as possible because they were powder kegs that could blow at any moment and no one knew what might light the fuse. They always insisted on being right and dominating the rest of the family. Their legacy is that they passed on great pain to the next generation.
God has a plan to bless marriages and families with good things, but when strife settles into a home it takes over and hinders the blessing of God from flourishing.

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The Right Pattern for Marriage

I want to think about the order God established for the family. In today’s culture, America is conducting a social experiment on that God-established order. We are challenging all the boundaries He established for the family unit, for example: we have cast off the idea that marriage should last till death do us part, we have rejected the standard of the marriage commitment before physical intimacy and babies, we have trampled on the concept of the man being the leader of the family, and now we are challenging the very core concept of family which is that a family is made up of a man and a woman who are married and their offspring. Sadly, many in the church world seem to be confused about all of this or they are too afraid to speak up. The truth is that the statistics prove that ever since we began this experiment in the 1960’s our society has been in moral decline. Drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, violence, homelessness, STD’s have been on the rise as the children of these experimenters try to cope with the pain.
God established an order for the family that would bring wholeness and joy. However, the presence of sin and failure in the equation led men and women to make faulty assumptions that led to destructive lifestyle choices. The failure of a father or mother led to the assumption that the order God established was actually evil and must be changed. So, we began to unravel God’s plan and implement our own plan. This has led to more trouble than ever. As Christians, it is crucial that we understand God’s plan for family and seek to live it out as a light of hope to our communities.
Recently, our oldest son told about an email he received from one of his high school buddies. This young man wrote that he loved visiting our home because he felt safe and peaceful. He said that he was jealous of our son’s life because of the way we interacted with each other. His family was filled with arguing, power struggles, and eventually fell apart in divorce. He went into some detail about how he had observed our family and was trying to bring the qualities he observed in us to his own wife and children now. I was blown away. I never even dreamed that any of this was happening. My wife and I were simply trying to live according to God’s pattern. Little did we know that this friend of our son was paying close attention and making notes for his own future. We are surrounded by people who have been hurt by this social experiment and we have the opportunity to be a light to point them toward God’s plan for healing and wholeness!
We can find God’s pattern for marriage and family in the first 3 chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:27 God created man – male and female. Two halves of a whole. Not 1 superior and the other inferior. He created man – male and female. He created man special and unique. man is the only creation with the image of God – we have the ability to reason, we have a will, we have creativity capabilities, and we alone can communicate with God.

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Moms and Sons

Let’s think about the relationship between moms and sons. Last week, we thought about the serious problems caused by the absent Dad. Well, the absent Dad opens the door for Mom to feel pressure to fill both roles, which of course can’t be done effectively. A Dad can’t effectively fill the role of a Mom in the life of his daughters either. It is impossible for a Dad to explain and demonstrate certain unique female life experiences to his daughter and it is also impossible for a woman to explain certain male life experiences to her son. I want to focus on the Mom/ son relationship because it is more prevalent.
First of all, let me say that this is not meant to criticize Moms, but rather to add some insight about healthy mom/son relationships that might help you push your son in the right direction. This might also help the ladies gain some insight into their husbands or boyfriends. My hope is that this will inspire men to understand the dilemma they have faced all their lives and set things right in their lives.
The absent dad wound is a gaping gash, but the mom wound is much more subtle. The mom wound stems from Mom’s love and her desire to invest in her son, but she invested too much. Mom served her son like he was a king – cooked for him, cleaned his room, picked out his clothes, ran all his errands, did his homework for him, protected him fiercely when anyone dared accuse him of wrongdoing, covered up for his wrongdoing, confided in him, gave him money, and so much more… not just when he was a boy, but into his teen years and beyond. Now, he is a man who is either looking for a woman to take care of him OR he is a man filled with resentment towards women and on a quest to prove that he can dominate and control women, OR he is passive and cowers before his wife. He won’t make decisions and he won’t lead the family and every time he gives in resentment toward his wife grows.
Maybe you are married to a man who exemplifies these qualities. You want him to be strong, but he is weak and soft. To make matters worse, the man who is overly bonded with Mom brings Mom into the marriage. She exerts her control in the marriage making visitation plans and holiday plans. In major decision – making, he turns to her instead of his wife for advice. He constantly leans on Mom and the wife hates it, but doesn’t know what to do about it. The wife feels that she is in a tug of war for him.
This week, I hope we can unravel some of this to help wives, husbands, Moms, and sons. The Bible has clear cut guidance for all of this.
In his book, The Mom factor, Henry Cloud makes it clear that what a son learns from Mom affects a man for life… either for good or for bad.
I read a story recently about a primitive culture that plans a ceremony for every boy who reaches a certain age. They storm the Mom’s hut at night and drag the boy away as the Mom shouts, “ My Boy! My Boy!”. They take him out for a ceremony marking his transition into manhood and from that night on he never sleeps in his Mom’s hut again. He stays with the men. His mom relates to him as a man from then on. Where in America do we have anything that resembles that? No wonder we have so many confused men!

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Finding Real Manhood

This week, I want to think about the importance of real manhood. If you have a son, I hope this will be a catalyst to help you point him in the right way. If you are a wife, I hope this will help you encourage your husband as he seeks to provide real manhood for your family. If you are a man, I hope this encourages you to rise up and live for the higher calling of real manhood.
Manhood today is in a state of confusion in America. For decades, our culture has been attacking the role of the man. They have told us that Fathers are optional in the life of a child. They have convinced us that masculinity is evil and we should tone it down. The culture shapers have been on a quest to make men feel irrelevant.
It is a fact that confused men cause trouble in a society. Worse yet, sons who grow up without a strong male model active in their lives are even more confused about their role in life. Most problem children have absent or deadbeat dads. 90% of crimes are committed by men. 100% of rapes are committed by men.94% of dui arrests are men. Confused men settle for less in life… and that’s a problem.
Recently I read an article that illustrates this point. Some years ago in Kruger National Park in South Africa they were up against a problem. The elephant population was too large. So, they decided to re-locate some of the elephants to other parks. As you can imagine, elephants are difficult to transport, so they made a huge harness to airlift the elephants. However, while the harness could transport the adult females and juvenile males, it was too small to lift the massive adult males. So, they decided to leave the bulls at Kruger and move the others. Problem solved at Kruger. However, soon there was a huge problem at the other park. Rare white rhinos were being mysteriously killed. Cameras revealed that marauding bands of juvenile elephants re-located from Kruger were killing the rhinos by rampaging in gangs and goring and stomping them to death. They were harassing other animals too. This type of behavior was unheard of among elephants. They realized that without an older male to provide a solid role model the young elephants were out of control, confused and causing lots of trouble. They made a bigger harness and brought in an adult bull elephant and in a short time, the destructive behavior among the juveniles stopped and they began to act normally.
The same is true with humans. When sons have no strong male role model to help them learn real manhood, they band together and run about making trouble. When a daughter has no strong manhood model in her life, she is vulnerable to fall for the confused male who will fill her life with trouble.
We hear a lot of talk about the problems in our society. A large part of the solution is to help our men find their rightful place in our culture again. Dads are not optional. Men are not irrelevant. They have a crucial role to fill in the world. We need our men to rise up in the true role of real manhood and begin to turn back the tide of confusion and destruction in our culture today.
Confused men settle for less in life.

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Adopt a Covenant Mentality Toward Your Mate!

Recently, we spent some time looking at the Hebrew words in the Song of Songs that describe the progression of a love relationship. The pattern is to establish a close friendship which leads to a lifelong commitment of loyalty which leads to enjoying the fire of passion. If you missed it or if you want to explore it further, you can find the transcript on my blog at nolareallife.org.
Now, let’s think about God’s plan for the foundation of marriage. God intended that marriage be built on the foundation of an agreement known as a covenant. This is a word that we are familiar with, but generally have little knowledge about. In our culture, we are familiar with the idea of a contract. A contract is basically a set of mutually agreed upon responsibilities and benefits by two parties. In a contract, if one party fails to live up to their side, then the other has the right to simply void the contract and walk away. This works great in business, but is not at all God’s plan for marriage.
The carry over of this contract mentality into marriage has had a harmful effect on marriage in general and has brought devastation to our families. First of all, it has created a casual attitude toward extra marital relationships and divorce. Secondly, it has caused a growing number of couples to decide to skip marriage altogether and co-habitate having children as long as things are good. As soon as things are no longer good, one packs up and goes out to co-habitate with someone else. This is not God’s ideal for families and this trend is creating great pain.
I hope that as we explore the concept of covenant, you will begin to abandon any contract thinking you might have and begin to love your husband/wife in a covenant way as God intended so you can receive the blessings God intended!
Quickly, let me give you a list of covenant qualities. 1) Covenants are initiated for the benefit of the other person, not for my personal benefit. The covenant mentality says: “I will fill your life with all the good things I have.” The contract mentality says: “ I think you will make me happy and serve my needs.” 2) Covenant relationships are viewed as permanent for better or worse. The contract mentality says: “ I deserve to be happy and I’ll stay with you as long as you make me happy. If that stops, I’m gone.” 3) Covenant relationships are built on steadfast love given through all circumstances good and bad. The contract mentality gives love according to the circumstances. 4) Covenant relationships make allowance for each other’s weaknesses and failures. All of us have weaknesses and fail from time to time. In a covenant relationship, there is a way to deal with that in love and move forward in steadfast love.
The Bible also defines situations that are covenant breakers and create release from the covenant.
God has a plan to work through marriage to bring a lifetime of great blessing and satisfaction to us. However, satan has a scheme to lead us into wrong thinking and wrong choices that will bring pain and devastation to us and our children. We need to learn God’s ways and choose His ways in order to obtain his blessing. This will create a lasting legacy of strength and security for our children and grand children!

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Three things to strengthen your marriage

I am going to focus on some ideas that can help us keep the flame alive in marriage. This also has important information for singles who are looking for a mate. So whether you are married or single, this week will be helpful for you!
There are many lists that contain the top reasons marriages fail. Everybody has their own slant on the top reasons, but there are a lot of similarities. Some of the reasons that show up a lot are anger, selfishness, lack of affection, poor communication, boredom, irritating habits, and the build up of offenses. I think most of us who have watched marriages fail would agree that these are certainly symptoms of a marriage in trouble. If these are symptoms, what is the cause? This is important to consider in order to avoid finding ourselves in the same situation.
This week, I want us to think about the pattern of romantic love illustrated in the Song of Songs. You are probably familiar with the fact that the Greek language used to write the New Testament has several words translated love in English. Each Greek word has elements of meaning that help sharpen our understanding. The same is true of the Hebrew language.
In the Song of Songs, we find the story of young King Solomon and a woman he has fallen madly in love with. Many believe that she was his first love. This narrative is filled with solid truth for us to keep our marriages strong and to help singles understand God’s progression of a relationship.
The storyline can be confusing because it is poetic with the timeline jumping forward and backwards so let me sum it up for you before we start. Solomon was out in the countryside inspecting his fields and vineyards. He saw a young woman and was drawn to her. She was very insecure because her parents had died and her brothers had forced her to labor in the fields with them. She was tanned by the sun and her body showed the wear and tear of physical labor. She was totally unlike the socialites of Jerusalem who were pampered with beauty treatments in hopes of catching the king’s eye. This book of the Bible celebrates the growth of their love and their marriage.
There are 3 words of love that were used to describe the progression of their relationship.

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Teaching our children to overcome adversity

Learning to overcome adversity
I want us to think about something that is very important to possess ourselves and also to pass on to our children … the ability to handle setbacks and struggles in life.
Somehow, we have gotten the idea that if we love God and especially if we are following Him faithfully that success will be the natural outcome and that success will come with little or no struggle. We say things like, “ If this is God’s will, everything will come together with no trouble”. The danger of this thinking is that if our church or a missionary we know or our own endeavors fall into difficult circumstances we are quick to give up and tell ourselves that it must not have been God’s will. We need to learn Philippians 4:13 -“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Most of all we need to impart this to our children. Life on this Earth is filled with struggle and difficulty. No one is immune to it. Everyone has different struggles, but we all face struggles. It is crucial that we teach our children to persevere through struggles and setbacks in life.
We tell our children that if they work hard they can achieve anything they put their minds to. Is that really true?We tell them that if they get an education they can succeed at anything they want. Is that really true? We tell them that if they marry the right person they will have a happy marriage and live happily ever after. Is that really true? We tell them that if they do the right thing in life everyone will like them and approve of them and things will go well for them. Is that really true? We tell them that they deserve only good things in life. Really? So, do we mean that the people who are struggling in life didn’t deserve an easy life? Who makes that decision? How is it made?You see, all these little slogans set up our children for failure in life. We need to set them up for reality.
There are plenty of talented athletes who worked hard and never made it to the professional level or the Olympics. There are plenty of talented musicians and singers who worked hard and never got the big break.There are plenty of college educated people who never landed the dream career. There are plenty of people who married the right person and found that marriage requires a lot of work and self sacrifice.
We have fallen into the trap of trying to shelter our children from struggle and failure. When they come up against a challenge, we jump in to save them from struggle or the possibility of failure.

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