Where Are You Centered? God or Spouse?

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Wanted to share with a devotion by Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage. This is a foundation that Kerry and I use in our Marriage/Family Counseling…Be God Centered. Take time to read his devotion and see how the Holy Spirit speaks to you: as a spouse, an employee, a student, a parent.

 

 

 

Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.   2 CORINTHIANS 7:1 

The God-Centered Spouse

GREG NETTLE, PASTOR OF THE RIVERTREE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN Massillon, Ohio, was walking to his car after a golf tournament when he realized the remote trunk opener wasn’t working. Neither were the automatic door locks. When he finally got inside the car, he saw the fuel gauge reading empty, even though he had filled up on gas less than twenty-four hours before. More frustrating yet, the car would turn over but then immediately die. After a tow truck delivered the disabled vehicle to the dealership, a mechanic came out to Greg and told him the problem: a bad BCM. “What’s a BCM?” “The basic control module. It’s essentially the car’s brain, and once it goes bad, everything starts malfunctioning.”

Greg could have insisted on “fixing” the trunk, the door locks, the gas gauge, and any number of problems — but those were merely the symptoms of an overall malfunction. How often do we do the same thing with marriage! We focus on the symptoms: “We need to improve our communication.” “We need to get better at handling conflict.” “We need to show more appreciation for each other.” “We need to have a more unified plan with the children.” “We need to work harder at keeping the romance alive in our relationship.” We can spend a lifetime focusing on the symptoms, or we can replace the BCM—the basic control module.

I believe the BCM for marriage is our spiritual motivation. It all comes down to this: Are you a God-centered spouse or a spouse-centered spouse? A spouse-centered spouse acts nicely toward her husband when he acts nicely toward her. She is accommodating, as long as her husband pays her attention. A spouse-centered husband will go out of his way for his wife, as long as she remains agreeable and affectionate. He’ll romance her, as long as he feels rewarded for doing so. But Paul tells us we are to perfect holiness out of reverence for God. Since God is always worthy to be revered, we are always called to holiness; we are always called to love. A God-centered spouse feels more motivated by his or her commitment to God than by whatever response a spouse may give. Spouse-centered Christians try to make excuses to stop loving their spouses because of their spouses’ sins. But if this were a valid excuse, every one of us could avoid the call to love, since every one of us married a sinner!

One woman came up to me after a seminar and said, “It would be easy to be married if my husband were half as holy as you.” I managed to contain my laughter and pointed out that she had no idea how “holy” I was; my wife feels pushed beyond her limit in many areas while trying to love this sinful man. But that’s not the point! I am not called to love my wife because she is holier than other wives (though I’m deeply thankful for her godliness). I am not called to love her because she makes me happy (though I am grateful for the many good times we share). I am not called to love her because she makes me go all gooey inside (though sometimes she still does). I am called to love her out of reverence for God. Any other motivation is less than Christian. If I am to rid myself of anything that may contaminate body or spirit, then I can give no place in my life to jealousy, bitterness, resentment, or selfishness. I am always called to practice gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Someone else’s sin —even the sin of my spouse against me — never gives me the license to respond with sin. I am called to just one motivation, and one only: reverence for God.

In one sense, what my spouse says or does or doesn’t do is almost irrelevant. Every decision I make, every word I utter, every thought I think, every movement I perform, is to flow out of one holy motivation: reverence for God.

Are you a God-centered spouse?

~Joe

DATE NIGHT!!!

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Yes, it’s only Wednesday; however, start planning now for your date night with your spouse this weekend…

Like we told ya, we would share a list of 6 inexpensive, yet very memorable ideas you two can do this weekend on your date night.

  • Curl up in bed together and watch a romantic comedy.
  • Turn on iTunes Radio to your favorite station and dance in the kitchen.
  • He offers her a sensual massage.
  • Movie night out with HIM selecting a movie SHE wants to see.
  • Go bird-watching, but playfully and affectionately distract one another while hiding in the shrubs.
  • Reenact your first date.

Let us know if you tried these or if you have other ones that you would like to share.

Remember: Have fun, make memories, but most of all learn something new about your spouse and with that, grow even closer to one another!

 

Joe & Kerry

Practice Biblical Conflict

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Last year I was blessed and honored to have officiated 6 weddings.  Kerry and I spent time with each of those couples as their Pre-Marriage Counselors.  We were privileged to spend time with them and journey with them as they prepared for their marriage and life together as husband and wife. To be able to do Pre-Marriage Counseling as Husband/Wife and to also be a firsthand witness to the genesis of each of these relationships-from courtship to becoming one as husband and wife, is cherished and priceless.

During the 12 week journey with each couple, the primary focus of discussion usually turns to conflict in their relationship and how to deal with it in a Biblical manner. Kerry and I tell each couple that Biblical Conflict is good and necessary to grow in their marriage; however, we so often are not taught what this looks like nor how to fight fair. One of my favorite “Joeisms” is to say, “If every day were sunshine, you would have a desert. Storms bring growth and new life; however, you need to know how to prune and manage that growth so it will not overrun your marriage.” The need of effective communication thus in turn leads to how well your conflict is dealt with and what growth comes from it: nurturing or destructive.

Gary Thomas wrote a book, The Sacred Search-A Couple’s Conversation Guide, as a guide for pre-marriage counseling. This has become our primary tool we use with our couples we journey with. In chapter 6 of his book, Constructive Conflict, Gary delves deep into the attitudes and actions we each take as individuals with regards to conflict. I would like to share with you his closing paragraph in that chapter.

When it comes to marital conflict, there are many unhealthy forms of communication—acts that make the conflict worse. Let’s agree to reject all these unhealthy methods of relating:
A.Hurtful Words. So much harm can be done in so little time if we don’t train our tongues (see James 3:1–12). Name-calling or blasting back with hateful things has never solved a single marital conflict. It has never served the cause of love. It has never fostered intimacy.
B. Stonewalling. This is such a harmful and common practice. It’s passive-aggressiveness taken to a malicious level. When you agree to marry someone, you agree ahead of time to work through conflict. Stonewalling (the silent treatment or withdrawal) is essentially renouncing your wedding vows. Some introverted personality types may need a moment to themselves to collect their thoughts and pray, but this is different from refusing to engage with your spouse. It’s putting off resolution indefinitely, and that’s just wrong.
C. Bringing Up The Past. Adopt this mantra: “One conflict at a time.” There is no use trying to bring three previous fights into the current one.
D. Acting Like You’re Above Being Wrong. In most conflicts, two people are both behaving inappropriately. One might be 95 percent in the wrong, but there is still 5 percent to be owned. Your spouse’s 95 percent doesn’t excuse your 5 percent. Seek to grow, not to win, in every argument. Own that 5 percent.

As said at the beginning, this is a journey that takes time and practice on both individuals and it is not only necessary in a marriage, but in any form of relationships. Praying that we all heed and own James’ teachings in his letter; James 4:1-3. Seek the Lord and His counsel as you then seek forgiveness from God and then from the one you are in conflict with.

In His Grip~

Joe

3 Things God Will Not Do in Your Marriage…

Kerry and I truly believe that most people who live on this earth as Christians/Followers of Christ desire to conduct their marriages per the principles set forth by God, and we appreciate that. The Bible is full of instructions and guidelines to help point you in the right direction for a joyful, Holy union. The question is, though, do we always get it right?

Absolutely not. As broken humans we will fall short, and God gets that. The goal for wives is to strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman or a Genesis 2:18 bride, or for husbands to treat your wife as Christ treats the church, owning Genesis 2:15. We all need practice, and that’s fine. But there are some instances that just absolutely go against scripture. These things we must not do if we really want a marriage that honors the Lord.

It’s easy when you fall to call it God’s will, or to imagine God’s hand at work in your life when you crumple under sin. There are some things, no matter how much God loves you and directs your life, that you cannot do in His name. With that said, Kerry and I would like to share with you 3 Things God Will Not Do in Your Marriage…

 

Although the Lord has power over your life He will not do these things in your marriage.

1-God will not lead you to adultery.   So say you’re unhappy in your marriage. Then suddenly you meet this nice fella (or lady) at work. They’re a wonderful Christian, a great listener, and really seems to care about your feelings. Unlike your spouse.

You start eating lunch together, spending time pouring out your heart on break, and the next thing you know you’re having romantic feelings. This person is so right for you! It must be God! God has placed this perfect person in your path!

No No No No!!

If you are married God will not place an opportunity if front of you to tarnish the union you have sworn to in His name. When He says what I have put together, let no man separate; He means just that.

2-God will not lead you away from your spouse.   Perhaps you and your spouse have ended up on two different planes. Maybe you started the marriage on the same page, but now you are different. It’s possible you have deepened your relationship with the Lord, and your spouse has not. In that clash of differing spiritual/relational levels there is strife in your marriage.

God does not lead you to divorce, and while it is important to be equally yoked, the Lord does not favor the severing of marriage. One flesh isn’t something to take lightly, so when differences and difficulties arise divorce is not the right answer.

We will never claim to be perfect, nor will we hide our past. Kerry has suffered the scars and shame of divorce growing up as a child. Although each time her parents remarried, they shared to their children that this was the one. However, each time the pain remained. Don’t disillusion yourself that divorce is the answer; however, know that God turns His back on one who is divorced.

The point is, God doesn’t condone divorce. Can He forgive someone who has suffered through divorce? We truly believe so. We also believe God forgives all His children who come in honest repentance and urn from their sinful ways. Can He heal someone after divorce? Absolutely!

But does God lead you away from your spouse? No. Never. That’s not God. I’m sorry.

3-God will not change your spouse for you.   This is a hard concept to accept. It’s always what we cling to when marriage gets hard. When our spouse is difficult and calling it quits is on the forefront of our minds we hold tight to the old adage that God can change their heart for us. And He can. But He won’t.

Let us clarify.

God will not change your spouse for you. But He will change your spouse for His glory. What I mean is this. Many, many times when we are at odds with our spouse we pray in a certain way.

We pray, “God, make my wife be more attentive to me.”

Or, “God, make my husband be a better provider.”

“Notice me more.”

“Compliment me.”

“Get a better job.”

Maybe even, “get off his lazy butt.”

What do all these pleas have in common? Me, me, me.

Listen, God loves you. God wants you to have a marriage that reflects His love and holiness, and to have a spouse who treats you like you deserve to be treated. In fact, He commands such treatment in His word. But God wants you to treat your spouse as they deserve also, and that starts with desiring the best for them.

You must desire change for your spouse not simply for yourself, but for their benefit. You should desire that your spouse grow closer with the Lord not so that your life will be easier, but so that their life will prove more abundant. Your job is to desire God’s best for your spouse, not desire how God can make the relationship best for you. Allow God to finish the work He began in them long ago.

Pray for your marriage. Pray without ceasing. Just understand that while God does want to answer your prayers, that He wants most for your heart to be right. He honors selfless prayer. He honors marriage. He honors growing His relationship with you and your spouse collectively while also strengthening the bonds of marriage. Kerry and I will daily ask each other, “How can I pray for you today?” This sets in motion a selfless prayer request that is focused on what your spouse is needing, not what you desire.

So God can change hearts, and He can turn your spouse’s heart towards Him, and in that change them. But He’s not simply changing them for you. Understand that.

However…The good news is that while God may not do these three things in your marriage, there’s plenty of great things that He can do! When hope seems lost, Christ can. When your marriage seems to be failing, God can heal it. Keep your eyes on Him, trust in His promises, and align your daily, personal walk to one that honors both Him and your marriage.

Invest In Your Marriage

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This week Kerry and I are in Ruidoso, NM. We rented a cabin for a few days during Kerry’s Spring Break. It’s a romantic cabin in the woods, fully equipped with a private deck, a fireplace, a kitchen and a king sized bed. Yup, it’s just the two of us for the week. Time for both of us to reconnect, spend time with each other, and grow intimately: emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Yes, this is an investment in time and money; however, it is the right kind of investment each husband and wife should be making in their marriages. You each should be ALWAYS dating your spouse throughout your marriage. Never stop flirting, never stop romancing, never stop dating!

Kerry and I try to go out on a date at least once a week. We also will try to get a hotel room for a night at least once every 3-4 months and at least once a year, get away, just the two of us, on a vacation of sorts and without distractions, reconnect with one another.

How about you? Do you take time to “Date” your spouse? It doesn’t need to be expensive or stressful, it just needs to be a time that you will spend time together and make great memories.

Here are some “Investment” Date Night Ideas. Next Wednesday, we’ll share some easy, inexpensive ideas.

  • Dine together at the restaurant in your city or town that you believe has the most romantic view.
  • Rent out a hotel room or B&B that has a private hot tub for you two to share.
  • Take a cooking class together
  • Buy body paints and a large sheet of paper. Make art with each  other’s bodies and frame and/or mount the final product.
  • Go horseback riding or take an overnight horseback camping adventure.
  • Dessert Tour: Share taster sized desserts in three different restaurants. End with a decadent chocolatier. 

Have fun, make memories, but most of all learn something new about your spouse and with that, grow ever closer to one another!

Joe

Content or Discontent…Where Do You Stand

 

ContentBe Quiet, not disturbed. Having a mind at peace with God’s unfolding plan. Easy and satisfied so as not to object or oppose His will.  1828 Webster’s

Last week in our Monday evening small group we were discussing the sins we purposely feed to fill the insatiable lusts of the flesh.  We began to identify the sins we feed: anger, lust, lying, gossip, apathy, and pride to name a few. However, we all agreed that the “Gateway Sin” that leads to these in majority of our lives is Discontentment.  We are not satisfied with where our lives are or where they are going. We are discontent with our marriages, our families, our jobs, our faith…and the list continues.

When we feed this “discontent” in our lives, this sin of selfishness, we launch towards other sins and begin to feed those as well. We are discontent with our spouse so we seek out others who will satisfy the selfish desires of our flesh. We are discontent with the way our life is going so we get angry at that life and our anger becomes the character that everyone sees.   We are discontent with our character and we begin to gossip or spread little white lies to make our character look better than those we speak about. We are discontent with God and we pull further away from His word and His truth.  Remember, Lucifer was discontent with his position in Heaven and thus pride took control of him.

So now that we have defined discontent, how do we turn from sin and turn to God? First and foremost, turn to God. Spend time in prayer, spend time in His word, spend time with those who are daily seeking to grow in an intimate relationship with Christ.  Begin to own what Paul teaches us in his letter to the church at Philippi. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:4-7   Notice that we are to rejoice IN the Lord: His presence, His love, in Him.  We are to be in prayer and daily communication with God through His Word. His peace, God’s Peace, will guard and protect our hearts and mind from discontent.

However, this takes action on our part. We must choose to seek Him with all of our heart mind and soul. We must daily practice the Truth and step towards Christ. It is during that journey that we will learn to be content in Christ and Christ only.

Paul begins to close his letter to the church at Philippi with words of contentment, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:11-13

Seek God to reveal to you your discontentment today and begin to seek Him first daily to be filled with His Peace.

 

A Growing Bond-Servant of Christ,

Joe

21 Ways to Jump Start Your Marriage this Spring.

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Kerry and I just would like to propose a fun start to the Spring of 2017 to strengthen your marriages. If you are reading this and feel that your marriage is already strong and these suggestions are not needed, then you are exactly who should be reading this. We all can strive to strengthen and grow our marriages each and every day. So share this with your spouse today and enjoy Spring this year!

So here is our list, not in any particular order…

1. Have more SEX, but make sure you’re ONLY having it with each other!
2. Don’t keep secrets from each other. COMMUNICATE about everything.
3. Argue less. Cuddle more.
4. Don’t get deep in debt and if you’re already there, work together to get out of it!
5. Pray together, find a healthy church and make FAITH a foundation for your life together.
6. Turn off your phones. Talking with each other is better than texting with someone else!
7. Pull the car over and make out more often.
8. Leave LOVE NOTES for each other.
9. Send flowers on unexpected days, not just holidays.
10. Don’t ignore problems in your relationship. Deal with them quickly and aggressively.
11. Be quick to remember each other’s positive traits and quick to forget each other’s flaws.
12. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive and seek FORGIVENESS when you’ve wronged each other.
13. Don’t waste time or energy comparing your lives to anyone else’s. God’s plan for you is masterfully unique.
14. Go on long walks and HOLD HANDS.
15. Make “DATE NIGHT” a priority! Time alone together is vital for your continued growth and health.
16. Give COMPLIMENTS constantly, and never give insults.
17. When you’re happy, laugh together. When you’re sad, cry together. Whatever you do, do it together!
18. Show LOVE and RESPECT to each other even in those moments when you don’t feel like it.
19. Keep dreaming new dreams and making big plans together. Don’t get stuck in a predictable rut.
20. ENCOURAGE each other. Build each other up so much that nothing in the world can tear you down.
21. NEVER give up on each other!