Forgiveness…4 Principles to Apply to Your Life

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person dies.”                  Saint Augustine

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Forgiveness is one of the most difficult and most misunderstood concepts in all of life. Refusal to do it can create a toxic root of bitterness in our hearts. A lack of forgiveness can wreck marriages, families, careers and most every other aspect of life, but embracing grace in its true form can bring freedom and healing.

This past weekend at our POM Communication Conference, we spoke in great depth on the communication skill of forgiveness. Not only receiving but granting it as well.  It is evident that so many of us struggle with the concept of Biblical Forgiveness, both extending as well as receiving.

Kerry and I would like to share 4 basic principles that we like to put into place on this journey of forgiveness.

To live a life of grace and forgiveness, do the following:

When you’ve blown it, own it!

We live in a world that loves to deflect accountability and assign blame somewhere else. We’d like to believe we’re always either the hero or the victim in every situation, but sometimes, we’re the bad guys! Never admitting fault doesn’t make you look strong; it makes you look foolish. Be willing to swallow your pride, confess your offense, and humbly seek forgiveness.

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

Recognize the difference between forgiveness and trust.

Some people reject forgiveness, because they wrongly believe it’s the same thing as trust and since they don’t trust the person, they assume they can’t forgive the person. Forgiveness can’t be earned, only given (that’s called grace). Trust, however, can’t be given, only earned (that’s called “Common Sense!”).

Follow the example of the world’s only perfect Forgiver.

The more you learn from Jesus, the more naturally forgiveness will flow. He is the embodiment of love and grace. We still live with the natural consequences of our decisions, but ultimately, the penalty of our sins was paid for by Him on the cross. Don’t beat yourself or others up for offenses that Jesus has literally taken a beating to forgive.

Give as much forgiveness as you’d like to receive.

We all want grace when we’ve messed up, but we’ve got to realize that grace flows both ways with equal measure. If you want to receive forgiveness, you must also offer forgiveness.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Think of it this way- We are not called to “wait” for that person to come and ask for forgiveness. No, we must actively forgive in the moment.
Better example yet, God sent His Son into a world that hated Him. If God had waited for the world to be “worthy” to receive Him, His Son would never have come.

In closing, Forgiveness is so unnatural an act that it takes practice to perfect it. In fact, it is rarely the case that we are able to forgive “one time” and the matter is settled, more often than not, we must relinquish our bitterness a dozen or so times, continually choosing to release the offender from our judgment.

So, today, what do you choose?

Joe & Kerry

Communication Conference-POM

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Effective communication in your marriage is not just about saying and hearing words—it’s all about relaying ideas accurately with the intent of building a mutual understanding. When a husband and wife practice healthy habits for talking, listening, and processing together, it’s not only good for their marriage, but ultimately for the glory of God.

If we are to have marriages that are healthy, enjoyable, and intentional, we must learn and apply wise principles to how we communicate. We must take to heart Solomon’s words:

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

When we get in the habit of bad communication in our marriage, that’s when we will stifle growth, inhibit intimacy, and create endless spouts of bickering, arguing, and division.

However, when we begin to put into practice healthy communication, our marriages will begin to fuel growth and intimacy and make our marriages resilient against otherwise devastating disagreements.

The foundation towards healthy communication in marriage begins with a humble and listening heart!


Join us on Saturday, May 12th as we begin the journey together to identify and put into practice principles towards effective communication in your marriages.

“Did You Hear What I Just Said?” Conference will take place at Eastern Hills Baptist Church, 3100 Morris NE, Albuquerque, NM  87111 from 2pm till 8pm. A catered Dinner is included in the conference.  The cost is $40 per couple and $25 per individual.

We, Joe & Kerry Vivian, will speak on effective communication towards love, forgiveness, family matters, servanthood, sexual intimacy, and growth in Christ.

Please register at JoenKerry.com on the Communication Conference page or follow this link.  “Did You Hear What I Just Said?”  $25 individual/$40 per couple

Reminder: YOU MUST BE REGISTERED TO ATTEND. THERE WILL BE NO REGISTRATION AT THE DOOR.

Adulterous Affairs Don’t Begin with Sleeping Together

“Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming.”  Song of Songs 2:15

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Adulterous Affairs Don’t Begin with Sleeping Together; they begin with inappropriate friendships. Friendship and emotional attachments with people of the opposite sex can spell danger for your marriage. This is where you husbands, must daily make a choice to protect your marriage. Wives, this is for you as well.  What do you chose?

 

Kerry and I have witnessed many couples who “innocently” will become emotionally attracted to a member of the opposite sex. They become “bored” with the relationship they are in and begin to truly believe that there is something better for them. Instead of investing into their own marriage by seeking counsel and choosing to focus on where they are falling short in the marriage, they instead begin to drift away-emotionally and physically, and especially-spiritually.

 

So here are 4 Warnings for you to be aware of in your marriage and heed immediately.

 

 

  1. Protect your marriage by avoiding private communications and intimate conversations with people of the opposite sex. Too often we see Social Media and Texting becoming a hidden area of spouses worlds. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you and your spouse share the same pass codes and that at any given time, they have the right to look into your phone for emails, texts, social media posts and IM’s. You have nothing to hide from your spouse…Nothing.

 

 

  1. Beware of workmates who seem too concerned with your personal private life; those that tell you “let me know if you need anything.” That’s the beginning of an open invitation to draw closer to them instead of your spouse. Do not share intimate details with workmates about the trials and struggles in your marriage. If you need to talk to someone, find a marriage counselor, a pastor or find another couple that shares your values and the four of you take time to talk it out.

 

 

  1. Beware of those that give you exaggerated and suggestive compliments about the way you look. Regardless of what is happening in your marriage don’t give the Devil a foothold in your marriage by falling victim to this trap. Let your workmates know there are things you won’t tolerate. Enough said…

 

 

  1. Keep a healthy physical, social and emotional distance between you and people of the opposite sex. This is the most important facet to all of these warnings. Your workmates need to know without a doubt that you are married, that you are in love with your spouse, and nothing will come between you both. Make sure to have pictures up of your family and spouse. Wear your wedding ring. Smile when you talk about your spouse.

 

So in closing, I ask the same question…”What do you chose?”

 

 

Joe

Victim or Survivor?

Victim: Something destroyed; something completely sacrificed in the pursuit of an object or situation.

Survivor: One who outlives another or a situation of conflict.

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In this world, it seems that we begin to classify ourselves as either a “Victim” or a “Survivor” of our past or current circumstances.

It’s become easy to play the victim card and stay a prisoner of the past. Not allowing ourselves to look forward, but to be perpetually stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  We use the pain of past or the trials of the current to set the tone for our life. We become “Hand-Wringers” and use that victim card to remain hopeless and broken. It is the excuse we carry so we no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions but instead we place blame on the past.

Or, we take a new ownership and call ourselves Survivors! We have overcome the past. We no longer place blame on the past, but instead we know where the pain came/comes from and we conquer it. We take either responsibility for our actions or we choose to forgive the one who caused us the pain and terror. We no longer live in the grip on its guilt. We point back to our past and declare we are a survivor.

However, I am asking that you notice something from both those classifications: Victim or Survivor. They both still point to the past. While one is victorious and the other is brokenness, they both rely on the past as their “Badge.”

In the next couple of weeks, I will share with you all some very personal and raw emotions and events from my past. I will also take time to share with you where I was a Victim, where I became a Survivor, but most of all, when I chose to become a New Creation in Christ. The past is gone, a new life has begun.

Hear me please, I truly know that there are many circumstances out in the world that are so overwhelming that you cannot fully understand how to even begin to survive. I will not be trivial nor contrite in the upcoming weeks. I give you my word that I will be honest, true and very transparent. I will share with you my journey and where my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought me. So please, let me share with each of you my heart.  Thank you. We will continue this discussion next Monday.

Kerry

5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary

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You see it as a central theme in most television shows and movies: “Lack of Effective Communication.”  Ya know what else, that could be the same theme for Marriages.

Kerry and I facilitate to couples the benefits of effective communication; however, too often we both have learned that when it comes to communication, it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do disagree, how well will we handle it? Yes, Kerry and I have not fully mastered “Effective Communication.”

In a sentence, here’s the key to healthy communication through virtually anything: Both Husband and Wife should never quit and always communicate until they begin to reach the other side. This, of course, takes courage, humility and constant dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this article.

It’s not our intentions to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. That’s impossible. Instead, we should seek to remove some phrases from our vocabulary as husband and wife. Here’s our list from our personal experiences.

5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary

1: “I’m busy…”

This could be the easiest to begin to remove. Do you know why you’ll want to remove “I’m busy…” from your vocabulary for good?

Because saying “I’m busy” is often just a force of habit and usually an indication of some deeper dysfunction (no, not always, but often). There’s a saying: “If you’re too busy for your spouse, you’re too busy”. That being the case, we should always make time for our spouses without relegating ourselves to simply being “busy”.

If you are actually busy, that’s fine, just articulate exactly what’s going on so your spouse may understand and support you with your tasks!

2: “You always…”

Absolute statements like “you always…” or “you never…” are something Kerry and I have worked very hard to remove from our marriage. We’ve yet to fully succeed in this endeavor, but we recognize it and continue to grow in reducing those statements.

The problem with absolute statements is that they’re never true when speaking of behavior, and they are always hurtful (there are two absolute statements you can be sure of!). Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at.

If I may be blunt, absolute statements are just plain lazy.  Let me explain why. Follow the example below.

Example: Instead of “You never want want sex…”, consider a statement like “lately, I’ve felt like we’re not connecting intimately enough. Can we talk about what’s going on?”

By being specific and purposeful with your language, you can actually move forward together instead of accusing one another. Removing absolute statements from your marriage vocabulary will do wonders.

3: “Whatever.”

How many times have we ended an argument with a single dismissive “whatever”?

Whatever” is the Arch Enemy of Biblical Reconciliation. By dismissing disagreements with “whatever”, you’re essentially stating that you don’t care enough about the person or disagreement to discuss further. Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13).

It’s not that whatever is a bad word, it’s just usually used in times when love isn’t at it’s best. Removing whatever from your marriage vocabulary will force to to either 1) explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or 2) explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.

4: The word Divorce

It’s tragic when we hear couples use the word “divorce”, either jokingly or seriously, in reference to their own marriage. Marriage only works if divorce is not an option; If there’s no back door, you’ll both be committed to working through anything.

The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up; someone decides to step out the back door. They mentally, emotionally, and spiritually check-out of the marriage. How can you work something out if one person leaves or refuses to engage? Divorce is just that: giving up on the marriage.

Using the word “divorce” potentially cracks the door on a terrible possibility into your marriage. Would it be funny or appropriate ever if you said “I sincerely hope you die a horrible painful death”? Nope. It’s hurtful no matter how you slice it.

Kerry and I implore you, please remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise. It is toxic from the get go.

5: “I wish you were more like…” and “you’re just like your [parent]”

Ok, yes this is two phrases. I wanted to combine them here because I believe they come from the same place: comparison.

Comparison is truly heartbreaking. Nobody likes being compared to someone else, whether it’s a friend, a stranger, a family member, or a celebrity. People aren’t things, like cars with features to be compared. “This one has GPS”, “that one gets 40 MPG”, etc.

Nothing makes me feel smaller than when I’m unscrupulously compared to someone greater than me. Feeling that kind of small is ok, I guess, but only if it’s relation to Jesus. May Jesus be the only person we compare ourselves and our spouses to.

Here are some tough comparisons married folks tend to make; some explicitly and some internally that Kerry and I have heard through marriage counseling.

  1. I wish [my wife] looked more like [other woman]

 

  1. I wish [my husband] acted more like [other man]

 

  1. You’re just like your father/mother.Usually used to illustrate an undesirable behavior, thus pigeonholing the person compared.

 

  1. Why can’t we be more like [some other couple]?

 

Let’s close with this thought…

Be selective with your words. There are two things in this life you can never get back once used, words and time. Use your words to give life.

Joe & Kerry

 

 

Guest Post: “Two Hours a Week to Affair Proof Your Marriage” by Gary Thomas

Today’s guest author is Gary Thomas. He is a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. He unites the study of Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics to foster spiritual growth and deeper relationships within the Christian community. Check out his Blog here.

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Just two hours a week. 

That’s all it takes to affair-proof and divorce-proof your marriage.

After years of reading, writing, and speaking on marriage, and a few less years doing some pastoral counseling, I’ve identified two things that, when they are in place, can almost guarantee that your spouse won’t have an affair and that you won’t get a divorce.  But you need to do both.

I didn’t come up with these; I’m just recognizing them. You’ve heard of both of them, there’s nothing new here, but consider these two elements as the “canary in the mine.” You remember that old mines used to hold a canary in a cage in case poisonous gas began to leak into the mine. With such tiny lungs, the canary would die first, so the miners knew to get out of there. If your marriage has both elements that we’re about to mention, the “air” in your mine is relatively fresh and healthy and your marriage is probably fairly stable. If one or both of them die, the air is getting poisoned, and you need to take caution. Your marriage is now much more vulnerable to disintegration.

The first element is prayer.  Couples who pray together more days than not—say, 4 or 5 days out of seven—almost never get divorced. Much has been said about how Christians get divorced as often as non-Christians, but that’s not true of praying Christians. Husbands, most of us men have no idea how the rest of marriage will flow from this if we will simply take the lead and pray with and over our wives. I have not been nearly as faithful as I should have been in my marriage in this area, and am regularly convicted that this should be a non-negotiable, because I’ve seen its power in the lives of so many couples. The prayer times don’t need to be long—even five minutes at the beginning or the end of the day will suffice. It is very difficult to stay bitter and resentful or dishonest when praying together regularly. This act all but forces you to maintain a certain level of intimacy, and men, it moves most women in ways we will never understand.

Second, couples who have sexual relations two to three times a week, and who pray together regularly, almost never experience affairs. Wives, many of you have heard me talk about oxytocin and sex—Helen Fisher, the guru of neurochemical sexual research, has recently pointed out how the bonding factor of sexuality is more pronounced in men than it is in women.  That’s why some of you women may not understand the power of regular sexual relations, just as your husband may not understand the power of prayer. You already have elevated levels of oxytocin, but your husband needs that re-bonding release of oxytocin on a regular basis. For young husbands, 2 to 3 days a week might seem Spartan—I’m giving general, not particular, advice here.

The reason these two areas work as “canaries in the mine” is that sustaining regular prayer and regular sexual intimacy requires taking care of the marriage in its entirety. If we’re not talking to our wives, men, they don’t find it very easy to take off their clothes in our presence.  But you know that. And it becomes increasingly difficult to pray with someone if we’re even thinking about cheating on them. There’s just something about being in God’s presence with someone that goes far beyond words—God gives you His heart for that person in a way that can’t be naturally explained.

If either element is lacking (I’m not talking about marriages where a physical ailment makes sexual intimacy impossible), the marriage is taking a regular hit and you’re far more vulnerable to an affair or a divorce. Too many couples over-estimate their willingness to put up with sub-par marriages. They “get by,” slowly becoming spiritually or sexually isolated from each other, not realizing that temptation is patient. It will wait until we’ve reached our breaking point and present itself with a spectacularly captivating enticement just when we feel weakest. Spiritual intimacy and sexual intimacy, enjoyed on a regular basis, makes both parties much less susceptible to an overwhelming temptation.

I have yet to meet or talk with a couple where both of these elements are present that is in serious trouble. If one area is lacking the mere act of making it right—having to talk things out, listen, repent, change—repairs other areas of the marriage as well. Why can’t you pray together? Why don’t you want to enjoy each other? Those very questions lead to so many other issues. In the same way, however, neglecting either area is tantamount to ignoring other relational cancers that are slowly attacking the relationship.

For various reasons, you may not like either medicine, but when you know a medicine is so effective that its cure rate is virtually 100%, or at least in the high nineties, who are we to argue? Maybe, just maybe, God designed married couples to regularly pray and regularly have sex. As the creator of our souls and our bodies, He just might know what he’s talking about.

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.