Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Training

Have You Surrendered?

Surrender. It’s an interesting word. In western culture, it can be a negative word because it means to give up rights, to yield, to relinquish control or comfort. These are all things we hold onto tightly, often for self-preservation.

To give up control for some is terrifying. We cling onto power and control in order to have some sense of oneself having legal standing, political standing, religious standing or just human rights standing. 

To be in total control of our lives literally means to perceive oneself as knowing better than God. To walk through life in this way is to worship the idol of self. The Commandments told us to worship no other gods but the Lord God and yet we often persist in demanding our rights, e.g., it’s my body, it’s my life, what I do behind closed doors is my business, etc. To be in total control of one’s life is a scary place to reside. How so?

  1. You can only trust you. 
  2. You dare not surrender your rights to anyone for anything.
  3. You are pressed to ultimately decide your own fate.
  4. You must hold back emotions so as to not be out of control.
  5. You must be suspect of any input.
  6. You must control or avoid any life-changing decisions and the persons initiating or provoking those changes.

In an avoidance of surrender, you must control all input, all process and all output from your life. It is an exhausting way to live. Mentally you are forced to stay ahead of everyone, you are continually second guessing those around you, perfection becomes your go-to process in order to avoid the loss of control and your rights must, at all cost, remain front and center. We see this exemplified all around us in our culture today. 

Enter Jesus. Jesus, the Savior who asks you to give up control. Jesus, the One who says to relinquish control to Him–all control. It’s no longer your money, your will, your sexuality, your political side or your self-gratification. Jesus requires surrender. 

For me to say, “I give up my rights to __________” goes against everything my flesh desires. But isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross for you and me? He gave up every right as the Son of God, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of you and me in order to surrender His life willingly. He didn’t surrender to get something, He surrendered to give something–salvation to all of mankind. We surrender our lives to Him in order to give our lives to His kingdom. 

When we surrender our passions, our careers, our bank accounts, our pain, our lust, our children, our marriage, our employment and our sin to our Savior we are not losing control, we are gaining freedom from control. 

Do you desire true faith? Surrender.

Do you desire liberty? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from sin? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from yourself and your own control? Surrender.

When we surrender to Jesus, not just as our Savior, but as our Lord, we are saying that we are done with all of our self-efforts of power and control. We are finished with self-preservation. We are through with addictive behaviors leading us. We are done becoming angry over those who we perceive as annoyingly different from us. When we surrender control, we can let go of controlling and manipulating others to be who we thought we needed them to be. 

When we fully surrender control, we will find an intimacy with the Father like never before. The more we surrender, the more freedom we’ll experience. 

Marriages in which both partners stop trying to control the other are happy and fulfilling marriages. Relationships minus control are liberating and peace-filled. 

Are you willing to die to control so that you can experience the freedom that comes from trusting God?

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Cracks in Your Foundation

Foundations hold buildings upright. Foundations go deep into the soil below frost lines. Foundations are necessary in buildings, in family relationships, in work places, in communities and in marriages.

Good foundations keep the forces of nature from creating catastrophic damages to structures and those structures keep people safe. Foundations help set direction and establish capacities. You need a strong foundation for your marriage and your family. 

Marriages that begin on faulty foundations like living together, lying about former relationships, hiding sin or hiding debt will most assuredly face major challenges in the early years. 

What is one practical, real-life item that will keep your marriage and family foundation strong? 

                                                                    INTEGRITY

Integrity helps build a high capacity, low stress and highly successful relationship foundation to marriage. One lie, one close to the truth statement or one compromise can begin to cause cracks in your foundation. Once a crack begins, it tends to become worse and eventually compromises the whole foundation. You can place temporary fixes on the cracks, but they will ultimately weaken.

To see all that God has for you and your relationship, each and every crack must be thoroughly repaired to a noncompromising state. In order to enjoy the blessings of God upon your family, you’ll need honest confessions and then forms of care for healing.

Good foundations in marriage allow for the growth of integrity, the forgiveness of when we do it wrong and the hope for a better future. Maintaining a good foundation means maintaining one’s integrity in all things without compromise. 

Tell the truth, confess your fault, stay humble, forsake pride and walk in honesty before your God and life mate.

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Challenge, Children, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

National Divorce Day?

Did you know that “national divorce day” is the first working Monday of the year? Divorce attorneys report the highest incidents of divorce filings occur on that day.

Once the papers are signed, they can now go on with their lives. It’s easily accomplished with a small, very small printed newspaper article declaring publicly a divorce granted and legally filed in the county courthouse. The “I do” has effectively turned into “I don’t.” Their homes are separate; their children have two beds and two dressers.

In this couple’s mind, it is the end of arguments, trying to get along, counseling and late night, knockdown, drag out, heated disagreements. It is the end of trying to make decisions together. It is the end of needing to consider the other in any and every decision. They also think it’s the end of hurtful, emotionally charged words and sarcasm. And no more ridiculous faces of disgust to look at.

But it’s not over! It’s never over as long as the two shall live. The kids will go back and forth and it will take an inordinate amount of communication. The lack of attention to detail and facts concerning any relational connection will still be present. There will still be the unkind words and demeaning facial expressions. Anger will be present and it will cause further heated discussions over kids, over activities or weekends and over money.

Still present will be the emotional upheavals, tears and ongoing loss. Holidays will be especially difficult and extended family will suffer as well. 

Then, just imagine bringing new dating relationships into this mix. It is a scheduling nightmare day in and day out. Children crying and saying, “I want to go to mommy’s house.” Parents crying and trying to bring some kind of new normal to their children. More counseling. More doctor visits because of more stress. More stress because at the end of the day it’s all up to you. There is no longer a spouse to lean on and to share the load. Your life is so totally different you barely recognize it. 

You’re single again. What does that even mean, look like, feel like? You’re not 19 or 20 years old. Wow, how life has drastically changed!

No wonder God stated in His word how much He hated divorce (Malachi 2:15, 16). He knew how destructive it would be. He knew how difficult and hard on a family it would be. And He knew the brokenness involved in each and every divorce. Being alone again is no dream-filled panacea. Not every relationship can be repaired or even should be, however; it sure is worth trying and praying toward that end.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Thankfulness and Marriage

My wife and I recently spent several days on our annual evaluation and vision time. We take time away to look at our year, evaluate our goals and pray about the year ahead. It’s a time that has become very precious to us and one that we would not desire to miss. As my wife often says, “I feel like we come away from this time on the same page and in agreement.”

It’s true we do, but let me tell you how we begin this time. We give thanks. Yep, we take all the necessary time needed to say thank you to God for every aspect of our year past. To be thankful for the good, the not so good and the unexpected can change our attitude, lighten our heart and bring a deeper level of satisfaction.

Someone once said that when we lose our thankfulness we begin to focus on what we feel God is not doing in our lives. We did not focus on our losses, we focused on thanksgiving. Being thankful is contagious. The more things we find to be thankful for, the more we walk in a spirit of grattitude (I Thessalonians 5:18). 

Thankfulness brings encouragement and helps us to focus on what we recognize as ultimately God’s goodness to us. Being thankful for things one wouldn’t normally be thankful for or for things considered questionable helps to release those things to God so that we are not carrying them. Thankfulness is like therapy you don’t pay for. It’s medicine to your soul and spirit.

The book of Colossians tells us to “Overflow with thankfulness.” As you enjoy friends and family this Thanksgiving here in America, remember to give thanks even for the things that we do not normally express thanks for. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Does Money and Marriage Mix?

Recently I came across a survey initiated by Fidelity Financial of 1,700 couples.* The purpose of the survey was to discover money matters and how well married couples are agreeing with their financial picture. Surprisingly, 71% said they communicate about financial matters very well and 61% said they talk about their finances at least once per month. That’s good news. 

However, one in five couples revealed that money is their greatest relationship challenge. And, two in five shared how they argue about money with their spouse occasionally. One in four stated they are all too often frustrated with their spouse’s money habits but choose to not confront it in order to maintain peace.

So, what were some of those highlighted disagreements?

  • Over 50% disagree about how much savings is needed. 
  • Forty percent disagree about the level of risk to take with investments.
  • Thirty four percent disagree about who is the “spender” and who is the “saver.”
  • One third disagreed about their families next large expenditure.

The most challenging stat from this survey for me came when it was revealed that only 50% of couples make financial decisions jointly with their husband or wife. I simply cannot imagine making money decisions without consulting one another, without honoring the other and without a prayerful process of discloser and input. Disagreement about finances is so often at the center of spousal disagreement and disagreement is a powerful weapon that eventually hurts both parties, not to mention also affecting the children.

My wife and I suffered from the marriage money mix. I thought she was a “spender” and she thought I was a “tight wad.” We accepted those terms as who we were or how we saw one another, but in time and with better discernment discovered that we were both wrong. We desperately needed each other’s view of finance, but we also desperately needed to find agreement.

I was wrong as I discovered that my wife was not a spender but rather a “giver.” She discovered that I was not a tight wad as much as I was saving for our future dreams, an “investor.” We discovered that we were both right and when we found agreement, we found peace in the mix of our money matters. We discovered that we each needed the others input and view of finance.

Do not allow financial disagreement to spread in your marriage. Get on a livable, agreeable budget. Discover the needs that you are each trying to meet in the midst of your disagreement. Pray about your finances together. If necessary, seek counsel and do not keep putting it off.

When we kick the financial disagreement can down the road we will discover mistrust entering into the equation. Where there is a lack of trust, there will be a deeper marital issue to deal with.

There are 2,350 verses in the Bible that speak to the issue of finance. Apparently God knew we needed extra counsel in this area of our lives. Here are just two of those amazing verses:

The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11)

*From the Sound Mind Investing newsletter, 9.13.21

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Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Celebrating Your Differences

How are you and your spouse different in relational style, emotionally, in finance, in goal setting and/or in your love language? If you’re married any length of time, you most likely know the differences and have arrived at a place of comfort in those differences or you’re still fighting over them.

Early on in our marriage we discovered that Mary, my wife, liked going to bed early and I liked going to bed later. She’d rather avoid conflict and I’d rather deal with it as soon as possible. She is a giver and I am an investor with our finances. You get the idea. 

We married because we had so much in common, but soon thereafter we discovered that each of us see, think and speak differently. So, is that the problem? Yes, if you think your spouse should be more like you. No, if you realize your spouse is what you are not and you are what they are not. In other words, together you bring a more complete picture.

Within five to seven years each marriage should experience a “settling.” That is to say, I accept you for who you are and realize, embrace and enjoy the differences. It’s up to us to make use of those differences for our greater good, a greater level of wholeness and a more complete us. Marriages that settle into maturity stop trying to change each other and accept the quirks, the nuances, the different views and approaches. We are not the same, however; we are united and in agreement as one. We need what our spouse brings to us and they need what we bring.

Stop trying to change your spouse. Work on being the best you can be and give grace for change over time. Realize that as you embrace personal change so will your spouse.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Being a Dad and a Mom and Taking Advantage of a Long Weekend

My wife and I loved watching our kids grow up. We didn’t experience the “terrible two’s,” but rather chose to enjoy the terrific twos. We never believed a child needed to be rebellious in their teenage years. We expected something different and prayed accordingly. We did our best to instill God’s love and truths into their spirits and prayed nightly with them as they laid their heads on their pillows. We broke up sibling fights and did our best to keep boredom from settling in.

We took our children on mission trips around the world, taught them to save their hard-earned money and to tithe. We enjoyed a devotional time together many evenings and loved to leave them in charge of teaching us some spiritual lesson they learned. 

We gathered for meals around our table and discussed our day. It was open conversation time and we specialized in laughing together. Their friends were always welcomed to our home or on our family vacation to the beach, especially in those awkward teen years when they really needed a friend. We included their friends into our family and did our best to be welcoming and hospitable. 

Quite often we had guests staying with us or around our table and we learned to serve and listen to others. On occasion we would travel to Philadelphia and do outreaches to the homeless and we visited our local mission, as well as the very alone elderly in assisted living facilities without visitors.

The children loved their grandparents and we knew relationships were solid when they came home and said, “Grandpa rules.” Being with and influenced by an older generation is advantageous in developing a culture of honor and respect within the lives of our children.

Get crazy and enjoy a good old fashion mud battle with your kids!

Traveling to the mountains together was a regular routine where we would sleep in an uncomfortable rustic cabin, fishing, swimming and playing in the crystal-clear creek. We hunted crayfish, caught lightning bugs and ate lots of yummy food made on a campfire. 

Our home was never a perfect one because it was filled with imperfect persons, but family is what mattered. Now our children have children of their own. Will they go and do likewise? I know so. Family is God’s idea, always was. This Labor Day weekend while you are not laboring, your family is just waiting for time together to build relationship. Go and build memories that will last a lifetime which will then be handed down to their children’s children.

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Healing, Marriage, Men, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part Two)

This week’s blog continues with the healing piece of infractions within our marriage. 

What can you do as a couple if you have walked the way of an affair?

You must walk in honest confession and humility. Humility keeps you from becoming defensive and blaming another.

Accountability is a huge ingredient because marriage infractions always take place in an environment of deception. Those in an affair have been lying about where they have been and who they have been with.

Get outside counsel and direction.  Do not try to do it all yourself. Both parties, the offender and the offended, need godly wisdom and counsel.  There are a ton of emotions to deal with.

You must work toward forgiveness. There is no greater step of healing than reaching the point of forgiveness.

Trust is slowly rebuilt through the above ingredients. Where there has been an affair, one proves he or she cannot be trusted.  The good news is that trust can be earned back. If one walks out the above, trust can and will be rebuilt to the point that your marriage goes beyond where it once was.  

Reattach yourself to your mate.  Most likely you have moved away from one another in some areas of your relationship. Come together again in dating, in fun, in finances, in sex, in communication, in mutual submission, in serving one another, in forgiveness and in godly counsel.  

You simply must move forward. Moving forward means being totally honest in all areas of life.  Honesty cuts off an affair because an affair was built on lies.

As husband and wife, we are one another’s healer.

Who do men want cheering for them?  Men love women, especially their wives, cheering for them. Women’s cheering section includes love and emotional connection with words of meaning from thier husbands. What has been the missing ingredient in your marriage? What was broken that opened the door for an affair? How were you “affairing” before the actual affair, i.e., work, ministry, hobbies, etc.

Be your spouse’s cheerleader and healer, not their critic. Each of us receives enough criticism throughout our lives without our spouse piling it on.  If you have a legitimate complaint, share it with them.  For example, “I know you didn’t mean it the way I took it, I love you, but when you said __________it really felt to me like _________. I know I could be wrong, but could we _________.”  

Do this through Ephesians 4: 15 – “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  Truth must be given but grace its means.  Truth without grace is just mean.  Truth without grace will eventually destroy love.  Start with praise (grace), a compliment and then move to the needed growth areas.  For example, “I love you; we’re a team. I know you’re busy, but I do need to talk to you about the time you spend with our children.”  Grace must precede truth.  Grace is like anesthesia given in order to bear the truth.  

An affair is not necessarily the end; it can be a wake-up call to needed healing and restoration.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part One)

Couples in the U.S. are waiting longer to marry and living together in an attempt to try it out.  These reactions are simply due to anxiety brought on by the number of marriages that are failing.  One in four marriages is ending in divorce, which is better than one in two, but not where we desire it to be.  Let me put it in a different framework:  what if one in four planes that took off crashed; how quick would you be to board one?

For some of us, many years ago we spoke something called vows that went like this: For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health…till death (not murder) do us part.  Never did we ever imagine having to face such issues.  But, truth be told, we will face these things as some of us already have.  

We all marry into brokenness.  There is no perfect marriage because there is no perfect person in marriage.  If you found the right person in marriage, you found an imperfect person.  And not only are they imperfect; you’re imperfect as well.  

Do you know why we take pictures at weddings?  Because it’s the last time you’ll see anything close to perfection.  Even some of the clothes are rented at a wedding.  Erma Bombeck said, “Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”

Here’s the good news for those of us who are married and those of us who are not: marriage has a 100% chance of being absolutely fantastic, whole and awesome if we will commit to following Jesus and following biblical principles for marriage relationships.

Exodus 34:14 – Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

I love that.  God is jealous over you; it’s a positive thing; it’s a righteous love.  We too can become jealous as we bond with a life mate.  To be jealous is to be intolerant of rivalry, like God we become jealous because we love.  In God’s jealousy He protects, He guards His children from the foreign god, from idolatry.  As husband and wife, we guard, we protect against a foreign intruder into our marriage.  One of those foreign intruders is an affair.

An affair happens when one takes the most sacred expressions in marriage and gives them to another.  So you can have an affair without sex by giving what belongs only to your spouse to someone else.  Before this happens, however, there are numerous other issues going on.  It is like the warning lights on the dash of your car.  You can ignore them for only so long.  And while ignoring them, the problem usually grows worse.

Today, affairs are starting anywhere there is close proximity and working relationships.  Facebook is a huge source of marital failures as people find “first loves” in a desire to feel a feeling they once felt.  You can be involved in an affair simply through your computer and never meet face-to-face.

We are all potential vow breakers.  If we think it can’t happen to us we can become sloppy and less guarded, not alert to the enemy’s schemes. To those of you who have been tempted and who gave in to that temptation, this message is not spoken to condemn you in any way.  We serve a redemptive God and He forgives.

Dr Gail Saltz psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital said this concerning affairs, “Many people convince themselves so long as there is not sex it is not an affair, but it is.  It has to do with secrecy, deception and betrayal and the emotional energy you are putting into the other person vs. your partner.  The most difficult thing to recover from is not sex, but the breaking of trust.  Those involved in an emotional affair are often in denial.  They do not think they’re having an affair at all.  The denial keeps them guilt-free and they tell themselves, ‘It’s just a friendship.’”

But one in two emotional affairs becomes a full-blown sexual affair states Dr. Saltz.

How do you know you’re in an emotional affair?  Dr Saltz shares ten warning signs:

  1. When your meetings are kept secret from your spouse.
  2. When you say and do things with someone you would never do in front of your spouse or you would feel guilty if your spouse happened to show up.
  3. When you make it a point to arrange private talk time with this person.
  4. When you share things with them that you do not share with your partner.
  5. When you avoid telling your partner how much time you may be spending with this person.
  6. When you are stating things about your marriage that you should not be telling another, opening a window to your heart and unmet emotional needs.
  7. When you begin discussing your marital dissatisfactions.
  8. When you tell this person more about your day than you do your partner.
  9. When you “ready your appearance” in anticipation of seeing this person.
  10. When there is sexual attraction spoken or unspoken between you.

Even if there is no actual touching, these are signs of an emotional affair.  The emotional high that the sexual attraction, the secrecy, the feelings provide actually becomes addictive and will perpetuate the relationship.  

To guard against ever having an emotional affair or to act in a preventative manner, live your life the opposite of the above ten warning signs. Secondly, set boundaries for your marriage relationship just like a dating couple sets sexual boundaries.  As a couple, what are you comfortable with and what are you not comfortable with (e.g., phone calls, meeting for lunch, driving in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex)?

Next week I will share part two of Affairproofing Your Marriage.

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Challenge, Children, Identity, Insecurity, Marriage, Parents

The Heart of a Child

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 30

My children will stand firm in their faith. Isaiah 7:9

My children will not turn to the right or to the left; they will walk in the way of the Lord, that they may live and prosper. Deuteronomy 5:32-34

Even as newborns, children recognize smells and the voices of those around them.  While my children were still in their mother’s womb, I would talk to them, pray over them and let them know who I was and how we anticipated their birth.  We would even read stories to them in utero.  From the womb we wanted our children to know their worth and value within our family.  When born, each of my children recognized my voice, as though they knew me and had met me before.  

Children also know and recognize who strangers are very early on.  They will typically not go into just anyone’s arms if they do not recognize the smell or the voice.  This new voice may feel strange to them and they may resist.  Even tiny babies recognize differences, as well as similarities. 

It is said that children are not born with identities; those identities are formed over time from belonging, acceptance and affirmation, safe relationships with family, community (like extended family or church family) and environment.  Children receive messages concerning their identity that are spoken and unspoken.  Most children recognize a response of shame, rejection or disapproval without one single word being verbalized. 

Further, a child’s identity relates to a number of other contributing factors like their own personal self-concept built by long-term relationships, their memories of life events that help to build their life stories, being listened to, their opportunities to explore, making decisions for themselves, experiencing failure and even how conflict is dealt with around them.

God has expectations of His children, but it is not our performances or our accomplishments that gain His approval. God is perfect, yet He is not into perfectionism. In our mere existence, He approves of us. 

The answer to a child’s healthy identity is not a high-esteem originating from some form of performance. The answer is a God-realized love and approval along with your love, acceptance, and approval of your child.  These two main ingredients are foundational to your child’s healthy identity.

I must correct and reward my children. It’s a part of life. However, I must differentiate that while reward and correction have to do with behavior, it is never a question that I love and accept their personhood. In their mere existence, they are important to me. I always approve of them as individuals. They can never do anything to not be my children. 

Strong and affirmative encouragement and approval from parents and grandparents will help your child to feel safe, capable, optimistic, well-adjusted and positive.  In reality, most role models that are positive, encouraging and life-giving to a child will help to build a positive identity.  We must take action to keep our children from negative, demeaning or destructive influences in their lives.

In Galatians 4:19, Paul the Apostle wrote, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”  Paul’s goal was to form or to build Christ, not himself.  I love the picture this presents because all the security and all the identity your child needs are not found in you, his/her parent, but in Christ Jesus.  

Finally, parenting requires a huge level of humility.  If we learn to approach our parenting with a spirit of humility, we will be able to admit when we are wrong.  We will also be able to apologize to our children allowing our children to change us.  Pride will certainly not help us in our parenting.

Question for refection:

How can you more effectively build Christ in your natural and spiritual children?

Watch for a bonus blog tomorrow!

To order the book for yourself, a friend, your family or a group click here.

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