★ Re|Engage – Love ★

ReEngage - Lesson 01

My wife and I went to a class offered at our church call “Re|Enagage.”  Watermark Church’s Marriage Ministry created this class that is offered in churches all across the country.  If you live near Dallas, TX, you can attend the class, here is the website for more information on how to find where it is offered:

http://marriagehelp.org

You many be thinking to yourself another marriage class no thank you but please continue reading because Re|Enagage made a huge impact on our marriage.  And before you dismiss this by saying “our marriage is not in crisis or turmoil so I don’t need this;” our’s wasn’t either, we just wanted to go from a good marriage to a great one!  And just to debunk another lie that the enemy will try to get you to believe…Don’t look at this class as “our marriage will appear that it is bad”… but look at it like “we want to continue to have a great marriage”…and so we are going to get new tools to improve it.  Just like you perform regular maintenance on your car, we need to do the same for our marriages. As part of the class, there was a small group time which the purpose is to build biblical community so that people realize that every marriage has issues, regardless of how it appears, no marriage is perfect.  Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) describes it this way:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

The small group helped “sharpen one another” as we opened up to share (Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron).

The primary focus of the class was to work on yourself and what you learned in the lessons instead of pointing out what your spouse is not doing.

The first two chapters focused on this Principle: RECOGNIZE YOUR INABILITY TO LOVE.

At first that does not seem so positive, does it?  But it is critical to understand how flawed we are so that we look at our spouses through the correct lens, and not expect them to do what we are incapable of doing.

Lesson 1 was on Love…The main idea was:

God’s Standard of love is the way He loves.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV) defines love biblically:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

You cannot meet this standard.  THIS IS PERFECT LOVE!

In the reading they made this statement…“While love may be blind, marriage is a real eye opener.”

We all entered our marriage with expectations of what it was going to be like. I am a firm believer that you get what you put into your marriage. “Garbage in, garbage out”…or you can look at it that you put in love, respect, sacrifice; you will get those in return.

The lesson was broke down What Love Really Is…

Love is patient and kind.

Not about instant gratification, Encourages instead of condemns.

Love doesn’t envy or boast.     

Celebrates when another is celebrated, Admit failures instead of giving excuses.

Isn’t rude or insisting on its own way.

Not demanding/manipulative to get its way, put the needs of the other first.  Studies the needs and wants so they can meet them. 

Is not irritable or resentful.

Can handle shortcomings/disappointments, Gladly overlooks small offenses and graciously forgives larger ones w/o bringing them up later.

Bears and endures all things.

Takes on the others hardships as their own, Committed regardless of feelings and what they are receiving in return.

Believes and hopes all things.

Acts in trustworthy manner with no secrets which eliminates suspicion.  It believes the best about the other and does everything it can to make the relationship work.

Love is thinking about the other person’s needs over your own, giving everything you have to the other person.  Love in God’s perspective is sacrificial and selfless commitment.

“Jesus was the ultimate model for what love is (Romans 5:8 – Christ died for us while we were sinners.)  – Real love puts the other person first!”

 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here… ★ Re|Engage – Brokenness ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Brokenness ★

ReEngage - Lesson 02The second lesson was on Brokenness which furthered the teaching about the need to RECOGNIZE YOUR INABILITY TO LOVE.

The main idea of Lesson 2 was:

“Your marriage is broken because it is made up of two broken people.  You fall short of God’s standard.” 

We enter marriage with the idea that everything will be perfect but when you really think about it, that is a crazy belief.  It is impossible for 2 imperfect people to come together and the result be a perfect marriage.

But even though your marriage will never be perfect, it can be great!  And it is all about involving God!  One of the recurring themes in the class is based on this idea:

For me this is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard which can apply for not only your marriage but with any aspect of your life.  It reminds me of what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT)

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Paul David Tripp once said, “I am my biggest marital problem” 

Do you see that as being true?  Or are you operating in the mindset that “if I could just fix my spouse, then everything would be great.”  If you are, then I promise that your marriage will never get better.  The book nailed it when they said

The problem isn’t primarily your circumstances or your spouse; it is the selfishness and sinfulness within your own heart.  You are broken and have a part in why your marriage isn’t where it should be.  Yes, you are a part of your marriage problem.” 

Wouldn’t that make a great bumper sticker or Twitter post huh?  Not so much right?  But here is the great thing…Once you realize your part in the conflict, then there is hope.  There is something you can do.  Draw the circle and WORK ON YOURSELF!  Let God take care of your spouse.

“You are powerless to love your spouse the way you promised you would, the way they dreamed you would and the way God designed that you should.”

Make this personal…as you read this, insert your name:

You are powerless to love your spouse the way you promised you would,

You are powerless to love your spouse the way they dreamed you would and

You are powerless to love your spouse the way God designed that you should.

This is the reality that we all face.  The question is, do we accept it or do something about it?  Here is the final thought from the book…

“Until you acknowledge the brokenness in your own heart and turn to the One who is ready and willing to help you, your relationship will remain broken.”

ReEngage - Lesson 02 - Build Your Marriage on the RockThe key is Building our relationships on a Solid Foundation which is Jesus.  Matthew 7:24-26 says,

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.”

We may all be broken but when we center our marriage on God’s principles and invite Jesus to be in the center of our marriage, anything is possible!!

Today, my pastor shared this incredible diagram that illustrates the brokenness that we all have without Jesus

ReEngage - Lesson 02 - Jesus is the Bridge

Our sin is a barrier between God and us.  To bridge that barrier God sent Jesus.  We have two choices on what we do with Jesus, either we repent of our sin or we continue in our rebellion.  If we repent, then salvation will be granted, if not, we will face judgement.

Reflect on this…Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

We need to recognize our brokenness and trust in Jesus.  I will close with this final advice on how to improve your marriage from the book!

ReEngage - Lesson 02 - How To Change Your Marriage

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Grace ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Grace ★

ReEngage - Lesson 03The next two chapters focused on this Principle:  EMBRACE HUMILTY.

Lesson 3 was on Grace…The main idea was:

You are in need of God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (ESV)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”  

The definition of Grace as it pertains in Christian belief is:

 “The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” 

47 - Daily Dependence - Grace is the BridgeEphesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

“God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” 

The lesson made this powerful parallel between this verse and how our interactions with our spouse should be.

“Just as your relationship with God is grounded in grace, so must your relationship with your spouse be grounded in grace.  It’s the foundational pillar to any healthy relationship.”

Have you ever thought about extending grace to your spouse as being critical to a healthy marriage?  It spouses could grasp this concept the “self-help” industry would plummet!

“The bottom line is that we are not good enough and neither is our spouse…That’s why grace is essential to your relationship.”

What my wife and I really love about this class is how practical the counsel is and it’s application.  I love this on What grace in action looks like in action in marriage:

  • Grace does not focus on the faults of your spouse.
  • Grace is choosing to believe the best about their words and actions.
  • Grace is not shocked or angry when your spouse’s actions are not perfect.
  • Grace is not bringing up the ways your spouse has disappointed or hurt you in the past.
  • Grace responds kindly to a harsh word or a cold shoulder.
  • Grace causes you to be an advocate for your spouse rather than build a case against them.
  • Grace is loving your spouse, not because of their actions, but in spite of their actions.

And here is the flip side of What Grace is Not?

“But extending grace doesn’t mean that you grant your spouse permission to continue to hurt you.  And it doesn’t mean that the feelings of pain they have caused you are now invalid.  However, to re-engage with your spouse, you must follow Christ’s example as an initiator.  He initiates again and again because His love for you is perfect, and His love for you perseveres – even when you’re most unlovable.”

A friend of mine told me this and I will close with this…

“God is not looking for a perfect Christian but a persistent one.”  Gene Winterhalter

None of us are perfect but God desires us to chase after Him and be persistent in extending grace to the one that He blessed us with.

 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Humility ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Humility ★

ReEngage - Lesson 04

“Humility is such an elusive virtue.
Once you think you have it, you don’t,
or you wouldn’t think you did.”
Max Lucado 

Go back and re-read that quote slower…(really…re-read it and think about what it says.)  If you think you are humble, then you really are not!  The main idea of Lesson 4 was:

“Follow the example of Christ until you love yourself less than you love your spouse.  You cannot be a godly spouse if you are focusing on yourself.”

That seems to be obvious but how many couples do you know that are focused only on themselves and thus troubles follow.  So many people have an issue practicing humbleness.  But I love what C.S. Lewis said,

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Humility is not allowing yourself to be a doormat but it is placing the needs of others above your own.  How different would this world be if spouses did this?  Instead pride gets in the way.  James 4:6 (NLT) says,

“And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

This is repeated over and over throughout scripture (1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 29:23 to name a few.)  Ron Deal made this interesting parallel…

“God opposed the proud and so do spouses.” 

Good point huh?  It doesn’t a rocket scientist to realize that!  Here is the antidote though from Philippians 2:3-4:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The book of Proverbs is a great book to read for wisdom, instruction and direction for life.  One of the most famous verses on Pride is from Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) which instructs that

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty [arrogantly superior and disdainful] spirit before a fall.”

Here is the verse in visual form:Marty Collier made reference to this by making this great point:

“Pride leads to sin and sin equals death.  Notice that “I” is at the center of pride and sin.” 

You see, when you are focused on “I” and not “WE,” that is the root of all of our marital problems.  This fourth lesson made this statement:

“Humility could be defined as having an accurate understanding of who you are, which leads to treating others as more important than yourself.”

I love this quote…

ReEngage - Lesson 04 - Humility is Shy
“Humility is so shy.  If you begin talking about it, it leaves.”  Timothy Keller

As we just celebrated Christmas, and are about to enter into a new year, it’s appropriate to acknowledge the greatest example of humility…Jesus Christ who was the epitome of humbleness as He selflessly layed down His crown and become a man to die for our sins.  The book made this observation:

“Jesus’ life was the ultimate expression of humility and serves as our example. While everyone around him was striving to be great Jesus told his followers that the way to greatness was through humble service.”

Easier said than done!

“Humility is risky. There are times when your humble service will go unnoticed, will be unappreciated or will be used for someone else’s gain. Jesus is not asking us to do anything He Himself did not go through and experience.”

Great point, as we look to act in humility in our marriage it is important to realize that

“Humility doesn’t take something from you; it does something for you.”

And I love this at the end, what will result if you do…

“Embracing humility is one of the quickest ways to change your marriage.”

So let’s make this New Year’s Resolution that as we enter into 2015, we will follow the example of Christ and treat our spouses with Humility!

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

ReEngage - Lesson 05I would like to start off reviewing Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT) …

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but
Two [HUSBAND AND WIFE] can stand back-to-back and conquer.
Three [WITH GOD AT THE CENTER] are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” 

When you read this scripture and look at this picture below, do you agree with it?  How can you apply this to your marriage?
Ecclesiastes 4:12 is a fundamental scripture that can be applied to marriages for the importance of teamwork, not only for husband and wife but also with God in the mix.

As we talk about forgiveness, it is critical to realize that without God working within us individually and in our marriage, we will stay in the crazy cycle of conflict.

Lesson 5 and 6 focused on this Principle:  Extend Grace and Forgiveness.

There’s that word again…If you have not noticed yet there is a running theme, Grace is a central driver in any good marriage.  This week was the practical application of how Grace is expressed through forgiveness.

In Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB), Jesus is teaching about The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant…

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

What does Jesus’ response mean to you and your marriage?  Do you think that He meant you only need to forgive your spouse up to 490 offenses or something else?  There are 3 things to gleam from this…

1.  Peter wanted to know ‘how many’ times until he could stop forgiving someone but
2.  Jesus is more concerned with the why’ behind forgiveness.
3.  “Jesus is saying: Don’t keep track.  Don’t keep score.”

The why can be summed up with this Andy Stanley

“The one who benefits the most from forgiveness is the one who grants it.”  

Do you believe that?  If you do believe that there is a benefit to forgiving, then why is it so hard?  Lesson 5 was all about Forgiveness, in the book, the main idea of Lesson 5 was:

“You have been forgiven everything by God’s Grace; therefore, you are able to forgive your spouse.”

I love the definition they gave on What forgiveness is…

“At its most basic level, forgiveness is the decision to pardon an offense and give up the right to be repaid.”

In the reading they discussed “What Forgiveness is Not.”

  1. Forgiveness is not forgetting.

“Rather than forgetting, forgiveness is remembering your commitment to forgive. It often is a choice you will continue to make when not if the feelings of hurt and disappointment return.”

  1. Forgiveness is not reconciling.

“Reconciliation and forgiveness are two separate processes. You can forgive without reconciling, but you cannot reconcile without forgiveness. Forgiveness is instant, but trust will take time to rebuild.”

  1. Forgiveness is not condoning.

“It simply means that they no longer owe anything for the pain and hurt they have caused you.”

  1. Forgiveness is not a feeling.

“If you wait until you feel like forgiving, you never will and you won’t re-engage with your spouse and experienced a death depth and richness that your marriage can one day half.  Forgiveness is a choice you make, sometimes in spite of how you feel.”

  1. Forgiveness is not just about the person who hurt you.

“Forgiveness has limited benefit to the one who caused pain. But the longer you hold onto the hurt the longer their actions continue to have negative effects in your life.”

Forgiveness primarily benefits you, the one who has been hurt. It really is a gift you give to yourself.

What I have learned going through this book is that our childhood can have an effect on our marriage in how we interact with our spouse.  I had posted ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★ earlier about my father that you can see here, but I wanted to share this story with you in more detail.

I never really had a relationship with my father from the age of 12 years old.  I carried that hole in my life until I was 36, when God placed it on my heart to reconcile with him.

Just like we have been talking about, I had to choose to forgive him for the abuse I witnessed against my mom and choose to forgive the hurt of all the subsequent years of him not wanting to be in my life.  Though we had no relationship for most of my adult life, I am thankful that before he passed away, we reconciled and had a year and a half together.

The best part is that through God’s amazing grace, I was privileged to lead my father to the Lord 6 months before he died!  He is in heaven but that probably would not have happened if I was not obedient to God to forgive my Dad and extend God’s Grace to Him.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT) says:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

The reading made this great point that we need to always remember!

“We had a debt to God that we could not pay. Christ forgives us completely, yet we have the audacity to not forgive our spouses.”

Is it difficult to forgive your spouse? Do you struggle with this?  I love this what the Lesson 5 gave as the two options we have.

ReEngage - Lesson 05 - Fork in the Road of Your Relationship

“Each day you stand at a fork in the road of your relationship.

Your first option is to hold onto the hurt, disappointment and frustrations, which will almost always lead to anger and bitterness. This is a dead-end that will make you miserable.

Your other option is to begin to forgive and re-engage with your spouse. Left untreated, anger and bitterness often take on a life of their own.”

Do you see that as being true in your marriage?

“When we forgive and are forgiven by our spouse it helps us understand the nature of God’s forgiveness.”

In the book they made this statement:

“Your relationship with Christ and your marriage simply cannot move forward without forgiveness.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) says

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

And Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT) says:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

So if we are commanded to forgive, and we don’t, there will be consequences, we will not be forgiven.  Assuming no one wants those consequences, check out the next post from Lesson 6 called ★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness In Action ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness In Action ★

ReEngage - Lesson 06

The previous lesson was all about what is Forgiveness…(If you missed that blog, you can read it here, it is called ★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★)…The main idea of Lesson 6 is:

“Forgiveness in action is a practical guide to ask for and extend forgiveness.”

 This chapter was a real eye opener because it revealed that just throwing out a lukewarm “I’m sorry” is not acceptable.  Instead, they offered 5 simple, but powerful steps to walk through.

If you are anything like me, you will love this lesson, because I am in need of instructions.  As a man I like to “fix things,” which at times can be frustrating for my wife.  Lesson 6 was the perfect solution, simple steps to follow to help the healing process.

Gary Thomas said,

“One of marriages primary responsibilities is to teach us how to forgive.” 

Marriage can sometimes be a really pressure cooker when it comes to conflict.  God’s game plan for marriage is for two people to unite and become “one flesh.” but the process of “becoming one” there definitely can be difficult times which is where forgiveness becomes the lynch pin that holds it all together.

The book asked these two questions which I will pass onto to you to ponder…

  1. What is most difficult about asking for forgiveness?
  2. What is most difficult about granting forgiveness?

Here is what Forgiveness In Action looks like…

Step 1 – I call it Self-Examination.

“Think about the ways you have hurt, disappointed, frustrated or not been truthful with your spouse.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) says,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

“The first stage to any reconciliation is to acknowledge where you have fallen short.”

Step 2 – Confession to God.

“No one likes to admit when they are wrong, and we certainly don’t like to confess it but God already knows.  It is critical to confess to God.” 

1 John 1:9 (NLT) has this incredible promise:

“But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Step 3 – Confession to Your Spouse.

“No distractions and no excuses.  Don’t rationalize why you hurt them, simply confess.”  The lesson also reminded us that we need to humbly listen as our spouse expresses the hurt or disappointment they feel.

Step 4 – Ask Specifically for Forgiveness.

“Ask specifically for forgiveness and avoid ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I apologize.’”

Step 5 – Grant Forgiveness.

“If they have asked for forgiveness, we are to grant forgiveness specifically for what they asked.  Remember that it is our responsibility to forgive.”

Step 6 – Repeat for Every Offense.

Don’t stop at just a couple but do the work to make sure you make amends for all the hurt that you caused.  Proverbs‬ ‭17‬:‭9‬ (NLT)

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”

In some supplemental reading I found this statement:

“If we will understand and be amazed by how we are forgiven, we will be able to extend forgiveness to others. Instead of asking, how could we ever forgive, the question then becomes, how could we not?”

Here are some great Scripture to Review:

I Peter 2:23

“He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered.  He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” 

Romans 12:17-18 (NLT)  

“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

Hebrews 12:14-15 – A Call to Listen to God

“Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here… ★ Re|Engage – Commitment ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here.

If you want to read more on Forgiveness click here…

★ Thought for the Day – How Many Licks to Forgiveness ★

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★ Re|Engage – Commitment ★

ReEngage - Lesson 07The reading for the next two sections focused on this Principle:  Nurture truth.  “Nurture Truth?”  At first that seems to be an odd combination of words.  We know all about nurturing children, but what does it mean to Nurture Truth.

Mark Dietrich said,

“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” 

When you think of the principle of nurturing truth and contrast it to this quote, it should open our eyes to a new way of viewing marriage.  Your love may have gotten you down the aisle, but marriage is the vehicle in which our love is nurtured.

Lesson 7 was about Commitment with this main idea:

“God’s covenant to love provides an example of the way you are going to love your spouse.  Marriage is a commitment not a contract.”

When you got married, you made a covenant with each other, not a contract.  God’s expectation is that this is permanent.  Unfortunately, our culture does not view it in such a way. In fact is quite the opposite. If you look around, it’s not too hard to see that marriage is really viewed as a temporary convenience that only lasts as long as the other person is meeting my needs, rather than a lifelong institution.  Love this from the lesson,

“Much of our life operates under the guidelines of contracts…Our ideas about contracts often carry over into our marriages, where we love and expect to be loved, sacrifice and expect sacrifice in return, and try to our spouse happy and expect them to do the same.”

Wow!!  That sure is a conviction about not letting the world’s influence corrupt what marriage was designed to be!  The book continues with this…

“The contractual view of love is the opposite of how God loves us and how we are supposed to love our spouse.”

“God’s irrevocable commitments to His people are called covenants.”

Marriage is an IRREVOCABLE COMMITMENT. 

When you look up the definition of irrevocable, it means “Incapable of being reversed, retracted or revoked.  So in other words God’s commitment to us is incapable of being reversed, retracted or revoked.

ReEngage - Lesson 07 - MalachiNo Plan BReal Love has no Plan ‘B’…So how would that look in your marriage if you took that same mindset?  Lesson 7 gave this advice…

 “Jesus made a new covenant with us by His death on the cross – not because we deserved it, but in spite of the fact that we were His enemies.”

Romans 5:10 says

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life?”

The book made this incredible parallel

 “Since God is a covenant-keeping God, He expects us to keep our covenant with our spouse.”

 “Covenants are serious, and when we keep them, we love the same way God does.”

So how could you apply Roman 5:10 and these two quotes in the way you look at your marriage?

For me, my marriage is an Unconditional Commitment!!  Divorce HAS NEVER been and NEVER WILL be an option. The promise I made to my wife and God 15 years ago is the best decision I made, second only to receiving Christ.

The key is to “Commit to your spouse the way God does.”  Here is what the book taught on what “Commitment In Action” looks like.

Commitment In Action.

  1. “Commitment is often an internal decision. It’s not thinking about escape, or wondering or fantasizing about what it would be like to be married to someone else; instead, it is daily reminding yourself of God’s commitment to you and that your spouse is a gift from God.”

It is a decision or choice. Just like last week when we said that we have to choose to forgive our spouse, we have to choose to remain committed to our spouse to the vows we both said in the presence of God on our wedding day.

  1. “Externally, commitment looks like never mentioning divorce.”

This is important because too often spouses threaten divorce as a weapon to beat the other into submission which is the complete opposite way that God has intended our covenant marriage to be like.

  1. Commitment in action…”looks like not becoming close friends or flirting with anyone of the opposite sex or getting emotional needs met from someone other than your spouse.”

Need to establish boundaries and maintain them.  Don’t give the enemy a foothold in your marriage.

  1. Commitment in action…”looks like continuing to reiterate to your spouse that you love them and plan to meet married to them until one of you dies.”

When I got married, I had wanted to change our marriage vows to replace the phrase “until death do us part,” to say “for all eternity.”

In the reading they talked about shutting the doors of escape in our marriage.

three open doors in green roomYou could walk through the door of:

  1. Divorce or separation.
  2. Escape by staying busy with work, friends or activities that keep you from dealing with the issues in your marriage.
  3. Giving up or just living as undivorced roommates.

Look at this and think about your marriage, do you have any doors open or still unlocked in your marriage to escape from?  What do you need to do to shut and lock them?

“Commitment looks like shutting and locking all the doors in the room; telling your spouse that you won’t leave, become apathetic or preoccupied; and working it out no matter what.”

Amen!!  This lesson is so incredible.  We all have a choice, we can live our marriage as a contract or a covenant.  They also made this profound statement,

“When you commit unconditionally, you will be amazed at how you can work through issues, deal with difficult seasons and move to new levels of intimacy.”

In the supplemental reading, it said that:

“The #1 most probable determiner for whether a couple makes it:  did you view your wedding vows as a commitment or a contract?”

What is your view?

James MacDonald said,

“Marriage is focused delight in a single person.  It is maintained by maintaining that focus.”

Mark 10:7-9 (NLT) says.

“‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

And Malachi 2:16 (MSG) says,

““I hate divorce,” says the GOD of Israel. GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat.”

This verse is such a powerful statement from God which many people have misunderstood because they read that God hates divorce and make the jump that God hates them because of the divorce but that is a LIE OF THE ENEMY.  Look at it again, God said “I hate divorce,” NOT the “DIVORCEE.”  Divorce is real; many of you reading this may have experienced divorce in your life, whether it was your parents or yourself.  And if you were asked the question if you liked going through the divorce or watching someone you love go through it, you would undeniably say “I hate divorce” and so did I.  From firsthand experience, I know what that “dismembering” felt like, having experienced this at the age of 5 when my parents divorced.  That description is right on, it was a violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’.

ReEngage - Lesson 07 - MalachiI have always related my parent’s divorce like a chess match where I was a pawn pinned between the King and Queen who were battling one another, using me to hurt the other.  Now I don’t mention this to condemn anyone but to show what God intended for marriage and what He thinks of Divorce.  If we want to stop from becoming part of the statistic of yet another marriage gone south, we need to view it as a covenantal commitment, not a contract! 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Truth ★

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★ Re|Engage – Truth ★

ReEngage - Lesson 08

Lesson 8 deals with Truth and the main idea was:

“You are tempted every day to believe the lies all around you regarding your marriage. You need to identify the lies you’re choosing to believe and replace those lies with biblical truth.”

If you don’t know by now, there are many times that we believe lies about our spouses intentions or actions.  But we need to understand that our enemy, the Devil is always screaming in our minds with what sounds like our own voice lies about our spouse.  This lesson deals very practically about this.

Gary Thomas said,ReEngage - Lesson 08 - Old Ways Wont Open New Doors

 “What if God intended marriage to make us holy more than happy?” 

Don’t see that on a Hallmark card do you?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)

We need to allow God to change the way we think. Old ways of thinking won’t change our marriage.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  Let God transform your “old ways.”

In the book, they asked listed the common lies that we tend to believe about our spouse but then what the truth really is…

Lie:         I should feel “in love” at all times

Truth:   

“Love is described by actions rather than emotions…
Oftentimes it is actually the loving actions that will bring about loving feelings.”

Lie:         My marital issues and problems are different or unique.

Truth:   

“There are no new or unique problems in marriage.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”

I heard James MacDonald once say, Satan has three strategies to take us down in every area of our life…

“Disguise, Divide and Destroy.  He comes to us as an angel of light.  He gets us isolated by ourselves, and then he takes us down.” 

Lie:         I married the wrong person and my “soul mate” is still out there?

Truth:   

“You made a commitment to your spouse and God has joined you together.
Remember Mark 10:7-9.”

Lie:         My Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.

Truth:   

“When two sinners marry, there will always be difficulties.” 

1 Corinthians 7:28 says:

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.”

Not the most positive spin on marriage but it makes the point.

Lie:         My Marriage and spouse are supposed to make me happy.

Truth:  

“Real joy comes from God. If you look to your spouse and your marriage
to meet 
needs that were intended for God alone to meet, it will be exhausting for your spouse, and disappointing and frustrating for you.”

Lie:         I can never have a great marriage because there has been so much damage.

Truth:   

“When you sin you may believe that God will withhold His Plan A for your
future 
and give you His Plan B instead.  While there still may be consequences for past actions, the good news is that God is for you, not against you, and wants you to experience the ideal of marriage.”

Psalm 103:10 (ESV) is a great reminder of this…

“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” 

The book made this point that I love!

“The truth is your spouse is God’s provision for you, not God’s curse on you.”

James MacDonald made a great point about how to get “unstuck” from the cycle of lies:

You don’t have a good marriage because you want one.
You don’t have a good marriage because you tell people you have one.
You don’t have a good marriage because you can teach a class on how to have a good one…[including re|engage…hahaha!]
You have a good marriage because you work on your marriage.
You want to get unstuck, you have to prioritize your marriage. 

As you prioritize and work on your marriage things will improve!  But we MUST push out the lies and focus in on what Philippians 4:8 says.

ReEngage - Lesson 08 - Philippians 4-8

 

Scripture to Review:

  • “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Matthew 19:6 (NLT)  
  • Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 9:9 (ESV)
  • “Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts.”  Psalm 15:4 (NLT) 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here . . . ★ Re|Engage – Communication ★

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★ Re|Engage – Communication ★

ReEngage - Lesson 09The reading for the next two sections focused on this Principle:  Give Yourself Away.  Not something that many of us willingly want to do.  This is the midpoint of the class where things change.  The first 8 lessons were all about explaining the gospel and how it relates to marriages, the next 8 lessons are all about the practical response to the Gospel.

Lesson 9 was about Communication with this main:

“The goal of communication is mutual understanding. You have negative communication patterns that you need to identify and change.”

The goal is “Mutual Understanding.”  To understand someone else you need to actually listen to them right?  If your spouse was asked, if you were a good listener, what do you think they would they say?  Do you think you are a Good Listener?

Stephen Covey made a profound statement about this, he said:

“Most People do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

If we want to improve our marriage, good communication is key!  To achieve that, we need to be a good listener to understanding where the other person is coming from.  From the reading, they said,

“The goal of communication is not to get your point across, show that you are right or to win an argument. The goal of communication is mutual understanding.”

It is the difference between arguing versus understanding.  When we are communicating with our spouse, there are many things that can cause conflict and misunderstandings.

One of the most commonly cited studies on communication is from the 1970s.  Professor Albert Mehrabian studied the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages in personal communication.  The study concluded that the:

ReEngage - Lesson 09 - Elements of Personal Communication

The non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they do not align.  He concluded that, if words and body language disagree, the body language will be believed over whatever is spoken.

Another area that can cause misunderstandings are the “non-present” forms of communication.

  • In this world of emails and texting, not being in-person to read the body language, we can easily “misread” the intentions of the other person.
  • This used to be true with just phone calls upon this new mode of communication takes it to a whole other level, where things can be misinterpreted and misunderstood.
  • You can read into things that really aren’t there.

James 1:19b is a famous quote about communication:

This by far is the best advice anyone could heed.  Verse 20 gives us the justification on the why.

“for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

If we want to be more like Jesus, then we need to follow the advice, and understand that when our communication pattern is not in alignment, we are dishonoring God as verse 20 shows us.

The lesson focused on four common ways that couples communicate poorly.

Negative Communication Patterns. 

1.  WITHDRAW AND AVOID.

“Withdrawal is an unwillingness to get into or stick with important discussions.”

It could just be that you leave the room in the middle of a conversation or shutting down emotionally.

“Avoidance is choosing to not address tough issues or have conversations that could be difficult.”

Or just sweeping it under the rug.

A better way:  Need to stick with conversations when they happen. If your spouse is the one that withdraws, the lesson had a very practical question to ask…

“What is it about me that makes it hard for you to communicate with me?

2.  ESCALATE.

“Escalation occurs when you respond negatively toward your spouse in the conversation continues to get more and more hostile.”

One thing that was interesting to me was that, escalation isn’t just yelling at each other but it’s also the subtle things like sarcasm, name-calling, threats and other forms of attack as well.

A better way:  “The best thing that you can do is take a timeout before things get out of hand and then decide what time you’re reconvene.”

“The goal of the timeout is to keep yourself from damaging the relationship and take time to gather yourself so you can come back in a better frame of mind, ready to talk about the issue.”

3.  NEGATIVELY INTERPRET.

“Negative interpretation happens when you assign a motive to your spouse that is more negative than is really the case.”

“Often times this is caused when there is some insecurity or if veiled comments were common in the family growing up.”

A better way: “You combat negative interpretation by believing the best about your spouse.”

I heard somewhere that “90% of all friction is caused by the wrong tone of voice.”

4.  Invalidate.

“Invalidation occurs when you directly or indirectly dismiss, minimize or put down the thoughts, feelings or character of your spouse.”

A better way:  “Remember that the goal of communication is to understand rather than being right.”

Proverbs 14:29 (NLT) says,

“People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.”

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible, he had this Life Lesson on this verse,

“It may feel good for a short while to vent out fury at someone but “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)  Responding to bitterness with more bitterness leads only to a combative and even more explosive situation.”

What do you think about that quote?  Do you believe that responding to bitterness with more bitterness will lead to a more explosive situation?  What has been your experience?

The book made this great point….

“The way you communicate with your spouse will have a big impact on the quality of your marriage.”

Romans 12:18 (ESV)

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Boy that is so hard to do sometimes but heeding this will pay dividends!!  The takeaway from Romans 12:18 is that

“Communication is an opportunity to honor God and do everything you can to “live peaceably” with your spouse.”

Again, “The goal ultimately is mutual understanding.”

Guard your tongue and your tone.

“Faith is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.  The same is true for developing Positive Communication Patterns; the more you practice it, the stronger your marriage will be.”

If you would like to read more on guarding your tongue, check out this previous post called ★ Thought for the Day –  Our Tongues Should Point People to Jesus ★.


If you would like to read the next installment in the re|engage class, click here . . .
★ Re|Engage – Conflict ★ 

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★ Re|Engage – Conflict ★

ReEngage - Lesson 10

To follow along with the Principle:  Give Yourself Away, Lesson 9 was about Conflict with this main idea:

Conflict in marriage is normal and a great opportunity to glorify God, grow yourself and grow your spouse. Handling conflict biblically is a great path to oneness with your spouse.

What do you think of that?  I don’t think that many people view conflict in that manner…inside conflict avoidance is the norm!  But in this lesson, they made this point.

“No matter how good your marriage is, you will have conflict. It’s normal, inevitable and should be expected.”

 One could look at this as a pessimistic view, but it’s a realistic view.  Stephen Furtick made this point, he said,

“There is no perfect marriage, but you can have a blessed marriage!” 

I thought that it was really interesting in the reading when it said that,

“Conflict isn’t necessary bad or destructive; it can actually be a great opportunity to move toward oneness.”

But that really isn’t what our normal reaction to conflict is right?  But it is a very normal way to react to something that we don’t want to deal with.

“Even though conflict causes a great deal of tension in your marriage, God can use it to grow your relationship with Him and your spouse.”

We should not try to avoid conflict but rather learn “how to deal with conflict and seeing it as an opportunity to grow yourself, your marriage and your spouse, and to glorify God.”

I read this quote Ken Sande that I thought was great!

“Overlook an Offense—Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly overlooking an offense. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11 NIV1984). Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness, and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger.”  From “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict,”

The lesson gave (5) practical ways of how to deal with the conflict:

  1. Start With Yourself                              
  2. Overlook Minor Offenses
  3. Address The Issue
  4. Get Help If Needed
  5. View Conflict Correctly

As you read what the details of this area, prayerfully consider which one(s) of these to you struggle with?

START WITH YOURSELFThe running theme of draw the circle around yourself continues…

“Part of conflict resolution is recognizing and admitting what you contribute to the conflict.”

Jesus said in Matthew 7:5 (ESV)

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

OVERLOOK MINOR OFFENSES

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”   Proverbs 19:11 (ESV)

Easier said than done sometimes, but I like what they said in the reading that,

As a general rule, an offense should be overlooked if you can answer “no” to all of the following questions:

  • Is the offense dishonoring to God?
  • Has permanently damage a relationship?
  • Is it hurting other people?
  • Is it hurting the offender himself?

If the answer is “yes” to any of the questions then address the issue, otherwise it would be better to extend grace to your spouse and let the issue go.

ADDRESS THE ISSUE

I like how they started off by making the point that we need to identify our own part to the conflict and then once you’ve asked for forgiveness for what we’ve caused then we can address the issue.

“Humility can be contagious and your spouse may respond similarly.”

When addressing the issue, we need to be honest, and at the same time kind.  Many people like to sweep things under the rug because they fear that talking about things will only make it worse, but the book nailed it with,

ReEngage - Lesson 10 - Tripping Hazard“Ignoring conflict often only makes matters worse and the issue will likely resurface again later.”

You can only sweep so much under the rug before it becomes a tripping hazard.

GET HELP IF NEEDED

“Conflict usually isn’t resolved through one conversation. Sometimes it will be resolved through a process of continuing to pray and communicate, and committing to not avoid the issue.”

And if the issue can’t be resolved is a good idea to, it is good to get the help of others from your church…or you could look into where a re|engage class is offered.

“The goal is not to present a case against your spouse or convince others you are right; rather, the goal is to ensure that you and your spouse understand one another and are reconciled.”

Conflict is a problem with the heart. We need to study our spouses and empathize with what they are going through.

VIEW CONFLICT CORRECTLY

“The question isn’t if you are going to have conflict, but rather how you are going to view and handle the conflict you have.

“Healthy couples see conflict as an opportunity to deal with issues that are moving them away from oneness. They keep short accounts and don’t allow conflict to go unaddressed.”

I heard a message from Steven Furtick that goes along perfectly with this,

“In order to guard your heart, you have to own your emotions.” 

“Since when was your happiness on someone else’s job description?”

Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV). In what ways will you put this person to practice this week?

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 

Matthew 7:5 (ESV).

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

What are some logs you need to take out of your own eye?  John McGee gave this perfect advice:

“Most conflict in marriages will disappear if two selfless people try really hard to understand each other.” 

Proverbs 19:11 (NIV1984)

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

 

If you would like to read the next installment in the re|engage class, click here★ Re|Engage – Expectations ★ 

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★ Re|Engage – Expectations ★

ReEngage - Lesson 11So how are you enjoying the series from the re|engage class?  I know they have been strung out over time but if you have missed any you can read previous posts on lessons… DailyDependence.WordPress.com/category/reengage-class/?order=asc

My hope is that as you read these that you will start to apply the principles that you are learning about.  The goal is to get better at extending grace and forgiveness…to try to communicate more so that conflict is stopped before it escalates?  It is important to put into practice what we learn.  Knowledge without application is pointless.

In the Communication lesson I mentioned that the first 8 lessons are all about explaining the gospel and how it relates to marriages, the second half is all about the practical response to the Gospel.

And that is the point; each additional lesson will give you another tool in your toolbox to improve your marriage.  2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) says,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Consider this your battle cry to fight for your marriage!

The reading focused on this Principle:  Adore and Respect.

The main idea of Lesson 11 was:

You have many expectations about your spouse and your marriage that, if unmet and handled incorrectly, will lead to disappointment and anger. You need to be able to articulate and deal with unmet expectations and realize that God is your only true hope.

Unmet expectations are one of the major causes for conflict in a marriage.  They can really damage a marriage if we are not careful.  Ephesians 6:12 (NLT) says,

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

As we delve into the topic of “Expectations,” a good thing to remember in marriage is to…ALWAYS test the voice in your head.  As your expectations of your spouse are not met think through what is going on.

For instance, when your husband forgets to take out the trash, Satan will whisper, “He is so lazy. He’ll never change.”  You will start dwelling on that characteristic.

However, if you ask yourself the question about who would be whispering that to you, you’ll realize that your Heavenly Father would NOT be telling you how lazy your husband is.

God’s voice would be saying, “I love this guy, and I sent my son to die for him. Treat him as I would.”

The same obviously applies to woman as well, but I will just pick on the men!

Ultimately we need to change the way we approach situations because if we continue to expect the same thing without changing anything, we will continue in the crazy cycle.

You’ve heard it said, “Insanity: Doing the Same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Albert EinsteinReEngage - Lesson 11 - Daily Dependence - Albert Einstein - Insanity

The book had this great definition of what expectations are, and if we can grasp this, we can get out of the insanity cycle.

“Expectations are attitudes and thoughts regarding the way things could be or should be, and you have expectations for every area of your life.”

Right before I was married by my wife’s uncle, he said something which has stuck with us for our entire marriage,

“The things that attract you to your spouse have a flip side.  Over time the very thing that you loved can cause conflict.”

For instance:

  • You could be attracted to someone who is very dependable and that you can count on, the flip side of that is that person may be boring.
  • You could be attracted to someone who is very good at managing money, the flip side of that is that person may be very cheap and never wants to go out anywhere.
  • You could be attracted to someone who is very healthy and works out all the time, the flip side of that is that person may be at the gym all the time, leaving the other person home alone often.

This piece of advice really helped us to keep an eye on our expectations and understand the reality of this “flip side.”  ReEngage - Lesson 11 - Daily Dependence -FlipsideSo for a bonus action item, think about what attracted your spouse and then think about whether the “flip side” is causing conflict or hurt right now.  Then discuss it together.

“You joy is your job…I own my emotions, emotions don’t own me.”  Steven Furtick

I think everyone will agree that expectations can be a very dangerous thing, especially when they are not met.  I love this quote,

“In marriage, your spouse often doesn’t have the same expectations or isn’t aware of yours, which can create tension in a relationship.”

Amen?  I think the book nailed it when they said that,

“Generally, your expectations are not right or wrong; however, the way you deal with unmet expectations can have a lot to do with whether you experience oneness in your marriage.”

Most people have an idealized view of marriage that it will be the perfect fulfillment of all their dreams…that the woman will be swept off her feet by her knight in shining armor and the two will live happily ever after.

Months and months are spent planning a wedding, working on all the intricate details, but what is usually left out of the equation is what happens when the Honeymoon’s over (literally).

  • How will we raise the kids, will someone stay home?
  • Who will manage the checkbook/finances?
  • How will we handle conflict? Etc.

When you think about this, it is absolutely insane, planning for months for one day but giving little thought for the future.  We have all done it, whether consciously or unconsciously, we all came into marriage with expectations.  The lesson made this point,    

“Expectations are powerful. When they are unmet, they lead to disappointment, frustration and often anger.” 

Proverbs 13:12 (ESV) says,

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

That is so true!!  What else is true is the point that,

“When you’re disappointed or frustrated, you may stop giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt.”

“When you are angry, small disagreements can escalate, and you can begin to believe the worst about your spouse. You may begin to think that they are doing (or not doing) things out of spite.”

Like not taking out the garbage, this is an easy shot since I miss that mid-week pick up all the time!

“Unmet expectations lead to negative emotions, and these negative emotions are the soil from which bitterness and anger grow.”

In the book, they talked about “How to Handle Expectations.”

  1. Identify Your Expectations.

“Most of the time, you don’t realize the source of your expectations. Your expectations about life and marriage or formed from a variety of sources like family, friends, church, books, movies and television.”

Ask yourself, “Where does this expectation come from?” And “Is this expectation reasonable?”

  1. Communicate Beforehand.

“Remember, expectations are clear in your mind, but need to be communicated so that they will be clear in your spouse’s mind.”

Your spouse is not a mind reader.

  1. Believe the best.

“If your expectations are met, don’t let it negatively affect how you view your spouse and marriage. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, and be gracious and kind.”

“Relate to them the way you hope they will relate to you the next time you don’t meet their expectations.”  Remember “The Golden Rule”

  1. Communicate with God.

“Because your spouse is human, they will disappoint you and let you down. God is the only one who does not disappoint. When your hopes are placed on Him, you will not be disappointed or let down.”

Which one of these do you struggle with?  My favorite quote from the lesson is the “The Great Irony”…

“Just as your spouse is a source of unmet expectations, remember that you are the source of unmet expectations for them. This levels the playing field and reminds you that you need to be gracious and forgiving.”

“The temptation is to focus on the fact that your spouse did not meet your expectations and blame them for your reaction.”

The book reiterates this over and over, the key is to draw the circle around you and work on changing everyone inside that circle.  You cannot change your spouse; Only God can…so we need to stop trying!!

“Regardless of the circumstances, you are responsible for the way you handle your negative emotions. Therefore, the proper response is not to focus on what your spouse did or did not do, but rather how you can best honor God in the midst of your unmet expectations.”

If you would like to read the next installment in the re|engage class, click here★ Re|Engage – Understand ★

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★ Re|Engage – Understand ★

ReEngage - Lesson 12

Continuing in the Principle of Adore and Respect, Lesson 12 delves into the topic of Understanding. The main idea is:

“God calls you to live with your spouse in “an understanding way.” This means you will need to become a student of your spouse so that you can best love and celebrate them. Your relationship with your spouse is also tied to your relationship with God.”

“Your relationship with your spouse is also tied to your relationship with God.”  This one statement is the lynch to this whole lesson.  If we get this, it will change how we will move forward.

“We need to be servants to one another by studying our spouse and not just be looking out for #1 which is our natural bent.  If you want a better marriage then we need to always be looking out for ways to love and respect our spouse.”  

42 - Daily Dependence - UndersatndingI once heard this definition which I think defines it perfectly…

“Understanding is a three-edged sword.  Your side, my side, and the truth.”  J. Michael Straczynski

The key to understanding people and especially your spouse in every situation is seeing all three sides…Understanding happens at the confluence of all three.  Persevere to understand the one God has blessed you with!!

I love how this lesson started out,

“God made you different, and your differences actually help you to be stronger as a couple then you are alone. By understanding some of these differences, you’ll be better able to serve and celebrate your spouse and help them become the person God has uniquely created them to be.”

Psalms 139:13-14 talks about being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that is the truth for sure but you know what else is the truth?  Your spouse is fearfully and wonderfully made too!  AND they were made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:27).  When we tear down our spouse, we are tearing down God’s masterpiece!  That is why we need to understand the person God has blessed us with and focus on that as a team, together you are better!

I love how the book posed this challenge to us…

“The challenge all couples face in marriage is to view these differences in a way that will actually bring you together and strengthen your marriage, rather than pushing your apart or driving a wedge between you.”

It is important to remember that we will experience spiritual warfare; Satan will exploit those differences to try at increase that “wedge between you.”

“Your differences are from God and are intended to create a stronger combined entity (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  You are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27-28), and you are to celebrate the unique ways God has created each of you.”

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) says,

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Live with your spouse in an understanding way.  What does that mean to you?

The book made 2 points about this verse that I want to share.  First that “weaker vessel” means “physically weaker, not of less value.”ReEngage - Lesson 12 - Glass Vs Thermos

They made a great comparison between a crystal glass and Thermos both having value but for different purposes…

“A crystal glass is weaker than a Thermos, but the Thermos does not possess more values than the glass.  In the same way, while a woman may be physically weaker, she is not in any way less valuable than her husband.”

In the last post, ★ Re|Engage – Expectations ★ I shared about my wife’s uncle who married us that he gave me some great advice when he performed the marriage counseling.  The parallel between the wine glass and Thermos reminds me of another piece of advice that he gave me to be a “bull in a china shop.”  Men need to understand their wives are delicate and precious just how a wine glass is.

The second point from 1 Peter 3:7 that the lesson made was that “a clear connection exists between the way you understand (or don’t understand) your spouse and your spiritual intimacy.

For men, Peter makes the distinction that if we fail to do so, our “prayers may be hindered.” 

“The implication is that you cannot separate your relationship with God from your relationship with your spouse.”

So like anything in life, the only way to understand anything is to study it right?  Here is a great question to ask your spouse periodically…How am I doing showing you love or respect?  And then listen and learn from what they say.

I like what they said in the lesson that understanding and studying your spouse…

“is a lifelong process…it requires time and attention.  It requires intentional effort such as regularly dating one another, purposefully pursuing one another and taking time to communicate with one another.”

Here is a great prayer to pray to God:

Show me one way to love and respect my spouse.  Let me see my spouse through your eyes.

I will close with this great advice from James McDonald who suggested these 4 things to improve your marriage:

“Nothing will transform your marriage like spending time on your marriage.”

  • 15 minutes a day(just talking to your spouse) – Guys don’t pull out a stop watch to time it!
  • 1evening per week (spend time together)
  • 1 day per month(really devoted to your marriage)
  • 1 weekend per year (To a conference or something to really improve your marriage)

“The opportunity we have to live with our spouses in an understanding way is one of the greatest challenges and privileges we experience in marriage.”

 

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Emotional Intimacy ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here… 

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★ Re|Engage – Emotional Intimacy ★

ReEngage - Lesson 13

Within the reading they posed this question..

 “The point in all this is to give you tools to have a conversation about intimacy. Ask yourself the question, ‘What could we do to take a next step towards a healthy sex life.’”

It is critical for the health of your marriage to make sure that the two of you are talking about this as this can cause issues within your marriage.  My wife and I too a marriage class by Kevin Leman and he had this funny statement that his favorite scripture in the Bible was 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (NLT),

“The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul is giving us some practical insight and simultaneously a warning, that Satan will use the interruption of sexual intimacy to put a wedge between you and your spouse.  God intended sex to be good, in Genesis 1:28a (NLT) He gave us the command to

“Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”

But like in all areas of our life, Satan always introduces a counterfeit to what God has established, and as a result tries to corrupt this beautiful gift God has given us but we will dig into that later.  This post will be talking about Emotional Intimacy first.

The reading focused on this Principle:  Grow in Intimacy.

The main idea of Lesson 13 was:

“Intimacy is to “fully know and be known, without the fear of rejection.” Being fully known and accepted by God allows you to be authentic with your spouse.”

Being “fully known” is a scary thing isn’t it?  Will my spouse like those areas in my life that are not so attractive?  Can I trust them with everything?  The “fear of rejection” is something that Satan keeps on the forefront of our minds.  This lesson started off with a very interesting comment that prior to taking this class I never really thought about…

“Adam and Eve experienced what many married couples desire: they were completely and totally vulnerable with each other and they didn’t feel any shame…They experienced love and intimacy and its purest form it was perfect.”

I would love to live in such complete openness as Genesis 2:25 (NLT)

“Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.”

But unfortunately just one chapter later, God’s plan was ruined (see chapter 3)…

“As a result of sin entering the world, Adam and Eve – and all other married couples after them – have to work to maintain intimacy in their marriage…You and your spouse will have to work at it, but you can experience the freedom, intimacy and love that come from being known by your spouse.”

I like how they made the differentiation between understanding your spouse and knowing them…

“Allowing your spouse to know you will probably be much more difficult than you getting to know them (Lesson 12).  Being known is difficult, because you may pretend to have it all together on the outside, but deep down, you know you’re not all your cracked up to be.  You know the thoughts you have, the selfish desires that rule your mind, and the flaws that often distract you and hurt others.”

It is hard to think of letting someone in so completely isn’t it?  But if we want emotional intimacy as God designed it, then we need to trust in the one we have committed out lives too!

“Here’s the truth: you have already been found out by God, and he accepts you. No matter what you’ve done in the past or you’re doing today, you are accepted by Him.”

Romans 5:8 says,

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

What an amazing truth!  I love this closing thought!

“You are loved by God, despite your flaws; don’t reject your spouse because of their flaws. You worship a God who doesn’t deal with you according to your sins, who doesn’t repay you according to your iniquities, whose steadfast love for you is as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:10-11), and you can be an expression of that for your spouse. You have an amazing opportunity to help your spouse grow in the relationship with Christ by doing all you can to make sure your marriage is full of love and acceptance!”

If you would like to read the next installment in the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Sexual Intimacy ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Sexual Intimacy ★

ReEngage - Lesson 14

As a result of the recent “25 Days of Thankfulness” series we took a break from the sharing about the Re|Engage class that we attended.  We will remedy this now and finish the remaining 3 classes within the next month.  If you would like to catch up on the previous posts.  Continuing with the Principle to Grow in Intimacy, Lesson 14 builds on delves into the topic of Sexual Intimacy.

The main idea is:

“Sex is God’s gift in marriage to experience a unique physical expression of oneness and intimacy.

The book started off with this clarification of what to expect…

“The goal of this lesson is to help move you toward a biblical understanding of sex.”

ReEngage - Lesson 14. - Sex is Powerful Part of MarriageAs we have talked in past posts, Satan is always looking for an opportunity to drive a wedge between us so we really need to have the uncomfortable conversations so that we can eliminate the foothold he can have in our marriages.

“In marriage, people generally make one or two mistakes in regards to sexual intimacy: either they make too little of it, or they make too much of it.  Rather than seeing it as a good gift from God to be enjoyed, they can minimize it or obsess about it.”

In the book they asked whether you minimize or maximize the importance of sex?  They made these two points in regards to these two different mistakes:

“Sometimes you can minimize sex in marriage because of guilt and shame from the past, your upbringing, pain during intercourse or past abuse.  Often someone with this can selfishly use sex as a bargaining chip to manipulate their spouse and exert control in the relationship.”

“If you overemphasize sex, you often become manipulative to get what you want and angry when you don’t get what you want. Sex is a very important aspect of marriage, but God did not intend for it to be the important.”

In the book they listed the Proper Views of Sex:

  • Sex is good.
    • “The act of sex itself is good.” In Genesis 1:28, God instructs men and woman to have sex…”Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…”
    • “In a fallen world, we forget that when God created sex, He created it to be a good thing. Some of us think of it as dirty because of things we’ve done or things that have happened to us.”
  • Your body is good.
    • “You must believe that the physical body you bring into sex is good. Genesis 1:37 and 30 teach that men and women were created in God’s image and God sees their body as good.”
    • “Our bodies are not something we’ve been cursed with or have to manage, but are a gift from God.”
  • Sex is a gift to be enjoyed. It is a gift.
    • “Sex was not given as for procreation alone. It was also given as a gift to be thoroughly enjoyed by both husband and wife (Song of Songs 5:1b).”
  • Sex is an opportunity to glorify God.
    • “1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” You might not have thought about it before, but “whatever you do” even includes the way a husband and wife have sex.”

Here is the great dichotomy:

“It’s difficult to not minimize or overemphasize the role of sex in marriage. To make matters even more complex, if you tend to minimize sex, you probably are married to someone who overemphasizes sex, and vice versa. Seeing sex as a good gift from God to be enjoyed and a chance to glorify God is the starting place for growth in intimacy that God designed married couples to experience.”

Lesson 14 discussed “What is Permissible” with Sex:

  • Cannot involve others (See Matthew 5:28)
  • Cannot be selfish (See 1 Corinthians 13:5 and Philippians 2:3-4)
  • Cannot violate your spouse’s conscience (See Romans 14:15)

“Remember the goal of sex is physical and emotional openness.  It is definitely fun to be creative and try new things in the bedroom, as long as you remember the goal of sex in marriage is oneness.”

ReEngage - Lesson 14 - All Marriage is Foreplay

Here is some additional information from Watermark Church that was:

A Special Note to Women: 

1.  Make sure you have a biblical view of sex. (Song of Songs 5:1)

  • Sex is not dirty but is a good gift to be enjoyed.
  • Sex is both a celebration of a great marriage and a means to oneness in your marriage.
  • The world focuses on sex but we can tend to downplay it. It is just as important as communication, emotional intimacy, having fun together, etc.

2.  Pursue a correct image of your body. (Psalm 139:14)

  • Believe and trust that God made us and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Meditate on Psalm 139:14 to change the way you view intimacy.

3.  Pursue your husband.

  • Initiate and be creative with your spouse to honor him. Not waiting until you’re exhausted late at night, but making an effort and initiating.
  • Know that his frustration sexually feels the same as your frustration about emotional and communication issues.

4.  You are his protection.

  • Men are visually stimulated and so there is a struggle with lust; our role is to help them and be available.
  • He is still responsible, but you are his protection as his only sexual outlet. Sex is not a bargaining chip.

5.  Ask your husband about his desires and preferences.

  • Be willing and open to try different things that don’t violate your conscience. Meditate on the verses that say sex is good.


A Special Note to Men:

1.  Become a great and godly husband. (Ephesians 5:25)

  • God wired her to respond to you. If she is not, there is a good shot it is you not loving, accepting, or serving her.
  • If you love her well, that’s the best way to pique her interest in sex.

2.  Pursue purity. (Job 31:1)

  • Do not look at porn or compare her to others. Your wife is your new standard of beauty; let her know you have eyes for her only.
  • Masturbation is the lazy way out and does not breed self-control. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 – avoid sexual immorality and control our bodies.)
  • Watch out for Facebook affairs (men and women). Don’t friend or accept friend request from previous romantic interests. Instead pour your emotional energy into your own marriage.

3.  Pursue her emotionally and physically. (1 Peter 3:7)

  • Share encouragement. Sex doesn’t just start in the kitchen or in the morning; it started yesterday and the week before.
    • Ie, “I saw the way you handled xyz earlier and thought you handled it so well.”
  • Non-sexual touch. Physical touch does not always need to lead to sex.

4.  Practice romance and creativity. (Songs of Songs 7)

  • Suggest you take the dishes, homework, bath time and bedtime while she goes to dinner, reads a book, goes to Starbucks.
  • Don’t focus just on the climax.

5.  Ask your wife about her desires and preferences. (James 1:19)

  • Serve her by asking about the state of your sex life and marriage.
  • Stop pushing her to take part or live out your ideas that come from porn (adultery we committed).
  • If you can’t have this conversation, get help.

I will close with this challenge to discuss with your spouse about the following experiences because they can have a big impact in your sex life.

  1. Confess any issues you are having with pornography or any other form of infidelity.
  2. Discuss with your spouse if you have ever been sexually abused in the past.

If you would like to read the next installment in the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Completion ★

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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★ Re|Engage – Completion ★

ReEngage - Lesson 15Well we are in the final stretch!  The last two lessons are on Completion and Diligence.  Throughout the series of posts we have been talking about the importance of applying everything we are learning.  My daughter has this quote on the lock screen of her iPad and I thought about what a profound statement it is…

“God’s Word is like a can of paint…it’s value is in its application.”  Steven Furtick

It reminds me of James 1:22-25:

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

If you don’t apply the knowledge that you hear than you will never grow and your marriage will become stagnant.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

The reading focused on this Principle:  Embrace Oneness.

The main idea of Lesson 15 was:

“Part of God’s design in marriage is to use your spouse to conform you into His image. You need to allow your spouse to partner with you in spiritual growth.”

Have you ever thought of marriage from that perspective?  That your spouse is there to help you become more like God?  I love how lesson 15 started off with this quote,

“Reformer Martin Luther once said that he learned more about what it means to be a follower of Christ in a marriage then he did in a monastery. In a monastery, one can isolate. But in marriage, there is no place to hide.”

Amen??  “There is no place to hide.”  Sooner or later the ugly sides of us are going to come out.  But as they said in the reading…

“Your spouse is to complete you in a way that no one else can and encourage your spiritual growth through their unique role in your life.”

“Previous lessons have pointed out that the goal of marriage is oneness, discussing both physical and emotional intimacy. Oneness is also to include spiritual intimacy, and one of the primary ways to promote spiritual oneness is to partner with your spouse in their spiritual growth.”

They asked this question in the reading, How do you help your spouse become more like Christ?  When I first read that question, it took me by surprise because I don’t know if I ever really thought about helping my spouse become more like Christ consciously. But I like what, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV) says…

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

“This passage is talking about how to help four different groups of people, but both you and your spouse often will need the same four things.”

Admonish the Idle.

“There are times when the most loving thing you can do is to help your spouse see their own sin.

Another way to say it is to help them see the blind spots that they have…Those areas that they are not realizing they have a problem…could be working too much, drinking too much or not making your marriage a priority.  This me seem like “Circle infringement,” but keep in mind the council that they offered in the book,

“Admonishing always needs to be done in love and humility.”

I know that we have really emphasized the need for you to “draw the circle around yourself and work on everyone inside,” but this is the point in your journey that you and your spouse start to have overlapping circles…And if you allow the overlap, then God can really use them to help mold you into the person that He intended you to be.

Encourage the Fainthearted.

There will be times when they are fully aware of their shortcomings and are trying to work on issues. Praise your spouse for their efforts, regardless of how small they may seem to you.  Praise them for successes!  Try to overlook the small offenses.

“Pointing out small ways they are changing and growing is motivating and is a great way to help your spouse become who God intended them to be.”

Help the Weak.

“Sometimes your spouse will need more than truth and encouragement; they will also need your tangible expression of support.”

Be Patient with Them All.

“Change in people generally occurs over time. If you are being honest with your spouse, encouraging and helping them along the way, then continue to do so as you pray and wait to let God bring about the change.”

Did you catch that last part?  “Then continue to do so as you pray and wait to let God bring about the change.”  We MUST pray for our spouse and be patient as God moves in their hearts.  Patience one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that can be really challenging sometimes but I think it is one that if we master it, we will reap the rewards in our marriages!

“Helping someone grow will always be difficult, but there is no greater joy than having a front-row seat to life-change.”

This is so true!!  It may be difficult but oh so rewarding!  One of my favorite quotes was,

“Authors Gary and Betsy Ricucci said, ‘One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”

I never thought of my spouse that way before this class, but that description is dead on!

“The 24/7 spotlight that marriage puts on your life will fully expose who you really are.  You can pretend at work and with your friends, but your quirks, sin patterns and selfishness will become fully exposed to your spouse overtime.”

We heard this quote in Lesson 8 but it is worth repeating… Author Gary Thomas asked this interesting question that I will pose to you…“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”What do you think of that?

“The challenge is to see marriage primarily as a way to become more like Christ by helping you to become a serving, forgiving and more patient person.”

You could look at it this way, Marriage is the vehicle to humbleness.

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Diligence ★

Or if you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here . . .

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★ Re|Engage – Diligence ★

ReEngage - Lesson 16

Here is the 16th and final lesson on Diligence.  The main idea was:

“This is a way to live, not a program that you go through. You don’t graduate from this. Success in marriage is not just avoiding divorce, but always moving toward oneness. You will have to fight for everything you have gained.”

Though this is the last post, you should not look at this as the end of journey but rather the beginning of one.  As we talked about in the last post ★ Re|Engage – Completion ★, it is important you and your spouse keep on going over these posts to keep it fresh.  If you want to attend re|engage, you can find a class in your area by going here http://marriagehelp.org/churches and entering in your zip code.  Don’t finish reading these 16 posts and never thing about how to improve your marriage again.  The lesson started off with this great advice…

“Be sure to celebrate what God has done in your marriage, but also start to take the next steps in pursuing oneness “more and more” with your spouse.”

Success is not linear…it is a series of peaks and valleys.

In the reading they had six ideas that could be next steps for you:

1.  Continue investing.ReEngage - Lesson 16 - Footprints

One class, one time, will not make your marriage great.  Love is not a noun but a verb.  You need to continually be pouring into each other.

“Be sure you are doing things to spend time together, have fun and keep investing in your marriage. Don’t fall back into patterns of neglecting your marriage.”

If you thought you were “done” working on your marriage, this is not the finish line; it’s the beginning of the rest of your journey together implementing what you learned in these posts.  Galatians 6:9 (NLT) encourages us…

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

And let 2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV) spur you on!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

2.  Work on you.

If you recall I read this quote the first night that we were together as a preview that I will repeat once again…

“Remember that you are the only person you can change in your marriage. Developing your personal relationship with Christ through prayer, study of Scripture and asking him to continue to change you is the best single thing you can do for your marriage.”

We all want better marriages, so to achieve that result, its paramount work on whatever struggles and issues that we’re going through personally. I love what James 4:7-8 (NLT) says,

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” 

Everything always comes back to humility, and when we draw close to God, we will become more like Him which ultimately will improve our marriage!

Remember the triangle imagery that I shared in the ★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★ that was from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that your marriage is a team of three – there You, Your Spouse and God.

ReEngage - Lesson 05 - Ecc 4-12

3.  Become Known.    

In the reading they said,

“Couples that isolate often struggle in the marriage. If you’re not a member of the church, join a place that will faithfully teach scripture and call you to live out your faith. And don’t just simply show up. Join a life group where you can be honest, known, challenged and encouraged in your faith.”

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says,

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

I once heard a sermon that James MacDonald put it this way…Satan has 3 strategies:

“Disguise, Divide and Destroy.  He comes to us as an angel of light.  He gets us isolated by ourselves, and then he takes us down.”

Isolating yourself from other people it’s a very dangerous thing!  And that is why being part of a church and life group is so important.

4.  Share your story.

“You can never force someone toward oneness with their spouse, but you can definitely nudge them.  Humbly sharing what you learned – as well as your failures – is a great help to others and often your marriage.”

10 - Daily Dependence - Qualify the CalledHere is one of my favorite quotes if you’re feeling like you don’t know the material well enough or insecure about sharing with other people…

“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED, He qualifies the CALLED!” 

All you really need to do is share your story, what has God done for you and your spouse.  Okay let’s look at the final 2 Next Steps…

5.  Address your home life.

“Money and parenting are two of the biggest argument-starters for couples. If financial issues or disagreements aren’t addressed, this area will act as a wedge between you and your spouse. Don’t ignore debt, differences about spending or lack of giving. In the same way, not being on the same page about your children is incredibly frustrating, but being unified in the way you raise, discipline and disciple your kids can be a big win for your marriage.”

6.  Serve Others.

“Serving is a great way to get the focus off of yourself, and serving with your spouse is a great way to promote oneness in your marriage.” 

“Your marriage and the way you love your spouse is about so much more than your happiness. The way you love your spouse should be a way that people will know you are a Christian and a way that helps them understand God’s love better.”

Jesus gave to his disciples, in John 13:34–35…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I like what they said in the book…

“We live in a culture where many come into marriage to get something and leave as soon as they don’t get it.  Christians have an opportunity to be known for the profoundly different way they love each other.  Imagine what could happen if you begin began to love your spouse the way Christ loves you.  Imagine what could happen if everyone in your church and churches around the world did the same!”

Don’t stop trying to improve yourself and your marriage, the pursuit is worth it!

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

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