Taking the next step – a personal reflection

We’ve spent time talking about pursuing an Ephesians 5 marriage. We’ve talked about steps to loving our wives better. We’ve talked about communication, conflict resolution, forgiveness and patience. We have over 700 hundred posts on this blog to help improve and guide our approach as husbands.

And yet – why is it so difficult to implement these things? Isn’t it to our benefit? It all makes sense especially in the male mind…doing this equals this. Simple right?

It’s not. I’ve noticed that I have difficulty in the area of conflict resolution. I get defensive and allow my feelings control my reaction. I’ve gotten better at recognizing that I’ve reacted negatively and taking ownership….a huge improvement in how I’ve handled myself in the past. That said I still have much room for improvement. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could prevent a negative reaction from the start?

Check out Proverbs 11:27 – He who seeks good finds good will, but evil comes to him who searches for it.

It would be wonderful to seek out the intention of what is happening rather than jumping to conclusions based on what I perceive is happening.

Now look at 1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

What would happen if we sought out good intentions even if the situation is difficult? What if “agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you” and being “united in mind and thought” meant that we wanted God’s best in the middle of a situation? What if we were both open to understanding that we are not perfect ourselves, and therefore might be wrong about what is occurring. What if we were open to hearing rather than just listening to what is being said. Open to finding a solution that centers our marriage on Christ. Being “open” to other people means that we can disagree without creating division. It can allow us to create the oneness and intimacy that God desires for our marriage.

We’ve talked about submission. Success at the next level requires submitting ourselves to God’s best first, and in doing so, submitting to peace, not battle, with our wives.

Give that some thought in your own marriage.

Be Strong. Act Like Men

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Does He want me to suffer?

Most marriages deal with: miscommunication, financial disagreements, selfish attitudes—the things often excused as “irreconcilable differences.”

Are these things an excuse for divorce? After all – don’t you deserve to be happy? God doesn’t want you to be suffering in a bad marriage. If God is good, could He possibly want you to be unhappy? Doesn’t He know that staying in your marriage would cause you a lot of pain?

I imagine that these types of questions will always continue to plague marriages.

“No one enjoys pain. Quite the opposite—we long for contentment. The “pursuit of happiness” is so valued in America it’s an unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence.

It’s not wrong to desire pleasure. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches that God delights in doing good things for His children. Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

The problem is that God also calls us to righteousness, and often that requires giving up our personal happiness for the greater good. This is referred to as sacrifice, and it’s never easy, fun, or “happy.”
The apostle Paul reminds us that part of the Christian life is suffering for the sake of the cross. “… We are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17, emphasis mine).
As Christians we are even called to rejoice and be glad in our trials because troubles are valuable to our character and spiritual growth. Romans 5:3-5a says, “… We also exult [rejoice] in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint.”

You may be wondering how anything positive could possibly come from your hurting marriage. The apostle Paul wrote, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine). Christian marriage is not exempt from this principle. Just as we are called to sacrifice in our spiritual walk, we are also called to endure suffering in marriage for the sake of righteousness.

Even though we seldom can see how God is using present trials for our future benefit, He has promised to use them for good, and He is faithful to keep His word. Here are just four of the ways He can bring about His purposes:

First, God is conforming you to His image. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Voluntary self-sacrifice is a necessary part of the Christian life. It is often praised on mission fields or behind pulpits, but in marriage, it’s far less glamorous. Nevertheless, self-sacrifice in marriage is just as Christ-like in God’s eyes.
Staying married isn’t always easy. It often requires that you give up the right to win, stifle your pride, and defer to the needs of your spouse. But the more you practice these principles, the more you become like Christ.

Ephesians 5 explains this phenomenon by referring to the relationship between Christ and the Church. “As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her …” (verses 24-25). Christ loved the church so much He died for her. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. In the same way, as these verses explain, when you give up your life for your spouse, you are conforming to the image of Christ who gave up His life for you.

Second, God is using these sufferings to bring you to deeper faith and repentance. Difficult times always bring us to our knees. They remind us that we are not in control, and only God is. During this experience you should be asking yourself, “How much of my suffering in this situation is caused by my own sin?”
In addition, prayer and reading Scripture will deepen your relationship with Him as you learn to trust in His sovereign control. These hard times can even give you a greater compassion for others going through tribulations.

Third, God is using these sufferings to teach your children how to resolve conflict. God has given you the responsibility to exemplify a godly marriage to your children. Psalm 78:5-8 declares:
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments … .

God set up the family so that His principles could be passed down through generations. Your struggles give you the ability to demonstrate how to keep a promise through better or worse, how to give and receive forgiveness, and what sacrifice looks like.

Fourth and most important, God desires for you and your spouse to be reconciled. Our God is a God of reconciliation—He shows this over and over again throughout Scripture as He extends grace, mercy, and forgiveness to His people. When we reconcile a broken marriage, it is a picture of His relationship with us, His bride.”

How’s Your Attitude?

Jimmy Evans with Marriage Today wrote this article about our attitudes in marriage. We talked over the last week about love being thoughtful and believing the best. It is easier to have a negative attitude. Let’s admit it – it is easier to be rude and irritable rather than place ourselves to the side and focus on our spouse.

1) Attitudes are a choice
2) God rewards good attitudes
3) Good attitudes predict success, and bad attitudes predict failure

Be Strong. Have a good attitude.

“Few things determine success or failure in life like our personal attitude—our perspective, our way of thinking, and how it’s represented in our behavior. Attitudes are not isolated. They run in groups. Families have attitudes. Sports teams have attitudes. Even churches can have particular attitudes.
In Romans 12, the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

He says not to be conformed to the way the world thinks. A believer should not react to the world or behave in the world just like everyone else.

So do you have a godly attitude or a worldly attitude?

Author and speaker John Maxwell describes attitude as “the advance man of our true selves.” Your attitude goes before you. Its roots are inward but its fruits are outward. Our attitude can be more honest and consistent than our words.

Our attitude is what draws people toward us…and what repels them.

I like to describe attitude as the librarian of our past. When we go into our past and retrieve past events, our attitude will either categorize an event as good and make us grateful, or cause us to think about the bad, making us bitter.

When you think about the past, do you tend to dwell on positive or negative things? That could tell you a great deal about your overall attitude. Here are a few truths you should know about our attitudes:

First, attitudes are a choice. You can decide to have a good attitude or a negative attitude. They are not caused by circumstances, but by perspective.

A great example of this is the successful motivational speaker, author, and psychologist Viktor Frankl. His family and wife were killed by Nazis in World War II concentration camps.
Frankl was put into forced labor, but he deliberately chose to suffer with dignity. He chose not to hate. Though the Nazi regime defeated him physically, he was never defeated spiritually. He chose to go through life with a good attitude. People who are happy are happy because they have chosen that outlook in life.

Second, God rewards good attitudes and disciplines bad attitudes. Successful parents do the same thing. With children, you don’t wait until a negative mindset turns into negative behavior. You discipline the attitude.

Consider James 4:6—”God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Pride and humility are both attitudes. We chose them, and they begin to dictate our actions. That’s why God opposes our bad attitudes. He loves us too much not to fight us when we’re going the wrong direction.
Third, good attitudes predict success, and bad attitudes predict failure. In the Psalms, when David was struggling, he chose to focus on God. He worshiped and trusted God despite his doubts or frustrations. That tenacity is what leads a person to success. It predicts whether he or she escapes the bad times or not.

Take a look at your own attitude. Is it positive or negative? Is it godly or worldly? If you find yourself going through life with a bad attitude, then I have good news: You can change. Make that decision today. The choice is up to you.”

Say Sorry

Have you ever heard the expression, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry?”

Sometimes I wonder how such utterly ridiculous expressions become commonly accepted. If you’re close to someone, you’re going to step on their toes occasionally. And when you hurt someone, especially your wife, it’s important to say, “I’m sorry.”

Not only is it important to say “I’m sorry,” but it’s important to say it well. Usually the words alone are not enough. You have to get inside your wife’s heart, feel their pain, and in order for them to forgive you, they have to feel completely understood. Otherwise, you might say, “I’m sorry,” and she might say, “It’s okay,” but nothing will change. You could be stuck in that hurt for years.

Guys…be a man and take ownership when you mess up. Say you are sorry and mean it. Pray with your wife.

Be Strong. Act Like Men.

Happy Anniversary!

Six years ago today – I married my best friend.

Marriage is a challenge. We have shared many wonderful times and have persevered through challenges. I am grateful that God created her to be my wife and my best friend.

I love you. Always. Forever. And No Matter What.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 31:10

Kicked in the Teeth

I’ve listen to so many testimonies about men that have fallen short; and then sought a relationship with Christ. Why do we wait to pursue a relationship with God until after life as kicked us in the teeth?

I am guilty. It wasn’t until after I lost nearly everything that I reached out. A high school friend waited until he spent time in jail. Another waited until an illness struck his family. Another waited until he was crushed by debt and unemployment.

Is it pride? Is it stubbornness? Is it ignorance?

We need to pursue God in all things….praising Him for everything. We have a responsibility to lead our marriage and families. We have a responsibility to lead our churches and communities. We have a responsibility to lead other men in a relationship with the Lord.

LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” Psalms 30:2

Be Strong. Act Like Men.

A Measure of Success

How do you describe success?  Sadly in the world today it’s very hard to do so without looking at your bank account, job title, size of your home or your fancy car.  Being a man in the world today, it is even more difficult not to get caught up in “being successful.”

I was speaking with a woman the other day who was elated that her son recently received a promotion.  As we continued our discussion, she mentioned that she could “now tell all my friends how successful he is, and I don’t have to be ashamed.”  First of all, how sad that she would be ashamed of her son if he didn’t measure up to the rest of the pack.  Receiving a promotion for working hard and taking pride in your work is great, and I’m not going to say there is anything wrong with that.  As I continued to think about her son, however, I began to imagine what his life might look like.  Is he spending 60+ hours a week at the office?  Is his travel schedule taking him to cities most of us only dream of visiting while his family is home without their leader?  Is he missing “just one more game” or the school play?  When is our drive to be successful enough?

Or should we measure success a different way?  Are you the father that won’t miss any of his son’s football games?  The dad who is always available for his daughter’s tea parties?  The man who is serving in his church?  Or the husband that sits down on the couch and asks his wife how her day was while rubbing her feet?  Would this be the description of someone “successful?”

I hope and pray that the son the of that woman measured up to this success.  I hope and pray for myself that I can as well.

Be Strong. Act Like Men.