Thursday, June 30, 2011

31 WAYS TO MESS UP YOUR MARRIAGE - #3 - LACK OF HONOR & RESPECT

A member of our congregation asked us a few years back if this was a second marriage for us. Rather surprised, I answered “No! We’ve been married for many years. Why did you assume this was a second marriage?” Her reply was revealing. “You all treat each other with such respect and love that I thought this must be a second marriage.”

Men particularly have a need for respect, and we will deal with that in a later session, but what we are discussing this week is the general concept of honor in a marriage.

Gary Smalley spends a whole session in his Keys to Happiness in Marriage series on honor and respect. He holds up a beat-up violin and makes the point that no one would be very impressed with that shabby instrument—unless he mentioned the name Stradivarius. Then gasps of awe and honor spread throughout the auditorium. He challenges husbands and wives to have that same sense of honor for each other. Our spouse is a gift that God has given us, and we should treat him/her with honor.

Here are 5 ways that we dishonor our spouses:

(1) Frequent and/or public criticism. Nothing is more embarrassing than for a spouse to criticize his/her mate in public. And nothing is more honoring than for a spouse to build up, praise and encourage a spouse in public.

(2) By putting your needs before your spouse's. (Selfishness again.)

(3) By not acknowledging the hurts and pain of one's spouse. In years past when my feelings got hurt, my husband used to tell me, “Blow it off.” Finally he realized that my temperament is not the sort that can “blow it off.” I need to talk about it, and then I can let it go, but I have to talk about it first. I don’t need advice at that point. Women particularly need a listening ear acknowledging the hurt.

(4) Outbursts of anger. Speak softly when disagreements arise. Anger toward one's spouse is demeaning and counter-productive.

(5) Putting others before your spouse. Your spouse is your priority. 
As we pray with couples who are having marital problems, I have witnessed the effect which a lack of honor and respect have on both husbands and wives. Their countenance is gloomy. They have a “hang-dog” look. Laughter seldom bubbles forth from their souls. The opposite is true of those couples who give honor and respect to one another. They laugh often. Their eyes shimmer with optimism. The husband exhibits a confidence of leadership. The wife’s spirit opens like a full-blooming rose.
Four ways to instill honor in your marriage:
(1) Build each other up and encourage one another. We all need “atta-boys.”
(2) Help your spouse find his/her destiny and giftings.
(3) Cover and protect one another. Don't expose one another's shortcomings.
(4) Acknowledge your differences and accept them. Do even more than accept them - celebrate them!
“Show respect for all men – treat them honorably.” (I Peter 2:7 (Amp).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

31 WAYS TO MESS UP YOUR MARRIAGE - #2 - BITTERNESS & UNFORGIVENESS

At nearly every conference or retreat where I speak, the issue of bitterness and unforgiveness rears its ugly head. Many of us go through our marriages following what I call the “pouch philosophy” of life. We carry an invisible pouch around with us and as our mate’s insensitive words and destructive behavior inflict wounds upon us, we tuck the hurt away in our pouches to await an opportune moment to pull them out and hurl them back. The problem with that kind of philosophy is that as we collect those insidious injuries, they are not lying dormant in the pouch. They are alive, growing, festering into bitterness and eating away at us like an undetected cancer. And like an undetected cancer, if not dealt with and removed, it will kill us.

If we want to walk in the fullness of Jesus’ mercy and grace, we don’t have an option. Jesus said if we want the Father’s forgiveness we must forgive one another (Matt. 6:14-15). But it is not always simple. Let’s look at what forgiveness means and what it does not mean.


1. Forgiveness is a choice. It is not an emotion. Forgiveness involves choosing to release the offense and the offender to God. The Greek word for forgiveness in the New Testament is aphiaymi, which means to abandon, let go, send away. When I learned that truth, I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt I could do that. It meant I did not have to feel like forgiving. What I had to do was release it to the Lord.

2. Forgiveness means canceling the liability. The offender owes you nothing. The debt has been paid. Oswald Chambers says, Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace…it cost God the cross of Jesus Christ before he could forgive sin. When once you realize all that it cost God to forgive you, you will be held as in a vice, constrained by the love of God.

Jesus paid the debt. How can we hold a brother’s or sister’s feet to the fire of unforgiveness when Jesus so freely forgave us?

3. Forgiveness means giving up any reproach. No critical conversation, public or private about the person or the issue. It’s over, finished, done with. When our daughters were growing up and were told “No” about an issue, they knew they were not allowed to beg. We would tell them, “The discussion is over.” They knew better than to pursue it. That is how it is with forgiveness. The discussion is over.

4. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. God doesn’t expect us to develop spiritual amnesia. But it does mean letting the offense go—not holding it against the offender. When the Scripture says God remembers our sins no more, it means he holds them against us no more. We do not forget. We simply choose to remember it against the offender no more.

The only way to break free from the hurts and wounds and offenses of life is to release them, not in the heat of anger, but in the soothing balm of forgiveness. The institution of marriage probably gives us the greatest opportunity to fine-tune the skills needed to function in the arena of forgiveness. Gary Thomas says he believes that “one of marriage’s primary purposes is to teach us how to forgive.”

I have witnessed an 80-year-old woman give up a bitter offense of 40 years and get free. I've seen an abused woman forgive her husband and walk out free. I've also seen a bitter divorcee tell me that she didn't care who told her she had to forgive, she would never forgive. She left the retreat bound up and bitter.

Simply let it go. It's not an issue of being right or wrong -- it's an issue of being obedient to Jesus and trusting Him for the results. The emotions won't go away immediately, but as we walk in obedience to the Word, the hurt and bitterness will eventually leave and your marriage can flourish in freedom.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

31 WAYS TO MESS UP YOUR MARRIAGE - #1 SELFISHNESS

WELCOME to our discussion on 31 Ways To Mess Up Your Marriage. I hope you will leave a comment or question. We'll be here very Friday for several weeks. Now to Reason #1 - SELFISHNESS.

The afterglow from a marriage conference lingered as my husband and I drove away from the conference center. Marriages had been healed, renewed and restored. Although we were emotionally drained from leading the conference, we chatted energetically about the weekend.

“What, in your opinion, is the number one problem in marriage?” I asked my husband.

He responded quickly, “Without a doubt—selfishness.”

I have thought about his answer many times since that day. Selfishness seems to be the hub, the epicenter, the bull’s-eye, of all the other problems we encounter in marriage. We want what we want, when we want it. And we will do whatever we have to do to make it happen.

In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas says, “One of the great spiritual challenges for any Christian is to become less self-absorbed. We are born intensely self-focused. The discipline of Christian marriage calls us into the Christian reality of sharing and enjoying fellowship in a uniquely intimate way. Maintaining an interest in and empathy for someone else is by no means an easy discipline to maintain, but it is a vital one. It is a skill that must be learned.”

For instance, consider some of the common battlegrounds in marriage: finances, sex, power struggles, in-laws. Nine times out of ten, the ugly monster of self will rear its formidable head.

A young, exceptionally attractive mother sat in our office with tears brimming near the surface of her eyes. She tossed her long black hair away from her face and toyed with the large expensive silver earrings. Her tan, slender, athletic body gave her the appearance of a much younger woman than she actually was. She could have passed for a teenager.

“I don’t love Mike anymore. I want to have a nice home and pretty things. I want our children to be in good schools and have expensive clothes and cars. All Mike cares about is working at the shop. He will never make enough there to give us what we want. I just can’t stay any longer. The feelings are gone.”

“That really is not the issue here.”

“Wh-what do you mean?”

I looked into her dark eyes. “Jennifer, do you know Jesus?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “I was raised in a Christian home with wonderful Christian parents, and I was saved as a child.”

“Do you want God’s best for your life, and that of your family?”

I shall never forget the look she gave me as she struggled with that question. I continued, “If you do, there is reason to expect God to work supernaturally in your relationship with your husband. I can tell you from experience that if you are willing to sacrifice and commit to working through some hard issues, God will do a work in your marriage. God can restore your love for your husband—more love than you had before. I know because, that’s how he worked in our marriage. Your marriage can be more exciting and stronger than ever, but it will take commitment, and it will take some time.”

“How much time?”

“I don’t know. I can’t say. It may take years, but God is faithful.” And I repeated the question, “Do you truly want God’s best?”

A long pause followed. “I-I’m not sure I would like God’s best. No, I guess I can’t say that I truly want God’s best.”

I wanted to say, “Well, there’s the door. Go ahead and try it your way, but you are headed down a dead-end street.” Instead, I simply shook my head.

“Jennifer, you profess to know Jesus as your Savior and God as your Father. You claim to be one of his children. You have a free will, and he will allow you to live whatever lifestyle you choose. He will allow you to take your inheritance and leave home, as he did the prodigal son in Scripture. But you need to know that for a daughter of the heavenly Father to choose to live outside of his will—his best—is foolish in the least and possibly even risky and dangerous. Your heavenly Father loves you too much to allow you to sin successfully. He is full of mercy and compassion and will welcome you with open arms when and if you decide to return home.”

She listened intently. We prayed together and she left. My husband and I visited with them as a couple a few more times with little progress. Eventually, Jennifer took their children, left Mike and moved away. He was devastated. We have not seen Jennifer in several years. I understand she is living with a well-to-do man and has her children in a private school. Selfishness destroyed this marriage.

We heard a Bible teacher describe selfishness this way: “Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the lid. And poison the rest.” We want all the goodies the world has to offer, and we go after them to satisfy our selfish desires, trying at the same time to maintain a Christian lifestyle. The two diametrically opposed value systems—self vs others—will eventually collide, and lives and marriages will be shattered in the process. We feel we know what is best for our own lives, regardless of what God says is best.

WHAT GOD SAYS: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Ph. 2:3-4)

Monday, June 13, 2011

31 WAYS TO MESS UP YOUR MARRIAGE (AND HOW TO AVOID THEM)

Join us here every Friday for a discussion on marriage issues with Golden who has led marriage conferences for over 30 years along with her husband, Blaine. Feel free to join in the discussion and leave comments. Hope to see you then!