Fighting Change: 4 Thoughts on Change in Your Marriage

It seems to me that people don’t like change. Even those that proclaim how much they enjoy change, usually are speaking to specific changes they prefer and not necessarily all change.

But isn’t “change” part of how we fell in love? We met someone who was of a different sex, from a different family, with a different personality than ourselves. Yet, we were willing to lay aside own selfish desires in order to draw closer and get to know each other. We humbly changed our schedules and preferences for the sake of winning a heart. Change is the inevitable result of intentional humility. And like any organism, where there is healthy growth, there is a willingness to change.

As a pastor who oversees a congregation and who works with marriages, I’ve noticed how health of an entity is stifled by the refusal to change. I’m not talking about change for the sake of change. That’s a terrible reason to invite turmoil and/or challenge.  Having a higher rate of change doesn’t equate to being healthier. I speak to the ability to recognize what season your marriage is in, make an adjustment together, grow strong in that adjustment, and be willing to evaluate the health of that change.

Are we preoccupied with staying the same while forcing change? 
To many couples are preoccupied with seeing each other change instead of humbly looking in the mirror for themselves.  I always find it peculiar of many who will count the cost of change needed for marital health only if it doesn’t come at a personal cost. It’s like being willing to buy something as long as you’re using somebody’s money but not your own. I’m worried that marriages are missing out on miracles and blessings because we are so preoccupied protecting what we have instead of envision what we need, laying down our pride, and working together to step into the greater blessing awaiting our marriage.

Couples who compete, lose. 
I’m not speaking of playing board games, cards, or the like as Anne and I love “game nights.” I am speaking of the score keeping, tit-for-tat mentality we can immaturely bring into marriage. You may say, “I’ve had to change more than he/she has.” That may be true AND that may have been necessary. You may have come from a very dysfunctional background and, thus, may have necessitated more “levels” of personal change and/or healing. You’ve got to get off the comparison and completion of “whose turn it is” or “who’s had to adapt more” and look at what the marital health needs. Which leads me to…

Build the togetherness. 
I’ve heard things like “I’m waiting on him/her to change,” or “I’ve changed enough. It’s his/her turn.” But this signifies a greater issue. I don’t believe in “personal issues” in marriage; they are all WE issues. What is affecting Anne affects me. As the scriptures say, “the two become one.” And, I feel, one of the things that break apart the oneness of your marriage is by facilitating making your spouse work on something alone. For example, there may be some change that your spouse has to work on personally that affects the marriage. He/she shouldn’t feel alone in it. Your emotional, spiritual, and possibly physical support may be necessary. Couples that work together, win. Period.

Move from comfort to courage. 
In studying for last week’s message at Kfirst, I came across this quote:

There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.

Far too often marriages grow weak under the weight of serving what makes them “feel” temporarily comfortable. Not only does it weaken your marriage, you can become a slave to it by chasing comfort instead of courageously pursing marital health. God hasn’t called you to be comfortable, He’s called you to be courageous. And being courageous means you are willing to ask the hard questions to both God and your spouse, mixed with the willingness to obey where He leads you both.

I love you all. And I want to challenge you to fight the urge to ride the fleeting and addicting feeling of comfort and to engage in the joyful journey of courageous marital health. The beauty about that type of pursuit in your marriage is that the two of you don’t have to do alone. You’ve got the presence of God walking with you through it.

Praying for you as the two of you sit down, pray, and step forward with the courage to embrace the momentary change for the long-term blessings for your marriage.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

 

What does the future of your marriage look like? 3 Questions to Ask

I’m not married to the same woman I married back in 1998.

Let me clarify. I’m married to the same human, but she’s not the same person. Really, neither one of us are. Marriage wasn’t meant to be a change of a title (single to married) or a feat to accomplish. Marriage is raw material begging to be developed into something. Like a piece of clay that just landed upon the potter’s wheel, marriage screams for hands-on, intentional growth. And your wedding day is just the first in many rotations of that potter’s wheel that helps shape us.

Often, when I encounter couples with frustrations, usually it’s in an area where one (or both) are refusing to be shaped or to grow. Growth in a healthy marriage is not optional. It’s mandatory. Without it, we fall prey to marital insanity. As the old adage says, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And I think it’s insane to think one or the both of you think you can keep going without growing and think the marriage can stay healthy.

I listen to podcasts all week. Most of the time, I listen to what other men and women are speaking into their congregations as it both challenges me and helps shape the craft that I love to do (preaching). Last week, it was a message of Levi Lusko (Fresh Life Church) who made a statement that sent my marriage blogging mind in a number of directions (not to mention my pastoral mind). He said,

“The future you is exaggerated version of the current you.”

How many of us are currently dealing with issues personally or maritally that are not new but have been developing from the past “you.”

  • Something happened, not because you’ve stopped communicating today, but the pattern of poor communication.
  • Resentment has grown over time, not because of an incident, but because you’ve not learned to navigate through bitterness.
  • You’re seen as selfish, not because of a one-time moment, but because you are only nice when you want something.

If I really want to grasp this, Dave and Anne today are the exaggerated version of 2017 Dave and Anne, or deeper the exaggerate version of 2013 Dave and Anne (just reviewing the past 5 years). So there’s less to blame in terms of the recent season and more the evaluation of what we allow and what we live.

When it comes to your marriage, if you want to understand the product of a marriage, check out the patterns they live by. Far too often, I have conversations with people who are seeing the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” not understanding that the issue didn’t just happen yesterday. On the most part, it’s a case of “cause and effect.” You are living the dividends of what you’ve been investing (or the lack thereof). I’ll say it this way: The “future” you will either thank you or wan to cuss at you by the decisions you engage in today.

Let me give you three questions for your marriage to ask:

What growth needs to happen?
What vision do you have for your marriage? How do you want to grow? What things would you like to see happen?  The both of you should have some input into where you both can grow together. It’s not about pointing the finger but being real with where you are now and where you want to be. For that future marriage you see, you need to understand that the current version of you needs to embrace growth and change. Which leads me to…

What do I (we) need to confess? 
What you did in one season of marriage may not be the most productive way of doing it in the next season. And confessing the area(s) that you need help in shows humility, brings accountability, and grows trust with your spouse. Pointing fingers raises up defenses; owning your shortcomings develops intimacy. I love what scripture says in the book of James. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Hiding and ignoring grows infection; confession and vulnerability to one another restores and strengthens.

What needs to happen now?
There’s no better time than the present to begin a step of change to create the direction of change you’re wanting to see. If you want to see more happen through your marriage later, you need to allow more to happen to your marriage right now. It’s not going to transform over night, but healthy marriage are not made in a 1 or 2 of moments a year but through consistent and intentional actions over time.

The beauty of marriage is the life-long journey it is meant to be. The frustrating side is the pressure of our culture on the rate of change. So often, we measure the ability to change on the rate for which we can see the change (perhaps, that needs to be next Monday’s blog).

Love you all. Praying for you as the two of you sit down to envision the future and make the changes to see that dream come to fruition.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Seven-Day Church”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, we continued our current series “I Am Church” at Kfirst. In this new series of talks, we are emphasizing the mindset that we don’t go to church; we are the church. And this series, we’ll be diving into the book of Acts and looking at some of the fundamental elements of the early church.

Week 2 was a special morning as we turned our attention to Acts 2 and the most used Greek word to describe the Church:

Ecclesia – “Called out ones”

And that is the Church the world needs to see. A people “called out” of

  • Hopelessness into hope
  • Fear into faith.
  • “Me first” into “others first.”
  • Partisanship into partnership.
  • Dreariness into possibility.

In Acts 2, we see what formed the Church was not to be what mimicked the world around them but what Christ looked like in whatever they were engaged in, in whatever they’re involved in, with whoever they came in contact with. And they found that bringing the Church to their world was what Christ was talking about when He spoke in Matthew 5:14,

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

As the “Ecclesia” the “called out ones,” is there something that the Lord is “calling you out of” in order that more of Christ can be seen in you?

A two-fold challenge this week for you:

  • 1-Personal change. Spend time in prayer. Is there an area you feel the Lord is “calling you out of” in your life?
  • 2-Community encounter. Make this your morning prayer before you head into your day, “Lord, let me become more aware of your presence, aware of people’s needs, and the obedience to meet both of them there.”

This month, we’re asking Kfirst to dive into the book of Acts and use S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer). If you need a reading plan, click HERE for one on youversion

Read it daily. In fact, find someone to meet with once a week to talk and pray about it. And when you pray, would you make your prayer,

Jesus, do this IN me, start with me.”

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

BTW: This is the song we introduced yesterday.

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Hot Seat” #FromThisDaySeries

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

Today we continued our annual marriage series with our Kfirst community.

Click here for yesterday’s notes.

Listen to Kfirst Messages. (uploaded by the Monday following the service)

Watch on Kfirst’s Facebook. (uploaded on Monday)

Yesterday we wrapped up our annual marriage series with a service called, “The Hot Seat.” We bring up a panel of some of our Kfirst marriages to share their experiences in marriage from the live questions given from the congregation. Leading into this time, we read from Psalm 119:1-8 to challenge everyone about the Gospel by saying,

The gospel isn’t just information we share; it’s a promise we receive & live in.

The question we asked in the beginning was, “What personal change, if you made it today, would make a difference in your life and/or marriage?”  It’s not an easy question. So often we want to see things change around us but not necessarily in us. And it’s for this reason we challenged everyone to look at change in your marriage from a different light:

  • There’s no such thing as a ME issues; only WE issues
    • This prevents your spouse from feeling like they’re working alone in the marriage. If my spouse has something to work on, then we have something to work on (and vice versa).
  • There are ME changes that create WE changes; The ME must change for the WE to be blessed.
    • When you focus on some else’s faults, you have no time fixing yours. Craig Groeschel says “Don’t focus on what your spouse isn’t. Continue to grow into who you are supposed to be.”

So from Psalm 119:1-8 we challenged everyone to build a climate of change by

  1. Receiving the gospel.
    • Let God’s words be the words of your story. Be open, real, and vulnerable enough to admit you’ve fallen short and see the hope that Christ offers.
  2. Live in the gospel.
    • Be bold with truth; stand upon His promises. Be relentless with sin and courageous with obedience.

Is change comfortable? Nope. But a climate of change produces humility in our hearts and teachability in our minds. It helps us become better spouses by being more like Christ. How? Receiving what he has to say and living in response to it.

As we’ve done for the past few weeks, let me give you a few questions to ask your spouse this week:

  1. Are we more passionate about being right than we are about being healthy?
  2. Are we more passionate about getting what we want than getting what we need?
  3. Are we more passionate about seeing change in our spouse than experiencing change in our lives?

This week, humbly go over the questions. But I’d challenge you to not forget the first one from the beginning of the message: “What personal change, if you made it today, would make a difference in your life and/or marriage?”

Love you all.

See you this Sunday!!.

BTW: Here’s a song for your week

Navigating the Seasons of the Soul – Spring: The Season of New Beginnings

On Sunday, we continued our series “Catching Foxes” with our Kfirst community. Our focus has been on what the Word of God says about our emotions. This past Sunday, we looked at the seasons that our emotions can go through.  And we’re taking days this week to specifically focus on each one of the seasons. (Click here for Sunday’s notes.)

Check out previous “season” posts:

SPRING: THE SEASON OF NEW BEGINNINGS

Spring is exhilarating. After a long winter, there’s nothing like the joy of spring. And it’s the same with the seasons of the soul.

Where “Winter” is a season of loss; Spring is a time of new beginnings. It’s the sensation of getting a second chance, the start of something new.  It may be:

  • A new relationship
  • A new position
  • A new development in your marriage
  • A new opportunity.

And these “new” moments cause tremendous movements to our emotions. It’s for this reason, the two primary emotions of “Spring” is excitement and shock.

Spring is that place where you say things like “I think this is the right move” then, all of a sudden, “What was I thinking?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to “Spring.” And for this fickle and wonderful season, I’ve discovered two challenges:

  1. Embracing the “new.”
    • The sense of “unfamiliar” has detoured so many people of the new things God is beginning. It’s so easy to look back (and even want to go back) to a previous place or season because it’s “what I know.” The children of Egypt, in a season of spring, faced a Promised Land. But, that “unfamiliar” feeling made them look at a land of plenty but long for a place of suffering. It was what they knew best but it wasn’t God’s best. It was miserable, but it was comfortable/known.
  2. Develop forward progress.
    • Most of us in the newness of the season of spring, face moments of “Two steps forward, three steps back.” April in Michigan is that way. We’ll have a week of 60-70 degrees. The sun will shine, yard work gets done, bikes come out, and people are happy. Then all of a sudden, the temperature plummets and snowflakes begin to fall. There’s that mass social media panic to wonder if the new season will ever unfold. Whatever you see God developing, be adamant about pushing forward. You’ll face challenge and you might even experience some temporary failure heading into “new territory.” But fight the urge to give up on what God has brought you to.

My challenge for “Spring”: Boldly step into the new.

God is in the business of renewing you and me.  1 Corinthians 5:17 says,

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

He is the God of new beginnings. And I find that each place God brings me to is not my last “new beginning.” He has plans (plural) and purposes (Jeremiah 29:11). His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Are there some new beginnings in your lives these days? If so, don’t allow Satan to quench your enthusiasm. He wants to send you back to winter. He desires you to live in the season of sadness. ; The Devil wants you to be stuck in a place unwilling or unable to move forward.   Let the Holy Spirit drown out the deceiving voices and empower you to hold onto hope. And hope, no matter how small the dose, can lead you to extraordinary new beginnings.

If you are in the season of new beginnings (Spring), be encouraged knowing this: God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).

If you are in this season, remember our final lessons from Sunday.

  1. You were meant to process your season, not be possessed by it. 
  2. Don’t get so consumed with the next season you missed the work of your present season.
  3. Unnecessary pain results from remaining in a season long after it changed.
  4. Your season is not your story; it is a chapter in His beautiful story for your life.

Love you all. Tomorrow we wrap up by looking at “Summer,” the season of abundance.

Drop Your Resolutions: 3 Thoughts About Changes in Your Marriage

A few days ago, I sat at around a table and we talked about resolutions. I’ll be honest, I’m just not a proponent of them. Why? Because they tend to be an “all or nothing” mentality. If you’re struggling to take steps toward them, you quit. If you didn’t reach the full “resolution” then you didn’t complete it. I’ve known people who came 5 lbs. short of a “resolution” but saw it as a failure because they fell short. Where I feel that you accomplished a tremendous feat, many people consider that a resolution failure.

Yet in marriage…

Mistakes are made. Habits become bothersome. Frustrations develop. Changes are desired.

So we approach our spouse like we approach a “New Years Resolution” and ONE of TWO things happen. First, if we don’t see the progress we want to see in the immediate, we give up and “cash in” on any hope.  There’s something in our culture that demands such immediate results that leaves little to no time for personal/marital growth. You can’t make a seed open and you can’t force roots through the soil. Too many want people want to give opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do a work but don’t want to give Him the time and place to develop the work both in you and your spouse.

Second, if we don’t complete the expectation (resolution) fully, then it was a failure. We can’t see the growth and progress because we’ve fixated on what wasn’t accomplished. While I’m a proponent of ceasing sinful activity in the immediate, you must allow the same amount of grace that Christ gives you while stepping forward with Holy Spirit-driven wisdom. Instead of an all-or-nothing mentality, look at the growth that was made. While an expectation wasn’t met, progress was accomplished.

In reality, most marital irritations didn’t happen overnight, yet we approach them as if they will go away that fast. So I thought we’d begin the year with THREE thoughts about seeing change.

Quick change vs. Deep Change. Are you wanting habits to change or hearts to change?  While some of you are thinking, “I just want that annoying habit to stop,” there may be a deeper issues at hand. If “surface irritations” are getting out of hand, it’s a sign of deeper infection. Deep marital change begins with heart changes. And hearts that experience change are hearts that surrender to the presence of God and the peace, wisdom, and strength He provides. Position your marriage for deep change. Pray together. Pray for each other. Attend a local church together. Serve together. Encourage each other. When God enters the heart, hope rises. And whatever you face, you will only sink at the level of your hope.

Develop measurable goals. I challenge people to set measurable marital goals and not absolute resolution standards.  When you set something “measurable,” you can see progress and growth as opposed to something checked off a list. Personally, I like seasonal attainable goals. It helps me look and step into something right now as opposed to the overwhelming and sometimes sinking feeling of a 12-month long resolution that seems daunting to even attempt. What type of goals can you develop?

  • Financial goals. These shape your budget (saving and spending). For example: develop 3-5 short-term (6 month – 1 year) goals as well as 3-5 long-term (1-5 year) goals.
  • Spiritual goals. These shape your walk with God as individuals and as a couple. For example: attend a church, get involved, personal devotions, tithing.
  • Marital goals. These help you see the areas you want to grow in and develop. For example: Weekly dates, books/blogs to read and discuss, annual vacations, consistent intimacy, projects around the home.

Connect, reconnect and communicate. Communication is marital currency.  And some of you want to see change, but without communication, you won’t have the currency to “fund” the changes.  Anne and I have discovered the ease and beauty of kicking-off our week with a simple 15-minute Sunday night talk and how much it facilitates what to expect as well as what we experience. Obviously that’s not the only time we talk, but pulling our focus together for getting a vision for the week (and possibly goals for the week) gets us to start the week out on the same page. We also couple that with a mid-week connection to reconnect and review how the week is going. The more you talk, the more “currency” you develop. And with more “capital” in your account, the more can be used to build an infrastructure of healthy expectations and experiences.

I love you all and believe that the best is yet to come for your marriage. Would you be willing to lay down the resolutions that have been so daunting and, together, pick up some goals that the both of you can work on and grow in?

You’ve got this.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Pivot into Progress” #PivotPoint

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and long workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together. 

We wrapped up our series at Kfirst. “Pivot Point” has been our study of the life of Jacob. Even though he didn’t have the “model life”, God always had something beautiful in store for him. Our goal yesterday was to help people understand: “The church isn’t a gathering of perfection but place of progress.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

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Far too many misunderstand progress. And perhaps the biggest issue in it is we mistake progress for “product.” We fail to see how much someone has developed because we’re distracted by where we think they should be. But progress is what we should be noticing AND celebrating. When it comes to our walk with Christ, progress is realized when we see the image of Christ being revealed in and through us.

From the narrative of Genesis 32 and 35, we discovered simple ways to pivot into progressing in our walks with Christ:

  1. Position yourself for progress – Genesis 32:23-24
    • Jacob got alone with God. When we get alone with Him, and give Him all of us, we can be in position to get all of Him.
  2. Understand: Progress is not passive. – Genesis 32:23-26
    • Jacob had to wrestle more than a man, he had to deal with who he’s been the past 90 years. Progress will push you out of your comfort zone; it will challenge you beyond where you are at.
  3. Progress will require patience. – Genesis 35:10-15
    •  About ten years have passed. Instead of disciplining Jacob for not taking up his new name, God reminds him that his name is Israel. Too many people abandon the direction of progress because they don’t see the scope (or degree) of progress. God didn’t give up on Jacob; he just reminded Jacob of his calling.
  4. Progress will cost you. – Genesis 35: 19-21
    • We want to see God move but don’t want to pay a price for what we want Him to do. Can I challenge you with something: Don’t pray for what you are unwilling won’t pay for. If God is challenging you to do something, it will demand some cost/change on your behalf. Be open to what God wants to do and watch His blessings follow.

Why is this last message of our series so “pivotal”? Because of this:

Your two next steps this week: 

  1. Make what God says about you bigger than what happened to you.
  2. Take a next step; See your life as a vessel of progression and not a finished product

Also, if you need a scripture reading plan to go along with our message, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you this Sunday as we kick off a new series!

BTW, here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist: