Working on a Dream




Saturday, September 6, 2014

How not to punch your spouse in the face: "Saving your Marriage"

He hurt you.
You hurt him back
... Let the ugliness begin continue.

Getting along can be tough.  In all actuality, it can be downright impossible at times.
I know some marriages resemble the War of the Roses, while some others sound more like the song, Bed of Roses.  Why do couples resort to such extreme measures when trying to solve marital issues? If you are reading this and have tied the knot, then you do not have the option to cold-shoulder your spouse till' death. Likewise, going round to round in a slug-fest like Mike Tyson's Punch-Out isn't a great idea either. If you have not already noticed, turning into an ice-berg on your mate is not that effective nor is transforming into a mixed martial artist about to enter a cage match.  Both are ugly extremes that will not work in saving your marriage.  So go ahead do me (and your spouse) a favor; take off your gloves and go sit by the fire place while I give you a better method that will save your marriage.

The method is a simple procedure called "the 7 A's."  I discovered the 7 A's years ago in a seminar dealing with church conflict and they have stood the test of time.  The 7 A's are simple guide that will help you get over any barrier that stands in your way to healing a relationship.  The 7 A's can apply to any universal conflict, but since I have been writing on marriage a lot lately, I have decided to apply them to the home. The reason is I have noticed how many of you want a great marriage, but just do not know how to have one.  So today, I am writing part 4 of my series title, "Saving your Marriage."

The first A stands for Address.  When there is a breach in a relationship, you feel hurt.  And when most of us feel hurt -we tend to recluse.  We talk to everyone about the situation except for the person or group that has offended us.  This is why the very first step is to go the person face to face.
Fast Fact: Did you know that Jesus Himself prescribed this method in the Gospel of Matthew?  "If your brother offends you go to him in private ..."

A number two is Avoid.  As in avoid excuses.  If you are wrong then you are wrong. Words like: if, but, or maybe are all ways to soften the situation.  There is something about being totally honest and telling the person that you are sorry and you need their forgiveness.

Number three A is Admit. You have to be specific.  This one is especially important for the ladies.  I have noticed that I have to be VERY specific when dealing with Christen.  She doesn't want to hear my fancy vague words, rather she wants to hear that I am really sorry for something specific that I did to hurt her.

Next A is Apologize.  More than just acknowledging the wrong,  you have to go a step further and show sorrow.  If you offended your spouse, then you should take steps to make things right.

Number five A is Accept.  Even after you admit & apologize, you have to accept responsibility.  There are often consequences to your words and actions (or non-actions).  The pain you caused is similar to a rock in water that sends a ripple effect to all the edges of the lake. You cannot reverse what happened, so you must be willing to reap what you have sowed

Alter is the next A. If you are truly repentant and genuinely care about your spouse, then it is time for you to alter your behaviour.  Many will read this and think that I am advocating a sheep-ish approach and I know that Mr. Macho isn't going to change for anyone ... but like I tell people in marriage counsel, "YOU CAN EITHER BE RIGHT or YOU CAN BE HAPPY."  Time to get over yourself. A marriage is a joint effort and both of you should be bending and giving and taking and working and ... you get my point.  Bottom line, if your spouse is not acting irrational or outlandish, then you should at least start to shrink the behaviour that causes so much disruption.

Finally, we have the last A, Ask.  Asking for forgiveness is a very difficult thing to do. The final A will take humility on your part.  But I must ask, "What is the alternative?" Who wants to live in a house that really is a prison with pretty wallpaper and fancy decorations?  I know that I don't.  And I'm guessing you don't either.

Picture of the Year!
Anthony & Christen right in the middle of Time Square
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
-Mignon McLaughlin

Monday, September 1, 2014

what would YOU do???

Is it OK to _________ ??????
When should I _______________?????????
Life is full of grey areas.
And grey areas generally mean, "using your brain." If you are like me, you have on more than one occasion thought, "What is the right thing to do in this situation? Unfortunately, many of us look to the TV; our group of friends or to society in general to figure out how we should act or if something is morally acceptable.  I know that for many, this is our default setting; but seriously, how do you make moral decisions in life and know that what you did right was the right thing? 

Since life does not come with a manual and you do not have me to chaperon you around, I'll share with you something that guides me in my daily life.*
It is 3 questions that are contained in this helpful verse found in the book of I Corinthians. "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

Remember, the focus of today's post is helping you live ethically when you really do not know how. Therefore, a note about this verse is in order: this verse isn't as much about what to think more than it is about how to think. I like to tell people that living a morally upright life is more like a Treasure Map than a Road Map.  A road map is full of millions of details, destinations and drives while a treasure map is oftentimes sparse with a few landmarks and the famous "X" marks the spot.  The verse above is there for you when you are standing in between the landmark and the "X".   

Here are the three questions with a brief explanation:  
The first question you should be asking yourself is: "Is it Lawful?"
Here you will be thinking about if you will be breaking any laws (which not only includes the civil government's laws but God's moral law).  This first question is a bit tricky and is not something that you can just afford to gloss over. The reason is due to the fact that there will be times when our modern laws either do not match up with the moral law or worse, stand in direct conflict with them. This is why Martin Luther King Jr. taught that a "just law is a man made code that squares with moral law or the Law of God."

Next, follow up with this question, "Is it helpful?" You have to think about will what you are about to do uplifting?  What are your motives?  Will your action(s) benefit people? Etc. Think of yourself, your family & your community. This oftentimes, will help lead you in the right direction when making decisions.

Finally, ask, "Is it enslaving?"  Here you want to ascertain whether or not an act could become obsessive, out of control, or if over time you will become engrossed in something that started off innocent -but now has hooked you in.  This happens a lot by the way; you get involved with something that is at first innocent, then over the months and years, the tables have turned and now you are owned by a person, thought or substance.  This is why the Puritans used to say that sin is like a bait on a hook intended to lure you in. If you  bite, the hook will sink into your mouth, then you will get dragged to your death.

Above, you have three very helpful questions that will help you navigate the uncertain terrain of life.

*As a side note, if I was going to add in one more addition to the above, I would throw in the importance of surrounding  yourself with wise men and women that you can go to and discuss your dilemmas.

Was this helpful? Think a friend needs to read this? Share IT!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Which type of B are you?

When it comes to what we do with the Bible, H. P. Parker gives this memorable story that points to the need for both knowing and applying Bible truth:
As I looked out into the garden one day, I saw three things.
First, I saw a butterfly. 
The butterfly was beautiful, and it would alight on a flower and then it would flutter to another flower and then to another, and only for a second or two it would sit and it would move on. It would touch as many lovely blossoms as it could, but derived absolutely no benefit from it. 
Then I watched a little longer out my window and there came a botanist. 
And the botanist had a big notebook under his arm and a great big magnifying glass. The botanist would lean over a certain flower and he would look for a long time and then he would write notes in his notebook. He was there for hours writing notes, closed them, stuck them under his arm, tucked his magnifying glass in his pocket and walked away. 
The third thing I noticed was a bee, just a little bee. 
But the bee would light on a flower and it would sink down deep into the flower and it would extract all the nectar and pollen that it could carry. It went in empty every time and came out full.
John MacArthur says, “Some Christians, like that butterfly, flit from Bible study to Bible study, from sermon to sermon, and from commentary to commentary, while gaining little more than a nice feeling and some good ideas. Others, like the botanist, study Scripture carefully and take copious notes. They gain much information but little truth. Others, like the bee, go to the Bible to be taught by God and to grow in knowledge of Him. Also like the bee, they never go away empty.”
Which is it for you?
Do you bounce around, fluttering from one thing to the next? Do you immerse yourself so much in study that you never lift your eyes up? Or are you the bee that drinks deeply; steadily, and then goes out spreading the joy of the Gospel?
If you are a bee, share this message! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Audience of One


There was a concert pianist in the last century that longed to play in the great concert hall in Vienna. When he finished his first concert before thousands, the people gave him a standing ovation.

Afterwards, he was asked, “Was it the greatest moment in your life to receive this long applause?” The concert pianist replied, “No! I liked it, but it was not the most important thing to me.”

He said, “When the people all sat down, an elderly man who sat in the top corner of the balcony simply nodded his head at me. That was the greatest moment of my life because he is the master who taught me for 30 years. One nod from him was worth much more than the long applause of the masses.

We all play to an audience –even the self-deluded that go around and tell others that, “they don’t care what others think about them.” We all concern ourselves with the thoughts and expectations of others; albeit some have a larger audience while others have a smaller …yet, we all care. And there is nothing wrong with caring. In fact, the Bible tells us to care what others think … let me restate, the Bible informs us to care what the right person thinks. In short, our lives should be directed to a proper audience member. Take for example what the Apostle Paul writes in the book of Galatians, “For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” See that word, “please” above? The Greek term used is, ar-es'-ko which means, to accommodate one's self to the opinions, desires and interests of others. Here Paul places mankind’s two ultimate conclusions right next to each other; either you will mind man or God. There is an ultimate standard to which everyone of us will appeal. In fact, some of Jesus’ most popular teachings deal with this issue, “There is no servant who can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will honor the one and he will neglect the other …” (Luke 16:13). 

Hear this, I am not commissioning you to drive into the wilderness or ignore all humanity, this is a call for you to draw a line in the sand as to whom you will give ultimate allegiance to. I promise you, when you do this many many (many) things will begin to shift in your life. And since I can’t help to stop my pastoral heart from beating when I offer this challenge, I offer to help you along this journey …

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Good morning, fellow Lepers

Joseph Damien was a nineteenth-century missionary who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.

Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived out before them. 

One morning before Damien was to lead daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot. It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation. Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more hot water on the same spot. Again, there was no feeling whatsoever. Damien immediately knew what had happened. 

As he walked to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line. He normally began every sermon with, 'My fellow believers,' but this morning he began with... 'My fellow lepers.' 
                                                                               (Story told by Ravi Zacharias)

Damien could fully relate to the lepers because he became a leper. He knew personally the struggles that they faced. He could actually feel their pain. Let's think about Jesus for a moment. He was made like us and therefore understands the hurts we experience.  According to the book of Hebrews, we learn, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." 

I think I can speak for everyone in regards to our need for a Savior that identifies with our human struggles. Isn't it comforting to know that the frustrations we carry, the sorrows compounded in our hearts and even our failures can be understood by the God-Man, Jesus Christ?