Lies we Believe About Marriage

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Marriages are strong and marriages need work for all kinds of reasons. Sadly, few marriages got the distance and even fewer are happy. A lot of that has to do with expectations of marriage (before and during) but many of the issues in marriage stem from lies we believe about marriage.

Lie #1: My spouse will complete me. This is one we are fed from the time we start to notice the opposite sex. It is in movies, books, articles and deep down, we hope that we will find someone that will meet all our needs, be everything we want, but the reality is, no one can do that. It is not possible for someone to meet all your emotional, spiritual, and relational needs. There will always be a gap and this is why our spouse’s inability to meet all our needs points us to Jesus. On the flip side of this, we can’t meet our spouse’s every need, so we can’t save our spouse (as many try to). We can’t change them, we can encourage them, but we can’t make them do something, although many try.

Lie #2: My happiness is my top priority. From our earliest age, many people are taught that they can win at everything, do whatever they want, get a trophy for showing up, so life becomes about my happiness and what I can get. This isn’t reality. This becomes a litmus test for how we feel about our marriage. In fact, the moment that we are unhappy we assume something is wrong. Something might be wrong but you might also be married. Marriage doesn’t always bring happiness but it does bring joy, which is very different but more important because joy is long lasting and not fleeting.

Lie #3: There is only one right person for me to marry. This is born in fairy tales that somehow there is one person on the planet for you to marry and if you marry the wrong person the entire axis of the universe will be thrown off. Few people say this, but many people subtlety believe it before and after they get married. They put enormous pressure on “finding God’s perfect person for them” that they are paralyzed from experiencing community and relationships. After they get married, couples struggle when hard times hit and they wonder if they married the wrong person. First off, how arrogant do you have to be to think you could marry the wrong person and start a cosmic destruction? This also gets into figuring out God’s will (which is another post but I think we put too much pressure “God’s perfect will” for our lives). Let me say, there are so many things you can do for God that instead of sitting around wondering if it is God’s perfect will, you should just start doing something.

Lie #4: What I do on my own time won’t affect my marriage. This gets at the selfishness many people feel in their lives. The idea that once you get married, you still stay a single person, you just happened to be married now. This is why many couples keep separate bank accounts, their own calendars and “do their own thing.” The reality around separate bank accounts is that you are always keeping one foot out the door, not letting go of some trust issue in your past. And, if you don’t trust your spouse to share a bank account, there is a deeper issue that needs work, the bank account isn’t the issue. The reality is, how you spend your time, money, how you think about yourself, whether you protect yourself to stay pure in your marriage has an enormous impact on your marriage.

Lie #5: A great marriage doesn’t take work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this after a sermon or counseling a couple and every time it is heart breaking. Often, we look at couples who are happy, handling the ups and downs of life well and wonder how they did it. Like seeing the success of Steve Jobs without any of the struggles. Idealizing marriage can be like that. It takes work. It is hard. In fact, I would say there is not a great marriage on the planet that was not filled with seasons of difficulties.

Lie #6: My past has no impact on my marriage. This is one I encounter a lot in premarital counseling. The thinking that your past relationships, porn addiction in college, the father issues you have not dealt with yet, the divorce your parents went through or you went through; that those things will have no bearing or minimal impact on your present and future marriage. Not true. All those things have an enormous impact on how you see yourself and your spouse. If you are a woman and all your life men have broken promises and used you, that is exactly what you will expect your husband to do. If you grow up and are abused and see sex as something dirty or something that is a way to live out selfishness instead of a place to give and serve your spouse, that will have an enormous impact. Lastly, most of what people do in a marriage is either a reaction against what their parents did or what they saw their parents do. It is what we know, so until we see that, see it for what it is, evaluate if that is healthy and then deal with it, we will continue the cycle of the past.

Lie #7: You can’t choose who you love. Typically when someone tells me this lie they have already sinned or are about to. It is often used to excuse why they are getting divorced or committing adultery. Yet, when we take this lie to its fullest extent, we would never want someone to love us this way. We wouldn’t want our spouse, kids or Jesus to show us love only when they feel like it. Yet, for many couples this is how they live their married life. The reality, the truth is that many days you will wake up in marriage and have to choose to love your spouse because they will not be lovely, they will not be easy to love, there will be a big piece of you that does not want to love them because you want to be selfish, you want them to stop doing something or at the very least, you want life to be easier. But love is a choice followed by an emotion.

While there are many more, these are just a few I’ve encountered that bring a lot of hurt and damage.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • Have you ever noticed that you get more done the day before you take off of work?
  • That’s today.
  • I’m excited to get some down time this week before heading into the rest of the spring ministry season.
  • Had a great creative team meeting yesterday to talk about our next series called You&Me. 
  • Can’t wait to preach through the Song of Solomon.
  • One of the coolest parts was having people at that meeting who have attended our church less than 1 month.
  • They had so much insight for our church.
  • If you are a pastor and don’t get any feedback from brand new people, you are missing some of the best ideas for your church.
  • Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working through The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs
  • Great book for church planters to read.
  • Yesterday at Revolution, Joe Jewell who leads our Middle School Ministry preached.
  • Love seeing our younger leaders stepping up and develop their gifts.
  • He did a great job.
  • Right now, we are starting to pray and plan about some pretty cool things for 2016 & 2017.
  • Can’t wait to see what God is going to do.
  • Love big, scary prayers.
  • The more I keep studying the Song of Solomon, the more I get excited about what preaching through it will do for our church.
  • The relevancy, whether you are married or single is incredible.
  • Time to get some more stuff done before heading out of town.
  • Can’t wait to visit the snow, see some friends and family, & do some snowboarding!

Decision Making Traps

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In the book, HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Making Smart Decisions there is an article entitled “The Hidden Traps in Decision Making”, the authors lay out the decision making traps that snare leaders, businesses, churches and individuals.

I’ll list them below and share how they slow leaders, churches and people down:

1. The anchoring trap leads us to give disproportionate weight to the first information we receive.

This happens in all of life, not just in leadership. Often, whatever we hear first is hard to get past. Whether that is date, first impressions, it has a way of keeping us from thinking straight or seeing new ways of doing something. This isn’t always bad as sometimes our first impressions or information is correct.

It is important as a leader to get a variety of perspectives. To ask someone with a different point of view for advice or insight.

2. The status-quo trap biases us toward maintaining the current situation—even when better alternatives exist.

Churches are notorious for “doing things like we’ve always done them.” It is comfortable, requires less work, less risk and often in a church, keeps the leaders from having meetings with angry people. The problem with the status quo is that you aren’t actually moving forward, you are at best treading water and at worst falling behind. A leader should always ask, “Are we doing things as best as we can? Is there anything we should add or take away?”

3. The sunk-cost trap inclines us to perpetuate the mistakes of the past.

This is when you’ve sunk money, time, manpower and effort into something that isn’t working. Instead of bailing, stopping, you simply keep going. Churches do this for years by keeping ministries and programs going because we’ve always done them, not because they are mission critical or move the ball forward. Countless ministries keep going and get budget dollars because they had them last year. This is why yearly evaluation in a church is so important.

4. The confirming-evidence trap leads us to seek out information supporting an existing predilection and to discount opposing information.

While this goes closely with #1 and #2, this is where a leader simply looks for things and reasons to confirm what they want to do. We decide what to do and then find reasons why that is the best way. When this happens, it is important to ask, “Why would I do it another way?” Even if all the evidence points a certain direction, it is easy to think there is no other evidence.

5. The framing trap occurs when we misstate a problem, undermining the entire decision-making process.

Framing is how we see a problem. How we ask a question will determine the answer. One of the things I often ask our leaders is, “Is that the problem we are solving?” I want us to be sure that we are solving the right problem. Until the problem is clear, it won’t matter what the answer is. Often, ministries get started for no good reason but only because someone else did it first. It is helpful to ask question differently when this starts to creep up.

6. The overconfidence trap makes us overestimate the accuracy of our forecasts.

This happens every year when it comes to budgets, ministry plans and looking ahead to big days. While God moves in powerful ways and grows churches in unexpected ways, it is important to not think we can do more than we can. For instance, when you make your budget, what if giving decreases by 10% instead of go up by 3%? Depending on the size of your budget that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

7. The prudence trap leads us to be overcautious when we make estimates about uncertain events.

This trap often keeps us from making decisions and fall into #2 and settle for the status quo. This is the safe side and causes us to pull back and have zero confidence. Just like each team often has an overconfident person, each team usually has a prudence person. Both are necessary and important to the health of a team and church, but one can often be too loud and drive the decision, and it is usually the lead pastor.

8. The recallability trap prompts us to give undue weight to recent, dramatic events.

This is when we look to the past to decide how the future will go. Churches again are so good at this. If you’ve ever joined a church staff you will notice that the past was either incredible and it may have well been the book of Acts or you followed the people who led the church through the 400 years of God’s silence between the old and new testament.

Always remember: the past is never as great or as bad as we remember.

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Links for Your Weekend Enjoyment

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Here are some interesting posts I found this week that I thought you’d find interesting:

Women, stop submitting to men.

Wives are called to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). But that’s just the point. In the Bible, it is not that women, generally, are to submit to men, generally. Instead, “wives” are to submit “to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1). Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman? Submitting to men in general renders it impossible to submit to one’s “own husband.” Submission to one’s husband means faithfulness to him, and to him alone, which means saying “no” to other suitors.

5 ways your church can embrace infrequent church attenders.

The question is this: How do you interact with infrequent church attenders who don’t seem to be embracing the mission of your church the way you hoped they would? I think it’s simple. You embrace them anyway. I chose the word ‘embrace’ on purpose. Because I know there’s something deep seated in many of us that wants to reject people if we sense they’re rejecting us. And people who don’t come out to church much on Sunday can feel like rejection if you’re an insecure church leader.

‘We are all messy': Rosaria Butterfield on Loving our Gay and Lesbian Friends.

Relationships—raw, honest, empathetic relationships—are vital: How can you possibly have strong words without strong relationships? And how can you possibly have strong relationships without taking the risk of being rejected? If you want to put the hand of the lost into the hand of the Savior, you have to get close enough to get hurt. That may be a new idea for many Christians, but it’s the ground rules of the new game.

12 things that tempt men to peruse porn.

Rob Bell and gay marriage.

During the interview, Kristen Bell reads a line from the book: “Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.” This is one of the statements that resonates with our modern world. After all, who is opposed to “love”? Who doesn’t want more “love” in the world? This sort of rhetoric is very effective at making anyone opposed to gay marriage look like they are against love. It makes them looks like they are hateful. But, never do such statements define what “love” really is. For our culture, “love” means whatever you want it to mean. There are no rules, no restrictions, no boundaries. But, let’s imagine some different scenarios and see whether Bell’s logic makes sense. Let’s imagine an adult son and his mother wanted to get married. Is Bell ready to say this incestuous marriage “is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love“? Doubtful. Or, perhaps a man wants three wives. Is Bell ready to say this polygamous marriage is “a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love?” If he is consistent, he would have to say yes.

The #1 thing holding your leadership back.

The big difference between highly effective leaders and those just playing at leadership is often found in their willingness to do what doesn’t come naturally or instinctively. Real leadership begins in the moment you realize leadership has little to do with the leader, and everything to do with those the leader serves.

One Way You Rob Your Marriage of Intimacy

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Have you ever noticed that it is sometimes easier to be more open about your marriage or an area of your life with someone other than your spouse? Sometimes it is easier to vent about something on Facebook, to a friend or co-worker than to your spouse.

Pastors do this too.

One of the things people love in a sermon is when a pastor is open. When they talk about their life. When they share about their struggles, what they are learning, how God is moving in their life.

Some pastors struggle with this. How much to share, when to share, what to share.

Many pastors love doing this though.

Why?

Because people will talk about it afterward. People like to talk about themselves, even if it is a struggle or past hurt. We like the spotlight on ourselves.

Pastors are no different in this struggle.

Here is where many pastors then rob their marriages.

I don’t think this happens intentionally.

Pastors can be more open in their sermons than in their marriages.

I remember after one sermon I was really on. Everything went great that day. Afterward Katie said to me, “I never knew any of that stuff.”

She was right. I was more open in a sermon than with her.

It’s easy to do and many wives know the feeling of sitting in church and hearing their husband share something for the first time and thinking, “I wish he told me that before.” Not because they are embarrassed, but because they want to be close to their husband. They want the vulnerability in their marriage that he is showing on stage in a sermon.

Back to you if you aren’t a pastor.

Are you more open online or with a friend than with your spouse? Do you share more things in a small group than you do with your spouse? If you do, you are robbing your marriage. You are keeping your marriage from having depth. 

As the quote says above, vulnerability takes courage. Whether on a stage or one-on-one, but I believe it takes more courage in a marriage than a sermon or online or with a friend.

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I See You Tried

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In marriage it is easy to focus on the negative things your spouse does. They didn’t pick up their clothes, they don’t pursue you, they don’t cook the food you like, the whine or complain “about everything.” The list goes on and on. Yet, celebrating when your spouse tries is a secret to a strong marriage.

Think about the last time your spouse put forth effort. Did they clean up the kitchen? Put their clothes or tools away? Did they take a shower and look nice for you? Did they bring home a gift? Pick up groceries without being asked?

What did your spouse do that you can celebrate?

Instead of saying, “Why didn’t you do ___?”

You could say, “Thanks for trying, for putting for effort.”

Could they do more?

Yes.

But chances are they won’t if you don’t celebrate what they are doing.

Your attitude and reaction to your spouse has nothing to do with your spouse and everything to do with you.

I know, what they did determines your reaction. You can overlook something. You can be disappointed with something. You can cheer something on.

It is your choice.

I remember when we first started doing regular date nights. I was not good at planning them. The romantic in every guy seems to go out the window the moment they get married. Yet, Katie cheered on my effort. I even remember her saying once, “I see you tried. Thanks.” She wasn’t be sarcastic, but she was noticing the effort I put in to pursue her.

What did your spouse do today that you can celebrate instead of pointing out fault? Did they do it exactly how you wanted it done? Maybe not, but they did try. 

Celebrate that.

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Links I Like

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Here are some interesting posts I found this week that I thought you’d find interesting:

10 reasons people are attending church less.

Of course, church attendance is never the goal. But attendance a sign of something deeper that every church leader is going to have to wrestle with over the next few years.

America’s most tolerated sin.

Gluttony is perhaps the most tolerated sin in American Christianity. I say this, not as someone who is immune from the attractions of the buffet line, but as someone who needs all the help he can get. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, most — if not all — of us have a dysfunctional relationship with food. We love it, and we hate it. We often find ourselves careening between stuffed stomachs and crash diets. Or perhaps we’ve given up altogether, watching with resignation as our waistlines expand into the distant horizon.

 3 female ghosts that haunt the church.

If you’re a male staff member at a church, I ask you to consider a ghost story of sorts. I don’t think for a minute that you hate women. I know there are valid reasons to take a measured approach to how you interact with us in ministry settings. I absolutely want you to be wise, but I don’t want you to be haunted. Three female ghosts haunt most churches, and I want you to recognize them so you can banish them from yours.

Big mistakes a preacher makes: Not preaching to the people present.

Preaching is a pastoral role.  We are not being called to perform, but to shepherd.  We can, and must, do the role of a shepherd as we preach.  A shepherd feeds, leads, cares and protects his sheep.  In order to pastor through preaching, we need to know and love the people we are preaching to each Sunday.

When you preach on sex, don’t preach to the pure.

What God wants for us is purity, not just virginity. You can lose the latter but regain the former. And you can have the former without having the latter. Purity is found in Jesus whether you are virgin or not. And the gospel, full of grace, tells us that purity can be laid over our stains through the righteousness of Jesus. Pastor, that is the message we need. We know our guilt, and those who don?t won?t be won by your fervor and contempt for their sin. We will be restored and they will be persuaded by the sweet grace of Jesus. Preach that.

Keeping People is Easier than Finding People

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There is an idea in business that marketers know well: it is cheaper to keep customers than it is to find new ones. The same goes for employees. It is cheaper to keep employees than to find new ones and train them.

Recently, the church I lead changed banks. The reason was simple: we didn’t get good service at our bank. They made mistakes and things that should’ve been easy were difficult and time consuming.

So we switched.

When we went to close the accounts, the manager came over and said how sorry he was to see us go and if anything changed he’d love to have our business back.

All I could think of was, you had our business. You lost our business.

As soon as he was done saying that and we were closing the account we were told there would be a $10 closing fee.

A fee to close the account.

When we asked the teller if they could waive it, she said no.

We’ll never go back to that bank.

While churches don’t have customers, they have congregants, members or parishioners (insert whatever your tradition calls them). I think churches could benefit from some business thinking on this.

Too many churches think that people will just stay at their church, but that is not reality. For the most part, Americans have a number of options when it comes to religion. Not just other churches, but sleeping in, being outside, kids sports.

I’m not saying a church should create a loyalty program with benefits like Amazon does with Prime, but churches can and should strive for loyalty.

Here are some questions I think churches and leaders should think through:

  1. What can we do that no one else can do? When churches lose loyalty, it is because they don’t know what they are great at. Companies that have strong loyalty, know what they are good at.
  2. How can we create ownership and identity in our church? Strong company loyalty also comes with a cult following. Take Apple, a hipster coffee place or Amazon. They have created ownership where their customers will not think about going somewhere else. Your church can and should be the same way.
  3. How can we focus on the “customer?” I’m blown away by the extent that companies like Google and Amazon go to making the user a priority. Google seems to hate other businesses and is in business solely for the user experience. Churches should have that same focus and passion, in it for the people.

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How to Think of Blog Posts

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I always get asked, “Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?”

Blog posts like sermon ideas, article or book ideas are everywhere. They are in conversations, quotes, questions, your devotions and prayer time.

Here are a few places I find them:

  1. A question I have or someone else has. My opinion has always been, if one person has a question, others have the same question.
  2. Conversations after a sermon or in a missional community. 
  3. Book quotes. This is a great way to get a blog post. When a book or  quote makes you think of something, write it down. Many of my posts start that way.
  4. Other blog posts. Maybe you read something that makes you want to respond because you disagree, or you think you could write it better. Go through you old posts from time to time to see if you’d update something or if you can write something that is more helpful.

If none of those work, try these ideas from Ready to Be a Thought Leader?: How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Successat the end of the day or each week, could you set aside fifteen minutes to write down the highlights of what happened? What were the painful moments, the funny experiences, or the most challenging decisions you made? Here are a few more questions: What have I learned from this experience? What did I do well? What could I have done differently? Is there a universal lesson here that others could apply?

If you put these into practice, you will always have ideas for sermons, blog posts and books.

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Mystical Prayer vs. Gospel Prayer

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Prayer is a mysterious thing. How it works, what is our part and God’s part. In the confusion, it is easy to believe things that aren’t true about prayer and it is easy for our prayer lives to be more influenced by mysticism than we realize.

Tim Chester in his book You Can Pray: Finding Grace to Pray Every Day has some helpful comparisons:

Mystical prayer is a search for communion with God through contemplation. It involves progressives states of spiritual consciousness. It is involves a stilling of the passions, includes a discouragement of petitions, especially for earthly goods and sees silence as contemplation uninterrupted by speech. It believes It believes in a god in which “the features of the personality begin to face.” It believes union with Christ is attained through spiritual disciplines and sees union with Christ as the goal of Christian experience.

Gospel prayer is a simple, passionate response to God’s fatherhood. It involves an “unpretentious simplicity and childlike sincerity of heart.” It arises from emotions of great intensity. It includes an encouragement to petition our heavenly Father. It sees silence as a failure of words to express the hear’s emotions. It believes God is three persons, that union with Christ is given through faith and that union with Christ is the basis of Christian experience.