Rivalry, Partnership & Your Marriage

Rivalry in marriage? Couples don’t fight against each other, do they? They are always on the same side.

We are naive if we think that is true.

We all know couples who fight against each other, work against each other, undermine the other.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3 that we should not do things out of rivalry or conceit but look to the interests of others. While this is written specifically to a church, it has implications for Christians who are married.

Yet, Katie and I talk to countless couples that fall into rivalry in their marriage. It is easy to fall into, because deep down we are all very selfish and we are good at it. I remember talking to a wife who said, “I stopped doing laundry because he didn’t take out the trash or do enough around the house. I just let it pile up.” I’ve heard guys tell me, “She won’t have sex with me, so I won’t talk to her when she says she wants to talk.” Women have told us, “I’m not having sex until he does _______.” I could literally list hundreds of things, but at the end of the day the goal is to get their way. At the end of the day, these couples want to get their way, and they are willing to fight for it. They are also being selfish.

While many in our culture would say, “That makes sense”, biblically, it doesn’t. Marriage is not a contract. A contract says, “I’ll do this, you do that, and as long as we keep our end of the bargain, we’ll stay married and be happy.” That’s not what God calls us to, nor is it even possible. There are times that I have more energy than Katie, and so I pick up the baton of bedtime, baths, etc. There are times when that burden falls to Katie. One of us gets sick and takes care of the other. A contract says, “I’m sorry you are sick, but it is your turn to clean the kitchen, so get out of bed and keep up your end of the bargain or else.”

Whenever someone says something like this to me, my response is, “Let me say that back to you so you can hear what I just heard.” I think until someone else says it to us, we don’t realize what we sound like. We sound like rivals instead of spouses. We sound like people who are looking out for ourselves instead of the interest of our spouse.

You don’t serve your spouse because they deserve it or because they do it for you; you do it because you are called to. You don’t meet your spouses needs because they meet yours; you do it because you are called to.

If you’re married, here’s a simple question for you: What if you and your spouse stopped working against each other and began working together towards something? What if rivalry was not what dominated your marriage, but selflessness and teamwork?

Do You Build Up or Tear Down Your Spouse?

Have you ever listened to a person talk about their spouse? Whether that spouse is there or not, it can be incredible to listen to or heart wrenching and awkward. You can learn a lot about a couple by listening to how they talk about their spouse.

One thing Katie and I committed to at the beginning of our marriage was to not make fun of each other. It is amazing to me how many couples will make fun of each other, especially in front of other people. Now I know what you are going to say, “They are just having fun.” And yes, people will laugh, but watch the person who is being made fun of and you will see a person who is dying inside. The reason is that it hurts. There is always truth in every joke.

One challenge we lay out to couples is to not make fun of each other for a week and see how it changes your relationship. You will be blown away by the difference.

The other thing that amazes me is how couples will vent about each other when the other isn’t present. I will hear guys say, “I can’t believe what my wife did”, and then lay in about her. She will do the same. It is now more prevalent on Facebook. I sit amazed staring at my computer screen as couples will put down their spouse for the whole world to see, listing things the other forgot to do, how they don’t care, they are late again, forgot to wash the dog, is still sleeping in, or just whatever is bothering them.

The other day someone asked Katie why she doesn’t vent about me. The person asked if she didn’t do it because I’m a pastor, and Katie said (and this is another reason I love my wife), “I don’t want to malign my husband. If he does something that bothers me, I tell him, not the whole world.” Now, this doesn’t mean that Katie and I don’t have friends that we vent to. We do, but it is a singular friend (not the same person for each of us). It is not plural and it is for the purpose of venting, and then that person can speak into our lives to show us the mirror of where we are dropping the ball and challenge us. Too many people vent about their spouses to lots of people, and the people they vent to simply ignite the fire more instead of challenging them.

As a man this is crucial because my identity is largely tied to what Katie thinks of me. If she is bashing me to friends about forgetting something, not making enough, working too hard, I will feel like she is nagging me, not proud of me, doesn’t respect me. And, this is the big one, I will feel like she is treating me like one of her kids. (That’s another post.)

One thing I have grown to appreciate about Katie from watching and listening to other couples is how she speaks about me. Many couples speak poorly about their spouses. I have listened to women berate their husbands in public or in front of their kids about what they make (usually not enough), how lazy they are, how they wished their husband was like someone else (usually the husband of a friend they’ve heard about), etc. I have watched women put their husbands down in front of their kids, talking to him and about him, treating him as if he is one of the kids. I’ve even heard women with three kids and a husband say, “I have four kids.”

What is ironic about this is those same women then wonder why their husbands act like one of the kids. What did you expect? You treat him like one of the kids.

Your kids will largely get their opinion of your husband, or wife for that matter, based on how you speak about them.

I love hearing Katie talk with our kids about how hard I work, how I provide for our family, how important it is for me to take them on daddy dates, why date nights are important with Katie. Through this I believe our kids will grow up with a good view of what a dad is and a good picture of who I am.

It is equally important for me to speak highly of Katie, how hard she works in our home, the little things she does to keep our house running, teaching our kids at home, how she looks.

The way I treat Katie and talk about her is how my sons will largely learn how to treat women. It is also how Ava will learn how to let a man treat her. My sons will learn from Katie how a woman is to treat them. Ava will learn from Katie how she is to treat men as she grows older.

A Vision for Your Marriage

Marriage is hard work. There are many times that you are excited to be married, you and your spouse are on the same page, romance is high and affection feels easy. Decisions flow without much work, and you wonder why it isn’t always like this.

Other times your marriage feels like if it is moving, it is moving backwards. You fight, never hold hands, you struggle to understand your spouse, and decisions always end in fights and hurt feelings.

If you’re single you think, “I’ll worry about my marriage, someday…when I’m married.”

Regardless of where you are, one thing is sure: you need a vision for your marriage. The one you are in or the one you will enter into one day.

It is easy to miss this. It is easy to get stuck in the day to day of marriage and miss this. So much happens in a day, it is hard enough to stay married, let alone think about your marriage.

Too many couples have no idea what they are doing in their marriage. If you don’t have a vision, a destination, you don’t know where you are going.

Here’s what happens: you do what your parents did. You talk to your spouse the way your mom talked to your dad. You treat each other the way your parents did. You do the same things your parents did. Your dad did the finances, so you expect your husband to do the finances. Doesn’t matter if he’s good at that. It’s what you expect.

Or you do the exact opposite of what you saw your parents do. They seemed miserable, they got divorced, so no matter what it is, let’s do the opposite.

We do this without ever asking, “Is that what I want?” Or, “Is that what God wants?”

In Ephesians 5:22 – 33 we are given a vision for marriage, a picture, a reflection of what marriage is supposed to look like. When someone looks at a marriage, they are seeing what that couple believes about God’s love and how they respond to that love.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

In light of that, here are some things to consider. First men:

  • A husband makes his wife’s burden lighter. Here’s a question every husband should ask his wife on a regular basis: What is one thing I can do to help you and make your life easier?
  • He enjoys serving her.
  • He serves her by providing and being her defender. He takes her side no matter what. He stands with his wife, for his wife, even if that means he makes his mom mad.
  • And he does this all cheerfully without wondering what he will get in return.
  • He nourishes his wife. This means to develop, nurture and to lift up. Are you helping her develop into the person God called her to be? To develop her gifts, her dreams?
  • Does your wife have space for her dreams?
  • Nourish also brings to mind care and attention. Does your wife feel like she is cared for by you and she has your attention?
  • A wife who experiences this will get to the end of her life and think, “Being married opened up my life to so many possibilities. My husband cared about where my life was going. My husband thought of me.”
  • He loves his wife like he loves himself. This happens by cherishing her. This means she feels his warmth, by being valued by her husband. He does not make fun of her, ever. He does not put her down. He builds her up. He doesn’t compare her to other women, he doesn’t fantasize about other women. Instead he delights in her. He prizes her.

For women, whether your husband does that, you are called to respond to him. Not as a doormat, but with strength through the personality God has given you. It means:

  • You are not a doormat. You are not doing whatever your husband wants, but you are thinking for yourself. It is asking questions of your husband, expressing your reservations, helping your husband see something from another angle. It is adding value to your husband.
  • It is knowing that your husband bears the responsibility and accountability to God for your marriage and family.
  • Lastly, it is a heart attitude towards God. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. It is a step towards God.
  • Submission is not really to your husband but to God.
  • In everything, Paul says in verse 24. Why? Because you are one flesh. There is not an area of your life that is cut off from your spouse.
  • One flesh means one dream, one bank account, sharing all things, not having social media profiles the other doesn’t know about. Katie could literally shut my life down because she has all my passwords to everything.

Why is this so hard?

Tim Keller says, “Self-centeredness is a havoc-wreaking problem in many marriages, and it is the ever-present enemy of every marriage. It is the cancer in the center of a marriage when it begins, and it has to be dealt with.” Living out this vision requires you to let go of what you want. To crucify your desires in many ways.

Are You Giving Your Kids the Right Life?

kids

If you ask any parent, “What do you want for your kids?”, eventually you will hear, “I want them to have the life I never had.” They may not sound like that, but parents want their kids to have everything. Yes, we want them to be smart, courteous, have character, show kindness and generosity, but we want them to have it all.

Does every parent want that?

Almost.

If that’s not you, thanks for reading and you can scroll to the next blog.

But let me ask this question: Are you giving your kids the right life?

Many parents, in an effort to make sure their kids have every opportunity, get the best schooling, play on sports teams and have opportunities for future advancement, go to extreme measures. Parents work long hours or multiple jobs so that they can have the money to pay for all those activities. They run kids from one team, one program, one practice to the next. They push and push so that kids are getting less sleep and growing up faster.

Then you throw this in with what the parents think their kids want for the rest of their lives.

Let me give you an example.

I overheard someone recently talking about their kids and how much both parents were working. This parent said, “My kids are starting to complain that my wife and I aren’t around enough for them because we work too much.” Someone in the group asked, “What did you say?” The parent looked at the group and said, “I told them, ‘You want nice things, don’t you? You want to go on nice vacations and live in the house we have and do the things we do, don’t you?'”

If you can picture the scene, you can imagine the awkward silence that followed.

The answer to that question, if this child answered honestly, would probably be, “Not really.”

I walked away sad for this family but also convicted by this question: Am I giving my kids the life they want, the life they need or the life I think they should have?

It’s a convicting question.

Often I give my kids the life I want them to have. The life that reflects well on me. The life that feels easier or less stressful as a parent.

Not always, but it is easy to fall into.

This is one reason that Katie and I created a family mission statement a few years ago. I detailed the process we went through and what ours is in my book Breathing Room: Stressing Less and Living More.

The problem for parents is, in the hustle and bustle of life, we don’t know the kind of kids we are raising. We have never asked ourselves, “What is the goal of parenting? What will our kids be like when they leave our house?”

Without clarifying that, we end up giving our kids the life everyone else is going for.

But what if that isn’t the life you want for your kids or the life they need?

The Top 10 Posts of 2016…So Far

Saw this idea on Art Rainer’s blog and had to steal it. What a great way to review the year so far and help catch up new readers. If you’ve been reading my blog and subscribe, thank you. If you are brand new, welcome. Be sure to subscribe to the right so you never miss a post.

Here are the top 10 posts of 2016…so far:

1. 5 Systems Every Church NeedsGrowing churches are not accidental. Yes, Jesus grows His church, but when you look at churches that are growing and healthy, they have a lot of similarities. One of them has to do with the systems they have in place. There are five systems that you need to have in place as a church or church plant to help your church grow and be effective.

2. 5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read. Leaders are readers, and teams that have strong leaders read books together. While you can read any number of books together as a team, here are five books that I think every pastor should read and re-read.

3. How to Invite Someone to Church. Inviting someone to church can be intimidating and a weird task. How do you know when you should invite someone? Are there triggers to listen for? This post lays out how to know when to invite someone to church and how to do it.

4. 9 Things I Learned From Preaching About HomosexualityThis past year I preached through the book of Romans, and right off the bat in chapter 1 Paul walks through what has become one of the most controversial conversations in our culture: homosexuality and gay marriage. Preparing for that message was eye opening to me personally and then to my church. I learned a lot, was challenged by it and convicted by it. Before you have a conversation on the topic or preach on it, I’d encourage you to read what I learned.

5. How do I Get my Husband to Lead at Home? This is one of the most common questions that Katie gets from women. The idea of men leading at home can often be a fuzzy goal. Most people aren’t sure what it looks like, or if a husband leads at home, what does a wife do then? This post shows you two reasons why men don’t lead in their homes and three practical steps to encourage them to do so.

6. How to Recover from PreachingPreaching is exhausting and exhilarating. There is nothing like preparing a sermon, being able to share from God’s Word and seeing the Holy Spirit use that time, effort, prayer and preparation. Yet come Monday, many pastors are run down, exhausted and wondering if they can move forward and preach again. This post shares five things I’ve learned on how to recover from preaching.

7. How to NOT Have a Big Day at ChurchEvery pastor would love to have a big day at their church, a day that brings in guests, momentum and energy to the church. Yet many churches sabotage themselves and miss a great opportunity. This post shows you six ways to make sure you do NOT have a big day at your church. Ever.

8. Bill Hybels on “The Lenses of Leadership” from Leadership Summit 2016This post shares highlights from what I think was the best session at this year’s leadership summit.

9. How to Grow as a Leader as Your Church GrowsAs a church grows, so must the leader who leads it. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of church life and find yourself not leading or working on your church, only in it. This post shares five questions for a pastor to ask on a regular basis to make sure they are not only growing as a leader but thinking ahead for their church.

10. How to Stay on the Same Team in Your MarriageIt is easy in the busyness of life to find you and your spouse no longer on the same page. Carting kids around, family gatherings, church, work, hobbies, money, and all of a sudden you and your spouse are running in opposite directions. It happens subtly, and without intentionality a couple won’t get on the same page. This post shares simple ideas to get back on the same page and stay on it.

Here are two bonus posts from 2015 that still get a lot of traffic:

1. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife. It is easy for a husband to stop learning about his wife, stop pursuing her and simply exist in his marriage. This post shares 18 things a husband should know, and if you don’t know, these would be great conversation starters on your next date night.

2. 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse RegularlyThis is a post Katie and I shared last year after a relationship series at our church. These questions lead to some very eye opening conversations for a couple and ones that you should return to on a regular basis. Enjoy!

How to Have Energy for Your Spouse When Your Kids Exhaust You

spouse

All parents run into this. They want to spend time with their kids. They want to spend time with their spouse. They want to have friends, hobbies and a life. Yet when you have kids, you find yourself exhausted at the end of the day.

Katie and I often get asked how to have energy for your spouse at the end of the day when your kids exhaust you. Here are some of our thoughts:

1. Evaluate your schedule. Why are you tired? Why do you feel like you and your spouse don’t have enough time with each other? How many activities are you running your kids to? Often the reason that you are too tired for your spouse is because of the season you are in; other times it is simply your fault. Many times we don’t put our spouse in our schedule. I realize how unromantic that sounds, but I say this all the time: You have all the time to do everything you want to do. And that includes time with your spouse. If you want to have time to be with them, put it in your calendar. Date nights don’t just happen. Conversations don’t just happen.

2. Decide ahead of time what the night will look like. At some point in the day, Katie and I will have a conversation in person, on the phone or over text that goes like this: “What do you want tonight to look like?”

This helps to set clear expectations for the night. Do you need time to talk, time alone, to watch TV, be quiet, take a walk? Is your spouse in the mood for sex? Having those conversations ahead of time helps to keep feelings from getting hurt.

The other side of this is that it helps you both to prepare. If you are tired but your spouse wants to talk or have sex, knowing that ahead of time helps you gear up for the evening.

3. Communicate to your kids your expectations for them. In the same way that you and your spouse need to be on the same page, you and your kids need to be on the same page. Your kids need to know that time as a couple is the most important thing in your family. Remember, one day your kids will move out, so your marriage matters more than your relationship with your kids. Make sure they know what the expectations are for the evening. This will take time, but it is crucial. One of the ways you create security for your kids is by communicating the security of your marriage.

4. Remove barriers. There are a lot of barriers to deepening your marriage relationship; some of them are ones you create, and others are ones that just happen. Many of the barriers that keep a couple from connecting has to do with electronics. I know some families put their phones in a basket at night or have a no electronics policy at dinner. Get rid of the things that are keeping you from connecting as a couple.

9 Things I Learned From Preaching About Homosexuality

homosexuality

Recently I preached on the topic of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, and what the Bible says about it. I’ll be honest, for me this sermon felt like a dark cloud waiting for me as I thought about our series through Romans. While I love preaching and don’t mind when people disagree with me, this topic feels different in our culture.

Let me be vulnerable for a minute. This topic is one reason it took me so long to preach through Romans. Sadly, one reason is because of fear of what people would think of me and our church. The other is because I didn’t know if I could talk about it in a way that didn’t make me sound like a jerk. I’m convinced if I had preached this sermon two years ago, the tone would have been radically different, and that grieves my heart to think about what I used to sound like, but also grateful for the work of God in my heart.

Now that I’m done with that confession, I hope you’re still reading.

If you are a pastor, you should preach on this topic. If you will, here are nine things I learned that you should keep in mind:

1. Your people are curious. If you’re a pastor, you get the question, “What do you believe about homosexuality or gay marriage?” on a weekly basis. I know I do. People are curious. Most people think they know what Christians think, but most Christians aren’t even sure what they think. Why is there so much hate around this topic? Why do Christians treat this sin differently than others? Is that right? Did God make someone that way? Do I attend a gay wedding? How do I respond to a friend or child who says, “I’m gay”? All of these are questions they have.

2. Your tone matters as much as, if not more than, your content. Your content matters, so before you email me about that, it matters. A lot. You need to be clear and say, “This is what I think the Bible says.” In fact, as one friend told me, “Your church will remember your tone more than your content after this sermon”, and I believe that is true.

3. Your language and tone tells your church how to communicate it. Not only are you training your church what to believe about homosexuality, but you are also training them how to talk about it, what they will sound like. You are teaching them how to treat people in our culture that they disagree with. Christians are notoriously terrible at this. We post stuff on social media on a whole host of topics without ever asking, “How will a friend of mine who disagrees with me take this?” If you don’t have a friend who disagrees with you on homosexuality or some other closely held belief, that is a problem.

4. Your language and tone tell people who struggle with same sex attraction what kind of reaction they can expect from your church. This to me is one of the most important things about this entire topic and how to preach on it. Sitting in your church every week are people who love your church and are trying to love, or trying to figure out who God is, and they are wondering, “What do I do with these feelings? Do I talk about them in my small group? Can I ask my pastor about it?” You are telling them, “If you bring this up, here’s the reaction you can expect.” My hope is that my church will be a safe place to bring up this or any other struggle. It helped me to talk with friends who are gay and ask them about their story. How did people react? I also asked, “If you walked into a church and this topic was being talked about, what would you want to hear or not hear? How can I communicate what I think and not sound like a jerk?” These were incredibly helpful conversations.

5. It helps to preach through a book of the Bible. I don’t know if I would choose to preach on this topic if it wasn’t in a book of the Bible I was preaching through. In fact, I wouldn’t choose to preach on most topics, because like all pastors I have the topics I like to talk about, and those are usually ones that aren’t uncomfortable or things I’ve conquered in my life. That’s why preaching through a book of the Bible is so important. It makes you unable to skip things. I couldn’t just breeze over these verses. Also, it helps in prep. I knew for over a year that this topic was coming, so I was able to get articles, books and other resources to work through in preparation.

6. This is a gospel and worship issue. This topic is incredibly divisive for a number of reasons. It is a political battlefield as it relates to rights. (I think that’s a different topic, so when I preached on homosexuality, I stayed away from that.) It is also incredibly personal because most people are related to someone or are friends with someone who is gay. This is all about the gospel and worship. Here’s why: Is Jesus Lord and King? If so, then it matters what he says about this. If not, then we are back to exploring the gospel and what Jesus said. (And yes, Jesus talked about homosexuality, so don’t let someone tell you, “Jesus never mentioned homosexuality.”) Additionally, marriage is connected with the gospel throughout the Bible. Whenever we talk about it, we are talking about the gospel.

7. As passionate as you are about homosexuality being a sin, be that passionate about greed, gossip and adultery being a sin. Yes, I believe that the Bible calls a homosexual relationship a sin. I don’t think struggling with same sex attraction is a sin, just like being tempted isn’t a sin. Acting on that temptation is a sin. Getting drunk, ruling your life, trying to control your world, gossip, letting the opinion of others drive your life, being a workaholic, finding your identity in anything other than Jesus, the Bible calls all of those sins that Jesus died for. Yet Christians don’t put up a sign about that when they protest. If you are going to talk about this and be passionate, as so many are, be just as passionate about those committing adultery and being greedy as well. The Bible puts them all together. In fact, when Paul lists homosexuality in Romans 1, he also lists more than 10 other sins with it.

8. Think through redemption for someone in light of this topic. I’d love to say I have a clean answer on this, but I don’t yet as I’m still thinking and praying through it. Now that gay marriage is legal and happening more and more, what does redemption look like? What happens for the lesbian couple who has kids and they are rescued by Jesus? But if you are a pastor, you need to start wrestling through that and thinking about what gospel redemption looks like for those in gay marriages. In the same way that this conversation in our culture is becoming more and more complex (as letters continue to be added to LGBTQIA), this idea of redemption will become more complex.

9. Get over your fear. Maybe you aren’t afraid. If you aren’t afraid when you step into the pulpit to preach on homosexuality, you are probably going to sound like a jerk. Maybe not, but probably. If you are afraid, get over it. Pray through it, talk with friends, your elders, study up and get on stage and preach.

Celebrating 5 Years of Blogging

HABABZA1UY

Today marks 5 years of blogging for me on this site. Over the years, I’ve grown a lot not only as a writer, but also as a leader, husband and father. I thought in honor of that, I would share the 5 most popular posts since I started.

  1. Lies we Believe About Marriage
  2. Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends
  3. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  4. 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse Regularly
  5. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife

In Honor of Valentine’s Day

love, valentine's day

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share the top 10 marriage and relationship posts that Katie and I have written over the years. Thanks for learning and growing with us over the years. Bookmark this page to use as a resource you can come back to. Katie and I hope this helps take your marriage to the next level.

  1. Lies Couples Believe About Marriage
  2. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  3. 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse Regularly
  4. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife
  5. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  6. 10 Ways to Know if You’re Putting Your Kids Before Your Spouse
  7. When You Manipulate Your Husband, You Lose Him
  8. 7 Reasons You Aren’t Communicating with your Spouse
  9. Surviving a Hard Season in Your Marriage
  10. When You Aren’t in the Mood for Sex

Happy Valentine’s Day!