Biblical Relationships Posts

Navigating Conflict

You will fight when you get married. I hate to disappoint you, but it’s inevitable. It may not happen on your wedding day, but when conflict happens – not if, but when – it can either be really healthy or really miserable, depending on whether you’ve learned how to handle it.

Sinning in Anger

Have you ever found yourself instantly reacting, motivated by anger and pride? You launch out in a tirade, and after a while you start looking around and go, how did I get here?

It’s hard to be angry and not sin.[1] It’s an easy verse to quote, but it’s very difficult to live. Once you sin, the issue becomes you and not the conflict situation. And once you say something, you’ve said it. You can apologize from now ‘til Jesus comes. You can crawl for miles on your hands and knees through busted glass as penance for what you said, and your spouse can even forgive you for it. But once you’ve blown up on your spouse, there is shrapnel and scar tissue there from words that were spoken in anger.

Very seldom, if ever in my life, have I said something in anger, and then looked back on it and thought, Wow, that was really good. God must be really pleased with me for what I just said. Because “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood.”[2] James says to be slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to become angry, because the anger of man doesn’t accomplish the righteousness of God.[3]

And what do we expect? Do you think you’re going to raise your voice, bow up at your wife and she’ll go, “My bad. When you clenched your jaw like that and raised your voice, I realized you were right.” It’s not going to happen like that. Proverbs tells us, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”[4]

Losing Perspective

Another problem with reacting is you lose perspective. When you react, the language often turns to unhealthy, polarizing language that becomes accusatory. “You always!” “You never!” “You do this every time!” The natural reaction when someone is attacked is to get defensive, and at that point, it’s on. You’re in battle mode.

But marriage isn’t about pushing that woman or that man to the degree where they’re looking around waiting to get sucker punched. That’s not the oneness God intended in a marriage.

Force Meets Force

If you begin to attack your spouse, you may find yourself besieging them like you’re trying to sack a city, because a “brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”[5] Force is met with force.

What is my natural tendency when the flashpoint comes and she raises her voice? I raise my voice. She takes a shot, so I’m going to take a better one. She comes at me and manipulates, and I confront and isolate. It’s back and forth, like trench warfare in World War I. She’ll show her head and I’ll take a shot. I show mine and she takes a shot. That’s not healthy. That’s not what God designed.

There is another way.

Learning to Respond

I don’t know about you, but my sin nature really wants to be right. I want conflict to be her fault, not my fault. Never my fault. But with humility, I’ve got to learn to respond, not have to be right. Bottom line: Win the fight, lose your marriage. The goal isn’t to be right. The goal is to be one.

Instead of reacting and trying to be right, we have to learn how to respond. It’s a learned trait. To respond is to be driven by the Spirit. It’s seeing the flashpoint of conflict, and instead of your flesh driving you and letting things blow up, you ask the Lord for help to slow it down and live like He wants you to live. As soon as you defer to the Spirit of God, the fruit of the Spirit begins to show. When you allow the Spirit of God to lead in conflict, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control[6] come out.

I have never had a fight with my wife that continued to escalate because I was peaceful or gracious or loving or kind. When I allow God to live through me in my conflict with my wife, it’s like immediately pouring water on the flame.

Conflict can be a good thing, if handled well. Without it, you’ll never know about forgiveness or appreciate grace the way you will when you work through it with your spouse. If you never conflict, you’ll never know the kind of love that deepens a marriage to a level it could never reach otherwise.

[1] See Ephesians 4:26-27
[2] Proverbs 27:4 (NASB)
[3] See James 1:19-20
[4] Proverbs 12:18 (NASB)
[5] Proverbs 18:19 (NASB)
[6] See Galatians 5:22-23

My Challenge to Our Church Staff

One of the concerns I have as a pastor and leader is that conversations can very quickly move toward borderline inappropriate. One minute you’re talking and having fun, and the next thing you know, the conversation turns and it’s no longer edifying to the Lord. It starts as a little off-color joke here or a little off-color comment there, and it can go there very quickly, because if we’re not careful, there’s a tendency for things to move toward the ungodly.

You may assume that a church staff is godly just by way of definition, and that may be true sometimes, but that assumption may also be just that: an assumption. It may not be substantiated by how we live, because we’re only as godly as we are moving ourselves toward Him. Your individual time with the Lord needs to cultivate a heart that’s submitted to God, and that will ultimately be reflected in your professional life.

If you’re on staff at a church, the standard is high. This isn’t a normal job. Godliness has to be part of who you are. In the name of spiritual trust, we need to honor the Lord in what we do and in what we say in same-gender and mixed-gender conversations, in what we talk about behind closed doors and in how we interact behind someone’s back. We need to be mindful of our tongue and not allow ungodliness to come out of our mouths.

My challenge to our church staff is we need to be part of the solution of moving our people toward godliness. We need to be the ones setting the pace in the church, personally reflecting Him, squashing conversations if they’re going sideways and speaking the truth if something isn’t right. It can become too easy to just go about our days and not have those iron-sharpening-iron conversations, but we need to always be mindful of who and what we are reflecting. The time we spend with one another, the conversations in our meetings and all our interactions need to be godly. We need to be champions for holiness, for prayer, for personal devotion with the Lord, for listening to the Holy Spirit stirring in our lives, for living in obedience to His Word.

If there were rumors on the street about our team, I would love for them to be that we handle information well, we treat one another with respect, we have appropriate interactions with the opposite sex and we live in a way that honors Jesus. I would love the reputation of our staff to be that we’re godly.

Being a Parent

If you have children, you have a high-intensity, high-risk, high-reward discipleship environment right at home with the little ones God has entrusted to you.[1] As a parent, you have live-in disciples who are going to become just like you – whether you like it or not. Sometimes I watch my kids when they start misbehaving and wonder where they picked that up. Then I look in the mirror and realize they learned that from me!

When it comes to discipling kids, parents need to recognize the priority of their role in this regard.[2] The Scriptures teach us that parents should be the hub of discipleship in the life of a child. At the breakfast table, when driving the kids to soccer practice, when making their lunches, when they’re getting ready for school, parents should take point on the spiritual development of their children.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that outsources. We hire out services and assume that by paying the professionals we are taking advantage of their expertise, and thus receiving a better product. So we hire a mechanic, hire an electrician and hire a pastor. But God does not care about your ability to change your oil or rewire a GFI plug. He is, however, very interested in your investment into the spiritual life of the children He has entrusted to you. Children are a gift from the Lord[3] that He has graciously placed in your care. We are to train and discipline our children that they might be more like Jesus.[4] We cannot outsource this responsibility.

So invest in the spiritual life of your child. Share with them what you are reading. Pray for them. Show them what God is teaching you in His Word. Help them come to understand the gospel (grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone). Model for them faithfulness to your spouse. Attend church regularly as a practical discipline of experiencing community together. Let them see you living in relationships with others who hold you accountable and support you in your walk with the Lord. Invest your time in the things of God and help them reorient their lives toward others as well.

These are all powerful deposits that are made into the life of a child. You don’t need to have the answers, but you need to help them see Christ in you. That is your responsibility. That is being a parent.

[1] Psalm 78:1-8
[2] Deuteronomy 6:6-9
[3] Psalm 127:3
[4] Psalm 22:6

Living With Intentionality

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Recently I had the privilege of doing my friend Harold Penner’s memorial service. H.P. was a church planter, a pastor at heart, a businessman, and he was a founding advisor of The Well. We built a relationship when I was a college pastor, and I started talking about this church I really felt like I needed to start. I shared a lot of the vision with him, and he really became a Jethro figure to me – a mentor, a sage and a guy who just believed in me.

The week before the first service at The Well, I remember thinking, “Holy smokes. Next week is our first service. This is dumb. This is not a good idea.” My wife was pregnant with Peyton at the time, and Harold was the guy who believed in me and the vision for The Well. He kept admonishing me, “You can do this. God is with you. Go for it!”

Harold was a very unique man. He was godly, full of joy and wisdom, and he had a mischievous way about him. He was probably the finest man I’ve ever met. He loved life and people, and was serious about his relationship with Jesus. His capacity for people was beyond reach; he had such a crazy love for folks.

He was also very intentional about what he did. Most people live for the moment. They simply take what life gives them and then seize the day. H.P. was different. He not only had the capacity to choose joy in the moment but he could snap moments together with intentionality. He moved very strategically. He invested with intent. He planned with the next several steps in mind. And this intentionality shaped those he influenced. Whether it was his business, which he was wildly successful at, or his kids, his grandkids, or his wife, he was intentional.

Having the opportunity to do his memorial service was a highlight of my ministry. It was a powerful reminder of the results of a life lived on purpose. Scanning the crowd I saw the men and women he had influenced. They were there to pay their respects, but they were also a testimony of his influence.

It made me rethink my life. What am I doing to influence others? What steps am I taking today to help point someone toward Christ? Am I setting up strategic opportunities to invest in people and help them live out their calling – with intentionality?

I want to make sure I’m making strategic investments into my marriage. I want to set a plan for my kids and work with them, as they become solid women of God. I want to lead The Well on purpose, making strategic moves and taking intentional risks to better create a culture of influence.

It also made me consider the various seasons of life that are represented in our context and how we could all move toward a more intentional life:

  • Singles: What would it look like for you to develop a theology of relationship of the right type of person? What would be different if you strategically invested your time and energy into becoming that type of person yourself?
  • Marrieds: How could your marriage look different if you strategically invested in your most important relationship? How would your time look different? What rites of passage or marked moments could you capture with your spouse? How could you make intentional deposits into their life?
  • Parents: Children are a gift from the Lord. How could you intentionally steward that gift? What steps could you take to breathe life into your kids? How could you strategically help them grow and develop into men and women of God? What schedule changes could you make to free up your time to be present with them? What would it look like to put away the devices (phones, iPads, computers, TVs) and strategically invest in the lives of your children? We are responsible to steward their growth and development, and we cannot outsource their spiritual growth.

I think the takeaway from Harold’s life is to do life on purpose. Let’s be intentional and strategic, knowing that when we plan we must plan in pencil because God still has the authority to change whatever plans we’ve worked so diligently to create. But at least we’ve planned something. If you draw that bull’s eye on the wall, it gives you a target to move toward versus doing nothing and seeing what happens. Let’s not just accidentally do life. Let’s be intentional and steward well what God has given us.

Are You an Affair Waiting to Happen?

Basic CMYK

Affairs don’t happen overnight. They’re not issues of lust. They’re not. At the heart, they’re issues of neglect. It’s not like a guy wakes up faithful to his wife one morning and then, all the sudden, the next day, he’s like, you know what I’m gonna do today? I’m gonna totally blow up my life and have an affair. No. It’s over time.

When you or your spouse are neglected at home and connected elsewhere, you’re walking down a very short road that ends in disaster. It’s like the proverb of the sluggard. It’s a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.[1] It’s his neglect and it’s her neglect. And it’s not merely about neglecting your spouse or neglecting your family. It’s one or both of you neglecting your time with God.

What does your daily time in prayer and in the Word do to protect you from adultery? It guards your heart. It renews your mind. It screams of conviction. As you turn the page and you read about inappropriate relationships, as you read about being faithful to your spouse, as you read about being morally pure and holy and righteous, it challenges you. If you find your daily devotion with the Lord being something that is in the past or infrequent, you might want to check that, because that’s a symptom of a road leading to moral failure.

When I went to seminary I was in a class with Dr. Howard Hendricks. He’s now with Jesus. I remember he interviewed men about how they fell morally, and he looked for patterns in their stories. I recently came across an article that reminded me of the specific details. Of the almost 250 men he interviewed, none were involved in any kind of personal accountability, their daily time of prayer, worship and reading their Bible was practically nonexistent, the vast majority became sexually involved with another woman after spending significant time together, and without exception, each of them were convinced it would never happen to them.[2]

Friend, if you think it can never happen to you, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”[3] We are not immune. None of us. You are vulnerable. The pattern holds true. Be cautious. You must hold your marriage sacred at all times.

If a husband isn’t tender to his wife, and there’s conflict where he said something harsh to her but they haven’t reconciled, she is vulnerable for an affair like you cannot believe.

Some dude – her trainer, her Pilates coach, the dude who makes her wheatgrass shot at Jamba – somebody will be kind to her. And that will speak to her soul. She will hear that and eat it right up. And she’ll go back another time. She’ll drive all the way across town to go to that Jamba Juice just to see that joker again. Why? Because he’s speaking into her life where her husband should be.

The same is true for the ladies. If you disrespect your man, I promise you, somebody will respect him. Somebody will think he’s special and talented. If you won’t tell him he’s handsome, somebody will. And at some point in time, he’s an affair waiting to happen too.

I remember talking with some dear friends who had experienced this, and that’s exactly what they talked about, that this other person made me feel special, they made me feel important, made me feel good about myself. Now you juxtapose that to a home life where you don’t feel special or important, and you’ll run to that every single time.

To the singles, one of the most important things you can do is learn right now how to control your vessel, your body, in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion like those who do not know God.[4]

The patterns you create today are the patterns you bring into your marriage. So if there’s ungodliness and indulgence today, there will be ungodliness and indulgence in your marriage. A ring doesn’t change that. Who you are becoming is who you will be as a husband or as a wife. So watch over your heart, watch over your body, watch over your spiritual life.

If you’re married, there is no greater value in your life than the cultivation of your relationship with Jesus and therefore, your spouse. There’s no ministry event that’s important enough, there’s no appointment that’s important enough. And if you leave your marriage with unresolved conflict, you leave a gap, a hole, a wedge for Satan to enter into your marriage and cause division. Your spouse has got to be your priority, because if that falls, everything falls.

We have to be hyper diligent to pursue greatness in our marriages. It’s not enough for us to have good marriages. We should have great marriages. But you have to work on it. It takes time. It takes some humble pie. It takes grace. And it takes a commitment together to always be on guard and not let anything or anyone come between you.

 

[1] See Proverbs 6:9-10

[2] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-pattern-among-fallen-pastors

[3] 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

[4] 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5

Princesses & Hard Workers

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One of the dilemmas I have as a father of two girls is recognizing the tension between “you are my little princess” and “you get your butt out there and pull some weeds.” As princess as I want them to be, I don’t want them to be afraid to break a nail.

From the text, we know Ruth gleaned in the fields.[1] We know the P31 woman worked with her hands and made her arms strong.[2] Most of these women were shepherdesses. They were out in the field carrying sticks, throwing rocks, fighting off bears, stepping in sheep dung. That’s what they did. And a callous or two can be a beautiful and a very attractive thing.

I want to feed my girls’ sense of value and of knowing their beauty is on the inside. I work doubly hard and am very intentional to affirm them not for their external beauty, even though my oldest is a knockout and my youngest is close behind.

I’ll say, “Hey, can I tell you what’s beautiful about you? When you’re obedient to Mama, when you speak kindly to people, when you’re humble.” I’m affirming the inside because I know they will pursue what I affirm. If I keep talking about how pretty they are, I’m feeding the monster and I’m not going to do that. Culture is already feeding that, so I try to balance it out.

They don’t need to buy into what the world says. They can be beautiful and that’s okay. God gifts beauty to some people. Great! But what they need to know is that beauty is not merely what’s on the outside. That’s why Peter says, Don’t let your beauty merely be these things, the external braiding of hair, wearing of gold jewelry, putting on dresses.[3] It’s okay to do those things, but that shouldn’t be the focus. I want my girls to know their beauty is and should be something deeper, part of who they are. And I want to make sure I affirm that in them.

 

[1] Ruth 2:3

[2] Proverbs 31:13,17

[3] 1 Peter 3:3

How a Guy Gets Ready for a Date

Prophecy-An Incredible 45 Days

How many ladies out there had a guy in your life at some point who wrote you a note or gave you a card and you kept it? Probably most of you. Now the same question to the guys. There may be a few who kept something. No shame. But it’s probably very few.

Men and women just deal with relationships differently. Women generally feel and think about relationships at a deeper level than a man will. On a scale of zero to ten, relationally if a guy’s at a four, she’s probably at a six. If he’s at a six, she’s probably at an eight.

So here’s what happens on a date. If the dude is picking a gal up at 5, at about 4:40 he’s going to grab a t-shirt, give it the sniff test, put it on and head her way.

Meanwhile, if he’s picking her up at 5, at about 3 she started getting ready, thinking, What do I wear? She lays out various outfits and puts on various sets of clothing, and asks her roommates how they look on her. They’re all giggly. And when he pulls up she’s like, “ahh, act normal, act normal!” So he walks in and she smiles at him and just says, “hey.” But meanwhile everybody’s been freaking out.

When the date is over, most men walk back into their apartment. His roommate’s playing Xbox. “What up?” He goes, “wassup?” “How was your day?” “Cool.” And he’s playing Xbox. That’s it.

When she comes home, everybody’s on the bed. “Tell me what happened! How did it go?” And they’re like, “he said what when he passed you the salt? No way!” They’re freaking out at a level guys just don’t understand.

So just recognize we think differently about relationships. If the date went well and she starts to feel for him, she reflects upon him afterward. She thinks about him. Like the woman in Song of Solomon, she’s thinking, “My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.”[1] Or perhaps something closer to: “He’s so sweet. He’s so awesome. He handed me the salt!”

 

[1] Song of Solomon 1:14 (NASB)

The Girl in the Flannel Shirt

Flannel-Shirt

I fell in love with my wife over the smell of Pine Sol and a dirty mop.

We met August 9, 1995. I remember she was wearing a flannel shirt and jean overalls. How do I remember? Because that’s what she wore every single day. She saw me and thought I was a California pretty boy, and she passed on by. She was not impressed at all.

When I first started spending time with Jen, she was so hippie, no deodorant. And if you saw the girls I dated before Jen, you’d think, oh that’ll never work. And yet there was something about her.

We went on a mission trip and she was out there, literally dirt on her face, wearing that same flannel, just covered with dirt and sweating. I’m talking dirty. She didn’t even care. She just served. She’d be out there feeding the poor and with the kids, working. We’d do inner city ministry, and she’d knock on a door, and boom, she was in somebody’s apartment ministering to the kids, sharing the gospel.

We worked together for three years, and I noticed she’d be the first one there at a party to help set up, and when everyone said thanks and bailed, leaving the house in a mess, she’d stay and clean. She wasn’t scared to get on her hands and knees and scrub a floor. I realized this woman would do anything. She’ll go anywhere. She’ll clean a toilet no problem. She’ll scrub, dig, fix, polish. You name it, she’ll do it. I remember watching that as a single guy, and going, that is really attractive.

I had seen girls who were on the opposite end in terms of the princess spectrum, working out every day with all the fitness stuff, Lululemon whatever. And they were physically attractive. But the more I looked, they were also spiritually shallow. I thought to myself, I don’t think that’s what I want, because as I grow closer to the Lord, I’m going to grow further from that woman. I want a woman that as I grow closer to the Lord, I’m going to grow closer to her.

For three years I watched Jen lead girls to Christ. I watched her disciple gals. And I started to look at her very differently and thought, I want to date her. This girl’s amazing.

A Mouthful of Gravel

Mouthful-Gravel

Most people in Christian circles say, “don’t have sex until you’re married” or “don’t have sex with anyone other than your spouse.” But I can do all kinds of things without having sex.

We need to make sure we’re broad enough in the definition of adultery to recognize the reach of adultery. I want to make the argument that adultery is anything a godly married person wouldn’t allow or wouldn’t be allowed to do with someone other than their spouse, and there are similar parameters placed on all of us. I am in danger of committing adultery if I allow my heart, my mind, my body to pursue anything or anyone other than my spouse. The issue’s not if you’re married or single, but is that person your spouse or not?

Have you ever had that moment where on the outside it looked to be perfect? He or she said the right thing and the moment was right with candlelight, smooth music, one thing leading to another, like the thing movies are made of, and just like Eve, you grabbed that fruit and you ate. And you ended up with a mouthful of gravel.

Proverbs 5 says the adulteress is smooth and her lips drip honey, yet the results are bitter.[1] When we disobey God sexually, it’s always going to be catastrophe. Don’t even go near the door of the adulteress or you will give your vigor to others and your years to the cruel one. Your body will be consumed because you didn’t listen to instruction.[2]

Marital love can be glorious. It can be intimate, it can be beautiful, it can be refreshing, and it can have, no pun intended, legs to take you decades into your marriage. It’s not a ball and chain. The proverb continues and it gets very personal. Let your fountain be blessed. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her breasts satisfy you. Let her love exhilarate you.[3]

God has given you a refreshment of sexuality. It is precious and He has entrusted it to you. Think of it for a moment as holding a cup of coffee in your hands. You can choose to disperse it abroad, but that’s not why He gave it to you. He gave it to you so that one day, someday down the road, a spouse will drink of what you have and will be refreshed by it. But if you give what God has given you to everyone else, the day will come when you get married, and you’ll go to give yourself to your spouse, and you’ll tip over an empty cup.

Don’t let your waters be dispersed abroad.[4] He doesn’t deserve it. She doesn’t deserve it. I don’t care if you feel like you’re in love or not. First ice up that finger. Get married and then have a party with each other. “Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”[5] Have naked weekends, have naked vacations, do whatever you want with each other. But until then, listen to understanding and wisdom. Observe discretion[6] and just say, that’s enough.

I don’t care where you’ve been. I don’t judge you for where you’ve been. I am the last one who should judge you for that. But there has to come a point in time where you say, that’s enough. I’m not going to keep doing that. I don’t care what the world says. The world says, what if he’s no good in bed? You don’t understand. God rigged it that if you’re never with anyone else, it’ll be the best sex you’ve ever had for the rest of your life. That’s the point. But the frame of comparison is sin. So take what God has given you and don’t share it with anyone but your spouse. And then enjoy your time together for the rest of your life.

 

[1] Proverbs 5:3-4

[2] Proverbs 5:8-13

[3] Proverbs 5:18-19

[4] Proverbs 5:16-17

[5] Song of Solomon 5:1

[6] Proverbs 5:1-2

How to Spot a Godly Man (Dating Advice for My Daughters)

I think about my girls dating and I seriously panic! It freaks me out, to be honest, but it’s inevitable. Unfortunately, since arranged marriages aren’t really part of our culture, they will eventually date. God, help us all.

To my girls,

Someday, by God’s grace, you will be married. And I hope and pray that you will have a godly marriage to a godly guy. I realize that these principles are not super applicable for you yet, so consider this a preemptive strike. When you start to think about dating – someday far, far in the future – here’s what you need to know:

1. Look for the right type of guy.

There’s an allure in our culture of the super-romantic Mr. Right. We want to find that one person. But our lives are not determined by fate. I think the biblical picture is we need to find the right type of person.

The right type of person is godly. They study their Bible. They serve. They are generous and humble. They have character. Set your standards high and never compromise.

2. Make sure this guy you’re looking for is godly – without you.

You’ve got to make sure that this guy will be godly without you, because if he will not be godly without you and he’s not leading himself spiritually, he’s got no business leading you spiritually. He cannot lead you where he has never been.

And godliness at a point in time means nothing. Anybody can fake it for a while. Godliness over a period of time means everything. He can fake it for a season, but he cannot fake it over time.

3. Ask some questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask around. What’s his character like? What’s his reputation? What does he post online? Ask his friends, if he has any. If he doesn’t have any, run to the hills! Ask his pastor what he’s like. Is he in a Life Group? Ask his Life Group leader. Find out who he really is. And take your time. You will never regret taking things slowly, but regret often comes with taking things too quickly.

4. If you find a guy who’ll submit to God, you’ll find the right type of guy.

A guy who doesn’t have a higher authority than himself will most likely either be apathetic about his faith at some point or be abusive because there’s no check in his life. If you find a guy who has a higher authority than himself, like the word of God, and who is willing to submit to Him, that’s a guy who will treat you the way you need and deserve to be treated.

With Love,
Your Dad