Friday, October 17, 2014

MARK DRISCOLL HAS RESIGNED | It's a Time for Prayer Not Speculation



After nearly two years straight of back to back, continually escalating controversies, Mark Driscoll has resigned.  It doesn't really matter what my take, or your take on any specific controversy.  What matters are the end results.

  • ACTS 29, the church planting organization he started, kicked Mars Hill out of their association.
  • Multiple Christian retailers stopped selling his books.
  • His church's attendance and giving have fallen through the floor.  They've even had to shut down several locations.
  • Finally, he has chosen to turn in his resignation.
And once again, a mega-church pastor has fallen from glory while the nation watches.  


Whether you loved or hated Driscoll, there's really no satisfaction in his resignation.  If you're a fan of Driscoll, you'll be disappointed that he's leaving his ministry, and disappointed that many of the charges against him were verified.  If you were a critic of Driscoll, his resignation demonstrates a growing humility and brokenness. His actions here deconstruct many of the narratives people have about him.  


Now isn't the time for criticism.
Now isn't the time for praise.
Now isn't the time for defense.
Now isn't the time for speculation.

Now is the time for prayer!

Pray for Our Response

Christians have a long history of shooting their own.  We love to speculate and assume.  While we would all agree that gossip is wrong when it deals with people we know in person, for some reason we give our gossip a pass as long as we're writing a blog post or status update about someone we don't know. Almost none of us know Mark Driscoll (though I did talk for him for 30 seconds once at a conference; he told me I married a keeper).  Almost none of us are at Mars Hill Church.  We don't know what's going on at his church, in his head, or in his heart.

So, what value do our speculations add to the universe?

Up to this point, I haven't seen any new smear or defense pieces pop up online (the general consensus seems to be surprise).  I think there's value in praying that things stay that way.

Pray for Mars Hill Church

At the heart of this story is a local church.  Mark Driscoll has never been Mars Hill Church.  Mars Hill Church has always been the people of Mars Hill Church.  As of today, these people are seriously hurting.  They have lost people, money, and now their founding pastor.  

Regardless of whether or not you like Driscoll's theology, teaching, or personality, 1000s of people in Seattle alone have been positively impacted by Mars Hill Church.

Those people need our prayers during this painful time of transition.

Pray for Mark Driscoll

Driscoll is a clearly a gifted communicator with a charismatic personality, whose talent at times has transcended his maturity.  I've read most of his books, and listened to a great many of his sermons.  I can understand why many are turned off by his style, but I'm not one of those people.  He has tremendous potential to connect with normal people (specifically young males), and still talk about theology.  

I can only imagine the type of influence a more mature Driscoll could have.


Much like the way we forgot that Mars Hill is an actual church, we forget that Mark Driscoll is an actual human.  He has a wife.  He has several kids.  He lives in a suburban house. And, until a couple of days ago, he was a pastor, and his resignation is being analyzed on a national scale.  He's attempting to lead his family while countless people who don't know him (like myself) are talking about him.

  • Mark Driscoll needs our prayers.
  • Grace Driscoll needs our prayers.
  • Their kids need our prayers.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The SHOCKING Truth About Love! ...it means more than you think it means!



Remember in the movie "The Princess Bride" how Wallace Shawn's character kept saying, "Inconceivable!!!"  After several rounds of the man in the black mask surviving these challenges where it is "inconceivable" that any man would survive, one of his henchmen (played by Mandy Pantinkin) turns to him and says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

If there's a word in our culture where we are universally confused, it has to be LOVE!

The Spanish language has 100,000 words.  German has a vocabulary of 185,000 words.  That may seem like a lot of words until you realize that the English language has somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 words. The English language is one of the most robust languages that has ever existed.

The word "chatty" has 40 synonyms!



But, for some reason, when it comes to possibly the most important concept in the English language, we use a single word as a junk drawer for a series of complex emotions: LOVE

Just look at this quick sampling of ways we use the word LOVE


Love Shoes – To really really like an object
Love Dogs - To have fondness for a creature
Love Friends – To find companionship in other people
Love Family – To have a deep, unconditional concern for relatives
Love Boyfriend – To have romantic feelings without commitment
Love Mankind Universal concern for your species
Love Wife – To have romantic feelings and commitment
Make Love – Euphemism for Sex
To be in Love – Romantic Feelings
Love is a Verb – A choice to care for someone which is accompanied by actions
God Loves Us – An unconditional, selfless concern for mankind
I Love God – A selfless affection for who God is and what He has done

I wonder how many relationships and marriages have run into problems simply because of a vocabulary problem.  When one word covers so much ground, it's guaranteed to lead to confusion and trouble.

Whether you're trying to understand your relationship with another person or you're trying to understand the tension in a relationship, you need to understand what you mean when you say, "Love."

One of the things which has most helped me understand what I mean by LOVE and how to better evaluate how I'm doing at loving my wife and family is to look at the different words for, "Love," in Greek.

The Greek language has four different words for LOVE:
  • Storge
  • Philia
  • Eros
  • Agape
Different relationships require different types of love.  A life-long romantic relationship called marriage requires all four types of love.  These four words we call LOVE can give you a grid by which to understand why certain relationships in your life succeed and others fail.

So, what do each of these words mean?


STORGE - Fondness for the Familiar / Nurturing

Storge, "στοργή" or "Affection" is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members.  It has an implied sense of carrying a nurturing nature.  
  •       Nurturing
  •       Mother to a child

This love refers to a desire to see to the well-being for a person or an object.  Storge is so essential to the love a parent has for their kids that any hint that a parent lacks this love will draw extreme criticism.  When we learn of a parent abusing their child, we're appalled, because abuse is so antithetical to the storge love we assume parents have for their kids.

RELATIONSHIPS WITHOUT STORGE

Consider the many people in your life that you may say you "love."  What does that "love" mean without storge?
  • FRIENDSHIP - You may enjoy each other's company, but if there is no "storge," these aren't lifelong friends who truly care for you.
  • PARENTS - A parent without storge love for their children is more of a sperm or egg donor than a parent.  They're the biological parents, but they haven't earned the title. 
  • HERE'S THE TRICKY PART FOR PARENTS - Often times, we will feel a storge love for our children, but we don't know how to communicate. Our children may not FEEL our storge love because our actions communicate something different to them.
  • MARRIAGE - A marriage without storge is a marriage with two people who have stopped caring about one another. Even if you still have the other loves, without storge, your marriage is in serious danger.  Much like with children, your actions communicate much louder than your words.  If you don't communicate storge with your actions, your spouse won't feel loved.

PHILIA - Friendship

This Greek word eventually translated into Latin, and it made it's way into a number of familiar words.
  • Philadelphia - The City of Brotherly Love
  • Philosophy - Love of Wisdom
  • Pedophile - Lover of Children

Philia love is a bond existing between people who share interests or activities. Phileo is a love between family and friends.  When you say you love your friends, that is PHILIA love.

RELATIONSHIPS WITHOUT PHILIA
  • FRIENDS - Friendships without PHILIA aren't lifelong friendships.  These are your buddies and acquaintances.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you need to know which friends are true friends, and which friends are buddies.
  • PARENTS - Philia love is not the most important love for a parent to have for their child. As much as society loves to romanticize the idea of moms and dads as their kids' best friends, in reality, parents need to be parents first, and friends second, or third.  With that said, your relationship with your children will be much stronger, and more fun, if you have a healthy dose of PHILIA.
  • MARRIAGE - When you remove FRIENDSHIP from your relationship with your spouse, your marriage stops being a marriage, and becomes more like a job where you're required to do married people things.  

EROS - Passion / Romance


Eros (ρως) is love in the sense of 'being in love."  Eros longs to emotionally connect with another person, and it is directed towards a specific person.  This is probably the form of love which is easiest to understand.
  • I love him!
  • We're falling in love!
While EROS is probably the most familiar and commonly agreed upon definition of love, it's also the most dangerous.  EROS is the closest love to being purely emotion.  When someone says they've fallen out of love, they're referring to EROS. Likewise, feelings of EROS keep people in relationships which should have ended long ago.  In particular, sex (as a physical act of EROS) is intended to glue two people together in the context of marriage.  In dating relationships, sex can prolong bad relationships by pouring fuel on the EROS without any substance behind it.

Often times, PHILIA love is a precursor to EROS.  When two people of opposite sexes have a strong PHILIA love, it's extremely common for one or both people to develop EROS.  This is why I almost always encourage people who are married to set extremely conservative boundaries in regards to the opposite sex.  It's so easy for PHILIA to morph into EROS if you're not being careful.

RELATIONSHIPS WITHOUT EROS

  • MARRIAGE - Marriage without EROS is a passionless marriage.  While this may seem the most fickle of the loves, in practice, you can fuel the EROS by offering STORGE and PHILIA. If you're distant, avoiding having fun, and not acting nurturing, why would you be surprised that the EROS is fading?


AGAPE - Unconditional Love

Agape love is the love which commits for life.  Agape love transcends circumstances and time. Agape love is a bond which holds friendships, families, and marriages together.  

While we love to receive AGAPE love, it is the most difficult love to offer others.  AGAPE love requires that I offer forgiveness and grace.  AGAPE love exists even when love isn't reciprocated. 

AGAPE love is the ingredient missing from far too many marriages. Ironically, virtually every marriage ceremony has a reading of the passage in the Bible which most accurately describes AGAPE love:


1 Corinthians 13
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails.

AGAPE love is the reason there is a huge disconnect between teenagers and adults regarding love. Most adults scoff off the words of teenagers when they proclaim they're in love.  The teenagers are annoyed because their feelings of PHILIA and EROS are being discounted by adults.  The adults are insulted that the teenager is using the same word to describe a two month relationship as they use to describe their 20 year marriage based in AGAPE love.

AGAPE IN RELATIONSIHPS

  • FRIENDS - A friendship with AGAPE love is a life long friendship.  These are the friends that you would do anything for. These are the friends that you will continue to fight for, even if they turned far away.
  • CHILDREN - AGAPE love is what keeps a parent fighting for their child during the teenage years.  AGAPE love means that parents love their children in times of rebellion, and times of celebration.
  • MARRIAGE - AGAPE love is the glue which holds marriages together, regardless of circumstances and changes.  AGAPE love is what everyone wants to receive out of marriage, and what almost everyone pledges to give during their marriage.  
A marriage without AGAPE love is in serious danger of ending in divorce.

LOVE PATTERNS

When you understand these four forms of love, you start to better understand the nature of the most important relationships in your life.  


PHILIA + AGAPE
Life-Long Friends

STORGE + AGAPE
Family Relationships

PHILIA + EROS
Romantic Dating Relationships

EROS + STORGE
Co-Dependent Relationships


FINAL THOUGHTS

As you look at the most important relationships in your life, you can usually evaluate their health based off of whether they have appropriate levels of the different types of love.

  • Is your marriage lacking one of the four types of love?
  • Do you have a friendship that isn't a deep as it pretends to be because it's lacking AGAPE or STORGE?
  • Is your relationship with a child strained over a perceived lack of STORGE or AGAPE?

How are you doing at loving with all four loves?


Where do you see that people are most confused when it comes to love?






[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/chatty




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Are You Missing One of the Five OBVIOUS Ways to Help Your Children Grow Spiritually?



One of the greatest joys in life is raising the next generation.
One of the greatest responsibilities in life is raising the next generation.

While you need a license to drive a car, there are absolutely no legal requirements to get to raise a human being as your own.  You don't need any training.  A couple of days after you give birth, they kick you out of the hospital and send you home.  Then, for the next 18 years you're responsible to raise a human being to adulthood.

It's hard enough to keep them safe from themselves...
It's hard enough to raise respectful, well behaved teenagers...

What does it take raise a great adult who loves Jesus?

Ephesians 6
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Here are five TOTALLY OBVIOUS suggestions for how to establish yourself as a spiritual leader and role model to your children.  While they may be TOTALLY OBVIOUS, that doesn't mean you're doing them. or doing them right.

#1 | Join a Great Church That Your Kids Love


You aren't meant to live life alone, and you weren't meant to raise your kids alone.  God gave us a wonderful second family known as the Church.  If you're not plugged into a great church that values families, your children are missing out on this amazing gift that God intended for all of His children.

When I say you need to be plugged into a great church, I don't simply mean attending a service or two each week. Church was never intended to merely be something you attend.  God intended something so much more.  Plugging into a church means you don't merely go to your church; it means that you are the Church.

You serve.
You give.
You care.
You love.
You live life within a community of believers.

For a church to be a great church for your family, there needs to be a place for your kids to plug in as well.  If your kid or teenager hates going to church, you may need to switch churches.  You may love the preaching, programs, and music but, if your kids don't want to go to church, it's not worth it.

Find a church where your entire family can plug in.  As the parent and more mature believer, you should be able to be more flexible as to the settings in which you can worship and grow.

Here is a great book on the power of church and family joining forces:


#2 | Pray For Your Kids Daily | Pray With Your Kids Daily

As simple of an idea as it is to pray for and with your kids daily, if you're struggling with your daily devotionals, you can easily slip out of this practice.

Praying for your kids daily is a way to focus your parenting on God, and invite Him into your family. Praying with your kids daily teaches your children that your family trusts God on a daily basis.

While almost any prayer is better than no prayer with your kids, I would encourage you to have a time of prayer which isn't surrounding a meal.  I've known people who were very diligent about praying before meals, but the prayers had no substance. Find a daily time when you can model holistic prayers that do more than make requests and offer thanks.

Try using the acronym ACTS:

ADORATION          Praise God for who He is and what He has done
CONFESSION         Confess your sins and short-comings
THANKSGIVING   Thank God for His many blessings
SUPPLICATION     Make your requests to God

#3 | Schedule Family Devotionals

If you want to lead your children spiritually, you need to consistently spend time with them in God's Word.  During the school year, they spend eight hours per day at school.  Depending on your household, they may spend hours per day on their phone, computer, watching TV, or playing video games.  They spend hours every day being influenced by countless factors.

Given the extreme amount of external influence on your children, it only seems obvious that your children need regular time with you diving into the Word.

As a youth pastor, I love it when students ask me honest questions about their faith. At the same time, I'm even more excited when I hear stories of students having spiritual and theological conversations with their parents.  As much as I love being an influence in teenagers lives, I would gladly take 2nd seat to a parent.

Even as a youth pastor, I have to acknowledge that my influence pales in comparison to that of a student's parents.  You are the greatest influence on your child's life.  Leverage that influence to lead your children to love Jesus.

#4 | Prioritize Spiritual Growth and Family Over Everything

Actions speak louder than words. It doesn't matter how often you tell your kids that God is your highest priority- your actions will speak to your actual priorities.

What are the things in your family's life which take top priority?

  • Sports
  • Boy Scouts
  • Grades
  • Band
  • Hunting
  • Your social life

I've known far too many families whose kids miss church, small groups, or other activities because the family has an excessively busy sports schedule.  I'll pick on club sports a bit more than other things because, from my experience, it's the worst offender.  Countless leagues have Sunday morning games.  One volleyball league has the audacity to have a statewide tournament Easter weekend every single year. Maybe it's my own sinful nature but, if you miss Easter Sunday at your home church because you're attending a Volleyball tournament for your kids, you have taught your kids a terrible lesson.  Don't let sports win.

When you establish spiritual growth as your family's priority, you teach your kids what really matters.  When you marginalize spiritual growth by always viewing church as the thing which gets sidelined, you send your kids a very confusing message.

Teach your kids what matters most by arranging your schedule around their spiritual development.  Be willing to tell your child's coach, "No," when they make unreasonable demands.

Honestly, I get really skeptical of people who attempt to claim their children or family is too busy to get fully plugged in to church. One of my students a few years back had one of the craziest schedules I had ever seen.

  • He was in marching band. 
  • He led worship for two different churches' youth bands.
  • He had a job where he worked around 20 hours per week.
  • He was in the top 5% of his class.
  • He had a girlfriend (whom he later married).
  • He had an active social life.
  • He was in a band.
  • He spent countless hours writing and recording songs.
  • He was in a small group and never missed an event.
  • He helped in any way I asked.
That was someone that knew how to make the most of their time.  Certainly he's an extreme case, but he also demonstrates how you really can do a ton of stuff at school, and still be plugged into church.


Your children need to be a part of communities and activities which foster spiritual growth but, equally as important, they need to see you prioritize spiritual matters.

#5 | Model a Godly Life

Without question, the most important thing you can do as a parent is model a godly life.  Live a life filled with so much joy, love, and generosity that they would be insane to not want what you have.

While this is incredibly obvious, it's also incredibly difficult.  Your kids see you in your highs, and lowest lows.  You can fool the people at church, but you won't fool them.  But, really, even our failures give us an opportunity to love differently.  Of course, you're going to make mistakes. You're even going to sin in the direction of your kids.  Even in those moments, you can model godly living by showing them what repentance and an authentic apology looks like.

  • Do you model daily devotions?
  • Do you model godly character?
  • Do you model grace, love, and mercy?
  • Do you model generosity?
  • Do you model forgiveness?
  • Do you model what Biblical manhood looks like?
  • Do you model what Biblical womanhood looks like?

Be the person you want them to be!
Live the life you want them to live!

Be their spiritual role model!
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Three TERRIBLE Pieces of Advice People Keep Sharing! ...and better advice you should actually listen to



Most cliche advice falls into one of three categories:
  1. It's a cliche because it's true!  i.e. "Always consider the source!"
  2. It's a cliche because it tells us what we want to hear! i.e. "Follow your dreams!"
  3. It's a cliche because it's catchy!  i.e. "Where there's a will, there's a way!"


The problem is that far too few people stop and consider the advice they're offering or receiving.  One of the reasons we offer bad cliche advice is that we know how we've applied certain advice, and things worked out well for us.  However, what we don't know is how other people are going to personalize or apply that same advice.  While certain words may have encouraged wise action on your part, it may lead others to utter foolishness.

Here are three cliches which are TERRIBLE advice to give someone.  They tell us what we want to hear, but not what we need to hear.   Unfortunately my alternative suggestions aren't as catchy.

#1 | Trust Your Heart!

The heart is a very confusing thing. You can't easily define it.  We all tend to have many emotions pushing us in many directions.  So, which impulse is your heart?

I know how inspirational it can be in a movie for someone to "have lots of heart," and then, "follow their heart," to great success.  But, in the real world, "Following your heart" is really just mumbo jumbo for trusting your fleeting emotions.

Just stop and think about it:
  • We all know highly passionate and highly emotional people who are prone towards impulsive decisions...they really shouldn't follow their heart!
  • We all know someone who is extremely greedy and immoral...they really shouldn't follow their heart!
  • All of us can become blinded by possibilities, or paralyzed by uncertainty...in those moments, we really shouldn't follow our hearts!
On a spiritual note, trusting your heart is a really really bad idea, according to the Bible.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?- Jeremiah 17:9
Throughout scripture, it's made clear that every single one of us are sinners.  There's a toxin in our system called sin, and it continually leads us astray. Blindly choosing to follow our hearts is fairly close to choosing to follow your sin nature.


BETTER ADVICE | Trust the advice of people that know you and care about you!
No one should live life alone.  We need community, and we need the advice of people who can see our blind spots.  When it comes to making HUGE life decisions, we often have huge blind spots. Run your options by someone you can trust, and let them filter through what your "heart" is leading you to do.  

#2 | Do What You Love, and the Money Will Follow

Often times people will advise high school graduates to pursue a career doing something they would enjoy doing even if they weren't paid.  Maybe this would be good advice to give a responsible 30 year old, but it's terrible advice for a teenager.

When I was 18, I liked playing video games, making music, creating movies, and writing.  Nearly fifteen years later, I've made zero dollars playing video games, a few hundred dollars making music, a few hundred dollars on video work, and pretty close to no money writing.  All in all, I've made about one month's mortgage payment doing what I loved when I was 18.

Also when I was 18, I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to be a teacher or public speaker. My sister was student teaching in her final semesters in college, and I just could not fathom why anyone would want to do that.  Eight years later, I was in my final semester in college, student teaching.  Six months after that, I was sending out resumes to schools in an effort to get a job as a teacher.

The moral of this story: I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WOULD ENJOY DOING AS AN ADULT WHEN I WAS 18!  Very few eighteen year olds have enough life experience to be able to reliably predict what they will love doing ten years in the future, and all the things which they do love doing are not reliable career paths.


BETTER ADVICE
Pursue a career path in a direction you are interested, where you can actually get a job! 
Just because you love something, doesn't mean there is money to be made there.  Many of the areas where people have lots of passion are extraordinarily difficult to make money at.  I'm not suggesting you shouldn't do things you love, but not all of our passions provide a living.  

#3 | Follow Your Dreams

I'm all for working in the direction of your dreams, but dreams are called dreams for a reason.  Unless you have very small dreams for your life, your dreams are very unlikely to come true.  I'm not being a downer.  I'm not trying to be super negative.  But, by definition, dreams are extremely difficult to achieve.

I grew up attending a large high school and, by the time I graduated, my church had grown to be a mega-church.  I've been plugged in at various churches throughout my life, and I attended a small Bible college.  All this to say, I know a good number of people.  Of all the people I've known, one went on to play Major League Baseball (Kelly Johnson), and another person went on to have national success in a band (he was an original member of the band Love and Theft).  I'm not aware of anyone who has had any significant success in Hollywood.
  • If you love sports....PLAY SPORTS!
  • If you love music...MAKE MUSIC!
  • If you love making movies...MAKE MOVIES!
There is value in exploring your dreams.  I played in many bands in my early 20's.  I've spent countless hours writing and brainstorming plots for movies.  But, as life progressed, and my dreams never found traction, those areas became my hobbies.

I still make music
I still make movies.
I still write (I'm writing right now).

But, I also have a job that pays the bills and feeds my family.


BETTER ADVICE
Explore your dreams, but don't follow your dreams unless responsible people you respect advice you to
My friend who was in Love and Theft is one of the most talented singer/musicians I have known in my entire life.  Back when he first announced he was moving to Nashville to pursue his dreams, I thought to myself, "That's good idea."  It wasn't just that he had a passion for music, it's that everyone acknowledged that he had the potential to succeed.  If you're throwing responsibility out the window to chase a dream, you better be doing so because someone not emotionally invested in the decision also thinks you can make it.  I'm all for risks, but I'm not for self-delusion.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whenever we seek advice, it is vital that you ask people who love you enough to tell you something you don't want to hear.  Far too often our society encourages giving people false hope by promising success for everyone.  Unfortunately we don't all have the same talent or work ethic.  We can't all achieve dream level success.  That isn't to say that we need to settle for a mundane life, but it does mean that we probably shouldn't define success based off of shallow standards like popularity, fame, and fortune.



What do you think is the worst advice people keep sharing?  
Comment below and let me know!


If you liked this post, you may also like this article:





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Monday, October 13, 2014

5 Conversations You Must Have Before You Say, "I Do!" ...If You Want to Stay Married



I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part!

Until death do us part is a really long time to love and cherish a person, no matter the circumstances. I'm sure there are a few exceptions, but everyone means their vows when they recite them at their wedding.

Still, as the years pass, and life happens, many marriages find themselves in trouble.  Despite their intentions, many married couples find themselves drifting apart.  The romance is still there, they still have fun together but, when it comes to living life, they're headed in different directions.

Sometimes this happens because of circumstances, but other times the reason is far more simple. Two people headed in different directions, with different expectations got married without talking about the things that really matter.  Despite their best intentions, they're moving in different directions.

Your direction, not your intention, determines your destination  | Andy Stanley

If you want to live with your spouse until death separates you, you need to be headed in the same direction when it comes to the most important aspects of life.  Marriage is hard enough when you agree on things.  Disagreeing on the essentials in life is like jamming a wedge between you and your spouse.

Below are FIVE conversations you must have if you want to stay married!

BOUNDARIES

Your spouse isn't your life-long roommate.  Your spouse is your spouse.  Your life has fundamentally changed.  That means you have to change the way you live your life.  This will mean you will have to make sacrifices of your personal freedom for the sake of your marriage.

Every healthy marriage has boundaries.  Whether it's stated or not, every normal marriage has some boundary in regards to relationships with the opposite sex.  The question isn't whether you do or don't have boundaries; the question is where you put your boundaries, and whether you're going to talk about them on the front end.

You save an enormous amount of frustration for both of you if you have a series of honest conversations where you agree on your marriages boundaries.

I highly recommend establishing boundaries FAR FAR away from actual trouble.  Be willing to sacrifice freedom to preserve your marriage.

  • Where do you draw the line in regards to relationships and interactions with the opposite sex?  My wife and I never spend time alone with the opposite sex. I don't ride in cars alone with girls I'm not related to. I don't have lunch appointments with women. I just don't do it.
  • How much money can you spend without talking with the other person?
  • What are your rules of engagement when you get into a fight?  I highly recommend you clearly define a set of rules for when you get mad at each other.  You're going to disagree in a major way.  Set ground rules for how to do so without damaging your relationship.
  • How much privacy do you have from each other?  My wife has all of my passwords for everything.  She is free look through my Facebook whenever she wants.  
  • What will you say about your spouse to other people?
  • What level of influence and involvement do your in-laws have in your life?

This is by no means a complete list of subjects to discussion, but it's a starting point.

A couple of resources which may help:




MONEY

The leading cause of divorce in North America is money fights and money problems.  The sooner you get on the same page with money, the more likely you are to able to dodge the bullet that is money fights.
  • How much debt do each of you have?
  • Do you regularly carry debt?
  • Do you have a budget?
  • How are you going to create your monthly budget?
  • Are you going to combine finances?  And what do you mean by combining finances?  You really really need to, and each of you need to view ALL of your money as BOTH of yours.
  • Are you naturally a spender or a saver?
  • What is your plan for retirement?

You need to know each other's financial history, and you need to be on the same page.  I highly recommend that all engaged couples go through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

If you can't afford Financial Peace University, read his book The Total Money Makeover together.  Click on the image to purchase it.


RELIGION

Marriage is hard enough if you agree on everything.  I can't imagine a marriage where you literally disagree on what you believe about why we exist, and the basis for morality.

My faith informs how I act as a husband.
My faith informs how I act as a father.
My faith informs my entire moral code.
My faith informs my purpose in life.

I honestly can't fathom how difficult it would be to sort through the important decisions in life if we didn't agree on our foundation.

If you met your girlfriend/boyfriend/fiance at church, this is probably a fairly easy conversation.  If you met in a different context, this might be a much more difficult conversation.
  • Who is the spiritual leader in your household?
  • What do you believe? What is your faith/religion?
  • Where will you go to church?
  • When it comes to your faith, what is most important to you?
  • How do you intend to raise your children in the faith?

IN-LAWS

As a purely anecdotal observation, it seems, in most marriages, one person is REALLY close to their family, and the other person prefers a bit more distance. Distance doesn't necessarily mean drama, but it means they don't feel as urgent of a need to spend time with their family or talk with them.

I see my mother and sister at least once per month, sometimes more, but I have fairly limited non-online communication with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  There's no drama. We just don't see each other very often.  My wife talks to her mom on the phone almost daily.  She goes to her parents' house usually bi-weekly, and her extended family comes to town about once every two months. After almost eight years of marriage, we still have regular conversations about how much time we should spend with the in-laws and extended family.

You need to know what each person is expecting, and have a good idea of how well each of you get along with the other person's family.
  • How much time do you expect to spend with your family?
  • How do you expect to spend time with your extended family?
  • How much does your family mingle in your business?
  • How well do each of you get along with the other person's family?


KIDS

If you're on the same page, kids are an amazing blessing which will pull you together.
If you're not on the same page, kids can create massive wedge between the two of you.

Imagine you're married, and your first child is getting to the age where you need a discipline plan. You were raised to believe "Spare the rod, spoil the child" mindset, and your spouse was raised to believe that spanking is borderline child abuse.  Suddenly, several years into marriage, you realize that your spouse thinks you want to abuse your child, and you think your spouse doesn't want to discipline your child.  That's a big problem, and this is just one of the countless examples of where being on separate pages causes problems.
  • How many kids do you want?
  • How will you discipline your children?
  • How much do you want to spoil your children?
  • Where will they go to school?
  • How much technology will you allow them to play?
  • What types of movies and video games will they have access to?
  • Will you try to pay for their college, or take out loans?
  • Will you buy them a car?
The list goes on and on!

Raising children may be the greatest responsibility that we have in this lifetime.  It's far too important to neglect to talk about it in advance.



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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Please Pray for the Girl Who Wrote an Open Letter to Her Unborn Child She Plans to Abort Tomorrow


[UPDATED October 16th]
On the night of October 9th, a young woman posted an open letter to her unborn child on reddit titled, "I am getting an abortion next Friday. An open letter to the little life I won't get to meet." If you have not read it, please do so before continuing to read this post.

In the 7 days since she posted her open letter, hundreds of people have responded to "support" her decision.  Many have shared their own stories of abortion.  Others described her letter as beautiful.  However, due to the rules of the forum, the only "support" she is receiving is from people affirming the decision she has already made.

The moderators of the thread are actively deleting any comments that do not directly support her decision.  So, there's no real way to support her without endorsing her current decision.  I know she'll never actually read what I write here, but her story and her feelings are the feelings of 1000s of women in her position.  I do believe one of these women might read this letter, or this letter may inspire more Christians to support women seeking an abortion by offering a true alternative.  We can make a difference.

This isn't a time for Christians to point fingers and fight culture wars.
This isn't a time to analyze why someone would write a letter like this.
This is the time to show love and offer mercy and grace.

While we can't change her mind or even communicate with her directly, we can do something.  Maybe it won't change her choice, but it will have an impact somewhere, somehow.

We can pray.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,


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Friday, October 10, 2014

VIDEO: Seth Godin "How to Get Your Ideas to Spread"



Some great thoughts on how ideas spread from Seth Godin.  It's well worth 15 minutes of your life.



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Thursday, October 9, 2014

WARNING POLITICIANS | Mud Slinging Won't Convince Me to Vote For You



I have no patience for dirty political campaigns.  In theory I understand the idea behind a dirty campaign.  If you make the other person look bad enough, no one will vote for them.

Here's the problem, just because you smeared their name doesn't mean you're a good candidate.  I'm not going to vote for you simply because you're not the other person.  You have to actually build a case for yourself.

The current Texas gubernatorial election is a great example of everything I find distasteful about 21st century politics.

THE TEXAS RACE

We're less than a month away from the 2014 mid-term elections, and it marks a particularly interesting election for Texas, where I live, because it means the end of Rick Perry's near 15 year term as governor of Texas.  Republicans are eager to continue their 20 year reign over the state of Texas, and Democrats are eager to turn Texas blue.

The end result of this political grudge match is two very nasty campaigns!

PLANNED PARENTHOOD STARTS THE NASTY!

The nastiness didn't start with the candidates themselves.  The first sign that things were going to turn nasty came months and months ago when my Facebook feed starting having daily assaults from sponsored ads from Planned Parenthood.  In the midst of the Hobby Lobby birth control debate, Planned Parenthood and a few other companies started running smear campaigns against candidates who sided with Hobby Lobby.

It would be one thing if the ads presented FACTS or QUOTES from Greg Abbott regarding the issue. Instead, these ads were misinformation and smear tactics.  The ads were so absurd and misleading that I screen captured them.


  

Stop and consider what these ads are saying, "Greg Abbott doesn't trust women to make their own birth control decisions." There are two key claims:

  • Greg Abbott doesn't trust women's decision making ability
  • Greg Abbott wants to decide on their birth control for them
Where do they get this idea from?  Because he believes a privately owned business should be allowed to refuse to pay for certain birth controls for religious reasons.  

  • His position has nothing to do with women's decision making ability
  • His position has nothing to do with actually wanting to control women's birth control
  • He doesn't believe the government should tell businesses what types of birth control THEY HAVE TO pay for for their employees
  • As far as I know, he has NO opinion on what birth control they buy on their own

Whether you agree or disagree with Greg Abbott's position, their smear campaigns' claims are misinformation at best, and out-right intentionally deceptive lies at worst.

But, they continue to run these ads.  This one appeared in my feed yesterday:


Yesterday's claim about Greg Abbott: "[He] Believes: Bosses should control women's access to birth control."

Once again, Greg Abbott doesn't believe that the Federal government should mandate what birth controls privately owned businesses HAVE TO pay for their employees.  His actual position seems to be that he wants businesses OUT of the birth control business unless they choose to offer it as a benefit.  He doesn't want to control anyone's access to birth control; Birth control is readily available without needing to include your boss in the mix.

Now, you may totally disagree with his position but, at the core of what Greg Abbott ACTUALLY stands for, it has nothing to do with him trying to control women's access to birth control, or giving power to women's bosses.

These ads spread misinformation and make a joke of real issues.  Planned Parenthood should be embarrassed that they're running these ads.

But this isn't a one sided mud slinging match...

GREG ABBOTT JOINS IN TOO

As we get closer to the election, there seems to be more and more mud slinging going on.  Early on, it seemed Abbott was trying to run a cleaner campaign but, more recently, his ads have turned negative. 

A look at his YouTube channel shows the shift in his campaign:



The video uploaded right before this was titled, "Senator Wendy Davis Melts Down Again In Debate."  As we head into the final weeks of their campaigns, the focus has shifted to...
  • Wendy makes disgusting comments
  • Wendy is a liar
  • Wendy is unethical
  • Wendy gets her numbers wrong
  • Wendy had a melt down
There's no shortage of commentary on Wendy Davis, but there's nothing which will actually convince me that I should vote for him, it's just responding to mud slinging with mud slinging.

WENDY DAVIS JOINS THE MUD SLINGING

The most offensive ads have come from Wendy Davis' campaign itself.  In Abbott's 20 year political career, he's been involved in voting on a number of hot button issues.  Davis decided to run a series of ads that spun the way he voted on key issues in order to build absurd narratives about Abbott.

The end results:
  • An ad suggesting that Greg Abbott is against education.
  • An ad which claims Greg Abbott is pro-cancer, and battling against prayers to find a cure.
  • An ad suggesting that Greg Abbott is pro-rape.
Those are literally the implications of these ads.  They're shameless, and they're offensive. They're built on manipulating people, and distorting facts to craft a ludicrous narrative about Greg Abbott.


WHY DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU'RE FOR?

Tearing down your opponent doesn't make you look good. It makes you look insecure at best, and dishonest at worst. If your past and your policies aren't strong enough to win the election, maybe you shouldn't be running?

Perhaps our system really is so broken that both sides' only option for attempting to succeed is to craft ridiculous narratives about the other person's incompetence.  If that's the case, then we really need to re-evaluate our system.  

I don't care about your spin regarding the other person!
I do care about what you actually stand for, and your action plan!


You're supposed to be public servants, not spin doctors.  Truth serves the people, not self-serving deceptions.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hutto Bible Worship "Everlasting to Everlasting" - Live Worship Album From My Church


Over the last 18 months, I was involved in recording a live worship album at my church. It was entirely a Do It Yourself project.  None of us had ever worked on a live album before, and we didn't hire any outside help.  It's by far the most ambitious recording project I've been apart of, and the longest project I've worked on.

The album contains 8 songs: (5 covers, 2 originals, and a hymn).

Listen and watch a couple of songs from the album below!  If you like them, please support our efforts by either buying a copy on iTunes or listening for free on Spotify.


It is available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.

sell-on-itunes-icon   get-on-spotify-icon amazonmp3

 






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