All posts tagged Conflict

Should Married Couples Have Any Secrets?

Let’s start by admitting that this question rarely comes up at neutral times. The context for this question is usually when one spouse wants more information than the other is willing to give. So in most settings as soon as you answer, you are “taking sides.”

I think it would be helpful to differentiate a few words as we seek to answer this question. Admittedly, the definitions are provided with marital application and will lead the discussion. But at least it will help us avoid using the same word to describe different things.

  • Secret – the intentional withholding of information from one’s spouse about yourself in order to cover up an action that would cause another person to be upset or one’s self to be in trouble.
  • Confidential Information – the intentional withholding of information from one’s spouse in order to effectively care for another person.
  • Privacy – the ability to dispose information about yourself voluntarily and not have that information extracted by involuntary methods.
  • Transparency – intentional choices made by a married couple to allow key information regarding marital health and fidelity to easily and constantly be available to both parties without requiring a direct request for information.

Hopefully you can see that our simple question seeking a yes-no answer, just became a bit more complex. But without these additional categories a simple answer would never be able to navigate the complexities of life. I will now seek to briefly answer each of the four questions that emerge.

Should a married couple have any secrets? NO – A spouse should never engage in an activity that they would be unwilling to disclose to their spouse. A secret (as defined here) is withholding information regarding a sin or legitimately hurtful activity. The reason for not keeping secrets has more to do with personal holiness (honoring God) than relational unity.

Should a married couple have any confidential information? YES – If a couple is going to have meaningful friendships outside the marriage (which is a good thing), a friend may share information that is requested to be kept private. In the name of a “one flesh relationship” confidential information should be information about another person and not yourself.

Should a married couple foster privacy? YES – Honor is a key component of relational health. When a relationship lacks privacy it devolves either into codependency or control. The transfer of information not covered under transparency should be voluntary. When this is violated a spouse is taking on a parental role which distorts the equality of marital partners. A couple should have a healthy enough system of transparency that major relational violations are detected through transparent information.

Should a married couple foster transparency? YES – Transparency is a primary form of expressing the “one flesh relationship” between husband and wife. Finances, general schedule, cell phone records, opposite sex communications, social networking passwords and similar things should be open in the marriage. When life is too busy, unorganized or a couple is defensive about such matters, then the marriage lacks a healthy level of transparency.

One Good Tennis Shot?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is a man whose eye and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on… In the same way a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character (p. 79-80).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Have you ever known one of those people who loves to tell you about their great sports achievements in high school (or little league)? I’ll refrain from asking if you have ever been that person. Usually in the midst of an argument or after a significant failure we can become that person morally. We begin to want to talk about the really nice, sacrificial, gracious, and benevolent things we’ve done.

The most dangerous part of those conversations is not the pride or self-righteousness that is present (and they are present). The most dangerous thing is how we are beginning to think about “being good.” Suddenly, our righteousness has become the “once for all” achievement that transcends circumstances and trumps any failure.

Instead, it should be Christ’s righteousness that comes to mind when we fail. Christ’s righteousness is “once for all” achievement that transcends our circumstances and trumps our failures. But we do not access Christ’s righteousness by recounting our closest attempts at emulating it. We access Christ’s righteousness by humbly acknowledging when/how we fall short of it and our perpetual need for it.

The “skill” of Christian morality is not competitive (like tennis). It is not that there are certain actions, responses, concepts, skills, or verbiage that is mastered in order to make you “great.” Actually, that whole mindset is the antithesis of Christian morality and the Christian faith.

The “skill” of Christian morality is simply seeing how much I come short of Jesus (which implies having an accurate understanding of Jesus) and being consistently willing to acknowledge that short coming while continuing to love others without shame.

Too often we do not see, we do not acknowledge, we do not love, or, if we do all three, we shrink back in shame. Stated this way we see how hard it is to be “good;” not primarily because of a skill deficiency (to see, acknowledge, and love is not that complex) but because of a will deficiency.

I do not want to see how often I come short of Jesus (even though it is clear). I do not want to acknowledge when I have fallen short (even though I know it is the best way to restore peace). I do not want to continue to love others after I have fallen short (even though I know to do otherwise is to compound my failure). My lack of desire only serves to fuel my shame (and defensiveness) after I failed.

With this in mind, we can now understand why reciting our moral achievements does nothing to help us be an agent of peace in an argument or to assuage our guilt after a failure. We have become like a golfer who is offended by a negative score (being “under par” is a very good thing… my fellow non-golfers might not know that).

Our strength (the training of our eyes, muscles, and nerves as Lewis would say) is in the promptness with which we acknowledge our need for Christ and the Gospel. This allows us to begin recalling His greatness during our failures and become agents of peace in our relationships.

Keeping Score Equals No Winners

This is not a blog post that endorses the politically correct version of children’s sports. Regardless of how many times I tried to tell my son we were just playing t-ball for fun, he still wanted to know “who won?” after every game. But if I don’t depart from this introduction, I will wind up on my soap box.

This is a blog about a fatal flaw in an approach to motivating your spouse in marriage. Too often we resort to keeping score: how many times we had sex this month, how many more chores I do than you do, how many times we’ve gone on a date recently, how many times you’ve said “I love you” lately, or how few letters you’ve written me.

Marital neglect is a serious issue (not addressed here), but this motivational structure is used in marriages that are far from significant neglect. In this post, I would like to point out one major reason (there are many others) why this approach does not work.

That reason is our self-centeredness (do not read this as selfishness). We experience life from within our own body and consciousness. I am aware of everything I do and all the time, energy, and thought I put into those activities. I notice every unseen thing I do for my wife. I hear every unspoken fond thought I think about my wife.

Simply put, I score a lot of points my wife never knows I score. You can ask the deep philosophical questions “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” or “If a husband loves his wife in imperceptible ways, does it count?” if you like. But the point is, on MY scoreboard I should be winning. If I’m not winning on my scoreboard, then I am REALLY losing.

But my self-centeredness disrupts the process even further. When I am doing all of my perceptible and imperceptible nice things, I am generally in a good mood which positively influences my memory. However, when I am comparing my score with my wife’s (only perceptible to the degree that I am paying attention) score, I can often be in a disappointed mood which negatively influences my memory. Again, advantage me!

But there is more to my self-centeredness. In the midst of the already inequitable system, I will give more emotional credit to the things I like best. Personally, that means that a creative meal gets more points than an organized kitchen and a kiss-like-you-mean-it gets more points than my lunch being fixed every day.

There is a name for that – arbitrary, unequal scales. These things are merely my personal preference. Do I want my wife to understand my preferences and display love by putting forth effort at the things that are important to me? Sure. Do I have the right to grade my wife, her effort, and our marriage based upon a system that is defined exclusively by my preferences? Not really.

So what is the point of this little rant? The point is that we should be humble as we recognize how self-centeredly we experience and evaluate life. It is not an attack on personal preferences. It is merely a warning against allowing our preferences to become the definition of love. If we do this we will create such a “home field advantage” in our marriage that it will be difficult for us to ever experience contentment with our spouse.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.

God’s Words for Our Anger: Psalm 39

Case Study: Bill didn’t think he was that different from anyone else. Sure, he “lost it” every-once-in-a-while with the kids, but who doesn’t. Idiot drivers deserved a decent heckling (even if they can’t hear it) if they are going to endanger and make everyone else on the road late. His wife, Susan, was the sensitive type, so you couldn’t really take her opinion too seriously. She probably was uncomfortable with his aggressive-assertive style, but that’s just because her family never really dealt with their issues.

At work people respected Bill. He got things done, so his boss really liked Bill and often told him how good it was to have Bill on staff to keep everyone “on their toes.” Being a self-made man who had to overcome a lot to amount to anything, Bill was proud of these comments. He always feared being nothing or nobody, so these comments told him he was on the right track.

What Bill didn’t like was the way that his boys argued with one another and their mother. The things they said sounded eerily familiar when Bill was willing to admit it. But he shook it off saying he wasn’t going to let his kids have excuses for their temper. If he had settled for excuses, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Then it got to the point where the boys were brave enough to turn their anger on him. He had always been able to intimidate them “back in line.” But now these arguments began to escalate; a couple even turned physical. When Bill told the boys they should honor their father they just rolled their eyes. Eventually they looked up the passage in Ephesians and told him not to provoke his kids to anger and mocked that they could use the Bible too.

Bill came to Susan for support when he was feeling down. She gave him little and said she had warned him many times these days would come. That turned the conversation nasty, but Susan had been silent long enough and wasn’t going to let Bill justify his anger anymore. The argument ended with Bill going for a drive (“storming off” as Susan said).

Some conviction was starting to set in, but Bill was still resisting the idea that he had an anger problem. He has never hit anyone (unless you count the recent wrestling matches with the boys). They had had some good times as a family (but nobody could remember those right now). As he drove, Bill thought he should pray, but he didn’t even know where to begin.

Pre-Questions: This case study is meant to challenge you to think biblically about the real struggles of life. These questions will not be answered completely in the sections below. But they do represent the kind of struggles that are being wrestled with in Psalm 39. Use the question both to stir application and to give you new insight into the psalm.

  • How would you define an “anger problem;” what level does anger have to reach to be problematic?
  • What should Bill do with the fact that he is often right in his assessment of Susan and the boys?
  • How should someone deal with the guilt and shame that they feel when they start to take responsibility for their anger?
  • What would the next step look like for Bill?

Read Psalm 39 in your preferred Bible translation. The “rewrite” of Psalm 39 below is an attempt to capture the words that God would give Bill to pray (Romans 8:26-27). This would be something Bill would need to pray many times as he struggled to surrender his anger to the Lord.

A re-write of Psalm 39

1. I kept telling myself I’d watch what I say; that I’d try to be less gruff and intimidating. I didn’t want to say hurtful thing. I was determined to think about what I said before I said it, especially when my family was doing “stupid” stuff.

2. I would do good for a while. I’d keep my mouth shut, but nothing changed and eventually it would get to me. I could only

take so much. My silence only dammed up the anger; it didn’t decrease it. My sense of injustice mounted.

3. I got madder and madder. I was fuming. The more I thought about it the worse it got. Finally, I just let it go. My sharp tongue knew just where to start cutting. It was like old times. My anger and me were free again.

4. God help me realize these moments are that big of a deal. I act like these small events are going to define my life. I get lost in the moment. I think one act of disrespect is larger than my relationship with my sons; one instance of having to repeat what I said is larger than my marriage. God remind me how small I really am; humble me!

5. Life is too short for this kind of foolishness on my part. My anger is more foolish than whatever “stupid” thing they did. I only get 18 years with my boys and a few decades with my wife. How do we always lose sight of what really has value in life?!

6. I don’t think any of us get how transient and secondary we are. We act like we are the Real Thing and not just made in Your image. We work and work to make our name great. I was providing well but in my anger devouring those I would leave my wealth to.

7. What do I do now? I’m driving around to stall… for what? You really are my only hope. I need you. I kept thinking everyone in my house needed to listen to me, when I really needed to be listening to you.

8. My anger and the dissension it has caused in my family could destroy everything that is really important to me. Deliver me from the consequences of my sin. All my buddies told me I was right and I shouldn’t have to put up with what they were doing. Don’t leave me to commiserate my broken family with them.

9.  Before I would bite my tongue (thinking I was right and that the world needed to hear what I had to say). Now I am truly quiet, humbled and wanting to listen to You. Only You, Lord, could bring me to this point (my wife and kids tried hundreds of times to no avail).

10. The shame and guilt are too much. I don’t think I can bear what I’ve done. I see myself and it makes me sick. Your hand holds the mirror to my soul and I feel weak.

11. You showed me my sin and it wasn’t just my loud words, harsh tone, and physical aggression. You have revealed to me my idols (respect, being heard, organized home, success, and more) and you want to consume them. Those things replaced You in my life and You will not be replaced. Wow! I sure thought I was something.

12. Please listen as I pray. I realize now I do not deserve to be heard (what a change from when I thought everyone needed to hear what I had to say). I am broken and crying. Do not walk away from me like I would from my wife when she cried. I’ve got a long way to go on this journey of being a godly husband and father. Thank You, Lord, for walking with me; for letting me be Your companion… I guess that is what all of us are doing in this life.

13. Here comes the guilt and shame again. It is hard to walk with You, God, I’m used to being in charge and getting to be right. I’ll have to relearn how to be happy with You at the helm and life not being about me. I am completely undone (but I think it’s the best thing that’s happen to me in along time.).

Passages for Further Study: Numbers 20:1-13; Psalm 4; Proverbs 14:17,29, 15:1, 29:11,22; Matthew 5:21-26; James 1:19-20, 4:1-10.

Post Questions: Now that you have read Psalm 39, examined how Bill might rewrite it for his situation, and studied several other passages, consider the following questions:

  • How has your perspective on anger changed?
  • How would your answers to the “pre-questions” be different now?
  • For what “frustrating” situations do you need to re-write your own version of Psalm 39.

Disagreeing With God

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source (p. 48).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

For those of us who do not enjoy being wrong (I assume that includes you too), we probably do not like this quote. Not that we disagree with it; we would just prefer to keep the option alive that we could be right and God wrong for “emergency use only.”

I would dare say that the majority of times when we would like to invoke this emergency clause would be occasions of suffering—times when we are facing painful consequences that are not the result of our personal sin.

Now if we are facing the consequences of our sin, then we need to repent and one definition of repentance is to “agree with God” about the nature of what we did. In that case we will never be right and God be wrong.

However, in cases of suffering, I would contend that we do not disagree with God as much as it feels like we do. God disagrees with suffering too. He is against it. Often we pray prayers of argument to our Father who agrees with our assessment. We are picking a fight that doesn’t exist and living in the unnecessary sense of “distance” that it creates. This multiplies our suffering.

It is like the spouse who comes home from a bad day. The spouse shares the troubles of his/her day with his/her partner expecting disagreement, because that is what the whole day has been like. The partner is not wanting to be oppositional. In actuality the partner would like to comfort his/her spouse in his/her suffering. But because of the tone of the initiating remarks comfort comes across as disagreeing, not understanding, or condescending. The level of actual suffering increases with the sense of marital distance.

We, like the spouse above, often come to God in the midst of our suffering angry, mistrusting, and wanting to give Somebody a piece of our mind about the situation. God wants to comfort us, but our assumption of disagreement won’t allow it. We then blame God for the bridge we burned.

If you resonate with this description, I would encourage you to read through the Psalms; not the “nice” ones, but the “dark” ones. Read the words that God has given us to describe the difficulties of living in a fallen world. I think you will be surprised to find how much God agrees with you about suffering.

If you would like help in identifying Psalms where God speaks to your struggle/suffering, I would encourage you to review the posts on this blog under the titles “God’s Words for Our [Struggle]: Psalm ##.”

Anger is a Rushed Emotion

Different struggles have different characteristic traits. Anger comes with a sense of urgency. When anger goes bad, it is usually trying to correct too much too quickly. The pace and intensity of the change does as much or more damage than the wrong which triggered the anger.

Think of a few classic examples. A teenager back talks his/her parent. The parent is incensed with the disrespect and wants to put an end to it immediately. The result is smacking the teenager across the face.

A husband and wife are in an argument. One person is unable to follow what the other person says. The response to having to repeat what was already said is a derogatory slam for being “too stupid to follow a conversation… no wonder we can’t get along when this is who I have to talk to.”

A boss is feeling pressure at work, because last quarter’s numbers were low. Everyone knows it’s the economy, but no one knows how long it could take for that to turn around. So, instead, a tone of criticism and sarcasm fills the work environment in the name of “motivation.”

These brief snippets may share many things in common, but the point being illustrated is that they reveal the “rushed” nature of anger and that sinful anger does more damage than its trigger.

A parent should correct disrespect, but “putting a child in their place” with random, sniper-esque violence does nothing to teach respect. The teenager grows to covet the power to treat people how you like and blame them if they don’t like your lack of self-control. Come to think of it, that is probably what started the argument in the first place.

It is reasonable for a spouse to expect to be understood. But when the ability to follow a conversation becomes the measure of whether you deserve the basics of mutual honor, then the foundations of trust and security have been eroded.

A boss does provide income for his/her employees by motivating them to perform at a level which consistently earns a profit for the company. But the residual impact of a negative environment and unrealistic expectations makes the term “success” a cruel fairy tale.

So what’s the point? Godly anger recognizes the pace at which change can take place. Out of love for the person, godly anger looks to influence change in a way that does not destroy or demean the person experiencing the change.

The cliché application of this point is to “count to 10.” But if you don’t know why you’re counting to ten, then your tongue will just be 10 times sharper when you finally do speak. We pause because we want to accurately represent our God.

Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation (emphasis added).”

It might be better to memorize this passage and repeat it to yourself instead of counting. As you repeat it to yourself, add the following brief prayer, “Lord, I am tempted to be rushed to anger. Help me represent you in mercy and justice, what I say and what I don’t. If I must choose between sin and silence give me the grace to choose silence until I can honor You.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 9)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

What’s a way to handle one of us saying no to sex? How do you deal with times when you want sex and the other doesn’t? What do you do if you are not having your physical needs met? When the other person is not in the mood and you are – how do you deal with that?

We can begin to answer these questions by saying, “Expect it to happen.” If you read this question with the sense that this is a marital emergency and this post better “fix your spouse,” then chances are you have a bigger problem with sexual idolatry than sexual infrequency. Not every sexual urge will be fulfilled in marriage; no more than every urge for chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is fulfilled.

If you are shocked or offended by this, then your expectations are unrealistic. But the question is important, because as the adage says, “Sex won’t make a marriage, but it can break one.” How a couple handles disappointment (sexual or otherwise) is one of the primary indicators of the health of their marriage.

In order to proceed well, we will have to address the subject of “need.” So much teaching on marriage focuses on “meeting each other’s needs.” Frequently, it drives couples to begin to emotionally live off of one another for their sense of security and identity in a way that makes God practically irrelevant to a good marriage. In effect, God is only there to meet your needs when you cannot convince your spouse to do so.

This need-language creates a trap. Both spouses can look at areas where their “needs” are not being met (that is what it means to be married to a sinner in a world of limited time and resources). The banter inevitably begins, “How can I meet your need for _____ when you don’t meet my need for _____.” This is a verbal formula that makes any disappointment (sexual or otherwise) relationally toxic. Suddenly the marriage becomes mired in score keeping and everyone has a reason to blame the other person.

At this point, the focal point of the marriage has become on “getting” not “giving.” The Gospel has left the home, and everything is about fairness, rights, and equality. When the Bible is mentioned, it is a tool of guilt, manipulation, or demand. No longer is it used as a book of grace and life. The whole Bible (and marriage) becomes about submission, your body belongs to me, if we’re not praying we should be having sex, and it is not good for man to be alone.

The whole time we are making it harder to come close to one another in a way that makes sex satisfying and something we would want to do frequently. The question that has been lost (and must be regained in content and tone) is: Does our marriage foster an environment where we joyfully sacrifice for the pleasure of our spouse in all things? If the answer is yes, we can navigate the differing timing of sexual urges with grace and unity.

To answer the practical side of the question, I’ll lay out a five step process by which you can evaluate how healthy conversations about declining a sexual invitation should go. As you read, this should serve as a “map” to help you see where your conversations may get “off track.” This progression assumes the decline is not based on verbal/physical abuse or medical reasons.

1. Recognize that sex is good but not ultimate. This is the danger of the word “need.” It makes whatever we designate as a need a matter of relational survival. The interaction about this need begins to overpower each moment when it is discussed.

2. Initiate in a way that gives honor (see blog posts for questions 4 and 5). Sex should not be presumed even within marriage. Initiating sex is an invitation not a demand, otherwise it becomes a functional ultimatum – have sex with me or be punished. Thoughts towards sex being mutually enjoyable (timing and tact) should be evident in every initiation of sex.

3. Decline only with reason and with grace. A married couple does belong to one another (I Cor. 7:3-4). The desire for marital sex is a good thing. Unless there is a reason not to engage your spouse’s desire, it is good to accept. If there is a reason, then the initiation should be received as a compliment of affection (per #2 above) and declined graciously.

4. Receive decline without pouting or punishing. A passive aggressive or angry response to a decline sets the wheels in motion for a sexual spiral. If you’re thinking, “Who cares, I’m never going to have sex anyway,” then you likely need to return to #1 above.

5. Reciprocate initiation within 24-48 hours. If the spouse declines, then he/she should seek to be the initiator of sex within a prompt time frame. This prevents a cycle of begging and rejection from emerging within the marriage and is a way to honor the desire that your spouse has for you.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex & Intimacy

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

QUESTION 1: How do you transition from “sex is wrong” to “sex is right”? How do we move from shame into freedom? How do you transfer from guilt associated with sex to pleasure with sex?

Click here to read my reply to Question 1.

QUESTION 2: How do I keep my thought-life pure leading up to the honeymoon? What about masturbation—is it sinful? How do you navigate from the sin of lusting for your fiancé to the lusting of your spouse (or is that a sin)? How does attraction change when you get married and begin having sex?

Click here to read my reply to Question 2.

QUESTION 3: If sex is painful for my wife, how do I help her through it? How can I practically serve, respect and honor my wife on the first night?

Click here to read my reply to Question 3.

QUESTION 4: What’s a good way to honor my wife in sex? What common things are dishonorable?

Click here to read my reply to Question 4.

QUESTION 5: Are men supposed to “lead” in sex as in other parts of the relationship?  Is there an appropriate balance for initiating intimacy?

Click here to read my reply to Question 5.

QUESTION 6: How do you overcome expectations you have from past sexual experiences?

Click here to read my reply to Question 6.

QUESTION 7: How long is reasonable for my fiancé to get over my sexual past?

Click here to read my reply to Question 7.

QUESTION 8: How do we control the carnal nature of ourselves and replace it with selfless love that the Bible teaches with regards to sex in marriage?

Click here to read my reply to Question 8.

QUESTION 9: What’s a way to handle one of us saying no to sex? How do you deal with times when you want sex and the other doesn’t? What do you do if you are not having your physical needs met? When the other person is not in the mood and you are – how do you deal with that?

Click here to read my reply to Question 9.

QUESTION 10: How do you ensure you and your spouse are having “enough” sex given a hectic and busy weekly schedule? How “intentional” do you find yourself having to be to have a “good” sex life? Are encounters scheduled a la date nights? What is the best way to maintain passion within sex as your marriage progresses?

Click here to read my reply to Question 10.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Finances

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions:

Why are money problems the number one cause of divorce? How do we maintain reasonable expectations for money in a debt-sick culture? How do two people manage their money together when it is hard enough to manage as a single person? Who should administrate the finances and how involved should the other person be? How do we learn self-control and contentment as a couple? How can “budget” become an exciting or, at least, pleasant word?

Imagine you’re on the Family Feud game show. The host comes to you and says, “We’ve surveyed 100 families and asked what they believe is a good idea, but still don’t do. Can you give us one of the top five answers?” There is a good chance if you answered, “Budgeting,” you would have the #1 answer.

There is no one who really believes, “You can neglect paying attention to your finances and expect everything to turn out fine. Spend what you want, when you want, try not to be excessive (but don’t define “excessive”), and you should be alright.” We would roll our eyes and laugh as we read this if it were not the reality in which so many people tried to live.

If want to gain the tools and process to (1) correct ineffective thinkging about money, (2) create a budget that you can administrate in less than 30 minutes per week, (3) learn how to communicate about financial decisions, (4) get out of debt, and (5) utilize your finances to shape your life to be more like Christ, then this event is for you.

Seminar:

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations
Topics: Budgeting in a Way that Enhances Your Marriage
Dates: August 4 and 11, 2012
Times: 4:00 to 5:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free

This seminar is one piece of a five part series of seminars (foundations, communication, finances, decision making, and intimacy) designed to facilitate mentoring relationships for married or engaged couples (one-on-one or in a group setting). Our goal in these seminars is to cover the key subjects that often hinder, but could greatly enhance, a couple’s ability to experience all that God intended marriage to be.

We believe that change that lasts happens in relationship. Private change tends to be short-lived change. Living things exposed to light grow. Living things kept in the dark wither. This is why we designed this series to encourage you to give your marriage the light of Christian community by studying these materials with others.

These materials are built upon a central premise – God gave us marriage so that we would know the gospel more clearly and more personally. It is the gospel that gives us joy. Marriage is meant to be a living picture of the gospel-relationship between God and His bride, the church. For this reason, we have two goals for you as you go through this study:

  1. That you would get know and enjoy your spouse in exciting, new, and profoundly deeper ways, so that…
  2. … you would get to know and enjoy God in exciting, new, and profoundly deeper ways.

This series of seminars is arranged around five topics that represent the most common challenges that face a marriage. While the challenges of each area are acknowledged, the tone of these seminars is optimistic. We believe that those things that cause the greatest pain when done wrongly bring the fullest joy when done according to God’s design.

How to Respond to Things We Don’t Understand

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Jesus and the Holy Spirit from Luke/Acts preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday March 10-11, 2012.

This sermon is an excellent case study in a vital life skill – responding to things we don’t understand and/or make us uncomfortable. It is hard to preach on the Holy Spirit in a way that will make everyone comfortable – strange since one of His titles is “the Comforter.”

Stranger still is the strong human tendency to listen poorly and react quickly when we don’t understand something. When we don’t understand our fears become the filter for what we hear and preemptively start trying to take the conversation back to where we’re comfortable before we know where it’s starting.

Think about your last several conflicts or times you felt misunderstood. What were your fears and how did they become the filter for what the other person was saying? How did you try harder to move the conversation to your comfort zone than understand what the other person was saying?

Think about the last several times you heard someone debate politics. Can you find those same themes of listening through a fear-filter and moving the conversation to home turf?

Now, think about having a conversation about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. Think about having that conversation with someone who may not agree with you. Think about worshipping in the same church or being in the same small group.

What are your fears? How do they shape the way that you see this person (who right now only exists in your imagination)? What caricatures have you already placed on them? What emotional responses or demeanors do you “know” they are going to have?

You have just articulated your fear filter.

What is your home turf? Do you seek to change the subject because you don’t know what you believe? What phrases start the conversation or get repeated most frequently in your mental dialogue? What passages of Scripture are defining and which ones get explained away? When do you realize you don’t care what the other person says?

You have just defined your home turf or comfort zone.

Are you still talking to a “friend” or have they become an opponent in your imagination?

What is my point? One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to bring unity (Eph 4:3). Another role is to calm fear and give the love/self-control necessary to listen well (2 Tim 1:7). The place where we should most effectively learn this vital life skill is when we are studying the One who enables us to learn it.

My encouragement to you is to begin to learn to listen well to things that you don’t understand and make you uncomfortable. Use this sermon as an opportunity to learn this skill by the Spirit, in the Spirit, and about the Spirit.

After that demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit by blessing your family, friends, and co-workers with what God is doing in your life. Begin to be like the Holy Spirit as you listen to people well enough to translate their hearts to the Father in prayer (Rom 8:26).

As you do this, I believe you will find that your relationships and emotions begin to be marked by the kind of peace that Scripture repeatedly says is a mark of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31, Rom 8:6, Gal 5:22).