Setting Ground Rules for Your Marriage

One concept I have been an advocate for is setting ground rules for your marriage. Let me illustrate what I mean with a personal example.

It didn’t take long for Cheryl and I to realize that one of us avoids conflict and one of us actually enjoys it. If you read my blog at all you can possibly guess which one of the two I am. As a result, of this in our personalities, if Cheryl and I had a disagreement, she would quickly disappear to the bedroom. She always went to be early on days we had an argument. (Yes, pastors have those also.)

Since I believe in obeying Scripture in my home, and knowing I’m commanded not to “let the sun go down” on my anger, Cheryl and I decided that we need a rule in our marriage that we will handle disagreements before either of us go to sleep. Sometimes that means I have to “break the ice” by offering forgiveness, sometimes she does, but if we are going to obey the rule, we have to at least agree to drop any anger we have towards each other. We may settle the issue later, but we try not to go to bed angry. We have a rule!

I have often been asked how these are enforceable. Honestly, they probably aren’t. If the need to enforce them is your issue, your marriage may have bigger issues. The idea here is a mutual submission to each other (read more about that idea HERE), where both spouses agree that obeying these rules will make the marriage work better. It’s a shared agreement to behave in a certain way for the good of the marriage.

Please understand, I am a grace guy. I usually rebel against a bunch of rules for the sake of rules. The goal of our marriage, however, is for “the two to become one flesh”. We are trying to build a marriage that honors and glorifies God, but because we are two imperfect beings, we had to agree to comply with some basic understandings (rules) to help make that happen.

Do you need to set some ground rules for your marriage?

What rules would you need to have in your marriage to keep your marriage heading in the right direction?

What are some ground rules you think would be good ones for a marriage?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Has Your Direction Stolen Your Identity?

We are in a series called Identity Theft at Grace Community Church. There are some things in life that have stolen from us the people we thought we would be. Last Sunday I spoke about how the direction of our life, or lack thereof, can be the culprit in stealing our identity. Have you lost your way? Watch this message to help you get back on the right path.

For more thoughts on having a life plan, click HERE.

4 Principles for Getting Back in the Game of Life


 

I meet so many people that have been injured by failure, hurt or disappointment, to the point that they refuse to take a chance again. Jesus used parables to teach life applications. Recently one of Jesus’ parables reminded me of some important principles regarding life’s difficulties and the process we go through seeing our dreams come true. I realize Scripture has only one meaning, but for me this parable has a new application.

The parable is Mark 4:26-29

Here is the encouragement I received:

Plant – One important step after a failure is to get started with life again. You have to at least plant something. Many times people never get started again pursuing their dreams. It’s impossible to harvest a crop you never planted.

Plant the right seeds – Remember, you will reap what you sow. If you have made mistakes, learn from them and plant new seeds. Head your life in the direction you want it to go.

Understand You Can’t Control Circumstances – The farmer can’t control the weather. You and I cannot control other people. Once we plant, we can’t control all the circumstances. You may have to take a risk again, even though there are few guarantees.

Harvest – Trust the harvest will come. If you head your life in the right direction, and wait on God to work His will, eventually you will experience success. Don’t let impatience keep you from waiting on God’s perfect timing.

Have you been holding back because of fear or worry? Maybe now is the time to get back to farming!

Take a Risk – Encouragement from Benjamin Franklin

Distrust and caution are the parents of security. Benjamin Franklin

I love the quotes of history. Some of the best wisdom has been around for the ages. Once while running in Philadelphia through the University of Pennsylvania campus, I noticed this quote embedded in the sidewalk. Running is some of my best thinking time and when I saw it, I instantly was inspired.

I think what Franklin was saying was that in order to achieve something in life that’s meaningful; you usually have to take a risk. Some of the best things in life will never happen without being a risk-taker. If we try to hold too tightly to the things we love because we are fearful of losing them, we may miss out on the best parts of life.  Whether in love, business, church, friendships or families, there is risk involved in seeing it succeed.

Are you playing your life too safe? Has your fear, distrust and caution caused you to retreat to a place of security? You can never protect you or your family completely from hurt or failure, and by limiting yourself to what seems safe, you may keep yourself from realizing all that God has for you. Be smart, stay anchored to God, but be willing to risk attaining the dreams you have in your heart.

Are you inspired? What’s your next move? Take one step forward today!

7 Ways to Offer True Forgiveness

Whenever I talk about forgiveness, the reminder of grudges, hurts and past pains seem to surface in people’s lives.  I will get emails, Facebook and Twitter direct messages confessing to scars and wounds being opened.  In fact, the reaction to the topic of forgiveness is so tender for many, that it draws me back to the issue frequently.

As believers, we are called to offer forgiveness, because we first have been forgiven.  Here are 7 principles for offering true forgiveness.

Reflect on your own forgiveness. The fact that God forgives us through His Son Jesus should fuel our willingness to offer forgiveness to others.

Consider the imperfection of others. Resist the opportunity for revenge.  Don’t hold people to standards they cannot live up to.

Look at your own plank.  You aren’t perfect either and probably don’t meet all the expectations others have of you.

Build positive learning experiences….even from negative experiences.

Release the burden of guilt that you are holding against yourself and others. Guilt absorbs a person’s energy.  Releasing guilt provides freedom.

Don’t avoid future conflict. It’s a part of life among imperfect people.  You will need to practice forgiveness many times in life. The more you practice the better you will become at offering it.

Set a new path. In freedom and forgiveness, learn from your experiences and live a life closer to the model Christ set for us; loving others as we love ourselves; forgiving as we have been forgiven.

Whom do you need to forgive? Is it a parent, friend, family member, ex-spouse, co-worker, boss, or maybe even you?  Do yourself a favor…with God’s help and grace, extend forgiveness today!

How Many Are the Years of Your Life?


 

Now Sarah lived 127 years; these were all the years of her life. Genesis 23:1

Sarah lived 127 years. That’s all. Period. End of the writing of her story on earth. Her memory would live on and we are still reading and talking about her today, but as far as altering her story she only had 127 years of days in which to write it.

Most likely none of us will have that many years to write our story. We don’t know how many until our story is fully written, but almost certainly it will be less than Sarah’s years.

One thing we have in common with Sarah, however, is that the sum total of our years on earth will complete the writing of our story or at least the impact we can have on writing it. The legacy we leave behind and the memories we implant in the minds and hearts of others will be determined by what we do with the number of years we have.

That is a powerful thought to me this morning. I am building lasting memories, my legacy. I am writing my story. The things my family remembers most about me, the results of my work and ministry and the treasures I leave behind will be decided by the way I live the total number of my years.

That is true of your life also. How are you doing? If the story of your life was on it’s final page today, have you written the story you wanted to write? If not, then what changes do you need to make?

Grab your pen and start writing a new chapter. Allow God to alter your path and head you to a better ending to your story if you need Him to do so. Evaluating your story now may help your final story be a better story than it would have been without that consideration.

What is one change you could make in your life to write a better story?

How to Have a Worry-Free Year

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” Matthew 6:25

Do you want to live with less worries in the New Year?

None of us probably enjoys worrying, yet even Jesus must have recognized our tendency to worry, because He made it a point to challenge us not to worry.   The simple truth is that living worry-free is very simple in theory, but it’s the practice of doing what we know to do that is hard for us.  Still, in spite of the difficulty, are you up for a challenge?  Let me encourage you to follow these steps to a worry-free 2010.

Ask yourself two questions:

What can I control?

What can I not control?

Then:

Work to change that you can change.  (For more help with this, click HERE)

And…

Let go of those things you cannot change.

Obviously it is easier to write than to practice, but let’s strive more this year to live more worry-free lives as we trust God more.  Let’s even be bold enough to ask God to do the impossible in our life.

What worry do you need most to let go of this year?

I Resolve Not To Resolve…But…


 

I have always struggled to say that I make New Year’s resolutions.  If you are like me, when you put a lofty expectation in place and shortly in the year you have already failed, it only leads to disappointment.  That’s not a very encouraging system to me.

On the other hand, as much as resolutions can wear us down, I believe we should always try to do something better in the new year than in previous years. With that in mind, I need to spend time reviewing, thinking, and planning before or as the new year begins. (My friend Michael Hyatt has a great post on reviewing the year HERE.)

I think it is more than just terminology to say that I believe in setting goals and objectives at the beginning of every New Year. Resolutions are too binding for me, but goals and objectives tend to focus my attention, keep me from following tangents, and hopefully stretch me.

My goals for the New Year are:

Communication – I want to improve it with my staff, family and friends.

Leadership development – As a four year old church, we have a young, new staff. I see a large part of my job as helping them achieve their goals and objectives. In addition, I want to continue to help young leaders in our church and outside develop and grow.

Personal disciplines – The more disciplined I am, the more I can achieve. I am dreaming about two marathons this year. Not sure if that will happen yet, but the stretch will be good for me. When I am disciplined personally I find I am a better servant for God’s glory.

Now my objectives are to create plans and systems to meet these goals. I have been working on this for weeks and I am in the process now of implementing.

Do you make resolutions? If not, what is your method to try to improve each year?

Let me encourage you to spend a couple hours over the next few days dreaming some new goals and objectives for the coming year that can help make you more productive, more successful, and ultimately more satisfied with the progress of your life.

Having a System Makes Life Better…

 

 

I once hated to fly Southwest Air

 

I called it the “cattle call”…

 

I loved the energy of the company…the way they treat employees…their ability to remain profitable in a challenging market…

 

…but I hated flying them.  I always seemed to end up stuck in the middle seat behind two really big guys…

I would choose another airline whenever I could…

 

But then I learned their system….

 

Once I learned the system, and developed my own strategy for traveling within the Southwest system, I was able to check-in early online, get a good number in which to board the plane, and find a good seat….

 

Having a system helped me love Southwest…

 

Now I actually choose Southwest over other airlines anytime I can…

That story illustrates an important principle in life and leadership…

 

Sometimes that which you dread doing or hate the most, just needs a plan…a better system…

 

Develop or learn the system and it will make life easier and you’ll better enjoy a more successful ride…

 

What in your life needs a better system for the new year?

Balancing Work Ethic Encouragement

In my years of leading and managing, I have observed all types of work ethics.  As a student of leadership, I have read books and attended conferences on organizational development and workplace issues.  One frequent message I have heard in the last few years is the encouragement to work less and enjoy life more. I know the reason. There is an epidemic of over-achievers in our society neglecting family and failing to enjoy life because they are consumed with things of lesser importance.

While I agree with this advice for those that need it, I have to be honest about something.  Some people don’t need this advice.  Some people need the encouragement to work harder to achieve the goals and objectives they have for their life, but also to honor the commitments he or she has made to their employer.  I cannot tell you how many marriages I have counseled where one of the main problems was a lazy spouse, not to mention the Biblical truth that laziness is a sin.

The bottom line for me is that your personal work ethic should determine the style or degree of discipline you need in regards to how much you work.

There are two extremes of employees that I have observed.

The extremely low-productivity work ethic:

This type employee would often prefer not to be working at all.  They max out their sick days.  They leave work as soon as the clock ticks end of workday.  They stretch lunch breaks. People wired this way don’t need to hear a message on taking more time off from work. They have that “skill” fully developed.  That type “encouragement” may cause them to work even less than they are currently working.  It’s not that they are bad people they just have the opposite of a workaholic drive in them.  For them they may need to discipline themselves to work harder.

The extremely high-productivity work ethic:

This type employee loves to work.   They seldom take a sick day. They have to force themselves to take days off and when they do they are constantly checking their messages or calling back to the office.  They work late and almost have to be pushed out the door.  They don’t need a message on how employees need to work harder.  This type “encouragement” fuels their resentment towards other employees who don’t share their work ethic and causes them to justify his or her over indulgence with work. For them they need to discipline themselves to work less. (I fit in this category, by the way.)

In between these two extremes are various degrees leaning towards one extreme or the other.  Learning to strike the healthy balance that achieves goals and objectives and honors an employers time, while protecting family time and taking time to rest, should be the goal.

Which are you?  Be honest with yourself as we head into another year and discipline yourself accordingly.