Making Marriage Better

Since marriage is a dynamic interpersonal relationship some people struggle with the growth and change process that it brings. Here are some key issues to keep in mind as you make your marriage better.

Change and Comfort Zones

In order for your marriage to get better things are going to have to change. Did you see that word? I said “Change!” And change involves you being moved out of your comfort zone.

It’s all well and good to say you want things to be “better”, but better also means “different“. When things become different, even if the different is “better”, there will be a process of “change”. That will mean your comfort zone will be disrupted.

So, are you really ready for the change process?

The Demanding Wife

I have helped a number of couples whose relationship has been strained by the demands of the wife. A demanding wife often sees the weaknesses and failings in her husband and wants him to change. What happens at times, however, is that the changes upset the wife who is demanding them!

What some wives fail to understand is that if their husband was to become more responsible, more involved in things, more proactive, and all that, then he will displace the position which she currently occupies. That means her own responsibilities, behaviours, thought processes and personal meaning will all be challenged.

I have had to deal with situations where the wife has been upset about her husband changing, even when he became the person she wanted him to be.

The Unsettled Husband

Similarly I have seen husbands become unsettled when their wife changes her attitudes and behaviours. Even though those changes may be for the better, they can upset the husband’s comfort zone. Some men resent their wife changing in ways that put added responsibility onto them.

The change process impacts both husbands and wives and so I need to share with you two key principles which will guide you through that process of making your marriage better.

You Will Be Uncomfortable

Face this fact – You will be Uncomfortable! Change brings challenge. Change your job, your home or your lifestyle and see if you don’t find yourself challenged in the process.

So, uncomfortable is not bad. It is a sign that you are undergoing change. Don’t fight it or resent it. Recognise it and deal with it. Face up to it. This is a necessary part of the readjustment process.

In order for a man to rise to the levels of responsibility and authority which his wife wants him to attain the existing relationship will be left behind and new ways of relating will replace it. But even the new will be temporary, as the couple moves toward an even better balance.

Both husband and wife will face moments of discomfort, uncertainty and unfamiliarity as your marriage moves through change. But change is your necessary pathway to “better”, so don’t fight it or resent it.

Two Keys

As you navigate through the uncertainties and discomfort of the change process there are two keys which will support you on the way through. Remember that change can take time and you may be in various stages of uncertainty for many months or even over several years.

Key number one is to Fear God. Key number two is to Trust God.

The Fear of God

When you feel uncomfortable the worst thing you can do is to be out of order. If you react with anger, resentment, bitterness or the like you will damage your marriage. But when people feel challenged by change they can instinctively fall into such things.

I have seen husbands and wives argue, fight and damage each other, as they throw accusations, make justifications, and struggle with the uncertainties of the change process.

That’s why I so strongly advocate that you fear God. If you fear God you will bring your own actions into check, even if your spouse is out of order. You will think and do the right things, rather than giving in to your baser instincts. Instead of jealousy, anger, frustration, accusation or the like, you can respond by being the husband or wife the Bible instructs you to be.

And you will not justify your wrong behaviour on the basis of your spouse doing or saying the wrong thing. You will know that you do not have an excuse for any wrong behaviour, words or attitudes on your part, even though your spouse is out of order.

Faith in God

Faith in God, or trusting God is also needed. This is where you realise that God has everything under control, even though you don’t. It is the confidence that God is going to bring you through to a glorious outcome, even though things don’t look too good at the moment.

Faith keeps you moving forward, instead of pulling back and giving up on the marriage. Faith keeps you hopeful and prompts you to make new investments in your relationship, confident in a good harvest in the future.

Make Your Marriage Better

Armed with Fear of God and Faith in God you have nothing to worry about in moving out of your comfort zone and into the better place that your marriage is meant to move to. Don’t be afraid of change, and don’t be afraid of the future.

Put your trust in God. Ask Him to work on you and your spouse, so you can build a new and better level of relationship. Learn what a godly marriage looks like and determine to achieve that in your own life.

With God on your side, and with you determined to fear God and to trust Him, you are now ready to Make your Marriage Better than it has ever been.

For a good description of what a godly marriage is meant to be, I recommend “Marriage Horizons“. Check it out at the Family Horizons website: http://familyhorizons.net/html/marriage_books.html

Entering Heavenly Zones

Just as a top sportsperson controls their mental, emotional and personal faculties to stay ‘in the zone’, so too Christians can take responsibility for the heavenly zones God has made available to us. This post discusses how we enter those heavenly zones and go through the open doors God has created for us.

I mentioned in the last post on this topic that God has given us a number of doorways into heavenly realities. We are: seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6); under his wings (Psalm 91:4); accessible to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16); accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6); and able to run into the name of the Lord (Proverbs 18:10). There are more than that, and the most wonderful door we have is into God’s throne room.

King David taught that it is personally possible to choose to enter through the heavenly door into the ‘zone’ of God’s presence. He openly explained how it is done.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

We can choose to enter into God’s presence by thanksgiving and praise. We don’t have to stay in a place of fear or loneliness, when we can enter His gates and come into His courts.

David was so aware of our ability to take control of our inner state and thus to change the ‘zone’ we are in that he repeated a statement which shows how he did it.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted in me? hope in God: for I will yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember you from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.” Psalm 42:5,6

Allow me to paraphrase what David is saying here. He recognises that his soul is downcast. He is feeling low. He is not ‘in the zone’ to be a man of faith or to be a champion. He is struggling internally. But rather than let his natural feelings call the shots, he chooses to change zone. He chooses to move into a heavenly zone where he can overcome these depressive feelings. He reminds himself; in fact he demands of himself, that he trust in God. He also chooses to praise God, confident that God is the real help he needs. He then explains to God that he is feeling low and says, “That’s why I am reminding myself of who You are”.

David understood that our natural state does not have to rule the day. When we remember who God is we can encourage ourselves in faith and step into God’s presence, finding His grace in our situation.

The Apostle Paul had a similar idea when he gave instructions to Timothy, telling him to “stir up the gift” that was in him (2Timothy 1:6). Paul practiced the choice of his zone when he was thrown into the dungeon in Philippi. There, denied liberty and justice, Paul and Silas sang songs of praise. They were able to enter into God’s presence, despite their natural circumstances. What resulted was a divine visitation of a miracle earthquake that set them all free, without endangering any of them. Salvations resulted.

The point of the lesson is this. You can choose the ‘zone’ in which you are living right now. You can allow circumstances to make you downcast or keep you distracted. Alternatively you can take responsibility for which door you enter into. You can press in to God’s presence, access heavenly blessings, “be there” in divine glories, and overcome natural circumstances. You can build yourself up, stir up your gifts, encourage yourself in the Lord, keep yourself in the love of God, remember who God is, call on His name, access the throne of grace and much more.

Are you ‘in the zone’? If not, then why not? You can do something about it. You can choose where you will spend the rest of this day. You can choose to move in to your spiritual inheritance, or to remain in a prison while the door is wide open.

Let’s be a people who are ‘in the zone’ of God’s presence, enjoying His best for His glory, all the time. Amen.

Renewing the Mind

Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by having your mind renewed. Romans 12:2

We each need a complete overhaul in our thinking. That’s not just to deal with the “evil” things in our minds, but to change the very basis by which we think. Transformation does not come by tidying up our thoughts, cataloguing them differently, adding some new ones or finding Bible references to give authority to our opinions. The ‘renewed’ mind is not an ‘educated’ mind, a Biblically literate mind or a re-enculturated mind. It is a ‘new’ mind.

One of the challenges we face in allowing God to deal with our thinking is that we have faith in our own opinions, thoughts and conclusions. Solomon pointed out that people think they are right – “Every way of man is right in his own eyes” Proverbs 21:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” Proverbs 16:2.

Because we have a high regard for our own mind and thoughts we tend to be protective of long-held beliefs and cherished opinions. We elevate these thoughts as a worthy platform for the rest of our life. Albert Einstein made fun of this tendency when he said, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen“.

Attitudes, then, are closely linked to our thoughts. That’s why a “check-up from the neck up” (as Zig Ziglar likes to put it) should really be heart surgery. Oh, there I go again, mentioning the “heart“. Well, this is not the last time, so get used to it. You will never achieve a renewed mind without a transformed heart at the same time.

Journey of the Heart

WHY DID GOD PUT ME IN THIS FAMILY?

Life is an Adventure – with a Sting in the Tail!

Welcome to Kindergarten!!!

 

It’s how you respond that counts!!

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

 

When God chose for you to be born into your family He “set you up” for the chance to go to the top of the mountain, into the Holy of Holies and into the heights of human experience.

He did that by carefully choosing your mum and dad, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins.

He also did that by choosing a wilderness for you to go through and giving you some tough times, then throwing in some high points – to see how you respond.

He dumped some garbage onto you and sprinkled some gold-dust as well.

 

And then He watched what you did with it all.

He gave you time, even patient when you messed it up – not giving you what you deserve as soon as you deserve it, but waiting and watching to see what your heart will do in response to all the good, the bad and the ugly of your life.

 

He did all that, as your “Kindergarten”.

 

If you flunk kindergarten you get stuck in the sandpit for the rest of your life, fighting with the other kids for the broken fire-truck and sun-bleached plastic spade.

If you flunk kindergarten you get to go back week after week and year after year to the same old squabbles, insecurities, petty jealousies, empty dreams, play acting, hurtful words and treadmill existence.

If you flunk kindergarten you get to carry a bunch of enslaving reactions and attitudes for the rest of your life.

Even when you grow old you will still be salve to the same childish struggles which trapped you in your childhood.

 

But if you succeed in kindergarten you move up to the next grade. You get to face some tougher challenges and more meaningful issues, which lead you to even more challenging situations where you can do much more decisive things which impact far beyond the sandpit. In time you may even stand on the mountain and God and see what God sees. You may hear His voice and feel His heartbeat about things that are yet generations away. You may change the course of nations and impact multitudes who don’t know your name.

 

How few ever rise above the first ridge! They tangle their tread with the cords of their selfish heart – snared by a mouth pouring venom from their beating chest. Rage and unforgiveness, outrage and intolerance, pride and indignation swirl churning in a stew of surging shame.

 

They trudge back to the sand-pit,

dirty shirted children,

bogged in a mire they cannot comprehend.

Fierce in their rebellion,

demanding explanation,

they jeer or cower or trudge on to their appointed end.

They raise a laugh and titter

and scramble for the glitter

of things that have no value, save to a vanquished soul.

They remonstrate and make demand

while others come and rake the sand,

and all this nonsense doesn’t make them whole.

 

So, is it any wonder

the world is torn asunder

and very few achieve the heights for which their life was born?

Very few have seen the light

that leads them through the darkest night

into the dazzling brilliance of the dawn.

So where are you upon this way;

in the sand-pit to this day?

Or have you found God’s Grace and made a start?

The road is very close at hand,

it starts with one foot in the sand,

for it’s a journey made within your heart.

 

Be diligent to keep your heart

from wrong reactions which then start

to poison all you have and all you are.

Forgive and trust and pass on grace,

to those around you in this race,

and you are sure to your journey high and far.

God bless you as you make a choice

to trust in God and then rejoice

in all that He has done for you and me.

God bless you as you trust Him still

and go His way each day until

you compass all that is your destiny.

 

Welcome to the Graduation!

Transform the Parent

During a planning session last week my wife, Susan, caught a statement I made and made a Quote of it. What I said was, “TRANSFORM THE PARENT AND YOU TRANSFORM THE PARENTING!”

Many parents buy our materials or attend our programs hoping to gain some added trick, or key to dealing with their child. The more problems parents face the more ready they are to attend courses, visit websites, read books, etc.

Yet the answer is rarely found in some clever way of handling children. The key is actually found in a transformation process within the parent. The issue is not so much about the “doing” of parenting but the “being”.

Consider such instructions from the Bible as Paul’s directive to the church at Ephesus.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Being “tender-hearted” is not a matter of learning how to do nice things for people. It involves the being of each person – the way they really are, not just the way they act.

The same is true in parenting. A good parent is not someone who has learned a bunch of psychological tricks to use on their child, or a set of strict rules which will work well. A good parent is one who has the right heart toward their child and who carries a level of internal commitment to God and their family, prompting them to make wise choices and create good outcomes.

So, when we “transform” the parent, the automatic result is that the parenting is transformed too. If we make the parent more caring, more loving or more humble, those changes will be reflected in the way they interact with their child.

The most important place to be transformed is the “heart”. The heart is the “heart of the matter”. The way we respond from our heart dictates everything else. If we have a proud heart, or our heart carries jealousy, anger, shame, selfishness, or any such thing, our whole being and the words we speak will reflect it.

Parents, I encourage and challenge you to open your heart to God. Ask Him to reveal to you what is in your heart that needs to be changed. Ask Him to change your heart. Ask Him to give you a heart that is not hard like stone, but is tender and sensitive to Him and others. Your heart is the part of you God is most concerned about.

Take careful note of what God wants to happen to every parent. God prompted one of His prophets to speak about something very important to God – that the “heart” of parents would turn toward their children and that the heart of the children would turn to the parents.

And he will turn the heart of the fathers to their children and the heart of the children to their fathers, or I will come and curse the earth.” Malachi 4:6.

Do you want to transform your parenting? Then make it your aim to have a transformed heart!