What I Tell Engaged Couples Ahead Of Their Wedding Day

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As a pastor I have the privilege of being asked to officiate weddings. When asked to officiate a husband-to-be and a wife-to-be, I sit down with the engaged couple 4-5 times to do some pre-marital counseling with the hopes of preparing them for the greatest human-to-human relationship available from God. 

My main goal in counseling the couple is to get them excited about a marriage more than they are excited about a wedding. 

Here are the 5 things I make sure they understand heading into their adventure of marriage: 

(1) The Biggest Threat To Your Marriage Is Unresolved Conflict 

Marital psychologists share that the path to divorce starts with disappointment. In fact, if disappointment in the marriage isn’t dealt with in a God-honoring, unified manner, it will take the marriage down in 2-3 years. The pathway to divorce looks like this: 

Disappointment – Discouragement – Distance – Disconnect – Discord – Divorce. 

The church has done a disservice to couples yelling at them to not get divorced and then walking away hoping the marriage stays together. Rather, if the church came alongside couples and helped them realize that way before divorce there’s disappointment, and then how to resolve that disappointment, divorce wouldn’t even be a thought. 

Marriages don’t fall apart because of conflict, they fall apart because of unresolved conflict. 

At the wedding altar, instead of pledging to be there for the other for better, for worse, I think the couple should flat out admit, Hey! I’m different than you. This means we’re going to disagree a lot. But even in the disagreements and the disappointment, I’m committed to you and committed to God’s Spirit at work within you. 

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are angry.” 

I make sure the couple will make a commitment to resolving conflict. 

(2) Your Wedding Day Should Be The Day You Love Each Other The Least 

What happens too often when a Christian gives their life and sin to Christ and becomes saved as a child of God, that is the day they love Jesus the most. After conversion for many Christians, there’s lackluster worship, discipline and spiritual growth.

What needs to happen for new Christians is that the day they got saved is the day they loved Jesus the least.  

Ephesians 3:19 says that we will never be able to understand the depths of God’s love for us which means each day is an opportunity to grow in a love for Jesus. 

Instead of pursuing Jesus daily we are using our time for others things (which, those other things like family, work and leisure are good gifts from God, but pursuing Jesus needs to be happening). 

When it comes to the wedding day with all of the obsessive plans and dreams of what the ceremony and reception will be like, even though it’s a signifiant day, that should be the day the couple loves each other the least. 

After the wedding they should still study each other and date each other and still pursue each other. There should be daily encouragement and forgiveness and laughter and prayer.  

For too many couples the mountaintop experience of their relationship is the wedding day. This happens when during the engagement instead of prayerfully putting into place routines and commitments to grow closer together and to allow God to lead them, they instead use their time to plan an event. 

(3) Choose To Pray For Each Other and Pray With Each Other Daily

It’s very difficult to be angry at someone and pray for them at the same time. Love heals deep wounds and an intimate step many thriving couples choose to take each day is praying for each other and with each other. 

Spouses need to be encouraging each other daily (Hebrews 3:13) and through a disciplined prayer life to thank God for blessings, to ask God for forgiveness and wisdom, to place Him as the leader of the marriage all can breath such life into the relationship. 

(4) In Grieving, Choose To Lament Together

Sometimes the pain a couple experiences is caused by one or both sides. But sometimes the deep trauma experienced in a marriage is circumstantial and out of their control. 

There might be death of parents and loved ones. There might be miscarriages. There might be seasons of unemployment. There might be a cancer diagnosis. There might be health or behavioral concerns with children. 

In these seasons of confusion and hurt, since the couple already resolves conflict with each other (there’s trust and grace), since they pursue one another relationally (their love for each other deepens) and since they pray for and with each other, grieving is a safe and unified space to mourn. 

The author of the book Lamentations in the Bible is grieving deeply. In the midst of his emotional struggle he rightly recognizes that God is the Giver of great hope (Lamentations 3:22-24). Regardless of the circumstantial pain, he clearly confesses his ongoing need for God in his life.

We cannot go a day forgetting the mercy of God in our lives. A married couple needs to be grateful for the grace of God and His comfort and presence in the absence of answers and clarity. 

A married couple cannot separate relationally during seasons of pain because distance leads to disconnect.

(5) Recognize That The Best Day Of Your Marriage Happened 2,000 Years Ago

Christians believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins and the sins of humanity. They are grateful that forgiveness is found freely at the cross through belief and confession. 

Just as there is mercy found at the cross, there is power and hope found at the empty tomb of Jesus when He rose from death 2,000 years ago. 

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in the history of the world. It’s more important than a spouse’s wedding day, or the birth of their child or any answered prayer they experience. It’s more important than the church, more important than the Bible and even more important than the crucifixion of Jesus. 

If Jesus didn’t rise from death then His claim to be God wouldn’t be true and His prophecy that He would rise from death would be a fraud. And someone who isn’t God and is a fraud can’t forgive sin, provide sacred Scripture or start a movement of love (the church). 

For marriage, yes the couple is so grateful for Jesus’ death (to the point where, since Jesus died for them, they can die to their selfishness and pride towards each other), but b/c He lives (He lives!), the couple can receive the power and the hope that sustains, revives and propels a marriage to places of unimaginable joy, unity and peace. 

Whether someone remains single or pursues marriage, life is broken and can be harsh at times. When forced to go through the trials of pain and suffering, every person needs the reality that Jesus is alive, that He is for us and that He is with us. 

Thanks for reading! You are loved. 

Z

5 Choices For Every Single Woman Desiring Marriage

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Single women wanting to marry can feel like finding a godly man is like finding water in the desert. A woman desires marriage but loves Jesus so she prays and waits and even searches for a godly man and as another year goes by she begins to wonder if becoming a wife and becoming a mother will ever be dreams realized. 

This can lead to panic and when there is panic we are not in our right mind. 

This can lead to despair and when there is despair we make decisions that are unwise. 

Clarification: I am not the most qualified person to give advice to single women on dating or marriage. I am a pastor and love the women in the church I serve in. I am a father of three daughters and care deeply about the way they approach their singleness as they desire marriage. 

The single woman wanting to marry has five choices: 

  1. She Can Play House

She can decide that instead of waiting on God for an upstanding man, she’ll take her relational future into her own hands. She might sleep around. She might go out a lot. She might be on the prowl. She might go from one boyfriend immediately to another and because she’s revolved her psyche around having to have a guy in her life, when she does date a guy for a while, they’ll move in together and they’ll play house. 

All of these things – sleeping around, partying, aggressively pursuing a boyfriend, not being content with a season of singleness, living with the boyfriend – these all get in the way of the relationship she has with the most important Man in her life: Jesus Christ. 

(2) She Can Give Up On Her Dream 

She can quit trusting God. She can quit hoping for marriage. She can quit praying for a man who loves Jesus to love her and help her love Jesus more. She can stop trusting men due to relational heartache in her past. 

Giving up on love when there is still a desire for marriage is a cold decision because when anyone shuts their heart down they are blocking hope and joy in all aspects of life. 

(3) She Can Settle

This is the most common decision a single, Christian women chooses when not wanting to wait on God’s plan for her desires and future. 

A single woman settling is someone who has lowered her standards. She had a list of what she desired in a husband, a high standard, but over time she deletes character traits and habitual disciplines off the list. 

So, originally she wanted to marry a man who had Jesus at the center of his life but now she’ll get serious with a guy who doesn’t mind that she loves Jesus. She used to get excited about the thought of dating a man who would pray with her but now she’ll be with someone who says things like, “The universe is going to work it out”. She used to dream of being with someone who would respect her, root for her, encourage her but for some reason she’s ended up with someone who only makes her think, “Yeah, I think we can probably make this work. I can put up with him.”

Settling in marriage will get her a man but it most likely will not get her a long-term, joy filled, God-honoring, adventurous marriage. There are much more worse things in her life than being single and one of those things is marrying a man who doesn’t love Jesus. 

(4) She Can Allow Her Struggle As A Single Person To Define Her

A Christian woman’s identity is supposed to be Jesus. Jesus has died for her. Jesus has given her eternal hope through His resurrection. Jesus loves the entire person she is, good and bad. Jesus calls her beautiful. She is Jesus’ bride. Her self-worth needs to be in Him daily. 

However, in long seasons of singleness, instead of considering it a joy to serve Jesus and others as she waits on God’s plan for her life, she believes being single is a negative thing and that perspective begins to weigh on her spirit in a devastating and defining manner. 

She starts to believe the lies that she’s not lovely, that she’s not wanted, that she’s not desirable. She can easily, habitually, allow her singleness to be 

Her perspective of God’s view of her during her singleness is so important. 

Joyce Meyer says, “Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” 

She needs worship in her singleness. She needs Scripture in her singleness. She needs encouraging, trusting Christian women in her life as close friends to keep her from believing that her suffering as a single person defines her. 

(5) She Can Rest Daily By Trusting God

There is so much comfort for a single woman when she desires marriage but desires Jesus so much more. There is so much peace

Her desiring marriage is an indication of how strong her faith in God is because if she lives with a guy she’s not married to, if she just gives up on her dream of being a wife, if she settles and marries a guy who doesn’t have Jesus at the center of his life, if she allows her singleness to depress her, these are indications and examples that the blessing (marriage) was more important to her than the Giver of those blessings. 

I would encourage all single women to allow their singleness to describe a part of them but to not let it define them. Singleness can be an aspect of her life but it can not be the center of her life. 

She must remind herself each day that God cares for her more than any man will ever get close to when it comes to her best interests in mind. She must remind herself that she worships a God Who was single while on earth. She must remind herself that the first century church viewed singleness as a high virtue, that it was preferred to marriage, in order to fully live out their joy in Christ by ministering to others. 

What a gift a godly man will have by finding a single woman who has earnestly pursued God every day, has placed her worth in Him and has chosen to give her time and her talents to serving others in His name! 

Being single is not easy but neither is marriage. There is only true rest found by trusting in God no matter the relational status. 

Thanks for reading! Encourage the single, Christian women in your life to stay focused on Jesus! You are loved!

Z

The Balance All Men Need

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Author John Eldridge says a man’s most key stages of life for emotional development and leadership are the warrior stage and the lover stage.

In his warrior stage (late teens into 20’s), he is learning about perseverance
In his lover stage (30’s and 40’s), he is learning about tenderness. 

From his late teenage years into his 20’s, the warrior stage is where the young man thinks about what goals he wants to go after. He asking himself questions like:

What will my major in college be?
What type of girl will I date?
What standard of living do I want?
What character traits do I want to be known for by others?
How will I respond to temptation? 
Am I going to persevere when I experience failure? 
Will I endure when my heart gets broken? 

I’ve had young men tell me, If my girlfriend breaks up with me that’s it, I’m not getting married. If she were to leave me, I’m giving up on love. If I become single, my life will be over for me. 

And I’m like, You’re only 20 years old? There’s so much life ahead of you. And also, your girlfriend is your idol. And also, you need to know you’re not called to be whiner, you’re called to be a warrior. You’re called to persevere, to lean on the Spirit when under trials, disappointment and pain.

Women have a huge influence in this stage for men.

Ladies! Let him persevere for you! Let him prioritize you to show how important you are to him (not by his words but his daily actions) Let him fight in hardship for your relationship. 

Young women should not get so easily emotionally wrapped up into a guy too early. Make him earn it.

Jesus wasn’t sent to earth as a 33 year old and then laid His life down for you. No, He had to earn His perfection. He fought temptation every day. 

I know a lot of people think of Jesus on earth as this happy-go-lucky hippy who was always nice and listened to Simon and Garfunkel but Jesus was a warrior. He persevered under letdown and heartache and temptation. He lived for 33 years under that pressure, He earned it 

Ladies, please make the man you’re dating earns your affection and commitment. Don’t make it easy on him because you’re afraid of being lonely. You deserve a warrior. 

And married men, please know you still need to persevere for your wife. 

Most men aren’t warriors, they’re hunters. They found their woman, hunted her down, put a ring on her finger and then shortly after stopped fighting for her, stopped prioritizing her, stopped serving her. Like a hunter they stopped their interest when the hunt was over but warriors serve and prioritize their wives every day. Warriors persevere in hardship for their wives every day. And they consider it an honor. 

Pastor Tim Keller says, “For most of western history the primary and most valued characteristic of manhood was self-mastery.  A man indulged in excessive eating, drinking, sleeping or who failed to rule himself was considered a waste, an unfit person to rule his household, much less be a leader in society.”

In the warrior stage a man learns to discipline himself. He leans on prayer and the Bible daily. He leans on Christian mentors and Christian friends to help him be disciplined so he’s prepared  and held accountable to lead a godly household. 

The biggest fear a woman has is abandonment. When a man doesn’t show her consistently that he will be there for her, she’s wondering if she can trust won’t be there in the storm and that he won’t prioritize her when it’s calm. Warriors persevere.

After a man learns about perseverance, he then can focus on being loving. Once he enters into his 30’s and 40’s where he is establish gin himself vocationally and in the home, he must learn about the habit of being tender to those around him. 

In the Old Testament, David was a warrior. He was tough. As a shepherd, David killed lions and bears to save his sheep, He took down the giant Goliath with boldness. As a king, he took down invading nations with his army in battle. Certainly David was tough. 

But he was also tender. 

David was tough and tender Yes he’d slay giants and win battles and kill lions but he’d also sit down and get his little lyre guitar out and his harp out and write songs and poems expressing his emotions to God, himself and others. He had a balance of tough and tender. 

Some men as employers are to tough, not tender, on their employees. 
Some men as boyfriends are too tough on their girlfriends. 
Husbands are too tough on their wives. 
Fathers are too tough on their children.

On the other side of the coin there are men who aren’t too tough, instead, they’re way too tender. Having an extreme of tenderness can turn into cowardice. Too-tender men don’t pray with their wife or family and lead their family spiritually, they’re afraid to. They don’t hit conflict head on, they’re passive aggressive.

In Genesis chapter 3, people blame Eve for bringing sin into the world (which she did disobey). She ate the fruit that God told her not to, she was deceived and chose to not believe God even though she believed in God, she didn’t trust Him. She sinned. 

Guess who was standing there the entire time? Her husband. Her tender not tough husband. Her coward not warrior husband.

Adam’s not in some other part of the Garden of Eden worshipping God, raising his hands, singing while his wife is off secretly disobeying God. No, he’s standing there next to her (Genesis 3:6)

He says nothing, does nothing. 
And the silence of Adam is something I see in men today.

The silent Adams let women lead in the church. They let women do all the serving. They let women battle the spiritual wars all by themselves. They let women lead their families spiritually, emotionally, relationally. 

When God comes to Adam and Eve after they both sin and eat the forbidden fruit, guess who God calls out to first? Adam.

I want to be tough and tender for my wife and our three daughters. Even though I have the physique of a junior high student. I’m gonna be tough in the moments that matter and tender in the moments that matter. And it takes prayer, patience and accountability on when to know to be tough and when to be tender. 

In our neighborhood this summer, there was an 8 year old boy who reached out and touched the backside of one of my daughters – because he wanted to. 

When my daughter told me about it, I went straight outside with the fury of a father internally but with the gentleness of a seeker externally. I confirmed what the accusation was with the boy first, and when he admitted to it, I told him that my daughter wasn’t property he could claim or a desired jewel he was allowed to touch. We marched straight to his grandparents home, who were watching him for the weekend, and I had him say what he did and he apologized. 

And as tough as I was on him, I was also tough with my daughter letting her know that boys don’t get to touch her whenever they feel like it.

A criminal breaks into my home – I’m going to be as tough as I can be. A guy wants to date my daughter, I’ll be tough.  

But if my daughters want me to dress up for play time with them and sip tea and do our nails and let them put make up on me, I’m going to be tender in those precious moments. 

If my wife is having a rough day emotionally, I need to be tender and step it up around the house so she can rest and pray. I’m going to listen to her and pray with her as we go on a walk to process things. 

In the book of Revelation we see Jesus as the lion and the lamb. It’s takes prayer to know when to be the warrior and when to be the lover, this balance of tough and tender. Without the help of the Holy Spirit and without prayer and without Christian accountability, a man will default into being too tough or being too tender when the situation and God’s calling requires the opposite. 

Thanks for reading. You so SO LOVED!

Z

Why I Don’t Recommend Dating Or Marrying A Pro-Choice Person

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Being a pastor of a church that has young adults coming into it continually, I have the great honor of being asked to officiate weddings frequently. However, I myself do not make it to the wedding altar with them.

Here’s how it usually goes: A couple starts dating, falls in love, gets engaged and part of planning their wedding is to find a pastor to marry them. But they need to find a church first in order to find a pastor. They think that finding a pastor is like finding a DJ or finding a photographer or finding a caterer – something to check off. They think, Okay, we found a dude to marry us, onto the next item

So they come to our church, listen to one of my messages, like what they hear or how they feel and then they reach out to me to officiate their wedding so they can check that part off their to-do list. 

When they sit down with me, they are very surprised at the process I go through.

I sit down with the couple initially to find out about their faith and love for Jesus. We walk through their testimony. We walk through their spiritual background. We walk through how they view the Bible. We walk through their physical contact and sexual activity. We walk through their view of marital roles and their goals in the relationship. We walk through money and children and communication and conflict. 

That’s just the first session. We don’t talk about how they met or what they love about the other or how the wedding plans are going. That can come later. Those are easy questions to answer. Session one is about who really has their heart. 

If desired, I meet with them 3-4 more times for pre-marital counseling and then have the couple over to my home for dinner with my family where they can meet my wife, so, after the honeymoon feelings of romance fade and the reality of marriage hits them, the groom can reach out to me and the bride can reach out to my wife. 

This past summer a couple came to the church I serve, reached out to me to officiate their wedding and I happily scheduled a meeting with them. 

After session one with me I gave the advice that they should reconsider being engaged at this point, that they should slow the relationship down, and here’s why: 

She was a Jesus-follower and was pro-life. 
He was indifferent about Jesus (which meant he was against Him) and was pro-choice. 

Pro-life/pro-choice might not seem like such a big deal to pause a relationship over, but their opinion on pro-life/pro-choice was an outflowing belief of where their identity and faith were at. 

While the couple wasn’t happy with me, and while they haven’t been back to the loving church I’m a part of, it got me thinking on reasons as a parent I will encourage my children to date someone who is pro-life. 

It’s not enough for an engaged person to say their boyfriend/girlfriend is fine if they go to church or owns a Bible or calls themselves a Christian. Specific beliefs and values need to be talked through because what Jesus says and what each person in the relationship says can have long-term, harmful ramifications. 

While in marriage compromise is a beautiful, selfless result when there’s a conflict with differing views, in the pro-life and pro-choice debate, there is not a third, comprising option (which, it’s astounding that 39% of Americans don’t take a firm stance on pro-life or pro-choice. We’re not even thinking about this issue). 

For all the pro-life singles who love Jesus, if one of my children told me they were wanting to pursue a serious relationship with someone who is pro-choice, here’s why I would caution against it:

  1. The authority in your life is Jesus Christ and Scripture. The authority in their life is their opinion. On each topic of conversation, you’ll go to the Bible and they’ll go to their heart and many times it could be far apart. Your truth will never change, theirs will.

  2. You hold onto the truth in Scripture that human life is above/superior to the animal kingdom. You align yourself with God’s view that humans have a soul and a conscious, that humans are created in the image of God. A pro-choice person doesn’t hold those beliefs.

  3. Hypothetically, if the unborn child you are carrying ends up having a serious form of birth defect or a health/physical/mental complication, the conclusion of going through the pregnancy with your differing spouse could be a conversation about life or death. 
  1. Hypothetically, if a future pregnancy becomes a reality during a circumstantially difficult time in the marriage (loss of job, emotional instability, lots of debt), there could be pressure from your spouse to end the life of the child. Both #3 and #4 have enormous and maybe even irreconcilable results. 
  1. If the person you are dating/engaged to doesn’t think about children in the womb biblically, it’s a good bet that they will not have a biblical lens when it comes to raising godly children either.
  1. Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25). The hot topic of pro-life and pro choice is more serious than him liking Michigan football and her liking Ohio State or him liking hip hop music and her liking country music. This issue brings division (the word division literally means two separate visions). The marriage is supposed to be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8; Ephesians 5:31). One name. One bed. One bank account. One home. One vision for the family. One authority (Bible). One Jesus. No division. 
  1. While doable, it is a daily, relational hardship serving someone who disagrees with God on the sanctity of human life. 

Thanks for reading and for taking dating seriously! You are loved. 

Z

[For further reading on abortion, check out my blog here

The Three Types of Marriages

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When a romantic relationship is starting out, what gets things going are fun dates and making memories combined with butterflies of infatuation. 

If the dating relationship leads to an eventual marriage, fun dates and making memories take a back seat to working a job, stressing over bills, running errands daily, tending to kids constantly and trying to not be taken down by the constant piles of laundry

The norm of many marriages is that dating fades away when marriage begins. 

I’m under the conviction that dating can become evenbetter after marriage begins. 

(To clarify, I’m not talking about dating like a fancy night out with your spouse. Dating is pursuing the love of your life each day, getting to know them, learning to serve them).

As a Christian I’m also under the firm conviction that God is the one who infuses a marriage to be the amazing relationship it’s intended to be. 

God can make your heart full of joy even when there is disappoint in the marriage. 

God can give you discernment even when there is confusion in the marriage. 

God can give you a grateful heart that finds something in the marriage to be thankful for when there is complaining and arguing. 

Our culture is full of people whose lives seem plentiful when in reality there is so much lacking.

They have money, possessions, basic needs more than met, trips, hobbies and countless friends on social media. 

What they are lacking is a quality relationship of love, unity and peace – a relationship best found in Jesus first and a spouse second. 

Each spouse should examine where they are at in one of the three types of marriages: 

(1) A Shoulder-to-Shoulder Marriage

In a shoulder-to-shoulder marriage, the couple looks together. In fact, they accomplish much (individually). They have an outlook on the world that is ambitious and they get a lot done. 

The problem is, while they are getting a lot done (at work, with the kids, with a hobby, serving in the church), they aren’t soulmates living life together. They’re roommates living life apart. 

A shoulder-to-shoulder relationship shows the person you’re with that you care more about where your day is headed personally than where your relationship is headed together. 

This type of relationship is selfish. 

(2) A Back-to-Back Marriage

This is when the marriage reaches a dry season of either arguing frequently over a deep-seated issue or even more serious where there is little hope going forward. 

Instead of dealing with the issue face-on together and admitting fault humbly with a strong will and accountable plan to improve, the main issue neglects to get dealt with. 

A back-to-back relationship shows the person you’re with that the best version they fell in love with was the person you were while dating before marriage as you regress in character and commitment when it comes to improving the relationship. 

This type of relationship has settled. 

(3) A Face-to-Face Marriage

These people can’t get enough of their spouse when they stop to think about how grateful they should be. They are consistently pouring encouragement and question-asking into the person they promised their vows to. 

A face-to-face couple prioritizes date nights (no matter how old they are or how old the kids are). 

A face-to-face couple intentionally thinks, How can I thank them for making me a better person and what areas can I help assist them become a better person? 

This type of relationship is sacrificial. 

This type of ideal marriage doesn’t just appreciate the other with eyes of hearts since the euphoric feelings of romance are perpetual. But, even in times of disagreement and let down,  a face-to-face marriage doesn’t ignore each other in life, nor do they combat each other when there’s an argument. Instead, they remain face-to-face (not yelling), but continuing to work on the marriage to the point of love, unity and peace. 

Here are three pieces of advice to have a face-to-face marriage if you find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder or back-to-back. 

STEP ONE: Learn to enjoy being with one another more than you enjoy what you are doing apart from one another 

Choose the relationship over personal goals, work/task responsibilities and interests. Be aware of what you prioritize in your heart, schedule, excitement and dreams. 

STEP TWO: Learn how to quickly and gently put water on a relational fire (rather than gas). 

Choose humility, pray for patience, pursue forgiveness rather than grudge holding and anger. 

STEP THREE: Work intentionally at what cultural values you both want in the marriage while seeking the guidance of other godly married couples. 

Think about how Hollywood shows a couple sleeping in the same bed together. Those who sleep back-to-back are assumed to be arguing. Those who sleep shoulder-to-shoulder on their backs look fine when there could be so much more of an intimate, qualitative relationship. 

When we see a couple sleeping face-to-face, holding each other, that’s what people yearn for when it comes to the closest human relationship one can have (I’m not saying you should sleep face-to-face with your spouse, I’m saying how it looks on the big screen is a close and intimate and that’s how it should look daily while awake with your spouse). 

In your marriage, what is the issue you have been ignoring as you allow yourself to be distracted by your day (where are you shoulder-to-shoulder)? 

In your marriage, what is the issue you have been continually arguing over that needs to be dealt with, killed and buried (where are you back-to-back)? 

Finally, what married couples you know who have a face-to-face marriage and what can they teach you? Who are the couple with faith and joy and grace and abundant support and energy for the other? 

And by the way, where are you with Jesus? Are you mad at Him (back-to-back), disinterested in Him and very interested in you (shoulder-to-shoulder) or are you pursuing Jesus as earnestly as you can (face-to-face). 

Because we are His bride, He pursues (dates) us every day, and one day soon we will see Him face-to-face. 

Thanks for reading, you are so loved!

Z

7 Questions to Ask for Men and Women Wanting to Marry (A blog series on dating, 4 of 4)

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[This blog is the fourth and final installment in a series of blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. Read the first blog and second blog and third blog to catch up]

This last blog on dating is for the following: 
– If you are single and desire marriage
– If you desire to raise godly children who plan to marry
– If you have friends who are single and want to marry

I’ve got seven questions for both sides of the wedding aisle, different questions for men and women to chew on and think about while they pursue the lovely blessing of marriage. These questions hopefully will remove some blinders people have while dating and also prepare some to intentionally seek out God’s will for their aspirations of love, intimacy and commitment.

7 Questions For Men Wanting to Marry

  1. Are you overlooking a good woman in your life right now (those who are shy, those who are a single mom, those who have been divorced)? Instead of looking for Miss Right, should you prayerfully see that Miss Right In Front of You is waiting?

  2. In your life, are you honoring God above all? Then, do you honor her? Then, do you honor her family? Then, do you honor her friends?

  3. Is the girl you are pursuing modest in her appearance and her social media posts? (1 Timothy 2:9)?

  4. Do you display a leadership in front of her and a prioritized love for her that inspires her to follow and trust you?

  5. Is her character noble (Proverbs 31:10-31)?Is her character something your mother would love? Is her character something God approves? Can you see the spiritual attraction over the physical attraction? Or does she have the worst qualities listed in the book of Proverbs (unfaithful, loud, quarreling, nagging)?

  6. Can you both agree on the path ahead? Can you provide the lifestyle she expects? Can you support the calling she has in life? Do you see her supporting the commitments you currently have? Can you welcome her family as your family?  
  1. Do you want your daughters to be like how she is right now and do you want your sons to marry someone like her?

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7 Questions for Women Wanting to Marry

1.  Do you get excited when thinking about helping him as you join the course of life he is on (Genesis 2:18)?

2. Does he have the resolve to stay faithful to God and strong for you in tough times (2 Timothy 2:3)?

3. Is he considerate and gentle with you (1 Peter 3:7)? Scripture’s role of the husband as the leader of the home isn’t that he gets to make decisions as a dictator for his wife and kids. That’s a gross misinterpretation. He needs to be considerate on what his wife thinks. Where she thinks the family is headed. Being considerate and gentle go together. A husband who is angry with his wife is one who doesn’t consider her thoughts or feelings. 

4. Will he make a godly father (Psalm 127:3-5; Ephesians 6:4)?

5. Does he have the maturity and the commitment to be a one-woman-man (1 Timothy 3:2)? Does he understand that lust, laziness, pornography, cheating, emotional and physical affairs have no place in a marriage? Does he see that love is not merely a feeling when things are good, but a covenantal commitment no matter what? 

6. How valuable does he make you feel? In a serious, dating relationship heading toward marriage, you should feel above all other humans and responsibilities in his life. He should consistently show you that he loves Jesus passionately (not say it, show it), and then there’s you. You should have no doubt that you are the apple of his eye. He should lavish you with time, encouragement, prayer, gifts as you see you are a priority to him. 

7. Do you want your sons to be like how he is right now and do you want your daughters to marry someone like him?

Thanks for reflecting on these, passing them on to loved ones and for taking the time to read all four blogs on dating. What’s going to uplift and improve our culture is not another politician, election or crisis. It’s going to be a gracious, loving uprising of strong, godly households. This is done by intentional, prayerful dating. 

You are loved. 

Z

2 Blunders Made By Single People Who Date (A Blog Series on Dating, 2 of 4)

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[This blog is the second in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. The first blog can be read here.] 

If you are single desiring marriage, you are not alone. You might feel lonely at times, but you are in the majority of American adults right now. 

There are more adults who are single right now in America than there are adults who are married. This is a first in the history of America, where the adults who are single are the majority. 

Now, the majority of people will eventually marry.
Nine out of ten people do. 

When it comes time to get married, the man is on average 30 years old and the woman is on average in her late 20’s. 75 years ago, the average age to marry was ten years less than it is today. Young adults are prolonging their commitment to marriage, which has led to much sexual sin and cohabitation. 

It’s also led to more time to think about marriage. Which means there is more time for single adults to put the prospect and hope of marriage on a throne it shouldn’t be on. 

For single Christians hoping to be married in the future, and for dads and moms wanting to raise godly children, let me share the two big mistakes I see single people making:

Blunder #1: I desire marriage so strongly that I worship it. 

Those who idolize the concept of marriage have a stress-free, worry-free, romantic, Disney-like picture of what marriage is like. 

That’s not realistic. 

The gap between the fantasy of marriage and the reality of marriage is quite the chasm for this person. 

The more a single person worships the idea of marriage (meaning, it’s what their heart wants more than anything, it’s what they constantly think about, it’s what they’ve spent their life desiring), when marriage is worshipped, immediately that person becomes someone who is codependent. 

Those who idolize marriage are the ones who always have to be in a relationship. They cannot stand the thought of being single. They feel less-than if they’re not dating someone. Their greatest fear is not marrying and instead of celebrating friends who do get married, they are jealous and bitter. With each boyfriend or girlfriend they have, they turn that person into a functional savior. Their heaven is the wedding altar. 

When a single person worships the idea of marriage, when falling in love sits on the throne of their heart, here’s the danger with that: You will overlook the faults and flaws you and the person you are dating have.

When all you think about is marriage, you’ll be blind (or choose to ignore) glaring personality deficiencies and unhealthy habits just to get to the wedding day. 

This mindset leads to long-term issues, because when the wedding day comes and goes, the faults and flaws remain, or, outside of Jesus, get worse. 

Marriage is a starting line, not a finish line. 

This blunder usually is tripped over by women. 

Recently I was counseling a young woman in her late 20’s who is overwhelmed by her being single. She is full of anxiety over the fact that she isn’t married and doesn’t have any children. In our hour together, she said the words I’m single six times. Instead of Jesus’ love defining her, her identity is: not married

Through some questions I asked, she relayed that she feels miserable while she doesn’t date and feels like she’s on Cloud 9 when she does. She said by the second or third date with someone, she’s picturing having kids with the guy and seeing how his last name fits with her first name. 

This tells me she is rushing the process, controlling too much, not letting go of this idol to be married and probably smothering the men she gets to know. 

I’ve said it before, and it’s true for those who idolize marriage: Chase after happiness and you’ll never find it. Chase after God and happiness will find you. 

Blunder #2: I detest marriage so strongly that I condemn it. 

The other mistake single people make isn’t idolizing marriage, it’s demonizing it. 

In this extreme, the single person doesn’t have a euphoric picture of marriage, they have a very dismal, miserable view of it. The chasm for this person is the horror stories of marriage they’ve seen and have heard verses the hope for a wonderful relationship they could hope toward. 

While the worship of marriage leads to an unhealthy codependence (save me, fix me, always love me), the condemning of marriage leads to an unhealthy independence (I don’t need anyone, look what I can do). 

This perspective of detesting marriage leads to a more self-centered lifestyle. The single person thinks they will get the most joy out of being by themselves, when, Christ-followers know we find ourselves by serving God and others. 

Not to saying people who have a bad taste in their mouth toward marriage don’t date. Sure they do. They reflect the desire that God has made us for companionship. It’s just, while they date, they severely focus on the person’s flaws and faults (most of the time exaggerating them). They inherit the role of being a bad prophet predicting that this is the reason it wouldn’t work out long-term. 

While the person who worships marriage ignores the flaws in a dating partner (no truth), the person who detests marriage focuses too much on the flaws in a dating partner (no grace). 

Rather than pushing a good relationship along, they push it away. Deep down inside they want to meet Mr./Mrs. Right, but their fears and unrealistic standards of a marriage partner keep them from pursuing Mr./Mrs. Right In Front of Them

This blunder is usually tripped over by men. 

While counseling a single young male in his early 30’s, he confessed a daily involvement with pornography and a periodic involvement with pre-marital sex. I asked him who he was having sex with and he told me it was typically girls in their early 20’s. 

I asked why he thought there was typically a ten year difference between him and the girls he chose to pursue and his response was, They’re not thinking about settling down. They’re more fun

While he wasn’t worshipping marriage, he was worshipping pleasure. He was worshipping temporary acceptance. 

He went on to talk about how awful his parents marriage was, how ugly their divorce was when he was 15 years old and how stale his friends marriages are today. He condemned any idea of tying the knot.

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For single adults, and parents raising children, we don’t place dating or marriage or sex or friendship on the throne, and we don’t place those things under our feet and stomp on them. If desired, marriage is a beautiful gift, and if done in a godly fashion, it’s such an amazing adventure with your best friend. But it can’t be worshipped and it can’t be spit on. 

I firmly believe that when you are focused on God above all, placing Jesus on the throne of your thoughts, words, actions and dreams, He does, in His timing, give you the desires of your heart. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Words of Lament: How 3 Of Our Children Died In 3 Days

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On July 15th of this year, my wife Whitney was urgently rushed to a hospital in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, she was 20 weeks pregnant with triplets. Doctors informed us that her cervix had opened, that there was a bulging sac and that the babies were going to be delivered far too premature that evening. 

I stayed the night at the hospital with Whit and no babies were delivered. We call that an answered prayer. 

The next morning I read through Proverbs chapter 16 where the first line says, 

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. 

Our plans, our dreams, as a married couple, was to have my wife become pregnant, experience pregnancy and give birth. It had been a desire on her heart for most of her life. 

Unable to conceive naturally, years into our marriage we have pursued in-vitro fertilization via embryo adoption four times. 

Attempt #1: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #2: Chemical pregnancy (false positive)

Attempt #3: Conception (miscarriage at 9 weeks)

Attempt #4: Conception (pregnant with 3 fetuses)

With each attempt there are mountains of paperwork, finances, medication, injections and prayer. But the dream we had to expand our family and love on another child was all worth it without a question. 

This past April was when we found out Whit was pregnant with triplets, and we were ecstatic. Not only was there hope of a baby coming, but it was threefold. The magnanimity overshadowing this attempt was that we were told this would be the last chance at pregnancy after three previous unsuccessful ones. 

Sure there was a pandemic starting, and school was canceled, and our family was moving out of state, but we couldn’t stop praising God for an answered prayer as Whit’s pregnancy prolonged through the first trimester with three healthy babies. 

When she was 19 weeks pregnant, we announced the exciting news to social media. Five days later she was a high risk patient in the hospital with doctors telling us the babies were coming too early and there wasn’t much they could do. 

Five days after that, her water broke. The doctors told us the babies were going to be born any minute, yet for the next 12 days no babies were born. We call that an answered prayer. 

On July 31, at 1:39AM, 16 days after Whit was first put on bed rest in the hospital, a child was delivered. A baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 2 days. She came out still born and we were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

The concern at that point was that Whit would get infected. If she showed signs of fever or a high white blood cell count, the other two babies would have to be induced because at that point the situation would be life-threatening to Whit. Her health was primary to us. 

Later on July 31st, her fever spiked to 102.9° and she started having chills. At that point it was a no brainer, Whit was given medication to give birth to the other two babies. 

On August 1st, the other two babies were delivered. At 4:20pm another baby girl was born at 22 weeks and 3 days. She came out and gave one exhale and eventually within minutes had no heart rate. We were able to hold her and cry and thank God for her. 

11 minutes later a son was born. He had a heart rate and had low oxygen levels but came alive out of the womb. He was rushed to the NICU immediately. His weight was just under 1 pound. 

Over the first hours of his life he was put on a ventilator, and then another ventilator and a third ventilator. He was given two blood transfusions, given sugar, caffeine, hydrochloride, saline and multiple doses of dopamine. 

He was considered by the nurse first in charge of his care to be a fighter and ended up fighting for 17 hours, dying at 9:40AM, August 2nd. The last moments of his life Whit and I were able to hold our son and cry and thank God for him in our lives. 

Sometimes God blesses parents to love their kids for a lifetime, sometimes for a day.

Three babies, all three dead on three different days due to being too early in birth. During our time in the hospital, we were constantly educated that if the babies could make it in the womb until 23-25 weeks, there was a good chance at their survival. That was our prayer, and our three children almost made it to that goal.   

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. (Proverbs 16:1)

Hadassah Lynne, born and dead July 31. Her name means: One who brings joy, of the church. 

Beatrix Tyler, born and dead August 1. Her name means: One who brings happiness, home builder. 

Samuel Dominic, born August 1, dead August 2. His name means: The Lord heard, of the Lord. 

The most amazing moment happened on Samuel’s first and only night on this earth. While in the incubator, his heart rate was dramatically dropping around 11:30pm. The doctors were doing everything they could but things looked grim. They asked me to go get Whit since she hadn’t seen or met him yet. 

When Whit got to the NICU, she asked if she could touch Samuel. With her two hands around his tiny head and chest, over the course of an hour, his heart rate, blood oxygen level and pulse all went up to the best they ever would be during his 17 hours of life. The doctors were amazed. We call that an answered prayer. 

There is a lot of confusion, loss and sadness right now, but rather than focus on those things at this time, let me give you the other answered prayers we were able to experience: 

  • Our dream was for Whit to get pregnant, to experience pregnancy, to go into labor and all of those things occurred. 
  • Being in love with having daughters, I had prayed for a son to see what that was like. Out of the three babies who died, our son survived birth as we were able to know him and hold him.
  • Each day Whit was on bedrest, with each healthy ultrasound given, the doctors kept telling us that something beyond science was happening. Again, they said on July 15th the babies were coming and to see Whit be prayed for and to watch her fight for the chance at life was beyond anything they had seen. We like it when faith and science work together and medical professionals noticed. 
  • My wife and I have been a praying couple in our marriage, but at no other time in our relationship had we prayed together, cried out to God together more than these past few weeks. It’s an intimate thing to pray with your spouse. We were able to tangibly feel God’s care for us by doing so. 
  • Our church stepped up to love on us practically during the 18 days of bedrest. They made meals for our family, mowed our yard, took care of our kids, sent flowers, gave gifts and kept checking in letting us know we were prayed for. 
  • Our witness for Christ was known throughout the entire hospital by nurses, doctors and administrative workers. With all of the sorrow, tears and loss, the hugs given to us came with comments like “We have never seen a couple with more resolve, faith and gratitude than you two.” Every new nurse that came in to care for Whit, they had already known about Whit’s joyous and kind spirit even while going through the scariest trial of her life. My faith in God grew and my love for her increased just by watching her character in hardship.  

During Whit’s time in the hospital, she would write in her gratitude journal, listing things she was grateful for to God rather than worrying about the future in the worst way. She would write thank you cards to express her gratitude to others while they were serving us in this time. She would read her Bible, listen to worship songs, read a book about anxiety, write encouraging notes for our two older daughters and always would uplift the spirit of the nurses and doctors checking on her. 

To see her be bedridden enduring all the IV’s and blood tests and morphine and pain and the bed pans and the lack of showering and the inability to sleep a full night and the concerns of a dream dying, to know the pressure she felt even though none of what occurred was anything she did or didn’t do, to know this was her last attempt at IVF, with all that going on, those able to witness her faith in God completely floored them. 

I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. (Philippians 1:12)

Since Hadassah’s death, I have been walking a little slower. 

Walking around the hospital God brought to mind a memory of my father that expressed the emotions I was having. 

When I was in the 6th grade, my father, a pastor, came into my bedroom the week before Christmas. He was wearing a suit and tie and he asked me to get dressed up. It was 10AM and I argued with him stating I wanted to stay home in my scrub clothes and watch TV. He kept asking me to get dressed. I finally gave in as I came downstairs in wrinkled khakis and a sweater. We got into his Chevy Blazer and drove off. 

My dad didn’t tell me where we were going even though I kept asking. 30 minutes later we pulled into a hospital. My dad grabbed his Bible from the back seat, and he and I walked into the cancer wing of a Cincinnati hospital. 

Over the next hour I witnessed my father officiate a wedding inside a hospital room. The patient, a dad with cancer, had the dream of walking his daughter down the aisle. His daughter was engaged to be married in six months, in June. Plans changed when the father had been told earlier that week that he only had days to live. 

So this dad could see his daughter be married and get to be a part of one of the biggest, joy-filled days of her life, my father showed up to the hospital room in December to officiate, as tears mixed with sadness by all were falling in the room. 

Had I remained lazy and whiney at home earlier that day, I would’ve not of only missed out on the emotion I felt that day, but also what my dad said when we got back into the car. 

My dad said, with tears in his eyes, “Z……I hate death……..but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

Twenty years later, on his own deathbed due to cancer, after he had walked his daughter down the aisle just two months before, I said to my father, “Dad, I hate death, but I love you and I love Jesus.” 

And with the death of three children in three days, it’s the exact sentiment I have. 

I hate death. I hate it. 

As people are unsure how to respond to our pain currently, we have heard that this is part of God’s plan. Our 8 year old, after initially hearing her siblings are dead, cried out to us, “How could something this horrible be part of God’s plan? I thought God is loving?”  

He is loving, but I had no words for her in the moment. Yes, it could be viewed as God’s plan for our family, a purpose we may never visually realize going forward, but there is also an evil side to this. There is an unseen but not unfelt wicked presence in our world. The devil’s only obsession each and every day is to hurt God by hurting us. 

I don’t understand how people go through the brokenness in this world without Jesus. How do people do it without His love and without a longing for heaven, a place where there is no pain or sadness?

Yes, I hate death. But still, I love people and I love Jesus so much. 

Thanks for reading and I thank you for prayers for my wife and myself as we move forward in grief and gratitude. 

Z

Fun and Needed Marriage Advice For Men

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The man gave names to all livestock
and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.

(Genesis 2:20)

Adam names three categories of animals: livestock, birds and beasts. It says he named all of them. There are 8.7 million species named today and 30,000 more than don’t have names. For Adam, this is going to take a while. He’s going to wait for his bride for a good amount of time.

And then, in the same verse, we find one of the greatest understatements of the Bible: 

But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:20)

Here’s the hypothetical scenario going on between God and Adam:  

God: I love you, Adam, I do, but you need a wife. You need a close friend.
Adam: Whoo, yes! Let’s talk about that.
God: How about an blobfish?
Adam: No, no thank you.
God: How about a rhino?
Adam: God, it’s got horns. That’s not good.
God: How about the cow?
Adam: How about no.
God: What about a monkey? You want a monkey in white dress?
Adam: …………

God’s going to make the woman and bring her to Adam as his wife, his helper, his best friend.

What does the first woman look like? We have no idea, but, compared to the options Adam has, she’s gotta be amazing no matter what she looks like. If Adam is looking at the woman on one side and has a snapping-turtle alligator on the other side, Eve is the choice 10 times out of 10. 

Compared to the aardvark, she’s amazing.

Here’s where I’m going with this: 

Men, your standard of beauty is your wife. 

Hey husband, question for you? Who’s the most beautiful woman in the world? 

It’s your wife. 

There is not another woman on this planet more beautiful than your wife. 

With Eve, we don’t know if she’s tall, short, voluptuous, skinny, redhead, blonde, brunette, bald, light skin, dark skin, and, after sin enters the word, we don’ know if she’s loud or quiet, harsh or sweet, lazy or hard-working, vindictive or gracious. 

We don’t know what she is. We just know she’s better than the gibbons. 

Women don’t come from man, but from God. That’s why they’re great. They are God-sent. 

Now, not all women remain great. According to the book of Proverbs, some women are crowns and some women are cancers. A single guy’s prayer is to marry a crown, not a cancer. To marry a godly woman, not a selfish, angry one.

But no matter who he marries, she needs to be the standard of attractiveness to him. Not a Super Bowl halftime show, not a porn star, not a co-worker, not an old girlfriend, not a flirtatious neighbor – his wife is the standard of beauty. 

My wife will ask me, Are you going to think I’m attractive when I’m 70? 

My response: Baby, when you’re 70, I’m going to be into all things grandma. I’m only going to be about white hair and slow movements and The Price Is Right and going to Florida a lot and eating dinner at 3:30pm and taking our pills together. 

I’m gonna be all about my 70-year-old, beautifully-wrinkled, grandmother wife. No matter her age or ailment or attitude or shape or look – there is not another woman close to being more gorgeous to me than her, inside and out. 

Husband, the standard of beauty is your wife. 

God’s answer to Adam is, You don’t like the goat or the anteater as a choice for a lifelong partner? Okay, I’ll make you a lady. 

To bring Adam his fitted mate, God chloroforms him.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall
upon the man, and while he slept took one of
his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

(Genesis 2:21)

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s head to show the woman is above him. God isn’t a feminist. 

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s foot to show the woman is under him. God isn’t a chauvinist. 

God takes out a rib to show the woman is a helper alongside to him as he will be a helper alongside her. God is showing that any relationship worth having is one that involves mutual sacrifice. 

The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man
he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
(Genesis 2:22)

There are 8.7 million different species of animals. Adam names them all. That’s exhausting physically but what’s more exhausting was the emotional toll of Adam searching for his best friend and being disappointed 8.7 million times. 

And then God brings her to him (cue the R&B music). 

God creates the first woman, which means God makes the first marriage.

This is the first wedding because it feels like God the Father is walking Eve down the aisle toward Adam. Some of you didn’t have a godly father – neither did Eve. But Eve had God, who is a Father to the fatherless.

God walks her down the aisle like the father, and He gives her away. He officiates as the first pastor at the first wedding ceremony. It’s perfection. The man needs to say something, though. Adam needs to say something. He needs to comfort his wife. He needs to show her he will be there for her. 

The reason Adam needs to speak? Eve has had a big day She got created. She meets God. She’s naked and is going to her wedding. For most girls, that’s too much for one day. Most girls would pass out. 

She’s going to meet her husband. First person she’s ever met. He’s going to need to say something. 

Here’s what Adam does: He sings to her.

Women love guys who can sing. Trust me. We lived in Nashville for 7 years. If the guy can sing, the girl is blind to a lot of his flaws. He could have a criminal record, live in a tent, be illiterate and the girl still says, But he played me a song. I love him so much.

It works every time. 

Adam sings a love song to Eve in the Hebrew language. The first recorded words we have in human history before sin enters the world is song. Some have the theory (it’s just a theory) that humans sang every word until sin came. We didn’t start talking until we sinned. Maybe that’s why people are so moved at musicals, because we were meant to sing through life. Maybe that’s why children sing and hum while they play. We were meant to sing through life. 

In your Bible, what Adam says is in compositional form. It’s poetry, and in Hebrew, this song rhymes.

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
(Genesis 2:23)

Men need to be careful what they call their wives, what they call their daughters. If a man degrades his wife with mean names, not good. If he chooses to uplift her with corny monikers, it’s sweet and life-giving. I call my wife Baby Cakes. I call her, Gorgeous. If you call her those things, they’ll never find your body. Those are names for me to call her to uplift her. 

Adam sings, At last! At last! After going through all of those animals and not finding someone to be with and love and play and laugh – I’ve waited through all the animals, at last! She’s here!

Men, on your wedding day you were saying, At last! 

Men need to go back to that time when they were acting head over heels in love. God brought you your wife, at last! Speaking of weddings, here’s a familiar verse:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and
his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they
shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife
were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:24-25)

First thing for a single person to do: leave your mother and father. 

Next, get married. 

Marriage is for men, not for boys.

A lot of immature males think, If I get married, that’ll make me a man. Nope, it won’t. Be a man first. Prepare yourself now. Read your Bible. Pray. Work hard. Give generously. Serve others. Then, get married. 

The big things in this verse are: move out of your parents home, get married, and have sex in marriage. Jesus said this. Paul reaffirmed it. Moses wrote these verses in Genesis. Those are three big guns: Jesus, Paul and Moses. They all three tell boys to move out of home, marry wisely and then have sexual union. 

Human history began with a wedding. In Revelation, at the second coming of Christ, Jesus is our groom is coming for us, His bride. History began with a wedding and it will end with a wedding, and in the middle, our weddings and our kids’ weddings are the closest we get to the picture of what eternity with God will be like for those who believe in Jesus.

Weddings done in a godly way have affection, commitment, hope, joy, song, laughter, celebration, feasting, friends, dancing. That’s heaven. 

It’s why we love to go to weddings. Don’t you love it when people who love each other get married? Isn’t it a great day and a great party? There’s something in us that just loves that moment. It’s because that’s where we come from, that’s where we’re going.

Some of your marriages are not good. They are not Genesis 2. They’re more Genesis 3. You’re more roommates than you are best friends. There’s little trust. There’s little forgiveness. There’s no singing. There’s little laughter. Pray and figure it out because marriage is amazing when sin is dead in our hearts. It’s up to you to lean on God for a better marriage.

It’s up to single people to be pure and grow up and marry wisely and it’s up to married people to become one and forgive. It’s up to you. Just as God was saying to Adam and Eve, Here’s your choice, life or death. You make the call. It’s up to you.

Thank for reading. You are loved. 

Z

3 Practical Steps for Thriving Relationships

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Everyone needs wisdom in their relationships. If you’ve got all of your relationships figured out and they’re thriving and are at peace and don’t need improving, we’ll see you on the next blog post. You can stop reading.

Every single person, no matter the age or stage of life, guy or gal, single or married, no kids, have kids, empty nesters, whether someone is in school or they work a job or they volunteer or have neighbors or have friends – all of us are in some type of relationship with the people around us. 

Sometimes those relationships can get complicated.
Sometimes we are the one at fault.  

We’re a bunch of imperfect people colliding together every single good day and bad day.

I want to give you four things that I have seen in my life, in the lives of others, that help manage and heal and help relationships thrive. I can tell you these work. I can also confess I’ve not always done them. And when I don’t do them, that’s when the conflict and the complications happen. 

(1) I will act, not react.

We all know what it’s like, when something doesn’t go our way, we instantly react. Our first emotion isn’t the healthiest one. Our first words aren’t the most helpful. 

Some people explode.
Some people walk out with a cutting word.
Some people are loud.
Some people shut down. 

I heard about this married couple who got into an argument that led to them giving each other the silent treatment. Neither spouse was talking. 

Many times when there’s the silent treatment in marriage you will do everything to not speak first. If you’re bleeding out on the bathroom floor, you will crawl to your phone to dial 9-1-1 rather than asking your spouse for help, even when you’re dying. 

This couple giving each other the silent treatment, the husband knew his wife was an early riser in the morning. He needed to get up at 5AM to catch a flight for work, and had been having issues with his alarm, so what he needed from his wife was to wake him up at 5AM. 

But he wasn’t going to talk to her. 

He wrote a note: Please wake me up at 5AM and he left it by her toothbrush on her side of the vanity sink. He knew she would be brushing her teeth when she woke up early the next morning. 

In the morning, he wakes up. The sun is pouring in through the bedroom windows. He shoots up in bed, startled, looks at the clock. It’s 8:00AM. 

He’s missed his flight. 

He looks on his nightstand by the bed, and there’s a note. The note says, It’s 5AM. Wake up. 

Point for the wife. 

Before we react – to a spouse, to a child who doesn’t listen, to a coworker who dropped the ball, to a friend who is being unfair to you – before you blow up or give the cold shoulder, memorize this verse:

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. [Psalm 141:3]

It’s a prayer that says, Lord, would you help me keep my mouth shut when I want to instantly react? 

Or, if you’re the silent treatment type of person, the prayer is, Lord, would you give me the humility to open my mouth and speak gently when I want to be quiet?

Acting is: Praying before responding.
Breathing before responding.
Apologizing.
Asking clarifying questions.
Speaking calmly. 

When we react, we get into the fight and name call and bring up past actions and we over exaggerate. When you react, you do not get those words back when a spouse or a child or a parent or someone at work hears them. 

Let’s watch the names we are calling each other and let’s watch saying the words “always” and “never” – you never and I always 

These are things I’m teaching my children. We don’t name call and we don’t express our emotions with “you never” and “you always” – because it’s not true. We want to stick with that specific incident. 

And, let’s watch the tone and the volume level we use. I can see the look in my youngest child’s eyes when my tone is too harsh or my volume is too high. You can’t unring that bell. 

Before you respond, if it’s a bit heated, take a walk around the block because you’ll never regret a delayed word that is said gently. 

Another piece of advice on this one is: Don’t get historical. 

It’s amazing that you’ve got people in your life who can’t find their phone or their keys but they remember something hurtful you said or did 10 years ago. 

As for you and I – when we are in an argument, we need to focus on the argument. We don’t need to get historical. 

In any relationship, Don’t get historical.
Watch your use of “never” and “always”.
No name calling.
Watch your tone and your volume. 

All of this is acting, not reacting. 

(2) I will focus on the good things in you. 

Sometimes we look at people and think, Right now there is nothing good I can find in this person. 

Here’s why that’s a lie: Jesus still died for them. And He saw something redeemable in their life. 

Satan is the author of all lies and one of the lies we believe that he tells is, there’s nothing good in this person, all I can see is the pain they’ve caused – that’s what keeps us from restoring the relationship. 

We need to back the emotional truck up a bit and say, Okay, there’s got to be soothing good in this person, something I can be grateful for with this person, what is it? 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [Philippians 4:8]

Is there anything about that in-law, about that co-worker, about that friend who hurt you, anything about them that is true or honorable or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable? Instead of thinking about how they annoy you or are frustrating to you or are so different from how you are, think about the things laid out in the above verse. 

In the deepest of arguments, the way to climb out of the hole and get to a resolution is to focus on what is good in the person, praise them for that. Then they’ll be more open to discussing the issue at hand like a grown up. 

Even if it’s not an argument, when you highlight and highlight and highlight what is good in that person, they rise to the standard to compliment them for and you begin to truly see them as that good person.

This same advice is for spouses and parents and employers:

Instead of sitting down with someone and using words describing them in their current state, use words that describe who you know they can become. 

The words that we say to our kids, to our employees, those are the words that define them. 

(3) I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.

We all want God’s grace given individually to us – that’s an easy choice. We’ll take God’s forgiveness toward us, but it’s difficult for us to give that to the people around us. 

One way of recognizing if you are growing as a Christian, if God is transforming you, is to see the amount of grace you need verses the amount of grace you give out.

Jesus touches on this in His Sermon on the Mount. 

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. [Matthew 5:23-24]

As far as it depends on you – go make things right with that person – Jesus wants you to apply God’s grace toward that person. 

If you don’t deal with what’s separating you and that person in your life where things aren’t good, it will short-circuit what God is trying to do in your life.

People want God to move in their life and yet they can’t even give a pinch of grace to those around them when the way God wants to move in their life is by extending grace towards others around them. 

Every time I think about how much God has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. Every time I sit in solitude and think about how much God has given to me, it makes it easier to give to others. 

Every time I think about how much I need God in my life, it stirs a passion inside for those around me to see how much they need God and how much they need me to be like Jesus in our relationship so they can partly know what God is truly like. 

I will act, not react.
I will focus on the good things in you.
I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me. 

Will there still be difficulties in your relationships? Will there still be bumps? Absolutely. But now we have a way to resolve things with people in a God-honoring way, and that always un-complicates things. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z