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The 4-Letter Word That Doesn’t Belong In Your Marriage​

When you read the phrase “4-letter word” in this title, you probably thought I was referring to the “f-word”. And, I am. But, it’s NOT the one you think.

Let me share a story with you first.
When my husband, Dave, and I moved to Florida, our stress level was at an all time high. Dave was adjusting to his new role as a head pastor, and we decided to take on a fixer upper upon moving. Not to mention, we were also raising our two eldest boys who were only two and four at the time. Things were CRAZY to say the least.

Dave was busy with all of his leadership duties, and I was desperately trying to manage contractors at the house and doing a lot of the work myself. I took pride in it. But, somewhere along the way, I grew bitter.
I was resentful of the fact that I was stuck at home all day trying to keep the kids happy while completing my various DIY projects. My priorities were completely messed up, and I missed my friends and family terribly.

But, I made a HUGE mistake in all of this. I decided to internalize my pain and frustration and immersed myself into the housework and raising our boys. But, the problem with internalization of feelings is they HAVE to come out eventually. They don’t just magically go away.
Read, “The Most Common Mistake Women Make in Marriage,” for more on this.

I was like a volcano about to erupt, and one day, I did just that.
I was putting up a curtain rod in our front room which had a pretty high ceiling. Dave had asked me if I needed any help that morning, and I said,”No.”–even though I was desperate for help. He accepted my “No” and decided to go on a run.
I was furious, and I became consumed with negative thoughts towards Dave.
Thoughts like:
” A run! How nice to be able to take a break and go on a run while your wife slaves away on this house!”,

“How dare he leave this house without picking up a screwdriver and doing some work! Sheesh!”, and
“What’s wrong with him. Can’t he see that my “No” isn’t really a “No”? I mean I can totally do this on my own, but a little help would be nice.”.

Yeah. Not my finest hour.
I stewed and stewed during his thirty minute run. And, then he came home.

He asked how I was doing, as he wiped the sweat off of his forehead. I could tell that he was feeling all those amazing endorphins releasing after a good run. Bless his heart; he had no idea what was coming.
I told him I was FINE and proceeded to stomp up and down the ladder while fooling around with the rod and screws obnoxiously.
The word “fine” might as well have been the notorious “f-word”. Honestly, in that moment, my tone and body language was screaming obscenity and disgust.
Dave looked pretty stunned, but I could tell he was confused. I said I was “fine”, but I didn’t LOOK like I was fine at all.

He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to offend me by assuming that I am incapable of doing the task at hand, but he could also tell that I was about to lose it and probably needed his help.
So, he did the only thing he thought was appropriate in that moment. He asked me again.

He said, “Sweetie, are you sure you’re fine?”. Oh, boy. There’s that word again.
This is where I lost it. I turned my head around towards him kind of like the girl in The Exorcist. Then, I took a deep breath and said the nicest thing that I could muster up at that moment.
I said, “I! Can’t! Even! Look at you! Right now!”.
I meant every word of it at the time. I was mad and hurt. Why hadn’t he been more helpful? Couldn’t he tell how angry I was by my body language? Doesn’t he know that “fine” is never really fine?
We stood there a few minutes just staring at each other. Then, Dave walked over to me, grabbed my hands, and said, “You’ve been telling me that you are ‘fine’ the whole time we’ve been redoing this house. So, Sweetie, I honestly thought you were fine. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been more helpful. I want to help you however I can.

We embraced and continued to talk about what was really on my mind and heart and what he’s been experiencing at work. That’s exactly what we should have been doing all along. TALK.
We aren’t mind-readers! We must verbalize what’s on our mind and heart. I learned this the hard way.
I apologized to Dave for being a raving lunatic in that moment and for relying to heavily on my body language and tone instead of words–except when it came to that one 4-letter word, “Fine”.

I used that simple word as a crutch during those few months. I didn’t mean it when I said it. I said it because I didn’t want to talk. That’s the kind of word that “fine” often is when it comes up in conversation. We might as well replace it with, “I don’t want to talk about it!” or “Go away!”. And, those phrases are dangerous when it comes to our marriage.
I’m happy to say that Dave and I both forgave one another that day, and God used my frustration and crazy outburst to open our eyes to some cracks in our communication habits. In an effort to keep an open line of communication between us, we rarely use “Fine” as a response.

Please don’t get me wrong here–I don’t think “fine” is a bad word. I just think that it’s a word that give us a temporary, easy way out that essentially causes a breakdown in communication when we do it over and over again. Sadly, this is the case for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Dear Reader, do you and your spouse often tell each other things are “fine” when they’re not?
Do you respond with “fine” to one another in an effort to end a conversation?
Do you use “fine” to avoid talking about tough issues?

If you answered yes to any of these, then I challenge you to take “fine” out of your vocabulary when you are responding to your spouse. This simple act just might save your marriage by opening up the lines of communication between the two of you once again.



5 Ways To Let Go Of A Toxic Relationship​

Kyla, 35, sat on the couch of my office telling me about her unhealthy relationship with Keith, 38, and how after ten years, she was still living with him and putting up with verbal abuse and disrespect.

Kyla put it like this, “I’m not sure why I’m still with him. The put downs have gotten worse and my self-esteem is at an all time low. The other day I was driving the car and took a wrong turn (because it was raining hard) and he said “You’re such an idiot, you can’t even drive right. Do I have to drive you around like a child?”
When I asked Kyla what she thinks makes up a healthy relationship, she said respect and feeling like your partner is your best friend and doesn’t put you down. I agreed with her and asked her to write down these and other ingredients so we could further discuss them in sessions.

What are the Ingredients to a Healthy Relationship?
One of the things I mentioned to Kyla is that a key to finding and sustaining a healthy relationship to consider is: how do you treat yourself? No one will treat you with respect if you devalue yourself. You must rid yourself of self-defeating thoughts such as “I’m stupid” or “No one will ever love me” if you want to build relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy.

That said, if your romantic relationship or marriage brings out your insecurities and causes you to mistrust your own judgment this relationship may not be the best one for you. Many people become involved or even obsessed with the wrong partner – someone who is emotionally unavailable, romantically involved with other partners, addicted to substances – or who cannot love them back.

5 Ways to Let Go of Toxic Relationships:
  1. Assess your partner’s willingness to meet your emotional and personal needs. Counseling, blogging, and/or coaching can help you with this.
  2. Seek a partner you can be authentic and vulnerable with. In other words, you don’t have to walk on eggshells with him or her. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
  3. Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left. But if he or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest, your partner will be a boost to your self-esteem.
  4. Don’t compromise your values. Figure out your core beliefs and stand by them. Ask for what you need and speak up when something bothers you in an assertive but not aggressive way.
  5. Avoid being a people pleaser. In other words, don’t give up too much of your time, energy, or wishes to please your partner or others. Compromise is important in intimate relationships but both partners need to feel supported, cared for, and appreciated.

Chemistry versus Compatibility
Indeed, people who are attracted to partners who hurt them often confuse chemistry and compatibility. In fact, they are both essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship. Whereas chemistry (how interesting and stimulating you find the person) is essential to keeping couples interested, compatibility (sharing common values, goals, and having fun together) will help a couple get through tough times.

In Kyla’s case, she was attracted to Keith because they had good sexual chemistry but they didn’t share the same interests or goals. While she wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree in education to excel as a teacher and to stay in her New England town, Keith’s goals where to open a business in Florida. They argued a lot about these differences and she didn’t feel he could relate to her passion for teaching and supporting children.

In sum, many people stay in destructive relationships because they consistently put their partner’s needs before their own. Often women are raised to focus on others and defer their own needs. Men and women who have low self-esteem may hang on too long to a toxic relationship for fear of being alone. Too often individuals are left with a depleted sense of self and they look for their partner to validate them.

However, you can learn to set healthy expectations of partners and this will cause your sense of self to soar as you build self-respect. By learning to be more assertive, you will no longer feel like a victim. Making yourself a priority isn’t the same as being selfish. You are worth the effort and deserve a happier life and healthier relationships.



Things To Consider If Your Ex Wants To Be Your Friend​

There are many reasons why people strive to be friends with their ex after a breakup or divorce. One of the reasons is that they like to share resources and help each other out. They still consider themselves to be friends. Shana, 42, a teacher, confides: “I can’t really completely heal from the breakup unless we stay in touch. I know that Jack shares my view, and that’s what works best for us.”

Another reason why people want to stay in close contact with a former partner after a breakup is guilt. Sometimes the person who is the dumper feels guilty about leaving the relationship, especially if they were unfaithful, and wants to remain friendly with the dumpee to help to ease their guilt. In this case, counseling with a qualified therapist is a more effective way to deal with these leftover emotions.

Further, some individuals keep their relationship alive because they hope for reconciliation but they don’t necessarily acknowledge it. According to Susan J. Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup, “Examining your quest for contact and being honest about your real intentions will help you stop making excuses to make contact.” Alan, age thirty-eight, reflects: I tried to keep in touch with Alyssa with the hope that we could mend things and one day get back together – even though I knew she was dating someone else.”
Things to Consider If Your Ex Wants to Be Your Friend:
  1. It’s important to forge a new identity: After the breakup, it’s key to lose your identity as a couple and to return to who you were as an individual, rather than half of a couple.
  2. You need to allow yourself time to grieve the loss of the relationship. Like all losses, the breakup of a long-term relationship or marriage causes people to go through various stages of grief. In order to move through anger, denial, etc. it’s essential that individuals have the emotional and physical space to do this.
  3. It can create confusion for children. It’s normal for children to experience reconciliation fantasies and seeing their parents spend time together (social events, holidays, etc.) can cause them to long for their pre-divorce family. Children benefit from parents who are collaborative but not necessarily close friends post-divorce.
  4. You need energy to “take care of yourself” and to get used to being independent. Maintaining a close friendship with an ex (especially if it’s emotionally or physically intimate) can delay this process. At some point, it’s crucial to accept your divorce and come to a place of moving on from the past.
  5. It might prevent you from detaching emotionally and forming new intimate relationships.

That said, some ex’s can pull off a friendship if they maintain good boundaries and neither one of them have a high conflict personality. Kayla, 39 a social worker, was able to maintain contact with her ex-partner for special occasions because he respected her privacy, didn’t stop by unannounced and had developed a support network, including a new wife.
It’s important to be aware that for many people, the drawbacks of being friends with their ex usually outweigh the benefits. It’s often difficult to maintain clear boundaries with a former spouse – especially if they feel guilty about ending the marriage. They might be too flexible or accommodating due to guilt feelings. It’s also confusing for children to see their parents together often and sets the stage for more reconciliation fantasies.


A Pernicious Loop

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . he himself gives to all mankind
life and breath and everything—Acts 17:25

There are few more powerful (and potentially harmful) forces at work in the lives of men than the When/Then lie. It goes like this: when we get that job, that promotion, that house, that "number" in the bank account . . . then everything will be great. Things will settle down then. We’ll have peace and joy and security then. The lie wouldn't be so bad, but for the behavior we rationalize and excuse with it, hoping it is true: neglecting people we’re meant to love; disregarding people we’re meant to serve; ignoring people we’re meant to rescue; treating badly and taking advantage of people we are meant to encourage and support.

Our enemy, the "father of lies" (John 8:44), created a clever one with the When/Then lie—it’s an infinite loop. You see, whatever "something" follows When is never as good as we think it’ll be. And so, any given "something," when it’s achieved, is quickly replaced by a bigger, better one.

There’s freedom available to us, though—freedom to enjoy the abundant blessings we’ve already been given; freedom to access true peace and true joy and true security, right now—if we’re willing to reject the lie and, instead, embrace the promises of our King, Jesus Christ. He’s promised that our Father God will provide everything we need in any given moment (Matthew 6:25-34). His provision just might not look how we think or hope it will (Isaiah 55:8).

Okay, so what do we do?

Write down the When/Then lies you’ve believed. Be specific with both the Whens and the Thens. Now, with brothers in community or directly to God, pray against any power they’ve held over your life. Then, pray in the opposite: declare your gratitude for how God’s provided for you already—and for how he always will.



3 Things Every Boy Needs From His Mom​

In more than a decade of research with thousands of men and boys over the years, one thing that has stood out is the power of a mom’s words to build her son up – or (accidentally) tear him down. Whether your son is five or fifteen, several phrases are a big, big deal. Here are three:

1. “I’m so proud of you.” All males are powerfully moved by hearing these words, but perhaps none more so than the young, testosterone-laden male humanoids who may at times act first, think later, and thus are more used to hearing (as they are stitched up in the Emergency Room) “What were you thinking?” If you make a point of finding and saying those things worth praising whenever they happen, it tells a young man that this is truly who he is — not that buffoon who occasionally gets dinged for doing something dumb.

2. “Sure, you can try it.” I hesitate to put this phrase so soon after the act-first-think-later-then-require-stitches example used above, but this truly is powerful in a young man’s life – especially when he hears it from “Cautious Mom” rather than “Adventure Dad.” Dads, having been young men themselves, know how vital it is that a boy try to do something on his own. Yes, he might try and fail (see Emergency Room example above), but he might do OK. Better yet, he might actually shine! It is hard for us to let our boy take this risk – no matter how big and husky, these are our babies! – but it is essential for his confidence for the future that he be able to try and try again. Which leads to the last phrase.

3. “It was just a mistake, you’ll do better next time.” We women sometimes think that we have to make a point of holding up a mistake so our son recognizes that he failed and doesn’t do something that way again. (“See what happens when you don’t study long enough?” “You forgot your equipment for practice again? That’s why you kept getting benched last year.” )

But the research with men and boys is clear: your son does recognize he failed at something. For a guy, a mistake or a way he didn’t succeed at what he tried to do, is a huge, huge deal. It looms large in a boy’s mind, condemning him oh, every five minutes or so. He needs to hear you say you believe in him and you know he’ll do it right next time. “I know you’ll be studying hard this next few weeks before exams, and you’ll do great.” And if you say it, it builds him up to believe he can do it.

A boy will never be perfect at what he does. After all, we aren’t either, right? But approaching his actions in these I-believe-in-you ways makes it far more likely that he actually will do it right over time. In other words: by your words of affirmation, you are helping him to actually become that great young man you know he can be.


Look Again, Harder This Time

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . and they shall call his name Immanuel
. . . God with us—Matthew 1:23

We men often feel alone. Even surrounded by family, friends, work colleagues, we can still feel very much alone. These feelings—not of loneliness, but alone-ness—are most acute, of course, in times of stress or struggle or suffering. You see, it’s when we’re most in need of help and companionship that we’re most apt to be convinced that no one’s going to help or no one’s going to understand . . . maybe not even God. Right? I mean, in those dark moments, it can feel like God’s just not there, or has turned away. In one of his dark moments, King David cried out: "I am cut off from your sight" (Psalm 31:22).

The truth is, God is always there, in every moment, bright and dark. "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). God doesn’t abandon us in dark moments, even when our sin causes the darkness. So we must learn to see him, even in those moments. One great way to learn is to look backwards, at dark moments from our pasts, moments when we felt alone, and look for him once more, a bit harder this time.

Okay, so what do we do?

Spend some time in prayer. Close your eyes. Quiet your mind. Now, drawing upon everything you know about him, get a picture of Jesus. Think about his goodness—and his heart for the weary, the worried, the wicked, the down, the downtrodden. Think about his willingness to go into tough places and tough situations . . . to redeem them. Next, recall a moment from your past. Call to mind a picture of a time when you felt alone. Visualize the details. Remember how it felt. Now, bring the two pictures together and imagine how Jesus might have (actually) been at work in the moment you chose.


Go Small to Go Big

[ 1 min read ★ ]

So then, as we have opportunity,
let us do good to everyone—Galatians 6:10

Once we’ve decided to do something, we men often like to "go big." We think to ourselves: if we’re going to do this thing, let’s really do it. We can bring this kind of thinking, this "go big" mentality, to all kinds of work, even the work God calls us into—that is, the work of loving and serving others. Great things can result, of course. But the mentality can backfire, too—for example, when we set our ambitions too high, get overwhelmed, and can’t follow through. It’s interesting that, knowing us as he does, our King, Jesus Christ, suggests an opposite approach:

"This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice" (Matthew 10:40-42 MSG).
Start small! Why does something rise up in our hearts, against that approach? Well, it’s mostly because by "going big" we hope to grab a little glory for ourselves. We want others to see us and think well of us. And if we don’t "go big," they might not actually see our accomplishments. But, Jesus reassures us: "You won’t lose out on a thing" (Matthew 10:42 MSG). We must trust his words and trust that God the Holy Spirit can do amazing things within even our smallest, most ordinary acts of love and service. And that’s plenty big for any of us.

Okay, so what do we do?

Look around, today and tomorrow, for people in need. People are hurting, people right around you. "Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood" (Matthew 10:5-8 MSG). Pick one person and blow them away with some help.


Blessed to Bless

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Good measure, pressed down, shaken together,
running over, will be put into your lap—Luke 6:38

Have you been blessed? [Pause for a moment to consider.] What’s your reaction to that question? Is it easy to see how and how much you’ve been blessed? Or is it difficult, especially with so many people around who’ve been blessed more? Well, make no mistake; all of us have been blessed (Genesis 1:28). I mean, do you have a job, some money, enough to eat, a safe place to live, family, some friends, a church, or an education? It may be in unique ways and in varying degrees, but we’ve all been blessed . . . abundantly.

So how then should we think about these blessings? I mean, how can we reconcile the fact that we’ve been blessed with so much—so much more than countless men and women alive right now in other parts of this country and around the world?

The only way to think about our blessings, brother, is to view them as means to bless others. And the only way to view ourselves, then, is blessed to bless others. You see, knowing what we do about God and about his intentions for us (Matthew 22:36-39), how could we ever conclude otherwise? How could we ever conclude that we’ve been blessed simply so that we may live in comfort and security and isolation? What kind of story would that be, anyway? No, we must view these blessings as personal invitations into God’s much greater story of blessing other people.

Okay, so what do we do?

Take a few minutes to note the specific ways you’ve been blessed this year. Focus your mind on seeing the true blessings, especially the ones that you might have gotten used to and begun taking for granted. Write them down and spend some time in prayer, thanking God for what he’s given you.



Failure is on the Menu

[ 1 min read ★ ]

I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships,
persecutions, and calamities—2 Corinthians 12:10

We men are often just wrong about failure. It seems we’ve all decided that if we ever experience failure, we're then failures. It’s not true. Failure is integral to human life, the way God designed it. Look at Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter—all experienced failure, because they were mere humans. Mere humans fail every so often . . . and it’s good that we do.

Failure refines us. We mature through failures because we learn from them—much more than from successes. Through failures our character is formed (Romans 5:3-5). No man can become who he’s supposed to become without experiencing some failure in his life. Failure also fuels us . . . or, rather, the potential for failure. While we may not like failure, we like to face its potential. We like to be tested. It’s why we like competition. It’s why we like risk. It’s often the excitement of uncertain outcomes that drives us to learn from failures and improve, in the hope of avoiding more. But the potential for failure must be real. And when it is real, we will sometimes fail.

The danger, of course, is in getting stuck—in the shame of failures past or the fear of failures future, or maybe both. When we do, failure defeats us: we live dull lives, devoid of daring. But we need not get stuck. We can, instead, reject the shame of failure and learn to deal with it—by acknowledging fault; confessing and repenting (if sin was involved); facing any consequences; allowing God to teach us what we need to learn . . . and then moving on.

Okay, so what do we do?

What are one or two big risks you’d like to take in the coming weeks and months? Write them down, commit to them, and tell some friends about them—so they can spur you on.


What Worked? What Didn't?

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . he is a new creation. The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come—2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s at work in us—every one of us—whether we can see it or not (Philippians 2:13). He’s working to transform our character into the character of his son, our King, Jesus Christ. And he’ll continue working until the work is complete (Philippians 1:6). Our job is to join him. Our job is to follow Jesus and work ourselves, in obedience, to increase the amount goodness and light in our lives . . . and to decrease the opposite:

". . . do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’" (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Who among us doesn’t need more goodness and more light? That’s rhetorical, of course. And when’s a better time to increase our intentionality about increasing our holiness than at the beginning of a new year? That’s rhetorical too.

So how do we? Well, we get intentional by looking at the choices we’ve been making—whom we’ve been spending time with, the practices we’ve been engaging in, the experiences we’ve been enjoying. We get intentional by taking time to reflect upon those choices . . . and upon their results. And we get intentional by deciding which relationships, which practices, which experiences we’d like more of, going forward, because they increase holiness—and which we’d like less of, because they don’t.

Okay, so what do we do?

Consider the past twelve months. What was good? Who was good for you? What worked? What wasn’t so good? What didn’t work? Now, draw up (and commit to) a simple, practical, achievable plan for bringing more of what’s been good, and what’s worked for you, into the next twelve months . . . and less of what wasn’t and what didn’t.



Women: Three Phrases To Never Say To Your Husband​

Ladies, if there were a reality TV show like “What NOT to Wear,” but for relationships, these three things would be at the top of the list for “What NOT to say to your man.” Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve actually said all these things at one point! You’ve probably said them, too. And you probably also saw the same thing I did: it never works out so well. Why? In research with thousands of men I learned these hurt far more than your man (or your son!) will ever let on. So let’s agree to put these on our no-no list.

1.”What were you thinking?” The truth is, this phrase is demeaning when said to anyone (would you want your man to say it to you?) but when applied to a male (husband, boyfriend, son, colleague…) it layers pain on top of humiliation. Let’s be honest: the translation of this phrase is “You weren’t thinking.” But although we may not see it immediately, most guys think things through and have legitimate reasons for what they do — just like we do. The problem for us is that we don’t know that they have thought it through because (unlike us) they usually don’t think it through by talking it through.

The male brain tends to need to process things internally. So you may not agree with his reason, but he probably does have one. So the next time you’re perplexed, angry or exasperated, stop yourself from blurting out this phrase. Instead, assume he probably has a reason for this and politely ask, “I know you had a reason, can you help me understand?”

2. “You didn’t do a good job at ______.” Whether spoken or implied, this comment is way, way more toxic to a male than you ever realized. In fact, the research is clear that it’s a guy’s equivalent of hearing “I don’t love you.” The reason is a hidden emotional reality.
Where a woman’s most profound inner vulnerability is usually, “Am I lovable?” a man’s is usually, “Am I any good at what I do?” Each of us subconsciously look for signals from our mate about the answer to our inner question. You may think it is such a little thing when you re-clean the kitchen counters after he has just done it, or re-make the bed “the right way.” But for him, it looms large. (This is why you start hearing him say “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you.”)

So when you see something that isn’t done “your way” ask yourself if correcting it is worth hurting his feelings. (Even if you don’t understand why on earth they would be hurt!). If it is worth hurting him, well then fine, but correct him in a gentle way that tells him “I know you want me to be happy, and this is the way I like such-and-such.” (“Thanks for cleaning the kitchen. Do you mind if I move a few things back around? I really do like the spice rack over here.”) But even better, look for ways to answer his inner question in a positive way: simply say “thanks for making the bed, honey,” and you’ll be surprised at how happy that makes him.

3. (Sigh of exasperation) This, placed in front of any words – or on its own – is like a knife. As you can infer from the findings discussed above, a man’s greatest emotional need is to feel that you respect, appreciate, admire and believe in him. Signs of exasperation say exactly the opposite. We would never look at this man we love, and say out loud, “You’re an idiot” or “you’re incompetent” – yet we don’t realize that the sigh of exasperation says exactly that. When we are frustrated, it makes all the difference if we take a deep breath, count to three, and say what we need to say in a calm and respectful way instead.

I know it may be hard to believe that these things really matter. In fact, you may want to give a sigh of exasperation at this list! But since each of us does care about our man, let’s give it a shot. Try minimizing the above words and actions, and exploring the positive alternatives instead. The response you get will be the best possible incentive to continue.



7 Ways To Communicate LOVE​

Love is the most important part of life. We all tend to agree on that, but we can rarely seem to agree on what “love” actually means. I recently wrote a book called The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships where I started by looking at everything the Bible (the ultimately love and relationship manual) has to say on the subject.

Here are some of the most famous words ever written about love. Within in them, God is giving us a timeless roadmap for building stronger relationships. Below are seven very simple and practical ways to put these words into action in our daily lives and our relationships.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Here’s how we put love into practice (it’s simpler than you might think):
1. Love is patient, so in our rushed world, be patient with people.
2. Love is kind, so in our sarcastic and often rude world, show genuine kindness to people.
3. Love is not jealous or proud, so in our self-focused world, put the needs of other ahead of your own.
4. Love keeps no record of wrongs, so in our world full of grudges and bitterness, choose to offer grace.
5. Love rejoices in the truth, so in our world of dishonesty, always tell the truth and fight for trust in relationships.

6. Love never loses faith, so in our world of skeptics and cynics, choose to believe in the presence of God and the power of love.
7. Love endures through every circumstance, so in our world of quitters, stay committed and never give up on yourself or your loved ones!



Expert Tips On Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity​

Rebuilding a relationship in the wake of infidelity — whether romantic, emotional or financial — is one of the biggest hurdles in maintaining a marriage. Dishonesty breeds distrust, and in a recent article for The Good Men Project, writer Matthew Fray recounts his first-hand experience of repairing a relationship after a pattern of lies and betrayals had taken their toll.

In his honest and revealing article, Fray admits his faults and assumes responsibility for a relationship that ended up on the rocks. But, against the odds, he was able to rebuild trust despite “normal things couples do during times like this.” He writes that he and his partner “went to counseling, we read more books, and we talked about it. And got nowhere.”
However, through diligent self-examination and 7 not-so-simple steps, Fray found love again. He describes the process not as just hard, but as “the hardest… most challenging thing” he has ever done.

Through his 7 steps, he found himself and could come to live with the hurt and pain he had sown. First, he had to achieve “consistency.” In other words, anything he “committed to do” he “had to see it through.” Next, Fray had to commit to “proactivity.” That is, he had to take initiative in his relationship, assuming responsibility for their relationship and taking necessary action, rather than being passive.

Additionally, he has to make “meeting [the] needs” of his partner a priority, devoted himself to “openness,” learning that “openness and honesty are two sides of the same coin.” Along with being open, he learned the virtues of embracing his “vulnerability,” the 5th step in his path back to a functioning relationship.

The 6th step saw Fray pledging to take “ownership” of his words and actions to understanding how they impacted his partner. Finally, he opened his eyes to the many “blind spots” that had led to many of these problems in the first place. Gaining an awareness of the aspects of his personality that he “needs help to see.” This final step is a two-way street, as much an exercise in self-reflection as a practice of hearing his spouse when they confronted his problematic behavior, meeting that constructive criticism with “humility and a willingness to learn.”

Ultimately, while the road back to a solid foundation in a relationship may seem impossible, Fray has outlined, steps by step, the key elements that allowed him to rebuild trust, regain happiness with his partner, and reimagine a relationship that was healthy, happy, and filled with hope for a lasting future.
As much as I admire Fray’s self-reflection and the thoughtfulness that went into developing his 7 steps, I’ve created my own 7 wise ways of rebuilding trust after infidelity. I believe that they can actually compliment his and benefit most couples.
7 wise ways to rebuild trust in relationships:
  1. Challenge mistrustful thoughts. Ask yourself: is your lack of trust due to your partner’s actions or your own issues, or both?
  2. Gain confidence in your own perceptions by paying attention to your doubts and instincts. Ask yourself: is there congruence between my partner’s words and actions? Does he or she keep important promises and agreements?
  3. Gain awareness about how your reactions may be having a destructive impact on your relationship and take responsibility for them. For instance, using “You Statements” such as “You never tell the truth” can make it harder for your partner to be transparent. It’s much more productive to use an “I Statement” such as “I’m having trouble believing you have my best interests at heart right now.”
  4. Don’t always assume that your partner’s behavior is intentional – sometimes people simply make a mistake.
  5. Be open to your partner’s perspective. Listen more than you talk and make sure your words and tone of voice are consistent with your goal of building trust.
  6. Practice attunement with your partner. In his book What Makes Love Last? relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman defines attunement as the desire and the ability to understand and respect your intimate partner’s inner world. He writes: “Attunement offers a blueprint for building and reviving trust in a long-term committed relationship.”

  7. Keep in mind that learning to trust is a skill that can be nurtured over time. It can be a slow process. With courage and persistence, you can turn hurts from past betrayals into lessons.

In his book, The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman challenges the way most of us define trust. He says that trust is an action rather than an idea or belief – more about what our partner does than what you or I do. I agree that there is a lot of wisdom in the age-old expression “Actions speak louder than words.”
Truth be told, trust is more of an acquired ability than a feeling. You can learn to trust your instincts and your judgment when you honestly deal with your fears. If you are able to come to a place of self-awareness and understand the decisions that were made that led up to trust being severed, you can start to approach others with faith and optimism.

While learning to trust can be one of our biggest challenges for couples who have experienced infidelity, it’s important to realize that doubts are common in all relationships. Practicing being vulnerable in small steps will encourage open and honest communication – a crucial step to restoring faith in love after betrayal. Trust is essential to helping both partners feel secure and building a happy relationship that endures the test of time.



Want More Joy In Your Life And Relationships? Follow These Three Simple Steps​

Does your mother-in-law make you want to pull your hair out by criticizing every move you make? Maybe your wife doesn’t appreciate all the things you do for your family, or it’s your husband who takes you for granted and always seems angry.
Perhaps you dread going to work every day because your boss talks down to you and you’ve had enough.

Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.
What if you had the power to transform that relationship into one that is positive and brings joy into your life?
I’ve got great news …You do have the power. In fact, you have a superpower and it’s called kindness. Let me explain.

I’m a social researcher; and after years of study on what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can do to transform any relationship. Because targeted kindness is a potent weapon and will soften any heart.
Including our own!
Here’s what you do. Pick that someone with whom you want a better relationship. For 30 days, you will:
  1. Say nothing negative about your person—either to them or about them to someone else. If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone.
  1. Every day, find one thing that you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
  1. Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
That’s it! So simple. And yet in our research for The Kindness Challenge, 89% of relationships improved!

What does this look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your teenage daughter have been pushing each other’s buttons for weeks. Every conversation with her is like a minefield, not knowing what will set her off.

During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you wait until the last minute to do your homework??” (No sighing in exasperation, either!) And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your husband or your friends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!) Instead, you look for things to praise. So you notice that it was really nice of her to take her little brother to get ice cream. You thank her for it – and then you tell your friends at work about the nice thing she did.

You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when you know she wants to meet her friends at the coffee shop after dinner but it’s her turn to clean the kitchen, you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go ahead and go. Have a great time.”
Trust me: Starting this process will show us a whole lot about what needs to change. Not just in the other person: but in us. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before. (In The Kindness Challenge I outline the seven distinct types of negativity we found in the research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion. I strongly recommend you find out your negativity patterns, so you can watch for them!)

But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. Not only will you experience more joy and feel better about yourself, you’ll also start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship you haven’t seen in years. An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem – especially the big ones like addiction – but it will make them easier to solve.


Minimum Safe Distance

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Let us then with confidence draw near
to the throne of grace—Hebrews 4:16

Have you gotten to where you stay at a “minimum safe distance” from God, for fear of what he might ask—what assignment he might put on your heart, what calling he might put on your life? Do you ever worry, if you allow yourself to get too close, he might leverage his position to press you to become . . . say . . . a monk in the mountains; or missionary to Africa; or evangelist at your work; or confessor to your friends; or something else, equally disrupting to your plans?

For many of us men, fears like these characterize our relationships with God. You see, we know the plans we have for ourselves—plans for good things ahead—and we trust ourselves to know what’s “good.” So, we’re wary of potential disruptions, even from the God we love.

King David wrote, though, it’s precisely when we close the distance to God that we actually discover what we’ve been looking for, all along:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Not the “boredom of your heart” or “annoyance of your heart” or “frustration of your heart”—the “desires of your heart”—what you’ve always wanted, but haven’t found. The key, brother, is trust (Psalm 37:5). We must trust that the God of the universe might know better what is, in fact, “good” for us. And we must trust that he wills our good and knows how to bring it about (Psalm 37:5-6).

Okay, so what do we do?

What's been on your heart, or in your mind, to do that you've not yet done . . . reading Scripture regularly, joining some brothers in community, confessing something to a friend? God's put that thing on your heart to bring you closer to him. Go ahead, move closer.



A Nutshell Argument For Christian Non-Violence​

As we begin, I have found that when I have taught on this topic over the years, one of the most common responses when people first encounter the idea of Christian non-violence is often frustration, if not outright anger and/or condemnation.

Ironically, this teaching, based in peace, can provoke a less-than-peaceful reaction!

There is something about this idea that affect and challenge something deep within us – our sense of self-preservation, most likely, or also perhaps our cultural expectations of strength and power.

This teaching is also sometimes seen as an attack on those who view things differently – “Oh, so you’re saying that I’m not a good Christian if I want to serve my country in the army!” But it’s certainly not that either. I have friends and family who are believers and who have served in the military, and who serve in other roles like police officers or security, who have my deepest respect and appreciation.
This is an area where Christians may disagree, and so anyone engaging on either side of this discussion should acknowledge this first and foremost, without demonizing the other side.

We don’t get to lay aside our command to love one another just because we hold a different view on something; if anything, love compels us to disagree very carefully, thoughtfully, and graciously.
Christ-followers should not engage in violence, but should be active agents of peace, healing, and reconciliation instead – that is the simple premise of this key tenet of Anabaptism. Of course, volumes could be written on this topic, but here is a snapshot of why Anabaptists believe this:

  • Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. The argument begins that simply. We are told to love our enemies, and that this act of enemy-love will mark us as children of our Father in Heaven (Mt 5.43-48). This being the case, how can we equate loving our enemies with harming or killing our enemies? Love simply doesn’t do that (Rom 13.10; 1Cor 13.7).

  • Old Testament passages containing violence are of course biblical, but are actually irrelevant to the discussion. People often point to the many OT passages where violence exists or is even commanded as justification for Christian violence. But when Jesus arrived on earth, He announced, “The Kingdom of God is here!” (Mt 4.17). He was establishing His throne and His reign on the earth in a whole new way. This makes any violence we find in Scripture before His arrival irrelevant to the discussion, as the Kingdom of Heaven had not arrived on earth yet. The OT is revered as part of God’s Word, but Christ-followers are part of a different covenant than Israel was (Heb 8.13), and you won’t find New Covenant teaching that calls for, allows, or encourages violence.

  • Jesus made clear that His Kingdom is not a typical worldly kingdom of worldly violence. As He was on trial before Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place,” (Jn 18.36). Worldly kingdoms use violence to enforce their agendas and to enforce justice; the Kingdom of Heaven is holy, different than worldly kingdoms. As citizens of this Kingdom first and foremost (Phil 3.20), the ways of this Kingdom trump the ways of any earthly kingdom for the Christ-follower.

  • Jesus warned that violence creates more violence. At His arrest, Jesus’ disciple Peter picks up a sword and starts swinging it to defend his Lord. He is swiftly and sharply rebuked by Jesus: “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword,” (Mt 26.52). We have seen it amongst both individuals and nations over and over again: Violence works in cycles of receiving and retaliation, and it has a way of perpetuating onwards, even if immediate threats might be neutralized. The violence of WWI eventually ended, but the ongoing effects of that conflict set the stage for the rise of Hitler and WWII. Violence indeed stopped Hitler, but then bled into the Cold War proxy conflicts all over the world. This set the stage for the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the 9/ll attacks, which led to two more Middle Eastern wars, etc. The violence never really ends; even if it violence stops a threat, it often transfers. Christ-followers are called to break the cycle of retaliation, not actively participate in it (Mt 5.38-39).

  • Jesus calls us to forgiveness, not vengeance. Much violence and destruction comes in retaliation for wrongs done against people, and while the instinct is understandable, Jesus teaches His followers not to act in such a way (Mt 6.14-15; 18.21-35). We are told to leave revenge in God’s hands (Rom 12.18-20), as He is a better judge than we are.

  • Jesus’ command for His disciples to buy swords is misunderstood. It is often argued that since Jesus told his disciples at one point to buy swords (Lk 22.36-38), that therefore Jesus is OK at least with self-defense, if not offensive weapons. But if Jesus were seriously looking for them to use violence to defend themselves, why does He have the group of 12 only take two swords and not more, knowing that they are about be scattered, and why does He then rebuke Peter the moment that that he uses a sword in self-defense?
A key context of this passage easily gets missed: verse 37, which is a quotation of a prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 53.12, which Jesus uses to essentially say, “Get some swords, because this prophecy is about to be fulfilled: the Son of Man must be found amongst the transgressors.” Jesus never sinned, and up until that point, His followers couldn’t be considered a band of transgressors. Once Peter started swinging his sword at the authorities, the prophecy was fulfilled, and the Son of Man was indeed found amongst a group of transgressors, and arrested. The swords were needed to fulfill the prophecy, and not for actual violent use, as is made clear by Jesus’ rebuke when Peter engages in violence.

  • The State may indeed need to engage in violence – but the Church is not the State. “Oh, so Hitler should just walk all over the world and kill everyone?!” Not at all. (Hitler is always the example used when this topic comes up!) Make no mistake, violence may certainly be needed at times in order to restrain evil, and God has appointed the sword to the State for this task (Rom 13.1-5). The important thing to note is that God has not appointed the sword to the Christ-follower for this task. Put simply: the State may use violence as a servant of God’s justice; the Christ-follower is not called to do the same. Nowhere in the teachings of Christ or His apostles do we get any idea that the Christ-follower is called to participate in violence – the Church has a different role than the State, and therefore the citizen of Heaven has a different responsibility before God than the citizen of the State.

  • It is difficult, if not impossible, to carry the Gospel of grace and a sword at the same time. How can a Christ-follower say to an unbeliever, “God loves you, so do I, and He is calling you back to Himself!” while simultaneously acting violently against them? The Church has destroyed its witness in many places on earth over the centuries by causing much death and destruction, all in the Name of Jesus. Again, the Church has its mission: to proclaim the mercy of God through Christ to the world (Mt 28.18-20; 2Co 5.11-21). It is an awfully mixed message for Christ-followers to be tasked with sharing God’s love and mercy for His enemies (Rom 5.6-11) while also trying to harm their own enemies.

  • Christ-followers are certainly called to resist and oppose evil – but in different ways. To be very clear: we do not “do nothing” in the face of evil, as critics of pacifism often unfairly attest. We just don’t do violence. We are told, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12.21). Meeting evil with more evil is not the solution. “Pacifism” is often being replaced as a term by “Peacemaking” or similar terms, as for many people “pacifism” sounds like the word “passive” – inaction, letting evil flourish while sitting idly by.

  • But nothing could be further from the truth. Pacifism seeks creative, active, self-sacrificing, loving, serving, life-giving and resisting action in the face of evil. If Christians are standing idly by while evil flourishes, we are failing dismally. Desmond Doss lays it out well here in the film Hacksaw Ridge – the Christ-follower cannot stand by and do nothing in the face of evil, but will seek good and godly ways to resist evil instead of destructive ways.

So, there’s the nutshell! If it’s new to you, and especially if you feel annoyance or anger rising up in you, my gentle advice would be to take a beat – don’t react yet. Just give it some time, let it settle, pray into it.



Baptism And Love: Transcending Legalism By Affirming The Law​

Adam Jones: Depiction of Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist – I Yesus Church – Axum (Aksum) – Ethiopia / Wikimedia Commons

Christ is baptized in the Jordan, and all creation rejoices! Christ is baptized in the Jordan, with the angels looking in with awe! The one who baptizes all things with grace is baptized by John. What great humility! What great love! Christ is baptized in the Jordan, and nothing remains the same:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17 RSV).

Christ ws baptized in the Jordan, and with it, the grace of salvation truly has appeared to all humanity, indeed, to all the world. Christ was not baptized for his own sake, for John was right, he certainly didn’t need to be baptized. Rather, we needed Christ’s baptism. Out of his great love for all creation, Christ came to the waters of the Jordan and had John baptize him. In this manner, he could and would continue to act for the sake of the world, fulfilling the expectations of the law, for it is in that fulfillment he handed out his grace:

It was for this reason that Christ, who fulfills completely the law of justice, is baptized on their behalf as being a just judge, in order that they too, having been baptized in him and receive the rebirth from on high, might enter the heavenly kingdom and, thanks to this immense gift of baptism, might in no way be excluded from it. [1]
We share in his baptism through our baptism. We are incorporated into him, becoming a part of him, so that when he fulfills the expectations of the law, we find ourselves fulfilling the law in and with him. Jesus did not act in vain; he did not come to John just to put on a show. Rather he came to John so that he could continue to live out his life in the way he always intended to do so, to make his whole life one continuous act of love.

He transcended all forms of legalism, for the legalists did not and would not understand the superior acts of love which he did; they only thought that all they needed to do was what they were told to do. Jesus confirmed the value of the law by affirming its intention, allowing it to come to its proper potential, one which transcended any legalistic definition that could be and would be made concerning it. In him, the law is fulfilled; as he is eternal, so the law shall never go away. Placing ourselves in him, we are meant to accept the law, to affirm it and its value, to engage its true inner nature, its innate goodness, so that it can flourish and be made greater with grace. That is, as grace perfects nature, and does not destroy it, so the grace which fulfills the law does not deny it but glorifies it. Thus, we read in Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds (Tit. 2:11-14 RSV).
Christ’s baptism brings purifying grace to the world, cleansing it from the stain of sin. All things are made new, so that all things can be brought together, made one, and taken up by Christ. Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters in creation, so the Spirit is found coming to us in the waters of baptism at our new creation; just as the Logos established the logoi of creation at the beginning, so in the waters of Jordan, we see the logoi of creation being restored and raised up, made not only new, but better as they are taken up and find their proper place in the Logos from which they came. The baptism of Christ repeats, as it were, the act of creation, allowing it to be the focal point of the new creation, not only of us, but the whole world, as Jean Danielou contemplated:

The Incarnation is the creation of the new universe; and it is this creation which is continued in present history and takes place in Baptism. It is truly a new creation, “regeneration” according to the word used in the Gospel of St. John (III,5). And St. Paul calls the newly baptized a “new creature” (II Cor. 5, 17), and this re-creation is accomplished in the baptism waters (John III, 5). The analogy of the primordial waters with the waters of Baptism is, then, an aspect, which is fundamentally biblical, of the parallelism between the first and the second creation.[2]

And so the God-man begun his ministry with baptism; after spreading purifying grace upon the waters, and with it, to the world, the God-man revealed the truth of the Trinity. Christ inaugurated his preaching ministry, not, of course, by preaching to the world, but through an act of humility and of love. Christ is baptized into the Jordan, let us rejoice and be glad, for all things truly are made new. “For the Word was not baptized stripped of a body, but received baptism having truly become flesh; the Word was baptized for the sake of us men, in order that, having purified our nature and the waters. He might make our salvation perfect.”[3]

[1] St Sophronios of Jerusalem, “Homily 3: Homily on the Holy Baptism” in Homilies. Trans. John M. Duffy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2020), 91 [Talking about those who came before Christ, the prophets who preached about him, how they were baptized in Christ].
[2] Jean Daniélou, SJ, The Bible and the Liturgy (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966), 72.
[3] St Sophronios of Jerusalem, “Homily 3: Homily on the Holy Baptism” in Homilies. Trans. John M. Duffy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2020), 89.



7 Ways To Reach The ‘Nones’ For Jesus​

In my previous post I shared 6 Reasons Why the ‘Nones’ Are Walking Away From Church. In today’s post I want to share some hope and a way forward. For too long the church has wrung its hands in despair without taking definitive steps forward to reach the Nones. Last time I checked, the Nones are included in the “all nations” Jesus commands his followers to go and make disciples of in Matthew 28:19-20. So how can we effectively begin to reach the Nones?

1. Live authentically. This counters the moral reason causing Nones to walk away from church, wher people believe suffering disproves the existence of God. Don’t hide our pain, don’t be plastic. Don’t project that following God removes pain and suffering, but show verbally and visibly how Jesus is greater even through your suffering. One thing is certain: pain and suffering is here to stay this side of heaven. Do we allow it to ‘disprove’ the existence of God, or do we intentionally change (not just with words but with our lives) the narrative? Why did Paul talk so much about suffering being so central to the spread of the gospel? Jesus brought life through his suffering.

2. Change the way we talk about the Bible. This counters the “biblical” reason where people believe the Bible is the basis of our religion, and people have questions about the Bible. This isn’t a theological issue where we doubt the inspiration or authority of Scripture. It’s a branding issue. Why do some Baptist churches take out “Baptist” out of their name? Because of the negative connotations many outsiders have with the word Baptist, and because one bad “Baptist” church can ruin the experience all the others. In much the same way, the word “Bible” is the new “Baptist”.

The problem isn’t what the Bible says, it’s what else the Bible says. When insiders think Bible, we think John 3:16. Outsiders read Leviticus 24:15-17 where God commands the Israelites to stone anyone to death who blasphemes the Name. Or how about Joshua 6 where God commands Joshua to take the city of Jericho and kill every living thing inside? If you’re raised in church, you get the nuance: “hey, that’s the Old Testament, that was a different covenant, it makes sense in the times and culture of the day.” People on the outside don’t get the nuance. They just see God ordering genocide and say, “no thanks.”

So, one of the things I intentionally try and do when I preach is not say the word “Bible.” Is it because I don’t believe in the Bible? Of course not! It’s because there is so much misinformation out there that the word Bible has become a loaded word. Definitions can change even though the word remains the same. 50 years ago, if you said someone was “gay”, you would have implied that the person was happy and carefree. 50 years later, saying someone is “gay” means something totally different.

So, instead of saying “the Bible says,” I say things like “here’s what Paul wrote,” “here’s what Mark said,” “here’s what Luke recorded.” It’s still the Bible, just approached from a different angle. The other thing to note here is that when people say they have a problem with the Bible, they usually mean they have a problem with something recorded in the Old Testament. Here’s what the early Christians did: they believed in Jesus first, then they appreciated and revered the Old Testament because Jesus appreciated and revered the Old Testament.

So rather than trying to spend all my time “defending the Bible,” I spend my time trying to help people encounter Jesus, and the whole Old Testament and Bible thing comes naturally afterwards. The other reason this is important is because if we make the Bible the basis of Christianity, then if someone can poke a hole of doubt into one part of the Bible, then it all comes crashing down like a house of cards. That’s what the college biology professor tries to do with evolution. If he can get you to doubt the creation story in Genesis, then you have to doubt everything, and therefore God is a myth.

In reality, our religion isn’t based on a book, it’s based on an event in human history. Point people to Jesus, point people to the resurrection. If someone tries to cast down on an obscure passage in the Old Testament, that has nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus. And by the way, it also gives us a better reason to believe the Old Testament, because Jesus believed the Old Testament, and again, if someone can prophesy their own death and resurrection and then pull it off, I just go with whatever he says.

3. Make church irresistible. This counters the experiential reason people walk away from church because they had a bad church experience. It’s why we spend time and money having a nice building, with central air and heating, why we decorate the lobby for Christmas, why we have people greeting in the parking lots. When people come to church for the first time, they assume they’ll walk in, be anonymous, no one will talk to them, the music will be old and outdated and the preaching will be boring. When we exceed their expectations, we give them a reason to come back.

4. Assume they’re in the room. This counters the lack of comfort reason where people feel out of place and unwelcome at church. We don’t want to be as confusing as a conference on Medical Nanotechnology. When I preach I try and talk to those who might not believe that are in the room. I anticipate what their pushback might be and attempt to tackle some of their questions head on. Another way to assume they’re in the room is to avoid insider language. What do you think an outsider thinks when she walks in new to church and hears, “We are getting washed in the blood of the lamb,” “You need to be justified, sanctified and glorified in Jesus,” “Are you a 4-part or 5-part Calvinist?” Assume they’re in the room, and welcome them and speak to them accordingly.

5. Don’t “go” to church. Be a family. This counters the relational reason where people come looking for community and we give them a program. It’s why the most important thing a church does isn’t its worship services. It’s small groups or community life. People don’t need another program. They need a family. How is your church being the body, being a family in the everyday lives of its members?

6. Make it practical. This counters the relevance reason where people don’t see the church as relevant or important. Have you ever walked out of a church and had no idea how to apply what you just learned? If I ever went to a horse riding school, how practical would it be if I merely sat in an 8 hour lecture on the benefits of horse riding, the equipment of horse riding, and the proper technique of how to ride a horse? If I go to a horse riding school, I expect to actually ride a horse. When people do show up to church, they’re not dying to know the history of the Israelites in the 7th century BC or how the apostle John used the word agape in his letter 1 John. They’re lonely, they’re struggling, their marriage needs work, their kids are going crazy, they’re financially overwhelmed and they’re scared about the future. How are we making helping people with their practical needs?
7. Speak to their deeper needs. This also counters the relevance reason where people don’t see the church as relevant or important. The goal isn’t just to engage them with their felt needs, the ones one the surface and that are visible. It’s to speak to their deeper needs, the eternal needs God placed inside each one of us. And especially for those not in a crisis, where life is treating them fairly well, this is our way to speak into them. As Americans, we live in one of the wealthiest parts of the world. We’ve got shopping, we’ve got healthcare, we’ve got 3 cars, 2.5 kids and a timeshare on the beach. Why do we need church? How do you reach the affluent? Here are four deeper needs that is your strategic invitation to those on the outside.

  • Know God – People have this innate desire to know their Creator. God placed eternity in the hearts of mankind. That’s what Sunday worship experiences are designed to help people do.
  • Find Freedom – People want to be free. Freedom happens together. The best way to help people be free is to have a vibrant small group ministry.
  • Discover Purpose – People want to know why they exist, that they are created on purpose for a purpose.
  • Make a Difference – People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. People don’t just want to volunteer. They want to be a Difference Maker.



6 Effective Ways To Apologize To Your Partner​

Studies show that apologizing to your partner for hurting their feelings and granting forgiveness are crucial to the success of an intimate relationship or marriage. It’s essential that couples learn the value of sincere apologies and forgiveness.

For instance, one of my clients, Lauren, 36, had been feeling resentment toward Kevin, 38, for several months since he loaned his sister money without consulting her. Even when Kevin gave Lauren a sincere apology and asked for forgiveness, she had been holding a grudge and barely spoke to his sister. But once she realized that he wasn’t trying to hurt her but that his sister swore him to secrecy, she was able to forgive him and move on.
Lauren put it like this: “I love Kevin and decided that it was more important to listen to the reasons why he kept such an important matter from me. I now understand that his actions we not meant to hurt me but to keep his promise to his sister who has been struggling financially and was embarrassed about me knowing how badly she was doing.”

These six tips will help you and your partner create a shared vision for your relationship, foster emotional closeness, and teach you how to recover quickly from hurt and miscommunication. By building a deeper connection and commitment to each other, you will create a deeply trusting, loving, and sustainable relationship. If you are thinking of marrying and concerned about going the distance or are already married and struggling the six tips will help you get back on track after a dispute or when one or both partners feels injured.
6 effective ways to apologize to your partner:

  • Accept responsibility for your hurtful actions or words and the damage you caused. Acknowledge that you messed up by saying something like “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry that they hurt you.” One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship and help you recover and heal as a couple.
  • Use the words “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” when you apologize and make it personal. Your apology will more likely be heard and accepted if you use these words. Be specific about exactly what you did to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass your partner. For example, “I’m sorry for hurting you and violating your trust. I was wrong when I embarrassed you in front of your friend and I am sorry for my unkind words.”
  • Explain to your partner how you plan to repair the situation (if this is possible). For example, if you said something to hurt your mother-in-law’s feelings, you might offer to apologize to her over lunch or by writing her a note.
  • Describe what you said or did in specific terms without making excuses or blaming your mate or someone else. Using “I” statements rather than “You” statements can help you avoid the blame monster. For instance, you might say “I’m sorry for purchasing a new laptop without consulting you when our budget is tight.” This is more effective than saying, “You never approve of me buying things so why would I tell you?”
  • Ask your partner to grant you forgiveness. Be specific about your actions and words that need to be forgiven. Be sure to do so when the setting is conducive to a private conversation and there aren’t any distractions (TV, cell phones, children in the room, etc.).
  • Don’t let wounds poison your love for your spouse. Be vulnerable and don’t let your pride cause you to hold on to being “right.” Discussing what happened with your partner and taking responsibility for your actions will allow you to let go of resentment so you can improve the quality of your relationship.

Heartfelt apologies are an essential ingredient of a strong, healthy intimate relationship. Accepting that you and your mate do the best you can will help you be more understanding. When you acknowledge your flaws, it means that you can be vulnerable with your partner rather than allowing your pride to damage your communication with him or her.



5 Ways To Respond Instead Of Feeling Offended​

“Cute haircut . . .” It sounded like a compliment until he added, “It’d look even better if you’d combed it.”


Then he said, “I’m Oprah’s stylist, so I just say whatever I want to people sometimes.”
I was momentarily stunned. Was it kind of a compliment to be insulted by Oprah’s stylist?
I ran into him while in the mall picking up a tube of mascara one Saturday morning.

I thought he was a sales associate and was about to ask him to grab me a tube of the smokey long-lasting when he insulted me. In front of a bunch of people.
I can remember a time when a comment like that would’ve crushed me.
Is there a person in your life who rarely has a nice word for you?
Maybe it’s your mother in law.
Or do you have a husband who always has a hurtful word for you?
Living with a person who insults you or is critical of you is tough. No one enjoys criticism. And it’s almost a sure way to start a fight.

A disagreement doesn’t start with the insult. It begins with the response.​

The natural thing to do when someone offends you is feel hurt and fire back.
But you decide whether or not you’ll feel offended.
And you decide how you’ll respond.
Just as love and forgiveness are choices, feeling offended is a choice, too.
The way you respond when someone offends you has nothing to do with the person who insulted you and everything to do with the kind of person you want to be.
You can’t change them. But you can change how you respond.
You can be responsible for your actions and emotions. No matter how someone else behaves, you can be intentional about your behavior and your attitude.

Ways to respond instead of feeling offended​

  1. Stay calm
  2. Choose not to respond in kind.
  3. Mirror what the other person said and tell him how it made you feel.
  4. Acknowledge he may not have meant to hurt your feelings, but let him know he did.
  5. Remove yourself from the situation.
  6. Try not to take it personally.
  7. Inject humor
The world is full of people who are going to try to knock you down to make themselves to feel better. They may not like the way you drive, dress, walk, or style your hair.
I don’t think Oprah’s stylist was trying to make himself feel better by insulting me. I mean, he’s Oprah’s stylist. It’s probably safe to say he doesn’t even remember it.
When you’re intentional about how you choose to respond, you don’t have to take offense.
Maybe you won’t get it right the first few times, but you can learn to respond differently.
So, when someone tries to cut you down, remember, you decide whether or not you’ll feel offended.

And you don’t have to be because they don’t define who you are.