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3 Ways to Prioritize God in Your Marriage

3 Ways to Prioritize God in Your Marriage

“When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, His answer was to love God with all you are and to love others as well as you love yourself. Loving God in your individual life greatly impacts your married life.” – Married People: How your Church Can Build Marriages that Last

I’’m married and I love Jesus. I also love this truth from the book from Ted Lowe and Doug Fields. It’s not something I’’ve always understood, and it’s not something I’’ve done perfectly in 16 years of marriage. It is, however, something I’’ve come to see as completely and fully true.

For me to sincerely love my wife with the best kind of love, I’’ve got to totally love my heavenly Father first.

Here are some of the ways I think you too could take steps to Love God First:

1. Understand What God Thinks of You

To truly understand God, it’s important that we can correctly answer the question, “What does God think of me?” If your answer is “disappointed, angry, or ashamed” then think again. This wrong thinking will bleed over into your other relationships, most directly your marriage relationship.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us the Parable of the Prodigal Son as a perfect example of how our Father God responds to our own sin and mistakes. We actually don’t get what we deserve, and instead receive a love from God that surpasses anything we could earn. Love God First, means understanding how much God Loves You.

2. Reflect a Deepening Relationship With God in Your Schedule

My family knows that when I head out to the porch with my journal, Bible, and a cup of coffee that I’m doing more than drinking coffee on the porch. If you want a relationship with Christ that is a priority, then you’’ve got to actually put Him first.

If you’’re a morning person, then when you seek God will probably be in the morning. Maybe you have a clearer head at night; then the evening becomes the time you learn and grow by reading God’s Word.

The time of day isn’t as significant as making time for the study. If I want my wife and family to know where my priorities lie, then they need to see that it’s actually a priority with my time.

3. Talk Openly About What God is Doing in Your Life

My relationship with Jesus, and my love for Him naturally leads into a deeper relationship with my wife. It happens because this relationship with God, always gives me things to talk with my wife about.

I get to speak of the story God is weaving in my times with Him. I get to tell of the work God is doing in my life. And I get to tell of the areas God is changing in my life.

If you ever struggle to talk to the one you’’ve chosen to love the rest of your life, then just share what God is showing you. It’s the private conversations your spouse will appreciate the most.

What are some ways that you love God first?

Jonathan Cliff is a huge advocate for the family and church working together to see everyone experience Christ in rich and new ways. He and his family life in Athens, Georgia. He regularly blogs at www.jonathancliff.com and is found on twitter at @jonathancliff.

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

5 Ways to Lead While You’re Limping

This is an encouragement to those who are limping in leadership. I entered ministry after a long career in the business world. I had significant life and leadership experience, but honestly, some of it was learned through tremendously painful experiences. Not only did I not have the pedigree of most pastors, it was actually following a sizable business loss—where we were forced to sell our business and basically start over financially—when God called me into ministry.

I entered ministry limping.

The truth is, the best leaders I know have a limp of some nature. It may not be visible, but if you are around them long, they will display remnants of a previous injury.

They may have had a failure which crippled them for a season. They may have messed up. They may have made a mistake. They may have lost their way. They may have been injured by others. And, as a result, they may have even been tempted to quit, but they pushed forward, never to be the same again.

If this is your story – if you have a limp and you’re in leadership – I have a few suggestions. Here are 5 ways to lead well when you have a limp:

1. Don’’t hide your limp

There is most likely a younger leader around you who feels they’’ve lost their way – or will some day. They need your guidance. They need your encouragement. They need to see by example they can get up again and move forward.

You don’’t have to wear a sign around your neck or tell everyone you meet about your limp, but you shouldn’’t pretend it isn’’t true, either. Your story is your story.

2. It may be God’’s way of keeping you humble

Rahab of the Bible never lost her title as a harlot, even in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11). It reminds me the past is my past. —I can’’t change it or hide it, at least for long. A great leader never forgets where they came from.

3. Don’’t be a martyr

No one enjoys a complainer or someone who is always making excuses. You suffered a failure. You had a setback. You made a critical error. You sinned. Others sinned against you. Don’’t wallow in your misery forever.

It’’s not an attractive characteristic in leadership. One of my favorite verses for those of us who limp is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Look it up. Recognize it’’s true— and deal with it. It’’s what you do after you fall, which matters most.

4. Allow it to strengthen you

You have two choices with a limp. You can allow your limp to make you a better person and leader. Or, you can let it keep you from ever being whole again—and never realize your full potential. Grace is available if you will receive it.

There may be forgiveness you need to seek or extend. You may need to do other “right things.” But, let your limp strengthen your leadership abilities, even if it’s simply learning what not to do next time. Most of us learn more in the hard times than the easy times. Most likely, you will also.

5. Be empathetic

There is nothing worse than one with a limp refusing to recognize others who limp. Always remember others have struggles too. If not now, they will. They’’re finding their way, just as you did. Extend grace as grace has been given to you.

Keep limping across the finish line. Don’’t give up. Great leaders proudly limp to victory. They cheer on others who limp. They steadfastly keep going towards the goal. And, in the process, they encourage a lot of people and accomplish great things.

Ron Edmondson is a husband, dad, pastor, church planter and church growth/organizational leadership consultant in Lexington, KY. Check out Ron’s blog for great leadership advice.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

How Does My Time with God Impact My Marriage?

Spending time with God is the most significant contributor to the intimacy we share in our marriage.

1. Time with God Gives Me a Wider Perspective

When I don’’t see the forest, the trees definitely get in the way. What are some of the trees you ask? I’’ve been guilty of coveting my neighbor’s house for one. I remember a time when moving to a bigger house was all I thought about.

Sadly, the house I was living in was the answer to the previous obsession I had to get out of renting! When I don’t take time to talk to the Lord, my perceived “have-nots” really bother me. This attitude, no matter how I try to disguise it, eventually gets around to my husband’’s attention.

When I allow God, to speak to me, I have greater love for my husband, John, less anxiety about our future and I’’m easier to live with!

2. When I Make Space For God, I’’m Less Needy On My Husband

It’’s not hard for me to find “legitimate” reasons to complain, feel afraid, be insecure, hopeless etc. My “needy mode” is unattractive and makes me unfairly demanding to John. He isn’t perfect, but he is wonderful!

In contrast, when I cry out to God during hard times of worry and or depression, it’s less threatening for me to take them to John. I can be more transparent and honest with him because I’’ve prayed first and understand that he isn’t my only source for solution. It also brings our worlds together.

I tell John and remind myself, “he is the most perfect imperfect man I know!” I give him room to be fallible and affirm to him that I love him anyway.

3. Time With The Lord Gives Us “Better” Conversations

It’’s so rewarding when we use the times together to discuss things we’’ve been learning from the Lord. Our “quiet time” styles are very different, but the results are usually stimulating and provide energetic dialogue.

We end up talking about things that matter to us, often expanding our viewpoints beyond the current circumstances. It makes praying together easy and very natural. Most of the time we feel so drawn to each other that all we want to do is connect!

Debbie Woodall met her husband, John Woodall, at Bible college. They married in 1975 and now have four married children and 12 grand children. Debbie works as a freelance artist and enjoys encouraging couples in their marriages and individual walks with God.

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling

Yep. We go to counseling—marriage counseling.

I spent 10 years in the dating world searching for and imagining my perfect husband. My husband spent three years married to someone else before he married me. We are both pushing nearly a decade in occupational ministry, are new parents with baby two on the way, and are navigating life’s changing seasons almost daily.

Needless to say, we each bring our own history, weak spots, and relational dynamics to our marriage.

I used to be surprised by people’s reaction when I told them my husband and I go to counseling. We’ve been leaders in our church and community for many years. Perhaps “counseling” doesn’t fit people’s mold for us.

“Really? Why? What’s wrong?”  they’d say, with concerned intonations.

The truth is, nothing. Nothing is wrong.

We Don’t Go To Counseling Because We Have A Weak Marriage

We go to counseling to build a strong marriage.

So there we are in a counseling session. We sit awkwardly holding hands on faded floral couches with our McDonald’s drive-through coffees. The vertical blinds in the room are tilted just enough to let the daylight in, but not enough to expose our identity. Like counseling is something to be secret or shameful.

Counseling should not be shameful. It should be celebrated and cheered for.

When someone is engaged in counseling, it means they’re engaged in their life. It means they want to make progress toward wise, meaningful life-decisions and health.

Why are we embarrassed to need counsel or coaching? Are we ashamed to be seeking support? Ashamed that we want healthier relationships?

What does that look like?  We sit down and talk with someone much wiser than us when it comes to marriage relationships about how to have a strong, healthy relationship.

Through Counseling We Get To:

  • understand how our past impacts our present
  • learn the other’s needs in ways we don’t normally have tools to talk about
  • get an outside perspective to help us see beyond ourselves
  • dream about our future and what we hope our marriage and family will look like years down the road
  • explore what emotional intelligence looks like in our relationship—it’s worth more than money, let me assure you

Do you know what the best part of counseling has been? Someone leading us through how to have those important, meaningful conversations on our own, day-to-day.

What we have learned in counseling hasn’t stayed there. It’s given us tangible tools to build a strong marriage.

Counseling is Not One-Size Fits All

I’ll be the first to admit not all counsellors are the same. They’re not one-size-fits-all. Each one brings a unique approach, education, and skill set to the table. There are even life coaches that support you in achieving future goals and ambitions.

One counsellor might not be very helpful… but that doesn’t mean allcounsellors are not helpful.  The next one could lead to a major breakthrough.

I have also been to a counsellor when everything was not ok.  And there’s no shame in that either.

Because there are just times when we need more help and guidance than coffee with a good friend can offer.

We All Need Counseling

Frankly, life’s too short to live in pain when help is out there. And good counseling still costs less than stress-leave, sick-leave, or divorce.

In North America, why does it seem more acceptable to pay for physical health with a gym membership but not for mental and emotional health with a counseling session? Either way, the responsibility is still on you and I.

Showing up at the gym without exercising doesn’t make us any healthier than buying an apple and watching it rot. And it’s the same with counseling, we have to show up and engage.

At the end of the day, I think we all need counseling. Because we’re all human. We’ve all been hurt or broken or confused by someone or something. And there is hope. I just wish it was more socially acceptable.

So, let’s let go of the shame of counseling and celebrate the pursuit of healthy, meaningful relationships and lives.

What about you? What do you think about counseling?

4 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Marriage Ministry

4 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Marriage Ministry

There is a temptation to lump religious people into the same category as non-religious people when it comes to predicting the success rate of marriage. Many have promoted the idea that the divorce rate among the two groups is nearly the same.

Speculation that non-religious couples are more likely to cohabitate rather than get married has caused some to skew the numbers toward a higher rate of divorce among people of faith, even though that can’t be verified.

Ed Stetzer points out a fact that is likely overlooked in the research. Among active people of faith, the divorce rate goes way down. Only if you look at non-practicing believers is there greater similarity in the figures.

Turns out, it’s not just about casually aligning yourself with a group of faith. You’ve actually got to practice what you preach for there to be any impact to your relationship. Novel idea, huh?

Active Faith Impacts Marriage

Imagine if you coupled an active faith with an intentional focus on keeping marriages in your church strong. If the numbers go up when people take their faith seriously, imagine how they would skyrocket if they actually turned specific attention to improving their marriage.

That’s why a marriage ministry at your church is important. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of adding one more thing to the list of activities sponsored by your congregation. However, it doesn’t have to be highly involved or expensive. It just has to be intentional.

If you’re still on the fence, consider these four points.

Not different problems, a different solution.

The people in your congregation don’t have any less exposure to marital troubles than people outside the walls of your church. They are still susceptible to miscommunication, conflict, sexual temptation, physical challenges, and other stumbling blocks.

The difference is how we respond to those obstacles, and the grace upon which we rely to get through them. Understanding how those two gifts should work within marriage is vitally important. A good marriage ministry teaches couples how to respond to problems and to accept the grace that God offers.

You’ve got a great cloud of witnesses.

There is nothing worse than going through one of life’s storms and feeling like you’re alone. When there is a group in your church working to preserve, protect, and help marriages, struggling couples have a safe place to turn. And, they feel less isolated in their struggles as they walk alongside other couples.

Go beyond information to transformation.

A good marriage ministry doesn’t just serve as a conduit for transferring facts, figures, and inspirational sayings. Only one that promotes and facilitates behavior change will have a true impact on your church family. That’s really the whole point of why we came to know the Lord in the first place, isn’t it? It wasn’t just about knowing who He was, it was about letting Him make a difference in our lives. The result of any effort in your church, including marriage ministry, should be positive change that moves people toward Christ.

Repetition anchors change.

After serving thousands of couples with an 85 percent success rate, we’re sold on one of the ingredients of our “special sauce.” Our offerings are designed to facilitate a community of people dedicated to working on their marriage for the long haul.

Week after week, couples develop the habit of paying regular attention to their marriage. They share their highs and lows and discover steps they can take to produce transformation in their relationship.

In our opinion, the question isn’t whether you have the time, money, or energy to implement a marriage ministry in your church. The real issue is whether you can afford not to. Couples who are active in their faith and consistently attentive to their marriage relationship are on the road to success.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

Marriage Dynamics Institute is a non-profit Christian ministry committed to providing marriage workshops and courses that build safe environments, promote self education, and produce extraordinary results.

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