In survivor training I often hear the phrase a person can only survive seconds without hope, minutes without oxygen, hours without shelter, days without water, weeks without food. Hope is essential. It is also the critical aspect of the Rapture. Paul tells in First Thessalonians … Continue reading You can survive seconds without hope
A phrase I use often in conversations is: That doesn’t pass the 1 Corinthians 13 test. Love wants, compels, and requires us to work. What we want with the concept of love is a Hallmark moment. Love does not work that way. If we want … Continue reading Love wants work, we want flowers.
Change is possible. One of the biggest changes we need is the courage to engage in conflict rather than run from it, only to have an explosion. In the entirety of my ministry, conflict resolution, or peacemaking, is the most often used skill set used. I discovered the norm for most people is naivety on how to fight clean. If only there was a book that deals with this topic well, is positive, and gives hope. Joe does a masterful job laying out a philosophy and tools to help us engage in conflict.
“The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” would be best read in order for the first reading. While one can go back and use the book as a reference guide later, each chapter does an excellent job of building to the next. The foundation is built well in the first 13 chapters. Chapters 14 through 22 give you the tools to live out a productive, healthy, and loving way to address inevitable conflicts. Make no mistake, even the foundational chapters are practical in nature. When we change how we think and process things, ultimately our actions will change.
A thing that is great about the book is exercises are given to help make the point of a chapter. Many books I’ve read have these (dreaded) discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Joe hits you with helpful questions or activities in the middle of the chapter. It is refreshing and honestly takes the sting out of books that give questions at the end. This also helps do something that is challenging for a book, it makes you feel like you’re getting a counseling session from the author.
Engagement is a word used often throughout the book. Don’t run. Don’t explode. (Joe uses different terms that challenge the way we view conflict.) Rather than becoming defensive or shutting down, the push in the book is how by engaging we not only resolve the issue, but we actually help the other person become better. Fighting does not have to be messy, it can actually be a time of growth and building a stronger safer marriage. This is different than thinking win-win. It is intentionally helping the other person know they are valued, heard, and secure.
“When we build relational equity, we create a space where bad things can happen but not define the relationship. We create space for a fight to occur and no one has to pay. We move back to a time where differences are celebrated.” Often people hear the term “emotional bank account” for this concept, but that is a little simplistic. It is more knowing the person you love to the extent that when there is an issue, it is safe to be dealt with by both. The book invests significant time explaining emotional equity, but also demonstrating how by fighting clean you actually build on this. This concept is the keystone to the book. The philosophy and the practical tools all hinge on building emotional equity in a marriage.
“It is my belief that any couple can come back from anything. They simply need to learn how to build the most important ingredient into their relationship and answer some basic questions every day.” The book doesn’t come from a perspective of fixing you, but rather equipping you. The power of choice is real and too often ignored. Choice is critical to the book. While there is trauma we may face and need help processing, it does not have to define the decisions we make moving forward. While Joe often challenges conventional wisdom, the challenge actually brings more hope to us rather than slavery to whatever.
“When you engage them by obviously seeking to better understand what exactly it is that they are saying and the emotions that are driving those words, you are telling them by your actions how much you actually love them.”
“Being intentional is the lynchpin that holds everything else together when you are working on building your relationship.“ While this is one of the rules of conflict resolution, it is truly the bottom line of the book. We get out of a relationship what we put into it. If we want our relationships to grow, we must choose to use skills that will build the other up while we are and or frustrated.
While many of my ministry minded people may not like the lack of Bible directly referenced in the book, it is there. The book is not a theology of conflict resolution or marriage. There are plenty of other sources out there. But when applying Peter’s instruction to “Love your wife in an understanding manner,” this book unpacks how to do that. I would highly suggest that while teaching on marriage to use this book to make the love aspect happen.
In pre-marriage counseling one of my key aims is to equip couples to fight clean. This book will be the cornerstone to making that happen. The other aims is to connect them to a counselor for key issues that need to be processed, financial planning, and planning the wedding. Wedding planning often allows couples to immediately practice the conflict resolution skills they’re learning.
Read for your own marriage. No marriage is perfect, and often those of us who help others can struggle to take care of our own family. Read the book. Do the exercises. Fight cleaner than you already are. The approach to the book is refreshing. Too often, especially in church contexts, we go to the honor, love, authority issues in marriage conflict. This neglects when the writer of the Song of Songs says: ‘This is my lover and my friend, in me he finds peace.’
The bottom line:
“The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” is a must read because it changes the way we view conflict in relationships. It is more than conflict can be good. Joe gives a clear pathway to how you can make it good. This work seeks to change the perception of marriage. In doing so this book is not a shot across the bow, it’s a direct hit. We would be wise to engage and be intentional about changing the narrative around marriage. “The Emotionally Secure Couple: The Key to Everything You Want in a Healthy Relationship” shows us how.
Labeling people as haters removes your influence in any civil discussion. Pastor Rick Warren suffered a tragic loss and I cannot imagine the pain he is going through. Given Pastor Rick’s stance on homosexuality, the vitriol for his family’s tragic loss is disgusting. In the larger cultural context of marriage, anyone holding to a man and woman together for life meaning of marriage is labeled as a hater or against equality. The biblical stance is then labeled as old and not understanding of the times.
In the Gospel we see the brokenness of humanity and creation. Pain is a result of how sin permeates the whole universe. The muscle disconnection in my right eye is a result of the sin filled world we live in. Was it because someone sinned? No. All creation groans waiting for the day of redemption, according to Romans 8. We all struggle with something it is a matter of what we struggle with. Some struggle with same-sex attraction.
In the Gospel we see the consequences of sin. Pain is also a result of sinful actions we take. If I abuse my body, if I steal, if I don’t treat my wife with the respect and love the Bible calls for, I sin and there are consequences to my actions. The greatest consequence is that Jesus had to die on the cross for my sin. Sexual expression outside of marriage, which Jesus defines as one man with one woman for a lifetime, is sin. Does Jesus show compassion on those with sin? Yes!
Told hold something as a result of brokenness or to hold something as sin does not mean I hate them.
Cancer is a result of brokenness, but I do not hate those who struggle with cancer.
Physical deformities are a result of brokenness, but I do not hate them- or myself for that matter.
Mental illness is a result of brokenness, but I do not hate those who struggle with that.
The Bible calls lying a sin, but I don’t hate liars.
The Bible says divorce is because of sin, but I do not hate divorced people.
The Bible says to do things without complaining, but I don’t hate grumpy people.
The Bible says it is sin to dishonor your parents, but I don’t hate kids who do that.
The Bible says it is wrong to neglect one’s wife, but I don’t hate those that do.
The Bible says it is wrong to be arrogant, but I don’t hate arrogant people.
The Bible says it is wrong to have an affair, but I don’t hate people who have done that.
The Bible says its wrong to over or under eat, but I don’t hate gluttons or those who struggle with eating disorders.
To all of these I point to the hope we have in Jesus. I have or had friends who walked through all of these.
I believe for theological, civic and biological reasons that marriage is one man with one woman for a lifetime. I think bullying for any reason is wrong. Some things in life prevent us for doing certain things. Does that make us unequal? No, it’s part of life. Ultimate equality is found in the Gospel. Before God we are all broken and it’s not a matter of if we struggle but what we struggle with. It’s not a matter of being perfect, but of being broken and waiting for Jesus who makes all things new. Regardless of struggle, regardless of sin, Jesus opens the door to all who trust that he rose again for them and that he is Lord.
Equality, Hate and the Gospel
Jesus spoke against many things and he is friends with those he spoke against. To be against something doesn’t mean to hate the person. The vitriol against Rick Warren because of his stance on marriage is uncivil. If one must label someone as a hater or a bigot because they don’t agree with you, then please look in the mirror. Our hope is not in the behavior of humanity, but in the humility of Jesus. In teaching the Gospel there are things that no doubt will offend, but it doesn’t make one a hater. The cross demonstrates God’s love for us and that’s the level of love we should have.
To understand life one must understand death. The teaching on end times in the Bible is the Christian understanding of ‘death.’ I put death in quotes as the Bible teaches death to be an unnatural state resulting from sin. There is an over reaction to teachings about end times, but running from it is unwise. Here are some often heard objections to teaching the end times:
None of your business
When the disciples asked Jesus if now was the time for the kingdom, Jesus said it wasn’t their job to worry about a timeline. At the end of this narrative angels asked what on Earth the disciples were doing, just as Jesus went up into the clouds he’d come back in a like manner. While me must hold a timeline loosely, there is still the expectancy of Christ’s return. Hold fast to Christ’s return, hold loosely a timeline.
There is little in the Bible that isn’t divisive. 25% of Scripture deals with prophetic events in the future. It’s a major thing. The teaching on end times focuses on three critical themes: 1) The person and nature of Jesus. 2) The restoration of peace and harmony as Jesus makes all things new. 3) The punishment of evil and the vindication of justice. These are no small themes and the Bible speaks to them. Christianity isn’t about an eternal fight of good vs evil. Evil has an end date.
Left behind series is annoying
Lot’s of things are annoying in life. I don’t fault someone with trying to communicate what they believe artistically. There are weird or annoying things in all aspects of life. Just look at Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. Anytime we place a major emphasis on one doctrine over the others there will be issues. Further, anytime we move the Gospel from being first and central things get messed up. However, that doesn’t mean other doctrines are unimportant or shouldn’t be discussed. Our culture tries to run and hide from death and that’s unhealthy.
End times focuses on fear
No doubt the study of end times should be sobering. In it we see the outpouring of God’s wrath but we also see the outpouring of God’s love. For those in Christ the teaching on end times should be motivational and push us to place our trust in Christ. Not merely for our salvation, but also that he will work all things together for good. Fear is not all bad. Losing our fear of God is dangerous, as is over emphasizing the fear of God. A significant portion of passages on the end times is for encouragement and hope, not fear.
About that timeline
Jesus chastises leaders for being able to predict the weather but not understand the times. While we should hold our timelines loosely, it is not sin to think through one. Jesus expects us to be aware of what’s going on. We should be careful to not have it cause undue division within the church or play guessing games that force current events into our timeline. Having an idea of a timeline is part of having an answer for the hope that is within us.
Allegorical vs Literal
This seems to be the real crux of the problem and worthy of a post. Briefly stated, I don’t think end times passages are allegories about good vs evil and that the Gospel is social justice. Such is a massive misunderstanding of the Gospel and the nature of God. (I also believe that Christians have wrongly viewed the Gospel as divorced from social justice.) I do believe that end times passages often describe the indescribable and should be approached with an air of humility, not certitude, when taking a literal approach to Scripture.
The bottom line:
How we view ‘death’ determines how we view life. In things I’ve seen or heard recently it seems there is an overreaction to those who emphasize teachings on the end times. However, it is a significant aspect to the Bible, Jesus and the apostles taught on it, and ignoring it is not an option. Like so much in life, we need discernment.
While driving through Montana I dreaded the view of upcoming rains. Funny thing about storms, no one wants them. Then God amazes you.
We saw 10+ rainbows over the mountains and valleys of Montana! Some faint others the most brilliant I’ve seen!
The rainbow started as a promise by God to mankind that he’d never flood the Earth again. Through the storm that was The Flood God brought beauty.
There is a beauty in hardship. It gives you a glimpse of God you cannot get any other way. I wish storms on no one. But in them, look for your rainbow(s).
The bottom line:
God is a God of mercy & grace. That’s what the rainbow represents. If we are faithless He remains faithful, for He cannot deny himself.
This past Sunday was the most amazing life group. A small group, like many things becomes routine. It is part of weekly life. But the benefit of consistent involvement is that one amazing moment you will remember for a long time. This past Sunday stood as a reason of why small groups are important. We discussed the significance of a torn curtain and the mending that it provided.
Rescue not just judgment
In the Gospel we have the convergence of pain and suffering along with beauty and peace. People forget the Gospel is larger than a judicial matter, it’s a rescue form a massacre. Creation is fundamentally flawed. Jesus, by offering himself, resolves more than just the sin issue, He brings promise of all things new. Problems with human depravity and the brokenness of creation will one day end.
Present not removed
As sin alienates us from God, God is present and at work in His silence. God protected Israel while they wandered in the desert. While a curtain separated man from the holy of holies, God the Son was teaching in the courts of the temple. While people made themselves clean for worship, God the Son washed his disciples’ feet. As lambs were made ready for slaughter, Christ died on the cross and the curtain tore. Suffering brought peace.
Theology is practical
It is not proper to share what we discussed. But, the sharing of the Gospel has practical ramifications. It offers perspective, attitude, guidance, wisdom, hope and most importantly; it allows us to see God. Sometimes the most pragmatic thing needed isn’t practical at all. In life’s challenges what we need isn’t always a solution. We need the Gospel. The Gospel discusses our most significant need, the presence of God.
The bottom line:
We are mended through what was torn. And the separation that occurred brings people together. And this community celebrates what can no longer be separated as we look to all things being new.
What if everything was fine
Imagine no issues between couples, the husbands loving wives and wives honoring their husbands. No children being disobedient, growing in wisdom, stature and favor with men. In laws knew their place and no outlaws in disgrace.
Imagine every gun silenced. No wars, rumors of wars and espionage. No government clandestine plots to overcome. No pollution, perfect climate and people knew what the left lane was for.
Imagine every belly full, every person with a warm bed and not a job a person dreads. No poverty, no debt not even a single regret. No trash on the street thrown or cancer in your body grown. No aids, colds and malaria. No suicide, depression or hysteria.
Imagine if we could bring about a world such as this. We’d still have a problem. We’d still be empty. The church would still be needed.
The Gospel first
The Gospel is of first importance. If all is well and good. No problems, secure job, everything kosher, you still need God. In fact Adam and Even in the garden had a perfect life and the issue was the same, they needed God. Ironic that in an Earth of perfection mankind chose rejection but in an Earth of depravity man must accept the message of the Gospel. The issue is the same. We need God. We don’t evangelize in heaven, for at that point it is too late.
The Gospel central
Our need of God makes the Gospel central. I am sure each of us can think of organizations that were about the Gospel but today are no longer. If we hold to pet doctrines and make them our mainstay, what we do is in vain. If Christ did not raise from the dead, it does not matter our view on things like creation, end times and other deep theological questions that should be discussed. Without the Gospel, we address societies ills in vain by meeting needs without hope.
Is God enough
If we move off the Gospel as saving us, of the Gospel making all things new, we dive deep into despair. The key question regardless of our circumstances or station in life is this: Is God enough? That is the central question to life and history. Even if we were to bring about a perfect world that question would still be there. For Adam and Eve, a relationship with God was not enough. Today we see the effects of running from God, to numerous to count.
The bottom line
The Gospel first, The Gospel central understands that Christ is truly the cornerstone of the church as well as a stumbling block. You cannot get around that without causing the church to fizzle out. With the Gospel being first and central it gives clarity to why we study and pursue the Scriptures; not as religion, but in relationally knowing God. It motivates to serve and love everyone. It understands the that problems of the world are far deeper than politics; they are issues of the soul needing God.
There is much more to knowing God than just the Gospel. But the Gospel is the doorway. The Gospel is not the only thing, but it must be first and central to the church. For in the Gospel the central question is answered: Yes, God is enough, and that changes everything.
25 years ago on January 5th, 1986 I asked Jesus to save me. It is the day that changed everything. I remember sitting in my bed dreading going back to school and reflecting on all I heard at church. I knew one thing clearly: I needed to trust in Jesus.
I have no regrets over the best 25 years. This doesn’t mean I made no mistakes. It doesn’t mean there aren’t times I could have made better decisions. It means this: The cross covers all sin. Ponder that for a moment. The moment we trust in Christ He erases all your sin, past, present and future. Instead of regrets I embrace the hope of the Gospel.
Back to being
I once heard a story where a person asked a pastor what was the difference between Christianity and religion. “Religion is do, Christianity is done.” I’ve learned it is very easy to get caught up in ‘doing’ instead of what Christ is most concerned about: ‘being.’ Our favor with God is completely based on the Gospel. A sharp focus on being will result in a more sustainable doing of good things. Busyness hinders our walk. Resting and waiting on God renews it.
Church is the hero
I believe the Church is the greatest institution for hope on Earth. For sure the Church has problems, but those problems, like regrets, the cross covers. To be a part of the church only takes two things: brokenness and the Gospel. There is no other place where brokenness is embraced with a future hope of Christ making all things new. Even though there are churches who may not get this or churches who ignore sin altogether, God is in control. He will make the Church right.
God is enough
The heart and breadth of the Gospel and existence is this: God is enough. Adam & Eve did not think so. Their actions led us to live in a world that does not make sense apart from God and His Word. God did not leave us to ourselves. He did not force us into some extreme contest to earn His favor. God provided the perfect and completely sufficient way to have favor in His sight: Jesus (Jn 14:6).
We often get confused in the craziness in life. We think what is good is from God and what is bad is from the Devil. I find God in both the good and the bad times. For in both the central question being asked is this: Is God enough? All of life is shaping us for His good purpose, and in the end we will understand fully this question. Without God, we have and are nothing. With Him, we have what is most important in life.
The bottom line:
It is so sweet to trust in Jesus. He will make all things new. He will one day perfect those who are His. But, the greatest isn’t the restoration He provides. The greatest part of the Gospel is I can call Him my friend.