Fighting Fair in Marriage – Part 2

If you are going to fight for your marriage, you have to learn to fight fair in marriage.  This is not an easy thing and takes years to master.  Married couples fight about money, sex, division of labor, communication and many other things.  But fighting fair is one of the keys to a lasting marriage.  Last week if you missed PART 1 of FIGHTING FAIR IN MARRIAGE, you can read it here.

“…The tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Proverbs 12:18

10 Ways To Fight Fair In Your Marriage – Part 2

6. Avoid Personal Attacks – Especially as you are younger in your marriage, you won’t know each other as well.  When you discover something about him that is, well, annoying, you have to determine not to attack his character.  One of the most hurtful things you can do is “label your spouse.”  Many of the labels our parents, teachers and friends gave us as children stick with us our whole lives.  These words and labels can control and damage our relationships. Your words should NEVER be a personal attack.  Instead, use phrases like, “Help me understand why…” and “When you do this, it’s hard for me…” Once you make it personal, there is no cool-headed conversation. An ounce of encouragement can go a long way.  Once you find yourself in a personal attack, back off and take a time-out.

7. Be Truthful, Then Trust – This sounds almost ridiculous but it is important to operate with correct information.  I have seen so many couples fight over jumping to assumptions that aren’t even true!  If you have a truth problem, your marriage can never grow in intimacy.  Among us there are those who have been jaded and betrayed, therefore it is harder for us to trust.  The foundation of marriage is built on trust.  I’m not saying being naive, but if your marriage is going to grow, you must learn to trust more.

8. Learn to Listen – I know, I know, this is comical right?  You expect me to listen when I am frustrated?  One thing that will grow your ability to disagree with civility is your ability to listen.  If you are always interrupting and always building your “case” while the other person is talking, you are acting like an emotional child.  When you listen it is important for your spouse to know you heard him or her.  PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING.  This is an exercise where one person talks at a time,  then the other person repeats back to make sure the message got delivered.  “What I heard you say was…”  If this is done, you both know you are communicating effectively.  It is important though that ONE PERSON TALKS at a time!  You can’t listen with your mouth flapping.  Then you switch roles and the other person listens and repeats back.

9. Don’t Win, Heal – You learn quickly in marriage “when you win, you lose.” You should not be about being right and being in control, but perfect love drives out fear.  Often times, people are afraid of losing, ANYTHING.  This includes arguments.  Look your spouse in the eye this week and say, I will never win another argument.  It might seem a bit extreme, but when the motives are wrong in fighting, there is NEVER a resolution, just a temporary break from the fight.  I have counseled more couples where it was evident two people wanted to win the argument.  Then when asked they had the audacity to accuse the other person of just wanting to win the argument.  If you happen to be married to someone who likes to fight, and enjoys confrontation, you will probably need to see a counselor ASAP!  

10. Pray Together Regularly – Want to fight less?  Then pray for and with one another.  Two people who pray together will find it harder to fight about stupid little things.  You learn to “let things go” and not be bitter and eventually grow in your spiritual intimacy with your spouse.  If you have never tried this, START!  You will be amazed at the level of intimacy that grows as Jesus becomes more the center of your marriage.

One last thought:  If you feel like you have tried everything to solve a problem, YOU MUST GET HELP from an outside source.  Maybe the most courageous thing you do this year is see a Christian counselor.  For help with resources in the Central New Jersey area, contact

Mercer County Church Blog Home

This week at 217church, a Mercer County contemporary Christian church, we will learn from Song of Solomon the difficult art of fighting fair with our spouse. Do you fight fair?  Learn to fight fair and your marriage will grow in intimacy and strength.

Mercer County Church Blog Home

Getting Healthy #2 – Financially

Who wouldn’t want to live debt free, have the ability to provide for basic needs, be an extravagant giver and understand the power of saving?  Not many people I know would say, ‘I want to live with a mountain of debt.’   Yet the average household lives with $8,000 in debt, saves less than 1% of income and gives away less than 3%!  What is wrong with us? As we enter into the Easter season in two weeks, I want to take time to introduce you to four key areas of health we will be tackling through the Live Differently series.  It’s about transformation against the odds.

What does financial health look like?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)

I am in the process of gathering all my financial records for 2011 and completing my taxes.  Have you gone there yet? My taxes are complicated so I hire someone to assemble them and complete them for me.  At the end of the process, she gives me the report and I pour over it.  It is a great opportunity to reflect on God’s blessings.  I review the year and see how much I owe.  I see how much I paid in interest on my house and how much I gave.  It’s all there and I use tax time to do a heart check on what I value.  I review the year and how I spent all the money that was entrusted to me.  Am I content with what God gave to me to manage? Taxes are very revealing, the numbers don’t lie!   So what is our responsibility when it comes to money?  Here are a few principles to get you started…

Know what you OWE – This is a non-negotiable!  If you are in denial about what you owe, you will never be able to go forward on solid ground with a plan to get out of debt.  It may be discouraging, but you can either pay now or pay later.  Keep this verse in mind and let it motivate you as you gather your records. “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7 ESV)

Know what you OWN- Do you own cars, jewelry, antiques, a house, any retirement funds? To go forward you need to know what you own.  This will help you to understand what you might need to sell in order to get out of debt.

Know where it is GOING- You must get on a budget!  A budget is just planned spending, it’s a God-inspired plan of how he wants you to spend money.  Do you ask God where you should give, save and spend?  The monthly inflow and out-flow of how you spend money IS A SPIRITUAL ISSUE.

Financial health is not an option, its a requirement of those who want to follow Jesus!  The big target on the wall is writing a LIFE TRANSFORMATION VISION for your Financial Health

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that (A)we may present everyone (B)mature in Christ. 29 For this (C)I toil, (D)struggling (E)with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  Colossians 1:28-29

How can you live more healthy spiritually, financially, physically and in your family?  I believe is starts with a heart change and then a commitment to a 217group.  You will grow more in a group than you will on your own. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)  These next 50 days of Live Differently at 217church will be life changing!  join a 217group today! How will you make the most of each Life Transformation Vision?


Models Wanted – Momentum Day 22

Scripture:  Acts 22

Key Verse: Acts 22:22-23

“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’

I like pictures.  Tell me what you want and I will have more questions, but show me a picture and I will surely understand.  I recently sat down in the barber chair and the young new stylist looked at me and said, “what are we doing to today?”  I said, “I’m not sure, what do you think?  She proceeded to show me a glut of pictures of what I might look like if I were in a GQ magazine.  I looked at a picture of the well sculpted hair and said, “that one, but I’m going to keep my shirt on.”

In the above passage the apostle Paul was fighting for his life and at the same time contending for the Gospel of Jesus.  He was uniquely a Jew and a Roman citizen.  His whole life screamed that transformation was possible.  He paints a picture through telling his story of how he met Jesus.  The underlying krux of this whole persecution of Paul is that he is just as ordinary as everyone else, but he happens to know what he wants to look like…Jesus. Paul does what Jesus says despite being a cheat, a murderer and a liar.  On a road to Damascus he saw a clear picture of Jesus and said, “that is the picture right there.”

Here is the problem: Okay, you aren’t going to find Jesus walking the earth.  He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, scripture, prayer and all creation. However, you will find people to help you figure out the next steps in your life who also bear the identity of Jesus.  This is where modeling comes in.

How do I find a good model?

#1 Recognize you need more than one –  It is nearly impossible to find someone who is accomplished at everything.  They just don’t exist.  You need multiple models for different situations.  People to help you who specialize in certain areas.  Our media driven paparazzi culture has turned models into idols.  if you make your model an idol, you will surely be disappointed.

#2 Define what you want help with – If someone sits down with me and doesn’t know what they want, I can’t really help them over the long haul. Know what you want help with and then write down some specific preferred outcomes you have.

#3 Look at lots of pictures – You have to watch people.  I didn’t say envy or make an icon of someone, but be a diligent observer.  If it is in the area of family that you want a model, look for someone you can model your family after.  If it is starting a business, time management, spiritual discovery, or physical health, look for lots of different types of models.  Take every step to ensure they are authentic.  In essence, “Don’t take nutritional advice from an obese man.”

#4 Realize you are a model – This is key because you won’t fully own responsibility for yourself until you realize you are responsible to others.  Almost everyone is influencing someone.  I don’t agree to help someone unless they agree they will model it intentionally for someone else.  I want to plant seeds, not hand out fruit.  There is a difference.
Question: Who do you need to model your life after? write down some people you need to learn from in different areas…

Here are four areas to start with…

1. Spiritual health

2. Family health

3. Financial health

4. Physical health

One more thing...when you know what you want to look like, something has to give, people will be ticked at you.  The people might – just – start – a – riot…

When To Stop Arguing – Momentum Day 19

Scripture:  Acts 19

Key Verse: Acts 19:9

“But when some became stubborn…he withdrew from them

Sometimes its just not worth it.  When you are arguing with a stubborn heart, you realize there is no use.  I didn’t say, don’t try.  Paul reasoned with the people in the Synagogue for 3 months, but there came a time when he realized he was wasting his breath.  His impact was finished.  He had won over about every person he could at that time.  It was time to move on.

Here is the problem: When it comes to conflict and arguing, most of us operate from the premise we – are – right. When we lose the ability to have honest, civil, open conversations with one another, it isn’t worth it.  People yell and scream like children, all in the name of expressing feelings. It’s not about how loud you yell, but do you listen?  People don’t know how to fight fair or agree to disagree.  comically, we then claim the other party is obstinate, intolerant and bias, unwilling to change.  Always seek to understand the other party.  Always acknowledge that you probably have hurt the other person. If you don’t, it will be obvious you are in it for yourself.

When should we move on from a conversation?  When is it wise to take a break and call it good?

#1 When people start to shout –  It is pointless to have a conversation if someone can’t remain civil.  I have seen people blame their heritage, genetics and about everything else for losing their temper.  Right…fill in ethnicity here ______________ and then blame ancestry…ridiculous. “I’m Italian! I’m Albanian! I’m English! I’m Puerto Rican!” I’m………….A person who takes no responsibility for my actions!  Take a break.

#2 When you have made a LITTLE progress – I have seen so many marriage discussions going so well, then all of the sudden the couple tries to solve every problem accumulated over the last 20 years in 1 hour.  It doesn’t work.  Accept and embellish the small victories.

#3 When there is no Mediator – Some people should not even start to talk without a mediator.  Use your wisdom.  You know when it will not go well. Be realistic.  Get someone to set ground rules for the conversation.

#4 When you fail to share the goal of the conversation at the beginning – If you go into an argument without a shared desired outcome, it is not going to end well.  Your motivations will be misunderstood and you will just end up frustrating each other.

Are you in an argument, about to be in one? Hope this helps…

Question: What is holding you back from being reasonable in your disagreements with others?

Why You Should Sing At Midnight – Momentum Day 16

Scripture:  Acts 16

Key Verse: Acts 16:26

“and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened…”

It’s late and you are tired.  You had a hard day and you would rather forget about it.  You feel like you have been beaten and the world has you bonded in shackles in prison.  You just lost your job. You are a prisoner to your own pain.  You have a physical disease, a mountain of debt and one step forward feels impossible.  You just need some sleep, everything is blurry. You are a prisoner of your own sin, your own doing.  Worse, you are a prisoner because of what someone else has gruesomely done to you.  It’s not fair and you wonder inside if anyone cares. It is all finally coming to a head, something has to give.

Then out of nowhere comes this urge.   It’s unlike any impulse you have ever had.  It resonates deep within you.  It is a song from long ago your mother and father used to sing.  A song that you had once forgotten and you somehow recall all the words as if you have sung this song every day since the pain first began.  It is a song with a reminder that someone loves you. A song that speaks of something you haven’t lived in a lifetime.

It is not normal to sing at midnight.  It is quiet where you are.  People are sleeping, but you have to let this song out of you and activate your vocal chords. Your faith is too fragile to remain silent.  At first it is a slight hum, then a little louder and louder…then out of nowhere you break forth into song.

It heals, it refreshes, it soothes, it stirs, it wells up from deep within and emotions pour out.  You recall, you repent, and then somehow you regain trust.  It is your greatest moment of worship and you realize an earthquake just happened.  You are finally in rubble, no stronghold is left, no worldly monuments left standing.  Your heart is open. No addiction has you, no words from the past bind you, your bond has been unfastened…

Question:  This ever happen to you?  If not, isn’t it about time?

Sing at midnight…

The Importance of Story Telling – Momentum Day 7

Scripture:  Acts 7

Key Verse: Acts 7:1

“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia…”

A good story will captivate the heart and draw out real emotion.  When teaching, motivating and accessing the hearts of people, I try and tell stories that captivate people’s attention.  Sometimes, when you tell stories, they resonate so much that extreme raw emotion surfaces.  This is what happened in this scripture. Stephen told such a good story of the history of his people that it “enraged” the people to charge in and kill him.  That is powerful!  If Stephen were was in my speech class, he would have put ALL of us to shame.  Here are some key pieces to telling a good story.

#1 Make it personal – Stephen was one of them, a Hebrew.  This scripture is so littered with cross references, you could spend all day reading and studying the circumstances behind everything.

#2 Begin where people are – This story is an incredible appeal to the Hebrew culture.  He started where people were.  They all knew the story, but he explained it in a way they probably had never heard it before.

#3 Know where you are going –  Stephen’s punch line was incredible, “you stiff necked people…you always resist the Holy Spirit…” (vs 51) Stephen knew what the end of the story was and where it fit.  He was sharing the Gospel clearly with them.  They could not argue with it, so they just disposed of him.

#4 Have conviction – In short tell your story passionately with emotion.  So many people are afraid of emotion.  This is a cop-out.  An excuse to disengage passively and be mediocre.  Don’t just give information, deal out inspiration.  I have a philosophy I have lived with for some years now.  “If you preach soft you get hard people, but if you preach hard, you get soft people.”

Stories change people, they are the tapestry of the Kingdom of God at work…Tell yours boldly

Question:  Who do you need to tell your story to?  Have you ever written your story down?

Wisdom Speaks The Truth – Momentum Day 6

Scripture:  Acts 6

Key Verse: Acts 6:10

But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

I love playing card games as it is one of my favorite things to do.  I especially love when I have the Ace in my hand.  There is something about its power and influence that is exhilarating. Nothing else matters when I hold the ace because I can take any card I want at any time.  But it isn’t that you have the ace that makes a smart player.  It is often how you play the ace that matters. That is wisdom.

Wisdom speaks the truth in a powerful way.  People can try and argue with it, but it is like they are wasting their words.  The Gospel, “good news” is full of wisdom.  Here are some common results of speaking the truth from my own experience:

#1 You will offend people – Look, this is something you are just going to have to deal with.  People who are people pleasers and want everyone to like them often bend the truth.  People need to hear the truth even when it hurts.

#2 You will know who your friends are –  It is amazing how standing for something gets you into all kinds of trouble and it also draws others EVEN CLOSER to you.  When people know what you stand for they love you or leave you.

#3 It is liberating – Nothing like de-stressing through an old fashioned honest moment.  Often we carry great emotional strain when we suppress the truth.  Withholding the truth will kill you on the inside.

#4 It empowers others – Look, someone has to go first and speaking the truth will almost always inspire others to stand up for truth as well.

By the way, remember to speak the truth in love…that is true wisdom

Question:  When are you most afraid to speak the truth?

A Slow Death – Momentum Day 5

Scripture:  Acts 5

Key Verse: Acts 5:4-5

“You have not lied to man but (F)to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he (G)fell down and breathed his last.”

Having financial integrity is perhaps one of the biggest reflections of a good heart.  On the other hand, people that can’t handle money, well, it reveals an ugly reality.  I just got my W-2’s in the mail, you probably will shortly too.  many will be tempted and then cheat on their taxes.  Is it really worth it? not a big deal, it was YOUR money after all right?  Unfortunately, things like this are just revealing the underlying issue that is truly killing us.

Every time we compromise our integrity we are dying a slow death inside.  Who you are when no one is watching is who you are anyway because the rest is just a show. The world may not see through us but God does. It is critical that in every detail we seek the truth. Ananias DROPPED DEAD INSTANTLY.  This probably won’t happen to you.  Integrity is all you have.

Progress Matters – Momentum Day 4

Scripture:  Acts 4

Key Verse: Acts 4:4

“But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”

We all want to see it.  Whether it is in our parenting or athletic pursuits.  Whether it’s in our career or simply getting out of debt.  We want to see progress.  The question is, “are we getting anywhere?” The disciples saw it as they were being persecuted and people were lashing out against them.  Whatever was happening to them was worth it because five thousand people came to Christ. They saw progress.  Progress makes pain worth it!

But here is the problem.  Often times, we don’t see progress like we want.  We may even be doing everything right, but we seemingly never arrive at our destination.  Our business doesn’t grow, Our marriage may feel empty. We have done everything possible to get out of debt. We should be further along, but we are not.  Many times though, we ARE making progress, we just don’t see it like God does.

You won’t always see the progress, but know it is there.  There is no way you can see what God sees.  I remember being in the back of the car asking my Dad, “are we there yet?” My dad would lovingly say, “not yet son, just a little while longer.”  I trusted him and we always got there.  Progress is there. Don’t lose heart and keep on moving.

Living Without Regrets – Momentum Day 3

Today is day 3 of the Momentum Reading plan.  It’s simple: 1 day = reading 1 chapter of Acts for 28 Days. Today, January 25 read Acts 3.

Scripture:  Acts 3

Key Verse: Acts 3:15

“and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

We all have them, things that remain imprinted on the fabric of our souls.  They are regrets from the past.  I know it seems impossible; forgetting what is behind us, the mistakes we have made, the people we have hurt, the debt we incurred, the relationship we ruined, the child we didn’t love well enough, the wife we abandoned, the time we cheated. With these actions come scars.  They hurt. My deepest regret is my sin. Just like Peter said above, “we did this.” We crucified Jesus.  Peter doesn’t speak from piety, he speaks from a place of realizing his past apathy.  He avoided the crucifixion altogether and denied Jesus three times.  But remember, Jesus restored him three times as well…and he has restored you.

Maybe you don’t feel like it, but hear Jesus now, “You are adopted as sons and daughters.” (Eph 1:5) Cling to Jesus today, live without regrets, create new moments Jesus would be proud of.  Make the most of today.  You are forgiven.  No regrets…