Having The Same Values

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” – Luke 6:21. 

Every couple is different, and there are so many little things that make up a happy, healthy marriage. Only God really knows where your relationship stands and what your future may hold, but, having shared values is crucial for a relationship to thrive and grow. In many ways, they define who you are and as a result, refine your relationship. Couples that don’t share similar values, tend to share disappointment and resentment.

Many people believe that good communication is the key to a successful marriage. Communication is vital, but if couples’ values are significantly different, it’s unlikely that even the best communication will be enough.

If one spouse values a simple lifestyle and the other values accumulating wealth, it doesn’t matter how well they communicate, there will be regular opportunities for conflict. If one spouse values their faith and the other doesn’t,  there will most likely be issues.

Another important common value is one’s attitude towards having children. One partner may really want children and feels marriage would not be complete without a child, while the other is ambivalent or, worse, thinks children would impinge upon their lifestyle. Good communication can only clarify the two different perspectives, not solve the problem. Likewise, if one spouse believes that career is the top priority and the other puts family first, the couple will either fight or go underground with general dissatisfaction or anger. Yes, communication is vital, and if couples don’t have good communication skills, learning them can be a marriage saver. But if the values are significantly different, it’s unlikely that even the best communication will be enough.

But what if we have been married for some time, is it too late to find shared values. The answer is that prevention is always preferable but seldom is a situation hopeless. God is still doing the impossible and the improbable falls within that. As in all facts of life, Biblical principles will serve you well.  Following these principles will improve any marriage. Even the strongest marriages can benefit from periodic reminders of how they can demonstrate their love and respect for one another. The lack of shared values can have a cumulative effect over time and can result in a level of bitterness and unforgiveness that they cannot see a path forward through the hurt and pain. They believe the spouse is the primary cause. They have little hope that things would change. 

Each person needs to accept their contribution to the state of their marriage. Each needs to be willing to change whether or not their spouse is willing, for we can only change ourselves. In most cases the culprit is self-centeredness. When we learn to die to self, amazing things can happen in a marriage 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it so important to have shared values with your spouse?   
  2. What can you do this week to get on the same page as your spouse in some areas where you may not share values? 

Investing In marriage

“Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.”  – Mark 3:3-6.  

You don’t have to be married for long to realize that fulfilling your vows will not be an easy task. There will be seasons of little and seasons of plenty. Time of growth and times of contentment. Seasons of excitement and seasons of discouragement. But each new season gives you as a couple the opportunity to grow. With the start of each new chapter, you can choose to invest in growing your marriage or you can choose to be content where your marriage is right now. 

The Christian life is not designed for maintenance or meant for maintaining. It is meant to be vibrant and alive and in the process of adding to and developing your character. Your faith is not static; rather, it is dynamic and changing. And the same should be true of marriage. If you want to invest in your marriage continue to grow spiritually, and to grow more like Jesus; see, love, and care for your spouse like Jesus sees, loves and cares for them.  

We can learn how to invest in our marriage by watching Jesus in Mark 3:1-6. In this passage, we see Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were there in the synagogue, looking to see if Jesus would break the law by healing on the Sabbath. Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. He helps him. He takes away this man’s deformity and shame in biblical times. He makes his life better and yet the Pharisees are mad at Jesus and even plot to kill him because he broke an Old Testament law. But here is what we can learn from Jesus: the way He loves and cares for the Pharisees in spite of their hatred of Jesus and their own hardness of hearts. If you look closely at Mark 3:5, you see Jesus has two reactions to the Pharisees. He looked around at them with anger and was deeply saddened by their hardness of heart.

When we are frustrated with our spouse, we tend to be compassionate in the moment but irritated on an ongoing basis. In other words, we act the opposite of Jesus. Instead of being angry for a moment and compassionate moving forward, we tend to work the other way around. What if the opposite were true? What would it be like if you and I were angry for a moment at someone who wronged us, and then lived with ongoing compassion and sadness for them? Wouldn’t that change the way you care for them? Wouldn’t it change the way you loved your spouse? Wouldn’t it lead you to more quickly forgive your spouse instead of carrying roots of bitterness around with you?

Invest in your marriage by investing in being more like Jesus. Seek to be kind every day, not critical. Ask God to have a heart that has love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What have you done in the past that helped you deeply connect with your spouse?
  2. How can you help each other feel deeply loved and cared for?
  3. What is one new relationship skill you could learn that would help nourish your marriage? Who or what are you investing in?

The Importance Of A Financial Plan In Marriage

 “In marriage do thou be wise: prefer the person before money, virtue before beauty, the mind before the body; then thou hast a wife, a friend, a companion, a second self.” – William Penn

It’s no secret that money issues are one of the biggest conflicts for many married couples. In fact, money and money fights are a major cause of divorce. While life events like job loss can put a huge strain on any marriage, most married couples’ money fights can be traced to issues around everyday money habits, such as overspending, debt, and budgeting. In fact, Dave Ramsey says, “You can’t have a great relationship until you can communicate and agree about money.”

Money arguments or disagreements will happen from time to time We certainly don’t know everything about this or have a ready-made solution to fix every financial woe in your marriage. However, we have learned a few principles that help us stay focused on the main thing: God. 

First, agree on a financial plan that includes some accountability. In many marriages, you have a spouse who is a spender and a spouse who is a saver. The savers are the financial planners who use budgets to manage their money, while spenders want the freedom to spend their money without being accountable to a budget. That type of diverse view on money management is why a financial plan is such an essential part of a strong marriage. A budget or a plan for the couple’s money is one of the best investments in your marriage.   

Once you have a financial plan, take the time to regularly talk through monthly expenses as a couple. Typically, one spouse pays the bills. That spouse should communicate each month of where they are financially, and how it relates to the budget so that both of you stay accountable and on track.

Your financial plan should prioritize what to do with any disposable income. Having some extra money left over each month is good. It’s one way we can experience God’s grace. It’s extra, and it’s there to be enjoyed. When enjoying it, choose the things that matter most to you, not just shiny things marketed well. If you’ve got $250 of “fun money” this month, how do you use it in a purposeful way to maximize long-term enjoyment? The point here is to spend your disposable cash in a way that builds you up purposely as opposed to just adding to life’s consumer clutter.

Work together. See if you and your spouse can identify your temperaments and then talk about how you see them impacting your financial beliefs and behaviors. The goal is to put that knowledge to work so you can take full advantage of each other’s natural money management strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.

Get on the same page. If you both understand biblical stewardship and respond to wisdom, this won’t be a problem. But if one of you seeks to be a good steward while the other spends haphazardly, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Get on the same page: God’s page. Learn what God is asking of you and stick to it together.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is a financial plan important for you? Why or why not?   
  2. What can you do this week to get on the same page financially as your spouse?

Marriage and Money Matters

“Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring” – Proverbs 11:28. 

Where do we go to discuss significant matters? Where do we go for insight and wisdom on any subject? The obvious answer is God’s Word. It alone is the standard and source for truth. No one likes talking about money. No one wants to honestly think about how we use our money. We just want it. We just spend it. Most of us don’t think much about money itself – rather we think about what money can get for us. Or where money can take us. Fortunately, the Bible has a lot to say on the subject. Take 1 Timothy 6:6-10 for example: 

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Hebrews 13:5 adds, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,“I will never fail you.I will never abandon you.”

We certainly don’t know everything about this or have a silver bullet to fix every financial woe in life or in marriage. But we do know the key is to stay focused on the main thing: God. The first thing to keep in mind is that in the area of stewardship, we own nothing. Basically, biblical stewardship is this: everything is God’s (not ours), what we have, what we have been given to care for, for God’s glory alone.

Look at it this way: Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. Psalm 24:1-2 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.” God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it.  At some point I will give back to Him what is His, and I want to prove I’m a good steward. His love and my salvation do not depend on my stewardship, but mindful stewardship is a natural result of understanding God’s grace and love. I want to give my life and everything in it to Him because I’m compelled by His love.

Secondly, we need to realize that we have everything. As we have often said, we Americans take for granted how well off we are. If you’re reading this devotional from the warmth of your home using a computer with internet access, it’s likely that you are extremely wealthy compared to the whole world. We’ve all heard the stats: “Billions of people live on less than $2 a day“. It’s hard to take stats like that to heart, because we can’t really fathom what “billions” of faceless people look like. But it’s true. Constant gratefulness is a great way to remember all that God has blessed us with and to be grateful for what we have.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does the fact that God owns everything impact our daily lives?  
  2. What can you do this week to remember that we have everything and to be grateful for what we have?  

God’s Expectations For Marriage

 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” – Malachi 2:14 (ESV).   

The expectations God has for marriage are likely radically different from our expectations for marriage.  God expects that marriage will place us under the mutual spirit of love. The Bible makes it clear that when a man and woman join in marriage, they become one. And the controlling factor of their oneness is their mutual commitment to care for one another’s well-being for as long as they both live. This commitment to love means that we must do everything possible to bring out the best in a mate rather than the worst. When we marry, we are choosing to serve God by serving the needs of our spouse. Over time, we even have to learn how to keep the marital commitment from rivaling our commitment to, and dependence on, the Lord.

Second, God’s expectation is that marriage will change us for the better. Scripture doesn’t tell us to make sure our spouse loves, respects, and gives us all the affectional, financial, and physical satisfaction we need. The Bible never promises that God will make our partners into the kind of people we pray they will be.  Marriage by its very nature demands our own spiritual growth. To have true spiritual connection in marriage, we need to grow spiritually.  A God-designed marriage will produce faithful love, honesty, moral courage, true humility, and incredible patience.  

Third and perhaps the most important of God’s expectations for marriage is that marriage will be a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church. God’s expectation is that husbands and wives will develop an enduring love by keeping their eyes on the “marriage” between Christ and His church. After urging both husbands and wives to see their distinct roles defined by the relationship between Christ and the church, the apostle Paul wrote: “As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” (Ephesians 5:30-32).

These expectations of God lift us above ourselves, and call from us the kind of love that has its source in God.

A good marriage is not a contract between a man and a woman, but rather, a sacred covenant between three; the man, the woman and God. A biblical covenant is built on God’s sovereignty. That’s why a marriage begins to move away from God’s blessing when one or both parties turn away from acknowledging that God is in charge. The Lord knew what He was doing when He gave each of us the mate we have, and a marriage is not just about the person we vowed to love, honor and cherish. It is also about the vow we made before God on our wedding day.

God designed marriage to be a shelter in the midst of the storms, not the center of the storm. He gave us our mates because He knew it wasn’t good for us to be alone. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. After reading this devotional, what expectations need to be changed to align with God’s expectations for marriage? 
  2. What can you do this week to better align with God’s expectations for marriage? 

Our Expectations For Marriage

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21.

Whether they are new or been in the back of our minds for decades, we all have expectations. Expectations can be good, but often they are bad when it comes to marriage. Most conflicts in marriage could be traced back to unrealistic expectations on the part of one spouse or the other. Expectations are kind of like those lists we create like the “Things I’m Looking for in a Mate.” Unfortunately, our expectations are more fantasy than reality. The key is to have realistic expectations, but that is not always the case. Overcoming those expectations is not easy because too often our expectations are rooted more in the desire for the ideal rather than the human spouse we married.   

For example, most people that get married have the expectation that marriage will meet their needs. Your spouse should do more to meet your needs. Really, how could your husband or wife be that insensitive, clueless, or apathetic? You’ve tried to tell them over and over again how much you need help around the house, or someone to listen or be emphatic, or someone to help shoulder the brunt of the in-law attacks or financial burdens. Is a little kindness, respect, and love too much to expect from a spouse? You will never be able to enjoy the beauty of marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you. We all want the kind of relationship where the spouse understands and meets all our needs. But your spouse is not going to meet all your needs. Guaranteed. And if you keep waiting for them to do so, you are certain to become bitter, empty, and angry. Only God can meet your needs as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19 (TPT): “I am convinced that my God will fully satisfy every need you have, for I have seen the abundant riches of glory revealed to me through the Anointed One, Jesus Christ!” 

Then there is the whole expectation that marriage will change him or her. Many people enter into marriage with a predetermined idea of what they want their partner to become. When we get married, we make all sorts of promises. The marriage contract, by its very nature, is a series of promises. But when you think about it, the institution of marriage, and what we assume and expect of each other within a marriage is typically in conflict with reality. Regardless of how much you think you know about relationships before getting married, the months following those wedding vows may throw you for a loop. Often, this comes from having an unrealistic view of marriage. For example, your personal insecurities won’t go away just because you’re married, just like your partner won’t change overnight into Prince Charming or Mrs. Perfect just because you tied the knot. Learn to embrace an imperfect spouse, change your expectations to overlook the flaws, praise the positives and help your spouse grow spiritually. 

Rather than dwelling on unmet expectations, learn to invest in your marriage. Invest in building a spiritual connection with your spouse. Pray together.  How might you best support what God is doing in the life of your spouse? This is about supporting what God wants to do, not how you want your spouse to change.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have expectations for your marriage? How have they changed over the years?  
  2. What can we do this week to decrease our level of expectations this week?   

Waiting On God

“Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy. (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases, the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.) Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?”
1 Corinthians 7:12-16. 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula that will instantly revolutionize a mismatched marriage, a few principles can contribute to the health of a relationship or send it on a downward spiral. For example, it is never good to talk about God a lot to your unbelieving spouse. “Did I tell you how God…” or “God gave me a parking spot” or “God is love, I’m sure you can see that.” The desire to tell your spouse about God can be viewed as controlling and manipulative and cause him or her to mentally shut down every time the word is used. On the other hand, there are some things to remember.  

The salvation of your spouse is not your responsibility. You do not have the power to save that person and you don’t have the power to doom them either. God’s sovereignty is bigger than your words or your mistakes. Release ownership over this and release the fear of failing. This is not your responsibility. 

And be patient. You may have to wait through 2021 or 2025 or 2050. You may live most of your married life with an unbelieving spouse. 1 Corinthians 7:14 says, “For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.” Countless people have struggled through seasons of waiting, trying to be patient. In these periods of waiting we need to trust God.  We must resist our urge to do something. We need to have self-control and allow God to speak much more loudly in exactly the areas He already knew our husband or wife needed to hear from Him. We must trust God’s plan and God’s timetable and wait for God to get things ready.  It may seem that an unbelieving spouse is out of our grasp but they are never outside God’s grasp. 

We need to remember that “…the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12). 

Our different beliefs don’t mean we have to stop relating in other areas. People get married because they enjoy each other’s company and share a lot of mutual interests. While you are waiting, continue to pursue those things together. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it important to wait on God?  
  2. In what areas do we need to wait on God more in our marriages.  

Spiritual connection

“so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” – Romans 12:5.

Few things in a marriage are as important as spiritual intimacy between a husband and wife.

Spiritual intimacy is a sense of unity and mutual commitment to God’s purpose for our lives and marriage, along with a respect for the special dreams of each other’s hearts. It’s the greatest depth of intimacy we experience in marriage.

In Proverbs 31 we find an example of such a marriage. They complement each other perfectly because they share a spiritual depth. The wife’s influence is so powerful that her husband and family can’t help but praise her (verse 28). The husband is equally worthy of admiration: “Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.” (verse 23). He meets with the leaders to give advice and help people solve their problems. His wife also provides wise instruction and is faithful in all the roles and responsibilities God has given her: “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” (verse 26).

This ancient couple serves as an example for modern-day marriages. Because of their godliness and earnest commitment to God and their commitment to each other, their love is amplified. Men and women around them can’t help but notice, and their relationship stands out. Can you imagine this kind of spiritual connection in your own marriage? But if you want a spiritual connection with your spouse you are going to have to work at it. 

Jesus described marriage on a very spiritual level: A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together (Matthew 19:5) It’s very possible that those verses were read at your wedding. And for most of us, those words would be the desire of our hearts. When you look at this beautiful statement, isn’t that what you would hope for in your relationship? A man and woman leave their parents to become united. They become literally one flesh.  

We desire for God’s presence to be in our relationship. But to want something and to have it are two different things. We may desire a spiritual connection as a couple, but sadly it is usually the least developed area of the relationship. It takes time, open communication, humility, grace, and a desire for spiritual growth for any couple to grow together spiritually. Even then, there are major blocks we must overcome to achieve it. But if your spouse is of a different faith than you are then it is very difficult to have a true spiritual connection. 

Regardless of where you are at as a couple in the spiritual intimacy department, there is probably room for growth. That is because spiritual intimacy is perhaps the least developed area of a marital relationship. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does having a spiritual connection mean to you?  
  2. What can you do this week to improve the spiritual connection with your spouse? 

Faith Mismatch

To be honest, I didn’t want to believe that Christianity could radically transform someone’s character and values. It was much easier to raise doubts and manufacture outrageous objections than to consider the possibility that God actually could trigger a revolutionary turn-around in such a depraved and degenerate life.” – Lee Strobel 

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel is the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune and best-selling author of more than twenty books. His classic, The Case for Christ, is a perennial favorite which details his conversion to Christianity. The Case for Christ, which was made into a movie, tells the extraordinary story of Lee’s life and his marriage.

Lee had been an atheist and a successful journalist and when his wife Leslie found a church and became a Christian. Lee thought she had lost it, so he set out to prove her wrong using his journalism skills to research the Christian faith and attempt to disprove it. What happened instead is that the facts he found convinced him that Jesus was real and the Bible is true.

But in the years in between her conversion and his were turbulent to say the least. Leslie was wholeheartedly following Christ and Lee was doing everything he could to undermine her beliefs. Ultimately, Leslie’s powerful testimony of love and grace, combined with the evidence of Christianity, led Lee to give his heart to Christ and devote the rest of his life to ministry.  

Lee and Leslie are certainly not unique. There are many couples who are in the situation Lee and Leslie were once facing. If you are a Christian and married to a non-believer, Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians what we as believers should be doing. First we should promote peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15). That means simply to not pick fights with your spouse. Don’t try to manipulate or coerce them to see things from your perspective. Strive to be the one who finds solutions to problems in the marriage rather than causes them.   

Second, use your actions to demonstrate your faith.  Your life can be the most compelling evidence for Christianity. The most powerful “sermons” come through actions and not just words; your faith will be attractive if you’re living out a Christian example of love and grace.

Next don’t try to fix, change or judge your spouse. Just love them. The rest is God’s business. Love is the primary tool God uses to change us all. Then pray without ceasing. Prayer is powerful and it always brings results. Sometimes God uses prayer to change our circumstances, and sometimes He uses prayer to simply change our perspective about our circumstances. Pray for your spouse daily. Pray that God would help you to love him/her selflessly. Pray that God would give you strength, grace, and encouragement on those days when there is trouble in your marriage. Pray for their salvation.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your obligations if you are married to an unbeliever? 
  2. What could we do this week to be a better example of God’s love and grace?  

3 Is Better Than 1

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12.

A friend had a houseplant that had grown to nearly six feet. It had produced large leaves from three spindly trunks. Over time, the weight of the leaves had caused all three of the stalks to curve down toward the floor. To straighten them, he put a wedge under the plant’s pot and placed it near a window so the sunlight could draw the leaves upward and help cure its bad posture. At a doctor’s office, I noticed the same plant in the waiting room: same height, same broad leaves growing from three long skinny stalks. But there was a difference. The three long skinny stalks had braided together over time to form a more solid core. This plant stood upright without any help.

This reminded me of Ecclesiastes 4:12. Married people can try apart from each other and from God. But woven together with God, however, there is a greater sense of stability and closeness. Their relationship will grow stronger “for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). 

Simple equation: You + Christ + your spouse = 3. When Christ is at the center of your marriage you will find a depth and love that far surpasses that of what the world offers.

There are many things we can do to produce a healthy marriage, but there are some things that only God can do.  We count on our spouse to make us happy and to fill our lives with joy.  In the final analysis, the only person who can meet your deepest needs is Jesus. If you are looking for a man or woman to do that you are looking in the wrong place. From the beginning of the honeymoon, all along the way, partners struggle with their weaknesses, their differences, and with the crises that life brings their way. Every marriage experiences conflict. Every marriage is a journey of hills and valleys, highs and lows. There are times when we argue over trivial issues or when we think our partner acts like a child. There will be times when we get frustrated because we cannot agree about something that is important to each of us. 

God wants a healthy marriage for each of us that get married. But we must work at creating the environments that allow Him to do that. In loving God and loving each other, couples grow together – and become the people God wants us to be. We simply need to operate on faith that God has our marriage in His perfect plan.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Where do you stand in giving God total control over your life?
  2. What problem(s) in your marriage do you see as your responsibility? Which do you see as God’s problem?
  3. What do you think God is doing in your marriage right now?