Why Our Marriage Works

Why Our Marriage Works

marriageOur church is starting a new series this weekend (in a new place!) before Valentine’s Day called Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf in which we are focusing on building lasting marriages. I was out with my wife this week walking downtown San Jose on a date – call it research. We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this June and I got to thinking about why we’re beating the statistics; according to divorce rates, we should have ended it at least 5 years ago. Yet, we’re better and stronger than ever. Here’s why I believe our marriage works…

  1. My wife is my best friend. This sounds cliche, but I genuinely mean this. I would rather spend time with my wife than any other person. While we do have our separate interests, we enjoy most things together; ministry, sports, family time, mutual friendships, etc. She knows me. And I know her. Like best friends should.
  2. We solve problems. Every couple fights. Or at least they should. Too often, to avoid conflict, many couples just bottle up their frustrations until it eventually explodes, resulting in an even uglier conflict. While Tiffany and I don’t like to fight, we would rather the air be clear between us than fake our way through a single day.
  3. Nothing is more important to us. My marriage takes second place to nothing. Really. Nothing. “What about your kids?” The best gift I can give my children is a good example of a strong marriage. Where do you think kids get their strongest impressions of what a family should/shouldn’t be like? That’s right, the one they come out of. “What about your relationship with God?” This may come as a shock, but God is not the first priority of my life. He’s bigger than that to me. He’s the center of every priority in my life. So it isn’t “God and then my marriage,” it’s “God in my marriage.” According to the Bible, my marriage is a reflection of my relationship with God. That only makes my commitment to Tiffany that much stronger.
  4. Two words: Date. Night. Tiff and I have some form of a date every week. With four kids, we don’t have the time or money to get out as often as we like, so “date night” means a tub of ice cream and Netflix some weeks. But about every other week, we do get out, and go do something together. After 10 years, I’m still dating my wife and pursuing her heart. I plan on continuing to date her for the rest of my life.
  5. Our marriage has a vision. We talk about growing old together. About watching our grand kids grow up, and seeing their marriages last. We are trying to have the kind of marriage now that we want them to have one day. We hope to be the beginnings of a godly legacy of men and women who beat the cultural trends and make it work.

It’s important for me to point out that my marriage doesn’t work because I’m better than anyone else. What I do know, is that if others had the same self-sacrificing love that I have for Tiffany, and she has for me, than more marriages would last. We want everyone to have as good (or better!) of a marriage as us. And that is what this new series is about. Strengthening marriages God’s way. Whether you’re married, single, or single-again, we believe God wants to work powerfully through your relationships. So if you’re in the area, we hope to see you!

Blessings,
Pastor John

The Problem with Promise Rings

The Problem with Promise Rings

Ring   If you’re one of the many single adults who have been under my ministry at some point, you already know where this is going. But allow me to get to the point:

Promise rings are a complete waste of time.

    If you have ever given/received a promise ring, I’m sorry if you just got offended by that statement. If you’ll accept that I do not intend that as a personal attack on you, but rather against a practice that is raising concern for relationships, I hope you’ll hear me out.
If you’re a guy considering giving a girl a promise ring, you need to read this. And if you’re a girl on the verge of getting a promise ring, for the love of all things good and pure in this life PLEASE, READ ON!

Allow me to explain…

    In case you don’t know, a promise ring is a gift that a guy gets a girl which is intended to express his intentions to ask her to marry him “some day.” It is not an engagement ring. Engagement rings ask “Will you marry me?” Promise rings ask, “I’m not ready to ask you if you’ll marry me, but one day I do hope to ask you. Will you wear this ring I got you celebrating this lukewarm occasion?”
Now please consider my credentials – I’ve been in ministry for a decade. I’ve done countless hours of counseling with people who were single, dating, engaged, and married. I’ve performed several weddings. As a former Single Adults Pastor, I saw and heard of these promise rings a lot. And yet I only know of one couple that actually got engaged, and none of the couples I’ve known who have given/received promise rings have ever gotten married (let that sink in real good before you get upset with me, ladies…).

    At best, it’s an engagement to an engagement. At worst, it’s a guy asking for more commitment from a girl than he’s willing to put on the line himself. He’s attempting to get her to say yes to him before he even proposes. He’s also marking his territory for other guys to stay back, while not actually promising the girl anything whatsoever.

If you’re a girl getting offered a promise ring, tell your guy that you like shiny things that actually mean something, and to come back when he means business. If he gets offended, consider leaving your guy to find a real man for yourself.

If you’re a guy dating a woman, instead of wasting your money on a meaningless token, do your man card a favor: Wait. Seriously. Wait until you know you’re ready to make a move and commit yourself to someone for life. No half-way, puppy-love nonsense! Be a man and go all out. Do it right, get the “real deal” ring, take her somewhere special to the two of you. Hit a knee, hold her hand, look her in the eye, tell her you want to spend your whole life loving only her forever, and tell her that you love her. Then drop the four big words she’s been waiting for since she was 4 years old – “Will you marry me?” Make it something worth watching all her friends freakout in excitement as she shows off the rock you got her! Watch her tell them all how you popped the question – for in that moment, you can tell that you did it right… her giddy joy will be unmistakeable.

    Still not convinced? Try explaining “promise ring” to your grandparents. If they look at you kind of stupid, it’s entirely likely that they are not the ones that are out of touch!

    Wow, that’s needed to be said for a long time. If that just made you mad at me, I hope you’ll at least consider this an opinion well worth your consideration. Clearly this is my opinion, and is based solely on an increasingly non-committal American culture, observable everywhere. I hope we’re still friends. 🙂

Blessings,
Pastor John

PS.
I’m certain to get responses criticizing this post! I can accept that. But don’t bother unless you’re actually married… Otherwise, you’re just reinforcing my point.

“The VIRGIN Bachelor”

“The VIRGIN Bachelor”

virgin

That’s what the magazine read on my way through the checkout line at WalMart (yes, WalMart, don’t judge me). Not that I’m racing home to catch Sean Lowe picking through two dozen plus women on national television for The Bachelor, but it’s hard to miss all of the buzz as the season is apparently winding down. The cliff notes of the buzz stirring lately seem to be that Sean, “a devote Christian” has been saving himself for marriage, sexually speaking – something difficult to maintain as a contestant of the show, from what I understand.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that The Bachelor is a suitable show, nor am I advocating getting emotionally (or physically) entangled with multiple people for the sake of millions of viewers’ entertainment. I also am not verifying that this season’s Bachelor is a role-model Christian. I don’t know the guy! However, if he has indeed committed to saving his sexuality for marriage, I certainly support such a commitment.

The rub for me, is that many of the news articles I’ve seen are treating Sean as if he has some disability for being an attractive man in his 20’s that is not sleeping with any number of the potentially willing women on his show. Apparently, now engaged to one of the “contestants,” he still insists on waiting until their wedding to have sex.

I’m tired of the way the media, internet, and movies try to brainwash our culture about our own sexuality. To the point that a man who appears physically healthy is criticized for valuing himself enough to save his sexuality for a commitment (a.k.a. marriage) where it can be freely expressed with a trusted person (a.k.a. his wife). If he isn’t “doing it” there must be a reason, right? Because “normal” people don’t wait until marriage for sex… right?!

Listen up men…

  • Having sex does not make you a “real man”.
  • Choosing to delay your own gratification makes you wise, not weird.
  • Having sex with virtually every willing female does not make you a man – dogs do that.
  • Real men commit to keeping their God-given sexuality for their wife alone.
  • Sex before marriage ruins good relationships and prolongs bad ones. I haven’t seen an exception yet.
  • If you’ve made some mistakes in the past, you can be different from this point forward – your past does not have to define you.

Assuming this season’s Bachelor and his fiance do maintain their sexual boundaries, I am very confident that it will all work out on their wedding night. For all the talk of the need for “sexual compatibility,” our culture forgets that their talking about people, not used cars. I know far more people who slept around that regret it, than those who saved themselves and wished they had not.

Be unique. Save your sex… And find something better than The Bachelor to watch, too! Gees, people…

Blessings,
Pastor John

Single Guy’s Checklist

Single Guy’s Checklist

I gave the ladies a list of things to look for on their quest for the right guy, so it’s only fair that I give the fellas some things as well. Most guys don’t actually have a written list of things they’re looking for in a girl, but the thought is still the same. So here are some things you better pay attention to when it comes to the kind of girl you go after.

  1. Is her love for Christ her first priority? This will affect everything else: purity, time, parenting, loyalty, forgiveness, etc. Ignore this, or make it less than your first criteria, and you’re being foolish.
  2. Am I attracted to her? Why? Let’s not kid… guys, you want to marry someone you are physically attracted to. And some may call that shallow. I say that you better marry someone you are attracted to, otherwise you are making an even bigger opportunity for pornography or even adultery to creep into your marriage. I didn’t say she had to be a super model, or attractive according to cultural standards. She just has to be attractive to you. But past her physical appeal, what else draws you to her? Her laugh? Intelligence? Quick wits? Work ethic? Love of children? Cooking?
  3. Is she desperate for “a” guy? I didn’t mention this as much with the girls mostly because almost no girl will go for a guy who just wants “a” girl. But guys seem to be more willing than girls to go after someone with low self-esteem. The reason is often because we like to be the hero for the damsel in distress. The problem is, you’re human, bro. You’re going to let her down, and you need someone who doesn’t look to you as her Messiah. Refer back to #1.
  4. What is her relationship like with her parents? Different reasons than with the ladies. True, her relationship with her father can almost always predict with near dead-eye accuracy how she will treat you. But girls are also more likely to let their parents have a say in their relationship. See if that’s something she might struggle with. It’s good for her to be tight with her mom, but you don’t want her bashing you to your mother-in-law behind your back after you say “I do.” Talk about and make sure she’s on board with working your problems out together, without mom and dad’s help. If not, you might want to let mom and dad have her!
  5. Can she admit when she’s wrong? Us guys know that we mess up a lot, so for us, we need to make sure that we give sincere apologies, and not just quick ones. But ladies can be stubborn when it becomes their turn to admit fault. I’ve never cared much for women who are more interested in being right than they were in making things right.
  6. Do I ever feel like I want a break from her? Not in the quasi-break up kind of way. I mean more in the way of…. well… I’ll just say it: Do you ever just want to get away from her? I’m surprise at how many dudes say “YES!!!” to this. I’m not saying that you should be with her every minute of the day, but if you get tired of being around her, that’s a major red flag, bro! I’ve been married 7 years, and yes I have time for myself, and there are times when it’s impossible for us to be together, but I can’t think of a time that I wanted Tiffany to be away from me.
  7. Will she follow me?/Can I lead her? If she can’t follow your lead you’re wasting your time. Period. No, Gungor, you don’t need to rule your home like a barbarian with a wife that grovels in your presence. However, you do need a wife that honors you and views you as the leader among two equals in her home. It’s what you’re really looking for anyway. Don’t settle for less.

Blessings,

John

The Questions You Asked… Part 3

The Questions You Asked… Part 3

  1. Question: “Is it ok to ask out a girl who has a boyfriend?” Answer: I don’t have a Bible verse to go with this really… But here’s how I would see it: If she did say yes, and becomes your girlfriend, how much confidence do you have that she won’t leave you when the next guy asks her out? I don’t have a clear right/wrong answer on this, but most things that are “gray” are usually more black than white. Tread carefully…
  2. Question: “Since Adam and Eve were the first humans, where did their sons’ wives come from?” Answer: Don’t be too grossed out, but… their sisters. God allowed it in the beginning for the propagation of the race. Hey! Facts aren’t always fun. Just be glad that you have more options now
  3. Question: “Does God hear the prayers of unbelievers?” Answer: God hears every prayer. The real question is, does He answer? As far as I’m concerned, I’m not entirely sure, though in general, I would elan toward “no.” I answer the needs/desires of my kids, but not usually those of the neighbor’s kid… One prayer is sure that God will listen to: Faith in Christ/Repentance of sin.
  4. Question: “How can I know what my spiritual gift is?” Answer: By refusing to sit still hoping God will speak it to you in a dream or special revelation. I was not a great communicator when I surrender to full time ministry in 8th grade (You should have heard my first message… on second thought, no you shouldn’t!). When you open yourself up to letting God use you, instead of waiting for “something” to happen to you, God shows His will. Faith requires action. Your gifts will always be in the capacity of helping other people grow closer to God. And there are thousands of ways this could look for you. I made a post here on finding God’s will for your life. Hope that helps.
  5. Question: “What does it really mean to have a walk/relationship with Jesus Christ?” Answer: When you stop asking “What can I get away with?” and start asking “How  can I be like Jesus?” you’re getting close. The evidence can be found in how you treat others. I think I’ll give this more attention with it’s own blog post. Thanks for asking a great question that we all need to answer for ourselves!
  6. Question: “What does it mean when a Christian ‘accepts Christ,’ gets baptized, does most of the right stuff, but they never give or serve anywhere? Are they really saved?” Answer: “Faith without works is dead.” What you believe is evidenced by what you do. But I don’t know if anyone is saved… except for me. I don’t know people’s hearts. I can only observe their outward behavior as indicators as to whats inside. In this case, I would suggest that you expand your idea of how gracious God is with His own children. Maybe this person just hasn’t matured to that point yet. If Christ has given them new life, they’ll get there. If they are not saved, then our response is still the same: Love them to Jesus! Let Him change them! I can’t change anyone… neither can you.
  7. Question: “Did dragons/dinosaurs exist after the flood?” Answer: My thought? Yeah… they did. Maybe still do. Several “pre-historic” species (such as certain fish) were believed to long since evolved or died off that have been caught in the wild still. Job, in the Bible, refers to two creatures –Leviathon and Behemoth– that existed post-flood and sound dinosaur-esque. Some have tried to label these two creatures as a hippo/elephant and an alligator. But that just doesn’t fit. They sound like a dinosaur/dragon of some kind. And there is plenty of scientific theory to lend support as to how this may have been possible.
Discerning the Will of God: Part 1

Discerning the Will of God: Part 1

I constantly know of people who are struggling to grasp the will of God. This is such a needed and important subject to talk about that I felt it necessary to split into 2 parts regarding individual choices and your life’s direction. To be sure, I believe the two are intertwined. Yet I’m going to deal with them separately as one feeds into the other.

KNOWING GOD’S WILL IN INDIVIDUAL CHOICES

For example:

  • Which college should I go to?
  • Should I ask out that girl?
  • Do I buy that new car?
  • Should I take this job?
  • Should I look for a new church home?
  • Should I vote for this person or that person?

So here are a few things to consider as you discern God’s will for single choices you make:

  1. What does Scripture say? Too many times we are looking for God to speak to us through some kind of sign, when we haven’t even looked to see what He says in His Word. It has been said that 95% of God’s will regarding choices we make are spelled out in His word. If not directly stated, what principles does the Bible talk about regarding, debt, relationships, influence, putting God first, work ethic, etc…
  2. What are the long-term rewards/consequences? every choice bears intended and unintended consequences. For instance, you may be aware that buying that new car will give you a $350/month car payment, but you didn’t realize until after you bought it, that your insurance would go up another$50/month! Think through the obstacles you’ll have to face, whether intentionally or not.
  3. What are the pro’s and con’s? Not just a list. Weigh each one. Any time I make a list of pro’s and con’s, I weigh the pro’s on a scale of 1 to 10, and the con’s on a scale of -1 to -10. This helps me see more than a long list and short list, but how much do those things actually weigh in my decision making.
  4. Have you prayed about it? Now I saved this one for last because of something that often frustrates me regarding people’s prayer life… There are some things that you just don’t need to pray about. Such as, “Do I wear the brown or black belt?” Who cares? Wear the one that matches! Or, “should I sleep with my girlfriend?” God already spoke in His word concerning that, you don’t need to pray about it. But when you have a major decision, yes, you should spend some time praying about it. How much time? That depends on the decision. You may need to spend several days praying about it… and fasting. More on fasting later, though.
  5. What do the people I trust think? Outside of my wife (which should be obvious), I have a handful of people that I go to when making a big choice. Not so that they can tell me what to do, but so that I gain their perspective. We have a saying on our staff when it comes to collaborative thought: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” The people I go to often help me see things that I had not thought about… or that I was trying to ignore. But I’m still responsible for my decision.

I’ll come back later with a slightly different take on the subject of finding God’s will for your life. Til then…

Blessings,

John