Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King Jr.
Six Steps for Resolving
Conflict in Marriage
By Dennis Rainey
There is no way to avoid conflict in your marriage.
The question is: How will you deal with it?
Few couples like to admit it, but conflict is common to all marriages. We have had our share of conflict and some of our disagreements have not been pretty. We could probably write a book on what not to do!
Start with two selfish people with different backgrounds and personalities. Now add some bad habits and interesting idiosyncrasies, throw in a bunch of expectations, and then turn up the heat a little with the daily trials of life. Guess what? You are bound to have conflict. It’s unavoidable.
Since every marriage has its tensions, it isn’t a question of avoiding them but ofhow you deal with them. Conflict can lead to a process that develops oneness or isolation. You and your spouse must choose how you will act when conflict occurs.
Step One: Resolving conflict requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to your differences.
One reason we have conflict in marriage is that opposites attract. Usually a task-oriented individual marries someone who is more people-oriented. People who move through life at breakneck speed seem to end up with spouses who are slower-paced. It’s strange, but that’s part of the reason why you married who you did. Your spouse added a variety, spice, and difference to your life that it didn’t have before.
praying without ceasing;
in everything give thanks;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of thankfulness. Often when I thank God for all the blessings in my life, I have also thanked Him for what He has not given me or allowed in my life. Have you ever prayed like this?
Okaaay, I can hear most of you saying. The rest are thinking, wait … what? are you serious?
Yes, I am very serious. I thank God for things I don’t have, that He has not allowed in my life. I’m not just talking about more serious illnesses than those I live with every day or cataclysmic events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. I’m referring to things like more money, maybe more (and more stylish) clothes or a bigger house. How about straight hair instead of the naturally curly mop I was born with? Or writing talent so spectacular that publishers come after me instead of the other way around?
It seems to me that the more we want, well… the more we want, like some vicious cycle. Contentment with what we have now is admittedly difficult because human nature always yearns for more. And yet, I’m wondering if allowing ourselves to feel this kind of contentment will result in that inner peace that is so illusive.
And isn’t that something to be utterly thankful for?
Peace, mercy and love be yours in abundance. —Jude 1:2
Peace. Mercy. Love. These are what can be ours in abundance. And from personal experience, reminding myself that I have these things usually leads to my feeling happy and contented with what I have in the here and now.
Beloved, how about you? Have you learned to be thankful for certain things you do not have?
I first published this here on February 14, 2014. And here it is again because I believe it is so appropriate for this day that’s all about love.
The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about love … God’s immense love … for us.
The Dimensions of God’s Love
We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19
We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.
When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.
That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can “hug” the whole world. And I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture:
He loved us “even when we were dead in transgressions.” What a truly astonishing thing!
Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!
I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that:
“…to all who received him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God.
The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.
We read in Romans that:
…God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we now have been justified by his blood,
how much more shall we be saved
from God’s wrath through him!
For if, when we were God’s enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!
The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.
We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.
Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.
I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven:
And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
There is no way we could ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”
I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.
The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.
There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.
No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.
Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:
- recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
- believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
- acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
- and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.
Paul related this aspect to Timothy:
But for that very reason
I was shown mercy so that
in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience
as an example for those
who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
—1 Timothy 1:16
His “unlimited patience.” How I love those words! They remind me that even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and myself—God never loses patience with me. His patience is eternal!
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17
Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves! How amazing is that?
The Marriage Triangle
by Anna Popescu
Does the title of this column seem a bit risqué? Well, it could be but read on to find out what it’s really all about.
Marriage is a very strong yet fragile bond. That makes it somewhat of a paradox. I’m guessing all husbands and wives enter into marriage with the intent of staying true to their vows, but eventually real life breaks in. What started out as a strong union can begin to unravel, and that’s when it becomes fragile.
Many couples manage to stay married for many years. Barbara and George H. W. Bush recently celebrated 70 years together. It is obvious that their marriage has stayed strong in spite of the inevitable rough patches we all go through.How did they—and how do countless other couples—stay true to their vows?
I have been married twice. My first marriage lasted 23 years and I have two very wonderful children from that marriage. The marriage ended because my ex-husband no longer wanted me in his life. However, in retrospect, that was not really why we divorced. We had a long history of reacting badly to each other.
Let me explain. When one of us had an issue with the other, we did try to talk it out but more often ended up yelling at each other. That kept us at an impasse, and all those impasses accumulated into one big boatload. Oh, we gave the appearance that all was well with us as a couple, but the reality in our home was something else altogether.
I had given my life and my heart to Jesus Christ about 10 years after we were married, but I allowed myself to backslide for many years for reasons best left unsaid here. The huge turning point in my life happened after I was divorced. Almost 18 years after being saved, I finally returned to the Lord, rededicated my life to Jesus Christ, made my public testimony and was baptized. This changed everything for me, and I vowed that I would always live for Jesus.
A few years after that, I met Rick, and we were married in a special covenant ceremony at the home of a very dear friend. Those are my children, Alan and Kathy, in this photo taken at our wedding. We recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and are still going strong in spite of some circumstances we never would have predicted. You can read the story of how we met online here.
Here are some excerpts about covenants and the covenant marriage ceremony at preceptaustin.org1, one of my favorite sites:
♥ Covenant as defined by the Scriptures is a solemn and binding relationship which is meant to last a life time.
♥ In ancient times, covenant was the most solemn and binding agreement into which two parties could enter.
♥ In the Covenant of Marriage remember the following truths…
- Two lives become one. In covenant, you become identified with the other individual, and there is a supernatural commingling of two lives.
- There is a sign to remember which serves as a witness and a memorial. When you enter a covenant with your beloved, the sign is usually a ring which serves as a constant reminder (memorial) of the solemn and binding marriage covenant.
- There is a change in name. As the wife takes on her husband’s name, this change symbolizes the supernatural identity and oneness God intended for the partners who had entered the marriage covenant.
- There is a meal shared. Biblical covenants were often commemorated with a “covenant meal.” [Husbands and wives] will celebrate your new covenant relationship by feeding each other wedding cake which is a picture that you are now sharing a common life, that two lives have become one.
- There is a friend who will stick closer than a brother. Friend is a covenant term and is beautifully seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. “… and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
- There are witnesses to testify. In the Old Testament, the solemnity of a “cutting covenant” was often witnessed by setting up a memorial or sign. “So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar” (Genesis 31:44-45).
- There is a covenant partner to defend. Webster’s definition of the verb to defend = to protect a person from harm or danger. To keep safe from attack. To cover. To shield. To safeguard. To shelter. To support someone in the face of an onslaught of criticism (how often do we criticize our covenant partner rather than lovingly defending them from criticism?).
We’ll explore each of these items in more detail in the future.
One of the things that Rick and I talked about during our courtship is crucial to our commitment to stay married no matter what. Rick had never been married before and would say, “I am only going to be married once.” Since I had previously been married, I would reply, “I am only going to be married once more.”
So Rick and I started out with the right foundation, but still butted heads from time to time as all married couples do. We would fall back on the illustration of the orange given to us by our premarital counseling pastor. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (versus cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way the husband and wife work together within a marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone.
Rick and I love the example of the orange, and have remembered that image many times. We have a great marriage but we are no different than countless other married couples. We still sometimes struggle with some silly, sometimes stupid, ridiculous things that can build up to cause a heated discussion or argument. The single greatest thing we have learned is that to have the best marriage possible, we need to remember that we are each at the bottom corners of a very special triangle in which Jesus is at the top. We call this The Marriage Triangle.
It is very easy to get into a fiery argument by focusing on our own selves and our own agenda. We’ve all done this. We get so involved in what we’re trying to communicate to our spouse (maybe very loudly?) that we forget what brought us together in the first place.
The triangle image above is a great way to show that husbands and wives are to keep their eyes focused on Jesus rather than just on each other. What happens because of that is the more time we each spend focusing on Jesus and His will and plan for both of us, the better and closer our relationship with Jesus will become. And the closer we walk with Jesus, the closer we get to each other.
Rick and I know this to be true in our marriage, and are absolutely thankful for this truth. It has also helped defuse many an argument when we stop to consider that Jesus is watching and listening to every single word that pours out of our angry, frustrated mouths. And even when we forget to look up to Jesus, it is only because we have become closer to Him that we still remember—most times—to stop and take a break. There is a lot of praying and thinking that goes on during that break, and we always come back together by asking forgiveness for speaking so carelessly. After that we are able to calmly continue the discussion until we’ve figured things out.
Beloved, God wants us to live in a harmonious marriage. He created marriage to be a man and a woman. He knows everything, so He also realizes that the inevitable problems will arise. However, He has provided us with ways to help our marriages become stronger in spite of the hurdles or difficulties.
That’s what this column will be all about, and I’m looking forward to writing about the ways in which God can help all of our marriages become even better!
“The first secret to loving others is to immerse yourself in a love relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—and abide there.” —Anne Graham Lotz
1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage
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When I rededicated my life to Jesus and was baptized back in 1995, I was still a baby Christian. I spent lots of time reading my Bible, but to help memorize Scripture verses, my wonderful friend Donna gave me several audio tapes containing songs set to actual Bible verses. Oh, did I ever love singing along to these songs, and to this day when I read certain Bible passages, the songs I learned back then immediately start playing in my head.
I was researching passages about JOY recently, and my eyes zeroed in on Psalm 90, verse 14:
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
I suddenly remembered a song I had memorized from one of those tapes, so I did some online research and actually found it on youtube:
Granted, the entire song is comprised of only the words of this Scripture verse, but that is exactly what helped me memorize it so well.
I found those audio tapes today (yes, I still have them!) and since I also still own a cassette player, I am going to start playing these again to refresh my memory. Call me a dinosaur for holding on to these old things, but why should I buy the CD or MP3 version of these if I already have them in an older format that still works perfectly?
Beloved, how about you? Have you ever used music to help memorize Bible verses? Share your experiences with us below.