Family, Fortitude, Personal Development

Who's in Charge of Your Marriage?

When men fail to love their wives because of what they perceive to be a lack of responsiveness, they are allowing themselves to be controlled by the behavior of their wives. In fact, I find that these two things are occurring when this transpires:

1. The man is waiting for permission from his wife to be the man he vowed to be.

When a man bases his love on the behavior of his wife, he is not in control. Whether he realizes it or not, he is being controlled by her negativity not by his conscience, his commitment to the marriage vows, or his God. His is committing the mistake of allowing her behavior to dictate his actions.

This is a classic mistake that spouses make in a troubled marriage. In a sense, they are allowing the dysfunction of their spouse to become the true god of their actions (Romans 6:16), and this is always a problem in that no individual or couple will ever rise higher than the true master of their marriage. We deal with this in chapter 3 of our marriage book.

2. The man becomes a walking contradiction.

What most give off that they are the most is what they are the least.

Bank tellers will tell you that the person with lots of bling and the shiniest car is usually poorer in relation to the man with an old truck and overalls.

The teenager that has to walk with a strut and talk a big game typically has the least confidence. It is the young man that finds but little need to let everyone know how confident he is that is truly over abounding with confidence. (Proverbs 17:27)

In the same way, the man that runs from his obligation to serve his wife yet becomes bitter about her negative responses will often tout how he could care less what she does. But, it should be noted that the man that has to tell everyone how little he cares is usually showing how much he cares. If he did not care, then why does he feel a need to verbalize his disgust.

Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34). I know people say that you cannot know someone’s heart, but Jesus teaches otherwise. We typically know what is in someone’s heart by their words as they are heart indicators.

Love Because it is Right

Though I am the first to admit that there are some women that are dissatisfied no matter how much love they receive, men will be wise to love their wives because it is right rather than because it produces the result they desire. In fact, when a man refrains from loving his wife because of her lack of responsiveness he is showing that he is simply a conditional lover.

Conditional Love is Not Love

To say that someone is a conditional lover is oxymoronic. That is, a conditional lover is not a true lover. He or she is merely one that has mastered having good behavior in order to receive a desired result. This is not love as much as a deceptive form of love which is no love at all. (I Corinthians 13:5)

True Repentance

Many men will do well to remember that true repentance is taking total responsibility for the state of their actions and the repercussions of those actions. I have found that men do not even begin to prosper until they stop blaming their wives for their negative behavior and focus more on the lack of love that has caused the lack of good feeling in their wives.

If I neglected to change the oil in my car, I have nobody to blame but myself. I can ignore the warning light, argue with it, or take full responsibility. In the same way, many husbands will do well to accept total responsibility for the state of their marriage and their home and return to their first works.

Man Up

I am finding many men that are balking at taking full responsibility for the state of their marriage. Though I am aware that some women will reject the love of even the best of men, this is more of an exception rather than a rule.

Behind every bitter woman is a man that failed somewhere. That man may be a father, ex-husband, old boyfriend, or current husband. But, mark it down, somewhere out there, a man lacked the strength or the wisdom to pull her outside of herself in a loving way.

I am a firm believer that the lack of responsiveness that we have today from the wives in our society is a reaction rather than a mere action. It is a reaction to the lack of masculinity in our families.

The Demasculinization of America is a Faulty Premise

I say that nobody, including our wives, took it away. We gave it up. Take responsibility for your actions and the negative repercussions of those actions. Do what the scriptures say and “be men of courage.” (I Samuel 4:9 and I Corinthians 16:13)

I often hear people talk about the demasculinization of America. However, as of late, I have been swaying away from using this term. This is because if someone can take away my manhood, then I was not much of a man from the start. In other words, is someone taking away our manhood as a society or are we as men giving it up by walking contrary to the scriptures?

About the Author: Dr. Raymond Force currently serves as a pastor of the Crossroads Bible Church in Ocala, FL. Having served in a number of churches throughout his ministry, Dr. Force pulls from his experience as a pastor and a youth pastor to help others to overcome difficulties in their lives and relationships. Dr. Force has been married over twenty years and he is a father of seven beautiful children. Hitting Home is a family owned and operated ministry that enjoys working together for God’s glory.

Family

You Always Bite The One You Love

By Dr. James Dobson

Isn’t it curious how in the midst of a nasty family argument we can shake out of the bad mood the instant the telephone rings or a neighbor knocks on the door?

Sometimes those we love are treated the worst, and kids are quick to notice this hypocrisy. Have you ever been brought up short by a small voice questioning this sudden turn to kindness after twenty minutes of fire and brimstone?

The late Mark Hatfield, a longtime senator from Oregon and the father of four kids, said his wife stung him once by saying, “I just wish you were as patient with your children as you are with your constituents.”

He isn’t alone. We’re all guilty at times of what I call “split vision,” treating certain people with forbearance while heaping contempt on others under our own roof. We assume the worst; we pounce on every shortcoming. We never miss an opportunity to deliver a corrective harangue. And in the process, we wound the people we care about the most.

Isn’t it time to cut one another a little slack at home? If, in fact, we love our spouses and our children and our parents as much as we say we do, one way to show it is to give them the kind words we bestow on our casual acquaintances.

faith, Family

How To Feel Differently About Your Spouse

Feelings have no engine of their own.  In most cases, they are pulled around by thoughts and actions. Therefore, if you are going to see a change in the way you feel about your spouse, then, first of all, you will have to change the way you are treating them.  This is why I often say, “Never expect to feel any different about your marriage unless you are willing to do something different.”

I have come across many a spouse that seems to be waiting for their feelings to mysteriously change before they start treating their mate in a different manner. The only problem is that they are waiting for something that does not exist.

The Proverbs 16:3 Principle

Proverbs 16:3 gives us some insight on this subject. It says:

“Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”

If you will notice, God’s Words tells us that the external can positively affect the internal. In other words, Proverbs is teaching us that in that in order to move the inside, sometimes, the outside must be the first to change.

Imagine if I obtained a train car, painted the word feelings on it, and set it all by itself on the tracks. Let us also go a little further and assume that it is hundreds of miles away from where I would want it to travel.

First off, this train car may describe some of you in that your feelings for your spouse may be far away from where they once were at another time in your marriage.

Secondly, the train car may also portray how you feel in that you sense that you are all alone and emotionally stuck.

Getting the Train Car Called Feelings to Move

The question is how are we going to get that train car to move in a positive direction? We could sit back and wait for it to move on its own accord, yet I am sure that would accomplish little. We could have long conversations about possible solutions, but that would also be to no avail.

Ultimately, the only plausible way for forward progress to begin is to hook an engine to that train car and proceed down the tracks.

In like manner, husbands and wives that are seeing very little movement in their feelings toward one another must find a similar engine. I call it an engine called action. Once this occurs, it is almost always just a matter of time before they start to feel differently toward their spouse. 

There’s always Something You Can Do

I certainly understand that there are people with chemical imbalances, hormonal problems, or physiological issues that may throw their feelings off. I am fully aware of such cases. I also understand that there are heart issues such as hurt, unforgiveness, and bitterness that take time to heal. Nevertheless, I have found that even in the most difficult of cases, there is always some way to start showing kindness in a tangible way so that a spouse can eventually start to feel differently about their marriage. It is not only a Biblical step, but I have also found it to be extremely effective.

Credit to Dr. Raymond Force of Hitting Home Ministries for the content of this article.

faith, Fortitude, Personal Development

My 2019 Book List

It’s that time of year again. The annual book list and review. You know I enjoy reading. I prefer to read to learn something versus reading for entertainment. I’m always on the lookout for a solid read from a respected author. I’m not one to plow through a book a week because some of what I read needs to be taken in small portions so I can digest it. See what I did there with the play on words?

So here is what I read in 2019 with a few notes about each one. I’m not saying you MUST read everything that I read, but if you are in the market for quality content to nourish your mind and soul, these have been impactful to me. And if you missed my book list from 2018, you can find it here.

By the way, if you have a book you think I’d like to read, please let me know.

Eyes Wide Open – Steve DeWitt

It is our nature to quickly judge literally everything as good or bad. We tend to see everything through our own lens of perspective and experience. This book suggests we open our eyes to God’s perspective and see things as he does. To see people as he does. To see nature, art, and science as he does. DeWitt has a clever writing style that challenges our perspective on this beautiful world around us.

31 Prayers for My Wife – Aaron & Jennifer Smith

This is a devotional style book that helps to focus my prayers. It’s a nice resource to keep bedside or wherever you normally conduct your business with the Lord. You can learn some things your wife struggles with that she may never say. Praying specifically for your wife will bless you both. FYI there is also a book for wives to pray specifically for their husbands by the same authors.

The Cross Centered Life – CJ Mahaney

This book is a treasure worth reading regularly. In college I learned this principle: “Major in the majors and minor in the minors.” It means to focus my energy and attention on the central, important, main things in life and faith and not fuss to much over the little things. Keeping the cross of Jesus Christ at the center of my life and faith is liberating. Doing so helps me avoid my common pitfalls of performance based, legalistic behavior. This is a book for every Christian.

21 irrefutable laws of leadership – John Maxwell

Among the bestselling leadership books ever written, this one is a must read for those who lead others, or aspire to do so. It’s practical, easy to read, and has interesting illustrations to make the principles come alive.

Total Truth – Nancy Pearcey

Oh my goodness, this book is heavy. Literally and figuratively. It is several hundred pages in hardback weighing five pounds and the content can only be absorbed in small doses because it is so rich and deep. Pearcey distills a lifetime of research through all of human history to break down the existence, reality, and reasonableness of truth. It’s quite academic and she even admits so saying there is a caution to the reader to not leave this study with mere information about truth, but to live it out in the way we believe and behave.

Convictions – Vince Miller

Here is a shorter book aimed at men who wrestle with the age old issue of knowing what you should do, but not doing it and doing what you know you shouldn’t do. How do we manage this ceaseless struggle and be the man we were made to be? Read this book to get unstuck from feeling convicted and live with conviction.

The Mysterious Island – Jules Verne

An old school classic adventure story. My teenage son read it first and thought I’d like it. He was right. This is a great story. Island castaways surviving with minimal supplies and their clever wits. The detail spun in Verne’s narrative puts you in the middle of the action on every page. You feel like you are on the island with them, feeling every emotion and sensation. Spectacular writing.

Surprised By Joy – CS Lewis

Author of many excellent works including The Chronicle’s of Narnia and Mere Christianity, Surprised By Joy is the story of Lewis’s early life. Witty, fascinating, and pretty deep sometimes. His journey to faith from atheism is pretty interesting. And his childhood is quite odd. I won’t spoil it, but it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of Lewis.

Reflections on the Psalms – Lewis

Here Lewis digs into the meaning behind the ancient poetry of the Psalms in the Bible. He writes his observations as I imagine he would write in his own personal journal; a bit raw and conversational with humor sprinkled in. Some of his analogies are hysterical. This book makes a pretty good study guide for those interested in a deep dive into the Psalms.

The Four Loves – Lewis

I have all 3 of these CS Lewis classics in one volume. It took a few months to get through all of it. This book is a through study on the four types of love humanity experiences; affection, friendship, Eros, and charity. He challenges us to work on all forms of love in our own lives and reasons how each form helps to explain God and draws us closer to him.

Kingdom Marriage – Tony Evans

If your marriage is awesome, I recommend reading this book. If your marriage could use a tune up, read this book. If your marriage is struggling, read this book. OK, if you are married, read this book. It’s that good. Tony Evans breaks down marriage in simple terms with stories and illustrations everyone can relate to. He pulls no punches, telling it like it is and just how we need to hear it. No psychology mumbo-jumbo, no fluff, no super spiritual rules or condemnation. This book will challenge your thinking about yourself and how you view marriage and its purpose in your life.

Sein Language – Jerry Seinfeld

A silly reprieve from the learning books I like to read. I received this book as a birthday gift in college. It’s a collection of Seinfeld’s early material, much of which you might recall from his TV show. It’s funny, clean, and super-fast to read. His observations on the everyday are hilarious.

He Loves Me – Wayne Jacobsen

The depth of God’s love for me (and you) knows no bounds. We will spend a lifetime to understand it and still not be able to grasp it all. God’s love is unconditional which is hard to fathom. How can someone love me perfectly and fully regardless of my past, my mistakes, failures, fears, and annoying quirks? Well God does, and his love compels us to seek him more, trust him more and love him in return. This book dives deep into the relationship God desires us to have with him, explaining plainly the beauty, wonder, and benefits of receiving God’s gift to us. This is not a hard read, but I marked up the book thoroughly to highlight insights in every chapter that I can quickly refer back to. This is encouragement for your weary soul. I offer my highest recommendation to any who just want to be loved and live loved.

faith, Family

Love Women | Letters To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:27

“Marriage is a lot of give and take. You take a lot, and you give a lot.”

—Verna Mae Baker

Son, It Seems The Times Are A-Changin’

We live in a time in our culture where it appears men and women compete with each other. In this battle for equality and preserving the masculine and feminine identity, it seems there is an attack on old customs. Former “gentlemanly traditions” are now brought into question as if their motivation was to force women to become our subjects in the home, marriage, marketplace, and the church. While this could long be debated, including the underlying motivations and resultant issues, it’s had an impact on what it means to be a man and how to best cherish and honor women. I would say it has made relationships more tricky to navigate. Some men are skittish, and others ignore it—but the world is not skittish and refuse to ignore it. Popular media throws out words that even I have to look up—like “misogyny” and “misandry.” Colleges now subject incoming students to pronouns about gender and sexual identity that inherently have a double meaning—like “cisgender.” And I wonder if this is creating more clarity for anyone, or just adding to the confusion. On our quest for understanding, could we be frustrating ourselves?

Maybe this is partly our fault as men. The unintended consequences of not living out the character of Christ might be catching up with us. Our misuse of power, objectification of beauty, locker-room lingo, misunderstanding of submission, and poor treatment might have created the perfect storm in our time. The sad part is that it calls into question all that was good about gentlemen behaviors like provision, protection, roles, and manners that had long-standing masculine charm. Our culture is trying at hyperspeed to redefine masculinity, but this does not change God’s plan for manhood.

So how can we best love the women of our life?

Eight Principles For Female Relationships

One | Be A Strong Gentlemen

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”—1 Peter 3:7

Everyone gets tripped up by the “weaker vessel” part of this verse, yet why wouldn’t every woman want a strong man? But “strong” does not infer that we should use power to demand the submission of others. It means to steward our strength to “lift a heavy box” responsibly and with the understanding, we do have some common ground with women—a grace that redeems us both. Balancing this is a delicate art. Sincerely strong men know they possess a “power,” whatever that power may be, and manage it with care toward others. This is God’s obligation before us. Being strong is to know our strength and then practice it in a way that brings beauty to those who possess a different strength. I believe this is what it means to be a “gentle” man. And I want you to be this man—unashamed of your strength but not shaming others with it—especially women.

Do this:

  • Hold the door for a woman.
  • Give a thoughtful gift to a woman.
  • Wait until marriage to have sex.
  • Respect your mother or any older woman.
  • Put Godly boundaries on your interaction with women.
  • Kiss her respectfully.
  • Protect her dignity with other men.
  • Mind your manners around all women.
  • Defend and embellish women.
  • Don’t put yourself in a compromising position with a woman.

Two | Connect Emotionally With Women

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”—Colossians 3:19

One thing I failed to learn before marriage was how to connect emotionally. Due to the emotional damage in my life, I was unable to discover that emotional connection was critical in marriage, relationships, and leadership. Emotional connection is a part of life, and it requires honesty, openness, and transparency. If you want a great relationship with women and marriage, then you are going to have to learn how to connect with women emotionally. This means sharing your heart with them about the things you are experiencing, not just talking about the facts, your opinions, or being ready with the next best joke.

“Harsh” men, as Paul references above, have failed to learn to connect emotionally. Contrary to popular belief, anger is not the only emotion we have as men. Many men never learn this. Angry men have not learned or been taught the strength and power of real honest, open, and transparent sharing. They have not learned to identify and address their wounds, and thus, in fits of anger express this confusion. And when we are “harsh” with women, we end up treating women as submissive subjects rather than loving them the way God would love them.

Emotional connection is vital in a relationship with women, raising children, and leading people. “Emotional Intelligence,” terminology Daniel Coleman popularized, is the ability to understand self enough that we can connect healthily with others. But this is not to be reduced to a leadership tactic—it’s an emotional ability of mature men. Women have an intuitive sense in this area and know when we are not making an emotional connection with them. And emotional connection begins with us connecting and getting real with how we feel—angry, disgusted, fearful, happy, or sad.

Do this:

  • Listen to how she is feeling.
  • Share with her how someone made you feel.
  • Listen to her struggles.
  • Share a struggle you are trying to overcome.
  • When you are confused, confess it and ask her for advice or wisdom.
  • Share something new you learned and why this was important to you.

Three | Let The Creator Determine Manhood and Womanhood

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”—Genesis 1:27

God is the Creator. We are not. He does not remain neutral on the fact that men and women are unique and beautiful and yet both made in his image. But the world is going to have a lot to say about men and women. In college, your professors and friends will have lots to say. The world will even try to define it for you. But don’t listen to the creation on Creator issues. Marketing, movements, and sensationalism cannot redefine what God has already established. It has been tried repeatedly. When you want the best answer, go to the Creator, not creation—their opinions and ideas don’t matter. The designer, in this case, is God. He has the best purpose, plan, and payoff. And the significant part is that he has given us the best model—Jesus Christ.

Remember:

  • God has the best plan for man.
  • God has the best plan for women.
  • God has the best plan for marriage.
  • God has the best plan for a family.
  • God is the truth; when you have questions, go to the truth.

Four | Learn How To Love & Sacrifice For Women

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”—Ephesians 5:25

My grandmother used to say, “Marriage is a lot of give and take. You take a lot, and you give a lot.” And her point is well taken. Nothing is more humbling than discovering there is no end to the need to cherish and sacrifice. There is no line, no boundary, and no limit. We take and give endlessly. But personally absorbing and acting in the beauty in this is difficult. Women are not perfect. Men are not perfect. But we can love and sacrifice in lieu of this and see perfection through it.

In those moments, I am most challenged by my wife, I still think to myself about the high responsibility I have to love and sacrifice for her. Sometimes my selfish nature says, “again?” But in the years we have been married, I have continued to fight off this broken logic. I have discovered I do still love her underneath it all—we are merely having one of our moments.

You too will have these moments—moments of deep frustration. This is sometimes a communication issue and sometimes just part of the challenge of relationships. Don’t be quick to think it’s just a woman thing. It’s a human thing. People are sinful and broken—men and women. Due to this, you are going to have to love and sacrifice in spite of the challenges. Jesus did the same. He loved and sacrificed for a people who did not love him, and he did it anyway—so should you. And this is the point of this text. Learn to love and sacrifice—anyway.

Do this:

  • As a man, love a little longer than the moment.
  • As a man, love when you don’t want to.
  • As a man, love a little longer when people tell you not to.
  • As a man, sacrifice till it hurts and discovers real love.
  • And look for a woman who will do the same.

Five | Seek A Covenant Not A Contract

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”—Genesis 2:24

Oneness is a great mystery. God wants us to enjoy it live in it. He wants us to find someone with whom you will spend the rest of your life with whom you will share sexually, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

All I know is that we can corrupt this oneness. We have the opportunity to take and steal from this oneness even before marriage by separating them from a covenantal relationship. Don’t make this mistake. God’s covenant of marriage is not something to adulterize. Many do this thinking they will be fine, and they are not.

Many people hold a “contractional” or “transactional” view of marriage. Don’t keep this view. If it’s contractional, then it’s meant to be broken. If it’s transactional then determining your half of the contribution will lead to much debate. But understand marriage as “covenantal,” and then you will take it much more seriously—because there is a third person involved in the covenant—God. And it is God who created us for a relationship, a forever commitment when the time comes. Look for a woman who wants this kind of commitment with you and God.

Do this:

  • Identify marriages that you admire and pray for them.
  • Identify characteristics in women that you want and pray for them.
  • Identify characteristic in men that you want and pray for them.

Six | Avoid Immorality

“Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?”—Proverbs 5:20

Yeah, this is one of those points that never gets old. It’s a timeless truth. Don’t treat women this way, and don’t treat yourself this way. What more needs to be said?

Don’t do this:

  • View pornography or undress women with your mind.
  • Joke sexually about women even with others, it’s not funny.
  • Endorse the objectification of women by giving your money to entities that do.
  • Don’t support others who do any of the above.
  • Don’t be alone with an untrustworthy woman.

Seven | Find A Woman Who Cares About You & God

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”—Proverbs 31:10-12

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”—Proverbs 18:22

Your mom has made me a better man. Women often see us as their favorite project. And while some think this could be interpreted as overstepping and positionally arrogant—honestly, I want to be better. Daily I am challenged by her to be better, push harder, do more, serve further, love more, be more open, become more romantic. While once I used to see this as a drawback, I now view it as an advantage I have. So look for someone who will make you better—a better man, husband, father, and leader. And someone for who you can do the same.

And nothing is more important than finding someone who not only makes you better but loves God even more than you. Someone who puts Him first. A woman who is wholly subject to God. Who wants to grow in character and virtue with Him and then you. Find this woman. Settle for nothing less. I am blessed to have found it. And only now I realize that it is the great “coincidence” of my life. And why would I suggest this? Because a woman who honors God will always honor you. It sounds a little selfish, but it’s wisdom to be trusted.

Do this:

  • Pray for a woman who loves you just the way you are.
  • Pray for a woman who enjoys you—your style, humor, personality, and values.
  • Pray for a woman who loves God.
  • Pray for a woman who makes you better.

Eight | Be The Right Man & You’ll Find The Right Woman

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”—1 Corinthians 16:13

Often, men and women date, hook up, or even get married because they are missing something in their lives and believe that one of these things will fill that void. While there is much to be said here, many fail to remember that Jesus is the relationship who completes us regardless of our married state. If you cannot come to a place of contentment, joy, and understanding your identity in your singleness, you will not find this in marriage. In fact, if you cannot find it now, it might complicate it further to be in a relationship or get married. Your identity is not found in a relationship or marriage because neither of these relational states takes the place of one’s identity in Christ—it only compliments it. You are a complete person in Christ, dating, married, or not. Regardless of popular opinion, your spouse will not “complete you,” Jesus is the only one that does. So be secure in who you are in Christ. Act like a man, the man that God made you be.

Do this:

  • Groom yourself.
  • Smell good.
  • Act in Godly character daily.
  • Seek a career path.
  • Work hard and play hard.
  • Have fun but don’t overdo it.

Love you, son. Dad.

After serving in notable ministry organizations for over 25 years (including Young Life, InterVarsity, TCU Football, and Eagle Brook Church), Vince founded Resolute, a non-profit organization focused on providing men with tools for discipleship and mentorship. He’s written 13 books and handbooks, along with small group videos that are resources for mentorship. He also produces THE MEN’S DAILY DEVO and the MAN TALK PODCAST. His latest book is a devotional and mentoring guide for men called THIRTY VIRTUES THAT BUILD A MAN.