What is More Important? Actions or the Desires that Drive Them?

What is More Important? Actions or the Desires that Drive Them?

frustrated manIt is 11:59 PM. You’re exhausted. But the conversation with your teenager (or spouse) has now drug on for 48 harried minutes. Despite your generous investment of time and attention, it is clear that the issue on the table is about as clear as a London fog.

We know that these conversations are an inevitable part of life in a fallen world. It is easy to grow weary of them and tune out or avoid them altogether. But they can be part of good relationship development. We learn a lot about others and most especially—ourselves—through them.

Wouldn’t it be nice to figure out a way to burn through the fog? Refocusing our attention on the cause of the issue or conflict (whichever) that lies beneath these conversations can help reduce the duration and frequency of these conversations so that they are more redemptive. Here’s how.

To begin, there is no formula. I apologize if you thought I was going to give you one! (Faith is not a formula but it doesn’t stop us from hedonistically searching for formulas, does it?) What I’m going to share with you is something more fundamental that cannot be replaced with a mere on-demand formula although it can also be helpful in the moment.

Desires Drive Life

The issues of our lives—that cause conflicts and those squirrely conversations!—are the passions, or desires that are idolatrous and rule our hearts. Luke 6:55 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

“Evil treasure” can also be described as deceitful desire or evil desires as we see in Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:5 (respectively). “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.” “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry.”

Desires Can Become Demands

Most desires are not inherently sinful but become idolatrous when they depend on something or someone other than God for fulfillment. For example, a desire for the delicious taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream is not a bad thing in itself. But what happens if you go to the store and they are out—or worse, they don’t have green mint chocolate chip but only the white kind? Do you get angry about it? Getting angry is a sign that the desire has indeed become idolatrous.  Another example could be a desire for a secure future. You have diligently saved and invested wisely. But there’s a market correction and your portfolio loses 40% of its value. How do you respond? Ultimately, our response reveals where our trust really is. If it is really in the portfolio then fear and anxiety will overcome us. If however it is really looking to God, then amid the conflicting emotions will emerge obedient rest in God despite the loss.

The issues of life are fundamentally desire-driven. This represents a challenge for us, especially as parents. Are we merely training our children to “do what is right?” Or, are we getting to the real heart of the issue which is the often stealthy desires that have driven those actions? Actions are merely the flower, the desires are the root. Based on how we parent, would our kids say that doing the right thing is more important than doing it for the right reason?

If desires are the problem, then what are doing about them? First, desires are always directing us. They never rest. Perhaps putting it that way is enlightening? If desires are always at work, then it is appropriate to discuss them at any time. We rarely evaluate ourselves or discuss desires with others this intently. The second thing we can do then is to get into the habit of discussing desires.

Talk More About Desires

One day a few weeks ago, I took one of my teenage sons on some errands. Actually, now that I think about it, it was—his—errand! Anyway, he was talking quite passionately about a particular interest of his. (If my van were electric, I could have plugged him into the engine and saved a lot of gas.) At the end of what was at least an 8-minute monolog, I simply said, “WOW. You have strong desires!” Then we had a good discussion about desires. Nothing my son said that day was sinful. He did nothing wrong. But in the moment, the opportunity presented itself simply to draw attention to this fact.

It is good that—especially in normal, non-confrontational conversation—that we talk about our desires so that we can begin to be more attentive to their presence, identify them, and connect them to our behavior more readily. In normal and stressed conversations asking the question, “Why?” is a great tool that allows you to cut through the fog and reach the desire level.

Dealing With Actions on the Desire Level Provides Hope

Talking about desires prepares us to be able to deal more effectively with those issues especially when they come up at midnight and you are not in the mood for a 48 minute game of mental hopscotch. This is not hard to understand. However, the things that are simple to understand can sometimes be the hardest to do because they require intentionality and usually more of our time. But we must remember that our investiture pays off because this is what God has said is our core problem. Addressing the core problem as God defines it gives us tremendous hope that better days are ahead and confidence that we, in all of our weakness, can be God’s instruments in each other’s lives!

Life Is War

Life Is War

It was one of those conversations where Leslee and I could not seem to understand each other. Though calm, things were not going swimmingly. When she said the sky was purple, I responded that the moon was made of cheese. (At least it seemed that way).

We were trying to dig our way out of a quarry of boulders including why Leslee can’t sleep between 1 am and 3 am, what to do next about two children’s health struggles, menu planning, time to shop for groceries, whether or not one of our boys should play flag football in the spring or play soccer with his older brother in the fall, and why I am too distracted with the meteorites in my own solar system to have time to talk. Yes! We were trying to deal with all of these in—one—conversation.

These are conversations of some alien kind that seem to resemble a scene from Star Wars more than the preferred Norman Rockwell painting. Yes, it seems a lot like a war—and it is—even if there are not raised voices and red faces.

What can be done to help us in these galactic conversations? May I suggest three simple things?

Realize That We Are in a War

First, remember that we are in a spiritual war. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 2:11 that we are not ignorant of the devil’s schemes. One of these schemes is to blind us to the reality that we are in a spiritual war against adept evil, spiritual forces (Eph. 6:10-12). It is no accident that Paul talks about spiritual warfare immediately after he talks about husband/wife, parent/child, and work relationships.

Our relationships are usually the battle fields on which this clandestine war plays out. While we are players, the war is ultimately between two kingdoms: a kingdom of light ruled by Almighty God and a kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan (Col. 1:13). Praise the Lord that we can rest knowing that for those who are united by faith in Christ, the war is already won in Christ (John 16:33, Rom. 8:37, Eph. 2:6). In fact, God takes the evil thoughts, words and deeds and is able to use them to do good in our lives (Gen. 45:4-9, 50:20; Rom. 8:28-30). This is as miraculous as it is hope-inducing.

Remembering that we are in a war provides perspective in the moment—and relief through the divinely powerful weapons God has provided, two of which I am now going to mention.

Speak The Powerful Word of God

Quote the word of God to each other. The word of God is one of our weapons (Eph. 6:17). Jesus used this weapon in fighting Satan’s temptations in Matthew 4. The promises in God’s word are divinely powerful and we do well to remember to speak them to each other. This is not what one feels like doing in that moment. But faithfully speaking God’s promises in distressing situations brings peace because God’s word is powerful and it is infallible: it never fails.

While this does not usually fix the specific issues, it does bring peace and the ability to work together—even if it means peacefully ending the conversation and coming back to it at another time. There has never been a moment when I’ve used the word in one of these conversations where it did not bring peace.

One helpful promise is Habbakuk 3:17, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and here be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

When everything seems like its collapsing around us, we can look up in victory because God IS. God will see us through the battles.

Pray Out Loud, Each of You

Finally, pray together. Prayer, even weak prayer, is still a vital weapon. Paul says to pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18). When in one of these difficult conversations just stop and pray together. Not one of you, but both, and out loud. Again, it is probably not what you feel like doing. Just be honest! God knows your heart anyway. Doing this is a clear exercise of faith and dependence upon God that glorifies him.

Confess your sin to God. Maybe its a desire to rely on yourself rather than to rely on him in that moment. Remind God of his promises. Beseech Him to act by bringing understanding and peace. This is also a good time to pray in thanksgiving to God (Phil. 4:6). We can be thankful the issues we’re dealing with are not worse. We can be thankful that God has promised to be the third strand in our marriages (Eccl. 4:12).

These are three simple suggestions that will have a powerful impact in the war that we all find ourselves every day. I encourage you to use them with the expectation that God keeps his promises and works all things out for his glory which is also our joy. Fight using the tools he has given. See the victory he can provide. You can win the battle because Christ Jesus has won the war. We stand in his victory.

Wives, Five Ways to Love Your Husband

Wives, Five Ways to Love Your Husband

  1. Listen to him. Surprise! Men need to talk things through, too. If we’re not careful, conversations with our husbands can look like a game of wack-a-mole where we are beating down every word that comes out of their mouths! Whether it’s a challenge at work or a suggestion he has about how to re-organize the kitchen: hear him out.
2. Don’t over analyze him.  This one is especially hard for us to do.  We can make the mistake of thinking that there is some underlying thing going on in his mind.  The plain and rather profound truth is that men are simple, what you see is generally what you get.  I know it’s hard to understand because we ourselves are so complex and complicated, but it’s true. Embrace it!
Her Diary:

Tonight, I thought my husband was acting weird.  We had made plans to meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. I was shopping with friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment on it. Conversation wasn’t flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn’t say much.  I asked him what was wrong; He said ‘Nothing.’ I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn’t upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it.  On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly and kept driving.  I can’t explain his behavior I don’t know why he didn’t say ‘I love you too.’ When we got home, I felt as if I had lost him completely, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore.  He just sat there quietly, and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent.  Finally with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About 15 minutes he came to bed.  But I still felt that he was distracted and his thoughts were somewhere else.  He fell asleep- I cried.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else.  My life is a disaster.

His Diary:

Motorcycle won’t start, can’t figure out why.

3. Make time for him.  We are busy running kids here and there, meeting friends for coffee, participating in ministry events. We often  over-fill our calendars.  This leaves little or no time to just be with our husbands.  This can have the effect of them feeling neglected. But we need to be available to them! This involves intention on our part.  For further help in this area check out Eric’s article Will You Say ‘NO’ This Year?
4. Pray for him.  This is a given, I know, but so easily overlooked. I know I am guilty of letting this slip off of my priority list. What better way to bless our husbands than to call on the only One who knows them perfectly and wants what is best for them. Daily, we need to bring our husbands before the Lord and ask for protection over their health, their heart, wisdom in their work, and leadership of the family.  Pray that God will use your husband mightily in ministering to others in his life. One of the best books I’ve read on this is The Power of the Praying Wife.

5. Finally, tell him the truth.  What I am referring to here is reminding him of the truth of the Gospel. We are all surrounded by discouragement and stress everyday.  We all need to be reminded of our identity in Christ as it provides the basis for living for him! If you haven’t already, check out our resource Who are you? as it encourages simple meditation on our identity in Christ and can guide you in praying for your husband and others.

Seven Ways to Pray with Your Wife

Seven Ways to Pray with Your Wife

adirondackchairsWhy don’t we pray more often as husband and wife?

“Good question! I haven’t really thought about that.”

“Ah, we’re too busy.”

“It feels a bit strange suggesting and then leading my wife in prayer when we’re not at the dinner table or having devotions.”

Prayer is one very important ways we demonstrate—as a couple—our dependence upon God…for help in specific situations…and for the joy that each of us needs every day.

Here are 7.5 quick thoughts to encourage you in praying with your wife.

1. “Just do it!”

When you feel the urge, don’t put it off. Just do it. If the struggle is great simply confess this attitude to God at the beginning of your prayer. You’ll probably notice that God does some of his greatest work through these impromptu, weak, and sometimes, awkward prayer times.

2. Pray as part of your date night.

(You DO have one, right?) Leslee and I have a special place where we park the car and pray together on our way home from dates.

3. Pray before you discuss plans for the week.

We pray on Sunday nights before we plan the week simply asking God to help us make wise planning decisions.

4. Pray before you go to sleep.

Praying in bed may seem awkward, but it is a relaxing and usually uninterrupted place—unless you have 8 kids.

5. Pray specifically, “God, we are joyfully dependent upon you!”

This brings Him great glory. If this is not true, ask God to make it so. This also brings him glory!

6. Pray in thanksgiving

Specifically mentioning the glorious riches of our inheritance in Christ which includes: our adoption, forgiveness, blamelessness, holiness, redemption, and sealing in the Holy Spirit.

7. Don’t try to pray about everything at one prayer time.

Sometimes the prayer can be just a few sentences.

7.5 Pray with the assurance that God will bring you and your wife into greater unity as you pray together.

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. -Psalm 127:1

Four Things That Will Greatly Bless your Wife

Four Things That Will Greatly Bless your Wife

My wife is not indestructible. Is yours?

Most men want to minister to their wives but struggle to know how best to do that. We think it is one of these complicated “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” things. I have good news. It really is easy to bless our wives. Thankfully, our wives are much better at seeing effort and appreciating heart than we probably are. So, a little effort goes a long way.

Pray for her, daily.

Leslee is the first person on my list to pray for each day. If you struggle to remember to pray for your wife, or struggle to know how to pray for her, simply write her name on a 3×5 card along with a few specific prayer requests and put it in your Bible as a bookmark for your daily devotions. Or put the card on the dash of your car and pray for her on your way in to work. Remind her regularly that you are praying for her and how you are praying for her.

Date her regularly.

Dating is not a nice-to- do. It is a must-do. The more kids you have or the more complicated and stressed out your lives are, the more necessary it is to do this. When we initiate dates, regularly, it demonstrates that we love our wives and that our marriage is a priority. Further, our wives are deep thinkers. For us to truly minister to them, we have to mine those depths. This requires time and intentionality that in these hyper-busy times is usually only possible when you break the routine and set aside time to just be together by yourselves.

Take notes—literally.

Perhaps this sounds weird, but consider starting a journal for your marriage. Purchase a simple notebook that you can write down the issues you discuss with your wife. Issues that are important to her (and you, too) and that you need to take time to think about, research the scriptures, and/or pray about. Doing this helps demonstrate that things that are important to her are also important to you.

Write her love notes.

You do not have to be Shakespeare to write a meaningful note to your wife. Writing a simple note that communicates your love and appreciation and leaving it for her to find will be a huge encouragement.

The marriage relationship is vital to the health of a Christ-honoring home and the church. How we love our wives sets an example that will likely be followed by our children—one way or another. Being intentional about developing and protecting the marriage relationship is an investment that will pay eternal dividends.