5 Things Happen to Couples Over Time

My wife shared this article with me via LinkedIn. I found all five things to be true in our 19 year marriage. I hope you enjoy the article from Business Insider. “Science says these 5 things happen to couples who have been together a long time”

dancing

How do you get what you want?

We have two dogs at home and they are pretty good at getting what they want. They get food, pats, play, fresh bones and walks. They never are aggressive and always loving. It does not matter what happens, they are happy to see you. They gently use love, cuteness and persuasion to get their way.…

http://attilaovari.com/2016/02/18/how-do-you-get-what-you-want/

Plan your passion!

My wife, Melissa, can’t pass a perfume counter without trying something new. She would spend an hour at each counter if she could. She wouldn’t just buy a perfume though. She’d buy entire sets that included matching powders, shower gels, lotions, and anything else that was available. A few times, she’s tried on multiple samples in different places on her arms and hands, which made her smell like a flower garden!

Every time I’m with her, she offers me her hand and says “smell this. Do you like it?” If I say “I don’t like it”, “its okay”, or “I like it”, she won’t buy it. If I say “I really like it”, she heads to the register to make her purchase. Melissa wears perfume for me, and she uses it like a tool to ignite my passion. She knows putting on the right fragrance will draw me closer to get a whiff, to steal a kiss, and… You get the picture.

Now look, I know some of you are thinking, you can’t believe Pastor Manuel would write about sexual passion and seduction but trust me, it’s biblical. Take a look at these verses.

“While the king is at his table, My spikenard sends forth its fragrance. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, That lies all night between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms In the vineyards of En Gedi.”
‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭1:12-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/sng.1.12-14.nkjv

In Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman has a plan to seduce the king, her Beloved. While he’s at dinner, she’s working her plan for a passionate night. She uses three fragrances in her plan. First, there’s spikenard, which is a very expensive perfume. The smell is supposed to draw him in. Second, she references myrrh, which worn in a bundle suspended from a necklace to continually perfume her body. Lastly she mentions henna blooms or camphire (KJV), which is a plant whose clusters are sometimes worn by women to adorn themselves. It also smells sweet and its leaves are used to make dye for polishing nails.

What can we learn from this? We can’t always depend on spontaneous sparks of passion in our marriages. We can’t hold out to special occasions either. Valentine’s Day and wedding anniversaries are nice but not frequent enough to keep our passions burning. We shouldn’t wait for our next getaway or the right weekend either. Any random week day will do. We have to make plans and create passionate moments with our spouses on any given day.

Swagger is genetic. 

A lesson from Niger.  
While on the Mission to Niger last month, we saw thousands of young men walking the streets daily. To me, there was something familiar in the way they carried themselves. After meditating on this familiarity the Lord showed me what it was: swagger.

You see, the young African men in Niger walk with the same cadence we see in young African America men. They have an unmistakable bravado and swagger about themselves. There is a pride and self esteem in their speech, attitude, and walk.

This amazed me because the young black men in Niger aren’t immersed in African American culture. We’re more than 200 years removed from the slave ships that brought our ancestors to America yet, we could transport these young men to any black neighborhood in America and they would fit in just fine. Why is that? Swagger is genetic.

The expressions and dancing we see in African American professional athletes and entertainers is the same in young men in Niger. The loud, expressive black church services in America mirror the singing and dancing in Christian churches in Niger. There is no doubt in my mind that our people are from Africa because we’re alike.

That got me thinking. If swagger is genetic, how does that relate to our faith. Peter gives us the answer.

“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
‭‭II Peter‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/2pe.1.4.nkjv

The Apostle Peter says our faith in Jesus Christ gives us access to promises from God. Through these promises we can be partakers of the divine nature. Godliness is spiritually genetic. No matter where we go in the world, we should display the Lord’s nature.

There should be no mistaking our Christian heritage. People should hear our speech and praise and know we’re believers. Our walk, attitudes, and actions should make it evident we are born again. We may be more than 2000 years removed from the physical presence of Jesus but his love, compassion, and witness should flow from our lives. 

Our Daily Bread

A lesson from Niger.

During my recent mission trip to Niger, Africa, I noticed a startling difference from the United States. Traffic lights! After spending a week in the city of Niamey, I only saw 5 traffic lights and 4 of those weren’t even on. But, even without traffic lights, thousands of people took to the streets each day.

  
Cars, trucks, vans crowded with people, camels hauling goods, mules pulling carts, motorcycles darting through traffic, and countless people walking, all moving to a rhythm. The city was alive and chaotic. At first glance, it seemed like everyone was rushing to important business or appointments. But, a closer look revealed something more significant; all of this activity is directed at one goal…gathering daily bread.

  
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/mat.6.11.nkjv

People around every corner were searching for their next meal. In the mornings, we saw people hurrying to get their first meal. After this, we saw people of all ages laboring or selling goods to make money to buy their next meal. Getting daily bread is well established in the culture of Niger. One of my friends asked a farmer why he didn’t plant more in his field and sell the crops. The farmer said he had enough for his family to survive.

The American capitalist entrepreneur in me wanted to say “seize the opportunity and work to get ahead to be happy”! But what I came to realize is that most of the people of Niger whom we encountered were already happy. They were living in their context, not our get more, do more, need more context. It’s easy to go to Niger and think the people would be happier if they had the luxuries we posses. But, even without running water, electricity, central air, Walmart or Target, fast food, and iPads; we still saw smiles on faces. Why? Because the people of Niger are thankful for the daily provisions they receive from God.

This is a valuable lesson for us. Many people in our western culture have an abundance of things, but a deficit in joy. We have nice cars, beautiful homes, electronics and appliances to make life easier, and the wealth to travel the world, but suffer from high levels of depression. Many of us are discontent with what we have because we always want more. I’m not saying we should look at the people of Niger and be thankful because we are blessed with more than them. I’m not saying we can’t complain because we’ve been blessed with so much more than they have. Instead, I’m proposing we should look at their attitude of thanksgiving and joy (regardless of what they have) and learn to be thankful as well.

I think we would all have a higher quality of emotional and spiritual life if we learn to be thankful for daily bread first. It doesn’t matter if we have an abundance or if we’re living paycheck to paycheck, we can still open our hearts to God in thanksgiving and have joy. Before we ask God for anything else, we should thank him for what he has already provided. It doesn’t matter if we have a little or a lot, all that we have comes from God.

Full on love. 

My wife is an incredible cook. I knew I had a winner the first time she made biscuits from scratch when we were dating. Over the years, she has prepared my favorite meals and she knows my appetite (my favorite ingredient is “seconds”). After eating her cooking, I’m satisfied and can’t eat any more if I tried. 
  
Relationships work the same way. Keeping your spouse satisfied and filled with love should be your primary objective. Let’s look at a scenario from the bible.

“Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you!”
‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/sng.1.3.niv

The woman in Song of Solomon has a great guy. He’s popular with the ladies and gets lots of attention. In modern times this dynamic could easily cause problems in relationships. It’s hard to trust your mate when everyone is flirting with them. Many men and women become jealous and resentful when their mate gets too much attention. Too many likes on Facebook, or too many social conversations with coworkers can be a source of insecurity and strife. So what should a woman do when her man is surrounded by admirers? Feed him.

Just like a good meal, if your spouse is filled with your love, he won’t desire affection from someone else. Look at the woman’s response in Song of Solomon.

“Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. How right they are to adore you!”
‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/sng.1.4.niv

Let me paraphrase this scripture: “I know the ladies like you but take me to the bedroom and I’ll make you forget about them.” Instead of becoming resentful or jealous she responded with more love. This woman is keeping her man so full and satisfied he won’t need to look for love somewhere else. She’s not putting it off until tomorrow or some special occasion or when she feels up to it. She says let us hurry!

Ladies. If your mate is looking at other women, it may be because he’s not seeing enough of you. If he’s giving someone else his attention it’s probably because you’re not giving him the attention he needs. If you don’t want to be bothered, someone else will. Trust God to help you satisfy your spouse and strengthen your relationship. 

What are you preaching this year?

  

A few weeks ago I posted 5 Steps to Sermon Series Planning http://wp.me/p2yUh4-8o . This week, I’d like to follow up that post by sharing my plan for the first quarter of the year. Prayerfully you’ll see how strategy and opportunity are key components of my plan.

First, through prayer, God has revealed a theme for the year. 2016 will be a prophetic year for our church. All of the messages will either come from the prophets, be about the prophets, or address topics covered in the prophetic writings. With this direction, my next prayers focused on calendar opportunities and strategy.

January – Series Theme: The Call

  

January is the beginning of the year and sets the tone for the remainder of the year. The plan is to examine the call to ministry of four prophets; Samuel, Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. More specifically, we will encourage our members to accept the call of faith in their lives. Strategically our 112th church anniversary is on the 4th Sunday. So the message from Isaiah is fitting. Here are the sermon concepts:

Samuel: Called into service. Called to revelation. Call to stand (none of his words fell to the ground).
1 Samuel 3:1-14, 19-21
Special note: I will be on a mission trip to Niger, Africa on the 2nd Sunday.

Amos: Called from where you are. 
Amos 7:14-16

112th Church Anniversary 
Isaiah: Called to go forward. Consecration, Call, and Commission
Isaiah 6:6-13

Ezekiel: Called to the church. Called to uphold the standard. Called to speak the truth. 
Ezekiel 2:1-9

February – Series Theme: Love Never Fails

  

With Valentines Day in February, we will focus on relationships with four messages from Hosea. We’ll examine the importance of marriage, a love that has grown cold, how to work out challenges in relationships, and how to repair broken relationships. Here are the sermon concepts:

An appointed love. 
Marriage is an appointment by God. 
Hosea 1:2-3

Valentines Day, Sunday, February 14th. 
A forgotten love. 
Love in difficult times. What have you done for me lately?
Hosea 2:1-13

A working love. 
Restoring the love that has suffered. 
Hosea 2:14-23

A tenacious love. 
The love of God won’t give up on us. We shouldn’t give up on love. 
Hosea 11:1-11

March – Series Theme: TBD
Even though I haven’t named the theme for March, I know what it’s about and from which book it will originate. This series leading up to Easter will come from Lamentations. It’s all about having a burden for the city. This significant for two reasons: First, we will have revival in March so we want to encourage members to invite non-believers in the city to those services. Secondly, we will also equip members with invitations and flyers to reach out for Easter. Through this effort each year, we typically triple our attendance. Please note; the Easter message is a stand alone message. Here are the sermon concepts:

A vision for the city. 
Jeremiah witnesses the destruction. He sees the current delapodated state of the city. 
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Hope for the city. 
Great is God’s faithfulness. 
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

A prayer for the city. 
Remember us, turn us back to you. 
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭5:1‬, 19-22 ‭NKJV‬‬

Easter, March 27th, Theme: 3 Days. 
Jesus’ Prophecy about the resurrection. 
“Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” John‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I’ll continue to refine these messages and themes as we get closer to their dates. Each theme will also have an image associated with it that will be displayed on the front of our programs, church website, and social media. In mid-February we will develop themes for the next quarter of the year. I pray that this post has been helpful for you. If you have questions or comments I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to post share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog. 

Keep learning to follow. 

Thanks for reading these posts from Hosea 4. If you’ve missed any of them, please refer to previous posts. As we continue in this passage in Hosea, God is still speaking to the spiritual leaders of his people and reveals he’s rejecting those leaders because they stopped following God.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/hos.4.6.nkjv

Having the high title of a leader doesn’t exclude us from being a follower. In fact, every leader must first be a follower. If we’re not following God and other successful leaders, we won’t grow. If we aren’t growing we can’t lead our people to higher heights.

More specifically, God reveals his priests forgot the law and therefore failed to follow his law. This is significant because God’s law was a guide for every portion of society, including leadership. His law was like guard rails that kept their business dealings, societal norms, and treatment of people in line. It provided a vital source of best practices.

Fast forward to today. If you’re a leader, pastor, or business owner, you will have greater success if you follow the principles that serve as guard rails for your industry or vocation. Whenever a leader fails or makes a mistake, it can be traced back to violated principles. Violations of ethics and moral standards, lack of financial accountability, or simply neglecting tried and true principles have ruined careers and caused the demise of ministries and businesses. Failure to follow sound plans and wise counsel is devastating also.

But that’s not all. After failing to follow God and his law, the priests decided instead to follow the crowd.

“They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, And reward them for their deeds.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/hos.4.8-9.nkjv

Eventually the priests and leaders began to follow and play to the crowd. When the people brought their sin offerings, the priests were happy because they could eat well. They set their hearts on reaping benefits from the crowd. The end result of following the crowd is that God said you couldn’t tell the difference between the priests and the people. At that point, the leaders were no longer spokesmen for God, but rather, acting in their own regard.

 
When we play to the influence of the crowd, popular opinions, trends and fads, we are no longer operating in our leadership capacity. When we chase the crowd we are no more a leader than a surfer riding a wave. The surfer can’t claim to lead the wave just because he’s out front. He can’t stop the wave. He can only ride it. We’ve all seen people who rode the waves of popularity to gain high positions, but faltered when it was time to step up and lead in earnest.

Let me close by saying, leaders should be followers of leadership, followers of God, and followers of principles, instead of following the crowd. If you have ideas to share about this subject I’d love to hear from you. Please consider leaving a comment and sharing this post with others.

Keep learning about the community. 

  
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”‭‭Hosea‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/hos.4.6.nkjv

None of us want to be the leader that God rejects because we rejected knowledge. Here is a critical piece of knowledge we tend to neglect; knowledge about the community. Our leadership impact will be measured by how well we reach those around us. If we do not investigate the needs of our communities, we will limit our effectiveness.

One of the reasons we reject knowledge about the community is we think we already know. But the truth is, we only know the part that’s in front of us. Let me explain. Before I became pastor of our church, I served for ten years as an associate, youth minister, and assistant pastor. After ten years of doing ministry in Tuskegee, Alabama, you’d think I would have an accurate picture of the makeup of the community. However, I was completely clueless.

Once I became pastor, I decided to learn more about the city and county. So I looked up the census data online. Here’s what I learned:

1. The population was on the decline. 

2. More than half the households were single parent or single grandparent. 

3. More than half the county lived below the poverty level. 

4. Those 45 and younger made up the majority. 

5. The median income is around $40,000. 

I couldn’t see these truths from within the confines of our church and the circles with which I associated. Gaining this knowledge helped me shape our church ministry. Here is the strategy we used to increase our effectiveness as a result of this data. 

1. Since the population was on the decline ( losing nearly 5000 people between the year 2000 and 2010 ) we began to focus on outreach. When I became pastor we had roughly 170 members. In the next two years we lost approximately 30 members. We’ve created an inviting culture at church and are now a 200 member church. The community is still on the decline but we’re still seeing steady growth. 

2. To address the single family households we began to preach more about healthy families. This means we focus on helping families grow from where they are, rather than making them feel guilty about not being an ideal family (father, mother, and kids). Single parents in our church feel supported and encouraged because they know their past is behind them and God can shape the future for them and their children. 

3. Our outreaches are more effective now because we focus on real needs, not perceived needs in the community. Because of the poverty statistics and single parent household statistics, we have partnered with the local food pantry to provide groceries for families, and we have school supply and Christmas toy drives to help the parents. 

4. Knowing the majority of the community is 45 and below, we began to change our worship services to appeal to that demographic. Which means, my sermons are always less than 45 minutes ( between 25 and 35 minutes) because the attention span in this age group is short. We’re also using social media and our website to engage them and be more accessible. 

5. Knowing the median income level we have realistic ideas about our church contributions. We stopped preaching about tithes and offerings. Don’t get me wrong, we teach the concept, but instead, we preach more about generosity. Oh, and any salaries we provide are based on real knowledge and reasonable expectations. 

This is just a small sample of the things I’ve considered about our community. Your community may be vastly different from ours. You may have a large Hispanic population and benefit from hosting Spanish to English classes at your church. You may have a large retiree group that needs certain services your church can provide. Your church may need to adopt a nearby school to help positively influence students, parents, and teachers. 

I encourage you to do the homework. Look up your community data. Have conversations with community leaders. Meet your city councilman. Visit your chamber of commerce. Then apply what you learn to help grow your influence.