Conflict in Your Marriage…


As you read this, I will have been blessed to have officiated the first of three marriages this year. Kerry and I have journeyed with this couple since January spending time with them and counseling them as they prepare for their marriage and life together as husband and wife. We are blessed to be able to do Pre-Marriage Counseling as Husband/Wife and to also be a first hand witness to the genesis of each of these relationships-from courtship to becoming one as husband and wife.

During the 12 week journey with each couple, the primary focus of discussion usually turns to conflict in their relationship and how to deal with it in a Biblical manner.  Kerry and I tell each couple that Biblical Conflict is good and necessary to grow in their marriage; however, we so often are not taught what this looks like nor how to fight fair. One of my favorite Joeisms is to say, “If everyday were sunshine, you would have a desert.  Storms bring growth and new life; however, you need to know how to prune and manage that growth so it will not overrun your marriage.”  The need of effective communication thus in turn leads to how well your conflict is dealt with and what growth comes from it: nurturing or destructive.

Gary Thomas wrote a book, The Sacred Search-A Couple’s Conversation Guide, as a guide for pre-marriage counseling.  This has become our primary tool we use with our couples we journey with.  In chapter 6 of his book, Constructive Conflict, Gary delves deep into the attitudes and actions we each take as individuals with regards to conflict. I would like to share with you his closing paragraph in that chapter.  

When it comes to marital conflict, there are many unhealthy forms of communication—acts that make the conflict worse. Let’s agree to reject all these unhealthy methods of relating:

  • Hurtful words. So much harm can be done in so little time if we don’t train our tongues (see James 3:1–12). Name-calling or blasting back with hateful things has never solved a single marital conflict. It has never served the cause of love. It has never fostered intimacy.
  • Stonewalling. This is such a harmful and common practice. It’s passive-aggressiveness taken to a malicious level. When you agree to marry someone, you agree ahead of time to work through conflict. Stonewalling (the silent treatment or withdrawal) is essentially renouncing your wedding vows. Some introverted personality types may need a moment to themselves to collect their thoughts and pray, but this is different from refusing to engage with your spouse. It’s putting off resolution indefinitely, and that’s just wrong.
  • Bringing up the past. Adopt this mantra: “One conflict at a time.” There is no use trying to bring three previous fights into the current one.
  • Acting like you’re above being wrong. In most conflicts, two people are both behaving inappropriately. One might be 95 percent in the wrong, but there is still 5 percent to be owned. Your spouse’s 95 percent doesn’t excuse your 5 percent. Seek to grow, not to win, in every argument. Own that 5 percent.

As said at the beginning, this is a journey that takes time and practice on both individuals and it is not only necessary in a marriage, but in any form of relationships.  Praying that we all heed and own James’ teachings in his letter; James 4:1-3. Seek the Lord and His counsel as you then seek forgiveness from God and then from the one you are in conflict with.

In His Grip~


Apathy In Our Churches

    “…the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.”  Gary Thomas said that in his great marriage book,
Sacred Marriage.
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     While that book has meant much to me as a husband and as a pastor, this statement has rocked me more than just in the arena of marriage.  It’s about all of Christian life.  You may disagree.  Indulge me for a moment:
     We tend to think that hatred is the opposite of love.  We see love and hate sort of as the polar ends of a spectrum, with indifference being somewhere in the middle.  I suppose that makes sense.  But when we look at God, we see both love (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9, I could go on and on) and hatred (Isaiah 1:14, Isaiah 61:8, Amos 5:21, Revelation 2:6).  [To be clear: note that the “love” verses that I quoted refer to God’s love for people, and the “hate” verses refer to God’s hatred of actions.]  God possesses both of these very passionate attributes: a holy love and a holy abhorrence.  But I struggle to see them as opposites, because in both instances, God CARES.  He cares for those He loves.  He cares that His specially created ones would do things that are evil in His eyes, and thus He hates the things that we do that offend His holiness.  What don’t
we see from God?  We don’t see an “it-doesn’t-really-matter-to-Me” response.  I can’t find a time in Scripture that God just kind of says, “Meh… whatever.”  So I would agree with Gary Thomas: the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, because at least hatred still cares somehow.  The opposite of biblical love is apathy.  I see the spectrum as more like a “V”… apathy at the bottom point, love and hate at the tips… they’re closer to each other than they are to the point.  I hope that makes sense.
     Apathy is a “lack of feeling or emotion; lack of interest or concern.” (Merriam-Webster).  And maybe it’s just my perspective, but I think apathy is rampant in the Church today (not just Eastern Hills, but including Eastern Hills to be certain).  We just don’t care.  We resist the work of the Spirit in our lives and thus don’t grow spiritually because we don’t care.  We don’t engage in the life of the bride of Christ, the Church, because we don’t care.  We don’t read our Bibles, we don’t spend time in prayer, we don’t worship because we just don’t care!  We’d rather know what the score is, or how many likes our last picture got on Instagram and Facebook, or how our investment portfolio is doing, or what our schedule is for the next week, than to engage in worship with our fellow believers, because when it comes to God and our walk of faith… right now, we simply don’t care.  It’s pitiful.  It’s disgraceful.  Let’s call it what it is: sin.
     If you or I feel apathetic right now, it’s not the church’s fault.  It’s not the pastor’s fault.  It’s not the music’s fault.  It’s not the thermostat’s fault or the band’s fault or the pianist’s fault or the choir’s fault, and it’s certainly not God’s fault.  It’s yours and mine.  It’s because we have allowed ourselves to be consumed by the exact opposite of biblical love.  We must repent, and submit to God!  James says, “Therefore, submit to God.  But resist the Devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!” (James 4:7-8, HCSB).  This is the first step in overcoming apathy, and starting back down the path of falling in love with God again.



Complaining Fast

Whatever you keep doing becomes a habit. That’s why James says, “Do not complain.” 5:9. It seems that we are more “comfortable” as we complain about our lives and those around us than we are by praising and thanking God for the blessings He has given us. So here is my challenge to each and everyone of us. Let’s begin a

Complaining Fast

. Start off manageable. Make it for 24 hours at first. Then as you make this a habit of praise and thanks, make it 2-3 days, then possibly even a week before the month is done. 


Think of it this way, a complaining fast won’t just make everyone around you happier…you’ll experience more joy, peace, and an increase in your faith in God and His blessings in your life.

So, instead of complaining and griping when things don’t go your way:
  1. Practice Gratitude: start giving thanks for at least three blessings from God each day. It’s impossible to be grateful and negative at the same time.
  2. Be an Encourager: Instead of complaining about what people do wrong, focus on what they are doing right. Paul writes in 1 Th 5:14-“Encourage…people who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” 
  3. Learn to Let Go: Instead of obsessing about what you can’t change, focus on what you can influence. When you stop trying to control everything and place your life in God’s hands, things have a way of working themselves out.
  4. Use the Power of Prayer: The ability to seek first His Kingdom anytime you are hurting is powerful and not to be taken lightly. When you are under pressure, instead of complaining, plug into God’s presence and grow in your faith!

Before you begin this fast, speak with your husband/wife, or if you’re not married, a close friend who will also encourage and keep you accountable. Begin by praying and allowing the Holy Spirit control over your words, actions, and deeds. 

Praying for a new habit to be formed into your lives!

Are You Provoking your Child?

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

In our Sunday morning Bible Study we have been going through the book of Ephesians, applying its principles and instructions into our marriages and families, as well as into our personal lives.  These past two Sundays we have spent time in one verse from Ephesians, 6:4.
Verse 4 instructs us not to “provoke or exasperate your children.” The Greek word for provoke is parorgizo. This simply means to provoke to wrath or to exasperate another. Both wrath and exasperate come from the root word anger. It would not take too much of an in-depth study of human and family behavior to shed some basic insight on how we might exasperate our children and provoke them to anger. We so often will see this as an extreme outburst towards our children, an uncontrolled momentary burst of anger, then it’s done. However, as we truly step back and evaluate our parenting, we may just see this picture of “provoking and exasperating” in the minutia of our everyday parenting. The following examples will give us a good starting point for understanding the command that Paul shares with us in verse 4. This is not an end all list, nor is it meant to “guilt” you as a parent or grandparent. Take time in prayer and reflect on the following list, take time to ask God to reveal to you as to which of those 8, or maybe you have another one, you are in the habit of doing towards your children.  Ask God to help you stop in that behavior/action and then move towards reconciliation with your children and then begin a new path of Biblical discipline and instruction in the Lord. 
  1. Overprotecting Children: Parents who do everything for their children and do not let them gain any degree of independence or self-determination.
  2. Over Disciplining Children: Parents who overly restrict where children can go and what they can do, who never trust them to do things on their own, and who continually question their judgment. Certainly, a proper amount of this is necessary. We are talking about overdoing it.
  3. Expecting More Than The Child Can Ever Perform: Perfectionistic parents for whom the child’s performance is never good enough.
  4. Expecting Less of Them Than They Can Perform: Parents who discourage the child’s decisions and dreams—never approving, affirming, or encouraging.
  5. Failing to Sacrifice for Their Children: Parents who make the children feel as though they are an intrusion and burden.
  6. Verbal and/or Physical Abuse: Parents who abuse their children, either by actions, negligence, words, or attitudes.
  7. Legalism: Parents who use the Bible, religion, or God to browbeat the children into behavior that is not required by scriptural teachings.
  8. Imbalance: Parents who fail to balance affirmation and discipline, who affirm without discipline, who discipline without affirmation, or who do neither.

These eight things will provoke a child to anger; they will exasperate a child, and we would be well-advised to avoid them. 

A Growing Bond-Servant to Christ,

Pastor Joe Vivian