Honey and Vinegar

A few years ago, I started calling Jeannie “Sweetie.” Yeah, I know it’s corny, but we picked it up off a phone commercial where a guy says he loves it when his sweetie calls him. From that, I started telling Jeannie how much I loved it when my “Sweetie” called me and the nickname stuck. It’s a goofy way we talk to each other, and I’ve found it breaks the tension from time to time.

Now, here’s the interesting part of this nickname. I can tell Jeannie things I really need her to hear, and if I say, “Sweetie” when I say it, it takes the edge off of my comments. For instance, guys, how many times have we asked our wives to tell us when the “Check Engine” light comes on in their cars?

Yeah, I’ve asked that many times too. And it always ends up starting a fight. She’ll say she tried to tell me a few days ago, but I was too busy to listen. She’ll say she’s been too busy helping me (take care of my mom, raise the boys, be at the church, etc…etc…etc…). I’ll then say something like she needs to take care of the car and by then, we’re in a full argument.

But when I say it this way, “Sweetie, love of my life, it would help me if you would tell me about the ‘check engine’ light as soon as it comes on. I can’t be your knight in shining armor if I don’t know my damsel is in distress.”

Yep, it’s over the top. Yep, it’s corny.

But it works.

We laugh a little, mock each other in saccharine tonesbut we don’t argue, and I find out when the “check engine” light comes on.

Mission accomplished.

The next time you have to say something to your wife that could provoke an argument, pour a little honey on it. OK, pour a lot of honey on it. I’m told it works a lot better than vinegar.

Try it. Let me know how it goes for you.

The First Seminary Was A Home

The First Seminary Was A Home

It’s one of those stories we run past on our way to another story. The ministry of Paul is in full bloom. After hearing the Macedonian call, Paul and his traveling companions have moved from Philippi to Athens to Corinth. Now, on their way home, they stop in Ephesus (Acts 18:24). Here they are introduced to a preacher named Apollos. From the accounts, we’re told Apollos was a gifted and inspiring preacher.

He just didn’t have the whole story. After hearing him preach, Priscilla and Aquila, supporters of Paul’s ministry, take Apollos into their home and begin to instruct him in the full story of Jesus. We’re never told what Apollos was missing. We’re just told he didn’t quite have it all together.

Instead of condemning him, Priscilla and Aquila take him under their wings and teach him what is lacking from his gospel message. Their home was the first Christian seminary. The first place a preacher was prepared to preach was a Christian home.

Early in their journey with God, the Israelites are told the home is to be the place of religious instruction. The things of God—His commandments, His story, how God had dealt with His people—these were to be the things parents talked about with their children. The parents, not pastors, not youth ministers, but the parents are to be the main disciple makers of their children. Fathers and mothers are to model faith in real life terms every day in front of their children and then, when asked, be able to give meaning to their actions. Let’s face it. There’s no way a church student or children’s ministry can undo in a few hours a week what parents do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In the middle of everyday life, parents have a myriad of moments to explain the person of Christ and His teachings to their children. Most of the time, these moments aren’t planned and in fact, they can’t be. They just happen. The wise and discerning parent can seize these moments and give them meaning that the child will carry with them for the rest of his or her life.

No one else can do that. Only the parents can speak the truth of Christ and then, live the truth of Christ in front of their child moment by moment. The truth of Christ will be tested and proven in the crucible of real life. The child won’t forget this.

As parents, we may not be raising the next great preacher like Apollos. Maybe we’re raising a Christ-following young man who becomes an attorney, teacher, or engineer. Maybe all we do as parents is raise a Christ-centered young woman who becomes a pilot, accountant, or entrepreneur. If we as parents do that, we will have been very successful indeed.

And Then There Was Chapter 12

And Then There Was Chapter 12

One of the common mistakes we make when reading the Bible is we only read the passage we’re focused on in that moment. For instance, if we’re reading the fourth chapter of Philippians, we won’t take the time to read chapter 3 to see how Paul develops his thoughts that lead to the conclusions he gives us in chapter 4. We read as if the Bible started with the passage we’re reading.

We miss a lot because of this habit. For instance, last Sunday morning we focused on Genesis 12—the story of God calling Abram and yes, that’s the chapter where a lot of things begin.

But what happens in chapter 11? The story of the tower of Babel is in chapter 11. Do you remember that story? The people of the earth decided to build a great tower. This was done in direct disobedience to God’s command to spread out and subdue the earth. So, God’s judgement was to destroy the tower and confuse the language of the people. It’s a great story, and I highly recommend you spend some time with the story. Here’s why I’m bringing up the story right now.

Obviously, chapter 12 follows chapter 11. But it didn’t have to. In fact, if you and I were God, it wouldn’t have. Let’s face it. After the failure in the Garden of Eden, the story of Noah, and now the story of Babel in chapter 11, most of us would have given up. We would have. We would have concluded this experiment called “humanity” was a good idea on paper, but it just wasn’t going to work out. We wouldn’t have written chapter 12.

But right after the disaster of Babel, God calls Abram. God starts over. While we would have given up, God didn’t.

He wrote chapter 12.

Here’s why that’s important. Many of us are in chapter 11 (pun intended). Our world has crumbled around us, and we can’t make sense of it all. We think there’s nothing we can do…and we give up. We look at the mess we’ve made and say this is our new reality and all we can do is accept it. But God doesn’t have to accept reality—yours, mine, or anyone else’s.

God defines it.

That means God doesn’t give up. He never does.

So, if you’re in chapter 11…hang on. God is always ready to write a new chapter in your own life. Today might be your chapter 12.

Marriage Math

Marriage is a Marathon

I was having a cup of coffee with a friend of mine when suddenly, he went philosophical on me.

“Do you know why LeBron is champion? Because every day he makes the necessary decisions in order for him to be a champion. From what he eats to how many hours a night he sleeps to how many free throws he shoots—it’s all about being a champion. Other people want to be champions, but LeBron chooses to be a champion every day.”

I mentioned talent might have something to do with it, and he agreed, but only to a point. “Not as much as you would think,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have talent, but you never hear about them because they never do the work.”

“You are today,” he said, “exactly what you chose to be yesterday. Destiny is nothing more than the sum of our choices.”

Our conversation then moved on to a mutual friend who was having a tough time in his marriage. “Do you know why?”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Choices.”

“Exactly. Every day he got up and made the choices that got him the marriage he had. His wife did the same thing. Ironically, although they would disagree, they have exactly the marriage they want because this is the marriage they chose.”

OK, so my friend can be a little over the top, but he’s a good guy…and he’s not far off base in his thinking.

Choices have consequences. Today is the consequence of yesterday. Every day, in ways big and small, we make choices. These choices either bring us closer to the marriage we want, or they push us further away. Every choice has a consequence, and every consequence adds up to the realities we call our lives. Most of the time, we don’t think about these decisions. We just do the next thing—the easiest thing. We just do what we have to do to get through our days. We don’t really think about it. We just get it done.

And then, we’re surprised when we end up in a place we don’t want to be. But we chose to be here, remember? So, if we want to be somewhere different, we have to make very different decisions. If we want a different kind of marriage tomorrow, what kind of decisions do we have to be making right now?

Tomorrow isn’t an accident. It’s a consequence, and you’re choosing what kind of consequence it will be right now.