Sermon Blog - Entries from February 2014

    SunSundayFebFebruary23rd2014 I Am A Church Member - I Will Unify As we began this series last week, we started off with a sermon about the church called “The Body”.  We are commanded by the scripture to be Christ’s body here on earth.  In short, the church is a local group of believers that have joined together to carry out the commands of God here on earth.  It is where we find support.  Where we find love.  Where we hold each other accountable, both to the teachings of God and in our daily walk with Christ.  It’s where we can bring others to find a place where the love of God is supposed to be acted out in the flesh.  That’s why it’s called the Body of Christ.

    But did you notice how I said the love of God is “supposed” to be acted out in the flesh?  I said it that way because that’s not always the case.  Sadly, when a lot of people think about what church is, conflict is one thing that comes to mind.  Whether large or small, a lack of unity in churches is a reality that must be managed effectively if we’re going to do anything for the cause of Christ.  Today’s sermon is called “I Will Unify”.
    Audio Pathway_2014_02_23.mp3
    SunSundayFebFebruary16th2014 I Am A Church Member - The Body

    This week we’re starting a new series, both in our sermons and in our small groups.  It is based off of the book “I Am a Church Member” by Thom Rainer.  This book, our sermons, and small groups are going to take a look at what it means to be part of a church.  A lot of times you’ll hear us talk about our “church membership” and our “church family”.  Just because you’re not a member at Pathway doesn’t mean this series isn’t for you.  If this is the place you worship and connect with others, then you’re a part of our church family.  This series will help all of us find what it takes to make this church everything God wants it to be.

    Today we’re going to talk about what a church is and how that relates to the way we view the importance of being involved in a church.  In the end when you find out that a church is made up of people, we then realize how we participate in that church makes a huge difference.  If we’re to be the body of Christ we must act together in a way that resembles how Jesus would act if He were still physically here on earth.

    Audio Pathway_2014_02_16.mp3
    SunSundayFebFebruary9th2014 Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf -- As Long As We Both Shall Live
    byJeremy Flanagan Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Too often when you hear about marriage the topic is simply how to make it last.  Our focus will be to talk not only about how to make a marriage last but how to enjoy it.  We may say “as long as we both shall live” but is our marriage, or are we ourselves, truly alive?  We want to find both how to make marriage work and enjoy every step of the way.

    Do 50% of marriages end in divorce?  Statistics don’t measure every marriage, just the numbers from the previous year.  In America there are around 2 million marriages each year.  There are close to 1,000,000 divorces.  The actually number of marriages that last is closer to 2/3 than 1/2.  

    But new studies give some interesting takes on the current view of marriage.  If you want to go political, red states have a higher divorce rate than blue states.  Part of that is due to the fact that religious affiliation often correlates between those.  Red states typically have a higher percentage of practicing Christians.  Do you want to know what religious group has the highest divorce rate?  Baptists.  29% of Baptists are divorced.  Only 21% of atheists are divorced.  We see this for a couple of reasons.  First off, our faith teaches us that the only physical relationship that God approves of is in marriage.  So instead of living together without being married, practicing Christians are more likely to get married.  This higher marriage rate also leads to a higher divorce rate where couples that live together outside of marriage are not counted when they break up.  While this all makes sense statistically, it shouldn’t make sense spiritually.  We have a higher marriage rate because of our faith, so why aren’t we better equipped to stay married?

    It happens fast:  Average marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years.
    The average age of a first divorce is 30 for women and 32 for men, although for people getting married now, it’s dipping down into a person’s 20s.

    If you wait until later in life to get married, you have a lower chance of divorce.  But what does that usually mean?  I know many committed Christians who wait until later in life to marry and don't enter inappropriate relationships before they are married.  However, it often means that people live with multiple partners before you decide to get married.  Living together prior to getting married can increase the chance of getting divorced by as much as 40 percent.  They don’t trumpet that in the statistics.  So does that model equal happiness?  For those statistics to add up you find that if you live with someone and then marry them you’re more likely to divorce.  However if you live with 1 or multiple partners before getting married, but don’t live with the person you eventually do marry, it increases your chances.  I can’t tell you why, I can only read the statistics.  But I can tell you that the pain and frustration that comes from all of the live-in relationships that fail are not that much different than a broken marriage.  So that’s not a model we want.

    And we don’t simply want to stay in a marriage that is without love or joy.  Of the 60+% of marriages that last, how many of those are truly happy?  So here are the questions I want to answer today:  Where do you start?  How do you make it last?  How do you make it a marriage that you both enjoy?

    Genesis 2: 18-24
    Matthew 19: 4-6

    If your parents are happily married, your risk of divorce decreases by 14 percent.  It does help to have a picture of what a successful marriage looks like.  But only by 14 percent.  I would have thought that would have been higher.  I want something to increase my chances of staying happy more than just 14%.  So what is it?  The first key to staying happily married is this →

    #1:  Commitment if More Important that Experience:  

    You must determine What you’re willing to do in order to stay married.  If you take time to read the interview article of couples married for longer than 50 years, most have at least one thing in common.  They never considered quitting - they always kept working to make their marriage better.  It isn't enough to have two people that are commited to not getting divorced.  It needs more.  You must have two people committed to Ephesians 5:21 that says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

    #2:  View Your Relationship as a Foundation, Not Just Another Building Block

    Acts 4: 10-12

    The bible tells us that Jesus is the cornerstone for our entire life.  It is by Him that we measure and build everything else.  In a similar way, our marriage must be the cornerstone by which we plan all other relationships.

    In life the average person changes jobs 11 times.  Changes careers 3 times.  Only 28% expect to have the same career through their life.  When it comes to other family and friends, they are also temporary.  Our parents may raise us but we will spend much more time living apart from them.  And in Genesis it made it clear to leave our parents and join to our spouse.  We don’t quit caring for them or showing respect, we simply place our marriage first.  The same goes with our children.  It is our responsibility to care & nurture them but we will only have them for a limited time.  We can’t allow our children to dominate the direction of our marriage.  It is unhealthy for you and for your kids.  Our marriage relationship will hopefully outlast them all by 2 or 3 fold.  It is much better for all of our other relationships if we first focus on having a strong marriage.  It makes the rest easier and more fulfilling.

    #3:  View the Other Person as a Gift, Not an Obstacle

    Proverbs 19:14

    It’s interesting to see how the writer in Proverbs states that all of the material things we can gain, everything physical in this world came from the world, but a good marriage relationship is from God.  How often have we looked at a marriage as being in the way of these less meaningful things as opposed to the gift that it truly is?

    Here are interviews the sermon referenced that talked to couples who had been married for over 50 years.  It's interesting to hear their take on what kept them together.  There are links to other resources as well.

    http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/commitment/what-are-the-secrets-for-a-lasting-marriage#.Uv5ut4VFCJQ

    http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/commitment/10-ideas-helping-your-marriage-last-a-lifetime#.Uvd3PoUgvz8

    http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/commitment

    http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/commitment/running-the-race#.Uvd3v4Ugvz8
    Audio Pathway_2014_02_09.mp3
    SatSaturdayFebFebruary8th2014 Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf -- A Song That Isn't Wrong
    byJeremy Flanagan Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    We are still putting together notes from the Saturday Seminar we had on February 8th.  Dr. Spann is sending us the presentation slides he used that shared results from surveys he has conducted on marriages.  It deals with issues around affection, sexual activity, and levels of happiness within marriage.  We will also share some of our notes from the seminar as well.

    Here is a link to the 2-page handout he covered at the seminar.
    /Content/10673/Files/Marriage_Seminar_Handout.pdf

    If you would like to thank Dr. Spann for the seminar or ask him a question, he can be reached at espann@mac.com. 
    SunSundayFebFebruary2nd2014 Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf -- Winning the Wars
    byJeremy Flanagan Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    When you have two people in a dating or marriage relationship, no matter how much they have in common or how much in love they are, conflict is inevitable.  We are imperfect people.  We have different ways of looking at things.  We have different emotions, hopes, desires, personalities, and just about everything else you can name.  Because conflict is inevitable and since it robs many relationships of their joy, we need to look at ways to manage conflict in a way that strengthens our relationships instead of destroying them.  Download this sermon below.  You can also read through the 6 steps talked about in Sunday's sermon along with other resources.

    Ephesians 5:21

    Galatians 5: 13-18

    Steps to Resolving Conflict in Your Relationships 

    Step One:  Determine how your differences make you view situations unequally  

    Both small & large differences between the two individuals guarantee conflict.  Try to evaluate this situation from both points of view taking into account why you have differing points of view or reactions to a situation.
     
    Step Two: Determine where your own selfishness or pride may be in the way

    Selfishness is a character flaw which every person has.  It’s in our nature.  Sometimes we allow it or pride (which is an extension of selfishness) to keep us from self examination.  Cool off, be introspective, and find where it may be involved in this situation.  It rarely isn’t at least to some degree, even if it’s just in the way we react or in the way we want to confront someone.
    ​Philippians 2: 2-4

    Step Three: Resolving conflict requires confrontation

    The word ‘confrontation’ always seems like something bad, but when done with the intent to better a relationship, it can be a very good thing.  The worst thing we can do with actual hurt is to ignore it.  If we value a relationship then we should care enough to fix any problems.
    ​Matthew 5: 23-34
    Ephesians 4: 25-26

    Step Four: Resolving conflict requires a loving approach

    Conflict is easy constructive or destructive – there is no real middle ground.  To help make sure you do your part to make it strengthen your relationship, ask a few questions.  Plus, always remember your should confront out of love, tempered by grace, and with a patient spirit.  What is your motivation?  How is your attitude?  Is the right time and place?  Am I ready to listen?  Am I ready to admit any of my own faults?  Am I ready to focus on this situation and not bring up 20 others?  Can I keep from attacking them?  Am I ready to accept what they say?  Now you may not be able to positively answer all of these, but you should at least consider them to help you approach them in a loving manner.
    Matthew 5:9

    Step Five: You must be open to the idea of forgiveness

    If you aren’t open to the idea of forgiving someone then is there any potential benefit to confronting them?  Yes, you may get the situation out in the open which is needed, but was there a way to address it that would have made forgiveness possible?  Waiting for a better time, spending more time ‘cooling off’, spending more time in prayer or reflection on the issue…?  Albeit most conflict happens before we truly have time to go through all the steps, but we must accept that not only does God want us to forgive, no conflict an truly be settled until we do forgive.  That includes situations where they ask for it and those they don’t.  In the end forgiveness is between us and God.  The other person is just the circumstance.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

    Step Six: Resolving conflict requires returning a blessing for an insult.

    One of the most difficult things to do when we find ourselves in an argument is to not become defensive.  Even if we know we are the ones at fault, our natural tendency to defend ourselves at all cost kicks in.  First off, if we’re bringing up a hurt in order to resolve it, we need to anticipate they might (or will) become defensive.  We probably would in their shoes.  Second, we need to anticipate their defensiveness might include attacks directed at us which naturally will make us lash out.  If we’re not ready to be the “bigger person”, which includes not pointing out how much of the bigger person we are, then maybe we need to wait to start the conflict.  1 Peter 3:8-9 says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” 

    In Conclusion

    Steps and recommendations such as the ones above sound great but are seldom followed as written.  Our lives are never as predictable and planned out as this or any method of conflict resolution.  However the more we try to remember these principles, the more often our hurts or arguments can be managed in a way that is more productive than destructive.  And before we purposefully initiate conflict, it is completely up to us as to whether or not it will be done out of love.

    * adapted from 6 Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage by Dennis Rainey

    Here are some other resources for you to look through:
    http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/resolving-conflict
     
    http://www.foryourmarriage.org/everymarriage/what-makes-marriage-work/conflict-resolution-skills/

    http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/communication_and_conflict.aspx

    http://strongermarriage.org/htm/married/managing-conflict-successfully

    http://www.cbn.com/family/Marriage/newlife_conflicts.aspx

    Audio Pathway_2014_02_02.mp3

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