Friends Who Care

Last week, we talked about the kind of friends that could adversely affect our marriages. The complainer, the critic, and the cynic all hurt our God-given relationships and in many cases have contributed to the demise of a “friend’s” wedded bliss. But thank God that those are not the only friends we get to choose from. There is the other end of the spectrum, a different breed of friends. These are the friends who care about us. They care about our marriage and pray for us to make it. They hurt when we hurt, cry when we cry, and rejoice when we rejoice. These friends truly love us and want the best for our marriage. They don’t get all clingy and jealous of our spouse. They are encouragers. They are honest. They are real friends.

Let’s examine the type of friends we must surround ourselves with who seek to help, and not hinder our marriages.

The Honest Friend

It must start here. It is hard to move forward in a friendship without honesty. We cannot live our lives based on lies. Why would we want to have friendships that are dishonest?

In a time of “networking,” we have been programmed to make friends based on how they will help us in our business and life. And to some degree, that’s what this post is about. However, sometimes, honesty goes out the door because we’re afraid to hurt each other’s feelings or maybe it’s just not our business. Some might even say, “I’m not by brother’s keeper!”

If you see your friend walking towards a busy interstate highway, intending to hurt himself, what would you do? Would you trust what he’s doing? Would you say, “it’s none of my business?” Or would you scream to the top of your lungs, “stop,” while running to pull him back to safety?

I need a friend that would be honest with me and just say, “You’re being a jerk with your wife,” if I am being one. I need a friend who would be willing to give me honest feedback regarding my character, reputation, and marriage, especially at crucial stages of my life. And when done in love and at the appropriate time, I don’t consider it meddling.

We need friends that will be honest with us.

The Encouraging Friend

Can we all agree that there’s enough drama in this world? We don’t need to add to it! I need a friend who will encourage me. Notice what Paul said about the house of Onesiphorus:

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:”               2 Timothy 1:16

I know I’m not perfect. I know that my marriage isn’t perfect. I don’t need anyone creating drama around it or reminding me of how much I fail in life. I need someone who would refresh me. Someone who will say, “It’s okay if you messed up. Get up, get it right, and keep going.” Do your friends, like Onesiphorus, often refresh you?

The Challenging Friend

It’s been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I receive help better from people who I know care about me. Abraham Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”

The fact is this: we are not done growing personally and maritally. We need help! Therefore we need friends who will challenge us to go to the next level. We need people who will challenge us to be more caring, romantic, thoughtful, etc. We need friends who constantly remind us not to settle for second best. After all, when it comes to our marriage, our attitude should always be, “the best is yet to come.” That only happens if we are willing to grow and a friend can help us with that.

Do you have friends who care? Friends who don’t get in the way of your marriage but rather become the stepping stones to a successful relationship. If so, hang on to them tightly, thank them for being honest with you, encouraging and challenging you. Your marriage has been helped by these special angels. How can you repay them? Be the same kind of friend to them, a friend who cares and together we can create a community filled with strong marriages.

Friendships and Marriage

“Today, I married my best friend.” That phrase was all over various items for our wedding. That’s how Amy and I really felt. God gave our marriage the solid foundation of a strong friendship. We fell in love as friends and to this day, I can say without hesitation that she is my best friend. There is no one on the face of the planet I’d rather spend every moment of every day with than my precious wife. I love her and I would marry her all over again.

But realistically speaking, there are other friendships that surround our marriage. As husband and wife, we have other friends, may it be other couples, singles, elderly, etc. Yes, you’re spouse is still your best friend but you have other friends, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But did you know that your friendships affect your marriage? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have friends when you’re married but the kind of friends you have will have some influence on your marital relationship. The Bible says it this way,

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20

Simply put, friendships can shape the choices and consequences of our marriage. Just like we caution our children to “choose their friends wisely,” we should do the same, especially if you’re married. Who you “walk with” will determine whether your marriage will be filled with wisdom or eventually be destroyed.

Today, let’s notice the friends we may want to keep at arm’s length. I’m not advocating being mean-spirited or cliquish. But I would be careful not to spend too much time with friends that have these characteristics.

The Complainer

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” Philippians 2:14

As Americans, we’ve become accustomed to “having it our way.” You can customize your house, your car, your food order, your phone, your playlist, and on and on it goes. Because of this, when something just doesn’t go our way, we want everyone to know about it. We’ll post a negative review or slam someone on social media. If you think about it, our lifestyle has led us to believe that it’s okay to complain when we don’t get our way.

May I remind you of life’s rule 44? Life isn’t fair! You can cry and complain about it or you can deal with it. Complainers hurt their own spirit as well as the spirit of those around them.

If you hang around someone who complains all the time, it won’t be long before you pick up on the same attitude. What’s amazing is that you have this unbelievable love for your spouse but when you begin to have a complaining spirit, all of a sudden that perfect companion and soul mate begins to manifest all of his/her flaws. Newsflash: it’s always been there but because you weren’t a complainer, you allowed your love to cover the multitude of his/her sins.

So stop hanging around the complainer.

The Critic

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Our words have power. They can either build or destroy. A critic is a typical “arm-chair quarterback.” They’re the ones who want to offer every parent advice when they don’t even have a child. They’re the ones that have all the answers to marital problems when they’ve never even committed to someone for a lifetime. They believe it is their life’s calling to critique everyone. Watch out. Being around this type of “friend” will cause you to be that spouse who thinks it’s always someone else’s fault. If God says we are “one flesh,” then it means it’s both of our faults.

The Cynic

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is good. Always. All the time. In our good times as well as the bad, God is always good. And yet, there are those who are always so negative. We’re not talking about the power of positive thinking. We’re talking about knowing the power of an omnipotent God. Don’t allow your trust in God to be tainted by the negativity of the cynic.

People who are negative have a tendency to bring others down with them. After all, doesn’t “misery love company?” Marriage is already hard work in and of itself. Don’t pile on top of it by bringing in a negative and untrusting spirit. The wrong kind of friends can do that to you.

These are three types of friends you want to limit your time with because it can adversely impact your marriage. Instead, do you best to influence them to be the opposite of what they are: contented, encouraging, and positive. Why? Because these are the type of friends that will help strengthen our marriages. And trust me, we all need help to do just that.

Simple Steps to An Affair-Free Marriage, Part 2

Step 4: Keep the Fire Burning

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned – Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love – Proverbs 5:18-19

Time and distance are constant enemies of marriage. The natural flow of relationships is never towards but away from each other. It takes work to make a relationship work!

Remember when you and your spouse were dating/courting. You worked to prove your love to each other. You wrote notes, bought flowers, made gifts, took time, talked, served and preferred each other. What about now? Do you approach the same “duties” with the same fervor or are you just going through the motions? Are you just being romantic so that “momma stays happy because if she ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy?”

People who are labeled as “romantic” work at being just that. It doesn’t come natural but being selfish and thinking about “my wants and my needs” does come easy. So you’ve got to plan. You must prepare.

It’s just like having a campfire or a fireplace. You have to sometimes stoke the fire or blow into it to see the flames rise. Sometimes you have to add more wood or even squirt an accelerant. Then, whoosh! The fire is raging and burning much hotter than it did before.

Your marriage deserves the same, if not more, attention. Throw some fuel into it. Have regular date nights but don’t be boring and predictable. Plan to be intimate. Yeah, I said it, plan it! There is definitely room for spontaneity but if you have kids, you know that there’s not much room for surprises. Ladies, give your husband some money and send him to the store to buy you something to wear. Text your husband a “message” and let him know what’s waiting for him.

You don’t have to be ashamed. Remember, these are all honorable in marriage according to God. I love what Proverbs 5 says, “be thou ravished ALWAYS with her love.” Enough said.

Step 5: Remember Your Family & Friends

As a husband, father, assistant pastor, couples’ teacher and school principal, I have people (both young and old) that observe my life. Now, I’m not taking these steps for them, per sé, but they are affected by what I do.

Not only is your spouse affected by your affair (physical or emotional) but so are your kids, your friends, and your church. Everyone feels a level of pain because of the selfish and sinful act. Having an affair is not a victimless crime!

I remember talking to a young person a few years ago who foolishly exclaimed, “I think marriage is a joke.” After asking him why he thought that, I soon discovered that his dad had been unfaithful multiple times to his mom. In his eyes, what’s the point of getting married and being committed? After explaining to him what the Bible says about marriage and the blessing that it is, he apologized and had a different perspective on marriage.

A dad’s foolish affair affected his son’s attitude and perspective that day. You can do the same, too.

(the article will be concluded next week)

Simple Steps to An Affair-Free Marriage, Part 1

Zarate Family 1331

It breaks my heart that people today don’t think much of marriage. Mainstream culture today see marriage as “old-fashioned” and “unnecessary.” Men and women see no problems with sexual relations outside of the marriage relationship. As a result, affairs are rampant and couples even get to a point of indifference, where they simply don’t care if their spouse is sleeping around.

Marriage has become a social, rather than a spiritual responsibility. Husbands and wives simply stay together nowadays for “the kid’s sake.” (As if divorcing after the children are grown makes it easier on them) And as a result, we see or hear of affairs often.

It’s unfortunate but almost everyone knows of someone who’s had or has been a victim of an affair. Maybe you’re the one reeling from it or the one that committed it. If so, I have a few words before we discuss the simple steps to an affair-free marriage.

First of all, you must confess your sin (if you’re the offender). You must confess it to God and your spouse and maybe even your children (depending on their age, of course). You have no right to act so selfishly and foolishly, regardless of how you think your spouse treated you. Your actions did not just affect you and the effects will last for quite some time.

If you’re the victim of an affair, this may be hard, but I want to encourage you to hear the confession and offer forgiveness. Be honest. Be loving. Communicate how you’ve been hurt but also provide instructions on how your trust can be earned back. It won’t happen overnight. But with God’s help, you can restore your marriage.

Second of all, this is not an article meant to bash people who have been in an affair or been divorced. Before you become protective over someone who has been involved in an affair (as a perpetrator or a victim), show them this article and ask, “Could these have helped?” The people who have been affected by affairs will be the first ones to encourage all of us to take the necessary steps to protect our marriages. They know the pain and have experienced the hurt. It is not their desire for anyone else to go through what they went through.

And finally, this is not an all-inclusive list. I am not a marriage expert. I simply have a passion for marriage and will do all that I can to help anyone who wants to strengthen or save their marriage. These steps are based on Scripture and the godly counsel and examples I have observed in my life. So, here it goes.

Step 1: Thank God For Your Spouse and Show Your Appreciation Daily

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. – Proverbs 18:22

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17

One of the biggest problems in America today is that we often pine for that which we do not have. Someone once said that contentment is not having what you want but being thankful for what you have.

Stop wondering what life would be like if you would’ve married your high school or college girlfriend or boyfriend! (i.e. the Facebook Romance) Stop fantasizing about that actor or co-worker. The one that should fill your thoughts, excite your heart, and turn you on should be your spouse. Think about it, he/she is God’s gift to you!

One way to be thankful for your spouse is to show your appreciation daily. Don’t just say “thank you” but show it, too, through your actions. It’ll keep you from coveting someone else.

Step 2: Avoid Being Alone with a Person of the Opposite Sex

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? – Proverbs 6:27

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband:and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. – 1 Corinthians 7:4

No offense, but people who’ve had affairs often thought, “This is no big deal. I can handle it!” Newsflash – you can’t! If we play with fire, we will get burned.

The sexual desires we are created with are God’s gifts for our marriage. That’s why He says in Hebrews 13, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled…” The intimacy that should exist between a man and a woman is created for those in a marriage relationship. That is why guilt and misery accompanies premarital or extramarital affairs. There’s no joy or happiness, only deceit and eventual despair. And forget about earning trust. If you’re relationship started out as a lie, what kind of foundation is that? But I digress from the point.

Men and women have a mutual dependency upon each other on various levels (spiritual, emotional, physical, etc.) Those dependencies are to be met, again, within the confines of marriage. Unfortunately, these dependencies also draw men and women together.

It begins with, “I’m glad you understand because my wife sure doesn’t” or “Why can’t my husband be more caring and concerned like you?” And before you know it, you’ve let go of that which is good and now are giving the appearance of evil. You’ve decided to pick up that “fire.”

You also have given someone else power over your mind, emotion, and body, which rightly belongs to your spouse. All of a sudden you notice things you thought you were missing in your marriage and find it in this person. The conversation and companionship alone with each other has moved you away from appreciating God’s gift to you – your spouse!

I know what most are thinking, “It’s not that big a deal!” May I remind you? That’s how it starts. Just ask those who’ve been down this destructive path before.

Step 3: Watch Your Eyes

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes… – Psalm 101:3

…and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon… 2 Samuel 11:2

You can only control, to a certain degree, what is set before your eyes. In today’s society, where sexuality is flaunted, it is hard to “unsee” what’s all over the place. But you can choose not to look again. That’s what got King David in trouble. He knew about Bathsheba. He saw her and he kept watching to a point where he began to desire her. By the way, what happens to David also happens to those who view pornography. They begin to desire who they’re watching or at the very least, seek to imitate in their spouse what they’ve observed through pornography and it never ends well.

Also, husbands, when speaking to a woman, it is best to make eye contact. Don’t let your eyes wander. Her body isn’t meant for your pleasure. Remember, we’re stimulated by sight. But wives, even though sight is not your primary stimulant, follow the same practice anyway. And though this will be further discussed later, please ladies, keep your hands to yourself.

(to be continued)


How Easter Can Help Your Marriage


It’s that time of the year when we celebrate Easter Sunday! It signals a new beginning as people don apparel that comes from the brighter side of their closets. Little girls coming in their beautiful dresses and boys handsomely dressed like “preppies.” And then there’s the Easter Dinner. Ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables, the colorful desserts after Easter service at your local church. After that delicious Easter dinner, it’s time for some games so that the kids can run off all that sugar and the adults can come out of their semi-comatose state. After all, unlike Thanksgiving, there isn’t a football game to snooze in front of. The traditional game: an Easter egg hunt!  (By the way, before you get all offended, I know what Easter or Resurrection Sunday is all about; just wanting to help marriages for now)

It was the thought of an Easter egg hunt that gave me an idea on how to help our marriages. Why not have an egg hunt for your spouse. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • A bag of empty plastic shells (you can get these at Walmart, Target, or Party City)
  • A roll of scotch tape
  • Tiny pieces of paper
  • A pen
  • Maybe your spouse’s favorite perfume or cologne

I think you already know where I’m going. On the tiny pieces of paper write down any of the following:

  • I love you because… (you should come up with at least a dozen different reasons)
  • Because I love you, I will… (kinda like a coupon for a back rub, romantic dinner, favorite treat, or… you know what he/she likes, just write it down)
  • Go get your favorite… (then include the money for his/her favorite…)

Feel free to be more creative than me in what you can place in those eggs.

Then, hide the eggs all over the house (fridge, closet, drawers, favorite chair, etc.), the car, their office, and anywhere else they may frequent. It’s okay if they don’t find it right away. Can you imagine the smile on their face when they find it a few months later? It will be awesome!

By the way, parents, this would be good to do with your children (both for them and for your spouse). It’s fun way to communicate love to each other. It also teaches them that loving each other takes some work (something that most people don’t realize nowadays).

You may be thinking, “Why go through all the trouble?” First of all, your marriage is important! When you said, “I do,” you made a promise before God and men. Keep it! Fight for your marriage and do all that you can to make it better. Your home should be a haven, not a war zone and doing little things like this egg hunt shows how much you care.

Second of all, if you have children, realize that they are watching. Statistics have shown that many children whose parent went through divorce ended up going through divorce themselves. Monkey see, money do. Fathers, one of the best gifts you can give your children is to love their mother. And even as children of divorced parents persevere through their own marriages, they’ll be the first to tell you that at some point, they struggle at the very least with the fear of being divorced. Don’t put them through that!

Finally, your marriage is worth it and God is on your side! How do I know? Well, He did create marriage all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Our marriages are a perfect picture of Christ (the bridegroom) and the church (the bride). There’s no doubt Jesus loves us and just in case you have any doubts, He’s left a lot of “easter eggs” with messages all over the place. Just open it up and read, you’ll be glad you did!

A More Productive Question

Every married couple faces times of disagreement, which sometimes turns into an argument. In our HomeBuilders class, we like to call these “intense fellowships.” You can’t avoid it. It happens. Sometimes, it can even be productive.

Unfortunately, a lot of couples get stuck asking the wrong question when they find themselves at odds with each other. And when the wrong question is asked, you find yourself on this cyclical mess with no solution in sight.

Then bitterness sets in. Our actions begin to reflect our unforgiving hearts and our marriages suffer because of it. By the way, if you have children, they know when things are not right between mom and dad. Mark it down, you just hurt them, too!

We’ve all heard it before, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.” Well, when it comes to conflict resolution in marriage, I must say that there is one very dumb question. This question is often the first thing that comes to our minds and we begin to zero in on it with laser accuracy.

You may be asking, “What’s the dumb question?”

Well, here it is.

Are you ready?

You may have asked it before and if so, knock it off!

The question that seems productive when resolving conflicts is…

Who’s fault is it?

Have you ever asked that question before in the middle of an argument? I know, Mr. Husband, you’re just trying to collect the facts. I know Mrs. Wife, you’re just trying to “talk it out.” But you know the general reaction we all have to that question.

We get defensive. We get sensitive. Our egos are hurt (yes, ladies, you have egos, too, the Bible calls it “pride”).

What do you mean, “Who’s fault is it? Well, it your fault, of course!” There’s no communication and no resolution. Offenses remain unconfessed, apologies are unsaid, and joy is sucked out of the home!

May I suggest a more productive question? The fact is this: it is someone’s fault, otherwise you wouldn’t be arguing. But the answer to that question is not as helpful as the answer to this more productive question:

What can I do to help or fix it?

Unless you’re keeping score in your marriage (which is a very bad idea), it really doesn’t matter to you who’s fault it is. What matters is that your spouse feels and knows you want to make things better. Asking this more productive question places you on that path.

One of my mentors used to say it this way, “Always take the position of a humble servant.” And you know what, he’s right!

A servant doesn’t ask, “Who’s fault is this?” A servant isn’t looking to assign blame. All he cares about is how to make things better by being a help.

My marriage and yours can be strengthened by having a servant’s heart. It definitely helps when it comes to conflict resolution because a servant isn’t concerned about who messed up and who didn’t; their heart is always to help.

So, are you in the middle of one of those “intense fellowships” with your spouse? Don’t stay there! Stop asking the wrong question, “who’s fault is it?” Rather ask a more productive question, “what can I do to help or fix it?”

The sooner you ask, the quicker you’ll get to that peaceful, lovely, and joyful marriage you had before the argument. And if you have kids, they’ll appreciate that!

Diffusing a Potentially Dangerous Conversation

Have you ever had one of those conversations with your spouse when you found yourself a few steps ahead. As you pondered where this conversation could go, you quickly “tapped on the brakes” to avoid a heavier and potentially more dangerous conversation.

We’ve all been there.

Maybe you didn’t mean to be short with your spouse. She may have had a bad day or he could have just had an office confrontation. Maybe you forgot that it’s a special day!

And off we go, down the dangerous conversation cliff!

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You see, conversations can be like time bombs. You’re racing against the clock. Your spouse is about ready to lose it because “you’re not hearing me” or “you’re being an insensitive and inconsiderate jerk!” And like a member of the bomb squad, you’re faced with the question, “Should I cut the blue wire or the red one?”

Tick. Tick. Tick.

A potentially dangerous conversation can be diffused in by exercising two attributes. So the next time you hear the ticking, time bomb of your potentially dangerous conversation, try exercising these: patience and playfulness.


Have you ever been there? You’re listening to your spouse and you have a retort to her points or a response to her frustrations or maybe even a solution to her problems. Can I give you some good advice?

Stop! Listen. Then listen some more.

You won’t believe how many conversations went from good to bad to worse to a World War simply because someone couldn’t exercise a little patience. You don’t have to say (at least right away) what comes to your mind. Besides, I’ve learned (unfortunately through experience) that my eagerness to speak fuels the fires of frustration. Have patience.

Also, in regards to patience, sometimes we just need to cut our spouse some slack. After all, they’re not perfect. And trust me, there’s going to come a day when you’ll expect your spouse to be patient with you. So be patient with him/her.


Can I just be honest? Sometimes some arguments are just plain silly! Sometimes it’s good to just get it out of our system, listen to ourselves talk, then realize how big of a mountain we are making this molehill. And when that realization hits us, it’s play to laugh. Really!

Be careful about this point, however. Comedic timing is a must when inserting humor in a potentially dangerous conversation. But I’ve found that sometimes, laughing at the situation helps calm everyone, which gives us a better state of mind to sold the problem.

I’m guessing that sometime this week, you’ll have a potentially dangerous conversation. Diffuse it properly. Don’t let it blow up in your face. A proper spirit will enable you to “cut the right wire” and save your marriage from unnecessary shrapnel.