Browsing articles from "July, 2013"
Jul 19, 2013
neil

85 questions to ask before you marry

In marriage preparation at City Church we ask engaged couples to complete the following questionnaire on their expectations for married life. It’s one we adapted and added to from a questionnaire I did 20 years ago in my marriage prep. classes at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Our approach is to ask the couples to complete the worksheet separately and then talk through their conclusions with each other. We don’t then go through the answers, question by question, with them in marriage prep. classes but we do ask them to talk through with us any areas of significant disagreement or uncertainty.

Expectations in marriage worksheet

  A. Spiritual life 

1. Where and when do you generally read your Bible and pray?  
2. Do you expect to have devotional times together? How often? 
3. How important is God in your life? How is this manifest? 
4. Are you growing as a Christian? In what ways do you envisage your spouse being able to help you grow? Be specific.

B. Daily living 

1. Are you a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ person? What time do you like to go to bed in the evening and get up in the morning? 
2. How important are music, radio, TV, social media, surfing the internet and computer games to you? Do you think anything will need to change when you are married? 
3. If you were given £25,000 what would you do with it as a couple? 
4. From the list below, what jobs around the house do you expect to do, what might you share with your spouse and what do you expect your spouse mostly to do?

Mowing the lawn, Car maintenance (if relevant), Washing up
Cooking,  Cleaning the toilet, Food shopping
Ironing, Paying the bills, Wiring a plug,
Unblocking a drain, Sewing on a button, Changing the bedding
Doing the washing, Driving the car (if relevant), Taking the bins out

Husband will do:

Wife will mostly do:

We will share:

5. Do you expect to keep some secrets from your spouse? For example:

  • Earnings?
  • Savings?
  • Weight?
  • Private letters? 

6. In what areas do you expect to disagree most? For example:

  • Money?
  • In-laws?
  • Leisure?
  • Life-style? 

7. Is there anything you feel it will be difficult to discuss with your spouse? Are you willing to try? 

C. Social 

1. How would you like to celebrate your first wedding anniversary? What about your tenth? 
2. How do you view your (future) in-laws? How often will you visit them? How often will they visit you? 
3. What about your own parents? How often will you visit them? How often will they visit you? 
4. How often would you expect to speak to your parents and other close family? 
5. How do you think your relationship with your parents will change once you’re married? 
6. How might your parents and in-laws be cared for in old age? 
7. How do you view your future spouse’s friends? Will you encourage these friendships? 
8. How many evenings a week would you expect to be:

  • Out, with your spouse?
  • Out ,without your spouse?
  • In together, with friends?
  • Left at home alone?
  • In together, alone?
  • Out together, just the two of you? 

9. How important is time on your own to relax? Do you relax best in the company of others or in your own company? Do you think you will need time alone when you are at home or on holiday together? 

D. Christmas

1. How was Christmas for you growing up? 
2. What traditions did you have as a family that you would love to keep/prefer to lose? 
3. Do you look forward to the Christmas season? 
4. How would you like to spend your first Christmas together? 
5. How might you balance time spent with your respective families over the years?  

E. Children 

1. What makes you nervous or afraid at the prospect of having children? 
2. If you are able to have children, how many children would you like? How important would financial considerations feature in your thoughts? What other factors would apply? 
3. How long would you like to wait before trying for children? 
4. How would you respond if you became pregnant on honeymoon? 
5. What would be your top three priorities for your children? 
6. What is your view about infant baptism? 
7. Do you anticipate parenting in a similar manner to which you were brought up?  Why or why not? 
8. What sort of education would you want for them? 
9. How do you see your responsibility as regards ‘bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6v4)? How about your future spouse’s responsibility?  

F. Church 

1. What areas of church life do you currently serve in? 
2. Are there any responsibilities you should consider giving up once you are married?
3. What particular contributions to church life do you anticipate having as a married couple? 
4. In what particular ways do you want to serve God together?  Be specific. 
5. How do you want God to use your marriage and home?
6. What part will hospitality play?

G. Communication and Conflict 

1. Are you good at communicating “basic” information: diary planning, phone messages, short- and medium-term plans? If not, how will you improve? 
2. Are you good at the kind of communicating that builds and strengthens intimacy? Do you think you need to improve at making space for that in your relationship? 
3. Do you think your spouse does? How can you help? 
4. Do you find it easy to talk about things you are struggling with? How can your spouse help you? 
5. How good are you at “speaking the truth in love”, saying difficult things in a loving way? 
6. Are you willing for your spouse to be frank with you regarding any personal habits you have that they find unpleasant or simply unhelpful? How best might they address or initiate the subject? 
7. How do you respond to conflict?  Do you go quiet, sulk, become argumentative, become defensive? 
8. How do you anticipate resolving conflicts? 
9. Do you consider your future spouse to be good at communicating?  How could they improve? 
10. Do you consider yourself to be good at communicating?  How could you improve?

H. Recreation 

1. What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Is this something you plan to continue to do when married? Would you anticipate your spouse being involved in this? How? 
2. How often do you expect to have a holiday? What would you expect these to look like? 

I. Work 

1. What is your attitude towards work?  Do you find it difficult to stop working? Do you find it difficult to switch off after work? 
2. How important is having a career to you? What expectations or hopes do you have for your career? 
3. How would you respond to an expectation from an employer for you to work overtime, or increase your hours?  
4. How do you feel about the role of housewife and mother? As a mother, how soon would you consider returning to paid employment, if at all? As a father, how would you feel about your wife going back to work?

J. Money 

1. What standard of living have you been used to?
recently
in your childhood 
2. What expectations do you bring into marriage in relation to this? Do you expect a steadily rising standard of living? 
3. What debts do you have? 
4. What about savings and assets? 
5. What is your attitude towards money?  Do you generally save up before buying larger items, or do you buy these on credit and pay back? 
6. When you buy something, do you prefer to pay more for quality instead of pay a lower price? 
7. Do you budget carefully? 
8. Are you giving to the church in a disciplined manner? What will that look like when you are married? 
9. Will you have a joint account when you are married? 
10. Do you plan to save together? How much? What will these savings be for? 
11. Will you maintain a savings account, pension, life insurance? 
12. Who will be in charge of the money when you are married? Who will be responsible for paying different bills and how? 
13. Do you expect to talk about every purchase you make, set a threshold for this, or each be free to spend what you want? 
14. How much money do you think you ought to spend on holidays? 

 K. Home 

1. Do you expect to be living in Birmingham in 5 years? What about in 10? 
2. What are your priorities in choosing where to live? 
3. How important to you is where you live and what sort of house/flat you live in?

  • Now?
  • In 10 years?
  • At retirement? 

4. What sort of home would you expect in 5 years’ time? 
5. How important is it to you to be buying your own home? 
6. How much of a practical handyman/woman are you? Do you enjoy doing things around the home, for example: putting up shelves, mending things, decorating, making curtains, etc.? 
7. How tidy are you? How important is it for you to have a clean and tidy home? 

L. Marriage 

1. Try to write down in a sentence or two about why you want to get married and why to this person in particular? 
2. How do you hope being married to your spouse will benefit them? 
3. How do you hope being married to your spouse will benefit you? 
4. What could undermine these benefits? 
5. How often do you expect to have sex? 
6. Where would you turn to if you were having problems with the sexual relationship within your marriage? 
7. Do you think romance is important? How do you intend to be romantic towards your spouse? 
8. How will you keep God central in your marriage? How might you keep a check on that? 

Notes for discussion

Jul 10, 2013
neil

So you love Jesus, but do you really want to be like him?

For the Christian the goal of the Christian life is to become increasingly like Christ. Paul writes: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18 NIV). John writes we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  (1 John 3:1 NIV).

But what do we mean when we say we want to be like him? It seems to me that we most often mean we want to be like him in character or godliness. Maybe we wish we had his self-control, his trust in God, and so on. Or maybe we want to be like Christ not just in character but in wisdom. We want the mind of Christ to know how to live to please God in every situation.

But what about like him in our circumstances? Would we actually want our lives to look like Jesus’s life? In becoming like Christ it seems to me that the Bible wants us to share his experiences too. The reality is that discipleship may well take us where we don’t want to go. It will involve a life that includes suffering (1 Pet. 2:20-21), rejection (John 15:20), personal injustice (2 Tim. 3:12). The battle in discipleship is a battle to be ready to go wherever He may take me. Perhaps that is because the hardest lesson to learn is that the mind of Christ and the character of Christ were formed in him in adversity. It will be our experience too if we truly want to be like him.

Francis Chan in interview once said:

You passionately love Jesus, but you don’t really want to be like Him. You admire His humility, but you don’t want to be that humble. You think it’s beautiful that He washed the feet of the disciples, but that’s not exactly the direction your life is headed. You’re thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you. You praise Him for loving you enough to suffer during His whole time on earth, but you’re going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here. 

In short: You think He is a great Savior, but not a great role model.

Jul 9, 2013
neil

Nothing is wasted

Here’s a short-piece I recorded for Acts29Europe entitled ‘Nothing is wasted’ not even our mistakes.

Jul 5, 2013
neil

When God takes you where you don’t want to go

Pete Wilson, in his book Plan B, puts his finger on the dilemma modern, western Christians face:

Whatever you wanted for your life, if you’re a Christian, you may well have assumed God want it for you as well. You might not admit it, even to yourself but you were pretty sure God was going to  sweep down and provide for you as only God could do. The problem is, what you assumed was not necessarily what happened.

Nobody ever grew up thinking, I’m going to get cancer at forty-one. Nobody ever grew up thinking, I’m going to get fired at fifty-seven. Nobody ever planned to be divorced twice by forty-five or alone and depressed at age thirty-five. Nobody thought their child would end up in prison at age twenty. You never imagined you wouldn’t physically be able to have children. You never imagined you’d get stuck in a dead-end job. You never imagined the word that might best describe your marriage would be mediocre. But it happened, and you’re frustrated. Or hurt. Or furious. Or all of the above.

We are preaching through a series on Sunday evenings at City Church called Perfected in weakness we are looking at the weakness of physical suffering. What CS Lewis called the problem of pain.  It  is a problem for Christian and non-Christian alike. Maybe for you suffering is the reason you are not a Christian. George Bernard Shaw once said:

How are atheists produced? In probably nine cases out of ten what happens is something like this. A beloved wife, or child or sweetheart is gnawed to death by cancer, stultified by epilepsy, struck dumb and helpless by apoplexy or strangled by croup or diphtheria. The onlooker, after praying vainly to God to refrain from such horrible and wanton cruelty, indignantly repudiates faith in the divine monster and becomes not merely indifferent and sceptical but fiercely and actively hostile to religion.

The problem of pain is also a problem for the Chrsitian. It works a bit differently for us, however. Our problem is not simply that as believers we might fall ill, or suffer as much as unbelievers. No, our problem comes in trying to reconcile what we know about God with what we experience in our lives. The problem for the Christian is that we do believe in a God who loves us and is sovereign over their health and it’s because he is in control that we know that when we suffer it is God who sends it. Our problem, to put it in the words of Christopher Ash is not ‘just that it hurts . . . it is more than this: it is the conviction that it is God who is doing the hurting.’

No wonder that we suffer in this way we find ourselves deeply perplexed as to what God is doing. Some Christians try to resolve it by denying that God does stand behind suffering and prefer simply blame Satan or put it down to ‘living life in a fallen world.’  Others wonder whether God is really sovereign in troubling times: a good God wouldn’t do this to me, maybe God doesn’t know everything that will happen to us.

Or if we can’t escape the idea that God must allow it, we begin to fear that although God is good we wonder whether he is good to me.  What if our suffering is a punishment from God for sin in our lives.  Christopher Ash writes of a suffering believer ‘in a way, the deepest question Job faces is this: ‘Is God for me or against me?’ For ultimately nothing else matters.’

Can God be both loving and sovereign and still allow his people to suffer?

In two places in the Bible we gain a particular insight into what is going on when we suffer, Job 2:1–10 and 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. We find something of an answer, although we may find the answer is not be the one we were hoping for. Christopher Ash identifies 5 truths in the story of Job that we also find in Paul’s thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12. In both stories of suffering we find the same five truths at play:

1. God’s servant (Paul or Job) is blameless. This does not mean sinless but it means in a right relationship with God. God says of Job ‘In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.’ (Job 1:1 NIV). In their suffering, neither man has any reason to fear that he is being punished for sin.

2. Satan has real influence. He is the immediate, direct cause of the suffering they experience. Paul describes the thorn in his flesh as a ‘messenger of Satan’. In Job we read ‘Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.’ (Job 2:1 NIV)

3. The Lord is absolutely supreme. Satan and the Lord are not two equal and opposite forces at work in the world. Limitations are placed on Satan by divine command. Quite simply, there is nothing that Satan can do unless God allows him. See Job 2:6 and 1:12.

4. The Lord gives terrible permissions. God is in control and it is God who allows his servants to go through the suffering they do. It is not pleasant. It involves real pain and discomfort. If God is for us then God must have a purpose greater than our immediate personal happiness.

5. God’s servant grows in grace. In their suffering both Paul and Job trust God with what they don’t understand. Paul and Job both discover that their faith is not only proved but strengthened –by what they go through.

In the next couple of posts we’ll consider

1. Suffering – Who’s to blame? 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. Our suffering is meaningful only because God stands behind it

2. Suffering – who’s in control? Job 2:1-10. Suffering is not only meaningful because God is in it but it is purposeful because God will use it to teach us about himself.

3. Suffering – what is God trying to do achieve through our suffering? Job 38:1–11, 40:1–5; 2 Cor. 12:7–10. We will discover that, finally, suffering is redemptive. It humbles us and therefore serves to keep us close to God. We learn to trust him with what we don’t understand as well as what we do. We learn to rely on him for strength when we have none of our own.

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