What is the Purpose of Marriage?

sacred-marriage-what-if-god-designed-marriage-to-make-us-holy-more-than-to-make-us-happySacred Marriage by Gary Thomas looks at the true purpose of marriage as he inquires, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  This book reveals how couples can deepen their relationship with God through their marital relationship.  Marriage can be viewed as a spiritual discipline that can develop our Christian character.  God can use our marriage partner to make us more like Christ.

Here are some thoughts from the book for you to ponder:

One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”

Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance. Sin, wrong attitudes, and personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erode the relationship, assaulting and eventually erasing the once lofty promises made in the throes of an earlier (and less polluted) passion.

Our Lord has sovereignty ordained that our refining process take place as we go through difficulties, not around them. The Bible is filled with examples of those who overcame as they passed through the desert, the Red Sea, the fiery furnace and ultimately the cross.  God doesn’t protect Christians from problems,  but He helps them walk victoriously through their problems.

If I’m in my marriage for emotional stability, I probably won’t last long.   But if I think it can reap spiritual benefits, I’ll have plenty of reason to be married.

It took years for me to understand I have a Christian obligation to continually move toward my wife. I thought that as long as I didn’t attack my wife or say cruel things to her, I was a “nice” husband, but the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. To stop moving toward our spouse is to stop loving him or her. It’s holding back from the very purpose of marriage.

Perhaps the “simple steps” approach to marriage does not work because God didn’t design marriage to be easy.  Perhaps God’s purpose for us goes beyond our personal happiness and comfort.

If the purpose of marriage were merely happiness and romance,  I’d have to find someone new about every two years . . .   but if holiness is God’s focus,  then living with a difficult spouse is an opportunity for me to grow in Christlikeness, for me to be transformed.

Humans so often look to each other for things that only God can provide.  Much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it.

If I’m married only for happiness, and my happiness wanes for whatever reason, one little spark will burn the entire forest of my relationship.

Our culture is obsessed with self-care, self-preservation, and self-promotion. We are losing the art of caring for others that God designed us for.

It’s too bad that I spent the early years of our marriage tallying up the pluses and minuses of my wife’s personality and that I spent so much time and energy dwelling on her minuses rather than on my own.

In 1 Peter 3:7,  the apostle Peter writes that husbands must live considerately with their wives and treat them with respect so that nothing will get in the way of their prayers. Peter is not saying that a strong prayer life will benefit our marriages; instead he is saying that improving our marriages will benefit our prayers!

Marriage provides us the opportunity to reevaluate our dependency on other humans for our spiritual nourishment,  and directs us to nurture our relationship with God.   The truth is no human being can love us the way we long to be loved.  Marriage is an incredible opportunity to learn the godly art of servanthood.  St. Francis wisely said, “It is in giving . . . that we receive.”


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Nuggets from the Global Leadership Summit

SummitWe hosted The Global Leadership Summit at the Church at LifePark this past week – what a great week!  I was planning to list my top ten quotations, but I found I could not limit it to ten – here’s some thoughts for you to ponder:

Bill Hybels

Your culture will only ever be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be.

Any effort to work on culture will fail without 100% buy-in from the leader at the top.

People join organizations – they leave managers.

He who is forgiven much will worship much.

What are you going to do with your dash?

As a leader you’re in the business of giving people confidence.

The grander the vision, the greater the price tag.

The kindest form of a management is the truth. (Jack Welch)

You’ll never be fully satisfied until you’re a part of God’s grand plan.

God made you on purpose for a purpose.

There is a grander vision with your name on it.

Figure it out and don’t call me.

 Carly Fiorina

The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others.

What we are is Gods gift to us – what we become is our gift to God.

Jeffrey Immelt

Be around a crises early in your career. You can’t tell anything about anyone until they have been through a crisis.

Over time my team will question my decisions, but I hope they never question my intentions.

Susan Cain

The wind howls but the mountain remains the same.

What’s in your suitcase?

Bryan Loritts

God sees us as is, accepts us as is, saves us as is, but by grace, never leaves us as is!

Patrick Lencioni

You can’t be too vulnerable as a leader. People expect us to be competent, but they don’t want us to be perfect, they want us to be human.

If it’s not servant leadership, it’s just economics.

A true leader sacrifices themselves for the well-being of others without a guarantee of a return on investment.

 Joseph Grenny

The vital behavior that enables most any positive organizational outcome is candor at moments of acute emotional and political risk.

People never get defensive with you about what you are saying  - they get defensive because of why they think you are saying it.

Erica Ariel Fox

We don’t negotiate well with others because we don’t know how to negotiate with ourselves.

Your job as a leader is to identify your key performance gaps and systematically develop yourself to close them.

Don Flow 

Confidence without challenge = complacency - challenge without confidence = fear.

Michael Jr.

Stop asking what you can get for yourself and ask what you can give from yourself.

Allen Catherine Kagina

We were naive enough to believe that God can change anything.

Wilfredo de Jesus

Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.

With revelation comes responsibility.

Fear is the opposite of faith.

You cannot let your budget determine your faith.

Ivan Satyavrata

The greatest gift you can give to your followers is a safe place for them to soar to greater heights.

Tyler Perry

On critics:  God has prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies. So watch me eat!

How can you pay attention to critics when you’re changing lives?

Louie Giglio

You don’t have to know everything about how to get to the top of the mountain in front of you in order to take the next step.

God cannot use a man greatly until he wounds him deeply.  (A. W. Tozer)

See you at next year’s Summit,  August 6-7 2015.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Never Eat Alone

Never Eat AloneKeith Ferrazzi is a networker par excellence and in Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi reveals the tactics that enabled him to connect with a large number of people in mutually beneficial relationships.  His approach to networking is “. . . finding ways to make other people more successful” (p. 9).  

He references Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take,  whose research reveals that those whose motive is giving to others actually do better than takers in the long run (pp 182-184).   His bottom line is, “It’s better to give before you receive.  And never keep score.  If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit” (p. 22).

Throughout the book Ferrazzi makes explicit the practices he uses for effective networking that effective networkers often practice implicitly.  He shares his successes as well as his failures in networking.  A key to his effectiveness appears to be his genuine care and concern for others.

His answer to much of the stress we face in life is not to cut down on our relationships, but rather to enhance our network of relationships.  “What they should be saying is ‘I gotta get a life filled with people I love’” (p. 358).

Ferrazzi seeks to address the question, “What does it mean to live a truly connected life?  (p. 361)  The answer is not found in fame, comfort, wealth, or power.  The key is finding meaning and purpose in our lives.  We must address the following questions:

 What is your passion?
What truly gives you pleasure?
How can you make a difference?  (p. 365)

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best in the world,  as long as you remember that doing so also means wanting to be the best for the world” (p. 366).   That was the example of Jesus,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

If you’re seeking to develop your network of relationships and influence then you may find this a helpful book.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5


The Leadership Summit – Principles for Life

Leadership summitLeadership development is a popular topic.  A cursory glance at the literature reveals a number of approaches to developing leaders.

A popular model is the competency approach.  If you can repeat the behaviors that made someone popular in the past then you will be successful in the future.  The drawback of this approach is that we are facing unprecedented change and we must realize that past behavior is not always a reliable predictor of future success.

Another popular approach is psychometric testing as it looks at the personality of a leader.  A study of leadership however, reveals no correlation between personality type and effective leadership.

Other approaches look at “best practices” in effective leaders.  We can certainly learn from others but if you seek to emulate Steve Jobs you will be frustrated because you’re not Steve Jobs.  You must be the person God created you to be.

So how can you develop as a leader?  The Leadership Summit will not present a competency model, give you psychometric tests, or tell you how you must lead.  Leadership development is more complex than a simple formula.  The Leadership Summit examines the principles and underlying values of leadership in a variety of contexts.

It’s essential that your leadership is based on core values and convictions that you believe in, otherwise when you face the challenges of life you’ll be tempted to look for the next novel method to follow.  The Leadership Summit will provide you the opportunity to be inspired, challenged, and equipped with the leadership principles to enable you to face the challenges of life.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that the one who leads should lead with all diligence (Romans 12:8).

The Leadership Summit is coming soon (August 14-15) and you can register at http://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership/


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety post itsWise words can heal a heavy heart. This past week I preached on overcoming anxiety. Anxiety may be defined as uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger. This is one of the most common disorders in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).
Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999).  The good news is that you can overcome anxiety in your life. You may wonder how can I overcome anxiety in my life?  You can overcome anxiety by heeding the wisdom of God’s word.  One of the wisest men who ever lived, King Solomon, penned these words 3,000 years ago:
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

We see that there are a number or reasons for anxiety:

1. Anxiety may be caused by physiological reasons.

One of the first places to start with are physiological reasons. When you feel troubled, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Along with managing the fight or flight response, cortisol has many other important jobs. One of the biggest ones is controlling our blood sugar. When our blood sugar lowers, cortisol raises it back to normal range. This is why we can feel edgy or upset when we miss a meal.

If low-blood sugar makes you feel anxious and sugary foods raise our blood sugar it would seem that they would help anxiety – so we load up on empty carbs. In fact the exact opposite is true.  Because sugary foods raise our blood sugar so fast, they cause it to drop more than missing a meal would.  When we eat sugar, our blood sugar is apt to drop off badly for several days afterwards.  A physiological problem needs a physiological solution.

2. Anxiety may be caused by external reasons.

When you experience a new and potentially dangerous situation outside of your comfort zone it’s normal to experience anxiety.

As you can see below,  as you develop competency your level of anxiety decreases:

3. Anxiety may be caused by psychological reasons.

Psychologist Martin Seligman’s and his colleagues discovered the concept of learned helplessness which is a mental state in which an individual becomes unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with negative stimuli, even if they are escapable because they lose hope that the situation can change.  We become consumed with negative self-talk:  generalization, irrational thinking, emotional – catastrophizing, and self-pity.

This may manifest itself in a variety of fears; a major is fear about your needs. Food and clothing represent our basic needs in life. If God can handle the big stuff then He can handle the little stuff. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His listeners,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34

We are to pray and let God take care of the worry – we must learn how to turn our cares into prayers. It’s been said, “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.”

Another common fear is that of man. You start interpreting situations personally and becoming overly concerned what other people think of you.  We end up buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.  It is only the fear of God that can that can deliver us from the fear of man.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Many people have anxiety over a fear of failure or the unknown. You may have failed but that doesn’t make you a failure.  Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”  As a Christian you must remember that you are never alone but God is always with you.  Be encouraged by these words of Jesus,

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

Finally, you may be feeling anxious because of sin in your life. The Psalmist realized,

For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin. (Psalm 38:8)

Just as a physiological problem needs a physiological solution, so a spiritual problem needs a spiritual solution.

So how do I overcome anxiety in my life?  It starts with prayer,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The hymn writer said it well, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!  Corrie ten Boom wisely observed, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Our prayer involves giving our anxiety over to Jesus,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Is there any anxiety weighing you down?  The picture at the beginning of this post are anxieties that people placed on a cross as a physical manifestation of “casting all their anxiety upon Jesus.”  Don’t allow anxiety to burden you – give it to Jesus,  He’ll in turn give you His peace.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter: rickhiggins5

The Leadership Summit – Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni modelOne of my favorite Leadership Summit speakers is Patrick Lencioni and he is one of the featured speakers at this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

Patrick Lencioni is the founder of the consulting firm, The Table Group,  and he is the bestselling author of ten books.  He is one of the most sought after business speakers in America and he has been a favorite speaker at the Leadership Summit in past years.

Personally, I have used his materials with great effectiveness to assist churches and missions teams.  His model of team building has proven especially helpful in helping teams develop effectiveness:


Here’s a representative sample of quotations from his book,  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable:

“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.”

“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

“If everything is important, then nothing is.”

“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”

“It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.”

Are you ready to take your leadership to the next level?   The apostle Paul encourages us to “lead with all diligence” (Romans 12:8).  I want to invite you to attend The Leadership Summit this summer on August 14-15 – see willowcreek.com/summit for more information.

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

EssentialismDo you ever feel stressed out from the demands of everyday life?  Greg McKeown addresses that problem head-on in Essentialism.

The author points out, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done”  (p. 5).   The book makes a forceful argument that wisdom consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

The truth is “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will” (p. 10).  This book emphasizes self-leadership as people need to learn how to manage themselves.  This book is logically organized helping the reader to answer the question, “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goals?” (p. 18).  Here’s an outline of the book:

Part I: Essence
1. The Essentialist
2. Choose: The Invincible Power of Choice
3. Discern: The Unimportance of Practically Everything
4. Trade Off: Which Problem Do I Want?

Part II: Explore
5. Escape: The Perks of Being Unavailable
6. Look: See What Really Matters
7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child
8. Sleep: Protect the Asset
9. Select: The Power of Extreme Criteria

Part III: Eliminate
10. Clarify: One Decision That Makes a Thousand
11. Dare: The Power of a Graceful “No”
12. Uncommit: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses
13. Edit: The Invisible Art
14. Limit: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries

Part IV: Execute
15. Buffer: The Unfair Advantage
16. Subtract: Bring Forth More by Removing Obstacles
17. Progress: The Power of Small Wins
18. Flow: The Genius of Routine
19. Focus: What’s Important Now?
20. Be: The Essentialist Life

This book will challenge you to practice deliberate subtraction as you evaluate choices, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no” (p. 109).

The author quotes John Maxwell who wisely observes, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything” (p. 45).  The author challenges the reader to change one’s worldview.  He writes, “There are two ways of thinking about Essentialism.  The first is to think of it as something you do occasionally.  The second is to think of it as something you are” (p. 226).

Jesus told His disciples in the upper room,

I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.  (John 17:4)

Can you affirm that you’re accomplishing the work that God is giving you to do?  If you’re ready to simply your life you will find this book a helpful resource and you may also want to read Lessons from a Minimalist Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Leadership Summit – Susan Cain

woman aloneSusan Cain will one of the featured speakers at The Leadership Summit this year.  She is the author of the best selling book Quiet and you can read a review here.

Susan Cain has an important message for the church.  She records in her book Quiet, her discussion with Adam McHugh an introverted pastor,

Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme McHugh is telling us.  If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.  It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.  Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?  (p. 69)

In many instances, the church has unwittingly celebrated the extrovert at the expense of the introvert.  Jesus seemed to be the perfect balance as He was as comfortable at dinner parties with sinners and tax-collectors as He was in solitude with His heavenly Father.  Who knows you might even be an ambivert (one whose personality type is intermediate between extrovert and introvert), you can take this simple test to determine your personality preference here.

As you go face the challenges of life don’t miss the most important aspect of the day.   Let the example of Jesus guide you,

 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.   (Luke 5:16)

 I want to invite you to attend The Leadership Summit this summer on August 14-15, and you can register here.  I invite you to register soon, the early bird rate expires on June 24th.


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Difference Making Actions

postitI recently read The Trust Edge by David Horsager and I want to share with you an amazingly simple but powerful concept that may be helpful to you.   If you want to ensure you’re accomplishing what is important and that you’re not simply responding to the urgent demands of life you may want to try the Difference Making Actions Strategy.

The DMA Strategy:
1. First thing every morning, take a sticky note.
2. At the top write your most important current goal.
3. Then write the numbers 1-3 down the page.
4. Next to the 1.   Write the most important thing you could do
today to accomplish that goal. T hen write the next most
important things under 2 and 3.
5. You now have a list of the 3 most important things you could to today that would make the biggest difference in accomplishing
your goal and fulfilling your organization’s mission.  (p. 196)

Horsager notes that “32% of American workers never plan their daily agenda”  (2009 Day Timer Survey).  He presents these guidelines when writing your DMA’s,:

Focused.  Your DMA’s are the most important actions for the
day – you shouldn’t have any more than three. If you can’t boil
them down to a few simply stated tasks, then you probably
need to narrow your most important goal.

Clear and quantifiable.  The focus here is on activities, not
outcomes, so know exactly what you are going to do. “ Make
ten sales calls or “Spend two hours on the proposal” is much
better than “Sell more” or “Work on the proposal.”

Realistic.  Your DMA’s will not be effective if you can’t actually
do them.  Don’t write down that you would like to write five
proposals in one day when you can only realistically get
through two.  (p. 197)

“Now that you have them, build your day around them. Make sure
you prioritize them over all other, meetings, emails, and less
important tasks.  I hope to have my DMA’s accomplished by
lunchtime so I complete them before everything else. Then I can
respond to other things that come up, but I first did something
important that will make a significant impact on my organization
and the lives of those we serve. ”  (p. 197)

This is helpful advice to  ensure that you are focusing on what is important.  As Jim Collins warns us, “Good is the enemy of great.”   The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.   May you follow the wisdom of the Psalmist and realize the importance of seeking after one thing,

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.  (Psalm 27:4)


RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

The Trust Edge

TrustEdgeCoverDavid Horsager asserts, “Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life.”  Horsager writes in an engaging manner revealing how “trust has become the world’s most precious resource” (p. 2).  He points out that trust is not simply a soft skill that cannot be managed but it is a measurable competency that “. . . can be built into an organization’s strategy, goals, and culture” (p. 2).

His theory of trust is built upon the following eight pillars:

1. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.
2. Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.
3. Character: People notice those who do what is right over what is easy.
4. Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.
5. Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity.
6. Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends.
7. Contribution: People immediately respond to results.
8. Consistency: People love to see the little things done consistently.

 He illustrates each pillar with pertinent examples, stories, and anecdotes.  As he points out the importance of trust for establishing vision and purpose he recalls the words of king Solomon ,

When there is no vision, the people perish.  (Proverbs 29:18)

Throughout the book Horsager weaves the importance of trust into the basis of effective leadership, “Without character, there is no trust.  Without trust, there are no followers.  Without followers, leadership does not exist”  (p. 98).

A trusted leader realizes the necessity of life-long learning.  He quotes Rick Warren to emphasize this point, “The moment you stop learning, you stop leading”  (p. 128).  He continues, “In this attention-span-deprived world of mega media and high-tech entertainment, it is critical to carve out the time needed to think, learn, and reflect.  Continual learning requires an attitude of sensitivity, humility, openness, and flexibility”  (p. 128).

Horsager incorporates a number of practical lists and questions for application to help the reader apply the concepts in the book.  He cites Charles Noble, “First we make our habits, then our habits make us”  (p. 230).

The book is easy to follow with a section of highlights at the end of each chapter along with reflection questions to apply the principles to your life or organization.  If you are seeking to build trust in your personal life or organization you will find The Trust Edge a helpful resource.  To learn more about David Horsager and The Trust Edge see the website thetrustedge.com.



Associate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5