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PASTORS SHAUN & AMY GUSTAFSON

 
 
 

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With Biblical teaching from Pastors Shaun & Amy Gustafson 
 
 

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FROM THE BLOG

Insight and wisdom from High Point Leadership
 
 

Communication is Key

…A house divided against a house falls (Luke 11:17).

 

Everyone has different communication styles. If we want to be effective in our marriage, it is vital to communicate in a way that our spouse can understand and relate with. This is illustrated well by the following story.
 
 
Jack and Ashley began with a good marriage. However, as the years progressed, Ashley found herself becoming increasingly frustrated because she desired to have a weekly date with Jack, but he usually only made time for that every few months after much persistence from Ashley. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but in the evening he normally did a lot of work on the computer, then watched TV and didn’t want to talk during that time. She got only about 10 to 15 minutes of his undivided attention every few nights. Jack also found himself feeling less desire to be with Ashley because she always wanted to discuss problems and he didn’t think they had any, other than wishing she desired intimacy more often.
 
One day Ashley came to Jack and said “Honey, when you watch those car races on TV, why is it that the car driver has a pit crew that changes the tires on their car after so many miles?” Jack responded, “Because the tires would wear out if they didn’t and they would eventually have an accident.” Ashley responded, “I feel kind of like a race car. As the head of my home, you do the best you know how to be a good driver. But I feel like I have to drive on bald tires quite often because my driver rarely gives me a pit stop by having a date with me to keep our relationship going strong.”
 
Jack was surprised by Ashley’s words. He had not realized that regular dates were that important to her. She had told him over and over, but using a different communication method that he could relate with finally drove it home. From that point on, he made an effort to make time for her each week, and he found her desire for intimacy increased as well. 
 
Ashley had decided to stop blaming and start praying for a way to get through to her husband’s heart. Through this, she had come across an important communication technique with men, and an example that her husband could relate with because of his love for auto racing. Word pictures that a person can relate with will often get the point across, just as Jesus used stories to illustrate the truths of God’s kingdom.
 
In the past, Ashley used persistence and nagging to try to get her needs met in their relationship, but it had started to drive her husband away. However, when she realized that she needed to approach communication as Jack being for her rather than against her, she started to communicate effectively. When we approach our spouse as our friend and teammate, reaching for a common goal, we will get our point across in a non-threatening, effective way.
 
Riding home on an airplane one day, we had a wonderful conversation with a businessman sitting next to us. When he found out that we did marriage ministry, he said he had one bit of advice he would like us to give husbands. He went on to tell us that for many years his wife would ask him to have a weekly date so she could have some communication time with him. With their three children, she felt they rarely had any quality conversation together.
 
Even though he loved his wife very much, for years he rarely responded to her request of weekly time alone. If they did go out, he was always looking around the restaurant to see if there was anyone with whom he could make a business connection. Then, with a look of deep appreciation he said, “God somehow finally got through to me and showed me what I was doing to my wife. He helped me see that next to Him, she is the most important person in my life and I needed to start acting like it.”
 
They finally started having a date on the same night each week without fail. Now wherever they go, he has eyes only for his wife. He is no longer looking for business connections and acquaintances and is no longer answering the cell phone or pager during her time with him. He said it has greatly improved their marriage, and his wife is so much happier now. Then, with a look of regret he said, “It isn’t even difficult to take one night out a week for her! I wish I had known sooner how important it was to a marriage.”   
 
Studies show that women have a need to talk at least three times more than men. This need to verbally communicate each day shows why it is so important to a wife that her husband take some time each day to listen to her without doing anything else. It makes a woman feel valued when her husband will just listen. However, it is also important for wives to remember that when a husband gives his wife time, it should not be used to vent all of the problems of the day.
 
When teaching on this topic at a seminar once, a woman from the audience told us the Lord had put it on her heart that the reason He gave her a greater need to speak was so she would edify her husband with those extra words she speaks and meet his need for respect and appreciation.
 

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

 

These Scriptures are of course referring to finding the way to eternal life with God in heaven. Yet it is also important to remember that each of our decisions in life also presents us with the choice of God’s way or the world’s way, the narrow gate or the broad way. Our style of communication is one of those daily choices we make. Are we going to communicate God’s way or the world’s way? Are we going to treat our spouse like our friend at all times, or treat them like our enemy some of the time?
 
Once a family member with whom we were visiting for a few days commented that she had been watching us closely to see if we ever gave each other irritated looks. She said “I’ve even been watching you when you didn’t realize anyone else was in the room, and I haven’t found you once looking anything but kindly at each other!” We didn’t realize this was supposedly abnormal for married people. It shouldn’t be. Our spouse should be our best friend, and we should make every effort to make them feel wonderful and accepted when they are around us.
 
It may be the easy thing to just treat a spouse with irritation or frustration after having a challenging day at work. But that is part of the broad gate the Bible talks about that is easy to slip into by the flesh. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit to help us walk in love at all times so we can enter through the narrow gate. Jesus made a better way for us to communicate with each other, which is through His unconditional love. Even if our spouse doesn’t walk in love toward us, we can choose that, as for us, we will live for God and live pleasing to Him. We are accountable to God for our own actions and our spouse is accountable to God for theirs, so as Romans 12:18 says, “…as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men,” and that “men” most definitely includes our spouse and family!
 
We hope this encourages you to always walk in love toward those around you, 
We love you! 
 
Pastors Shaun & Amy

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A Vision with Value

Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it (Habakkuk 2:2).

Zig Ziglar once said that when a person has a strong vision and a problem arises, the problem will be like a pebble on the beach they simply kick out of the way. However, if a person has no vision and a problem arises, it will be like a tidal wave washing them into the sea. We have found through working with couples, that this saying is very true. Setbacks and problems are just a pebble on the beach for couples who clearly know their God-given vision together, but for a couple with no clear purpose and plan, problems often seem to become tidal waves. This is most likely why strife in a marriage and lack of a Christ-centered vision often go hand in hand. Without a strong eternal purpose together, believers are often washed into the same tidal wave of marriage disappointment that the world struggles with.
 
It has been recorded that within the first five years of marriage the number one struggle marriages deal with is financial hardship. Although lack of wisdom with finances and lack of self-control in spending are frequent causes for financial hardship, we strongly believe one of the biggest roots to financial problems within marriage is that many couples do not know their God-given purpose for being together, which often results in a focus on things of the world rather than the things of God.
 
In our early years of marriage, we had very little. There was not any extra money for dates, gifts, or extra purchases of any sort. We thank God that as we look back on it, we never had one argument over money. We believe a large reason for this was that our vision together was so strong. We refused to get discouraged by the financial situation we were in because we knew God had a plan for our lives together. We also knew Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” We trusted God that if we pursued His plan for our life and marriage, He would take care of us and we would experience the goodness the Bible talks about.
 
The Bible encourages us to have a vision and make it plain, so we can run with it. Sometimes couples we encounter have some vision as an individual for their career or maybe parenting, which is good, but more is needed. Unless a couple has a focused, eternal purpose in their relationship together, they often end up just striving after material things as the rest of the world does. However, when a couple has a Christ-centered vision, they are no longer satisfied with the status quo of just going to church on Sundays, reading their Bible on occasion, then living like the rest of the world throughout the week, doing little to nothing of eternal value.
 
God created us as humans with a desire to do something of lasting value and to be a gift to the lives of others. We were created in God’s image, and He does things of eternal value. Therefore we also have an inherent desire to create something meaningful with our lives. Sin has tried its best to corrupt this desire in people, but when a person gives their life to God, the desire for their God-given purpose is renewed in them. Our goal today is to stir up that desire in you if it has been lying dormant or untapped. God has a plan for you to do something to change the world with lasting, eternal impact, not just as an individual but also as a couple.
 
 
How do we create a vision together with lasting value? This first begins with understanding what vision really is. When Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision and make it plain…,” the Hebrew word used for vision actually means a dream or a revelation that comes from God (Strong’s #2377). So creating our vision together first begins with receiving a revelation or dream in our hearts from God. We can pray and ask God what we are called to do with our spouse.
 
Sometimes people know even as children what they are called to do. God places this in our spirit from the moment we are conceived. The Bible even says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). This means when He created us, He knew all along what our purpose would be. When we ask God to reveal to us His dream and plan for our life together, we can trust that He will be faithful to show us.
 
Together with our spouse, we can write down each of our gifts and talents and how we believe they are meant to work with our spouse’s gifts and calling. As God reveals His plan for us, we then turn that plan into goals. In Philippians 3:14 Paul states, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Notice Paul did not say that he pressed toward the prize. He said he pressed toward the goal, which is also translated as “mark” in the King James Version.
 
Paul didn’t aimlessly say, “Boy, I sure hope I’ll get a prize or reward someday for having done something right while I was on the earth!”  No, Paul said he pressed toward a goal. He knew it was a Christ-centered and Christ-directed goal that would please God. God wants each of us in our personal life and marriage to have goals that we plan and attain under His leading, so we can accomplish the purpose for which He placed us on earth. He can also then give us greater eternal rewards when we get to heaven!
 
When we know what God has called us to do, we can make intermediate goals with action plans as a mark to measure our success in moving toward the ultimate goal. Some questions we might ask ourselves are: Do these goals further God’s kingdom? Do our individual goals fit into our ultimate goal as a team in marriage? What do we need to do to prepare ourselves to fulfill each goal? What roadblocks might we need to overcome on the way and how will we overcome them? When do we plan to achieve each goal?
 
Team goals may encompass areas such as financial goals of consistent giving above the tithe to certain ministries each month, having a daily family Bible study time or prayer time together, volunteering together in a certain area of the church, sponsoring children who live in poverty in another country through a trusted ministry, or doing short term missions work together. It is also important to have goals in other areas as well, such as quality marriage time, family time, financial, exercise, and things of this nature. Just remember to keep God first place.
 
We once heard a story about a couple that attended a marriage conference and got a big wake up call. They said the conference speaker mentioned how most Christian couples just want to be financially secure and happy, and then if God is pleased with them, that would be great too. The conference speaker went on to say the trouble with this mindset is that when we make security and happiness our top goals, these things become impossible to attain because we are seeking our own pleasures rather than seeking the kingdom of God first. When this couple analyzed where the majority of their money went and how they spent the majority of their time, they realized they were not seeking the kingdom of God first but, rather, living primarily for personal gain.
 
The couple wrote out new goals and then began to boldly pursue them. They personally and financially began supporting a marriage ministry, a ministry to feed and train the poor, and several pastors. They determined to work with and support the same pastors, churches, and ministries each month, knowing that a consistent, focused effort will produce more lasting results than sporadic involvement. Years later, this couple commented that after they changed their focus from desiring a big house, financial security, and promotion to instead pursuing the furthering of God’s kingdom, all of these former desires had been added to them without their even trying. 
 
This couple is living proof that when we take care of what concerns God, He will take care of what concerns us. God passionately wants to reward you and your family for doing what He has called you to do. He is just looking for avenues through which He can pour out His blessing on you! When we as believers set eternal goals and advance in the steps to His ultimate plan for our lives, this creates wonderful avenues for His goodness to pour out in the greatest measure on our life and the lives of those around us. May you and your spouse passionately pursue and achieve all He has called you to do and may you be rewarded greatly for making an eternal difference in the lives of others!
 
In love,
Shaun & Amy
 

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Praying Together

In Deuteronomy 30:32 we find that through the power of God on the Israelites’ side, one person was able to chase a thousand, and with two people they put ten thousand to flight! We have a covenant right to the same favor the Israelites had and even greater through Jesus Christ our Lord. If we can have the ability to chase ten thousand rather than one thousand spiritually, why would we not take advantage of it?
 
The Bible also says when two or three agree concerning anything it shall be done (see Matthew 18:19-20). A married couple in unity is clearly two in agreement. There is no stronger union between humans than the marriage covenant because it represents our relationship with God. Therefore, the enemy tries to make married couples ignorant of their power in agreement together.
 
We experienced a large challenge in our early years of marriage. There were some inappropriate situations going on at my place of work. Amy and I had discussed that I should start looking for a new job. One day after a situation occurred, I resigned and had to go home to tell Amy I had left my job and we were going to have to move quickly because my work was connected to our housing.
 
As I walked in the door, I wasn’t sure how to give Amy the news, so I just blurted it out, “I resigned from my job and we have to find a new place to live.” To my surprise, Amy got a huge smile on her face and said, “Praise the Lord! It’s about time! Let’s praise the Lord right now for all the great things He is about to do on our behalf.”
 

We praised the Lord with all of our hearts, thanking him for the new job I would soon have and the better home we knew by faith He had already prepared for us. Within one week we found a beautiful new home that was much more than what we had before. Within three weeks I had a new job that paid twice as much! The job also had insurance benefits, which we did not have before, and in addition to all this, they even gave reimbursement for my college tuition! During this situation as well as others, we never became angry at each other nor allowed bitterness to enter, because of our unity through daily prayer and trust that God would continue to keep us in his will.

 

HOW TO PRAY TOGETHER

 

During our prayer time we give God praise for His goodness and we also let our requests be made known to the Lord with thanksgiving (see Philippians 4:6). Daily prayer together should be a time of enjoyment and praise, which builds an atmosphere of peace in the home.
 
There are several suggestions we make for couple prayer time. We advise making time together in the morning if at all possible. Praying together while still snuggled in bed is wonderful because it bonds you spiritually as well as meeting each others need for affection. It will set you both on the same page when you communicate throughout the day, as well as when obstacles may arise.  If morning is not possible, pray together as soon as you can.
 

We also recommend husband and wife each takes turns, going back and forth praying for anything that comes to his or her heart. Some of the things we typically cover in our prayer times are:

 

  • Thanksgiving for what the Lord has done for us and those around us,
  • Positive and uplifting prayers for each others day,
  • Prayer for each other and our children’s protection and wisdom,
  • Prayer for each other’s extended family (parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews),
  • Prayer for those in authority over us: our President, nation, military, and employer,
  • Prayer for our church and the marriages the Lord puts on our heart.

 

There are several things we caution couples of during prayer. First, do not use this as a time to criticize each other. We once had a couple say to us, “This prayer together just doesn’t work.” When we inquired as to why, we found out they ended up fighting every time because they would pray for the other one to grow or change in whatever areas they felt they didn’t measure up. We should leave our prayer time together feeling positive and built-up in the Lord.
 
Second, remember not to criticize each other’s families. Prayer for one another’s extended family should be done with kindness and love. When we pray for family in a positive way, thanking and trusting God to minister to them and meet their needs, we will begin to look at our spouse’s family as our own. We will then see that our spouse loves our extended family as unconditionally as we do, which also builds unity.
 
Third, know that sometimes couples feel awkward when they first begin to pray together. It is just like learning to ride a bicycle when you were a child. Sometimes it was difficult to get up and moving, but you eventually learned to balance and ride smoothly. So it is with unified prayer. Don’t give up! Practice for short periods of time and be patient with one another.
 
As we learn to pray together, we will grow in God’s kind of love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 states, “[Love] does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” If we think no evil toward our spouse, then we will be patient as we both grow in our walk with the Lord together. We will choose to believe that they are trying their best and, therefore, we will encourage them when they pray.
 
This is what we were talking about earlier when we compared unified prayer to a tennis doubles team practicing daily. When we make the effort to get ourselves unified in the small things like daily prayer, trials are much easier to overcome when we encounter them.
 
If you and your spouse have had challenges with prayer together, don’t be discouraged! Just start by praising God together each day and thanking Him for the good things He has done in your life and in the lives of those around you. Focus on His goodness.
 
In Love, 
Pastors Shaun & Amy

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4545 N Frontage Rd Rochester, MN 55901