February 6-7, 2010

Build It Right!

Part 1: The Foundation of Friendship



          Today we kick off a four week series on how to build a lasting marriage called “Build it right.”  Let me tell you a tale of two domes.  When I was in Turkey last month, I saw buildings that have lasted for centuries.  One of the oldest is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Church of Holy Wisdom.  Picture.  It was built in its present form by the emperor Justinian the Great; it took five years to build, from 532-537—an amazing feat! The dome is 160 feet high; it is one of the architectural wonders of the world!  Here’s a wide angle view of inside: Picture.  It has withstood earthquakes, storms, fires, and invasions, and almost 15 centuries later it’s still standing. Compare that to another large domed structure, the Kingdome, home of the Seattle Mariners—anyone know how long the Kingdome lasted?  24 years.  It took 3.5 years to build, opened in 1976 and was demolished in 2000.

          Some marriages are like the Hagia Sophia, and some are like the Kingdome.  If you want something to last, you’ve got to build it right.  It’s true of buildings and it’s true of relationships.  If you want a marriage that lasts, you’ve got to build it right. 

          Today, we start with the foundation of friendship.


Offering and announcements:

Financial Peace University (back of tear-off)—begins next Sunday, call to register or go online.

Tim and Mike’s Bodacious Bible Class (in calendar section for Sunday)—talk about highlights of this week’s scriptures in the Life Center reading plan; now meeting in Room 200.

Men’s Breakfast (item #1)—free monthly event on Saturday, 8:30 AM in Multipurpose Room.

Series invites.



          Thanks Eric and Zac! It’s clear that relationships with the opposite sex can be complicated and confusing.  Am I right?  So here’s what I’d like to do.

          Let’s imagine that you wanted to talk with your pastor about relationships with the other gender—single or married, you’re looking for some advice on how to build a great relationship.  For the next four weeks, I’d like to have that talk with you.  I’m going to tell you what I’d say to a single person who wants to build a lasting marriage, or a married couple who wants to strengthen their relationship.  Here’s my premise:

          Great marriages are built over time, and when you are starting, there is a proper sequence.  If you mix up the sequence you can mess up the relationship!  If you want a great marriage, build it right.  Start with friendship, let that blossom into romance, let that deepen to the point of a life-long commitment (marriage), and then celebrate with sexual intimacy. To build a lasting marriage, the sequence is friendship, romance, commitment, and sex.  Too many people are jumping straight to sex.  Sex comes after you’ve built a friendship, enjoyed a romance, and made a commitment.  Sex comes after the wedding, not before. Any builder will tell you that if you get the sequence out of order, you’ll have a mess and have to go back and redo some things.  Or you may have to knock it down and start over and build it right.  So I want to help you build it right.

          I want to help all of you who are single to understand the sequence so you can build it right from the beginning: friendship, romance, commitment, sex.  That’s the sequence.  You lay the foundation first, and the foundation is friendship. 

I want to help all of you who are married to go back and renew each step in the sequence, because unlike building a house, these aren’t things you do once and then move on and never do again.  You only lay a foundation once in a house, but you keep laying it in a marriage.  A relationship, unlike a building, is a living thing.  So each step in this sequence is a living step, something we keep doing and building upon.  The friendship gets deeper, the romance gets warmer, the commitment gets stronger and the sex gets better!  Woohoo!

          You lay the foundation first, and the foundation is friendship.  Parents: remember when your teenager had their first crush?  What was your advice?  “Just be friends.  Don’t rush into anything, and please, don’t have sex.  Just be friends—start by being good friends.”  How many of you gave that advice?  It’s good advice. 

The best marriages start as friendships. If you want a great marriage, marry your best friend and keep it that way!  Friendships are built on what we share together.  Here are four things that will build a great friendship, and lay a solid foundation for a lasting marriage.


1. Friends love to do things together.

          Best friends love to do things together.  They share common interests and activities.  They have fun together!  In fact, this is how most friendships start.  We do something we enjoy together.  I have different sets of friends based on shared activities.

  • I have biker friends.
  • I have backpacking friends.
  • I have golfing friends.
  • I have movie friends.
  • I have reading friends.
  • I have workout friends.
  • I have ministry friends.

Friends connect based on shared interests and activities. If you hope to build a lasting relationship, it’s important to share some common interests, some things you enjoy doing together.  If you don’t share any common interests or activities, it’s going to be tough sledding.

You don’t have to like all the same things, but it’s important to share something together.  Each partner in a marriage is a unique individual and will have his or her own sphere of interests.  But if these don’t overlap at some points, a couple will only grow farther apart.  Because there are only so many hours in the day, we have to choose: we can continue to pursue our own separate interests and grow apart, or we can pursue interests that we share and grow together.  Best friends share some common interests.  Marry your best friend and keep it that way.

ILL: Besides our shared life goal of following Jesus, Laina and I share lots of other interests.  Of course, our children are at the top of that list, and with four of them and four grandchildren, that’s an interest that consumes a lot of our time and attention.

          We are both readers and we enjoy sharing what we’re reading.  My Christmas gift to Laina was to read The China Study.  We’re having fun talking about that book together.

          We both enjoy a wide variety of music, and enjoy sharing that.

          We watch American Idol and Survivor together.

          We jog together several days a week, go to the gym together 3 days a week, and we’re interested in nutrition and physical fitness.  Did you know that Laina lowered her cholesterol by over 100 points on diet alone?  She’s amazing.

          We both play racquetball.

          We both enjoy the outdoors. 

          In the last few years, I’ve enjoyed my motorcycle.  For a long time, Laina didn’t want me to have a motorcycle—she was afraid I’d get killed!  We talked about it, and finally, she agreed, and now she’ll ride with me…to Starbucks.  Check this out: (Picture of Laina and me on bike).  Isn’t that beautiful?  I’m talking about my wife! 

We each have individual interests, but we have agreed to focus more of our time on what we can share together rather than what we might do alone.  It’s a conscious decision because we understand that best friends and the best marriages share some common interests.  We’ve watched couples grow apart as they developed totally separate interests and separate lives; we don’t want to do that.

          Best friends play together; they love to have fun.  The best friendships and the best marriages include large, regular, healthy doses of fun.  Your spouse should be your playmate! 

Ecclesiastes 9:9a Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.

One of the things I love about Laina is her willingness to go along with some of my wacky ideas, her willingness to try new and different things.

ILL:  Back in the early 90’s I decided I wanted to learn how to sail.  Laina helped me buy an older 16 foot catamaran, and together, we taught ourselves how to sail.  We had adventures—like our boat’s final voyage!

          We went to SunUp Bay on Coeur D’Alene Lake.  I was stoked because the wind was brisk—in fact, it was a much stiffer wind than any I’d ever sailed in.  As I rigged the sails, I was telling the kids, “Get ready!   We’re going to fly today!”  Out on the dock, the girls took one look at the waves and agreed to let the boys go first.  So Andy, Jeff, Michael and I all piled on the tramp and hoisted the mainsail, and whoosh!  Away we went!

          It wasn’t too bad in the bay which was sheltered.  But when we got out of the bay, the boat took off like a rocket—the waves were crashing over us, soaking all of us, and the boys were screaming, “We’re going to die!”  I had to ease off the mainsail, slough some wind to keep from tipping the whole boat over.  It was wild and crazy fun—for about two minutes.  That’s when we reached the far shore of the lake and I couldn’t get the boat turned around.

          The wind had ripped my sails—they were old and worn, but now one of them looked like it had been run through a giant paper shredder!  Besides that, my tiller had cracked under the strain and so the rudder wasn’t working properly.  No matter what I tried, we were at the mercy of the wind which was blowing us rapidly into the steep rocky shore.  Now the boys were crying, “We’re going to die!”  Just before we would have crashed, I jumped overboard in chest-deep water and manually turned the boat around. Then I quickly scrambled back aboard, tightened our torn sails, grabbed the bent and cracked tiller, and steered a straight line back across the lake as best I could through the wild wind. 

          By the time we reached the dock, one sail was totally worthless, and the other was limping badly.  I docked her and we got off to survey the damages.  While we were standing there, we saw a gust coming across the bay.  Laina said, “Joe, you better turn her into the wind.”  I said, “Don’t worry, the sails are so tattered it won’t matter.”  It mattered!  That gust hit the boat broadside, and tipped the whole thing up on the dock sideways, snapping off what was left of the tiller!  How many of you know someone who has wrecked a sailboat?

          Can you see why she was reluctant to let me get a motorcycle?  Do you know what Laina’s response was to this whole fiasco?  Hilarious laughter! 

You build a friendship by shared interests and by having fun together.  If you and your spouse aren’t taking time for fun together, if you’re not laughing together, if you’re not having some adventure together, you probably have a boring marriage.  And a boring marriage is a marriage in trouble! 

          It’s time to have some fun.  Go play together. Marry your best friend and keep it that way.


2. Friends love to talk together.

          Just this week in our Bible reading plan, we read:

Exodus 33:11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.

God spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Best friends love to talk together, face to face. 

ILL: When I was in Turkey, I skyped Laina twice a day.  Before I left, I bought two little webcams, installed one on a desktop at home and took the other with my laptop to Turkey.  Twice a day we talked face to face—it was awesome!  Worth every penny.  We talked face to face: that’s what friends do.

You build a friendship one conversation at a time. Friends love to talk together. Marry your best friend and keep it that way.

One of the most common remarks I hear from young couples who are falling in love is, “We can talk about everything!”  These love birds are spending hours in intimate, private conversations over tea or coffee.  After a few years of marriage, these same couples may be seeking help, and they often say, “We don’t talk much anymore.”  Dr. Roy Rhodes, a Dallas psychologist reports that the average couple married ten years or more spends only 37 minutes a week in close communication.  These couples have stopped being best friends.

          Contrast that 37 minutes a week average with this advice from Dr. Willard Harley, Jr. in his excellent book, His Needs, Her Needs.

“If a husband seriously wants to meet his wife’s need to feel close to him, he will give the task sufficient time and attention.  I tell male clients they should learn to set aside as much as 15 hours a week to give their wives undivided attention.  Many men look at me as if they think I’m losing my mind, or they just laugh and say, ‘In other words, I need a 36-hour day.’  I don’t bat an eye, but simply ask them how much time they spent giving their wives undivided attention during their courting days.  Any bachelor who fails to devote something close to 15 hours a week to his girlfriend faces the strong likelihood of losing her.”

Dr. Harley’s point: good communication takes time—37 minutes a week won’t cut it.  If you want to be best friends with your mate, make time to talk.  Remember how it was when you were dating.  You both need to exhibit that same intense interest in each other and in what you have to say, especially about your feelings.  Every husband and wife ought to ask themselves this question: “My partner married me because he or she thought the pleasing things I was doing during our courtship would continue for the rest of our lives.  Am I holding up my end of this bargain?” 

          Men, this communication thing is especially important for you to get right.  Men and women communicate for different reasons.  Generally, men talk to fix problems; women talk to be understood.  Men see talking as a means to an end, while women tend to view it more as an end in itself.

ILL: Mary knows that if she is to feel close to George, he must talk to her.  So she says, “George, let’s talk.”  Without lowering his paper, George asks, “What would you like to talk about?”  How many men believe that is a perfectly reasonable response?   “What’s the problem?”  That’s a typical male response.  But it raises Mary’s ire because it shows how little George understands her need for conversation.  He might understand her aggravation better if she had a conversation like this with him.

          George says, “Mary, let’s make love.”  And Mary responds, “Why George?  Do you want more children?” 

          Just as George finds sex enjoyable in its own right, Mary needs conversation.  George tends to see conversation as a means to an end, rather than an end it itself.  If he wants to find out how the bank account got overdrawn, you can be sure he’ll talk to Mary, but he’s not likely to talk about how nice the teller in the bank was to him last time he went there.

Remember men, most women fall in love with a man who set aside time to exchange conversation and affection with them.  They stay in love with a man who continues to meet those needs.  Set aside friendship time to talk with your wife, to listen and understand her feelings. 

          Get away from the distractions of phone and email and TV and the internet and the paper, and get alone with your spouse and give him or her your undivided attention.  Go for a walk together and talk.  A quiet drive can work wonders.  Have a lunch date or a coffee date.  But don’t settle for 37 minutes a week.  Best friends make time to talk. Marry your best friend and keep it that way.


3. Friends love to be together.

          Best friends love to be together.  They simply enjoy each other’s company.  They love to hang out.  And when you’re building a friendship, you hang out a lot.  You enjoy being together. Build a friendship with someone whose company and presence you enjoy, someone that you love to be around—then marry them!  Marry your best friend and keep it that way.

ILL: Laina is my best friend.  I love to be with Laina.  I would rather be with her than anyone in the world.  I love to do things with her.  I love to talk with her.  But even if we aren’t doing anything in particular or talking, I love to be with her.  If it’s a choice between running an errand with her or without her, I’ll take her every time…unless I want to spend money wildly…then she comes to keep me under control!  Some nights, we sit in the same room eating apple crisp and reading.  It might be half an hour before either of us says anything.  That’s ok.  It’s good just to be together.

Best friends love to be together.  They are companions. 

          That’s not to say that we have to be together all the time.  Every couple needs room to breathe, some time apart.  You don’t have to be together all the time.

ILL: Laina and I played golf together…once. It didn’t float her boat. When I go golfing, Laina doesn’t stand at the door as I leave, weeping and wringing her hands.  “Why are you leaving me here alone?  How can you do this to me?”  She’ll kiss me goodbye, and wave me off, and party hearty all afternoon!

Best friends don’t have to be together all the time.  In fact, you all know the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” That is true…to a degree…as long as the absences aren’t too long or too frequent.  Too much absence can make the heart grow colder, not fonder.  You can’t be apart too long and maintain intimacy.  Best friends need time together to maintain the friendship. 

ILL: Blumstein and Schwarz, in their monumental study, American Couples, report:

          We find that those who spend a lot of time away from each other—take separate vacations, have separate friends, dine apart frequently—have a lower survival rate.  Spending too much time apart is a hallmark of couples who do not stay together.

Some couples grow apart in marriage simply because they stop spending time together.  They each develop separate lives.  It jeopardizes both the friendship and the marriage.  One husband said, “I love my wife, I just don’t like being around her!”  That’s a marriage in deep trouble.

          Best friends love to be together.  They are companions.  They hang out.  Marry someone whose company and presence you enjoy, someone you love to be around, and keep it that way. Marry your best friend and keep it that way.


4. Friends love God together.

          Friends do things together, talk together, and love to be together.  But I think the most important ingredient in a close friendship is a shared center or goal.  As Christians, that center or goal in our lives is Jesus: we want to know Him, love Him with all we have, and follow Him.  This is my life goal, my highest purpose, and naturally, I seek out friends who share it.  I have many friends who don’t share that goal with me, but all of my best friends do.  Build a friendship around a shared love for God; that is the very best foundation for marriage.  Marry your best friend and keep it that way.

2 Corinthians 6:14–15 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

“What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”  Of course, I have lots in common with my unbelieving friends.  But it is what we don’t share—that common life goal, to love and follow Jesus—that leads Paul to write “don’t be yoked together.”  A yoke was an implement that bound two animals together to pull a plow or cart.  If one ox constantly wanted to pull in a different direction from his yoke-mate, what happens?  You’ve got friction, trouble, and you don’t go anywhere.  That’s what happens when you yoke or bind two people together who want to go in different directions.  Sooner or later, one of them will either give in to the other or leave the yoke.  So Paul’s advice is not to be in a binding relationship with someone who isn’t going the same direction, someone who doesn’t share your highest goal. The prophet Amos poses this as a rhetorical question:

Amos 3:3 Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?

If we agree to go on a walk, but you want to go south and I want to go north, we can both walk, but it won’t be together.  We’ve got to agree on the direction. I’m following Jesus; if you’re following someone or something else, we will have a hard time walking together.

          Can you see why it is important to marry your best friend, someone who shares your life goal, your highest values?  I believe this is the single most important issue when choosing a life partner.  Are you aligned spiritually?  Build a friendship around your shared love for God.

ILL: When Laina and I were married, we began our vows to each other by saying, “I love you, but you will always be second in my life.  Jesus will be first.  The more I love Jesus, the better I will love you.”

The more I love Jesus, the better I will love you.  I believe that is true in every relationship I’m in.  The more I love Jesus, the better friend I’ll be, the better parent I’ll be, the better employer or employee I’ll be, the better neighbor I’ll be, the better spouse I’ll be.  The more I love Jesus, the more I will love you. 

ILL:  At the top of your outline, draw a triangle.  At the bottom right put your name, and put the name of your friend or spouse at the bottom left.  At the top, write “God”.  As each of you get closer to God, you also get closer to each other.  As God is your focus, your center, your friendship grows. 

Do you want to build a friendship that will last a lifetime?  Build around Jesus.  Make Him the deep center of your friendship. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Laina and I are much better together than either of us alone.  Laina and I and Jesus—that’s a cord that won’t be broken.  Friends love God together.  Marry your best friend and keep it that way.