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Encouraging Marriages in Your Sphere of Influence

Encouraging Marriages in Your Sphere of Influence

Pastor Ted Cunningham discusses the value of couples encouraging and supporting their friends' marriages, and allowing friends to support their own marriage as well.
Original Air Date: January 26, 2018

Preview:

Ted Cunningham: I challenge you, do it at the next restaurant you go to. Just stop at the bus station and grab that pitcher of water and just start walking around the restaurant filling up empty water glasses. At first the wait staff will be like, “What is going on?” But after about two minutes they’re like, “Smoke break,” and they’re out the back door. Man, it ju- it, it gives you a charge.

End of Preview

John Fuller: (laughs) Well, it might give you a charge. It’s gonna give somebody a little surprise and, uh, it’s a great idea for having some fun in a restaurant. Now that’s Pastor Ted Cunningham, and it might sound a little extreme, but what he’s really trying to teach us and what you’ll hear today, especially, uh, for husbands and wives, is how we can better serve one another. This is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I tried that actually not long ago. I was topping off coffee at a restaurant (laughs).

John: Oh, were you really?

Jim: The wait staff didn’t like it so much.

John: Were you in their way?

Jim: I think they thought… Yeah, I think I- they thought maybe I was saying, “You guys aren’t doing a good enough job.”

John: Oh, all right.

Jim: So, it turned-

John: So, be careful here.

Jim: But the customers loved it actually. I got hot coffee to them right away, so I think I made a little bit in tip money.

John: Well, good.

Jim: (laughs)

John: Nice.

Jim: Hey, you know what? It’s always great having Ted on the broadcast. He pastors Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri, and he’s one of our favorite pastors, because he’s such a huge advocate for the family, and for marriage in particular. It’s what he talks about a lot. Um, so we invited Ted to speak at our staff chapel just a few months ago, and his message was so encouraging and insightful that we wanna share it with you today.

John: Here now, Pastor Ted Cunningham on today’s Focus on the Family.

Ted: Every marriage is a duet in need of great backup singers. And we take this from the Song of Solomon 1:4. You know that great book of the Bible, where Solomon, the Shepherd King and the Shulamite woman, their duet is forming in chapters one and two, and in chapter three they get married, they have a wedding. In chapter four, they’re on the honeymoon. In chapters five, six, seven, and eight, they’re talking about commitment and faithfulness in marriage. I love the Daughters of Jerusalem in the Song of Solomon. They’re the backup singers to the duet of Solomon and the Shulamite woman. The first time we hear them, this is what they say about this young budding love, “We rejoice and delight in you. We will praise your love more than wine.” They come in and begin to celebrate what God is doing in this couple, and that is the desire in our church for all of our congregation, every member of our church to be a backup singer to the duets all around them; their family, their friends, their other church members, their coworkers. Can you imagine every family member, friend, and church member as a backup singer? According to Hebrews 13:4, marriage should be honored by all. It should be esteemed as highly valuable, whether you’re young or old, married or single, we’re all called to esteem marriage as highly valuable. I, I, I love thinking about a church that is passionate about marriage and equipping every member to be a backup singer, getting involved in the lives of other couples. Now, I have, I have a face that screams retail. I, I can’t explain it any other way, but when I go into stores and restaurants I get asked the question all the time, “Do you work here?”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: You laugh, Jim, but I think you got a similar face. I gotta be real honest with you. How many times have you been asked that question? I’m so tired of being asked that question, I don’t fight it anymore. I just go with it. “How may I help you?” Is my standard response. “How may I help you?” I wanna get involved here. I’ll go back… I- I’ve been in the backroom getting shoe sizes and shirts. I’ll do whatever I can.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: And so, we were at one of our favorite little restaurants one day in Branson, called Sugar Leaf. And as I’m walking to the restroom, I notice this senior couple sitting at the table and they’re frustrated. They’re mad. I just went, “Oh, I got a second.” So, I walk over to their table and I simply ask them, “How was everything?” This is so much fun. It’s become a new hobby for me.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: I said, “How was everything?” And he goes, “I gotta be honest with you. We’re pretty ticked.” I said, “Ugh.” I said, “I hate to hear that. What seems to be the problem?” “Well, your sign outside said bratwurst and we stood in line for 20 minutes, okay, waiting for bratwurst. We get to the front, and you’re out of bratwurst.” Now, I’m only 43, but I can’t wait for the day in my life when the biggest issue of my day is a store being out of bratwurst. I know Ken’s going, “He should take this a little more seriously. He should take this…”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: I said, “Sir, I hate to hear that. What can we do to make this right? I wanna make this right. I don’t want you leaving here mad.” His whole attitude started to change. I said, “What if I get you a piece of pie?” Listen, pie, with senior adults especially, changes everything.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: We have another little saying in our church that goes like this, “Don’t get a divorce, get a donut.” You cannot fight while eating a donut. I promise you that. It’s impossible. So I said, “Sir, what if I get you a piece of pie?” Completely different mood. Attitude totally changes. I go, I stand in line, I buy him a piece of pie, I bring it back over, I set it down on, on the table and he’s, “Thank you.” He starts asking me questions about the restaurant, I’m like, “Hey, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t work here. That’s my family over there.” And my whole family waves from across the restaurant.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: And then I get back to the table and I’m just, I’m fired up. I can’t explain it, but I’m, I’m, I’m charged up. Like, “Did… Kids, did you see that? I just, I just impersonated the store manager and I served them.” And I said, “Kids, this is exactly what every day of our lives should be like, because we should be serving people with zero expectations of anything in return.” So, I imagine a church where every member, every follower of Jesus is a backup singer. And when someone needs help with their marriage and they approach someone in that church, they don’t get, “Go talk to that guy over there.” They get a, “How can I help you? How can I speak to you?” “Well, I don’t know how to do it.” We know what to refer on, but in this moment right here, I can serve this marriage with what I know. That’s why I tell singles who get frustrated hearing too many marriage messages in the church. You need these marriage messages, because even when you’re single, you can advocate, you can back up the marriages of your friends and of your family. Imagining a church where every backup singer is an ally for the marriage and not just the spouse. I’m not speaking here of, of abuse or addiction, where you really need to gather your friends and family around a spouse, but I’m speaking of that couple who’s headed toward the lawyer’s office, that couple who, “It’s at the end, we’re done.” The… Instead of just being an ally for your son or being an ally for your daughter, you’re an ally for your son’s marriage and you’re an ally for your daughter’s marriage. Years ago I was at an event and I did a session called From Anger to Intimacy, and this lady came up to me afterwards. She was shaking, she was so mad at me and what I had just shared. And she walked right up to the book table and she said, “Pastor.” I said, “Yeah?” She goes, “I need to say something to you.” I was like, “Wow.” I said, “What’s that?” She goes, “My husband left me. Do you know why he left me?”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: I’m getting a little picture of it, but it’s just a real small little picture. And this is what she said. You hear this all the time among family and friends. I don’t know what the issue maybe brought to you is, but in this case this is what she said, “My husband left me, because he couldn’t handle being married to a successful woman.” And I said, “Ma’am, can I pastor you for five minutes?” I took her silence as consent.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: I said, “Your success did not cause your divorce.” She said, “What do you think it was?” I said, “Well, it had a little bit to do with your…” And then I stepped back, called security. This is just the, the protocol that we do, “Eagle One, Eagle One is in the lobby.” She, she started to leave. I said, “Now, wait a second. I need to share with you two of the greatest things I’ve ever learned, that my mentor taught me, Dr. Gary Smalley, about anger. And I wanna share it with you right now. Number one, unresolved anger is like drinking poison expecting the other person to get sick.” I said, “Ma’am, some people sip this each day, but you’re drinking it by the gallons.” I said, “The second thing is, you never bury anger dead. You always bury it alive.” I said, “And you’ve buried this anger and it’s gonna come out in relationships with your children, relationships at work, or relationships with your second or third husband. You can do something about this. I noticed it from across the room.” She said, “What’s that?” I said, “The ginormous chip on your shoulder.” I go, “You’ve got to do something with it. I don’t know who said what to put it there. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but I’ve got great news for you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that can raise your lifeless soul.” Keeping in mind, I had a, a book table between us the whole time I was doing this.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: It was very important. You gotta have a little bit of a barrier for safety. And, and she started to calm down just a little bit, and I, I… And, and that to me, even when you’re di- directing one spouse to speak of the entire marriage, and those who are absent are protected here. In this conversation, I’m only gonna be able to talk to you, because your husband isn’t here, but I, I can’t, I can’t stay focused on the issue, because it isn’t about your success, it isn’t about money, it isn’t about job or career. There’s something else going on. Let’s get to the root of that. You never know the whole story. You have to avoid rewriting history or being a part of changing the narrative when one spouse wants to change that narrative. Every backup singer needs to be an ally for the marriage, not just the spouse. Every spouse… Now, this is on me, this is on you, needs to turn down bad backup singers and turn up good backup singers. You can work with a couple in counseling. You can give them all the skills that you, you have in your arsenal. You can throw it at them and, and they can begin to see some good, positive change, but if you send them back to the same environment or the same voices, the same people speaking into their marriage… And here’s some examples of bad backup singing, “I just want you to be happy. You deserve better. There’s someone out there better for you. No one should have to put up with that. You’ve tried everything to make it work. He or she has changed.” And I always love the flip side of that is, “He or she won’t change.”

John: You’re listening to Pastor Ted Cunningham today on Focus on the Family, and you can get his book about enjoying marriage called, A Love That Laughs, as well as a CD of this entire presentation when you call 800 the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or donate and request those resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. All right, let’s go ahead and return now to more from Pastor Ted Cunningham.

Ted: Who is that you’re letting into your marriage and into your life? This is why I’m grateful for Focus on the Family being a good backup singer to marriages. Who leads your duet offkey? Don’t just turn them down. Maybe you need to mute them altogether. Who brings harmony to your marriage? Turn them up. And this may be on Facebook. You just need to start unfriending some folks who just come onto your comments and they have to just spew all of their venom. You have to be very intentional with who you invite onto your team and who the backup singers are. So, in the few moments we have left, I just wanna share with you some ways you can identify a great backup singer for your marriage and how all of us who claim the name of Jesus can be a great backup singer to all of the duets around us, our mar- our marriages of our family members and friends and coworkers. Number one, promote and celebrate dating and engagement. Getting back to that, we do this at our church. I love it. I- I’ve had a couple of times, but my favorite time was a lady sent me a letter and she said, “You know, I love how you’re encouraging the young guys to date and get married. I love that, but don’t forget about us old women.” I was like, “Wow, okay. I love it.” She goes, “Why don’t you start finding some dates for the widows in your church?” So, I stood up one Sunday morning in our congregation, and before our congregation I read this letter from a lady named Deb. And at the end of reading the letter, she listed all of her assets, “I live on the lake, I got a good pension, I got two, two jet skis.”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: She had it all out there. And at the end, I simply in a pastoral tone asked, “Where are the men for Deb?” And five guys in our first service stood up. The first two guys (laughs), uh, came forward after the service, “Hey, can you show us a picture or point Deb out?” I was like, “I’d be happy to.” The third guy walks up, true story, looks over his shoulder, looks at me and says, “Hey, Pastor, do you have a picture of those Sea-Doos?” And I did not introduce him to Deb.

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: But getting back to saying, it’s a good thing. We rejoice and delight in this. I have friends that tell me all the time, when they tell me they get engaged, I go crazy celebrating with them. And I have… I can’t tell you how many couples have told me, “You’re the only one we know who’s excited for us.” I go, “Really?” “Yeah, friends and family are scared to death that we’re not ready.” Every marriage is a duet in need of great backup singers. It’s not just a program we’re talking about this morning. It’s about a DNA change in the church. It’s about changing the way we think about everybody being equipped. Uh, number two, leverage weddings and funerals. Leverage weddings and funerals. More people are attending wed- more unchurched are attending weddings and funerals at our church than are actually attending our church. To be able to not just celebrate with couples, “Hey, you made it.” But to tell their story and to share their story. I want the young couples in our church to talk to grandma and grandpa, to go out on a double date with them. We need to, number three, focus on feelings, not issues. Just like that lady who was angry. Let’s get to what’s really going on. Let’s talk about your heart. Let’s talk about unresolved anger. Let’s talk about how to, above all this, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life, and how to move on from no longer blaming your ex-husband or blaming the situation of that marriage and moving into the issues of the heart. Number four, to be a great backup singer, know the resources, have them ready to go; what small groups to plug into at your church, send them a video of a sermon, let them know of a book, send them to Marriage 911, which is what our church uses, let them know about the Intensive Program that Focus on the Family offers. I mean, all of these resources, to have them ready and ready to go. Number five, don’t hit the like button on Facebook when one spouse goes on a rant about the other or shows pictures of a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend. In the culture that we live, in this dating while divorcing, haven’t even filed the paperwork yet, but I’m dating someone new. It, it crushes me as a pastor to go on Facebook and to see members of the church, members who have sat under marriage teaching for 10, 15 years, to begin putting lines of bad backup singing on that post, “Just want you to be happy. So glad you’re finally happy.” And I always say, “Don’t ask me to celebrate a new relationship while I’m still mourning the death of your marriage.” Don’t hit that like button. Number six, don’t let attacks on your past attempts keep you from reaching out now and in the future. Number seven, and finally, don’t let anger from a hurting family member or friend or church member keep you from loving and caring for them now. Press in, lean in, ask the question, “How may I help you? How can I help you?” Rather than, “Yeah, go talk to that person. Yeah, go do that.” You have been… They have come to you. They have a relationship with you. Leverage that to be a backup singer to that duet. And I wanna close our time sharing with you about one of the greatest backup singers my wife and I ever had. It was in her grandparents, Lloyd and Lorraine Freitag. Uh, I got a call one day going into a meeting in Branson that Lloyd had gotten up from the chair and he broke his hip and he broke his leg, and he was at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, uh, Minnesota, and we’re in Branson. Amy’s parents, uh, Lloyd’s son lives in Branson and I, I told my wife, “Hey, get the kids ready. Call your parents, have them be ready in an hour. I’ll come home and get y’all. Um, they said Lloyd doesn’t have much time left, and so we’ll drive through the night to say goodbye to Grandpa Lloyd.” And, and we did. We drove through the night. I’ll never forget walking in that day to Lloyd’s bedside. And he was on oxygen and you could tell he was declining quickly. And I’ll never forget my father-in-law falling on his dad, blessing his dad and, “A kid couldn’t ask for a better dad. I love you, dad.” Just speaking words of high value, honor over his dad. And then my wife, Lloyd’s granddaughter falls on him, and then my children, his great-grandchildren fall on him. I’m the in-law, I’m, like, the last to walk up and Lloyd had a great sense of humor. I walk up to Lloyd’s table, or to his bed and the very first thing Lloyd says to me is, “Teddy, is there anything you can do to speed this up?”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: And I said, “Well, I guess I could step on some of these hoses and pull some of these plugs, but they frown on that.” And we had such a great day and, and I didn’t get this with three out of four of my grandparents, and I know many of us in this room did not have that opportunity to be at the bedside, to say goodbye and to have a, a prolonged departure from this earth. But it was such a great day. Lloyd enjoyed it so much, he decided he was gonna stick around for another day and decided that the next day would be the day. And I remember the doctor coming in while I was standing there saying, “Lloyd, we wanna put you on dialysis.” And he just kind of shook his head and said, “No, we’re done. We’re done. I’m, I’m ready to go be with the Lord.” That’s where Lloyd was at. I remember we went out to dinner that night and I dropped my father-in-law back off, because he wanted to watch one more Minnesota Twins game with his dad. And Lloyd said, “Come back. Tomorrow I’m gonna go home. It’s time.” And I’ll never forget going into his hospital room and, uh, we prayed together. We took the Lord’s Supper together. We sang together. It sounded horrible. I can’t even begin to tell you how bad it sounded, but when we were done with those three things, I’ll never forget Lloyd saying, “Goodbye, everyone. I gotta go.” And they start shutting off his pacemaker, taking his oxygen out. And he leaned back and I’d been in these situations before to know, as the family members looked on, thinking this could be any moment, I’m going, “This could be hours, days. It could be weeks.” Uh, I’ll never forget, it, it… My daughter, uh, would sit there most of that afternoon and just rub Lloyd’s arm. Twice during that time, uh, Lloyd came to. And I’ll never forget his expression. He popped up and I remember his expression turned from this to, “Oh, come on.”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: And he went right back to this position. And four hours later, he went to be with the Lord. We all were a mess. We had just lost the patriarch of our family; a loving, honorable man. And we all walked outside of the room into the hallway. I’ll never forget, my daughter was crying, my son Carson, seven at the time, was not. And Corrine says, “Carson Matthew Cunningham, why are you the only one in this family not crying?” And I’ll… No kidding, my seven-year-old says (laughs), “Sissy, I have learned to control my emotions.”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: And I’ll never forget Lorraine coming out of the room, walking up to me and hugging me and said, “Ted, would you do our family the honor of preaching his funeral next week?” And I said, “It would be my great honor.” And so, a week later in Austin, Minnesota, I stood up before about 300 family and friends, and I start every funeral the same. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death is better than the day of birth. For it is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man and the living should take this to heart.” And I said, “Today, we’re here to take to heart the death of Lloyd Freitag.” And the scripture says it’s better to go to a funeral than to go to a party, and the reason for that is because a funeral is a recalibrating event. A funeral should change the way you think and it should change the way you live. I don’t get that at a party. I don’t walk away from a party ever going, “Well, that changed my life.” It was good fellowship. It was good medicine as we laughed together. I said, “Today we’re here to take to heart the death of Lloyd Freitag. Let’s talk about Lloyd.” I said, “Here is a man that went, when he was just a boy, halfway around the world to literally save the world for us in World War II, in the Navy.” He came back, he meets this fiery redhead named Lorraine and they go on a date. He invites her on a date on a Saturday night. The date went so well at the end of that date, invited her on a second date. On the second date, the next Saturday night he asked, “Are we gonna get serious, or what?” And she said, “What do you mean? Do you wanna get married?” Second date came a proposal and she said yes. And before Lloyd went to be with the Lord, they celebrated 65 years of marriage. He worked at a Hormel meat packing plant for 42 years. So, he knew something about commitment, loyalty, duty, sacrifice, and honor. And I’m looking around the room at many marriages of family and friends gathered around the room. I said, “Today taking to heart the death of Lloyd Freitag means we do something with what we’re learning today about his life. This man loved his Lord, served his church faithfully, served his wife faithfully, served his family faithfully, and today we get to take to heart that message for us.” We’re all a mess, we go graveside, and I’ll never forget my wife’s uncle, Uncle Wayne, comes up to me graveside and he said, “Teddy, would you promise me one thing?” I said, “What’s that?” He goes, “Will you preach a funeral that good for me one day?” And I looked right at him and said, “You got some work to do.”

Audience: (laughing)

Ted: Don’t we all? Don’t we all? We have great models all around us to, to lead us and to guide us and to encourage us and to challenge us in our marriages. The second challenge today though is that we would be that person to inspire and encourage the couples all around us. Every marriage is a duet in need of great backup singers, and my prayer for you is that you would be that great backup singer. Thank you very much, Focus, for allowing me to speak.

John: Ted Cunningham was our guest recently at a Focus on the Family staff chapel.

Jim: And John, what a wonderful message from Ted. I love that story about Lloyd and Lorraine and their loving long-term marriage.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: What a great goal for each and every one of us. And, uh, what a terrific example for our children and grandchildren. Uh, you know, Christian people should be the most consistent supporters of marriages around us. Uh, let’s make an effort to really encourage the marriages of our family members, our friends, and in the wider community. Uh, the fact is folks, the world is watching Christian marriages today, and the question is, are we any different in how we treat each other? Do we uphold the commitments we made in our wedding vows? Are we a good witness of God’s forgiveness and grace in our families? That’s something we can all improve upon, I’m sure. And let me just remind you, Focus on the Family is here to help. We are a pro-marriage ministry, and over the past year, Focus has helped over 500,000 couples build a stronger, more satisfying marriage. And over 100,000 say that Focus helped them through a major marital crisis. That’s good work, and that is thanks to donors like you who are helping to support our counseling team and our Hope Restored four-day intensives. When we follow up with our intensive couples two years later, over 80% say their marriage is doing very well. So, if you’d like to follow up on Ted’s message by becoming a supporter of marriage, please consider joining our team here at Focus on the Family. The best way to do that is making a monthly pledge. That’s how Jean and I support Focus.

John: We do, as well.

Jim: You, too.

John: Yeah.

Jim: It doesn’t have to be a large amount. It’s the consistency that really helps us month to month. When you make a pledge of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Ted’s latest book, uh, published by Focus on the Family. It’s called A Love That Laughs: Lighten Up, Cut Loose, And Enjoy Life Together. And if you can’t commit to a monthly pledge right now, uh, we understand that. We can also send the book to you for a one-time gift of any amount.

John: It’s a really encouraging, uh, read and Ted explains how to use fun and laughter to reduce stress and grow closer as a couple. So, get your copy of that great book when you call 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or donate online and, uh, request A Love That Laughs at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And, uh, when you’re on our website, be sure to look for our marriage assessment, which is a really quick survey that takes just a few minutes to fill out. It’s gonna help you pinpoint, uh, strengths in your relationship and maybe identify an area or two that could use some work. Next time, Philip Yancey explains how God’s intricate design of the human body mirrors his design for the church body here on earth.

Preview:

Philip Yancey: There are a lot of people around us who, who don’t feel beautiful (laughs), you know, who feel like losers, who are deformed or just depressed, discouraged, and we can be the mirror that reflects back to them, “There is something of beauty and worth in you.”

Today's Guests

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A Love That Laughs: Lighten Up, Cut Loose and Enjoy Life Together

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Discover the amazing work our PRC’s Directors, Nurses, and Volunteers are making in their communities! You’ll see firsthand testimonies of a PRC in action, and that there are other options outside of abortions! You’ll also discover how your family can support your local PRC!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!