February 12-13, 2011
Man, this is a sweet car right here. A Ferrari 458 Italia. Some people call it I-talia – no. It’s Italia.
Illus: The first time I ever drove a Ferrari a guy let me drive his brand new one for a week. And I had a blast driving the car. There is no car like this car. It’s fast, it’s sleek, it’s cool. After a while, though, I discovered it was a little bit impractical because as you just saw, I have a tough time getting in and out of the car, with all the kids it just didn’t work. But, I really enjoyed driving the Ferrari. The last day I had it the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. It began to worry me because it was my friend’s car so I called him and said,
“Hey, your car is acting kinda crazy. The dashboard has all these warning signs.” He said,
“I will just take it to the dealership and see what the deal is.”
So, he took it to the dealership, he saw what the deal was. And the dealership told him… are you ready for this? The dealership said the last person who drove the car wasn’t driving it fast enough or hard enough. What a slap!
That’s so true, that’s so, so true. Our Ferrari will never be driven hard enough or fast enough until we allow the Lord to drive the car.
Every single person in this place, every single person at all of our environments, every single person to watch this on television or who will listen to this by podcast or watching this online, every person is a Ferrari. But you don’t know you’re a Ferrari until you give the keys to Christ and allow him to drive. If you try to drive it yourself it will go for a little while. But you’re not wired to drive the Ferrari. Jesus is, and he will take you places that you never, ever dreamed possible.
Illus: A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a famous racecar driver, Emerson Fittipaldi. Emerson, back in the day, was like one of THE guys. He won Indy multiple times, a lot of different other races, Grand Prix events all over the world, and we had a wonderful lunch. Then he said,
“Why don’t you and Lisa come by my apartment?” I said, “That’s cool.” I was driving a Tahoe. I had the Tahoe valet parked and Emerson was watching. A couple of friends were with us so I just
instinctively threw him the keys to the Tahoe. I said, “Emerson, why don’t you drive? Because you know where you’re going.”
And then I though, how funny! How crazy! Emerson Fittipaldi is driving this Tahoe. And I felt good. And Lisa, in fact, snapped a picture on her iPhone. We were in the back. There’s Emerson, driving the car. I thought, Great! Emerson is definitely wired, he’s trained to drive a car.
We’re not trained to drive the car. Make sure that you know that God has the best for your life. Make sure you know that he needs to drive. That’s why this windshield in the Ferrari is so big. I mean, this is a big honkin’ windshield! Think about this.
Look how big this windshield is, look at this thing? The rearview mirror, tiny! Little bitty. The rearview window is small compared to the windshield. Our future is big, it’s bold, it’s massive. The expanse of our future is absolutely brilliant. What are we doing driving while looking in the rearview mirror. The past is the past, the past is great, the past is fine. We learn from the past. But the past propels us to the future. Don’t get locked into the past. Don’t get locked into,
“Oh, my diapers were too tight. The nursery was painted the wrong color. And I went through this relationship and that relationship, and I’ve had this toxicity occur in my life.” That’s fine, that’s dandy. Deal with it, but move on. Move on!
Every relationship here is one that should hit on all cylinders. It should sound like a Ferrari. <sound effects> Do that with me. <sound effects> Sounds good.
Half of all first-time marriages end up as relational wreckage. What if I told you there’s an intersection here in the city, when you go through it there’s a 50% chance you’re gonna have serious accident. None of us would roll through the intersection. We wouldn’t even go there! We would stay away from it. I just described to you marriage.
Obviously what we’re doing is not working. Second-time marriages, 67% of them, don’t make it. Third-time marriages, 74% of them end up as wreckage. We’re not doing something right. We’re missing it. We’re logging onto web sites, we’re watching shows, we’re into this and that. We’re not doing it God’s way. God has the best in store for us. This is the owner’s manual for the Ferrari. This is the way to do relationships. It’s the way to do dating, it’s the way to do marriage, it’s the way to do friendships. This book is the deal
So what I’m gonna talk about today is for every single person, no matter who you are, what you are, or what you’re involved in. This message is for you. If you’ve been married 28 years like me, if you’re just entering the dating scene after divorce, if you’re maybe 16 years old and you finally got your license and you’re thinking about dating somebody. Whatever. This is for you. It does not take a relational rocket scientist to figure out that we’re messing up before the altar.
Dating is about marriage. No matter how casual you think it is.
“I’m just having coffee.” You’re thinking about marriage.
“I’m just going to a movie.” You’re thinking about marriage.
“We’re with a group of people.” You’re thinking about marriage. You’re lying to yourself. Even the men here, if you’re not thinking about it, you’re thinking about it. Dating is about marriage. Marriage is about dating. That’s why I have written so many books on it.
I’ve written The Creative Marriage. If you don’t have it, pick it up. I highly recommend the book. We talk about the raw and the real of marriage.
That’s why I’ve written Rating Your Dating While Waiting For Mating. It’s a whole book just on spouse selection. That’s why I’ve written The Marriage Mirror. Because in marriage, you see the best of yourself, and the worst of yourself. When you look into your spouse’s eyes, reflected back would be you at your best and you at your worst.
So many times people bolt out of marriage because they don’t like what they see. They’re blaming the other person, they’re really looking at themselves. That’s heavy, man. So make so to be well-resourced. Make sure to have all the tools that you need to go into the future and to see the vastness that God has for you.
So don’t just say, “Well, I went to this series and saw this series on television called RPM’s and that’s enough.” I’m telling you, you need to be well-resourced. Lisa and I are very open about our relationship. We’re very open about our marriage. We did a lot of good stuff. We also did a lot of stuff that I wish we could change. And I’m gonna talk to you about that today.
T.S. So here we go. Let’s talk about some dumb decisions we make in relationships. I hate to be negative but let me talk about some dumb, what-was-I-thinking, defective patterns in relationships. This is specifically about dating.
And parents, I’m telling you, this is huge for you because what are you doing? You are teaching and training your kids to leave. That’s the definition of parenting. Teaching and training your kids to individuate. Part of that is your teaching and training them in spouse selection. Listen to me! We’re teaching constantly and training them in spouse selection.
I laugh when modern-day parents say, “Well, we’re just going to let our kids make up their own minds about religion and about dating and sex.”
I’m thinking, “How stupid are you?!” Do you allow your kids to get up and say, “Hey, do you want to go to school today or not? It’s your choice. Do you want to clean your room today or not?”
How whack is that? As parents, we monitor, we take care of, we guide them and lead them and say, “Hey man, you’re a Ferrari! Son, you’re a Ferrari. Girl, you’re a Ferrari. Allow Jesus to drive. Close the door!”
Yeah, we’re not perfect. There could be some junk in your trunk in the past and all that, but look at the windshield. So parents, what a heavy, heavy responsibility.
Because here’s what’s going to happen. Your kids will marry someone like you. Your kids will communicate like you. Your kids will reconcile like you. Your kids will hold the church like you. Your kids will handle money like you. That’s heavy. They’re watching. They’re in the back seat absorbing all of this stuff.
Let’s get into defective dating. Defective daters, or you could say defective maters, ignore dashboard warnings. How dumb would I have been, how defective would I have been if I had ignored those dashboard warnings on my friend’s Ferrari? He had given me the keys. “Ed, take it, man, it’s yours! Treat it like it’s yours for a week.”
How crazy would I have been to forget the dashboard warnings? What are dashboard warnings that we see? Little warning lights. Cars these days will pretty much tell you what’s wrong with them. All the technology is unbelievable. If you listen to the car, if you watch the car, if you look at the dashboard, it’ll tell you the problems.
As you spouse select, as you date, as you talk to the person, as you get married, they’ll tell you if you watch them, if you study them, the situation. They’ll tell you what needs work. They’ll tell you what needs maintenance. They’ll tell you the problems. The first problem is a lot of people ignore dashboard warnings.
The character light is one that we ignore. You wouldn’t think so but we ignore the character light. How do we ignore it? I will tell you. We jump in the sack and jump in the rack and have sex before marriage. If you want to ignore the character light, just have sex before marriage.
Sex is fun. If it weren’t fun we wouldn’t do it. I understand the temptation, the allure. God doesn’t say no, he says wait. Wait until you find a mate and get in covenant with the person. Sex is multifaceted and multidimensional. If we have sex outside of marriage, and I know many of you are (I’m not stupid), you’re using a God-given gift in a God-forbidden way. You’re taking this Ferrari and going off-road! The character light. Does the person have character? Are they honest?
“Well, she just has a little lying problem.”
“He just has a little truth-telling problem.” The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and following. “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.”
I like the word character. Think about the word integrity. What does the word integrity mean? It comes from the word integer. A math term. That term just scares me! A whole number. If you’re dating and then you mate before this person becomes your mate before God, you will marry a fraction, a third, a half, three-quarters, you’ll marry a fraction and not the wholeness of the person. Sex is so powerful the windows will fog up and you will not understand and see the character of the person. The integrity, the wholeness, the honesty.
“Oh, he just has a little dope problem. Smokes a little bit of weed.”
“She has just a little drinking problem. She’s a little bit crazioactive.”
Look it up in the Urban Dictionary. Crazioactive is someone who has so much emotional baggage you can’t even deal with them. Crazioactive people. Bad company corrupts good character.
“Come back to your senses,” verse 34 says, “Come back to your senses.” Wake up and smell the espresso… “as you ought and stop sinning. For there are some of you who are ignorant of God…”
Does this person have the kind of character that you could live with for the next four or five decades? What kind of character do they have?
Character counts. It matters. Who you are when no one is looking is who you are. Character. Always look at the character. If you see the character warning lights, pay attention!
Illus: I was talking to a young man in his 40’s. He had never been married. He met this girl. He thought she was it. Cute. Attractive. Seemed to love God and the church. One day when we were having lunch together, between bites of a sandwich I said,
“Any dashboard warnings?” And this guy had not hopped in the rack. He was saving himself until marriage. I said, “Any dashboard warnings.”
“Yeah, Ed. I sometimes think that she’s not always totally honest with me.” Whoa.
“Just one time?”
“No, well there was this time and that time…” and I began to ask some more questions. He began to give me a long laundry list of the times she was not honest with him. I said,
“Don’t continue in the relationship! I know she’s hot, I know she’s this, she’s that. Don’t continue! You cannot marry somebody with a lying problem.”
Character. Integrity. Honesty. Are they gentle? Are they kind? Don’t ignore that dashboard warning.
Another light is the relational light. How about this person’s relationships?
Illus: I really enjoy buying pre-owned car. I like to buy great cars that have been pre-owned because you can get some sweet deals! I bought Lisa a car this summer from this dealership. And the cool thing about the car was the car had been bought at the dealership and every maintenance issue, every warning light that came up on the car was dealt with from this dealership.
So I was talking to the guy over at pre-owned cars, I said, “I want you to give me a list of everything, everything the car has ever gone through.” And sure enough, about six pages of detailed information. I was looking at certain problems and issues and I go,
“How about this? It kinda scares me.”
“Well we took care of it.”
“How about that rattle?”
“We took care of it.” And finally I go,
“Hmm… I will buy it. I will buy it.”
What kind of relational history does this person have? How do they spell relational relief, junior high student, high school student, single adult? You’re married, you’ve got friends. What’s their relational history? Have you checked it out? Because that is a massive issue. Huge!
Look at the person’s friends. Their friends should underscore and highlight the values of the Lord Jesus. Look at the person’s friends. Do you see Jesus driving their car? If they cannot give you a consistent track record of relationships, that is a major dashboard warning. If all their friends are brand new and you can’t go back in the rearview mirror and look in their past and see that this person is consistent, this person has it together, I’m telling you that person is someone you really need to look at. Because someone that has their life together, someone who has the character of Christ, someone who has relational integrity and a great history of relationships is someone you want to connect with. If they don’t, I’m telling you, I’m telling you right now, it can mess you up.
I see people that come to me and they look good, they smell good, they talk good, they dress good, and all that stuff. I begin to ask some questions.
“How about your friendships?”
“Well, we had a problem here. And this dude messed me around. And she’s this way and she’s that way.” All the drama and trauma. “And here are my friends.”
“Well, you’ve only known these people for a couple of months.” That’s a warning.
Relationships. Parents, you better be on this like a bird on a June bug! You better be on this like a Ferrari on the autobahn! You better monitor your kids’ relationships and the relationships of their relationships!
“But it’s work!”
I know its work! The work is worth it. Because in my book The Creative Marriage I talk about the MWE – The Marital Work Ethic. Not only are you working on your marriage; you’re also working with your kids to help them in this spouse selection situation.
The relational light. You can tell I’m passionate about this. The relational light. Are their friends people of God? People of the church? People of this dealership? Are they consistent? Because your friends and mine reflect who we are.
The maintenance light is another light on the dashboard that many people just ignore. The maintenance light.
Guys will go, “Ed I just can’t handle a high-maintenance woman!” You can laugh guys. I know you say that. Every woman is high maintenance. This would be a good place to clap, ladies, come on! Every relationship, guys, is high maintenance! Clap again.
When you say, “Oh, I don’t want a high-maintenance relationship,” you’re saying, “I don’t want to work. Man, I worked for it in dating. Man, I was looking good, dressing good, had everything happening for me. Once I get married, I will just quit. I will stop. I got my woman.”
No, no, no! That’s when the work begins, brother!
Now if she’s high, HIGH maintenance that’s a warning sign. There’s high maintenance, and there’s high, HIGH maintenance. What’s high, HIGH maintenance? Well, she looks at you as “Daddy!”
Or guys, you can be high maintenance, too. You don’t see her as your wife but, “Momma! Momma!” Are you the parent or the spouse? Can we talk for a second?
Dada! Mama! Dada! Mama! High maintenance. People that are just very needy, just blow up the phone, tracking you 24/7. Like a professional hunting guide, you can’t get away from them! Whoa! You know what I’m saying? It’s too much! And if it’s a micro thing when you’re dating, it will be a MACRO THING WHEN YOU’RE MARRIED!
There’s another light, the church light. We forget this light, the church light.
“ Well, church. We just go from here to there and play church hopscotch. One foot in, one foot out, jumping around here and there and yonder.”
A lot of singles look at the church as Christian bar-hopping. In my travels domestically and internationally pastors ask me all the time, “Ed, what do we do with the singles? They’re so jacked up. They’re so crazioactive! They’ll serve in the church and serve in the church, then meet this person and get married and we’ll do the wedding and the whole deal and then…. Vrroom! They’re gone.”
How sad. How tragic. Make sure the person that you date has a consistent track record in the dealership, in the House. Make sure they’re serving, not swerving. Make sure they’re holy, not hydroplaning. You’ve got to make sure of that. Is he serving? Is she serving? You better settle where you’re going to go to church prior to getting married.
“Oh, it’s not that big of a deal.” Are you kidding me? We have to revolve our lives, our LIVES, around the House of God. Around the house that we have as human beings and the House of God. Those are the two houses. If they’re not, it’s not pretty. The track record is scary. The defective daters, defective maters make those decisions.
There’s another decision I’ve got to talk about real quick, real quick, real quick. Defective daters ignore dashboard warnings. You wouldn’t think so because after all, they’re driving a Ferrari, but they ignore road signs. If you ignore road signs you’re going to get into some trouble, aren’t you?
SLOW – Singles, this sign, I’m going to turn it around it’s so important that I want you to go crazy when I turn it around. I want you to clap, all right? Go slow! Su-lu-uh-oh! Go slow! Every month that passes by, you get a better read on the character, better read on the relationship. Go slow! Slow!!! Slo-ho-ho-ho, slow!
Here’s another one. We go slo-ho-ho-ho. And then there’s this right here. Say it with me. Stop! In the name of love! Everybody stand up with me. Here we go. One, two, and three. Stop! In the name of love, before you break my heart! Stop! In the name of love… Please be seated. You guys can’t sing.
Stop! Stop!!! STOP!!!! Road signs. Stop! Don’t roll through a stop sign.
Illus: I almost got killed 20 years ago with a bunch of guys from our church in a small town. We were in a van, all of us. We stopped at a stop sign, kept going. This car, going 70 mph, clipped the tip of our van. Had we been half a second earlier we would all be dead. And the guy was also a criminal on the loose. He was arrested, put in jail. The guy was a bad dude.
Stop! Don’t roll through stop signs. Stop.
Yield. I love this sign. God, I yield everything to you. God, I’m gonna do it your way. God, the future’s so bright, God, the windshield is so big, God, I’m gonna give it to you. I yield to you! Have you yielded to God? You’ve tried it your way. You’re banging off the guardrails and you’re hydroplaning and you have all these problems in your car.
“God, I yield to you.”
Because, if we’re not careful guys, we can marry people just because of the curves. Dangerous curves! I don’t care what kind of curves she has; I don’t care how smooth her legs are. Very soon you could have some hail damage. I don’t care what kind of six-pack he has, sooner or later it’s going to be a spare tire, baby! Things sag. Things wrinkle and crinkle. You only look good for about what, 5-10 years.
Illus: I remember one time, I have to confess and I hope she’s not watching this, I was on this show. I never said this. I don’t think I can say it, I don’t want to get in trouble. OK, I will just say it generally. I was on this show about Fellowship Church and the growth of it. It was a Christian show. And there was this supermodel who had become a believer. I will have to edit this. I will just tell you. Guys we’ll have to edit this, it’s a great illustration. I was on this show and this supermodel was on there too. She had become a believer. And this producer said, “Ed, you’re gonna be on the show with <blank>.” And I’m like, Wow! Because I remember back in the day this girl just… trust me, guys. You would know.
So, I’m sitting there in the green room and this woman is in there. She’s tall, kinda wrinkly and crinkly a little bit, and I’m thinking, no way. No way! It was her! So guys, if this girl, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, looked like that? You better look past the curves.
And ladies, if this guy has this physique, I’m just saying. Have you ever seen some of these pro athletes who look so great, after about 5-10 years, not to mention names…. Wow. I saw a guy the other day, a Hall of Famer. I mean this guy looked horrible! I remember back in the day Lisa would go, “Oh he’s so cute!” Now, “Ed, come here, come here! Look at this guy! He looks terrible!”
It’s part of the age process, man. You better go deeper than that. You better go deeper than that.
So what am I saying? What’s the big idea? Here’s the big idea. Proverbs 15:22. Put this on your refrigerator. “Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisors they succeed.”
One of the biggest mistakes Lisa and I made, as I said earlier at the beginning of this talk, we didn’t seek counsel. Biblical counsel. I will say it again. Bible-driven counsel. Counsel from the anchor of scripture. We did not get counseling prior to getting married. Do it.
Also, we waited about 15 years until after marriage to seek Biblical counseling. I’m not saying if somebody says they’re a marriage and family therapist or they’re a psychologist or sociologist. Rah-rah-rah. Go, team, go. I’m talking about someone who has the scripture as a priority and purpose in their lives. That’s real help. Because the deepest aspect of your life and mine is our connectivity with God.
Get help. Get help. Get help! Guys, we’ll talk to anybody, pay anything to have that sweet golf swing. Ladies, we’ll pay anything to look a certain way or maybe we want our home decorated this way or that. We’ll just put it out there. Come on, come on! We need financial help we’ll go to the best financial counselors.
And the most important thing, the most important earthly relationship in marriage, we’re not going to walk into a counselor’s office? Come on, guys, man up! Come on guys! Let’s have some testosterone! Come on ladies, let’s have some estrogen! Step into a counselor’s office; put your baggage on the table, all the warning lights. Talk about them. And let someone help you.
If you’re dating and it starts to kind of feel like “Love is in the air…” You know, you can feel it man. Go into a counselor’s office. This is why I’m so happy to be a part of a church that talks so openly and honestly about what God talks to openly and honestly about. We’re getting the real 4-1-1 on relationships before we have to dial 9-1-1. Get help!
RPM. Relationships. Passion. Marriage. <vroom!> That’s what God wants to do in your life. And the only way you’ll discover it, the only way you’ll pull those real RPMs is when you do it his way. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]