Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Women

Dating During Separation or Divorce – Yes or No?

Assuming marriage for you has been a rough go or your partner left you or worse yet, committed adultery and you find yourself separated or in the middle of a divorce. Your emotions left the marriage perhaps months or even years ago for multiple reasons, but you tried repeatedly to make it work. You’re tired and you lack answers. You’re in a tough place. 

Do you date? Why not? Your friends are trying to set you up, telling you to move on and/or saying that you need to think about yourself. 

It’s problematic

Dating during separation or divorce can be problematic on several levels. The first to consider is that you are still legally married; therefore, you are not available. Separation, even a legal one–you’re still married. Divorce pending–still married. Legally and spiritually, your vows are still intact. To start a relationship on this foundation would not only be unrighteous, but unwise seeds planted into the next relationship.

You are most likely not ready for a new partner; therefore, you should not be dating. Dating is an act of looking for love and companionship again and a marriage partner. Are you emotionally free, financially free, mentally and spiritually free? In other words, have you been on a healing trek during this time of separation and/or divorce? Most experts say this process takes at least two years.

What responsibility do you take for the failed marriage? Everyone bears responsibility and there are many things to learn and grow through about partners (right and wrong ones), about ourselves, and about a lasting marriage. Do not rob God or yourself of sufficient healing time.

If there are children, then you and your ex are both still intricately relating. If you are pursuing divorce and dating, court judges may look negatively on the responsibility level of your parenting. Further, your kids are hurting and they need you fully there for them.

Are you escaping bad feelings and a relationship that ultimately didn’t work? Are you trading bad feelings for new, exciting ones? While this new relationship might be exciting and create new, feel-good emotions (mainly wanting to escape the old ones), then you might be forfeiting the deep work that could be taking place in your life. Worse yet, most relationships started during separation or divorce do not last. Now you have further complicated the issues for you and your family.

Another soul connection

Adding another soul connection via a new relationship further complicates the process. Maybe it starts as a friendly meal together. Then it progresses to deeper talks as the friendship grows. Then there is an attraction. As the attraction grows, the pair become more and more open, more and more vulnerable. Eventually feelings of love can be the result, causing a deepening soul connection and then one can begin thinking, “This is the person for me.”

If the relationship continues, it can become physical with hugs, hand holding and kisses. This touch leads to more touch and a soul-to-soul connection. Further, if the physical, emotional and, yes, even spiritual relationship continues to be justified, it can ultimately cross boundaries and become sexual. 

Each decision we make has consequences

So, let’s back up the truck. When did this relationship we’re writing about cross the line and become sinful? The lesson for men and women who are separated or pursuing divorce is to not start the process of dating until the vows are legally broken and sufficient healing has taken place. 

If you are separated, seek with all of your heart and soul to remain faithful to your vows, obeying the scripture and your spoken word. Relentlessly pursue personal healing with everything in you. Lay your feelings at the altar and ask Jesus to walk with you. Seek the Spirit of God’s advice and direction. Ask Him to be Lord of all your decision making. 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Men, Women

Blemishes, We All have Them

One day my wife, Mary, a registered nurse, returned home from work with multiple black spots under each eye. I asked her what on earth could have happened at work that evening. She told me, “Oh, you know all those white age spots I had under my eyes? Well, I had the doctor burn them off for me.” 

I shared with her that I never noticed any white age spots, but I sure did see the black ones and they were far worse! Mary saw those spots every time she looked in the mirror. Not everyone noticed them, not even her husband, but she did. 

We tend to look at a picture of ourselves and see the blemishes: the crooked nose, the mole, the scar, or the receding hairline. The same is true of our emotional blemishes and past sins. We “see” and recall our selfish behavior, our sinful exploits, and our insecurities. 

Colossians chapter one states this: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:21, 22)

Here is the really good news: the verses in Colossians tell us that those blemishes are no longer a part of us, we have been made holy and we cannot be accused any longer. We have been forgiven and we are free. We are reconciled and presented holy in His sight, without blemish and totally free from accusation! Stop focusing on the blemishes and start focusing on how your heavenly Father sees you.

(To all veterans. Thank you for your service. Enjoy your special day today!)

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Prayer

Another Election Day Approaching

As many of us approach election day here in the USA, I thought I would pass along to you some really healthy and sound advice. But first, let me share some of the best advice from God’s word found in I Timothy 2:1-3 from The Passion version.

 1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

Some very sound advice:

  • I can deeply love people with whom I strongly disagree. I refuse to demonize any politician who is made in the image of God.
  • I have enemies and Jesus gave me power over them on the cross, but my battle is NOT against flesh and blood.
  • When you call someone by an evil name…you have decided that you know their heart. But, the Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
  • Associating with, or serving political people, should not be confused with embracing their ideologies. All political offices deserve to be honored according to Romans 13.
  • I am commanded and called to pray for my leaders. If I don’t pray for them, then I don’t have a right to critique their success or failure.
  • My first allegiance is not to a political party but to the kingdom of God.
  • I cannot separate my spiritual views from my political views because the government of this world is being affected and infected by the invisible realm.
  • Great government doesn’t take away the right of people to sin. It does however, protect people from sinning against others and teaching people to do so.
  • It’s not the responsibility of government to Christianize the world. That’s the church’s job.  Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He leads the church with a shepherd’s staff. (Bullet points written by author Kris Valloton.)

Lastly, let us keep in mind the innocent in this election, for our vote matters to them. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “This is God’s message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!” (22:3, The Message)

Let’s prayerfully walk out this election like our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not to a political party.

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Challenge, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Training

Learning Psychoanalytic Therapy

Going through the books on my book shelf in my office I came across an old college book with writing assignments still stuffed neatly inside. I tossed the book, but kept the assignments to peruse them–interesting reading from the 1980’s.

There were all the different counseling approaches studied with practice assignments placing you with a counselee while using that particular psychoanalytic method. Professors threw at us as students tons of stuff to wade through like early childhood, teenage years, early adulthood, sexual impulses, unconscious factors, transference, disassociation, etc. It was like baking a cake with differing recipes and then trying to find the one you really liked and wanted to serve to others. 

Professors underlined words, placed checkmarks and wrote “OK” or “Good” at the end of the assignment. I was a dedicated Christian and my approach wasn’t always welcomed, even though professors pushed equality, diversity of thought and openness, nonjudgmental attitudes and acceptance. But as a believer, I rarely felt the same from them. I was not free to express my Biblical perspective.

I wasn’t offended, but seeing and feeling so much inequality, all the while equality is being taught seemed disingenuous at the least, feeling attacked at most. In one paper I wrote, “My values would be those closely related to the Christian ethic. Being a Christian will influence me in that it is impossible for me to hide those values or exclude them from a helping relationship. I know I will expose those values without imposing those values on my clients.” The doctor of psychology professor did not agree with me. 

But that was years ago. My degree was completed, followed by 25 plus years of counseling. It was an era of my life that I enjoyed and embraced. Psychology simply means the study of the mind, but who is the One that can truly understand the mind? Who has the answers to each and every issue in life and who brings healing like no other counselor? There is this One who predates psychology by a few years.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

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Challenge, In the news, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles, Women

What’s Faith Have to Do With Sex and Marriage Stability?

Young men and women with an active faith in God and His word, the Bible, are long-term men and women who take saying “I do” seriously. They share similar moral beliefs and deeply held values. They possess a higher commitment to sexual fidelity. And those who regularly attend church have about a 40% less likely chance of divorcing. (See this Harvard study.)

Marrying when young often means less relationship baggage primarily because there are less exes. Maturity in a relationship is not measured in chronological age. Maturity is measured in one’s ability to think of their spouse or future spouse first and not themselves. 

Cohabitation is precarious, uncertain and shaky because it undermines the quality of your marriage commitment. While marrying Corrine, you may find yourself thinking about your years with Heather and then comparing your new wife’s sexual responses to Bekah’s. It will increase the instability of your marriage foundation. Cohabitation is pretending to be married with a widely open back door. There is no need for commitment in sickness and in health; there are no vows spoken to one another and to God. There are no community of believers helping you to remain committed to each other without the bond of a legalized marriage.

And then this

In a Wall Street Journal article dated Saturday, February 5, 2022 Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox wrote, “[In surveying] 50,000 women in the U.S. governments National Survey of Family Growth, we found that there is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabitating prior to marriage. In fact, women who married between 22 and 30, without first living together, had some of the lowest rates of divorce in the National Survey of Family Growth.” Now that says something which majorly contradicts the former conventional wisdom of trying it to see if you like it.

One of the reasons couples are marrying later today is hope against hope that they will not encounter divorce. They are vying for a lower risk rate. But along the way as they give themselves freely to various sexual partners and/or cohabitate they are actually decreasing their chances of marriage without experiencing divorce. Research is now growing and concluding that to cohabitate prior to marriage and to experience multiple sexual partners, couples are less likely to be happily married. The pretest thought simply does not work. 

It has been God’s word of truth

The word of God has revealed this truth for centuries. Social science is now only catching up to the truth written in the Bible about relationships and marriage. God’s word is more current when it comes to marriage and pre-marriage than tomorrow’s scientific study found within academia. 

For example, did you know that sexual pleasure between husband and wife was God’s idea? Solomon wrote these inspired words, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer–may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” (Proverbs 5:18, 19) 

Paul the Apostle wrote:

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (I Corinthians 7:2-5)

God is not embarrassed by sexual intimacy, He is not a prude or naïve when it comes to His wonderful gift, but He did place very strict, very safe and very loving boundaries around it. Paul also clearly warned us when he wrote, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (I Corinthians 6:12)

Sexual pleasure is God’s intent for marriage and procreation is not the only purpose of sex, but sexual fulfillment within marriage is a process, a learned experience. 

Concluding with married sex is better sex

Married couples have better sex for numerous reasons. They are committed to one another. They desire to please one another and give versus taking to meet a need. Intimacy is not filled with lust, but rather love. The married partners are monogamous. Sex within marriage is the safest sex. It is sex without worry, without thought of being caught, without fear of disobeying God’s command and sex within marriage is the best sex because you know the desires of your life mate. 

For all of these reasons and more we can conclude that God was right all along. His written word and His commands were all for our good and our pleasure. Boundaries are an important part of life and so it is also true of sexual boundaries. May you find this truth for yourself and then experience the pure joy of obedience and God’s gift to you.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Seven Steps to Help You Resolve Communication Conflicts

Every couple on earth has suffered through communication conflicts. Here are seven areas to consider as we walk through life together so that our conflicts will actually decrease. 

  1. When we have a conflict we need to maintain a right attitude toward one another. Conflict is not always detrimental in marriage, but it does test our faith, our patience and our personal level of grace. According to the scripture, it also develops character (Romans 5:3-5; James 1: 2-4) In marriage we often “use” one another to help smooth out our character. It is true that our conflict is deeper because our love is deeper.
  1. As conflicts are resolved, God uses those areas in our lives to help others. I know that sounds far off, but it’s true. We will have authority to speak into that which we have had to grow through and have won the battles. Believe God for win/wins with your conflicts.
  2. The natural response to conflict is more conflict, a desire to win or bailing out and quitting. But when we push through, pray through and persevere through the trial, the outcome will be perseverance doing its work. James said to let perseverance finish its work so we can mature. The problem is too many couples quit, give up and believe it cannot be resolved or they want others to resolve it for them. The truth is the more we persevere the more victory we will eventually have. Ask any couple who fought through finance differences, persevered, stuck to a budget until they saw the reward and you will find a couple who has grown strong in the financial realm.
  3. Whatever we sow, we reap. Sowing and reaping is at work in our marriages. If we sow the negative, we will reap it. Typically, we sow discontent and criticism because we’re not getting what we want. We forget that is what we’ll reap. The seed of criticism cannot produce the fruit we’re looking for. In the midst of this conflict, what good seeds can you sow?
  4. Don’t give the enemy a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27) by not coming to a resolve. A marriage that holds bitterness, plants negative seeds and criticism, anger, etc. is not doing what Peter said when he told us to be considerate of our wives and treat them with respect so our prayers are not hindered. In other words, prayer will be powerless in the home of disrespect, discontent and the lack of peace.
  5. Be aware of what Paul called selfish ambition (Philippians 2:1-2). Most of our conflict is over selfish preferences rather than desiring the best for one another. 
  6. Lastly, we are to love deeply. I Peter 4:8 tells us “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love often means overlooking, forgetting and not pointing out failures. It’s a “keeps no record of wrong” position. 

God wants you to be able to resolve conflict and I believe He gives us the tools to do so. Obviously, we both need to stick to the plan and press forward for a better outcome to our marriage communication. 

Assignment: A step that you can take is to write down the common triggers in your relationship that tend to cause arguments and discuss why and how. Ask God for healing in those areas of your lives.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Issues of the Day

Am I Brainwashed?

I entered the US Air Force during the Vietnam war. I was not allowed to just participate without a proper military foundation and so there was this tormenting program called Basic Training. It was months of grueling exercise to get into shape along with mind-altering courses of instruction.

We learned how to stand at attention, stand at ease and how to march. We were forced to dress in military uniform, learning about the “P line” and how to match your shirt line with your belt line, with your pant line. We also learned how to make a military bed, how to clean latrines (Mom would be proud) and what was an acceptable haircut. We were required to participate in various classes on military law, military justice and military history. 

As a young man I had never experienced anything like it. The goal of the military drill sergeants was to create an airman, one who was no longer classified as a civilian. Civilian life was over, at least for the next four years. We were to look like, sound like, think like and react like a trained military soldier. 

I’ve been told a number of times that as a dedicated Christian I am not living in the “normal” world.  Or, that I am “brainwashed.” There are times that I know I can take those comments as a compliment and at other times they trouble me. I guess it depends on who is making the remark. 

But here’s an honest observation: If the military thought they could make a soldier out of me by teaching a totally new way of life, then I believe Christ can make a disciple out of me by teaching me His way of life. It takes a renewed mind, a mind that transitions to believe His normal revealed throughout His word, the Bible. 

Am I now brainwashed or is my mind being renewed (see Romans 12:2) to think God’s thoughts and to learn to obey His voice? In the military, I had no choice but to do things their way–the military way. And when I discover God’s way, I also discover the best way, the trusted and safe way that now becomes my normality.

Do not be ashamed if you are accused of being different. You are supposed to be different: look differently, think differently, act differently and respond differently. God’s nature is to become your nature. Embrace the difference and be Christ’s soldier, proud to serve in His army!

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

II TImothy 2:4
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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity, In the news, Issues of the Day

Who Gets to Speak the Final Word?

I was sitting in a fourth grade elementary school class when our teacher was called out to the hallway. When she returned she was crying, telling us between sobs that the President of the United States had been assassinated. After she defined the word “assassinated,” we readied ourselves to return home as she announced an early dismissal. 

Devastating news, for sure, that went around the world quickly. But there was another celebrity that died that very same day–the British author C.S. Lewis, an intellectual defender of the Christian faith. 

C. S. Lewis was an author of many books that are now classics like: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis spent most of his earlier years as an atheist. But he began to realize that God was “closing in on him.” He discovered the joy he was missing in life would be found in the faith he had resisted. 

Lewis was a rather shy professor of literature at Oxford and Cambridge universities and he passed from this earth in the shadow of another, His death hardly registered on the news blips of the day. 

Another personal hero of mine died in the shadow of a famous celebrity. Mother Teresa passed from this world the day before Princess Diana’s extravagant funeral. It’s no secret that Princess Diana, who was a friend of Mother Teresa, would steal the limelight from a woman who had given her life to the poor and the needy. It is said that Mother Teresa could carry all of her life possessions in a five-gallon bucket. 

These death eclipses seem unfair, but don’t they speak to how the godly live their lives? It’s not our life that we are lifting up but rather, Christ’s. Even Paul the apostle said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

While the world celebrates the rich and the famous, God celebrates the obedient, the humble and the servant. Recently, during the highest holy days of the Christian faith, The New York Times had a headline article titled, “In This TIme of War, I Propose We Give Up God.” It was just one more anti-God diatribe.

That article reminded me of a 1966 Time magazine cover article announcing God was, in fact, dead. A few years later that same magazine had a cover article titled, “The Jesus Revolution.”

Let’s let God have… THE FINAL WORD.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Three Vital Questions for Marriage

Discovering how we need to change in order to reflect love is an effective strategy for our marriages today. Here are three reality questions to consider.

Question number one: Do you realize that you were born into brokenness? We all have imperfect families, wounded backgrounds and personality difficulties. When we found the “perfect” person, we found someone like ourselves — in need of healing. While weddings reflect perfection, e.g., perfect clothes, flowers, beauty and pageantry, they are actually filled with imperfect people. Psalm 51:5 reveals, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” I must realize that in my natural, selfish state I do not always reflect Christ to my life mate.

Question number two: Do you realize there is no perfect marriage? Only one relationship on this earth started out perfectly: Adam’s and Eve’s. Their world was perfect, their jobs were perfect and their lives reflected that perfection. But, Adam and Eve chose to walk away from perfection and by the second generation one of their children committed murder. Marriage is not perfect because the two individuals that make up the marriage are not perfect. Within the first 90 days of marriage, we quickly discover we married someone unlike us.

It is God’s story and strategy to begin to hold us together through our differences. You see, my wife is what I am not and I am what she is not, but together we make an amazing and whole team. Ephesians 5: 25- 27 says that, as men, we are called to love our wife as Christ loves His church. We are not Jesus, but we are His representatives.

To love your spouse is to give your life and your love to the point that you bring healing to them.

Our final question; number three: Do you have the mentality of an owner or a renter in marriage? I had a nagging issue with a basement wall in my house that was repeatedly becoming damp. We had torn it apart and rebuilt it only to have moisture show up again. We have now torn it apart a second time. I am the owner; I will do whatever it takes and spend whatever money it takes to make that wall dry again. It’s an owner’s mentality. Owners do what’s best for the property at their own cost and sacrifice. Too many couples are renters today–they’re out the back door while owing three months’ rent. A renter’s mentality in marriage will bring damage to a spouse because they lack long-term commitment. They’ll walk by the weeds every day and not bend over to pull them. A renter in marriage does not think in terms of making an investment in their marriage. Marriage by nature is designed for owners, not renters.

Owners invest their own sweat equity, their life savings and their day-to­ day care to repair, clean and manage their property. Why? It’s a lifetime investment. It’s an asset, not a liability. Owners desire an increase in value over time.

Do you take ownership for being healed and bringing healing to your marriage? Are you in your marriage for a lifetime investment and have a passion for an increase in value? If you answer, “yes” to these questions, then you are taking ownership, growing through your own brokenness and imperfections.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Why Are You Married?

Have you ever been to an ox pull? We were in New England, seated on a set of old wooden bleachers at a county fair; we had never experienced a real, live ox pull. Let us try to describe it to you: two mammoth oxen are yoked together, side by side, and behind them is an apparatus like a hitch. The hitch is connected to a large chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds. The oxen are commanded by their owner (called a driver) to pull together and drag the concrete slab as far as they possibly can. It was quite entertaining, and we immediately began to realize something with the teams of oxen. Some were young and inexperienced. Some pairs were noticeably different sizes. Some simply refused to work with their partner. But those teams that were mature and experienced knew how to work together, with their driver shouting out commands at their sides. Those teams, we noticed, pulled the heavy concrete a lengthy distance. 

We found ourselves thinking about how the teams of oxen were a picture of marriage—specifically, the picture of a team of two either working together successfully or failing miserably to pull in unison. It was not the biggest or strongest team that won; it was the oxen that could work together, each performing to the best of its ability. Working alone, the block wouldn’t move an inch; but working in complete harmony, the teams would succeed in reaching the goal. 

It astounds us to discover how many couples do not know why they are married. For what reason(s) has God called you together into this union? Those who once were two have been called to move as one. When the two oxen didn’t compete with one another and acted as one, they were surprisingly successful. 

Businesses, civic organizations, churches, and the military all have mission statements. If they understand this statement and what goals are to be accomplished, all of the members or employees of these organizations know why they belong. Mission statements are composed of descriptive terms like “to serve the homeless of our city,” “to build a better and more efficient home,” or “to protect our nation’s borders.” When God created man, He also created a mission for man. God gave Adam and Eve an assignment from heaven—to tend the Garden of Eden and to rule over creation. 

This assignment was not just busy work; it was a charge from God to care for God’s creation and to replenish the earth. There was purpose, a co-mission in this first marriage, and Adam and Eve went about each day fulfilling that call of God upon their lives. Both you and your spouse can discover your co-mission, just like Adam and Eve. You each have both spiritual and natural gifts that balance and complement. As husband and wife, you are a team, yoked together to fulfill all that the Father has planned for you. Perhaps God has called you to the business realm, to be in worship ministry together, or to raise your children or to pay off your mortgage early. All of these can become pieces of your mission together as a married couple. 

Life can get busy and pass us by rather quickly. Before we know it, we’ve been married for five or even ten years. We can begin to myopically focus on the stuff of life that has no real or eternal value or lasting effect upon our lives and the lives of others. It’s important to remember why God called you together in matrimony, and writing your mission statement as a couple can help to refocus your marriage on the things that truly matter. 

Where it all began for us 

When Mary and I first discovered the idea of mission as a couple, we were already many years into our marriage. Looking back over several decades, we realized that our first co-mission assignment came from our local church. Our pastor asked us if we would consider starting a bus ministry. The idea was to fill a bus with unchurched kids and bring them to Sunday school. We loved visiting the kids and their families every Saturday and picking them up in our red-and- white converted school bus early Sunday morning. Sometimes they ran to the bus half-dressed due to a lack of parental involvement, but they were excited nonetheless. The bus ministry was so successful that we began a second route, and then a third. Soon we were reaching the parents as well as the children and were helping to grow a multicultural fellowship. 

Excerpt from the book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak.

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