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

If You Have Chosen to Be Sexual…

I had this thought the other day when considering sexual boundaries in our lives. It’s one that I suppose some persons will agree with and perhaps others will strongly disagree with. It’s an observation I have made over the years as I watch how people respond so differently to God’s sexual boundaries lovingly written to us within His word.

Here’s the thought provoking question: If one chooses to be sexual prior to marriage, why not be sexual outside of your marriage?

It’s the same act isn’t it? It’s breaking the same moral guideline, right? It bears similar consequences, doesn’t it?

When we sow sexual seeds before marriage, what makes us think we’ll reason differently or be tempted differently while married?

If you are a young person who desires to obey your heavenly Father, then choose to sow into your future marriage relationship by following God’s moral code today. Do not think that you’ll get away with acting out sexually and then have no consequences after you say “I do,” having spoken vows of commitment for the remainder of your married life.

If you have crossed God’s boundaries, then I urge you to ask for forgiveness and experience deep repentance over disobeying your heavenly Father. Your future is very connected to the seeds you sowed in the past. Break off any soul connections from prior relationships. Declare Galatians 3:13 over your life and disconnect yourself from curses spoken or sowed. Commit once again to purity before marriage and within marriage.

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Challenge, Encouragement

Everything That Can Be Invented Has Been Invented

In 1889, Charles Holland Duell was the Commissioner of the U.S. patent office. He is infamously quoted as having said that the U.S. patent office would soon shrink in size and eventually close because, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

 

Seems humorous and extremely shortsighted to us today doesn’t it? In fact, we might say there is still so much more to be invented and discovered. Did you know most new inventions are simply improvements over prior inventions? Just think about the transitions the lightbulb has gone through. We might say the more we know or discover, the more there is to know and discover.

 

It feels like decades ago now, but I met the man who invented something he called the “Stick.” He picked me up at an airport in Kentucky to take me to where I was speaking. Being inquisitive about him, I asked what he does for work. Driving an older car that was several different colors and had a trunk full of tools in it in which my suitcase did not fit, he told me he “…owned a lot of apartments that [he] had to maintain.”

 

The Stick was the tech piece that allowed the internet and your land line telephone to be used together. Prior to his invention, we used either the phone or the internet, but not both. He told me he sold his invention, not mentioning the value or bragging about his accomplishment.

 

Later, his pastor told me he became very, very wealthy through his sale, but it did not change who he was. He still loved working with his hands and getting dirty. He even rebuilt the transmission of his old car on his dining room table. He told me his wife was not very happy with him and he was looking forward to our marriage seminar that weekend! He volunteered to be my driver to and from the airport. Truly a man of humility.

 

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

 

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. (Proverbs 22:4)

 

Don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

 

By the way, Charles Duell left the patent office to become a District of Columbia judge appointed by President Roosevelt in 1904. Perhaps a better fit for him?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Women

Is It Right to Withhold Sex in Marriage?

Throughout my years of marriage counseling, I often heard the confession that one spouse was unwilling to engage in sexual relations or, for reasons unknown, was withholding sex. With some couples it had been months and for others years had passed since they were intimate. Unfortunately, distraction or dissatisfaction in the sexual realm within marriage is not uncommon.

 

Most couples have seasons of infrequency or loss of the joy of sex or boredom, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way or that a new precedent is being set. For many married folks it is the most difficult subject to bring to the table. It seems that no matter how you approach the subject, one person can be easily offended or hurt.

 

When sex is withheld, most couples can connect it to a temporary issue like a recent fight or a strong disagreement on frequency or stress and sometimes illness. But there is a difference between decreased desire and intentionally using sex as a form of punishment or control.

 

I discovered a long time ago that abuse is always connected to power and control. Anger out of control is a form of control. Financial withholding for basic needs is a form of control and a spouse who feels unsafe, unloved or unappreciated can use sex as a form of control. Sex as a weapon in any form is unacceptable.

 

Most persons do not misuse their sexual side in a relationship but there are those who do.

 

When a woman withholds sex from her husband, it is usually a sign of something deeper going on and not about sexuality. Many women have figured out that their need for sexual release is different than their husband’s and they can use this as a form of control. Perhaps it’s not intentional, but it does happen. The problem, however, is that most women will not receive the results they are desiring. The desire to punish him for his rudeness, for forgetting your anniversary or for exhaustion will not provide for you the positive outcome that you tell yourself it will.

 

When men withhold sex, they are often denying themselves because of a fear of performance. Frequently they are carrying too much stress or are focusing their attentions elsewhere, like on a career. If a man fears rejection from his spouse, he will protect his emotions and his esteem by not asking. Also, men involved in pornography can lose interest in marital sex because their partner is not measuring up to the pictures or videos they’re viewing.

 

Here’s the thing though: if couples do not seek help outside themselves, how will they know what is normal or what is abnormal? We do not customarily enter into these conversations with others very readily so we are not aware of what are common problem issues in the bedroom. As well, we tend to assume the worst about ourselves or our marriage without clear communication.

 

Some places to start to initiate change:

  • Begin by praying about your sexual lives together.
  • Share your heart, listen and work to understand rather than to just air your grievances.
  • Listen for deeper issues that begin outside the bedroom, e.g., pain, stress, memories that surface, anxieties, depression, illness. There are reasons for no or little sexual desire.
  • Give permission to your spouse to say some difficult things without the fear of retribution or taking offense.
  • If there is a record of anger, wrongly spoken words and threats about where your sex lives have gone, then back up, repent and ask one another’s forgiveness.
  • Ask God for a means of re-set, i.e., how do we start over following prayer and communication?
  • Support one another in any way possible. You’re in this together and you’re best friends.
  • Affirm one another and reinitiate affection. Affection, like kissing, enhances sexual desire.
  • Find ways to reduce stress and time commitments outside the bedroom.
  • Maintain sexual purity and do not turn to pornography or lust.

 

Continual rejection hurts our spouse and our marriage. Sex is not a power to be wielded in order to achieve a certain outcome; it is a gift from God. Sex is something we give; it is not something we take. To be sexual within marriage means to be vulnerable. Tolerating the ongoing withholding of sex does not benefit anyone. (See I Corinthians 7:3-5.)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day

The Answer When We Lack Peace

When facing troubling times, our human soul can take on thoughts, reoccurring thoughts, to the point that we lose our inner peace. We can also lose sleep, bite our fingernails, overeat, lose our appetite or sleep too much. We each deal with stress and anxiety in different ways.

 

 

Persons who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying can even lose weight, burning energy unnecessarily. Let’s face it – our emotions can get the best of us at times. If these emotional responses become longterm, our physical being can begin to break down with stomach issues, migraines, muscle cramps and the like.

 

 

When something is weighing on me and I know I am carrying extra things I should not be, my neck muscles will tighten and begin to ache, becoming sore. It’s where I tend to physically carry stress. It may be something with my work or my family life, but I’ll know it’s there if I pay attention to my body. While our bodies may not be able to tell us where the issue originates or what it is, our physical being can reveal there is an undealt with, ongoing concern.

 

 

It was Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Peace is attainable; Jesus handed it to us. Was He saying fear could be a reason for our “troubled” hearts?

 

 

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the future. Fear of loss. Fear of harm. Almost any fear could steal our peace. If we do not take on the words of Jesus and apply them to our lives, then we have to worry; we have to carry the burden ourselves. We have to become our own answer. That is an extremely exhausting way to live. Jesus said it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

 

 

Our worrying adds nothing but more worry. Where do we find peace so we can sleep at night and not worry unnecessarily? The other day, I came across this verse and the answer to that very question, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

 

 

The answer is trust. Who do you trust? If you only trust yourself, you will find no lasting peace. But when we learn to give our worry to the One who desires to carry the burden for us and trust Him fully, He grants peace.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Prayer, Women

The Intimacy of Couple Prayer

While fighting and arguing can be powerful in its disagreement, seeking God together in prayer is far more powerful in its spiritual agreement. You find yourself side-by-side, holding hands and letting your requests be known to your Creator. If you’re being honest, you know God sees your heart and expects vulnerability from both of you. In that openness and vulnerability, you become unveiled before Him. 

 

Before you were married, did anyone advise you that your marriage would need room for failure, forgiveness, loss, brokenness, disagreement, or even sin?  If not, a full and honest disclosure was missed, and you may have entered into marriage a bit naïve or ill-advised.  Marriages fail because we fail God, each other, and ourselves.  We fail to love, we fail to honor, we fail to forgive, and we fail in keeping at bay our own personal struggles with selfishness.

 

Before the Genesis three account of failure, the Bible states that God created us for a world where mankind was first introduced to God’s idea called marriage, and within that world, we would personally walk with God on a daily basis.  Can you imagine as a couple that at the end of each workday, after dinner, you would take a stroll in God’s perfect garden and speak with Him as you would any other person?  How that must have refreshed Adam and Eve, reenergized them, and built them for life together, for family, and for their next day.

 

But can’t God walk with us on a daily basis today?  Can we not have a conversation with Him together about our marriage, family, business, or life questions?  Would we be amiss to entertain for one moment that God has stopped longing to hear from us as His creation, especially the concerns we hold within our marriage and family?

 

You can be sexually intimate with almost anyone, but you cannot pray with just anyone.  In order to really open up our hearts and pray together, we must know we are in a safe place.  We must know we are not being judged for our heartfelt prayer.  And we must know that the one with whom we divulge our heart will maintain confidentiality and that we can trust them with our deepest, most secret sins and needs.  Praying together within marriage is so intimate that if these factors are not present, we will almost always divert ourselves to a same-sex prayer partner for that level of prayer.  At the same time, we will be forfeiting something so intimate, so close and so heartfelt, that a certain dimension will be missing within our marriage relationship.

 

Start small; find five or ten minutes in your day to connect in prayer.  Begin your prayer time by giving God thanks for all of His blessings in your life, including each other.  Move on to praying for one another and then your family, along with any other needs.  Close again with prayers of thanksgiving, because a thankful heart is an encouraged and an encouraging heart.  As this time of prayer becomes a habit, allow it to grow and increase.  The Bible says that when we find a place of prayer, we find a place of power and agreement (Matthew 18:19-20).

 

Some couples do not pray together because of vulnerability (it’s risking too much); others avoid prayer because of feeling inadequate; some use the excuse that they do not have enough time; others simply do not trust their spouse enough. Whatever the reason, all of these reasons keep us from obedience to God, from growing together spiritually, from becoming passionately intimate and from agreement that brings the deepest unity any marriage can encounter.

 

Perhaps you’ve already begun praying together. If not, we encourage you to begin today. If you establish this life-giving habit now, it will continue to flow within your marriage relationship quite naturally. It will build over time and as you experience, in deeper measure, the hand of God and answered prayer, you will find yourselves rejoicing together far more often.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

Joining the Dishonest

Why do we think it’s more spiritual to appease others or live by conciliatory gestures?  And why is passive-aggressive behavior tolerated more today?  Are we being merciful and gracious or are we being dishonest?

 

Today we write comments on social media or letters to the editor trying to get our aggressions across in an acceptable media-centered way.  But is it the right way?  As well, what about the people in your life who will not tell you what they see or feel, but they will definitely show you or make an inference on Facebook?  That is passive-aggressive behavior.

 

Matthew chapter 18 tells us that if your brother sins against you, you are to go to your brother.  Nowhere in that chapter does it say to write a letter to the editor, bully them on Facebook, ignore them or slam them with passive-aggressive tactics.  We are to go one-on-one in love, in the hope that our brother will hear us.

 

Listen to I Peter 3:8 & 9: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We must determine that part of being a blessing is speaking compassionate truth and words of blessing.

 

One day Jesus encountered an issue with Philip while Philip was requesting to be shown the Father.  Jesus looked straight back at him and said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”  I’ll bet Philip never asked that question again.

 

I’ve had leaders who have loved me enough to confront me with what they saw as a deficit in my life.  As hard as that kind of thing is to receive and look at, I realize they love me enough to tell me the truth as they understand it.  To me, that is real mercy.  Not being confronted toward change will cause me to repeat the wrong I was doing. 

 

I’ve often asked other leaders to let me know if they hear something in what I teach that is culturally insensitive or incorrect.  After speaking on one occasion, I requested input and, low and behold, I was told, “Yeah, there was one thing…”  I agreed and was thankful for their honesty.  If you do not want truthful input, don’t ask, but then do not expect to grow.

 

Another Reason or Three Why We Do Not Confront

  • Self-protection – I am apprehensive because I am protecting myself from a projected reaction that will affect me, so I choose not to go there. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “True friends stab you in the front.”
  • Arrogance – Rather than moving in love, compassion and humility, we feel arrogance because we’re not walking in this sin, wrong doing or what we think is wrong thinking. Arrogance is full of pride and will keep us from changing.
  • Insecurity – I perceive my worth, my identity wrapped up in the garment of this person liking me and not rejecting me. If I confront them, my identity could be shaken.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare…”

 

The book of Proverbs wisely counsels there are times we are to overlook an offense.  (See Proverbs 17:9, 19:11.)  It simply is not worth getting into.  But when is it worth getting into how do we confront someone with the truth?  Here are some life-giving ways or approaches to consider.

 

  1. When you expose another’s fault, a sin, you do so in love in order to win your brother or sister back (Matthew 18:15). Compassion is a major ingredient in the why of your confrontation.  “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  (Proverbs 27:6)
  2. When it is not criticism for criticism’s sake and it is not, “The truth hurts sometimes,” because that can be mean-spiritedness. It must be that I love you enough to tell you the truth.  The spirit of the conversation is love and the vehicle is grace.  (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Paul the Apostle disagreed with Barnabas about taking John Mark on their missionary journey because John Mark had deserted Paul in Pamphylia. Paul was honest about how he felt concerning John Mark and why.  Be honest, be truthful while at the same time believing for and positioning yourself for healing in the life of the one you have to be honest with.
  4. Paul would eventually reconcile with John Mark. Everyone is worth a second chance.  Give the one you are confronting the benefit of the doubt and trust God for a second chance and reconciliation.
  5. Proverbs says that the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Is what you have to say spoken in an effort to bring healing or destruction and judgement?  It takes courage in the desire to bring healing to another.
  6. Stop airing your opinions and move toward understanding (Proverbs 18:2 – “Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their opinions.”). Once we speak what God has shown us, stop and listen to understand.
  7. Be the tongue that brings life and not death (Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”) Grace-filled truth brings life.
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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Yay, It’s Valentine’s Day!

St. Valentine’s Day was declared to be held each year on February 14 by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century. However, it would be many years later that this date would be associated with love. The oldest known valentine to be in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in the year 1415.

 

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in quite a few countries, but it wasn’t until 1900 that printed cards became an option. Prior to this, cards were handmade or simply handwritten letters. Today, 85% of women purchase these cards and 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent in the mail, making it the second largest (next to Christmas) card-sending day of the year.

 

Here’s my reminder for you and your valentine. How does your valentine like to receive love? Do they desire to hear love, see love or feel love? You may share the ways in which you like to receive love from her, but she just might want to “see” love through a dozen roses. Or, you could send a card with a gift, but he simply wants to hear your words of affirmation and love directly from your lips.

 

We tend to give love in the way we appreciate receiving love, but that may not be your spouse’s love language. Be sure to share your love on this Valentine’s Day in the way he or she desires to receive that love message.

 

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Challenge, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

A Prudent Wife

As many times as I have read Proverbs 19 and verse 14 I have had questions about its meaning. Let me share it with you, “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

 

Honestly, only God in His wisdom could put these two thoughts together (which previously has seemed odd to me) to make an amazing rule for our homes. Here are the two thoughts: fathers leave an inheritance to their children, but our heavenly Father blesses us with the gift of a prudent (judicious, discreet, sober and virtuous) wife.

 

When fathers fail to provide an inheritance, they fail to earn more than their needs or they foolishly waste their money or they invest unwisely. Another Proverb tells us that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, a second generation blessing from living righteously. But families need more than wealth; they need a woman of greatness and Proverbs reveals there is great treasure and favor from this kind of woman. (Proverbs 18:22)

 

The woman who is lazy, uncaring or self-consumed tears her house down. (Proverbs 14:1)

 

By inspiration Solomon is saying that, “A discreet and virtuous wife is more valuable than house and riches.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary) But why?

 

Gill’s Exposition states this verse in this manner: A prudent wife is from the Lord; one that behaves well to her husband, [manages] the affairs of her house with wisdom, and brings up her children in all orderly manner: such a wife no man has from the care and provision of his parents; nor so much from his own good choice and industry as from the kind providence of God, to which he should ascribe it; his parents may give him houses and lands, but it is God that gives him a wise and discreet woman to be an helpmeet to him.

 

Your prudent wife is a gift directly from God. You did not earn her and neither did you inherit her. You do not possess her and you do not deserve her. She came to you by the virtue and grace of your heavenly Father.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Bringing Your Marriage into Today

How many of us have had recurring marriage issues lasting over a period of years?

 

As soon as you discuss a bill that is overdue payment, you’re right back at the same old argument about finances. Or, your spouse gave you “the look” which to you means something negative and it immediately sends you back to many previous conversations or reactions.

 

If this is the case, you are choosing to live in history. You have not let go of yesterday and moved into today. Living in yesterday will keep us in bondage to yesterday. If we are unable to forgive and start anew, it will be like driving our car forward while constantly looking into the rear-view mirror. Eventually we’ll wreck the car.

 

We cannot move ahead in our marriage if we’re constantly looking back and bringing up the past. There simply is no freedom in living that way. Every one of us has a history, but we are not held captive by that history. We must take the time to discuss the issue thoroughly, find plausible solutions and then implement them. If there is a reoccurrence, grace is needed, while at the same time believing for continued heart change.

 

Make it your goal today to let go of what was, so that you can enter into what is, and then, what will be. When we can let go of the past, we’ll find much more freedom in our marriage for the present.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents, Women

Experiencing 2020 Battle Fatigue

Battle Fatigue is a term no longer used. We now have a brand-new label. Psychiatrists began to notice psychological wounds that veterans sustained from the Vietnam War. Their symptoms included cynicism, alienation, depression, mistrust, an inability to concentrate, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness and expectation of betrayal. They called this disorder, “Post–Vietnam Syndrome.”

 

In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association adopted the term Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This broadened term also related to non-combat exposure with those who experienced rape, natural disasters, accidents and assaults. For example, post the Oklahoma City bombing, 34% of the survivors developed PTSD.

 

Because we as human beings grieve and experience emotional reactions through pain-filled events in our lives, we can also experience some of the PTSD symptoms. The good news is that, in time, most persons improve.

 

It is said by counselors, doctors and other professionals that many individuals, marriages, youth and children experienced high levels of unending stress in 2020, primarily related to Covid – 19, but not solely. We have had to endure racial strife, riots and burning cities, constant political discord and a barrage of fear-based media. If we maintain high levels of ongoing stress, we may begin to see many of the symptoms mentioned above. A weariness can settle in and a “who cares” attitude can take over as a means of coping.

 

We have an opportunity to talk ourselves into ill health or out of ill health. Battle fatigue will shorten our patience, cause us to lose our joy and destroy our dreams. This level of fatigue repeatedly says, “Give up; what’s the use?”

 

Press through and press on. Find others to serve and to help. Do not allow your focus to become centered on yourself and just your perceived needs. Recognize the voice within yourself that desires to keep your soul downcast versus the truth that desires to bring freedom. Determine to steadily walk forward and to not get stuck at any one place. Put a stop to the negative voices and negative media around you which are constantly complaining or instilling fear. Listen to life-giving worship music and read a daily devotional that uplifts your soul. Occupy your thoughts with prayer and the giving of thanks.

 

There are active steps that you can take to fight battle fatigue. It’s not wrong to recognize our weakness if we, at the same time, recognize God’s strength.

 

Paul the Apostle said it best, “That’s why I take pleasure in in my weaknesses…hardships…and troubles that I suffer…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10)

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