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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Healing, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Is There a Place for Pornography in Marriage?

Pornography played a major role in Jon’s downfall, the husband of a couple that we had counseled with. For many, it is a silent killer. It’s a killer of intimacy, of honesty, of time, of finances, and of our own bodies. Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

Our eyes provide a window to our mind, our heart, and our spirit. When our eyes wander toward or are attracted to pornographic images, we give darkness permission to enter the light. Jesus warned us about this very thing when He said, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). 

There is no redeeming factor when it comes to pornography. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry in our nation built on lust. Lust is insatiable, and Satan will hand it to us freely. Lust is about taking and is fully self-seeking. Lust will increase as we feed it until we find ourselves in bondage. But love is satisfying, focused on giving, and full of selflessness. As love increases, we will find ourselves walking in freedom and becoming closer to our life mate. 

In our pre- and postmarital book, Called Together, we ask the question, “Can you be involved in lust toward your spouse?” That question creates quite a stir and challenges couples not yet married. A single person may think that marriage means the end of lusting after another, but married couples know that simply is not true. According to the above definition of lust, we can be involved in lust within our marriages by demanding, taking, and sexual selfishness. Pornography will feed that self-centered attitude. 

Love feeds an attitude of giving, sharing, and bringing pleasure out of a heart and mind that is not tarnished by images of raw, base acts. Love is never demanding in the bedroom, as it speaks encouragement, affirmation, and genuine acceptance. 

                       Pornography: The Breakdown Within our marriages 

A nationally conducted survey among churches over the past five years revealed that 68 percent of men and 50 percent of pastors view pornography regularly. The most shocking was that 11- to 17-year-old boys reported being the greatest users at 85 percent, and nearly 50 percent of young girls are also viewing porn (see: fightthenewdrug. org). 

Pornography is a $4 billion industry in our country. More money is spent on pornography per year than on professional baseball, basketball, football, and the Super Bowl combined. Eleven thousand adult films are produced per year, which is 20 times the number of regular media films annually coming out of Hollywood. The issue is sweeping through the church, reaching the next generation. It is an epidemic. 

Studies show that when we are involved in sexual activity, the brain releases a number of chemicals, one of which is oxytocin, which is the “glue” that enables human bonding. (Oxytocin is also released as a mother holds and breastfeeds her newborn.) When we watch pornography, powerful neurotransmitters are activated. Our brain takes the images and associates this bonding chemical with them, actually interfering with natural human bonding and sexuality. 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do (1 Peter 1:13-15)

Viewing pornography opens the door of our soul and spirit to spiritual oppression, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, control, and domination in evil ways. Men and women feel betrayed by spouses who use porn. Women feel as though they cannot compete with the images their husbands are viewing. It is an illusion that says women will do anything to please their man; no woman in real life lives within that kind of fantasy world. It brings insecurities to her and can destroy her esteem. She will question her attractiveness and her adequacy as a lover. She can eventually think and believe that porn is more important to her husband than she is to him, an ultimate sexual betrayal. 

Men often view pornography as innocent, a fix for loneliness or not having a sexual partner who agrees with his desires. Men rationalize and justify their behavior by attempting to call it “normal behavior” of a man who is simply visual. The act of viewing pornography is highly addictive and some psychologists state that it is similar to crack cocaine addiction. Over time it does not diminish, but tends to intensify. It can interfere with a man’s ability to function at home with his family, at work, and, of course, in the bedroom. 

Many women are now viewing porn. Six of ten girls see their first pornography before age eighteen. This practice has become far more acceptable among teen girls. For some, they are attempting to find out what boys desire, and for others they are involving themselves out of loneliness. Little do they know that viewing pornography creates an even higher rate of loneliness among its users. 

Ladies and men, by viewing pornography you are supporting the industry and helping it to grow. You are contributing to the sexual exploitation of the victims caught in that world. You are adding to the sin of human trafficking. You are saying “yes” to an industry that feeds and preys on innocent men, women, and children and can even lead to their abduction, abuse, and death. You are learning to see and treat people as a sex object. You are destroying your marriage, your family, and yourself, and you are keeping victims trapped (which today includes more teenage girls and boys than ever). 

Lastly, pornography will make you into a liar. You will have to constantly lie about your use to your loved ones and perhaps your employer. I love these verses that Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord…. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:13,18). 

Taken from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak

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

Resistance in Marriage

Resistance is defined as the act of opposing another. There seems to be this trait of human nature that naturally opposes or pushes back when we interpret the environment to be in opposition of what we desire. Within relationships, resistance seems almost normal or inevitable. 

Can you recall the last time you were called upon to make a personal change in your life? It might have come from someone close to you like your spouse or your boss at work. Were you initially resistant to the request? Why or why not? Perhaps you knew they might be right, but yet you still may have resisted. Too often we have resisted change when it means we are the ones who are called upon to make that change. 

Carol Anderson in her book Mastering Resistance wrote, “Resistance to change in general and resistance to being influenced in particular always occurs when individuals, groups, and systems are required by circumstances to alter their established behaviors. Unless people are immediately persuaded by overwhelming evidence that a change in their behavior is necessary or beneficial…they will resist change in the status quo.” 

That means change for the good can be subject to resistance as well. And that’s how irrational resistance can be. What’s really at stake here is history. History may tell us that change is bad or that change represents someone trying to overpower or control us. How you interpret the change will affect how resistant you may or may not become. 

A healthy marriage is not threatened by leadership roles, power issues, or attempts to control. They do not need to fear change. They understand their particular role and are comfortable to play either leader or follower. Both husband and wife are called upon to be leaders in the home. We may have different roles but both are very important. 

It is not healthy to have one partner do all the initiating and all the decision-making and one partner simply tag along. It is not healthy for both partners to compete for the leadership roles or for both to become passive and no one lead.

When we identify the key roles of each spouse, find out who is better at an area and place them in that role, allowing trust to grow, we will see resistance dissipate. Sometimes we resist purely from our own insecurity. The more secure we become in our relationship and the roles we play within that relationship, the more trust can follow. As trust is built, there is a natural cause and effect–resistance decreases.

Some exercise questions you might consider answering with your mate.

  • How has marriage helped to identify resistance within me?
  • Presently, within what areas of marriage do I struggle with resistance?
  • How has your spouse been an example of being willing to change?
  • How have you been an example of being willing to change?
  • What steps can we take to battle resistance?
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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Help! I’m Married to Someone Who is Opposite of Me!

Do you see yourself as different or opposite from your spouse? Welcome to everyone’s world!

Let me provide for you a window into our early marriage.

Steve, loved to go to bed late. Mary, loved to go to bed early.

Steve, loved to have a devotional time in the evening. Mary, loved to have a devotional time in the morning.

Steve’s into trying new things. Mary, sticking with what works.

Mary, no debt is good debt. Steve, good debt is investment.

Mary, loves to give. Steve, loves to save.

Steve, embracing change. Mary, change comes more slowly, purposefully.

Steve, face the conflict. Mary, conflict is to be avoided.

Mary, everyone is a friend. Steve, friends are selected through trust over time.

You get the picture; we’re different. But here’s the thing about that difference, neither way is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is when we attempt to change our spouse to be more like ourselves because we’re “right.”

Social scientists tell us it takes five to seven years for a marriage to “settle.” I would define settling as becoming mature enough to no longer try to change my spouse but rather to embrace them for who they are and for how God created them. 

You see, maturity helps us to understand we need that difference in our lives.  Yes, we fight and argue about it initially (immaturity), but when the revelation hits us, we soon discover that we are far more powerful, far more rounded, far more complete together than separate, embracing our differences. 

Too often the thought is, “We’re just too different to continue this marriage.” The fact is, God brings to you the person who is not like you so that you can grow and change and then discover how you are to love, respect and accept this person.

Unfortunately, too many persons, husbands and wives, think that power and control can force change for the better. Power and control will never provoke change for the right reasons because a spirit of power and control will also need the threat of negative consequences. The spouse who threatens causes more anger in the relationship.

Love and acceptance sees the difference as a good challenge. Then it sounds something like this: Mary is Steve and Steve is Mary because Steve and Mary need the differences the other brings to the relationship. 

This perspective will cause us to focus on the strengths in our spouse’s life rather than the weaknesses. This perspective will help us to walk in humility knowing we need what our spouse brings to the marriage. This perspective also helps us to not see our spouse as the one who holds us back but rather the one who provides the appropriate caution or pause. And this perspective is going to bring a healthy balance and sometimes compromise to who we are and to who we are becoming.

Today, almost 48 years later, things look a little different.

Steve likes to go to bed early and so does Mary.

Mary loves early morning devotions and so does Steve.

Steve and Mary embrace change together.

Mary’s love of giving has won over Steve.

Mary embraces investment even with some risk and Steve smiles.

Everyone loves Mary more than Steve because Mary is still everyone’s friend.

Steve is more selective about addressing conflict and Mary still dislikes it.

But the greatest of these is love.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

We Create So Much of Our Own Pain

So much of the pain we walk in is self-imposed. Far too often our own unhappiness results from how we respond to negative situations.

If we take a moment and think back to a few negative situations in our life, we’ll often discover that in some form or fashion they have worked out or were at the least not as negative as once perceived. Granted, this is not always the case, but I’d venture to guess some of our sleepless nights would have been avoided if we would have known the eventual outcome verses the one we projected in our minds.

Let me give you an example. When my wife and I were building our home many years ago, one of the invoices submitted to us was double the contractors actually “good faith” estimate. We had no expectation of that happening and had not changed anything too drastically to warrant an actual invoice that was double the estimate. I talked to others to try and find out what to do. I worried and I had several sleepless nights trying to imagine how we were going to pay this bill.

Finally, I called the contractor, we met and eventually worked out the difference. I could sleep again. Did we rightfully owe the money? I’m not sure, but to this day, because of the action we took, I can look that man in the eye without any remorse. In the action we chose, we also considered the relationship and decided that the relationship was more valuable to us than money or ongoing hurt and self-imposed pain.

What are you worrying about? What keeps you up at night? How much self-imposed pain are you walking in? 

Here is a Psalm (37) that helps me: 

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

How to Ruin a Relationship

Everyday people ruin good relationships by trying to collect a debt. Someone hurts us and we long for justice. We are looking for a payback, but we’re attempting to collect on a debt that is not ours to collect on. It is clearly human nature to desire a wrong be made into a right and that we be seen as the one in the right.

Who can pay you back for the wrong done to you over the course of your life? Can your parents? Can your spouse? Can your co-worker? It is not always possible and most times you will be disappointed or let down. Eventually a relationship is ruined by our expectation.

But what if we handed the injustice over to God? What if we prayed and said, “I choose to not become bitter or strive for justice, but rather I lay the injustice at Your feet and ask You to settle the matter.” And then, in leaving it with God, we let the person off the hook.

If we’re truly humble and allow God to settle the matter, our imagination can stop running wild with thoughts of retribution. We can tell ourself there is no need of payback. Further, we can choose for this relationship to remain intact and stop expecting what we perceive to be a wrong turned into a right by our personal effort.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

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Healing, Marriage, Men, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part Two)

This week’s blog continues with the healing piece of infractions within our marriage. 

What can you do as a couple if you have walked the way of an affair?

You must walk in honest confession and humility. Humility keeps you from becoming defensive and blaming another.

Accountability is a huge ingredient because marriage infractions always take place in an environment of deception. Those in an affair have been lying about where they have been and who they have been with.

Get outside counsel and direction.  Do not try to do it all yourself. Both parties, the offender and the offended, need godly wisdom and counsel.  There are a ton of emotions to deal with.

You must work toward forgiveness. There is no greater step of healing than reaching the point of forgiveness.

Trust is slowly rebuilt through the above ingredients. Where there has been an affair, one proves he or she cannot be trusted.  The good news is that trust can be earned back. If one walks out the above, trust can and will be rebuilt to the point that your marriage goes beyond where it once was.  

Reattach yourself to your mate.  Most likely you have moved away from one another in some areas of your relationship. Come together again in dating, in fun, in finances, in sex, in communication, in mutual submission, in serving one another, in forgiveness and in godly counsel.  

You simply must move forward. Moving forward means being totally honest in all areas of life.  Honesty cuts off an affair because an affair was built on lies.

As husband and wife, we are one another’s healer.

Who do men want cheering for them?  Men love women, especially their wives, cheering for them. Women’s cheering section includes love and emotional connection with words of meaning from thier husbands. What has been the missing ingredient in your marriage? What was broken that opened the door for an affair? How were you “affairing” before the actual affair, i.e., work, ministry, hobbies, etc.

Be your spouse’s cheerleader and healer, not their critic. Each of us receives enough criticism throughout our lives without our spouse piling it on.  If you have a legitimate complaint, share it with them.  For example, “I know you didn’t mean it the way I took it, I love you, but when you said __________it really felt to me like _________. I know I could be wrong, but could we _________.”  

Do this through Ephesians 4: 15 – “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  Truth must be given but grace its means.  Truth without grace is just mean.  Truth without grace will eventually destroy love.  Start with praise (grace), a compliment and then move to the needed growth areas.  For example, “I love you; we’re a team. I know you’re busy, but I do need to talk to you about the time you spend with our children.”  Grace must precede truth.  Grace is like anesthesia given in order to bear the truth.  

An affair is not necessarily the end; it can be a wake-up call to needed healing and restoration.

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Challenge, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Parents

Your Destiny

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 28

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 

I John 3:1

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. Psalm 139:17

There is this scripture: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of the sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!  (Psalms 139:17, 18 NLT)

It is difficult for us to conceive that God thinks about you and me.  That His thoughts toward us outnumber the grains of sand.  The God who moves the wind, who brings the spring rain, who blankets the earth with freshly fallen snow and who named every star known and unknown to man also knows every breath you breathe.  He knows every detail of your life.  There is no need to ever feel insignificant, small, rejected or less-than anyone or anything because the God of the universe loves you with an everlasting love.  (See Jeremiah 31:3.) 

Pastor Craig Groeschel wrote in his book, Alter Ego, “The way God made you was not by chance or accident.  You are divinely inspired, with his divine intention to guide you.  Once you begin to grasp who you are—and whose you are—you begin to understand why you’re here and what to do.”  You are not an accident!

What has captured your heart?  What is your number one priority in life? The answer to that question will tell you what you value most.  It will tell you where your heart is at in relation to your search for personal identity.  Please remember in this search, your Creator has never given up on you, never rejected you and never has He said that you are too far gone.  He created each of us with a purpose, with a destiny and He is longing, He is waiting for the “big reveal party” in each of our lives.  What potential does He see in you?  Where does He desire to take you?  Where has He called you in life?  These questions all connect to the identity He has placed within you.

To follow God’s pathway, we must first know Him, know that He is good.  We must trust Him and we must identify Him as our Lord and King.  He desires nothing between us; nothing to hold us back.  However, there is an area, a major area that I often see holding us back: that area is parent wounds.

It is imperative to engage in healing steps from our wounds because nothing affects the present like our past.  While we addressed this somewhat earlier in the book, taking it a step deeper will allow us to fully enter into the identity that our heavenly Father has for us.  Here’s why: we will most certainly struggle with God as our Father, a parent, if we still struggle with our earthly parents.  If we have not forgiven those wounds from our past, they will block our relationships in the present and the future, especially with God as a heavenly Father.  Throughout scripture, God uses family language: father, mother, son, daughter and children.  He created the family as the basis of every culture on earth.  It is this structure that also naturally continues the human race.  But all too often, those family relationships can provoke some of our greatest and deepest wounds.

From the book, Transforming the Prodigal Soul, author Scott Prickett writes, “Bad choices are driven by wounded souls.  I helped this young woman connect the dots between the hurt arising from abandonment by her father and her use of drugs to mask the pain.  We worked backwards…to the lie regarding her worth.  In the wound of her father’s abandonment, the lie that she was worthless and unlovable took root.  It became her truth, her identity.”

Have you allowed a past hurt to become your reality today? It can be different. In tomorrow’s devotion we will confront this area of our lives.

Question for reflection:

When you read that God thinks about you, what do you hear from Him?

You can order your book today and an extra one to give away to a friend here.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity

Is Your Identity for Sale? II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 27

I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

I have been given fullness in Christ. Colossians 2:10

The gospel of John chapter 4 gives us an amazing story of insight of Jesus.  It’s a story of a woman at a well.  She had been married five times!  She had repeatedly tried to find security and identity in men. Plus, Jesus revealed to her that the man she was presently living with was not her husband.  Jesus does not say one condemning word.  He did say that drinking water will make you thirsty again, “but whoever drinks the water He gives them will never thirst again…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   

When the Samaritan woman asked for this water, what was Jesus’ answer?  He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  Do you notice the dialogue going on?  “Give me the water; go get your husband.”  Jesus tells her He has living water with which she will never thirst again and she yearns for it.  

What would you do, but ask for it?  He does not answer her request in the typical way.  He puts His finger directly on the drawback in her life, the issue, her place of missing the mark, her one area that is out of control: the need of looking to men for security, identity, emotional and physical needs.  She then attempts to redirect Him in verses 19 and 20.  Jesus makes it clear that one day all will worship in spirit and in truth.  Then in verse 26, Jesus reveals Himself to her, not in a parable, not in an allegorical story, but simply saying, “I am He.”  How often was He that straightforward about who He was?

Jesus knew that she had been selling her identity to men, but He also knew an encounter with the One who could give her living water, water that would quench her insecurity and her identity thirst forever, would radically change her life.  I will never believe this meeting was accidental or a random encounter.  It was a sovereign confrontation, a meeting that was orchestrated by heaven itself because of the love of God for that one single woman at the well.

To you and to me He says, “I am He.”  I am your living water.  I am your security.  I am your identity.  I am your foundation for relationship so that your neediness issues can be resolved.  I am your healthy boundary keeper.  I am your esteem.  I am your beginning and your end.  I am your employer, your real-estate agent, your banker and your lawyer.  I am your retirement, your health insurance, your accountant.  I am your father and your mother.  I am your security and I am your identity.  I am He.

Have you found Him to be all these things? It’s okay to be at the well, but it is not okay to leave The Well still thirsty. He is present to quench your thirst regardless of how you came to the well or where your heart was at when you first encountered Jesus. He speaks to you today, “I am He.”

Question for reflection:

When you consider Him as the “I am” in your life, what do you know to be true about your identity?

Be sure to order your book today here.

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