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

A Silent Killer in Marriage

Pornography for many, is a silent killer.  It’s a killer of intimacy, of honesty, of time, of finance 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 the USA built on lust.  Lust is insatiable, and Satan will hand it to us freely.  Lust is about taking and 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.

 

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.

 

Lastly, pornography will make you into a liar.  You will have to constantly lie about your use to your love 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.” (I Corinthians 6: 13,18)

 

(Adapted from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Steve and Mary Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)

 

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In the news, Issues of the Day

The Mayflower Compact Story

Do you think it would have been possible for you to travel for 66 days, over two months, on a small wooden ship with more than 100 people aboard crossing the Atlantic Ocean? There were 50 men, 19 women and 33 young adults and children. The Pilgrims in coming to America did this in the year 1620 on a ship called Mayflower.

 

This ship actually began its journey from England with an accompanying ship called the Speedwell. They had to turn back to England twice because of issues with the Speedwell ship leaking.

 

During their travel, lives were lost and a life was given birth to named Oceanus (seems appropriate). Finally, after 66 long days the ship reached Cape Cod on November 11, 1620.

 

These were Separatists, members of the Puritan sect that split from the Church of England. They had received permission from the King of England to settle on land that was near the mouth of the Hudson River (New York today) all the way south to the northern Virginia border, but they landed in New England and chose to stay there and build their community. It is here they would write and sign (signed by 41 of the colonists) the Mayflower Compact.

 

This document is believed to have impacted the United States Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Below, I’ve placed the words of this document so you can read it for yourself.

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord

Why is this important? The Mayflower Compact was a set of rules for the governance of a new community being establish in a New World. Without laws and those who enforce them, it would create social dysfunction for the colonists.

Within the compact you discover they were seeking the right to worship their God as they desired and liberally mentioned this in the text of the document. They solely and faithfully lived by the Christian faith.

They created one society and worked in unity to further it.

They would remain loyal subjects of the King, even with their desire to self-govern. It was the first document to establish self-government in the New World. And it was successful at democracy and played an important role for future colonists.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)

The “Advancement of the Christian Faith” found within the document point to the fact that these were misionaries and church planters ready to serve God in a New World for their King.

(Note: Thanks to History.com for the facts relating to the Mayflower ship.)

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

The Pain of an Affairing Spouse

My wife, Mary, and I were on a plane traveling to the Northwest and it was the dead of winter.  We were conducting our first weekend marriage seminar in this frozen, sub-zero state.  We jumped off the plane and onto the small airport tarmac to be greeted by the coldest wind we’ve ever felt.  Our eyes began to water and our noses started to run.

 

As we became acquainted with the pastor of the church who met us at the airport, he informed us that we were going straight to the church building to meet with his two eldership couples that were awaiting our arrival.  I thought, “Wow, he’s not wasting any time putting us to work.”  He then said, “Am I glad you guys are here.  We have a problem that we would like the two of you to address.”  “What’s the issue? “I asked.  He proceeded to say something we had never, ever heard before and haven’t heard since.  “It seems that the husband of our one eldership couple is having an affair with the wife of the other eldership couple,” the pastor cautiously revealed.  “We want you to meet with them.”  I then asked if the “non-affairing” spouses are aware of what had happened and was about to happen.  He told us they were totally unaware of both.

 

I’m not sure who was more nervous and frightened about the meeting, the two of us or the couples we were about to meet.  There we sat with the first couple; a bit stunned as the husband nervously confessed to his wife his ongoing affair.  His eyes were constantly shifting to his spouse, then his pastor and then to us, but more often toward the ground.  We watched as her face began multiple and visibly painful contortions.  Her skin began to flush a bright red color starting from below her neckline and working its way to her forehead.  And then the tears began to flow, nonstop.  Her body slumped lower and lower in her chair.  It was like she was literally shriveling up right there in front of us.

 

Humans seem to have the capacity to endure a lot of pain, both physical and emotional.  We have all experienced traumatic, painful situations in our lives.  How we choose to handle those hurts is important.  We don’t know why one person can maintain composure while another completely falls apart, but we are convinced it has something to do with how we interpret the event and then what we tell ourselves about the past, present, and most importantly, the future.

 

It was in this meeting that we watched someone physically experience human pain: shortness of breath, heart palpitations, hands shaking in uncontrollable fear, and deep sighs that seemed to say, “What now?”  Mary placed her hand on the wife’s arm, but it was of little solace to her in a world that was literally crumbling around her.

 

Having seen the pain that an affair has on a spouse that day, I once again pledged myself to maintaining my marriage vows to my wife and to God – a good thing for you to consider as well.

 

(The above was adapted from our book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Are You Wearing Your Dog Tags?

Most everyone knows of or has heard of dog tags. They are small oval shaped metal discs placed on a chain to be worn around the neck by the service member. They are an identifier. But what is the history or the story behind dog tags?

 

In 1936 William Randolph Hurst, the newspaper tycoon, wanted to challenge support for President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Apparently Mr. Hurst heard that the newly formed Social Security Administration wanted to give out nameplates for personal identification. Hurst referred to them negatively as “dog tags.”

 

Soldiers from World War II also referred to them as dog tags, claiming they were being treated like dogs. But some form of identification tag goes all the way back to the civil war as soldiers were afraid that upon their death no one would be able to identify them. Some men carved their names on metal discs or pieces of wood and hung them around their neck. They feared a grave marked “unknown.”

 

ID tags became official in 1906 when the Army required an aluminum disc be warn by all soldiers under their uniform. Then in 1916 two tags were required, one for the body and one for the grave of a soldier killed in action.

 

I still have mine issued by the United States Air Force when I served back in the early 1970’s. I remember them asking me what my religion was. I wasn’t quite sure what to say so I quickly spoke up that I was a Christian. Within minutes I had two dog tags with my name, social security number (no longer placed on dog tags since 2015) blood type and at the very bottom the word “Christian.”

 

I love that about my dog tags. They proclaim something very important about me. And while they no longer hang around my neck that proclamation remains solid within my heart. I am an unashamed Christ follower and I will wear that name with pride. It is that name and only that name, the name of Jesus, in which we can find eternal life with our heavenly Father.

 

Happy Veterans Day and if you have served your nation or are serving, THANK YOU!

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

A Higher Calling Than a Political Party

Are you an Indian People’s Party, a Labour Party, Libertarian Party, National Party, Christian Party, Democrat or a Republican? Did you know there was a political party registered in New Zealand in 2015 called the “Not A Party” party? Regardless of your party affiliation, this is not your identity.

 

All these political parties are meant to offer a difference in belief and values. At their core, these differences tend to divide if we let them. If we have found ourselves turning up our noses at our neighbors’ political signs, chances are we have allowed the differences to divide us. If our family members vote differently from us, we again have an opportunity for division.

 

The world systems tend to bring division. Often names are attached to certain values which then becomes an identity. But, as believers, this is NOT who we are. We must rise above the rhetoric, the anger, the angst and the propaganda. There is no political party on the earth who can save one single soul. There is no party in this world that can change a life like Jesus can.

 

Now that we have that settled, where is your alliance? Are you spending more time reading about your party, sharing about the beliefs of your party and advocating for your party over the time you spend sharing with others the most life-giving, life-changing good news available to mankind? It is good to talk about politics, but it is great to talk about a kingdom that has no end.

 

In politics we disagree, we voice our opposition, speak our mind and/or we resist. In a kingdom, we bow down to the King. In politics we elect leaders and then reelect years later. In a kingdom the King reigns for a lifetime or in our case, for all eternity. We are called to serve our King over country. We are called to a priesthood, a divine position within the kingdom.

 

To live this way, we spend our lives getting to know the King, because our heart is to obey Him first. And then, we tell our neighbors about Him, the King of kings, Lord of lords, Jesus!

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28)

 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

We Know About Green Spaces, But What About Blue Spaces?

We hear a lot about green spaces and how we all need time to view the open land, touch the trees and enjoy the air quality they create for us. But how many of us value blue spaces?

 

Blue spaces are areas near water such as lakes, oceans and fresh water streams. These too are all associated with a better well-being, less stress and relaxation.

 

I recently read about a current study in which it was discovered that those who lived less than half a mile from a coast were less likely to suffer from “common mental disorder” like anxiety and depression. Interesting, but what’s the point?

 

This study leads me to one of my favorite scriptures in the New Testament. It’s found in Matthew chapter 13, verse one, “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.”

 

There’s something about water, the sounds, the fresh or ocean air that surrounds it. Jesus had a spot, a blue spot to commune with His Father and to consider His day ahead of Him.  Apparently, just taking time to be, was important to His well-being also. Eventually the crowds found Him so He entered a boat and taught them while the people stood on the shore listening.

 

Do you have a favorite blue spot? If not, perhaps you want to find one and enjoy some time to commune with your Father just like Jesus did.

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

Do You Know a Drug Addict?

Being trapped in drug addiction Is a horrible way to live: the lying; the hiding; the destruction to self, your marriage, your children and your future. Several years ago, I lost my 49-year-old cousin to an overdose and I promised myself that I would not stop loving, chasing and attempting to help others.  But drug use changes things.

 

It changes relationship with God and others.  It changes financial conditions.  It changes the ability to deal with life in terms of reality.  Drug addiction stops personal growth and causes regression. It is idolatry at its finest.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not judging drug addicts as having the worst sin because each of us have our issues.  But it affects so many areas of life that the personal cost, the family cost and the societal cost is so great; all the while, the person can sometimes live in denial of their very own problem.  It is called a “disease” and I guess that is how our world tries to understand, define and cope with it.

 

The problem with that, in my mind, is that so much personal choice and responsibility are involved.  Truly “disease” is a better term than mental illness, but when we make a continual choice to abuse, regardless of the number of rehabs we have gone through or programs at huge expense to so many, then I feel the need to ask the question that Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?”

 

The real disease is often directly connected to selfishness.  You have effectively made yourself more important than anyone else in your life.  If that sounds harsh, please let me explain.  We are not our own; we were bought with a price.  I Corinthians 13 reminds us that love does not seek its own.  When we live in self-centeredness, forgetting who we really are, who we were made to be, why we were created in the image of God, we forget whose image we are truly to live in.  When we are consumed with our own selfish desires, we will never love others in the way we were created to and, hear me, that includes loving ourselves.

 

Maybe mentally these persons feel as though they have no choice.  I have never been there.  But in the lives of those whom I have cared about, I have watched them throw away those who love them, those who employ them and those who truly care about them.  No one is beyond hope, the love of Jesus or life change, but don’t we have to want it, desire it, be passionate for it?  Don’t we need to want to be well?  Don’t we need to stop choosing and chasing this “disease” that is killing us?

 

If I am not writing these things in love, then I have no voice; it’s only religious judgment.  But if I speak from love, concern and God’s heart, then hear me.  No matter our sin, our history, our personal pain or our idolatry, there is an answer, always an answer which gives freedom.  It is the cross, the Man who carried your sorrow, your grief, your pain and your addiction.  He is the only One who can identify and redeem.  Be assured of His love and the hope always found in Him.  Come home to Him, please, before it’s too late.

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

Challenging Beginnings

I was perusing an older (2013) Forbes magazine article and came across something intriguing. It was a brief article about the so called “American Dream” and how some billionaires faced very humbling and difficult beginnings. The article offered a few real-life examples.

 

Larry Ellison, co-founder of the Oracle Corporation, born in the Bronx, NY and who now owns Hawaii’s Lanai Island was given up for adoption after contracting pneumonia when only nine months old. He did not see his biological mother again until he was 48 years old.

 

Shahid Kahn who owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and one of the US’s largest private companies immigrated from Pakistan and worked for $1.20 an hour as a dishwasher to put himself through the University of Illinois.

 

Oprah Winfrey, the former host of the highest-rated talk shows in TV history, was born in Mississippi to a single, teenage mother and then bounced among family members and finally ran away in her teens to escape abuse.

 

Howard Schultz, who we know as the builder and owner of Starbucks coffee, grew up in a housing project in Canarsie, Brooklyn, NY. His family was left destitute when his father lost his job after an injury. Howard’s mother pleaded with him to not start a coffee company because, “Who’s going to buy coffee?”

 

Not one of these persons were born into wealth with a silver spoon handed to them. I find it interesting that most of us would downplay our ability to create something that has great potential.

 

Since the beginning of time, people have been trading goods and services in order to also create a better standard of living. Steve Forbes has said, “Money measures wealth; it is not wealth itself.” Money is what we attach to goods and services.

 

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with the world’s economy and many will sit back and allow it to happen. I pray that Christians around the world will pursue God’s next creative idea for them which will have a direct and lasting effect upon those around them.

 

Regardless of your beginnings, what ideas (good works) has God given you to help others, while at the same time, creating income for you and your family? Has this season of rest or pause generated ideas within you?

 

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

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

Ten Ways to Became Debt-Free

Financial debt can feel so impossible, so overwhelming at times. Over 80% of Americans are in debt and the personal average debt figure (excluding mortgages) is $38,000.00. Experian’s 2019 figure for Americans’ debt with mortgages is over $90K. When our income is not much more than our outgoing, it becomes even more challenging. Below is what we did to arrive at a debt-free position.

 

  1. My wife and I prayed together about becoming debt-free and had the same conviction. So, being in agreement and prayer together has always been step one.
  2. It is essential to give. We have desired to give beyond a 10% tithe because we wanted to do more than expected. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I can guarantee you that in giving (“Give and it shall be given unto you…”) God always honored His word and gave us a return, “…pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Practically, we sow into missionaries around the world, local ministries we appreciate and tip generously at restaurants. We believe in a spirit of generosity in all things.
  3. Build up a healthy savings account so that you can borrow from yourself and not your credit card when facing an emergency.
  4. Speaking of credit cards: we never carry a balance. You will not become debt-free paying 21% or greater interest on a credit card balance.
  5. Start by paying off your smallest debt. Once you accomplish this and feel the freedom, place that amount on your next debt and snowball your effectiveness of paying down your existing debt.
  6. Make a commitment to not borrow. Have the conviction of scripture which tells us the borrower is servant to the lender. (Note: we recognize many of us borrow for our home, which is perceived as good debt, but this too can be paid down early by paying extra on the principle.)
  7. Run your present car until the wheels fall off. Cars today can reach 150,000 plus miles. Maintaining a used car is most times cheaper than a new car payment. Meanwhile, save for your next used car purchase.
  8. Maintain and keep a close eye on that budget. Watch areas like entertainment, eating out, purchasing unnecessary items. Wait 30 days for a large purchases and if you still need it in 30 days, it may actually be a need versus a want. Have a plan and agree together on your spending.
  9. Recognize it takes sacrifice and discipline, but the goal is worth it. Yes, we do without some items like that newer computer or larger smart TV, but believe me, the sacrifice does not compare to the freedom found in becoming debt-free.
  10. Be accountable. Be accountable to one another in all of your saving and spending, even weekly. Remind yourselves that it is those small, miscellaneous expenditures that can really add up. Agree to weekly or monthly spending amounts for groceries, clothes, gifts, entertainment, sundry items like coffee and snacks. Give grace, but be accountable. It will pay off.

 

Truthfully, we can be in financial bondage with a lot of money or very little money, but when we agree together to our process of becoming debt-free, we will also find wonderful side effects. Those side effects can include: less arguments about money, less pressure when paying the bills, joy in agreement toward a certain goal and the growth of tenacity, discipline and patience in our lives, even if becoming debt-free takes ten or twenty years.

 

Romans 13:8: Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

 

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Parents

The Passing of My Father

My father has been in assisted living for seven years. For almost six of those years he was very unhappy to be there and voiced his complaints vehemently to me during almost every visit. More recently we were unable to see him from March to August due to COVID restrictions. We called, but it’s not the same and a 97-year-old blind man whose day-to-day life does not change struggles to have conversation on the phone. But finally, in August we were able to have an outdoor, “socially distanced” visit with him.

 

Not understanding COVID and not understanding the distance, he kept reaching his arms out for our usual hugs. We explained the situation only to have him do the same five minutes later. The nurse explained, but once again he wanted a hug, any kind of touch from us when the visit was over. It was heartwrenching and way too sad for my dad, knowing he wasn’t comprehending a world pandemic.

 

Several weeks later we were told by hospice staff for no known reason that he was going downhill very quickly. We went to see him. This time they allowed us in his room with masks. We touched him, talked to him, prayed with him and kissed him. He never awoke or responded. The next day we were back. We held his hand and stroked his arm, we read scripture and prayed and there was no response. My children called their grandpa and voiced their tear-filled goodbyes; then my mother and finally my sister also spoke to him. I placed the phone by his ear hoping that he could hear them.

 

Because he was a professional accordion player since he was a teenager, we found accordion music on my phone — polkas, his favorite. For his last hour of breath, he heard something familiar and something he loved, an accordion. In three brief hours he passed, forever gone from our lives on this earth. Under my breath I said, “See you later, Dad; it’s not goodbye.”

 

There is no perfect family and certainly no perfect father. I was not a perfect father and I do not have a perfect family. We hold our parents up to perfection, but at the same time give ourselves a free pass from maintaining any form of perfection ourselves. There is no perfect son or daughter.

 

I am thankful for the father God gave me, for it was He who saw fit to give me birth into this family and not another. And at his moment of death, I was also thankful for so many other things. Things like: he prayed with my wife to receive Christ ten years earlier; we were in good relationship; I walked in forgiveness; I told him I loved him; I was not angry at him for anything and I trust I will see him again because Someone else forgave him.

 

Enjoy a video of my father still playing his accordion in his mid 90’s. I remember him commenting about his mistakes and how embarassed he was by his “old age,” not so nimble fingers.  

 

It was Jesus who said we were to forgive as we have been forgiven. Those words are straight from His prescription pad. When taken seriously, they have medicinal purposes. It is medicine, not for the one who you feel needs forgiven, but rather for you. Forgiveness always brings personal freedom and can mend relationships.

 

Over many years of life I have come to believe that one of the greatest indicators of personal and emotional health is if you have dealt with your father wounds – for some, mother wounds. Regardless of history, he is still your father and the love of Jesus demands that you love him and serve him in any way you can. When we take that fifth commandment of the Old Testament (repeated once agan in the New Testament) seriously, we are given a promise: if you honor your father and mother, God will honor you with long life.

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