Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Men, Pornography, Women

Sexual Brokenness II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 20

For freedom Christ has set me free. Galatians 5:1

I have the mind of Christ. I Corinthians 2:16

God has always said “Yes” to sex because He is the creator of it.  He has some very clear boundaries with that yes because He has our best interests in mind.  We do not have the right to rewrite or change His word according to our feelings.  

In the Old Testament, one of the priest’s areas of responsibility was to “teach [the] people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23) It seems that ever since the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3, we think we have a better way than God and are out to prove Him wrong, except that we keep getting deeper and deeper into trouble.  We bend the rules further and further away from His moral code, and daily we suffer the consequences of those selfish choices.

Sexual brokenness is a worldwide epidemic, with human sex trafficking as the newest form of slavery to plague our world.  Our insatiable desire for “sexual freedom” has led us right back to slavery in order to feed our base desires.  How much more wicked can our world become than to take fellow human beings, sell them into the sex trade, and then discard them as though they were worthless?  The heart of God surely must be broken over such depravity.

If there is no line drawn for our culture, our nation and our lawmakers, then how do we make any activity illegal or abhorrent, a “crossing over the line”? We need to uphold a standard that establishes that line.  That standard must come from outside of our personal desires and emotions, otherwise it becomes what is right for me and too bad for you.

To add to the tragedy of our day, we have something called pornography.  At one time it was difficult to obtain, as one had to visit seedy places to purchase it.  Today, all we need to do is turn on our phone or computer and, voila, we have any form of destructive, degrading, demeaning and devaluing film that we desire to view.  The incidents of pornography use are decimating today, starting with children in grade school.  It is highly addictive.  It has destroyed individual lives and it has shattered whole families. 

By viewing pornography, you are feeding an industry of sex trafficking, disease and death.  You are destroying your mind, your soul and polluting your spirit.  It takes the sexual gift that God gave to us and perverts it for short-term gratification and lust-filled pleasure.  If you are viewing pornography, you are tearing down any sense of esteem and identity that God is desiring to build within you.  There is nothing redemptive within this sin-filled habit and I appeal to you to seek immediate help so you can leave the grips of this tormentor. 

The Apostle Paul, a man who at one time zealously persecuted Christians, had a dramatic encounter with the living God, and gave his life to Jesus, penned these words with Timothy, his spiritual son and co-laborer for Christ.  He encourages us to press on toward the goal for which Christ took hold of us, to forget what is behind and look ahead.  If at times we find ourselves in disagreement, God will make His truth clear to us if we sincerely desire to hear His voice.  As we posture ourselves with an open heart, set our minds not on our selfish desires or earthly things, He will transform our minds and our bodies so that we can be like Him.

That is our goal: to be like Him; to have His mind.  In all we think, in all we speak, and in all we do, our goal is to be like our Lord and Savior.  He gave His life so that we can walk in sexual freedom in obedience to Him. Let us live knowing that our bodies are temporary, our spirits are eternal, and that He has made a way for us to live with Him eternally. 

Questions for reflection:

Have you been able to identify any sexual brokenness from your history and how can Jesus bring freedom to you?

Feel free to order the new book here.

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

Is There Hope for Marriage and What Is the Actual Divorce Rate?

We have been lied to. We have been told that marriage is archaic and a dying tradition. We are told that one half of all marriages end in divorce repeatedly and maybe even you have spoken those words yourself. It makes for a very pessimistic outlook to marriage doesn’t it?

Enter Shaunti Feldhahn and her book, The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce. She says, “Divorce is not the biggest threat to marriage. Discouragement is.” 

In Feldhahn’s eight-year research she found that the divorce rate in America is nowhere near 50% and NEVER has been. And truthfully, she adds that the divorce rate has been on a steady decline since 1980. She writes, “In reality, 71% of women are still married to their first spouse…widowhood reduces the remaining 29%, bringing us to an approximate 25% divorce rate for first time marriages.”

*Further good news is that Feldhahn states that the rate of divorce is even less among Christians. From Barna’s comprehensive research in 2008 there was a “…27% decrease in the number of divorces among those who had been to church in the last seven days.” In a “…National Survey of Families and Households between the years 1987 and 1994 there was a 50% lesser occasion of divorce among those who share the same faith and attend church.” A Family Life Family Needs Survey taken among 50 churches found that only 22% of those ever married had been divorced. (*AFA Journal, January 2015)

What has increased? Cohabitation. There is a significant rise to the incidents of cohabitation in the last 20 years. This provokes and promotes a noncommittal attitude and an open back door to the relationship and when these persons do marry, their incidents of divorce are higher.

There is great hope for marriage. Most married couples are happy. If they are unhappy, but remain committed within five years most couples (eight in ten) find themselves to be very happy in their marriages. It turns out that when a couple is making the effort to remain married and work through their issues, it pays off. Discouragement comes when one spouse is unwilling to work or doesn’t realize the needs of the marriage.

Remarriage statistics, we have been told, have had even more dire divorce results. Once again, Feldhahn found that “…according to the Census Bureau, 65% of women in second marriages are still married to their second spouse. And because second and third marriages tend to occur later in life, the percentage of those marriages ended by death is expected to be higher than first marriages, resulting in a second marriage divorce rate of 30% or less.”

Put the once touted divorce statistics behind you and know there is great hope for marriage and its future. Marriage is a creation act of God and He stands by His word for men and women who either desire marriage or desire to remain faithful until “death do they part.”

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

Raising Your Children Without Faith

Ten years of my working career were spent as a social worker in the foster care field. Then, another fifteen years were given to marriage, family and individual counseling. After 25 years I felt as though I had heard and seen it all or perhaps too much. 

In foster care I saw the direct result of youth who had little to no faith training from their biological homes. Perhaps this was not on purpose or to drill secularism into their heads, but more so the lack of faith among parents. This lack of faith came with direct consequences to the child. 

In counseling I saw missing fathers or abandoning mothers, divorcing parents, single or single again parents and lost children. These children, with no faith to rely on, often enter into a world of self-blame, depression, emotional upheaval and/or self-destructive behaviors. 

When you choose to raise your children without faith you are making a choice to have your children ultimately trust themselves and the adults in their lives who have proven to be trustworthy. At one time or another, we are let down by those adults and we have to return to the single thought of self-trust. This creates a seedbed for selfishness, self-reliance and the possibility of continually letting oneself down when discovering that all of a child’s self-effort is simply not enough.

Without faith also means without a faith community – a local church. That community reinforces your values, provides relationships and amazing activities for children. It gives them a sense of belonging to a larger family that worships together and does life together.

Without faith also means without the word of God, the Bible. These words handed to us from God provide the ultimate spiritual training, reinforcement of sound values, love and a source of daily encouragement. The stories of Jonah and the big fish, the parables of Jesus, the wisdom found in Proverbs and the prophecy about the future are all more current than tomorrows newspaper.

When God and God’s Son are not a part of the picture, we are left with our best thoughts. But when training our children to love and trust God first in their lives, we are preparing them for eternity, we are bringing them hope for today and their future and we are encouraging them to look beyond their personal limits to a limitless God. When children are taught to love God first they will have a greater capacity to love others and to properly love themselves in a healthy way. (See Matthew 22:37-39.)

When a child is taught to act on faith rather than their best thoughts or intentions, they are acknowledging personal limits, a need to trust Someone bigger than themselves, that life with faith in God is a life with meaning beyond what parents and things/possessions can provide. For a child to learn to acknowledge faith, they are acknowledging a need beyond personal limits with a healthy expression of “…seeking first the kingdom of God.” (See Matthew 6:33.)

When a child learns to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” they are learning that ultimately their physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs are met by a loving heavenly Father first and foremost. They are learning the security of God’s loving boundaries. They are discovering faith in their Creator who has their best interest in mind. They are receiving an affirmation of their existence, a security, an identity and safety in the Protector who watches over them 24/7. 

Dads, you are a primary source of faith training to your children. How you live your life and how you share your faith will directly reflect upon how your son or daughter views their heavenly Father. When your children see you serving God, serving their family, serving them and serving others they will identify with a loving heavenly Father. The love and security, affirmation and acceptance from you directly translates into your child’s ability to discover those things from Abba God. And what a joy to hear your children’s prayers, to see their loving acts, to find security in a God they can trust and to watch them follow the God you yourself follow. 

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Happy Father’s Day to you!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men

Our Remarkable Mothers

My amazing mother was a hardworking hair stylist and worked most Saturdays.* One Saturday, my Russian speaking Ukrainian grandfather was in charge of my care until she returned home from the beauty shop. He loved mushrooms and mistakenly decided to pick some orange ones that were growing beside an old tree stump in our front yard.

You might be able to surmise these were no ordinary mushrooms, nor were they suited for human consumption. They were toadstools, a toxic and highly poisonous mushroom. My grandfather cooked them. They turned green and we ate them. My young body became ill, violently ill. When my mother returned home and identified what “Pop” had cooked for lunch, she gave me warm milk to expel the poisonous contents from my tender stomach. Then she rushed us both off to the doctor.

The doctor told my mother that she saved our lives by creating a way to rid the two of us of the toxins. My trust in my mother increased hugely that day and my dependency on her increased as well. I felt secure with her presence or just knowing she was in the background somewhere. From this and multiple other incidents in my life, she became a safe place to me.

How about you? Was your mother a safe place for you? It’s time to honor her this week for Mother’s Day. “Her children arise and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28)

(*Note: The above story was taken from my bookIdentity: The Distinctiveness of You.)

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Challenge, Marriage, Men, Women

Are You Living in the Past or the Present in Your Marriage?

Often the present is a window into our past, but it doesn’t have to dictate our future. We often develop what many call, “self-directed commands” from our histories. For example, “I need to make sure my family is protected” or, “I need to perform to be approved of.” These are innocent responses to how we interpreted our environment and they’re not always correct, but seem to remain with us until God deals with those areas. Obviously, as they are revealed, it’s good to work on them, discover the truth and find freedom from them.

Here’s the thing though: marriage can tend to bring out those self-directed commands and most times we’re not realizing it. We observe something our spouse is doing or not doing and it is accentuated in our head due to a historical connection. I am not saying our spouse is faultless, but all too often it’s not really our spouse, it’s us, i.e., our reaction connected to our history. That’s why it is often said you cannot change your spouse, only yourself. The reality is marriage teaches us to love and God uses it (as author Gary Thomas states) to not necessarily “make us happy,” but rather to make us more like Him. In short, one of the ways we express our love for God is how well we love our spouse in spite of their imperfections.

Marriage exposes our weaknesses and when our weaknesses are exposed the more difficult it may be to show respect. However, showing respect amidst difficulty is a sign of maturity. To dishonor and disrespect our life mate is a sign of immaturity. That is, immaturity defined as my needs are not being met and I am not happy. Truth is, in marriage we are no longer free to pursue whatever self-centered thing(s) we want. What we must strive for is what is best for our partner so that it builds “us” and not just me. When we run toward our struggles, we are strengthened. When we run away, we remain immature and weak especially when it comes to relationship.

Finally, when we hold back in marriage due to a present or historical incident, we are saying, “I will no longer relate to you on a deep level of intimacy.” When we move away from that deep level of intimacy and we stop sacrificing for one another, we are on the road to narcissism. And that is so well addressed in the verse that follows.


“…Being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others [your spouse] better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also to the interests of others [your spouse].”  (Philippians 2: 2-4)

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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, 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, 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, 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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