Challenge, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Women

God’s Creative Plan Vs. the Counterfeit

God’s plan has always been that sex remains within the boundaries of marriage. Many years ago, I heard someone say that God’s creative plan also has a counterfeit: sex before the commitment of marriage and no sex afterward. 

So, who actually enjoys the best sex and the most sexual frequency? There was an interesting book some years ago called, The Case for Marriage. The authors (Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher) stated, “Married people have both more and better sex than [sexually active] singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally.”

If that’s true, why is it true? They state four reasons: proximity – a long-term contact with greater investment – exclusivity, a mutually agreeable sex life and emotional bonding – caring for one another outside the bedroom. I would add to that list: knowing each other – likes dislikes and how to serve one another in the bedroom along with the fact that it is the safest sex. Sexual encounters are dangerous encounters. They may be full of excitement initially, but they can be full of worry and anxiety thereafter.

What are some reasons as to why sexual intimacy is inhibited? Well, here are a few:

  • Over scheduling and self-depletion
  • Lack of communication
  • Selfishness, not serving one another
  • The lack of non-sexual touch
  • Pornography
  • Not planning intimacy
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unresolved conflict
  • Not connecting spiritually
  • Not respecting each other
  • Not maintaining your attractiveness
  • The lack of affirming and complementing each other
  • A history with “intimacy anorexia”*

What will actually build intimacy?

  • Praying together
  • Sharing the workload at home
  • Date nights
  • Weekends away
  • Reading helpful books
  • Seeking counsel
  • Nonsexual touch
  • Communicating the desire
  • Scheduling sex

Scheduling sex? Yep! We schedule every other life event; why not develop a schedule for intimacy? A schedule helps us to prepare mentally. It helps us to not have our intimacy stolen from us. It helps us to connect and to keep at bay those small arguments that can turn into something larger. Sex is a gift from our Creator and it’s given by Him only to the husband and wife to enjoy. 

*A term Dr. Doug Weiss coined. It is defined as the active withholding of intimacy to one’s spouse.

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

Lust: Men Viewing Women; Women Viewing Men

Why is it that women get blamed for causing men to lust and why is it that men are blamed for pressuring women to dress provocatively? We’ve all heard it expressed one way or another that a woman should be able to walk down the street without clothing and not catch a lustful eye or be blamed for “asking” to be attacked sexually. Of certainty, no right-thinking man wants to experience this and no self-respecting woman should even consider or desire this. 

The key words written above are “right thinking.” Regardless of how someone dresses, we are responsible for our thoughts and imaginations. We say “yes” to lust. Every excuse that men use, i.e., she chooses to dress provocatively, is just that–an excuse for a wandering and often sinful mind.

If a woman does not know who she is or whose she is and if she chooses to dress with the lust-filled attention of men in mind, then that reflects her lack of self-love and self-respect.

Either way, it is our choice to monitor our thinking and take responsibility for our choices.

With that established, we love attacking the other sex for our problems, not taking responsibility for our own fallen nature. Of course, this issue is not new. In Genesis three, the man blamed the woman and then the woman blamed the serpent for disobedience to their Creator. Taking responsibility for our own eyes seems to be something we tend to avoid when it’s easy to blame another. 

We are admonished to not be a “stumbling block” to another and we know the “lust of the eyes” to be one of the three sins that can provoke other sinful issues. (See Romans 14:13 and I John 2:16.) We crave what we cannot have. It’s a part of our brokenness and the fallen nature we walk in. There is a multibillion-dollar industry built on the lust of the flesh called pornography.

But I don’t just want to talk about the problem or simply expose it. I do believe there is an answer. That answer begins with taking responsibility for ourselves, no matter how a woman dresses or what a woman perceives that a man wants from her and other woman. 

In the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery was being stoned to death – a fatal outcome. In the New Testament, there is a much higher expectation to not even look at another with an adulterous thought. Jesus gives us a higher goal to reach than the Old Testament law does. The Jesus standard is to catch the thought before it becomes an action. The reason? Jesus never looked down upon any woman or man. In His teaching there was no lesser sex; both were equally important, equally valued and equally responsible. 

Jesus is the second Adam. (See I Corinthians 15:20-22.) He is the One who broke the curse of Genesis chapter three. How do we know this? Galatians 3:13 states, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” 

We can stop blaming one another because of the second Adam, the One who came to heal us of our lustful nature, redeem us from the curse of the law by dying a curse for us. He has come to heal the lust of the eye and the pride of life that so easily entangles us.

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

Boundries for Our Marriage

Leaders often ask my wife and I about boundaries in marriage and it truly is an important question. With the help of others, I took some time to list those boundaries in this blog for you. My desire would be that they are helpful guidelines for you and your spouse as you think about boundaries and integrity within your own relationship. 

Priority number one is daily time with God. We also have a devotional time as a couple nightly.

We practice doing our best to go to bed together and not getting in the habit of watching TV all evening.

We are careful about the number of evening meetings during the week.

We pray about and are careful about the number of requests to say “yes” to, e.g., boards, parachurch ministries, clubs, school board, township meetings, political office, etc. While all of these can be great, they can also rob us of valuable time together.

We work hard to not allow sexual intimacy to be stolen from us.

We do our best to eat dinner together. This was especially important when our children were at home with us.

We could not meet with or relate to everyone as they saw their need. We learned to say “no” so we could say “yes” to the relationships we felt were most important.

We committed to take a weekly sabbath and family day for down time, rest and play.

We take time in prayer together each morning for our family and others on our heart.

We judiciously engage in time to cover schedules, keeping one another abreast on daily whereabouts and always letting our spouse know if we’ll be later than planned.

I committed to not traveling in ministry/work away from the family for more than 7-10 consecutive days. While away, I would check in frequently with my wife.

When possible, take a traveling friend or mentor if your spouse is not traveling with you.

When in another nation or area, being careful to not travel alone, tour alone or place oneself in any possible vulnerable situation. 

We would take several weekends away each year as a couple. Our goal was once a quarter, but that didn’t always materialize, especially with a young family.

We dated our children. They had individual time with parents, and in that way they understood their parents going on a date. 

Since our children are raised, we take a week of vacation together every year.

Both of us remain accountable to our direct overseers. I meet monthly while my wife meets two times per year. 

Taking a two-month long sabbatical every seven years was life-giving to me, our marriage and family along with refreshment and refocus for my work.

I guard my heart and mind with internet use, TV and movies. I practice zero tolerance with pornography and the like.

As a pastoral counselor doing individual counseling with someone of the opposite sex, I required the counselee to have a friend, an overseer or accountability partner with them.

I try to be extremely wise and careful about riding in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex or being in a public place (restaurant) alone.

I am cautious about praying alone with someone of the opposite sex because of the intimacy of prayer.

What would you add to this list? Please find your personal boundaries and at the same time find accountability and integrity within your lifelong marriage relationship.

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

An Affair with Pornography

One day, Amy received some pornographic pictures on her phone.  She called the phone company and asked how that could happen if she never visited such websites.  They told her someone most likely used her phone to access pornographic material.  She questioned her sons, and then she questioned her husband.  No one confessed.

 

She knew her husband had a “past issue” with pornography but had no idea of how current and active it presently was.  She pressed in once again with Jon and he denied any involvement.  “I felt so horrible,” Jon said, “but lying seemed like my only alternative.”  He just couldn’t believe he was at this point; he had been telling himself it would never get out of his control.  That thought was now a past hope, not a present truth.

 

I asked Jon why he lied to Amy about his sexual addictions, and he said, “To protect my sin.”  But then he went on to say, “Living in sin is going to bring pain, lots of it, but so is telling the truth.  My denial kept me from change and being honest with myself, others, and Amy.”

 

Jon spoke softly, “We have to decide which one is going bring more freedom: lying or telling the truth.  For a season, I thought that lying was the only way to keep pain from my wife and family.  So, to be accepted and loved, I would tell others what they wanted to hear.”

 

We turned to Amy. “As a wife, I discovered that I was married to a lie after it all came out.  There is not a word in the English language that can explain what I felt when hearing about Jon’s addiction and unfaithfulness.”

 

Meanwhile, Jon wondered, If she knows the truth about me, will she even like me?

 

Amy continued, “Every foundation I stood on began to fall apart – my belonging, my acceptance, all within minutes of Jon’s confession seemed to disappear,” Amy shared.  “My self-worth, my security, and my spiritual security just dissipated.”  Amy then said something we’ll never forget hearing: “The sense of shame flooded me and I began to battle constant thoughts of,  ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘I’m not pretty enough,’ ‘I’m just not enough,’ and I ended up in a fetal position on our bathroom floor begging God to kill me.”

 

What follows is directly from the heart of this precious couple whose marriage has survived this major infraction and is in the process of healing and becoming stronger again.  These steps of healing are the redemptive part of their story and they desire to share them with you.

 

  1. Start making better choices through honesty and a spirit of humility.
  2. Meet with your pastor/spiritual leader and tell your whole story. Leave nothing out and cover nothing up.  Discuss present roles and responsibilities in your local church and evaluate any necessary changes.
  3. Immediately start professional counseling.
  4. Meet with any other spiritual leaders in your lives, share your story, and receive healthy input and discipline for your life.
  5. The person struggling with sin needs a lot of intervention, counsel, prayer, accountability, and education concerning the sin and how it affects him or her as well as others.
  6. The non-offending spouse needs just as much intervention, education in the truth, counsel, prayer, accountability, friendship, acceptance, and pastoral care.
  7. Begin working toward forgiveness before working toward rebuilding trust. Forgiveness is key to healing.
  8. Recognize that trust disappears through the fractured relationship. It must begin to be rebuilt, layer by layer. To rebuild trust, you have to start being honest in everything.  There can be no more lies, not even one.
  9. Be accountable and remain accountable to God, to one another, to your counselors and to your pastoral oversight.

Are you needing to bring something from darkness to light in your relationship? Honest confession and truth telling will start the process of healing.

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

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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, Pornography

Oh, the Choices We Make

How many choices do you think you make in a day?  Choices like: what time we’ll get up from our warm and cozy beds, how much coffee we’ll drink, whether or not we’ll engage in a devotional time and so on.  Those examples are pretty common or simple, but there are more difficult choices we make quite frequently as well.

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

Are You Going to the Bedroom Together? 7 Highly Effective Benefits that will Help

I do not mean for the title of this blog to be controversial or provocative, so, if you are married, do you go to bed together at the end of your day?  We are finding more and more couples who do not.  Why is this?

 

The Gottman Institute research has shown that couples tend to stop going to bed together within the first three-and-one half years into marriage and something like 75% of couples do not go to bed at the same time.

 

Many couples maintain differing schedules and are not shy about it.  Some couples are opposite when it comes to being a late-night person versus an early morning person.  Still others are working on needed household chores late into the evening and others are enjoying their down time after the kids are in bed.  Then there are those couples who have no evening ritual of communication and ending their day together spiritually.

 

I would like to propose something different: Go to bed at the same time and end your evening in one another’s arms.  Why?  Well, I tend to think there are some extraordinary benefits.  Here are seven.

 

  • You can converse even as you spend time in the bathroom or bedroom preparing for sleep.
  • You can deeply communicate about those things the children and others simply should not hear. Call it pillow talk.
  • You’ll be together, touching one another emotionally which can lead to a greater opportunity for cuddling and sexual intimacy.
  • It creates a level of connection which inspires happiness in the marriage.
  • When you go to bed together, you tend to maintain a similar schedule together.
  • If there are poor late-night choices (like pornography, internet surfing or social media) being made, going to bed together lends accountability to one another and to unplug.
  • And the very best reason to go to bed together? You can top off your day by praying and reading God’s word cooperatively as one.

 

Try it for 30 days and see if you can establish a brand-new habit that brings life and connection to your marriage.  Remove the TV from your bedroom if there is one.  Turn off devices, say “I love you” every night and practice giving thanks for what you both brought to the marriage and family that day.  You’ll never regret it!

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