“In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.” *
Life can be full of regrets, but integrity and high moral character will never leave one feeling remorseful. This blog is not for those who walk in disappointment, but rather those who are doing their best to avoid moral failure and the loss of integrity.
Job’s wife once said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But the Bible says that even after all of Job’s loss he did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. What amazing character this man walked in. If you’re like me, you are tempted but if you long to be more like Jesus, you realize perfection will never be reached. However, lifelong integrity can be your testimony and that testimony begins today.
If you walk in integrity and avoid moral failure you will be:
- Maintaining a personal testimony and walk before God
- Maintaining an uninhibited marriage of oneness (spiritually, sexually, emotionally)
- Not having to work at winning a spouses trust back
- Maintaining family by not embarrassing them and not losing their respect and trust
- Not having to walk away from a job or ministry position
- Not having to relocate
- Not having to face newspaper articles, publicly printed communication and social media about personal failure
- Not having to face rumors, gossip and lies
- Not having to face untold and far-reaching negative consequences either based on truth and fact or hearsay and lies
- Not having to face the law or possible law suits
- Not losing or forfeiting many friendships and local church relationships
- Living without wounds and scars
- Not feeling as though everyone is watching
- Not suffering from overwhelming thoughts of failure
- Not continually reliving the past and coming up with regret and loss
- Living without continual condemnation and guilt or false guilt
- Able to sleep at night
- Waking up in the morning and looking forward to a new day
- Not having to be concerned about who one may face in the day
- Not suffering the loss of vision
- Not having to go through biblical discipline and a restoration process
- Able to look at one’s family and all others in the eye
- Able to look at oneself in the mirror without feeling like a failure
- Having a clear conscience; walking through life without a cloud over oneself
- Not losing one’s peace and joy
- Not suffering the loss and grief of broken relationship with God
“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9)
I have a theory and I believe the testimony of hundreds of married couples backs up this theory. The theory is the more sex you have outside of marriage, the less sex you have within marriage.
My wife and I have the privilege to speak with many couples each year and we have never heard one of them remark anything remotely close to this statement, “We’re so happy that we engaged in premarital sex.” As well, we’ve never heard, “Premarital sex helped us prepare for marital sex.” What we have heard is that sex before marriage actually stole intimacy from their marriage. Sex was no longer special, awaited and neither did it gather the excitement anticipated.
Premarital sex is titillating, full of emotion and coated in brain chemicals that run amuck. It’s also full of the fear of being caught, and overcome by having, no, taking what does not belong to you. Once married, that anticipation diminishes to the point in which some couples are not engaging in sexual intimacy on their wedding night. Even further, we often hear the expression that sexual intimacy is rarely occurring now that they are married. Imagine, this divine gift given to us by God, now stolen from us because of lust-filled desires.
Now, hearing from those singles who have waited, saved themselves for the one they will spend the rest of their lives with…never have we heard one single word or expression of regret, bemoaning the fact that they were inexperienced. To discover this world with one another was a huge part of the gift itself. Encountering one another sexually, within godly boundaries, literally helps to carry intimacy throughout the marriage, all the while maintaining their vows spoken before God.
Anytime we violate God’s principles, we also violate human value, respect and honor. Sex outside of marriage is a sin against our body (I Corinthians 6:18) and a violation against our future marriage. Because marriage is sacred, as is the act of marriage, we break covenant with God through immorality (I Corinthians 6:9). We disrupt His desire and design for our future. When we worship the created more than the Creator, we have convinced ourselves that our will and our desires, not God’s, are best for us.
Have you succumbed to sex outside of marriage? You can be forgiven of your sin and be renewed in your commitment to purity before God. He longs to give to you a fresh start, but you must be serious about that commitment. His Spirit dwells within the Christian to not sin because, “…you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20)
Dating is not a centuries old concept. Dating is a far more recent notion than that, but unlike what Hollywood presents, dating is NOT about how good someone is in the bedroom. The following are ten distinctive thoughts to consider if you or someone you know is involved in a dating relationship.
- Self-Image – You are telling the world who you are by who you date. You are revealing your standard and your self-concept. If you have a healthy self-concept, you will have a high standard in who you date.
- Character – Your moral and ethical character shows in who you say yes to when dating. Qualities of honesty and reputation are always evident in your choice of dates.
- Personal values – Values determine worth and priority. Do you value yourself enough to date a person who values what you value or do you find yourself lowering or compromising your standard? You do not need to compromise your personal values when it comes to a dating relationship.
- Physical Attraction – Let’s face it, physical attraction is pretty significant when dating, but it is not the standard. Physical attraction is a surface judgment, no deeper. Remind yourself of that fact.
- Soul Attraction – Mind, will and emotions makeup this area which goes beyond the physical. Does this person of interest challenge you intellectually and emotionally? Do they challenge you to live by a higher or lower standard? Do you feel accepted when you are with this person or do you feel inferior in some way?
- Spiritual Attraction – Here is one of the most important levels of attraction. Are you attracted to the life of Christ in this person? Does their walk with God challenge you spiritually? Do you find the commonality of faith with them or are the spiritual belief differences sticking out like a sore thumb?
- Honor – Honor shows respect and high worth. Is respect present and is there some attraction toward this person because they treat you, your family and their family honorably?
- Purity – There is no date worth compromising your purity boundaries. If anyone requests this of you, RUN. They are not seeing you; they are seeing their selfish sexual desires being fulfilled. This person does not care about you or your dignity.
- Friendship – Dating is about friendship first. The position of friendship cannot be minimized. Are you friends or do you click with this person like an old friend? Does it feel good to simply be around this person and the security they bring to the relationship? Friends do not pick on one another; they believe in one another. Friends do not embarrass each other; they stick up for one another.
- Acceptance – Can you feel and do you hear (verbally and non-verbally) the acceptance of this person for who you are, as you are, or do you sense comparison, incompleteness or judgment? To know and feel acceptance and approval is to enjoy a life-giving relationship.
I recently returned from serving a local church in Chicago, IL and was reminded in so many different ways of why we each need a local church in our lives and the lives of our family. To me it is imperative to be in close relationship with those persons who care about you and your family. It is essential to have that connection for not just receiving, but giving as well.
So, here are 10 reasons for being intentionally connected to a local church.
- Support – A local church connection provides support to family and/or us as individuals. It is a vehicle that God has chosen to provide spiritual and emotional support for personal growth. It is a spiritual family with fathers and mothers who will care about you and your future. (I Cor. 4:5; Heb. 12:9; I John 2:13, 14)
- Fellowship (koinonia) – The local church is a place of relational connection and belonging. It is a place of family with common life values. We are not alone in this world when we have a local church connection. We have people around us who personally care about our welfare. Wholesome and positive friendships can develop with our younger children, our teenagers and ourselves. An active, involved, dedicated and serious youth group can save a teen’s life. (Acts 2:42; I John 1:7)
- Service – The local church is a place where we can work toward and support a vision outside of ourselves. We all need something bigger than ourselves and a local church with vision can provide that. We can connect with the vision and find valuable ways to serve others. (Acts 12:24, 25)
- Gifts – It is a place for us to learn, practice and use our spiritual gifts. The body of Christ needs one another and the gifts that we each bring. Those gifts given us by God are not to be hidden, but made use of to serve others. The local church is the perfect place to use your teaching, serving, hospitality, prayer or mission gifts. (I Cor. 12: 12-27; I Peter 4:10)
- Resources – A local church is extremely important to a family. There are resources available at every age level to participate in. There are ongoing trainings and seminars for raising children, budgeting, marriage and the like. Often there are even counseling, coaching and mentoring resources. Families who attend church together have a clear advantage over those who do not – they have resources above and beyond themselves. There is far less isolation and far more family interaction with spiritual connections and challenges. (II Timothy 2:2)
- Outreach – A local church is often the vehicle for local community outreach. Local churches are involved with the homeless in their community, the after school tutoring and the missionaries serving overseas. Your family can have a direct effect and impact in the world by participating with these worthy causes. (II Timothy 4:5)
- Education – The local church is a place of education in the Bible and in practical Christian living. It is a place where our whole family can grow through sermons, Sunday school classes, seminars, video classes and so much more. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
- Groups – Small groups provide accountability and discipleship for each of our lives. The small group setting is a place of greater relational intimacy while it provides room for open discussion and opportunities for praying together. (Acts 5:42; 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; I Cor. 16:19)
- Giving – The local church is the place to give our tithe and sow financial seed into something that we know and trust. We can give elsewhere to a lot of really good causes, but it’s difficult to know where our money is going. Not so with the local church and the built-in responsibility that is offered. (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6: 3,4; Romans 12:8)
- Accountability – When we are part of a local church, there is a provision aspect of someone watching over our soul, someone(s) caring about our daily life and our future. There is the possibility of others who we can look up to that are inspiring models in integrity, marriage, spiritual gifts, etc. There are positive peer relationships that help us to keep moving forward in our faith, growing, being challenged and calling us to a higher level of faith. There are businesspersons and homemakers that can help us walk out our daily lives. (Psalm 119:26; Hebrews 13: 17)
I have experienced all of these and more in many local churches and I appreciate the body of Christ so much. God is not angry at His church as so many speak today, but rather, He loves His church, He died for His church and longs for His church to be with Him one day. Until then, be a vital part of a growing, Bible believing and faith-filled local church body. You and your family will grow and help to grow others.
In 2011 my first twenty-one blogs were titled, “Finding a Life Mate: The Character Traits Worth Looking For.” I loved the idea of starting a blog about something I am passionate about: preparing for marriage. I recently read through all 21 of them once again and did a bit of editing. In doing that, I realized I missed a really important area. That area was spiritual formation through prayer.
In learning to place God first in our lives, my wife and I have discovered that our similar spiritual values and our longing to pray for and with one another are vital to the health of our relationship. Dating to eventually marry a fellow believer with the commonality of core spiritual values has created a oneness in our relationship that is simply unsurpassed to any and all other areas of marriage unity.
When we encounter a difficulty or a bump in the road of marital bliss, our first response is to pray together. The scripture relates that the reason we fight and argue is because we do not pray first. (James 4: 1-2) If we can discover this freedom with the one we are looking at as a life mate, we are well ahead of the game. Why? Because our relationship with Jesus and our ability to pray and look to Him is the most intimate thing we can do together. And, it is by far, the most mature act. Look for a life mate that looks to God first, it will take a lot of pressure off of you.
Start reading those first 21 blogs here. Or, recommend them to a friend who is looking for their life mate.
Is it really possible to find that one special person, your soul mate for life? With the potential of literally millions of people on the earth today and the possibility of tens of thousands of connections, is it even remotely conceivable to find “the one?” Should we be holding out for this one special person…the only one for me? It’s a romantic thought isn’t it? And it seems that God placed that desire within each one of us.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “In such a great inevitable love, often love at first sight, we catch a vision, I suppose, of marriage as it should have been in an unfallen world.” Tolkien was married to Edith until her death at age 82. He once told his son that theoretically there might be someone better suited for him out there somewhere other than Edith, but then concluded, …”So what?”
I agree, especially after looking back from the 42nd year of marriage mark. You will never convince me that God had nothing to do with our saying “I do.” We know He did, but then again we also realize that we could have made other choices and reached the same milestone. Marriage takes time to settle. It takes a full-on commitment from both parties and it takes lots of grace. Someone once told me that in life you’re either in a storm, coming out of a storm or about to enter one. Having that life mate to weather the storms together is nothing short of a miracle from God.
Running out of ideas for inexpensive, but fun date nights? It’s time to celebrate your Valentine, so here are a few ideas, many that my wife and I have enjoyed over the years:
1. Visit an open house or a new model home for creative decorating and renovating ideas.
2. Try a new hiking or biking trail in your area.
3. Rent a Red Box movie or download a free movie.
4. Visit several local thrift stores or a flea market and enjoy some bargain hunting.
5. Go on a coffee, tea or ice-cream date.
6. Is there indoor ice-skating in your area? If not, try bowling.
7. Take some back country roads you’ve never driven on and see where you end up. Keep the conversation going while you enjoy the drive.
8. Try a new museum or art gallery. Look for tours you haven’t been on in your locale.
9. Visit your favorite wing night restaurant.
10. Take advantage of free music concerts at local parks.
11. Cook together or create a new dessert.
12. Go on a scenic photo shoot and take some selfies. Then, post them on-line or on Facebook and ask your friends to guess where the pictures were taken.
13. If you’re near your home area, take your spouse to a favorite childhood spot.
14. Watch a really old movie you love or never viewed before.
15. Take a night walk. Be sure to use a reflective vest and carry a flashlight.
Bonus date: Dig out your old photo albums, sit on the couch and laugh! Send us your ideas.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
In last week’s blog, I mentioned the grand parenting factor of marrying younger. Our culture has shifted and now tends to look down on younger married persons, but does chronological age (youthfulness) automatically mean immaturity? Maturity does not come with age, but rather life experiences that are successfully worked and walked through. Young married persons can face those life experiences together.
My wife and I were married in our very early 20’s. Here are ten reasons that we have come to celebrate that decision.
- We carried less baggage into the marriage from multiple partners, breakups and disastrous relationships.
- We grew up faster, taking on the many responsibilities of married life early.
- We were young and had tons of fun before children entered the picture.
- We didn’t have deeply established routines and independent lives so it was easier to develop our culture in becoming one.
- It was easier to make personal change and become what would honor and serve our spouse. In other words, compromise and sacrifice were an early part of becoming adults.
- We had few extra resources so we learned to budget early and make do.
- We went from a small apartment to missionary service (an even smaller apartment) to our first home. The progression and sacrifice were shared and the accomplishments were milestones along the way.
- We love our memories of “young love.” But since then, romance has grown and we know each other, having grown older together with over four shared decades…”old love.”
- We weren’t partying and being careless, but we were helping one another reach our life goals. We navigated graduate school together.
- We are with the one person who has stuck by our side through the most difficult and the most enjoyable years of life. We raised our children together and now fully enjoy our grandchildren.
No disappointment here when the scripture says, “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth…” (Proverbs 5:18)
It’s pretty rare to attend a wedding today where the bride and groom are under age 25. More often, it’s a couple who are approaching their mid 30’s. The reasons? There’s college and then there’s college debt. Then a career to help pay that debt and perhaps even graduate school – more debt. The pervasive attitude becomes waiting until all the stars align, i.e., school, jobs, housing, money, etc.
I read a recent study that indicated in cities where millennial’s flock for employment there has been a rise of single-hood. In Washington DC alone, the situation is “extreme” with “81 percent of young people still single.” One young man quipped, “This is the easiest place I’ve ever been to find somebody for the night, and the hardest place to find somebody for a week or a month or a year.”
Do millennial’s want to get married? They do, but there is so much pressure on them to be financially stable they don’t always see it as practical or reasonable. A huge concern then becomes couples that choose to live together rather than marry. Couples who live together are not always thinking about the long-term aspect of building a home together, raising a family and/or integrating into local church life. Putting marriage on a back burner in order to have a career, a new car, a house, a whatever will only delay parenting and delaying parenting can directly influence the number of children families actually give birth to. It will also affect grand-parenting. Grandparents can pass on or become too old to relate in healthy and fun ways with their grandchildren. And when that happens, something very, very important and essential is lost in our culture.