Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Parents, Singles, Small Groups

10 Reasons Why We Need a Local Church in Our Lives

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.

 

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. 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)
  10. 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.

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Marriage, Prayer, Premarital, Singles

Finding a Life Mate: The Character Traits Worth Looking For #22

 

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.

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Issues of the Day, Marriage, Premarital, Singles

That One Ideal Partner, A Soul 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.

 

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Just for fun, Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles

Fifteen Really Cheap or Free Dates

images-6Running 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.

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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.images-7

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.images-4

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!

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Issues of the Day, Marriage, Premarital, Singles

10 Reasons Why Marrying Young Is Not So Bad

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.img_1578

 

  1. We carried less baggage into the marriage from multiple partners, breakups and disastrous relationships.
  2. We grew up faster, taking on the many responsibilities of married life early.
  3. We were young and had tons of fun before children entered the picture.
  4. We didn’t have deeply established routines and independent lives so it was easier to develop our culture in becoming one.
  5. 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.
  6. We had few extra resources so we learned to budget early and make do.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  9. We weren’t partying and being careless, but we were helping one another reach our life goals. We navigated graduate school together.
  10. 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.cimg1506

No disappointment here when the scripture says, “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth…” (Proverbs 5:18)

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Children, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Parents, Singles

Marriage, Millennials and Grandparenting

images-4It’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. images-8Grandparents 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.images-6

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In the news, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles

The Divorce Rate IS Declining

imagesWe started writing about, training counselors and actually mentoring couples in pre- and postmarital counseling in 1989. Our primary goal as stated in our book, Called Together, Asks the Difficult Questions that all Couples Must Answer Before and After They say “I Do,” was to better prepare couples before marriage and follow-up with them after marriage using this book as a resource in the hands of trained counselors. The ultimate goal of accomplishing this was to have an effect upon the divorce rate of our day. We longed for, worked toward and prayed to see it lowered.

Imagine our surprise when reading the following in USA Today dated, November 23, 2016 on a return flight back into the United States, “Divorce rates have dropped three years in a row and are at their lowest level in 35 years. From 23 divorces per 1,000…in 1980…to 17 divorces per 1,000 in 2015, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.” And the article went on to say that the rate of marriage is increasing slowly. Hopefully, that statistic speaks to fewer couples electing to live together unmarried.images

Perhaps these stats do not excite you, but for Mary and me it means so much. It means more intact families with fewer children living through the divorce of their parents. It means more stable households contributing to their communities, schools and local churches. It’s positive news for the economy with combined incomes purchasing homes, going on vacations together and providing for their children. But most of all, it means honoring the One who created this thing we call marriage, our heavenly Father.

To view our website or to order our book please visit: www.calledtogether.org

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Children, Marriage, Parents, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles

Men, Women and Connecting Deeply

images-2I’ve noticed some things about women and men and their wonderful differences. The women in our lives need to hear from us as men. They need to hear about our lives, our ambitions, our emotions, our issues and they really long to hear our thoughts about them. There is something internal in most women that connects with their spouse’s words, expressions, eye contact, touch and truthfulness about themselves. Women want to hear from their men in order to connect with them. It’s an internal connection and it can be difficult for men who would, more or less, rather have external connections.

Externally we as men connect with jabs, jokes, and manly conversations about work, sports and our hobbies. But women connect internally because they tend to feel more deeply. They long for that inner connection that tells them they are worth opening up to, worth trusting and worth honest, gut level communication. One is not better than the other, but both are necessary. It’s not just that women are more emotional and men are more factual; it’s greater than that. It’s about divine design as both men and women honor the way they are constructed, we actually touch each other in a holy capacity.

When I use the term external, I am not just referring to surface and when I use the term internal, I am not just making reference to emotions. I believe both men and women have the capacity to connect both externally and internally, but it takes time and a patient teacher to connect in a way that we have not naturally gravitated toward. Sometimes our parents miss this and sometimes our culture misrepresents this.

images-4In Genesis chapter one we are told that God created both male and female and it is recorded that we, as men and women, are made in His image, in God’s likeness. Our Creator represents both male and female. He certainly knew what He was doing when He created us as image bearers. He did not miss a thing or forget to add something in order for us to connect. Genesis two records that we are bone of bone and flesh of flesh. We are connected and that connection is God-created. We were meant to work together and we were meant to become a single flesh.

My brain as a man tells me to treat my wife as I would another buddy. But my spirit and my heart tell me that this type of thinking will not actually connect with my life partner. While she is interested in my hobbies and my work, she feels far more connected to me when I open up and talk about the people stories from my workplace. She more intently listens when I reveal that the person I was fishing with told me about his daughter’s eating disorder or life-controlling issue.

I can’t help but realize that our Creator knew this. Our Father in heaven who represents both male and female, as well, knows how these two completely different sexes are attracted to what they need in each other, what they can find in one another. A daughter needs her father’s internal connection with her. She needs a dad to hear her heart, to be willing to wait through the expression of details of conversation and to speak words of honor to her in how she is uniquely created and designed. Yes, she can play ball and connect with those outward, “male” expressions, as long as she is also connecting internally.images-1

A son needs his mom to connect with his abilities in skate boarding, in making his first goal and in writing his first computer code. He feels good about accomplishing something and he longs for the female in his life, his mother, to pat him on the back and give him a “Way to go, son.” Yes, women long to connect internally, but don’t misread these male accomplishments as external only. For these accomplishments are us. Perhaps in our way of connecting, we are making ourselves available for the deeper conversations through our external accomplishments. It has to start somewhere.

Men, the women (spouse and daughters) in your life need you to listen, give input only when requested and be given the opportunity to connect in a deeper sense. They need you to tell them they are beautiful, smart and worth loving. When you give them time, you are saying that you value them for who they are and how they are created. And when you are able to actually open up and connect internally, you will have a woman who feels far more complete and honored.

Women, the men (spouse and sons) in your life need you to recognize their accomplishments, joke with them and bless their outward, external achievements. They need to hear you affirm them and how they do what they do better than anyone you know. As you become their personal cheerleader, you will grab their attention and they will feel respected. And if your man feels your respect, you will experience that inner connection you long for.

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Marriage, Parents, Singles, Training

Forgiving One Another

images-13I know of scarcely anything more difficult, more challenging and more humbling than expressing forgiveness. But at the same time, I know of scarcely anything more freeing than forgiveness. In the Holocaust documentary titled Shoah, a Warsaw ghetto victim states, “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.” Nothing depicts a non-forgiving heart better than that picture. Author Gary Thomas once wrote, “We will be sinned against, and we will be hurt. When that happens, we will have a choice to make: We can give in to our hurt, resentment, and bitterness, or we can grow as a Christian and learn yet another important lesson on how to forgive.”

images-12Forgiving is not something we naturally love to do. Even though we have been forgiven of so much and have fully come short of God’s ideal, we love to withhold forgiveness simply because (we might tell ourselves) the person has not suffered sufficiently for what they did to us. The truth is, One already suffered so we could be forgiven; we must now make the choice to do likewise (See Colossians 3:13). To do anything less is to take a position of critical judgment, freely giving ourselves over to the use of the evil one in heady, heartless self-righteousness.

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In the news, Issues of the Day, Premarital, Singles

Ten Great Reasons to Wait Until Marriage for Sexual Intimacy

images-10There is this break up of a certain celebrity couple that has recently made the news. It seems that it was over his refusal to have sexual intimacy with her. This is newsworthy today because the media is pointing out his “dysfunction” and not hers. Interesting. Just what will waiting to have sex do for you as a single? Here are a few benefits:images-9

 

  1. You will be obeying God and His word and will have His blessing.
  2. You will build a much deeper level of trust with one another.
  3. You will affirm the worth of one another.
  4. You are actually caring more about this person than your own desires and needs.
  5. You will be an example to your peers and one day to your children.
  6. You will be protected from sexual shame and rejection (not to mention sexually transmitted diseases).
  7. You will totally avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
  8. You will not be confused in your emotions as love and respect grows without guilt in waiting.
  9. You will build character, patience and self-control.
  10. You will have a greater level of trust (sexual and beyond) for each other once you are married.images-11
(Called Together, 2009, Steve and Mary Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)
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