Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Training, Women

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

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Challenge, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

When Our Spouse Pushes Our Buttons

We all love to be proven right when there is a conflict. In so many ways we connect with winning. When our buttons are pushed and a disagreement is the result, we want to win. The problem with winning, especially in marriage, means someone loses and I am not sure that’s our ultimate goal.

 

There are times when we simply must allow ourselves not to take the bait and overlook the need to be right. Most times, peace is more important than pursuing the need to prove ourselves or to win. Backing down can be the most loving and powerful thing we can do for our marriage. After all, who wants to be miserable after being proven right, by going to bed angry? The need to be right, if pursued religiously, can bring destruction to our relationship.

 

Consider Proverbs 17:14, “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out.”

 

“So, stop before…” You’re beginning to raise your voice and your heart is beating faster all the while Proverbs says to just stop. How do we do that? Begin by recognizing the inward conversation you’re having with yourself. Conversations like, “You can’t let her get away with that or, go ahead and interrupt him and let him have the facts.”

 

Secondly, do we want to be right or do we want to be in relationship? That is a choice we have to make at times. Recently, I had a false accusation leveled at me. Believe me, I thought of ten ways to respond and to make a defense as to why it wasn’t true. But I also knew that if I responded, the accusations would continue because most likely this person would not back down.

 

Laying down one’s ego is not easy and if it means keeping your mouth closed, it becomes even more difficult. We need not answer every critic and we need not to prove ourselves to anyone. When we do, we’ll find ourselves in an endless trap of words that leads to even more buttons being pushed.

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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, Marriage, Men, Women

Social Distancing in Marriage and 7 Ways to Defeat It

While the world is doing their best to act in good faith and maintain a six-foot social distance, it caused me to wonder about marriages that have been “social distancing” for years. We’ve met with couples who were not sleeping together any longer and couples who rarely have intimacy. We’ve met with husbands and wives who no longer take the time to communicate about their day and who no longer pray together.

 

For some, they’ve come to the conclusion that this is normality – a sort of growing old together with acceptable life changes. But those are excuses for what they have allowed into their relationship. They are excuses for abnormal behavior leaking into their hearts and minds causing a separation. They tolerate something they would have never tolerated early in their marriage and the long-term result has been social distance within their relationship.

 

It hurts because they both long for what they’re missing, but either one or both are too proud to admit the deficit, let alone take steps to heal it. There is an answer for social distancing in a marriage that goes so far as to affect and disrupt daily life. Below are some practical steps that you can take to alleviate the distance that may have come between you.

 

  1. Admit within yourself the reality of the distance and then take a step of faith and open up about it with your spouse.
  2. Ask God for forgiveness, ask your spouse for forgiveness and forgive yourself for allowing distance to occur.
  3. Attempt to create a list of any areas the two of you feel there might be distance without judgement or argument.
  4. Take a step to begin to close the distance. For example: in what ways can we improve our communication connection and when, where and how can we start?
  5. Create a new habit of thinking about our connections and how we can keep improving them.
  6. Go for a walk together and hold hands. It is amazing what can be generated from these simple gestures.
  7. Pray and ask your heavenly Father for other ideas for closing the gap and reclaiming intimacy within your marriage relationship.
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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

A Lack of Protection and Security in Your Home

During my grade school years, we had the occasional, but normal fire drills and we also participated in bomb drill exercises. We were instructed by our teacher to place our heads and upper torso under our desks, just in case the day would come that there would be a real bomb. Those were some pretty powerful desks! Our school even had its own bomb shelter located in the basement of the building. It seems the thought was during the cold war, at any given time, we could be bombed. Pretty scary stuff for a grade schooler.

 

If you or I grow up in an unsafe environment, an environment of insecurity, abuse, neglect or simply without parental protection we too can deal with similar emotions of fear. We all need a safe environment and we all need protection. We need the protection of laws to maintain society. We need the protection of natural parents and spiritual parents.  We need the protection of our spouse. Each of us require multiple areas of needed protection.

 

However, occasionally that protection is missing, neglected or lacking in existence. Sometimes a husband is standing idly by and not protecting his wife and family. Sometimes a wife has her priorities elsewhere. When we as a spouse fail to follow God’s word, responding in a godly manner with righteous, loving, protective authority, our spouse and our children will not know security. Long term insecurity can lead to anxiety, a loss of identity and fear. And when fear is present, love is absent.

 

A spirit of fear is not from God. The Father’s heart is to love and protect you and it is His desire to use husbands and fathers, wives and mothers in that protection as well. In what ways are you providing loving protection to your spouse and children today, which in turn brings security, safety and the lack of fear?

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

Fatherlessness

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation approximately 35 percent of U.S. children under age 18 live in a single-parent home as of 2016. These children have a greater risk of drug and alcohol use, incarceration, poverty, dropping out of high school, suicide, running away or homelessness. Here are the statistics to lend support to those greater risks.

*85% of youth who are currently in prison grew up in a fatherless home. (Texas Department of Corrections)

7 out of every 10 youth that are housed in state-operated correctional facilities, including detention and residential treatment, come from a fatherless home. (U.S. Department of Justice)

39% of students in the United States, from the first grade to their senior year of high school, do not have a father at home. Children without a father are 4 times more likely to be living in poverty than children with a father. (National Public Radio)

Children from fatherless homes are two times as likely to drop out from school before graduating than children who have a father in their lives. (National Public Radio)

24.7 million children in the United States live in a home where their biological father is not present. That equates to 1 in every 3 children in the United States not having access to their father. (National Public Radio)

Girls who live in a fatherless home have a 100% higher risk of suffering from obesity than girls who have their father present. Teen girls from fatherless homes are also 4 times more likely to become mothers before the age of 20. (National Public Radio)

57% of the fatherless homes in the United States involved African-American/Black households. Hispanic households have a 31% fatherless rate and Caucasian/White households have a 20% fatherless rate. (National Public Radio)

Children who live in a single-parent home are 2 times more likely to commit suicide than children in a two-parent home. (The Lancet)

72% of Americans believe that a fatherless home is the most significant social problem and family problem that is facing their country. (National Center for Fathering)

75% of rapists are motivated by displaced anger that is associated with feelings of abandonment that involves their father. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Living in a fatherless home is a contributing factor to substance abuse, with children from such homes accounting for 75% of adolescent patients being treated in substance abuse centers. (U.S. Department of Justice)

90% of the youth in the United States who decide to run away from home, or become homeless for any reason, originally come from a fatherless home. (U.S. Department of Justice)

63% of youth suicides involve a child who was living in a fatherless home when they made their final decision. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The median income for a household with a single mother is $35,400. The median income for a home with a married couple raising their children is $85,300 in the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau) (*Note: The above stats are from the Life is Beautiful website.)

Fathers Play a Very Important Role

 Men and women, fathers and mothers are different. They are both vital in the raising of a child, but they parent differently while both add to a child’s development in so many unique ways. The above statistics lend value to the role that fathers play in particular. Too many today are attempting to tell us or show us in film and TV that men do not play important roles in our societies.

 

Perhaps a reason for this is that some men have left their post and sought a self-centered lifestyle. This absence has created a psychological need to “fill in the blank” so to speak by saying, “Are they really necessary anyway?” It obviously takes a male to create a family, but it takes a man to care for and love a family all the days of his and their life.

 

Fathers who are present and committed to their families bring security, provision, discipline, help build identity, can teach respect for oneself and others, especially toward women. Male or female, God says we are equal, but neither are unimportant or unnecessary. I love how our heavenly Father designed things this way. From Adam and Eve to your family today, God has given each of us a responsibility to fulfill. His word reminds us of this when it says, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:6)

 

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants.

May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace. (Psalms 144: 12-13 NLT)

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

Helping You Stay Sane as a Couple During the C-19 Crisis: Honor

Can you remember before you were married how you could spend hours upon hours together and still desire more connection?  Prior to marriage, we practiced honoring one another with lots of grace, patience and time.  It was easy; we were in love and we were doing our best to make a really good impression.  Where does that go?

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

Couples Who are Committing Financial Infidelity

A recent survey conducted by CreditCards.com, which included 1,378 adults, discovered that 44% of U.S. adults admit to “…hiding bank accounts or debt and spending more money than their partner is aware of.”  I was astounded when I read that statistic.

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