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, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Cracks in Your Foundation

Foundations hold buildings upright. Foundations go deep into the soil below frost lines. Foundations are necessary in buildings, in family relationships, in work places, in communities and in marriages.

Good foundations keep the forces of nature from creating catastrophic damages to structures and those structures keep people safe. Foundations help set direction and establish capacities. You need a strong foundation for your marriage and your family. 

Marriages that begin on faulty foundations like living together, lying about former relationships, hiding sin or hiding debt will most assuredly face major challenges in the early years. 

What is one practical, real-life item that will keep your marriage and family foundation strong? 

                                                                    INTEGRITY

Integrity helps build a high capacity, low stress and highly successful relationship foundation to marriage. One lie, one close to the truth statement or one compromise can begin to cause cracks in your foundation. Once a crack begins, it tends to become worse and eventually compromises the whole foundation. You can place temporary fixes on the cracks, but they will ultimately weaken.

To see all that God has for you and your relationship, each and every crack must be thoroughly repaired to a noncompromising state. In order to enjoy the blessings of God upon your family, you’ll need honest confessions and then forms of care for healing.

Good foundations in marriage allow for the growth of integrity, the forgiveness of when we do it wrong and the hope for a better future. Maintaining a good foundation means maintaining one’s integrity in all things without compromise. 

Tell the truth, confess your fault, stay humble, forsake pride and walk in honesty before your God and life mate.

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

National Divorce Day?

Did you know that “national divorce day” is the first working Monday of the year? Divorce attorneys report the highest incidents of divorce filings occur on that day.

Once the papers are signed, they can now go on with their lives. It’s easily accomplished with a small, very small printed newspaper article declaring publicly a divorce granted and legally filed in the county courthouse. The “I do” has effectively turned into “I don’t.” Their homes are separate; their children have two beds and two dressers.

In this couple’s mind, it is the end of arguments, trying to get along, counseling and late night, knockdown, drag out, heated disagreements. It is the end of trying to make decisions together. It is the end of needing to consider the other in any and every decision. They also think it’s the end of hurtful, emotionally charged words and sarcasm. And no more ridiculous faces of disgust to look at.

But it’s not over! It’s never over as long as the two shall live. The kids will go back and forth and it will take an inordinate amount of communication. The lack of attention to detail and facts concerning any relational connection will still be present. There will still be the unkind words and demeaning facial expressions. Anger will be present and it will cause further heated discussions over kids, over activities or weekends and over money.

Still present will be the emotional upheavals, tears and ongoing loss. Holidays will be especially difficult and extended family will suffer as well. 

Then, just imagine bringing new dating relationships into this mix. It is a scheduling nightmare day in and day out. Children crying and saying, “I want to go to mommy’s house.” Parents crying and trying to bring some kind of new normal to their children. More counseling. More doctor visits because of more stress. More stress because at the end of the day it’s all up to you. There is no longer a spouse to lean on and to share the load. Your life is so totally different you barely recognize it. 

You’re single again. What does that even mean, look like, feel like? You’re not 19 or 20 years old. Wow, how life has drastically changed!

No wonder God stated in His word how much He hated divorce (Malachi 2:15, 16). He knew how destructive it would be. He knew how difficult and hard on a family it would be. And He knew the brokenness involved in each and every divorce. Being alone again is no dream-filled panacea. Not every relationship can be repaired or even should be, however; it sure is worth trying and praying toward that end.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Women

Thankfulness and Marriage

My wife and I recently spent several days on our annual evaluation and vision time. We take time away to look at our year, evaluate our goals and pray about the year ahead. It’s a time that has become very precious to us and one that we would not desire to miss. As my wife often says, “I feel like we come away from this time on the same page and in agreement.”

It’s true we do, but let me tell you how we begin this time. We give thanks. Yep, we take all the necessary time needed to say thank you to God for every aspect of our year past. To be thankful for the good, the not so good and the unexpected can change our attitude, lighten our heart and bring a deeper level of satisfaction.

Someone once said that when we lose our thankfulness we begin to focus on what we feel God is not doing in our lives. We did not focus on our losses, we focused on thanksgiving. Being thankful is contagious. The more things we find to be thankful for, the more we walk in a spirit of grattitude (I Thessalonians 5:18). 

Thankfulness brings encouragement and helps us to focus on what we recognize as ultimately God’s goodness to us. Being thankful for things one wouldn’t normally be thankful for or for things considered questionable helps to release those things to God so that we are not carrying them. Thankfulness is like therapy you don’t pay for. It’s medicine to your soul and spirit.

The book of Colossians tells us to “Overflow with thankfulness.” As you enjoy friends and family this Thanksgiving here in America, remember to give thanks even for the things that we do not normally express thanks for. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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

Parents, Phones and Distractions

Statistics of children becoming injured has decreased steadily since 1970, thanks to safer play areas, safer play equipment and closer supervision. Those statistics are, however, changing and injuries have increased from 12 to 17% since 2007.1 What happened in 2007 that could possibly begin an injury increase in children? The answer is distraction by smart phone use. 

Emergency-room doctors see a growing trend of hand-held devices as the explanation for a child’s injury rates to increase. All the while, users do not consider themselves distracted while they are checking their email or responding to a text message.2 The numbers of growing injuries to children with distracted parents looking down at phones has increased exponentially.

An 11-year-old child was pulled from the bottom of a swimming pool, “unresponsive.” “The department of Children and Families concluded that ‘the death was a direct result’ of inadequate supervision.” The child’s mother was distracted and “twittering” as the child drowned.3 Parents are being charged with “reckless endangerment of a child” due to the increased number of accidents and injuries as a result of increased screen time rather than properly caring for and interacting with their children.

Your child is begging for you to watch him make the basket or see her hit the ball. It’s how they receive your affirmation and approval. It’s how they are complimented for accomplishing a feat. If you as the parent are so distracted by your phone, it will not be long until you unknowingly send the message to your child that your interaction with your phone friend is far more important than they are.

When your child is requiring your attention, put your phone away and give them your undivided eye and ear contact. It will let them know they are the most important thing to you at that time. They will continue with the conversation and be ecstatic about your interaction. 

Cell phones today are decreasing relational and personal face-to-face connection. We are quickly losing conversations that bring life or instruction. I have repeatedly witnessed moms and dads glued to their phones while their child is desperately crying out for a need or to have a simple question answered. 

Before you realize it, your child will be graduating from high school and be off to college. Soon your daughter will be walking down the aisle and you’ll wonder where all of those childhood years disappeared to. Do not raise your child in such a way that one day you regret the times your child felt like they were second place to a hand-held device.

“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children…take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Ephesians 6:4, The Message)

1-3: Wall Street Journal article, The Perils of Texting While Parenting, by Ben Worthen, 2012

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

Does Money and Marriage Mix?

Recently I came across a survey initiated by Fidelity Financial of 1,700 couples.* The purpose of the survey was to discover money matters and how well married couples are agreeing with their financial picture. Surprisingly, 71% said they communicate about financial matters very well and 61% said they talk about their finances at least once per month. That’s good news. 

However, one in five couples revealed that money is their greatest relationship challenge. And, two in five shared how they argue about money with their spouse occasionally. One in four stated they are all too often frustrated with their spouse’s money habits but choose to not confront it in order to maintain peace.

So, what were some of those highlighted disagreements?

  • Over 50% disagree about how much savings is needed. 
  • Forty percent disagree about the level of risk to take with investments.
  • Thirty four percent disagree about who is the “spender” and who is the “saver.”
  • One third disagreed about their families next large expenditure.

The most challenging stat from this survey for me came when it was revealed that only 50% of couples make financial decisions jointly with their husband or wife. I simply cannot imagine making money decisions without consulting one another, without honoring the other and without a prayerful process of discloser and input. Disagreement about finances is so often at the center of spousal disagreement and disagreement is a powerful weapon that eventually hurts both parties, not to mention also affecting the children.

My wife and I suffered from the marriage money mix. I thought she was a “spender” and she thought I was a “tight wad.” We accepted those terms as who we were or how we saw one another, but in time and with better discernment discovered that we were both wrong. We desperately needed each other’s view of finance, but we also desperately needed to find agreement.

I was wrong as I discovered that my wife was not a spender but rather a “giver.” She discovered that I was not a tight wad as much as I was saving for our future dreams, an “investor.” We discovered that we were both right and when we found agreement, we found peace in the mix of our money matters. We discovered that we each needed the others input and view of finance.

Do not allow financial disagreement to spread in your marriage. Get on a livable, agreeable budget. Discover the needs that you are each trying to meet in the midst of your disagreement. Pray about your finances together. If necessary, seek counsel and do not keep putting it off.

When we kick the financial disagreement can down the road we will discover mistrust entering into the equation. Where there is a lack of trust, there will be a deeper marital issue to deal with.

There are 2,350 verses in the Bible that speak to the issue of finance. Apparently God knew we needed extra counsel in this area of our lives. Here are just two of those amazing verses:

The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11)

*From the Sound Mind Investing newsletter, 9.13.21

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Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Celebrating Your Differences

How are you and your spouse different in relational style, emotionally, in finance, in goal setting and/or in your love language? If you’re married any length of time, you most likely know the differences and have arrived at a place of comfort in those differences or you’re still fighting over them.

Early on in our marriage we discovered that Mary, my wife, liked going to bed early and I liked going to bed later. She’d rather avoid conflict and I’d rather deal with it as soon as possible. She is a giver and I am an investor with our finances. You get the idea. 

We married because we had so much in common, but soon thereafter we discovered that each of us see, think and speak differently. So, is that the problem? Yes, if you think your spouse should be more like you. No, if you realize your spouse is what you are not and you are what they are not. In other words, together you bring a more complete picture.

Within five to seven years each marriage should experience a “settling.” That is to say, I accept you for who you are and realize, embrace and enjoy the differences. It’s up to us to make use of those differences for our greater good, a greater level of wholeness and a more complete us. Marriages that settle into maturity stop trying to change each other and accept the quirks, the nuances, the different views and approaches. We are not the same, however; we are united and in agreement as one. We need what our spouse brings to us and they need what we bring.

Stop trying to change your spouse. Work on being the best you can be and give grace for change over time. Realize that as you embrace personal change so will your spouse.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Being a Dad and a Mom and Taking Advantage of a Long Weekend

My wife and I loved watching our kids grow up. We didn’t experience the “terrible two’s,” but rather chose to enjoy the terrific twos. We never believed a child needed to be rebellious in their teenage years. We expected something different and prayed accordingly. We did our best to instill God’s love and truths into their spirits and prayed nightly with them as they laid their heads on their pillows. We broke up sibling fights and did our best to keep boredom from settling in.

We took our children on mission trips around the world, taught them to save their hard-earned money and to tithe. We enjoyed a devotional time together many evenings and loved to leave them in charge of teaching us some spiritual lesson they learned. 

We gathered for meals around our table and discussed our day. It was open conversation time and we specialized in laughing together. Their friends were always welcomed to our home or on our family vacation to the beach, especially in those awkward teen years when they really needed a friend. We included their friends into our family and did our best to be welcoming and hospitable. 

Quite often we had guests staying with us or around our table and we learned to serve and listen to others. On occasion we would travel to Philadelphia and do outreaches to the homeless and we visited our local mission, as well as the very alone elderly in assisted living facilities without visitors.

The children loved their grandparents and we knew relationships were solid when they came home and said, “Grandpa rules.” Being with and influenced by an older generation is advantageous in developing a culture of honor and respect within the lives of our children.

Get crazy and enjoy a good old fashion mud battle with your kids!

Traveling to the mountains together was a regular routine where we would sleep in an uncomfortable rustic cabin, fishing, swimming and playing in the crystal-clear creek. We hunted crayfish, caught lightning bugs and ate lots of yummy food made on a campfire. 

Our home was never a perfect one because it was filled with imperfect persons, but family is what mattered. Now our children have children of their own. Will they go and do likewise? I know so. Family is God’s idea, always was. This Labor Day weekend while you are not laboring, your family is just waiting for time together to build relationship. Go and build memories that will last a lifetime which will then be handed down to their children’s children.

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Healing, Marriage, Men, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part Two)

This week’s blog continues with the healing piece of infractions within our marriage. 

What can you do as a couple if you have walked the way of an affair?

You must walk in honest confession and humility. Humility keeps you from becoming defensive and blaming another.

Accountability is a huge ingredient because marriage infractions always take place in an environment of deception. Those in an affair have been lying about where they have been and who they have been with.

Get outside counsel and direction.  Do not try to do it all yourself. Both parties, the offender and the offended, need godly wisdom and counsel.  There are a ton of emotions to deal with.

You must work toward forgiveness. There is no greater step of healing than reaching the point of forgiveness.

Trust is slowly rebuilt through the above ingredients. Where there has been an affair, one proves he or she cannot be trusted.  The good news is that trust can be earned back. If one walks out the above, trust can and will be rebuilt to the point that your marriage goes beyond where it once was.  

Reattach yourself to your mate.  Most likely you have moved away from one another in some areas of your relationship. Come together again in dating, in fun, in finances, in sex, in communication, in mutual submission, in serving one another, in forgiveness and in godly counsel.  

You simply must move forward. Moving forward means being totally honest in all areas of life.  Honesty cuts off an affair because an affair was built on lies.

As husband and wife, we are one another’s healer.

Who do men want cheering for them?  Men love women, especially their wives, cheering for them. Women’s cheering section includes love and emotional connection with words of meaning from thier husbands. What has been the missing ingredient in your marriage? What was broken that opened the door for an affair? How were you “affairing” before the actual affair, i.e., work, ministry, hobbies, etc.

Be your spouse’s cheerleader and healer, not their critic. Each of us receives enough criticism throughout our lives without our spouse piling it on.  If you have a legitimate complaint, share it with them.  For example, “I know you didn’t mean it the way I took it, I love you, but when you said __________it really felt to me like _________. I know I could be wrong, but could we _________.”  

Do this through Ephesians 4: 15 – “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  Truth must be given but grace its means.  Truth without grace is just mean.  Truth without grace will eventually destroy love.  Start with praise (grace), a compliment and then move to the needed growth areas.  For example, “I love you; we’re a team. I know you’re busy, but I do need to talk to you about the time you spend with our children.”  Grace must precede truth.  Grace is like anesthesia given in order to bear the truth.  

An affair is not necessarily the end; it can be a wake-up call to needed healing and restoration.

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