- Get Off the Island!
There is a very troubling phenomenon in churches today and it’s having a terrible and very destructive effect on marriages. Far too many couples are living on their own “islands” and are actually living a lie. Millions of Christians husbands and wives are experiencing struggles and trials in their marriages, yet they are going through life in isolation, refusing to tell anyone or to bring their pastor, their friends, or family into it. They come to church and go about their business acting like everything is just hunky-dory, when the reality is, they are miserable and going through hell. What on earth makes people think that they can just be dishonest and lie and pretend that nothing is wrong? They are deceiving others and they are lying—that is sin! It sounds harsh, but it’s true!
Why are so many people lying when church community and family surround them? These are the people that we should go to, ask questions of, talk things out with, and get wisdom from so we can effectively handle the challenges of life. But instead, we end up being on an island. It’s just the two of us and all the stuff we’re dealing with. We are playing Survivor and trying to see who gets voted off and who stays on the island—the problem is pretty soon we destroy our marriage in the process!
- The Importance of Fathers
We live in a culture today that minimizes the role of men, discounts the importance of fathers, and generally tends to dismiss the male gender as unnecessary. Stemming from the women’s lib movement that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the continuing and pervasive line of thinking says that women don’t really need a man, they can do almost everything that a father does in a family and that men are pretty much obsolete. Sadly, some go as far as employing the science of artificial insemination where a woman doesn’t even need the man for procreation, she only needs his sperm.
So are men really only useful as sperm donors, or is there something that the feminist agenda is missing? Studies have shown that, indeed, their thinking is very flawed and they are missing a great deal. The bottom line of research says that it is the father who overwhelmingly determines the moral and spiritual development of the children. Three separate studies that I have read come to mind: One done by the Swiss government, a second reported by the Baptist Press and finally a third one reported by MSNBC (hardly a Christian biased outlet). A variety of sources—the government, church and the liberal left—yet these investigations show the same results. All three sources support the important influence fathers have on their kids—shocking as that is to those in the “we-don’t-need-men” club!
- Soul Mates and Selfishness
I’m often asked to give advice to Christian singles. It’s pretty tough for me since I don’t really have experience as a Christian single. I’ve been a married Christian for the last 35 years of my life! Be that as it may, I will attempt to give guidance to those of you who are dating and single. There is one area that I see as being particularly problematic for single people. It is rampant in the secular world and has infiltrated our Christian culture. This is the idea of “soul mates”.
I know this won’t make me very popular with a lot of people, particularly many of the ladies, but the idea of the perfect “soul mate”—that God made one special person just for you—is the stuff of sweetsy, twenty-five-cent romance novels, and has no footing in Christian thought.
- Advice on Stepfamilies
Stepfamilies face many challenges. Taking a group of total strangers and throwing them together and expecting them to get along is chock full of problems. These stepfamilies are often called “blended families”, but there’s nothing blended about most of them. They tend to be more like two opposing armies lined up for battle than anything that can even remotely be referred to as “blended”. Just ask most couples who have blended and families about their experience and you will probably hear the word “hell” in about 60 seconds.
My best advice to those who are considering remarriage with children from previous marriages: wait. Just hang on, trust God during this time and wait until the kids are grown—and even then it still isn’t a guarantee! Sometimes even adult children will have a difficult time with their parent’s remarriage situation. But generally those who wait until the kids are out of the house have much less trouble and way fewer problems.
- Set in Concrete: Is cementing your marriage a good thing?
People frequently contact me asking for advice concerning marriage problems. They may be having issues over things like how to raise children, money, communication, or disparity over the frequency of sex, division of domestic duties, and so on. Typical marriage problems are actually pretty simple to fix. Some couples reach out when they are in the early stage of needing help and those cases are fairly easy to deal with.
It would be like finding a cancerous lump somewhere on your body and going to the doctor right away to be treated. Medical professionals do wonders and can often cure the problem if you catch it in the early stages. It would be silly—although some people do it—to just sit and wait and wait and wait until your entire body is covered with tumors and then go into the doctor’s office. He or she would wonder why on earth you didn’t do something right away. Why didn’t you come in when it was easier to take care of? Because you waited and delayed getting medical attention, there is now advanced cancer all over your body and it’s going to be very difficult to treat.
- Falling In and Out of Love
Recently I was asked the question: Do you believe it is possible to fall out of love with your spouse—or were you just never in love in the first place? Sorry to disillusion all of you over-romanticized thinkers out there, but my reply is not the stuff of romance novels or movie and TV land. I know that people say they “fall in love”—sometimes even at “first sight”. I’ve heard the scientific studies about what happens to your body and your brain when you “fall in love”. I see the way the media portrays “falling in love” as this wonderful buzz of emotions that you feel when you’ve met just the “the right one”. But truthfully, I don’t think one “falls in love”.
One can fall in the toilet or in a ditch or off a ladder. You can even fall on your face…but you do not fall in love. What are people really talking about when they use the phrase anyway? I think what they’re referring to is the failed notion of love being what you feel. That sensation that is some combination of lust, infatuation and the flurry of passionate emotions you experience in a new relationship. Quite simply, what they call “falling in love” is the buzz you feel.
- Emotional Capital
Most people understand the concept of “emotional bank accounts” where we all have a limited amount of energy or emotion to give out interacting with other people during any period of time. A person who continuously “spends” can run out of “emotional capital” and have nothing left to give. Attached to this is the idea of making “emotional deposits”. We need to fill up the account in order to be able to spend and give out again. You can make your own deposits by recuperating and doing things that emotionally energize you, or others around you can make deposits by spending time emotionally engaging and giving to you. You may have also heard of this in terms of a “love tank” that needs to be filled in order to give to others. It is an old and very familiar notion that most people are generally aware of.
Just like our checking accounts can become drained of money, our emotional accounts can be drained of emotional currency–especially when there is more going out than is coming in. You can start to run into a shortage that creates a supply and demand issue and just like with cash, it becomes a problem when you try to spend what is simply not there. We become irritated and upset especially when those emotional expenditures are not the kind we want to make.
- Stay Away from the Edge
In a previous post I talked about the Damage of Sexual Promiscuity—more specifically, the “imprinting” that happens during a person’s initial sexual experiences.
People have read the article or have heard me talk about his and contact me after they realize they have been improperly “imprinted” on—especially through lust-filled, elicit sex and the use of pornography and masturbation—and they want to know if and how it can be reversed or erased. They wonder if it’s possible to go back to a clean slate–kind of like the old Etch-a-Sketch toy where you could turn the knobs and a little line would appear on the screen so you could draw pictures. Then when you wanted to start over, you just tipped the thing upside down and shook it to make all the lines disappear—all was erased and you would have the blank screen again. They ask if it’s possible to get back to the blank screen when it comes to sex.
This was the case with a young man I recently heard from through my radio show. He was one of those people, like so many, that had been affected by his early exploits with lust-filled sex. Since then he had gone on to be a born-again believer, who loves God and is doing all he can to live for Jesus. He wrote to me explaining that he and his wonderful wife of ten years were having some issues. He was still struggling with the desires and “pictures” in his head after all this time and wanted to recreate those things of the past to make their sex life more interesting. That is the power of sexual imprinting.
- Who Are You?
Helping Military Couple Reconnect after Deployment
People change—it’s just a fact of life. You are not the same person at 51 as you are at 21. Everyone grows and changes over time. Not only do we change physically with less hair, more weight, less strength and energy and more age spots and wrinkles, we change in our personalities, motivations, and priorities. Even as a couple you aren’t the same today as when you started out in those early years of dating and marriage. People say, “But can’t it be like it was in the beginning?” The answer is no, it can’t be. We grow, mature and change over time…it’s called life. We evolve physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and that can be a real challenge to a marriage if you don’t pay attention to your spouse. Husbands and wives who get caught up in their own worlds and fail to make the necessary adjustments tend to drift apart. I’m sure you have heard of couples who have been married 25 or 30 years and end up staring across the breakfast table at the other person having absolutely no idea who that is! Generally that’s the exception, not the norm since most couples manage to navigate the path of the changes in life. Slowly over the years they learn, grow and make the adjustments together.
Now, sudden change can be a lot more difficult to handle. Things like a cancer diagnosis, other illness such as a stroke or catastrophic injuries from an accident that leave a person paralyzed, the death of a parent—or God forbid, a child can all apply extreme pressure to a marriage. Both people may change dramatically due to the stress and circumstances of the situation. Yet the couple is together during the time learning to cope with the ordeal, and the ensuing bumps and hurdles they have to clear. These types of situations often times bring a husband and wife closer to one another. Trials and tribulations can be very bonding when you are going through it with your mate. Continue reading →
- Forgiveness Part 2: What is Forgiveness?
In the previous post I wrote about why it is imperative to let go of hurts and offenses and to live your life walking in forgiveness. As Christians we do not have the luxury of remaining bitter, vengeful, unforgiving and holding grudges. I laid out the scriptural commands that instruct us on forgiveness and showed the gravity of the situation when we do not forgive others. Knowing that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others is a pretty sobering thought and should be all the motivation we need. Yet we often have difficulty with forgiving those who have transgressed against us and hurt us. I think we don’t really understand what it means to forgive someone.
Many times people have trouble forgiving because they believe that it’s tied to emotions or memory and they think they have to stop feeling or stop remembering in order to forgive. Not true. I teach every weekend at my marriage seminar and write about it in my book Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. Continue reading →
- Forgiveness Part 1: Do I Have to Forgive?
If you do a search for “forgiveness” on Amazon, you’ll get a list of over 4700 books, so apparently it’s a hot topic. Everyone gets hurt, offended or betrayed in life, and we all have to deal with forgiving others. Often the lack of forgiveness is like a big, black cloud that hangs over the heads of people, keeping them tied up and held in a prison of anger and bitterness. Countless people ask me how they can forgive someone—usually their spouse—for some transgression that has been committed against them. It is not at all unusual to hear people say that the specific thing they are struggling to forgive happened 5, 10, 20, 30 years ago, yet they are still dealing with the memory, the pain and the inability to work through it. Many relive the event in excruciating detail as if it just happened yesterday, saying they can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to forgive the person.
While non-Christians may have their own steps and formulas on how to forgive, from a Christian world-view I can explain it very quickly and to the point. Quite simply, the Bible teaches that if we won’t forgive other people, then God will not forgive us. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches His disciples “The Lord’s Prayer” that says, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Debt means sin or offense.) Then in verses 14-15 Jesus continues and says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”(NIV) Seems like a very straight-forward concept, yet many Christians don’t get this and even when they hear it, they don’t believe it. There may be things in Christianity that are debatable—such as finer points of theology, speaking in tongues, what is the proper form of baptism, how to interpret the end-times scriptures—but not this. Forgiveness is pretty black and white, fundamental Christianity 101; if you don’t understand forgiveness you don’t understand Christianity. Continue reading →
- There Ain’t No Easy Button
Lots of people wish life had an easy button… like the commercial for the office supply store Staples, where you just push the big red button with the word “easy” on it and everything you want just magically happens. But the reality is, there are no easy buttons in life, and that is especially true in Christianity—even though people often think and act like God is the easy button for us.
Frequently, believers will treat God like the magic genie or giant vending machine in the sky. We ask Him to do things just so we don’t have to do it ourselves; then we don’t have to put any work or effort into a situation. Husbands and wives will pray for God to make their marriage better, yet they will continue to invest no time and attention into the relationship. People may be diagnosed with some illness or condition and beg God to heal them and take it away, but they won’t do anything to change their diet, exercise or lifestyle that would improve their health. Students will blow off studying for an exam, yet earnestly pray for God to help them do well on the test. There are people who pray and ask God to bring them a job or a spouse, but never go out and look for one! I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that’s not the way it works. Continue reading →