Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first five posts herehereherehere, here, and here.]

Husbands – there will probably be some point in your marriage when your wife will tell you, or hint, that she really doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it is because things are financially tight.  Maybe it is because you just finished celebrating some other occasion.  Maybe she is just trying to help alleviate stress in your life.  And she will send you the, “Oh…you don’t have to get me anything for Valentine’s Day” message.  Now listen to this very carefully…


Of course she wants something on Valentine’s day!!!!  That is why she married you!  She didn’t marry you for you looks!  Have you seen yourself naked?!  You are hairy, disheveled, misshapen, and generally repulsive.  She married you for the perpetual security of having a “Valentine” on Valentine’s Day.  You HAVE to get her something.  And it doesn’t even have to be something big.  She wants to know that you invested thought and effort in HER.  Buy her a card, take her out to dinner, buy her flowers, get a stuffed teddy bear…something.  If you can’t afford to get something – make her a card, write her a poem, make her dinner (even if it is TV dinners transferred to the more fancy corning ware plates) by candlelight.  If you don’t…she will remember.  And it will not go well for you…IN ANY AREA!!

One other tip.  It is OK to purchase lingerie.  But you have to buy something else as well.  Because really…buying lingerie is like buying yourself a gift.

You’re welcome.



[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first five posts hereherehere, here, and here.]

I’ve got a lot to say about this subject (surprising I know!…but…when you’re an expert…you’re an expert! 🙂 ) so this might take up a few posts.  Let me explain.

According to the most recent statistics, 80% of Christian couples are having sex before getting married.  EIGHTY PERCENT!!  I know that sounds high, but my pastoral cynicism (and experience) jumps in and I quickly think, “That’s it!?  I would have guessed higher.”  Statistically, there is almost NO DIFFERENCE between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to having pre-marital sex.  ouch.

This in spite of the fact that the Bible is VERY clear on this matter.  Really.  There are a lot of grey areas in the Bible.  This isn’t one of them.  I would recommend the following as starters on this topic:   1 Corinthians 5:16:1318;10:82 Corinthians 12:21Galatians 5:19Ephesians 5:3Colossians 3:51 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:28-30.

So, why are so many Christians abandoning the clear teachings of the Bible to have sex?  Well…there are a lot of reasons:

  • It’s fun.
  • It feels good.
  • should I go on?

I’ll talk more about the reasons in a future post, but for now, allow me to propose what I believe to be the main thesis of this blog post:  Sex before marriage is making you stupid.

I see it all the time (especially among women…but I’m totally into equal-opportunity thinking so I believe this is true of guys as well).

Before you get married, I believe you need to have the ability to discern and weigh out whether or not the person you are dating (or engaged to) would be a good spouse.  You have to have the ability to see “warning signs” and “red flags” of potential disaster ahead.  Like…for example…hypothetically…I’m just sayin’…maybe I’ve seen these situations… a) the fact that he is already lying to you about some very significant things.  Or…b) the fact that he doesn’t have a job and spends hours playing video games on your couch while you go to work.  Or…c) the fact that he has a bunch of biological children all over the country that he never sees and he isn’t caring for financially.  Or…d) the fact that he is addicted to drugs.  Or…e) the fact that NO ONE in your entire circle of friends and family (people who love you!) thinks he is good for you.  [I know these examples are extreme.  Just as valid are the smaller issues that are just as important and just as impacting on your future marriage. E.g., You love 2-ply toilet paper – your fiancé is too cheap to ever buy 2-ply toilet paper.]

Do you know why you can’t see those “warning signs” and “red flags?”  SEX!!!  Sex has blinded you!!!

Sex bonds you to another person.  That is why God created it (remember – it was HIS idea).  That is why it is very important within the covenant of marriage.  And it is why if there is no sex in marriage, the couple needs help from a counselor (and I’m serious…if you aren’t having sex within marriage…GO GET HELP!!).  This bonding effect is all by God’s design.  That is why the Bible says things like this:

Genesis 1:24 – For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 – Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a  prostitute?  Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?  For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

This is the language of bonding, uniting, and oneness that belongs to sex.

Even the body’s biological design is chemically wired in this way.  Even before sex (in just the attraction stage), you have certain hormones and chemicals that are coursing through your body.  Even before sex – you have testosterone, estrogen, adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin at work (this is why sexual temptation is very real and very powerful.  BUT…when you engage in sex – your body releases oxytocin and vasopressin (feel free to do a Wikipedia search on all of these hormones).  Oxytocin & vasopressin are known as the “bonding hormones” that creates long-term attachment.  And…these hormones make you stupid before marriage (they can also make you stupid after…but in a way that is to our advantage 🙂 ).

Premarital sex PREMATURELY bonds you to another person, that more often than not, works against you in regards to discernment, rationality, and wisdom.  It keeps you from asking the tough questions and more importantly, it keeps you from hearing the right answers (and truth).

I can’t tell you how many people I know who now hate each other and are divorced with great pain, suffering, sadness, and anger.  And when you ask, you find out that all of the causes for the break-up of the marriage were really present before the marriage, but they were so “in love” (read…stupid because of sex) that they couldn’t see it.

And to my Christian friends who aren’t married but are having sex.  I know guilt can be a strong driver to look over some very obvious things.  You may be thinking, “I have to marry them now, we started having sex.” (or some variation of that line of thinking)  Let me tell you right now…Jesus has a much better way of dealing with and resolving your guilt than forcing you into a bad marriage.  It is not too late to wake up from the sexual stupor and make a wise and good decision.

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first four posts herehere, here, and here]

When my wife and I got married we had to sign a four page contract with, what felt like, a zillion points as to what would be allowed or not allowed in our wedding ceremony and also the details of our past relationships.  We grew up in an Acappella Church of Christ so the church we were getting married in didn’t allow any music to be played that contained instruments (yes…I actually just said that…try walking down the aisle to a vocal rendition of the Wedding March).  The contract also wanted to make sure that we had no prior marriages that ended in a “unbiblical divorce” or that we weren’t living together prior to getting married, etc.  We had to initial each point of the contract to affirm we understood the expectations and that we were not in violation of any of the conditions.  Even now, as I look back on it, it was very legalistic in tone and feel (even as it was very thorough and clear).

In my ministry over the past 15 years I’ve had a number of angry couples who came to me wanting me to marry them because “their Pastor” (or church) wouldn’t allow them to get married because of [fill in the blank].  As they shared their stories, it wasn’t hard to feel a little sympathetic to the sting they felt of legalistic rules and expectations.

Legalism sucks no matter what the topic or situation.  And the tone of legalism I find repugnant.

And that is why this conversation of weddings and marriage feels in some way awkward to me.  I’ve come to appreciate that there really does need to be understanding, expectations, and clarity as to what Christian marriage is, and what it isn’t.  And I personally have fallen into some convictions in this area that before I have glossed over hoping that my inclusive spirit and “generosity” of low-expectations and hoops to jump through would ultimately win the day (or at least the hearts of those getting married).

And now…15 years later…that didn’t work.  In the devastation of divorce and failed marriages I feel I have done a disservice to couples to not give greater instructions, expectation, and clarity as to God’s heart and desire for marriage.

And yet…I don’t want to be legalistic.  I don’t want to have that tone.

So I struggle.  And in the end, I have concluded that this really is a case-by-case deal.  You just can’t have hard and fast rules as to what you declare you will or will not do.  And in the end, you have to discern directional movement.  What I mean by that is – are they moving towards Jesus, or away from Him?

I had a couple that I married several years ago (really…one of my favorite people) who came to me precisely because another church had rejected them.  They had been together for years (even living together) and had two beautiful little girls.  They got involved in our church and gave their lives to Jesus and eventually got married.  And it was very obvious that they were directionally heading TOWARDS Jesus, even if the beginning of their relationship didn’t line up with what Jesus would have desired.  Of course!  They hadn’t given their lives to Jesus yet.  I know many Pastors wouldn’t have married them because they were living together.  Or they would have married them only if one of the individuals moved out.  But for me…they had two daughters.  What could be more devastating for those little girls than for “daddy” to move out a few months prior to the wedding ceremony?  So, in the end, with great joy, I married them.  And the reason…their entire life was directionally heading towards Jesus.

On the other hand, I’ve had other couples who were already in Jesus.  They had confessed Jesus as Lord, they had been baptized in his name.  They had pledged to follow after the ways of Jesus.  And then…it seemed every decision they made relationally was away from Jesus.  Sex before marriage (which by the way the statistics tell us is at 80% for Christians who are engaged).  Living together.  On different pages when it came to spiritual values and commitments.  And making decisions that are NOT headed towards Jesus.

I live and exist because of God’s grace.  And I want to extend that to everyone.  Everyone stumbles.  Everyone sins.  Everyone screws up.  Everyone has that moment when their life, after taking two steps forward, takes a step back.  But the stakes involved in marriage are too high and too great (especially when kids are involved) for a flippant – “everyone makes mistakes so…whatever” in regards to the foundational decisions people make in regards to getting married.

And the only way I know to hold convictions and not be legalistic is to move case-by-case prayerfully discerning the overall direction a couple is heading.  If it is towards Jesus, I want to help, as much a I can, along the way.  If it is away from Jesus, my help has to take the form of instruction, warning, and the call to repentance.  To plead, with as much grace as I am capable of manifesting – to head back TOWARDS Jesus.  For it is the only sound directional move available for Christians who want to get married.

[This post is the second of a new series on weddings and marriages.  You can find the first post here.]

After witnessing all the pain, suffering, hurt, emotional toll, and FINANCIAL cost of divorce…I am now convinced that NO ONE should get  married without going through pre-marital counseling.  No one.  And the reason is because every engaged couple has major issues that they HAVE to work out.  And if you don’t think you have issues, you have bigger issues than you are even aware of.

It is amazing to me how much money a couple will spend on the actual wedding ceremony – flowers, photographer, reception, dress, tuxedo, programs, decoration, facility, dinners, wedding party gifts, etc.  When you add it up a father could be very tempted to say to his daughter – “I’ll give you $2000 if you would just elope!”

But when it comes to premarital counseling, all of a sudden money is an issue.  “Well…we really can’t afford that.”  Really?!!  You can afford thousands for a wedding, but you can’t invest a few hundred for your marriage!!!?

Others think there is no point in pre-marital counseling because they “already know each other so well.”  I don’t care if you have been together (or even living together) for five years (or longer), you still have issues.  You have not taken the time to systematically and intentionally worked through the possibilities of communication, conflict, sex, finances, children, chores, values, personality types, emotional needs, etc.

No one is exempt.  If you have never been married, you have no clue what you are in for and you are so “in love” you are blinded to the reality that is about to hit.  And if you have been married before, it means you might have some life lessons learned through experience, but it also proves you weren’t ready the first time around and statistically you now have a greater chance of seeing another divorce than your “never been married” counterparts.

Don’t let these thoughts or fears keep you from pre-marital counseling:

  • We can’t afford it.
  • What if the counselor doesn’t think we should get married?
  • I already know everything there is to know about them.
  • We don’t have enough time.
  • I’ll just read a good book on marriage.
  • I don’t know any counselors.

When planning for your marriage, plan to invest in that marriage!!  Make pre-marital counseling a must do on your check list.  And if your fiancé refuses to go to pre-marital counseling, let that be a HUGE red flag that he/she has some major pride issues that will manifest itself in your marriage.  And when it does, they will also most likely be unwilling to seek the help, support, and counsel of a professional when you (and the kids) will need it the most.

One other thing.  Go to someone who is trained and qualified to be a marriage counselor.  Just because someone is a “Pastor” doesn’t mean they know what is necessary to guide you through all of the thoughts, negotiations, and theories of marriage and family systems and dynamics.  Some Pastors are great.  Trust me on this…others are not.  Don’t go the “cheap route” by having a non-qualified Pastor do your pre-marital counseling.

I promise it will prove to be the best money you ever invested in your future.

I want to share with you something that has been going on at the Living Stones Church over the past four weeks that I am SO PROUD of.  Months ago we had the idea of having a summer day camp for kids at the Miami Hills Apartments ages preschool-4th grade.  Quite honestly, I thought we didn’t have enough time to pull off such a feat and I was thinking more like next year.  But others pushed for this summer and God opened up doors – quickly!  Monroe Primary Center was a huge help to us.  The South Bend Community School Corporation helped us be approved as a free lunch & breakfast site (meaning SBSC provides us with breakfast and lunch for each kid), Stanley Clark School graciously allowed us to use their green space property, Meredith Waltman stepped forward to be our Program Director, four phenomenal counselors stepped up to serve ALL EIGHT WEEKS, and an army of the best volunteers in the world said they would make this happen.

And more than half way through, they have!  It has been an incredible experience.  And I am so proud!!!!

I’m proud of Meredith Waltman who has done an outstanding job leading the entire program.  This position calls for more than just loving kids.  You have to love kids, coordinate and manage volunteers, serve as the point for all parental contact and communication, put out fires, shift things on a moment’s notice, have a “voice” that carries, and bear the largest burden for the workings of 50+ kids (largest day I think was 67 kids) on our property at any given time.  This is where Meredith belongs.  She found her voice and is phenomenal.  Should she ever need a recommendation, I’m writing her a glowing one!!

I’m proud of our camp counselors – Dwayne Walding, Mike Michell, Kristen LaFollette, and Tytannia Hopkins.  We gave them the option of support raising among their friends and family with our help and recommendation.  A few did.  Very minimally.  Most are simply GIVING eight weeks of their summer to spend six hours a day to serve at RECESS.  That is incredible!!!  And they are doing a phenomenal job.

I’m also proud of Jennae Gee who has been our point within the office staff to execute RECESS and was the primary voice to say we (and God) can do this…THIS SUMMER!!!  She was right.  (Jennae…note that somewhere, I don’t say that often…there you go…).  In addition, Amy Osterhout, our children’s minister, invested a great deal of time putting together curriculum, and coordinating supplies and stations.

I’m also proud of a ton of volunteers (many of whom don’t even go to Living Stones but heard what we were doing in the community and wanted to participate).  Some of our volunteers took a week vacation to serve every day for a week.  Some are serving one day (or more) a week for eight weeks.  Others are volunteering as they have time.  A few, Diane Barrington (my mom), and Josh Silk stepped up big time to play a very vital leadership role with our preschoolers and are doing great.  And a handful, have served EVERY DAY out of the generosity of their heart and time – Michael Leitz, Jonathan Gritton, and Ashlynn Walding.

I’m also proud of the Living Stones Church for their generosity to pull this off.  Many, because of their work schedules, simply aren’t able to volunteer at a day camp.  But they stepped up and “sponsored a child” for $120 and gave generously to insure we had the supplies and resources necessary to execute RECESS.

God has been good.  We are learning a lot (I’ll post later what it is that we are learning).  And we trust by faith that we are making a difference (as small as it might be) in the lives of the children, at Miami Hills, and in our community at large.  Our hearts have grown as we see the faces of these children and it moves us want to do more.

To the Living Stones Church, on behalf of a very proud and grateful Pastor…thank you, thank you, thank you!  I love you.

Here are some pictures of our day camp thus far:

Dudes – if you need a little help knowing how to describe your lady – there is some help in Song of Songs chapter 4!!!  I’m not recommending you use words like “goat,” “tower of David,” or “my sister, my bride”…but – it will give you a glimpse on how to get started.

For this and more conversation about mutual submission, dealing with the greatest emotional fears in marriage, and much more…listen to this past weekend’s message – A Pursuit of Commitment.  You can LISTEN HERE!

If you missed last Sunday’s message (out of Song of Songs 1:5-2:15) it is online.  For a conversation about insecurities over body image, En Gedi, sexual language, and “little foxes” – you can LISTEN HERE.