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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Brand New Wardrobe is Yours!  For Free!

It is that time of year when many of us will reflect on 2012 and start thinking ahead to 2013. The coming New Year gives us all time to consider a fresh start.

Whether you make resolutions for 2013 or not, chances are there are things that you want to improve or change next year. I’m hoping that among those is a desire to improve your marriage. No matter how your marriage is today, there is always room to grow.

Today I’m kicking off a series, “Dress for Success,” which will challenge you to consider a new wardrobe for the new year. The great news about this new wardrobe is that it is yours absolutely free.

Dressing for the New You

Want some more great news? You’re dead!

That’s right. The Bible tells us believers that “You died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)  The old self is dead and gone, dealt with forever! What a relief!

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, you and I are completely made new. We don’t have to struggle to renew ourselves because we have already been made into the righteousness of Christ (Phil 3:9). It’s a done deal.

I don’t need to resolve to “be a better person” in 2013. I already am! I don’t have to strive to “be a better husband” in 2013; I just need to walk fully in the new nature that has been given to me in Jesus. My new nature includes all that I need to be the husband my wife needs.

However, I do need to consider what dress is appropriate for this new me. I have to consider what I should “put on” and what I should “take off.”
You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Col 3:9-10

How to Dress for Your Marriage

This concept of how you choose to clothe yourself relates directly to your marriage.

The third chapter of Colossians describes some of the things we should refuse to wear, such as sexual sin, greed, anger, lying, and slander.  Toss out these old clothes! It then goes on to describe our new wardrobe – one befitting our new nature. 

“Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with…”
  • tenderhearted mercy
  • kindness
  • humility
  • gentleness
  • patience.
  • make allowance for each other's faults
  • forgive the person who offends you

The passage then concludes, “The most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Col 3:12-14 NLT)

The most amazing part of this whole thing is that this new wardrobe has already been provided to us completely free of charge. All we have to do is choose to put it on! It is not a matter of striving and struggling. Simply choose to put on that which has already been provided!

So what does it look like to “dress for success” in your marriage? I find it fascinating and not a bit coincidental that these verses in Colossians 3 come right before Paul's admonitions for marriage just a few verses later (husbands loving their wives and wives living in submission to their husbands). Clearly, how we "dress" directly and profoundly affects our marriage.

In the coming posts, I’ll be unpacking (pun intended) some of these new clothes that Colossians 3 describes.

Wouldn't you love some new clothes to wear in 2013?


Next up in the series: Put on Love

photo credits: 
top photo - diego_cervo / 123rf.com
bottom photo -  savas40 / 123rf.com

Friday, December 21, 2012

Do you make the mistake of assuming that just because people go to church they have great marriages that are based on God’s design?

This is the third part in my series on how your marriage can be “salt and light” to those around you, in accordance with Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:13-14. You might want to check out Part 1 and part 2 as well.

Today I’m talking about being salt and light to the other couples in your church.

Don’t Assume


Do you assume that couples in your church know what a biblical marriage looks like?  Fewer than you think actually understand the depths to which marriage is meant to be passionate, intimate, selfless, exciting and enduring. Very few probably know the extent to which God is pro-marriage, pro-intimacy, and pro-sex.

Sadly, too many would probably describe biblical marriage with rules like “don’t get divorced” and “don’t have sex outside of marriage” and “pray together every day.” Sadder still, and maybe because of a lack of understanding of what marriage is really about, the divorce rate among “nominal” Christians is actually 20% higher than those with no religious affiliation.[1]

Christian World View of Marriage

Os Hillman, who I quoted in my first Salt and Light post, explains further our misplaced expectations of the media’s world view this way:
It is unrealistic for Christians to think the national media will report without their worldview eventually showing up in their reporting. The only way to change this is to impact the individual who will then adopt a Christian worldview. Sadly though, less than 19% of the Christian population has a Christian worldview. So, how can we expect the media to have a Christian worldview if we in the Body of Christ do not even have one? We are losing the culture both within the Christian community and outside the Christian community.
I don’t know where his 19% number comes from or whether it’s accurate, but my experience has been that there is certainly not a widespread understanding among Christians of what it means to have a thriving biblical marriage.

Trumpeting the good news of God’s great plan for marriage is the main reason I do what I do here.

Who Owns This Problem?


I’ve said for a long time that Christians should have the most amazing marriages. We have the secret! We know the One who designed it! Yet the contrast between the church and the world is not what it should be.

Barna Research’s Project Director Meg Flammang said of their findings on divorce statistics: "We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but ... in the area of divorce rates they continue to be the same." Truthfully, the Barna data is misleading in that it doesn’t distinguish between those who are actively practicing their faith and those who simply report themselves as believers (more on the Christian divorce rate myth here).

However, I stand by my contention that there isn’t a big enough distinction between marriages inside and outside the church.

One reason is that most churches focus a lot more on pre-marital counseling and divorce intervention for marriages in crises than they do on strengthening “average” marriages. This is supported by a recent survey conducted by fellow marriage blogger at Mission Husband.  Gerald writes: 
For the most part, most of this survey turned out like I had assumed it would. Sadly, I think ministry to “normal marriages” in the church (ie ones that aren’t falling apart yet) is for the most part coming up very short in most of our churches. From: “The Church and Marriage; Are we doing enough?”
So whose job is it to get those in the church to take marriages to the next level? Pastors? Church leadership? Christian marriage counselors? No! It’s our job, yours and mine. It’s up to everyday believers like you and me, who know and want to share about God’s design for marriage.

But What Can I Do?

The 2011 State of Our Unions report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia offers some insight into this question. They report that:
Husbands and wives with high levels of social support for their marriage are at least 23 percentage points more likely to report that they are very happy, or almost 50 percent more likely to be very happy in their marriages, when family and friends are invested in their marriages. Moreover, a high level of support from family and friends is one of the top five predictors of marital quality and stability for married mothers in this study.
Simply stated, you can make a huge impact on other marriages simply by providing marital support to your friends. Here a few ideas on how you can impact the marriages immediately around you in your own church.
  • Start a marriage small group in your church (or join one).
  • Set up a date night babysitting exchange for couples with young kids.
  • If your marriage is struggling, find and befriend some couples whose marriages you admire.
  • If you have a strong marriage, get together with some couples you think could benefit from your experience.
  • Ask your church to plan a marriage-building retreat into next year’s calendar and budget.
  • Offer to lead your church’s participation in this year’s National Marriage Week events this coming February 7-14.
What do you say? Are you ready to get engaged for the sake of the marriages around you? Do you have some more ideas on what we can do in our local churches to strengthen “normal” marriages? What have you already done or are you doing? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Eve is only a week away! If you still don’t have any idea what to do to  make this a romantic Christmas, I’m here to equip you for the task.  

[I’m interrupting my “Salt and Light” series for this emergency “what do I do about Christmas” broadcast. Our regular programming will resume shortly.]

Not everyone sees Christmas as a time for romance. Indeed, the priority during this season should be on the spiritual and family dimensions of the holidays, but don’t neglect this opportunity to add in a little romance with your husband or wife.

Ideas, Ideas, and More Ideas


Because I’ve waited until so late to do this post, I’m able to point you to the many fellow marriage bloggers who have done the groundwork for me!  Here they are in no particular order:

From Brad and Kate at One Flesh Marriage
From Paul, The Generous Husband
From Lori, The Generous Wife
From Lori at Marriage Gems
From Sheila at To Love Honor and Vacuum
  • keeping Christmas sane and at the end the three gift of Christmas suggestion: something they want, something they need, something for their soul
  •  Get Sheila's 31 Days to Great Sex ebook and plan to start together in January! Great way to kick off the new year by investing your marriage.
From Debi and Tom at The Romantic Vineyard:

A Few Romantic Gift Ideas of My Own

Husbands:
  • Skip the poinsettia this year and bring your wife a beautiful Christmas flower arrangement
  • Give her a Tea or Coffee gift, according to her preference, along with a note suggesting that the two of you enjoy it together during ten minutes of connection time each day (or on designated days, if daily isn’t possible).
  • Tickets to a concert, play, ballet or other performance that you know she would love to see. Pick it based solely on her desire, not your own, and make sure you are enthusiastic about going with her.
  • Sign up for my new Pathways monthly intimacy e-newsletter and get a free copy of my 14 Day Intimacy Challenge for Husbands.Take the challenge as a "secret" gift, or you can tell her that she has 14 Days of Intimacy coming her way, but tell her nothing more.
Wives:
  • Buy something for his desk at work (a pen set, desk organizer, a framed picture, etc.) and write a hand-written note that says “Every time you look at this/use this remember how proud I am of the way you work hard to take care of us” or something to that effect in your own words.
  • Lingerie – and I’m talking about the kind that is primarily for his viewing pleasure - you know what I mean. If you aren’t sure what he'd like to see you in, get a gift card and suggest you shop together. If either or both of you are too shy to go into a lingerie shop, a gift card from an online retailer would work instead.
  • Tickets to a sporting event, boat show, or concert that you know he really wants to see but might not ask for, in deference to your preferences. Make sure he knows how excited you are to go along with him to whatever it is. 
  • Sign up for my new Pathways monthly intimacy e-newsletter and get a free copy of my 14 Day Intimacy Challenge for Wives. Take the challenge as a "secret" gift, or you can tell him that he has 14 Days of Intimacy coming his way, but tell him nothing more.
If you are on already on top of this Christmas, romantically speaking, share your ideas below! Caution: you might want to post your comment anonymously if your spouse also reads my blog!! Don't want any Christmas spoilers!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Are you hiding your marriage under a bushel basket or putting it out on a stand for all to see?

Last week I wrapped up my short series on how to have a counter-culture marriage with a post about combating the media and entertainment worlds’ marriage-maligning messages. I suggest that we do battle by doing what it takes to make our own marriage great.

After all, nothing promotes marriage like great marriages!

What is a Great Marriage?

There were many excellent comments on my last post about what it means to make your marriage “salt and light” to the world around us (you might want to go back and read them).

Robyn, who blogs at Up With Marriage and Pearl, who blogs at Pearl’s OysterBed, reminded me of the important distinction between a “great marriage” and a “perfect marriage.”

We need to be genuine and real about our marriages. Being salt and light is not a matter of pretending to have the perfect marriage (such a thing doesn’t exist anyway). A great marriage is one with the same real struggles and problems that all marriages face, but one that comes through it all stronger and closer than ever.

These comments were an especially pertinent prelude to today’s post. I want to talk today about how being salt and light, as Jesus said we are to be, takes more than simply having a great marriage. It involves helping others to have great marriages too.

Helping build great marriages is not just the job of pastors and church leaders. It’s not just the job of marriage counselors. It’s not even just the job of marriage bloggers. It’s the job of the church. That’s you and me. That’s everyone.

Promote (Your) Marriage

Part of being salt and light in the marriage context means promoting your own marriage.

Here is a question I posted a while back: “What are you doing on a regular basis to demonstrate how important your own marriage is to your life, to the fulfillment of your hopes and dreams, and to your daily happiness?”

If I were to ask your friends and co-workers how important your marriage is to you or how happily married you are, what would they say? Stop and think about the image of your marriage that you are projecting.

Don’t misunderstand me, promoting your marriage doesn’t mean being boastful or arrogant. It just means you should not hesitate to make it known how important your marriage is and how much your spouse adds to to your life.

Here are some examples I gave previously:
  • Don’t hold back from saying “I love you” or using other words of affection to your spouse when you are talking to them on the phone when others might overhear. (Paul Byerly, aka The Generous Husband specifically mentioned this on in his comment on my previous post)
  • Tell your friends about great date spots you and your spouse have found. Mention how important it is to you that you have regular date nights and alone time together.
  • In an appropriate setting, re-tell something special or thoughtful your husband or wife has done for you recently.
  • Hold hands in public. Depending on your comfort level with PDA, even hold each other and/or kiss in public.
  • If you see an obviously happy couple, don’t deride them to your friends but praise them. ”Isn’t it great to see such a strong and happy marriage.”
  • Never tear down your spouse in front of your friends. Rather, praise him or her and express thankfulness for marriage and your spouse. Be generous with positive words.
Promote your own marriage. Brag on your spouse. Let people know how great it is to be married. When you do these things, you are casting a positive marriage light to those around you. I believe great marriage are contagious.

I’m sure you can think of more ways to promote your marriage. Let’s hear them!



Image credit: siwasasil /123rf.com

Friday, December 7, 2012

Does “reality TV” truly reflect reality?  Is “The New Normal” TV show actually representative of the new normal in our society?

I intended to wrap up my series on how to have a counter-culture marriage with a post on how the mass-media and the arts and entertainment world (mis)treats marriage. There is no doubt that the enemy has had his sights on the media and entertainment world for a long time. These are two of what Os Hillman calls “The Seven Mountains of Influence.” Especially for young people, these are huge influences in our culture.

So when I first started preparing for this post, I gathered a bunch of blatantly anti-biblical, marriage-maligning examples from today’s media and entertainment industries. It was easy to find tons of atrocious examples of such shows and movies. For example, the new TV show, “The New Normal” advertises itself this way: “Two gay dads and a baby mama create a totally new kind of family comedy.” Family Comedy? Normal? Really?

Suffice it to say that examples like this are everywhere.

But then I came across an article by Os Hillman that struck me rather dramatically.  His article opens with this thought:
Christianity has become a sub-culture that is more known by what we don't like than what we believe. In the eyes of the secular world we have become a right wing political action group instead of a loving, caring Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our message has been shut out because of the way of the messenger. We still have the right message, but we have failed to deliver it in a manner consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus modeled love and mercy and sought to change the hearts of people before He expected to see change in their behavior. Few people are attracted to Christ through a boycott.
That’s a pretty stinging indictment, and it really convicted me. Protests, boycotts and even blog posts filled with outrage will do little to reclaim our culture.  So, I decided there is little point in me writing a rant against today's movies, TV shows and music. For the most part I’d be preaching to the choir anyway.

So What Do We Do?

I’m calling you to consider a different kind of action: be salt and light. That’s what Jesus calls us to be. In Matthew 5:13-14 He put it this way:
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.  Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.”
I don’t mind if you feel compelled to write letters of objection to networks or to boycott advertisers of certain shows that you find offensive. Do what you feel is right. But I agree with Os, these actions will do little to actually change the hearts and minds in our culture.

And it’s hearts and minds that God is after. When hearts and minds are changed, behavior follows. That's the way Jesus did it where he walked here on earth.

Start with Your Own Marriage!

First and foremost being salt and light for marriage starts by you having a great marriage yourself.

Nothing promotes marriage like terrific marriages!
So here are a few of my thoughts on how to counter the media's negative marriage messages with your own marriage:
  • Know what you believe about marriage and why. Explore the fantastic biblical truths about marriage how God designed it to work. Read the Bible. Read what trusted authors and scholars have to say. Talk about it with your spouse. (My own "What I Believe About Marriage" series starts here.)
  • Make your marriage a priority. Invest in your marriage with your time, attention and energy. No more giving your spouse and your marriage the leftovers after you’ve invested yourself in everything else.
  • Be rooted and grounded in love. Ephesians 3 tells us that knowing the Love of Christ is the key to fullness in God. It’s also the key to fullness in marriage. You cannot fully know how to love your husband or wife if you do not know the love of Jesus. And “know” in this verse means an experiential knowledge, not head knowledge.
This isn’t exactly the post I thought I would write concerning the media and entertainment – and probably not what you expected from the headline.  Still, I’m absolutely convinced that the best way to counter the media’s negative messages concerning marriage is to have an overwhelming number of great marriages as a shining example of what marriage can be like.

What do you think it means to be “salt and light” with your marriage?


Next up: More on Being Salt and Light

Image credit: reich / 123RF Stock Photo

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The winner of the "31 Days to Great Sex" giveaway is Curt:
Curt said...
I think that they are all equally important because they are all a part of the plan to become closer to God. Physically and emotionally connecting with each other in the marriage bed as He intended helps to fulfill the spiritual aspect and bring us closer to him. If any of the three are removed or not given equal importance, we risk not participating fully in His plan for us.
Congratulations Curt. Please email me through the contact tab on my website to claim your free e-book!



Thanks to all who left a comment on the question: "Which is the most important aspect of sexual intimacy: physical, emotional or spiritual." You should definitely go back and check out the wide variety of answers.

I would say there was no clear consensus, except that, in general, all three dimensions are important. And they all are.

If you didn't win, you can still get your copy of "31 Days to Great Sex" now.

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