- August 20, 2012
- By mcfatridge
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Words are powerful. That’s why the Bible is full of directives concerning the way we communicate.
In Matthew 12:36-37, Jesus warns, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
This Scripture surprises a lot of people. Most of us tend to think that, because we use words casually, the things we say are of little consequence. But according to the Bible, every word—the significant ones and the ones we consider unimportant—is recorded in heaven. We are responsible for them.
When we repent of sins, they are forgiven and erased. Our “idle words” are sins for which Jesus died. Still, in some manner, we will be held accountable for them.
Consider also Proverbs 18:21, which says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
We all know the pain of harsh words spoken to us. Careless, insensitive speech has caused some of our deepest wounds, and many people live in families where words are used as weapons.
Sarcasm, criticism, verbal abuse, shame, and anger—these kinds of words bring death. They can be part of a negative, relationship-killing arsenal.
The enemy loves nothing more than to turn a house into a verbal war zone. When these environments are created, a husband and wife will suffer. So will their children. Negative communication can destroy a healthy home.
However, as easily as words can kill, they can also bring life. With our mouths we can bless. We can encourage. We can heal. We can communicate love and affection.
Positive communication is powerful. The first step toward building an atmosphere of healthy words is by realizing that every single word we speak has incredible power.
Will our words bring life or cause death? Will they build up or tear down? Moment by moment, that choice is yours.
Submit your speech to the Lord. Dedicate your mouth to being a vessel for his healing, hope, and encouragement. The mouth that produces a successful, healthy marriage and family is one that submits to the Lord.
James 3:4 compares the tongue to a small rudder that steers a mighty ship. Though a rudder seems insignificant compared to the rest of the ship, everything depends on it for the ship to get where it is going.
Communication is the same way. Our tongues determine the direction of our lives. The small words we speak to each other impact our marriages and families on a large scale. Every area of family life requires healthy communication for success.
Ask God to help you and your family learn to speak to each other with kind and uplifting words. Ask Him to transform your language into a praising, healing, loving, fountain of life.
- July 27, 2012
- By Jimmy Evans
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As individuals, our most important dependency is upon God. But we must also recognize our need for human relationships—the kind that help us relate on a social, emotional, and practical level.
These relationships give us pleasure and fulfillment, and they include friends, extended family, and work associates. There are two kinds of human relationships that meet this need:
1) Spouses. The most important relationship on this level is with a husband or wife. Whether we recognize it our not, each of us longs for a relationship of deep trust and mutual support. God designed marriage to meet this need.
This mutual interdependence is very important for the development of intimacy in a marriage. It requires unity and cooperation, and also creates a healthy environment for successful parenting.c
Of course, in every marriage, there are problems to work through and obstacles to overcome in the pursuit deep trust and intimacy. But the benefits are worth it. A strong, healthy marriage requires a husband and wife to both depend upon each other.
2) Friends. In addition to our deep relationships with our spouses, we also need a group of godly, supportive friends. Great friendships with fellow believers—especially those who share our same values—support us in our faith and help us maintain the health of our marriages and families.
I’ve pastored and counseled people for many years concerning their marriages and families, and have noticed a common thread among those who constantly struggle and fail in family relationships.
They lack godly, supportive relationships around them. Or, to put it another way, they are involved in unhealthy and unsupportive relationships.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Sadly, I’ve seen the truth of that statement time and time again in failed marriages. Unhealthy outside relationships can lead to unhealthy marriages. When a husband and wife are unable to meet each others’ need for healthy dependency within marriage, their lives suffer.
We need those relationships as a couple and we need them as a family. The best place to build these types of relationships is through a healthy, Bible-based church. Find one. Get involved. Don’t hide out on the fringes, but become active and build relationships with healthy people.
Positive relationships keep us on the right track within our marriages. These friends support us, encourage us, and often model successful, godly relationships for us.
While there are no perfect people, a person who is committed to following God and living by the standards of Scripture will have a healthy influence on us. As a family, as a couple, and as individuals, those are relationships we need.
- July 23, 2012
- By Jimmy Evans
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Romance means different things to different people. Mention the word, and women think of a candlelight dinner with meaningful conversation. Men think of an exciting sexual encounter.
Those are two extremes, but the importance of romance within marriage can’t be underestimated. It keeps your relationship going and your passions alive. Without it, I’m convinced, relationships will begin to deteriorate.
Here are three important elements of romance:
First, romance is self-initiated. That means romance must be kindled without nagging or reminders. Or think of it this way: being romantic because you’re asked to be romantic isn’t really that romantic.
Romance is when you do something unexpected for your spouse. It communicates that he or she is on your heart and that you really care.
Romance could mean planning and preparing a special meal for your husband or wife. It could mean sending flowers or a romantic card. The important thing is to pursue your spouse on your own initiative—without being told to do it.
Second, romance involves communicating value to your spouse. One of the greatest things you can do in marriage is to build each other’s self-esteem. Through romantic gestures, you show your spouse how important he or she is in your life.
One of the best ways to do this is through verbal affirmation. Another great way to do it is by displaying good manners. That’s something we often forget after many years of marriage, but simple politeness is vitally important.
I’ve counseled couples who treat strangers better than they treat each other, which is shameful. As Christians, we should be kind and respectful to everyone—but especially to the person whom you’ve vowed to love and cherish.
In a healthy marriage, both spouses are considerate of each other’s feelings and take care to show how much they value each other.
Finally, romance means learning to speak love in your spouse’s language. Men and women have very different major needs, and we must understand those needs in order to be romantic on each other’s terms.
Men need honor, sex, kindred fellowship, and domestic support. Women need security, open and honest communication, non-sexual affection, and leadership.
When a husband takes the time to have meaningful conversations with his wife on a daily basis, that’s romantic. It may not be one of his needs, but it meets one of her deepest needs.
Likewise, when a woman commits to honor her husband and meet his sexual needs—though that may not be an important need of hers—it communicates how much she values him. That’s romantic in his eyes.
Romance makes a relationship better because it means both spouses are willing to sacrifice on behalf of each other. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests,” Paul challenged the church at Philippi, “but also the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). That idea is the key to romance within marriage.
- July 9, 2012
- By Jimmy Evans
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The 4th chapter of John tells us the familiar story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. It looks at the dysfunction that occurs any time we fail to trust entirely in God.
The woman was stunned when Jesus asked her for a drink. After all, he shouldn’t even have been speaking to her. As a woman in the Jewish culture of the day, she ranked no higher than property. Worse, she was a Samaritan, a race despised by the Jews. She was also an adulteress who’d been married five times and was even now living in sin.
Those were three strikes against her, and yet still Jesus spoke to her. Better than that, he offered her a new kind of water than that which came from the well.
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,” he told her, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” This water, Jesus said, would become “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)
What a life-giving response! The woman wasn’t just shocked that Jesus treated her as a fellow human, but also at his offer of a much deeper relationship.
Jesus didn’t stand by the well to judge the woman, but to heal her.
His heart of compassion poured out to her as it does today toward us. He offers living water to broken marriages, broken families, and broken lives just as he did for the woman of Samaria.
From her scandalous lifestyle, Jesus understood that she was desperately trying to get her needs met through relationships with men. She thought lovers could fill the emptiness in her life.
Her mistake left a trail of divorce and disappointment. Her failed attempts at relationships did not quench that thirst.
Why? Because only God can meet our deepest needs.
The Samaritan woman’s dilemma is a common one even today. Many of us, Christians included, seek satisfaction from the tangible people and things around us, rather than finding our fulfillment in God.
Jesus tried to move her focus away from the world and onto the eternal. He wanted her to understand the limits of human provision—that she would still be thirsty even after drinking the well water.
Our Lord reminds us of the same thing. When our primary dependence is on God, not only does He fill the inner void in our lives with His love and presence, but He also uses us to bless others. The “fountain of water springing up” describes the overflow of God’s blessings out of our lives and into the lives of others.
That’s why I want you to understand this: the most loving act you will ever perform for yourself and your family is to seek and serve Jesus Christ.
He will transform you from the inside out. He will prepare you to love as you’ve never loved before. He will change your marriage, your family, and every aspect of your life.
- July 5, 2012
- By mcfatridge
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God created sex for two reasons. First, He wants us to procreate. Second, He wants us to experience pleasure in marriage. As we pursue the latter, we need to feel free to explore the realms of sexual pleasure while also knowing our boundaries.
As you might imagine, during my years teaching and counseling couples, I regularly get asked, privately, about these boundaries. What is allowed sexually within marriage? What isn’t allowed? Is it OK to experiment?
Couples ask these questions because they fear any sexual experimenting might somehow be wrong or sinful, especially when it comes to certain sexual positions, sexual enhancements or “toys,” and other fantasies.
In addressing these issues, I first tell them that God wants them to enjoy sex. Then I tell them that when something isn’t specifically forbidden in Scripture, that’s generally because it is allowed.
Need an example? Consider oral sex. I’ve heard a good number of preachers over the years talk about how it’s a sin. But there is no place in Scripture that forbids it within the context of marriage.
The same guidelines apply to other practices. While I am not necessarily endorsing or recommending particular sexual aids or positions, I don’t believe a preacher or anyone else has the moral authority to tell husband and wife what they can or cannot do in the privacy of the bedroom—especially if the Bible hasn’t forbidden it.
When it comes to the question of whether to allow or disallow any sexual practice, I recommend asking these questions:
• Is it forbidden in the Bible?
• Does it violate my conscience before God?
• Does it violate my spouse or is it against his or her will?
• Is it physically safe? Does it cause harm to me or my spouse? Are there health issues or risks involved?
• Does this treat my spouse in a disrespectful manner or damage our relationship in any way?
Use these questions to help you and your spouse discover your sexual parameters. As for me, I believe the boundaries for sex in marriage are broad. Remember that God wants you to have fun and enjoy intimacy with your spouse.
When it comes down to it, my advice is this: If it feels good to you and isn’t against God’s Word, you should consider it.
The best marriages are those in which two people enjoy each other and make each other feel good. Approach sex from this perspective and don’t let the opinions of other people dictate your sexual practices.
After all, other than God, you know better than anyone what you like and what is best for your marriage. When properly practiced, sex builds your relationship and binds you to each other. It creates an atmosphere of pleasure and delight.
And within that garden of pleasure and delight, a marriage flourishes.
- June 15, 2012
- By Jimmy Evans
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There are two dangerous extremes in our society today related to our bodies and sex. The first is the drive for physical perfection, which causes many people to pursue unhealthy extremes to try to make themselves more attractive.
Related to this are spouses who hold their mates to unrealistic physical standards. Not long ago, I counseled a separated couple who were verging on divorce. The husband constantly criticized his wife for her weight. He kept comparing her with women’s bodies he saw in magazines and on television.
If you are a woman, you are already reacting with sadness—and maybe even disgust—to this scenario. Because you know how unrealistic this is, and you understand how rejected and overwhelmed this man’s wife felt.
The second extreme is when people abuse their health without regard to its impact on their spouse and their sexual relationship. Obesity, drinking, and drug abuse are issues that directly affect our sexuality and marriages.
Simply put, we must accept responsibility to take care of ourselves. Exercise affects your sexuality. So do healthy eating habits. Did you know that people who exercise regularly have better cardiovascular capabilities, which directly affect blood flow to the genitals? This results in greater sensitivity and sexual arousal.
As we age, medication can also be a physical barrier to a good sex life, as can hormone changes like reduced testosterone levels or estrogen. My advice to aging couples is to pay attention to these changes. For your own sake and for the sexual health of your marriage, talk to your doctor. Don’t let your marriage suffer!
And though we don’t often like to talk about it, hygiene and grooming play a key role in a healthy sex life. Guys, your wife doesn’t like it when you’re dirty or poorly groomed. Period. If you want your wife to be attracted to you and sexually responsive, then you must take care of yourself.
What I keep hearing from women is that they consider the way you groom yourself to be a true measure of how much you care about them—and how much you’re willing to invest in the relationship.
Wives? You’re not off the hook, either. I know a woman who was attractive and well-kept before she married, but immediately lowered her standards after the wedding. It is obvious that she has begun taking her husband for granted.
Men are visually stimulated, and just like a husband’s disregard for his cleanliness and appearance equates to a disregard for his wife’s needs, so it goes for women as well.
Song of Solomon describes the love affair between Solomon and his wife. In the first chapter, he says “How beautiful you are, my darling!” In reply, she answers, “How handsome you are, my lover!”
Looks aren’t everything—in fact, they’re too emphasized in today’s society—but don’t discount the impact they can have on a positive sexual atmosphere between a husband and wife.
Take care of yourself. Pursue a healthy lifestyle. Look good for your spouse. Don’t let these physical barriers get in the way of a fantastic sex life.
- June 15, 2012
- By Jimmy Evans
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In order for a couple to have the kind of healthy sex life God intended within marriage, positive communication about each other’s needs and desires is essential. But in my years counseling married couples, I’ve found one thing over and over again that hinders good sexual communication.
It’s a repressive attitude about sex.
Some people—especially women, in my experience—are raised to view sex in a negative light. All sex. It is usually communicated through a parent’s sexual comments and attitudes.
It is very easy for parents to communicate this negative perception of sex to their children, whether directly or indirectly. The effects can be profound once a child grows up and gets married.
Though now in a place where they should be experiencing the pleasures of sex, they find it very difficult—thanks to attitudes they learned from mom or dad.
Let me emphasize again that God created sex and it is beautiful. God’s perfect will is for you to have a pleasurable and exciting sex life with your spouse.
Don’t be ashamed of sex. Don’t treat it as a taboo issue. Talk about it openly and often with each other. Let your husband or wife know about your sexual desires and encourage your spouse to do the same.
Don’t let the devil rob you of the joy of sex by making it into a dirty subject!
I’ve also known people who view sex in a negative light due to a sexual sin in their past. If you’ve done something wrong, confess it to God. Repent and receive His forgiveness.
But don’t let the mistakes of your past keep you from enjoying your marriage today!
Just like anything else, sex can be a good thing (under the right circumstances) or a bad thing (under the wrong circumstances). Use your past as a reminder of what you shouldn’t do, then turn to God’s word to guide you into what you should do.
Wait—God’s Word? You may be wondering exactly what the Bible has to say about sexual pleasure. If that’s the case, let me introduce you to a book right in the middle of your Bible: Song of Solomon. Prepare to be surprised at how vividly the Bible describes the pleasures of sexual intimacy within God’s design!
It must also be said that many people have experienced sexual abuse in their past, and this hurt fuels their negative associations with sex. I do not want to minimize this pain in any way.
In these situations, it is important to bring your abusive past into the light of God’s healing grace. Ask Him to heal you. Ask Him to repair your sexual health. If necessary, get professional help to deal with these events in your past.
Remember, there is nothing God can’t heal. There is nothing He can’t give you the power to overcome. He wants you to enjoy one of his greatest gifts: the pleasures of sex within marriage.
Do not let past hurts, past mistakes, and a past understanding of sex prevent you from experiencing God’s blessings in the present.
- June 4, 2012
- By Jimmy Evans
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We live in a culture that’s obsessed with independence, but it’s important to remember God created us to be dependent beings.
We are His sheep. He is our Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11). We must rely on him for protection, provision, and guidance. We can’t make it on our own—nor were we designed to.
But as important as it is to live aware of our dependence on God, it’s also worthwhile to acknowledge that God created us to depend upon each other.
This is especially true in the marriage relationship. Both men and women are designed to rely on the opposite sex.
God revealed His purpose for marriage at the very beginning. Marriage was an integral part of His overall plan for Creation. In fact, he wove the husband-and-wife relationship into the very fabric of our existence.
In the Creation story, God created Adam and put him in Eden, a place of beauty and abundance. God saw that His creation was perfect and complete in every way but one. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Gen. 2:18).
God put Adam to sleep, removed a rib from his body, and used the rib to form Eve.
Don’t miss that detail. Every other creature in the Garden was created from dust—including Adam. But Eve was created in a different way. What was so special about this final creation?
Eve was something new. She was the completion of a creation already in progress. Man was created whole but incomplete. God completed him with woman.
When God created Adam and Eve, he made them as two uniquely different creations but forever bound by a common identity, unlike anything else in creation. Though two separate individuals, God declared them “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
Both man and woman are necessary to propagate human life, and both are necessary to reflect the fullness of God’s endowment upon humanity. We depend on each other. We need each other.
God has given men special abilities and perspectives women don’t have. God has blessed women with traits and sensitivities that are lacking in men. When men and women respect each other and share these unique gifts with each other as God designed, we both are made complete.
The so-called “battle of the sexes” is a corruption of God’s design, based on generations of tension and frustration between men and women. Due to misunderstandings, abuse, and rejection, many men and women have learned to protect themselves against each other—even rejecting the opposite sex altogether.
This is a shame. God designed us for each other. We must understand and accept our God-given differences and use them to complement each other in the divine interdependence of marriage. A healthy marriage needs peaceful and trusting dependence between the sexes.
In short, it is good to depend upon your spouse. God designed us that way.
- May 21, 2012
- By mcfatridge
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We hear a lot about personal independence these days. We’re told to “be your own person” and encouraged not to follow the crowd. And there’s a lot of truth to that, because “the crowd” doesn’t always make godly decisions.
But as focused as we are on independence, we need to be reminded of one thing: God created us to be dependent beings. We are created to rely on Him and Him alone. That means personal independence is a deception and a perversion of God’s plan.
He created us to be dependent on a number of things, but chief among them is dependence on God Himself.
Have you ever noticed how often Scripture compares mankind to sheep? Sheep are weak, vulnerable animals. They can’t protect themselves. They aren’t aggressive, don’t have sharp teeth, and are poor navigators. Sheep can’t travel any distance without help and get lost easily.
Because of this, sheep can’t provide very well for themselves. They lack the predatory skills to gather food independently.
God looks at us and says, “You’re my sheep.” What does this mean? In essence, He’s saying, “You need me. I created you without the ability to get where you’re going or provide for yourself.”
It’s not surprising, then, when Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. We are dependent on God to guide us, provide for us, and protect us. Remember Psalm 23? “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
A person who understands his or her weakness and accepts the need for God’s protection and leadership is a person who will live a life of incredible blessing and fullness.
It is only when we pursue independence—when we are convinced we can make it on our own—that we get into trouble. That’s the reason Satan was able to lead Adam and Eve into rebellion in the Garden.
Human nature desires independence. Our fallen nature is such that we hate being dependent upon anything, including God. The prophet Isaiah said it best: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
In fact, I would go so far as to say an independent spirit is at the core of human sin. Yet the more mature we become in Christ, the healthier we become—and the more we accept the fact that we must be dependent upon God.
The essence of successful Christianity is a daily dependence upon the Lord for all our significant needs. The prayerful, trusting believer has accepted his or her dependence upon Christ and has learned to trust in Him daily as a faithful shepherd.
Isaiah 40:11 describes what this relationship looks like: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”
God has promised us gentle, loving provision and protection. Don’t let your desire for independence keep you from missing out on His blessing.
- May 12, 2012
- By mcfatridge
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One of my favorite word pictures related to a successful family is “a playground with a fence around it.” A family should be fun. It should be a warm and welcome place built around enjoying God and each other.
Through planned activities and prioritized relationships, it should be a sanctuary of enjoyment and encouragement. It should be a playground!
But it’s a protected playground. To protect our family relationships as well as each individual, we need clearly defined rules. This keeps the atmosphere of our homes safe.
A fence keeps us from wandering outside the playground and into dangerous territory—and it keeps danger out of the playground as well.
We’ve been talking about the balance between truth and grace when it comes to marriage and families. A family of truth without grace is like a fence without a playground inside.
It may be a safe place, but it’s also a dead place. It’s a prison.
A family of grace without truth is like a playground without a fence. It may be a lot of fun, but it’s at risk of being interrupted with danger, tragedy, or destruction.
A playground with a fence around it is a place of balanced grace and truth, where rules and relationship work in harmony to produce the desired goal.
Just as God is full of grace and truth, so are a successful marriage and family life. This balance is essential to a functional, happy family.
To check the balance of your family atmosphere, first examine your concept of God. Do you view God as a perfect balance of grace and truth—a compassionate father who still holds his children to standards of holiness—or do you focus too much on one or the other?
Also consider your own upbringing. Were your parents balanced between grace and truth? Our parents’ influence upon us is profound and even has a great impact on our concept of God. If your parents showed a flawed combination of grace and truth, forgive them—then look to Jesus, the perfect balance between the two.
You may also realize you’ve been making some of the same mistakes your parents made. If that’s the case, confess it before God and your family, then ask God to help you make the needed changes.
Above all, listen to the people around you. That’s a great way to recognize imbalance. What does your spouse complain about? What issue does he or she keep bringing up? Does this represent a lack of grace (too much fence) or a lack of truth (too much playground)?
Listen also to your children and consider the fruits of your influence in their lives. Balance can be found by opening yourself up to God and letting others speak into your life.
We are drawn to Jesus because He best exemplified the redemption and power that a balance of grace and truth brings. Your marriage and family can be that same force for redemption.
Make your family into a playground—but don’t forget to protect it with a sturdy fence!