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Couples in the dating stages of a relationship in the twenty-first century are under a lot of pressure to perform for each other in each of the twelve months of the year, but if you believe the folks who keep track of posted relationship changes on Facebook, the months of December and January are the most prolific times for people to change their status from being “in a relationship” to “single”.

Now, I know that terminating a relationship involves a lot more emotional catharsis than just changing your Facebook status, but I don’t think that ending a dating relationship at any stage, is necessarily a bad thing. We certainly know that ending a romantic relationship before we enter into marriage with someone is way better than terminating a previously romantic relationship after we’ve entered into marriage with someone.

See, I believe in a very long and very pure, face-to-face courtship that is investigative in nature, because I believe that every person has the right to truly know and truly bond with the genuine nature of an individual, before he or she makes the permanent promise to marry someone – and if a behavior, habit, attitude or character issue emerges in the course of that long, investigative courtship that either of you finds to be untenable or deal-breaking, then I believe that it’s perfectly okay to end the relationship and never look back.

Often the holiday seasons bring about situations that expose the parts of our lives that would otherwise remain hidden, but we also know that nothing remains hidden after we marry someone, so we should embrace these opportunities to look into each other’s lives and family interactions during the holiday season, to see the true picture of another person’s life.  Maybe we’ll discover the other person is overly (or underly) gift-oriented (read, this person is either too cheap or too extravagant to the point of being financially irresponsible in his or her holiday gifting.

Maybe the holidays will expose a level of dysfunction within your person or his or her family members that you cannot live with – or maybe this season will expose within your person, a level of anger, emotional neediness, or unreadiness to make a permanent commitment that will make it necessary for you to change your relationship status… Or maybe something completely different will happen, maybe you’ll affirm that your beloved individual is truly perfect in every way… In either event, if you are in a relationship, please don’t dread the holidays; do your best to enjoy them, try to be on your best behavior, but also try to make effective use of the unique family and personal situations this season presents to you.

If you are not in a relationship, we still encourage you to enjoy this season, and we encourage you to be thankful for the current, uncomplicated nature of your life… You have lots of time to become emotionally confident, and to become ready to participate (and quietly observe someone) in discovering whether a relationship might, or might not work.

posted by on Biblical Opinion, Divorce Encouragement

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Christian churches often think of themselves as the last line of defense for marriage. For those Christians untouched by divorce, marriage is the sacred union ordained by God, it binds one man and one woman together so the “two become one flesh” until death do they part. But this traditional Christian marriage is under assault by an anti-trinity of powerful and dark forces, those being hyper-sexuality, rebellion and pride.

Faith, on the other hand, is supposed to be stronger than all these dark forces. It is always supposed to save souls and marriages alike. After all, “The family that prays together stays together”…The quoted line of church leadership has always been that: “Christian couples who marry in the church after receiving premarital counseling, and who attend church and pray together, will experience one divorce in 39,000 marriages.”

But then came the data. In 2008, George Barna’s Research Group sampled Americans regarding their divorce rates, and he found that divorce was highest among those who identified themselves as Christians, but it was much lower among those who identified themselves as atheists. Now maybe we can write off this disparity by saying that many atheists don’t bother to get married in the first place, but that’s not the point of this article…

The point is that: the church has a major divorce problem, and I think it could do a better job of recognizing and addressing it.

Most churches are very good at providing strong communities for families to thrive. Most churches are very good at offering marital counseling, and teaching that love is a commitment, not a feeling, and that God hates divorce. But, in only doing this, many churches are simply leveraging moral emotions and guilt in the service of the ideal marriage. Churches often pound the nail of moral and marital purity with no perceptible fall-back plan for anyone, other than guilt and shame, when a pew-sitter finds himself or herself in the aftermath of a marriage that has gone off-the-rails.

Even though most divorces in the church leave behind at least one newly-single person who is literally broken-beyond-measure, many Christian churches and their members seem to have no ability, or possibly no guidance in how to extend grace and mercy to these fearful and often emotionally paralyzed individuals. Newly divorced people, regardless of their position in trying to save and redeem the marriage, often find themselves ostracized and effectively removed from the fellowship with no support at all. This is tragic and so unnecessary.

So, what’s the answer? I believe the time has come for pastors and church leadership to publicly admit they have a growing number of hurting divorced people in their midst. I believe they need to become much bolder in speaking from the pulpit and elsewhere to the congregation’s need to extend recognition, grace and support to those who are broken and trying to rebuild their lives after a divorce. And I believe that nearly every church should have some sort of divorce recovery person or program in place; or at least they should be moving in that direction.

I think it is way past time for churches to openly recognize their divorce problem, and to provide a realistic way forward for those caught up in it. Those are my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours

posted by on Christian Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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Many of you recognize that you’ve gotten to this place of separation and divorce because you have made a poor choice in marriage. You’ve seen that your feelings, emotions and appetites have driven the bus and decided the direction of your life, and they have brought you to grief.

Now that you realize the sad consequences of those decisions, the most important thing you can learn is that you cannot follow your heart, you must learn to take control and lead your heart. You must not allow your feelings to drive your purpose in life. From now on you must place your feelings, emotions and appetites in the back seat of the bus and you must forcefully tell them where you are going. || Read more

posted by on Biblical Opinion, Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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We hear these questions quite often, so I wanted to answer them here in one place.

Jeff, my spouse doesn’t deserve to have visitation rights to our children. My anger consumes me when I think about it, but all I can do to show my disgust and displeasure is to glare at my ex from a distance and think hateful thoughts when I see him or her. I know I need to be nice, but I cannot seem to do it.

Jeff, my parents have decided to be nice to my ex and to include him or her into their lives even though it makes me crazy. It’s so hard for me to be nice to my parents now, I just want to act sullen around them and hate them from a distance. I know I need to be nice, but I cannot seem to do it.

Each of these situations work to combine so many feelings within us; of mixed loyalties; of guilt and fear; of anger and hatred; of rejection and betrayal. None of these feelings are very healthy to have around us, even one at a time, but combined together they’re a toxic mixture indeed.

So what do we do about these feelings? – Well, in each of these situations, I think the answer lies in keeping the main thing, the main thing. In each of these situations we have to decide what the main focus is, and we have to concentrate all of our attention upon that main focus.

When a farmer wants to plow a straight line, he has to focus all of his attention upon a fixed object in the distance, and maintain his course upon that object. If this farmer gets distracted by every other thing around him, he will plow in a circle. Plowing in a straight line creates a furrow that water can flow in, to grow a good harvest of useful things. Plowing in a circle however, creates a hole that’s no good to anyone.

Are you in a hole? – The only way out of your hole is to redirect your focus back on the main thing , and to keep the main thing, the main thing.

We know the true direction for our lives has to come from the Bible, and the Bible says, regarding most things about our children, “Parents love your children and don’t provoke them to wrath.” In other words, parents should love their children and not make their lives unnecessarily hard. What does the Bible say then, about most things regarding our parents? Well, it says, “Children, honor your parents.”  So that means we should honor our parents, even if we wish they would act the way we want them to.

After reading all of this, you might ask, “What about my feelings and what about everything that everyone has done to me?” When you concentrate and act upon those feelings; you will find yourself spinning into a hole. And you are spinning into that hole because you’ve lost your main focus upon the main thing. In these cases of conflicting emotions, your main focus has to be upon loving your children and making their lives easier, not harder to figure out; and you also have to concentrate on honoring your parents and blotting out all the feelings that make loving and honoring them so complicated.

When we keep the main thing the main thing, we can keep our emotions within a constructive range. We can continue moving toward a good harvest of quality relationships that matter to us, and we can place our former relationships that no longer matter so much, in a better perspective. Of course we have to do something with all the anger and bitterness we’re carrying around, because concentrating on those feelings of hatred, rejection and betrayal that we have so constantly around us will simply plow us into a hole.

If you’ve gotten yourself into a hole with relationships that matter, over residual feelings surrounding former relationships that don’t matter so much anymore… I encourage you to turn it around and start making the main thing, the main thing. Those are my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours.

posted by on Christian Encouragement, Divorce Encouragement, Relationship Encouragement

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24 THINGS EVERY SINGLE PERSON SHOULD KNOW

GOD IS NOT MAD AT YOU

SEXUAL SIN WILL CHANGE THE NATURE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

MARRIAGE IS A JOB DESCRIPTION. DON’T HIRE SOMEONE WHO ISN’T QUALIFIED

YOU WERE NOT CALLED TO HAVE SOMEONE, YOU WERE CALLED TO BE SOMEONE

EVERYONE HAS A HIDDEN AGENDA. IT WILL TAKE SOME TIME FOR THAT AGENDA TO SHOW UP

IF YOU HAND YOUR ENEMY A STICK, THEY WILL ALWAYS BEAT YOU WITH IT TAKE AWAY THE STICK

RESCUING PEOPLE IS BAD BUSINESS. THOSE YOU RESCUE WILL OFTEN WIND UP HATING YOU FOR IT

GOD DIDN’T DIE TO GET YOU A GUY (or a girl). BEING MARRIED IS GOOD, BEING SINGLE IS ALSO GOOD

YOU MUST PUT ON YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK BEFORE YOU CAN HELP SOMEONE ELSE WITH THEIRS

RECONCILIATION IS NOT THE GOAL. REMARRIAGE IS NOT THE GOAL EITHER. A GODLY LIFE IS THE GOAL

LOOKS ARE DECEIVING. YOU ARE NOT MARRYING THE BOX; YOU ARE MARRYING “JACK” INSIDE THE BOX

RELATIONSHIPS ARE CONTROLLABLE. YOU MUST LEARN TO CONTROL THE PACE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

TAKE YOUR TIME AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK. MARRYING A MARGINAL PERSON WILL ONLY BRING YOU GRIEF

MARRIAGE ISN’T OWNERSHIP. A SPOUSE IS FREE TO STAY OR LEAVE. RELIGIOUS PRESSURE WON’T HOLD THEM

A CONFIDENT AND CAPABLE MAN DOES NOT “FALL” IN LOVE IN THE WAY A WOMAN UNDERSTANDS THE TERM

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “GOD’S PERFECT ONE”. MARRIAGE IS A CHOICE YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING

HATING YOUR HATERS WILL BRING YOU TO BITTERNESS. FORGIVING YOUR HATERS WILL PUT THEM IN PERSPECTIVE

LOVE AND ATTRACTION ARE IMPORTANT, BUT A MARRIAGE DECISION IS MORE ABOUT BUSINESS THAN ROMANCE

IN EVERY PART OF YOUR LIFE, THE CREAM WILL ALWAYS RISE TO THE TOP. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO BE THE CREAM

YOU DIDN’T CAUSE THE BREAKAGE IN SOMEONE AND YOU CAN’T FIX IT. YOU’LL ALWAYS FAIL AT A JOB YOU CAN’T DO

THIS IS THE SHORTEST TIME YOU’LL SPEND ANYWHERE. YOU MUST SLOW DOWN AND DEVELOP AN ETERNAL MINDSET

SELECTIVE MORALITY IS NORMAL IN THIS CULTURE. CARE AND PRAY FOR THOSE IN IT, BUT MAINTAIN A CAREFUL DISTANCE

A SINNER’S PROBLEM ISN’T SIN, IT’S UNBELIEF, AND IT’S WHAT UNBELIEVERS DO. YOU CAN’T CHANGE ANOTHER PERSON

CONTROLLING PEOPLE HAVE A NEED TO CONTROL. EVEN IF THEY DON’T WANT YOU, THEY’LL STILL WANT TO CONTROL YOU

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I was sitting with a friend the other day, and he spoke of a phone call he’d received from someone who was trying to persuade him to rejoin a Bible study that had lived out its purpose in his life. My friend’s response was, “I don’t want to be rude, but when I’m done, I’m done.” Jesus spoke, in John 6, about the process of learning to hold people and things loosely in our hands. He spoke to the freedom of letting go of those people who, for whatever reason, are no longer ours to hold on to. || Read more

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Sue wrote in to ask:
Jeff, I was wondering what you thought about this. I was reading a book called, “His Needs, Her Needs” and it talked about how the Lord actually put into a woman’s DNA, the need to be provided for. Do you think a man should ask himself the question before he decides to marry someone, if he can provide for her? I mean, she is not his provider but his helper, correct?

I wrote: Sue, I agree. “His Needs, Her Needs” is one of those timeless books that we’ve recommended for a long time. And I believe that a man should set in his heart that he will always work steadily somewhere, before he ever makes himself available for the job of husband. But Sue, I also believe that a woman should require that a man has a long-term history of understanding his need to work, before she should ever consider him to be a candidate for being her husband. || Read more

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Have you ever been “Catfished?”  Today we’re going to look at some relatively new and deceptive ways that people are using online dating, not for its intended use of innocently finding true and perfect love, but for the more nefarious purpose of gaining the romantic interest of an unsuspecting person for their own personal gain.

“Catfishing” is the name given to the art of “Trolling for” and attaching to someone in a relatively blind Internet situation (such as an online dating site) for the purpose of getting something from them, whether that “something” might be monetary, material, or oddly personal.

There are many ways that someone can take advantage of you once you’ve shown an online interest in them. These deceptions can take the form of enticing you to give them money, clothing, jewelry, or even simply in the collecting of your heart, like some kind of new charm on his or her bracelet… Some people are very, very good at making themselves sound very appealing to someone just like you (Trolling), and they are very, very good at getting something from you, once you bite their online hook (hence the term, “Catfishing”). || Read more

posted by on Christian Encouragement

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Some of us might be continuing to remain separated indefinitely. We might be putting off an inevitable decision to end a marriage because we simply don’t want to be divorced. Now I’m not advocating for divorce at all, but I believe that, if the decision clearly needs to be made, then we should overcome the fear and develop the resolve to make and follow through with the decision. Often, we don’t want to give a dead marriage the proper burial it deserves, because we’re concerned with the way we’ll feel about ourselves and possibly with the way God will feel about us after we’re divorced. I don’t believe it’s necessary to feel that way. || Read more

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All of us have probably tried to rescue a broken person at least once in our lives. Usually, we’ve tried to turn these folks around, only to find ourselves sucked into the spinning current of his or her life, realizing at some point that we can’t really help this person effectively, and wondering how we might extricate ourselves from the whirling circumstance we’ve been drawn into, before we drown. || Read more