How Leaving Things Unattended Can Kill Your Marriage

Her name was Sunandha Kumariratana. Due to a bit of an oddity in the law at the time, she was one of the queens of what was then called Siam.

On May 31, 1880 she died at the tender age of 19. Her young age makes this tragic, as does her royalty. But what made her death even more tragic was that there were witnesses.

No, it was not an execution or even a situation where people just could not get to her in time. Instead, on a boat trip to the royal summer palace, the boat capsized and two members of the royal family died, including Queen Sunandha. The reason was simply this: the law stated that no one could touch the queen for any reason, and the punishment for breaking this law was death.

Presumably, this law was put in place with the best of intentions of protecting those of the royal family. But it never crossed anyone’s mind that someone might have to touch the queen in such an emergency situation in order to save her life. When that time came, no one was willing to break that law, and her young life was cut short.

What does this have to do with marriage?

How often do we have something that is a painful area of our marriages, but we refuse to “touch” them. It’s that irritation that’s been eating away at your for years. It’s that person he hangs out with that you think has eyes for him. It’s the outfit you wish she wouldn’t wear.

But, out of “love,” we don’t say anything, and our unwillingness to communicate about something difficult or awkward is chipping away at the strength of the marriage. While it may seem like a small thing, over time either it grows or the irritation and even pain it causes grows. While it may not be the reason a marriage ends, it will be a factor, because the couple never made the effort to open up about it and deal with it.

When we refuse to touch that area of our marriage, we are not acting out of love. We are acting out of fear, just like those witnesses to Queen Sunandha’s death in 1880.

What gets left unattended can kill a marriage.

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Not Everything is “Sexy” : How Our Speech Devalues a Beautiful Gift

not everything is sexy

Turn on the TV, and you’ll hear the word describing nearly any product you can think of. Walk down the corridor of a local mall, or eavesdrop on a conversation at a restaurant and you are likely to hear the word over and again.

It is “sexy.”

For years, we have been told that “sex sells.” But we aren’t just talking about advertising in this post.

People across our culture–Christians and non-Christians alike–now feel like something has to be “sexy” in order for it to be a good product. I’ve heard cars described as “sexy.” Cell phones? Yes, you can get one in a “sexy” color. Go to the fitness club, so you’ll feel “sexy.” And, of course, people wouldn’t dare purchase any article of clothing unless it was “sexy” or would make them look “sexy.” Never mind if that person is married or not. We are just told to look “sexy” for anyone who might happen to be around, so get all the “sexy” stuff you can get.

Here is the problem. Somehow we have made sex so common and cheap that we have devalued this great and holy gift from God. In calling everything “sexy,” our language betrays us.

Have we really thought about what the word “sexy” means? The word first came into common usage in about 1905 and meant “engrossed in sex.” By the early 1920s, it came to describe things that incited a sexual response, and that has remained its usage until this latest wave of overuse, in which it is used in a way to describe anything that is exciting or colorful.

Considering the history and obvious meaning of the word, though, what are we really saying when we use it in a flippant and cheap manner? When I describe a car, cell phone, or some other thing as “sexy,” is that actually what I mean? To ask the question bluntly, Does that car or cell phone insight sexual feelings in me?

Because that is exactly what we are saying when we describe things as “sexy.”

Sex is not a dirty topic. It is a wonderful and beautiful gift from God, but we have so devalued sex that we have removed it from the “undefiled” place of the marital bed (Hebrews 13:4) and have placed thoughts and descriptions of sexuality on objects and products. We want to present ourselves in a sexual way, even if we are not married. Or, if we are married, we just want to look “sexy” no matter who we are around, because that’s how society tells us we need to present ourselves to anyone and everyone.

Instead, Christians need to display Christ to the world by how we present ourselves, both in our manner of life, and in our choice of words.

I would challenge all of us to recapture our use of this word. Certain things, if we are normal, will be “sexy” to us, and can be described in that way. But those should be things that are reserved for a husband and wife. They should find certain actions, words, looks, etc. to be “sexy,” and they should express that in this God-honoring and God-approved act. Such is beautiful, and honorable.

Is it really speech that is “always with grace” and “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6) to describe a thing in a sexualized manner? To ask is to answer.

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Book Review: Bad Dads of the Bible

Roland C. Warren is the former head of the National Fatherhood Initiative, which makes his insight into fatherhood important to read. This book is meant to be devotional level, but provides some very clear teachings for those who are dads and claim to be followers of God.

The book shares the stories of certain men from Scripture–some of whom are heroes of faith and others who are not–who all had great weaknesses in the area of being a dad. From David’s household in the palace to Lot’s movement toward Sodom, eight different Biblical narratives are used as the basis for the chapters.

I like the idea behind this book, but I must admit I was disappointed in the execution. While each chapter is named after the Biblical man and his “mistake,” very little of the chapter speaks of that Bible story. That chapters seemed to speak more toward the major problem, then sprinkle in a quick recap of the Bible. At times, though thankfully not often, the Biblical narrative seemed to be stretched a bit to prove a point.

The book ends with a long chapter, but one that is reassuring. Warren shares “6 Things A Dad Must Do to be a Good Father.” In my opinion, this long chapter is the best part of the book, and could be developed into a sermon, class, or even a series of discussions.

The volume is a quick read, and does provide some helpful insights that fathers will gain from. It’s not for everyone, but I’m glad I read it.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review. I was not required to give a positive review.

Lads to Leaders & How the Church Goes All Out for Children

Over this past weekend, we were blessed to be part of about 10,000 or so people at the Opryland Hotel for the annual Lads to Leaders convention. Additionally, more Christians gathered in five other cities (Memphis, Louisville, Atlanta, Orlando, and Dallas) for Lads to Leaders, as well. It is always a highlight of our year to see all the great things that young people from all over the place do as they grow in their willingness to use their talents for the Lord.

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Each year, I see people talk about how these children and their talents give us hope for the church in the future. I agree. As I watched a lot of young men over the weekend lead in various areas, my heart was touched by the ability and desire of these young men, and I pray they continue to grow in their willingness to honor God with these talents.

But today, I want to speak for a moment of another blessing that comes from things like Lads to Leaders. In fact, this post may be more for kids and teens than for adults, but I hope it encourages every adult who helps the children or teens in their congregation.

While it may not be true in every congregation, it is an overall truth that Churches of Christ go all our for our children. Just look at the budget of even quite small congregations, and you will very often see a large amount of money going to Bible school materials, VBS stuff, and activities (like Lads to Leaders) for the young people in the congregation.

Attend something, and you will most likely see that an incredible amount of effort went into making it “just right” for the kids. At Lads to Leaders, for example, you cannot help but notice how much time, prayer, effort, and planning goes into virtually every detail. But, even in something of smaller scale, like a local Bible class, you will see a great deal of effort put into the lesson, crafts, activities, and other things connected with the class.

Why do we do this?

It’s because our children are so valuable, and the church loves them. Yes, those kids can be unruly at times, and they can frustrate us all, but we see their potential, and we strongly want to do all we can to help mold that potential into true servanthood, focused on the Father in heaven.

Not every congregation can have iPads for every student, or all the “latest and greatest” stuff. Not every congregation is going to have a youth minister or children’s minister. Not every congregation is involved in big programs like Lads to Leaders.

But find me a congregation that does not go all out for her children, and I’ll show you the exception, rather than the rule.

Congregations should do the very best they can, not to entertain the kids, but to use every possible Scriptural means to instill in those kids a knowledge and love of God, the Church, and being a servant. Most congregations do, and for that, we should be thankful.

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {April 18, 2014 edition}

So, it’s Lads to Leaders week around here. We are so excited about this annual event, and the young people from Lebanon Road have worked so hard. We are proud of Mary Carol and Turner for the work they have done, and we look forward to seeing so many of you this weekend.

Tonight, I will be leading singing at Lads to Leaders for the late night Delta Fountain singing. This is always a great highlight, and it is an honor to lead. We will sing from 10:30-11:00 tonight in the Opryland Hotel, and it should be wonderful, as always.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

They’ll Never be Little Again [Pulpit Perspectives]

The Two Words That Can Absolutely Change Your Marriage [We are THAT Family]

7 Dangerous Apps that Parents Need to Know About [Checkup Daily]

The American Teenager and Sexuality [The Morning Drive]

You Have Permission [for the family]

10 Things Husbands Should Never Do in Their Marriage [Life in the Light]

Our Week in Review

These are the 5 most-viewed posts from the past week. Not all were written in the last week, but this is what people came to our site the most to see. (Original publication date in parentheses.)

#5: 10 Budget Basics for Families (March 12, 2014)

#4: 7 Ways to be Diligent in Daily Bible Reading (April 17, 2014)

#3: Manoah & Being an Accommodating Parent (April 15, 2014)

#2: Where the Grass Doesn’t Grow: Why I Don’t Mind One Part of Our Yard Being Trampled (April 14, 2014)

#1: 6 Ways to Keep Facebook from Harming Your Marriage (April 16, 2014)

What Did We Miss?

What family links, tweets, or videos did we miss this week? Contact us with links you’d like us to consider for future Friday’s Family Friendly Finds! You can also contact us if you are interested in writing a guest post for our site. We look forward to hearing from you!

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7 Ways to Be Diligent in Daily Bible Reading

So often, we hear about the need to be regular and diligent in our Bible reading. From sermons to books to other outlets, we are often told that we should spend time daily in the reading and study of God’s Word. And, no matter how good our intentions might be, most of us will fall off the track sometime.

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It may seem like an odd time of year to write this post, since daily Bible reading articles usually come out around the turn of a new year. But why do we have to rely on the turning of a calendar to get into the Scriptures? Today’s post is not meant to be a “read through the Bible in a year” type of reminder, although that certainly is a good goal. Instead, we want to share seven ways that you can insure that, each and every day, you get into the Bible, even if only for a few minutes.

1. Read a Paper Copy. This is the most obvious way, and the one most of us use, but sometimes it is the easiest to overlook. In our constant search for “new” or “more innovative” ways to read and study the Bible, sometimes our tried and true copy of the Bible just lays dormant on a table or shelf. Open it and read it!

2. Get a Free eBible. With the explosion of ereaders (like the Amazon Kindle), Bibles have gone digital. Many people carry their Kindle (or other device) with them more often than a book, due to its small size and weight. Did you know the English Standard Version is absolutely free on these devices? It is, and you can download yours at these sites:

Amazon Kindle

Barns and Noble Nook

3. Listen to Scripture Daily. I try to both read my Bible, and listen to a daily portion as well. Being a lover of podcasts, this should come as no surprise. I get a daily dose from the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament from the English Standard Version Daily Reading Bible podcast [iTunes / Rss]. While the reader is a bit dry, it’s still a wonderful way to hear Scripture. Other apps and podcasts do the same thing, as well. Many add commentary, though, which is not what I’m looking for. These podcasts from the ESV are just the text being read.

4. Rss (or email) the Bible. I used to do this and it was a good way to get a small part of the Scriptures automatically put in front of my eyes each day. Just like you get blogs and websites sent your way through an rss reader (like Feedly or Flipboard), you can get the Bible that way, too. Check out this page at Bible Gateway to see how to have Scripture (from either the King James Version or the New International Version) sent to you each day. You can choose to have it sent to your rss reader, or emailed to you, just like you can subscribe to nearly any blog or site.

5. Get the ESV App. I preach from the English Standard Version, which is one reason it appears on this list so often. It also appears here often because so much of what they offer online is free. You can download the ESV app to your smartphone or tablet and use it whether you are online or offline. So, no matter where you are, you can call up your screen and read for a few moments. [Apple App Store / Google Play]

6. Use the Bible App from Lifechurch.tv. I have this app, but I will admit that I am not using it to its fullest. However, this simple app has quite a large number of daily reading plans that come to you through the app, and you can get push notifications to let you know that the day’s reading is ready to view. Another great use of technology that can be accessed anywhere. Oh, and it’s free, too. [Apple App Store / Google Play]

7. Have a Reading Accountability Partner. So, this is not a book, website, or app, but it certainly helps. Why not read with someone? Of course, you don’t have to be face-to-face (although that’s great, too, especially for families), but how about checking in with each other daily or weekly, and making sure you are both in the Word on a regular basis? This is especially helpful if you are new to daily reading, or are working through a particularly difficult section of Scripture.

COMMENTS: So, what other tips do you have? What are some sites, books, apps, or suggestions you use to help you stay in the Word of God on a daily basis? Share your tips in the comments!

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Photo credit: Jimmie home-school-mom on Creative Commons

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6 Ways to Keep Facebook from Harming Your Marriage

As we wrote about recently, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m glad I restarted my account, as it is much easier to manage. I have noticed, though, a massive drop-off in the amount of traffic to our blog since the restart, but that’s okay.

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Facebook is a great tool, but far too many people (mis)use it in ways that are harming their homes. It has been reported recently that fully 33% of all divorces mention Facebook somewhere in the divorce filings.

Certainly, there are ways to enjoy the good uses of Facebook without it leading to divorce, but it can be very easy to be trapped in a digital, social, interactive world and much closer to cheating on your spouse than you ever dreamed you would be. If nothing else, it is easy to find yourself drawn to Facebook friends in a way that is drawing your attention away from your spouse, even if only subconsciously.

How can we enjoy Facebook without it leading to harm to our marriages? Here are 6 tips.

1. Never Hide Your Activity from Your Spouse. If you won’t scroll through your timeline or even your private Facebook messages with your spouse nearby, you are doing something you shouldn’t be. Your husband or wife should be able to look at your Facebook page at any point in time…no questions asked, and you should be willing to share.

2. Share Your Password. Why would you be embarrassed if your spouse logged in as you just for a moment, just to see what you have been up to? (By the way, this is important for parents, too.) Sharing passwords should be true of all accounts and devices, but especially when it is connected with something as “social” as Facebook.

3. Unfriend Anyone Your Spouse Isn’t Comfortable With. If you have an “old flame” as a friend in Facebook, that’s not necessarily wrong. But if your spouse is not comfortable with that person, you should unfriend that person…immediately. Doing so shows that the emotions and desires of your spouse are worth more to you than peering into the life of someone else.

4. Don’t “Like” Tempting Things. How many men “like” the pages of celebrities not because their work is good, but because they like seeing pictures of her? How many women “like” nice looking movie stars, even though they know that their husband will never look like that? By clicking that “like” button, you are adding things that will pull your eyes, heart, and mind away from your spouse on a regular basis.

5. Praise Your Spouse on Facebook. Leah isn’t on Facebook, and if she ever does sign up, you will probably see pigs with wings flying overhead. That said, I try to post things about her from time to time that build her up. This is a public forum where we can build up our marriage and the one to whom we are married. Far too many, though, run down their spouse. Praise him. Praise her. And do so often.

6. Turn Off Facebook. It’s a great tool, but there is also an addictive nature to it. Set parameters for how much time you will spend scrolling through your news feed or checking messages. When that time is done, turn it off and actually spend face-to-face time with your spouse. Or, if you check Facebook on your lunch break, take the time to call or text your spouse or plan something for a date.

No one starts out on Facebook thinking, “I’m going to see if I can ruin my marriage with this website.” Sadly, though, by not using Facebook in a responsible way, it is easy to chip away at the foundation of your marriage. Before you know it, “Facebook” may be used in some papers at the courthouse that you never thought you’d have to sign.

Treat your spouse and your marriage with honor in every space…even cyberspace.

QUESTION: What are some ways you protect your marriage on Facebook? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Photo credit: Maria Elena on Creative Commons

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Manoah & Being an Accommodating Parent

From the time our kids are very small, they are taught the life of Samson. He is depicted as the strongman of the Bible, and his feats of strength are truly remarkable.

Even before he was born, Samson was chosen by God for a special purpose. He was to be a Nazirite from birth, which was unheard of, and he was not just to have a month-long Nazirite vow, but he was to live under the stipulations of the Nazirite.

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We know Samson’s ultimate downfall was his propensity toward ungodly women. As a man, he alone is guilty for his unwise decisions in that area.

But I wonder if his father, Manoah, didn’t play at least a part in Samson’s downward spiral, and in so doing, provide a strong warning to parents today.

Judges 14 begins:

Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of  your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go and take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” (Judges 14:1-3)

We might fault Manoah at this point for not being strong in his rebuke of Samson, but he is speaking truth into the life of his son so far.

We do not know what caused Manoah to cave in, but Samson eventually marries this foreign, pagan woman. Verse 9 tells us that, while they were traveling to Timnah, Samson’s father and mother were with him. Considering the culture of the time, they had to agree to his wedding.

Further, verse 10 tells us that Manoah was present during the wedding feast. “[Samson's] father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do.” It would be quite some time, but this flaw in Samson would eventually lead him to the duplicitous arms of Delilah, who proved to be his downfall.

Manoah was supposed to be the leader of this household. He had spoken to the angel of the Lord about the birth of this special boy, and knew that God would use Samson. Yet, when Samson wanted something, it seems that he got it.

Maybe it was because Samson was so special. Sometimes, we can struggle to say “no” to a child who shows a real propensity for some area of life. If he can throw a football 60 yards, how can we possibly keep him off the practice field for the Gospel Meeting? If she can be valedictorian with just a little more study time, why does she “have to” go to the youth retreat?

Manoah serves as a powerful warning to parents, though. Did you notice that it went beyond just avoiding saying “no?” It went beyond simply being an accommodating parent.

By the time of the wedding feast, Manoah is right there. By his presence at the feast, he is showing his support of something he knows isn’t right.

When it comes to family, it can get very difficult to avoid doing that.

“I used to think that homosexuality was wrong, but my son is happier in that lifestyle.”

“Matthew 19:9 has a whole different meaning to me now, because my daughter is truly happy with her new husband.”

“We don’t use instruments where I worship, but my son is just using his talents across town to express himself in their worship.”

Maybe it shouldn’t be so remarkable, but I am amazed at how often I have heard Christians say such things, or read their thoughts online or in notes. The pull of the child overtakes the power of the Gospel. What started as a small thing where we “gave in” becomes us approving of sinful actions, just because it is our child.

Let’s learn the lesson of Manoah, and learn to say “no” right from the start.

QUESTION: What are some ways to avoid Manoah’s “accommodating parent” mistake? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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NOTE: The idea for this post came from the book Bad Dads of the Bible, chapter 7.

Photo credit: Zeevveez on Creative commons

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Where the Grass Doesn’t Grow : Why I Don’t Mind One Part of Our Yard Being Trampled

grass doesnt grow

We are not too particular about our yard. I’ve never seeded my lawn, and I always mow in the same pattern, which I know isn’t perfect for the grass. That said, we do try to keep our yard trimmed and we do care if it is presentable.

Well, most of it, that is.

You see, there is a small area of our yard where I’m not sure we will ever have grass. The space is only about 5 or 6 feet wide, but it contains two areas of nothing but compacted dirt. Looking across our back yard, it stands out like a sore thumb. Brown patches with no growth right in the middle of a green lawn.

But I don’t mind one bit.

Why? Because it’s where the feet of our children stomp, scrape, and trample when they are on the swing set. Countless mental images are burned into my mind where those two brown patches are, and those images are worth more to me than a perfect and lush lawn.

You may not care about your lawn very much (or even less than we do), but maybe for you it’s a favorite TV show, sporting event, flower bed, veggie garden, or something else. The kids can just ruin it for you, but you don’t mind. It’s okay to be interrupted during the game, isn’t it? That prize tomato may not grow back, but is it that important?

I don’t for a minute believe that kids should just have free reign and be able to destroy things with no consequences. But part of parenting is realizing that some things in our lives are not going to be as “perfect” or “in place” as we might like, because they just aren’t as important as our precious children.

Yes, they will get in the way at times, and our nerves are often frazzled. But that’s part of parenting.

One of these days, grass will grow in those brown spots. We will look out across that back yard and see nice, lush, green grass from the back of the house all the way to the planting beds and fence across the way. It will be beautiful.

But it won’t be the same.

God,

Thank you for the little spaces of compacted dirt where we see our children play. Help us to love them in spite of the times they cause something to not be as beautiful or nice as it could be, because they are far more valuable and beautiful.

In Jesus name,

Amen

QUESTION: What is something your children interrupt or “hurt,” but that you wouldn’t trade for anything?

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {April 11, 2014 edition}

So, we haven’t posted since last week’s “finds.” We were involved in a Gospel Meeting in Jasper, Alabama with the 6th Avenue Church of Christ. We had a tremendous time there, and were so encouraged by those good folks. During the week, we were blessed to see 2 precious young people put Christ on in baptism, and there were 7 others who responded during the week seeking prayers of forgiveness and/or encouragement. Being around when people respond like that just never gets old!

On to this week’s finds.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

Stop, Look, and Listen: The Teachings of a Tenacious Toddler [for the family]

15 Ways to Teach Kids How to Work Hard [We are THAT Family]

The Benefits of Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables [Of the Hearth]

Mom, Dad, Leave Me Alone! [Spiritual Java]

Strong Willed Children are a Blessing [On Parenting]

HEY MARRIED PEOPLE: Quit Checking Out People You’re Not Married To! [Life in the Light]

Our Week in Review

Since we didn’t post this week, it was interesting to see what posts were viewed the most during the past 7 days. (The original publication dates are in parentheses.)

#5: Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin, and “Conscious Uncoupling” (April 1, 2014)

#4: Free Resources: Sermon Outlines [NOTE: This is not technically a "post," but it regularly is in our top "hits" for the week, so we decided to include it this time, on a week when we didn't write new posts.]

#3: Politically Correct Fairy Tales (April 2, 2014)

#2: Why I Restarted on Facebook (April 3, 2014)

#1: 10 Budget Basics for Families (March 12, 2014)

“Like” Our Facebook Page

We are thankful for those of you who have helped us restart on Facebook. If you have not yet “liked” our blog on Facebook, you can do that in the box below, or click here to like us on our Facebook page. If you have liked us, please take a moment to tell someone else about our site, so they can like us, too. Thanks!

What Did We Miss?

What family links, tweets, or videos did we miss this week? Contact us with links you’d like us to consider for future Friday’s Family Friendly Finds! You can also contact us if you are interested in writing a guest post for our site. We look forward to hearing from you!

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